Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Apologies and Thanks.

Just a quick note; the other night, I posted a blog here that was not meant to be published. I wrote it as a stream-of-consciousness in the heat of emotion for my own benefit. I meant to "save it as a draft" so I could read it later myself and engage with it as an outside viewer.

As such a stream-of-consciousness writing, I exaggerated details (perhaps blending fact with narrative fictitious elements) and wrote without any sort of censor. Not being written with an audience in mind, I essentially posted an extreme version of what was meant to be a journal entry. Not even a journal entry. More like scrawlings on a random sheet of paper to be read and likely discarded entirely later.

If you happened to read that blog, my apologies for having posted it. Also, thanks in advance for not acknowledging with me that you read it. I'd prefer not to know. I honestly can't speak to what I wrote anyway, because when I realized the next day that I posted it rather than saving it as a draft, I immediately deleted it without reviewing it.

So, thanks again for not acknowledging with me if you read it. We'll pretend you accidentally stumbled upon a journal I left open on the table. Which is essentially what happened.

Thanks also for having read these blogs in the past - the ones I shared with you in mind. It was such a pleasure to share my journey with you.

I have not posted on this blog in a long time (the other night withstanding). I am considering deleting it altogether. If there was an entry that profoundly impacted you that you want access to, I recommend printing it out. Otherwise, I will very likely print these all out for my own records and delete this blog in the next few weeks. Thanks so much for your support of my writing and journey.

I still enjoy writing. Right now my attentions are shifted more away from blogging and more toward the academic side as I continue my education. Maybe I'll pick up blogging again on another domain later on.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

On Being 25. And INFJ. And Just Being Me.

The good news: I'm an INFJ (Meyers-Briggs) with the mind and heart of an artist. I am deeply inspired multiple times a day. I am riveted by an idea until I develop an extravagant plan to see it through to its "completion", which is also defined by me in a state of exuberant bliss.

The bad news: When the inspiration passes, the dream melts like cotton candy at an amusement park in the rain. The rides shut down. The candy dissolves. And I awaken.

My confession: I live out multiple exciting lives in my head on a near-daily basis, and every one of those lives is more exciting than the life I lead.

Just a few months ago, 2015 was going to be the year that I became certified as a doula. I bought a book, I compiled the information in strategic deadlines for how to achieve it, I learned what I would need to learn, and I even found a group of doulas that meet locally. It was going to be perfect. I am fascinated by pregnancy (though actual babies once they're born kinda scare me). I'm a feminist and I love supporting women. I like to be a part of people's journeys and I like to affirm people and remind them that they are okay. Having a history of panic attacks and knowing how to bring myself down, I thought I could be a pretty good birthing coach.
But the inspiration passed. And yet the folder of everything I needed to know sits on my computer's desktop, nagging me about another thing I didn't follow through on. And maybe, just maybe, it would be a great fit.

Also a few months ago, I developed a mixed media piece that turned out quite a strong response from friends and even "friends" on facebook with whom I have no substantial interaction. The inspiration quadrupled. I made another, more experimental piece, which elicited a similar response, if not a greater one. I decided that I would have an art exhibit featuring pieces of work developed from this theme. It seemed as though it would be well-received. I sent emails to colleges and libraries to try to gauge interest. I linked them to a blog describing my vision, including images of my art.
No response. I haven't given up on it. I have a third installment in progress that is currently sitting in my workstation. But the urgency is gone. I will return to it. And I hope to make this come about. But for now, it's another halted project on the back burner.

Two years ago, I came up with a board game idea. I based it off the experimental, educational, sociological board game Train. Please read about it. It'll blow your mind. Using it as my inspiration, I developed a game which has fully playable rules. I played it several times myself. I'm amazed I came up with it! It's a strategy game akin to Settlers of Catan and/or Puerto Rico. It also has a "lesson", like the game Train. I found a website that produces boardgames designed by regular ol' people. I could even sell it through them. I was pumped...until I saw the amount of technical digital design knowledge you need to have. I sat on it for two years and only just now began to work on it again. Progress has been great. Until I tried to scan images into the computer. I realized I don't have the appropriate scanner to upload an image at the "dots per pixel" level required, which I only understand on a basic level.
Getting a better scanner or having it scanned by someplace else is going to be a major undertaking, and probably a financial burden. It's also something I intend to finish. But I don't even grasp how to accomplish it - what steps to take, what would be the best financial way to go, what finances would even be involved. I don't even know what options are available.

New things like this crop up almost daily. I was going to develop of user-friendly Training Manual for my position at work. I was going to publish a book with an illustrated poem (that I wrote and was going to illustrate). I was going to write 10 songs and make an EP, for no reason other than to simply amuse myself. I was going to learn violin. I was going to get back into learning Spanish. I was going to go to grad school. I was going to get a second job. I was going to sell artsy woodburnings. I am still planning to open an Etsy shop.

Why? I am restless. I am endlessly inspired and frustrated. I am capable of finishing any of these goals if I "put my mind to it", but honestly, it comes down to this.

I no longer care once the inspiration passes. Or... More accurately, I still care, but inevitably a deeper and more readily-available inspiration for a new project is in hand and I don't want to squander it, so I jump on that. Then another before that's finished. And another. And another. And suddenly I'm surrounded by unfinished projects, but still empowered by this mysterious inspiration. I return to old projects in fits and starts as the inspiration hits again.

It also comes down to me not knowing what I want. That feeling follows me everywhere I go. My facebook profile says it accurately. I feel like I am not living if I am not learning, experiencing, or creating something new. The sudden stability in my life at 25 has felt more stifling than empowering. The values are inconsistent. I am terrified to slow down or to let inspiration pass without acting on it, because that, to me, feels like death. Yet, every project that is unfinished nags at me, reminding me that none of my dreams are being accomplished.

At every bend, I'm on the verge of incredible inspiration or a complete emotional breakdown. I'm feelin' for my ol' half-deaf buddy Van Gogh. Haha. Seriously though, I don't know what is the hard part: being 25, having my personality type, or just being me.

I am so grateful for the inspiration, and I prefer the crazy to not having any inspiration at all. But it wears on me to feel constantly at odds both in my surroundings and within my own self.

There's no real "purpose" to this blog. I just felt like being open about this experience. Maybe some of you relate. Maybe we are many. Or maybe we're a whacked out few - which, in that case, means we need to band together. Or maybe get the hell away from each other and try to figure out normalcy. Haha. But this is my journey right now. This is the beast I'm facing in 2015.

I don't have a goal to conquer it. Maybe just to tame it. Or to let it be wild, while getting to know it better. I don't know. I hope it levels out. I hope above all, that I try to know myself better and learn to appreciate all of this more. Maybe, just maybe, if I found the beauty in it rather than subscribing to the fear that maybe I am a lil crazy, maybe I'll never accomplish anything worth accomplishing, maybe I should just settle down into a "normal" life... I'll be ok. I'll make it. And I'll do just fine. :)

Maybe, just maybe, we got this, and we are better for the struggle.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Tank Tops and Cat Calls.

When I was a teenager, my girlfriends and I used to make it a game to see if we could get guys to stare at us as we walked by. We mastered the art of catching a gaze and directing a lingering gaze well after we broke eye contact. It was great fun at the time. Probably because I felt like I controlled it. Somehow in those days, it seemed I had to fight for the same kind of attention that I no longer seek nor desire. In fact, that attention has readily found its way to me as a hawk seeks and descends upon its prey.

It was probably always there, but I didn't notice it. Not until I was an adult living in a large city. I heard it daily. Cars pulled over so that men could offer me a ride or ask me if I had a boyfriend. Strangers on the street asked me for my number, then acted offended when I wouldn't give it to them. Or they would beg. Both behaviors repulsed me and conversely caused a feeling of guilt to arise within me, almost as if I owed it to them. I knew I didn't, but that guilt was my immediate heart-response.

In its creepier and darker forms, I had strangers follow me for blocks, persisting in their pursuit for my - what? For my affection? For the trophy of myself? For affirmation? I don't know. But sometimes men followed me. Sometimes men made vulgar comments about things they wanted to do with my body.

It was utterly disheartening when one day my girl friend and I were walking with our close guy friends. As we entered the train station, a man made incredibly vulgar comments to me and my girl friend about our bodies. She and I slightly increased our pace and pretended not to be shaken. Our guy friends kept walking coolly on as though nothing happened. Because they didn't realize anything had. Because they didn't hear the comments. Because the man's eyes weren't on them. Because they would never imagine that anyone would be so vulgar. Because no one had ever done that to them. They didn't even hear it. It was so isolating to feel like the men who I perceived as my "protectors" at the time did not even perceive any danger, or worse, that they were incapable of doing so.

After a few years of constant (daily - no exaggeration) comments, cars stopping, cars honking, and me saying "No" more times than a ruthless 2 year-old, my wardrobe started to change. Old skirts that were "just too short" were pitched as were blouses that indicated I had a shapely torso (anything but T-shirts). Shorts were out altogether.

I didn't own a pair of shorts for about 4-5 years. I remember having a near panic attack one day when I was at my college campus. It was a rare beautifully warm day in the spring of Chicago. I wore a long skirt and a matching brown tank top.

In public. I wore a tank top in public. I was hyper-aware of the fact that my bra-straps kept slipping off my shoulders. Then I ran into my Bible professor. We made casual conversation about an assignment or something. I started panicking.

"He's seeing me in a tank top. Not now, bra-straps, not now! Can I pull them back up without drawing attention to them? Why did I wear a tank top?! He probably thinks I am a slut and that I'm obviously in the wrong major as a Bible student. Why is everyone looking at me?"

After our conversation ended and he innocently walked on, I continued beating myself up for what I was wearing. I almost vowed to throw out all my tank tops. Then realized I wasn't reacting to what happened in that moment. I was reacting to the accumulated, then-unnamed feelings of years before.

I realized that I felt like I was prey and predators were waiting to descend. I had to have my defenses up. I had to be proactive to reduce the likelihood of gaining that sort of attention. I changed my entire wardrobe as a result of it. I developed this weird fear of my body and a weird sense of guilt for the attention I felt like I brought upon myself simply by being a woman. I felt I had to do all in my power to reduce the attention.

My mini freakout made me feel like a stranger to myself. It was the start of a turning point for me.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Authority on My Head - The Story of My Hair

1 Corinthians 11:6-10, " For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created for woman, but woman for man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, because of the angels"

I’ve got to be honest. I don’t understand the “point” of hair. Ever since I was a kid, I figured hair was there because Neanderthals needed it for warmth during the Ice Age for humans to survive. Hey – that was pretty complex thinking for a kid! As I got older, I still didn’t get the point. Hair, to me, was a way to deal with my restless boredom. 

I grew it out long. I cut it short. I grew it out again. I cut it shorter. Maybe I’d dye it if I was trying to preserve the length. My hair was a way of jovial competition with my friends. It was a way to get attention. It was a way to make a joke (like that Halloween when I dyed my hair purple with temporary dye that was not quite so temporary as I thought). I didn’t connect how much my hair meant to my culture until I cut it. In fact, it never meant much to me until I shaved it. That’s right – not buzzed – shaved. With a razor for women’s legs.  

I won’t go into my reasons for shaving my head. It’s convoluted and it’s personal. When people ask these days, I say, “I felt like it.” Which, although it is a write-off, is also true. But I can tell you how it affected those around me. 

There were awkward responses that led to awkward conversations. “Thanks so much for the encouragement, but I don’t have cancer. I’m sorry.” There were a few awkward mistakes. “Thank you, sir! Err, ma’am. Um. Thanks.” There were lots of questions of “why?”, which I responded to fully at the time, but no longer have the energy (or clarity of purpose) to do so. 

By far, the most frustrating response was among male friends. I remember being subjected to the same conversation more than once - about me and my attractiveness, about females in general and their attractiveness, with short hair. It started with the typical “Why?”, then was followed up by the offering of an opinion stated as fact. “You shouldn’t have shaved it.” Or, “You look better with longer hair.” Or, “I dunno, it just doesn’t… Yeah…” 

I would say something about Natalie Portman shaving her head for V for Vendetta. Then they would recall all of the famous women they knew who shaved their heads and whether or not they should have done it, based solely on whether or not they looked attractive and sexually appealing to them with their hair cut short or shaved. Somehow it never crossed their minds that they were minimizing me and devaluing me in this conversation they had around me, in front of me, about me and not about me specifically, but what I represented.

It was weird years later to get a random message from a male friend who I hadn’t spoken to in months telling me that he was just “letting me know that I looked good with long hair” and that he was “glad I grew it out”. It was meant to be a compliment, and I love my friend and I appreciate the intent. But to me it felt like almost entitlement. Like his opinion mattered, like he was right all along and I must have finally realized (since my hair is long now), like it rocked his world so much that I shaved my head that he felt compelled to message me about it because he is finally at peace now that my head-covering, my grace, the “authority on my head” was restored. 

I know him. I know he didn’t intend it that way. Don’t get me wrong – girls also told me how they liked my hair. Some liked it short and “wished they could pull it off”, some liked that my hair looked “fierce”, some thought I looked better with it longer. No one of any gender hesitated to tell me their opinion when I didn’t ask.

But no female seemed so taken aback. No female thought my decision should be based on my sexual appeal to her (and if she did, she never verbalized or even hinted at it). No female felt compelled to message me, essentially congratulating me for finally seeing the light and growing it out. No female seemed so shaken. No female messaged me after months, years, went by telling me how much she felt that my hair needed to be long. 

Why did my hair need to be long if not for the symbol of authority on my head?

Monday, September 22, 2014

"When did you become a girl?"

“So when did you become a girl?” He asked. Not, “when did you become a woman”. Not “you grew up a lot”. Not “you look great these days”. I played dumb, asking him what he meant, even though I knew. He astutely noted, “You have big boobs lol”. 

When did I become a girl? For him, a girl was defined as one with big boobs. I didn’t quite get what that meant for me when he knew me, back in my Sophomore year of high school, before my set came in. At that point was I androgynous? Boyish? Invisible? Apparently I wasn’t a girl, not until I had assets he thought were within his realm of sexual possibility. Thank goodness he took ample notice of my breasts! Otherwise, I may’ve never been a girl. Phew, I was really tired of having no concept of my gender identity until he re-entered my life. 

The conversation denigrated from there. He began to hit on me voraciously via text, and at the time I played along enough not to alienate him, but I set firm and clear lines (as casually as possible so his ego would not be hurt). He told me my chest was distracting. I told him that’s why I buttoned my shirt back up over my bikini at lunch, especially since I wasn’t trying to hook up with anyone. He said he never mentioned anything about trying to hook up with me. Whoops, my newly-acquired “girl” brain must have been confused. 

I acknowledged that it’s good to be clear about intentions and boundaries if there’s any uncertainty in the air – yes, this was before Robin Thicke expressed his wisdom and experience with blurred lines.

His response? “Idk if I completely believe you though”. I made clear, again, that I just wanted to get to know him because I like getting to know people. I didn’t tell him this aspect, but there was added, humanistic intrigue in connecting with someone whom I never actually befriended or knew in high school except in passing. He indicated that he understood. 

Later that week, we tried to hang out again. After a few hours and a few missed texts, he finally replied that he was “drunk and horny lol”. I replied that, in that case, it was a good thing I didn’t come over. He said, “You know you wanna hook up”. I reminded him that I was not after that and asked him, “Why is it so hard for you to believe that I just want to get to know you as a friend?”

“Because I’m hot”… Yes, that’s how it happened. I retorted, “And that’s the only reason I could possibly want to spend time with you?”

That ended the communication though there may have been a passive aggressive status update on his facebook page the next day about people being “Debbie downers” and trying to be psychologists. Maybe he was right. I sure am analyzing it years later, and here are the things that really blow my feminist mind. 

I’m astounded:

1)      That I am not even female until I have a sexuality that can please a man
2)      That my gender identity is determined by others – I might have mistakenly misidentified as a “false positive” years before I had boobs
3)      That once I am determined to be a girl by a man, that I must be magnetized to the raw sex-appeal of said man (even if I barely know him)
4)      That when I state my intentions clearly, multiple times, I am either playing a game (afterall, I am apparently a girl, and we do that kind of thing) or I don’t know what I want (because I couldn’t possibly not want him)
5)      That Robin Thicke did not consult with this man before writing his song, or worse 
6)      That maybe this pattern of thought and belief is only an exaggerated version of the norm

For the record, I have always been a girl. A better question is “When did you become a woman?”, and here’s my answer. I have considered myself a woman on multiple levels at different times in my life, but never so much as in this period in my life, wherein I am claiming my womanhood with pride and gratitude. I hope that continues to grow as I become more rooted in my identity as a woman and as an individual human being.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Collections from my IRL journal.

Rereading my in-real-life journal has been so cool. I hate parts of it. I honestly think I kinda hate most of it. Don't we journal most when we're in a place of darkness or confusion? I act like everyone journals. I don't even journal much these days.

But somehow, rereading some of my writings makes me feel so "human". I mean, I know I am human. But I can almost read my journals from a place of distance now. Almost like I was reading some anonymous's journal. And I felt more connected to humanity through it, because the way some of my experiences were captured was so raw and poetic...

Anyway, enough of an intro. I just wanted to share so that hopefully you feel more connected to humanity through reading these blurbs and that in turn, I feel more connected to humanity - to you - through my sharing.

On Being Overwhelmed by Moving (8/22/2012)

I'm not going to see [my friends]. I'm not going to see the Sears/Willis Tower. I'm not going to Merla's Kitchen or that Ethiopian restaurant. I'm not going to North Lawndale at all. No more Diwali's, no Lindo's, no Village Thriftshopping. No more Redeemer Anglican, Mission Dei, Holy Trinity Church, Christ for All Nations.

This last stretch of time I so carefully preserved for others has quickly become my own life boat. If I bring too many on board, I'll lose my buoyancy. I don't know what to do or how to cope. When I'm home, I'm renting movies I've seen before, trying to quickly wile away the time I specifically set aside for others. And I don't care. I'll gladly watch another movie tonight or tomorrow.

What I have to do is encroaching on what I meant/planned to do. Both of those are being overridden by things I never planned to do or needed to do. So movies are doing exactly as they are subconsciously purposed to do: Make it so I don't have to deal with a damn thing.

Poetic Beauty and Philosophy of Moving Away from Chicago

As I sit here, finally at Intelligentsia, wishing an outdoor spot would open up, I am no longer feeling suffocated. For a brief moment I can enjoy a warm latte topped with a beautiful latte art heart and believe, if just for a second, that love and warmth can be bought for $4.00.

And for a minute as I swallow my cup of serenity, I can simultaneously be swallowed again by the anonymity of the city. In 6 days my entire life will be overturned and no one sitting around me knows. I'm outside now, considering the buildings. So large, cold, and unaffected by the people they have silently stood alongside for many eras. How can buildings which were so intricately crafted by human hands now stand so coldly distant? How does it feel for them that they have outlived their creators? For them my leaving means nothing more than the absence of one pair of eyes that have viewed them.

What does it mean that I have entered so many people's lives? Are they unaffected as the buildings? I know some aren't. I know that for certain. So as the Sears Tower gives me the cold shoulder (which I recently learned is the easiest way to tell the Sears and the Hancock apart), I'll try to hold to the fact that somewhere, somehow, my absence will be felt and my memory cherished.

I can leave the city that I've always felt was cold. I can even leave people. I know that my impression will somehow stand like the buildings - living long past the moment of their creation.

How though, can I leave this chapter? I don't need a resolution for every question, hope, and experience that was unliked during my time here. But I need to believe that there is a resolution more hopeful and revealing that simply leaving it all behind me as a memory that resurfaces in a moment of insecurity or joy.

Somehow, in a way, I think it's hard to believe that my leaving Chicago does not mean I've "given up" or like my time here hasn't mattered. I know I've had a place here, but I don't know the meaning of it, and I have to believe it was bigger than me.

As I finish my latte, I'm amazed to discover that after having finished the coffee that the latte heart is still intact. I'm encouraged that something so fragile, held together by bubbles, has outlasted the coffee. The cup that was intended to hold coffee now holds the beauty of what was left behind. In moving forward, I'll have faith that the cup of Chicago stills holds the beauty of fragile moments in my life, held together in resilient beauty long after I am gone.

Perhaps more to follow at a later date.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Feministic Creations

I think one of the most beautiful and meaningful thing that people can do is to create. When we do, we become united with some sort of divine imperative. If you are religious, it has the effect of bringing your heart and mind close to God's as creator. If you are not religious, creation represents the epitome of human achievement.

People create constantly. They create everything from the physical (scientific advances) to theoretical (a better world). As an artist and an occasional craft enthusiast, creation means a lot to me. Sometimes it means telling my own story. Sometimes it means telling the story of those more vulnerable than myself. Sometimes it means showing beauty in the mundane.

My current creative outlet is largely focused on womanhood, a story that is often hushed, despite its prominence.

I was googling some pro-feminine (for those who are repulsed at the word "feminist" - which probably doesn't mean what you think it means) ideas and creations when I ran across a website called Feby, which creates and educates through the use of the "Female Empowerment Bracelet". These bracelets are made with charms and beads to represent a woman's menstrual cycle. They don't intend for the jewelry to be worn, but for it to be used to teach young girls about their transition to biological womanhood (just one small aspect of womanhood).

Why was this important to me? Because a girl's first transition to womanhood is surrounded by mystery, fear, horror stories, and disgust. Gender is one of peoples' primary categories of understanding the Self. How tragic that this conception of the evolving self is met by such negativity.

It's reinforced by religious traditions (in the Old Testament, the Law proclaimed that women on their periods were to be considered "unclean", as well as any who touched her or anything she touched while she was menstruating), by health classes which teaches about menstruation in a clinical way (right alongside other scarier topics), by tampon commercials which teach women to be embarrassed and/or disgusted by their periods, etc. It goes on and on.

I decided to make some of my own Feby-esque jewelry. Jewelry that has more to it than dollar-store plastic beads. Every woman's journey and experience is unique. I wanted to make unique pieces. Pieces that coupled menstruation and womanhood with beauty and sophistication. Something tangible that celebrates womanhood - even under appreciated aspects such as a woman's cycle.

This is one of three pieces I designed:

This is an anklet. I also made a bracelet and a necklace, each of which is paired with a removable charm which can be used to signify a woman's position in her cycle, or one to keep centered to give the appearance of a "regular" piece of jewelry.

I don't plan on making an Etsy store about this or anything, but this has been a fun/empowering activity for me. I encourage other women to make similar pieces. If you have questions about how to go about it, you can contact me. And I'm not against making a custom piece for someone who really wants to buy one from me.

Right now my creation is taking a feminist form. What a fun ride! Happy creating in whatever you choose to create.