Cover Story: This Woman's Work

Devin switches from self to service

May 10, 2001 at 2:06 pm
Jymi Bolden

Devin Parrish tooka while to find her true calling.

"We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him."

—Romans 8:28

I'm a December 2000 college graduate who, six weeks into my undergraduate freedom, completely changed my life's objective from the attainment of praise and self-gratification to that of service.

During my elementary and middle-school days, I incessantly wrote short stories and scripts about everything from God to murder. By the time I began writing for the Princeton High School newspaper in the 11th grade, my focus turned to journalism. After several unfulfilling internships with local media and Black Entertainment Television (BET), I was disenchanted by the whole pursuit.

Add to that a very boring college education — I wrote poems during lectures — and I discovered I was mentally exhausted trying to exist through it all despite, or perhaps because of, transferring colleges.

In the midst of growing pains, my parents broke up.

I transferred twice in two years, had financial trials the entire time and finally graduated from Northern Michigan University (NMU) nearly broken. Personal issues coupled with years of dealing with simple-minded professors in a very stoic collegiate environment took its toll: I had twin anxiety attacks born four months apart.

It was clear.

Ignoring a calling can have grave effects on a person.

The pursuit of an undergraduate degree was dizzying. I entered that experience with an indifferent attitude. Frankly, I think college is a luxury but, realistically, on the whole it validates us and allows us to up the ante in bidding on our own behalf in the twinned politics of career and life.

Those who posses it — whether it's a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree — can do two things: serve or be served. Degrees are impressive, but service makes impressions.

So I've chosen to serve, to teach.

Because my entire education experience has been bittersweet — mostly bitter — it's my duty not to repeat the same mistakes as a teacher that disgusted me as a student.

I'm a substitute teacher aspiring to become a full-time English teacher somewhere. My writing gift should be free to do what it wants, and it cannot do that in the confines of a typical journalistic regime. I'm now writing with a new-found freedom and vigor born from an assurance that I'd somehow lost: that God will take care of me.

I want that, and I want to be healthy so I can enjoy it.

I am blessed to be where I am at this exact moment. I am 23 years old. I am an evolving black woman looking forward to marriage, sex and children. I do not have my own place yet, but I'm living with my mother, who understands better than I do that I need rest.

My father verbally and indirectly tells me he loves me by encouraging me to write a book and to get it published. I've never had my own car, but I drive around in my mom's green Escort wagon playing my CDs.

I can still come home to the privacy of my room where I dance, write, sing and laugh at the top of my lungs, meditate and cry. All of these are the ingredients in the character of this teacher who relates, exchanges and loves.

What a tremendous freedom!

Once, while I attended NMU, I spoke to a group of education majors about my experiences. I told them what it was like for me in the classrooms throughout my life — a black girl passing from kindergarten through college.

Afterward my Uncle Bill, a NMU staffer, told me, "You're a teacher."

I laughed. ©