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.

Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash

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.

A Life Obliged–An Original Poem

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So, I promised you something today. It’s National Poetry Month and this poem holds a whole lot of meaning for me. This one is a bit longer than what I usually write, but it’s long for a reason. You’ll see. I care a lot about mental health and the awareness around it, but I’ve never really talked about mine.

Not only am I breaking that boundary today, but as my readers, I’m letting you in. Because I’ve got a lot to say, and maybe it’s about time I said it.

Without further ado, A Life Obliged. Let me know what you think.


Photo by Anete Lūsiņa on Unsplash

Sometimes I really love cancelling plans,

it’s not that I cancel them if I have no reason to—

my guilty conscience is far too heavy for that—

but if I have a reason or I find some excuse not to go,

you can be sure as hell my fingers are moving like lightning

when I type out the words, “I can’t tonight…”

Don’t forget the sad face at the end,

wouldn’t want anyone thinking that I truly

didn’t want to go.

Trust me when I say that, the second I send that message,

it’s a relief of a weight I cannot explain.

It’s a diffused time bomb

of hands that do not stop shaking

and a mind that will not stop racing

even when the finish line

was a couple miles

behind me.

Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash

Because sometimes, this life feels like a song I’m trying to sing,

and I swear to God that I’m the one who wrote it.

But every time the chords start playing

and the bass bumps blindly through my chest,

I open my mouth to the words I should be saying,

and it turns out that

I forgot the rest.

My entire world is a play I scripted myself;

I filled each and every role with lives of the ones I love.

And I feel that love, I do.

It’s just some days I wish you knew,

the love

and the hope

and the need to keep going,

it isn’t strong enough to make it all the way

Photo by Daniel Jensen on Unsplash

to a place

where I might believe it.

That place can be kind of hard to find sometimes,

especially when you don’t see any of the worth

that’s supposed to belong to you.

Instead, I lost two friends in the last year:

two beautiful, incredible, extraordinary people.

The kind that looked at life like it were a challenge

and they were the Barney Stinsons of the world, so

of course, they would accept it—

to see who could live

and love

and laugh

the loudest…

At only nineteen, I think they lived

more

than I ever will.

And it makes me wonder, why this world

would take away two people here,

and leave behind someone like me,

who doesn’t even know how

to live.

Not like this.

I’m the kind of girl who gets up in the morning,

wishing I didn’t, thinking maybe tomorrow

I won’t.

When this world,

it handles me like a play toy.

Yet depression

and anxiety

and OCD

seem to be the only ones

handling the strings.

A tug this way, a thought that way,

and suddenly

I’m doing whatever it wants.

All I can manage is to nod,

let it control me like a marionette

where the strings tie back to my heart,

as even more hold close to my body,  

pulling on me so tightly

that I have not a say,

not a care,

not a want.

Not a breath that I call my own.

Because not a single one

of those damn strings

seem

to belong

to me.

You see, suicide for me is like the ace in my back pocket,

it’s game that I chose not to play

Photo by Aditya Chinchure on Unsplash

every single day I wake up.

Because it’s not that I want to die,

no, for that would be far too simple…

It’s that I look at who I am, the people I love, the way I live

and I just don’t want to exist

like this

anymore.

I need a reset button for the last time I saved this game of life;

back before I remembered how unfair this world can be

to the people who might not be the majority,

or how easy it is for men in power to get away with taking things

that do not belong to them because the word “no” wasn’t said

loud enough,

maybe it’s how little it takes to lose people we love because

we can’t control that either,

and how hard it can be when every one of us is fighting something

yet, in this society,

not a single one of us feels

like we’re allowed to be.

I just want to know why.

It’s not that I don’t love you,

no it’s not that at all.

It’s that I don’t think

Photo by Sydney Sims on Unsplash

I love me

enough.

Sometimes, I wonder

if the only thing I know about living

is how to spend every day of my life

trying to convince myself

that I don’t want

to die.

If we are so depressed, so beaten down and

broken through and

bummed out

by everything we are turning out to be,

so depressed

and done

and diligently abiding by the rules of an unspoken pact that says

we need to keep going,

that the suicidal thoughts become relief,

or the absence of pain is terrifying…

If we are so ready

to pull a trigger finger,

Photo by Stefano Pollio on Unsplash

to pop a cap,

to inhale invisibility…

Then why are we here,

still moving, still going,

trying so damn hard

to live?


See you Friday.

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.

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.