Preface... Or Something Close to It
It’s 4:07PM. A Wednesday. First day of autumn. Normally, I would still be teaching my Social Studies class right now but instead, I’m siting in my window over here on the corner of Cabrini, letting the late afternoon sun hit my back as I type this. You may read this and wonder, why isn’t she in school…? Or you may not be thinking about that at all… but I’ll tell you anyways: My finger prints came up dirty and the New York State DOE doesn’t think its safe for me to be around my students. Shocked? Wondering what happened? How could I get myself into something like this? Well, I’ll divulge the entire thing, trust me – I can’t wait… but not tonight. As for now, I’ve decided to use this time away from the classroom to be productive and tell another story that has been waiting to be told. Lets just look at this whole “dirty prints” thing as a blessing, not a BS way for the man to keep me from empowering the lives of my city’s Black and Brown children. Stay positive with me here folks.
When I turned 28, I thought I knew everything about myself. I just knew my gift from the Universe was self-actualization… but 7 months in – everything fell the f_ck apart! Excuse my French. I’m holding no bars with this one. I lost my apartment, my car, my boyfriend, my grandparents, my mom… Like Jenga or Dominoes, it was one of those falling effects, only this wasn’t a game. I’m not going to beat around the bush with you – I wanted to kill myself. I literally texted one of my bosses, it was like 5AM and I told her that I couldn’t take it anymore but the only thing stopping me was my students. I knew I couldn’t set that kind of example for the kids. I didn’t think my text-message was that serious because I knew I wouldn’t go through with it – I just needed to vent and her name was the first one that I came across. Little did I know, white people don’t take suicide lightly. Really no one should. But out of everyone around me, my bosses were the ones who took me to get help and did not leave my side or allow me to come back to work until I had the proper care. Long story short, I was diagnosed with depression and mood-disorder and now I cant go a week without seeing my therapist. What a surprise? Not really. It made sense, so much sense… but with that clarity came even more confusion! I couldn’t figure out the answer to the question that I asked myself every morning: WHO AM I?
Months went by and so many good things were happening but I still felt lost. I had to get the hell out of there. I needed time and space and silence to hear myself think. I couldn’t breathe. Trips and experiences in LA, Australia, Istanbul, Paris, and Chicago had little to no affect on me – nothing really did it.
I thought leaving Baltimore, all together, may be the answer. You know, a new surrounding? A fresh start. Those always look like they help in movies when people are grieving. So, I took a new job with a crazy pay raise but that didn’t help to refuel my energy either. I needed to be free. Killing myself wasn’t an option. I already survived the worse of the worst, there was no way I could give up on myself now … but no one tells you that the hardest part of being crazy is figuring out how to deal with that sh’t on your own, every-single-day.
In an effort to speed up the process of getting over my ex, I began dating. I was at brunch in DC with this guy (who I will allow to remain nameless because we don’t speak anymore) and he asked, “Have you been to Cuba?” This was the second time traveling to Cuba was mentioned to me. The first was from my older brother and his wife who urged me to see Cuba before the embargo was lifted and Americans got over there and “changed everything”. I was also reading Assata and Angela Davis, discovering how much Cuba meant to Black people during the days when they were my age, fighting for a cause greater than us all. The third and final sign that pushed me to make my decision was this random cab driver that picked me up in East New York to take me to the A on Euclid in Brooklyn. My homegirl, Shelly, just finished my sew-in and when I got into his cab, he was listening to talk radio. The topic was Cuba, Obama, and Raul Castro. He looked back at me and said, “I always wanted to go to Cuba.”
“I’m thinking about going there for my birthday.”
“If you can go there, go. Don’t think. Just go.”
I went home and began the process of going to Cuba that night. I didn’t tell anyone, in fear that they would try to stop me from going alone. Maybe its just me but it seems like when you get diagnosed with something, people start to treat you like you can’t do anything on your own anymore – or at least that's how it feels in your head when people show so much extra care and love. Anyways, I had no idea what I was doing or how I would pay for this trip, considering the fact that I was still trying to pay for my UMBC and JHU courses. I sold my BMW, booked everything, and low and behold, it all worked out. I was granted a journalist’s VISA and enrolled in an intensive Spanish-language course. I spent 29 days for my 29th birthday, unplugged from all social networks, no contact with my loved ones, and nothing but time to expose myself to myself.
This is the story of those 29 days. Initially, I didn't want to share this trip with anyone, at least not until I was completely ready. What I realized is, if I continue to wait until I am ready, I'll be waiting forever. I can’t say what anyone will learn from this. I don’t have a clear idea of the climax or resolution. It’s not a novel. It has no clear plot line. It just is what it is. Raw, uncut, unedited me, in search of the real me.