I wanted to participate in the 10 year Aging Challenge that is making its rounds on SM. I recalled that I came to FB in 2007, so I went searching for the first photos I posted. I found some but every single one of them was with others. I’m sure I opened the account with a picture but I can’t find that one. The other piece of this is that, I don’t know how to splice the then and now pictures together so even if I found one to work with, I’d have to research how to do so. But that’s easy thanks to Google.

I’ve enjoyed the process of sifting through the past though. It’s been really sweet. The 32 yo me had a short Afro after having had my grandmother cut them because no kin of hers would be a Rasatfarian. A story for another day. I was recovering from the trauma of having worked at Notre Dame and I was loving being out and proud. Berkeley, CA was being everything to me that folks told me it would be. I had just finished one semester of my second graduate program and I was loving learning and being in school again. I was welcomed into the PSR community and literally subsumed into all things faith and community. I had made fast friends with other bisexual women on campus and we had discovered that a couple of us also shared the burden of Bipolar Disorder. I thrived those first few months amidst all this love and friendship and community building. I had arrived in the summer after having shaken the dust of Notre Dame off my shoes. The Bay had been surprisingly chilly and that’s when someone told me about the coldest winter being a summer in San Franciso. I was happy to have sun all the time so it didn’t really matter. I quickly found a thrift store and bought a space heater and then all was right with the world again.

32 now feels so young, but I remember being older than my roommate and a few other classmates and thinking I should have done this degree a long time ago. Yet I sit here tonight thinking I wouldn’t mind finishing up that MFA I quit in 2012. Now at age 42, I will certainly be one of the old ones. But then I think of what use is yet another degree?

I love learning and I think the main reason why I gravitate to Student Affairs is because I love being on a college campus and I love the chance to create a brand new community once I land. Even though I am not enrolled, I am still surrounded by intellectuals and I am sometimes engaging my brain in a much more different way than I would sitting at a desk editing somewhere. I also gravitate to these positions to share my own love for learning. Additionally my need to ensure that Students of Color survive their experience drives me to college campuses year after year. That they will see someone who looks like them, someone who is highly educated and has survived several PWIs and lived to tell the tale, that keeps me going.

I think most days I am happy to be Black and I am proud to be a dark skinned Black woman. Challenges like these make me realize that I have hardly aged. The biggest change that is most noticeable is my weight. I went from weighing in at 136 at 36 to weighing in at 185 at 42. It’s huge especially to everyone who knew Skinny Mel as I was known for most of my life. I started Risperdal in 2013 and that was the end of my skinny self. I have to say though that I am the happiest I’ve been about my weight. I was teased so mercilessly for most of my life and when I wasn’t been teased, people were ogling my body and telling me how lucky I was that I didn’t gain weight no matter what I ate. I was unhappily skinny. I am happy because I am now feeling like a full blown adult woman, the real African woman of my dreams. I still look young but my body size means that I get placed more squarely in a late twenties mid thirties instead of the eighteen year old I always got when I was questioned back then.

As I think of the Aging Challenge, I also think I have lived a full life. Even when I think I’m not doing it anymore or not enough of it these days, I have these moments when I get to look back and see that’s not quite so true. This weekend I am embarking on a trip out to New England. My mentor and teacher, Faith Adiele is out teaching a workshop and when I learned of it, I just knew we had to connect so I reached out and made plans. Most people who know me know that I am fierce about staying in touch and sometimes go to lengths to make it happen. I am looking forward to sitting at her feet and hearing what she has to say. It’s been 4 years since I saw her but 7 years since I lived next door to her. Every time I think of this trip, I do an internal skip. So you know no trip across that part of the nation wouldn’t be complete without stopping in Great Barrington, the place that gave me a home when I first returned broken from having lost David. So I am stopping through there. My former pastor is throwing me a dinner party and I’ll get to see my former church community. I’m seeing my former dean and friend and a few other folks. I’m super pumped. I just hope the weather holds out.

I’m off to find a picture to put up for the challenge. Wish me luck!

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