"She was the glue that bonded my family together, even through our ups and downs. Not only was she the glue, but she was full of magic and laughter."
December 22, 2020
When my grandmother was alive, I remember decorating the Christmas tree and my family being together on Christmas day.
We did not see each other too often throughout the year, only on holidays like Easter or the Fourth of July. All my family members would come to her house to open gifts, watch movies, and eat dinner together. My grandmother had so much holiday spirit, and I believed some of it rubbed off on her other grandchildren too.
At the beginning of December, we would spend an entire day together drinking hot cocoa and eating marshmallows while decorating the tree with ornaments and trinkets that my grandmother had collected over the years from other celebrations or gifts that she could hang up. She was the glue that bonded my family together, even through our ups and downs. Not only was she the glue, but she was full of magic and laughter. Every student or parent she met at work as a school nurse could make them laugh or smile, bringing joy to their day.
Outside of her position as a school nurse, my grandmother was known as Sparkle the Clown. She would host and facilitate school fairs each year that were days full of fun for the students. The school would close down the streets surrounding the building. The rides would set up days in advance, like the Ferris wheel and a ride that spun and lifted the riders off the ground. In addition to that, there was a magician inside the gym performing magic tricks with tables and volunteers. It was a day for students to come together and play games and win prizes while spending time with their families and classmates.
When the fair day arrived, I watched her as she started getting ready early in the morning. She applied the makeup on with large and tiny brushes and the sparkles with the tip of her pointy finger. She had so many costumes. She could be whoever she wanted to be that day. After she finished putting on her wig, she wore a great big smile on her face that made me feel warm and safe.
I admired her creativity and how kind she was towards others. After she died of cancer, I did not realize how much my life would change without her. There are moments throughout the year when I cry thinking about her. I would not be alive today if it were not for her, and I realized that too late. I didn't even get the chance to thank her for how much she inspired me to become a better person.
I hope she knows I was proud to be her granddaughter. Her kindness and understanding helped her learn how to forgive others, and maybe she has forgiven me. I regret refusing to see her in the hospital when she needed me the most, but I was afraid. I could not stand by and watch her as she suffered. I would have felt so helpless. I encourage you all to take a moment to thank your loved ones this holiday season and reflect on the love you share.
"Participating in fellowships like American Needs You and BravenX will continue to help me develop my character and inspire me to implement self-improvement in my daily routine."
December 18, 2020
On December 1, I received email confirmation congratulating me for my acceptance into the BravenX Leadership and Career Accelerator.
BravenX is a college-level fellowship that runs an intense 15 weeks course that meets once a week for 2-3 hours. The expectation is students who are accepted into this fellowship attend the meetings. This course is similar to a college course. In addition to attending meetings, there will be homework and studying required outside of the sessions.
Through this course, I hope to continue developing my professionalism and learn critical skills to be successful in a professional setting. This course will prepare me for workspaces through mock interviewing and involvement in a real company consulting project.
I was eligible for this opportunity because I will be a Million Degrees Alumna after transferring from City Colleges. The lessons that I've been taught at home could not be translated into the professional realm. Participating in fellowships like American Needs You and BravenX will continue to help me develop my character and inspire me to implement self-improvement in my daily routine. Without these opportunities, I would not be as successful as I am today.
When I attended elementary school, I watched my mother struggle to take care of four kids. I watched her as she spent the little money she had on alcohol and cigarettes to cope with her loneliness. Not only did I see that, but I heard her beg family members and friends for money to feed us and to pay her bills. I vowed to myself I would never be a reflection of my mother and rely on others to afford to take care of my children. My children will not grow up without a role model in their lives as I did. My father saved me from going down a similar path as my mother, but that is no excuse for his behavior.
These experiences led me on my hunt for knowledge and insight into a reality outside of my own. The progress began slowly. My learning disability had put me at a disadvantage. Still, I remained resilient, and I never allowed my limitations to stop me from asking for the help I needed.
I have traveled many hours outside of my neighborhood to escape the fate that seems predicted for Black youth. Many innocent lives have been taken due to acts of violence and police brutality. The lack of access to quality healthcare and the miscommunication between people who have different values and cultural beliefs has lead to many deaths. We want to flourish and live in prosperity, but there seem to be added obstacles to overcome when we try to succeed.
"I have been able to reclaim my peace of mind. I am more in control of my future than ever before. With the guidance of my Bottom Line Advisor, I’ve officially decided to attend Chicago State. I can thrive under any circumstances and still make the most out of the experience."
December 11, 2020
On Thanksgiving Day, I never thought I would have so much to be thankful for.
When I was at my weakest point, close friends and mentors shared stories of their own, encouraging words, and offered financial support. With their help and kind words, I was able to find a place to call home.
When I was experiencing homelessness, there were nights I could not sleep. Those nights were full of tears and sorrow. Over time, I lost the confidence and strength I needed to carry on, but they lifted me up. They believed in me when I could no longer believe in myself. I had belittled myself for not being prepared.
I have never been on my own before. It has always been my father and me. We appeared to be a team to our neighbors and friends, even though we had many unresolved issues hidden underneath our smiles and laughter.
My fellowship through America Needs You taught me the importance of surrounding myself with people who want to see me grow and transform. Those individuals fixed me when I became broken and mended me when I began to feel torn. People who genuinely care for your well-being will support you at the lowest and highest moments of your life. I hope one day I can return the favor by being the shoulder they need to lean on when they feel defeated and in need of encouragement. Their presence in my life is what I am thankful for.
I have been able to reclaim my peace of mind. I am more in control of my future than ever before. With the guidance of my Bottom Line Advisor, I’ve officially decided to attend Chicago State. I can thrive under any circumstances and still make the most out of the experience. I can do this because I establish relationships with people who see potential in me and accept me for who I am. I am also full of curiosity. I love to get lost to have an excuse to explore my surroundings. Getting lost helps me to figure out the layout of locations. What resources I have access to, and who can support me throughout my journey.
"It's time to go back to the drawing board for a new approach to follow through with my dreams."
December 3, 2020
I remember when I was sitting alone in a hotel room staring at a white wall. The wall looked like a blank canvas disguised as an empty wall full of nothingness. In my mind, it was a large screen for a projector, and all it was missing was the film stripes. I used it to project what occurred earlier on that day and the day before that.
It was the day of the election when it first began, but then it ended the next day in that hotel room. Tears rolled down my face as I tried to make sense of it myself while explaining it to mentors and friends. It was like reliving a bad dream. The reality I was escaping finally caught up with me. When I came face-to-face with it, I no longer had the energy to argue or convince myself that everything would be okay. I knew it was not in the back of my mind, but I had nowhere to run after putting up with it for so many years, and I had enough.
Before arriving at the hotel and speaking on the phone with anyone, I decided to go to the gym. I needed to clear my head before I made an attempt to find a solution to my situation. What appeared in my mind was not an answer, nor was it silence. It was thoughts of regret and flashbacks of encounters between my dad and me. I could no longer accept the lies I was telling myself.
After I explained the experience to my mentor about what had occurred earlier that day over the phone, her response was, "It was going to happen either way." But I was not prepared for it.
As we continued to talk over the phone, I knew I would not have a home to return to.
The decision did not go into effect until the next day after another argument, and it became official. There was no way of getting out of it. I believed I was destined to leave home, but I asked myself why in these conditions? The cases of COVID-19 were on the rise again, and I had no place to go to. My other concern was about my education. What kind of factor would this play in my dreams to attend Columbia to become a storyteller? Would I no longer have the privilege to attend college? My mind and body became so weak, then suddenly, my dreams became so out of reach in my mind. The little stability I had faded away, along with the dread I felt every day. Then it became clear to me the comfort or the peace I felt at home was momentary. It only existed when I was home alone.
After my dad's accident at work, the fear I felt returned again. I used to accept it as the norm but not anymore once I left the place I called home. It's time to go back to the drawing board for a new approach to follow through with my dreams.
"I want to share how this unfortunate event impacted my future. This event caused me to rethink the approach I originally had towards my education since I will not have the privilege to commute from home to school anymore. I will not be able to attend Columbia College either due to the circumstances I am currently living in.
I have decided to reconsider going to Chicago State to study English with a concentration in technical writing. There have been many people who have told me that, "It's not about where you get your degree from but how you plan to use it and apply it to the work you plan to do in the future." These decisions will not stop me from becoming a storyteller but will help me have the ability to write from different angles of story creatively and professionally."
November 25, 2020
I used to believe that people only became homeless when they began exploring the dark paths of life. But I've since learned that homelessness could even occur when you escape someone or something causing you pain.
I never imagined that a couple of days after my birthday, I would become homeless. I decided to leave the home of my abuser. I had enough of the torment, the blame, and living my life in terror. Since the lockdown order has been put in place, I have had no choice but to deal with the reality that I was previously running from.
Before the pandemic happened, I believed that I could manage by working in the morning and attending school at night and then going to the gym for two hours before going to bed. While I continued to pile my schedule up with one thing after another, the trauma I had experienced was still present. I buried it underneath layers of my skin to suppress its presence. Instead of facing the issues at hand, I tried to go around it, hoping each one would resolve itself.
The trauma would soon reveal itself at the weakest moment of my life. I was too afraid to ask for help, but I knew I did not have the courage yet to confront it on my own. When I could no longer hide the memories in the back of my mind, I felt I had to take action for the safety of my life. This time the situation had gone too far, and I could not ignore it as I did once before. I tried to make sense of what had caused dad to react this way before I carried out my response to his reaction. Before doing something I would regret, I reached out to mentors, friends, and someone I hoped I could trust. I sent a text or made a phone call to each one of them because I wasn't sure who would respond to my cry for help. That night I was afraid I would be traumatized again. If I went back home, I would not sleep that night with all these worries on my mind.
My cry for help was received and answered without any hesitation. One wrong move could have turned my life upside down, and that is why I reached out for help where I knew it could be found. I do not want to go further into detail about what happened. Still, I want to share how this unfortunate event impacted my future. This event caused me to rethink the approach I originally had towards my education since I will not have the privilege to commute from home to school anymore. I will not be able to attend Columbia College either due to the circumstances I am currently living in.
I have decided to reconsider going to Chicago State to study English with a concentration in technical writing. There have been many people who have told me that, "It's not about where you get your degree from but how you plan to use it and apply it to the work you plan to do in the future." These decisions will not stop me from becoming a storyteller but will help me have the ability to write from different angles of story creatively and professionally.
"One poem that I read was written by one of my classmates and resonated with me. The line is: "'If you can predict it all, how can life truly be random?'"
November 6, 2020
Last week my professor from my creative writing class at Richard Daley assigned us homework full of reading and creativity. Our assignment consisted of reading three chapters out of our poetry books.
After reading those chapters, we picked two chapters and implemented the information we gathered from those two chapters into our own poems. After we wrote our poems, we were supposed to share one of them on the discussion board and reply to two other classmates' posts.
We critiqued each other's posts. We do this to point out each other's strengths and provide guidance and ways of improvement. One poem that I read was written by one of my classmates and resonated with me.
The line is: "If you can predict it all, how can life truly be random?" This line caused me to pause as I read to reflect on my success and to acknowledge how I predicted my future for myself. I never thought my existence would be so heavily built on this statement. This poem revealed the importance of creativity and how it allows us to understand each other to create a connection artistically or emotionally.
My classmate's poem reflected my journey. The path that I am slowly pacing myself on is rooted in my desire to write and be creative. I know in my heart that I am a storyteller, and no one can persuade me to believe in anything less. As I stay true to my purpose, I know people or opportunities will gravitate towards me.
We are currently living in unpredictable circumstances, but I must continue my journey with the knowledge I already know to have control over decisions that are within my capabilities. When it comes down to predicting my future, I base it on my most valuable experiences and current beliefs, like my involvement in different communities, the relationships I've built and maintained, and the wisdom that I've learned throughout my journey from others.
Things will fall naturally in place as I continue to be vulnerable and let go of my fears of failure.
The people or opportunities that come across my path will play a role in my life. I plan to take some more time to heal and learn about my history to know where I come from to understand the talents I've been born with. I feel so disconnected from my identity as a person of African descent. How can I be who I am if I do not know anything about myself or where I come from?
Other people may consider the information that I yearn for a waste of thought or out of reach. I believe it's all about perception and how you perceive yourself as a human being. I feel incomplete. With the time I have now, I can start searching and making sense of the unknown to fill a void within my soul. I do not feel empty. I just want to know my history to see what I can become or aspire to be.
All these ideas sprouted from that simple line of my classmate's poem.
"I am not in competition with friends online and people I follow. The only person I should be competing against is the person I was once before."
October 27, 2020
During the lockdown, I've noticed that I own many objects that no longer serve a purpose in my life. I decided to free myself of those things and give them to people who may find value in them like I once did before. I will be donating my clothes and other accessories to the Epilepsy Foundation to help the organization earn money to fight epilepsy.
Before the lockdown order was put in place, I bought clothes to hide and contain my true identity. These clothes did not add any value to my life. They disconnected me further from me as I buried myself underneath the cloth of my attire. I used my closet and dresser as a storage place to hold articles of clothing that I wore once and would never wear again.
These clothes were not bought for my own satisfaction but to draw my peers' eyes towards me. I believed the only way I could ever feel acceptance was through my appearance. During my freshman year of college, I spent hours in Macy's searching for Nike leggings or tops on sale to impress people.
While these safety precautions have been in place, I also learned the importance of accepting myself instead of waiting around for others to accept me for who I am. I spend hours staring at myself in the bathroom mirror to embrace my scars and gaze at my beauty. I am proud of the person I am maturing into because I am taking the time to establish a place within society that is meant for me.
The role that I am assigned to within my job has helped me figure out my own path, and I am no longer afraid to walk alone into the unknown. I know there is light at the end of the tunnel, and that light is hope. I am no longer materialistic because I learned the happiness I feel from buying objects is momentary. The way I perceived myself now is based on my accomplishments and the relationships I choose to create with others.
I am no longer going to allowing social media to control my life or determine how I should feel about myself. I am not in competition with friends online and people I follow. The only person I should be competing against is the person I was once before.
My boss and editor have seen so much growth within my writing and continue to challenge my writing abilities. In or out of school, adults can still be students and continue to learn and find purpose within the work they are passionate about doing. What is the point of working if you can not apply your talents or gain fulfillment out of your accomplishments? Money should be used as a tool to invest in yourself or to obtain knowledge through various amounts of experiences or experiments.
You must be willing to explore different avenues of life to find your own purpose. You can not walk in someone else's path or take on someone else's identity to feel acceptances. You must find your own approach to obtain happiness. You may feel exhaustion throughout the process, but I promise it will be worth it.
"Art and storytelling can take any shape or form to teach a lesson or offer insight into the unexplored."
October 20, 2020
The story I recently wrote did not require much editing by my editor, and it helped me gain recognition for my talents.
The article is a narrative about the Founder of Ladies of Virtue, Jamila Trimuel. I know her personally, but I did not plan to write about her dream of leading a mentorship program and sharing insight into how it came into existence.
The story went in a different direction during the planning process, and, at first, I felt it was incomplete. After rereading it, the story made sense without the additional information that I pitched to my editor before writing it. There were nights I could not sleep. I had so many ideas and sentences floating within my head. If I did not write them down right away, I would have forgotten them.
Writing that narrative revealed that I have the skill set to be a storyteller, but my lack of confidence causes me to question my writing abilities. Sometimes I wonder if I would be an official storyteller with a degree but would obtaining my degree stop me from continually doubting myself? There are other thoughts in my head that pop up, which makes me ask myself, "Why can't I be one now? Why should I ask for permission, and why do I feel that I am required to obtain a degree to build my confidence as a writer?" I have no college background in journalism, but I still manage to write articles that provide news and imagery.
I've noticed I have grown sensitive because of my writing, but this sensitivity helps me be more aware of others' feelings and way of thinking. When I cannot find words to speak, I write to translate my spoken words into a clear message or idea. I think it's ironic that some writers can write other people's stories but not their own.
My next article will be a photo essay about a nonprofit in Chicago called the Midnight Circus In The Parks. This organization raises money through their performances for Chicago parks. On Saturday, I watched them set up and continue to prepare for their performance at Douglass Park. The acrobats used every part of their body to transform into figures of art. Every twist and turn requires acrobats to have complete control over their body and mind while being entirely connected at the same time. The strength it takes to perform requires discipline and trust for the team to pull off their stunts. I did not only see acrobats, but I saw clowns too. The clowns were hilarious. I could tell one from another because each individual looked creatively unique from their costumes and performances. There was a clown who could balance a ladder on the tip of his nose. It was also exciting to see clowns playing with a diabolo. Diabolo is a toy that consists of two cups that split into opposite halves that rubbery string goes between. The two sticks located at the ends of the rubbery string are used to handle the cups as they are spun on the string. The clowns also created sad and happy impressions with their faces to entertain the audiences.
I've never seen a performance and be allowed to watch the performers prepare for the show. When I invested my time and energy into capturing that event and interviewing those performers, it altered my connection between storytelling and art. Art and storytelling can take any shape or form to teach a lesson or offer insight into the unexplored.
"Sometimes I look at the past to reflect on where I began, explore who I am now, and to acknowledge my growth."
September 29, 2020
When I feel the world's weight on my shoulder or feel hopeless, Free Spirit Media and my peers provide me the encouragement I need to keep moving forward. The guidance and support my editor offers is that of a leader. She sees potential within me to be a storyteller, and she tells me that. Her wisdom and kind words inspire me to write to the best of my ability. My passion for writing is reflected through my work and makes up the largest part of my identity.
Right now, I am in a space where interaction with people inspires my growth and helps me brew up new ideas for articles. Outside of work, I am preparing my mind for the big transition that will take place very soon. Transferring from a community college to a university is something I have to prepare for mentally. I decided to pause my transfer from Harold Washington to Columbia College in Chicago to give myself time to heal from the stress and wounds that the COVID has inflicted upon me.
During the lockdown, I have learned your state of mind affects your performance and judgment. I've been putting most of my energy toward recovery. My body has been signaling to me; I need to implement self-care back in my daily routine. I have been experiencing hair loss, and I honestly am afraid it may get worse. I decided to go back to the gym and work out every day, even though I know I'm putting my body at risk. It's so refreshing to sweat away the hurt that I am currently feeling.
There are no boundaries left between work and education; they are now done in the same place. Going to the gym is a reminder that I am still human, and who I am is not directly based on the priorities that receive most of my attention and take up most of my day. The connection made between business and expectations should be based on your values and beliefs and not just survival. If we are going to wake up every morning, we must feel purpose within the bones of our bodies. The work we accomplish should make us proud and align with our dreams.
I had many encounters with people who have lost the desire to go after their dreams. I realized every lesson or experience I've been through is for a reason, and I do not want to make the same mistake as them. When people give advice or reflect on their own life listen and let it resonate with you. We never believe we can ever end up in another person's position but anything is possible. Take bits and pieces and apply it to your own life because life is unpredictable. We only have control over actions and behavior and not the outcome.
"Today is another day to reflect on where you started, who you're becoming, and being the change you want to see."
September 18, 2020
I decided last week I would start applying to scholarships to have some control over the cost of school. The thought of taking out loans to attend Columbia was overwhelming. No one in my family has attended a four-year institution, so I am learning as I go. Being the first in my generation to graduate from community college to transfer to university is like venturing off into the unknown.
I watched a TED Talk titled, "If you want to achieve your goals, don't focus on them." Motivational speaker Reggie River spoke about his first relationship in 6th grade. The first time he asked, he was rejected. Still, then he decided the best way to approach his predicament was by focusing on his behavior instead of his goal. He was dedicated and acknowledged that he did not have control over the outcome. But he did have authority over his own actions. Instead of giving up, he tried again with a plan in mind and put it in motion. Reggie made arrangements and asked questions and gained more knowledge. By doing so, he finally got the response he wanted. The relationship did not last long, but he learned a lesson that he would never forget.
We, as students, only have control over our behavior and persistence when faced with a challenge. As I apply to scholarships, I am aware that I am competing against the entire world of students. But that is not a reason not to try at all. I know that if I make time every day to find scholarships that I can meet the requirements of, I have a better chance of getting it.
Following this process, I have learned so much about who I am and how much passion I have towards my work. I am a conveyor of knowledge and inspiration by telling the narrative of others. I may not get the scholarships that I am applying for, but I know in my heart that I want to continue to be a storyteller and the only person who can stop me from being one is myself.
"The time spent together helped me prepare for what is to come in the future. It takes a village to raise a child, and I am grateful to have you all by my side."
September 9, 2020
When my job with Free Spirit Media ended this summer, I began my job hunt. Before I started, I updated my resume. It's essential to update your resume with the skills you have developed throughout the work experience, even if it's an internship or school program. Every opportunity or interaction helps to form your character or your identity as an individual in society.
Afterward, it's helpful to have someone look over your resume. I've learned to ask the person I'm working with to explain why they recommend these changes. I worked with Salena Tucker on my resume and she is an English tutor provided by Ladies of Virtue. We went line by line on my resume and discussed over the phone what skills I gained from each position that I took on. Then summarized the task and result within a sentence to demonstrate my actions into words. This activity taught me how to approach a resume when I am writing it on my own.
The key to writing a resume is being clear and precise. I've found it helpful to write down different tasks I've performed or my responsibilities. From here, I worked my duties and responsibilities into sentences that begin with a task and end with a result. I've learned to write in the tense signifying if the role is still in progress or has concluded.
In my experience, employers appreciate self-motivation and being resourceful. If you're a college student, like me, who is working on building confidence in your field, paid internships have been incredibly helpful. My time and skills are valuable, and being paid enforces that.
I've also learned a lot about interviews. I try to reach out to someone who can ask interview questions and help me structure my responses. The STAR method has worked well for me: Situation, Task, Action, and Result.
I've had support in learning these skills. My mentor from America Needs You, Lashawn Mays, discussed my career goals with me. The Youth Job Center, where I worked with Ivan Ramos, advised on interview preparation. My Bottom Line Advisor, Eli Marten, helped me acknowledge the skills that I have to offer to a workplace. Ladies of Virtue provided me with a great tutor, Salena Tucker, who worked with me to improve my resume. And through the Virtual Job Club, instructed by Andre Kellum and Barbara Harris-Woodard, I found out about through Ladies of Virtue.
Thank you all for being such great resources. The time spent together helped me prepare for what is to come in the future. It takes a village to raise a child, and I am grateful to have you all by my side.
"When I reread this entry, I smile upon this memory and am proud of it. My virtual internship with One Design Company recently ended, but what's left behind is hope for my future."
August 27, 2020
The summer vacation is coming to an end, and we are transitioning into the fall. The fall is a perfect time to reflect on your growth as an individual. We are similar to trees with leaves. The leaves turn different shades of color, and they are soon released for new leaves to sprout, revealing they're natural green flush once again.
I want to briefly go over what I have accomplished over the summer while I engaged with a high-spirited person who will still be a part of my growth. When I reread this entry, I smile upon this memory and am proud of it. My virtual internship with One Design Company recently ended, but what's left behind is hope for my future.
The person I worked with earned the mentor's title when she was no longer a stranger to me anymore. Her position at the One Design Company is Copywriter and Brand Strategist. She maintains social media platforms, sends out newsletters to subscribers every Tuesday, and does creative writing for clients. I believe her creativity bounced off her onto me every Wednesday morning when we went over new lesson plans. We would have huge smiles on our faces, and we were full of energy. She is someone who truly enjoys her work. She was full of magic and used words creatively. I think that's what I will miss about her the most. I know she is just an email away when I want to speak with her again.
Over five weeks, I learned so much about myself through our conversations. Near the end, I wished it would never end. Through my assignments, I learned how to establish my own tone of voice. The tasks challenged me to recognize the distinctive ways I approach writing when it is personal or for work. In addition to that, I was given newsletters and blog posts to read to critique. So one day, I could apply the knowledge I obtained through those assignments to my own platforms.
I am currently using Substack, a perfect space for poetry or blogging for people who want to be creative and find another income source. But I personally use it as a stage where I can voice my thoughts, feelings, and be sensitive. It is a place of escape to be who I am and to become vulnerable to the world without asking permission or being forced to acknowledge judgment.
My mentor also exposed me to Medium, and I am reserving that space for newsletters in the future to instruct and familiarize youth with creative writing and storytelling. After learning so much about writing through the One Design Company, I decided to change my major to Creative Writing and my minor to Journalism. Inspiration sparked within me again, and the despair that I felt fluttering over me slowly started to fade away. I have realized that progression takes time to see just like tall trees that grew from very tiny seeds that have settled in the ground over time.
"Connections can point you in the right direction when you feel lost."
August 21, 2020
On Linkedin, I wrote an announcement for individuals with degrees in English or Creative Writing to contact me for an informational interview. The post got over two hundred views, but no one reached out to me until my post got shared.
Three people were interested in the opportunity to interview. That was less than what I had expected, but I was grateful that those three individuals took the time out of their day to speak to me.
I recommend that when you prepare for an interview, you write a set of questions based on interviewees' degrees and the various jobs they applied it towards. This procedure allows you to gain insight into their careers and how it continues to unfold. None of their professions were in creative writing. They used their degrees in English or Creative Writing for other job opportunities that require different forms of communication. Creativity still plays a role in these individuals' lives but for their own enjoyment outside of work or how they strategize in their businesses. Most of the interviews went the way I had planned. However, one was more like a conversation than an interview. It was still beneficial information exchanged as we both spoked.
From those interviews, I learned the importance of setting boundaries. It earns you respect amongst colleagues. Exploring different subjects of interest is the best way to live beyond the expectations of yourself and others who doubt your potential. When you have access to knowledge or experience, the more doors of opportunity open for you. I have always wanted to explore other writing areas or careers that do not mainly focus on writing but a balance of everything. I did not know how or I was too afraid of the failure that I believed would come afterward.
But then I told myself, "You can never experience something new without taking the chance of failing." My mentor also reminded me every time I received a letter of rejection or an email that contained words like, "Unfortunately, we had to go with someone else." It's better to try than never try at all.
The interviews also revealed that the opportunities I want would be harder to obtain unless I seek them. Creative positions that I am preparing for currently are the ones I may have to create through my connections within the writing world. To me, this news was discouraging, but I prefer to hear the truth than accept a sugar-coated lie.
As a child, I remember how I dreamt of being so many things, but reading and writing came naturally to me. Finding internship opportunities for creative writing has been very difficult. Still, it would not be worth searching for if it were easy. These interviews taught me that maintaining a circle of relationships is valuable. Connections can point you in the right direction when you feel lost. I never thought that an interview could bring me so much reassurance or shine a light on the unknown waiting for me.
"I put my dreams on the back burner, but I am still cooking with fire with my desire for creative writing."
August 13, 2020
Last week I had to make the most prominent decision of my academic career, and it was administered with the best intentions. I am aware that it will put me further behind in my college journey and that I am at risk of losing the scholarship money provided to me by the university. Still, during these unforeseeable circumstances that we live in, I am more concerned about my health than anything else.
Last week I officially graduated from Harold Washington with my Associate degree in the Arts. I had planned to transfer to Columbia in the Fall semester to major in Creative Writing and minor in Journalism. Instead, I deferred my enrollment, and will now be attending in the Spring semester.
I took many matters into consideration, and I felt this was the most sensible approach. Outside of being a college student, I am a daughter, and I am an older sister to my younger brothers and sisters. It would be selfish of me to leave them behind.
Two of the classes I was going to take would have required me to come in person. With the virus spreading, I would be taking a chance with my health. The people who I confide in advised me that trying to adjust to a new environment in these conditions would be putting my health in danger. I knew they genuinely cared for my well-being. That's why I decided to put my education on hold to reevaluate the unique situation I was presented with. I must protect my body and state of mind for my siblings and myself.
After all my courses ended, I felt overwhelmed with exhaustion. All the excitement and reassurance that gave me the motivation to persevere was no longer there anymore. That's when I decided to reach out to my academic counselor and the transfer admissions officer. That's when my decision went into effect. I dropped my classes then I signed a document explaining the risks that come with delaying a semester off. I had to wait to be approved, and that would take ten to fourteen business days. I did not have time to wait because tuition was due, and if I did not come up with a way to pay for that semester, I would be charged an additional fee. I called the school and explained my situation to the representatives, hoping that they could hear my urgency. A couple of days later, I received a notification in my emails that I was approved, and all I had to do was reread the list of risks and sign my name.
I do not encourage anyone to do what I did if it's not necessary. I put my dreams on the back burner, but I am still cooking with fire with my desire for creative writing.
'I have learned a lot about who I am as a student, my strengths, and my weaknesses. Quarantine has given me more control over my development and has revealed some areas of growth. I want to use this entry to share the advice I wish someone would have given me before becoming an adult."
July 31, 2020
Once you become an adult, you take on new responsibilities and tasks, whether you want to or not. I learned the more commitments I made, the less time I had for myself. Be wise with how you choose to use your time and don't make promises you can't keep.
When I was unaware of the importance of taking care of myself and having a daily self-care routine, I would fill my whole day with volunteering or scheduling time to help others. I had to learn how to balance time for work, school, and commitments to people I care about. Most of all, I had to learn how to maintain a healthy relationship with myself once I entered college.
The college journey can be challenging if you have no source of income. When it was time to look for a job, I had no experience, but I had a passion. I let that reflect through my interviews. You never know how far it will get until you try. The best way to explore a field is through internships. Some may pay while others may not, but it's based on your circumstance if you are willing to take on an opportunity that offers experience but no pay. Most of my jobs have been internships, which means that the positions that I work in are temporary. I have been exposed to so much that it is undoubtedly worth it. Take advantage of all the knowledge and resources offered to you because you won't get that time back. I recommend taking notes. Make it second nature. It's helpful to have notes when you want to reflect on what you have learned in school, at work, and even at home.
Which leads me to my next topic: cooking. There is no way to avoid it as a college student if you want to save money instead of eating out every day. Start off simply trying to make your favorite foods, then as you get confident with your cooking skill, get fancy and cook like chef Dave Ramsey. Check out his cooking videos on YouTube. His food is easy to prepare, the outcome looks delicious, and it is nutritious. When you fill your body with good food, you will feel on top of the world. You will be full of energy and positivity that will help you move swiftly throughout your day.
These are just a few pieces of advice I wish someone had given me before I started college.
"It did not take long before I learned that the institutions we heavily rely on were built brick-by-brick as the result of structural racism. Education was not created for black people's consumption; they had to pay for it with their lives to read and write. "
July 24, 2020
Imagine living in a world where you don't even feel comfortable in your own body. Can you see people staring in fear, or do you see faces that are full of disgust as you walk a similar path? Would they be able to comprehend that you're more worried about the death that hangs over your head, than their lives being threatened by your presence as a person of color? Why am I forced to ask myself, "Is it because of the color of my skin? Or does the fact that I co-exist cause a burning hate within their subconscious?"
Growing up, my grandmother would turn on the television in the morning to channel nine as we got ready for school. I would be sitting at a square table, eating my breakfast with my cousin. We would usually have a granola bar and fruit before we went off to school. We didn't understand how our surroundings would impact our lives until we were at risk of death when we went outside. My grandma would shield us away from people who prey on the weak. Harm and the trauma were waiting for us in the streets, but this only made us even more vulnerable as we grew older, and time led us in our separate ways. We were unconscious of what penalties African Americans in history had to face to get us this far. It was just another typical day of getting ready for school to us.
It did not take long before I learned that the institutions we heavily rely on were built brick-by-brick as the result of structural racism. Education was not created for black people's consumption; they had to pay for it with their lives to read and write. The way it's written in history, it was a privilege. The lack of apprehension about being an African American has led me to become indefinable within my own mind. The roots that bear my ancestors' fruit are hidden amongst the soil where they rest. The seeds of self-hate stem from disowned identities and disapproval of African American success. The stigma surrounding health and wellness takes hold of our minds, and we become prisoners to it.
Neither my father nor mother explained what racism is. If they had, I would have prepared myself against the obstacles I was going to face to alter the outcome of my fate. I remember one day in elementary school in Texas. I was approached by a group of kids who teased me for being dirty, but I clearly remembered taking a bath that day. I was confused until I looked at my hands, and then it became clear to me they were talking about the color of my skin. It did not occur to me at that moment I was experiencing racism.
I was forced to distinguish the difference between racist comments and teasing. When I looked in those children's eyes, I knew racism was not self-taught. These kids could have learned it from their families; there is a chance they learned it from their peers at school; maybe it was never addressed. But, it definitely needs to be addressed now. Especially when kids are witnessing or participating in protesting. This is not something that can be ignored or swept under the carpet, where it continues to grow and take up more room--it needs to be exposed.
When I became an adult, the teasing turned into violence. It was not children who I was afraid of anymore. It was the people I was instructed by. Now I'm afraid of the people society tells me to trust, and who my community knows I need to steer clear of. They are either disguised in the uniforms of our protectors, or they are ordinary misguided white people. They are everywhere, hiding their resemblance in crowds of people. They are in disbelief of their wrongdoing and unashamed of the outcome.
When I hear the news of another shooting of a black person by the police, I ask myself: How do you rectify the deaths of innocent people, and what gives you the right to take anyone's life? Who are you to determine when they are going to die? These would be some of the questions I would ask if I ever got the chance to sit across from those officers and look them in the eyes and demand answers to my questions. They need to take responsibility for their actions. If not, the murders of Black individuals will continue.
"Without news or reporters, many of us would be left in the dark. Being part of a platform that informs and acknowledges gives me a sense of ownership and responsibility to the community."
June 30, 2020
I want to highlight some of the positive things that have occurred in the past month. Sometimes I have to remind myself that there is always a light at the end of the tunnel when I feel overwhelmed with thoughts of hopelessness. It takes time and patience to get to where I want to be, but I must learn who I am before committing myself to anything. I have learned so much about myself through different individuals I have encountered and my involvement with journalism.
I had the pleasure to do an over the phone interview with Maria Hadden, the Alderman of the 49th ward, and an openly gay woman. She was also a strong advocate for Juneteeth to become an official city holiday. When I interviewed her, I felt a sense of pride and accomplishment when I led that conversation.
I helped to come up with the questions. I was able to use the skills I developed as a reporter with Free Spirit Media (FSM) to obtain responses that touched on the importance of reflecting on history, her involvement with the city, and highlighting the need to reshape public safety. In the end, we had a great laugh when it was all over.
This is one of my proudest moments because I had the chance to play a vital role in society instead of accepting conditions previously set in place. Experiences like these make me appreciate journalism even more. New coverage reminds citizens of the power we have as residents to implement change.
Without news or reporters, many of us would be left in the dark. Being part of a platform that informs and acknowledges gives me a sense of ownership and responsibility to the community.
This opportunity was shared from Public Narrative, an organization that works to connect communities with media to represent all voices in journalism. It was then passed on to Jamila Trimuel, the founder of Ladies of Virtue. This program helps African American girls strive for success. I have been a part of Ladies of Virtue since freshman year of high school.
Through America Needs You, a two-year fellowship that supports first-generation college students in their college journey as they explore different career paths, I interviewed with One Design for a virtual internship. This company develops websites by talking with clients and telling their stories through imagery and photography.
As a reporter, I knew this was the window of opportunity I've been searching for. I recently received an email back from them, inviting me to join them for the summer. This position will be unpaid, but I value experience over money. I have learned that once you have knowledge, no one can take it from you. Money only holds the value temporarily. We desire money because the world is set up where we cannot survive without it.
I was able to get my job position back with FSM through One Summer of Chicago. When I interviewed virtually, I was so nervous. But, I knew that my passion for writing would outshine my fear of being rejected.
From many moments of defeat, I was forced to develop a thick skin. To become resilient to have the strength to persist. It saddens me that this may be the last time I will be working with FSM. But I have to sacrifice that role to grow as a student and learn to thrive as a creative, or I may not get that far without a college degree.
The light I am pacing towards inside that tunnel is still unknown, and all I can do is grasp what is right in front of me. But what is being slowly revealed to me is that I am a storyteller. When I hold a book in my hands, the pages stay in between my fingers, and I read one chapter after another. I become in touch with all of my senses. I am full of life and energy as I read. When I read short stories, it keeps me in sync with the deepest parts of me. I use that perception to write my poems and stories of my own to establish a connection with my readers.
"I remember my last year of high school -- teachers and counselors giving speeches to seniors about college as if it were going to be our safe haven. College would guarantee a career and stability, but what they forgot to mention was that while we were attending school, we would have to work to survive."
June 19, 2020
During this pandemic, I have been forced into many unpredictable positions with my education and job position. What hurts, even more, is that I could not visit the schools I found myself interested in. I was unable to obtain funding from scholarships to have access to a broader selection of schools. I will pay for college on my own, and I may not have a job during the school year. The jobs I wanted to apply for I do not yet have the experience for. All I can do now is wait to see what opportunities Columbia has to offer me.
People never tell you the hardest part about obtaining a college degree. I remember my last year of high school -- teachers and counselors giving speeches to seniors about college as if it were going to be our safe haven. College would guarantee a career and stability, but what they forgot to mention was that while we were attending school, we would have to work to survive.
When I entered college, I had no confidence in myself; I lacked professionalism and never worked a day in my life. What I learned right away from attending college was being broke is no fun, and that's when the job hunt began. After applying to jobs and receiving emails of rejection, I felt so defeated. The voice within my head asked, "Well, how else will you gain any experience if you keep getting rejected?"
As I was getting my mind ready for the transfer to Columbia College, it became clear to me that I would have to leave my position at Free Spirit Media as an Environmental Health and Wellness reporter. The thought terrified me, and I felt a tear drop leave my eye, and I saw it fall to the floor. I decided to reach out to my Columbia counselor, and the conclusion I came to was correct. He also explained that if I wanted to graduate in two years, I would have to take 15 credit hours per semester, which meant I would have to take five classes. Fear filled my brain. I knew that this would be another obstacle that I would have to sacrifice to one day overcome.
Now I have to find a new job once I start school in the fall while attending school in an unfamiliar place. The same defeat that I felt before when I could not get a job is how I feel now. My counselor advised me to reach out to the career center, but I don't believe I have enough discipline to work and be a full-time student. But if I decided to give up working, I wouldn't know how I would be able to pay my bills or continue to eat healthy -- to feed a hungry mind and provide a source of energy to a vibrant soul.
"I will consider this as an investment in myself. I could have decided to apply to more affordable schools, but I wanted to explore the artist within me, and this was the place for it."
June 1, 2020
I accepted an offer from Columbia to attend their university in Chicago. I am pleased with the decision I made. I am majoring in English to become familiar with different forms of writing to establish the writer within me by discovering my specialty. After I graduate with my Bachelor's degree, I will most likely be $10,000 in debt if I don't receive any scholarship money. This amount is above the amount I was expecting to pay to attend university. Still, at least I won't be drowning in debt. I will consider this as an investment in myself. I could have decided to apply to more affordable schools, but I wanted to explore the artist within me, and this was the place for it.
I remember telling my father that I was going to major in Creative Writing or English, and he asked me what I can do with that degree. I thought to myself, what a silly question to ask. The world has developed so much because of words and communication. Where would we be as a society if we did not communicate at all? I believe people forget the importance of art but look around you; there is art everywhere. It intertwines within our souls, and it makes us feel connected as people.
We need so much uplifting, especially the African American community, who have experienced so many deaths within their families. It saddens me that we are so overlooked by society. We need investment in our communities. The youth need to be encouraged to pursue an affordable education.
I watch the Dave Ramsey show. The show allows people to call in, and they have access to free financial advice. When I watch his show on Youtube, I am stunned about the amount of debt these people are in. I am proud of these people for putting their pride aside to talk about their predicament, and as I listen, I shed a tear for them. It takes strength to speak on topics such as these publicly. When I hear the stories of students who are in the same position as me, overwhelmed by the amount of debt they've put themselves in without a plan, it discourages me from pursuing my dreams. I encourage students to pick up skills that are unique because of the way the world is evolving. You won't be able to make it out here without one.
"So I take a deep breath to release the stress that I've been feeling. I remind myself that the confusion and the trauma caused by the pandemic are temporary."
May 29, 2020
As one chapter ends, a new one begins. I feel alone.
My internship has ended with Free Spirit Media (FSM). This organization helps people of color grow and flourish as writers, reporters, or videographers. I worked there as an Environmental Health and Wellness reporter. It was my responsibility to tell the stories of people who live in the South and West side of Chicago. I have grown so much personally and professionally as a writer because of that role.
FSM provided me with building blocks to reconstruct who I was as a reporter and developed my writing into storytelling. I have learned from my previous job experiences it's essential to be in a place where you are respected and acknowledged as a person, and that's what I felt there.
After leaving my role as a reporter, I am left wandering aimlessly as I patiently wait for my words to take me to my next destination.
Every person is placed in the same position as me. I believe the environments I grew up in and the color of my skin does not define me as a human being. It's our actions and words that distinguish my identity. If I look beyond the status given to me by society, I can live above the expectations that they have placed upon me.
So I take a deep breath to release the stress that I've been feeling. I remind myself that the confusion and the trauma caused by the pandemic are temporary.
It feels as though my future is staring at me pathetically. I am gradually losing my sense of direction. I submitted a scholarship application to the Chicago Urban League, a civil rights organization working with funding partners who share the vision that a strong African American community is a better Chicago. I received an email from them informing me that they could not move forward with my application. I had hopes of winning that scholarship to attend a university that would provide me with a window of opportunities for which I am yearning.
When I applied, I sent a copy of my official transcripts from Harold Washington, a City College in Chicago. I had to submit my Student Aid Report (SAR), which is a document that summarizes the information that I provided when I completed the FAFSA. I was also required to provide a headshot, my ACT results from 2016, and a response to an essay question. The question was, "What do you consider to be the most important political or social movement of the 21st Century? Why?"
To qualify I had to have a cumulative GPA of 2.5, be completing a two-year college program, expect to enroll in a degree-granting program at a four-year institution, and demonstrate my financial need. My plan after I graduate from Harold Washington with my associate degree is to transfer to either DePaul or Columbia in the fall. I satisfied the requirements, but when you're competing against others, there may be someone better than you. But, it's better to apply then not at all.
I was forced to withdraw from Loyola because of the cost of tuition. The child within me cried and weep, but then I said out loud, "If it was meant to be, it would have happened." The amount of debt that universities are leaving students to drown in is mortifying.
I have learned to develop a thick skin. I will continue to experience a lot of losses before I can gain many wins. The education route does not guarantee an official position. Still, it allows me to get one foot in the door and the other out. I've noticed jobs demand more than they did before. If I want to live comfortably, I will have to get a master's degree. That means a bachelor's degree is not enough to compete with the people who stand in line with me, waiting to be accepted to the same opportunities that I am applying for.
"With more access to time, I have been exploring different areas of writing and learning something new each day. My love for reading has returned; it has become a gateway to my escape."
May 14, 2020
I am alone and isolated from any human interaction, and my mind is full of disappointment and shame. The fear of failure runs through my brain, and I drown in my tears to make the pain go away. This experience has changed me in so many ways, and I stand by, hoping for a better day. I go outside. The rain touches my skin, and I feel alive again. I come back in. I listen to it as I sleep so peacefully. I can't stand to look at the news; it's so frightening. The thought of death rushes through my brain, as I hear about the number of African-American deaths increasing each day. The preexisting conditions of the past have caught up with our present, and all we can do is patiently wait.
Mentally, It feels as though the weary moments have drifted away, and I feel connected with my perception once again. Before this interruption, there was not enough time in the day to explore my own identity, and it felt so demoralizing. I was floating in a sea full of hopelessness and disparity, remaining still as I poured honey and milk into my cup. Taking sip after sip, I indulge in the pleasant taste, while anticipating my fate. I am aware of the side effects that success prescribes, restless nights, and agonizing desires. Well, what about the well-being of my body and mind? I am a prisoner to dreams that appear so out of reach because of poverty. I cry myself to sleep sometimes, yearning for a window of opportunity and to uncover my potential as a human being.
My destiny is difficult to conceive, and the cost of school is tormenting my sense of direction. This experience reminded me of when I was in the fourth grade, and I found out that I had a learning disability. As a child, I was oblivious to the problem. I could only comprehend the fact that I was failing my math class, and I could not fathom the reason why. I was afraid kids would look down upon me if I had failed, but I studied and overcame that moment, just like other moments that were not in my favor.
With more access to time, I have been exploring different areas of writing and learning something new each day. My love for reading has returned; it has become a gateway to my escape. When I was a child, I began to develop a passion for writing. Once I planted the seed to read, I realized as a student that story-telling comes second nature to me. I will be majoring in English to supply my words with existence.
I am looking forward to transferring in the fall. Still, it saddens me that when I graduate, I won't obtain the recognition that I've worked so hard for—walking across the stage would bring honor and relief to my soul. I never imagined going this far and accomplishing so much in my life.