Frankly my dear…

I’m a pretty complex creature. I have good days, bad days, days of all kinds of things. I’m an extroverted introvert and I could list a ton of labels that would go on for days. What I wanted to be, for a very long time though, is frank. Just very up-front, not wishy-washy. i want to call things like I see them, and have other people understand it as I meant it.

Which is why I started blogging in the first place. It’s why I tell the hard stories, the ones that are personal, the ones that enrage. Because if no one else will say anything, I have to. And that goes double for the topics I am passionate about: mental health and ending rape culture. This should come as no surprise-I talk about pretty much nothing else.

Something came up recently that crossed my mind and I thought I’d share it here. It’s a mental health blog day, so I want to be upfront with that. I’ll be talking about self-harm (although only about scars-no descriptors or pictures) and I will be talking about moving forward and healing. I’m going to start with the story I just submitted to The Mighty.

“My self image has always been a love-hate relationship. I grew up in a world where a woman who was headstrong, opinionated and loved herself just didn’t exist. That’s not to say that I had no support to be those things, but rather that I listened to everything else. Everything that was telling me how not good enough I was, how unacceptable it was to be me.

“I started self-harming as a freshman in high school. It wasn’t a cry for help, or a plea for death. It was a desperate attempt at a reprieve. I didn’t want to die, I just had no other way of expressing the pain and the level of emotions I felt on the inside. And although my skin has been forgiving, I avoid looking at my arms. I can see each and every scar and I think that hurts more than it did making them. The few people who know say that they can’t really see them, but it doesn’t matter-because I can.

“So I decided I was going to get a really pretty tattoo-something to cover them up. The most of them were on my left arm, so the location choice was easy. I spent weeks designing, critiquing and reworking until I had everything I wanted. It was a beautiful representation, the most lovely piece of artwork I’d ever made. I chose to remind myself that if I am unhappy, I can change. So I made a promise to myself that whenever I was frustrated or I didn’t like the choices I’d made, the situations I was in, I’d move on to something I did love, and that made me happy.

“When I was explaining my choice of design and placement, I picked my words carefully. I wanted to remind myself that life was beautiful. I picked the placement so that I would never self-harm there again. Why? Because I’d worked so hard on that art and destroying it was something I absolutely could never do. The hope and love that it represented were things that simply had to last much longer than the pain of a blade, or the pain on the inside.

“Later that night, as I reflected on what I’d said, I cried. If I could have such reverence for art-why couldn’t I have it for myself? I’ve spend decades becoming the person I am. A piece of art that takes that long is something that should be treasured far more than something that takes a few weeks and yet I’d spend half that time tearing it down, devaluing it and ripping at the very fabric of its creation.

“The thing is, I only let four people know I was getting my tattoo. I told two of them the meaning behind it and I kept the final design a secret from everyone except the artist. I sat down in the chair and when I got up again, the art on the inside was finally reflected on the outside. I keep looking at my arm, not seeing the scars that reminded me of how sad I was, how fragile and full of self-hate I was. Instead, I see hope and the promise I made to myself that unless I can say “I wish for this” to my choices, I have the power to change the situation, the duty to make myself happy, and the courage to be exactly the wonderful artwork of a person that I am.”


With that in mind, I went to work yesterday and my arm was uncovered-so everyone saw. I’m quite frankly very proud of the art, and the meaning and I had no problem telling everyone about it.  I even told them why. And the looks I got back were, well, they were interesting. And that’s what got me thinking.

I wanted to tell them the story of courage and beauty and love–self love. And the reactions were varied-usually some place between a pitying “I understand” or a shocked “I didn’t know that about her”. I’m not upset at either of these, but it made me think about why I was telling people in the first place. I’m not a “sharing” person, but I wanted everyone to know about it. So where was the disconnect?

I was so frank about what I wanted people to know because if no one is going to start the conversation, then I will. And as I said, if that means people give me looks, ask nosy questions or change their opinion of me, then that’s fine. Because maybe it’s the first time they’ve come in contact with these issues-and I want them to know that their preconceived notions might be wrong.

**Disclaimer-my work people are really great. They weren’t judgy or nosy, nor did they look down at me-I’m just saying that those are the reactions I’ve had from others.

 

 

 

 

Stacy’s Mom, Strong Coffee and Wintermageddon

Making it through the day is never more frustrating than when you wake up to two inches of snow and it’s raining ice. (I know, that was my first thought too.) The first several moments are the ones which set the tone for the rest of the day. And I thought that waking up this morning would be a little easier. I had known it would be snowing, I figured it would just continue to be powder and that it would be a relatively easy to get to work today. I mean, a little snow couldn’t keep me down (thanks Chumbawamba!). And that’s when I remembered that I’d been meaning to put a blog out. I wasn’t sure of the topic, but when I set up for the day and “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne came on, I knew what I wanted my blog to be about: the ever pressing issue of time.

Mostly I try to look forward, look ahead. I mean, the past has finished, and in the words of the great philosopher Rafiki (which means “friend” in Kiswahili if you wanted to know-I took 3 semesters of the language in college!):

 

(I own NO rights to Disney-I just needed the quote.)
I mean, those of you who know me in person probably also know that I will be graduating from law school in 2020, and being that I am very excited, will be walking to get my diploma in a flapper dress, and celebrating the entire day with Jazz music and the like. I literally love that the culture of the 20s will be able to be repeated in a modest sense (I hope there’s less racism and mobsters and not so much prohibition, but you know…) Anyway, so I’m very excited about the whole “Roaring (20)20’s. But I think for the moment, we need to look back with a purpose.

“90’s Kids”

If you were a 90’s kid-and I want to clarify this-if you were a child during the 90’s, NOT necessarily just having been born in the 90’s, there are some similarities we all cling to. But this isn’t just your “Things 90’s Kids Will Remember” list. This is an honest look into the 90s, as written by someone who spent almost the entire decade alive. Which means I was the young end of the 90’s, but I had access to a bunch of stuff from the 80’s as a child and therefore it counts. (I’ve proven my worth to many 80’s-born adults-it counts.)

If you look at the paragraph above, you’ll notice that I’ve typed “90’s Kids” pretty much every time I referred to the age group. However, if you look at the people who were aged 6-18 by 2000, you’ll be quick to realize that that age group is now 22-34 and we are hardly children anymore. But the moniker sticks. No one ever says “90’s generation”, “90’s born” or really anything you can think of except “90’s kids”. And why is that, you ask? That’s my point of discussion for today. But in order to discuss that, we need to get into the culture differences between back then and now, as well as some key points. That’s what I meant by “this won’t be a list necessarily, but it’s all basically relevant.” So, here goes nothing.

The 90’s were a time of revolution. There were changes to the pop culture scene, entertainment and social realms which trace their beginnings back to that specific decade. Other trends were merely a continuation of ones which had come before. But for better or for worse, the 90’s are a part of our history. For this analysis, I will need the help of:

The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Nokia, Drew Barrymore, Christina Ricci, Ever After, The Addams Family, Cinderella (with Whitney Houston), The Dark Angel and The Baby Sitter’s Club. Honorable mentions include: slap bracelets, The Oregon Trail and Lisa Frank.

If you cannot finish the line: In West Philadelphia born and raised… I question the validity of your belonging to the decade. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air was a staple for the 90’s. But it was also something different. It was humor centered around a respectable family of color. They worked hard, acted just like many families in the 90’s and it was funny in such a way that it was not inherently racist. So why is it worth the mention it? Because in a time when #BlackLivesMatter and the apparent panic over Beyonce’s Super Bowl show, it reminds us of a time when it was entirely okay to be like everyone else and be entirely different-at the same time. Although some things are now a little dated, honestly, this one is worth the look-back for the humor, the realism and the wistful vision of how sometimes family is enough to make everything better. And you know what is even better? Comedy that is funny for the sake of funny, not because it s so abrasive that you laugh because you’re uncomfortable. Seriously, the language was pretty decent, I think that there is much to be said for humor that doesn’t have to be vulgar.

 I’ve posted about Buffy before on my “role model” blog, but I mention her again for good reason. In a time before Harry Potter Hermione Granger, you would be hard pressed to find a stronger TV woman than Buffy, and I don’t mean physically. She had reasonable flaws (like a lazy streak when it came out studying) but sh was also very protective of her family, her friends and on several occasions even her enemies. And yes, there is the issue of Buffy+Spike, but apart from that, Buffy was written in such a way that you related. You wanted to go after school and work on your slayer abilities (or become a Wicca!). It wasn’t only really relatable for viewers, Sarah Michelle Gellar (Buffy) cried so hard when Angel said goodbye officially, that if you listen closely enough, David (Angel) says “Sarah” instead of “Buffy”. She believed in her character. And that is so hard to find nowadays. So why is this worth the mention? Because not only is it representative of the 90’s culture, it’s a TV show about a FEMALE lead with realistic attributes (and body size!) but also with friends who are equally as complex. In a time when feminism still gets a bad rap, we should take heart that there is an entire generation of voting age, working adults who grew up with Buffy and learned how to treat themselves and others as equals. Buffy was also a high school girl-who actually looked like a high school girl. I mean, today they look like 29 year old super models. (Also, Joss has remained active in Hollywood-check him out!)****I will add The Dark Angel here, because it was a TV show about a female lead as well, but I think Jessica Alba’s character is really the beginning of hyper-sexualization in TV heroines. She gets an honorable mention for the fact that her show was really about a female main character who really was pretty capable of being on her own, but the thing is that she had a leather outfit kind of like Catwoman and it really just looked sexy-not functional.

The Baby Sitter’s Club brings up a really great set of memories of my own. I went through 2 younger siblings, being entrusted by my parents to babysit as deemed safe and appropriate from the time I was about 7. They didn’t leave me alone to do so until I was about 12, but I also went to babysitting class and learned CPR and that stuff. I remember when my sister was born, my parents were ultra protective, but by the time she was able to crawl, she was taking naps on this HUGE mattress. I was asked to watch her overnight (we shared a bedroom for YEARS) and let my parents know if she started crying.I was so concerned that she would wake up and I wouldn’t hear it that little 7 year old me stayed up ALL night. My sister slept all night, as a matter of fact. My mom laughed at my predicament and told me that I hadn’t needed to stay up all night and that my sister would have been okay (she was about a year at that point). My first job was babysitting at the age of 13, and I continued to do so until I got into college. So why mention the BSC? Because in this day and age, it is increasingly difficult to have a child of the age of 13 be emotionally and mentally mature enough to handle babysitting-even just one child (At 15 I was watching 3 boys under the age of 10). And what’s scarier is the number of people aged 14-17 who are parents. But that’s a topic for another day I suppose. Anyway, my main point is that the BSC made babysitting cool, and all the girls were young like I was.

  

I’m going to combine the next set of movies/TV shows into one umbrella category called “freedom of self”. Now of course, I know that Ever After and Cinderella are basically the same theme, but The Addams Family goes here too. Cinderella, the one with Whitney Houston (may her soul rest in peace), was a novel idea when it came out. Why? Because Cinderella, her godmother and the Queen were all women of color. The Prince was Filipino (if I’m not mistaken), the King and his servants were all white, as were the Stepmother and the stepsisters. Why mention race at all? Because Cinderella traditionally is an all white cast. The direction of this movie was done with the talents in mind, not their skin color. Ever After is my FAVORITE adaptation. I love Drew Barrymore (we’ll get to her) in general, but in this version, Cinderella saves herself. She escapes based on her own determination and will-power. And there’s factual historical moments included in it too. The Addams Family (with Christinaa Ricci) and more specifically Values, was a move that made it entirely okay to be different. Christina played Wednesday who stuck out of camp like a sore thumb, but made a friend out of the other “outcast”. And that’s the thing. Why should we pay attention to these? Because no matter your color, your IQ, your color palette preferences, how much you love to read, you can always find someone else who feels as alone as you. But if you just believe in yourself, that’s all that really matters. No woman needs to wait on a “knight in shining armor” when she can pick up a sword and battle her way to freedom.

Drew Barrymore and Christina Ricci should be on every list of awesome things about the 90’s for one reason: their strength. And again, I’m not talking about their physical strength, I’m talking about their emotional and mental strength. They both were involved in some pretty self-destructive behaviors-drugs, alcohol, self-harm, but they pulled out of it. Making steps to their own personal freedoms was not easy, but they did it and look more fabulous than ever. Why bother to mention them? Because they are real life heroines who show strength and a capacity for self-improvement. I’ll include them in my list of role models. Because I’ve always looked up to the people who can take their lives and turn them around to make something better for their future. Plus, these two ushered in the grunge scene. Which, if you wanted to know is making a comeback. Does that mean we will return to punk, goth, emo, scene and then the hipster movement? Well, what goes around comes around, so maybe.

   

 

The last thing I want to bring up is the technology revolution. I mentioned Nokia above, and I wanted to maybe explain why we are still called (and self-refer as) “90’s kids”.

 

  (This is a Motorola i530 from 2004. It was my mom’s first cellphone and thusly the first cellphone in our home.) The first “cell phone” was sold in 1982 for $4,000USD. The ones which are affordable and stuff were sold in the 90’s. I’ve taken some screen shots so we can remember how far we’ve come.

  
  
If you notice up above these pictures, under the “Bumblebee phone” I typed the caption that that was my mother’s first phone in 2004. I’m only guesstimating, but I think it was closer to 2005. But the point still works. I was over a decade old before cellphones were a commonplace thing in my childhood home. I didn’t get my first one until I was a freshman in high school-when I took the job babysitting three boys. But that means that developmentally, I lived in the 80’s most of my life. I had tin-foil wrapped TV antennae, I played in the water hose which came from our well, and rarely spent any of my time watching TV. We never owned a gaming system and I bought my first iPad last year. Now, what’s that got to do with my main point, you ask?

Everything.

As a child in the 80’s, technology was sparse. And it continued to be so until 2000, making that generation at minimum 20 before the technology boom. They lived their childhoods with the sparse st of entertainment (of the electronic kind) and their adulthood was marked by technology. 

As a child in the 2000’s, technology was abundant. New waves of technology crop up, children are raised with iPads and leap pads and child-computers so that they can be fully functional techno-savvy adults. Their whole lives will be marked by technological advances.

So what of the 90’s kids? If you, like me, were basically brought in with the new decade, the first half of your childhood was very comparable to the 80’s. There was TV, your parents told you to play outside and if you wanted to hang out with friends, t was in person. Usually your friends had siblings and you basically always had to either chauffeur and chaperone or were chauffered and chaperoned by those siblings. But then 1995 hit and technology became easily accessible to the general public. Telephones were no longer connected to a landline, emails and instant messaging took off. Essays now had to be typed instead of written in cursive and you suddenly had access to pop culture from other outlets besides TV. And so, you are both in both worlds and excluded from them. Your childhood was ripped in half by the great divide that is technology. Instead of fitting in with the older crowd, you are teaching them how to use the new updates to their fullest advantage. Instead of fitting in with the younger crowd, you feel your maturity and mannerisms are outdated and therefore make you too old to relate. So I will ask again, what of the 90’s kids? Well, that’s just it.

The 90’s kids are a subculture all their own, intent on reclaiming the half of their childhood that was lost. We see Disney movies repeatedly (singing along and pointing out the flaws), while settling in for a glass of wine (red-for the antioxidants). We reach for the Atari games when COD is on the Xbox (because Atari is like the Solitaire of consoles-it’s a classic). We are hopeless romantics, while being incredibly feminist (because we like having the option to be taken care of but know that we can rely on ourselves as independent individuals). We are passionate about others because we grew up in a time of superheroes and super heroines who sacrificed themselves for the greater good. We watch older shows and listen to older music because they remind us of a time when entertainment meant something and wasn’t just to make the producers money. We feel strongly about our beliefs, even if they differ from everyone else. And we remember the greatness of Saturday mornings, ensuring that we value the weekend forever. We enjoy working hard when it’s noticed. We take our futures seriously, even though it seems that no one takes us seriously. And above all, we’re just trying to figure out what it all means. We are the generation of idealists, of thinkers, of planners. We are the generation of confused, adult-children with no idea who we really are or how we are going to succeed. We are the generation that was stolen. And it’s time we reclaim our place.

   
 

Here Be Dragons

Sometimes it is absolutely necessary to remind yourself that it’s okay, that you’re only suffering a minor setback and that life will continue on, as it indeed always does. You may not want life to change, or approve of it, you may desire it more than you desire anything else in the world. But at some point, change comes for us all and the only thing you have to do is be ready.I wrote a piece about driving a while ago, about how I just couldn’t seem to, and about how it was a source of great shame for me. I finished the piece by saying that my New Year Resolution was to drive more, to be free of the bonds that strapped me into the passenger seat. It has been a week since the year started and what have I done to accomplish that goal?

 

 A bit actually.

The second or third I drove to the store. I can’t say that I drove back from said store, but I darn sure drove there. And my husband and I talked about it and I realized that if I just kept to the quick and simple stuff, I would never succeed in my goal at all.

But I’m not going to lie to you. This is not easy for me.

Yesterday, I had work and I usually have my husband take me in, so that I can just focus on work and he can hang out at the school and get stuff done. We’re on break, which makes that sentence completely illogical, but we’re an active sort of people who quite like the academic scene. He hadn’t slept well and asked if I could take myself in. I immediately burst into tears, the panic having surged through me faster than a tornado. I felt woozy, nauseous and above all, I felt ashamed. Why couldn’t I just get over it? What was wrong with me? So on our way home yesterday, after he graciously picked me up, I asked him timidly if he wouldn’t mind coming with me either today or Friday as my passenger. He agreed, saying he wanted to start working out anyway and this would force him to do so. Last night, I went to bed nervous, exhausted and wondering what I’d done.

This morning, he again told me he hadn’t slept well and I let him sleep a little longer. I prepared my stuff, got my coffee and took the dog out. I looked over the parking lot and once again got the panicked sort of emotions and sensations. I knew that I would have a difficult time talking myself into it and an even worse time if I talked myself out of it. So I hauled myself up to our apartment and grabbed a few more things (let’s be real here- I grabbed a bunch of good luck charms), waited for my husband to finish getting ready and then marched myself down to the car. My hands were shaking, I felt sick and I started the car.

Wouldn’t you know it, rush hour was waiting for me.

I can’ tell you the curse words that streamed in my head. How dare other people be on the road when I was trying to get over my fears? I mean, didn’t they know that I was going to be driving?

And I realized that there was no other place, no other time, that could possibly make my journey more ideal. It was rush hour that gave me a headache, made me a nervous passenger. It was the highway that made my heart race. And that sounds like the settings for the battleground to me. 

I made it to the school, having managed to drive on two separate highways and through campus traffic. I didn’t throw up, pass out, or any of the terrible things that I assumed would happen. I didn’t crash, didn’t die and didn’t break down. I didn’t even say that chant from the previous post. I marched myself up to work with a smile on my face, saying hello to everyone I met. I know that I’m not done for the day-my shift has only really just begun and I’m still nervous about the drive home, but when I grabbed one of my good luck pieces from my pocket, I had to smile pretty fiercely. I mean, just look at how fitting it is.

  

One week down, fifty one more to go.

Collide

The title to this blog is the song, but as you’ll see, it also represents something else to me. Today, I want to try to describe a scenario which to me, is the singular reason why I can’t seem to get a grip this past year. I know that being prone to moods and their sways is also not helpful, but I can think of no other thing which makes me feel like a shitty person, friend and individual. I don’t need sympathies, but I hope that my words help someone. And if not, they at least help me.

Fear.

When I was younger I had a dream. Like one of those really vivid nightmare type dreams where you’re positive that it will come true. It was me driving a little car down a road in Columbus, passing under a bridge and getting into an accident. That accident (in the dream) caused me to die. I even remember looking at the black lamp post where blood had splattered. THAT kind of vivid. It’s stuck with me as a weird gut feeling ever since.

Going on a couple years ago now, my husband and I were in a pretty hellacious car accident. We were totally fine, but the car was not. In fact, had the horse (yes, we hit a horse) been any heavier, I would have eaten some very serious amounts of windshield. It ended up that the windshield was an inch away from my face. The horse, for all you animal people, was entirely fine. He got up immediately and ran off. Later the owner found him and got vet treatment immediately, or so he told me. I was in the passenger seat. It shook me a little, but for the most part I was entirely okay.

Fast forward a couple years and a couple cars and I now live in Columbus. I drove all my stuff up here when we moved, I drove back from the grocery store once and I drove to school (but not back) and other than that I have not driven at all. I’ve been here for almost 6 months. Why? I live so close to so many wonderful things that I could literally go anywhere I please and be amazed at the fabulous scenes and sounds. But instead, I stay home or catch rides with someone else (namely my husband). He doesn’t seem to mind, but there are moments when I know it bothers him. 

The reason I’m even writing about this is because well, really two things. The first being that I need to acknowledge that it holds me back. The second is that I want everyone to know that I’m not being a bad friend, or a bad family member, I have a real problem and I’m really just not handling it very well. So I want to describe to you the process of getting from my house to anywhere.

I have a good luck charm, which always goes into the right hand front pocket of my jeans. If I’m dressing up, it goes into another pocket on the same side. It’s full of herbs and charms and crystals which are supposed to bring safety and observation skills. I then put on my best face, grab my stuff and head to the car. By that point, I already have an upset stomach, my head hurts and I fell like I’m going to throw up. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. I. GET. INTO. A VEHICLE. And that can be quite often if it’s during the school week. So we pull out of the drive and I’m already feeling sick. I look down at my phone while my husband drives and check the news or Facebook or anything I can to keep me occupied. It doesn’t last for long though, because soon enough we’re on the highway and that’s when phase two of my passenger ritual begins.

I have a little chant that I say while clasping my hands together between my knees. It goes a little something like this:

We shall not break down, crash or die today

Not no how, not no way.

And I say that probably for a good 15 minutes solid. Even longer if the traffic is bad, which it usually is. I do this because I’ve developed a nasty habit of pointing at brake lights, gasping a braking cars and saying my husband’s name when people merge into our lane. He put up with it for a while, but my fears were (and usually are) unfounded and he thought I felt that he was a bad driver. I don’t feel like that at all. I’m just literally terrified of being on the road. So I try my hardest to remain quiet in the mornings for our commute, finally starting to open up when we make it to the school. 

In the afternoon, I try a different approach. I say my little rhyme once or twice, usually just at the ramps and then I try to talk to him about what happened that day. But I think even he notices that I don’t look out the front window. And in fact, that is a constant no matter when we drive. I look out the passenger window if I look out them at all. Because each car is one that might hunt us down, cause us to swerve off the road or mangle us up horribly.

The one time my husband needed me to come to the school to pick him up, I nearly threw up in the car. I even took the back way, so determined was I to avoid the main roads and high ways altogether. My hands were shaking so badly that it really might have looked more like a person coming out of rehab than someone who was simply driving. And I thought to myself, maybe this is the worst feeling in the world.

But it isn’t. The worst feeling in the world is being trapped by your fears. I have to make a trip by myself in a couple days and it turns my stomach just thinking about it. I’ve tried meditation, I’ve tried convincing myself that I’ll be okay. I’ve even tried to force myself to suck it up and drive anyway. But in the end, there’s no success. I literally just sit in fear and wait for the next time I’m going to have to suffer through these feelings. We go back to school in just a short little while and I’d really hoped that this would be the semester that I could share the drive with my husband instead of cowering in the passenger seat. But I think it might be the semester I convince myself what a shitty person I am because I don’t know how to be a functional adult and therefore no one will ever hire me and I will die alone and poor. Literally that is how this thought process goes. There is no logic in fear, there is just an overwhelming, all encompassing feeling of inability and failure. But I didn’t even have these fears while I lived in the old place. So why am I so afraid?

I’ve always been afraid of change. I can outwardly speak about accepting change and change making you a better person, but inside I fight against it with all my might and I frequently cry about how hard it is. Any change is like that scene in one of the Chronicles of Narnia books (Voyage of the Dawn Treader, maybe?) where Aslan is de-scaling Eustace. That’s how it is for me. I’m putting off graduation because I’m afraid to move to somewhere new. I was a nervous wreck when it came to living in this apartment for the first few weeks because it was new.

  And you know what? All I’ve wanted to do my entire life can be summed up in two things: I want to help people and I want to travel.

Seriously. I can barely walk by myself alone on campus without being afraid. I can’t even drive myself around because I am afraid. And I want to see the world and meet new people? Who am I kidding?

But that’s the thing. When Eustace got his scales ripped off, he because a better person. He was in pain, he was scared but he was better. And I guess that’s what’s important. It’s not entirely okay to be afraid. But only in the capacity that you be blocked from your destiny by your fears. So this year, for my New Year’s Resolution, I feel like it is very simple.

I want to drive myself places.

And you can laugh all you want, but when was the last time you took on your greatest fear? 

I Just Can’t Even

The thing about life is that it throws you curve balls and you think you have a handle on everything and then there’s another curve in the road and your car topples over, down a cliff and you think “Oh crap! This is it!” And then you wake up and realize it’s not it and you have to keep living each day, even if it’s hard, because you’re still alive and that’s all there is.

I have always been honest about the fact that I am opinionated. But what happens to opinionated people is that they take a stand, and occasionally because of that, they take a fall. I live in the state of Ohio, as I have all my life. And it’s like living in the middle of a political hungry, hungry hippo game, and the people are the balls. Seriously, if there isn’t one thing in the news, it’s another. For example, I go to The Ohio State University (yes, the “The” is capitalized). In this semester alone, we’ve had a bomb threat, a suicide and an accidental death, which resulted in the end of a tradition. Now, that isn’t to say that I do not feel safe, because I went to classes on the day of the bomb threat and came out just fine. However, it seriously has been the worst semester as far as bizarrely awful things. And I mean, with this being a hot spot for political rallies, our campus has been a zoo on the worst days, and little better on the best days. We’re a bunch of kids and early adults, and as developmentally immature future generations, I would like to speak up and say “What the hell?!”

I didn’t come here to complain. In fact, I’ve stayed away from my blog for the past couple days because I just wanted to be alone. I’ve been mad, sad, grumpy, selfish, whiny and a whole host of other not-so-graceful things. But when I started this blog, I said it was my outlet and while I GREATLY appreciate each of you who have followed me, I am not writing for you but rather, for me.

So here’s why I’ve been so angsty. I was writing my book for NaNoWriMo and reached 50k words (yay!). But as December 1 rolled around, I found myself unable to continue. I hadn’t hit a creative block, because I know where my story is going,but I hit a different kind of pause, one where I actually kind of hate my book. I can’t even look at it. So I thought “Hey! I’ll just start a new one!” And when I got to work, I was trying to figure out a working title so I googled my ideas and lo and behold, someone already wrote the damn thing! I was so happy to have come up with a new idea and then so furious that someone beat me to it without my knowledge. So I stopped writing, which led me to not blogging. And now I have returned, idea-less and a little wispy.

I don;t know what to do. Writing has always been “my thing”. I turned to it when I was blue, when I was happy. Words have been my walls, the things which keep me in and others out. I sound so much more elegant when I write than I do in person. And to have no motivation to even catch a line of poetry has been a new experience for me.

It’s like having an itch on your back at that spot where you physically cannot reach so you scratch around it, and it subsides, but you can still feel it. It’s like finally deciding what you want to eat, being able to taste it in your mouth but knowing you don’t have any of it. It’s like waking up mid-dream and vaguely remembering this great idea, but you’re forgetting a really important part. It’s like going into a room and forgetting why, then leaving without remembering it at all. That’s what this feeling is. And it’s so ungodly frustrating. Writing has been my sole way to escape, to create and process. I never thought I was decent at visual art, music is far too personal to be anything less than a blissful experience. Writing was the way I broke through to the inner me and expressed all the things I didn’t want others to see for the exact purpose of letting them see.

So I’ve been on a break from myself. And I want to reconnect, but maybe I just need to let go first.

Things, Excitement!

A little while ago I wrote about how my computer crashed and sent all my things-including the story I had been working on for over a year-to the abyss. I wrote about how I had an early edition on paper and that from the ashes I would rebuild. I’ve found that my scenario is the best thing that could ever happen to my creative license. 

As I look over the words that I wrote before, I can see what the editors and publishers saw. I can laugh about the mistakes I made in an eager attempt to get it done, the amateur manner in which my characters behaved. That was not the story I should have written. It was a mess.

So today, instead of fervishly trying to copy down the words that I had written to produce a terrible tragedy of a book, I scrapped the project for real. Not just starting over, but an entirely new story. Sure, the key points are still the same, and my ideas are really similar-but the presentation is completely different. I have new desires and so do my characters.

It will be darker, more believeable, more like the story I wanted to write but failed to before. What’s more, I will be able to say that I’m writing an entirely new story for this NaNoWriMo, because I will be. This time around, I won’t be hanging on to over-used lines and stereotypes but jumping into unknown territory with characters that feel as real to me as people I went to high school with. 

I think this is a great metaphor for my own life. I have a predetermined plan in my head, where I follow a plan that I made ages ago, saying the words that I have heard over and over before. I know that there are options out there, and that I have complete freedom to reach out and take hold of the new and the bold, but I’m so attached to the story I’ve already made. Believe me, I cried so hard when my manuscript disappeared. And I think that’s an entirely acceptable metaphor for life. I fight so hard to keep the outdated parts of me, just for the sake of saying “But see? I did this!” when what I really need to say is “But see? I’m making new paths!” I never like the change that is imposed upon me: graduating, moving, starting new jobs, making new friends, but in the end those changes are the exact reason I want to keep revising my chapters, my life.

So goodbye first draft, it’s been really nice getting to know you, but it’s time for a serious revision.

Hello new draft, I can’t wait to dig in and see where this story leads.

  

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

Years ago I had an art teacher tell me that I was no good at drawing, or coloring, or creativity. Those concepts carried into my time as a high schooler, making me avoid art class with a passion. I chose instead, to put all of my efforts into music-where I learned to play various instruments with adequate skill and sang my  heart out in groups and solo. It is the story of my music education that I will hold onto for another day. When I found myself in a visual art class one year, I went to the teacher and explained that “I sucked”. It wasn’t because I had been certified as an individual without artistic powers or that I wanted mercy in the expectations, but because someone had told the impressionable child-me that I was no good and I carried that with me as my own truth. My high school art teacher told me that I didn’t suck and kept after me to keep trying. When my first entry on a larger project was complimented by TWO art teachers, I was confused.

I thought I sucked.

And yet here I am, a number of years later still and I find both coloring and drawing to be comforting. My skills are unpolished and although I find it relaxing, I would not say I am an artist. If you ever wondered what a difference havig art in classrooms can make, please use this story. If you’ve ever wanted to know why I have the utmost respect for teachers with passion, use this story. And when you combine the two, you’ll understand why this is one of the life-defining moments in my life.

I struggle daily with how to define myself. The labels which have been handed to me do not present a complete picture, and there are not words for the other parts of me. As I explored this, I realized that I am in a transient state, changing, moving and shaping myself constantly. I have no labels, because I do not need them. I am an unfinished work of art, still being planned out by an artist who hasn’t decided where this project will go.

I look back on that moment in high school when I struggled with my identity. Perhaps it’s just high school, perhaps I was different. I didn’t know that by breaking down the walls of my childhood-the misconceptions that I wasn’t good enough, that I wasn’t worth investing time in-I would be doing the best thing for myself.

It has been 8 years since I stepped foot inside the high school I would graduate from. I was a junior when I took the art class that convinced me I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful. 

I didn’t have to be perfect to make something beautiful.

So here I am, almost a decade after I began my transformation into the adult I will become. I haven’t finished changing, and in fact, I imagine I will be someone new before I finish. But the thing is, those words stuck with me. The teacher I had in high school is both someone whom I admire deeply and a source of great inspiration to me. She pushes me still to see the world in a different way than may be easy, or colorless. And so one of the things I’ve been working on this semester is exploring that change. What I came up with I’ve been putting into writing, becoming more assertive in what I need to say. What I don’t show people often is that I also put my messages into drawings. Sometimes they are tattoo sketches far too big and detailed to be reasonably priced, sometimes they are metaphorical and drawn in an utmost surreal context. But then there’s this piece.

The Evolution of Self: A Portrait

  I so named it that because I wanted to show how my change is both reflective of who I am now, and the product of who I was. I’d like to take a moment and explain what I feel the message is. You don’t have to like it, just consider it.

The basic content is: a waterfall, a phoenix and two sets of hands. That much, I gather you could figure out for yourself. The next layer are the words in the background: Transform, Brave, Love, Acceptance, Beautiful, Hope, Life, Forgiveness, Growth. There is the color scheme to consider, the level of detail (and shading) in the hands, the size of the hands and the “decoration” of the hands, as well as the way the background is set up. 

The nine words are the ones I had to learn the hard way. They are reflective of self, things that were not always easy for me to fully grasp.

The background grows darker, more assertive as it approaches the bigger hands, more concrete. The waterfall is closer to the small hands. The left side of the picture in general is lighter, less defined, more washed out. 

And the hands themselves. On the left, you have a child’s hands. They are reaching out for help, open and expressive. The nails are painted black, and the waterfall is suggestive of losing oneself, “going off the deep end” and trying to “keep my head above the water”. The hands themselves are lightly shaded, as though the owner is becoming invisible. And yet there are bright red marks on the arms-dashes, hope and love. I can promise you that this isn’t a shock-and awe piece, but a true to life representation of the way my arms looked spring of my freshman year. I don’t talk about it often, it isn’t a story too many people know, but now they will. Those two words were the things I wanted most out of life-hope of a better life and love that would heal all wounds. And yes, I really did cut them into my arms with diamond Os and the Es facing vein length. It is honest and brutal.

On the right, there is the me that I am now. older, stronger hands with imperfections (like crooked fingers) reaching out to the younger me, the me that is representative of the 2-3 million people who engage in self harm each year. The right side reaches out, without judgement, offering safety and hope and love to those without. The nails are blue and a silver wedding band is there. But if you look closely, the scars are still there, silent reminders that what was done cannot be undone, but can make you stronger. 

In the end, it was never about being right or being wrong. It was always about being the person who broke free from their shell to embrace something new. I may not be perfect, but I made something beautiful: a new life. And that is the true evolution. Like a phoenix, I took my failures and created brilliance. I cannot wait to see what comes next.