A little over two years ago, I found myself in the midst of what some may refer to as a ‘pit’. A deep, dark hole with no clear path which made an exit evident.
I had just finished my Master’s program in Psychology, Health, and Behavior in the UK. A year wrought with challenges at every turn, yet I found a way to make it through to the other side without failing. At least, not completely.
As a small aside. I have always been academically proficient. I was able to complete my undergraduate studies in two majors, graduated with honors, and an even greater appreciation for my own capabilities, despite the negative circumstances that I was facing (of which were many). While it was hard enough finishing up my senior year with two part-time jobs, a full load of credits (due to missing a summer semester the previous year after the death of my grandfather), and no computer of my own to easily complete assignments, nothing really prepared me for the challenge that was my Master’s journey.
After taking a gap year to recalibrate myself, as well as to figure out where I really wanted to go next, I made the decision to pursue graduate studies internationally. I had always promised myself that I would not pursue any further education, no matter where in the world it was, unless I was able to procure a scholarship or grant of some kind, as I could not afford another hefty price tag on top of the loans that I already had.
In spite of the fear that tolled like a midday bell in my right ear every chance it got, I pushed forward anyway, trudging past piles of rejection letters and “sorry to inform you”s. I eventually had to lean into my very last resort of additional student loans, vowing to myself that I will be able to set myself up in a better position to pay them all off, sooner rather than later. (That’s another story for another day).
There was just something about living in the UK that never quite settled with me. Attempting to navigate the persistent gloom of the days and nights seemed almost like an affront to my tropical climate upbringing. While this may have played a significant part in it, there was much happening within my program’s administration that left a lot to be desired. I found myself feeling detached from not only the program that I had such high expectations for, but also from my program advisor.
Needless to say, my dissertation experience was mentally and physically exhausting, forcing me to stretch myself into places I’d never been before in order to complete it.
There were some benefits of my experience across the pond. I was able to form new friendships that will undoubtedly continue to make a positive impact on my life, as well as rekindle old friendships that are now more solid than ever before.
After returning from my postgraduate studies, and with a heaviness in my heart from a certain tinge of dissatisfaction with my experience, I felt that I was no better than when I started.
With some encouragement from my partner, I took a leap to start a blog, an interest that I’ve had for so long, yet never felt I was truly capable of. I centered my first website around my natural hair, as well as an exploration of utilizing the least amount of chemicals and additives in my hair, in my food, and on my skin. This was merely a hobby, somewhat of a distraction from my continued sink into a place where I felt that I could not find a place where I fit, even with a hard-fought Master’s degree under my belt. I wouldn’t say that I didn’t take it seriously, but like everything else in my life at the time, it felt temporary and fleeting.
One summer evening, while on a short break at my temporary job in administration in a New York City non-profit, I found myself scrolling down the homepage of the Huffington Post. I was pleasantly surprised to find that they had recently launched a new series of blog posts highlighting black women and their experiences with their natural hair. There was literally only one post published at the time, but almost immediately, I felt a pleasant pull towards contributing.
On pieces of scrap paper, in between tasks, I began writing what would become my submission to this blog series. While I doubted how good my writing could actually be to be published on such a well-known platform, I felt comfortable sharing my journey about learning to re-love my natural hair and by extension, myself, through care and consideration. After all, my little blog was already talking about it. What could it possibly hurt?
I received a favorable response the next day from the editor in charge of the series, as well as an invitation to join the Huffington Post contributor platform, which went on to open a slew of opportunities for me that I never thought possible before.
Yeah, I’ve always been good at digging up relevant information and using words to present my findings in a clear, consistent way, but for some reason, I never thought of it as more than just a skill that I needed to use to excel academically.
I had almost a mantra that I held onto tightly for many years, unaware of just how firmly my grip was on it. It went something like, “I don’t have a talent. It’s not like I can go on stage and read a book and write a paper while in a pageant.”. It’s almost as if I refused to acknowledge that these skills that I had developed over years of careful observation, effort, and genuine interest in learning, were just as worthy of admiration as a beautiful voice or a flexible body.
I am a writer.
It has taken me many trials, many errors, and many stumbling blocks to have reached that place of acknowledgment.
One submitted contribution allowed me the opportunity to re-discover my purpose for telling the stories that need to be told, as well as helping others to help theirs.
While I am still navigating what it means to be a freelance writer, amidst the ebb and flow of income-generating opportunities, I have never been more sure about what I am great at doing.
It may have been set in motion by a stroke of luck or a quick adoption of an opportunity, but it has opened my life to greater possibilities than I once thought possible.