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self control // frank ocean

tonight i felt the us of you and me breathe again

for the first time in a long time

& i know i should be outraged and keeping my distance but

it just felt like breathing and i don’t know how to call that wrong

even though

//  i know you got someone comin

how many times can you come back for me

just to leave me in the same place

// i know you gotta leave

keep telling yourself

// it’s nothing, it’s nothing

i have to believe

// now and then you miss it

don’t you remember how

// i made you lose your self control

and now here i am, hangin on your words

// you made me lose my self control

i can still hear your laugh; it always sounds like applause

// wish i was there

i want to know what rhythm lives in you these days

when was the last time you opened the curtain of yourself

// some nights you dance with tears in your eyes

i can see you, no matter how many rows back you seat me

i’ll keep a place for you

// keep a place for me

// for me

// keep a place for me

// for me

 

 

 

 

 

(// lyrics from Frank Ocean’s “Self Control”)

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Coming Home / 20something Problems

So, I’m back in Boston. And it feels SO WEIRD. But also so good. In a way it’s like coming home, and in others it’s like being in a completely new place. To be honest, I’ve been avoiding downtown and some of my old spots for fear of the overwhelming nostalgia and mixed emotions of memories this city holds for me, but something is telling me it’s not going to be as intense as I may imagine. It’s bizarre, but most of the time when people talk about college and how it used to be and the things we used to do, I feel like I can’t even remember it. Like it is just so, so far from my consciousness, the mindset, the details, just out of reach of my fingertips.

And it’s strange to be back in a place where so much has changed, and yet nothing has changed. To see people and communities of people I know or used to know who all stayed, continued on here after college, shifting into jobs and apartments and relationships so laterally, seemingly so easily and comfortably when I feel like everything I’ve done has been on such a steep ass incline. I don’t regret it, but sometimes I look at them and wonder why the fuck I’m always doing this to myself and choosing strife, choosing the jump, the heat of the fire.

I often still find it really difficult to relate to people, even friends. I feel I am forever marked by being ‘the one who left.’ Or maybe that’s all in my head, but I feel such a distance at times I wonder where it’s all coming from and if it will ever shrink. For a while I just thought it was from the time that passed while I was in Spain (and New York for that matter), from my own bitterness for having been forgotten and left behind in a lot of ways, things that would be mended with time. Some of it has and some of it has not.

Sometimes being here feels like seeing who I could have become, but didn’t. It feels sad, but mostly evokes a feeling of deep envy for the comfort, security, ease, and ‘loving relationships’ so many people here seem to have. Maybe that’s just part of this whole coming of age thing — mourning all the worlds you don’t get to exist in, all the versions of yourself you can’t possibly be but can still see. After all, the most common loss is of the self. Maybe finding out who you are is just as much about finding out who you are not. And you don’t always get to decide which is which, but you do get to decide how you wake to every morning you have here.

Because of my year in Spain and then my year in New York City, rebuilding my life over and over, and learning how to be relatively completely alone for most of it, it’s becoming more and more apparent how I’ve changed, how my values have shifted, my perspectives and perceptions of life and people have evolved. Not only are those things often at odds with this culture but what’s more, is many of the people I see haven’t changed or grown much, are unwilling to see things from a different perspective, to think about what really matters in life, are unhappy but never change anything, numb themselves, and create public and private facades. And this is another kind of alone for me. One I am getting very used to.

And this isn’t to say I’ve got it all figured out, because I certainly don’t. I struggle with fear and doubt and resounding sadness more often than I’d like. But then again we weren’t wired for happiness, we were wired for survival. Happiness was just an afterthought. And I can say I’m surviving pretty well.

While much of the time I feel stuck and controlled by life’s catastrophes and really really generous helpings of shit I seem to get, I’ve also seen how many things are malleable, that sometimes, not always, but sometimes, I can choose. And I’ve made lots of choices the past few years. I’ve moved across the world, come back, moved to a new city and rebuilt my life a few times over, cycled through countless jobs and various hustles, put my time and energy into a handful of different endeavors and adventures and efforts. I haven’t been held back by relationships or by myself. I’ve done many of the things I never thought I could do, what I thought was only for other people. And I don’t worry so much about being alone anymore.

Because I guess I can’t say no one really cares about me. That I’m completely alone. I always have my back and look out for me. My best friend is myself. And yeah it sucks and I hope it isn’t always like that, but bless the fact that I’ve got me. Being on my own has made me who I am now. I hope my life fills with love and connection and joy. But it’s good to know I can have that and lose it all and still survive. I know that. And that’s powerful, albeit dark. But anything can happen. Because the world doesn’t give a crap about your shitty or wonderful life. The world doesn’t have feelings. We give the world feelings, perceive it with our own selfish projections. The world is a fact. And we are an opinion.

In my opinion, I’m just trying my best. In my opinion, I am good and honest and kind. In my opinion, that counts for something. In my opinion, I’m always gonna give this my best shot.

I want to live a life in which I am thankful for all the trauma and heartbreak and losses because it has made me exactly who I am.

I want to greet experiences that banish the storm in me.

I want to welcome the sun with deep knowledge of darkness.

I want to live.

And it is the quietest victory. It is the light glowing between the leaves, falling on every terrible and magnificent crevice of the earth around me as if it is all romantic and meaningful just the same. Despite what I assign it today — my grief or my glory. It just is. I still am. And that is enough for now.

 

(hope I don’t sounds like a total jerk in this)

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last year // next year

When I think about what this past year was I think:

the evolution of me crying in public: while I hide it and casually look out the bus window; on the subway avoiding eye contact; me straight up weeping on the sidewalk as I push through the line for Halal Guys without a single fuck about who sees me, listening to Bon Iver in the bath on dark winter evenings, lots of take out, even more podcasts, perfecting my fast walk, complete isolation, slowly being overcome with an old darkness and crawling back out of it, clarity, debilitating loneliness, overwhelming possibility, humid subway stations and the smell of urine, rats, more rats, trash, a million things I’ve never seen, fashion inspiration, hearing different languages everyday, hating New York, loving New York, hating New York, loving New York, claustrophobia, getting outrageously angry on commutes, the best food, cement everything, shedding and pushing away so much shit that does not matter, inspiration, wonder, being deep in my head everyday, so many events, avoiding my bank account, pulling away from everyone and everything, no one coming after me, independence, knowing myself thoroughly, reprioritizing, doing everything by and for myself, getting let down, exhaustion, about every single thing feeling like a struggle, floundering, making my own, bewilderment, panic, feeling both the pulse and the hardness and marveling at it all

When I think about what I want this next year to be I think:

coming home while also starting new, getting back to feeling like myself, being better, being more at peace, laying down in the grass and staring at the sky, breathing deeply, practicing gratitude, autumn breezes and fall foliage, old memories surfacing and swallowing them back down, leaning into the discomfort of changes I didn’t want, finding pride in loss, a quieter chest,  sunsets, nature, a slower pace, teaching myself how to bake, making new and interesting foods no matter how long it takes, learning new things for the sake of it, resisting consumerism and comparison, writing regularly, throwing myself into every possible manifestation of art, traveling, telling people how I feel and being more forthcoming about my thoughts and struggles (not just on my blog), letting go, being less easy for other people to ‘handle’, finding people to look me in the eyes and really see me, comfortable silences, human touch, being a more thoughtful and caring friend, showing up, being less jealous of other peoples’ intimate relationships and happiness, less envious of friends’ successes, saying yes more, getting out of the habit of hiding myself away and closing my mouth, presence, long walks, giving more, listening better, being in touch with my body, preservation, putting my mind and time into my goals, accountability, curiosity, cutting out things that don’t matter, dedication, calling things by their name, being more imaginative, finding a new perspective on time and success, patience, discounting shame when it comes, love and love and love, god, I hope a swelling of love

 

See ya soon, Boston.

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stream of consciousness from Brazil

what makes a body a tool

and what makes a body music?

what makes a dream

different than a pulse, when a dream

is just looking desire in the mirror

of morning light? what makes the unknown dark

and yet not exactly night? what makes you right

or me right when we all live from different centers?

and what’s left after it all?

what if the answers are inside all the kids

we silence? and what if God was your mother

this whole time? I don’t know much for certain, but

I’ve seen some things. the only thing I know I want

is everything. and isn’t it enough just to want?

maybe it’s foolish

to still care about things that don’t care about you

like an ex-lover

or a country

but I like the way I look

with my heart always pressed up against my skin

trying to escape. sometimes, breaking free and coming home

are the same thing,

they’re always the same thing.

what if my body is a tool and also music?

what if we can be practical and magical

at the same time?

what if this is all just symphony?

what would our song say?

and is anyone listening to it?

or does that even matter?

what if life is just a practice in listening?

to each other.

to ourselves.

what if that is the most useful and musical thing

we could do? my body

is a tool and

my body is music.

I walk with pain and dreams, steady as heartbeat,

necessary as bass drum, trying

to find love in the melody

of everything.

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my uncanny ability to run into everyone I never want to see again

Nothing good ever happens to me on the 6 train / and today is no different / coming back from the doctor / I happen to catch the same train / the same car / and sit directly across / from you / girl who ghosted me on Bumble / And that is the great irony of New York / one of the most populated cities in the world / and yet somehow so small / like the suburbs I ran away from in Connecticut / faster than I run from the rats near the 6 / and speaking of running away / hello again bumble girl / I’d like to say you didn’t see me / but you did / raised your eyes from your book / just once / and looked directly at me / for a time that lasted less than a heartbeat / I don’t exist in the hearts around me anymore / just float / somewhere between passing time and / all the skin I don’t touch / invisible / forgotten / It’s funny really / that they call it ghosting / when here I am / realist ghost of them all / feel like I could walk right through these concrete store fronts / Maybe the doctor will call me back / concerned about all this inexplicable gray matter I call / a body / this exhale I call / a heart / Maybe Casper had a sister and / plot twist / she’s me / Maybe running in to you on the train is a metaphor / because truly bumble girl / I don’t know what could fuck my day up more / you / or the MTA / Jokes / it’s def the MTA / I’m lying / anyway / I only talked to you then because I was bored / and you were pretty / I can see it still / your carefully sculpted eyebrows / the pigment of your lipstick / But I’m flatlining / This doesn’t even deserve / to be a poem / I guess I’m still bored / I’m not a ghost / I’m just a gay girl / I’m not a ghost / I’m just a femme girl / waiting / to be seen

The future as a real and tangible concept

Walking in New York

//

The concrete covering all angles of landscape, as if

reflecting the hardness of everything and

here I am again, making poetry

out of traumas. What is it they say

about water being the source of life?

Surely, the tears have the same power

making me a reborn thing. Again

and again and again.

//

I am so utterly freaked out that it’s June aka like already December at this point if we’re being real. But it’s not in a ‘lol wow time is flying’ kind of way, it’s more like a ‘holy shit all this time has passed and what was I even doing’ kind of way. It’s making me anxious, but I have to admit that much of this year has felt like a waste. Like I wasted so many months and so much energy for nothing. I suppose on paper I have done a lot, but the majority of the past almost 1 year since returning from Spain has been a lot of holding on/pushing through/hanging in there type existing and that is not at all the way I want to feel. Each year in college I did so so much, like an inhuman amount of stuff, then I graduated and moved abroad and traveled to ten countries in ten months, and now, well, I don’t know? I just worked and lost a lot of people, didn’t fully feel like myself, and tried to convince myself I was okay?

I’ve been reflecting on why feeling like I’ve wasted time has felt so significantly like a loss, and I think it’s because I’ve always seen my time as something that was extremely limited. Honestly, I’ve always had a hard time picturing myself living out a whole life.

It’s not that I didn’t see myself having a future in terms of being successful or whatever, more that I honestly just didn’t see myself IN the future. I couldn’t picture myself truly experiencing joy and love and reason or settling into a particular lifestyle or a life in general. I’ve never been able to really see myself past my mid-twenties. Partially because I always had this strange feeling since I was a child that I was going to die young, but I think also because I couldn’t see myself in anyone older than me, not even my parents. Visibility is so deeply important and for some reason I just never really felt like I could see my full self in the people around me or out in the world — gay, survivor, someone who overcame a childhood disease, someone who fought depression, a witness to and victim in abusive familial relationships, etc. I saw bits and pieces of myself but never my whole self and I got to thinking that I’d had too much baggage, too much darkness, too many complications to really live out a life. I still feel this way a lot of the time, but somewhere along the way I took it on as my purpose to be that image for myself that I couldn’t find, even if it took everything I had. (cue MJ’s ‘Man in the Mirror’)

Even today I can’t really yet see myself growing old. I can’t even see myself into middle age let alone waddling my saggy ass around a porch (idk why but I see an inherent relationship between older people and porches). I can’t see it, but what I do know, now, is that I want to get there. I want my ass to sag someday! I want to live. I want to live, and that, in itself, is a great victory, because I know what it’s like to not really want that. I hope I’m not alone in all these weird feelings about the future. I’m not sure I’ve ever really shared this so honestly with anyone.

And I hope that this next year won’t feel like it’s all so damn hard. That I won’t feel so deeply alone. That I can start to imagine myself in the future, to fill in some of the gaps in my decades to come with conjured up images of me living and living well.

I’m starting to picture next year. My next year will be spent (funny enough) living in Boston! Moving back both scares and excites me. I’m nervous and giddy and a little overwhelmed but I’m happy about the decision. I want to get back to myself. I want to take really good care of myself. I want to let in more joy. I want to just live. Maybe that sounds like a crazy plan, but I don’t care. I need something. I need me. And I hope this change will help me get there. 

So. I miss Boston. Like a lot.

When I think about Boston, beyond several negative factors and experiences I’ve had there, I’m filled with such emotion I don’t even know what to do with it. And I’m not sure if it’s just nostalgia, how I feel that that’s the place I really grew up, or what, but it fills me with an aching, a longing for something. I think what it is is connection. It’s community.

Maybe this is an unpopular opinion or maybe I’m too emotional for my own good (definitely true) but there is something really wrong with our socialization into total individuality. Just doing you and carving out a life for yourself alone and away from everyone and everything you know is highly romanticized. This is not to say it can’t work out for some people or be a necessary change, a chance. Being alone can do wonderful things for you, but there is nothing glamorous or brave about an existence of loneliness for capitalistic ideas of success or simply image, nor the whole host of things we do to pacify ourselves into being okay with desperate unhappiness and lack of connection and fulfillment. It is not noble. It’s just empty.

And I feel empty. I feel I am in the conundrum of infinite possibility/opportunity and complete disengagement, of void. Boston was the first place I felt I had a home that was a real place other than something I built inside myself, and I’ve completely disallowed myself from even thinking about Boston for the sake of wanting my new start to work out, for not wanting to ‘move backwards.’ I recently let myself just think about the possibility of moving back and it’s brought a flood of panic and complicated and conflicting emotions and thoughts. But I just want to put it out into the universe that I am thinking about it. That our ideas of the finality of things is all mental. That you can let love and change in, no matter how painful it may feel.

Today, I am painfully opening myself to both the memory and the prospect of Boston. And I don’t know what to do with it, certainly not just all in my head. I need connection. I need something. I need to air this out with someone.

(more on this later)

the quiet and the in-between

So much happens in the pause — the space between words, the silence of a commute, the breath before sleep. I am always surprised at where I find myself in these moments. I realize I am just a body, vulnerable and subject to external circumstances, wherever I get myself into and out of and through. My body in the belly of cars, planes, and buses; in the caves of random rooms; the swallow of abandoned streets and mountainsides and subway cars; the hollow of anonymity. I preside in the stomachs of a million little worlds unknown to me and myself unknown. I am an agent in the hunger of it all. I am the only witness to my existence. I am the protagonist and a swathe of supporting characters and the forgettable extra and just outside the lens, missed completely. I am all of these things and nothing. I see happy people and I feel both confused and warm; I see security and I feel both pity and jealousy; I see pain and I feel both at home and alienated. I live in the duality of everything. I want what I don’t want and I don’t want what I want. If you asked me how I feel, I’d say conflicted. I am here, and I am somewhere else entirely at any given moment. What makes a life a life? What makes somebody real? I just want to be seen. I just want to be seen. Look down the throat of life and you’ll see me carried and carving out a place for myself in the cavern between starving and fullness, just beneath the heart, rummaging in the dark so close to the pulse of everything.

Existential Crisis #36297

I feel like I wouldn’t be myself if I didn’t have an existential crisis approximately every 6 weeks. This is probably because I’m a mix between a poet, a planner, an overachiever, a traveler, a pragmatic dreamer, a survivor of many things, a fighter of even more things — all this to say I live with a constant hunger. Sometimes I get really freaked out that I will never be fully happy, never stop playing out all these different options, scenarios, choices, lifestyles, never cease imagining my life in various sets of circumstances.

Current crisis? New York and I are fighting and I kinda wanna go on a break. I mean, we’ve had our problems for a while, but I thought they’d just go away. And now I’m wondering if maybe we should break up for real for real.

Okay, so I love New York. But I also hate New York. Honestly, most people I meet here feel the same way. I could go on and on about why (on paper) it’s the right place for me professionally, artistically, socially, etc. But there’s also a lot about it that I’m struggling with that I didn’t expect. New York does sometimes blow my mind, fill my heart, take my breath away. These moments are few and far in between, though, and although there are so many options, I mean options on options on options, I just don’t feel very fulfilled right now. So what does it matter how many opportunities and events and cool projects and people are here?

I’m gonna skip the part of explaining why I love New York because, well, it’s just so typical. I’m one among millions who’ve been dazzled by the concrete jungle. So I’ll say a little bit about what I’m struggling with. And that’s just it — it seems like everything feels like a struggle. And maybe some of this is because of certain professional and social circumstances that are less than ideal, but some of it is also location and the city’s culture. It’s funny, but even though I mentioned I have such a breadth and scope of opportunities and options, I feel extremely disengaged. Like I am going through the majority of my days starving for a connection to someone, to something. And it’s leaving my mind and my soul so malnourished.

I have done a lot of work on myself, yes. I understand that happiness and fulfillment are largely generated from the internal, but I also can’t deny that there’s only so much I can do. And I don’t want to mentally and emotionally alter myself to cope and be content with circumstances that are ultimately malleable, if I just have the courage and audacity to make changes.

To be completely honest — and this is not to say I haven’t had amazing opportunities, successes, moments of happiness and fulfillment — I feel that I struggle every day with three emotions: sadness, loneliness, and anxiety. Some times for just a moment, a well of tears brought to my eyes on the train and then it vanishes and I’m good, some times it looms over me and lasts a week. And this is nothing new, I am very used to feeling these things, it’s just more often than I’d like to live with and I’m missing a lot of the other people and things I used to have in my life to balance that out.

Part of what it comes down to is that I’ve realized that I’ve changed (yeah, yeah, blah blah blah everyone changes and transforms into weird little butterflies and shit). But really, I think what’s happening is that the lifestyle and the values I hold have shifted. This may be from my year abroad, leaving college, just generally growing up. I used to dream about making it in NYC (rolling my eyes at how cliché this is), I surely romanticized it and idealized it greatly. But this makes sense for someone who’s had some tough things to overcome and wanted an escape and craved independence in a place I could fully be myself. I still love this about New York. I used to fantasize about my life as this rough struggle where I overcome and work so hard and that relationship between fight and achievement never ends. I mean this is so much of who I am and how I think. But (lemme add three thousand buts and parentheses to this post) now, I’m thinking about all the ways my deep self-reliance and all of these behaviors have actually made me someone who rejects joy. I reject joy. I don’t see it as an option for myself. I duck and avoid it. It kinda scares me. And yet I crave it more than anything. I’ve had it and lost it. I’ve lost and lost and lost.

And so what would it mean for me to allow myself joy — at least from the sources I can control. Fully. Without hesitating. Without capping it. I want to give all of myself — my heart, my mind, my body — joy and fulfillment. I want to honor those three parts of myself equally. The past year in Spain and my last several months here in New York I’ve been trying to do this and have become much more self-aware and surely a lot better at it. And I feel like I’m plateauing.

Reflecting on some of my favorite places, experiences, activities, a good many happened in cities and a great deal also happened in nature. Since moving here I’ve said a million times how much I miss nature, but I also am afraid of getting bored not being in a big city the way I felt in Boston. So what would it feel like to move to a balanced place, in a city surrounded by and infused in nature?

I remember this one time in like January or February, I was going to a feminist art party in Brooklyn that I thought was gonna be so cool. As I walked up to the house, I passed a tree under which gathered a pile of leaves on the ground. And it hit me so hard. I hadn’t even seen leaves in so long. I am not joking when I say I started to cry. This one little exposure to nature really made me that emotional. And at the party, everyone was drinking and chatting and being so ‘artsy’ it all felt like performance, and I just leaned up against the counter and thought about a god damn tree.

Thinking about a lifestyle where I can be in a city and go to events and learn and work hard, while also being able to walk outside much more, lay in the grass, have year round warmth and sun, go to the beach on the weekend, hike in the mountains and forest in my free time, generally just be more active and see beautiful scenery, breathe cleaner air, have fresher produce and make better food. UGHH. I just. I want that lifestyle. I want it for myself and, in imagining my life to come, I want to share that with my friends, my future partner, everyone. So I’ve been thinking (daydreaming, mostly) about maybe making a move to San Francisco/Oakland soon. Who knows.

I am 23 but already feeling the quiet and rapid escape of time. It’s scary. I don’t want to waste the time I have right now (not twenty years down the line after decades of keeping my head down). I want to give myself that chance. I want to give myself every chance. I’m planning a trip to San Fran/Oakland to check it out and see how it feels. Maybe it’ll be super amazing, maybe it’ll be totally wrong.

So. This is an open invitation (to this trip and in general in life). Come with me. Let’s hike. Let’s feel the sand on our feet and the salt in our hair. Let’s sit in the sun and talk until we are silent and laugh again and ruminate on the gorgeous and complicated world we live in. I am tired of everything feeling like a struggle. Let’s go and just exist. For a moment. For a weekend. For all the precious time we can. Please, let’s just be. You and me.

When straight people complain about their boy problems and say: “I wish I liked girls. It would be so much easier.”

and I begin to wonder where along the line you mistook my pride for easy.

Given the choice, I wouldn’t change any of it, and yet I do not wish this on you.

The same way my moms’ faces dropped, their eyes hitting the floor every time they saw I liked girls just as much as they did.

I don’t know how to tell you about the first moment I knew my ex was in love with me,

how we hugged each other goodnight for twenty minutes, her eyes staring out my dorm window into the full moon, and she cried quietly, her chin locked on my shoulder, and I didn’t have to say anything the whole time my arms whispering “I know. I know.”

There is nothing easy about loving like you are saying sorry over and over.

There is nothing easy about living like you are saying sorry over and over.

When you tell me to get over it, say “fuck that bitch” and shake your head at how I still answer every time she calls out to me, when you suggest I forget her, like I can lay down all the memories and the worry with my tongue between the legs of other women,

tell me how easy it could be, but,

the thing is, I don’t know how to fuck myself out of loving someone I survived with.

You chandelier your love delicate and diamond and all I know how to do is fear it’s untimely fall piercing my whole existence.

When was the last time you imagined your death?

And did it happen between cocktails and club beats?

I do not cackle into the moonlight of late nights, I exude joy the way I learned how to — star-like, silent but fucking miraculous and burning up the whole sky, my hips swinging, hands touching, dancing in the humid dark, alone together, all of us, moving to a rhythm I beg does not meet sneer and hate crime. Body rolling and side stepping my unwritten eulogy into the floor, as if to pray my body invisible and yet so visible in the flashing lights of the gay club.

And I wish this was easy.

I kiss girls and behind closed eyes think about what my face would look like dragged into the pavement.

I miss girls and behind closed eyes think about what my body would look like underneath the pavement, meaning:

Living and dying always looked similar to me. Meaning my love is the soil hiding underneath everything, meaning in the soles and of the soul and dirty and life giving, anyway. My love is the ground holding me up.

My love is so big it wraps around the Earth’s crust. I have magma for marrow,

my fast heart beat earthquakes me to remember how I wake to lay the ground out in front of me, to keep kissing and missing and losing and standing my ground.

I keep my feet dug into the cracks to remember where I come from and where I am going all at once.

I was born with a heavy and a dark and an endless longing.

This can be called many things

but it is never

easy.