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.

Courage

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.

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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.

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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.

Thankfulness

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Challenging Love

There is not much I can say about Romell that won’t seem super cheesy, as well as extremely personal, and I usually strive to keep my relationship private,  but this post serves as a platform for all the things I say in my journal but hardly to you, Romell, and I admit, I should say them more.

I often joke with Romell that the Universe was trying to tell us something when he put us both on the trajectory to meet each other. We are completely opposite people with completely different paths, so I can only thank the universe for deciding that we needed to be in each others’ lives in some way. We both have some of the strongest personalities that are often hard to miss. We come from different backgrounds. We don’t even like the same foods. Our first interaction wasn’t smooth; I yelled at him over politics and vowed never to speak to him again. And here we are, just over two years later…I never thought that I would ever get here, and yet I now can’t imagine my life without you in it, Ro.

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Romell, you are the most selfless person I’ve met. You’d give your shoes to a stranger if they needed them. And you have used that selflessness on me and on our relationship. Even when I felt like I didn’t deserve it, you made sure that I knew I was worth it, deserving of that love and generosity (and let’s be honest, sometimes I really don’t deserve it). You never stop pushing me, and I will never stop pushing you. You are so hard-working — one of the hardest working people I know, and your determination to fulfill each and every one of your goals, as well as the patience to fully achieve those goals is inspiring. That commitment is in yourself, but in our relationship too. You possess the potential to become an even greater version of yourself, and it has been a gift to watch you discover it, as well as begin to embrace it. Even in those moments of insecurity, of uncertainty, I see a light in you that has been present since I met you, and serves as a reminder of why I love you.

As my partner, you are my #1 support. You have an innate ability to make me feel like the most treasured person on this Earth, whether that is rubbing my back when I’m sick to making me laugh uncontrollably when I am feeling sad. Even when you don’t have the right words to say, you make me feel better in other ways, in ways I never thought would work. You challenge me to understand love not as self-sacrificing, but as a team effort. You taught me compromise, and patience, and you taught me how to not only understand those who think differently than me, but to accept it. You are a physical depiction of my opposite, and that is what makes us so strong. You challenge me physically, emotionally, and mentally, questioning my every belief, my every habit. That cannot be replaced.

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In a way, love can be selfish, and this letter of gratitude has definitely proved it: The things that you do for me and the way that you have affected me are significant. However, what has been most surprising, and yet challenging, is my growing ability to be selfless for you. You have made me a kinder, softer person. You have made me realize that I don’t have to do everything by myself, that it is okay to ask for help, to ask for time to take self-care. You remind me that having fun is OKAY, that I don’t always have to take life so seriously and work all the time. You have challenged my concept of love and what that means for you. You challenge me. And I will forever be thankful for that.

There is so much more I have to be grateful for when it comes to you, but I’ll keep this short. I love you so much Romell and can’t wait to see where our next journey takes us (Loyola!). I am so grateful to be your crazy partner in this crazy world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Balance between Independence and Commitment

My whole life, I have been non-committed to romantic relationships. I am committed to my family, friends, my passions, sure. Partners? Relationships? No thank you. I love to hook-up, to meet and talk to different people.

Despite this lifelong belief, I have been in a on/off relationship for about a year, something I NEVER thought I would say.


Said partner in Amsterdam with me this past March.
Said partner in Amsterdam with me this past March.

We have spent the majority of our time apart from each other, and it has been an extremely difficult process. We have had more than our fair share of trials and tribulations, each different than the last. But we have matured greatly and our love for each other grows with each day we are apart.

This time around, the problem is where I am: I have spent the last four months in Italy, and he has stayed in Chicago, working. Living in Italy by myself has more than boosted my independence: I have grown to be a much more confident person, both in daily life choices and my future career goals and relationships. I have also learned that one of the things I value most is my need for space, to be myself and process.

What is the balance? When do you become too independent for your partner?

I know that my partner and I often clash because one of us needs more attention that we simply cannot give at the time. Lately, my partner has been seeking attention that I not only can’t give, but also don’t seem to want to. I am here for one more week; I am trying to make the most of my experience before I am forced to go back home (I say forced because I never want to leave Europe). Am I selfish for wanting my space? Am I a terrible partner because I want to do my own thing, have my own space, and that is something I inherently value? When does compromising come in?

All these questions I feel I cannot answer by myself. I only hope that the pieces fall where they may. I love the kid, I do. I just love my space too.

Ci vediamo,

Hannah