A few days ago, I watched the film Girl Most Likely (2013) starring Kristen Wiig (check out the trailer below). I'm not about spoilers but I will give you a little bit of insight into the movie to entice you to see it. Wiig plays Imogene, a New York-based playwright/magazine writer who is trying to piece her life back together following the sudden breakup with her live-in boyfriend. A few minutes into the film, she finds herself on a psychiatric ward of a local hospital. Her mother, played by Annette Bening, comes to pick her up. The rest of the film... well, I would be spoiling it for you so I will leave it up to you to find out how the rest of it goes. She creates a "new" life for herself once she returns to her childhood home in Ocean City, New Jersey. What's most relevant from this plot is the fact that the life that was the most accepting of her was the one that she was running away from: her life in Ocean City.
This got me to thinking about my own life.
I started writing this blog post during my most recent visit to Detroit. It's really important for me to visit at least twice a year. While a lot has happened to me since leaving my hometown almost seven years ago, this past year was the most significant because it gave me time to really reflect. In the past month or so, I earned my second Master's degree and am considering my future career choices. I am also in the best place ever relationship wise with regards to my romantic partner and close friends. Though I don't see my friends as much as I would like to, I can trust that we will be there for each other at any given moment. I haven't done any creative writing in almost a year but I've been journaling like crazy. These "pro bono" counseling sessions have forced me to really think about what is important to me and also who I really am.
I'm quite nostalgic and really miss some of my past. Up until recently, I wasn't sure why I missed my past so much. I especially yearn for the times when I got to see my family more often and also got to experience the city of Detroit more so than I do when I come back to visit these days. Whenever I visit "home," I spend most of the time with my family because the time is so short. In the past, I was able to stay for several weeks, which allowed for me to visit with friends. Now, my time in the "313" is around a week to ten days, which isn't a lot of time, especially when I am very close to my parents and my brother. So, when I'm "home," I do very little. I'm also about "remembering" because I feel like something is lacking in my life currently but it wasn't until now that I was able to identify that.
I miss "home" because no matter what, I will always be surrounded by people who will love me regardless and who will support me despite whatever bad decisions or misjudgments I've made. In my life as an adult living about 600 miles away from loved ones, I'm constantly critiqued (sometimes without my best interests in mind), treated poorly, teased, misused, and abused simply for the fulfillment of others. I now understand why people say that they can talk badly about their close friends and family; the love is genuine and they only want what's best for them. Outside of my lil' bubble of Detroit, I'm sometimes unsure as to whose in my corner and whose looking to push me over a cliff. This competition called "life" sometimes sucks because once you leave the comforts of your childhood, it becomes even more difficult to trust anyone.
My current world and the world of my past are so different. It took this most recent trip (the one that I'm currently completing) to realize how different these worlds are. Returning back to Western Massachusetts tomorrow, I have to keep reminding myself that I was the girl who once dreamed while catching the DDOT (public transportation in Detroit) to school every morning. That I once consumed Faygo Pop (yes New Englanders, I said "pop" and I will continue to say it proudly) and had no problems shopping in dollar stores and Rainbow for clothes. That I knew which neighborhoods to venture through on my own and those to never even think about passing through. And, all of these things made me proud of who I was. For some, the Pioneer Valley/Five Colleges Area is idyllic but for me, Detroit will always have my heart because its who I am and it's what made me who I will always be.
Not having a lot of places to go and people to see, I was able to finally watch some stuff on Netflix. Besides Girl Most Likely, I had a chance to FINALLY watch Orange is the New Black! I now see what all of the hype is about. Besides some extremely talented performances and some great dialogue, this show is about as real as it gets when it comes to humanity, humility and relationships. There are strategies manipulated yet consequences served. There is happiness but there's also survival. This is one of the few times that I've seen "real" in a series! This should be called "reality television" because we get to experience each facet of life through the multidimensional characters and storylines featured on the series. The only thing that I find sad (yet beautiful) about this series is that we get "real" through the lives of mostly women along the margins who happen to be incarcerated. I really hate to say this but is this the only imagined world that these roles can exist?
Reflecting on Girl Most Likely, Orange is the New Black and Walk of Shame (yes, I saw this film as well during my time at "home" but I can't give this film any airspace on my blog because I wasn't a fan of it nor find any of it compelling or redeemable to write about), I'm curious as to what would a black woman's coming of age story look like constructed in the genre of the mainstream narrative. Or better yet, is there a consumable coming of age visual product that would be catered to me? I've seen the coming of age narrative scripted for my counterparts but not necessarily for the little girl or teenager that I once was. I know that they exist but I have yet to find it.
This is why I am such a fan of narrative film. For 90 minutes, depending on the genre and nature of the film, I can become a part of someone else's world and then return back to my own appreciating it more. This is why I write. I can create worlds where protagonists such as myself can thrive. I don't create perfect worlds. I create places where black women are challenged and pushed to their limits but come out successful. The odds are not constantly against them quite like it is in the real world.
All of this leads me to this question, one that I believe all of us have: where is my "Oz"? I'm not thinking of the HBO television series (LOL); I'm thinking of the film The Wizard of Oz and then the 1970s adaptation, The Wiz. In both versions, Dorothy escapes to Oz but is unable to find the complete solace that she so desires. I'm the Dorothy of my own tale. I'm torn between the drastically different worlds attempting to find where I best belong. Maybe I'm a hybrid best fitting semi-comfortably amongst both Western MA and Detroit. Or maybe, one of them is my Oz: a place where I can escape to in order to find people, things and ideologies that would accept me. But at some point, I need to return "home." But, where is "home" for me?
Diana Ross as Dorothy in The Wiz (1978)