Updated: Jul 13, 2020
| This is the 57th story of Our Life Logs |
If I were to give advice to the little girl that never stood up to anyone and felt alone much of her life, I would tell her that it’s not her fault. I would encourage her to take heart and stay hopeful. Looking at me now, people can’t see that I was a quiet little girl who was constantly bullied. But just because that part of me is faded, doesn’t mean it’s gone. I never forget my past because it helped me become the person I am today.
I was born in Dayton, Ohio, to two young parents who were only dating at the time of my conception. In fact, they had broken up before I was even born. My father left my mother to raise me and though I still got to visit him, I was raised primarily by my mother.
My mother is brilliant. She has a Master’s degree in African American Studies and another Master’s in Women Studies, and she has worked as an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati. With my mother as a professor, I was used to being in an academic environment and became very mature for my age. I spoke differently from my peers because I was used to speaking with adults, so kids often made fun of me. I was known as the quiet, weird girl that preferred books over people, with interests that deviated the norm. At the age of five I had written my first poem, which became a therapeutic practice.
From first grade until my junior year of high school, I was bullied into thinking I was worthless. My mother raised me in a free-spirited household that left a lot of room for creative pursuits that kids my age didn’t like to do for fun. Though I was free to explore my passions, my mother kept me from a lot of mainstream media. She banned me from watching MTV and BET after I attempted to reenact the Britney Spears’ “Baby, One More Time” music video at the age of three. This made me out of touch with a lot of modern topics that my peers discussed. I also had a lot of food allergies including peanuts, which made me stand out even more. All these factors made me a target for bullies. One boy went as far as threatening me with his peanut butter crackers in elementary school.
When I was nine, my mother and I moved to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania so she could begin a new job. It required a lot of traveling, so I spent a lot of time staying at other people’s houses while she was gone. In Harrisburg, I went to a school that was racially heterogeneous, but surprisingly racist. I had trouble fitting in because I wasn’t considered “black enough” because of my interests. I mostly made friends with white students, but even those friends spat many racist comments towards me because they thought they were harmless. This school was hard because I didn’t fit comfortably into any of the groups defined.
I didn’t see a bright future in Harrisburg, so I moved back to Dayton a week before I turned 17. My mom stayed behind for her work, and I moved in with my grandparents. My grandparents knew how much I loved to write and suggested that I go to the local art school to pursue creative writing.
Creative writing has been a skill in my family for generations. My grandma and mother never got to pursue it because it wasn’t an option for a profession that would make enough money to provide for their family. Perhaps their sacrifices encouraged my success. My grandparents were well-known in Dayton, since both had been ex-prison guards and members of the clergy—they knew everyone. Through their connections, they heard about this art-focused high school. I auditioned and got accepted. I went to this school for the end of my junior year and my senior year.
This school was different from the others. I felt like I belonged there. It was also the first predominantly black high school in the area. The program shaped me into the writer I am today. I wouldn’t have grown so much if it wasn’t for my teacher Mr. Steinmetz. He cared about his students and was a great confidant for me. He’s the person that showed me my potential as a writer and motivated me to pursue it in college. I was one of the last students that he directly mentored because he passed away a year after I graduated high school.
After high school, I went to Northern Kentucky University, declaring a major in Sociology with a pre-law focus, intent to become a divorce lawyer. Within a few months, I realized that this major wasn’t bringing me happiness or a sense of passion. I was interested in creative writing, but I felt guilty. I wanted to help others. I asked my family for their opinions. The most memorable response came from my grandma who told me, “you don’t have to have a degree in being a good person, to be a good person.” This was enough to convince me to change to English. Through the English program I learned how to take and give criticism well. Knowing how to develop a thick skin and a discerning ear is important in becoming a writer and a person. Writing is partly about exposing your soul. To do so, you must be bold.
In college, I grew close to my roommate Syreeta. I had other friendships before her, but none with as much depth. I had been bullied so much that I had decided that I wasn’t meant to have close friends, and that the idea of platonic loyalty was a myth. However, Syreeta was understanding and loyal, unlike others I’d known. Despite my efforts to push her away, Syreeta continued to pursue our friendship. She and I are still best friends today.
She studied playwriting, so we’d often brainstorm for ideas and inspiration. She also wrote poetry in a unique style I wasn’t used to. At one point, we started an all-black spoken-word poetry group called SWERVE. She motivated me to be a better writer and became the reason my writing was strengthened at such an alarming rate. I was able to better express my experiences.
Newfound friendships couldn’t fully heal the scars from my past. The summer before my junior year, I was put on anti-depressants, something I think should have happened long before it did. When I look back, I see difficult moments as a kid that weren’t normal. I was likely undiagnosed since age six. Writing and books were the tools used in my youth to escape from the dark thoughts I had. The medication was also for my anxiety. I noticed a drastic change in me from the medication. The fear that I held inside wasn’t as overwhelming anymore, rather, i