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It’s My Birthday, So Let Me Be Honest.

It’s birthday season around here, so let me be honest.

You ever feel as if the person that you’re “supposed” to be–isn’t exactly the person you are?

Yeah.

This isn’t the first time I’ve felt this way.

Eight years ago today, after three days of labor and just three hours before my own birthday, I gave birth to my only son. Thirty-seven years ago tomorrow, I myself entered this world. It’s birthday time around the Byron house, and I’m feeling new beginning vibes, feeling like just coming out and telling you where I’m at, no artifice, and honestly not a lot of art either, because today is my kid’s birthday, and he gets out of school in an hour, and I have no time for artistry today, just honesty.

“I’ve changed,” I bemoaned to my friend and advisor Donna recently.

“And what’s the problem with that?” she answered.

“I’m The Stripper with the PhD, don’t you get it?” I told her. “That’s who the people love. And I’m not exactly…a stripper with a PhD anymore.”

“Hold on,” Donna said. “What is it that you teach these women again? Something about…being who they really are?”

Oh, that’s right. Remember me?

Remember me?

“None of us really changes over time,” Anne Rice wrote; “We only become more fully who we are.”

If you’ve been around for a while, perhaps this is how you remember me: an academic with a baby, an ass sore from sitting on a couch breastfeeding and studying for doctoral exams, generally absent from the world, until one day I turned 30 and held a blow-out celebration on a party bus complete with a stripper pole. It was that night I felt so fucking alive again. That party bus, and that stripper pole–paired with a growing dis-ease regarding my future in the academy–inspired me to revisit my stripper roots, as I started dancing in the club for the first time in a long while. Still an academic, yet wishing to share the stripper side of my life with the world, ever a storyteller spilling my guts into the online ether as even now I do, I created a “secret” FB page where my university colleagues couldn’t find me, using my stripper name, “Lux ATL.”

And that’s how Lux ATL was born.

Lux ATL gained some traction on the internet as The Stripper with a PhD, and many of my viral quotes of varying degrees of outrage were shared all over the internet, and the next fucking thing you know, in the blink of an eye, thousands of people knew my name.

Well, they knew one of my names.

It would take another year or two for me to quit the academy altogether and share “Lindsay Byron” with the world.

I began as Lux ATL, “The Stripper with a PhD,” but on my journey to show other women how they too can live in the fullness of themselves with no shame, no fear, no apologies, just love, I myself have evolved. I have grown beyond my original tagline.

However, that Lux that the world knows–she’s the success, right? She’s the one they love. Nevermind who “they” are. She’s scandalous and juicy and interesting.

Yet frankly the Stripper with a PhD identification has become reductive and inaccurate, just as my identification as an “English instructor with a secret stripper identity” was reductive and inaccurate seven years ago.

I am currently at a juncture in my life where I am mustering up the goddamn courage once again to redefine myself in alignment with my actual reality, and dare speak that self to the world.

Am I still Lux ATL? Shit yeah, I’m still Lux ATL. I’m also Lindsay Byron. And a maybe even a few other things. Who knows? I’m willing to change.

Are you?

Am I leaving behind the woman I’ve been?

Am I, even more terrifyingly, leaving behind my road-dogs who have supported me from day one, long before “Lux ATL” became a thing bigger than myself?

Never.

But that’s what I’ve been afraid of, you see, and that’s what’s kept me stagnant–I’ve been afraid to evolve, at least publicly, because I felt it would signal a suicide of sorts, me killing the woman I was. Afraid even more so that if I evolve, if I embody fully the woman I have grown to be with no shame, no fear, no apologies, just love, that y’all won’t love me anymore. Frankly, some people won’t love me anymore.

And those losses are both the price of evolution and the blessing. 

Bless and release. Let the dead leaves fall. These are things I’ve heard people say lately, words that ring in my ears these days. Be brave, I say to that woman in the mirror, that girl, that 13-year-old I once was and to whom I owe everything, that face that has stared back from behind the glass these short years and these long days, these longer nights, be brave, I say, That’s you. That’s always been you. 

And that’s why I must evolve, and I must do so boldly, and do so courageously, transparently, and fucking honestly, even though it scares me. It scares me. It scares me just like the time I cried in the closet because I knew I was leaving the academy. It scares me like the time I said no to a Georgia Tech postdoc and went back to the strip club.

“I’ve changed,” I bemoaned to Donna.

“Good,” she told me. “Isn’t that what you teach other women to have the courage to do?”

“I don’t want to give up Lux,” I said.

“Who said anything about giving up Lux? This isn’t the end of the road.

It’s the progression of a calling.”  

Over the next few weeks, I will continue to lay down vulnerability and honesty as I take you along the journey of my own growth in order to inspire you to have the bravery to do the same.

Because that’s what you really loved me for anyways, right?

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