Eighteen going on Ninteen

“And there are people who forget what it’s like to be sixteen when they turn seventeen. I know these will all be stories some day, and our pictures will become old photographs.”

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A week ago, I pinkie promised Nick that I would not throw him a surprise party for our birthday. So what did I do? I supplied everything his floor needed so they could then throw him a surprise party. Because you only turn 19 once in a college dorm full of people who care about you— why not have some fun with it? This is our last year of being adults, but not quite treated as such.

I’m told we are supposed to cherish this timely opportunity. Therefore, I believe that a surprise party was very necessary.

There’s something about knowing that this is my last year of being a teenager that holds a certain importance. Like they say, I have to cross all my t’s and dot the i’s before I get to a point where there is no turning back. Apparently, 20 just might be that point.

There are bucket lists to complete, people to go on road trips with, and adventures to have before my adulthood it too official. I have a habit of complaining to my parents about adulting, but I can’t imagine truly being looked at as an adult. As Ellis Grey says, “It sucks being a grown up, but the carousel never stops turning.”

Life never stops moving.robert-lamb-5397.jpg

Sometimes I feel like a lot of us forget that we need to live for the present; not just plan for the future and work for where we want to be, but put ourselves into the reality it has become too easy to ignore. High school, college, adulthood, etc… No matter where we are at in our lives, there will always be things to plan for and future possibilities to pay attention to.

What happens when we neglect the possibility the moments hold have?

I think that’s when we forget to live. But tell me something: do you think it’s possible to live too hard? If not, I’m not so sure why so many of us forget to do so. There’s a reason the phase “life happens when you’re busy making other plans” is a cliche… Because it’s true.While we plan for everything everything else life tends to pass us by. Do you remember the last time you did something spontaneous?

On Wednesday, I decided to make cupcakes for fun. Then I ate half of them. But when was the last time you went out for ice cream, or took a road trip, or stayed up all night watching those 2 AM reruns of the Fresh Prince just becuase you could? That’s all a part of living. And on my 19th birthday, I was reminded of how many people I have in this world connected to my life who are all out there doing something. From college finals and moving home, to planning trips and moving on, there really is no time like the present.

Make it worth something.

In his quote from The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chbosky’s monologue at the end of the book reminded me of how fleeting these moments can be. Many people will forget what it’s like to be sixteen when they turn seventeen, our lives really will be nothijoey-kyber-132520.jpgng more than stories later on… Those stories might get told through old photographs and all the people who stick around in our lives, but right now all there is to talk about is the reality. So enough talking, we need more action. Because right now, right now I can sit here and remember what it’s like to be eighteen when I turned nineteen.

I remember it like it was yesterday.

How to define Senior Year

A year ago, I was a senior in high school preparing to stare down the mouth of my final month of high school.

Talk about mixed feelings. baim-hanif-89800

I was excited, I mean graduation was a BIG deal. The day we had been looking forward to since forever was finally catching up with us… My class was getting ready to walk across a stage together before we split across the world to go pursue our futures. I was ready for it, but at the same time I wasn’t.

Everything was about to change.

I remember riding on the bus home from our final league track meet and I was just sitting there trying to define every little feeling that moment held. From the races and the relays to the friends and the unforgettable moments, it was like watching adolescence slip through my fingers.

And in that moment, I could only come up with one way to describe my senior year. So to the Class of 2017, this one’s for you. One month to go, make it count.

 

How do you define bittersweet?sebastian-pichler-20071.jpg


Maybe it’s saying goodbye to someone with a kiss, knowing that you are together this way for the very last time. Or how about being ready to move on to new wonderful things, while looking at all the priceless memories and people you are leaving behind. And maybe it’s looking at the people you are so proud of take on their new future, the ones who have been meant to follow in your footsteps since the beginning, and realizing that they no longer need you anymore.

That’s when you know it’s time to go, to get that chin up, and move on. Because time has run out, the days have run thin, as there is no longer anything left for you to do here. And it’s hard, it’s hard to shut thajoshua-clay-27368.jpgt door without quite knowing what’s behind the one you’re about to open. The possibility behind it all, it can just be so indescribable. It’s heartbreaking, it’s exciting, it’s confusing, it’s inspiring, it’s breathtaking, it’s unreal…

It’s bittersweet.

Down to Earth

“I am the Earth

And the Earth is me.”

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Tomorrow is the 22nd of April, and if you didn’t know, that means tomorrow is Earth Day. With the definition of sustainability changing every day and the world population of 7.4 billion increasing by the second, sometimes it’s important to remember the we have an impact on the world we live in.

Recently, I found a poem by Jane Yolen that reminded me of the how much the elements of our Earth are a bit like what make us up as humans. In her words, “Each bit of mud, And stick and stone Is blood and muscle, Skin and bone.” As the human race, we have a lot of universal characteristics to who we are— a need for love, for care, for proper nourishment, and a source to sustain us.

Our planet needs things too, and that sustainable source… It comes from us. We have two choices: we can either destroy what is left of the beautiful world around us or we can try to sustain it. After all, our lives sort of depend on it.

So in the spirit of Earth day and National Poetry Month, here is a friendly reminder of the breathtaking planet that sustains 7.4 billion people. Let’s take ourselves back down to Earth for a moment with Jane Yolen’s Earth Day.

Earth Day

 

I am the Earth

And the Earth is me.

Each blade of grass,

sebastian-boguszewicz-3503Each honey tree,

Each bit of mud,

And stick and stone

Is blood and muscle,

Skin and bone.

 

And just as I

Need every bit

Of me to make

My body fit,

So Earth needs

Grass and stone and tree

And things that grow here

Naturally.

 

That’s why wedebora-tingley-54716.jpg

Celebrate this day.

That’s why across

The world we say:

As long as life,

As dear, as free,

I am the Earth

And the Earth is me.

 

A Lesson Learned

If you read my blog post on Friday, then you know what today is: Today is the day to share more writing with you. writer's life

This month is Sexual Assault Awareness Month and I wanted to share poem I wrote in my AP Literature class during my senior year. This was in response of support to another poem two students read aloud in class, Lindsey Hobart’s How to Tell a Rape Joke which you can take a look at hereA Lesson Learned is straight out of  my poetry anthology (page 66) and even though I could probably quote every line of it in my sleep, here it is. I hope you like it.

 

A Lesson Learned

She’s insecure in her own skin,

andy-wang-39028.jpgthough most people don’t really know why.

She worries about the scars on her body,

about how difficult they are to hide.

Because they define the mistakes of her past

and everything she thought herself to be:

a one-out-of-six, a statistic,

that most people cannot understand, do not see.

She is scared, the lonely kind of isolated,

the way her mind replays and goes back to

the moment it happened, what she did to deserve it.

Though in the end no one does. If only she knewclem-onojeghuo-111360.jpg

how to protect herself, how to stay safe.

How to know what to be, what she needed to say.

Or in the aftermath, how to put herself back together again,

that soon enough, she would somehow be okay.

But she will be stronger next time. She hopes and she prays

that maybe she will be guarded and able to show

the man who stole her dignity, her faith, and her pride

how damn good she has gotten at saying No.

PS. Since I forgot to mention it last week, I did a guest blog post a few weeks back for my publisher! You can take a look at it here, happy Monday.

 

Break the Silence

Last week I talked a lot about what this month means to people, from Poetry to Autism Awareness. Though both of these are very important, if you live on a college campus or have been affected by this kind of situation, you may also know that this month raises perception to one more thing— Sexual Assault.denys-nevozhai-191635.jpg

Whether you watch Netflix, read the book, or found out some other way, people have been raving about the show 13 Reasons Why, based on the 2007 novel by Jay Asher, since it came out on Netflix on the 31st of last month. The show follows the suicide of high school junior Hannah Baker, 13 tapes telling the story of why she did it, and how her actions impact the people around her life. Not only does the show shine a light on several topics that many people do not talk about, but it also vividly depicts the main subject of my blog post; the show reminds us how prevalent, misunderstood, and damaging sexual assault can be.

Considering that I currently live on a public college campus, these numbers are important to pay attention to— according to the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network, “Among undergraduate students, 23.1% of females and 5.4% of males experience rape or sexual assault through physical force, violence, or incapacitation.”

1 in every 6 American women (16%)

3% of American men

“321,500 victims (age 12 or older) of rape and sexual assault each year in the United States.” – RAINN

It doesn’t happen to just women, or college students, or young people… It can happen to anyone and it truly changes people’s lives.

There are countless impacts this kind of interaction can have on a person, ranging from PTSD and mental health issues, to drug use and a strain on personal relationships. This month was brought to light back in the 1970’s by women in England before it spread to San Francisco and NYC in 1978 for the first time in the US. The month became a dedication in the 90’s and since then the rates of sexual assault has gone down by half.

Change has happened. But it is not enough.

The reason I brought the book/show, 13 Reasons Why, into this post is because oftentimes, the term sexual assault is misunderstood. Kind of like misunderstanding what not hearing the word “no” means.laura-aziz-78175.jpg

Not hearing no does not— and never will—  mean yes.

In Jay Asher’s novel, the character who commits the assault on several accounts does not consider what he did against the law or wrong in any sort. For some people believe, if the victim does not expressly and verbally say no, then it’s okay. The problem with this is that the only thing that means yes, is yes. Both victims in 13 Reasons considered their attacker a friend, or at the very least, a peer from school. Neither saw what happened to them coming. Even if they did, they may have had no true power to stop it.

When it comes to any kind of big situation, we generally think of the natural fight or flight response. That being said, in many cases the response is actually fight, flight, or freeze. Problem is, most victims end up doing the third option, not because they cannot fight back but because it is their natural response. Freezing happens to 88% of rape victims and though it is not the victim’s fault, it ultimately leads to the next issue: Victim blaming.

Though it is part of Title 9 and conversation about sexual assault has picked up over the years, it is something that many victims stay silent about when they do not have to. Why? Because, they blame themselves. Whether it ties into dress code idea of female rights, saying that showing our shoulders should not be distracting or mini skirts don’t mean that we are “asking for it”, once it happens, many people still do blame their own actions— men and women alike.

But let’s be clear. If this has happened to you, it is not your fault.

I have seen college campuses with T-shirt confessions on them with sayings from “It stays after you walk away” to “I told you no multiple times but… you did it anyway.” As unfortunate as it is, this is not an uncommon occurrence. For those who have experienced it, it is important to know that not only are you not alone, but your voice is allowed to be heard. There is a reason people who have been through a sexual assault are called victims and they are also people who have to live with what has happened to them. To some people, that is the hardest part. But it isn’t about what you did or didn’t do, it isn’t even about what you decided to wear…miguel-mateo-212333

At this point, it is only about where you go from here in raising your voice, and the support system you have to get you through it. No matter what people go through or the lives that they lead, the support system they have is everything to their future.  

I would like to believe that every person in this world holds all the power they need to achieve what they want— there are a select few events that may happen in our lives that can take that power away from us. Sexual assault is one of them. So today I am breaking what is left of my own silence on the topic, reaching out to anyone who has had this happen to them and raising awareness for those of us who have not. It is time to raise our voices and our heads to the issues going on around us every single day, what we see and more importantly what we do not.

Because when it comes down to it, we are each other’s support systems. And there are people who need us.

For anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault and would like to call the National Sexual Assault Hotline, it is free and confidential, 24/7 at 800-656-HOPE.

woman flowersOn Monday, in light of this blog post, I will be posting a poem I wrote on the topic in my senior year of high school in honor of both Sexual Assault Awareness and National Poetry Month.

Have a beautiful weekend.

 

Autism Awareness Month

Welcome to April, one of my favorite months of the year for many reasons— Spring, a month closer to summer, my birthday… More than that though, the month of April means a lot of things to a lot of people, including National Poetry Month, Autism Awareness Month, and for all students on the quarter system, it’s the first week in the new quarter.

Since I spend many of my blog posts sorasak-217807updating you on life here at Cal Poly, today I’m going to focus on the two other things this month is about: Autism and Poetry. And I am going to combine them both.

Just like every month holds recognition for something different, from last month being Women’s History Month to June coming up as pride month, this one is for Autism Awareness. Autism now affects one in every sixty-eight children in America, on a spectrum as a complex developmental disability. This is considered a spectrum due to the way it affects people differently from one another, each in varying degrees of the disorder. As of 2016, the rates of autism have nearly increased from 2004, from 1 in 125 to 1 in 68. With the increasing rates of those affected, I think it’s important that we all increase our awareness of those with the disorder too.

Why? Well, even though we are supposed to be a nation built on equality and acceptance, we are only beginning to get there now in the 21st century. Things are changing and with each month of appreciation, I am hoping that we can be more attuned to the world around us and the beauty of every person in it.

Even if we do not understand what a person is going through, we can still try to be accepting of who they are.

Considering that this month is both for autism and poetry, I came across a poem on YouTube of spoken word by Verb Kulture called “Carly Finally”. In this joshua-k-jackson-203200poem, the narrator portrays an autistic person trying to live their everyday life, trying to be heard. The way she portrays her character, from her words to her mannerisms, connects to a lot of people including those with autism and those who care for others with ASD. From the words of Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

Take a look at this poem and feel the words within it; walk around in the character we see for a few minutes.

From the words of Kulture, we can scratch the surface of understanding the difficulty that many autistic people go through in their daily lives. Forming just one sentence can be a challenge, one that many do not take this time to listen to, not because they don’t want to but oftentimes, because they don’t understand. At a little over a minute into the poem, we hear the words “you can’t understand my language, a barrier between your world and mine…”

It’s like we’re separated between worlds with no connection between the two, no way to find a middle ground.

But that’s the thing about poetry, this spoken word poem, and about art as a whole— it connects us all no matter what disorders may plague us or the issues that we feel define us. Through art we can reach the ultimate understanding of one another not just through our own eyes, but theirs too.

felix-russell-saw-188381This is the month of April, in which we celebrate Autism Awareness, Poetry, and so much more. For the rest of the month, I will post a poem on Poetry Place in my own celebration of the written word and appreciation for my new writing as well. Today I shared with you Carly Finally, a spoken word poem by Verb Kulture to hopefully give you a chance to see a new perspective. If you haven’t yet, take a look at the poem here (click that link) and have a wonderful, possibly rainy, Friday.

And I can’t wait to share this month of poetry with you.