What do you do?


There is the age old question that happens when you put adults in a room. That question is, “What do you do?”

“What do I do? I am a student.”

“Oh really! What are you studying?”

“I am trying to get into nursing.”

“So good of you to be going back to school.”

“Ha, yes, but the thing is…”

Then I explain how even though I am back in school, I have been in school. I have done school, and I have done it well. Sometimes I need to emphasize that because people become condescending.

Nothing makes me more afraid than being read like a stereotypical black woman. You know the black woman of many a racist imagination; young single mother, uneducated, poor and struggling.

The fact is I am none of those things, except single. I am old, not a mother, definitely educated, earning a living and thriving. I am nobody’s cliche. But as you learn when you have lived in America long enough as a Black woman, nobody gives you the chance to define your existence. Your being is defined for you. Sometimes, when you realize that your autonomy is being taken away, you become defensive.

The thing about going back to school for me is that for the first time in a long time, I feel like I am walking a path to somewhere I want to be . I am not doing it for anybody’s acceptance or to prove that I am intelligent. I am doing it to fulfill my own needs. I am finding every day that because I have nothing to lose, I am enjoying being a student.

Back in that room where I am being maligned for being a student, I have learned to relax and let people make a fool out of themselves. If I am feeling particularly mean, I start talking about my background. On the days that I feel kind, I smile. I have nothing to prove.



The Logical Point to Quit

I decided that I wanted more for my life so I decided to do something about it. Learn something new. Pick up some new skills, stretch myself in ways that I am afraid to. I signed up for classes on Coursera. I actually reached into my pocket, paid the class fees and started learning. 4 hours of learning later or so, I feel like I have reached the most logical point to give up. Fuck all my aspirations, hopes and dreams. Forget about my life time. In this moment when I feel uncomfortable, I have reached the logical point to give up. I could spend my whole life complaining about why I don’t feel satisfied instead of pushing myself to do something new.

I told my sister I was starting classes online. She told me she was afraid for me. I have  been diagnosed with chronical lack of follow through. I have no willpower. I hate being uncomfortable. I would rather do the same thing over and over again then be uncomfortable. Haven’t you heard? I ate the same plate of food from a restaurant for a week because I was afraid that I might hate everything else. Why ruin a mediocre life with adventures when I could be just okay? Just okay paying my bills, just okay intellectual simulation, just okay lifestyle. I could tell my mother every phone call that I am grateful for the just okay life. Alihamdulilahi for the just okay.

I think it is probably a sin to confuse complacency with gratitude. A very thin line it is but there comes a point when saying “I am grateful for what I have” becomes a sin because you are refusing to push yourself just further. I think I have reached the logical point to quit just okay. I am done. I am going to put on my big girl pants and get to work.

This is one of the hardest things I will probably do. This is probably the most rewarding thing I will probably do. I feel like at 29, I am ready to let go of my inhibitions and become more than just okay. I want to see in myself what my mother, father, sister, mentors and friends see in me. I want to be more than just okay.