Right now, I have a belly full of bagel and multi-flavoured doughnut pieces. It is my right, having come out of a rigorous quarter, a presentation at 8am this morning and a 50 paged curriculum report.
My group and I aimed to finish last night, starting at 7pm and working until 5am, on the brink of delirium. I had a pounding headache and I felt my anger flare whenever my group members went on tangents. Hey, I just want to finish this. Why are we (or you) talking about stupid Vines and laughing about inconsequential things? I flitted between annoyance and great admiration for their graciousness; they never once spoke with an edge in their voices. Their frustrations existed in a bubble which floated above us- something of a spectacle to poke at.
“Fuuuuck this thing, honestly I don’t even care anymore, she can dock us down for this, I’ll take it!” said the girl I’d once pinned down as an unassertive type. Sleepovers reveal the magic in everyone.
One of them lounged on his side, peering at the presentation through half-lidded eyes. “Remember when I asked whether or not you had already played the video? I literally fell asleep,” he chuckled.
They held me in their circle of play and gave me focused attention when I needed it most. My hand shot up multiple times as they joked, in a realm of my own, waiting for my turn. “I see you,” Kieran would say, smiling. It was always her. Unhurried, patient, kind.
In the wee hours of the morning, the three musketeers were the last ones standing; they stayed up to upload the document and figure out the formatting whilst I went to sleep. As we drove to school together, I found myself wishing I shared in the fullness of camaraderie borne of sleep deprivation and mutual suffering. I came away with an appreciation for the lightness with which they live, a kind of freedom and acceptance of the way things are. A sense that, though this is by no means ideal, it is by no means crushing either.
2 Corinthians 4:8-9
We are pressed on all sides, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed.
The thing is, it doesn’t matter what I mean to you at the end of the day. I’ll be the person who cares genuinely, even if I’m caring alone. I’d rather my gaze reflect something about the way I want to love than what I want from you. Here’s a sliver of old timey yearning for a time and place where you look at me like that too.
– – – – –
Lupe Fiasco’s lyrics struck a chord today:
Any love less than unconditional is so
Under-Christian, it’s unrepentant.
Sometimes I dream of people with faces that don’t belong to them. On the surface, I don’t get it right, but I feel the centers of everything, the souls of objects… Your voice, though. I know that voice. I hear it through different mouths, different lips, and I’m searching for your pair. I think I fancy people who look like traces of you– like you’re the first draft, the outline an artist makes before they begin.
I hold onto the voice, thin and wispy through the phone. I think I must have been the one to call you, because it’s the one thing I try not to do when I’m awake. I ask how you’ve been and I don’t ask because it’s the polite thing to do. I want to know. I want to imagine the new place, your home. This other world. Do the pillows match the curtains? Are you happy? Are you in love? Tell me how you feel, so I can recover who I’ve missed. Will you tell me how you are? I grip the phone, press it against my ear, and quiet myself. I want more before –
I lose you. The empty buzz over the phone, the connection gone. I hesitate to dial again. Will you call me back? And it wrenches my insides, realizing that I’m always calling first. Will you not surrender? Because here I am, waving white flags and poppies.
I don’t want this, I know that now.
There are those who will extend kindness to anyone, wherever they go. They leave a trail of sunshine. The sort of teachers that are not intimidating but encouraging when it’s clear that you’re not nearly as smart as they are. The kind of friend who’s a genius and doesn’t scoff at your blank expression. They speak as though you’re not all that different from them; you’re not stupid, you just have more to learn and they can’t wait to lift you up. It’s not look what I have and what you don’t, it’s here, let me show you. The have a faith in you that is not based on merit and yet it makes you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do. Everything they touch turns to gold.
Then there are people who are highly selective in who they are loving towards. Ignorance is unforgivable. “See, I’m actually such a nice person!” But only to those deemed worthy. Only to those who are as rational, as accomplished, as well-read. “We” is a group held above all others and no spot is guaranteed. Having an opinion is good, but too much fervour is not recommended. Having conversations concerning the evolution of jazz over glasses of Moscato may earn you some respect but you must do so without pretentious mien (who uses ‘mien’ anyway??). You have to be your best self, always. It’s this rhetoric of: are you on my level yet?
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please our neighbours for their good, to build them up.
– Romans 15:1-2
I can’t stand the rustle of paper. The crinkle of a plastic bottle in your hands upon suction, that resonant gulp. Shuffling, the repeated shutting of the door and the intermittent illumination of the left side of the room. I can just see you, the tap running, the buzzing of the electric toothbrush. That loud fucking voice two rooms over. The laughter.
I think about how I could phrase it in the nicest way possible and fuss over the delivery. But it’s 2am. I shouldn’t have to. And to make matters worse, I have to wake up early tomorrow. Maybe: “can you guys please keep it down? Thanks!” but I don’t think I can say it without closing the bathroom door a second too soon- unapologetically, before they react. I’m too used to apologizing before making a request.
I didn’t mind that sleep crept painfully slowly with you. The alarm was set at 7:45- but we both knew we wouldn’t be up for another half hour. And I’d find myself tired and blinking at the walls, wondering how much longer we had until daylight. I’d shuffle and try my left side. Sometimes you’d come in closer, and one arm I’d hug close to my chest like I used when I didn’t know how to sleep alone. And by the time the alarm sounds, I’d question whether or not I ever really fell asleep. I know I took from you too and I am not sorry.
One thing led to another,
or several things in four dimensions,
and it feels like it’s your fault.
Sometimes mine, you’d agree.
I don’t know who said what first,
or who missed a beat.
For the hopeful, “later” means “soon”
and “no” means “yes”.
I mean what I say-
Are you a hopeful too?
I have my theories as to why
people are cold and step on toes
but I only know what I’ve got
and not how we got here.
There is no sequence:
Minds are not equipped for when
things happen all at once.
It’s like opening your mouth
when your jaws are locked.
It’s like screaming
when the music is too loud.
It’s this tangled feeling like,
I want to love you
but I can’t stand you.
And I don’t know how to fix it.
A friend talked about the uglier strippers scrambling for ones on the ground in the sexiest way they could. They were ignored by the fattest, seediest old men, yet they still competed for attention. He’d never seen anything so demeaning.
“There was nothing empowering about it”, he said.
“But what if they know they’re beautiful and sexy without having to seduce someone? What if they’re just doing what they like to do?” For a moment, I thought that it could just be possible for stripper-empowerment. But stripper success is based on whether or not people think you’re worth a one dollar bill. If you’re not attractive and you don’t manage to get people going, you’re not a good stripper. Being regarded as hot is part of the job description. You cannot be an objectively good stripper, happy with your day’s work when you have failed to abide by the golden rule: 1) Be attractive. 2) Don’t be unattractive.
This helps me to understand the meaning of empowerment; the less we depend on others for validation, the more empowered we are. Talent that goes unrecognized is still talent. It is empowering to know that you are doing a good thing when no one is watching. It is empowering when you are not framed by the perspectives of others. When you don’t have to prove anything to anyone- how happy you are, how successful, how sexy you are. It is this independence and self-assurance that is so admirable and inspiring.
When we place too much value in superficial things, we let people compartmentalise us. People can think you’re pretty… So what? Is that all there is to you? Surely not! However, when we care too much about how we appear, we become what people see: an appearance. We become people who operate based on others’ projections and we are less authentically individual. Disconnected. And that is always going to be less than what we have the potential to be.
Your dinner looks great on Snapchat, did it taste just as good? That sunset must have been gorgeous, did you look up from the your screen to experience it? You look so popular with those girls, are you trying to show me how much you don’t care about me? Would you be just as satisfied knowing that I didn’t see that post- that I never check your Facebook page? Who are you trying to convince?
When we demonstrate that we are real people with unique qualities, we are empowered. When we know who we are and how we feel, it doesn’t matter if people speculate. Even if we are not appreciated, we are objectively awesome. When we feel insecure, the worst thing to do is look for empty validation. You are not meant to be everybody’s cup of tea. You are a particular.
On a side note, musicians who exploit sex or dress provocatively under the guise of self-empowerment are not doing themselves any favours. If your goal is to liberate women yet you are subject to the male gaze, you are not achieving what you have set out to achieve. You are contributing to the system instead of breaking free from it. Also, if you do the easy thing (ha ha) and pull the sex card, you are casting a shadow over your own talents.