This has been a crazy two weeks.
I have been trying to find the words to say what needs to be said, but nothing seems sufficient. All my words seem trite, clichéd, small in comparison to the stories they want to tell.
In these moments, I feel less like a writer than a angst-ridden teenaged girl with a neglected diary.
Last night, my homegirl and I completed our road trip. We left Los Angeles two weeks ago today, heading up to Oakland for the National Poetry Slam. In total, we traveled over 3,600 miles and to eight cities. We’ve settled in New Jersey, where she’ll be staying until she finds an apartment in the City.
I feel this strange sense of achievement. I, Michelle Denise Jackson, went on a cross-country road trip. Me, the girl who everyone knows as The Girl Who Can’t Drive. Me, who is bougie and spoiled, spent two weeks on the road. I ate Doritos and turkey jerky for dinner. I peed in more gas station restrooms than I ever thought I would. I have been inside one too many Wal-Mart Supercenters, all in celebration of The Open Road and the U.S. of A.
Yes, I may be unemployed. Yes, I may be eating through my savings. No, I have no idea what I’d like to do with my life. But none of that matters. You can’t tell me shit, because I drove across country! Across the Midwest. *Celebratory twerking*
It’s funny. When I tell people that I’ve been on a road trip, the first thing they say is, “Oh, I want to hear all about your wild adventures!” And then I just allow the awkward pause to come. We didn’t have any wild adventures. From TV, young twentysomething girls on road trips are expected to have “adventures”. But (a) driving all goddamn day is exhausting; and (b) we were two Black women driving through predominantly white Middle America. To have a “wild adventure” would’ve meant being reckless with our lives. No, thank you!
But in all seriousness, Michael Brown was killed in Ferguson, Missouri over a week ago. We were still in Oakland then. We have spent most of this trip feeling Black more than anything else, in the context of his execution and the protesting. And so, what a privilege it might have been to walk into local bars and flirt with the townie patrons. Or to take detours. But we spent most of our time wanting to get to the next hotel or family friend’s house. We spent most of our time hoping that the stares and awkward interactions at fast food restaurants and gas stations in small towns off the highway wouldn’t escalate into anything more hostile, “Othering”.
Last night, we made another Wal-Mart run after we got to our final destination here in New Jersey. (I never want to step foot into another Wal- Mart again.) And I felt strangely at home. I have only been to New Jersey once before in my life. But for the first time in Oakland, it was true Diversity! Melting pot type shit! White folks! Black folks! Latino folks that looked like Black folks! Middle Eastern folks! Indian folks! Not a sprinkling of brown skin, either. True diversity! I was so grateful.
So, yes, I’ve spent the last week of my life feeling so Black, it was disorienting. I was Black before anything else, it felt like. Even before human. And I can’t wait to go into New York today and feel more whole person. And I can’t wait to go back home to LA and just be myself again. Always Black, but a lot of other things too.
I remember writing that this road trip was necessary, that I knew it would open me up. And while it was much less Disney Magic transformation than I wrote it to be, it did give me a lot of perspective.
I have realized that my health really matters to me. I don’t want it to be some outside thing I write about for a month or so, and then I go back to eating my shitty comfort food. At some point, I’m going to have to be Very Serious about taking care of myself.
I have realized how much I want to be a writer, but also how much I would like to live comfortably. In Denver, I started reading this book of essays, Goodbye to All That. It’s a group of women writers writing about falling in and out of love with New York, and eventually leaving the City. I’ve been wanting to read it for a while now. My romanticized, idealized notion of being a writer in New York is slowly fading away to the truth of being a writer, one who may not live in New York anytime soon.
Being a writer means writing everyday. Not writing tweets and status updates, but actually working to complete projects. Exercising the muscle. But being a writer also means having a day job, so I can pay my bills. Being a writer means finding balance and being patient and growing up a little bit.
And so, I am anxious to go home. One, because as much as I kind of hate it sometimes, Los Angeles really is home. For the time being at least. I will always love New York more. And then the Bay Area after that. And then I will have romantic dreams about Paris, because it’s Paris. But I am a Southern California girl, a wildflower who kind of resembles a weed. And so, until there is something real pulling me away from LA… I have to be there.
I am anxious to start production on my web series. I am anxious to find a real job. A full-time job that I won’t hate, with benefits and accrued paid time off.
I have realized (again and again) that I keep waiting for something big to happen, for my life to start. My real life, where I’m all grown up and a writer. I want to go to graduate school, but I haven’t been able to figure out what programs to apply to. I want to move to the Bay Area or New York, but I have no real job prospects. I want to be a “full-time writer,” but I haven’t put in the work to get to that point. And many of the writers I love and admire aren’t even full-time writers themselves.
Instead, I should just find a way to do the things I love doing NOW. I should find a way to be happy NOW.