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 one of four.
I hit the submit button a few minutes before midnight and sighed in relief. The quote, “3 am is the hour of writers, painters, poets, over-thinkers, silent seekers, and creative people...” dropped on my heart. I concurred, but I wasn’t feeling magical. I was exhausted. It wasn’t exactly 3 am, but it was late enough in my opinion and that qualifies me to sit in that quote. I haven’t felt like #BlackGirlMagic since I made the choice to apply to the THREAD at Yale program, and here I was submitting my application a few minutes before the deadline. I actually felt defeated, and doubts about my capabilities that weren’t there initially had begun to set in.
I came across THREAD exactly two weeks before the application deadline, and the program itself began barely two months away in June. I could hardly wrap my head around the short application deadline, but if accepted, I also had to think about gathering tuition (which wasn’t cheap), buying my plane ticket and securing accommodation in less than two months. June, at that time and without the introduction of THREAD into the mix, was already gearing up to be my most busy month of the year. I had to coordinate three weddings, I had made plans to be in Minneapolis, MN for a week, and was going off to New York to attend the 99U conference right after I got back from Minnesota. If accepted, I’d have to leave for New Haven less than 48 hours after I got back into D.C from New York. It would be a juggling act, but I knew I both needed and wanted to be in the program, so taking it one-step at a time, I focused my attention on the application.
But applying came with some issues.
It’s easy to attach a resume and fill out a questionnaire, but when a personal statement is required, I tend to pause, even as a writer, especially when guidelines are not provided. What in the world should I be sharing? For THREAD, my guts insisted I write from my heart and my place of truth. My place of truth was simple; I was struggling to find my voice and my beat, if you may. Making a shift from creating business content to writing stories was not a smooth transition, and I was navigating that space. Heck, I’m still navigating that space as I write this. I listened to my guts and poured my heart and truth into the first draft of my personal statement. I sent it to a good friend, and her advice was “to get into a place like Yale, you need to sell yourself as the dope writer that you are and showcase all the work you've done over the years. Share what you bring to the table.”
Her wise advice came at a point in my life that I couldn’t see the dope-ness. I was weary and tired of selling myself, and I wasn't in love with the work I had done. All I wanted to say in my application was I am a good writer, I am struggling, I want to be a better writer and a great storyteller, and that is why I know I am a good fit for this program. This is why I seek out communities like THREAD.
And therein lies my struggle. I felt hers was the voice of wisdom because common sense says it is foolish to put our flaws on the table, but my guts kept prompting me to do just that. Wrestling with what my heart demanded and what my friend advised drained the energy out of me, and I found myself curled up in my bed, bawling and exhausted a few hours before the application deadline. Right before I broke down, I texted her to say the changes I made based on her suggestion were great, but the statement didn’t read like me or what I needed it to read like, but I would sleep on it and take another stab at it before midnight.
And at a few minutes before midnight, I chose to follow my guts without necessarily ignoring her counsel.
A few days after I sent in the application I got my acceptance email.
In the few weeks prior to the first day of THREAD, I was added to a shared drive and was able to read the professional biographies of my colleagues, and the work-in-progress of those in my workshop. One thing was clear, plugging my work in my application was wise, but I may not have been accepted if I had rely on just that. Compared to my career, majority of the program participants were objectively further down the line. Trusting my guts did more for my application. I used two elements of good storytelling, authenticity and vulnerability, to my advantage, and every speaker, lecturer and workshop mentor mentioned these two elements as vital to a compelling story. A workshop mentor even said my personal statement caught her attention, because it was vulnerable and compelling.
TRUSTING MY GUTS without DISCOUNTING WISE COUNSEL made for a better application. That experience reminded me that my thoughts and opinions are valid, and the voice of others cannot be the loudest voice in my choices.