It Takes Two Hands to Clap

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If anyone has parents that grew up in a different culture than they did, you’ll probably get what I mean when I say that some phrases really won’t make sense until they’re explained. It’s like my parents saying “wapiece?” when really it’s just a blending of the words “want” and “piece.” Or even “better belly buss than good food waste” or something about the job not being done until the paperwork is finished… Just to name a few, it’ll probably stop you for a minute just to figure it out.

So imagine my reaction when back in the single digits, my brothers and I were fighting in the grocery store over something trivial and my mom hears the “he started it, no she started it” classic. Instead of yelling at us, she spun around in the middle of the aisle and looked each of us dead in the eye, saying “It takes two hands to clap.”

None of us had any idea what she was talking about, so of course we were too confused to keep arguing. Years later though, I find myself using the phrase all the time because essentially, it’s kind of like saying it takes two to tango. Two hands to clap=everyone has a part to play in what happens.

After all, it’s never really just one person or one thing that plays into an outcome, it’s usually a lot of little things. At least two.

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Over a decade later now, imagine the look on my face when I’m thinking this as I tell my parents about something I did that week; instead of getting scolded for not putting my schoolwork first, they told me they were proud of me. Not only for putting kindness and selflessness into the world, but also for making my own choices and adjusting around it.

I said that they taught me well.

They told me that it takes more than listening to actually use what is taught and put it into practice. That’s the second hand.

You see, there are a few people in my life that I’ve known since my freshman year here and we’ve each grown together in different ways. But if there’s someone from three years ago that’s still in my life, that definitely says a lot about our relationship. So of course, when something happens and they need help, I will drop everything to make sure whatever needs to be done is done. And I make sure it’s done the way they deserve it to be.

After all, it takes two hands to clap. Some things, we truly cannot do on our own, even if we try our hardest to make it so. Why not offer a hand where we can? Especially if it’s someone or something we care about, it shouldn’t even really be a choice or just something nice of us to do.

It should be automatic.

With that being said, there is still a bit of a caveat to these situations. Just because you are capable of doing something or care to do so, that doesn’t mean we always should. Like my blog post last week (catch it here if you missed it), it’s a question of intention versus impact. If that impact hurts us more, if someone or something isn’t as good for us as we can be for it, we have to recognize that too.

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When it takes two hands to clap, they’re supposed to be meeting in the middle. Not 30 vs 70%, not 10 vs 90 %. 50/50 when at all possible, throw a little equity in there depending on circumstance, but you know what I mean. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself too.

There’s a reason most of us will have a short list of people we would take a bullet for. Even while that risk seems to grow on a daily basis, off the top of our heads, there are most likely only a few people on that list. Because there are only so many bullets we can take, and at some point, someone else is going to have to be the one to step in front of us instead of the other way around.

It has to go both ways. Otherwise, we run the risk of being used, abused, and simply tossed to the side. This applies to jobs, relationships, work, even how we treat ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to give where you can without the expectation of anything in return, but a genuine trust that you’ll get it back somehow. Slowly, I’m learning to give myself things that will not just take my effort or my love or my time and use it all, but help me grow or learn or love me back in the process.

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I know it’s unrealistic to expect something back from all that we do in this life. But the thing is, we only have one life and so much of ourselves to give within it; there’s not time to waste. Whenever you do give, make sure it’s worth it.

I know that this week, I did.

An Aside–A Life Obliged

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So about that poem I just posted yesterday—if you haven’t read it, check it out here before reading this. I don’t usually do posts like this, but I feel an explanation and understanding is due. This is it.


Opening up about my mental health and how much I have struggled with it for a very long time, from obsessive thoughts and anxiety to unnecessary melancholy and persistent sadness… It’s one of those things that once I did it, there was no going back.

And I’ve spent so much of my college career simply figuring out where I’m at, what I believe in or how I feel about this life that I didn’t know what to say.

This poem was me saying everything.

I wrote it a few months ago and I’m not in the same place, but that’s not because things have gotten better or life has become great. It’s because I’ve grown and the way I handle myself has grown with me.

Thing is, it’s not just about me. Not anymore. This generation and those after me are growing up in the absolute in between—everything is very divided, we need to be individuals but also fit in, we value maturity but also don’t know when to act our age, we’re afraid to go to concerts or school or a restaurant or the DMV because who knows what might happen if someone gets too angry or takes something the wrong way. We are stuck in an atmosphere that is not healthy. Not even a little bit.

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In addition to that, we are growing up around so many standards for what we do with our lives or what we look like or the things we enjoy or the people we love and there really is no way to avoid it all. You can’t unsee the standards nor the fact that so many of us don’t fit into them.

We focus on the histories of white cisgendered men. That is not to say that they aren’t important, this country wouldn’t be what it is without them—good and bad. But it is to say that histories other than theirs are important too. I mean, with everything changing so quickly in our fast paced world, are you having trouble keeping all straight?

Notice that phrase, keeping things “straight” as if straight is correct and anything else is not.

Why do we do that?

Put people into boxes and tell them whether they’re right or wrong? I’ve dealt with it my whole life. I am a black female in CLA—in of itself, a college largely disrespected despite the fact that the basis of who we are as human beings is held upon the foundation of humanity and what CLA is—and maybe I don’t fit into a lot of the boxes that would make things “easier for me.” That would make me more “normal.”

I’m black and not just black, but a woman. In CLA. And throughout my entire life, I’ve have about two “crushes.” It doesn’t seem like that would be a big deal but in a society so focused on a women’s success as a pair rather than an individual, or at my age, the parameters of a society so focused sex and hook-up culture, all the while sex is something we also try not to talk about.

We are a contradiction.

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We tell other people to take care of themselves and don’t do it ourselves. We ask others how they’re doing and don’t take the time to listen to the answer.

We are not paying attention.

And I feel like in so many things about myself that I cannot change, I am incorrect. My existence is wrong. At a school like this where people don’t feel like blackface is wrong or don’t see why I would have a panic attack on my way to the car because I’m walking alone or don’t see the value or success in a major that focuses less on systems/engineering/stem and more about us

I will never be able to win if I set myself against the standards. But I’ve grown up doing so and in turn, sometimes maybe I don’t see my worth. Or maybe I don’t feel so good because maybe I’m not who other people want me to be. Not when people I admire and loved so much died without getting a chance to live a life that they lived “better” than I believe I ever have.

It’s guilt. It’s feeling wrong. It’s hurting but never saying so… Because so many people are worried about burdening others or being “too much” or imposing themselves on others when truly, maybe they should understand that the right people will never find fault in who you are. And it’s complicated. But the right people in your life don’t always need to fix things or change things, they simply sit with you in it when you need that.

There has to be space to allow such an need to be not only understood, but respected and followed.

My generation is growing up in the in between and we are not okay. Not at all. I see it, I live it, but I want to change it and I am doing what I can. I am using what I’ve been through or my beliefs or what I understand and letting this world mold me into someone who can make change. To be better than the girl I was yesterday.

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I’ve been sitting in this for years, all of it. And even though I can’t change it, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to be okay with making it work and letting it become just one more reason to fight for something better.

That’s why it’s a life obliged. A life I owe to myself to make beautiful and painful and lovely and full. Of anything and everything. That’s A Life Obliged.

So with that, I would love to know how you feel about all of this. Now it’s your turn.

Right Thing, Wrong Time?

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There’s something special at the end of this post, but you’ve got to get through the rest first. And I want to hear from you all on this topic, because I’m pretty stuck on this one. There are a lot of harsh truths about life that we learn as we grow up, but this one is a hard pill to swallow: Do you believe in right person/class/friend/chance, wrong time?

Because I’m not sure how I feel about it. Part of me wants to believe that if it’s the right___, you can always make it work. But then also, what if you shouldn’t have to.

What if there’s some growing that needs to happen before the right time can truly be right? This is where I get stuck, this definition of “right” and I would love an opinion on this concept; there’s both the carpe diem idea of “why not just go for it and figure it out later” and the realistic “you can’t fit a circle into a hole made for a square.”

See where I’m at? I don’t know if either one is universally correct.

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Part of this came up because of my classes this quarter. I’m doing a lot right now,  more than I have ever done at one time. But I fought my way into every single class I’m in right now and there’s no guarantee that I will ever get to take them if I don’t take them now. So do I let a god thing go with the hopes that I’ll get it back, or do I take the idea that it’s going to be a hard quarter and accept it? Bite the bullet.

I guess maybe I’m trying to figure out what bullets are worth the bite. I’m at the point in my life where I’m making a lot of decisions and I have to own them with everything that comes after once I make them. I’m still easing into that doing it on my own thing because with my classes, you can bet that my parents were my first call just to talk through the decision.

That’s why I bring this to you today, because I want to hear what you think. Genuinely, I do. So much of what we believe or who each of us are has to do with both the way we were raised and the things we have gone through on the way to today. Nature and nurture. It’s all of it.

So what about what you’ve been through makes you believe what you do?

Maybe you’d put qualifications on the statement. For me, I would say it is possible for right person, wrong time, because we are constantly growing. But as with everything, there’s a threshold that once you pass it, you never go back.

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Just like once you lose someone close to you and it really hits you, you can never not notice that grief or that loss or that pain in the world around you. Wherever you’re at, if something isn’t fitting right, it really isn’t your fault.

Maybe it’s simply circumstance. I’m not saying you have to believe in destiny or anything like that, but I am saying that instead of trying to figure out why, why don’t we focus more on the “what next?”

Where is there still room for you to grow in this situation? If it’s the wrong time but the right person or the right job offer or the right opportunity to take a chance, what can you do to be ready for it? Because let’s be honest, we are always growing. There will never be a time in our lives when we aren’t still learning from our mistakes and the actions of others.

Use it. Use all of it. Whether or not you believe in the right ___, wrong time, my attitude focuses on growth and what we can do to be more than what we are now. Don’t take it personally. Use it to improve your person.

Because you deserve good things. Even when they come at inconvenient times and maybe you’re just not ready. That’s okay.

Don’t let it stop you from growing a little bit more than you did yesterday.

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That being said, here’s where I follow through on this: there’s a poem I’ve written that I haven’t posted anywhere because it’s really personal and it crosses a boundary that I’ve never crossed on here. It is brutally honest. And hard. And true.

But since it’s National Poetry Month and our annual spoken word show is coming up soon here, I think I’m ready to share it with you all. Whether or not this is it, I’m making this the right time.

I hope to see you on Tuesday for a new Poetry Place and probably a side of me you’ve never really met before.

Have a beautiful weekend. Let me know what you think.

About Last Weekend–We Live as We Learn

If you’re wondering why my post was so late last weekend, you’re about to find out why. But don’t worry, as promised I still got my blog to you all by Friday night. You’re too important to miss after all.

There’s been a whole lot of growth in my life within the last few years (at least I’d like to think so) and there’s this one concept that I’ve never quite been able to move past. Call it a personal need to be important to people or be of use to others, but it’s gotten in my way. A lot. Maybe you can relate.

You see, I have always felt the need to not only be just a friend to someone or just a support system but anything they need. No matter what someone is looking for or needs from this world, I have always wanted to be the girl for the job; I am constantly compelled to be their person with all the answers or solutions, even if the role is a few shoe sizes too big that I just can’t fill.

That want, that constant need to be what other people need, it comes with a lot of problems, you know? Problems and unhealthy standards.

Because, no matter how hard I might try, I can’t be everything someone else needs, I’m just not built that way. None of us are. And something about the last weekend of my life truly made me see that.

Last weekend, I officially became a new member of Cal Poly’s WOW Team at our yearly Team retreat. Even though it was raining half the time and none of us had any idea what we were going to be doing, I think it was the epitome of learn by doing and trusting the process. Because days like those, through the beauty and the pain or the growth and the fun, remind me of what college does for us. It lets understand just a little bit more about the world and ourselves along the way.

Imagine this: 40 Cal Poly students, hand picked through several interviews and observationals, to be a part of orientation Team. Then put us all together for one weekend of bonding, early mornings, friendly competition, photos, and late night talks. Something about it, somehow we all just clicked together faster than I thought possible.

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And in the process, every person I met opened my eyes to something I haven’t fully grasped before.

Throughout college, for all my life really, I’ve switched from group to group or team to team, just trying to find a place to settle down. Maybe sometimes we find that place, and we stop for a while, enjoying what it means to be okay with where you’re at before things change and it’s time to readjust to reality again. College has been much of the same sequence of events for me, just on a much faster pace than it ever has before.

Since you’ve been on this blog with me for three years, I guess maybe you’ve realized how many things I’ve become a part of at this school—yet, no matter what I get into, I always find something new to jump into next. Because nothing I have found has felt like a safe place to land, to stay for awhile and get comfortable. Sure, I might catch a glimpse of what that looks like for me in this friend, or that roommate, or this one club, but it’s never stuck. That is, until that group found a way to stick to me instead.

That thing about WOW Team, we don’t really pick them. Somehow, they pick us.

Last weekend, I met a whole lot of new people and somehow learned almost all their names in two days. It might sound strange, but I now hold an oddly large amount of affection for people I’ve only known for a week. Maybe because with them, I felt more like I could be enough as I am. Not because they told me that, but simply because I feel that way about every one of them realized that maybe it applies to me too.

Some of them are incredibly funny and can lift any mood going through the room. Others are impossibly kind or open-hearted in a way that makes you feel loved, even by a stranger. And then almost everyone is beautifully intelligent, insightful in a way that makes you feel seen, or heard, understood as you are with no expectations of anything less or more.

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They were all little bits of what I look for in my own people, yet not a single one of them could be everything I want in a person. Even surrounded by people who earned their opportunity to be there, just like I did, it took me a minute to realize this. Because while surrounded by so many wonderful people all on that retreat for the same reason, I came to accept that maybe that’s okay.

There are only so many pieces of who I am, all these little bits of my personality or my being that can’t fill the gaps other people need filled. Even as I grow, developing into a more rounded and hopefully insightful person than I’ve ever been, I realize that while I can be a whole lot for certain people, there are some things I simply am not for others. And I’m beginning to be okay with it.

Because at some point, I think somewhere in this life I’m making for myself, I’m picking up people who can fill those holes or those gaps for me along the way.

For now, with my eyes open and ready to learn more as I go, I’m fine just the way I am. This is your reminder that so are you.