Monday, March 25, 2013

My Black Reality

This is a post that has sat in my draft box for over a year. I don't have time to complete the post but I do believe the conversation needs to be had. 

Last year, as students began walking into my second class of the day, I began to notice something about the ethnic make-up of my fellow graduate students. During my first year, I never paid attention to this dynamic of my program but at that moment it jumped out at me during class introductions. I originally assumed that the four other darker complected individuals in my class were African American. That was, until they began speaking. Caribbean, African and European accents filled the room when they spoke. It was then I realized...

There were 5 Blacks and 0.5 African Americans in my class of 20.

Myself being the 0.5.

For the purpose of this post, Black will refer to an individual who is a part of the African Diaspora and African American will refer specifically to an individual who was apart of the US slave trade who cannot trace their roots directly to any African country. 

Later I thought about the other black faces I'd met in the prior semester. At least half of those were also non African American. Because I also attended a PWI (Predominately White Institution) for my undergraduate studies, I was already accustomed to the fact that a large percentage of students who at first glance may look African American, actually were not.

So many times we (anyone of African descent) are clumped into one category. Black people have a rich history and even those who cannot trace their roots have one.

It's always good to remember that many times our black reality is more than meets the eye. 

Friday, March 22, 2013

Without A Second Chance

When you can't kick yourself, you kick other people. I am not a violent person but recently I had violent actions. Don't judge me. Or go ahead and judge me. I kicked someone out of frustration. It wasn't a strong kick or one with much, if any, force. It was moreso me kicking myself for him doing exactly what I thought about doing for a long (read: really really long) time. Kicking myself for the timing being all wrong and things remaining the same. Without a second chance.

For so long I told the story to every person who would listen, hoping they could give me an answer. I never once asked him what happens for fear of hearing something I didn't want to hear and being hurt. Let me tell you how ridiculously dumb it is to jump through hoops to "protect" yourself from being hurt. Nothing get's solved. You're just left with a story that has not one period but three. That elipsos is your end but not the one you wanted.  Your story just drifts off into oblivion.

When it all went down, I was asking hoping for more communication. Before you ask someone to communicate to you, look in the mirror and think exactly how hypocritical you're being. You being me. I was such a hypocrite, I was asking for communication without reciprocating that very act. I did things afterward that weren't true to my core. I blamed it on my gender. You know I'm a girl, so I can be emotional. I can act without thinking. I can write blog posts filled with remnants of the truth but saturated with white lies. White lies that I needed to spread at the time to protect my the truth. That I was hurting and confused. Because you know, my vagina makes these actions okay. I'm just trying to make myself forget so you can't blame me. Can you? It excused my poor behavior. My ill advised actions that were done only to "protect" myself.

Well I finally talked it out with him. Not because I wanted to but because I was forced to. He initiated it and I forced myself to do something different, and speak up. I put my thoughts about our situation on the table. So when I kicked him that day, it was more for me than him. During the conversation at the table I wanted to tell him, "You'll be a lot less desirable to me when you're divorced with a kid, so chose wisely," but I didn't. Of course I didn't. I'm not that girl. I don't want to be that girl, but a big part of me wants him to be that guy.

And as much as I want to tell him, "Be the man today that you were afraid to be yesterday." I won't.

Because at this point, why does it matter anyway?

So here I am with these feelings that have been brought back to the surface. I'd buried them so far down that I believed I was over them. I'd buried them so far that I had twisted them into a false reality. A reality I never really believed but that felt good to think because they "protected"me.

There goes that word, "protect" again.

It reared its ugly head a lot during the past year. At this point I am no longer protecting myself against myself. I'm just living life and taking the good and bad that comes with exposing myself to vulnerability and dismissal. Without a second chance.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

I almost dropped out of grad school pt. 2

If you haven't read part 1, click here.

I convinced myself not to leave school and that my degree in social work could be transferable to a number of careers. I started researching them and came up with several semi-appealing options. I would finish school and figure it out exactly which field to test out later.

Late in the semester, an email came from the Student Affairs office describing a 2nd year placement available to only one student. A social work student could apply to work in the office at school and facilitate programming and provide academic support. Not only would this person work with current students, they would also be placed on a path to a career in higher education. I wasn't sure if this was the right position for me, but I knew I was sold by the description of the position in the email so I replied right away! I expressed interest in the position and waited for word. But after speaking with a counselor and advising her of my plans, I was talked out of pursuing this nontraditional social work career path. 

At this same time, I was signed up to work in substance abuse in a local treatment center.This position was being pushed upon me by that very same counselor who convinced me not to pursue the student affairs position.  I was also suppose to be certified Credentialed Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Counselor. After I completed my interview with a treatment center, I knew I was going down the wrong path and would again find myself unhappy going to work. I left the interview feeling down and lost. I didn't know what to do. I had already told the supervisor for the student affairs position that I was no longer interested. 

It was too late to reapply for the position, right?
I would look like I didn't know what I want if I spoke up now, right?

The next day, while I was contemplating my next move, I received an email from the student affairs supervisor. He said that I should call him when I got a chance. I went straight home and made the call. He asked me why I decided not to pursue this opportunity. I told him about my counselor and how she convinced me that it wasn't for me even though I thought it was. He asked me if I still wanted to send in my resume and possibly interview.

Is this really happening?!!

I believe in signs and the universe pushing us in the right direction, so I said yes. This was meant to be!

I sent in my resume, killed the group interview, and beat out the other applicants for the position.

Over the past year I have started and directed a grant fund I hope continues to be available even after my graduation, given presentations and led workshops just to name a few. Now I can say that I am happy when I go to work. Not only am I proud of my work but I enjoy the environment.

The most exciting outcome is that I've found my passion. I want to work with multicultural and diversity issues within universities and aide high schools. Even though my goal is to work in a university after graduation, I can still work with underserved communities and unprepared minority college students. I can have a full time position as a director of a program and utilize successful models to help underserved communities guide high school students from high school to college graduation. So many times we focus on getting these kids into college doors but leave them to fend for themselves in the pit that is a PWI. I know all about this experience first hand.
Reccently I had a mentor refer to me as Dr. [Scorpion]. He said it fit and if I wanted to pursue a doctorate, that he would support me. I'm excited for my future and ready to begin affecting that change that brought me to NYC and the field of social work in the first place.

I'm so glad I didn't drop out of grad school.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I almost dropped out of grad school pt. 1

Since graduation is quickly approaching, I've been thinking about all of the events that led me to this point. I'm about to receive a Master's in Social Work from New York University! My path to graduation was not an easy one. It was so difficult that at one point, I almost dropped out of school.

In the middle of the semester last spring, I was miserable. On one hand I was excelling in the classroom, on the other hand I hated waking up each morning to go in to my internship. I was interning last year with a community based organization (CBO) that brought Master level social workers into underserved public schools to provide counseling and classroom interventions for students at risk of academic failure and drop out. My placement was in a high school in Brooklyn/Queens where each morning kids would go through security scanners before being let into campus. I've found that this is a fairly normal practice on the east coast. And my disdain with this approach has to be saved for another post because the atmosphere was more like a prison than a facility that promoted education and growth.

Although I loved the kids that I worked with, the role of social workers in public high schools was full of financial and structural challenges. Whenever I wanted to plan an event, it was damn near impossible to get funding. If I was approved to do an event, getting through the red tape in order for it to be implented was a pain in my ass. My supervisor was detached from work and unfortunately just going through the motions.  She was not inspiring nor a great role model. I looked at her everyday and scoffed. I couldn't stand her as a person, let alone supervisor. It was a feeling I didn't hide. This only added to my tumultuous relationship with her as my advisor. How could this evil woman be a social worker?!! She shouldn't be allowed to be around prisoners let alone these young impressionable children.

After speaking with several people in the high school system, I found that school social workers could be responsible for more than 600+ students at a time. At what could be several different sites. Add this with the programming limitations and lack of funding and I was starting to believe that maybe this path wasn't for me. I could not see myself as an overworked and underpaid high school employee. When I entered the field of social work, I knew I wouldn't make a lot of money but I thought I would at least be happy about positively affecting the lives of children. The thought of burning out daily all the while being poor was just too much to handle.

After a few months into the 2nd semester, I started to think of a way out.

What if I dropped out of school?

I didn't want to spend the rest of my life in a career I didn't like, let alone love. I could drop out of grad school and do something else. I reflected on what brought me to the field in the first place and looked at my next steps. I started looking up other programs at NYU but then I cringed at the idea of taking out more loans. I was already on the hook for my first year loans, was I really going to multiply that by 3? Was I going to move out of NYC and go back home with my tail in between my legs. I didn't actually care about what people would think about me leaving school, I just wanted to be happy when I went to the place I would spend more than a third of my life.

Happiness just wasn't happening in the confines of a high school/prison.

to be continued...

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Those stories that never make my blog...

I started this blog years ago to speak about my random but fun experiences with dating.  Over the years, I had so many good times getting to know dashing gentlemen but I always kept my distance from letting myself become attached to them. I kept my emotions bottled up. I spent so much time detached from emotions that I was unable to process them and let them guide my decision making. Now while you may be going awww, it surely made for some interesting blog posts over the years, am I right?

After reading through some of my posts though, I've realized that not everything I have written in the past, well almost nothing, has been from the heart. I'm good at painting fairytales, but life doesn't work that way. My life sure is no walk in the park or fairytale. I make bad decisions, terrible decisions and pay the price for them later.

But those stories, they never make this blog. They sit in my draft folder.

Those stories of when I should have spoken up but didn't. Those stories about my dysfunctional relationship with one of my sisters. Those stories about my crying myself to sleep over a guy I really liked but who I didn't think liked me back. Those stories about how I thought he was the one that got away. Those stories about how sometimes I feel angry towards my older sister for having a child she is not prepared to raise.
Those stories you never see. And those stories are a big part of me. So maybe, just maybe I'll stop being insane. I'll stop doing the same thing and expecting a different result. I'll share more of those stories because they show you just how flawed and imperfect I am.

Give me some time though, because those stories are hard to share.

Those stories make me vulnerable to judgement and ridicule.

Even though I am not fully ready, you're going to get those stories.
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