I was in 2nd grade with uneven pony tails, crooked teeth, a fondness for Hello Kitty and Scooby Doo when I resolutely decided the answer to that oft asked question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “A writer,” I said. I wanted to be a writer when I grew up. Mrs. Burke, my favorite teacher — ever — told me that I had a gift . . . a gift! I wasn’t the best roller skater at the skating rink where I circled around with lavender pom-poms on my white skates (I could skate backwards, of course, but I couldn’t manage the quick turns like some of my friends). I wasn’t the best at the intricate clapping / dance games we’d spend hours performing (some girls never forgot the sequences). I never won the spelling bee or math challenges. But with writing — evidently, I had a gift. That made me feel good — special.
It’s miraculous what happens when a child believes she is special. I began to cherish my gift and take myself a bit more seriously (I was special, after all). I wrote silly poems and made my parents turn off the television so that I could read them aloud dramatically. I was going to be a poet I thought, picturing myself sitting on the bench in a park, word-by-word becoming the next Octavia Butler. Then, I met Maya Angelou. Yes, I felt as if I literally met her: her words spoke to me as intimately as if we were sharing life stories over coffee and scones in an empty, mom-and-pop coffee shop. I would write poems, but I’d also write novels I decided after Maya and I became friends.
And for some time, my mother seemed to support my dream—until life became suddenly serious—until I sat down to pick colleges and to consider majors. “Girl, don’t be ridiculous. If you want to write as a hobby — write yo little yellow butt off, but you need to get some sense in yo head and get a job one day so you can support yo-self. And that’s what I did—except for the hobby part. I rarely wrote for pleasure again; but got something in my head, got a job, and wrote boring training manuals.
Many years later, my mother now deceased, my career as an instructional designer firmly established, Sistas reawakened my passion for writing, just as Sistas had awakened my original passion for writing in childhood. I would write small posts on Facebook and friends and beautiful spirits whom I had only met once or twice (that could properly just be titled as acquaintances) would encourage me to write more: “when are you going to write a book”, “I love your writing.” Some Sistas forwarded me stories covering the success of other women writers, clips from Super Soul Sunday of a writer who reminded them of me, and quotes of encouragement. Understand, many of these women barely knew me; but they were lifting me up, cheering me on, without me ever asking them to, without them knowing that I ever wanted to be a writer. How did they hear the whisper deep in my heart?
Due to their encouragement, I started my blog, Beatnik24. And this support and Sisterdom continued. My sisters were my first followers—my 15-person fan club. Now, as of this week, I have over 15,000 followers—completely ushered in by my Sistas (most of whom I’ve never met). You’ve nagged me worse than a Florida gnat: “where is the follow-up to this story? You must write on this topic.” With some sort of deep-South rooted 6th sense, you have messaged me words of encouragement every time I’ve sat at my desk and the words have stubbornly refused to vacate their caves; or when I’m unsure about something I’ve published; or feel like I want to quit because I’m sick of being broke, or feeling insecure or exposed. Every time. How did you know what I needed? You’ve lifted me every time–my own crew of sista-heroes. Thank you.
I’m an independent spirt—a Beatnik; but I have desperately depended on your likes, your notes, your shares, your shout-outs. They have been buoy, my crutch, my shoulder to lean on — when I have felt disabled . . . unable. Thank you.
My mother’s voice of practicality and traditionalism has been drowned out by your voices of encouragement (I believe that she has arranged since her death for you angels to tell me—“I was wrong baby (just this one time). I was wrong. Write. WRITE!” Thank you.
Once I wrote a post and inadvertently left out a word. A guy came at me and a Sista clapped back, “you know what she meant. Stop being a jerk!” I don’t know this woman, but she defended and protected me. Another time, I used “whether” when I should have used “weather.” Another Sista, a stranger, private messaged me about my error instead of publicly commenting. That’s simply love. Thank you (and trust, there will always be mistakes).
Thank you Sisters. And thank you my Sistas. I still feel like that 8-year-old with uneven pony tails, crooked teeth and a fondness for Hello Kitty and Scooby Doo — and you have again made me feel like I just may have a gift.
P.S. And thank you to my many Brothas too. You are also recognized and appreciated.
Originally posted on November 24th, 2016
My intention is for Black people to love themselves and each other. It sounds somewhat silly, I guess; but oftentimes my people are overwhelmed with negative images, bad news, and stereotyped characters about us. I’d like to flip that script. I’d like to remind us, as often as I can, how incredible we are. Read more