Yea, you.

I’m just as surprised to be writing about you too. You haven’t been in my life for an entire year, but living here has taught me more about myself then I have learned in 23 years. While you are still not my favorite place to be, I can only be grateful for the lessons you’ve given me.

When I first visited you in June, there was nothing about you that caught my eye or struck me. I didn’t experience love at first sight. I didn’t find anything negative about you, but I struggled to discover the positive aspects that would make me feel at home. I ate your food, explored your neighborhoods, but nothing drew my heart closer to you.

Desperate to branch out of my comfort zone and experience life beyond what I had known it to be, I was eager to move. I was excited about the prospects you would reveal behind your brown pollution cloud and rich American history. And you haven’t disappointed. By next semester, I will be filled with knowledge that couldn’t be learned anywhere else but here.


Though it is filled with critiques, I am attending one of the best social work programs in the nation. I have been supported by professors and administrators alike who have provided me with opportunities to expand my knowledge. I have been offered an internship that has taught me the power of boundaries. I am challenged, not with curriculum, but the way that I think about things, about what I choose to believe. I have created connections I would not have made anywhere else. I am able to experience an education that will undoubtedly impact my social work career for years to come.

Pittsburgh, you had given me the gift of solitude when I didn’t realize it was necessary. To live outside your comfort zone is vastly different than experiencing short-term. For the past four years, I was surrounded by love and support in the form of my Chicago family. I left this support, this community, to live in solitude. This has been one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made. With only two people I knew in the entire state, I have been forced to put myself out there and seek relationships that will provide meaning in my short time here in Pittsburgh. Admittedly, this has been difficult. The moments I usually fill with people, I’ve had the opportunity to be with myself.

Solitude has changed my outlook on life. I value myself more, am grateful for the quiet moments. Before you, Pittsburgh, I would cry softly to make sure that no roommate could hear me. Now, I weep at every moment and feel no shame in doing so. I dance loudly to music on Saturdays, when I should be cleaning. I take off my pants when I enter my home. When I write in my journal, I write with more honesty. No one is watching. I dance with more passion because no one can judge. I am more me than I ever was, and my solitude has made me unapologetic for the Hannah I’ve become. No matter where I am, I can find a home, and it is now within myself, not in others.


I still don’t like you very much and will be excited when I get to leave you permanently. But who knows — you may teach me something in 2018 I am unprepared for, and then, maybe, just maybe…you’ll have my heart forever.



A year, especially a year like 2017, can seem like it can go on forever. These 365 days taught me more about the relationships in my life than I ever expected. Many links I thought would last permanently ended. Family members who were perfect in my eyes disappeared from my life with a blink. Despite these rapid and drastic changes, few consistently stayed in my life from the beginning to the end. Jalyn Greene began 2017 with me and will end 2017 with me. For this friendship, I am forever grateful.

This has been difficult to write. When I think of Jalyn, I think of so many things — growth, love, kindness, and support. Even when my growth, love, compassion, and support was unstable, you consistently gave them to me, no questions asked. Consistency doesn’t seem to be enough to describe what you have given me this year, but it has been the most unique gift you’ve ever given me.


For our friendship, you’ve consistently supported me in some of the most pivotal moments of my life. When I graduated college, you were there right by my side and watched me walk down the aisle. When I struggled to make friends during my first semester of graduate school, you stayed on the phone with me for hours on Saturday nights until I was tired and reminded me everytime that its hard, but the process would be worth it. You counted down the days I would return to Chicago and gifted me with support as soon as I arrived. You talked me through depressive episodes, even if you were going through your own problems. Not once did I feel your support waver.

I watched you consistently grow as an individual as well. I watched you advocate for yourself when someone inflicted pain on you (including me), and articulate your needs and wants. I saw you make risky career choices that aligned with your purpose and see positive results be gifted to you. I witnessed you turn 25 and grow more in-depth into the individual you are meant to be.

I saw you PERFORM, for the first time, in a role that was meaningful and impactful. Watching you become Angel, seeing you for the first time in your craft, was a reminder of the intentionality you bring to all aspects of your life. The first show back, and you choose to tell the story of girls that are silenced every day. You brought life to a real issue. You became Jeff recommended! Watching you be a support for someone on stage reminded me of the miracle that you are in my own life.


Our relationship has not been as consistent in this year, but the love for each other has. I’ve seen the way that our love for each other has made us better individuals and will ultimately change the way we navigate relationships in the future. No matter where life takes us, I know that consistency will always be our most potent trait.

But the most unique thing I learned from you is your beauty in consistently remembering moments that are lost in my subconscious. You remember the firsts for everything in this year and the days that mean the most to you. For my 23rd birthday, you gifted me a music playlist. Each song is attributed to a vivid memory. 36 songs. 36 memories. 36 memories out of the many that we have. Many I would not remember, but when I listen to the song, it is clear, like it occurred yesterday. Your ability to attribute some of the most significant moments of our relationship to a song is one of the greatest gifts you could’ve given me.

Thank you for giving me so many memories, and for consistently providing me with the love, kindness, and support that I needed all year.




2017 was a hard fucking year.

I graduated with a Bachelor’s in Political Science and Social Work, began a Master’s in a city I was completely unfamiliar with. I left my friends and closest community in Chicago. I lost a father figure. I gained another one. I experienced significant levels of depression. I fell out of love and fell in love again. I watched black and brown bodies continue to be tortured and oppressed, but in public ways, more public than I had experienced in my lifetime.

With all of 2017’s difficulties on top of a white supremacist president, it is shocking that I have not become harsher, more jaded. The only reason I made it out of 2017 alive is that I was reminded of gentleness that occurs every day: Shanzeh Daudi.


If you are friends with Shanzeh, you know that she is dramatic, gullible, and believes in the goodness of everyone. She never takes a bad picture. The littlest things can make her ecstatic. But she is also wild, and free-spirited, and will stop at nothing to protect her friends and family. Shanzeh taught me that faith can be a stronghold, and in a year like 2017, it is okay to cling onto faith — at times, it is all we possess. I have witnessed her ask us for things to pray for as she travels, embarks on a new journey. “I am going to Ann Arbor, anything you want me to pray about?” And we recite our prayers: help me get over X, pray I finish this paper, pray I make it out of this depressive episode alive.

Shanzeh changed my faith in 2017. Faith in people, faith in the world, and faith in God itself. Faith in myself, in my ability to grow and change and fall and stand up again. Faith is not strictly religious, but spiritual, mental, emotional. She reminded me to take time for myself. To reflect on questions, I never think to ask myself. Do you love them because you need them, or because it is naseeb (destiny)? What does it mean to let someone go who is not good for you? What does it say to leave a loving space to grow within your own?

Shanzeh’s faith in me gave me the courage to walk away from activism for a few months if only to rejuvenate. Her faith in me gave me the courage to attend a school 1,000 miles away from my community and sit through hours of lecture to receive a degree. Her faith gave me the strength to walk away from people that may love me, but are not suitable for me at this moment in time. Her faith is the reason I am who I am today. And that type of faith is irreplaceable.


Thank you, for continuing to be a gentle, young soul to counteract my old, dead soul.


The love I have for Rukhsar is one of the greatest loves I’ve ever known.

The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.

I have made a lot of mistakes in our relationship. I chose others that did not deserve to be chosen over you. I took advantage of the love you had for me. But, in 2017, I have finally learned the significance you have in my life, how much you mean to me, and the things that you have done for me.

When I first met you our sophomore year, I don’t remember you at all. A picture proves our first meeting, and yet the only conversation I remember is with another person. You remember the interaction like it was yesterday, and it makes sense there’s a picture to prove it — photographs capture your feelings, the moments that take your breath away, that make you feel whole. At the moment, I usually find it annoying. But with 2017 as a shit show as it was, your pictures — filled with memories that live in the crevices of my consciousness — were a source of comfort, a source of pride. Each image, each memory reminds me that one of the greatest miracles of my life was God bringing you into my life.


2017 brought you changes. Rapid changes, and sustainable changes, that even Superman would be overwhelmed. You gave me the gift of being there, with you, every step of the way. I have never wanted to fiercely protect someone as I have tried to protect you, to the point where I feel physical pain in the few times you have shown it. I have yelled at people, strangers, for issues over pronouns and identity because of you. I fight for love because I have a physical manifestation of this love here on Earth: you.

I watched you act as a figure of strength and act as a role model to a child, not your own, and see her pure love emanate toward others only because of your presence. I have watched you struggle as many of your friends leave and you create an identity from that pain, one that is your own and one that is powerful. When I feel fearful, I think of your immeasurable courage, and suddenly, I have nothing to fear. There is nothing I HAVE to worry as long as I have you by my side, encouraging me every step of the way.

2017 brought me confusion, genuine pain and love as I struggled through romantic relationships, and you were there every step of the way. You always knew when I needed to watch a Bollywood movie when I needed to cry but couldn’t. You bought me food when even I forgot that I hadn’t eaten that day. You sent me flowers for any occasion. You forgave me for things I only realize now I must apologize for, the pain that I have inflicted on you in our almost four years of friendship, in all of my mistakes. Never in my life did I feel that I deserved something as good as you, and yet, here you are.


Thank you for being an unconditionally loving being. Thank you for your unwavering loyalty, no questions asked. Thank you for watching Game of Thrones so I can FINALLY talk to someone about it.


My entire life, I have thought of relationships as merely romantic (and heteronormative). I was determined, even desperate at times, to find meaning in romantic relationships and the find wholeness. When I ended a long-term relationship in 2016, this needs to feel complete intensified. This feeling, coupled with the seemingly constant Facebook updates of close friends, family, acquaintances getting engaged, married, buying new dogs, having babies, sent me into an intense depressive episode.

2017 brought me love in unique, redefined ways. While we had been friends before the beginning of this year, Rachel Greene, Rukhsar Ahmed, Shanzeh Daudi, Diedra LaBorde, and others taught me what it meant to be loved, in creative, sustaining, and challenging ways. It was through these individuals that I learned what it said to love myself. This series is an effort to pay tribute to these individuals. No words, gifts, or service could be done that would repay them for the contributions they have given to me. With these people, I know and feel the most significant type of love every day.

Rachel Denise Greene was an unexpected friend. In a way, I pursued her like a relationship — I asked her to get coffee multiple times, and she rejected me. Numerous times. It was only until my 21st birthday, when I invited her to my party, that our friendship has blossomed.


Rachel is my stronger, more loyal, passionate counterpart. She is everything I wish I could be: bold, in fashion and in advocacy; strong-willed, and outwardly confident. She spent 2017 providing me with alternative perspectives, and it resulted in a lot of arguments. (One particular scene in McDonald’s rings a bell.) But our dialogue is fruitful, and our friendship continues to serve as a lesson for all aspects of life. You are the ultimate persuader; you manage to get people to agree with you by the end of a dialogue, even when they were staunchly against you in the beginning. Your determination can be intimidating to others, but I’ve always applauded your tenacity and ability to fight, tooth and nail, until the end, for what you believe in.

In 2017, your house served as a refuge for us when we felt like we had no place to go. There, you made us pancakes, poured us endless cups of wine, as we laughed and cried or said nothing at all. We shared theories, planned trips, coordinated outfits, and ate wings (we always ate wings). And when the table disappeared, those subjects were tackled through FaceTime; I could always count on you to answer the phone to hear me vent or cry or scream or laugh.


In 2017, we were the farthest away from each other than we had ever been in our relationship, and when we reunited, it was worth the wait. Your love is contagious, it allows me to love others in parts of my heart I had not exposed before. You have taught me to love despite the pain people may inflict on me. You have taught me not to be a victim, despite this pain, but use it as a tool, a lesson. In our friendship and our time apart, I have seen you grown sweeter, more vulnerable, and these traits have made you stronger than I could ever imagine.

Though 2016 brought me Rachel, 2017 cemented our friendship for life. Thank you, Rachel, for giving me a love that makes me feel whole.

“You’re So Crazy”

An attempt to grapple with a part of my identity.

“Oh my God, you’re crazy.”

17 years old. My boyfriend at the time said this when I tried to break up with him and reacted when he didn’t acknowledge, even rejected, my demand that we see other people.

Many of my most intimate, romantic relationships have defined me as “crazy.” According to my partners, my emotional outbursts and quickness to anger are merely bouts of a crazy gene implanted into me. It’s because I’m Latina or a Black Woman, but it is always an attempt to invalidate my feelings for their usually irresponsible behavior.

“Crazy” was my go-to personality trait: every potential partner was warned that their mistreatment of me would result in outbursts of emotion, random crying, and “invasive” questions. When I was cheated on, the craziness seemed to increase. I became paranoid at every encounter my partner had with another person because I had not taken the time to process what had happened. The reason the person strayed away was that I WAS crazy. When I tried to address it, this craziness became a barrier to receiving clarity and peace of mind.

When my trust was misused, I blamed myself for others’ actions, instantly thinking my “crazy” tendencies pushed people to be dishonest or close off from me. Partners have lied, to my face, and turned around and blamed me for being crazy. “Baby, I couldn’t tell you because I knew you’d act crazy.” People tag me in memes about girls burning down their boyfriend’s houses, all because they didn’t get a text back. The “Crazy Girl” persona is romanticized and considered comical, but as a result, I forgot who I was in the process.

People will abuse you then have the audacity to call you crazy. I’ve seen elements of this in many of my past relationships. Consequently, this label has prevented me from achieving full justification of my emotions. I’ve always cried — nearly everything on this planet has made me tear up, as a result of anger, frustration, sadness, or exhilaration. When I have been hurt or taken advantage of, anger makes an appearance first, stripping the validity from my emotions and labeling me as crazy. Because I thought I was mad, it felt justified. Now, I am aware that I was not taught how to manage emotions — how I cope can hurt others, and myself, but it does not make me crazy.

Crazy is also a word that has isolated many individuals and kept them from interacting with various parts of society. To be crazy means to be mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way. An author from the Harvard Crimson articulates the danger of this word correctly. Using mental illness as an insult, not only does it contribute to societal expectations that prevent men and women from expressing their emotions in constructive ways, it is also incredibly inconsiderate and stigmatizing to those who do have a mental illness by suggesting that they deserve to be mocked or dismissed. (

The other day, in a typical conversation with a close friend, I employed my usual phrase after sharing a period of frustration about another person in my life: well at the end of the day, I’m fucking crazy, so…

My friend chuckled and said, “but you aren’t crazy. You just say that to make light of the trauma that has impacted your life”.

I’m not crazy. The only thing that makes me crazy is allowing others to call me this when they try to invalidate my feelings, my experience.  What it was is an unhealthy practice in the process of emotion. I’m far from perfection — I still process emotions in harmful ways and refuse to tell others how I feel for fear of being “crazy.” I hold anxiety and experience depressive episodes. Instead of keeping and embracing this stigma, I have the power to change my narrative. Next time someone calls me crazy, I won’t let them.

To My Child

To my dear child,

Sometimes I dream of you, a curious, playful child, vowing to take the world and turn it on its heels, to take what you can and build, grow, and change. I dream that your name will be unique, and you will wear it with pride, like an emblem on your chest. It will compliment your dark, brown skin, warm to the touch, and catch like the knots in your wild, curly hair.

I think of all the things that you can be. And I wonder if I will ever have the chance to meet you.

I wonder if I will see your name flash across the screen as you walk down the aisle to graduate, or flashed across the tv screen next to, Say Their Name. Will you make it to your 18th birthday? Or will you live forever, among the names of those who died before or after you?

What will you look like? Will you be brown, like me, or wish you were white? Will you wish to change the texture of your hair, or lighten your beautiful brown skin?

I wonder if you will come to me crying because your classmate called you a nigger. Will you wake up in the middle of the night screaming and scared because you are afraid that you will be hanged.

Will you be able to play outside, because it’s too hot in the wintertime? Will the trees have died, the soil turned to ash? Will I ever see your face turn up in delight as you taste dripping honey, or the laughter when a blueberry is smashed on your face?

I wonder if white supremacy will begin to be normalcy.

I wonder if you will become numb to pain, to be saturated in the hate that is this country. I wonder if it will pierce into your veins and you will feel nothing, see nothing when people like you drown in floods or cross a border.

I’m afraid the trauma of my own life will hurt you as my mother’s hurt me and her mother’s hurt her.


I’m afraid you will never exist.