Feels Like New Years Day

My grandmother once told me she isn’t very fond of New Year’s Eve. My years growing up in her house meant that my New Year’s Eve, was quiet. To her, she never understood why people felt the need to stay up all night just the countdown to a moment, if on gave it thought, really was insignificant. It’s just a change in the number you place on the top of your school papers. While she might just have sometimes against the crowds, the parties, the alcohol, the horns and the confetti, a taste that I understand just isn’t for everyone.

Above all she seemed to not be a fan over the obsession of New Year’s Resolutions. It was never that she thought there was anything wrong with wanting to create goal. Instead she disliked how everyone went crazy in the last couple days to make goals for themselves, when in reality, any day of the year in a chance for someone to sit down and to make a promise to start a new.

I, however, love new years eve; I love counting down with millions of others across the time zone. And in the last couple years I’ve used the last New Year’s Eve to look over the last 365 days to see my growth and try to find the positives in all the hurt and heartbreak life would continuously throw out at me. But as I found myself reflecting on the past year, I realized that it had been filled with something I’m not: happiness

Too happy.

It didn’t seem fair at first, with so much happening in the world, why I would lucky enough to experience such happiness in my life. In fact, I almost forgot how much joy life had given me, because I had spent so much time constantly wondering when all of this was going to be over. The previous years, I had fallen so use to happiness being a short temporary feeling, something that can be taken away at any given moment. My anxiety and I had stopped myself from truly embracing happiness and all it’s blessings.  I understand that pain is inevitable in this world, but if I keep thinking about the what if’s in life, allowing them to fill my mind with fears that may never happen, then I’m not really living, am I.

This year, as I write my resolutions for the New Year, my grandmother’s voice repeats in my head. I think about how I once again waited until the first day of the year to write down everything I would like to work on in my life. When, perhaps, if I had listened to her, I could have experienced more out of 2017.

So here in behold my goals, or changes I want in my life,

  • Write more- Write always

I struggle often with feeling like I’m a real writer, but someone super important to me told me “You write. Therefore you are a writer. No one else gets to tell you otherwise. It’s a mindset I hope to keep and grow upon

That being said I plan on separating the kind of writing I do. This website I want to only use it for blog like post, or my feminist articles because that’s ultimately what I feel I could contribute most to a freelance website. Articles about personal experiences and feminism  preservice and how my job has taught me so much about moving forward like I have talked about in the past.

Anything that falls into the realm of poetry, open letters, short stories, etc, will be posted on other writing communities, more specifically my new website: Prose- Regallyjay

On top of that, I want to stop being so hard on myself if I do not write every day or as often as I would like to. Life happens, work happens, some days I’m just not going to have the time to sit down, and that’s okay. I need to experience a little bit of life if I want to write about it.

  • Wake up earlier

At nights I work, and in the mornings, I sleep in; it almost seems like a routine that I’ve gotten use to. By the time I wake up half my day is already gone. I want to start my days earlier, and more active. Whether I spend that making breakfast, reading, getting out of the house to do all the errands I put on my list. I want to start making the most out of my day, and as much as I love my sleep, I would love going to bed without panicking because I didn’t do anything throughout the day.

  • Stop hating my body.

In the last several months, I’ve posted about my eating disorder and how my views have gotten worse the last year as I’ve watched my body change. I understand that wanting to lose weight or take care of my body is never a negative thing. However, if there’s one thing in 2017 that wasn’t too happy, it’s my eating disorder and anxiety over food. I know the battle I’m about to face isn’t going to be an easy one, and will not only require physical actions, but mental and emotional changes as well. As of right now I’ve already taken out the clothes in my closet that no longer fit me, so I can stop torturing myself with how they no longer zip up or button. I hope to stop staring at all pictures of myself from years ago when I was skinnier, and to stop editing my body in current one. But for today, and everyday after that, I just want to look in the mirror and stop hating every bit of fat on my body.

  • Accept financial responsibility

My debt is horrific, and while I’ve taken care of what I can, it’s still overwhelmingly awful. I’ve maxed out two credit cards, have about $25,000 in school loans to start paying back, and recently I got a driving ticket. With all that already impending, I still struggle with my spending habits. Right now, I’m finally beginning to notice how each little thing starts to add up. While I don’t want to stop spending money on things I enjoy, such as makeup, or coffee, there are also things I purchase that just sit in the corner or my room. Looking at my impending debt is terrifying, but it is my reality and no one else is going to pay it back except for me, and if that means I make the bare minimum payments every month for the next several years, then so be it. Paying back 20 dollars is better than nothing at all.

  • Listen to my Grandmother

As I sit here writing out my plans for 2018, I realize, today is not the only day I can want to make things better for myself. Any day I can wake up and say, “ this is not where I want my life to go, I can change it.” But it’s more than that, each day has been given to me, fresh and new, with the chance to learn from it, or throw it away.  And if I don’t quite like how that day turned out, well, there’s always tomorrow.

Any day can feel like new year’s day.

21 and Restless

I can’t seem to figure out how to

be an adult

I just never feel good enough

I’m nobody’s favorite

Nobody’s love

Nobody

Spare me your pity and let me live my life, untouched.

Unavailable

How is it possible

to crave

so much of the world

to want

so much out of life

and still not want to exist

and wonder how much more of life you can take

How is it possible to be grateful for life

and want to give it back

How is it possible

to smile so genuinely

but feel like screaming instead

“You’re so young
you have the time to figure it out”

Give it time, give it time, give it time

but what if I don’t have the time

or worse

what if I don’t want the time

dealing with anxiety and depression

With no Agenda

“My first love was a tall scruffy boy with slightly curly ginger hair, my best friend, my rock and my reason that I had to smile.”

It’s a little after midnight when I pull into my driveway. I turn off the engine but keep the radio on. It’s been a long day, most of it was spent at work, but the last several hours were spent with a friend, a “Boy Who Could Mean the World to Me” I’ve known him for a few months, and we’ve certainly grown rather close.  With every minute I spend with him I know that he could possibly  be someone incredibly special. But for right now, he’s just a friend, and my fears are hoping it stays that way.  Every day my hand gets a little bit closer to his, afraid that he will retreat, or toss mine aside.

I’m completely worn out, hardly having the energy to even make it through the front door. but despite my exhaustion being stronger than ever, my need for an answer to what to do next. I reach for dialing a number my fingers haven’t created in a while, but I’ve far from forgotten the sound of his voice when he answers. And he does.

“Nick, it’s wonderful to hear your voice,” I say without a hesitation after he says “Hello.”

“Yours too Jay,” He responds.

I begin talking non-stop like I always do. It’s been a few months since we’ve spoken, and I absolutely must catch him up on everything that is happening in my life. I’ll talk for twenty minutes before I even take a breath. “I’m so sorry Nick, “I stop to breathe, “I talk a lot, I haven’t even asked how you’re doing”
Nick chuckles, and I can visualize his smirk, how it curves slightly to the right as he runs his fingers through his slightly curly ginger hair. Unlike me, he can summarize the last several months in just a few sentences. We’re opposites in that way. Our personalities have always been as different as can be, but our souls were the same. Nicolas was my first love, my first broken heart, my first a lot of things.

“Hey Nick,” I say with a timid voice, “I need to ask you something.” My voice breaks, realizing that I’m past the point of no return. I wonder if I should even continue, I’m not sure if he’s going to want to bring this up again. But I must know what he is going to say.

I’ve known Nicolas for 6 years now, and since the beginning I chose to be his friend. I chose to sit next to him in our American History class, I chose him to be my dance partner. However, I did not choose to fall in love with him. That happened all on its own, and with every bit of hidden laughter in during class lectures, every Jamba Juice run, and every tear that he wiped away from my face, I fell a little bit more.

I fell so hopelessly and incredibly in love with Nick, and I spent more time than I should have trying to get him to love me back. It wasn’t until after we graduated high school I had learned that he had loved me the whole time as well. However, with so many complications, time, distance, wants for our life, Nick learned before I did that the universe did not want us to be together. So ,he left my life, and it broke my heart in more ways than I could imagine.

I remember asking Nick why this was happening, he told me he didn’t know, he couldn’t understand or explain. I searched for the answer in every action of my life. I kept repeating “I want my best friend back,“ though text, through phone calls, through hand written letters. Those were words that had probably filled up Nick’s inbox repeatedly as he was out living his life, and while I kept my phone attached to my hands. I spent so many days finding other lovers while I wrote stories about me and Nicolas trying to give us an ending that we deserved, one without where the two of us could be happy even if it wasn’t together. It was my new hope, since I no longer believed love could find me.

We didn’t speak for almost a year, and my heart hadn’t let go of the anger, and the betrayal, because when I lost him, I didn’t just lose my love, I loss my best friend, the person who I called almost every night, my shoulder to cry on, the one person who understood me more than I even could understand myself, beginning an exhausting journey to find out who I was without him.

Until one day I took all my stories I had written, and it seemed like the universe, the same higher power that had probably tried to tear us apart, told me to one more time to reach out. I had almost given up, but I was sick of creating a better ending for us, so this time I called, demanding a better ending.

He picked up. I don’t know why this time was any different, but he told me he was going to listen. I screamed and I cried at him, but none of my words were going to get him to understand the brokenness of the last 312 days. He apologized, it was his fault he said, and that he thought about me every day. His monotone voice broke as he said he will never be able to forgive himself for hurting his best friend.

In my head, I knew it didn’t take away the time, or the hurt, his words could simply be empty.

Men have exhausted my soul.

And he debatably had broken my trust more than anyone in my life, he should have been the one I held most of my bitterness towards. I could blame and hate and scorn every man that has ever approached me in my life, but him I couldn’t. Every man in my life has been so much easier to lose. But three words slipped from my mouth that night, words he, and I certainly was not expecting.

I forgive you.

Suddenly 312 days of hurt and brokenness were lifted away. I heard a laughter of relief over the phone and I joined him. We were 500 miles away, but I felt closer to him than I ever have been before. We didn’t exactly know where we were going after this, and we weren’t quite sure how to fit in each other’s lives, but I knew we were going to find a way.

It had been 16 months before we met up once again and I dropped everything in my hands when I saw him as I ran to embrace him with a long overdue hug. He had kept his beard, and I could have sworn he grew taller and more built. Our eyes finally met, and I knew he was looking at me the same way he did before, and I as well. But it no longer hurts, now both of us see a future, just not with each other, but still having each other in our lives. I love him, but he’s not mine to love. But all I knew was my final memory of Nicolas was not going to be him leaving, I refused. Everyone else can be a ghost of my memory, I didn’t care how, but we were not going to leave things the way they were. I didn’t demand an apology I had no agenda, I just knew that I loved him, I wanted my best friend back.

And I have him back.

And I’ve never been happier knowing that.

Nowadays we have a million things to do in our daily lives, but he’s know I would be there for him in a heartbeat. He is still my rock, my best friend. I wouldn’t change anything about me and Nick’s relationship now. I take comfort in how forever still can happen as you grow older, but it just might look a little different.

It’s been three years, and though Nicolas and I can sit on the phone for hours, watch movies and talk about our ridiculous fears together, every now I think about the year in between, the year I felt empty, looking for his face in the crowd, even though I knew he was 500 miles away. I think about how I searched for closure in everything and everyone else in my life, lying about being okay when I knew that he, at the time, was the only one who could help me.  I wonder if he blames himself as he watches me go to the wrong thing, get hurt again. But I don’t blame him- he is my little sliver of hope, the tiniest little bit that even if it’s not what I wanted, love isn’t always going to give me what I want, but it’s going to give me what I need. However, I hold those words back.

Lately, I’ve been spending time with “The Boy Who Could Mean Something to Me”. One day he makes me smile a little too much, and starts to calm my doubts, slowly becoming the person I turn too. Suddenly I can’t breathe, the fear that I’ve been through all of this before is overwhelming. I want to halt every feeling I have. Every fiber of my being just wants to freeze up. As if I already know where this is heading. And for the first time in 3 years, I remember how it feels like to be broken, not because I am, but because I’m afraid to be again.

It’s what has brought me to call Nick a little past midnight. So, after stalling for 40 minutes, I finally build up the courage to talk about us. “Nicolas,” I start hesitantly, he knows whenever I use his full name he knows I’m to say something serious, “ There’s this boy, and I haven’t been this scared to lose someone… well, since I lost you. It’s coming back to me Nicolas. What if he leaves, what if he doesn’t love me back? I’m supposed to keep moving forward, I know that, I always know that. But he’s becoming my best friend and… I lost you and it broke me.I’m just… I’m scared ”

Nicolas is taken by surprise, but he speaks, “Has he told you he isn’t going to hurt you?”

“Yes. But, they all say that, you said that once,” I respond with bitterness in my tone. I know I’ve stunned him, but Nicolas knows it’s not his place to tell me I shouldn’t still be hurting. “And that’s why I’m calling you Nick, because of what happened with us, I can’t bare to happen to me ever again.

“Do you love him Jay,” Nicolas asked. Now I’m the one who is caught off guard. “No,” I answer, “Not yet, or I don’t know if I even want to, if he’s someone I’m willing to trust. All I know is he reminds me of you Nick. The way we started. I feel like it’s happening all over again I feel like I’m 18 again, and I’m scared to even let it begin, to figure out what he means to me.”

“No one else I know has gone through as much trial and error and tried their hardest to learn from it as much as you have.  You’re not 18 anymore, you know that. You’ve grown, you’re stronger than you realize and can handle this more than you give yourself credit for.”

“And what if he hurts me, what if we end badly?”

“Then he doesn’t deserve you, but more importantly, you take control of story. You’re the reason the two of us can talk to one another again, because that’s what you do, you say this is not the way things are going to end. That’s what you did with me, and that’s what you’re going to keep doing.”

I feel like I sound stupid, by now I know that Nick is being incredibly patient with me; still I burst out, “I don’t even know if I am in love with him, he’s just a friend, that’s it that’s all, but just in case he’s not, what do I do.”

Nick responds calmly, “You love him like you loved me, fearlessly, and with no agenda. You don’t even know what this is going to turn out to be, so just love him, and whatever form it’s meant to be, will be. You know  the answer. And you what Jay, one day you’re not going to need me to remind of you this, not because I won’t be here, but instead, you are going to know this yourself”

I know that he’s right, though I never admit that too him. I’ve always had my own way of words. So instead I say to him, “Nicolas, you’re my reminder that even if things don’t happen the way I want them too, it doesn’t have to end. I’m grateful for you, you’re my sliver of hope that things could end up differently for me. It’s just a little bit of hope, but every time I talk to you, It’s there.”

I’m smiling, and I know even 500 miles away, Nicolas is too.

“I love you Nicolas
“I love you too Jay, and remember, you know what to do”

The conversation ends as I look at the clock and know that I have to head inside. I told him that I’ll be in touch soon.

I know what to do.

I get out of my car, finally grasping the energy to begin heading to the door. My smile is still on my face.

Breathe

I’m still exhausted. The consequences of giving people my love still has its marks on me, I don’t know if that ever goes away,

Love fearlessly

I walk up to my front door, finally getting the chance to look  at my notifications. “The Boy Who Could Mean the World to Me” has sent me a few text messages, he’s still awake too. Am I falling in love? I’m not even sure. Right now I know that he makes me happy, I just don’t know in what way yet.

Love with no agenda.

“I’m trying, Nicolas,” I whisper to myself, “No promises.”

Exhaustion

In a typical movie scene, a girl would be sitting alone on a park bench, reading, texting on her phone, finishing her bagel. Suddenly her silence is interrupted, a man approaches her, telling her that he just couldn’t walk by without calling her beautiful. The story would continue to play out the two would fall in love, they would fight, make up, or move a thousand miles away from each other, yet they overcome every single obstacle, ending with them both confessing how they never want to be without each other again. It’s raved by the hopeless romantics.  They long for the day they have a love worth fighting for, a story worth telling to young and new lovers.

The cookie cutter boy meets girl story trope was one that I use to dream about. I would watch the romance movies, crying over the two lovers that are fighting against all odds to be together, craving and wanting that for myself. My heart was given out to anyone who gave me any sort of attention, open to any possibility to begin my story.

It almost seems so long ago, yet I know that not much time has passed at all, because now I no longer even let the story begin. I’ll sit by myself, eating that same bagel, perhaps reading a different book. Then mid- sentence, my attention is attempted to be shifted towards the man trying to speak to me. “My I just have to say, you’re so beautiful, would you love like to go out sometime.”  I remove the headphone from one of my ears; thanked them for their compliment and decline as politely as can. At times they are understanding, embarrassed, but kindly smile as they thank me for my time. But more times than I can count, they persist, and I realize my politeness has come back to bite me, I should really know better by now. Aggressively, I repeat my answer, sending them off on their way. And under their breath before they turn around completely, I hear them say ever softly, “What a bitch.”

I pat myself on the back, telling myself that I’ve done well. I’ve collected all the different names I’ve been called by men: crazy, whore, etc. But “bitch” is by far my favorite to be called. Men use “bitch” as a name to call women who have decided to take charge of their own story, to not have it dictated by the opportunity to find love through a male.

Right now, I wonder if I perhaps sound pretentious, or insulting. As if I’m trying to say I’m “not like other girls,” the most internalized misogynistic statement I could make. But my words are not meant to hurt my fellow sisters, if anything, I envy the hopeless romantics, and their ability to search for love, eagerly awaiting a new chapter in their lives. They aren’t naïve for their hope, and neither was I.

Three years ago, my heart was open to every single possibility, smiling with every encounter, completely helpless the moment a pair of charming eyes laid their eyes on me, constantly wondering if this would be the one. I was helpless.

And I was in love

My first love was a tall scruffy boy with slightly curly ginger hair, my best friend, my rock and my reason that I had to smile. And on the night he told me he loved me too, I gave my whole self to him, a night that I wanted to last forever. But it didn’t, and neither could we. In the morning he was gone, and he had taken a part of my soul with him. I began to dissolve into an empty void, hoping the men could fill it.

Every kiss that touched my lips left me with a fixation, trusting men to fulfil the craving. Every word lured me in, as I fell in love with their promises to love me forever, to treat me better than the one before, to please me the way I should be. What I didn’t know at the time was men would continue to use me, sliding their hand up my skirt before they even really knew my name. They would take what the want from me, my body, my kindness, my love, take it all for themselves, and leave once they’ve acquired what they need, just in time so they don’t have to give anything back.

Years go by and my body is filled with bruised marks from those I’ve trusted, scars from the amount of times I’ve cut open my heart to give it away. I think and tell myself, maybe I should have stop them, maybe I should have told them they need to do more before I would allow them inside.  But I know my voice is worthless in their eyes, why else would they kiss me more than they allowed me to talk other than to show me what they believe the main purpose of my mouth is is.

Perhaps I have no one else to blame but myself, for my expectations, for wanting to be treated as a human being, and for expecting men to treat me as such, for expecting to care more about my soul and the person I am than the kisses I give them

Instead, men have exhausted my soul, they have exhausted my will to open up. They have done nothing but hurt me.

So as the word bitch crosses their lips, I want to tell them how their brothers have hurt me, how they have drained the life out of so many others like me. I want to tell them how I can’t even risk the possibility of getting my heart broke again, and how I’ve been left with nothing but empty promise.

However nothing comes from my lips expect a smile, as I see that their ego has been bruised, for they have been lump into a generalization of men. They are offended by my rejection, and I want to explain that my “no” is not because of them. Then a realization comes to my mind,  because despite how the years have worn me out, nothing has exhausted me more than my constant feeling that I need to explain myself, when the word “No” is in fact a complete sentence. Because even though they have yet to brace my body and they’ve done nothing to me yet,  I’m exhausted of men believing that I owe any part of myself.

Somedays I’ll stare at a girl, maybe younger, maybe older, and wonder if her soul has been exhausted yet. I hope she isn’t, I hope she holds onto the possibility of a story that plays out exactly how it’s meant to be.

As for me,

I’m exhausted, let me be.

I Weep for Untold Stories

My high school was a school of money, filled with the finest teachers, latest technology and teachers who had push us into discovering career goals, having a future, and education that was set in stone, prepping us for college since the 6th grade, having us take assessments to determine which path we should follow. By senior year, I knew, we all knew exactly where we would be heading in life.

That same year, I met my English teacher, Shelly Laveen. She had the most magical classroom. Whenever you walked in an aroma of honey butter candles filled the dimly lit room. She wanted to give an atmosphere a sense of peace and serenity. High School was chaotic enough and she never wanted to make her students any more stressed than they already were. If you looked at the ceiling, you would see that every tile had been hand paint as the cover of a different novel; she loved art, and the ability to share stories in all its forms.

Shelly and I clashed every now and then, perhaps it’s because both of us were incredibly passionate very opinionated, and full of different views of the world. She ran her classroom the way she wanted,not allowing any administrator to tell her what to do. Most students didn’t share her passion for English Literature, but I did.  However,I had been intimated by her intelligence, how she spoke, how she lived her life. I feared her, yet I had the up-most respect for her.

Toward the end of the year, she had the class read Breakfast at Tiffany’s, the library across her class had a plenty in stock for us to  check out. One day Shelly held a class discussion and she asked us what we thought of Holly Golightly. The class grew silent. After a few moments a guy raised his voice.

“I don’t really like her too much, she seems like a mess”

Shelly would always hold a poker face whenever students spoke their mind, but she replied, “Really? Elaborate, why do you think that?”

“Well… she just doesn’t know what she wants out of life, she just keeps running away from everything and not finding out what she wants.”

She looked at all of us, she was off to the side watching us converse, everyone agreed. She got up and asked “ Raise your hand if you’re going to college next year”

Everyone raised their hand

“Keep your hand up if know what your majoring in, and the career path you want”

Everyone’s hand stayed up

“Now I ask you, how old is Holly”

We flustered through the pages of the book,

“19, she’s just a year older than most of us”

She sits back at her desk, turns on the overhead projector. On the screen shows different statistics of college students or recent high school graduates.

“Before any of you even got to high school, our district provided you with the tools to help you figure out what you look, what you don’t like. Career fairs, college advisors on campus every other day, top of the notch sports, arts, academics. 18 different AP programs, and teachers than have consistently pressured all of you to have it figured out, time is running out. To the point that every single one of you knows what you want to do for the rest of your life. Now look at the charts. See how the category of 17-22 year olds still remain undetermined. Don’t you see, every single one of you, was taught in a bubble of privilege, you’re already 10 steps of the game, and you are going to bash on people your own age because they couldn’t get the same opportunities. That’s one thing your 13 years of this district will never tell you. They’ll let you how lucky you are, soon all of you will wear your college sweatshirts with pride as you wear this schools. Not only are you lucky, you are privileged. There are millions are kids your age, same dreams, same ambition, and yet they are not given the chance to go to college. Because their school provided them with teachers who didn’t care, with books that were falling apart, with counselors who told them they would never go to college. So don’t dismiss her just because you can’t understand how she feels. Let me be the first to tell you, all of you at one point, in the next couple years, are going to feel like Holly Golightly, more than half of you are going to change your major, most of you will end up going to into a field never expected to be apart of. All of you at one point are going to feel helpless and so lost. And then you’ll realized this small book you all tossed aside next to your bed, will suddenly be the most relevant thing to you. I don’t teach English to push random California educational standards down my students throat. There’s a book for all of you. You are Holly Golightly, you are Holden Caulfield, you are Jay Gatsby, there is a piece of you in all of the stories you will encounter in this world”

The classroom was silent, I think all of us were in-denial, none of us wanted to admit we hadn’t figured out our life by now.

When I graduated we had conversed a few times afterwards, a couple of facebook comments here and there. I remember when I took a picture of me and Holly Golightly in a Wax Museum, she commented how happy that picture made her. The next day I emailed her to let her know I switched my major, and bought a new copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. She had been right, about everything, though I didn’t want to admit it.

It has been nearly four years since I’ve sat off doodling in her classroom. A few months ago I ran into her at a coffee shop in my hometown. I said hello and she told me how grown up I look. I let her know that I wasn’t in school right now, but working instead at job I’m completely passionate for. She laughed, reminded me how much of a hard time I gave her when I was applying for a college in New York and kept telling me I should consider that my mind could change before I go hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt.

“17-year-old me can’t believe I’m saying this, but you were right. I’m still trying to figure everything out”

“You’re not the only one sweetie, 26 years of teaching and I still have students who are figuring out their lives. Nothing is going to kill you more than thinking you’re suppose to have it all together”

“I guess I have you to thank”

“Maybe, or Holly too, I see her story live on through so many of my students. You all give her the future she deserves”

I pulled out the book in my bag, “I’m reading The Book Thief, I remember you talking about in class, I read it shortly after I started college; it’s my third time reading it. Funny, It takes place in the 1940’s yet it’s still relevant today.”

“Stories are timeless.”

I smiled, bought my coffee, and said my goodbyes, wishing her well.

The other day I was scrolling through my Facebook, her name came across my feed. I stopped, because instead of the usual post about her children and her travels, her pictures were of an enormous pile of boxes filled with books. In the background I had recognized as my old school library. Her caption read “The Day the Books left the library;” the school was renovating the building into a student union- A place for students to “hang out” . They would keep the textbooks assign to the classroom. Any student inquiring about anything else would need to refer to other sources. Or as she put it, “the books are gone forever.”

As I looked through every picture, I see the boxes filled to the top, with no viable way of closing them, the books were just thrown in there like they do not matter; they no longer had a home. I thought about the bare shelves and the empty walls, how soulless they had turned the building into, how many stories they have ripped apart.

The comments were filled with former students baffled by the pictures, asking why the school would so such a thing. Shelly said the decision was made because “Times are Changing.” But I don’t understand that argument.

Throughout time, people change, technology advances, but despite it all, the stories and books have been a constant, allowing ideas, dreamers, broken hearts, and the world to come together. Libraries have been the central home, allowing humans to gain nothing more but knowledge and escape from reality. It can be the beginning of an opportunity for someone to find their character, to find their inspiration. Change is inevitable, yet never has progressiveness been about taking away books. While this decision may be due to “times changing”, I don’t believe they have moved forward. They instead have become an environment that limits the minds of their students. Perhaps most of the children will find a way to books again, but what about those who aren’t so lucky, those who use the school library as their only way to stories they can escape. A school’s job is not just to educate their students on standards written by people who sit in a cooperate office, but to provide resources and to inspire.

If this is the direction they’re going toward, then they shouldn’t be proud, no school should be. A school shouldn’t pride themselves in throwing away knowledge, they should be thriving in any chance to open their student’s minds. My mind went straight to The Book Thief,  how I had just said few months ago how relevant it was to today. The Nazis use to celebrate the burning of books, preventing it’s citizens from learning and discovering anything that disagreed with their way of living, and just looking at those boxes, all I could think was “does the fire come next?” Stories are timeless after all.

Maybe this is all a stretch, maybe the students who want to continue reading on their own will find a way. Perhaps students have an easy way to get a hold of stories, but what about those who do not? What about the student who depended on their school to help them grow, someone who would sit in the middle of the only library they were able to spend time in, and soak up all the knowledge, latching onto every word to help them dream. Have we forgotten that they deserve the same opportunity as well?

I’m ashamed in any educational system that would not extend the gift of knowledge to every student that walks onto its campus.  My school taught us we needed to have everything figured out before graduation day. While books taught us that it was it’s okay to be afraid, it’s okay to not know what you want from the world. These stories have given me, and billions of others throughout all of time the sense that we are not alone.

I could only imagine how much that broke Shelly’s heart as she could see from her classroom window all the books being tossed aside. What a horrible punishment for a teacher whose only crime was to teach students how to be individual in a system that consistently has told them how to should learn.

I weep for a Shelly.

I weep for Holly Golightly.

And I weep for every student who now may never know her story, and may never know they are not alone.

Happy, Simply Happy

To the reader, whomever you may be- Last week was the two year anniversary of my suicide attempt. A year ago I wrote about it mentioning an abusive relationship and posting about it on all forms of social media; that day last year was filled with emotions and memories that I wanted nothing more than to be out of my life. As the day this year approached me I wondered how I would react to it. I think my actions surprised me; I wrote no article, I made no powerful post on social media. Instead I wrote an email to a woman who taught me so much about moving forward.  While it might have been written to her, it meant so much to me.

September is a month full of a whirlwind of demon’s past.
But right now, I’m going to focus on September 19th.
Two years ago, I almost made the decision to no longer live.
Almost.
I was going to almost 100 miles an hour on the 605 freeway, and something, call it the voice of God, or something in the universe, told me to slow down. Something told me tomorrow is worth living for.
You might be reading this wondering why in the world I would be starting an email on this Tuesday afternoon in such a way.
Well first off, not too many people can say they’ve truly seen me transform and grow in the way that you have the last five years. And I think now I can finally see everything you did.
And secondly- I woke up this morning, September 19th 2017, at 4am to head to the Disneyland Resort. I was exhausted, but excited, for this morning I put on my Guest Relations costume, the one that I’ve been fighting so hard to get back into. I stand there in the foggy, empty resort, surrounded by a hundred of other “Plaids.”
Today was the annual Guest Relations Photo, that dates back to 1959, when Walt Disney first created this magical department.
“You all have been hand picked to be apart of this legacy. You are the storytellers, you are the future of this happy place”
My heart is beaming with pride and happiness that I never knew could exist within me.
In the last two month the words “I’m so happy and proud of you Jaymeann” have been said to me by nearly ever coworker who knows how much of a dream it has been to pass my Guest Relations assessment and become apart of the team. I always smile and I accept, though happy was a word I was too afraid to use. Because I know all too well how easily happiness can be taken away.
But today, oh my god, I’m thriving, I’m happy.
I am happy.
Those words, “I’m in love,” they terrify me more than the words “I’m happy” because maybe my heart could break. But those are just the maybe’s in life.
So I’m emailing you, on this beautiful September 19th, to tell you how wonderful it is to be alive, and how dreams come true. I can’t believe I ever once thought they couldn’t. And how honored I am to have you and so many others strive and push me to get to this point.
With that, I also want to tell you I hope you’re doing well and that year is going on easy on you. Though I’m sure your schedule is crazy, as usual, I hope you and I can catch up in person soon.
Wishing you the best and hope to hear from you soon,
Jaymeann

On the Steps of Main Street

I was standing in the middle of Main Street, USA, my father was right next to me. I had never seen the Disneyland fireworks before, and at 9- years- old I had finally made it through the whole day of fun without completely crashing. My reward was a wonderfully magical kiss goodnight. The lights dim and the music begins and a voice speaks:

“Good Evening , this is Julie Andrews.”

I turn to my father, jumping up and down, and he knew exactly why; Julie Andrews was my hero, my Mary Poppins. So he bent down and told me, “Yup that’s really her, and she’s here for you.”

Disneyland was already an amazing place for little girl like me to be at, but the moment I heard that Julie Andrews was here, I knew that magic was real, and it had happened right here on Main Street, USA.

Now that I’m adult I know that Julie was never physically there, but that doesn’t matter, because over eleven years later I remember that moment, and I remember that feeling of pure bliss, and how I wanted nothing more than to be apart of a place that created happiness. When I returned to the parks as an annual passholder at 15, I discovered what role was to be my dream one. A department that had been created by Walt Disney himself, Guest Relations, also known as Plaids. They were located at the front of Main Street, right where magic begins and I would walk by City Hall thinking one day, that would be me.

A little over a year ago, right before my 20th birthday my favorite manager here at the Disneyland Resort, Michelle, signed the papers allowing me to finally have a chance to live out my dream. I had the support of her, and fellow co- workers, all of them believing so strongly in me. Shortly a few months later, I had gotten the call that my transfer had gone through and I would be starting in just a couple weeks. The news of my new position was a silver lining, finally something good, no something wonderful, while my life has been nothing more but bad luck, broken hearts, betrayal, traumatic experiences and mistakes. I was finally doing something right.

The day I tried on that plaid costume was a moment filled with victory. Everything in my life suddenly seemed so much better, this job had become my happiness, my brand new start. But underneath that neatly tailored costume was still someone who was still felt like screaming, as the voices inside my head reminded me of every possible thing that could wrong. I still carried the hurt from the betrayal, broken heart, traumatic moments, except now I had a shiny new costume to disguise myself. You see it’s one thing to leave all your problems backstage, putting your best foot forward when you enter the rest the world. But to push everything so far down and be someone so consumed with the fear to be yourself that you pretend to be someone else, that’s a crime to no one else but you I thought this job would magically turn every bad thing in my life around, as if this costume could turn me into something extraordinary. But the leaders saw right through me, so one day, not too long after I had been there, they pulled me aside.

“I’m sorry, but we just don’t think you’re ready for this role, so right now, we will be emailing your store managers that you will be returning back to you polka dots next week”

I felt my soul leave my body; I can’t exactly remember crying, but I know I left that room mascara running down my face.

Their word were worse, and sharper than any other rejection I have gotten. Was it because I was stressed out, had I finally cracked into an emotional breakdown? Yes, I did, all the pressure of everything in my life had finally come crashing down. I had gotten use to life hurting me, but I couldn’t understand why God, the universe, and the people that inhabit it would present me with an opportunity to touch my dream, only to strip it away once I had fallen in love. In that moment I thought I had lost any single ounce of hope I had for myself, any hope I had to dream.

“You can finish up your scheduled week here, but for now, we think it’s best for you to go back to your home department, and grow” I didn’t understand, how was I ever able going to prove to them I belonged here, when I can’t even be given an opportunity to. My Heart was too busy screaming to hear the leaders tell me, “ I can see how passionate you are about this place, please, please do try again.”

At one point they offered me comfort, and allowing me to let me leave for the day if I wanted to. So I asked to speak to Michelle, I might have actually run to her. She comes to meet me where I am and sees the look in my eyes and she embraces me with a hug; I once again began bursting out into tears. “I couldn’t do it Michelle, I couldn’t do it. This is all some pipe dream, maybe I’m not good enough.” Michelle kept telling me that wasn’t true and she was so proud of me, but my heart was heavy, I felt like a failure; I was a failure. I had disappointed her, myself, and every single person who believed in me.

Returning to work the next day I was exhausting; I had makeup covering up the bags under my eyes and put on the bravest face I possibly ever could. My assignment was the VIP viewing area that cold December night, so I head on over to my position with a company issued phone and clipboard in hand.

I stood on the steps leading up to the Main Street Train Station. My coworker Noah is holding the Umbrella over us. With the Train closed for the time being, the area had been turned into a VIP viewing area; I was holding the magical clipboard of the names of guests who would be allowed through. Though it had been raining off and on all day, they’ve yet to cancel the 10:30 PM showing of The Paint the Night parade, so until then, there we stood on the steps of Main Street. At 9:59, Noah handed me the umbrella so he could go take his last 15 minute break, leaving me all alone on the steps. No one had come to retrieve their seat, in fact the park was nearly empty, a site I never get to see while it’s still open.

In front of me there’s an enormous Christmas tree, and a family taking selfies. The rain from earlier had left the ground glimmering with the reflection of lights from the Christmas tree and the shops along Main Street, USA. I head up the steps to the top of the station, completely alone, as I get higher, I can see the castle, covered in fake snow, but for a moment I’m believing it’s real. A soft tune of Silver Bells plays in the background while I stand higher above everyone in the park, looking out at the Magical Kingdom the Walt created, thinking about how all of this was possible with imagination and determination. For 15 minutes, all of this is mine and it’s everyone’s simultaneously, it’s a world where I belong. Up until then, the past couple months, have made my life seem it would never stop moving, never stop hurting me; I don’t have the time to think, to feel, or to breathe. Right now on Main Street, I’m finally at peace.

A small wind of a whisper tells me “Keep moving forward, because if everyone just gave up when they failed, you wouldn’t be standing on these steps right now”

Noah comes back, and I’m no longer alone, he asks me if I’m alright, and I tell him I will be.

Days later I’m back in polka dots, ringing up guests and restocking my store as if I’ve never left, trying to not think of what could be. Everything seemed so simple back in home department, I wasn’t in a panic, and I thought maybe, just maybe I’m meant to be here, in this store, with the guests. So, I thought to myself, I could stay here, the people I’ve befriended standing next to me, creating a future and a new start, and new beginning and though it was difficult, I found my happiness. In the smallest actions of my life, both inside and out of work. Slowly I started to allow myself to feel joy, spend time and experience love and support and healing. I couldn’t understand why I just didn’t accept my role in stores. I still created magic, made dreams come true I still had the chance to lead, and to grow and be guided by wonderful leaders; more importantly I never once doubted the current role I’m in was just as important and vital as anyone else in the resort, what was wrong with me.

I went to Michelle in her new area, three and half months of being back in my polka dots, expressing my conflicting feelings and how despite the stinging feeling of rejection, my heart was still calling me back to be plaid, but I was terrified.

“Perhaps it’s because, you still are meant to be there”

“Michelle, they sent me back…I belong here”

“You hesitate saying that, Jay, what is your heart telling you? Because if that voice in you continues to scream, maybe should listen to it, this is who you are. You have grown, see it, and take pride in it”

Michelle looked me in the eyes – “Jay, It’s not the job that makes you wonderful, it’s the person you are. If you can make magic in one department, then you can do it in another. The magic is yours wherever you go. Whatever you choose, wherever you end up, I will be proud of you and so will many others”

She hugged me goodbye, telling me to always keep her posted. I walked over to Main Street, to buy myself a cream cheese pretzel. It’s 9:30 and suddenly, the lights dim and the music begins and a voice speaks.

“Good Evening, this is Julie Andrews”

A memory from my childhood that I had onto so tightly, was being relived. Julie continued to speak, and the music persisted, there’s a sparkle in the sky, and tears in my eyes, but this time it’s not of sadness. I look over at the crowd of people in awe of the wondrous site; I sit there frozen, overwhelmed with happiness, smiling at the new memories being made for all the ones who heard Julie Andrew’s speak for the first time. Memories that would inspire people like me to dream big. I hear Julie’s voice once more.

“Remember, dreams come true”

Right in front of me, I envision my father and I standing there on Main Street, telling me how she was there for me. Perhaps it was all recorded music in the air, but I didn’t care. Julie was here in Disneyland, reminding me how of everything that made me want to create magic in the first place and those words, the fireworks, and all of Main Street was mine, and somehow managed to be everyone else’s simultaneously.

I placed my application for the role of a Plaid a couple days later on April 25th, and on July 25th I got invited back into the department.

The past eight months have taught me more about being myself and following my heart than I ever have in my entire life. For the longest time I kept wondering why I was given a chance to achieve for my dream, only to have it taken away once it was in the palm of my hand. But the truth is, it took me out of my comfort zone, I know now if I had never taken the opportunity to possibly leave then, I probably wouldn’t ever leave stores. Maybe timing wasn’t right, and maybe I still had lessons to learn, but I know this isn’t a pipe dream, this is possible, and it’s happening to me. Turns out dreams are more than the  wishes I make on stars and birthday candles; it’s about finding my passion and running with it and never looking behind you, to always be moving forward.

Healing isn’t linear and the fear of rejection still stings like a healed up broken bone. So, maybe the key to all of this, is to stop carrying so much self-hatred for things I could not control, to stop apologizing for loving the things that I do. Every morning I have to remind myself that I show strength in how much I’ve grown and continue to face the world fighting for the happiness and peace that I deserve to have. I make my own destiny. My happiness is finally finding a place in this world where I belong and the people I encounter throughout my life are meant to be a part of it somehow.

Tomorrow I begin a new journey, a new job, a happy beginning, understanding now that my costume does not define my growth, my healing, and ability to make magic. I’ll walk in there being nothing less than the person I am. And if I’m ever overwhelmed with sadness, grief, or ever anger, I’ll just head to the steps of Main Street. I’ll look at the world that I have been given, the opportunity I have to create not just my own happiness, but for others as well. I’ll remember the people I’ve met and think of the love and support they’ve given me.

Dreams do come true, how foolish was I to ever believe they couldn’t.

Keep Fighting the Good Fight

Feminism is one of the greatest things I have come across in my lifetime. It has given me a cause to fight for and friends who support me with their endless love as we grow together. Which each new day of growth and fighting, I find myself becoming more and more exhausted trying to battle people who try to bring us down. So, I’ve learned sometimes there is no point in trying to fight with people who aren’t seeing the world the same way. Regardless of what side you stand on, it is frustrating when no one else sees the world the way you do. But ,the main argument I see with anti-feminists is often not just filled with frustration, but the complete ignorance of really understanding the concept.

 

The other day I came across an article entitled “7 Things Feminists Hate to Hear and Absolutely Can’t Talk About” and this time I really just couldn’t stay silent. I read through the whole article, listening to every single point. Yet, I still found each point was just another argument spewed out of ignorance.

So, here are my responses to each of The Author’s seven points.

  1. Feminist say one thing and do anything.

The author points out feminist stand for equality, but don’t practice that belief, using examples such as women don’t have to sign up for the draft. Many Americans, regardless if they are feminist or not believe the draft is a terrible system. That being said, the only equal solution is to include women in the draft as well. Because feminism isn’t always about what benefits females, but what is considered the equal option. Not only is their argument weak, to back up their point, they use a tweet from a random twitter user, who, is rather young and still possibly learning about the qualities of feminism herself. By including the tweet it does nothing except back up the idea that Anti -Feminists are going to pick on the ones who don’t represent what feminist actually believe, but what they think we believe in.   The inequalities focused on by the author are all issues that have been built by a patriarchal society, the exact thing that feminist are trying to help end. Yet the Author claims that we, just simply don’t care about inequalities unless it’s happening to women, when in reality we’re actually fighting for the same thing.

2) Women are more violent than men

The author uses an extremely unlikely source when they try to make a point  on how women are “overwhelmingly more likely to beat their children” and “70% throw the punches at their significant others.” However according to the Official World Health Organization, A majority of domestic violence and rape victims are women. About 35% of women worldwide, making that a little bit over 1 in every 3 women, are abused either physically or violently at sometime in their lifetime. In fact 38% of women that were murdered were killed by a male intimate partner. My biggest issue with this argument isn’t even the inaccurate and lousy statistics, but because once again, an anti-feminist is trying to make a point about how men can’t hit women, but it’s okay for women to hit men. Yes, a women should be held to the same standards if she was abusive as a man would. This point shouldn’t even be necessary , why is it so important to argue that a man can’t hit a woman; if that’s really something a person considers to be important in the fight for equality, then perhaps they need to re-sort their priorities. Consider this: How about we just don’t hit anyone!!!!

3) There is institutional sexism against men

Wait?? You mean to tell me?? Inequality exists in the modern world??? Wow it’s almost as if feminists actually are fighting for something that is real.

Put aside all the institutionalized sexism against women that anti-feminists claim does not exist and the genders are equal now, the author is correct. Men do get longer and harsher punishments  than woman and men don’t often get a fair custody in court, yes men get raped and no one seems to care, yes men suffer from breast cancer and mental illness, so on and so forth. Once again this just again proves that the patriarchy has created a system that hurts BOTH men and women and everyone in between. By setting these standards the patriarchy tells society that men don’t have the ability of of being  emotional, which not only makes the assumptions that emotions are a weak trait that is only associated with women, therefore infantilizing them, but hurts men.

4) Most Women haven’t read or studied the feminist theory.

Actually I am surrounded by groups of women and men in my life who study the feminist theory not only in film, but everyday life occurrences. All of whom agree a feminist perspective can change the world for the better. But the word “Feminist” has turned into nothing more than a slogan to catch young girls attention; modern shops and brands have began to make a profit for wrong reason. In a way it has somewhat lost it’s meaning. I do find the education on early feminist theorist important; one should know and be taught the meaning behind something they want to follow. Just like any other theory or belief, it’s important to evolve feminism and grow from it’s origins, continuing to learn from creators and change as the world does. The author mentions how they’ve studied different theorist in their film class, but fails to mention the origins of feminism and how since the beginning of it’s creation has always been about the study of inequality among the genders. Despite the changes and rights given to women throughout the past hundreds of of years, the underlying fight of most major feminist activists is still a fight for equality for the sexes. The argument of feminist not studying feminist theory could easily be attributed to the patriarchal education system we’ve been taught, however one does not need to go to medical school to understand smoking causes cancer or an environmentalist to know global warming real. And as wonderful as it would be, one does not need to spend years of studying feminist theory to understand that men, women and everyone in-between should experience equal rights.

5) Feminist deny that women sexually objectify men.

Sexual objectification in any form should not be acceptable regardless of who it is. Society and modern media has made it clear that women are nothing more than object in which they can use to sell their products or promote their shows by having them there for no other reason than a prop, not as a human.  Women are the ones who face the double standards when they choose to control their sexuality; they are shamed for their decisions while men often walk away praised and unaffected for acting sexual. So it’s not shocking to find that feminist will speak up for women, however a feminist should still be able speak up for men, and should hold people who sexually objectify, assault and abuse men, just as severely as they would anyone else. When men are in a place where they are the victims of sexual assault, especially if the casualty is a female, don’t speak up because they aren’t taken as seriously or given the same support women have. A person who says that women shouldn’t be held accountable for her actions against a male is not a feminist.

6) Feminist don’t understand that no means no

The author uses this next point to bring up how celebrities such as Shailene Woodley and Madonna don’t want to call themselves feminist and are constantly attacked and put to shame for it. The frustration with celebrities or other people who dismiss the word feminist, yet still say they believe in the equality lies more with the system than it does with the people. Once again, feminism has been turned into a laughing matter, and the people who have spent so much time criticizing those who don’t actual represent what equality stands for have gotten what they wanted. By using extreme examples of those who claim that women can’t be mothers, or that are men are evil, they’ve turned feminist into a dirty word, another reason why we should begin to push for the teaching of feminist theorists to be more common. As much as I know I cannot change the mind of someone who already has their own set views, I encourage those who stand for equal rights to really look into what feminism is and see that it a belief that whats to help society move forward.

7) Women are capable, confident, able to defend themselves, and no that is not victim blaming.

The author is 100% right; women are capable of so much, they deserve to be confident in themselves and their abilities, and they should be taught how to defend themselves. However in this society, a confident women is easily seen as conceited or intimidating, so we teach girls who to be pretty and cute, and how to laugh it off when a boy is mean to them because “He’s just teasing you because he likes you.” The author continues to point out that women declare safe spaces and yet still need things like “#HeforShe” and men to stand up for women because apparently feminists shame any women who has the ability to defend herself in situations that may be unsafe. If anything, that is so incredibly far from the truth; we still encourage girls to carry around pepper spray, to stick with their friends when they go out and make sure they’re safe. My senior year of high school, my teacher asked the females in the class to raise their hand if they feel unsafe walking alone at night and they see a male walking behind or close to them. There wasn’t a single female that didn’t raise their hand, a fearful pattern I, and millions of other girls across the world have made clear. And it’s okay to be terrified, and it’s okay to be fearless. There is nothing wrong about women having the ability to defend themselves or feel as if they do not need protection or people looking out of him, in fact that’s a skill I wish I had. The author of this articles believes feminists find problems in encouraging women, when in fact the issue isn’t shaming women for being strong, but that taking these safety precautions have to even be taught. There’s nothing wrong with teaching women how to stay safe, but it’s more important to teach men, or anyone that’s a possible offender about consent, cat calling, and that they will be held accountable for what they do. As for the call for men to help and stand by women, it isn’t to say that women are incapable, but the fight against sexism and inequality can grow stronger. By including men in the movement, they are able to hold their male colleagues responsible instead of contributing to what seems to be the never ending cycle of the patriarchy.

The feminist movement isn’t just so women can have safe sex and equal pay, but goes far deeper into the history of oppression. The layers of inequality are intersectional. If we limit ourselves to only caring and fixing one part of it that is what allows the patriarchy to grow.No institution or system is without flaws, but if we start choosing to ignore issues and simply say just get over it- then it will persist and it will. Whatever seed is planted and watered is a what will grow, regardless if it’s flowers or weeds.

To any anti-feminist, perhaps consider this,- is it really that feminist aren’t listening, or more that we are tired of constantly  hearing the exact same arguments that have supported and allowed generations of men and women to suffer the consequences of the patriarchy? We might be loud and outspoken, but we were much rather be called obnoxious than sit here and contribute to our own destruction.

-J

An Unlikely Hero

Every child needs a hero; not like Spider-man or Captain America, but someone to tell them how important they are, to make them feel wanted, and teach them how to be strong. All my life, I wanted to say that person was my mother, the woman who came to America at age 19, who does not have a single mean thing say about anyone. She is beloved by all her meet her, a wonderfully sweet lady, and I love her, with everything I have. Which is why I think my heart breaks to not call her my hero. And I almost hate myself for feeling that way since I was a little girl.

 My childhood is a blur, I think it’s because I block out memories of my past, the ones of an abusive household, both physically and emotionally. My father carried his stern look with him always, striving for perfection when it came to his expectations. But that left him with nothing but disappointment and disdain for me, one that he acted upon often. I turned to my mother fearful wanting her help, wanting her to say something to stop him from hurting me. But she stayed silent, begging me to do the same. She reminded me I mustn’t tell anyone. It was my family’s secret, but I tried my hardest to just be a part of the family everyone else would see.
12- years-old seems to be the age everything changed, the age I  vividly remember my mom’s silence, where I somehow can’t block out the memories that have been ingrained in me. A time where the line between the father and monster turned grew even more undefinable. For years I had learned that the smell of beer meant for a sleepless night,  the sound of belts snapping sent would forever send shivers down my spine. But, above all I knew to never mention any of this to anyone, A lesson that did not come from my father, but from my mother. Her apologetic behavior for him ranged from “He’s just doing this because he loves you” to “Maybe if you actually did well on the test, he wouldn’t be calling you stupid and worthless.” I tried to understand her and tell myself that maybe one day when I’m older I’ll be over all of this. The bruises on my back and the ringing in my eyes are still a feeling I have not forgotten. I needed my mom, I needed all the pain to stop,  yet, she never came through and I promised myself at 12 years old to never be my mother. I wanted to be loud, happy, and not living in fear, all the things I watched her try to strip away from me. As much as I loved her and understood she thought this was the way to protect me from my father, I couldn’t sacrifice myself, my being, to be the quiet and terrified daughter she wanted.
Then,there was Amy, A silver lining in one of the darkest times of my life. She was a gentle elementary school teacher never once questioned why I wanted to spend so much of my free time at a school. At a critical time of my life filled with bullying and panic attacks, Amy’s classroom gave me the comfort I desired.  I wanted to be just like her, emulating her kindness, when my father was trying to take that away from me.

I was so full of life and eagerness to be Amy’s  special helper. And I was- with every chance that I got, I was there. I was drawn to her heart and quirkiness and her ability to never show  a hesitation of softness.  It was place where my happiness felt genuine. I didn’t have to pretend to be anything else than myself and that was always enough.  She listened to my 12-year -old nonsense and for the first time in my life, I felt like was important. Amy’s kindness was special, something that despite all the wonderful teachers I’ve had, it gave me hope that my future could be filled with the same kind of joy I was finally shown.  I adored her with all my heart, writing in a journal that I kept hidden under my mattress how I hoped to make her so proud, thanking her for showing me what it means to actually have someone showing me how to love others.

Years passed and I watched as my mother grew quieter and more distant from my me. The Stockholm Syndrome she was under grew stronger, pulling her away from the woman she once was; she was almost unrecognizable. While I knew the blame was on my father and my mom was a victim just like me, I begun planning a future without them. Because loving my mom does not me I have to sit here in my own self destruction.

By 16, I was counting the days until my 18th birthday, freedom was a concept I could only imagine. I remained in touch with Amy, still thinking about how her kindness helped shaped the young woman I was now. However my teenage years were still terrorized by a monster who made me feel a new kind of worthless, one that differed from younger years. It was a terror that made me question my existence, my abilities, my intelligence and purpose in this world. One that mocked my mental illness before I even realized what was wrong with me. One that blocked my contact from the outside world by having access to my phone and messages, leaving me feeling completely dependent, as if I never would be able to get out.

That year I met Andrea, another teacher who offered me comfort in her classroom. While my mother grew distant from me, and continued to join my father in telling me that I’m not good enough to survive on my own, Andrea was my constant reassurance. She reminded me while the world was big, it’s people like me that are able to conquer it. I felt so incredibly alone, never quite sure what to do, but there she was every day. She sat there at her desk, listening to me go on and on about my social problems with friends, to feeling heartbroken over a red-headed boy. I even told her about the problems with my parents, though I purposely held back details, it was something I’d never done. Andrea wrote my college recommendation letter speaking about my determination- A trait I didn’t even know I had. She told me that, no matter what my dad or anyone else tells me, I was ready for college, and that I’m a fighter who keeps moving forward despite what I believe. Though I was afraid of the constant judgement I would face with my anxiety building up and  my fears  grew stronger, while others laughed and pushed me away. She never turned me away or made me believe that everything I felt was in my head, I felt valid, important, finally like there was a future for me beyond the life I was given. I would talk to her everyday (no really, everyday), and whenever I doubted the goodness of the world, she always proved me wrong in best way possible. It was the support system a 16-year-old needed and she was the role model I looked up to for just about every problem I had. While she may not have had the answers to every situation I put in front of her, she reminded me that even though my happy ending might not be what I wanted or thought it would be, that they do exist.

Both Amy and Andrea welcomed me no matter how old I got, and they were there for me in ways no one else was at the time. I learned how that genuine kindness isn’t just a concept I imagined, it was real and it was right in front of me. And above all I learned to have faith in other people, but more importantly how to have faith in myself. They were they were the heroes in my life

As my twenty-first birthday approaches, I look back on the years and know that I’m far from the girl I once was; I fight more than I ever did throughout my life. I stand up to abuse, to cruelty, or to anyone who tries to threaten peace in this life. My father no longer terrifies me as I have grown into the woman with unbreakable voice, I don’t let him control me and now I have the strength to speak up for my mother and will continue to do so until she has the same ability to do the same.

I do it for my mom, I do it for Amy, I do it for Andrea, and I do it for the 12 year old little girl with big brown eyes and the warmest hugs. The one who never lets go of love when she receives it because she’s not accustomed to it. She doesn’t know yet that the pages she wrote in a dim light in her room would soon be shelves with 20 journals of unfinished works because of how quickly her mind works and how proud she is of her voice.  I fight for her, I fight to be the person she needed, and to be the woman the other little girls need, the one my mom needs.

As happy as I am to no longer be that 12 year old, I love her; I love her when no one else did, I love her for making me who I am today, I love her for finding wonderful women in her life such as Amy and Andrea to guide her. I’m my own hero now, but this much is true- I never would be fighting this to recuse myself and others like me, if no one showed that I was worth saving.

Little by little I see my mother regain the light in her eyes and the ability to not live in fear; I’m so proud of her, and I tell her how strong she is; to survive and keep on living is the strength within itself. My mom might not have saved me, but I’m going to fight like hell to save her, because even though every child needs a hero, grown-ups do too.

-J

My Mother’s Unspoken Words

The earliest memory I have with my mom is in the kitchen, I can’t imagine it would be anywhere else. She brought a bowl, two eggs, a measuring cup and pancake mix to the ground because I couldn’t reach the counter. We mixed the ingredients together and she grabbed a chair for me to stand on so I can reach the counter and pour the mix into the pan. She told me to be careful pouring the batter, but I didn’t listen, my finger got too close to the pan, and I got burned. I jumped off the chair crying and my mom picked me up and quickly ran my finger under cold water. I sat at the table crying, and I watched my mom finish making the pancakes.

To this day, I’m still weary of the kitchen; the heat of the over still terrifies me, feeling fire near my skin or even taking something out of the microwave was scary for me. Afraid to get burned once again, I stilled baked with my mom, but I never went anywhere near to oven. I watched her, wondering if cooking will ever give me the same kind of peace I see in my mother. The kitchen was her canvas and her food was her masterpiece. Food to her, was the greatest gift she could give to somebody.

I’ve always believed food is a universal language, it tells the story of the generations of families to the dedicated chef who created them. The only women at the grill, carrying pride and passion, yet extreme modesty. I think it’s because she knows it only takes one taste for people to understand her artwork. She is an artist drawing inspiration from the land that she came from and the one she now calls home.

She is fearless in the kitchen, allowing her to open her shy personality, it’s easier for her to talk to people once they’ve had a bite,  because it’s as if they’ve already know a part of her.

 

At 19- years- old my mother came to America from the Philippines, and has not been back since. While I’m sure her heart sometimes aches for the connection to her past, she has created a new life here and is very much loved. As I’ve grown older, the less she talks about her home country, I wonder if it’s because another day here, is another day further away from the home she once knew. Since I was young I’ve longed for a connection to her past. Asking her to tell me stories of her former life. I would ask more questions in one language than she can answer in Two. She’s a quiet woman, and her stories never carry too much detail, she’s always at a loss for words. But, with each dish came another story. My mom was no longer at a lost for words, she might be bilingual but cooking was her language of choice.

It’s through her quiet and calm serenity I learned that strength comes in many different forms and for my mother, her strength can be found in the endless nights she spends making 1000 rolls of Lumpia without asking for help. Her hands and eyes exhausted, but she can’t dare disappoint and holds her ability with much pride, knowing she’s the only one who can fill each one with her perfection. With each new recipe, she shines and shows her bravery, fearlessly taking on new ingredients and events. I see her courage as she lets strangers try her hand made creation, telling them a story with just a taste. There’s vulnerability in her stories, yet she stands in the middle of a kitchen allowing everyone to watch her make them come to life. I’ll never get the joy on her face when she see’s someone take their first bite.

Throughout the years I often felt as if I was losing my mother to some monster with two faces. Yet, each time I doubted her, she would return to the kitchen, showing me she’s still there. It was the thing that remained constant during my youth. There’s a strength in the ability to find a safe haven in time of trouble. Though it’s a strength I still don’t quite understand, with each taste and each year, I get a little better at understanding.

And I’ve gotten better at listening to my mother’s unspoken words.