It’s been approximately 60 days since I packed up Lotus, my 2003 Honda Pilot, with all of my belongings that I could fit into it so I could relocate to Santa Fe to pursue my MA degree in Art Therapy & Counseling at SWC! Yes, I left the “Charm City” (Baltimore, MD), leaving my beloved, my friends, my clients and my spiritual community behind to create a new life in “The Land of Enchantment!” Many have asked “WHY?” On an intellectual level my “why” is because there are no schools, as in ZERO, on the East Coast that offer a MA degree in Art Therapy & Counseling. Attending a program like this will allow me to sit for both the art therapy and the counseling licensing exams.
However, on a spiritual level my “WHY” is because I need a change. I need to experience living out of my comfort zone; I need to experience “adulting” on my own in a way I have never experienced before. I want to learn another culture, another way of living and operating in the world. I admit I can be very closed minded and I hope that experiencing life in a new way will support me in opening my mind and expanding my vision! And quite frankly, my spirit called me here! Not to sound “cliché’” or “whoo whoo” but in all seriousness my spirit led me here (there is more to that, but that will have to be another blog post).
Now that I am here, the beginning of my journey has been interesting! I find it fascinating that I relocated from a city where I saw my reflection at every turn (Baltimore has a large African American population) to a city where seeing my reflection is rare, especially at a time when our country is so divided. I don’t think this is a coincidence. I definitely feel that I am here at this time for a reason. I am not sure what “the reason” is, however, I have some glimpses as to what it could be.
My name is Maqueita (pronounced MA-QWEE-TA), and all of my life I’ve been called everything but Maqueita such as: Marquita, Marguerita, Makita and every other possible combination you can think of. In my younger years it would make me angry when people would pronounce my name incorrectly, especially after I had corrected them several times. In college I began going by Maq (pronounced Mack) as a way to reinvent myself and because I was tired of correcting people. To date, the only people who call me Maqueita are my family, my childhood friends and my partner. As I began meeting people within the SWC community I introduced myself as Maqueita. The reaction I received was surprising, many gasped and clutched their hands to their hearts and would say “that is beautiful, what does it mean?” My name means “Divine Gift.”
I was raised, as most African Americans, to believe that I have to do twice as much work to receive half of what others who do not look like me receive. I have to show up better, work harder, stretch more and be more in order to be seen as somewhat competent. So, when I walked into my first class and realized there was no reflection of me in the classroom I could hear that voice in my head say “I have to prove myself, I have to be better.” Three hours later, I walked into my second class and again, no reflection. What I found to be interesting is that in both classes my professors invited the extroverts to challenge themselves to share less so that the introverts have any opportunity to speak up. I have always considered myself an extrovert, with introverted tendencies, but when it comes to doing work like this, my passion, I can talk for hours. In my profession as a Spiritual Life Coach I am compensated to talk, talking is “my high” so why wouldn’t I talk and talk in abundance? This request was in direct conflict with this urge to “prove myself, to be better.”
I learned through my training as a spiritual life coach and through my reading of The Alchemist, “to pay attention to the omens!” This message of pulling back as an extrovert was an omen, and I was curious as to what it was showing up to reveal to me. That’s when I remembered the meaning of my name “Divine Gift” and how I had spoken it out loud more times than I can remember within the last sixty days. Perhaps, that’s part of my lesson here in Santa Fe; to remember and to know that I am a DIVINE GIFT! That WHO I have been created TO BE is a Divine Gift. I don’t have to do anything or prove anything… that my only job is TO BE me. As I write this, I am aware that my presence is needed within the SWC community because my classmates are going to serve people who look like me… and maybe my presence will support them in addressing the needs of their clients; my presence is needed in this field because the truth is that black and brown people seek mental health services at disproportionately lower rates than white people; my presence is needed in art therapy because most African American people have never heard of art therapy. My presence is enough, who I am is enough… I AM A DIVINE GIFT… I AM MAQUEITA!
Maqueita, a certified spiritual life coach, wrote this during her first-year, first quarter as a graduate student in the art therapy department. She also served as a graduate assistant. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Update 2019, since writing this, several students of color have attended Southwestern College.