Auntie Eartha

by Olivia Cunningham

Eartha Kitt is my spiritual Auntie. Growing up as a dancer myself, I looked to Auntie Eartha as an example of intense charm, blatant resolve and physical strength. Even in her late 70s, already diagnosed with colon cancer, Eartha made sure to walk two to three miles every day. If she couldn’t get outside, she would wear weights on her wrists and ankles. She raised chickens and grew fruits and vegetables on her 77-acre Connecticut farm. All of this while taking acting roles and vocal performances. Now as a twenty-something attempting to get my life together, I’ve found a new appreciation for “the most exciting woman in the world.” Auntie Eartha serves up so much wisdom for those who feel stagnant in their personal development. These are three of my favorite Auntie Eartha motivators.

“I fall in love with myself, and I want someone to share it with me. I want someone to share me, with me.” 

There are plenty of love clichés that can drive the perpetually-single-people crazy. This powerfully self-aware quote from Auntie Eartha is not one of them. Self-love is preached by many, but what sets this sermon apart is that loving oneself isn’t a prerequisite to be loved. Loving yourself is a continuous process, even within a relationship. In fact, being in a relationship is just sharing your love of yourself with some[lucky]one else. I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of relationships that blend people. I can see the beauty of “two becoming one” but I’d rather the two become us, me and you together, still very much individually ourselves, and enjoying every second of loving ourselves loving ourselves. Does that make sense? Well, Eartha says it best.

“I’m a dirt person. I trust the dirt. I don’t trust diamonds and gold. I know how to survive in dirt.” 

Here Auntie Eartha refers to her love of the country, and the care she put into her Connecticut farm. As a corn-fed girl myself, I too appreciate nature, but I also apply her words to how life should be looked at. Dirt is dirt, but sometimes what looks like a diamond is really a rhinestone, and sometimes gold is just painted metal. It’s very easy to get caught up in the glamour of lives we don’t live. I often idolize those living the life I wish I had. I grow envious, and while I lust after all that glitters, I start to lose the very ground under my feet; all that keeps me grounded and content, all that remains when everything else reveals itself to be insufficient, goes ignored. Nothing is wrong with aspiring to diamonds and gold, and there’s nothing wrong with having diamonds and gold, but everyone needs dirt. Indeed, we do all know how to survive in dirt.

“My recipe for life is not being afraid of myself, afraid of what I think or of my opinions.” 

I think we become fearful of ourselves when we first realize we don’t fit the description of that person we’re “supposed” to be. That perfect person prescribed to us by parents, peers, or the media. Even our imperfections are supposed to be tailored to a specific set of acceptable quirks. But despite all our efforts, we will never be that person. I am always just me, but that’s nothing to fear. I continue to grow and develop every day by embracing myself. As I get better understanding my thoughts and feelings, I learn how to express myself to the world. I become more and more articulate in who I am. Auntie Eartha was very clear that if asked, she would always speak her mind, boldly and honestly so. No matter how much we deviate from our “supposed selves” we should always speak our minds. 

Olivia Cunningham is a student, a blogger and raconteur brought up in Nebraska. She ventured to Chicago, the city that raised her parents, to study journalism and seek new inspiration in a place with the versatility and ability to change completely from one block to the next. This weird black girl has a passion for clever writing, creative storytelling, social justice and peanut butter. Peanut Butter is delicious. She is twenty-something and her dream is for you to do better and love yourself, if only just enough - herself included.