Still Knocking

This is a crane fly.

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There have been so many crane flies in the house. I hear them knocking into the walls relentlessly through the night with their long, ugly, gangly legs. Everyone seems to agree that they look like monstrous versions of mosquitos except harmless. Somehow their sheer size and unwanted gaze is enough to make me writhe. When they fly they fly erratically and grossly, with their clumsy legs dragging behind them as if their entire body structure is nature’s mistake. They whirl around my exposed lamp and bump and smack right back into the walls. I’ve been trying to figure out if, like moths, they are looking for the moon.

Crane flies keep spinning against the ceiling now. They’re like spiders that can fly, fear and confusion on wings. I hate this sound.

There are four or five shriveled crane fly corpses on the windowsill in the kitchen, their legs tucked in like fingers into a fist, artifacts of a quest for freedom. Last night one of them managed to perch awkwardly on the side of the structure right underneath the naked bulb of my lamp and I thought, “What are you going to do now?” I don’t think it knew either, and it flew away someplace else of its own accord.

Once a crane fly suddenly crashed into the glowing screen of my laptop, looking for a way out of the darkness.

It’s hot. The crane flies are almost worse than my self-doubting. I feel itchy in my own skin. I want to peel it all off so my exposed flesh throbs and glistens and takes in everyone else’s light. Every small, disgusting thunk of the ugly crane flies is the same answer to uncomfortable questions.

Did I change my major before I even knew what I was getting into? Yes.

Did my lips say “yes” when everything else said “no”? Yes.

Did I fake an emotion again? Yes.

Did I blow exorbitant amounts of money on temporary hits of happiness? Yes.

Did I spend another 45 minutes stewing in envy for the features I’ll never have? Yes.

Am I longing for human connection? Am I tired of being invisible? Yes.

Did I lie about the progress I was making? Yes, yes, and yes.

Is this a self-whipping of sorts? Yes.

Crane flies are knocking against the walls again, so I opened my window to let the hum of my neighbor’s AC overtake the sounds of confused legs against hardness over and over and over again.

Things are jumbled up and backwards. I spend my waking hours thinking about how nice it’d be to return to sleep. I experience anger much more readily than I ever have. I love my aunt now more than ever, and I resent my mom. My brother gives me better, much more succinct advice than I have to offer these days. I’m without a plan. 

My academic adviser told me, you can’t dive into everything all at once.

I can’t lean against the headboard of my bed without sliding the mattress along over and ending up on my back. I’m already sick of this city, where it stinks and where months ago a teenager stood on the edge of the overpass nearby–that was the highest point he knew–with sirens all around him trying to convince him to live.

All my life I’ve held on to that tantalizing thought, “it will get better” and “there’s something good waiting behind all this” and it’s happening again. As soon as I make a decision to withdraw from a situation I don’t agree with, I’m confronted with a quiet thought that says “Isn’t this what you wanted?” “No” “Then what do you want?”

I don’t know, but it’s not this.

I’m not as daring or reckless or brave as people seem to think I am. I’m also still knocking around hoping for a different answer. No one seems to know what I mean when I say I want to go home, or when I say I am homesick. 

I can’t sleep. I regularly stay up past 2 so I can guarantee I will knock out as soon as I close my eyes, because otherwise I will rearrange limbs and what-ifs a hundred times before I lose consciousness. That’s how I know it’s summer.

 

 

The Reasons Why So Many Female Celebrities Avoid the F-word, and Why We Should Care

The Reasons Why So Many Female Celebrities Avoid the F-word, and Why We Should Care

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    Shailene Woodley of recent Divergent fame has recently come under fire from all sides by variousfeministbloggers for telling TIME magazine in an interview she is not a feminist. An excerpt:

      TIME: You’ve talked before about being conscious of the kind of messages that you’re sending to young female fans when you’re       taking on roles. Do you consider yourself a feminist?

      Woodley: No, because I love men, and I think the idea of “raise women to power, take the men away from power” is never going         to work because you need balance.

One of the major reasons this matters, apart from the innate inaccuracies of her interpretation of feminism, is because just two months before this interview, TIME published a blatantly contradictory piece entitled Why Hollywood Desperately Needs Shailene Woodley with a byline that proclaims: “The 22-year-old Divergent star turns out to be the outspoken feminist role model we’ve been waiting for.” Perhaps not.

Read the rest of this piece I wrote about the importance of celebrities who identify as feminist on Community Village!

Jackfruit

I admit I was feeling unnecessarily exasperated when my aunt asked me to help in the kitchen when I was in the middle of wasting my time on the internet. Today we sat on the kitchen floor on scattered newspapers cutting open the jackfruit that’s been ripening in the back of the car for the past week. Its rind is a rainforest green with conical spines that make it nice enough to touch but cumbersome to hold. I watched my aunt oil the knife as she tells me to put on plastic gloves. As its pungent aroma, not unlike the notorious durian’s, fills the kitchen my aunt tells me a story I’ve heard before.

“Once my friends and I brought jackfruit into the office to share with the others. We’d worked hard to pick enough of the fruit for everyone to taste because it’s rare that any one person has the time to do so. It smelled so sweet and ripe to us, but… the Americans complained to the boss about the smell. We were never allowed to bring it in again.”

She paused to pop a piece of jackfruit in her mouth. “This is one of the good ones.”

I have always been bewildered at the way fruit hides its bounty behind thorns and bitterness and layers of inedible parts. My aunt hands me a large cross section that looks like an alien planet to start off with. I fumbled for the golden flesh of the fruit between the folds of their white walls. The fruit secretes a white, gluey substance that sticks my gloved fingers together, making the fumbling even harder to do. Each yellow bulb has a chestnut-like seed that easily slides out with a small, gentle pinch. Bracing the rind, I peeled off the bulbs and placed them in the large ceramic bowl in the center of the floor. I work as diligently and as quickly as my hands let me.

Time passes slowly with the tedious work. My aunt asks me about my schoolwork, my siblings, my mother, my boyfriend, how I’m handling all the paperwork of adulthood. My answers are stunted and almost insufficient because I’m not used to anyone else but me caring about these things. I work faster.

We are nearly done excavating the fruit. Many of the folds of my gloves are stuck together as I sift through the ruins and remains of rind, broken yellow flesh, and round seeds to make sure I didn’t miss anything. I finally pop a bulb of jackfruit in my own mouth and taste something close to home.

What I Am Is Tired of You Asking What I Am

Mixed American Life

Once at work I was approached by a couple of older white men. I greeted them with the usual “Hello, how can I help you?” to which one of them paused before asking, “Where are you from?”

Tight-lipped but cheerily I answered, “I live in Sunnyvale not too far away from here.” The two men looked at each other and the bald one tried again, “But where are you really from?” to which I answered with “Well, I was born and raised in San Jose but I moved here for middle school. Now what can I get you today?” They were persistent and kept at it: “But what are you?” and so on as I smiled my customer service smile and completed their order so I could get to the next customer.

These experiences are not limited to strangers, but also by young children I come across, classmates, and coworkers…

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My wordpress turned two this week, incredibly.

It’s been a very rich year, albeit inconsistent in terms of my writing and posting. I wrote only 12 posts between today and my last anniversary post.

However, in light of the very dramatic events of 2013 and my transition period into 2014, I acknowledge how emotionally packed some of my posts were. I want to say that I have been growing as a writer, but to be honest I can’t tell. I am often told that the more I tap into the intense emotions I experience (“You sound so…angry! I love it!” is a comment on my writing I will never forget from a former friend), the better the results. And so I have been trying to do just that, trying to capture feelings of guilt, the rush of adrenaline in the midst of disorder, confusion, self-love, and hope.

This time around it seemed like I was doing less observing and elucidating on some flash of realization I had while walking to class, but rather being completely immersed in the events that were happening around me and reflecting every so often in my progress of rebuilding my life. With life being much harsher to deal with upon leaving the nest (toxic as it was), more unpredictable, and being forced to think critically I think my ideas are becoming more concrete and less abstract, more genuine and less melodramatic, and generally more focused.

That’s a really long way of saying I’ve been somewhat lax about exercising my writing ability if I can even call it that at this point. It’s another way of saying I’ve been too caught up in the whirlwind of all the terrifying and painful and exciting things that have been happening to read, to broaden my intellectual scope, or to pause and have my quiet time. Alone time has been something I have deprived myself of most notably this past summer and fall because, I think, I was so frightened of being alone when I was living someplace other than what used to be home. I wrote those 12 posts in 4 different houses and as kind and welcoming and accommodating my benefactors were I never felt I belonged and I felt unsure about myself all around.

I’m resolving to do better and be attentive to my streams of thinking. I feel like I am coming closer and closer to a feeling of security balanced out with my drive to push for self-improvement in multiple areas. With this comes more confidence in my grasp of the complexities of my personal growth and all the forces that influence it.

Four of my personal favorite posts of this March 2013-March 2014 period in terms of how emotionally invested I am in them, as opposed to general objective quality, are the following:

I cannot stress enough how much every comment on my posts, private or otherwise, means the world to me. This blog is a means of personal expression but it also very much a means of connecting with others. I have reconnected with a lovely handful of old high school friends because something I wrote rang true to them as well, and I have forged new connections with people I would have never thought I could relate to because something I wrote moved them in some way. These are the kinds of things I live for, and it’s a major part of why I love doing it.

Blessed, or I’m going to be okay because it’s almost spring

Walking around on campus I have noticed that the school has been planting calla lilies and daffodils and all the other trees have burst into bloom. People are praying for spring but instead the sky has given us rain, rain, and more rain. Inside of warm buildings surrounded by warm bodies I’ve been watching the rippling puddles from tall windows, and at night in warm blankets I’ve been listening to the content sound of the gutter’s gurgling of the day’s showers.

I see there’s a fire bell above the women’s restroom where the twigs of a bird’s nest stick out in all directions proclaiming, “This is our home!” It’s strange to know these creatures are unaware of their house’s purpose and that in the event of an emergency, they’ll be the first to know when their earth shakes and screams but they’ll also be the first to flee the scene. But we have been safe thus far, and as long as we’re safe they’re safe. 

The school’s swimming pool is surrounded by a high, narrowly slotted fence through which the sun can slip through only as a series of slivers. When I walk down the sidewalk along the border it becomes a celestial flashing camera telling me, “This is your life, this is your life, this is your life.” I feel I have a lot of figurative flashing cameras reflecting my light back to me. They are reminding me that I’m not obligated to whatever’s happened in the past or what my future holds, especially considering my return to social media and especially considering all the people I’ve found are still rooting for me. 

Still, I wear combat boots for as long as I can until the sun is warm enough to coax my toes out from under the black laces and convinces me I don’t have to be at war with the world anymore. I wear hoodies and scarves for as long as I can until the wind I felt has always been pushing me away changes, and becomes the breeze that pulls me into spring.

The latest taste of heat I’ve felt was when I burned my knuckle on the popper at work a few weekends ago. The crinkled, fish-shaped scar has finally started to peel away to reveal delicate pink skin that reminds that the body fights for us to begin anew.

And yet last weekend I hurt myself again and my skin has opened up again in anger, filling in the spaces I tried too hard to create to distance myself from pressures threatening my head. The healing is ugly, and the scar looks like a set of lop-sided lungs, but self-forgiveness sweetens the process.

My emotions build upon themselves until I become angry about being angry, sad about being sad, ashamed for being ashamed, guilty for feeling guilty. Everything is amplified, magnified, increased exponentially until I catch myself wishing I didn’t have to feel at all. At the same time I guess what I’m really trying to say is that I think I’m getting better. I feel better in this moment, and I can’t express how happy I am to be happy.

My brother reminds me that I am in a different space now, and that the last phase of my life has long been shed, and that it’s time to create a new space for myself. 

My thoughts buzz along telephone wires and my patience is the red of traffic lights when my uncle’s voice tells me to”BRAKE. BRAKE” as he holds the sides of the car even though I know I am far from danger.

As the seasons stutter from one into the next, strangers all around me raise their voices to politely bless me. I say thank you, always surprised at my newfound state of blessedness, and walk along.

First love

1. I found myself in a closet with my first love when we were both 10 or so. It was a rigged game of 7 minutes in heaven and our time was still ticking. I remember feeling very cramped between the vacuum cleaner and his body. He asked, “Do you really want to do this?” I shook my head and he mumbled, “Me neither.” So we just stood close enough that I could feel his goose bumps touch my own.

I was in love with my best friend. My biggest scar on my face resulted from proving to him I could be like one of the boys. We vandalized the neighborhood together, constructed made-up games together, philosophized in the way that kids do about anything from school to sex together. Loving him was a rush in many ways, but it was also masked and stifled from our perpetual infantile feigned dislike of each other. Even after we kissed “just for fun” behind a bush outside my childhood home I was still “just like a brother” to him, but I knew a brother wouldn’t touch my face like that.

We couldn’t possibly get past a platonic relationship because we knew too much about each other, and were not at all what we pictured in a potential romantic partner. We missed it. We missed each other. The last thing he said to me, when I returned to pick up something I’d left at his house a few months after I abruptly moved: “I didn’t even miss you” and I tried to believe the same.

2. My second love grew out of admiration and a hint of jealousy of his talents.

I was a parched valley and somehow he knew exactly how to fill up all the jagged cracks and spaces. I fell hard for his silver prose that dripped out his fingertips and laced our nightly chats. Our fondness for one another went back and forth for an extended amount of time, and my infatuation swelled with every split moment of eye contact, chat notification, flash of wit. He knew I had a penchant for stories and he happened to have a knack for telling them, so I thought for sure this was an indicator that this was meant to be. Loving him felt like blooming over and over and over again.

It was a picture-perfect courtship. He knew all the right things to say. He told everyone I was beautiful every chance he had to, whether or not I was listening. I was infatuated, maybe even obsessed with him, but I was also very well infatuated with the concept of being in love. It was partly selfish too, because I loved the kind of light, airy person I was when I was glowing from being in love. I did genuinely love him for his genuineness and his soft-heartedness, though I guess I we did not know or understand each other as well as we thought we did until perhaps the very end.

“I love yous” turned quickly into “I miss yous” and it was soon evident enough that this could not have a place in reality given the outside circumstances. It needed to be cut off, too, because perhaps our relationship didn’t have roots deep enough for us to withstand everything that threatened us.

One of the last things he’s said to me, when miles and lifestyles away we check up on each other: “You realize how people change and thus can better understand them.”

3. I ran into my third love in the library, and when that happened I genuinely felt like time had stopped, that something important was happening.

I fell in love with a wonderful collection of brillances and imperfections. It began this time out of a strange curiosity which became a fascination and attraction I couldn’t bring myself to pull away from. I fell in love with all the little habits, all the awe-inspiring pieces I gleaned about him from every interaction. It was affection, then connection. Loving him feels electric and stimulating, something that continually feeds itself.  At some point we had a mutual understanding that we were both committed to taking this relationship seriously and have overcome so many obstacles to prove it. Our faults and shortcomings seem to mesh neatly with each other as do our respective assets. We support and encourage each other in big decisions and in our passions. We talk about our future together. We carry each other through our weakest moments and bask in each other’s success.

We take the time to work through our inevitable conflicts, however messy and aggravating.  I know it is love because he accepts the nitty gritty details of my past. He is not afraid of my demons nor of the culture I come from that does not welcome him. It’s love because all my shortcomings to him are opportunities for growth. When I walked away and told him to leave to protect him from all my sharp edges, he came running after me to tell me he wanted all of me. Somehow where I see smudges and insecurities and crooked lines, he sees something close to beautiful. He has the patience of mountains and the gentle presence of rain clouds coaxing out the buried spring inside me.

Making me happy genuinely makes him happy. Loving him doesn’t make me feel at his mercy or totally dependent on his affection for my livelihood. Instead, we thrive on each other’s joy but also make each other feel entirely secure. I fell in love with someone who makes me feel more me. I don’t even quite feel like I fall in love with him more and more, but rather rise in it.

It’s everything I could ever want, and everything I didn’t know I needed.

The last thing he said to me: “See you soon.”