Carrying the Dreams of My Ancestors

I started writing in January 2008. Writing was a way to heal my life after experiencing depression. That period of depression was a turning point. It was the first time that I had failed in my life, and it hurt.

Looking back, I realize that the first failure was calculated. It had been carefully orchestrated generations before my birth via a cycle of aborted dreams and deferred hopes. Wherever there are dreamers, there’s a dream thief. Just think of the story of Joseph in the Bible.

My father had aborted dreams and deferred hopes. His father, a sharecropper, had aborted dreams and deferred hopes. And now that same negative force wanted to abort my dreams and defer my hopes. It wanted to make my heart sick.

It was up to me to stop it. It was up to me to awaken the dreams in my heart.

And so I write.

My stories carry my father’s dreams, my grandfather’s dreams, and the dreams of generations before me. I don’t know how, but every time I put pen to paper, I’m also tapping into these collective experiences and creating a new narrative. A narrative that breaks the cycle of aborted dreams and deferred hopes from past generations. A narrative that restores. It’s kind of like taking an old, neglected car and making it new again.

I first realized this weighty purpose of mine when I wrote my college application essay as a teen. Writing that essay clarified what I had been sensing even as a young child: the deferred hopes and frustrations of my father; the sense of destiny that I carried within me. I’m posting excerpts of my essay for you to read here. When I reread it today, I flinched at my writing, and so I had to edit and polish it up a little. (I couldn’t help it!). However, I tried to keep these excerpts as close to my seventeen year old self as possible. Here goes…

When I was five, mommy and daddy did the books every Sunday. I stood back, a mass of kinky hair barely brushing the wobbly kitchen table, marveling at this serious grown up business. Being like my dad was my greatest dream. Writing mysterious shapes and figures in ledger books full of blue rows and columns was my ultimate goal…Daddy was undefeatable. He was a true king. Everyone knew that.
But we change.
At age nine, I no longer yearned to be a daddy clone, now I wanted grace and fluidity. So I enrolled myself in the local dance school, and I fell in love for the first time. My movements weren’t technically precise, but the act of moving wooed me….Even the musty smell of the classroom’s creaking wooden floors stole my heart. Yes, I was in love with ballet. That affair quickly ended when daddy stopped taking me to class:
“There’s no such thing as black ballerinas,” he instructed.
Why hadn’t I noticed this before?
Anyway, I quickly detached myself from this love affair. No doubts. No questions. All belief in daddy.
But our beliefs change.
At age eleven, I discovered my power….It was during the sixth grade Christmas production. I stepped onto the dusty stage in the gymnasium. I was nervous. I felt weak, again. I felt helpless, again….There was something for me to give. Would I share it with the world?
One breath. Two breaths. Three breaths. Silence. I could see the other girl’s increased agitation as I stalled…Then, I looked out at the audience and grinned. They laughed. I was no longer five years old. I was no longer nine years old. I was eleven years old…I was Preslaysa.
For the first time, I was Preslaysa.
Do you have deferred hopes? If so, what can you do to breathe life into them again?