You tasted like India
the night we cooked dinner
in your linoleum tiled kitchen
famished from a long day
on campus. We rode
in the back of a blue bus
discussing Montgomery and youth
frustrated . You ran
your fingers through
the beginnings of an afro.
A tear sluiced bronze
powder clinging to the day’s
oil on my cheek .
frustrated at each other
at the times
for never being able to figure out
<3 my brother Stalley and DJ Hyphen for the shoutout!
[[free write for 15 minutes]]
I didn’t know what to expect when I started the program. Here I was still trying to figure out why UCLA would even admit me - a quarter had gone by and I hadn’t come up with a single good reason - now people were telling me I had the potential to exceed in grad school? “It must be because I look good on paper, I told myself.”
The morning of orientation I felt awkward – like everyone here had been thinking about their roles as future scholars their entire lives and somehow I had just happened upon this opportunity. Sure, I had an idea that I wanted to get a Ph.D. and it was simply that – an idea. I had no clue what that would look like in real life, what it would mean, what the practicality of grad school prep was. I knew one thing though – that up until this point my quest for a doctorate was purely superficial. “I want to get a PhD so that little mixed girls can look up to me and say ‘Hey I can be pretty and use my brain… I don’t have to choose’.” I wanted to get a PhD so I could convince my little sister that being educated was more important than being a socialite or being a girlfriend. I wanted to get a PhD because I didn’t want my smart ass little brother to show me up.
But oh how my perspective has changed. Quickly after the first reading that was assigned to us (An essay by Yosso… and of course everyone in my cohort except I knew who Yosso was), those topical layers of my desire started to wash away. I was surprised to find that there was indeed substance underneath. Perhaps there was a bigger reason why I was drawn to this experience of learning and exploring gaps in collective knowledge. I hadn’t thought about it, but was just sitting there waiting for me to discover it. Never had it occurred to me that passion could be translated into changing the way people think about complex issues and understand themselves and the world around them. And here I was in a prime position to do just that.
The opportunity laid at my feet. It wasn’t long before I had a newly inspired sense of purpose. It seemed so exciting. So novel. So daunting. And then the responsibility finally hit. The issues we were exposed to during the winter seminar were like gasoline being sprayed onto this tiny flame that had been ignited when I first stepped on campus. I could finally see all of the ugliness in my once perfectly naïve world. The fire was growing bigger – burning so brightly sometimes that it consumed me and was too much to handle. I came home in tears most weekends. I couldn’t understand how the world could become so messy. I had not been prepared to question the society that birthed me and left me with no tools to comprehend and emotionally grapple with the injustice and inequity I was forced to become aware of on a daily basis. It’s a scary thing when that which was once important to you begins to lose it’s value. How could I strive for movie roles and Margiela when I could now clearly identify why the majority of my high school peers hadn’t gone to college. What value does being deemed beautiful and marketable by a record exec hold when women all over the world are being mutilated and stripped of their humanity? Why did I need that oppressive validation at all anymore? And most importantly why was I spending my time trying to conform to these expectations of me, when I could be spending my time challenging them? The identity I had built based on the things I wanted to accomplish in life, the things I was good at, the image I had built, began to crumble. It was both frightening and enraging.
I had to regroup and reposition myself within this path I’d so carelessly plopped myself onto so that I could take a positive outlook on all that was happening to me. The anger that had boiled inside of me for weeks finally subsided to a simmer – strong enough to remind me of my new found calling, but weak enough so as not to incapacitate me. It was then that I found balance. Strength. But it would not last for long…
This quarter has been a challenge. Different from the challenges I faced in Winter. For once in my life I have been forced to stretch my academic abilities. I have been asked to think, produce, and write more than I have ever had to before. I have been exposed to how data works and have been forced to create things – codebooks, surveys, training modules, presentations – things that meant nothing to me until 6 months ago. And, for once I have not come out completely on top. There is a sense of suspense that washes over me when I think about how this quarter may end. That I might not succeed with flying colors as I’ve always done in the past is a real possibility. It scares me, but I know that I have grown tremendously and have stretched beyond my previous self in ways I could have never imagined. Flying colors or not, I know that I have tried my hardest and that I will finish. And when I do I’ll relish in a newfound confidence that if I can finish this – if I can only cross the line with pride – I can accomplish anything.
Me and @moseslovesmusic singing live at UCLA. <3