When my husband and I started a local newspaper eleven years ago, I thought it would be the perfect venue to write for, but apparently putting out an issue each month required more than just articles—it took talent we didn’t possess. In the beginning, we were extremely lucky to have a few friends that took on the bulk of the graphic design work at a fraction of their ideal pay rate, but there were always last minute edits in the pre-dawn hours, just before we were scheduled to go to print, and it was never much fun for anyone to have to drag them from their bed and back to a computer still warm from another long night before the deadline. I needed to be able to take over the keyboard where they left off if we wanted them to still like us the next day.
I have always praised (by my grandmother—still counts) for being able to find a solution to a problem, to make something work, even if it was as simple as following the instructions in a manual. Her little daisy of confidence abetted my belief that I could find a way to make myself useful to our company if I could figure out how to do the things that we’d pay someone else to do, and I’d do anything to not have to sell ads. Over the last decade, I’ve learned a variety of graphic design programs by looking over the shoulders of others, and eventually web development using a search engine as my foremost professor. I had no lesson plan, only real-time requisites guiding the curriculum: We need an animated gif? A survey form? A rabbit needs to fly across the screen? By morning? I’m on it.
As the company grew into other companies—restaurants, music venues, and an annual music festival—so did my self-directed education. After starting out in graphic design, I soon learned to build newsletters, static websites, online forms that stored information in databases, and eventually dynamic sites with interactive scripts. While I loved the challenge of mastering a particularly difficult problem, there were countless nights of struggling to just find the damn keywords for the question to search that would reveal the answer.
It was in those moments that I wished for a mentor the most, someone who already knew the terminology and could gently guide me to a resolution. It’s like being in another country and craving an apple, but not knowing how to say ‘apple’ in the local language. Once you know what to ask for, it’s much easier to obtain. However, it was in those same moments that I found troubleshooting satisfy the creator in me, that part that would normally only be sated through writing.
Some believe that life is the result of a universal accident and the chemical flux in our bodies deludes us into thinking we’re more than just its hapless, unanchored subjects. It baffles me to hear such yielding certainty, especially when it is quite apparent that we have barely breached the most elementary knowledge of how our minds influence matter, and have just begun to wrap our minds around matter itself. Evolution of the body and intelligence as a means of survival isn’t in dispute as it’s a direct example of life reacting to its environment. However, evolution as a means of reaching a perfect finality, whether mental or preternatural, would seem to require some sort of blueprints of what that outcome would resemble, and this working plan would also need to be an inherent part of us via DNA encoding or another recondite system. For those who believe in an arbitrary existence, an orchestrated evolution is an impossible contradiction, and as science has yet to measure the spirit, they are content it doesn’t exist.
Pressed to explore why we contain and produce certain chemicals that allow us to feel grief and tenderness, turbulent despair, wonder and wanderlust, some people feign satisfaction with the scientific theories, which don’t provide a reason, just the method. Press them harder. First, pose the query that if they really believe in all of this happenstance, that we are never the cause, only the result, then what was the initial cause that led to us as a result. What elicited the first reaction? Next, ask them why we have these bodies that produce chemicals that make us feel these emotions. Above all, what is that placid, offset place from where we observe ourselves, unswayed by the view as one watching a far off tempest from shore where its clouds and wind can’t reach. Science can demonstrate consciousness and subconsciousness easily enough, but it still fails to distinguish between the emotional reactor and this unmoved observer that seems so evident to those who can entertain the possibility that we are more than skin and synapses. Continue reading
Legions of people wait in abeyance, idly toeing the threshold of their dreams. They kneel with their truest hat in hand, looking for another to weigh its worth and only wear it with their blessing. This validation is usually sought from someone they wish to prove worthy of their respect, but often the nod of anyone admirable will do, whether that reverence is based on true merit or false exaltation.
While awaiting someone else’s affirmative to duck out of the thraldom of tradition, they prospect for success in fields of unquestionable propriety, legitimate careers with worthwhile returns. A clamor of internal and external naysayers refute their innate passion as monomania, arguing if one’s ideal vocation isn’t financially profitable, it ranks no higher than a hobby or diversion, no matter how good their intentions.
in this moment.
An atom, a terminus
in The Vast.
In this moment.
A streak of sentience
no larger than a coffin,
sailing the galaxy a billion leagues a year,
with only the stars remind us we are moving at all.
Twelve million miles since yesterday,
Follow the sun and the moon,
as the stars are too far
Put one hand over your heart,
and one finger to your lips.
Feel the life in your blood and breath.
Close your eyes to why, when, and then.
Do you still look for shapes in the clouds?
What you see doesn’t matter,
What matter’s is that you are still looking,
or maybe it’s that you have begun to look again.
Putting others before yourself is a noble quality under plenty of circumstances, and I don’t mean that in a feminist-ey way one bit. Yet there comes a point when this quality works against us. When we don’t pursue something we love because we fear what those others might think of us, whether we succeed or fail, we’re no longer being true to ourselves and we soon become something much different than who we really are.
Awaiting someone’s validation for the very thing you know you must do in order to be true to yourself is no way to live. Do what you must or risk never doing it at all, with or without anyone else’s support. Write for yourself. Sing for yourself. Dance for yourself. Whether or not anyone is watching.
While I’ve always held on to the idea that I should write about my past, I haven’t actually formed a good reason for doing so, though I think there’s one in there somewhere. I have to weigh to possible end results—from opening myself up to judgement and criticism, to maybe actually succeeding in not just entertaining a reader enough to keep them turning the pages, but to make them feel like they’ve found a part of themselves within those pages, a connection, some relief, some comfort. The comfort would be from reading and then knowing that someone out there went through some tough shit and made something good of it—that possibly they too might be able to mine a small treasure from the muck of their own past, something of value from deep within the involuted mess we call our pasts.
In judging others, we seek to comfort ourselves from judgement. In comparing ourselves to others, we lose our individual worth to the very people we want to feel worthy of.
They may have brilliant jewels
But I have the look in your eyes
They may have mansions and harbor views
But your embrace is my only sanctuary
They may lounge on silk sheets
But I’ll lie next to you under one sheet every night to ponder your pureness
Truer than light
You suppose you are the trouble
But you are the cure
You suppose that you are the lock on the door
But you are the key that opens it
It’s too bad that you want to be someone else
You don’t see your own face, your own beauty
Yet, no face is more beautiful than yours.
“It’s more about imagination than brains” — my son, age 7, Khalil in response to me saying, “DUDE! You are so smart!” when he showed me a complex freestyle Lego masterpiece he built.
We all had a certain idea of what adulthood would be like, of what it would feel like to be all grown up. There would be the freedom to eat ice cream for breakfast. You would learn how to drive a car and stay up as late as you wanted. You wanted to be a fireman, no wait, a veterinarian, or maybe, yes, an archeologist. Better yet, you would just make a lot of money doing something cool like designing video games or modeling. The possibilities of being a grown up were endless, but best of all, your parents wouldn’t be able to tell you what to do ever again.
There was a time in our lives when everything was new to us. The words we heard, the food we ate, the sights and sensations were all new experiences. And we learned with astonishing speed.
Are life’s mysteries strong enough to pull you away from the mundane? Do you feel that your childhood image of adulthood is manifest? Do you feel ‘grown up?’ Have you been told you care too much? Have you felt the anxiety of realization that you were nearly pulled under, lulled into the shallows of life where the water was never too deep, where your head was always above water, feet on the ground, head a safe distance away from the clouds…and then realized how terrifyingly easy it is to let the mysteries slip away? Did you come back or are you still there?