I am a writer. Though I would not consider myself a blogger. In the past I attempted to keep a blog during a dark and difficult time in my life. I was very sick, and not feeling like doing anything creative, especially writing. I started chronicling my thoughts, and soon after I stopped. It was like my creativity had been stifled and giving myself a chance to think about everything that was really going on in my life opened up the writer's block. I stopped blogging, but I started working on my play She Wore Those Shoes which got produced by Power Street Theatre Company this past October 2016. Now, thankfully, my cause to blog is much more positive! I am going on a trip as an Amtrak Resident Writer. Find out more about that program here.
The journey has begun! I am excited and anxious. Excited because there is a whole 8 days in front of me that are uncharted territory. There are people to meet that I have yet to meet. There are so many sights to see that I can only imagine. I am anxious, for all those same reasons.
Today has been… a good day. It is almost 7pm. The rocking of the train feels like what I imagine being pushed a very fast stroller must feel like. It has the effect of lulling me to sleep, and I admit I took a 30 minute nap as soon as I was loaded into my room. But now I am awake.
There is no internet. A fact I did not foresee. In fact there is no service whatsoever as of this moment. A challenge for me. To write without distractions. I can’t procrastinate by doing research or looking up a quote I like. I can’t distract myself by logging onto Facebook and shaking my head at the latest insane political news. I can’t even look out the window for distraction because the sun has set the world outside looks like deep, deep space.
I didn’t sleep much last night. I hardly ever sleep well the night before a big trip. There are two reasons for this.
1. The anticipation of course. The worries, the, “What if I I miss the train?” the, “What if I forget something important that I need?” And of course, “I hope my cats will be okay.”
2. My crazy cats. There is no way to avoid them losing their minds before I go on a trip. They are too smart for their own good and when they see my luggage out they know I’m leaving and it sends them into a frenzy for the whole night. My kitty Molli spent the night pawing at my face and scratching at the picture frames she could reach in order to wake me up. I wonder what her though process is with that… I’ll annoy you so much you won’t leave mama!
My boy Desmond spent the night running around knocking things over and crying his little chirps that sound like “Mama” I know that sounds crazy but I swear to you they are both very aware of what is going on. Maybe they think if I am too exhausted I won’t leave, but alas.
I am currently along the border of Maryland and West Virginia en route to Pittsburg where my dinner friends Claudia and Phil will disembark. Claudia wanted to be an actress, but somehow it didn’t work out. I told her if she ever has a chance to pursue that passion again she must, “We need more artists in this world!” I proclaimed and her eyes grew wide and she smiled, “Yes, maybe… I think maybe I will try again someday to do theatre.” Claudia works for a magazine that was at the Women’s March on Washington yesterday (Jan 21st). She said she interviewed many women of all different backgrounds on what brought them to the march and that it was the most inspirational experience. I don’t know much about Claudia, but she seemed like one of those White Feminists whose eyes were starting to open up in a way they hadn’t before. She seemed like she was still processing a lot. For the record, she said she also attended the inauguration and in her words, “To be honest it was very lightly attended.”
I was glad I was seated with her and her friend (brother?) Phil who was dropping everything and moving to Japan soon to teach English. Now that’s an adventure.
More interestingly however was Karla who sat next to me. Karla was also coming back from the Women’s March. Karla is a pastor. Karla admitted she hates telling people she is a pastor because they assume they have to behave around her. She hates the religious right for giving all other religious folks a bad name. I can imagine she must feel like she has to work overtime to prove that she is not one of ‘them.’ She seemed like she was working hard to prove how cool and with it she was. I wish she could just be herself. That’s the sad part about all this division. I am not a religious person, but I really don’t care if you are… Unless you try to strip me of my rights of course, or try to convince me that I am destined for hell because I don’t believe in your brand of making sense of this world.
I felt myself Code Switch about halfway through our conversation with Claudia, Phil, and Karla. I sat down at this table with three White people and thought okay… here we go… How is this going to play out? I hate that my brain even thinks that way. I am aware of the fact that it is problematic and I'm trying not to make assumptions about people based off of whatever preconceived notions I may have.
Recently, I had an experience where a middle aged white man asked me what my plays were about and I blanched. I was scared to tell him that my plays were about historically marginalized communities, women’s rights, domestic violence, rape culture, gentrification, immigration…I was embarrassed with myself for simplifying my work in order to not 'other’ my self. I promised myself I would live in my truth, and not be afraid to stand for what I believe in. I hate being silent on the things that matter to me.
“So what are your plays about?” Claudia asked me. I told her. This was about 20 minutes into dinner, and at this moment I felt ‘polite, don’t stir the pot’ Erlina be replaced by ‘life your truth Erlina.” I’m glad I did because this opened the door for real conversation with my dinner mates. Obviously our new president became a big topic of conversation and I felt so invigorated and proud to have been able to facilitate a thoughtful discussion, even offering up my point of view on the controversy of exclusionary white feminism at the Women’s March.
Day one. My take away? Live my truth. I could have had a polite conversation with Claudia, Karla, and Phil, but I’m glad I let things get a little messy. I have about 15 more dinners with strangers to go on this journey and I’m excited to see what types of people I meet along the way. A part of me hopes to only meet like-minded individuals, but… we shall see.