My identity

I envy folks who can erase their history and create a new definition of who they are; that is absolutely brave. I have this need to learn everything there is about me: the mundane, the things worthy of pride & shame and the parts of my story that were ripped from me.Whether it is fortunate or not, every single part of me, past and present, is who I am.

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The key to carrying my past (my stories & the stories of my ancestors) is perspective. I can choose to let my history drag me down or I can say “I am Imani : daughter, sister, cousin, friend & grandchild. I am one part of a long story that is always expanding, and though it is not perfect, all of it is mine”. I cannot separate myself from this story because I don’t want to lose that feeling of representing something greater than myself. And I agree that it is no one’s job to represent anything, but I volunteer.

So, when I step forward (or backwards), I’m stepping with great-great Mary A. Johnson, My Mom, My Grandma’s, my dear Aunts and Uncles, and everyone who has brought me here.

And, here we are.

Headed UpHill.. PEACE CORPS…Exciting update!

Soooooo I have some news *drumroll please*

I received my invitation from the placement office! I am headed to Indonesia!!!!!

I literally screamed when I read the letter then cried for a long time. I’ll be leaving in a couple of months!

I was given over 200 pages total in packets to read via email. I will be receiving even more info in the mail in 5 days. I am beyond ecstatic!

I don’t even know what to do with myself at this point. It is really Happening! I’m in!

I’ll post soon with a more detailed update.

Until then, Keep smiling (:

-Mani

Bouncy Room

             My Parents owned an impossibly high and wide bed. To my nine year old eyes, the wide bed was like King Arthur’s bouncy castle, it was magnificently sprawled across the small Master bedroom, filling the entire room and leaving little room on either side. The room was the bed. My parents’ bed was my place of refuge. It bore the perfect ratio between comfort and substance that my bunk-bed would never accomplish. Who needs a floor with space when you can bounce, roll, and flip to where you need to go? I would scramble onto the foot of the bed, my sisters squeezing on either side of me, and prop my head in my hands. We’d stretch as far as our limbs could go in our limited bubbles. We would watch movies on my Parent’s tiny TV in our t-shirts and eat Orville Redenbacher’s Popcorn with extra butter. We’d spend hours watching Aladdin, Belle, and Hercules in a world we conceived in our minds existed somewhere. My Parent’s room was where my family and I would sing together because the walls of the room emphasized our harmony. My Parents’ room was also where my sisters and I would listen, on edge, to Daddy talk about his adventures as a Corrections Officer. My sister Alleyah was always the first to slickly swipe Daddy’s glowing handcuffs and leisurely cuff and un-cuff her hands while he told us his story of the day.

        Daddy would come home exhausted, looking as if he had never had an ounce of sleep in his life. When he kicked off his shoes and flopped down at the head of the bed, a sudden animated spirit would revive him from his restlessly dormant state and give us our news for the day. We would hear about men who taunted guards, men who fought other men, and men who were just plain insane. We would hear about the crimes they committed and the crazy things that some inmates did to pass the time. The rise and fall of his voice matched the motions of his hands as he gestured the story into life, ushering the story from his mind before our eyes. He would censor the stories, shielding our eyes from the severity of life outside and behind brick walls. Although I was attentive to the stories, I mostly looked forward to Daddy’s animated face and his booming laugh that erupted from his belly and seemed to interrupt him mid-word.

Even Saturdays, when I often tested the strength of the soles of my bare feet on the earth of our back yard, I could hear Daddy’s laughter fill the universe. In me, it confirmed and ingrained a feeling of place. Here, wrapped in the arms of apple and pear trees, away from the rowdy, intrusive Brinkley Road, I was safe to do anything. I knew where I was in my family. I was the eldest of four kids in a family of six. I was my sister’s adventure doctor and my baby brother’s diaper changer. I was my Father’s little girl and I was my Mother’s diary of secrets. All that mattered was where I stood among the most important people in my life.

      The grass in our yard was green and full of rabbit holes. My sisters and I would carefully run around, being careful to land our feet like astronauts on the moon. The holes led to the unexpected, and in our minds, either led to a twisted ankle or a trip to China. The trees that surrounded us bore a story themselves. The previous owners were an old married couple who planted their own food and were married for a lifetime. They had been the original owners of the brick rambler and raised a family in my home. I often wondered if their kids ever climbed the trees their parents grew or peeled the bark off the base of the apple trees as I would often do.

       The yard was electrified with lively fireflies at night in the summer. I felt as if these bugs had invaded the solitude of our open yard, disturbing an unspoken balance. Although I was logical and knew that the living light bulbs could not harm me, I never approached them without a pair of gloves and a jar. When I encased them in the glass, I was not filled with some awe-inspired feeling of wonderment. I was glad I trapped the “bugs that won’t stop following me.” I fell asleep in comfort knowing that the Lightning bug inmates couldn’t harm me or my family with no way of escape. I was the unspoken family guard. 

BEST NEWS SO FAR!

HI!

I have heard the best news I have heard in a long time. After nearly 5 months, I AM MEDICALLY qualified! I will be contacted by my placement officer soon. ON to the next step. This is becoming more and more real as time goes on (:

Read part of the letter below (click on the picture):

I’m SOOO HAPPY

After months and months of having a bunch of test run, and doing everything to fulfill medical requirements. I am finished! After FIVE looooong months. I want to scream!

I spoke to my Dad, who has always encouraged me to follow my gut, and he’s taking me out to celebrate. I am so grateful to have a fantastic support system.

I am so close to dream. I had a period of time when I was in doubt, but doubts can hinder you. I am definitely headed in the right direction.

-Mani

ROAD TRIP

 

Roooad

You don’t need a lot to go anywhere. All I took was a toothbrush.

My sisters and I traveled 998 miles over the past two days. Up and down the East Coast. We drove down to North Carolina from Maryland, then all the way up to New Jersey. I bought a MONKEY MUG.

Monkey Mug!

 

Sleeping in the car and driving ANYWHERE was the most exciting thing I’ve done in a while. We took the back roads through Pennsylvania, Delaware, and North Carolina. It was a wonderful experience. We drove for hours, stopping anywhere that was interesting and Sang with the windows down. We listened to EVERYTHING.

I know this sounds cliche, but the wind blowing through your hair is liberating. the winding roads. the sun. the rain. laughter.

It was an adventure. I would suggest a random Road trip to anyone (:

How I handle Stress…arrgh

S.T.R.E.S.S is…..ummm… stressful. The next two weeks are going to be a stress adventure.

I graduate on Saturday, I still haven’t packed anything in my dorm and on top of that I do not have insurance. I have had insurance my entire life, but it was removed when I turned 21. SO, I have spent the last 3 days trying to find low-cost alternatives for the un-insured. That was not fun. It took me A LOT of digging to find these amazing programs and I am so glad I took the time to find them.

On top of this, the Peace Corps is pressuring me to turn in my Health packet ASAP or I will be discontinued from the Application process! AHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!

Now I have to find money out of nowhere to pay for all of my upcoming appointments AND I found out I will be leaving before OCTOBER.

On an unrelated note: I have a splinter in my thumb (:

Its ok Mani..It’s going to be ok.

SOOOOO, I’m going to go through MY stress relaxing process:

  1. STOP
Don’t let the stress get to you. If it becomes overwhelming, TAKE A BREAK. Take your time.

Breathe…In and out. I know we’ve all heard this from everywhere, but it really works. I found a quiet place and I just relaxed and listened to my own breathing. I know it sounds cheesy but it removed a huge chunk of stress from me. Listening to myself breathing brings me to my next tip.

2.  BE GRATEFUL

Be grateful for how far you’ve come and appreciate the fact that you are breathing. If what you are stressing over is that bad, take a moment to think about all of the good things in your life. I thought of my family and how I am glad that I have a source of happiness. I am grateful that I’ll always have somewhere to go if things don’t work out. I’m grateful for my health and I’m grateful for my life. Take a moment out everyday to reflect on your life.

I’m Thankful I have something to stress over.

3. GET MOTIVATED

I can’t do anything unless there is something positive driving me. Life is a challenge: accept it. I wouldn’t be anywhere if I lived my life through fear, not would I be going anywhere. Be your own mascot.

4. ENCOURAGE YOURSELF and OTHERS

On my last day of my English Major Seminar, my professor offered a gift I had not anticipated: a speech. He spoke of the power of encouragement and offered words of wisdom for us. Towards the end he talked about how an endless cycle of encouragement can lead people to be the best that they can be.

5. EXERCISE

Just get moving. DO anything. I’ve been walking like crazy and I’ve never felt so relaxed. Here are some of the odd (well, odd for me) exercises I’ve been doing:

  • Running with my Toy dog
  • Throwing pebbles across a creek
  • Going on a swing
  • Jazz Dance (I am the ONLY person under 30 in that class)
  • Zumba (AMAZING)
  • Golf
I think I’m going to take up Kayaking, I found an awesome class that is pretty cheap in Virginia (:
MAKE IT A GREAT DAY,
Mani (:
P.S. Don’t forget to laugh!

I survived today with no scratches

My beautiful Mom. She took this picture after finally shaving off all of her hair after chemotherapy caused some of it to fall out. (2009)

On February 24th, 2011 my Mother passed away after fighting Breast Cancer (Triple Negative Breast Cancer) for 4 years. She was the most amazing woman I knew. I am glad that she is no longer in pain.

My mother’s Birthday was on May 17th and she would have been 45 today if she was still alive. I began the day expecting to mourn her loss, but I did the opposite. Today was spent laughing, crying tears of joy and eating with my family.

I drove around singing out loud to nothing playing (My radio doesn’t work sometimes) with my windows down, not caring who heard. I HAD RED LOBSTER BISCUITS.

Today was not only my last day as an undergrad student, but it was also my Mother’s day. I spent the day happy, in celebration of her life. I no longer feel empty. I feel hopeful.