Post-Election Awareness

I find that now, as the dust settles on an election where the popular vote and the electoral college were at extreme odds, I am almost hypersensitively aware of my surroundings. Being a woman of color, I’ve been the subject of hateful and derogatory speech in the past, and I was raised to always pay attention to my surroundings for safety, but this is different. This time and space we find ourselves in as a country is different. On a personal level, I find myself hyper aware — practically on edge — gauging my level of safety in every room I enter. 
This week has been emotionally draining for me. I flew to Chicago for conferences, and  I made a plan with colleagues to meet at the hotel lobby bar, so that we could make a plan for dinner. The hotel lobby is this vast room, with detailed paintings spanning the ceiling, high above massive chandeliers. Seated at the bar, I drank a Manhattan and greeted colleagues as they arrived. As our group grew, the bar area became fragrant with the scent of garlic fries and buzzed with general merriment. 
As we sat unwinding and catching up, a man sat to my left, between me and a dividing wall. I sat turned in my chair, facing my friends, with my back to him. He was quiet for a time, but he began speaking to the bartenders about my group once he gained some liquid courage. He gestured toward us and said to the closest bartender, “I bet they’re talking about Trump.”

To this, I turned, and said, “We weren’t, actually.”

My response surprised him. “Oh, so you can hear me? I didn’t think you understood what I was saying. You didn’t turn around before.”

People who know me recognize my dry humor, but my response was not intended to be funny. “Yes, I understand and speak English just fine.”

To this, my friends ears all perked up, and they took notice of the man next to me. The watched as the man and I spoke for an hour, while he quizzed me on race relations and why it is that “Afro Americans” felt the need to be at the center of gang violence and drug trades. In my heart of hearts, I believe that this man really wanted to know how to get to know people of color, how to come from a place of respect, and how to start a dialogue. He just had a terrible delivery. 

Our conversation grew heated at moments, and there were several times that he had to walk away to digest what I had to say. I chose not to flower my words; I was as blunt as I could be, because I wanted him to understand the gravity of his approach and how it was perceived. If he really wanted to start a sincere dialogue, he needed to calibrate for his audience.

As we continued to talk, there was a moment where I realized that, as obtuse and completely unaware as this man was, he was genuine in trying to understand the struggles that people of color experience. He didn’t have friends outside of his own demographic, he was a self-proclaimed Republican who had not supported the President Elect, and I got the sense that he was really trying to figure out how to define his identity moving forward. 

I had to walk away toward the end. I excused myself to go to the ladies room, but it was primarily because I was so overwhelmed at the prospect of having to justify my frustration and challenges I’ve faced simply for being a person of color. When I reached the restroom, I burst into tears. I didn’t want him to see me cry; that what he said or how he thought affected me. That he unintentionally made me feel inferior. 

I regrouped and came back for our last round of conversation. He was a bit drunk by this point, but he was still talking. I finished my drink and decided I’d had my fill. I looked away, and tears filled my eyes that I couldn’t hold back. One Donny friends saw, and she came to envelope me in a big hug, as other friends and colleagues crowded around me. The man sensed that the conversation was over, and he left quietly, but I know he felt bad. 

I explained to my friends that, though this was a tough conversation, I appreciated that this stranger took the time to try and hear me out. He tried to process what I’d said, and he took the time to walk away and came back for more. I had to respect that. 

These conversations aren’t easy. Ones where people have assumed the absolute worst about your culture, your family, and you have to find a way to reconcile what they were taught and what really exists. It is so overwhelming to teach someone a history they didn’t learn in school or in life, to help someone understand that my community is how it is as the result of continuous prejudice and discrimination.  

I can’t even imagine what the harder conversations will be, how my nerves will fare, or if emotions will get the better of me. I don’t want to think the worst of these next four years, but I’m going into 2017 understanding that it could be more challenging than anything I’ve faced thus far. 

Let’s prepare ourselves. This next year is going to be a beast. 

Building Better Habits

I’ve been allowing too much time to pass me by, not only when it comes to writing, but with life in general. I have too many goals to hide behind the guise of being too busy, too tired, over-committed, or unable to focus. 

I keep waiting for someone to come along and allow me the opportunity to cook, teach, write, be active, love, volunteer, save, and practice self-care. Waiting, as if I can’t take a step forward and open these doors myself. Waiting, perhaps more out of a fear of failure than anything else. I keep waiting, but it’s time. 

If you want to create a positive habit, you have to make a routine and set out to complete it every day. No excuses. No waiting. No one is coming to do it for you or for me. Open the doors, and move forward. Even if the routine is built and completed on faith every day, each completion is a successful piece of the positive habit routine structure being built and solidified. As the routine becomes habit, confidence and contentment build. 

Anything is possible. Now tackle the blank book. 

Revisiting Storms

As I get to know my new colleagues — my counterparts– I find that we connect well, we team together often, and we agree on management styles, productivity, and creating policy. We fight the drama together, and we keep each other supported. I like this team.

Due to past experiences, I’ve taken my time getting to know them, having heard various accounts of their personalities and supposed tactics from my predecessor. I chose to form my own opinions under the belief that one person’s experiences don’t dictate the experiences of another. This decision certainly opened opportunities for us to bond and form new understandings based on our interactions.

Over lunch this week, the team began to share about family and grief, blogging and forms of therapy and detox. Another colleague mentioned journaling using the 750 Words app, so I shared that I’ve been blogging for 13 years now. That what started off as a purely organic mind dump each day, to lighten the burden on my shoulders, became my refuge for taking down the weight in exchange for a couple hundred words.

I shared my grief gingerly, unsure how it would be received by my colleagues, but they’ve been incredibly supportive and kind; they have been open and generous. The story has so many levels, intricately woven together to recount what happened when my sister died, how my parents were affected, and what I kept to myself.

After sharing, I was proud of myself, ┬ámostly because I didn’t cry as I recounted what happened in the accident and during trial. I didn’t cry as I explained the effect of such a loss on my family. My colleagues were the epitome of support. Asking questions where they felt comfortable, offering short-term resolutions that could prove helpful.

I’m just grateful┬áthat we could connect, that they were respectful and kind, and honestly, that they have a greater understanding of how I operate and why I do what I do for my students. This was accomplished without a breakdown, or even a tear, in a solemn conversation that felt safe and delicately handled.

I can’t complain. Missing her is always heavy, but being able to tell others about her lovely personality and all her goals brings me a great deal of comfort.

Good talk.

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Resolute

Hello, 2016.

I find myself in a new place this year. New city, new job, new home. The biggest difference is that I’m surrounded by friends, family, and a beautiful city full of history, gastronomy, and real seasons.

I had a talk with a friend yesterday, and it was thought-provoking for me. Lord knows I take my time to reflect, but fresh perspective is far more valuable than hindsight, because there is still time to act.

I’ve made several resolutions this year related to my writing. I want to blog once a week, work on my novel at least twice a week, and publish one of my novels by the end of the year. While this is certainly feasible, to put it plainly, I’m already making excuses. Work, work, work.

I’m currently questioning my position, the amount of time and effort that I put into this position, and whether this industry is where I want to be. Honestly, I questioned these things before I moved, but in those moments, all I knew was that the move needed to happen. Personally, I’m so happy that I relocated. Professionally, I’m still finding my way.

I think that the adjustment will take time, no matter whether I determine that I’m in the right career path or that I need a change. I just know that I need stability and support – in whatever I do – because then I feel more free to really give it my all. I’m happier, I sleep better, I’m more focused and committed. I’m more motivated, and I contribute more, when I feel like I have what I need.

I think that we all have moments of reflection where, no matter the challenge, we wonder whether we made the right decisions. Looking in the rearview mirror, did I choose the right education, the right career path, the right city, the right people to surround myself with? Am I where I need to be? At the end of my life, will I be able to say that I really went for what I wanted? That I really lived?

In my mind, I can do anything. In my heart, I’ll always be a writer. Writing has always been my very best form of communication. It’s the only way that I know that I can truly express myself, where I won’t be misunderstood. I get nervous speaking sometimes, because in my mind’s eye, I’m watch the words formulating and rearranging into the sentences that I need to say, but the articulation of these words isn’t as clean when spoken. When I write, I can take that moment to backspace and edit in a way that I haven’t mastered when speaking. Words tumble out of order at times, missing the mark or impact that I’m hoping to convey. But when I write, I can spin the story in any direction. I can evoke the right emotions. I can help people relate.

Though I feel that I’m being pulled in many different directions, I’ve neglected my writing for so long that often I feel guilty when I finally allot time to this craft. Where would I be happiest? Honestly, in some cafe with a cappuccino, my laptop, and my book notes. I could spend the rest of my days doing that exact same thing, because each day would still be different. Watching characters come alive on a backlit page, telling the stories through the eyes of others, finding ways to relate to my characters and their idiosyncrasies. Seeing all of the puzzle pieces come together in a literary work where you can visualize the story as it unfolds. That’s where success lies.

Books were my escape as a little girl. Deep within their pages, I found refuge from whatever was going on at home, from whatever my own feelings were. From reality. I devoured books quickly, often checking out 5-10 books per week from our local library, sometimes reading books twice if I read my pile too quickly.

Writing helps me to create for someone else that escape that was so vital for me. An alternate plane where obstacles aren’t your own, but those of fictional characters. It’s time to get back to this. To make time for this. To acknowledge self by believing that this time is deserved and not squandered.

This is how I make what I want a priority.