I’m Talkin’ ‘Bout Dat Writin’

First, let me say: I am the worst.

Show me an honest, self-aware writer who’s never had that thought, and I will…be flabbergasted at their level of confidence and self-importance, actually.

But really, I’m the worst. I’m a writer, even when I didn’t say it. Even when I put my name to things, I didn’t really talk about it. When friends mentioned it, I assumed it was pity praise and a testament to our bond more than anything.

That assumption’s done. For better or for worse, this is my fate. I might as well embrace it, cause it’s not going away.

I delight in reading suggestions for writers. It’s cool, it’s romantic, it’s got that je ne sais quoi. Of course you want to write your personal opus. And you want it to be the best. Mediocrity isn’t in your vocabulary–which is superb. You know the person you are meant to be. Fill yourself up with that good good, those magic tips that’ll land you on the bestsellers’ list, get on college syllabi, earn yourself tenure. When people say your name they’ll say “You mean the writer?” Yasss, I love some good writing tip porn.

My biggest dream is to have that writer’s space they always talk about (a room of one’s own…sorry, I had to). Squeezing in a bit of typing on lunch breaks, after work on an uneven couch, or stomach side on a bed before a nap just doesn’t give the craft the respect I feel it deserves. I make do, but my Pinterests lean toward big oak desks facing huge windows with clutches of trees outside.

Oooh, another favorite is to set aside time every day to write. That right there is a fabulous life. I’m childless and unmarried, but finding time away from Star Trek reruns, Amazon surfing, last-minute brunch dates and darts to the corner store for last-minute tea? That’s gonna be a problem. But how colorful and quaint a concept: Muting all influences except your mind’s own, preferably staring out the window of your London pied-à-terre, a perfectly warm mug of tea to one side, a stack of completely legible notes to the other. Sixty. minutes. every. day.

Now lemme tell you how I get down.

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Feeling Blue, Feeling Fine

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Two phrases I never thought would be grouped together. Such is life.

I don’t talk about my college experience publicly much, but I graduated from Yale University in 1994 with a BA in English Literature. Part of it, I think, is the fear of sounding braggadocious, snobby. Well, of COURSE someone with my brilliance attended an Ivy League.

Not so much. I was laser-focused on Wesleyan when my mom scrounged up enough cash for the then-application fee of $50. I was set to attend Wes, Hampton, or NYU. I had a full scholarship to UMCP (!) but when I got that acceptance letter, my mommy ran to the window of our basement apartment in Fort Greene and yelled through the screen that I’d gotten in. Passerby chuckled and congratulated me, tucked away in complete mortification.

I skipped many Yale events, for various reasons: insecurity, lack of funds, exhaustion, family tangos (fine, family bonkers drama). And then the 20th reunion. I was SO close….but I was so grateful for posts & pictures. Social media gave me goosebumps. And damn if folks didn’t look the same!

My experience at college was mixed (Naples, anybody?). I’d spent four years in a place less than two hours from my home. Oh–shoutout to mom for braiding my hair on those weekend trips. Hair was hard, classes were hard, socializing was iffy at times. Is college a breeze for anyone, save prodigies (and you know who you are)? But I made it through, and what better accomplishment is that? Dean Jan Murray, wherever you are, know that your advice helped this teenager survive a landscape she often just pretended she knew. We graduated on the hottest day of the season, but y’all gave me that diploma, family took me to the shiny new Olive Garden, and I was set.

Finally, FINALLY, my two besties more or less put me in a headlock re: the Afro-American Cultural Center’s 45th Anniversary. And I felt ready. In 2014, 20 years later, I was wary, but mustered the guts to drag way too many clothes on Metro-North to connect with classmates I hadn’t realized I’d missed so desperately. Indeed, it was a coming home.

Old Campus: gorgeous. Davenport: took a dozen pics. Cage free eggs, vegan waffles, praline pecan french toast for brunch? And I didn’t see one student without a Mac. Oh OK, now I know where that $63K is going.

Spoken word, incredible music and dancing… Watching the leaves turn and smelling New England air again took me back immediately. I mean, Commons! And I mean Commons’ ice-cream station, specifically. The chandeliers were cool too. And I can’t go without mentioning speaker Jedidah Isler, PhD, our first African-American female astrophysicist. Mind you, I overslept and missed half my Spanish final senior year.

I could go on about the inspiring panels, my absolute pride in what my colleagues have accomplished, but at this point you get the picture. I’ve got incredible memories of sweaty Saturday night parties (dressed to impress in jeans, bodysuit & flannel shirt), BSAY meetings that bristled, and clustering downstairs to catch up & watch The Cosby Show and A Different World. I’m 42, I’m black and blue, and you can’t take that away from me.

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