One year, or what writing means to me

Last Tuesday was my blog’s birthday. About a year ago, I started this WordPress primarily out of peer pressure. More specifically, I was bandwagon-ing on the blogging trend because my very talented friends had started blogs of their own. I initially expected some sort of friendly competition between us, but the idea of blog wars was tossed out promptly because our individual styles and processes were so very different.

I found that I was mostly a reflective writer, and my posts resembled transcripts of rickety trains of thought. I write in streams of consciousness, never quite sure where they will lead me.

I used this WordPress blog to make sense of the serious, important changes that were happening in my life. 90% of my posts originated from me thinking on paper and transcribing my thought process with minimal editing; the other 10% resulted from free writing in front of the glowing screen to sort out what I thought from what I felt, and finding where the two overlapped.

Incredibly, I have published 34 posts. My personal favorites/ the ones that mean a lot to me include the following:

People have been very supportive, giving me advice on how often I should update, commenting on my posts, pointing out the numerous typos, asking for clarification, suggesting possible future topics to write about. From time to time people would come up to me and say, “I read your blog” and nothing else, as if they were simply giving me a heads-up that they were aware of what I’ve been dwelling on, what’s happening in my life. The nicest people told me I inspired them to write and spend more time self-reflecting, or gave me genuine constructive criticism or content.

I say this often and I’ll say it again: I don’t consider myself a writer, or even a blogger. I don’t offer any fresh insight or critique on current events. I don’t have fiery opinions on controversial topics. I am not funny. I am not an artist or a poet. I do not claim to have found answers to universal questions. I am not really a storyteller, unless telling my own story in all my vanity counts. I don’t consider myself capable of riveting my audience with sheer ingenuity.

But then, who is my audience anyway? I would be lying if I claimed I was writing only for myself, but I’m not exactly parading my URL to the world and labeling myself at all a “blogger.” I can’t say I’m writing for my peers because since deactivating my Facebook account, only a small handful have cared to seek out what I’ve posted, because the rest of my friends wouldn’t know where to look if the link’s not dangling in their newsfeed.

No, I figure I’m in an empty room talking to the wall. I fantasize that people walking around on the other side can discern my muffled words and may or may not be curious to know what’s going on. And, if I’m lucky, someone will gently open the door to peek in, and ask what all the fuss is about.

A while ago when I was feeling particularly insecure , I had hastily posted this excerpt and just as promptly took it down.

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Generally I have the same mindset. The difference is that I think I care a lot less. The blog is a manifestation of an ongoing personal project to understand myself. And I think that is what writing has been to me all along.

12 Hours of Daylight

I. I had never seen the streets so empty or heard the city so quiet. Exhausted from all the talking, I try to make myself as comfortable as possible in a sitting position in order to sleep. I am in this strange, suspended, resting-but-still-conscious state with my head hanging to one side when someone whispers, “Look!” I complain and cover my head with the blanket. Someone tears it off and, before I can get grumpy, I see a glint of the morning light on the horizon. The night pulls up and away like a curtain and no one says anything for a long time.

II. The power was cut from our apartment. Too many months late on the rent. I awaken to sunlight bearing down heavy and bright in our room. I panic. I can’t be late for school. Mom motions for me to get back to bed. Instead, I anxiously knock on Uncle’s bedroom door. He sleepily answers and soon enough we’re in his decrepit pickup truck. I hardly even know this man, and he’s not even my uncle. It it only later I understand that the string of strangers who came to live with us were renters. When we arrive I find an empty campus. I am an hour early, and I am embarrassed. My mom says to me when I come home later that day, “Don’t ever do that again.”

III. The entire house is bare. We are sleeping on the floor of what used to be the master bedroom. Or, more accurately, we are trying to. Technically we were supposed to have moved out a week prior so the construction workers could prepare for demolition. None of us can sleep. We can’t tell it it’s because the floor is so hard, the house is so cold, or we are otherwise uncomfortable with the imminent change about to happen. The three of us toss and turn like spinning cylinders of a conveyor belt. Before we know it, birds are chirping incessantly outside the window. We can hear the clunking of a truck carrying various metal tools coming around the corner. It is time for us to leave.

IV. The clouds are spread thin and I can see the sun in its purest form without having to shield myself from its rays. It is a perfect pale disk. I don’t know when the veil of clouds will run out, but I cannot look away.

V. It is summer and I am miserable. I am sitting on the front porch holding myself where stronger arms used to hold me. Neighbors chatter about pasta recipes and power walk down the sidewalks as children scurry to piano practice or soccer camp, and there is a lawnmower buzzing in the distance. The world moves on and I sit very still, head ducked down because everything is so damn bright.

VI. I wipe sweat from my brow as I jump out of the car. He is there out on the driveway. He says, “I didn’t even miss you,” although we both know that’s a lie. I walk past to get what I need from inside his house. I see that heat waves are rising from the street, and decide not to linger longer than I have to. I do not look back or say goodbye.

VII. We lift our hands, we photosynthesize. We photosynthesize not knowing whether it is even going to be our season to grow.

VIII. We are very young. Others go to tease the newest lovebirds among us. As I hear someone say, “Hold her hand!” I find a nice spot to lay on the grass and face the sky. I get a bad sunburn on my nose the next day.

IX. It is a time when I have forgotten my keys to the house. I sit on the front porch feeling sorry for myself. The sky is patchy with clouds and it alternates between excruciating heat and bitter cold whenever a cloud happens to pass over the sun. I watch as my neighborhood intermittently descends into darkness and is strangely illuminated. I pray for longer periods of clear skies. I curse the darkness.

X. It is summer and I am happy. I spend an entire day in the hammock in the back, cradled in warmth and a good measure of creative energy. I feel loved.

XI. It is much hotter inside the car than outside. I am about to burst with what I want to say to the driver, but I am nervous. Instead, I say nothing and flip down the front mirror. I do this partly for shade, partly as a distraction. He looks at me as I look at myself.

XII. We are walking to the parking lot when she stops and says, “Okay, I know this is so lame, but isn’t that sunset just gorgeous?” We look up at the sky, all sherbet  colors and swirls, then say in unison, “That’s not lame at all.” We three savor the moment, and soon it’s time to go.

I would like to think

I would like to think that my mom thinks of me from time to time. I would like to think she still talks about me to all her friends. I would like to think everything would be okay if I could just fall into her arms.

I would like to think that someday I would drive up to her apartment and she’d ask me to make myself comfortable. I would smile and look at the porcelain knick-knacks she would still collect. I would like to think she would tell me, “You are everything I hoped you would become.” She would say, “I’m proud of you,” and, “You did the right thing.” She would brush my hair and tell me not to worry about what the boys and girls think. She would tell me what she’s learned, loved, and lost. She’d move through the room like a planet in orbit, with grace and purpose, as she shows me how to make my favorite dishes. I would like to think I would forgive her, and in turn lay down my burden for her to examine. She’d pick through my pieces and nod to herself. I would like to think that her heart would bruise a little every time mine took a blow. Then she’d look at me and give me the sort of loving advice you remember forever. I would like to think that she would believe in my half-baked ambitions.

But I know none of this could be real. She would avert her gaze and tell me she’s sorry. She would tell me not to ever bring myself to hate anyone, if I can help it. She would thank me for looking out for my brother. She’d then ask if I smoked, and I would say no as she takes a long drag on her own cigarette. In the bittersweet cloud she’d breathe, “A lot of times, we have to make sacrifices for the ones we love.” She’d tell me not to cry, tell me everything is going to be okay. She’d pull my hand into hers and tell me, “Don’t ever get yourself into a situation where you must depend entirely on someone else.”

She’d be amused at the person I’ve become, I think. I think she’d be a little afraid. She’d ask without accusation, “Do you think you’re too good for me now?” And no matter my reply, she would understand, because we are the same in that neither of us have ever believed we were deserving of much love. Her eyes would be wistful because she’d realize we were now poles apart. She would not make the same mistake my dad made and try to draw me into her like a child. No, she’d ask why I was so sad, I’d tell her, and she’d hold me without saying a word.

I would like to think that the last thing we told each other was, “I love you.” I would like to think I remember her well.

I would like to think I am a normal sassy teenager with normal problems, or that I have recovered well. In all honesty, this is a gaping, aching hole I have so desperately tried to fill. Emptiness cannot satisfy emptiness.

I would like to think whenever I told friends to tell their moms they loved them, they heeded my advice.

I would like to think I could honor my mom in ways other than long-winded scribblings transcribed and drafted at odd hours. I would like to think I had reasons to honor my mom, other than the fact that she’s my mom.

I do know that she respected that I wrote a lot, even as a child, about fleeting nothings, and I do know that today’s her birthday. This is the only way I knew how to link these two things I know for sure.

Painfully distracting things

  • hangnails
  • bad breath
  • excess enthusiasm
  • a disarming smile
  • an absurdly attractive voice
  • the crunch of someone eating in class
  • a song you recognize playing somewhere you can’t see
  • mouth-breathers
  • nicely dressed people
  • people who do not sit still
  • stuff caught in people’s hair
  • loud music playing from someone else’s headphones
  • typos in print
  • ugly fonts
  • people whispering loudly
  • nice handwriting
  • people talking about something you know a lot about
  • visible tattoos
  • litter
  • children at play
  • shameless idiots
  • socks with sandals