Of the Color Blue and Grey

No matter how much I want to, there are some things I can never write about.

Some emotions are too raw. Too deep to be exposed. 

Some people are too sensitive. Too close to be confronted. 

Some issues are too divisive. Too tainted to be mixed. 

So, I remain silent. For fear of being misunderstood, of being categorized, of being labeled – the angry black woman, the lonely single girl at the dinner party, the bitter fat one with a chip on her shoulder. I find other ways to medicate. To placate. To escape. To pack, stuff, press, bottle, and retreat inward, safe-ward.  

Usually, this works. 

Usually, I can take a deep breath and float above the surface. 

Usually, I can ride the current without any noticeable damage. 

Usually. 

But, every once in a while there is something that threatens to suffocate me. Something that is so much greater than my will. Something that rises and swells and crushes me under its weight. Pulls me to its depth. Brings me to my end. And the only way to breathe, is to write. 

Yet. 

No matter how much I want to. 

No matter how much I need to. 

There are some things I can never write about. 

And I feel foolish. And I feel selfish. And I am upset that of all the THINGS that should elicit a reaction, of all the storms I’ve weathered, this insignificant wave should be the one to drown my heart. And I feel weak. And I feel petty. And I am undone by the color blue and grey.

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Midday in Classics

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I want to get lost in a book.

No. I mean a good book.

The kind that makes you come up for air to you realize two hours have passed and you’ve been breathing something foreign to your everyday world. One of those that swallow you whole from the first sentence. A sentence that has reverberated in wandering minds for years; that you’ll cleverly find ways to insert into conversations because you know it makes you seem… well-read.

I want to find myself in a story. One penned and perfected long before I existed. A story that tells the human condition so accurately that it doesn’t matter who I am, where I am, I feel it so completely I know the next line.

I want to hear the sound only old and yellowing pages can make. I want to feel their roughness on my fingertips, see their faded ink on my hands, fill my nostrils with their musky scent, and, if only for just one afternoon, be with those braver than I.

*this post was inspired by Lois and Michael, two authors I met this week, doing what I am still too afraid to do – write.

~that’s life… in no particular order

Proofreading Emotions

As the director of one of the easiest but least appreciated courses on campus, I often receive complaints, requests, and excuses (oh so many excuses) as to why a student doesn’t believe s/he needs to take the course. Those  comments usually come in the shape of phone calls, followed by emails, followed by a form that I will not sign. And since we are nearing the end of the current semester and the start of a new one, the requests are flowing from those who have failed (surprising for such an “unnecessary” course) and those who think requirements do not apply to them.

Case in point: 

“Hello Ms. Pierre, I have been dual enrolled since last fall and will be coming in with 24 credit hours. I will be majoring in ___. One of my professors advised me to see if I could get an override for ___, due to my experience already at ___. While dual enrolling, my high school GPA remain at a a steady 4.0 and my college GPA is at a 3.8. Although I know this class is not academic in nature, I feel that my GPA proves that I now how to manage my time and keep my grades up. I also have highly decorated Professors that would be willing to give character references. Also, I was told I would not have to do “orientation”. Could you please clarify for me?”

After rolling my eyes and laughing hysterically, I wrote this: 

We are excited that you will be joining the ___ family as a freshman (no longer a dual-enrolled high school student). Once on campus, you will find that the transition, though seemingly small, comes with a wide range of challenges. I am interested in which instructor told you that you wouldn’t need ___. The Chair of your intended major seems to think it’s an important course and teaches it for the ___ students every Fall semester. No matter, you don’t really need to divulge that information. I would not want you to implicate anyone for not supporting the president’s initiative.

The policy is that all freshmen and transfers with less than 30 credits are required to take ___. I appreciate you offering references to your character. It does not change the policy, however, it does make me look forward to having you in class as I am sure you will be an asset to the other students. As for Orientation, this is an online module that can be completed in one afternoon. There is nothing to waive.

By God’s grace, I have learned that having the skill to write means having the skill to build or destroy with your words. I want to build, even if it’s in the middle of setting strong boundaries. So, after proofreading my sarcastic, passive aggressive emotions, I wrote this:

We are excited that you will be joining the ___ family as a freshman (no longer a dual-enrolled high school student). Once on campus, you will find that the transition, though seemingly small, comes with a wide range of challenges. I am interested in which instructor told you that you wouldn’t need ___. The Chair of the music department seems to think it’s an important course and teaches it for the music students every Fall semester.  

The policy is that all freshmen and transfers with less than 30 credits are required to take ___. Although I appreciate you offering character references, they would not change the policy. They would, however reveal that your commitment to education is evident to those around you. And this makes me look forward to having you in class as I am sure you will be an asset to the other students. In college, there will be many classes you don’t believe you “need” or are not particularly interested in taking. It is your commitment during those times that will set you apart and build your character as a student.

As for Orientation, this is an online module that can be completed in one afternoon. It is required before students come for ___ so that they can be better prepared. There is nothing to waive.

Wishing you a wonderful holiday break and looking forward to meeting you in the Spring.

 

Letters of Note: You’ve got to sell your heart

“Late-1938…. Frances Turnbull sent a copy of her latest story to celebrated novelist and friend of the family, F. Scott Fitzgerald. Before long the feedback arrived….”

I admire her bravery in sending it and the raw honesty of his reply. An exert is below, but the letter is worth reading in its entirety. Thank you, CristianMihai.net for introducing me to this letter.

Letters of Note: You’ve got to sell your heart.

“The amateur, seeing how the professional having learned all that he’ll ever learn about writing can take a trivial thing such as the most superficial reactions of three uncharacterized girls and make it witty and charming—the amateur thinks he or she can do the same. But the amateur can only realize his ability to transfer his emotions to another person by some such desperate and radical expedient as tearing your first tragic love story out of your heart and putting it on pages for people to see.”

A Blog is Worth a Thousand…

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Nine months, to be exact.

As I feared, the full time job, full time  responsibilities, full time bills, full time stress got in the way of part time passions. And as I waited for my demanding schedule to spare a little time to be, time slipped by leaving me with little more than an empty blog and a neglected soul.

So, why write tonight? My body aches. My brain buzzes. My sleep escapes. My appetite fluctuates. My feet itch. My heart wanders. My soul wrestles. My hands refuse to be idle.

Over lunch today, a colleague told me he encouraged his entire class to blog. “Blogging,” he said, “is one of best ways to improve your intelligence.” He continued by explaining, “If you just blog about what you’re learning in class, you’re solidifying your learning and letting your parents know they’re not wasting their money.” I’ve been thinking about his comment all afternoon, and the video that originated the thought. I thought about how many times over the past few months I had been asked a simple question about how I was doing, and I couldn’t come up with an intelligent or interesting response.

How was your summer? Busy, but good.
How’s your semester going? Well, just really busy.
How’s your family doing? Oh everyone’s great.
How’s your job? OK. Stressed. Really busy.

And to think, I call myself a writer! No wonder my brain feels cluttered!

I traveled Seattle, Washington by myself this summer; checked out some of the islands, did a little wine tasting, toured the must see places, and even got a little lost to find myself.

I successfully planned our biggest orientation events to date at the University and won an award for it. I directed the creation of a new catalog, developed and trained a core group of peer mentors that have made this an engaging semester for over 500 freshmen. I am enjoying teaching two classes, have interacted with hundreds of students, and am continuously seeking ways to improve my programs.

I attended more weddings than should ever be allowed for a single girl in one year. I avoided starting bad relationships. (That’s definite progress). I started taking violin lessons. I made the decision to put photography on the shelf for a while. (That was hard). I lost weight. I gained a niece and two new siblings (in law). I made lasting friendships and changed perspectives. I learned the difference between fighting and struggling. I became comfortable in my own skin.

All these thoughts… All these ideas… All these memories… All these lessons have been frantically splashing around in my flooded mind for the past few months, begging to be tended to. Making it nearly impossible to focus.  And all it took was one blog to restore peace.