1. I feel deeply. I have been known to cry at the museum, during flights, and during my favorite arias. Jascha Heifetz’ rendition of Bach’s Chaconne always sets me right, Monserrat Caballe's take on Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro always makes me want to bake somebody a cake, Jessye Norman going to town on Purcell’s When I am Laid in Earth makes me want to lie down and never get up, and Luciano Pavarotti’s rendition of Nessun Dorma makes me never want to sleep again. I adore sculptures by Bernini, Romantic era paintings by Delacroix, and Mississippi Delta Blues. They all make me cry. In case I haven’t gotten my point across, I’m a sensitive cookie.
2. I’ve always had interesting friends. Some of my first imaginary friends were the gods and goddesses from the children’s book of Roman myths I used to carry around. I often brunched with Venus and listened to Proserpina talk about her on again-off again relationship above and below ground. I’ve waged war on homework with Mars and took Cerberus on walks (with triple the usual amount snacks, naturally). When I got a bit older, I loved memorizing my favorite literature, so I held onto my favorite chunks of Ovid’ s Metamorphoses, Sophocles’ Antigone and Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar. I also live-tweeted the Norton Anthology of African American Lit so I could retain what I was reading, but kept my interpretations private once I realized that people get paid to sift through texts. And yes, I also had real, live human friends - ya meanie.
3. I was not always Humanities-focused. I was very into science fairs back in the day. My projects included crafting a model human heart (complete with fake blood flow) and a model human eye. I wanted to be Marie Curie when I was younger and was over the moon when I got a chemistry set. I conducted chemical reactions and had a flair for presentation. I competed regionally with other chickadees from across Chicago and made a game out of memorizing the periodic table and making up stories about how some of them turn into others. Eventually, I would move to Cambridge, MA…and encounter a wonderful collection of artwork made up of the elements.
4. I’m eternally grateful to the adults that raised me. I grew up in a multigenerational home with my maternal side of the family. I’m an only child and it was so affirming to be poured into. I got years of piano lessons, participated in Gospel choirs for decades, and I used to compete in competitions. My mother stressed the importance of learning, and bought me more flashcards and study materials than I could stomach. She also took me on walks, god bless her. Self-mastery and the love of the transformational power of learning were key. My childhood was full of books, laughter, board games, making great food from scratch, and summers in Chicago. I was a lucky duck.
5. I need to roam. When I was 14, I chose to attend a high school clear across the city (which meant a commute of at least 90 minutes each way). In the winter, I would get up between 5:30 and 6 to get there by 8. During that time of year, the sky was still half dark – and I would imagine Helios driving his chariot and making things bright over my part of the world. During trips home from school, I would ride the El with friends, meandering and shooting the breeze. By the time all was said and done, it was dark again. It was during these trips home that I would look up and see Robert Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” in the ads above passengers’ heads on the train car. I would come to memorize the poem because it seemed like it was following me – it is my favorite poem and I can still recite it on command. Every time I recite it, I feel 14 again. My second favorite poem is T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I enjoy thinking about peaches and yellow fog rubbing up against window panes. This need to roam has taken me all along both coasts and bunches of places in between. Hopefully, I'll use this passport soon. Berlin and Reykjavik, I'm comin'!
6. I’ve been a lucky lil’ somethin’. I hit a few numbers in the Texas lottery…when I was about 10. My memory’s a bit fuzzy around this, but I picked some solid numbers. I wasn’t a millionaire, but a little dough is a lot when you’re a whippersnapper. Michael Jordan came to play basketball at the park across the street from my childhood home, so I went out to play, too. I’ve got bunches of stories like these – and the older I get, the more I realize that luck usually hinges upon playing the game and putting yourself in right spaces. This is a practice I took with me to New England. I started to sit in the front rows of lectures and learned to take pride in my grit and hunger to learn...rather than be ashamed of my rocky academic career.
7. I had a mean entrepreneurial streak. I used to sell things and pitch ideas every chance I got as a child. Candy apples weren’t sold in grocery stores near my house? Fine. I walked around, taking orders from the neighborhood and went downtown to the factory and got cases at bulk price, making a NICE profit. I delivered apples door-to-door as a child in the '90s. I also became a girl scout JUST so I could sell cookies. I used to create useless committees for the kids on my block and make membership cards – “laminated” ones, if you will, using clear tape. Nearly 15 years later, I used those same skills to run New Wave – Young Boston Feminists, a Meetup group of a couple hundred people. I still have the itch and am coming home to my ‘trep roots. A place like Cambridge is great for someone like me. Don’t’ be surprised if you hear about a lil’ somethin’ soon. *wink*
8. I LOVE my culture. I love being Black. I love mining the past. I adore the Mississippi Delta Blues tradition and am an amateur genealogist. I’m a grandchild of the Great Migration from Mississippi to Chicago – and I relish every opportunity I get to blab about it. Chicago is home to juking, footworking, and scores of other gorgeous expressions of human ingenuity writ Black. From where I’m sitting, the story of Black America closely resembles the mythology I grew up loving. Orpheus is a Black America with outstretched arms toward vestiges of a pre-exilic past; Hephaestus is a track-laying railman in the Reconstruction era South. I have a Blues sensibility and an ardent love for the myriad ways this “nation within a nation” forged the truth of themselves in an unyielding land. And with style, honey - with style.
9. I require LOTS of alone time. Maybe it’s an introverted only child thing, but I love quiet solitude. I’ve always appreciated being left to my own imagination and devices. Having enough room to reflect and ponder made me who I am and helps me stay centered in a loud, overwhelming society. In our culture, we don’t really appreciate all the gifts that introversion and quiet afford us, but trust me – they can be glorious. I often daydream about donating most of my possessions and moving to the boonies in Iceland. The flip side is that when I’m in community – I’m really there. I’m a hard person to know, but I’m worth it.
10. I have absolutely no idea what I’m doing…and that’s okay! It’s like our uncle Albert Einstein said "I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” I just wanna live a good life. I want to use my passport, eat nice food and see my mom more often. I want to learn to play the violin I bought. I want to do work that makes me feel happy to be alive. I want romantic love that gives me the tingles (which, for me, means a man that gives great snuggle with a sonnet in his heart and my name on his lips). I also adore French fries, so I’ll need a lifetime supply of those as well.
So, that's me in a nutshell. Nice to meet ya.