At eighteen, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. Most people don’t and those who actually do know are few and far between. I entered UC Riverside as an acting major; Never mind, that I hadn’t taken any acting classes in my life, but had done some modeling in high school. The UC system allowed me to change my major right away and I had always loved science so I decided to become a science major my first year. That didn’t last past my freshman year because I hated math. Still do, but it allowed me to do something amazing. This confusion about what I wanted to do with the rest of my life gave me the freedom to explore as many majors as I wanted.

My sophomore year in university I became a liberal studies major with an emphasis in English and a minor in Creative Writing. I loved to analyze everything so this was perfect. That same year I also fell in love with anthropology so I decided to double major my junior year. Anthropology allowed me to get inside heads of people and cultures. It gave me the courage to think bigger. Something I hadn’t done till college. I wanted to do something meaningful with my life.

I loved writing and anthropology so much that I ended up taking several years to decide which one I wanted to go back and get my masters in. I loved studying cultures. The stories my professors would come back with amazed me. They’d talk about smoking peyote with the locals or smuggling people to freedom. They’d speak about bringing supplies back to countries where people couldn’t get basic medical care, a proper education or even a roof over their heads. They’d talk about women who had to sell themselves to put food on the table. They wanted to be a part of the solution. They’d help these women start their own businesses, even though the businesses were small, it was enough to put food on the table without having to subject themselves to the degradation they had in the past. I wanted to help so much. I even considered sending letters out to work with Dr. Weil (And get my masters at University of Arizona where he was teaching at the time).

I had letters of recommendation for both an anthropology masters and for MFA programs. I almost applied for the anthropology masters, but writing tugged at my heart and soul more. In the end, it won. It was in a Masters program that I really learned to hone my writing and to think about feelings and emotions. I could write analytical papers no problem. Give me a 20 page paper on Egyptian women and their households and I could turn that around quickly. Understand that evidence on Egyptian women was often burned so this took awhile to figure out, and yet I could do this faster than delving into a character’s emotion or mind. It took a master’s program to force that out of me.  I had to imagine myself in their shoes. I found myself getting upset at the murder of a father or sad at the desperation in a character who just wanted to find out who she really was. It opened up a side of me I never knew I had. It’s that reason that I highly recommend going back to get an MFA.

In the process, I also found a happy medium when it comes to helping others. I work pro-bono as the Director of Partnerships for Project Migration, a fashion accessory company with a charitable initiative. Proceeds from the sales go back to help single mothers and their children in Africa. No matter what happens during the day I always write. If I’m angry, I let that emotion come out because sometimes my character’s best emotions come from the pain I’m feeling. Allowing them speak, allows me to heal. Something I couldn’t have done if I didn’t learn how to write everything out. 

 


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