Over the last few years, I’ve changed. I started my freshman year in college and I had planned on majoring in linguistics, that was a disappointment. I quickly discovered that I wasn’t interested in linguistics like I thought I’d be. There were some things I enjoyed, other things…not so much. I went through a slump where I literally had no idea what I wanted to do with my life and I still don’t really, but I was depressed for not knowing what I wanted out of life. My grades were slipping, all my friends were back home or at other colleges, I gained 20 lbs in a year…I was just miserable. If someone asked me to describe my sophomore year of college, it was basically just one big blur of McDonald’s cheeseburgers, naps, chipotle, boring azz classes, angry YouTube videos, bad grades, boredom and loneliness… It was one of my most sullen years of life…thus far.
Fast forward to today and I realize, without even intending to, I have made quite a transformation. I ended up majoring in English just for the convenience of being in a program where I could get the credits I needed to “get in and out,” of college as quickly as possible. I really had no interest in reading a bunch of books and writing paper after paper about Shakespeare’s King Henry IV or The Country Wife and why it’s considered a restoration comedy. Plus, I hate grammar, it’s so tedious. As long as people can understand what I write, who cares about why a split infinitive matters…and so I use too many commas…so what. I just don’t care about all that stuff…sorry.
Nevertheless, I ended up in the English department, it was a “marriage of convenience,” so to speak. However, in the process of pursuing my “get in and get out,” degree in English literature, I ended up taking multiple courses in African-American literature. For the first time in my life I was learning about my history as a black person in America. I was reading Frederick Douglass, the Harlem Renaissance, Phyllis Wheatley, Ida B. Wells and all of the black literature classics. Much to my disbelief, I was beginning to fall in love with my English studies. I found myself looking forward to my readings, I found that writing papers was a lot less painful when I was interested in the subject matter…and well…even reading Shakespeare and The Country Wife weren’t so bad. Majoring in English turned out to be a good decision for me. I’ve now finished all my credits and I officially have a B.A in English…but surprise I decided to take an extra semester to take some more courses in African-American studies. That’s right…the person who just wanted to “get in and out,” of school now finds herself taking extra evening courses just for my sake.
You know what it is, I love that when I study literature and culture of african americans…I feel like I’m being given a part of my identity back. When I read Audre Lorde, when I look at painting by Faith Ringgold, it gives me a better understanding of my identity as a black woman. It makes me feel less alone, it helps me cope when I feel discriminated against. Earlier, I mentioned “angry YouTube videos,” as being one of the blurred memories of my sophomore year…well the truth is those “angry YouTube videos,” were part of the reason I was so miserable my sophomore year. I can’t tell you how hateful and bigoted YouTube can be, it was as if I was hearing countless videos talking trash constantly about black women. Every imaginable negative thought was pouring into YouTube and it seemed like all these crazy people came on the internet at the same time and decided to make video after video with nothing but demeaning and abusive anti-black woman content. Why I kept listening to them…I don’t know…but on the side…stay away from negativity…it really does eat you up inside…I became so bitter and depressed after hearing that constant negativity that it wore me down…. But, by the Grace of God…things fell into place (and btw those 20 extra lbs I packed on, I shed those…) and I ended up growing into my identity both as a black woman and as an individual and finding a new passion that I never would have considered had it not been for those negative experiences.
Today, in church, (yes, I went to church today…I know judging by my last post…I need to be in church right…lol! ) the sermon was about how sometimes in life we experience negativity and we have hardship, but its only because God wants to push us out of comfort zone so that we can reach our destiny. It’s because God wants us to walk in faith, even in the midst of hardship and trust that his plan will work out in the end. I can see that in my life. Sure, things aren’t perfect and I still struggle, but looking back, I can say I’m blessed. I’m happy that I ended up choosing a major that I really had no interest in because it led me to my African-American studies, which helped me to feel more at peace with my identity as a black woman.
Looking back, I can see now that everything I went through had a purpose and things aren’t as bad as I thought they were. Not only that, but I’ve discovered I have a passion for human rights. The constant disrespect of black women that I witnessed both on the internet and off the internet has shown me the importance of dignity, respect and justice for all people regardless of their beliefs, ethnicity, race, sexual identity or any other identity. Sure, I’ve always known that all people are worthy of respect and dignity, but it was only after I experienced injustice personally, MYSELF, that my eyes were truly opened. I now have experienced (a little, little experience) what it feels like to be stripped of your dignity and respect. After studying history, literature and learning about inequalities that are still present in our world today, I feel more compelled to speak up and do whatever I can ( no matter how small) to make sure that other people don’t have to be put into this box where they feel like they have no voice, where they have no dignity.
I guess what I’m saying is…my life is pretty good when I think about it. I’m coming into my own, making peace and I’m learning to forgive even those people who have hurt me by discriminating against me or making me feel inferior because of my identity. I’m grateful for my experiences and I know I’ve been fortunate to come out with a renewed sense of dignity, even when others tried to take that dignity away. At the end of the day, as the pastor said today in the sermon…God wants us to come out of our situations BETTER….not bitter. I still don’t know EXACTLY what I want to do with my life, but at least now I know sometimes we only go through things because we’re being led to a greater destiny…so I’m trying to learn not to worry so much…I guess everything’s just “gonna be alright” at the end of the day.