I remember when I knew exactly what it was that I thought I wanted to do for the rest of my life. In high school, somehow, I had it all figured out. I am this; I am not that. I want this; I do not want that. I like you and I don’t like him etcetera. I knew what I was and I definitely knew what I wanted to be and when. But something changed. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I can set a timeframe for it.
In fourth form, we read A Raisin in the Sun which was a lovely play from which certain elements of the plot remain with me to this day. Still the most poignant element has to be a short poem by American poet Langston Hughes. A few pages into the little book and just a couple lines long, the words of that poem stirred something in my soul:
“What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore--
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over--
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.
Or does it explode?”
I shuddered as I read it. What on earth did he mean by that? A dream deferred? Simply impossible! It could never be, not when you are as determined as I am, I thought. Impossible when you know exactly what you want and how to obtain it.
Nonetheless, I felt that it foreshadowed something, or at the very least was trying to hint to some life lesson, which was best learned sooner as opposed to later. What it was I could not tell. Or even if a little bit of me was trying to decipher it, the other more dominant and over-confident dreamer shut it out. There simply can be no ‘I’ in lose. I placated the tumult in my mind by assuring myself that that poem had nothing to do with me, nothing to even tell me. I graduated high school shortly after and gave the book to my little cousin who was in second form. Maybe I just wanted to get rid of it because it had hit a nerve.
I enrolled in sixth form at the very last minute. I had not planned to go there. I had planned to just start college in the U.S. I guess I should have seen just then, that dreams do get deferred, and that whatever happens to these dreams thereafter is entirely up to you. I enjoyed sixth form. I met my first love, traversed through Greek, English and German philosophy, the Belizean rainforest, and calculus (though I almost drowned there) and Spanish. I also met my second love: art. It was a deferred dream which crusted and sugared over into a syrupy sweet. I have no complaints there.
By the time I graduated two years later, I was fully aware that Philosophy, Ecology, Mathematics, Spanish and Art, though they filled my world with beauty, had not led me any nearer to accomplishing my high school dream of becoming an architect. Undaunted, I still applied for schools in America, Mexico, and Jamaica. I even ventured into the possibility of a Cuban scholarship. None of these, despite my high hopes, proved successful. They wanted more; or rather they wanted knowledge which I did not have.
I had to do something though, I could not be contained. I wanted to accomplish my goal, my career, at 24. I began working with the Image Factory in the summer after I graduated sixth form. Just like magic, I received an opportunity to visit Merida Mexico for a week. Being in that large city of 1,000,000 citizens was a thrilling experience. I could live here I thought. I could grow to love this city and make it my own.
My adventurous spirit urged me to, so I plunged in! I enrolled into an art program in a new school Escuela Superior de Artes de Yucatan, ESAY. It sounded easy. It was difficult in the beginning. I did not know the language well enough to say anymore than “donde esta la playa?” and “soy belicena” or “no entendi. Please mas lento, por favor.” It was tough, everything I was familiar with was far away, and everything else was in Spanish, so I couldn’t relate even when I tried.
There were several days were all I did was read armed with my two dictionaries. Every small victory of understanding a chapter of E.H. Gombrich’s Art History in Spanish was crushed when everyone else was half way finished with the book. I felt as though I was digging through wet sand, the more I dug the faster I sank. Still it was a beautiful world, where I understand only myself and no one else. I developed my own little tricks for communicating in this strange new world. Words I did not understand, I gave them my own meaning. They meant the world to me, my little world of misinterpreted words. Soon enough something strange happened; it was as if someone turned on the volume on the television after watching it 6 months on mute. I understood everything.
I understood the flirty sleazes on the buses, the racists comments made in jest to describe the painting of the Sistine Chapel, the lessons, everything. My world of make-believe words fell to pieces. The powerful sensation-filled experiences I had been having with every word uttered, sung or shouted came to a crashing halt. I needed to make room for the actual meanings of all the new words.
Too few words I heard were as beautiful as I had envisioned them to be. Some were weird, some were ludicrous and some were hateful. Faced with the actual universe in my university and new city as it was, I realized that this was not what I had dreamed. It was as if my dream deferred had exploded and tiny bits of it were everywhere around me. The tiny bits were scattered all around, but with none in my heart there was no passion to continue towards it. Consequently I used their own words to write to them telling them that I no longer wished to pursue that dream. I left in 2008.
In 2011, after failed attempts at being a program officer at ICA, a secretary at KHMH and even a Spanish teacher at ACC, I decided to revisit that explosion site, that dream deferred. When I got there though I realized that they had long cleaned up the mess, and there were no traces of me or my dream at the school. Initially, they could not even find any records of my being there for 3 ½ years. It was as though I had not even existed in their universe. The Office of Students Affairs suggested that I apply in August. Realizing that they were suggesting a rewind and not play after pause, I requested my transcript and left.
With no degree, I am back at square one; and it is not 2005 but 2012. A Dream Deferred holds an entirely new meaning for me. I never envisioned being so far away from my career at 25. Still, as I had mentioned before, the diagnosis of this dream deferred is entirely up to me.