“When I became a woman, my world got smaller.” Ntozake Shange, Spell #7
I read this line for the first time in high school in the early 90s. It was when I was so hungry for the kind of art that shakes your soul and makes you put the damn book down to catch a breath, that I would tear through libraries like the Tasmanian Devil. I read this line and I stopped for a moment to consider why I had stopped for a moment. I wasn’t a woman yet. My world seemed infinite – I had big dreams (though clearly not very specific as I always interested in the How and not the Why or What), I had a huge imagination, I had been in love once (young love makes you feel…DEEP), I had a hunger to get out of Detroit and start my life. My world seemed to me – infinite.
I continued with my life – moving to New York to go to school, dating and falling in really unhealthy but dramatic relationship scenarios, being brave and living on my own, working, making friends who are now like family, writing my ass off – I mean my world was pretty damn infinite! And I was in my twenties!
And then it happened. I got the amazing Sekou Sundiata for an instructor at Eugene Lang College. And he made a connection for me that had never ever been made. He simply took a newspaper from the 1960s and played a Sonia Sanchez record. I connected the dots. Art. Headlines. Headlines. Art. Everything is connected. Up until this point, my writing was about love. I decided to connect the dots and make it about love, headlines, news, people on my block in Harlem, folks on the train, drive-bys, the kids that got shot when I was growing up…I added depth, cut out some imaginary separators of life and my world got a little smaller. But my world wasn’t done shrinking.
I was thirty one when my father died and all the way in Los Angeles, nowhere near him in Detroit. My father was the best man I ever knew. Not faultless or perfect but his heart was the best one I ever got to know as I grew up. He raised me to be me. He made me laugh, exposed me to budgets and money, jazz, restaurants with cloth napkins and always remained skeptical of any man I ever dated. He believed I was smart so I made sure I was smart. He prevented me from being the type of woman that generalizes men into really stifling dead end stereotypes. It felt like part of me died. I took for granted he was infinite. And maybe he is, in spirit. I am working on that.
Years have gone by and more passings have happened, causing me to look mortality in the face and wanting to spit in it. I am not evolved enough yet to make peace with death. It has shrank my world – friends, a miscarriage, people who made impacts on me as a person…but I have also learned to hold people tighter. To cut the separators out and squeeze the air from between the space where I love. My world is smaller because I think that’s what the world does: it gets smaller as your spirit grows to collect all of the things it may squeeze out until eventually your spirit is bigger than the world.
t.tara turk is a novelist/playwright/screenwriter whose work has appeared at the LA’s Company of Angels, Hip Hop Theater Festival, the Actor’s Studio, EST and the Kennedy Center. Her fiction has appeared in the international anthology “X:24”, African Voices and Stress magazine. She graduated from Sarah Lawrence, receiving the Lipkin Playwrighting Award, completed the Cosby Screenwriting Program and the Producer’s Guild Diversity Workshop. Her short films have appeared in various festivals and she won Best Screenplay at African American Women in Cinema and was an Urbanworld 2012 Screenplay Finalist. She is currently working on a short story collection, a new novel and in pre-production for a film project.