I took a workshop yesterday, or it took me. I felt anxious just getting there, a sheltered control freak at the mercy of public transportation and a map app. I’m sure I look as though I’ve never been to San Francisco the second I step out of the BART, eyes wide, adrenaline pumping. And then I was there, but I wasn’t, 732, but all I saw was 734 A. I walk up and back, searching for a number and nothing, then a voice.
I ease in, sit at the plastic table, feel at peace among the creatives. My whole body lights up as I talk with them about writing. It’s a good feeling. A strong bond. A sense of calm. I feel like another person around writers, artists, photographers; like my most authentic, strongest self. So different from the girl who has a hard time smiling or the girl who feel incapable of approaching people. I speak with the familiar faces, recognize many of them from the slam I attended on Valentine’s day. Their poems about love and Jesus and positivity and consistent determination. The freckles and coiled hair and calm eyes, the way they said, “love” with affirmation, white dresses and flowers, the consistent greeting of, “happy valentimes day ya’ll.” The way the room felt warm.
After speaking with Juanita about her inclination to write after 25 years of nothing and her hesitancy and the revisions she is making, we begin. We make introductions, I state my name, tell them I’ve been frustrated lately with lengthy non-fiction and despite the love, stifled by ideas, I add, “looking forward to writing poetry and learning how to lay down some bars,” they snap their fingers in wide motions and laugh at my enthusiasm and use of their words. Again, I feel pulled in by the group and their transparency. My stomach growls and we start with an ice breaker. A poem about breakfast, but, “brainstorm with those around you”. I speak with Gina, her flat hair and black shirt, taunt, reads, “warning: educated black woman.” She gives me ideas about my favorite breakfast, a basic cereal, she throws in synonyms, descriptors; I feel excited and begin to write.
Rich chocolate milk soy
The flax cereal tumbles down
Crashes into the bowl
Kind of like life
Crash, crunch, sweet, flat
And then it’s gone
But still was life
Put the red in the sink
Wash it clean
Later we transition. Wider questions I have trouble keeping my patience for. My mind goes blank at the thought of my dreams, what I would do with endless resources, and why. All I can think is be a mama, and a wife, and travel. Later in the evening I’ll feel haunted by the brain block and ideas that flow out: follow Grace Potter around the country, visit Prince Edward Island, buy my mom the kitchen of her dreams, get baptized in the Jordan River, sponsor someone with a spinal cord injury, build a library. Yet in the moment, I feel small, unworthy among their selflessness, “I would make a warehouse space for youth,” the leader says, another girl talks of homelessness, another of education. Tied up in my own battle of self, I write down, “I think I dreamed better when I was younger”, and, “Am I inherently selfish?” No soapbox dreams. I feel so far away from them. Should I want to change the world?
We ease into watching a motivational speech, impromptu and made by Steve Harvey.
His words pool over me and I feel myself tearing up. The base of my ears burn and I want to be so much more. I forget where I am.
Afterwards, we look again at our dreams and write out our threats and weaknesses to examine what holds us back. I consider why I haven’t written a book yet, why I haven’t started, the ideas I have stacked in my brain, the possible audience. I scrawl:
Lack of self-esteem
Half going on ideas
Fear of success
Don’t think I deserve it
Fear of the unknown
self-discipline could be stronger
do you really want it or do you just want to want it?
We begin to share in an effort to brainstorm, help. Behind her glasses mid-story, Brittney says with so much certainty amidst her conversation on her weakness of responsibility, “it is irresponsible to not be who you were created to be,” I gaze at nothing in particular, blindsided in the best way; stirred by her assertiveness.
More voices begin to speak up. A man across the room who goes by TT talks about God and beginnings and his own struggles, he slowly states, “do not under-estimate or minimize small beginnings.” I feel moved, and again as though I could breakdown in sobs. I decide to share my biggest threat, desperate for help. “Fear of success,” “What do you mean?” the leader asks, “well like fear of the unknown, like what if I do it? What next? What will that feel like?” I reply. They gasp a little, I feel some of them just as stumped as I am. And then to my left, Gina chimes in, “What if you research the end?” she states, “how did they get there?” she uses the example of meeting a man, asking married friends for advice, building trust, moving forward despite your past; I feel wide awake at the crisp applicability. Another girl across the room encourages me to keep going when you reach a goal, see things as a journey. I then add, meek but determined to share the underlying threat, “It’s interesting,” I say slowing, “all of my threats and weakness, I think they directly relate to my own relationship to God, needing to be in control, what’s holding me back,” I feel them listening, and I just look to the leader, unsure where to go, I feel the air pull out of the room. I glance to the man who mentioned small beginnings and back at the leader, finished with my confession, complete.
The day winds down. I try to get out quickly, but stopped by Greg at the door and a side arm hug from Christian, and TT introduces himself shakes my hand, Greg asks for my feedback; I feel seen surprised that I’m being reached for. I walk the streets of San Francisco mentally drained, at peace, “did you get what you needed?” Greg’s voice echoes in my mind. The sun beats down and I’m hungry.