Facing your fears
Last night was a monumental night for me. There are a few times in my life where I get ridiculously shy and find it impossible to open my mouth, speak words and make myself seem like an intelligent being. These moments happen when I am in the presence of people that I truly, TRULY admire and who have greatly impacted my life. Jill Scott was one, but my friend forced me to talk to her and it turned out amazing. Lisa Price is another and again, a friend set me up so I could meet her and again, that conversation turned out to be amazing. Come to think of it, every time I have been face to face with someone I genuinely admire, if it were not for the motivation of a friend who understands my fear, I probably would never have spoken to them and would spend my life kicking myself for not having the guts to simply speak up.
For the last 5 years, I have been in the same room with one of my absolute writing SHERO’s Alice Walker. I read her novel “The Third Life of Grange Copeland” in college and it literally made me want to be a writer. I wanted to be able to tell stories, evoke emotion and speak for those who couldn’t speak for themselves, just like Alice Walker. I have always loved her poetry and of course the Color Purple has always been a huge part of my life. Yes, Alice Walker has been a part of my life since the 80’s but it wasn’t until I read that particular book that I realized that I honestly, in my heart, wanted to be a writer.
The first time I was in the same room with her was in 2004 at a convention for Black women writers in New York. I knew she was going to be there along with Gloria Naylor, Edwidge Danticat, and Octavia Butler. Right. Anyway, during one of the sessions I was sitting down to watch a documentary on Shirley Chisholm and Alice Walker pops up out of nowhere, sits down next to me, and I can’t even tell you what the film was about because I was completely stuck on the fact that she was sitting directly to my right. She even hit my arm while laughing at some point and still I could not bring myself to say anything. When the lights came up I bolted out of there and kicked myself for the rest of the conference for not saying a word to the woman who helped inspire me to become a writer!
The next time I saw Ms. Walker was a dorm dedication for the Barbara Christian door at Berkeley. I was literally a foot and a half away from her and just as I got up the nerve to try and speak to her, they started the program and I had to go sit down. But it wasn’t as if I didn’t stand there for at least 15 minutes trying to get my mind to formulate something to say to her. So sad.
With all of these failures in mind, when I got the email announcing her talk on campus, I had it made up in my mind that this was my chance. Unlike the other times, this time I had three books under my belt and actually had copies to give to her which, honestly gave me a little bit more confidence. I knew what I had to and even though I was slightly more confident, quiet as it’s kept, I was literally a ball of anxiety for the entire day. I spent most of my work day practicing my little speech and imagining every scenario I possibly could on how it could go. When I got to the event, I tried to focus on what she was saying to attempt to keep my mind off of my task at hand.
When she finished speaking there were a lot of people milling around her trying to get wisps of her time. Suddenly she broke away from the crowd, started putting on her shoes and suddenly she glanced at me and I knew I had to take my chance. She stood up looked at me and I was on. I had exactly 2 seconds to get my practiced speech out and next thing I knew I was handing her a copy of my book, she smiled at me, took the book and thanked me for introducing myself. She immediately exited the building and that was it.
I wish I had the words to describe exactly how I feel about this moment. 1. I was able to conquer a HUGE fear of mine, 2. I was able to seize an opportunity I may never have again, 3. I got to meet Alice Walker…YAY…4. Alice Walker has a copy of my novel. Wait. Alice Walker, ALICE WALKER has a copy of my book. That is GIGANTIC!!! I don’t know what, if anything will come from this, but the fact that I was able to tackle this monster in my life feels amazing. Utterly amazing.
So ladies and gentlemen, the moral of the story is that in order to accomplish your dreams, you have to take steps outside of your comfort zone and see what happens. Last night was not only good for all of the reasons I mentioned, but because it also sparked a lot of creativity and ideas. I feel totally inspired and excited about art again. Being in the presence of people who are doing what they love and are passionate about it can’t help but rub off on you and that was something important that I forgot. Love begets love, creativity begets creativity, and art begets art. I am on cloud 9 and I am so proud of myself for not only facing, but conquering my fears. And Alice Walker has a copy of my novel. Wow… God is so amazing!