24 to 40

When I was 24, I graduated from college. Two years later, after a failed stint in a grad program that didn’t fit me, I moved back home and bought my first condo. Five years after that, I got married. A year later, I left my job which started me down a path to figure out what I was supposed to do. Two years after that, I enrolled in a different grad program and left after a successful semester of classes. By this time, every family member I had left the state, I developed fibroid tumors and psoriasis on most parts of my body.

A few months after leaving grad school, I knew if I was going to make anything creative work, I would have to do more writing than talking. I started writing a novel and had one article published. I joined a group of people trying to structure their lives and focus on goal setting. A couple of months later, I pitched said novel to an agent. The pitch went well and she requested pages. I sent her pages she did not love.

I kept writing this novel that seemed to go nowhere. I started a blog upon the suggestion of an agent at the writer’s conference where I pitched my idea. I took creative non-fiction and fiction writing classes, went to book signings and workshops and met other writers. I worked a few more jobs that had nothing to do with what I love most but you know, money.

When I was 37, I had a series of panic attacks I didn’t see coming. I thought working a soul numbing job, blogging three times a week, stressing about my husband’s health, writing a wedding vows journal and trying to keep up with life in general was a lot of things that were no big deal until I couldn’t breathe in the bed and then in front of my computer.

About a month later, I was let go for the first time from this job. I got back out there again and found one that was close by. At this time, I was still writing but not sure where any of it is going. I applied for a storytelling project for women of color. I actually get it. I fly to the University of Alabama. I feel myself coming to life again. My voice seems to be audible where it felt so quiet before. I had spoken a couple of places and published more but this was different.

I could be Black, insecure, awkward but vocal me. It didn’t matter I hadn’t found my footing professionally. In Alabama, I was surrounded by Black women who were excelling in every field from education, activism, music to law and social work. I could have felt less worthy but it didn’t matter. We all had stories to tell.

I flew back home and kept writing. I start working at a non-profit whose values more closely align with mine and eventually start facilitating creative non-fiction writing sessions there. I keep going to counseling and start weight training. I see myself as an athlete for the first time as a Strongman competitor. I keep writing because now it’s 2020 and I can’t hold back anymore of my rage, anxiety and frustration at the state of the world. I need to be free.

My writing becomes more honest.

I become more honest with myself.

I start thinking about turning this honesty into a book.

I receive a phone call. I am offered the opportunity to compile my work into a book by a publisher.

In a few days, I will be 40. I am just starting.

Because my life will always be a series of beginnings and endings.

A Brief Look Back

Today is my birthday and I spent it doing some of my favorite things plus taking a brief look back. I walked around with Hubby, spent ample time in a bookstore and ate delicious food. My brief look back was because I did it at my college Alma mater.

IMG_20181116_165439.jpg

I hadn’t been in 12 years. It was surreal to drive by old dorms and regale Jeff with stories of a time gone by. It was strange to see everything new and comforting to see how some things never change. I almost wanted all of my friends to be here with me so we could laugh at all the same memories.

But the loveliest part was it felt like I was properly introducing an old segment of my life, of me to my husband. A place where I started to grow into the woman he married.

Of all of the places we could have chosen to celebrate this new year, I am glad we chose this one.

It warms my whole heart to look into the past without being stuck there.

 

 

Transitions

During the spring semester of my senior year in college, I took a class that explored the relationship between literature and psychology. I don’t remember much about the class except that the size was small, the name of my professor and I found the content compelling. At the end of class, she conducted individual meetings. It was to discuss what she observed about each one of us during the course of the semester. The observations were purely based on what we shared during class.

During our meeting, she said I spoke frequently about fear. I remember being taken aback but it wasn’t a criticism. I seemed to identify it in the stories/pieces we read or clearly articulate it as part of a struggle the protagonist was going through and brought it up as part of class discussion.

When I went back to my dorm that afternoon, I took time to reflect on why I would have brought it up so often. Looking back, I wonder if it had to do with the transition I was getting ready to make.

At the time, graduation was near and I had been accepted to two different graduate programs in two states. I was proud of my accomplishments but a bundle of nerves at the same time. Since then, like most adults I’ve gone through several transitions: career, marriage and home ownership just to name a few.

I am grateful that even when fear threatened to paralyze me in some situations, I walked through it and made decisions anyway. I have also learned from the times, especially when it comes to my health, where I let fear stop me or have me return to my old habits. The truth is, if we’re really willing to admit it, aren’t we always at a crossroads? It doesn’t have to be at college graduation or deciding whether or not to take a job or marry someone you love. We are always standing in the middle somewhere, deciding to freeze in the moment, stretching it out and waiting for life to happen or moving forward with a bold new idea, health plan, way to raise our children, faith commitment, community activism or travel adventure?

Writing makes me feel like that girl again, straightening her cap and gown, leaving that version of the classroom behind and walking into her future. My love for the in-between, the murky, the gray only grows as I get older. I love knowing that each active decision I make drives me down a path I cannot completely see but undoubtedly holds experiences and knowledge I could not fill my life with otherwise.

In this moment, I am thanking God for transitions.