Finding a community of people and resources that align with your goals, takes time. It even takes more time when you miss opportunities that would have led you to that exact community. However, I’m grateful for the times that I’ve struggled, felt alone, or felt like I didn’t belong because it led me to the right community. If I didn’t take risks and be open to experiences and environments, I definitely would not be where I am today.
I’m only 23 years old, and I recently found a place where I feel comfortable being myself. Nearly a month ago, I started a new position at a beautiful non-profit organization, GrubStreet, which offers classes and events for creative writers all across the country, and I’m so in love with it. Not only am I able to connect with writers within my team and the students, but I also connect with the educators and donors who contribute to changing the lives of these writers. GrubStreet is a writer’s support system; help them get published, network with editors and agents, and anything else that they need help with. It still shocks me that I’m now within a community that I’ve been looking for since I was 15 years old, and had no idea it existed until a year ago.
Growing up, I always felt somewhat of an outcast. There’s portions of me that never fully related to the majority of people that I grew up with, so I always had multiple groups of friends and colleagues within my life. For instance, I was a church girl for most of my childhood and teenage years, but I was never comfortable praying in silence around my classmates, or talk about Kirk Franklin around a group of Drake and Kanye West fans. I was even called “holy” a lot of the times in high school because I was the quiet girl with the good behavior and classiness that people sometimes questioned. Ironically, while I was at church, I had a hard time finding my group of friends there due to age, background, personality, and overall interests. Generally speaking, I had a hard time finding my safe place to be my authentic self, and it wasn’t until I was 17 and worked for a non-profit called Teen Voices, that I was beginning to find my identity and feel a part of a family-like environment.
One fact about me, I have a hard time accepting change when it comes to friendships and connections. During my time at Teen Voices, I was able to connect with teenage girls across Boston for about two Summers and a Fall term, and I would look at them as sisters by the end of the program. My problem was trying to keep the relationships close after the programs. I went through that in college as well while I was a part of a spring break program and connected with students, traveled to different states, and built houses with Habitat For Humanity for a week. I had to face the reality that most of them will not be my best friend when the trip was over. So, community is very important to me, and at times I wondered if something was wrong with me, if I was a good friend, or if I was putting too much effort on the wrong people, and putting less effort on the right people. For those past experiences and surroundings, I definitely take accountability for any wrong that I’ve done, but I now understand that life just happens that way, and I can’t blame myself for communities and relationships that may fade away over time.
After college while I was finding my environments through work and activities, It was very hard because I knew that I loved writing and poetry, but I didn’t know where to start looking for a community. Particularly as a writer of color, I wanted to know more writers of color around the area, but fear hindered me in many ways. If there was a spoken word event in Boston that I heard about through Facebook, I would sometimes press “Interested” on the event, but then be too scared to go by myself. Things like that, I have to be careful with because that was an opportunity where I could have met people, but then it could have also been hard to be a new person walking to an already established environment that a shy person may feel excluded. It really depends on the environment, but the goal is to try and see if it’s right for you. That’s what I did when I applied to GrubStreet, and now I feel like I have a second home.
I made it a goal this year to go to events and meet people on a limb. I started doing it back earlier this month, going to a Harvard University event on June Jordan, an African American poet, talking about her legacy, and I connected with a few writers that loved hearing about my blog, and I loved hearing about their published books and essays. It’s all about taking chances and risks to find your place in this world, and you have to be patient.
I carry such a grateful heart because all of my experiences are connected to the space I’m in now, and I probably would not be in a community I’ve been asking for, had it not been for those days and nights of struggle, confusion, and chances that I have taken. It’s crazy because now I have the opportunity to witness my organization help young girls who are in the exact place where I was as a teenager. For those who are still trying to find their calling, community, friends, people, and position that is perfect for them, don’t give up searching for it. I had to give up social media for a while to really dig deep into my search, so figure out strategies to help you find yours. Burning bridges is definitely the worst thing to do because you would be surprised to realize that your past experiences will lead you to the right direction eventually.
If you are a writer of any age, educator, mentor, or a supporter of writers, please check out GrubStreet.org.