Consistency

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.

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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.

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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.

 

 

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Gentleness

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.

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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.

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

“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. (http://www.thecrimson.com/column/femme-fatale/article/2016/3/3/mental-illness-stigma-crazy/)

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.

Happy Anniversary

Happy Three Year Anniversary.

I remember how I felt when I first met you, how happy you made me feel, wanted. With all of me, I trusted you, blindly followed you, felt butterflies when you said I was beautiful.

Three years later, I’m shocked to see how our relationship has changed.

Three years later, I can still feel your arms as they press against mine, your hair roughly against my face. I feel your breath, the smell so foul with your stench, your body odor mixing with mine. I scrubbed myself for days to rid the stench, a mixture of you and what used to be me.

Three years later, I can still taste the way your mouth felt on mine. I brushed my teeth for hours, desperate to get the taste of you out of my mouth, enough scraping to make my mouth bleed.

Three years later, I can still hear myself and still can wake up in a sweat hearing your laugh in my ears. I still sink into myself, stare at myself with contempt, with guilt, shame, and attempt to hide it with false confidence and pride.

Three years later, I change my number, still shudder when I hear your name, when I think I catch a glimpse of that dark hair across a train platform. I still cry at the thought of another touching me, feeling dirty, tainted.

But three years later, I look at myself in the mirror and still find moments of beauty, in the curve of my smile and the wilderness in my hair. I see strength, wisdom, and great courage, to get up each day and defy you, to stand up for what you’ve done to me.

Three years later, I have forgiven myself, for the pain I have caused others because of my own. Three years later, I mourn those I have lost because you made lose myself.

I have not forgiven you, but I am learning. I am struggling to love myself, but I’ll get there. And I thank you for the pain, the resilience. It has made me a greater person than I ever thought possible.

I Think

I think you still love me.

I think you still love me because you answered my phone call today, and asked what I needed.

I think you still love me because you snap at me when I check up on you but are mad when I ask you what’s wrong. I think you want me to care.

I think you still love me because my pictures are still featured on your Facebook and Instagram (and please, don’t ever take them down).

I think you still love me because we spent too much time in each other’s arms whispering all of our secrets.

I think you still love me because you haven’t shut me down and out. You could’ve said that you didn’t love me, but you didn’t. You could have ignored my numerous texts, but you didn’t. You could have said to not contact you, but you said “I’ll always be here”.

I think I still love you.

I think I still love you because you are still the last person I think of before I fall asleep (if I sleep) and the first person I think about every morning. I can still feel your breath in my ear as you sleep and hear your voice in my head.

I think I still love you because I pray for you every night.

I think I still love you because as much as I want us to be together, I know that what you need or want does not coincide with me.

I think I still love you because our breakup was not rough, but the thought of us not being together was the tough part.

I think I still love you because I hurt when I know you’re hurting, and I hurt when I know you are pretending to not hurt.

I think I still love you because you are doing something that makes YOU happy, and I want nothing more than to see you be happy.

I think I still love you, because I have hope for us in the future. Though you may get married, and I get married, and have a bunch of kids and are long time friends, I still hope that you are the person I get to say my vow to, to raise children with, and to grow old together.

I am always here, and I will always love you.

“You Are My Person”

It’s difficult to begin a blog post with Grey’s Anatomy, my least favorite show, but the quote, spoken by Christina Yang, is the greatest way to describe a particular person in only four words.

What does it mean to be someone’s person?

Steven Anthony Vigil-Roach and I have known each other for over 7 years at this point, and been friends for about 6 (he claims to have been friends with me before but I don’t recall), and my person before I was even aware of it.

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I am convinced that God has connected our souls. When he is upset, I feel it in my heart, even 1,000+ miles away. Even when we don’t talk for days, a text or a call from him brings me a sense of calm, a sense of peace, realization…I am often not aware that I needed to hear his voice before it happens. He is my piece of home, reminder of the things that bring me happiness, but also remind me that I am not missing much (family drama never truly disappears, even thousands of miles away).

He is the embodiment of strength, facing adversity in aspects I will never understand, and taught me the importance of allyship, of solidarity. It may not be the same struggle, but struggle nonetheless.

He is my anger when I feel calm, my calm when I feel anger. He understands, a trait that many believe they possess but are usually wrong. And when he doesn’t, he is honest, but ensures that he can learn to understand.

I could go on and on about Steven, but there is one instance I recall that consistently reminds me of the gratitude I feel knowing he is in my life. In my second semester of my first year of Loyola, I experienced many moments of trauma that I felt I could not heal from. I was ready to transfer, to drop out and “figure it all out later”.

I walked into my building, and there he was, standing there, his face asking “where have you been?” Every fear, every ounce of sadness, was drained in that very moment. Only God could interfere in an instance such as that. In a way, I should thank God too, for allowing us to be so aware of each other in a way I am with very, very few people.

Not often do we meet people whose mere presence is a comfort. His greatest sin is that he is too good of a listener. He has the ability to heal my emotional wounds that I thought could never heal, and remind me of the strength I possess to keep going, to keep trucking along.

Thanks for being my person. I can’t wait to grow old with you and bitch about our husbands over red wine.