SOBERING REALITY JUXTAPOSED with OPPORTUNITY
The reason most people do not recognize an opportunity when they meet it is because it usually goes around wearing overalls and looking like Hard Work
2017: a year, thus far, of sobering reality juxtaposed with opportunity. I always begin each New Year with high hopes inextricably intertwined with my celebration. Reality sets in, gradually, forcing reassessment and realignments, some easier to accept than others. The arrival of the present year is no exception. I reside in a region in which seasonal changes, which are obvious and significant, have a direct bearing on daily life. I don’t like them. I much prefer temperate weather year-round. I like to see the ground under my feet. I love sunshine and warmth. I’d rather wear fewer items of clothing than bundle up. The winters here are long…depressing, and troublesome, for me. I live in a place whose physical geography doesn’t agree with me – yes, it’s true – yet this is where I thrive. The Universe has firmly planted my feet on solid ground in good Ol’ North Cacki Lacki; complete with asthma, allergies to the native fauna and flora, injections, and an assortment of inhalers …Sobering reality juxtaposed with opportunity.
I spent much of the recent winter months ill, homebound, raging about circumstances I couldn’t alter. When I finally accepted my situation, I found myself open to the sobering reality of being a shut-in, cut off from the joys of the social intercourse I love, activity which suits my fancy, even the seemingly casual act of stepping out of doors to breathe in fresh air. While I’m grateful to be up and about, I’ve learned valuable lessons about managing my health within the context of the physical limitations imposed on me by geography, climate, and the joys of growing older… sobering reality juxtaposed with opportunity.
The advent of this New Year brought excitement with it: my 45th college class reunion. I’d been looking forward to our Alma Mater’s annual spring coming together ritual in earnest for the past twelve months. Who, I wondered, would show up? Even as I prepared for this momentous occasion, I had to forego a joint multiyear high school gathering in my hometown. Forty-nine years ago, the class of 1968 graduated from Oakland High School. I’ve not seen most of those classmates since commencement. I could not do both and had to make a choice… sobering reality juxtaposed with opportunity.
Two months after earning my high school diploma, I journeyed back to North Carolina to begin the adventure of a lifetime. In August of 1968, the incoming freshman class of 1972, the largest in Bennett college’s history since becoming a woman’s school, assembled for a week of orientation before we began our classes. During our four years as student Belles, we earned a reputation as rabble rousers, or trailblazers. I prefer the latter description for it speaks to the purposefulness of our intentions. We secured changes to the social and cultural norms of the time, the dress code and curfew, in effect today. We were game changers and we revel in our role. Our reunions, which occur every five years, are opportunities to renew friendships, reminisce, and get caught up. This year was no different. We hung out together for a weekend creating more memories and reaffirming our commitment to Bennett while strengthening the bonds of sisterhood.
My collegiate experience included a year at Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH as an exchange student. The ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the U.S., was chartered in 1769. I was part of the administration’s experiment in coeducation, an up close and personal experience in sexism, misogyny, racism, and existential male angst about changing times. Ultimately it was a successful effort in which we, my Big Green sisters and I, brilliantly proved the wisdom of admitting females to this prestigious men’s school. Our presence was welcomed by some, deplored by others. Our collective contributions were ignored for nearly half a century. We came, we prevailed, and we moved on: sobering reality juxtaposed with opportunity.
I graduated with a degree in History and a set of expectations which did not predict a future as a raconteur or writer. The seeds of my nascent, and now fully emergent third act as a belletrist were planted while I was a student. My first published article, detailing my Dartmouth experience, appeared in The Bennett Banner my senior year. I entered college a teenaged girl and left a young woman poised for… sobering reality juxtaposed with opportunity. Twenty-eight years later I drafted the Prologue to what was an evolving vision for a novel tentatively entitled, Family. I created the outline February 28, 2002, and then put it away.
DATELINE: Oakland, CA, 2007. I was back home in the Bay Area with high hopes for living happily ever after in the place I love. I retrieved my outline for Family and produced a dozen or so chapters. They all sucked yet held clues to the saga I eventually titled Unfinished Business: A Celebration of Black Life, Love, and Institutional Memory – the tome I am preparing for publication. My dream of living out my life close to family and childhood friends in a not-as-familiar environment died a natural death. I packed up and reluctantly returned to High Point with my husband. We faced an array of obstacles. Some we surmounted, others continue to evoke pain: sobering reality juxtaposed with opportunity. I spent time working on Family, ultimately renaming the manuscript as led by the Universe. A new draft emerged, one in which the narrative flowed and a plausible storyline found its legs.
Despite a rough winter, I kept up with my writing, and continued work on my magnum opus. This effort, in and of itself, provided solace and a refuge. I could lose myself in the dilemmas, trials, and triumphs of the characters who entrusted their stories to me. The dichotomy of balancing opportunity with sobering reality underscores the vicissitudes of life. The bottom line for me is this: I’ve had to make adjustments. The good news: Unfinished Business remains on track for publication. I am completing the first phase of a word-for-word, sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, and page-by-page, review of the document. It’s a transformative process, at times inspiring and deeply satisfying; occasionally it’s tedious, tormenting, and difficult. It’s also demanding. Writing is a stern, but loving, master. This is not an exercise in unrequited love! I am healthy, my heart overflows with joy and gratitude for blessings great and small.
And Still I Write!