As History Folds Into Reality

“It is the mind that makes the body.”

–Sojourner Truth

“We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased, we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too.”

–Langston Hughes

As another long week of Winter Quarter and the beginning of Black History Month, today is the birthday of these two incredible figures in history. So I’m starting with them.

In the past, many have told us who to be or what to think or how to act because we were not given the freedom of choice. I look at the life I hold, the privileges laying in my hands, and I thank people like these two—both their quotes can tell you why.

If the mind is what makes the body, I am thankful for the opportunity and freedom I have to think the way I do. Growing up, I was told to dream up whatever dream I wanted; then become it. Fifty years ago, I wonder how many black people believed in this the way I am now allowed to.

My mind is creative, and annoying, and full, and too loud, and beautiful sometimes; it’s all of the above. Therefore, my body is the same. Yet, there are no boundaries on what my mind can do, nor are there limits on what I chose to do with my body (to an extent). Because of people like Sojourner Truth, I come to you every week with this blog and I follow my passions.

For me, this is a privilege.

Photo by Mike Petrucci on Unsplash

Like Langston Hughes—if I ever were to make any comparison between him and myself—I am an artist. I have learned to express myself through my art, in writing, music, drawing, and so much more. Though I still have a long way to go in expressing everything I want to, in being vulnerable and open about who I am or where I’ve been, it takes time and a whole lot of practice.

But I don’t need to fear and I do not need to feel shame. Not in the way people like me have in the past.

For this, I am lucky.

My art is not to please others, simply to put pieces of myself into the world around me. My art is what balances me out. If I write, I write for myself and share such work with you because I think you deserve to hear it if you so choose. Though I do hope you are pleased at least occasionally, in the long run it shouldn’t have to matter.

Because it will be beautiful and ugly and everything in between whether you see it or not.

I hope you see it.

Take a look at the quotes I started with, the two people I chose to honor today. Those quotes could mean anything to anyone, they could represent something completely different.

And that’s okay. Because for these things, for interpretations and art, there is no one truth. For our bodies and our minds, there is no singular correct way to exist.

We just do. And if you’ve made it this far, know that I appreciate you for existing here with me this week.

Have a wonderful weekend. And I will see you Friday.

Another Week, Another Challenge

I am now two weeks into my second year of college and I’m beginning to remember what it was like to be constantly going— these are busy lives we live. Between early and late nick-morrison-325805classes every day, studying when I can, working when I should, and making time for the people that matter to me, there’s a lot to do these days. In some ways, I would rather be busy; it forces me to be productive with the time that I have.

But there are downsides to always planning productivity in free time.

Does anyone else get tired of doing the same routines every day? I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s nice that I know when I can expect to be busy or not, but it gets a little boring after a while. We’re only two weeks into classes, so of course I’m still figuring things out here like everyone else, yet I know I’m going to get to that point of boredom and monotony soon enough. With the first day of fall finally here and classes back in full swing, it’s time to really look at what kind of year I want this to be.

Because I don’t know if you’ve heard, but undergrad is only 4(-5) years of our lives. I’m already down to 3 left. I’ve got to make every little bit count.

Last year I came into college with this idea that even though the next four years of my life were supposed to encompass a social life, responsibility, growing up, and living a good life, I felt like my primary necessity was academics. So when I came to Cal Poly, I did more than prioritize my schoolwork— it’s almost all I did. Sure, I had my fair share of late nights spent doing absolutely nothing productive or random movie nights to watch The Grudge or Insidious. But there were too many nights I said “no, I’ve got to study” or multitasked instead, even when I didn’t need to. Looking back, it may have been excessive.javier-graterol-16314.jpg

If you ask anyone I lived with last year about me, they would probably say that I was put together, organized, and oh so focused. I actually heard that comment from people a lot, especially when friends were coming back from parties at 1Am and they walked into the common room to see me working on a chemistry lab. The thing is, I don’t think those are the right words to use for what I was like last year— not quite. So I want to set the record straight about freshman me, the correct term for what I was: I was not put together, organized, or truly focused when I needed to be… I was stressed out, constantly. So I worked to try to balance it out.

Staying up late to study or finishing things early, that wasn’t me trying to be the best student I could, that was me trying to do everything I could to keep the deadlines and the anxiety from catching up with me.

It was me trying to make up for flaws in myself that weren’t actually there.

But did the studying and the working ahead help at all? For short term passing classes, I guess it did, at least according to my okay grades. In the long run though, I look back and see all the missed opportunities to get out of my own head for a little while and out into the real world. Instead of pacing myself, I was always going at full speed and in the process, I didn’t take the time to figure out more than just my own academic habits.

So this year I am making one big change: I’m going to go out and live a life worth living. Not just one of academics and late nights spent with a calculator, pablo-heimplatz-243307but also of quiet nights with my best friends, and weekends of beach hopping for bonfires, and gym time that doesn’t feel too scheduled or forced, and doing at least one thing I love every day. Even for just five minutes.

Because this is important.

For my sophomore year, I am going to live my life in a way  that feels not like an obligation, but an opportunity. Maybe that’s the opportunity to join some new clubs and actually go to all the meetings this year, or maybe it’s making more and more friends all across campus until I can walk into any room and recognize at least one face. At some point, I think we all develop our own conclusions about what this life holds for us, and right now, I’m changing mine. I used to believe that my schoolwork was everything, between track or soccer or school clubs; my schoolwork always came first no matter what.

Yet now, I see that it’s more complicated than that. A lot more complicated.

Because schoolwork is still a priority, absolutely, but now, so am I. I have to pay attention to how I’m doing, how empty or full my life feels, and what I can do to change that. There are things we cannot learn in a classroom or simply by reading a book. And there are things we need that we cannot get out of a purely academic setting, like love, or friendship, or experience, or motivation. Many of these things might start off in a classroom, but to live a fulfilled life, we’ve got to go further than that.luca-bravo-24241.jpg

Take it from Hercules, we have to go the distance to experience this life for ourselves and push the limits of what we can do. That means getting up early some days just to see the sunrise, or going out with a few new faces simply because you have no good reason not to. Whether we hit a few roadblocks along the way, run after a few busses here and there, or  ]fall down a couple times, that’s all a part of it too. This is about living these lives that we hold, and for me, living out these last three college years with all that I’ve got.

I’ll leave off with Langston Hughes, in a short poem of what this is all about, and I’ll see you all next week.

“Life is for the living.
Death is for the dead.
Let life be like music.
And death a note unsaid.”

The Beauty of Standing Up

“I, too, sing America.”splitshire-9614

Two weeks ago I put up my new poetry page in addition to my blog posts, and this week I decided to do something special: This week I am combining them into one.

Last Saturday and Sunday, I’m sure you heard all about the Women’s March no matter where you are in the world— voices could be heard across the globe, from here in SLO to Amsterdam. Whether they were protesting for individual rights,
against our new President, or something entirely different, their words all came from the same place.

They came from the idea that this is something worth fighting for.

No matter what your political views are or how you feel about America right now, you have to admit, there is something beautiful about people from all walks of life coming together to advocate for something they believe in. In watching the news, scrolling through photos, and listening to professors mention the events in class, it brought me back to a poem I read a few weeks back that made me think about who America really is. Through the Poem a day email signup on Academy of American Poets, I came across Langston Hughes’s poem I, Too.

In the face of adversity, voices tend to rise, and I love what Hughes has to say below. Throughout the poem, we see a contrast between where those represented are to where they know
they will be in time. It’s the belief that things will change, the fight for a better stance, and a sense of belonging they deserve to find… It’s part of what makes us human.

The need to fight for what we believe we deserve.

vast oceanNot only does he say he will “grow strong”, but soon enough “They’ll see how beautiful I am And be ashamed”.


That is the goal isn’t it? To become something better, something stronger— someone who holds the beauty others are ashamed they couldn’t see until it was too late. Because the truth is what people are fighting for, whether it is wholly universal or simply personal. What is true to us means something in our hearts and that is
always worth fighting for.

I think no matter what you believe those in the Women’s March were trying to say, Hughes ties it all together in this beautiful poem, I, Too. So without further ado, I share with you a work of art that I only wish I had come across sooner. Here’s to a more honest, stronger future, and brighter days ahead.

I, Too

By Langston Hughes

 

I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,splitshire-7553

And grow strong.

 

Tomorrow,

I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”

Then.

 

Besides,

They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

 

I, too, am America.