10 years in NYC!

July 27 I turned New York City 10 years old, which is to say I am amazed I have lived this long in one city. Amazed. When I made it up in my mind to stay here, it was also with the goal of to thrive here. Coincidentally, July 27 is also exactly one month since I quit my full time job and stepped out into the unknown.

Whether or not I’ve thrived is probably up for debate, but, the photo above of my most recent reading with Jayson P. Smith (please y’all read & listen to this poem of his!) really drives home to me what it means to have community: when you are about to step out on a limb, out into the world with its weather, its unpredictability, you survive (and thrive) because of the folks around you, those who are both with you, and protecting you, and shielding you. I strive to be a shield and a running partner and more to each of you.

So what’s good? 
Last week, poet and sister-friend Jennifer Bartell published this conversation with me about Black Southern (woman) poetry & poetics in The Conversant.

This Thursday, August 3 (how is it August already?!!?) I will be reading at Poet’s House as part of their Poetry Showcase. It’ll be my last NYC reading for a bit, I think. Then a few weeks later I’m on the road to launch, officially, my book in my hometown, Columbia, SC at the Columbia Museum of Art on Aug 19, and to read during the historic Solar Eclipse on Aug 21.

After 6 years in the biz, I launched my consulting website: Red Olive Creative Consulting!  This is my new full-time venture, when I’m not writing or teaching poetry classes, so if you have a creative project/organization that needs funding–let’s chat! 

Art + Culture Plugs: 
Please check out this important feature: A New Colossus; Last month in SF, I got to see this amazing exhibit of African American Southern artists.; If you’re looking for a sound-oasis in the middle of NYC, go to Rubin for The World is Sound exhibition; my fly fly friends just started a new low-res MFA program, and the Furious Flower Poetry Center just started an online journal. 

May you find respite, and also beauty, in these days.

Your Girl is Alright

(I’m posting my 2014 marathon finish photo to remind me that I can do literally anything…)

Nearly a month after my last day as a full-time arts administrator, and I’m still 100% sure that I am walking in a new purpose, which is to say, that I feel in alignment with who I am right now, and who I see myself journeying towards.

Last night I got to host a sister-friend Maya Marshall in NYC after an amazing reading, NOMAD Reading Series, with poets Charleen McClure, Hala Alyan, and Kaveh Akbar. I mention Maya, and our dinner, because for the past year an a half she has held me down so strongly whenever I went to South Carolina to visit my mother. In fact, we met at a reading, which was also on my mother’s birthday in 2016, and have been fast sisters since. What I’ve appreciated most about our friendship is that it started on such a ground of vulnerability–I was two days into my new life with my mother post-stroke–that there’s little else to hide/reveal/ of myself. She is certainly someone I check in with when I go down, and so it was great to be able to check-in with her when she was traveling through NYC/Brooklyn.

At dinner, sharing our insecurities about life-in-transition (she thinking about life after graduate school, me thinking about this new life I’m in now), someone came to me, and I was able to share it with her, and I’m bringing it to this blog post now to echo + remember: You do not have to do it alone.

This is a lesson I learned during marathon training, and I am learning more and more the gifts that experience gave me. Mostly, I learned that when there is an endurance project–a long-term goal post–that will take up so much mental and emotional energy (that is really all marathon training is!), you’ll need to enlist team members to help ease your mind off of all of the little niggly things that keep you from focusing and zeroing in on your goal: crossing the finish line. For marathon training, that looked like: working with a nutritionist to know what to eat, and when, and a running coach to know what to run and when. So then, mostly all I had to do was wake up, put on my running shoes, and go. I don’t think I could have made it to that 2014 NYC Marathon finish line without having my team.

This last job, what I found most helpful, even in the endurance project (getting to the finish line of quitting, haha!), I realized that I could not have gotten to that finish line without my team. This was both external and internal. Friends who listened and guided and supported. My employees on my team at the museum.

I didn’t have to do it alone.

That I am writing this post saying “I’m all right” is a direct result of me reaching out to my team and saying, team: let’s build together 🙂 and we did! And I’m so blessed to report that I have two fundraising/development clients that will carry me into the next year. *praise hands!!*

What does this mean?

I’m trying not to do this alone. I am actually in a place to hire someone to work with me  towards building capacity for cultural institutions, and steady my writing life/self (If you know of someone looking for some pt work, hit me up!). I never would have imagined myself being in this position, much less so soon, or so soon after leaving the place that was trying to destroy me.

But that’s it, isn’t it? Give yourself a door, and then walk through it. But you have to give yourself that door. Do the thing that scares you. Be open to the possibilities and uncertainties, and then, and then—let the universe do the rest.

I’m thrilled and excited and scared and all of the above to see what this next room of my life holds for me. I wish the same for you.