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  • Writer's pictureDedeStewart

What's my "thing"?

Hi, welcome or welcome back to Discussions with Dede! This is a new season, so I’m super excited about the content ill be putting out, and I hope you guys will enjoy!

Anyways, I’m glad that I took a very well-needed and deserved break from writing for the summer. My summer was amazing; I saw friends and family that I haven’t seen in what felt like forever. I love writing and blogging, but it takes a lot out of you especially when you’re fairly new to it. I know that this is something I love to do, but I will say it does get discouraging at some points. I do find myself comparing my views and content to those that have been doing this longer than I have; I shouldn’t but it’s reality. We all compare ourselves to somebody, right?

I always used to compare myself to everyone. It didn’t matter what the topic was, it could have been something super mundane I would’ve still have found a way to put myself down.

I have always been a pretty decent person like I was never really exceptional at anything. In school, I was decent in everything: math, science, English, history, etc. Of course, I had some subjects that I preferred more than others, but I wasn’t exactly amazing at any one course. You know those people that are good at everything, like things just come to them? I wish I was one of those people because I feel like school would’ve been way easier and more enjoyable.

I always used to wish I had a “thing”- something that people knew me for. I feel like everyone had something that people knew them for. Some would dance, some could do public speaking, others sang or cooked … whatever! They all had their purpose, I, on the other hand, was either okay or bad at everything. I always used to think about what they would put in my high school superlative (good thing they didn’t have one at my high school). I just never thought I was very memorable. I kind of just attended school and didn’t do anything incredible to be known or noticed.

All that changed when I moved to Seattle, Washington my junior year of high school. I definitely stood out more because of the lack of diversity at that school. When I say “lack” I mean there were literally no black students. I had been to pretty diverse schools for my whole upbringing, so this was a huge culture shock. At that school, I was pushed to not only succeed but also thrive because everyone around me was extremely smart. My high school is an IB school (International Baccalaureate) which is a program for insanely smart kids. It is hard to explain but these kids had some serious superiority complexes (and a lot of mental health issues, but I digress). I witnessed so many “friends” talk horribly about each other just for the sake of making themselves feel better. These kids would measure their intelligence by how much sleep they got; the less they got the better they were compared to others. They were all miserable but they stayed in this program for notoriety.

This intense competition pushed me in a good way. It made me want to show these people what I got. My previous schools didn’t really push me to succeed, it just pushed me to do just enough. However, this school pushed me to find my “thing”. Since I was black, I felt like I had to be great to feel like I was useful.

In order to find my purpose, I rediscovered my love for writing and social justice. My school never had a Black Student Union, aka BSU, mostly because they were barely any black students so there was no need. Co-founding a BSU without any groundwork was especially difficult but doing it at a racist school was way worse.

I’m going to write a book one day about that racist school because it was very traumatic. But for now, I’ll tell you a quick story (or two).

I had no idea how to run a club, especially one that people clearly didn’t want there. We started planning for Black History Month in January, which was late; this meant we had to work pretty fast. All 3 of us (my sister, my friend, and myself) stayed behind after school for a month to work on these posters for BHM. It took a lot of effort and fight to even have the posters hanging because the faculty didn’t think celebrating BHM was needed at the school. With some help from some teachers, they finally agreed for us to put our posters up. After school, we hung them up closer to the front of the school on the last week of BHM because it took us a while to finish them. I was scared because I knew how openly racist these people could be, but they wouldn’t touch them right? Wrong! My sister and I walked to school the next day, and there were a lot of people crowded in front of the posters but nobody had done anything… yet. I heard a lot of comments like “why is that there?” “Why do they need a whole month anyway?” and some comments that were way more mean and derogatory. So, I went to class but I wish I could’ve hired a security guard to protect the posters because when I came out from my class the posters had been defaced. They had ripped pictures down from it and had added their pictures that were making fun of the heroes we put on there. A lot of thought had gone into our posters, we had picked “hidden figures” from the arts, mathematics, fashion, engineering, etc, and highlighted their accomplishments. We wanted to educate our classmates on heroes other than MLK, Rosa Parks, and Harriet Tubman, even though they are very important figures. It took these people 2 seconds to deface something that took us weeks to research and put together. That was kind of the first time I ever felt like people didn’t want me somewhere, and I felt very alone. My dad kept on telling me that I was a “pioneer that leads the way for others’’ but I didn’t want to be like that, I wanted to be invisible again. I didn’t want to lead anyone because I never led anyone before. It was hard enough being one of the only black students at school, but leading and co-founding a hated club was a whole different story.

That was very bad, but I was able to get past it. The one that still angers me was having the N-word engraved on a computer in one of my classes. Not only did the teacher not do anything, but the kids also sat there and LAUGHED at it. I was furious!

This is not what I had signed up for when I moved to this blasted state I didn’t even know about! They defaced and destroyed everything that we did at that school, and that’s something I had never experienced before.

All of this happening is the reason I go so hard for black people, especially black women. No one felt the need to protect us or stand up for us, which made me feel even more alone. BSU was made to provide a “safe space” for black students to feel less alone and sad. The school made me feel like I was nothing and unimportant. This passion that I have for protecting black women came from all that I endured at that school. I transferred all of that fire into what I am doing now with my blog posts and page. I don’t want anyone to ever feel that alone, but if they happen to, I want them to know that they can find comfort and safety on my page.

My passion for writing also came in my senior year of high school in my AP Lit class. I was always a pretty good English student because I loved to read but I never was superb. AP Lit was the only time I was the best in the class. I only got straight A’s in that class, even my teacher was surprised. I was the only black student in that class and I was doing way better than all the other kids. These kids were very smart, but this was the only time I ever felt like I measured up and even surpassed their intelligence. I was pretty quiet about it too because my teacher did all the bragging for me. One time, my teacher had everyone’s test in his hands and he told everyone to come and get it in descending order. The person with the “F” got their paper first, and the person with the “A” got theirs last. I knew everyone was waiting for me to get mine first, and they were all shocked when I got mine last. The thing was, I never really tried hard in his class which was very surprising to me. That was the first time something had ever come easy to me. I’d never thought I was good at anything but I had finally found my “thing”: writing.

I wrote this for all the people who feel or have felt a lot like me- just decent and not good enough. I wanted to tell you not to give up on yourself because you will find your thing. It might not be at the same time as everyone else, but it will come to you sooner or later. For all of you guys that were in some snooty school like I was, you deserve to be there just as much, and maybe even more, than your peers. Don’t let them demean you and make you feel like they’re better than you because if you give them that chance, they will. Show them what you got! Believe in yourself, and they will have no reason not to respect you. Even if they don’t, f them; believe in you because you’re more than good enough.

Question for the comments: What’s your thing?

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