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June 13th, 2008 - Shavahn Dorris-Jefferson’s word of the day was “apprise.”

“Apprise: \uh-PRYZ\, transitive verb: To give notice to; to inform; -- often followed by of; as, we will apprise the general of an intended attack; he apprised the commander of what he had done.”

I was 29 and a little disappointed with the word because I already knew what it meant. I subscribed to Word of the Day because I felt as if my formal education up until then had been lacking. I felt as if I hadn’t read enough, didn’t know enough, wasn’t smart enough. The word of the day was a small attempt to fill in my knowledge gaps or, in other words, to teach myself the things no one had bothered to apprise me of.

As it turned out, there were many things I felt no one had bothered to inform me as I approached 30.

I had not been apprised of the fact that my body would change in ways I did not understand and felt I couldn’t control. I could no longer eat whatever I wanted without getting rounder, fuller. I would crouch down and try to get up quickly only to find that my knees didn’t seem to want to work. I needed my glasses to watch TV.

I had not been apprised of the dangers of comparing myself to my peers—other 29-year-olds who were doing well in seemingly dream careers, buying sprawling McMansions, or traveling the world like carefree gypsies. I didn’t know that doing so could often make me, a struggling graduate student, feel inadequate, jealous, and sometimes like a complete failure.

I had not been apprised of the annoying realization that 29 was the year when practically every conversation with friends, family and strangers would involve at least one question about when I planned to start having children, or how many children did I want to have, or why don’t I have any children, or if I had discussed having children with my husband, or how long do I want to wait until I start a family, or how could I be so selfish as to wait to have children.

I had not been apprised of the reality that marriage required more effort than I initially wanted to exert, and that finding reasons to leave was often easier than working to make things better.

I had not been apprised of the fact that old relationships will always be with you—a part of you—but don’t have to shape current relationships.

I had not been apprised of the effort it would take to redefine my idea of beauty after cutting off my long, chemically straightened hair to sport my naturally kinky hair. I didn’t know that I’d hate to look at myself in the mirror for the first 6 months after. I had no idea that I wouldn’t know how to take care of my real hair or how to style it. I wasn’t told that people would make offensive comments about my hair, some unintentionally, but others a bit more intentional, like the person who called me Buckwheat and the one who told me to go back to Africa.

I had not been apprised of the longing I’d feel for my youth.

I had not been apprised of the relief I’d feel that my twenties were almost over.

I was 29, and I felt unprepared. It was as if no one had told me how to be a proper adult, or how to deal with my sometimes very childish feelings.

But I wasn’t exactly sure who should’ve apprised me of these things. Or who even could have. And the fact is, even if someone at the time had said to me, “I’ve come to apprise you of the fact that 29 is a difficult age, but hang on, it’ll get better,” I probably wouldn’t have believed them. Sometimes knowledge comes from living. Sometimes knowledge is earned.


Shavahn Dorris-Jefferson is a writer and English instructor from Joliet, IL. Her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in Salamander, The Baltimore Review, Río Grande Review, and Sugar House Review, among others. She recently received an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Shavahn encourages you to contribute to SKIP, Inc. SKIP provides support services to children of incarcerated parents and their families and to increase public awareness of the underlying problems of these children as victims through education, advocacy and research. Learn more at



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