A Black Girl Who Wants to Write and Change the World

Last week, I had my first piece published on ForHarriet.com!

It’s actually a slightly revised piece that I posted on here a few weeks ago. It took me a while to be excited about it, as I made the foolish mistake of reading the comments on the piece as soon as I saw it was up. Oh, how my fragile ego was not ready… As I discussed with my father this weekend, the biggest adjustment to seriously pursuing “being a writer” is actually having an audience respond and interact with my words. Even though I honestly welcome critique, for the most part, the feedback I receive on my writing is positive. I’ve come to accept that I probably haven’t been submitting my work because I’m afraid of the negative reactions. But when you’re writing for sites like For Harriet, you have to get over that shit real quick. Black Women do not restrain themselves when they want to let you know something about something! 

However, since then, I’ve had a few people reach out to me to express that they enjoyed my piece and checked out my blog. That was probably the highlight of last week. Since high school, I have been saying that I want to be a writer (amongst many other things). Most of the time, I talk myself out of sharing my writing because I worry that it’s not good enough or no one cares about what I have to say. Having those few individuals reach out to me through email really gave me the boost I needed. It’s not like I’m famous. The Huffington Post isn’t knocking down my door. And BuzzFeed still doesn’t think I was seasoned enough for their editorial fellowship. But to have actual people out there—who are not friends or family—say, “Hey, girl! I like what you write! I relate to it! Keep doing you!” Well, that meant the world to me. It still means the world to me.

Tomorrow I have a job interview. It’s not for writing specifically. It’s an arts-in-education organization that provides arts workshops to youth and professional development trainings to teachers. I have all kinds of feelings wrapped up in this interview. I’m worried because it’s literally hotter than hell, so I’m worried that I will sweat my makeup off and what outfit I’ll wear that won’t turn me into a steaming hot mess. I’m also worried about all sorts of other things that I shouldn’t be worried about, because I’m getting too far ahead of myself. But really, interviewing for a new job is an incredibly stressful experience, is it not? It’s also exciting and wonderful. I don’t think I’m the only one who does this—I start imagining what my life will be like if I get it. My new morning commute. What inside jokes I’ll have with my coworkers. And because this is an actual job in the creative field, I’m imagining how good it will be able to say, “Oh, yeah, I do arts education with youth!” (No more sexual health!) Of course, I need to slow my damn roll, because I haven’t even interviewed yet. But being hopeful is good, right?

I just want to do work that’s enjoyable and creative and inspiring. For the past few years, I’ve felt like I was split in half between artsy-fartsy Michelle and youth-programming Michelle. It would be nice to have the two come together for once. It’d be nice to feel like my vision for the kind of career I yearn to have is possible. That I can be a writer and storyteller and artist myself, while still being an educator and mentor and community worker who helps others use the arts. I often feel like these things are in direct conflict with one another. Even though I know that’s not true. Even though many of my heroes and role models who are writers/artists are also educators and activists. I’ve been trying to get my family and friends to understand this for the longest. (Meaning, I’ve been trying to make sense of it myself as I try to tell them.) For me, there is no one or the other. It’s hard for me to accept at times. But as much as I want to be a writer/artist/storyteller/performer who tours around the world and writes books and essays and films and plays, I also want to be a teacher and community organizer and activist. I cannot separate the two. But I’m still figuring out how they can live in harmony. So it doesn’t seem like I’m giving all my energy to organizing, so there’s nothing left creatively. Or that I’m selfishly focusing so much on my art, that I’m not about my social justice business.

Y’all feel me?

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