*The story was originally published on, September 24, 2014, on my personal Facebook page then featured on the, Miami Ad School Pro Facebook page.
Since the Miami Ad School 20-year Anniversary is coming up I guess I'll share the story about my journey to that place.
September of 2002, I hopped in my '85 Toyota USA Tercel, aka The Brown Bandit, and drove to South Beach Miami, FL from St. Louis, solo. The car had no radio, no air condition, and sometimes it decided when it wanted to startup but school started on the 25th of that month so I had to do what I had to do.
With no mobile phone, a super packed car, two red bulls, and only the money from my CD sells from my feature at Legacy Books and Café the night before, my printed out directions from map quest, I turned around and said goodbye to the high-rises at the Cochran Projects as they were being torn down. I went back in the house and kissed both of my brothers. Drove to my moms job, my mom was livid that I was doing the drive alone. The look on her face was a mix of hurt and fear. No matter how many times I reassured her I would be okay, and that I would call when I stopped at gas stations, and my first resting point in Stone Mountain, GA at a friends house, she was still not havin' it. However, I got in my car with tears streaming down my face and drove to my cousins house to kiss all of them. My Uncle Bill was like, "make sure you call us whenever you stop," but he never turned around from his computer to look at me. I kissed him on the cheek, left out the house I grew up in, and drove around the corner to, Junior's, the neighborhood mechanic so he could look at my car to make sure I would make it past East St. Louis.
I was so nervous when I hit the road that I got lost trying to make it to the highway. I must've went back and forth over the MKL bridge about 8 times before I took a deep breath, looked at the Arch and said out loud, "you better go now or you won't leave." I tried to block out the look on my mothers face, and the fact that neither one of my brothers helped me pack my car. I held on to my cousin Danny's smile and that look in her eyes, and her telling me, "I'm proud of you. Now go."
I cried myself through Tennessee. I remember saying out loud to myself while pounding my steering wheel, "What are you doing?!" The warning signs for falling rocks on the side of the road and swerving 18-wheelers made my nerves even worse, plus I was juiced up on one red bull which made me feel crazy. (I still won't touch that shit to this day.)
When I arrived in Stone Mountain at Derrick's house, a fellow poet, I ate two veggie burgers he fixed for me, called my mom and my extended family to let them know I made it, and then I fell asleep. The next morning I had two more veggie burgers, some water and then I hit the road.
Florida is a long state! The Florida Turnpike was majestic and monotonous. At several points I felt like I saw people running through the trees in tattered clothes. There was something eerie about the poplar and willow trees that lined the turnpike, and I had a kind of sadness wash over me.
I recited a lot of poems, and sung a lot of Phoebe Snow and Stevie Wonder songs along the way. When I started to feel like I may not be making the best decision, I started to think about the long conversations I use to have with my best friend in his basement. I relied a lot on good memories during that drive so I wouldn't think about how freaked out my mother was. Each time I called my mom when I stopped, her voice sound as if she'd been holding her breath and finally exhaling at the sound of my voice.
I arrived in Miami about 1-days before classes were to start. I had a friend who was moving back to Detroit from Miami so I had his apartment for a couple days. In the meantime, I had to look for a job. Get a job. Find an apartment, and move into that apartment. My plan was to sleep in my car or at a homeless shelter until I found a job and apartment. I knew I had a nice size commission check coming from my last gig so, this plan was solid to me. Yeah, my best friends mom wasn't havin' it. By the grace of God I found a job and apartment in two days, and when my commission check came, I gladly paid back my best friends mom.
While the road there was not easy, it was honestly one of the hardest things I've ever done in my life, but I wouldn't change it for the world.
The adventure I went on via my Miami Ad School gave me the opportunity to live in different parts of the US, and back home for a few months, and the quarter I lived in London shaped me in such a beautiful way. I have a lot of great memories from those days, and some people who are in my life forever because I was crazy enough to step out on faith and follow my dream.
*Me and that dude in the picture met the first week of class in 2002. He became my Art Director partner in 2005 when I took my first major job in advertising at Burrell Communications in Chicago. I am now the Godmother of his daughter and we are stuck with each other for life.