When I was in my early to mid-twenties, I remember applying to a large credit card company for an entry-level position in their call center.
The application process was simple, yet, I wondered how I managed to squeak through the door.
Why would they want me?
I had two years’ worth of aimless credits from two prestigious universities and no degree.
My financial sector experience consisted of receiving stern letters from my bank after a bounced check or two. The thing I knew about money was that I needed some.
I drove forty-five minutes both ways and parked my capricious K-car with its hanging bumper in the company parking lot of gleaming automobiles.
I was out of place.
There I was, a young, Black high school graduate, sitting shoulder to shoulder with degree holders and workers who used this job as a side-hustle. Most of them hated it, but it was a big deal to me.
I was uneducated and felt untalented. I didn’t feel qualified for the position in the first place.
I kept my head down and gave them what they wanted. One thing I’ve always been is a good follower. Over time, I learned to question who and what to follow, but anyone seeming to have authority was good enough for me back then.
So what changed?
As untrained as I felt, I soon became one of my sector’s top employees and earned a position on the fledgling supervisor team by my second year, thanks to our department manager, who took a few of us under her wing.
She was the first Black woman manager I’d ever had.
For the first time, someone stepped forward to guide me and foster a sense of confidence in me. Looking back, my manager was my first mentor.
I was finally doing well, but dissatisfaction crept in. I was still driving great distances five days a week, albeit in a newer used car, but stress from handling CDs and money market accounts of snooty, patronizing callers prompted me to never work in finances again. I decided to follow my passions and thrive as a self-sufficient creative one day.
I returned to university with my new goals in mind. I was working full time while taking classes in the evening. It wasn't easy, but had I not done it, I would have missed out on my creative writing professor who took me aside and encouraged me to pursue a writing career.
I was doing this while nursing a constant feeling of lethargy and malaise from undiagnosed sleep apnea, along with a suspected case of ADD. I still wonder how I survived all of that time on the road without causing a significant accident. Eventually, I became overwhelmed and stopped attending altogether.
In a matter of months, my plan spiraled out of control, and I failed.
It wasn’t much of a plan in the first place. I had no idea how to attain what I wanted.
Before the end of the third year at my job, I had had enough. I met an art professor who lived in Australia and high-tailed it out of the country for a whirlwind adventure that left me broken-hearted, alone, and financially weakened.
The pain is gone now, but I’m still glad that I experienced it and tucked it away in my writer’s arsenal.
I returned home, tail tucked between my legs and found another job. I didn’t even want to think about school. A year later, I was in love again — this time, with Allah. I converted to Islam, then met my husband. We married straightaway, and I moved to Canada.
Twenty years later, I am the mother of five children, still without university accolades, even driving a used vehicle, but something has changed. Perhaps the onset of middle age, or looking forward to an empty-nest and having more time to myself.
I only know one thing. It’s time to become that self-sufficient creative. I’m ready to make it happen.
It has taken me eight years to shape my craft into something that makes me proud. I had to learn what my scatterbrained years in university didn’t teach me. I didn’t know a thing about writing.
I signed up for Nanowrimo back in 2012, and after hitting the goal of writing 50,000 words in thirty days, the old mental haunts returned.
Who am I to think that I belong in the literary world? What makes me special?
I was horrified as I read through my draft of meandering science fiction. It was crazy and all over the place. Once again, I was in a space where I didn’t belong and was utterly out of my league.
Over the last six years, I listened to podcasts, watched many videos and masterclasses, and attended two writer’s retreats and several film incubators. I’ve come across many incredible people out there, and I’ve finally come into my own. I’m going in the right direction.
Sometimes, with age comes wisdom. In my foray into middle age, I've discovered that my mid-twenties self needed a few things: conviction, a specific plan, and clear actions to reach my goals.
The difference is, I now have what feels like a nobler cause, along with specific personal goals. I’m not ascribing to general statements and throwing them on the wall to see what sticks.
I am a mother of four girls and one boy, and I want to write stories that will pull them into fantastic worlds with characters who look and live like them.
I have to start right now.
I’ve done my best to educate and surround myself with successful, experienced mentors, and am taking the plunge with my debut self-published novel soon. Whether or not I become the next big thing doesn’t matter. I have a network of support and can now say that I truly belong.