Knowing...Is A Superpower
Life@GWN with Martina Clark
Martina Clark is a mentor, educator, and award-winning author of My Unexpected Life: An International Memoir of Two Pandemics, HIV and COVID-19. Check out martina-clark.com to follow her blog, read interviews, and listen to podcasts…but enough from us…
Tell us about Your Life@GWN
Being a Girls Write Now Mentor and community member is a joy, providing me a way to give back and share my decades of life experience both as a writer and a person-who has navigated some wild rides. What I particularly like about mentoring is the one-on-one time I get to spend with my mentee, digging deeper into her goals as a writer, something I don’t get with my regular college students since they come and go each semester. I love the workshops and all I’ve learned from the diverse group of experts who present and share their wisdom. Girls Write Now is a remarkable program, and it is an honor to be involved.
I am most at peace being near trees hearing birds, especially owls, seeing stars at night, or falling asleep on a boat, rocking in the water. Since I live in NYC, none of these things happen often enough, so I settle for consuming books and inhabiting other worlds through the writing of others, with a cup of tea nearby and my cat on my lap.
The Best, the Best, and the Best
The best advice I ever received was to imagine what I’d do if I didn’t need money and then try to incorporate some element of that, no matter how small, into my professional life. We spend a lot of time working and if we only do jobs for money but don’t enjoy them, smashing down our passions, then we become miserable. Although those options are rarely easy, there is often some small way to bring joy into even the most mundane work. Doing so proactively helps us keep in balance and honor our souls. After working for the past 45 years, I can verify that this strategy is a good one.
The best compliment I ever received was being thanked for the work I did with the United Nations, advocating for the needs of women and men living with HIV. In those moments, I knew that my hard work not only had been worth it, but that individuals actually benefited and, in turn, their lives were improved or their work had been facilitated so they could help others. We don't always see the results of our labor, so that compliment made my heart sing.
The best career decision I’ve ever made was to leave a job when I was burned out. I knew that if I stayed, I would no longer be effective in my job and not only would I be doing a disservice to my employer, I’d be ruining my own emotional well-being. As I saw the signs, I looked for opportunities so I could step away before it was too late. I had to acknowledge that my creative soul didn’t always fit in bureaucratic boxes and while I probably missed out on the perks that come with climbing a career ladder, the inner peace is worth every penny-pinching move to maintain balance in my life. Knowing when a job has become untenable and/or toxic is a superpower.
Teaching a Subject I was Born to...
The universe smiles upon me.
I actually get to teach a class in which I excel, ENG101. It might seem like a boring class one simply has to take, but for me, through the structure of writing for academia, I teach my students to find their voice on the page. From my perspective, it is a social justice course put to use through the mechanics of writing. In helping my students discern what they want to say and how to fit it into the constraints of academia, they fine tune their own truths to amplify their voices. It is my hope that they come away from the course knowing not only how to write several styles of essays and a research paper within which they can still express themselves and that, most importantly, they have the right to do so. For research papers, I have them include sources on human rights, locally, nationally, and globally, as well literary sources so they make the link to the power of writing. Their papers always astound me at the depth and importance of the topics they tackle. My students give me hope for our collective future. I feel blessed to share my life experience and skillset so they can benefit and take the work forward.
What Advice Would You Give to Your 10 Year-Old Self?
“Finally, you’re doing what you love!”
10-year-old Martina might be impressed and say “finally, you’re doing what you love!” It was a long journey, but I did become the storyteller young Martina had always been. Young Martina always imagined a better world where she did what SHE wanted, and at long last, that Martina inhabits the world full-time. It took a long time, overcoming many obstacles including an HIV diagnosis at 28-years-old, a failed, abusive marriage, and three years with long-COVID resulting in permanent damage to her left eye. But 10-year-old Martina is proud of her never giving up and, above else, in finding her voice and turning that volume up to LOUD!
What One Thing Would You Change About Your Life?
To live somewhere quiet, and closer to family. I miss nature and quiet; urban life has worn me down. As I age, I miss being in close proximity to my sisters, brothers, and many niblings and great niblings. I missed my niblings early years as I worked and traveled, living abroad for my previous career with the United Nations, and I don’t want to miss out on their children’s lives. My goal is to move back to Northern California soon where I can have both nature and family nearby.
If you belong to the Girls Write Now community and have a story to share, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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