Week 12-Reaching For Stars

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“No woman has ever written enough.”

-Bell Hooks

 

In 4 weeks, I will be a college graduate. In 4 weeks, I will be headed towards taking my GRE, with laser focus on graduate school. All while trying to a mother, a wife and a writer always.

This week, I had a bout of serious self-doubt. I mean, serious self-doubt! Not even for talent, ability or time. I thought it would be safer to not apply to the doctoral program–and just apply for my MFA. Writing is clearly my destiny, teaching is something I am good at–but all I could think of was, “What if I don’t get in?!”

Then, in stepped Dr. Drucilla Wall.

On Thursday, while looking over, analyzing the work of Flannery O’Connor, Dr. Wall, in the way the Galadriel, the Elf Queen in Lord of the Rings helps Frodo, she reminded us of the responsibilities we have–we have!–as writer. Dr. Wall told us about how Willa Cather burned the rest of her work, and her partner may or may not have saved some of it. I was reminded that Margaret Mitchell asked her husband, Dennis, to burn the manuscript for Gone With The Wind. I thought of the Black women writers whom were looked over twice because of things they were unable to control:  sex and race.

Dr. Wall reminded us to write, to value what we create. Value thought, making time for the mind as her husband, Dr. Amon Wall says. It was then, that I decided upon my passing, that I would have to leave record. I would have to keep my journals (electronic and written). My drafts. My poems. I, once more, was encouraged by Dr. Wall’s words. Which means, I will be reaching out to my professional mentor, Dr. Kimberly Welch.

There is a longing in me that desires to create, to be heard–stretching this gift to its capacity. I also know that there are things which I still struggle with in regards to my academic destiny as well. At 16, I wanted my doctorate in English. That is now within striking distance.  I know that teaching at a collegiate level was something I wanted to do. And still desire to do. But what cannot be dismissed is I am still a writer. I still have more to say. I need to say more.

I am taking a deep breath. I am putting faith in God and self, and going forward. I am looking at doctoral programs. I am going to give my writing sample. I am in all in.

I am all in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Week 11- Take A Deep Breath, And Look Around

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“Don’t die with your dream in you.”

-My Mom, Bessie Bush

My chord for Sigma Tau Delta will be arriving soon. I have to order my stole for my father’s fraternity will be ordered next week. I have my cap, gown, with tassel on said cap, hanging up in my hall closet.

I checked my grades after midterm and I have 1 A and 2 B’s–which may turn into 3 A’s. Right now? Your girl is coasting!

I am 6 weeks out from my degree, going back to work full time, and from taking the GRE for grad school.

This week, I am taking the time to count up the wins. My wins. I’m forgiving myself for what I did, should have done, and what I knew I should have done before now.

Y’all know the story.

I’ve been writing since 8. Wanted to be an English professor at 16. Wanted to go to NYU. Mom said she wouldn’t pay. My Dad died at 17. In abusive relationship for 3 years. At 22, I couldn’t write. Met a guy that started my heart–and gift–again.

Got married to a dude I didn’t really love like I should have. He got mad at me reading for fun, for finishing my education. For keeping myself up. Had not 1 but 2 kids by a dude that–and I promise this is true–had to cheat to get his GED!

My heart wanted to write. But I had to feed my kids. I ran after being a nurse from 18 to 33.

I journaled to keep my sanity.

I took English classes to offset the rigor of the science I took.

And now? I’m back where I am supposed to be. Should have been. Need to be. Needed to be.

I am a woman of faith, so I believe in destiny. I believe in the plan of God for my life, and have seen it work in these last 11 weeks. I have seen my destiny wide, and sweet an.

Week 10- Homesick & Homestretching

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“If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.”

-Toni Morrison

 

I am over the hump!

 

In a matter of weeks, I will be a college graduate. That is still a heavy thing for me to accept. This entire semester has renewed my faith in God, humanity and myself. This week? I got further confirmation that words are what I am supposed to do, to bend, and perhaps teach until the end of my days.

I was accepted into the English Honors Society Sigma Tau Delta. Yes, I am building my professional network. This society–this English Honors Society!–will only help that. I was told by my professional chapter member (Kate Watt–even her name is cool!), that I will get a chord when I graduate. In a matter of weeks.

Weeks!

I will be able to wear my father’s fraternity stole, and this chord which signifies that which I am working towards. So, to answer your question, I am looking to the Ph.D. program. I am looking into jumping as it were from an MA/MFA to a Ph.D. I am embracing this path God has chosen for me! I am grateful and I cannot tell you how in awe of God I am.

For the past 10 weeks, every class meeting, every reading assignment, every commute to class and back has been done in absolute faith. And every step of the way, God has made straight the path. He has given time for me to rest, be with my family, and see the end of this.

Can I tell you something?

I was beating myself up hard this week. HARD. All I could think about was how I should have done this 20 years ago. I would have been able to be doing that which I love to do, and would have been doing it for a decade and more! I could have been somewhere, anywhere else than I am right now. I thought about this to the point of tears. I saw the time I wasted–I saw a whole different life in front of me. For anyone that knows me, knows I hate wasting time.

But then I thought about what I learned in those years I chased a nursing degree. I thought about how every time I leaned towards English, life was smoother. Nursing was hard, arduous and draining. It was rigorous! But I could do it–and could have been a great nurse. Yet, those are not my giftings.

I am thinking of the people I would not have known, my children, and even the friends I have. I thought about what I have now, rather than what I have missed. Would it have been great to have all my schooling done by 40? That would have been SO BOMB! But, I believe, God knowing the end from the beginning, knew if I didn’t have a detour, hardships or suffering, I would be insufferable. I’d be a bitch. And out of touch. And in an Ivory Tower.

I wouldn’t be me.

I am a writer. An artist. A healer of the alphabet sort. You cannot spell TESTIMONY without TIME. The time I have spent doing what I thought was the best thing, listening to other people, believing negating what I knew I would be the best thing for me in the favor of the practical–cost me time.

But what time gave me back? It cannot be measured. I have taken the guess work out of this now. I suppose that is what it means to ‘surrender to the air’ so you can ride it. I have given up the weight of doubt, other people’s opinions, and desire for their understanding.

This life, my life, is not subject to the chaotic crazy of other people. It took me 20 years to figure that out.

 

 

Week 9- Catch Your Breath, And Keep Going

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“There are more tears shed over answered prayers, than unanswered ones.”

-Truman Capote 

 

I almost had to quit school.

I was within 48 hours of having to withdraw from my program–with 8 weeks left to go.

My financial aid was non-existent. There was no one that I could borrow the money from.

Then, God stepped in.

 

Let me back up.

 

I had to get about $3700 together by October 10. I had paid $100 towards my tuition. This semester I haven’t been working, because my classes have all been day classes. Working nights is not possible because of day classes. So, every week–EVERY WEEK–has been done in faith.

Last week, last Thursday I was told by my school (University of Missouri-St. Louis) that I had to pay this money by that Friday, October 10th. It was Thursday, October 9th. I all but cried to the nice young man on the phone, pleading with him not to drop my classes due to non-payment.

Non-payment.

This phrase has haunted my academic career! Haunted and hunted it. This is the crux of the BAB (Broke And Brilliant). My school told me that if I couldn’t come up with the minimum of $1888 (no without other unsaved activities–aka hoeing!) I could come up with $950. Which was knocked down to $850 after I paid the $100 on my bill. I had until 10/16 as the ABSOLUTE LAST DATE to pay this $1888.

I had to fight tears. I was so close, am so close. I am due to pick up my cap and gown in 2 weeks. I have been allowed to wear my father’s fraternity stole (Kappa Alpha Psi)! But I didn’t have the money. I talked to my best friend, assured her it was not a joke–I was on the verge of being put out–with mere WEEKS to go!

I was enraged!

My best friend said if she had the money, she would give it to me. I told her I wouldn’t ask for this. “But if you got $40, I’ll take it.” I was half joking. And then she sent it to me…

I talked to my Facebook girlfriends, Freck and Kellz. Freck told me to put my CashApp up and be sincere. Kellz told me to keep the faith. In that, with that, I got mad. I was stirred with this holy boldness–I made the appeal.

I asked my Facebook friends to help a chick stay in school. Meanwhile, I called everyone I knew! My sister, my mother, godmother, adopted aunts–anyone that I could get any money from! I was desperate. I didn’t want to quit.

I was scared…

My CashApp notifications started. My PayPal lit up. My fundraiser got traction. And a benevolent benefactor stepped up and paid the entire balance.

All $3678.46 of it. ALL OF IT!

I cried. I wept. I wept because there were people that saw my gift, my drive and my heart and gave towards it. Which rarely happens to me–I normally don’t get that kind of support. To to have it? Amazing.

With it paid…I went to class on Monday.

The monies given? They were funneled to the Be A Torch Sponsorship at The Ideal Firestarter. The blog I have run since 2016. Click here to become a Torch.


Dr. Jennifer P. Harris.

This title is, was, has been a secret I have kept in my heart. Since I was 16.

As a Junior in high school, I wanted to be an English teacher. I wanted to go to NYU. I wanted to be a professor. And I had really told no one. It just so happens, after everything that happened with paying tuition, I met with Dr. Kimberly Welch. The Monday after almost being put out.

She told me that I should think about grad school. And I had–and I had no idea what this meeting would hold. Or how deep it would go.

We spoke for an hour. Over an hour really.

I found out there is another way to get to my Ph.D. from my BD–without a MFA or MA in English. The greater part?  I have a professional mentor–Dr. Welch.

I know have to prepare to take the GRE. Prepare a writing sample. And push my gift, strengthening my academic writing. My Achilles’s heel. But the talent out weights the anxiety.

My career is not my call and the call my career.

I wanted God to give me guidance in this process…I wanted help to do this right.

And the Creator of the Universe and all therein, answered me.

 

 

 

 

Week 8- Get In Where You Fit In

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“I’m just trying to be me…”

-Lil Kim

 

This week was hard, loves.

When I started this week? There was all matter of dopeness! And as the week ends? I almost have a panic attack.

Why?

Money.

It always, always, always comes down to money.

These past 8 weeks have been something serious! I mean it truly has. When my husband told me to go back to school while I’m on this hiatus from work, I said why not. But in the ‘why not’ I knew that my financial aid was sketchy at worst and iffy at best! There were things that I needed to do–still haven’t done!–but this whole semester has been based in faith.

Let me tell you something. This how all this came to be.

I took a nursing exam for a LPN program and passed. Awesome! But, there are multiple hoops I had to jump through before I could ever start! One of them is I had to go through three interviews before I could even be let in! On top of paperwork, immunizations and other academic scrutiny. I was so frustrated. And I cried.

My husband, seeing me cry, offered that I should go back to school. Finish the English degree. In the course of a Saturday afternoon this happened–

I got a degree audit. I was able to reapply to my program. I only needed 9 hours, not the 12. This meant I could graduate in December. In reapplying, I got to start in Fall 2019, not Spring 2020. I started class that Tuesday. 

I believe that God was tired of me fearing what it is I was supposed to do:  I am a writer, not a scientist.

I am a healer of a different source…and that is okay.

 

______________

The dope thing that happened this week:

My professor, Dr. Welch, put me up on game. She asked me after turning in my second reflection paper, she asked if I was an undergrad student or graduate student (I’m an undergrad–last semester). Then she said this:

“I don’t know what your life journey includes, but you should consider grad school.”

You have to know what this means. A Black professor, of English, saw a Black student–and her promise–and told her to dream. Bruh! Not even dream, but prepare to take over! She told me that there is a way to complete my Master’s degree, and get paid to finish my doctorate. As a Black woman, in doing being in halls of academia–like a college–that would allow me to be in a space of influence that just being a freelance writer cannot touch.

Besides, the goal of the artist is to disturb the peace. What better way to do that than by degree at a time?

 

Week 7-See You When I Get There

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“Big sh-t, poppin, little sh-t stoppin’ “

-Clifford “T.I.” Harris

 

This week? Mane. You remember the paper I told you about that I got a whole 60 on? Well, when I resubmitted it, I got a 92. A 92/100. Bruh. I shouted! I really did! I am now at a 83.5 in Prof. Welch’s class (this is a B-). And this week we started If Beale Street Could Talk? And we have to write a reflection on this? And I love Baldwin?

I am now in a sweet spot for this semester–at least for this week.

In my 4700 class (yes, with Dr. Wall!) we are discussing the poet/writer Tess Gallagher. And with any English class, there will be paper writing. We have a paper that is due in about two weeks. The cool thing is if we do this right, this paper can be used as a basis towards our final paper.

This paper has to be 5 pages. The final paper has to be conference length.  This means it has to be ten pages:  nine full length pages, with the tenth being for citation. I decided to do my paper on Lucille Clifton.

Dr. Wall had us to write a thesis and be prepared to discuss it in class this week. My thesis? Glad you asked:

“The relevance of Lucile Clifton is demonstrated in the canon of American writers because, in the words of Toni Morrison, she helps to decolonize the canon.”

I know, I know. It’s lit.

Not only did Dr. Wall validate my thesis, not only did she champion it, not only did she see how excited I was to write it, she helped to develop my thesis! She helped all of us develop my thesis! This middle-aged White woman, whom is a fan of African-American literature, told me–an African-American undergrad–to write this paper. Like lean into it an write it! She also gave our class this other tidbit.

Dr. Wall reminded us to keep all of our papers. In the case of Lucille Clifton, there has not been enough critically written about her. This just means there has not been enough people whom have engaged her work. There haven’t been enough people that thought enough about her work to ask questions about it.

Trust, I am already thinking about this final paper. I am already thinking about my analysis. I am already thinking about the contrast I want. I am already thinking about where I could send it if Dr. Wall gives her blessing that the work is good enough.

At this point? I’m counting the weeks. I am about 8 weeks out of completing my undergrad. And I get to wear the stole of my father’s fraternity (Kappa Alpha Psi)? I can’t help but think that Daddy would still have to smile at all this.

As long as it took–I still did it. I did it.

 

 

 

 

Week 6-In The Thick Of Things

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 “I know I can.”

-Nas, God Son Album

 

I hadn’t written a paper in about 4-5 years. I just hadn’t. And academic writing has always been hard for me. But, for what I need to do, and the spheres I travel in, this  has to be something that I conquer. And this week? I got a D on a reflection paper.

A. Whole. D.

A 60.

My formatting was off, and analysis was weak and it was a trash paper! I mean, it was! And my professor (yes, Prof. Welch!) gave me the chance to resubmit it because the formatting was so trash.

So, did I do?

I cursed, called Monday (the day I got it back) trash AF, and resubmitted it.

Point:  As a student, especially as a minority student, you have to know when to play the game and when to pop (totally) off. You have to know that certain halls of academia are still tinged with race, sex and class! You cannot pop off when you are been shown grace. What do I mean? My professor told me that she would be open to changing my grade if I resubmit my paper. What would have happened if I snapped off on her? Thisclose to graduation?!

Girl. Chile. NO.

I resubmitted my paper. I took the critique disguised as grace, and did what I had to do. I mean, she could have just given me that ugly, hard D. I refuse to let pride stunt my destiny!

This week confirmed that I am built for this. That the wit is still there. The talent has only strengthened with time and experience. That my analysis is–it’s there. Like any muscle, I have to work it.

 


With my class for Dr. Wall (whom I adore!), we have to do 2  papers. One is for a midterm, and I plan on doing my midterm on Lucille Clifton. I didn’t even meet her until this class. And she died of cancer. Dr. Wall is a space-maker. A space-holder. Unapologetically so! Dr. Wall said in her class (while talking about criteria), there is not enough critical literary  analysis of Lucille Clifton.

What does that mean?

Critical literary analysis is being able to break down what the writer is saying and apply it in a broader or more narrow context. How deep can you apply it? And how does it apply?

And on Thursday, ya girl applied for graduation for this Fall.

THIS FALL.

Oh, yeah there’s something brewing for this. A poem may–or may not—be what culminates at the end of this journey.

#HereSheCome