Anatomy of a Failed Piece of Writing (Mine).

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I didn’t have plans to talk about the Oscars this year — especially not in print. This year, they are not ours to lose. There is, of course, no nomination for the luminous, near-floating Lupita. There is no woeful deflation weighing on Chiwetel’s face as he watches his lifelong dream waft further away from him and closer to the white man who made films like Fool’s Gold and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past for a full fifteen years before Getting Serious About His Craft. This year, I’d planned to regard the awards far more impassively, not with the rigor or attentiveness of someone with anything particular at stake. I intended only to ogle the dresses and to smile at Neil Patrick Harris and to sip wine like a socialite, wanly yawning at 11 p.m.

But I was asked if I wanted to write. And the outlet that asked has been one of my dream publications since long before seeing my byline there felt even remotely attainable. So I tried to develop an argument that began with Jessica Chastain and Benedict Cumberbatch, both of whom had spoken out about lack of diversity and dearth of opportunity for actors of color, in the U.S. and the U.K. I wanted to assert that, perhaps if a critical mass of white actors used their social capital to advocate for diversity, we might see more of it at a quicker rate than we have in decades past.

I am also working on a new fiction project*, and it involves old Hollywood’s lesser-known black actresses. I thought it might be powerful to weave in the story of one of them, whose life I’d just started to research, into the essay I planned to write. When you are writing for your dream publication, you want to create something gorgeous and sprawling and epic but also spare and elegant and searing. A tall order, but one I thought I might achieve by opening the piece with the story of Nina Mae McKinney and her first film, 1929’s Hallelujah.

Historians Donald Bogle and Avery Clayton’s 2013 Criterion Collection DVD commentary for Hallelujah is available on YouTube. Below, I’ve cued up to Nina’s first scene. Listen for about three minutes, as Bogle describes her, and watch her work, to get a sense of how captivating she was:

Hallelujah was one of the first two films that “integrated” Hollywood: a film that took black characters seriously (until this point black folks were played by whites in blackface, almost always as villains and/or buffoons). The filmmaker, King Vidor, was white and already in the prime of his career. Still, the chance he took on employing black actors for a major Hollywood production was a big one. He mined already thriving black entertainment sectors, finding actors who’d worked in “race films“** and musicians playing segregated, all-black clubs in New York and LA to populate the cast. But none of these spots were where he found Nina Mae. Nina was plucked from Broadway. Just 16 years old, she’d shimmied her way into the chorus line of a black Broadway musical review, Blackbirds of 1928. Vidor was transfixed and knew he needed her to play the sweet, seductive con-woman Chick in Hallelujah.

For his efforts in finding just the right star in Nina Mae and telling a story that gave black characters their own passions and predicaments, outside of white households and white communities, King Vidor was nominated for an Oscar in 1930. Nina Mae, of course, was not. It would be another nine years before a black actress was first nominated for an Oscar — for a playing a maid whose story was told solely through her interactions with whites. (Fun fact: Pioneering Academy Award winner Hattie McDaniel had an older brother, Sam McDaniel, who was also a Hollyood actor. He starred with Nina Mae McKinney in Hallelujah.)

Vidor’s confidence in Nina Mae McKinney’s star power wasn’t misplaced. MGM took notice, too, and did something unprecedented as a result: the studio offered McKinney a multi-picture deal. She was the first black actress ever to receive one.

What follows will be a familiar story. Because films with all-black casts were still rare and novel occurrences in Hollywood, McKinney didn’t find much work there that showcased her talents as generously as Hallelujah did. In fact, much of the work on at least one of her contractual film roles was edited out of the final cut. Other roles were simply brief and underwritten. Impatient with the slow march of progress, McKinney left Hollywood for Europe, where she became the first black actress to appear on European television. But even there, super-stardom eluded her. McKinney died relatively young, one month before her 55th birthday. At the time of her passing, she was rumored both to have been struggling with addiction and to have been working, in the last years of her life, as a domestic in New York City.

Somehow, I wanted to weave McKinney’s life story into my essay. But I also wanted to talk about what it’s meant, historically, for the benefits white directors have received for black performances to have far outweighed the benefits, if any, that black artists themselves have enjoyed. I wanted to talk about the Academy’s caprice, how one year it can fete black actors for reliving the atrocities visited on our ancestors, then shut out other black artists, just one year later, for embodying different forebears — ones whose voices held slightly more sway over their generation’s oppressive white regime.

Then, of course, I would need to tie in today’s oppressive white regime (the 94 percent white contingent of Oscar voters). I would need to make an adequate case for white actors appealing to their own — directors, producers, writers, other white actors — that their storytelling and their performances could only be improved by the nuance and challenge racial and cultural diversity provides.

But in the end, whether it was a failure of time or of my arrangement and rearrangement of the words or of the strength of my argument (and I suspect it was some amalgam of the three), my final essay — a patchwork of paragraphs culled from three separate drafts — didn’t make it into my dream publication.

That final essay did find an open, welcoming and generous home. You can read it there.

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The Oscars, however, are tomorrow. And even after the publication of my (decent) post about them, I still felt fairly restless. I hadn’t called Nina Mae McKinney’s career back into our collective consciousness. I hadn’t taken white Hollywood to task and hadn’t had a chance to go on record as commending Chastain and Cumberbatch for speaking out (even if the latter called us “colored” when he did).

I am running out of space here, as well, so I won’t talk about how writers agonize over their rejections and how mine are becoming more frequent, the closer I get to a new rung on the ladder of whatever career I’m cobbling together here. I won’t talk about faith or having it shaken — or about how patient my loved ones are when my insecurities make me really uncomfortable to be near. I won’t describe my daughter’s crestfallen face when she twice found me crying last week. Not yet. Those are stories for other days. Indeed, they are stories I’ve already told you. Let’s not belabor them.

Instead, we can focus our attention elsewhere. I am just one black woman, weathering dashed hopes and reconfiguring herself after what feels like a failed enterprise. I’ve learned, in the past week especially, just how common it is to miss the mark and to gather yourself and go forward, just to miss it again. It’s a story much older than Hollywood, much older than most of our ancestors. But it will always be a story worth revisiting. Somehow, circling back to it always reinforces our foundation.

* Don’t put too, too much stock in mentions I make of fiction projects. Until I get some quiet, dedicate time to flesh them out, they haven’t gained much traction. Right now, I’m hopeful about this one. But get at me in a year and we’ll see where we are with it.

** More on race film history appears in the Bitch magazine piece that was eventually published.

Anatomy of a Failed Piece of Writing (Mine).

Downtime and First Bylines.

Very cool things have been afoot in the past week or so. Take a look:

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I wrote for The New Republic for the first time. Screenshot 2015-02-13 at 4.31.30 PMAnd I also had a first-time byline at Fusion.

It was a big week, in that way. I also had some emotional debris burble up to my surface when I was least expecting it. Sometimes, depending on your vantage and how much tears cloud your vision, it’s hard to see things like new freelance publications as the marvels that they are. Every time I get to place an essay anywhere, any time my brain functions from the first paragraph to the last, each time an editor is patient enough to press — What does this mean? Can you make this clearer? This needs a stronger conclusion. — I’m blessed. I’m fortunate. I’m spared.

I’ve been having a difficult time with trying to make a career of the work I believe I do best. I didn’t think it would be easy, but I also thought that once I got close to The Doors, I wouldn’t have to jiggle the knobs quite so hard. I thought I’d have the right ring of keys, that one of them would work. And one will. I have not exhausted them. One will.

If it seems that when I write about writing strides and the pursuit of a full-time writing career, I am in my most angst-ridden state, it’s because I am. It’s very easy to feel like an outsider looking in here, to feel isolated or confined to the outer court, when your friends are at the table of honor. And after a certain level of hope-shoring and deflation, you start to believe that it’s as likely to happen for me as it is not to — and if it doesn’t, I need yet another backup plan, yet another field of ability to pull from my hat or my ass. But it doesn’t take long to be reminded that this isn’t a feeling unique to me. The air is thin enough to make me think I’ve reached my top — the highest peak I’ll be able to climb. And I’ll start declaring what I’ve learned as though this is it; this is where I’ll plant my flag; this is the height from which I’ll begin a descent, from which I’ll have to prospect my next mountain, my next climb.

But this is never the height. Whenever I start to rappel, to scale my way down the side of a mountain, convincing myself that I need to be more practical, I need to earn more, I need to be able to offer my daughter greater creature comfort than piecemeal checks and short-term contracts will ever afford her or that I’m getting older, that I’m aging out of the new media market, that I don’t think I can stand to hear another “We went another way,” or “You’re great but not quite what we’re looking for,” a person’s word of encouragement, a new email from a new publication or an old friend, or just my own softer, more confident inner voice tightens my slack.

Last night, at the end of a day I spent crying pretty much from the time I dropped my daughter off at preschool until Scandal* started at 9 PM, word broke on Twitter that consummate journalist David Carr had died. I wasn’t as familiar with Carr as most of my Twitter feed, but I caught up quickly. One of the first and most frequently shared quotes from the iconic, generous, innovative editor and writer was this:

I couldn’t have read anything timelier or more comforting than this at the close of a dark day. The best writers, the ones who make it, leave as much of themselves to friends as they do to strangers. Last night, reading some of the many words he left behind, this stranger was as grateful to him as she would’ve been to a friend. Indeed, last night, it felt as though he became one.

 

*Scandal is really off-the-rails this season, right? Meanwhile, How to Get Away with Murder is greatly improving, now that the students are relegated to just quietly freaking out while Viola Davis stunts on every actor who dares share screen time with her. I would not have predicted this four episodes ago.

Downtime and First Bylines.

For Bobbi Kristina.

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I hope there is a meadow and treetops without end where you are, the grasses beneath you so thick they catch and hold the voices calling out to you from your bedside. I hope you hear your mother, too, ululant on the wind. You are not alone; hear the voices. You are not alone; tell your demons. You are loved, even by us, the fickle, cruel-faced public. You are loved by the Maker you may be poised to meet. Wherever you are, girl, I hope you are climbing, and from an uppermost perch, I pray you can see clearly the truth of who you are.

We remember the girl you were, the woman we prayed you’d become — even if the becoming itself would’ve required a miracle. Instead, the miracle is that you’ve held out as long as you have. Instead, the miracle is that you still have time.

Over the years, we lamented your odds, raised as you were with parents whose wealth often waylaid their efforts to keep lucid and clean. We rooted for you in spite of them and rooted for them, in spite of themselves. We are still rooting.

But I also understand where you are: someplace distant and exacting. You are hanging from a limb that you are no longer gripping. The snag and the crack are conspiring. Soon that limb will turn you loose. There’s no telling where you will return. Perhaps you will be here, awake, surrounded. Your father weeping, your siblings sighing, your truest friends deeply relieved. Or you may open your eyes elsewhere, a flatline braying in the breeze.

I am unbiased. I believe you should float toward the sounds that bring you greater peace. I believe you should be where you feel you most belong.

I was 14 when you were born, the embodiment of your parents’ frenzied, fully public love. You were born under the glare and pop of flash bulbs, the light too harsh for your soft brown eyes. You were pulled toward center stage with pride, and you stood under the beam of your mother’s spotlight. But you were always timid there, waiting where she asked you to, unsure, but echoing the words you were told. It was clear that she wanted to build your confidence. It was also clear that you would’ve preferred those lessons to be meted out in the privacy of someplace sacred and silent.

I remember worrying, in those moments when it was most obvious that your parents were unwell. You were a family, laughing, traveling, spending. You were a family, unraveling. We all worried over you, some of us even voicing unkind predictions. Armchair clairvoyants that we we were, we saw your future forging itself with sorrow.

But this is not what any of us wanted for you. A tub, a tomb, like your mother’s. There are other ways to get back to her. There are other ways to get back at her. I wish you’d found the healthier ones. And maybe you may find them still.

If there is, in fact, a meadow, if there are towering trees and voices in the grass, if there, you can understand how much you are wanted, how imperative it is for you to be well, then where you are is where you should be. And when the bough breaks, may the arms into which you fall be loving, baptismal, and warm.

For Bobbi Kristina.

Ava Taught Me and First Impressions of 2015.

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I wrote something about Ava Duvernay and black women bold enough to interpret history — their own and others’. I published it at Medium, rather than posting it here, because it didn’t feel like it was a fit for this space.

Every January, I reassess what I want to do with this blog. Every year (for the seven it’s been in existence), it serves the purpose it’s meant to.  I was fortunate enough last year to have appearances and publications to announce, as well as meditations on news and culture to publish. I’m not sure what 2015 will hold. Maybe more of the same. Or maybe the landscape will change.

I just know this year has been strange so far.

First, I was paid an extra month’s salary for my last contract job. It was an oversight. But it was I’ve never been on the receiving end of that kind of financial oversight: a full check — directly deposited — for the entire month of December. I didn’t work the month of December; my contract ended on November 30. I really, really could’ve used the money. Seeing my account balance after its deposit really drove home that point. And it wasn’t clear how soon anyone in accounting would catch the error (if ever). Of course I knew I couldn’t keep the money. But knowledge and action found themselves briefly at odds.

The first thing I did was start telling people*. And the first person I decided to tell was a great friend who I suspected — but wasn’t entirely sure — would see things as I did. In situations like these, when I need a minor pep talk to prepare myself to be as ethical as I know I have to be, the people I consult have to be people who won’t tempt me. They can’t be people who’ll remind me that I’m not working or point to the bills I could pay with the money or spend a half-hour calculating an invented New Math about labor-to-time-to-worth-to-pay ratios.

I just need someone who will calmly confirm what I need to do. In this case, I chose the right person and set about doing the right thing. (If that pays off in any obvious, estimable karmic way in the future, I’ll let you know).

What the incident reminded me is how closely we have to monitor our ethics, how intentional we have to be about listening to our consciences. People always talk about listening to your inner voice — and/or to the still, small voice of God — but that isn’t always the immediate, logical response. You have to quiet worry — which is loud — and your propensity for sketchiness, which can be quite imperceptible at first, in order to follow the suggestion of your conscience.

The only other big thing that happened this year is that, in catching up with a friend I rarely get to talk to, I accidentally texted the very person we were discussing. And what I was saying wasn’t glowing. It was hurtful and infuriating to the unintentional recipient and it severed an already taut, hair-thin cord we’d both been working hard to hold up at its ends.

What that incident is teaching me is that I am not the same person to everyone. To some, I’m caring and kind and generous and fair; to others, begrudging, bitchy, and patently unfair in my characterization of them.

As a person who often wants more than anything to please and to remain unobjectionable and inoffensive — even at high personal cost — it bothers me a great deal to know that I can be hurtful and nasty, ferociously unlikable. It scares me, in fact, because I am inclined to believe the worst about myself. If I know that someone I care about finds me hurtful or given to betrayal of confidence, or inflexible or unforgiving, even cruel, I worry that he isn’t the only person who sees me that way — or worse, that I’ll eventually reveal myself to be that way with everyone I love.

But what’s real is that every person views us a bit differently than the next — which means that each encounter with any of them gives us a new opportunity to be the version of ourselves we hope (but often fail) to be, with everyone. We have an inexhaustible capacity to be incredible for some and deeply offensive to others. And when we have been the latter, there may be no convincing the offended party that we can be better to them than they’ve experienced us to be in the past. Sometimes, we have to settle for being someone’s personal definition of terrible.

I apologized. The jury’s still out on whether or not it will be accepted, but I think in accidentally revealing what’s frustrated me, I feel like a more genuine, if less likable, person. Losing my place in a person’s high esteem feels worth it if, in the end, I’m not pretending to be better than I actually am.

… At least that feels like the lesson today. Check back with me in a week or two, and I may sound like someone else entirely.

Read the DuVernay piece. I’ve been told it’s not too shabby. I hope you’ll be able to concur.

* I tell someone nearly everything about myself. I don’t know why; the reasons change. The person changes. It’s part accountability and part confession/absolution. Sometimes I just need confirmation that I’m not irrational — or that I am. I’m not a talker, by any stretch, but as someone who spends as much time close-lipped as I do, I’m a near-full discloser. Secrecy, in my personal experience, has proven overrated. Discretion, on the other hand, has value beyond measure.

Ava Taught Me and First Impressions of 2015.

This is a Year for Divining.

2015.
2015.

I was at home, in the gilded glow of our living room. My daughter was near me, warm and giddy, conducting such energy, we jolted when we touched. She is beautiful, I thought, as she held her shallow of cider a brandy glass. She is mine to raise another year. My God, what mercy, what miracle.

I will make myself more worthy of her. I’ll be braver, wake early enough for her to do the things I’ve been doing for her when we’re low on time. She will not be so short-changed. I will not be so enabling. She is four and already it is past time for her to learn that a woman must care for her own body, her own mind, her own desires, her own rest. A woman must learn to stand guard at her own gates. While men sleep, while they wander, here she and other women will be: in a home, at a border, standing on some sacred, secret promise that must be protected. This year, she will read. This year, she will bike. This year, we will understand each other better.

My mother is newly in love and spent the moments immediately following midnight cooing into her cell phone. There are secret things I want this year, as it relates to my relationship with my mother. May I find the words for all those things. May they be given voice and wing.

Nana fell asleep curled into her loveseat, Meghan Trainor stiffly dancing while cheerily singing about a liar on the television in front of her. She is growing older, getting tired, but she’s also still quite spry and in remarkable health. She deserves an unencumbered home, grown folks and small children as visitors rather than residents. I want to be able to move this year, so that the composition of all her rest and noise and quiet will be hers to conduct. We all have our own symphony of self-care, with intricate sections to balance. May ours be less discordant with hers this year. May we all be better attuned.

The ball-drop itself was a blur; I didn’t quite watch. I was snapping photos of the girl, sending texts to friends, recording the moment rather than residing in it. Perhaps there will be less of that this year. I may just close my eyes before crossing all my new thresholds. I may take deep pulls of the scents draping the air. It’s important, isn’t it, to be able to say in the moment, This is how the world smelled before your life changed: of yeast, of urine, of garlic, of leaves.

I couldn’t have missed it, I’ll be able to say this year, in the recounting. It was all so distinct.

After midnight, I read a novel and wrote a friend to say: I see you and I love you and I care. This is the person I most want to be: one who exhorts, one who senses whorls of magic around her and reaches out to pull others into its path. I do not want to go alone. If I am meant to progress this slowly, I want all of us — as many as can — to go together. It’s my hope that in practicing these parts of my purpose as my first acts of 2015, the balance of this year will be spent bearing witness to beauty, wishing its regenerative breath upon others, being better to myself and to others than I often believe that I am.

Our pasts lay like salt slicks behind us, bitter, and hard and preservative. They’ve been lived, taken down to our souls, given residence. Now we must leave them behind. Even the lessons. Even they should be revisited sparingly. Neither our failures nor our victories are intended to be caressed as regularly as rosaries. We are meant to make all things new. We are meant to love, not by rote and not from the root of some bygone memory, but by virtue of what is happening right now. We cannot place old emotion into the casks of our newly resolute hearts. We cannot revive the life that’s been laid to rest.

All we can do, granted the rarity and wonder of another year, is spend it awake — to our flaws, as well as to our particular strengths and powers. All we can do, given the grace of a 2015, is find whoever may need us and determine whether it is best to deny them or draw them near. This is a year for divining, for being as perceptive as possible. It is a year to grow strategic and wise. What you’ve needed is nigh, if you’ll learn where to look, far nearer than when you first believed.

This is a Year for Divining.

The Hope of Christmas in an Hour of Oppression.

The story of Mary, Joseph, and the newborn Christ deserves graver contemplation this year.
The story of Mary, Joseph, and the newborn Christ deserves graver contemplation this year.

As Christmas nears, I am remembering not the miracle of the virgin birth, nor the pageantry of an angelic announcement. Not the damp stench of dung in the manger, nor the frankincense and myrrh that staved that stench from the newborn Christ’s skin. Days before the holiday, I am remembering Herod the Great.

He has come to the fore of my Christmas contemplation, because we have too often overlooked his part of the narrative. This is a time to revere a messiah, but it is also a moment to mourn the massacre that followed his arrival.

This year, cruelty has been charging forth, unpenned, throughout cities across the nation. As our annual gift-shopping frenzy ensues, protesters are pretending to be dead in the halls of commerce; they are splaying themselves on unyielding concrete, channeling ill-fated ends. Children are raising “Am I next?” signs over their heads when black citizens die unjustly at the hands of police. And now, unions of officers may be seeking street retribution for the killing of two of their own. Now, they are declaring war on communities they once swore to serve and protect. Now, they are equating the shooting of unarmed children with the possibility of death in the line of duty, as though the latter is not a known and accepted hazard of their chosen profession.

It is fitting, then, to recall the cruelty of King Herod during this holiday season, as carols seem inadequate and shopping is more an act meant to numb than to heal. This year, the wintry air, which often feels more fit to breathe when it’s this icy and crisp, is oppressive instead, as we chant reminders that breath, for some, is no longer regarded as a unilateral right but a luxury.

I am thinking of what happened after word reached King Herod that a new heir had been born, one without earthly father or the scourge of human sin. I am thinking of the soldiers the king sent forth wielding swords, all the mothers whose sons were ripped from their arms as they cooed, boy-children beheaded before their eyes. This is a message. This is a message. This is the message: There will be no savior. Your plea for mercy will go unheard. The lives of your children do not matter.

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Herod meant only to protect the institutions he’d raised. He wanted to preserve his own rule. If it meant the bloodshed of every child with the potential to grow up and challenge his authority, he reasoned, it was a small price to pay to keep his peace.

I am thinking of those who would run, Mary and Joseph among them, fleeing in time for the census, back to a place where they believed they could keep their newborn safe, a place where his birth would be counted, a place where his life would matter.

And there were, in fact, serene years. Years their son Jesus spent in prayer and in study at temples, years of learning a meaningful trade, years of wedding feasts and thousands of unthreatened births.

These are the years on which we meditate when Christmastime is nigh. But there has always been a pall cast over my heart as I regard the infant in his swaddling clothes; for Easter will also come, and with it, the annual reminder that our Christ was kept safe for over 30 years just to die at the hands of a government as treacherous as Herod the Great’s.

When we celebrate the promise of salvation rushing forth into the world, we do it with full understanding that salvation is not an unbloody enterprise.

This is the time of year when we commemorate the emergence of promise in a desolate time, hope in an hour of intense oppression, faith that must be guarded amid palpable terror. At no other moment in recent memory has this nuanced facet of our celebration been as relevant as now.

The symbol of our belief knew well this tension, this peril. He knew what it was to have parents who feared for his safety whenever he left home, who warned him of how best to interact with authority in order to preserve his life. Of course, our Lord was not here for self-preservation. He came not to bring peace, but a snare. He came to die.

This Christmas, we must remind one another that the emergence of a savior is not the end of the story. It is the beginning of terror for the mothers of countless firstborn sons. It marks an era of martyrdom, both witting and unwitting.

But it is also when we ask the most essential questions. Why do we continue to believe? How do we continue? I cannot speak for anyone else, and even my own answers vary year upon year. Today, I believe because there are far more people patterning themselves after Herod than after Jesus. There is far more tangible evidence of terror than of salvation. And this is all the more reason for me to hold fast to the hope that I am not here alone. I am not fleeing to a land that does not exist. I am not praying for the safety of a black child whose ill fate is already sealed. There is still the hosanna to sing. There is still breath to declare a glory as yet unseen. There is still someone waiting in the celestial wings, with knowledge of a world yet to come. I believe because this — the deaths of Tamir and of Eric and of Dontre, the deaths of Rekia and Tanesha, of Ramos and Liu — is not the first massacre of innocents. It will not be the last. And still, each year: tidings of great joy.

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end.”

I believe because these words, recited, return to us each December, even as so many of those we love do not. I believe because there is comfort in their recitation, in the tradition of their endurance. Something else is coming, something that succeeds us all. For a moment, this stills my trembling. For a day, I welcome all that we will never understand.

The Hope of Christmas in an Hour of Oppression.

A Crazy Half-Week and a Today Show Appearance.

2014-12-16On Monday night, I recorded a segment for The Today Show. But that wasn’t even the craziest part of that day. I’d spent much of the morning and afternoon in a job interview (of the type where you have to actively fight the urge to pinch yourself to ensure that you’re even there and also fight the urge to take photos of the building front like a tourist). The next day, I had a phone interview for a different job. And today, as I type this post, I’m headed to New York to interview for yet another position.

I’m not someone with a history of multiple job interviews at once. I’m someone who doggedly applies to things for months at a time without many bites — or with bites that never make it past the first or second round of “quick chats,” tests, and interviews. I’m the person who cobbles together a living, out of multiple part-time or freelance gigs, painstakingly chosen to allow for the most time I can spent with my kid. This? This is new air for me. And it is a mighty, rushing wind.

I don’t know what will come of any of this. But I know that it bears out all those adages you hear about there being no overnight successes and how slow and steady wins the race and what happens when consistent practice meets opportunity.

I never get used to succeeding at things. I always enter new opportunities a bit uncertainly, more than a little awestruck, even as I carry with me all my previous wins. That’s because, alongside those wins, are the more vivid memories of losses. Risks that didn’t pay off. The job offer I wished I hadn’t taken, the poorly-timed personal life choices. The Am I capable? whisper never entirely fades.

But I do feel more capable than I did when I made those choices or took those risks or accepted the first offer of employment, because I really didn’t know what else would come or how long it would take. A willingness to bet on yourself, a refusal to undersell your skill set, doesn’t emerge from the ether one day. Self-confidence doesn’t come solely through outward affirmation (though that helps and certainly, it’s helped me, when it’s come in the form of readers like you, who leave sweet, honest, encouraging comments on this blog). But ultimately, that kind of temerity comes best in the form of work. It comes simply through proving yourself to yourself. It comes from questioning yourself until your “yes” is less mumble than shout. yes, i am capable. Yes, I can do this. Yes, I have the clips to back this up! YES; I AM CAPABLE!

Life is a loom at 35, all loops and snags and corrective weaving, brake pedals. Once patterns come together or reveal themselves to be ill-advised, it seems obvious, and I unravel, cut, stop, change pace, begin again. But at this point I know how the loom works. I know what it takes to make something sturdy and beautiful.

The loom is still large and intimidating, every new idea comes with a yard-length of questions, of doubts. But now, there is less hesitation. Accomplishment is becoming part of my muscle memory — even if it doesn’t reoccur as often or as quickly as I’d like. Even when I don’t feel ready, I’m confident that I can get ready. Fast.

The Today Show producer called around 6pm. I’d barely made it back to town after my job interview. She asked if I could come to the studio at 30 Rock. I called back and said I lived in Baltimore. I can’t. Without any hesitation, she said I could tape here in town. In 90 minutes. To discuss news that’s broken while I’d been stuck in traffic. Did I have an off-the-cuff opinion? Could I process potential implications and parse problems — right then? Yes, I said right away, remembering a time when I would’ve been too intimidated not to just echo my previous can’t. Yes, I repeated through a few more logistical phone calls, I can.

It’s the briefest clip and I know I have a tendency to romanticize small and fleeting moments, but I’m there. In it: the moment, that clip. Ready in a way I would not have a been two or three years ago. Ready, even now, traveling north on a train, in hopes to present my most competent self to potential (amazing) employer, and reminding myself all the way: I can, I can, I can. .

A Crazy Half-Week and a Today Show Appearance.