[Collier] (Re)Engagement | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS

[Collier] (Re)Engagement

One of the things that consistently brings me joy in life is writing. There are times, however, when it gives me grief. Like now. How does one re-establish themselves with an audience who gave them their start and watched them grow? Let me explain.

Almost five years ago, I dropped out of graduate school and set out to follow a dream: to become a writer. I, subsequently, found myself at the Jackson Free Press. My time at the JFP was the perfect creative baptism, although I didn't recognize how much so when I was here. I discovered myself vocationally, personally and spiritually, and slowly began to be unapologetic for it.

When I left for an opportunity to hone my craft through a Association for Alternative Journalists fellowship at Northwestern University, little more than two years later, I didn't know what to expect but was excited for the adventure. While away, I was hypnotized by the bright lights, tall buildings and polluted air of the big city. What was supposed to be a three-month stint in Chicago turned into almost three years.

Not long ago, though, I made the decision to come back to Jackson. For the most part since being back, I've spent my time hiding. Coming home has brought up an interesting mix of emotions. I know being here, at this moment, is the best thing for me. I've been called here. Cryptic sounding, but true. But I've also resisted the move somewhat. When I moved to Chicago, I was a foreigner in a strange land. And now that I'm back here, I'm a foreigner in my homeland. That's not a feat that's easily navigable, if you've never done it.

The closest parallel I can conjure is a high school student who goes off to school away from home, then spends some time working away, too, but finds herself living back at home in her old bedroom, sleeping in the twin-sized bed cloaked with a pink floral comforter as a hard-bodied, lip-licking L.L. Cool J peers over her (a poster, of course), lulling her to sleep.

This young woman must reintroduce her more mature self—the one that's had her heart broken, bounced a check or two, and had to deal with the grief of losing loved ones—to her family and social circle. Her new self is still a daughter, sister and best friend, but she's now more sure of herself. The inevitable question she asks herself as she unpacks is, "Will I still fit in?"

I said all of that to say … I don't know if I still fit in! And writing this column has me breaking out in imaginary hives. I want to impress you sometimes and upset you others. I want you to think, "Glad she's back." I want Donna Ladd not to regret bumping into me and asking if I'd be interested in writing a column.

Most importantly, I want to be true to myself. In so doing, I want to give us something to talk about from time to time and inspire us to engage. I recognize that this sounds a bit self-absorbed—one of the things you never admit aloud, hoping to have this type of "power" and influence, but I'm being truthful, and that's one thing I try to always be—even if it makes me look bad.

Since running into Donna, not only have I had an opportunity to re-connect with the readers of the JFP and the Jackson metro area, but I also had the fortune of speaking to a group of journalism students from Tougaloo College. As we talked about the importance of hard work, journalism's relevancy and the like, I found myself repeating the same unplanned chorus: the importance of engaging in the outside world.

When you're plugged into the world beyond your own, possibilities are opened. Not only do you see the things that will encourage you to be your best self, but the more you pay attention, the things about the world that disappoint and sadden also offer suggestions about what we can to positively effect change. We must be cautious against becoming robotic, intellectually non-threatening individuals who perpetuate the negativities about our culture. We must be the ones to change the world; otherwise, it won't change. And the only way it can be done is by our engagement.

As I re-engage, the foreigner in her own country that I am, I expect to grow, learn more and use all of that for good.

You, Jackson Free Press readers, are just the people who will help me do that, as I, hopefully, fit in and stand out for all the right reasons.

Freelance writer and editor Natalie Collier used to be the assistant editor of the Jackson Free Press. We're glad she came on home. Chicago's loss.

Previous Comments

ID
154158
Comment

Yoo, hoo! Look who's back, JFP Nation! ;-)

Author
DonnaLadd
Date
2009-12-09T16:19:56-06:00
ID
154166
Comment

Natalie! I smiled seeing your column in the paper this morning. I missed your wit & strength. I know how you feel - the "pull" or the "call". It grabs hold to you. I was wandering the US looking for a home and when I arrived her in Jacktown almost seven years ago I felt it! What's up, let's play guitar & sing! ;-) welcome back!!!

Author
Izzy
Date
2009-12-10T10:10:35-06:00
ID
154208
Comment

Ladies, thanks for the welcome! I'm looking forward to the next phase of this journey. Oh and about the guitar, I'm up for it, but let me warn you: We're going to be starting all over.

Author
N.A. Collier
Date
2009-12-12T11:09:18-06:00
ID
154213
Comment

I look forward to your insightful reads.

Author
dpsmith
Date
2009-12-12T19:50:40-06:00
ID
154216
Comment

I am so glad you are back Natalie!! I was so excited to see your column. Welcome home!

Author
andi
Date
2009-12-13T13:27:21-06:00
ID
154293
Comment

When she walked into the office the other day, I was so glad to see her. I thought she was just visiting, but when she said she was staying, I was thrilled. Welcome back! :)

Author
LatashaWillis
Date
2009-12-15T05:48:38-06:00

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