Thirty-Nine

Graduate school. On this day a year ago I flew from San Francisco to London prepared to start a new chapter of my story. Not even 36 hours later I was back on an airplane flying to DC then Raleigh because of errors with my visa. I was so upset with myself for not preparing properly. I paid for my mistake, literally. The expedited visa was much more expensive. A week later after my going away party part two my line sisters and uncle dropped me at RDU airport.

I arrived in London ten hours before my first lecture at Kingston University. The University buses weren’t running that day so I walked the Thames River with my suitcases to my hall. At that time I was living in a shoe box! THAT IS NOT AN EXAGGERATION. My room was 13 feet by 8 feet with a porter potty size bathroom. The only saving grace in my living situation were my amazing flatmates and the other residents of Seething Wells. Halls truly became home because of the people; maintenance men included, security guards excluded.

After my first lecture I looked in the mirror for a while wondering what in the hell I had got myself into. It quickly occurred to me that the time to be worried and overwhelmed had come and gone. That was the time I lost flying back and forth across the Atlantic. It was time to keep on keepin’ on. I started to read ahead of the material on the course outline so I could figure out what my lectures were talking about. This helped a lot because I wasn’t extremely familiar with the British literature they kept referencing. Shakespeare, George Orwell, Jane Austen yes. But Tom Stoppard and Harold Pinter not so much.

My schedule was flexible, so while all this reading was taking place I was also exploring the United Kingdom. I visited Wales and more midland areas of the country. These adventures allowed me to meet some amazing people. I met Ese during a trip to Warwick Castle, Shakespeare’s House and Oxford. We had just met but it felt like we were old friends almost instantly. Before she finished her course and left for Nigeria she gave me a wool coat which changed my winter for the better. Sometimes you need sunscreen, however, it gets cold out here.

So as the first term came to a close I was reading significantly faster, learning my way around the London Underground, and building a network of British and international connections. I applied for a little job at the Olympics. I was hopeful but I didn’t want to get too excited since another Olympic job had fell through. December 4th I ventured to The Netherlands for a birthday celebration with my dear flatmate. That’s all I’ll say about that 🙂

I went home for Christmas and my Great Granny’s 90th birthday to relax and recoup. January 2012 I came back to London a little bit early to wrap up the fall term assignments. Around that time I also went on an interview for the Olympic job. I was interviewed by the nicest lady in the world. She’s one of those people with a comforting smile, somebodies Momma for sure. I went back to my cell, I mean room and prayed about that job because she made it sound awesome and I liked her already.

Time marched on and the semester began. One teacher made me cry on the first day of class. His play ‘Lungs’ closes with a scene that lapses a lifetime and the word choice was so tasteful and entangled in the realities of life that I was truly moved. He saw me crying and looked at me like I was crazy. The more of his work I read the more I looked forward to every class session. The other lecturer I was assigned had an entirely different effect on me. She scared the hell outta me. People were warning me about her which made me that much more anxious to meet her. I read a couple of her books and fell in love with her use of imagery. All these metaphors! She was for sure a rapper in a previous life. We connected over a sonnet about green. She kept encouraging me to write poetry which I felt was a waste of time. But the more I was forced to read my work out loud the more comfortable I became with my own voice. I was a closet poet but now I’M COMING OUT!

In efforts to be as authentic as possible I should also mention the dating scene. I like to eat. So I pretty much went out with everyone that asked me. Africans, Asians, Europeans, Caribbeans, even an American. I’m still single, but I am grateful for all the free meals! I’ve concluded that I would like a man with morals and principles similar to mine.  Different cultures have different expectations when it comes to picking a mate to spend time with. To put it plain, some of these fools were trippin. I really feel that a guy from my area would come with less language and cultural barriers. This part of the story is still being sorted out… but I’m hopeful 🙂

The semester marched on and I became more active in the Kingston Writing School. I made friends in my course that continue to encourage me to write whatever the hell I want because they admire my voice regardless of the genre. Respect from my peers is priceless to me because  it wasn’t always this way. In so many learning environments that I’ve been in people try to break you down to build themselves up, these people are called ‘haters.’ Here everyone is so different, they care way less about what the next person is doing. Maybe it’s a big city thing? I believe we value each others voices more here because of the diversity. London like Switzerland where I studied previously, is a melting pot. Being the only Black girl was finally to my benefit!

Of course haters do exist here, there were issues. I remember one lecture when a British guy asked me how I felt about being called, ‘Negro.’ I had to tell him, I wish you would call me a ‘Negro’ it’ll be the last time you call someone a ‘Negro’ it’s not 1936! I also came close to getting hit by a bus one day so I had to give the bus driver a piece of my mind. However, no need to focus on the negative.

I moved on! I left the halls for a beautiful home with a wonderful expat family. I got the job at the Olympics and my life changed for the better. My eyes were opened to the corporate world. I worked with people that made coming to work an adventure. Everyday was something different, I learned SO MUCH! I met people I had only seen on television and I was able to watch athletes with amazing bodies parade past me. I even met a few, Jordan Burroughs was by far the hottest guy at the Olympic games. I wanted to be his uniform.

Loads of friends and family came visit this year! My cousin Raashan Ahmad’s performances around London town inspired me to keep at my writing dreams. If a rapper from The Bay can sell records in France I can sell books in Sri Lanka! It was refreshing to see familiar faces and to be fed 🙂

I guess all this refection came about because I’ve finally finished my dissertation! 19,329 words later I have penned my first full length screenplay. I’m so damn proud of what I wrote.

I don’t care about the grade.

I don’t care if you like it.

I wrote it!

I did it.

I wasn’t sure that I could but I did! This is what I’ve made out of what I was given and today I’m proud of me 🙂