Wonder Woman and Everything Everything Say Sorry Mom

I have seen both the movies Everything Everything and Wonder Woman back to back and I have never seen two movies so different and so similar back back. Everything Everything is the story of an 18 year old girl who is believed to have a serous sickness which prevents her from ever leaving her home. After meeting and falling in love with the boy next door, her small, safe world is forever changed (more spoilers as this article continues). It is a teen romance movie where the characters wear trendy clothes easily found in H&M and the soundtrack can be found in any Top 40 playlist with various up and coming pop and eclectic artists. Wonder Woman is based off of DC Comic’s female superhero, Diana, an Amazonian princess who meets a man that leads her on her own adventure (see the similarities yet?). Compared to Everything Everything, the movie Wonder Woman was an action packed movie where most of the music was mixed with roaring sound effects of explosions, bombs and gun shots. In addition, I don’t think Diana’s outfit can easily be found in your nearest mall. There are a lot of spoilers in this piece but the messages are spot on.

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Despite these movies seeming to target different audiences with different tastes, the messages and story lines almost mirror each other. Early in both movies, a handsome man comes infiltrates these women’s “safe spaces” forcing these women to accept the truth about themselves. In Everything Everything, the star’s safe space is her home. This home was a beautiful California home. The rooms were impeccably clean. The furniture and appliances were modern and state of the art. The home was specifically designed to let nothing of any risk even so much as touch the well off and sheltered girl. In one of the first scenes, the neighbor tries to give the mother a bunt cake which she rudely refuses. The daughter shouts from her room, “I’d rather try a bunt cake.” The mother replies, “It’s dry.” From my own experiences, I’ve had plenty of bunt cake conversations with my own mother, as I will assume other mothers and daughters have had. Many times, my mother looks at me like I am the most fragile thing to ever exist and make the decision to shelter me from dangers with the power of ignorance. Wonder Woman was no different. The first scenes of the movie start with Wonder Woman as a little, the only little girl in her world, her sheltered safe paradise. Like Everything Everything, Diana’s world was safe, there hasn’t been war or outside threats to this world hidden behind magic and fog for years. Like Everything Everything, Diana was seen as the most delicate and fragile thing to exist. For that, her mother, the queen, hides Diana’s true identity. As a woman, I find ignorance used as a weapon more often as I get older. There is a global fear and misunderstanding of women with knowledge not only about the world through books and education but about themselves. In both movies, the mothers keep a massive secret from their daughters that have kept them sheltered or better yet captive in these safe spaces.

I won’t delve too much into the hunky male superhero that, through fate, comes into these women’s lives. As a single woman all I can wonder is “Where the hell is mine?” But I will skip to the end. I forewarn, there are serious spoiler alerts so I would suggest saving this article once you have seen both movies or have no intention of seeing either movie. Both characters discover the strength within them once they have left their homes. It was not until the main character in Everything Everything, Madeline, returned from her life threatening adventure in Hawaii that she discovers she was never sick (I warned you reader). It was not until Diana realized that the evil she thought she was meant to defeat was actually the complex concept of human free will and inborn evil rather than some singular evil bad guy  that she discovered she was a goddess herself. Not only is she a fictional goddess but in many ways she is a feminine depiction of a God many people are familiar with. The theme of the movie is that humans, in their tendencies towards evil, don’t deserve her power and mercy yet she gives it anyway (sound familiar Christians?). Steve, played by the ‘he can get it any day’ Chris Pine, also thanks her for saving him by bringing him out of the water (sound familiar ladies). Diana’s strength is incomparable yet her mother hid it from her all her life.

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I have lived in a safe space my whole life. For years, I was a sheltered child whose media intake consisted primarily of Disney Channel, Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network. I had many toys and never worried about physical harm or hunger. I had a lovely safe space. Many women and girls like me have or had those spaces. Maybe they were not paradises, but they were the safe because they were familiar. Women are often pressured to stay within the family, not always for their own good but for the benefits of their family members. Even with good intentions, sexism often pressures women more than men to take less risks, desire less adventure, and require less self awareness of one’s own strength in order for these women to feel more obligated to watch over the family. However, no one, man or woman, can stay within their familiar zones and expect to really discover who they are and their true potential. Sometimes it takes the push of someone who is different to take us out of those comfort zones.

My final point refers to the title, the strain of growth on a mother daughter relationship. In both movies, neither women return home to their mothers who nurtured and cared for them all their lives. Back home, they did not exist. Madeline mentions in Everything Everything that only a small handful of people knew she even exists. She was her mother’s. In a similar fashion, no human knew Diana’s world existed. In her world she was simply the princess. In Everything Everything, Madeline says “You’re not alive if no one knows you exist.” In different words but with the same message Diana says to her mother before she leaves home, “Who would I be if I stayed?” As a millennial, I’ve learned a lot of the things my older relatives have taught me were wrong. That is the hardest thing to realize because you know there is usually little to no malice in what they teach you. However, you know what they say is not always what’s best for you. In similar tone with love and persistence both characters in summary say, “Sorry mom, but I have to be myself.” As Gen Y people we have to get out and discover the truth about the world around us and Gen Xers need to trust us with the truth.

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These story lines aren’t new. Disney has used these stories in movies like the animated Rapunzel or Brave. However there is something about these two movies that make the similar message different. Maybe it’s the use of actual people. Madeline, played by the girl who played Rue in Hunger Games, can be any black girl, you meet. As a black woman mentioning her race is relevant because it is nice to see people that look like me on the big screen. However, Madeline can be any girl who knew they were in a safe space but knew they didn’t belong there. Wonder Woman was edgier than the Disney princesses. At times she was stone faced and cut and dry with her responses. She did not flirt or sing around those who doubted her to make a point. She looked her doubters in the eye and said, “Watch me”.  There was something more real about these ladies discovering their physical strengths, history and sexuality.  Regardless, both movies make me proud to be a part of a generation where slowly women, people of color, people of foreign descent are in control and making a difference in the world.

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Put Your C’s Up

I spent my first two years of college at Villanova University and have no regrets, despite the huge financial burden on my mother to pay out of pocket. My decision to go to Villanova University was one of the first decisions I ever made for myself without the approval of others. For years, I aimed for good grades to make my family proud. I did certain extracurricular activities to impress my friends. No one approved of Villanova University. The school was expensive. However, I did not care.

My time at Villanova University was fairly boring. I was the obvious underdog on the team, especially being a walk on. My freshman year roommate, Shaniqua*, was a 400m runner on full scholarship. Most of my teammates were high school state placers or high school and college All-Americans. Then there was me coming onto the team running 59 seconds in the open 400m race, which is not great and an official time of 1:04 in the 400m hurdles and unofficial summer track time of 1:02, also not great for the level of competition that I aimed to be a part of. Not only was I this no-named underdog, I was also an awkward caterpillar. I would say awkward butterfly, but I was nowhere near as graceful as a butterfly. I was still awkwardly skinny with large eyes and had a habit of saying too much about myself too quickly when I meet people. Not to mention, I come across as abrasive in introductions, which is a habit I developed from high school. In other words, I was the complete opposite of my roommate. Shaniqua was slim built like me, but was at least a B Cup in bra size. She had a slight, sexy southern accent which stood out from the majority of team’s northern backgrounds. Her skin glowed at any point of the year. Her eyes were a pretty almond shape. She had a commanding personality. She was upfront but in a way that was often comical. If she wasn’t the center of attention, she was close friends with the person who was. From freshman year, she stole the attention of many college boys, athletes and non-athletes. I was the opposite. Regardless, people’s expectations of me were likely low at this pint in my life.

As a wildcat athlete, I enjoyed most of my time at Villanova, except towards the end of my time there. Coming into Villanova, I had a lot of untapped potential. Considering I started my track career in a small private school and being a part of the first MHCA team to be a part of NJSIAA, I had done very well. I was also persistent as hell. I emailed the head coach, the women’s head coach and the sprints coach during my senior year. I visited the team and spoke with the sprints coach on an unofficial visit. I might’ve left a couple of voice mails as well. Maybe annoying was a better term than persistent. Either way, my times might’ve just made the walk on standards and the sprints coach, Coach Anderson*, gave me a chance that I am grateful for to this day.

My freshman year was okay. I improved greatly, but my standards for myself were so high that I rarely appreciated my improvements each race or practice. I was still not the best on the team, but I was consistent. I consistently gave my all in practice, and my times were consistent when I competed. If you needed a solid leg just to maintain the team’s place in a relay, I was the girl. If you needed bodies at conference championships for points or to break up the competition, I was the girl. In fact, sometimes I was more consistent than the girls who were on scholarship. This statement is not to tear down or discredit these girls’ contributions to the team. This is to acknowledge my progression in the program and how I began to value myself. Having competed at Big East conference and being a part in the coveted distance medley relay team, I started to realize I was more than just a walk on. During the summer of my freshman year, I remember talking to Coach Anderson on the phone in m hotel room during a competition in my last summer track year with Transy East. I remember discussing possible scholarships and getting the response summarized as I would not get a scholarship util my senior year. Despite this disappointing news, I came back the next year. However, my mindset was a little different.

My sophomore year a little more stressful. Realizing the financial burden this decision had on my mother and realizing I was not valued on the team the same way I valued myself, I constantly debated whether running at all or for Villanova was worth it. I went back and forth on the right decision for me. What I have learned is in times with tough decisions, God will be there to give you the right push. Two weeks before Penn Relays, one of the largest track meets held in the United States, the choice of who would run the 400m leg in the distance medley relay was between me and a recruited freshman. Villanova is based on tradition, so what can be more traditional in determining a track position than a classic run off.

I wanted to win this run off badly. Throughout the entire season, I wanted to prove I was as good and deserving of a scholarship as this freshman. She had already beaten me in indoor conference in the 500m. Tensions were high, at least in my mind. Stakes were high, high enough for me to choose to run this run off over a phone interview for a summer internship with Iron Man in Florida. I believed in putting it all on the table for track. I wanted to win, and I did, sort of.

The run off was supposed to be an all out 350m run. My sprints coach and the women’s head coach were there for the race. My coach started us at the first 50m mark and placed a cone at the final 50m mark. He yells “Set.” We get down in three point stance, which looks like the position sprinters have when in starting blocks, but with one hand down. He yells “Go” and the race is on. I was out. I got ahead and stayed ahead. As I approached the cone, the lactic in my legs built to a slow burn. My legs felt like they were moving in quick sand. The cone was approaching, but so was the freshman. I run past the cone barely ahead of the girl, but I did win.

To be honest, I did not feel great about the win. That lactic was serious. My legs were heavy and on fire long after the run was over. Immediately after the race, I talked to one of the seniors on the team and explained how I actually didn’t want to run the relay leg, especially if I was already running the open 400m hurdle race. However, I kept that thought or fear to myself. About ten to twenty minutes after the run, the sprints coach and women’s head coach approached me in the bleachers. I am not sure why, but I was conveniently alone at the time. The sprints coach explained, in his normal low volume, that first, the marks for the run off were off and I had ran a 300m race, not 350m. Second, despite winning the run off, the coaches thought it would be best to let the freshman run in the relay that’s almost guaranteed a top 3 finish in Penn Relays. I went to one of my teammates, standing on the track close to the gate entrance to the field house, almost immediately after the conversation and explained what the coaches told me. Her response was eye opening, “If they knew they weren’t going to give you the spot, they should’ve just said that.” I realized no matter how many internships I give up, workouts I complete until my legs hurt, personal records I run, I was the walk on. The spots, particularly scholarship spots, on the tam were taken and set, and although my efforts are appreciated, there was more stress caused than benefits reaped trying to fit into a program that had no room for me.

That same night, I texted Jesse. Jesse was a summer track coach that had a business of also being a college recruiter. At summer track meets, he would walk around to the various Jersey summer track teams and speak with the juniors and seniors on the team. He had a large black wallet filled with college coach cards from all types of schools. He had HBCU (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) schools, schools ranging from DIII to DI, small private school and large public schools. Not only did he have all of these schools’ contact information. He also had close kinship with a lot of those coaches from his years as a track official for summer, high school and college track meets. He was well connected in the track and field world. I caught a glimpse of his talents the summer of my senior year when he presented a list of schools willing to offer me a track and field scholarship in order to deter me from going to Villanova. Of course I rejected his options at first. Despite the rejection, he continued to root for me and celebrate my track accomplishments. However, I was not as hard headed the night I texted both him and Dwayne after the run off. I remember first texting Dwayne “Even when I win, I lose. I’m done”. I then remember the next few weeks having informal conversations with Jesse about possibly transferring.

Of course, I kept this decision to myself. Before Penn Relays, my best time in the 400m hurdles was 60 seconds, which was okay in my eyes. My internal decision to transfer did not ease a lot of the stress. Instead of placing pressure on myself to beat my teammate and training partner, I felt pressured to run as best a time I could to be recruited by the most competitive schools possible. I still knew very little about other options. I just knew I wanted the best option for me. Transferring is a tactical ordeal, especially as a walk on. I told few people about my decision out of fear of one of the coaches hearing and cutting me from the team before the end of the season. Instead, I counted the days until the end of the season. I ran a personal best in the 400m hurdles of 59 seconds in Penn Relays, placed in outdoor conference and ran 59 seconds in NCAA East Regionals first round. All the while, I was making my list of ideal schools to transfer to.

Like every year, I was indifferent and partially disappointed with my season. It is always frustrating to perform below your expectations. It equally frustrating to get small glimpses of your potential but not quite reaching it. Despite my opinions about my times and quality as a runner, Jesse worked his magic that summer as I worked mine. I had spent the entire school year searching for jobs and internships. I was proud to have gained a paid hourly internship in the USA Track and Field New Jersey office. I won’t talk too much about it because to be honest  it was a lot of boring office work in a second floor turned office in a mid size suburban two story home. The office consisted of two desks on either side of the floor and a back section with a printer. Although a lot of the work was mundane, it was nice to see the world I love from the administrative side.

As I mentioned, Jesse was working the summer to find a school for me. In between driving to and from my internship, I had colleges calling my home and cell phone every week, sometimes everyday.  I had school calling me from California to New Jersey. It seems as if Jesse sent my information to every coach in his overstuffed black wallet. One phone call I remember was from the University of Florida. The University of Florida is a part of the Southeastern Conference, where many of the top athletes in the country compete. The conference receives a lot of money and a lot of exposure. Although I was not offered a scholarship, nor was I expecting a scholarship from a Southeastern Conference school, the fact that the coaches were even remotely interested in me put my times and my performance as a student-athlete into perspective. University of Florida saw in me what I was beginning to see, a girl who’s really not great but there’s just something there with possibility. However, I denied the offer to join the Gator team quickly because I did not want the financial burden I had at Villanova.

To be honest, the process was about four years ago, so I do not remember the name of the schools that reached out to me. I remember the last remaining school choices were University of Pittsburgh, Jacksonville University and University of Connecticut. Pitt was an option because I was familiar with the coaching and the school had a freshman or sophomore 400m hurdler that I would have loved to train with. There was also a guy at Pitt that I was close to, J. Larson*. At the time, Larson was a graduate student that still competed  in the 400m hurdles for Pitt. I’m pretty sure he was interested in one of my Villanova teammates first but somehow landed on me later. I don’t mind. He was incredibly fit, over six feet tall (not knocking my short men out there. You guys are fine too), full lips and classy. He also obviously loved track as much as I did and supported my hustle to athletic greatness. Finding a guy who is truly supportive of my athletic dreams is difficult because a lot of men like the fit chick (and I don’t blame them. I mean, our asses are amazing), but they appreciate it in the same way a guy appreciates a sports car, great to look at or show off but the goals of the car ultimately are based on whatever the driver wants it to be. Finding a guy appreciative of not just a fit but also a competitive and driven woman is more difficult than it should be. But, Larson was one of them at the time. I rarely got to see him in person because of training, competing or just the distance between Philly area and Pittsburgh, which is why I wanted to run for Pitt.

Jacksonville University was opposite Pitt in many ways. First, the school was small. Second, the school was in warm Florida. Third, Pitt’s conference, the ACC, had a much bigger name. Regardless, I like talking to the Jacksonville coach, an average height white guy with dark hair. I don’t why, but there was some air of familiarity to him. I am not sure if it was his appearance or the way he spoke. Another significant difference, was Jacksonville was offering a full ride. Pitt was back and forth. I knew Pitt wanted another 400m hurdler who was transferring from University of South Carolina at the same time as me. The other girl also happened to be one of my former teammates from my summer track team, whom I knew had better times than me. Although, Jacksonville had some noticeable benefits and is a good school, something about it didn’t quite get me.

Finally, there was UConn. The first time I considered UConn, I didn’t even know it was UConn. It was outdoor Big East Conference my sophomore at Rutgers University. My team, like many other schools, usually do morning shake outs, which is a quick warm-up, in or around the hotel. One of those days we were sharing the hotel hallway with another team. By this time, I had decided to transfer but quietly eyed other schools as potential choices. Of course, I would not dare ask the other coaches or athletes anything. I remember this tall, skinny black guy in sunglasses meticulously watching this line of black girls of all shades doing drills up and down the hotel hall. I did not know that was UConn at the time, but I remember thinking, “I should be with them.” I wanted to be with this coach that looked so invested in his athletes. I wanted to be with this big group of black girls looking like a black sorority line.

When my season ended, I remember Jesse giving me a preliminary list of schools interested in me. One of which was UConn. I remember the first time speaking with Coach W. I don’t remember much of the conversation other than him asking where I was from. I have a strange accent of putting on this slight botched southern/ Caribbean accent when I talk talk on the phone to people I am familiar with. The second time I spoke with him was during my official visit to UConn. Coach W told me UConn was in the middle of nowhere and he was correct, very correct. UConn was in a part of Connecticut I didn’t even know about. The road off the highway towards the school was fifteen to twenty minutes of off road gas stations, and trees. As soon as you enter campus, there is a farm to the right, a real farm with a pasture, cows and a barn, which explains why UConn’s agriculture program is well known. I remember wearing my curly hair in an a fro hawk and wearing a form fitting long, black and green striped, sleeveless summer dress that was supposed to fall to the floor, but my legs were so long, the dress fell to my ankles. My mother dropped me off on my official visit. We pulled up to the front of the field house, a one floor old red brick building attached to a two floor red brick building which was the recreation center where non-athletes work out. Coach W met us in front of the field house and brought us through a hallway. To the left were four large blue doors that led to the indoor track. Directly ahead was one blue door that opened to a white hallway lined wit coach offices. His door was the second door to the left. The head women’s coach, Coach Matthew*, was across the narrow hall. It was a small office, enough for a long, white metal desk and a hard blue couch. His walls were lined with framed photos of his athletes in action. In the corner was a grey, metal file cabinet with this small TV on top that played non-stop hazy, shaky videos of various track meets. You could hear the murmur of girls cheering for their teammates in the background.

It was a typical recruiter visit. It might have been more boring than others because my visit was during the summer when most students have gone home. My mother and I came into his office, we talked about how UConn is great blah blah blah and my mother left the office to get me tomorrow. I remember sitting stiff on his couch watching him sort of speak to me but also stare at his Mac computer screen. He was tall, skinny and glowing brown skin. He wore a Nike fit cap with a small part of his black curly hair poking in the back. When I first met him, I couldn’t tell how old he was. He looked no older than his thirties and spoke with this youthful excitement. Even today, people who don’t know him have difficulty determining his age. On the wall closest to his desk hung a framed photo of him in a Jamaica speed suit running. The only indication that he was older than I thought was when I asked if he continued to run today and his response was “Yeah my mouth.” Knowing him, he was probably very proud of that comeback. To this day, he is corny as all else.

I left with my host, a then sophomore named Milan*, who was a 400m and 800m runner. She was also a fireball of personality, very similar to my freshman year roommate but without the summer accent and shorter. I remember hanging out in one of the summer dorms with her and her roommate, Keisha*, an unbelievably gifted 200m and 400m runner. Like Milan she was diva, one of the cool girls that typically would never cross paths with me. She was tall, thick and fit with flawless make up. To be honest, I remember little of the conversation I had with them that night. I mostly remember my time with Coach W. The next morning, Coach W gave me a tour of the campus and the School of Business. I don’t know why, but I remember telling him one of my more embarrassing stories of how when I was younger I jumped into the deep end of the swimming pool even though I didn’t know how to swim. Somehow I expected a more sentimental response from him, but no. He just laughed at me. This is how our conversations usually went. I say something sentimental, and he has some callous response. Out of the three schools, UConn and Jacksonville were the only schools I actually visited. Pitt was playing and the scholarship conversations were up and down. I visited UConn first, but wanted to see Jacksonville before I made a decision.

To be honest, the decision was not clear after visiting both schools. Both coaches wanted me on the team and promised me a full ride scholarship. The decision became clear as I was sitting in the Jacksonville airport going hoe from visiting the school. I didn’t know which school to choose and pulled my phone out to call Coach W from Uconn. I wanted to get his opinion about which school I should go to because I trusted his opinion and believed he would tell me the right thing that’s best for me. Once I had that thought, I knew Coach W was the right coach for me. I called him in the airport to tell him I chose UConn. I remember him saying “Yes!” He seemed more excited about just the unofficial announcement of my coming to UConn than the Villanova coach ever seemed while I was on the Nova team.

Around this time, I had a dream where I and a three other girls were at a track meet. The stands were full and the competition was tense. At the 100m starting line on the track, the officials were lining the teams by their heats for a relay race. I remember sitting with my teammates yelling “Put Your C’s up!” as we waited for our heat to run. That dream solidified my decision to go to UConn. It also was a fairly accurate premonition of some of my best moments as a Husky.

April 28

By the age of seventeen, I believed dreams could be premonitions, including this one. All I remember from this dream is speaking with my Aunt Fanny, who had died almost ten years prior. For some reason, she had purple hair. The only thing I remember her saying was April 28 was the end of the world. Clearly, that did not happen in the literal sense or any sense. In fact, I don’t recall any tragedies occurring April 28 to the this day.

I do recall calling my then ex boyfriend, Damian* at 2am explaining this dream and being afraid. Today, I realize I must’ve sounded psychotic and paranoid, but then, it felt real. It felt real because I still believed, from my freshman year, that I was not going to live to see the age of eighteen. Again, there was still no reason to feel that way, but I did. Because my high school was a private school that excepted girls from various towns and cities, the school had buses for those that qualified. I remember sitting by the window and quietly tearing because I was afraid I would not survive long enough to make it home. The possibility of enduring a deadly accident seemed too real and highly plausible. There were some days I was afraid to leave my house because of what or who was on the other side. If a car drove too close to me, I was convinced it was someone stalking me. I sometimes sat on my bed and imagined my funeral. What would my coffin look like? Who would be there? I was preparing for the end without thinking of the positives that could be in my future.

April 28 came and went numerous times. I enjoyed my eighteenth birthday and am writing this at 23. The end is likely not known for anyone so preparing for it just makes you lose today. This was relevant for life in general and track and field. As a track athlete, I was never great. I was never the All-American that people wanted to meet and run against. When listing the greatest high school, college, and post collegiate athletes, my name was never in that conversation. Locally, people were aware of me, but nothing beyond that. For this reason, I thought my running career was over many times.

I ended my senior year of high school barely running the 400m hurdles any faster than when I started. By then, I was strongly interested in running in college, but I knew nothing about the recruiting process. My school was a small school and did not have a track team my first year. We were a track club. By sophomore year of high school, my school became an official member of NJSIAA, basically the state track and field association. Because we were so new to the sport as a team and I was the only runner on the team with any chance and desire of getting some sort of athletic scholarship or recognition from colleges, the athletic director and track coach had no idea how to even get schools to look at me.

After running in state championships  senior year, I competed for my youth summer club team Transy East in Paterson. This was my second to last year competing for this youth team, but I new the natural end was coming. By the time I had reached the young women’s 15 to 18 age group of summer track, I realized a significant number of girls I compete with had stopped competing. By then, high school seniors have either received a college scholarship or decided to quit running. Regardless, by the end of the summer as qualifying rounds for youth nationals approached, conversations about school choices became more frequent. I was fixated on going to Villanova University. The first year, I ran for Transy East, the summer of my junior year of high school, I met Nicholas*. Nicholas was a former member of the team who was also a 400m hurdler. By then, he attended Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Doing research on the school, I noticed the school had a notable reputation in the track and field world and at the time was top 10 in the country for its business school, my intended major. The school was located close to Philadelphia with easily accessible Septa train lines from the campus to the city. I loved Philadelphia. The murals on the walls showed so much culture, and it was nice to be in an area with a large black population. The tall, connected homes reminded me of scenes from Harry Potter and black history oozed from the streets. The Nova campus itself reminded me of my high school. I visited the campus with my mother during my senior year of high school. We drive through a suburban yet concrete area to reach the front of campus which hid behind a large, black gate, like MHCA. Once we enter a gate, there is a small, grassy area to the left and a the athletic facilities, including the notable Pavilion which hosted home basketball games and the Jake Nevin fieldhouse where the track was located.  Directly ahead was the Nova church. Like St. John’s Episcopal church, the building probably dated back to the 1800s or earlier, beautiful grey brick with two steeples. Based on what I saw and new about the campus, I was fixated. I had to attend the school no matter the cost, and this small, private institution of about 6000 students had a large tuition cost. I was determined to work and have numerous personal bests the summer of my senior year to get a scholarship to go to my dream school.

That did not happen.

I ran decent times. I barely hit the walk-on standards for the team. To be honest, I might not have even hit the standard at the time. My summer coaches, Ronald* and Wayne* and the man who helped me look into other schools and coach of Jersey City Gladiators, James* all tried to get me to choose a more affordable school willing to give me an athletic or academic scholarship. I was not interested. Even when Wayne* felt I belonged in a division II institution, I was not changing my mind. By seventeen years old, despite my times, I knew track was my sport and I have the possibility to be one of the best in the country. However, all that conviction did not help me improve my times and this was the first time I was afraid I would not make it onto the team and my track career would be over.

Spoiler alert, I did compete with Villanova as a walk on, but it did not ease my fears for long. By sophomore year, I decided to transfer. Despite improving significantly during my time at Villanova, my times still didn’t seem fast enough to get a full ride to another school. Regardless, I was as fixated on leaving Villanova as I was for going. My mindset was, “I don’t care what is next. I just have to go. God will get me through this”. This was a second time where I believed my track career was over. What if no school wanted me? What if Villanova decided to retract its 50% offer? Where would I go? What if my new coach isn’t good? I was afraid that this decision could end all of my goals of being a world class athlete.

Spoiler alert, I was offered a full ride from Coach Kyle* at the University of Connecticut, but it did not ease my fears for long. By senior year, despite no longer running the 400m hurdles, I ran well. I was Second Team All-American on the team’s 4×400 relay. I was conference champion in the 800m. I competed in NCAA East Regionals in the 800m and missed the second round by .004 seconds. I had other accomplishments as well. Despite these accomplishments, my times still weren’t world class level. I was angry and frustrated. By the end of outdoor season, there were a lot of emotions brewing within the team between the athletes and the coaches. It was overwhelming and not how I wanted to end my track career. Despite these times, I still wanted to run professionally. However, the same questions and others came to my mind. What if no coach wanted me? What if I couldn’t afford to train pro? Where would I go? What if my next coach isn’t good? Again, I was afraid that this decision could end all of my goals of being a world class athlete.

Spoiler alert, I was accepted into the UCONN Department of Communications Graduate Program as a full time student and teaching assistant which waived my tuition and provided a stipend large enough to pay to live. In addition, my 800m coach from UCONN, Coach Mark was willing to continue to train me. However, my fears were not eased for long. In fact, since running post-collegiate, my fears constantly loomed over my head. These fears manifested itself in anxiety levels strong enough to have thoughts of suicide and go to counseling on campus. They also manifested in my dreams. Some of my dreams involve the white car and my identity and the broken school.

 

Witches Competition

I am an avid Harry Potter fan. As a boring, middle class girl with overprotective family, the idea of escaping to this magical world was wonderful. At twenty years old, I went to the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios, and I felt like my life was complete. My constant need to escape the loneliness of reality led me to often blend fiction and reality. For years as a little child I believed the cartoons on the television  were real and I only needed to find a way to access the world through the television to be with Jimmy Neutron and others.

I always wanted to be a witch. My dreams reflected that. This dream is one of the few storylines I remember. I was in my backyard in New Jersey with some girls from my high school. My house was deceptively small, and my yard was actually small. I was learning magic for the first time, trying to levitate something with my wand. Fast forward to the end of the dream, I was standing on a diving board high, at least two stories high, above this pool in this dark natatorium with dark wood paneled walls.. The pool was so blue, the water glowed. This woman reminiscent of the flamboyant host in The Hunger Games movie series explains the task. I needed to jump into this pool to prove my magical capabilities. In my attempt to jump, I end up leaping to the wooded walls and running along the walls on some Spiderman shit. On this journey I ran past some African masks hung on the walls. Then I woke up. I don’t know if I actually made it to the pool.

I was about thirteen or fourteen years old but still believed in magic. I believed in the experience of learning. I believed in taking small leaps of faith and excepting where I landed. Like my dream, like most people, magic started at home. It starts on our blocks, in our backyards, or in our basements. I loved Harry Potter because the books always started in the mundane muggle world where some random magical moment unleashes an entire magical adventure. I loved the books because there was a character for everyone. We are or have a Harry Potter, Malfoy, Hermoine, Ron and Voldemort in our lives. We definitely all have a Dumbledore, some caring wise person who is a positive influence, in our lives. Dumbledore is a family member that always throws bible verses at us in every family function. Dumbledore is the teacher who saw a special talent in us and noted it in club recommendations, encouraging comments on coursework or blatant compliments. Dumbledore is a pastor or even a friend.

Today, I believe less in magic but more in this inexplicable human capability to exceed expectations. I believe in this natural human inclination to never be stagnant, either physically, emotionally or intellectually. Think beyond your backyard and take leaps.