Am I A Writer?

Yes, I know, it totally did take me another 6 months to write a new post on this blog. Oops. Mea Culpa.


As I type this, it’s been exactly one week since I’ve graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with my master’s degree. Here’s photographic evidence:

IMG_3324

See? Done.

And while I don’t have a full-time job lined up just yet, I have two wonderful summer opportunities that I’m super geeked about. On Tuesday, I accepted an intern position with the amazing edtech company 2U. I’ll be their Content team’s first-ever Content Strategy intern and I cannot wait to get started working with them! Also, did I mention that their NYC office is located on Chelsea Piers? Yeah. And two piers over from a SKATEPARK, no less.

The second opportunity I have is one that seems almost too good to be true. Just thinking about it gives me the beautifully unsettling feeling of a dream that’s been pulled from sleep into one’s waking life; the sensation of an “ideally” becoming a “possibly”. As you know, I hope to pursue a career in children’s media. It’s why I set out to complete a master’s degree in the first place. Well, while surrounded by people who supported me and believed in this crazy dream of mine, I decided to apply to the brand-new Sesame Street Writers’ Room Fellowship (SSWRF) this past March. And…?

Out of 800-plus applicants, I (with my unfinished 9-page script) was one of a handful of people selected to participate in the inaugural fellowship this summer! Starting next Wednesday, I’ll be receiving six weeks of workshops and training sessions in the art of writing educational media content for children from the folks at Sesame Street; the literal OGs of the industry. Words cannot express…*sobs*

[At this point, you’re probably wondering where the title of the blog post gets looped into all of this. It happens now, as a matter of fact.]

SSWRF is the very first writing fellowship I’ve ever applied to, so naturally, I feel very fortunate to have been selected. And very underqualified. I’ve never been one to give myself too much credit, but I wonder if/when I can confidently call myself a writer. I love having written things, but the actual process of writing and rewriting is always a fight—a worthwhile fight, but a fight nonetheless. This deficit in writerly discipline is the main reason I hesitate to call myself a writer. Hopefully this fellowship will provide some practical advice for building writing stamina, so that I can put more of my work out into the world and maybe get something published/made.

I guess we’ll see.

My Year in Review

Hi, for the first time in 6 months!

I’ve missed you dearly. 2016 has just flown by, so this post is to update you on everything I’ve been up to (since June) and provide ample excuse for my extended absence from the blog. I’ll try to keep this short, but half-a-year of life is a lot of ground to cover.

  • June: My work with the kindergarteners came to a bittersweet end. I miss those kiddos so much and I can’t believe that, as I type this, they’re already halfway through first grade.
  • July: I began a summer job as a graduate program coordinator for a nonprofit that administrated a summer internship program for high school and college students. It was my first time working with “big kids” and I really enjoyed it. Performing site-visits to some of the many companies and organizations that the students were placed in was probably my favorite part.
  • August: I said goodbye to the tri-state area and moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts to begin work on my master’s degree at the Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE, pronounced “hugsy”). I’m studying Technology, Innovation, and Education and loving every minute of it.
  • September through early-December: Classwork, homework, group projects, all-nighters, campus job as a Junior Learning Designer, happy hours, chill sessions, naps, laughter, tears, confusion, and every emotion known to mankind. During this time, I was also blogging in two other places: my Books of Color 2016 blog (#BoCo2016) and the HGSE Admissions blog! (See, I didn’t fall off, I was just using other platforms.)
  • Mid-December to Now: After finishing my first semester of grad school (YAY!), I’m now at home resting and enjoying winter break with my family and friends.

Looking ahead to January (because I’m a planner, even while on vacation)

  • 1/1-I’ll be taking a January-term class at school, so I return to Cambridge on New Year’s Day.
  • 1/3-I turn the big 2-5. A whole quarter-century of life. Crazy.
  • ~1/23-I will be beginning my dream internship at WGBH (the place where Arthur, Between the Lions, and ZOOM were all made) with their digital kids production team. To say that I’m elated is a gross understatement.

So, now you’re all caught up!  Here’s to hoping that it doesn’t take me another 6 months to write my next post.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Spilling Coffee on Strangers

Oh, how I wish the title of this blog post was a metaphor and not something I actually managed to do last week, but alas…


Last Friday morning began like any other work day: I woke up, showered, took the 7:29am bus into NYC, and stopped at the Port Authority Starbucks to grab some coffee for the second leg of my 3-part commute to East Flatbush, Brooklyn.

Because I’ve been financially insecure (read: broke-ity broke broke) the past couple of weeks, due to some unexpected grad school-related expenses compounded by an unforgiving once-per-month pay schedule, I had been forgoing my daily Starbucks run. But I came into a bit of money and since it was Friday, I decided to treat myself, as one should every now and again. I purchased a white mocha & a croissant. Simple.

After stuffing some napkins in my pocket, I head to the Brooklyn-bound 3 train to find an unusually crowded subway platform.  There’s an empty train that it seems all the passengers were forced to vacate, so I join the crowd of disgruntled commuters and wait for the next train. When it arrives, we all pack in.

The train is crowded and at each stop it becomes more and more so. I start reading a New York Times article on my phone, so I don’t have to deal with the uncomfortable, accidental eye contact that inevitably happens when in close proximity with lots of people. I’m standing, holding on to the pole and my coffee in one hand and my phone in the other.

At Chambers Street, the train stops for an annoyingly long time. Train traffic ahead, they say. When this happens, people who have just arrived at the station run and push their way into a subway car, thinking that they *just* made it. (Wrong.) So, I’m reading my article and a gentleman bumps my hand while jogging into the packed train car.

I jerk out of his way, losing grip of my coffee cup, which flips in the air about four times—almost in slow motion—and lands on the lapel of the poor woman seated under me, spilling on her jacket and pants.

I. AM. MORTIFIED.

I grab the cup and hear myself apologizing profusely for what had just happened, “I’m so, so, so, so sorry”. The woman is quietly seething and I’m certain that all the eyes on that train car were burning into my skin. I rummage through my jacket pocket and hand her some napkins, to which she responds with a tight-lipped “thank you”.

Knowing that there’s no way I can stay in the same subway car as this woman whose morning I just ruined, I dash out of the doors and run two cars up. The new car is decidedly less crowded, so I slide into a seat, begin stress-eating my croissant, and try to calm my heart’s erratic beating. I try to quiet my mind with thoughts like: At least the coffee wasn’t hot anymore. At least you had drunken most of it. At least she was wearing black. At least the train was stopped, so you could run away.

Though, the only thing that allows me to continue my commute with relative comfort is the fact that in a city of over 8 million people, I’d probably never see that woman ever again.

And that I’d probably be able to laugh about this story in the near future, like right now.

 

What I’ve Been Up To

Hi!

I realized I haven’t posted on here recently and wanted to assure you that I haven’t just been idling around. In fact, I’ve been doing the opposite and giving myself more work than I need. Since 2016 started, my time has been consumed with many things: work, graduate school applications, a class I’m taking through my job, and trying to exercise on a semi-regular basis. Though, the one thing that I’ll be talking about at length in this post is my 2016 reading goal.

For this entire year, I’ve decided to read books only by authors of color. I wouldn’t say my reason for this is political, but I wouldn’t say it isn’t, either. I’ve just come to a point in my life where I crave the writing of individuals whose voices more closely identify with my own; the voices that are often left in the margins of history and popular culture.

I’m currently on my third read—which aligns perfectly with Black History Month—The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois. The relevance and resonance of this piece, more than a century after it was first published, is absolutely haunting and I recommend it to all of you. That being said, I won’t be blogging about my literary journey here. I felt that this project was something that could stand alone on its own two feet in its own blog, so I proudly present to you Books of Color 2016!

Books of Color 2016 (#BoCo2016) is pretty much a 1 girl book club where I discuss my thoughts and feelings on the books I’ve chosen to read. My Reading List, which is kinda all over the place and much more of a guide than a schedule, can be found in the left toolbar of the blog.

Feel free to follow along or join in and read for yourself!

 

We Are Not Invincible

This is not the tone I expected my first blog post of 2016 to take on, but it’s been weighing on my heart and I need some relief.

Today is January 1st. It’s a day when everyone is so full of hope and enthusiasm about the year to come. We’ve made it through 2015 and now 2016 is here and it’s wide open. The possibilities are endless. The future looks bright. This will be our year. The world is ours.

How trite of us to think this way. 

As I type this, I’m getting ready to attend the funeral of a dear neighbor. Yes, on the first day of 2016, I’ll be saying goodbye to a person who has been a fixture in my life since the day my family and I moved into the ugly, grey (but wholly our own) one-family home across from hers. I was 9 when we moved in. My grandmother would pass away later that month. It was January.

Our neighbor, who we lovingly called Ms. Smith*—partially out of respect and partially because we never knew her first name—was a kindred; a fellow West Indian who was generous with her friendly waves and smiles. Although I didn’t know her well enough to call her a close friend, she and her family were part of the fabric of home to me. And now she’s gone.

That is why, reader, I’m writing to remind you that neither you, nor I, nor anyone you know will live forever. For some of us, this may indeed be the last new year we have the pleasure of celebrating. Don’t be cocky. Don’t behave as though you’re invincible because the immutable truth is that you aren’t.

So, savor every moment you have. Tell your love ones how much they mean to you. Work hard. Play hard. Don’t leave tasks for tomorrow that you can do today. Don’t take anyone or anything for granted because things can change in an instant. Acknowledge that forever hasn’t been allotted to you and take the finite time you have on this earth to make it a little bit better. And maybe a bit more neighborly.

-Monique

* Not her real name

I just made my first loan payment

…after deferring my student loans for the past year and I feel a little bit dead inside. 

It’s sickening how the desire to better oneself through higher education is a decision that may very easily put you in the poor house. 

Yes, it was my choice to attend the fancy, brand-name university. No one forced me to sign my name and my life on the dotted line, so I claim full responsibility for that.

But was it wrong of me to want to invest in myself? Was it wrong for me to, just once, want the best of something and not have to settle for “good enough”?

That being said, I don’t regret my  decision to attend a prestigious (read: expensive) institution; I received the type of education I had been dreaming of my entire life. 

Still, it’s demoralizing for society to tell a child from a city where there’s very little hope of upward mobility that college is her only way out and then make it impossible to afford.

Like the carrot dangled in front of a hungry horse’s mouth, yanked away if ever the horse gets too close, so the dream of a better life eludes those who need it most.

You can get ahead in the world, so long as you (or your parents) have the money to pay for it. And if you don’t, God help you. 

Old Ending + New Beginning

My internship with Tinybop has officially come to an end. It feels like I’d just started there yesterday, but 8-ish months have passed. I can’t believe it. 

I’ll never forget my time there, my lovely coworkers, or the amazing work I got to be part of. They’re really innovating the educational media landscape and I got to see it up-close (and put in my little two-cents where needed).

Now here I am on Monday morning, heading to my first day at my new position. I’ll be working with kindergarteners throughout NYC as part of this massive research undertaking. Thankfully, the whole month of September is dedicated to training, so I and my cohort of 23 other facilitators won’t be seeing the kiddos until October.

I would liken what I’m feeling this moment to first-day-of-school jitters; I’m full of nervous excitement and I think it shows. Still, I’m ready to see where this next adventure takes me. 

Wish me luck!

Doing the Most

I have a lot going on at the moment and in spite of myself (and the exhaustion I’m battling daily), I kinda like it this way. It’s all too easy for me to fall into idleness in the form of an endless cycle of Netflix and naps, so spreading myself a little thin for a couple of months is a welcome test in elasticity.

As I’ve been horrible at blog upkeep (oops), you have no idea what I’ve been up to, so here’s a not-so-quick recap:

  • I’m still interning at the educational media company I’ve been with since January, but I leave at the end of August because:
    • I’ll be starting a new position on August 31st as a Math Facilitator for kindergarteners as part of this interesting longitudinal, NYC-wide research project. I’m SUPER excited about it.
  • I’m taking a GRE prep course because:
    • I’ll be applying to masters programs in educational media/technology for Fall 2016.
    • Relearning math has been especially challenging, as I’d only taken one math class in college (Statistics, in which I got a shiny “D” ), but it’s slooowly coming back to me.
  • I was also planning on applying for a Fulbright grant to teach English in Sri Lanka, but I’ve decided to postpone it for the time being.
    • Maybe next year!
  • I’m on my church’s scholarship committee and we’ve been hard at work preparing for the application process to begin.
    • This is our scholarship’s first year back following a short hiatus, so I’m excited to see how we do.
  • I’m improving my eating habits and exercising (almost) daily before work.
    • I’ve already started seeing results. *flexes muscles*
  • I’m learning how to skateboard!
    • I’ve been going to an adult beginner skateboarding class (yes, those exist) and it’s SO MUCH FUN.

So, THAT’S what’s been sapping up all of my time and energy as of late. I’m literally doing the most, but I’m pretty content with it. The one thing I wish I had more time for is writing. Though, not as GRE essay prep or personal statement drafts; I miss writing fiction and screenplays and random blogposts about nothing. Here’s to trying to squeeze that into my already packed days.

I Didn’t Think I’d Cry

when you passed on. I knew I’d be sad; 12 years is a long time to be part of someone’s life. I watched you grow and although I wasn’t the best at caring for you, you never held a grudge. You weren’t perfect either, but you were mine and I loved you.

I didn’t think I’d cry when you passed on, but I did, old friend. I did.

I miss you, Jet. You were truly a girl’s best friend and I’ll never, ever forget you.

A Lesson in Karma During 4th Grade Science

Did I tell you about the time my 4th grade science teacher put a curse on me? Yeah, that happened.

She was a slender thing, with dark skin and darker hair that was always tied in a low, thick ponytail, not unlike an actual pony’s tail: Ms. C. I remember exactly what she looked like, but for the sake of a good story I want you to picture Zoe Saldaña with glasses and anger issues.

Anyway, Ms. C was lecturing our class again on something “bad” we had done. I’m putting “bad” in quotation marks because I doubt that whatever deplorable thing took place was serious enough to warrant a 20+ minute talking-to, but then again, I remember Ms. C being quite the humorless individual. This part of her character, an utter lack of a funny bone, saddened me because she was one of the youngest teachers at our school. Unfortunately, she was no ally of ours.

Back to the story at hand: Ms. C was yelling at us, wasting all of our sweet time and putting us at a great academic disservice. I recognized that my peers and I could have been learning about the Earth, maybe even sparking a future career interest in geology in one or all of us, but instead a finger, a bony finger was being wagged at us. So, like all children past, present, and future in the process of being scolded, we stared blankly, counted our teeth, thought about why we drive on a parkway and park in a driveway; our minds were everywhere, but there.

When she finally wrapped up this speech, I was put in a mindset of praise. So much so, that before I had the chance to think about what I was doing, a whispered, but emphatic “Thank GOD!” escaped my lips.

“Who said that?! Who said ‘thank God’?! WHO?!”, Ms. C growled. Maybe this is the right place to note that I attended a parochial elementary school. Thanking God was serious business there, so saying it in the context in which I’d just done it was not small potatoes.

Ms. C scanned around the room for a tell, a crack in the facade, of the guilty party, but we were a bunch of (angelically) poker-faced 4th graders. In my heart, I’d hoped she’d just let it go, shake it off, etc. However, she took the situation from 0 – 100 (real quick) and threatened that if the perpetrator wasn’t named, we’d be missing recess.

Now, if there’s one thing that elementary school students value most during the school day, it’s recess: The daily opportunity to step outside of the educational assembly line and be children. You take away recess, you take away what separates kids from lower species, like adults. To my surprise, no one called me out (Though, one boy did look at me, but I shooed him with a “Boy-if-you-don’t-turn…” look.) and I’ll forever be grateful for that fact.

Still, I wasn’t going to allow my classmates to be punished for my compulsion to add commentary to everything, so I took a deep breath and put my hand straight up. Ms. C looked at me and twisted her face into a wry smile. “Okay,” she started.

At this point, I was scared. Not of the impending punishment, mind you. I was fearful of the possibility that she’d go off on yet another angry tangent. My little heart wouldn’t have been able to take two of those in one day.

“Okay, just remember that whatever you say or do is going to come right back to you. It’s called karma, boys and girls, and it always comes back,” she stared straight at me with the final three words, “to get you.

Silence.

Me, in my head: Is she threatening me? Who would say this to a child? And why is she bringing Eastern philosophy into this decidedly Catholic environment?

And that was the end of that. She gave us an abridged lesson and then dismissed us (even me!) for recess.

Every now and then since that day, I think back to Ms. C’s karma talk and wonder if what goes around had indeed come around and punished me, yet. For the longest while I didn’t think so: life’s been pretty good to me. But, now that I think of it, I bet Ms. C is the reason I’m allergic to peanuts. Yeah, that’s it.