Stories from THREAD @ Yale is a four-part series about the life lessons I gained while applying to THREAD, racing to meet the tuition deadline, and sitting side by side with other non-fiction storytellers. They are not new or groundbreaking lessons, but God thought I needed to relive and relearn them. You are reading part three of four.
My Afro was out, my lips were popping red, and I was nervous.
Nervous about what to expect, and whom I’d meet. I had read the bios of my colleagues and they had left me wondering, “Dear Jesus, what have I accomplished with my life?” Don't get me wrong, I’m pretty dope, but I don’t always feel it. So I walked into the welcome reception looking dope and feeling anxious.
I spotted the nametag table and immediately went for it. It was a good place to stall while I skimmed the room, but I can only write my name for so long. The lady at the table gave me my drink tickets, and I figured standing in line for a glass of wine would be my next stalling move. I joined the line. Then I couldn’t take it anymore. Nerves or not, I am an extrovert, and I am around people, I had to engage. I turned to the guy standing next to me in line, introduced myself and asked for his name. While we spoke, I literally pulled a few more humans into our conversation, because at this point, I had drawn all the energy I needed, and nerves be damned. I discovered that one of the ladies I pulled into the conversation was a writer for mater mea. Small world!
The welcome reception mirrored majority of my time in the program. I had a great time and met highly respected figures like Jill Abramson, Glynn Washington, and Nicole Hannah-Jones. I learned story techniques, how to pitch, what story scabs to pick, how to identify a story within a topic etc., but my biggest lessons while on the grounds of Yale were introspective. Before I left for New Haven, I told myself “I’m not going to Yale or paying that much money just for the name or to come back disconcerted and disappointed.” So I made a list of what I wanted out of the program, and these were my asks.
- Tangible practical tips I can take home and use in my career. I am not interested in aspiration or inspiration.
- Relationships and connections, and not necessarily with those on stage. The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of the expertise of the people on stage. I will connect deeply with three  peers and two  should not be writers.
- Collaboration. I am a writer interested in multimedia platform: audio, film, documentary, and visuals. I desire project collaboration beyond writing.
- Support! Support others. Root for them.
With these at the back of my mind, I went to THREAD, and the entire experience was beautiful, eye-opening and overwhelming. I got everything on my ask list, and was also reminded of the following:
- Privilege is real [TBH this was a new-ish insight for me]. There is something to be said about people who attend schools like Yale or grew up in wealthy families or are in environments of high achievement. They get access to a room of CEOs, founders, startup leaders, early adopters, investors, connectors, movers and shakers, 30under30s and 40unders 40 etc. They learn early the language of how to smooch through a high impact and high achieving roomThey are not just looking for a job; they are building a career and a network. It is a skill I’m grooming because I refuse to step into a room and stand in the corner.
- Networking and mentorship are vital. Forget CEOs and wealthy people! Journalists, writers, photojournalists, freelance writers, illustrators, radio broadcasters, podcasters, technicians, producers, novelists, memoir writers, video game designers, and graphic comic artists surrounded me at THREAD. It would be a waste to leave the program with no connection.
- Evolution. Evolving your skill and career is important. I even wrote on it for Big Cartel. I spent a lot of time with a smaller cohort of eleven  led by a mentor. In my group, I met a novelist trying her hands at a graphic memoir, a writer turned activist trying her hands at podcasting, a newspaper writer working on a magazine piece, a Portuguese-speaking Brazilian pushing to break into the English-speaking American media etc. There is beauty in evolving. THREAD affirmed my desire to explore audio, podcast, film, and documentaries alongside writing. I mean why not?
- Contribute. My ideas are valid. Speaking up, asking questions and participating were things I told myself I would do at THREAD. I don’t have a problem having an opinion, and sharing it, but in the same breathe, I have a problem having an opinion and sharing it. I enjoyed speaking into the work of my peers. We didn’t agree on everything and sometimes my critiques did not hit the mark. But speaking up and listening to others give their two cents exposed my blind spots and my creative eye. Speak up…it aids your becoming.
- Engage Ass Power. Sit your ass down, do the work and trust the rest to God.