Song of the day: No Idea by Don Toliver
Today, I'm sitting upright in a hotel room in Columbia, South Carolina preparing for a photo and video session to assist my Uncle and Auntie Bracy. I didn't think I'd be here with them-- let alone to return with them for a second round. I left Miami late June and haven't been back (for work) ever since. I learned a lot about myself while I was there but the most important lesson was that money doesn't matter when you aren't aligned with your purpose. I knew that I loved writing.
That was a given.
But I didn't like journalism or at least some parts of it. The "copy-paste a story" aspect of it wasn't me. I enjoyed learning the stories of the locals because it made every story I wrote feel genuine. Though my time in Miami was short lived, I had to figure things out. Graduate schools were altering their application process, certain jobs weren't hiring, and my lease in Tallahassee ended on August first. Did I want to come back home? No.
I made up my mind that I needed to get to D.C. by any means but it felt as though I needed to wait for my breakthrough. Since leaving Miami, it has not been an easy ride. As the civic engagement specialist (and tech support and volunteer aficionado) for the Jacksonville Urban League, my mother's go-to care taker, my siblings' Uber driver, and a scholarship/college readiness consultant, there's never a slow moment until my momentum slows down.
I've had imposter syndrome moments where it affects my day from start to finish and I can't accomplish everything I set out to do. I read and reflect often but I question my purpose and direction some days when I'm unable to see the end of the yellow brick road. In a few interviews, I "blacked out" and jumbled my thoughts to a point where even I couldn't trace the end point of my thoughts. There were also occasions where I counted myself out from fellowships and job opportunities because I didn't feel up to par on paper even if I could talk my way into the door. As the eldest and trailblazer of my family, I carry a lot on me and didn't think I'd be crushed until I burned out. I took a breather from everything in order to get to the core of my issues then it clicked.
I had to reset.
College allowed me to have a safety net to figure things out in settings that I could create in order to curate the experience I envisioned. But since things were different now, it was necessary for me to rethink my approach to everything I knew. So with that, I must say a few things:
Life is meant to turn into the place or space you wanted to avoid. Even if the room is dark, look for the light! If I didn't come back home, I wouldn't be doing the impactful and necessary work I do now with the Jacksonville Urban League. I'm beyond grateful for my mentor of service, Dr. Danford for believing in my work and bringing me into the space that reintegrated me into Jacksonville years before my college days. I'm grateful for my mom for giving me the space to unfold my and rework my dreams to make them work in the grand scheme. But most of all, I must extend my endless gratitude and love to my dear girlfriend, Renelle. She's been my solid rock that never shifts even when things shake up in my world. Her consistent reassurance and concern are what allow to be okay with slowing down and pacing myself. I'm happy to say that I'll be writing for Def Pen because of my brother in rhyme, Ryan Shepard, as a result of him believing in my writing and love for personal narratives. I have some overwhelming work that's in the works and I can't wait to share them with the world. But in the mean time, stay safe and do what you need to do for you! No need for the excuses because they're easy to pass out instead of ship out of your life. Some things just gotta go before you do and that's okay.
Beyond the Lights,
Dwight James III
Song of the day: 12.38 by Childish Gambino
Around March 11th, I watched a news segment on Instagram about the Corona virus. This was around the time I was preparing to mail my graduation announcements to friends and family so they could make arrangements to see me walk the stage. Four years of long nights, short days, and endless assignments that amount to a short stroll, handshakes, and a picture before I took my seat again. My graduation was slated for May 1st at 2 P.M. in the Donald L. Tucker Civic Center. On March 19th, I received an email stating that all graduation ceremonies were canceled to ensure the safety of students, their family, and friends. Days before receiving this email, I couldn’t understand why I’d been hesitant to mail my announcements-- I guess it was only a matter of time to find out why.
Unlike many students, I didn’t go anywhere before and after spring break. The furthest I went was Jackson View Landing, which is about 15 minutes away from the center of Tallahassee. I looked out at Lake Jackson, brown-green marshes tinted with insects and young fishermen. Not my typical break but with my dear Nelle, it was more than worthwhile. All of my classes have transferred to zoom but only two actually use the software. I’m figuring how to navigate the switch considering that all of my classes were on campus while applying for jobs, writing poems for NaPoMo ( t-minus two days), and finishing the rest of my semester without losing peace of mind.
Corona. Spanish for crown. Noun.
I’ve never seen so many people panic and disregard a disease before:
“I’ll be fine.”
“I’m staying away from everyone.”
“Young people don’t get it anyway.”
Meanwhile, all over the world, Corona disregards age, background, and location. It takes lives. It ends birthdays. It cancels baby showers. It economically disables people that specialize in fields that require them to be around people-- theatres, museums, tourism. A few of many entities that have been halted or shut down because they don’t have emergency funding or aren’t “essential” to the livelihood of individuals.
California. Texas. New York.
All major states that have enacted a mandated curfew/lock-down of some sort. Though they are not the only states, these are the few states I may be living in after my virtual graduation ends. As a budding professional artist, this pandemic has shown me a few things.
As of today, I have 26 days left as an undergraduate student. Though the Coronavirus has taken so much from the world, my peers, and some many others, it has not taken my joy. It has not taken my drive to succeed. It has not taken the pride I have in my great city, Jacksonville, FL.
To all of the people working endless shifts in hospitals, I pray that you are protected from the disease as the frontline soldiers protecting the future of the world.
To all of the people that are blessed to work with pay and even not work yet still be paid, do understand that you are blessed and many, many people want to be just like you.
To all of the people that do not know where your next meal, rent, or utility money is coming from, I pray that your community uplift and equip you with the tools you need to at least be happy at home.
This too shall pass. For though there are things that are beyond our understanding, disarray doesn’t make the dilemma go away. Be still, remain in good graces, and never, ever let the destruction of today determine the peace that will come tomorrow. Corona’s days are numbered and I’m ready for brunch once this pandemic has come to a close. It’s only a matter of time. Protect yourself by staying home and away from as many people as possible.
All the best is yet to come,