So THIS is transformation–

I don’t know how to tell this story–but the story wants to be told. I think its about transformation. Change, growth out of change, becoming something you were not- transformation.

transformation |ˌtransfərˈmā sh ən|

noun

a thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance : its landscape has undergone a radical transformation.

• a metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal.

• Physics the induced or spontaneous change of one element into another by a nuclear process.

• Mathematics & Logic a process by which one figure, expression, or function is converted into another that is equivalent in some important respect but is differently expressed or represented.

• Linguistics a process by which an element in the underlying deep structure of a sentence is converted to an element in the surface structure.

• Biology the genetic alteration of a cell by introduction of extraneous DNA, esp. by a plasmid.

• Biology the heritable modification of a cell from its normal state to a malignant state.

ORIGIN late Middle English : from Old French, or from late Latin transformatio(n-), from the verb transformare (see transform ).

transform |transˈfôrm|

verb [ trans. ]

make a thorough or dramatic change in the form, appearance, or character of : lasers have transformed cardiac surgery | he wanted to transform himself into a successful businessman.

• [ intrans. ] undergo such a change : an automobile that transformed into a boat.

• change the voltage of (an electric current).

• Mathematics change (a mathematical entity) by transformation.

noun |ˈtransfôrm| Mathematics & Linguistics

the product of a transformation.

• a rule for making a transformation.

DERIVATIVES

transformable adjective

transformative |-mətiv| adjective

ORIGIN Middle English (as a verb): from Old French transformer or Latin transformare (see trans- , form ).

This story perhaps starts with the culmination of my Ph.D. The semi-formal end of my formal education.  From high school drop out to Doctor of Philosophy is a transformation in itself. This would be a good story even if it ended here–but I think this is where it begins.

I was not a typical student as one might surmise from the paragraph above. I had seven children when I went back to school. I lived in government housing. The idea of paying for college was not one I had entertained. I was running ahead of a storm.

I had walked quietly though a traumatic childhood into a predictable dysfunctional adulthood. I was firmly lined up to pass on cycles. I repeated what I saw, lamented what I missed, and lived down to all the expectations for me. I was living the life I had been programmed to live. I was also very gifted. That was of course ignored by everyone including me but that is par for the course on which I was predictably traveling.

For some reason still unfolding for me — the universe called my name. One might call it a series of dark events. I note they were all survived and somehow it came to me to call them stumbling blocks and not to view them as mountains I could not get around or over. I have been described as an intuitive learner or knower. I say the universe will talk to you if you listen. The problem is we are poor listeners. I have meditated for years upon how much people talk to God but how rarely they listen. For some reason I desired to be a listener. Over the years the universe has become louder. I am sure it is even louder than I think and in fact it is not that it has increased its volume that makes its conversation clearer for me  it is in fact that my capacity to hear it has grown. Yet I am still an imperfect  and selective listener. I am thankful for my awareness here and I will continue to strive to hear what is being said to me by the universe.

As I said the universe called me. I was in the midst of a minor transformation of sorts. I had decided that the hand dealt me was not the hand I had to play. I decided to write another story for myself. I was in the middel of that when the universe decided to work with me for its own purpose. Things opened up and I was moved along paths I felt were familiar.  In retrospect these were the places I needed to be to be ready for what was coming. I was writing a story for myself but the universe was writing a bigger story and my book was only a chapter in the series of  novellas of my experiences here in this awareness.

I rediscoved me. I learned who I was. I reconnected to what I dreamed about and what I felt was the most important thing at the end of the day. I rediscoved hope and a desire to be articulated. I became aware I had settled for living the stories someone else had imagined for me. I discarded victimhood, accepted righteous anger, and the voice given me. I spoke. I stood. I made. I became. I came to a stopping place. I was not sure why I did not stop. I know now it was for the same reason I went back — I was unfinished– the universe was not through with me.

I am a late bloomer. I was one of the seeds no one thought would bloom. My story could have been that I died in the ground in an endless winter because I was unable to find spring. But I did not die in indifference. I was just sinking deep roots and meditating on being out of season but always on time and what kind of walk that would be. I am only now learning how to hold me. I am only becoming aware it is not so much my responsibility to help others hold the thought of me as it is to be me. I am not an accident. I am intentional, more lately than ever, I get my role.

I am an interlocutor .

in·ter·loc·u·tor

noun \ˌin-tər-ˈlä-kyə-tər\

1
: one who takes part in dialogue or conversation
2
: a man in the middle of the line in a minstrel show who questions the end men and acts as leader
Latin interloqui to speak between, issue an interlocutory decree, from inter- + loqui to speak

First Known Use: 1514

I am a craftsperson, an artisan. I create. My tools are word and story. I am an interrogator  I listen. I speak.  I question.  I hold our place in conversation. It is my gift, my task, my purpose in this awareness.

I have tried to do other things, some lofty, some not so — the universe has only lit one path. So we come to the tale in the tale. An example of a speaking universe and the moment of awareness that one is and has been in conversation with something larger than the self and its limited awareness.

So having gone back to school and stayed long enough to complete two terminal degrees one looks over the work and sees it has always been about the same thing. Its all been practice for the role in which I am now cast and well prepared. But before I arrive at this conclusion, I bumped up against physical reality — the one in which money and practicalities like rent and food dictate action. Caught in this riptide I took a job. A job in which I felt stuck and in a stagnant position devoid of movement. Self doubt cautioned to hold on tight to what I had. I call it late blooming but what if everybody else calls it old? What if you have done all you can do? Maybe this is as far as you can go? Don’t be greedy. Settle. Close your eyes and hands and hold on to this and don’t bump your head on that glass ceiling you just came up against.

To battle a swiftly descending depression I began to compile a daily list of gratitudes to put myself in touch with all I had to be grateful for. I dug inside and began to listen for instructions. I spoke daily to my ancestors asking for guidance and sharing the burden of my now. I began to feel suffocated. All this long road had led to here? What a joke. Tons of debt. A sense of obligation to supporters and family who had carried me for over a decade overshadowed my sense that there had to be more that this. I had been holding me in a mussel of a decade to get here to do what — do a dignified shuffle with my mouth closed? But how old is too old for rebels? When does a warrior queen put the shield and sword down? Who the hell is the woman in the mirror?

So I went to work one day and everything that was wrong with this space came together in a box with a ribbon. After work I got into a small elevator and was followed by 8 eager students hanging on to my conversation about striving. They got on the elevator with all their shiny questions, their unspent longings, their sports gear, and their book bags.  I let them follow me without thinking because we were discussing something important that might change their lives.

Then we realized the elevator was stuck. We were between floors. We called for help. It eventually came with the nonsensical dialog of emergencies. Remain calm. Are you ok? How many of you are stuck? Are you ok? Hell no. We are not ok. We are stuck. I am claustrophobic and I can’t have a fit because these youth are watching and a couple are worst off than I am. I must be calm because I don’t know what’s on the other side of panic and I like to be in control. Although right now I wish anyone but me was in control. Are you ok? No we are still stuck and we are less ok than when you asked 10 minutes ago. No there is not a reset button. Don’t you have keys? Where are the firemen? The boys want the jaws of life and I think its an excellent idea myself. I look above for the acoustical tile that is at the top of most elevators to find a glass ceiling. It is illuminated with track lighting. NO there is not a reset button. NO WE ARE NOT OK WE ARE STUCK!

After being stuck in the hot airless elevator for over an hour we heard sounds of imminent rescue distinct from the inane queries and the useless instruction that we remain calm. A glass panel was removed from over head and a ladder befitting an escape by trolls was lowered in . If I did not mention it before all of the boys are athletes. A couple are sort of small, another two are normal sized, the rest are hefty fellows ,and then there is me. After a sophomore who weighed 290 climbed out I looked at the 360 pound student that remained and encouraged him to give it a try. Of course after he made his escape I could not justify not trying so I followed my youths  and climbed up the minuscule ladder though the glass ceiling to freedom from the box in which I had been stuck.

Even after such a clear message from the universe I tried to hold on long enough to make a bridge from this safety net to the next Even though I strive to be a good listener and to take instruction. I am sometimes slow and occasionally retarded in my effort to move on what I know. I faltered and the entire institution began to melt. Literally. The rest of the staff quit. My boss quit. I had to accept that my path had been cleared.  I had been forcibly stripped of the ill fitting suit I insisted on trying to wear no matter how miserable it made me feel. The universe can be a noisy place sometimes it speaks so loud it is impossible to sleep. So I am awake. My path and my role are clear.

So here we go. Shield and sword in hand looking for the mountain we will climb next. I am a renaissance woman called to many firesides and I will work until my work is done. Glass ceilings are for someone else. There is no end in sight for me. I am on the road in conversation with the universe waiting for instructions. Meanwhile I will be the best me I know how to be. I serve mental groceries. The world is hungry. There is a lot to do.

About Ayodele Nzinga, MFA, PhD

I create; therefore I am.
This entry was posted in Black Arts, journal, Life., non fiction essay, North American African Perspective and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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