For the birthday boy

This year Shawn turns 14, much to my family’s astonishment. Additionally to my resignation he’s finally catching up to me in height. This will come to complicate my usual rebuttal of “Well I’m still bigger than you,” whenever I want to indicate that the conversation is over, and that makes me a little wistful.

I hate him. He digs right into every single pet peeve I have. He contradicts every word that comes out of my mouth. He breaks my belongings and humiliates me whenever he gets the chance to. He knows how to reduce me to an incoherent mass of fury, and he can be treacherously manipulative. He specializes in loopholes to pinky promises and will pick fights for the sheer pleasure of watching me lash back.

These are also the reasons why I love him. Sometimes it’s embarrassing how close we are compared to other sibling pairs I know of. He is the singular most hilarious person I know. People tend to focus in on his “cuteness” at first impression, but what makes him great is his vivacity and his earnest approach in this life.

He’s the reason I put down the blade and he is my conscience in human form. I want to be here for him now, and I want to be there to see who he becomes.

(Also he’ll eventually need me to be his biographer in order to record all his exploits.)

This is the only person I know who’d carve a heart out of solid stone for me. He’s the only person with the guts to take me by the shoulders and yell that I’m being pathetic. I always say I’m my own worst critic when it comes to my writing. The truth is when I write, I always consider Shawn to be my audience, because he knows what my best and worst look like. It is ridiculous how many times before publishing another post or wrapping up a narrative or wording a particularly difficult sentence I have wailed for my brother to read through my work and tear it apart when others will dismiss the words as good enough. When it comes to anything or anyone (except, of course, himself) “good enough” doesn’t cut it. He calls out my moments of hypocrisy and takes on the role of patient mentor when I succumb to immaturity. I learn from his candidness and his observant nature. His asthma and sickliness makes him one of the weakest people I know, but his resilience and courage makes him one of the strongest as well.

Honestly, 98% of the qualities I respect in a man are reflected in him.

This is my present for Shawn. 

Message

Last Wednesday evening I received a Facebook event invitation to an Audrie Potts’ Remembrance Day at Saratoga High. I glanced briefly at the description of the event and read the words “passed away.” No one ever really likes to use the word “suicide.”

I wore teal last Friday but said nothing about it to anyone. I didn’t even have class that day. I won’t pretend to have been touched by Audrie’s death or claim that she had potential or that she was a beautiful girl. I won’t use this post as a rant against bullying or to demand that people stop committing suicide already. I’m not going to claim that life is worth living and would you just look at that blue sky and that green grass, etc, etc.

This is for you, in particular.

Life sucks a lot. People tend to suck a lot, too. The universe is a bit kooky as well. You and I could sit on a park bench and list all the things that are wrong with all the world we live in and we would be sitting there for a long, long while.

Know, first, that you have choice. Life or death is a basic one; I know that it’s a decision that some people have to make at every moment of every day. Yes or no is another. There are so many things within your control. There is such a thing as free will. Do not put yourself in a situation that you do not want to be in. Do not dig yourself in a hole if you can use that same shovel to prop yourself out or hit someone else with.

Now, some things are truly out of our control. I know this well. The key, then, is not to worry about the things that are out of your control. Why would you do that? Your life can be spinning out of whack or someone might be making your life hell or you’ll find that the universe just feels like fucking around with you. If you can’t do anything about it, let go. Please. This can be one of the hardest things in the world to do ever. This wrestle with life’s natural course is what causes much grief. Don’t be stubborn about it. This, too, shall pass. Forward now. When you find that you’re headed toward a cliff and the gears are stuck and everything is moving too fast and you know you’re going to hit rock bottom anyways, don’t jump out. Keep your seat belt on and check the map to see what’s next.

Rid yourself of guilt. You do not have to please anyone. You do not have to be good. You don’t even have to be happy.  Dole out the appropriate forgiveness and/or apologies then be done with it. The person who you should be most concerned with gaining forgiveness from is yourself. That sounds cheesy, but some people spend their lives trying to extend their love to whoever will receive. They fight for all these causes without realizing that their own selves are the worthiest causes there are. They leave nothing for themselves. Don’t do that. You are your own top priority. If you are cast out of the community that you are a part of, if you are homeless and unemployed and sleeping in the gutter but you have a healthy sense of self-love, you have more riches than the grandest treasures. You have to make this confrontation with yourself.

Do not put yourself in a box. People talk a lot about YOLO and being infinite and existentialism, but these are the same people who tell me, “What if this is the best person I can be? What if I can’t be any better than this? What more can they expect of me?” The answers, respectively, are: “That’s bullshit. You can. A whole lot.” Stop with the excuses. You are you, but you can be more. If you really don’t want to contribute anything to this world, if you really don’t care for anyone on this planet, if you really don’t care for leaving anything behind, then at the very least seek something for yourself. You can keep this a secret if you want to.

Sadness is addictive and it is romanticized. Some people, myself included, will genuinely enjoy that comfortable rut, indulging in the self-importance. I am feeling so much sorrow. I am going to consume innumerable amounts of fat and sugar to make myself feel worse and better at the same time. No one understands me. Heck, I don’t understand me. I am going to read and write and post self-pitying things and cry myself to sleep. Don’t do this to yourself. Allot a few hours or a few days for moping then get on with it.

Do not judge pain. Oftentimes someone or something will hurt us in horrid ways. We think: I don’t deserve this. This person shouldn’t have done that or they shouldn’t have said that to me. They are hurting me. I cannot function properly thinking about this. Now I can’t do anything right. This is unfair. I hate this. Sometimes we will hurt someone and feel horrid afterward. They don’t deserve this. I don’t know what to do. They would be better off without me. I am only causing hurt.

No. Let the pain come and go. Recognize this pain for what it is, use it as fuel for the journey, watch the scar form and remember why it’s there, then let it pass on through.

This isn’t about self-confidence. It’s about humility and recognizing self-worth.

It’s not easy. It’s not necessarily worth it. I’m not good at this whole hope thing. I make no guarantees for anything, but I do believe that there’s no point living life half-asleep.

 

 

*note: I know that I’m not the cuddliest, most approachable person in the world (whether because you know me well, don’t know me at all, or you can just tell by my writing style. Do not waste your time by trying to contradict me with this point). BUT even if I have ever told you I hated your guts (or you can just tell), or if we haven’t talked in years, or if you don’t even know me please do not hesitate to call me, Facebook me, send me your anonymous messages, leave letters at my door if you just need someone to listen or to have knock some sense into you or even if you feel like letting me know that this blog is a load of crap. That is all. Take care.

Voices

I have been most heavily influenced by Lemony Snicket, Sei Shonagon, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ralph Waldo Emerson in all my readings. For the purposes of this week’s DP Challenge I’m choosing to imitate (rather strictly in this case) Margaret Atwood, whose usage of detail and subtlety really motivate me to become a better writer.

Voice
by Margaret Atwood

I was given a voice. That’s what people said about me. I cultivated my voice, because it would be a shame to waste such a gift. [The rest can be found here.]

Heart

by Brenda

I was given a heart. That’s what people said. I carried it close, because it would be a shame to waste such a gift.

I pictured this heart as a fragile thing, susceptible to scuffs and breakage, something that would shine with good care. I made sure to keep it safe, away from careless hands and commotion, polishing it every night. I breathed over its surface and wiped away the condensation again and again. I cradled it like a child; I ordered it to stay still. I covered it in scarves so it wouldn’t fade in the harsh light. I protected it, I saved it, I watched it crystallize and harden like sugar on a string. The heart gained strength. People said I had a mighty heart. It grew unwieldy, and soon everyone could see it.

My heart was on display. People gossiped about it. Artists scrambled for their pencils at the sight of it. Some demanded it. I lent it to others with reluctant hands like it was a favorite book. The more people I met, the more my heart was passed around. Some held it to the light and turned it so. Some chose to play with it, and I did not deny them. Some dropped it and acted as if I couldn’t tell. What I didn’t know was that I would not be able to wipe away the smears of countless fingerprints on its surface.

Then, as hearts do, it would start to crack open. Finally it would shatter in my hands, and I would be left alone–off-balance, dull, muted. It’s beginning to happen, the breaking. Only I have noticed it so far. My light is dimmer, everything is dimmer without its usual radiance. I toss my heart up in the air hoping people won’t notice the dark. I come out only in the day and enjoy what external warmth I can. In short, I was afraid.

Now it’s evening; streetlamps blink to life, chatter spills onto the streets. We sit by the window, my heart and I; or rather I sat, because my heart demanded to be held. It was always in someone’s hands. We are savoring the stillness of the quiet together. How much longer do I have? My heart has no sense of time. I’ve cradled and cherished it the best I could, but it’s only a heart, it doesn’t know one pair of hands from the next.
Though it’s begun to fall apart, my heart is still as needy as ever. It’s supposed to help me love others but it can’t even love itself. It’ll switch hands over and over and over again no matter how many times its thrown against the wall or kicked into the gutter. It won’t stop until it’s ground to dust.

Soon it will be time for us to go out. We’ll emerge smiling together. I’ll give it a quick polish and a quick kiss before it will start to roll off my fingertips. When it returns more bruised than before it’ll again settle in my chest like a dark anchor, freezing me where I stand.

Some motivation

This is the paper that my English paper returned today in class. (I apologize for the sloppy work. I updated my computer and I have to re-obtain Photoshop but am making do with Paint.)

I got a B+ on this in-class narrative essay on “A Place of Significance.” Her comment, if you can’t read it, says, “Good attempt.”

Good attempt.

She might as well have written, “Nice try.”

“Good” is the word you use when people ask how you’re doing and you don’t feel like talking to them. “Good” is the word you use when people ask how the food is and you’re too polite to tell them you want to vomit.

“Attempt” is the word you use when someone makes a valiant effort but ultimately fails. “Attempt” implies that the action is not expected to be “attempted” again.  It implies no further expectations.

 

I laughed out loud when I read this comment and saw my grade and the guy next to me leaned over because he thought I’d received 100%.

I don’t necessarily think I deserved an A or that I don’t deserve a B. I’m just a bit stunned at such an abrupt, condescending, useless comment from my professor. Even “needs improvement” would have sufficed.

The purpose of this post is a reminder for me to work harder. I need to rise above having made a “good attempt.” I will be more than that, and that is a promise to myself.

Summer and autumn

When it rained briefly on Wednesday I understood that summer was finally drawing to a close. It will be time for me to change my desktop background to something more mellow and to take down the hammock in the backyard and to put away the flip-flops.

I love autumn.

That’s not what this post is about, though.

As a general rule I hate summer. I also am not fond of my own birthday, which falls in the same season. It’s for this reason (rhyme unintended) I first picked up the first Harry Potter book, because I identified so strongly with his similar attitudes.

That’s not what this post is about.

Actually, I was going to write up a list of all the things that happened this summer. I found this one atypical in that I was not bored to tears and I did not have time in my boredom to collapse under the bad thoughts that would haunt me in the heat. It was eventful. Whenever I use that word it means it involved a number of crises and exultation, and a whole lot of mood swings.

So, this summer I have:

  • aced my psychology class
  • tasted rose cardamom ice cream
  • been on the train 5 times
  • spent 6 nonconsecutive late hours wrapping egg rolls
  • seriously contemplated running away from home and made appropriate preparations
  • lied
  • been told the truth
  • thrown tantrums
  • cried myself to sleep
  • reread my favorite book
  • read a new favorite book
  • been tremendously inspired
  • cut my hair shorter than I ever remember having it
  • done unmentionable thug life Thursday activities
  • slept in the garage
  • almost fell asleep in my backyard around midnight
  • been given a bloody nose
  • stared and stared at the full moon
  • been forgiven
  • had multiple people upset with me all at the same time
  • been called a whore
  • been called beautiful
  • been called an asshole by someone I wish thought better of me
  • been accused of stubbornness
  • ripped out pages from a journal
  • saw pages of my journal go down the shredder
  • sat next to a man smoking a pipe
  • attempted vegetarianism
  • memorized three pages of a four page poem
  • danced
  • been to Sacramento (not that impressive)
  • figured out three unrelated wordplay related things
  • reevaluated my stance on faith
  • contemplated the meaning of life, again, again
  • watched the sunrise from a car, appreciated the cliché brilliance
  • saw the sea the way Homer saw it, wine-dark
  • decided that when I grow up I want to be a well-dressed old lay like the ones I’m meeting
  • reevaluated myself

My favorite thing

I’m an impulsive writer. My journal is the one thing I hate to leave home without. Even when I must I’m sure to write bitter somethings on scraps of paper to transcribe into my journal later. I am a writer in the sense that I write things down, but I dare not claim any thing else from that label.

“What do you write about?”

The honest answer: nothing.

Another answer, also true: everything.

Most of the posts on this blog were originally entries in my journal.

ImageI call it Chrysalis. The first entry is dated 6/30/12. My first journal that I started in 8th grade and lost my freshman year was Peapod. My summer journal is Cornhusk. My journal I kept for only a few weeks my sophomore year was Grind. The journal I collect quotes in is Grapeskin. My journal from 9/2010-3/2011 is Eggshell and the journal after that from 4/2011-3/2012 was Grenada. The most recent journal I had from 4/2012-6/2012 was nameless. As I explained in a previous post, Grenada and the nameless one are in shreds. That’s okay.

I think that my current journal has the most personality by far. I’ve reinforced my paper tent with several paper clips as I’ve developed a tendency to hoard various clippings between the pages. I collage covered it to distinguish it from my other composition notebooks. There may or may not be a theme in it, I’m not sure.

I’m avoiding the question.

I write lists ranging from “greatest things ever” to “notable sights and sounds of downtown Sacramento” to “movies I still need to see.” I copy down snippets of eavesdropped conversations. I copy down memorable quotes from people, movies, TV, books. I take notes on people, places, and things that catch my eye. I complain about my own faults and make fun of the people I associate with. I write about what makes my heart break and what makes it jump. I write about how much I enjoyed eating a peach and about how I finally figured out a certain joke. I write about the types of tea I like and about my questions on everything. I work out my thought processes on decisions big and small. I reflect on all the things I should have said to someone and all the things someone told me. I do these things so I don’t forget, for one. Something bigger and nameless also drives me. And yes, I also occasionally write about my feelings and about how proud I was of myself for waking up at a reasonable hour. In a twist of irony I once wrote about blogging.

I write about plans. I write about breaking those plans. I write about the things I want quite often and I like to compare lists of “reasons why I’m sad” to “reasons I should be happy.” I write about writing. I write about actual writers. I write about my friends who are much better at this writing nonsense than I am. I make fun of myself quite a lot. I write excitedly, I write when I’m apathetic, I write angrily, I write when I feel broken. I write when I learn something new. I write when I find that a truth has been reinforced. I don’t write about the past or the future as much as I used to.

It hasn’t even been three months that I’ve owned this journal and I’m quickly nearing the halfway mark. I remember making an entry, “One thing I know for sure is that I will guard this journal with my life.” I will. It’s a little dorky. Sometimes people accidentally offend me by remarking, “So it’s like a diary?”

Some entries are as trivial as the word “diary.”

The only thing I wrote on 9/4/12 was: “Thoreau<–>thorough!”

I probably have not learned about my lesson as described in the post “Paper Tents” but I am very attached to my own ramblings and am pretty vain about my handwriting. Take away my journal and you have my mind in the form of bound lined paper. You’d have my wishes, my gratitude, my cowardice, my jealousy, my neediness, my fury, my silliness, my pride, and my love. You would ultimately have a part of me that is raw and vulnerable and downright ridiculous.

Rare things

  • Good hugs
  • Forgiveness
  • Quality television
  • A good night’s rest
  • People of integrity
  • People who write good letters
  • People with good memories
  • Chapstick that I don’t lose
  • A good man
  • Loyalty
  • Preloaded ringers that aren’t obnoxious
  • Old writing that I’m not embarrassed of
  • Nature valley bars that don’t explode in crumbs all over my keyboard
  • Reasonably priced college textbooks
  • “A person who is without a single quirk”
  • Middle school relationships that last
  • Gratitude
  • Attractive guys in my English class
  • The ability to actually see the stars from my backyard
  • An honest opinion