This post was written by first-year mentee Misbah, who attended Girls Write Now Orientation, September 28, 2013.
No, you can’t go. What’s the point of it? You have other siblings, too, who need to be taken care of. Change the date or something. We’re busy. What are you even going to do there? It’s so far away! Just in Manhattan!? Four hours is so long! How are you going to come back? I have work to do and I can’t do it when you’re somewhere wandering around in the city. This is unacceptable. Why…?
But, Ma, I have to go.
I tripped over a flat surface when I walked out the elevator, my own journal in hand, towards the sign-up sheet where painted smiles welcomed girls who write — girls whose words have become something they fall for over and again, girls who find themselves twisted in a love affair with words. With pen in hand, I touch the paper gently and printed my signature on it. It was like a my golden ticket in. Official.
Slapping my very own mentee nametag on, I walked into the room where chairs were lined casually, row by row, and suddenly my excitement became shyness and a solemn silence fell over me. I scrambled over to one of the rows in the middle and sat down, mentee handbook in hand and thumbed through its pages.
What’s the point of it?
I tried to shorten my height and look small by hunching over the book many girls long to hold. Then I looked up at a mentor — taken already — and her eyes met mine and we both smiled at each other. She laughs and sits beside me, saying, “You’ll have a great day.” I laugh with her now, shaking my head.
These words were repeated throughout the day as I stood up and shook hands with other professional writers and girls, new and returning. Suddenly, it was as if I got swept from my feet like the wind that gently takes the feather away. I was smiling, I was laughing. I stuttered, gushed, waved, twirled, twisted, and forgot.
I stopped for a moment and got to witness a mentee and mentor in action, exchanging gifts from over their summers and talking oh-so casually about the boy she likes or that one car ride home. Magical, I tell you. Chemistry. They were two individuals — mentor and mentee — off to the side while others walked around them. They hugged. And I smiled. My cheeks began to hurt.
Welcomed, we were already scribbling in our notebooks during the Opening Lines exercise. The questions were so straightforward. They forced you to think beyond yourself, to step behind another’s eyes.
I hesitated to move my pencil across the surface of the paper because I was afraid. Not about what I would write or how it would be perceived, no. But I didn’t want to meet myself, but as the 15 minutes for jotting down our answers were almost up, I found myself in the midst of playing Connect the Dots.
Through my answers, I tried diggin’ deeper, diggin’ till I found my inner core. In the end, everyone mingled, stitching similar answers together, confronting each other on their differences, giggling. Sometimes, we were even shy of each other, but shared dreams and values sewed us together.
Speed dating: soon after, we were Circled Up. Mentors on the inside, glued to their positions, while mentees were on the outside, moving, chatting, talking about who they would want to have dinner with, dead or alive, what we would do in our fifteen minutes of fame, what our favorite books were. It was an attempt to find the one. As I hugged goodbye to one mentor, I firmly shook hands with another. Each face glowed and revealed a bit of their personality.
It all went by fast in lightning speed; the names of the mentors and their voices were something I carried with me throughout the workshop. I wanted to be where they were, five or ten years from now. In them, I saw me.
What are you even going to do there?
Break time meant more mingling, extra time to open up to one another or reconnect. I met a friend there and we looked out into Girls Write Now’s gorgeous, vintage Midtown view and talked about our love for bananas and how we dreaded the subway ride home. I was glad to find a mentee I could befriend. It soothed the nervousness and I realized what the point of coming here is, what I want to do, why I love to plunge into words, and how they mean so much to me. It made me remember.
Let’s Mobilize! was a sign of The End of the orientation. We created our own mobiles, our voice published on to paper on each scrap of paper taped to a long silken thread. “Exactive, honest, free, nostalgic, funny” to “self doubt is ugly, participating in performances, publishing my voice orally to the audience, be phenomenal” were molded into promises of tomorrow.
I sucked in a breath and folded my chair, placing it to the side. I looked up. Time to go.
This is unacceptable.
It’s been real. I didn’t come in with many expectations on how the orientation would go, nor did I enter coming in to see smiling faces. The community was a spider web that proved to show value, love, respect, passion, pleasure, and contentment. In the afternoon’s business, I was left speechless by how truly magical moments were, how our jam-packed room filled with moving ladies created a sense of newness. Like a whole other world popped up. You can say the day was fabulous.
But as fab as it was, I long for the next meeting. I can’t wait to point at the mobiles we made, wave “Hello!” to the mentors I met, laugh with newfound friends. So, I’m moving on and letting go, grasping for tomorrow. I know now I’ve only got memories.
But I think Midtown will remain to be my favorite place.
Ma, I want to go.