On Perseverance Beyond One’s Comfort Zone

To all my struggling college students working part time jobs for cash and basically full-time unpaid internships; to all my college student community leaders who are beginning to ask themselves why they are stressed out over things they are receiving little thanks or recognition for; my young adult friends not entirely sure of what they’re doing and looking back on college wondering where all their potential went; to anyone who has asked themselves, “Why am I continually stretching myself thin and literally putting MYSELF in situations that demand time and brainpower when I could be resting somewhere comfortable?”

It is worth it. It is worth it to learn if you can handle the stress of dealing with people who don’t understand, who don’t listen, who are just as confused as you are about what the right course of action is. It is worth it to learn everything you can from that part time job and full time internship or Eboard position. Open your eyes to the industry, the struggle of juggling everything, the hard skills you can learn, the personalities you work well with (or don’t), the tough conversations, the hardship of not being able to do everything 100%, the reality that it’s okay to not do everything 100%.

It seems that life is more forgiving when you reach for too much and fail while you’re in college than any other point in your life. So keep reaching. Everything that happens after is for the better. Everything that happens after will make you stronger in all of the areas you need to be stronger in–but only if you let it.

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On Being in (Possessive) Love

My fingertips are addicted to the softness of the skin across his bare chest. I drink him up. The day started an hour ago, and if I don’t get up now I’ll be late to class but after the morning is over, I won’t see him for two weeks. We hold each other so close, and it is in those moments that I am engulfed by this need to find ways to come into him even closer. This possessive need feels so primal. I hate it. I feel like I’ve become everything I vowed against.

I’m in fucking love.

He’s like vaporized shisha lingering in my lungs. I’m lightheaded, drunk, nauseated. I’ve written poetry about how I was 15 when I felt this way before. But I think my memory is wrong. I’ve never felt this way before.

I want to cry.

I could lose him at any time. He could die. He could cheat again.

I feel out of control.

Love is beautiful but right now it is abusive, ugly, angry, a wounded animal.

When I hold him I never want to let go. But alone in this moment, my body is shaking and I can’t help but think that I am my best self when I’m cold and unfeeling. Pretending that I can live alone for the rest of my life.

Where is this coming from?

I feel dangerous. Angel faced with spider fingers that would gleefully rip off the head of anything that stands in my way. Plump, pink lips that whisper poison into the ears of children. I could have people killed by their own hands with the things I say.

I could scream at you to jump, but it is so much more effective to let you whisper yourself to the edge.

I haven’t let go of the anger.

I haven’t truly forgiven.

My fear clings to him.

My pride clings to him.

But who is he to me?

Split Personalities

She smoked because that’s what classy, rich, and powerful women do in motion pictures and fashion magazines. But she was hardly rich and trashy at best.

Every Friday night she wore some black thing and always two sheer thigh highs held in place by gurdel clips that I saw for the first time lying on the floor in her room the weekend after Johnny left.

I always stared at her as she shifted through her bag, looking for a cigarette before walking out into the night. She was probably used to it because she always looked back–a fag nestled between her naturally pink lips–with this basked and unashamed look in her eyes.

One night, she thought to explain herself to me when she saw me sitting on the sofa with a bowl of popcorn on my lap and a box of Audrey Hepburn classic films on the coffee table. I’d just finished Sabrina–the one where Audrey falls in love with the grossly older but significantly more intelligent brother–when she pulled out her box of American Spirits and acknowledged me with dark eyes.

“I hate women who fuss with appearances.”

“And you don’t?” I indicated to her tight everything.

She raised an eyebrow quizzically and then she laughed upon glancing her outfit in the mirror in the foyer, as if she had no idea how her clothes even got there on her body. “No this isn’t what I mean, they come off quickly. I’m talking about handbags.“

I shut off the TV and looked at her with feigned intent.

“You know…” She lit a match and brought it to the end of her cigarette. “Men aren’t like hand bags, even though women want them just as much.” Then she waved away the flame and flicked the blackened thing somewhere across the room. “Coach, Kors, Gucci, Chanel. They spend thousands of dollars on animal skin. And for what?”

Inhale. Exhale.

“Bags don’t bite their bottom lip when your hand grazes over their groin.”

Inhale.

“Bags don’t push you down on a bed and have their way with you.”

Exhale.

“And most importantly… I don’t wear men to impress other women.”

She looked my untouched self squarely in the eyes, as if she were going to tell me a secret, teach me a lesson that Sabrina, or Princess Ann, or Holly Golightly could never tell me because of 1960s censorship.

“Do you think that the first thing a man notices when he’s looking for someone to fuck is their purse?”

She smiled.

“He doesn’t care if you are rich or stylish or even educated. In most instances the only time he will ever interact with you is without any clothes on. And honestly, you can’t shame him when you’re wanting him for the same things too.”

Inhale. Exhale.

“He may have chose me for the simple reason that I am a woman…”

Then she stepped towards me, with the cigarette in between two fingers and that hand on her hip.

“But it will only happen because I choose for it to happen.”

And then we were face to face.

“Judge me all you want. Question my taste in men. But at the end of the day…”

I know she thought about inhaling again, but she did not move at all.

“One of us… is fucking someone they are very sexually attracted to. And the other?”

Inhale.

“…Is riding her hand.”

She smiled once more before she strutted back to the front door.

“So,” I said, and she turned around. “Is that your rationalization for whoring yourself out every weekend?”

I don’t even know how we ever grew up in the same household.

Waiting for the Train

Sometimes I wish my handwriting were sloppy so I wouldn’t feel like people were reading as I write on the train. But now that I recognize that I have this problem of not writing anything at all I don’t feel so self conscious. If you are snooping right now, well then hello stranger.

What it feels like to be in-like with someone is similar to a train, I think. This morning I was waiting for the 6 train for 15 minutes, and it was annoying and unbearable. Two trains had sped past the station and the platform was crowding three layers deep with bored and sleepy faces that grew tempered after the announcement of a stalled train on 110th street. Frustration. Impatience. Annoyed at being teased by two trains, not even packed, never opened their doors, never stopped, never even slowed down.

This is what it’s like for me. I know that someone’s coming I just don’t know when and I’m tired of waiting. I just want to go somewhere already.

A friend of mine told me that the way it worked for her and her current boyfriend was that she found herself insatiably curious about this small dude sulking (or maybe just being quiet) in a corner of a room at a party she went to the fall of last year. He was mysterious, intriguing. Perhaps it started at first as some inexplicable sexual attraction, but what she found underneath his lone exterior was powerful enough, desirable enough, for her to hold on to him, even as I watched her slowly lose the individual she was before she met him. Not that it was a bad thing for her to change, it was just that I had never expected love to be strong enough, truly strong enough, to recreate one of the most free spirited people I had ever known.

Thinking about their love makes me wonder if this is the same thing I’m facing. I’m not patient however, and I am concerned that my impatience will prevent me from experiencing something great and exciting. My horoscope this morning told me to be open to love, and while I think I am—I always am—I also think that by expecting, my openness reduces. For when I do not receive, I close in, and I bury myself. Why is it, I wonder, that a person can be so relaxed with a stranger when only considering the prospect of friendship, and at the same time paralyzed upon speaking with someone they feel more for? I’m very self-assured and I know that I am at least a little likeable when I am notactively trying to impress someone. I can’t imagine how this must feel for someone with a lesser opinion of themselves. But maybe they have their own benefits too. They don’t expect very often so they also don’t feel as much disappointment. Maybe I am… I am in my head too much. But that’s what writing is for. Not to converse so much as it is to release. I feel myself de-stressing already though today has been especially awful.

I wish I felt comfortable enough to tell him that I’m excited to see him today, but I am afraid that if I express such an emotion, he’ll just run away like the rest of them. I think they run because they can’t handle it, the amount of myself I am open to offer, and it scares them because they can’t match it. “Being a powerful woman, a loyal woman emasculates them.”

But another cause to run is too much affection. Smothering, falling into train tracks.

Sometimes I feel like my insides are screaming like metal and electricity echoing angrily down a subway station. And still at other times I am content with sitting on a bench listening to my iPod, waiting on the platform.

Bumps and Creases

Remember when we were little, when we were fresh out of third grade, we would M.A.S.H and map out our husbands and careers by drawing spirals with pencils in our green soft covered marble notebooks? (Pens were for older kids, and even if we had a pen we would never use it because if we messed up or didn’t like our futures, we couldn’t change the results; we would have to waste another page. But with a pencil, you just erase it and start all over.) Remember the times when we would check the bumps when we bent our wrists forward like Spiderman and the creases on the sides of our writing hand to see how many kids we’d have in the future. Or the times, when we would trace the lines on our palms to see if we had an M for money and a long, continuous life line.

When we would dream about prince charmings, and mansions, and two kids – one boy and one girl, and flying to the moon on a big bad starship, and we would tell our parents. And our parents would tell us that we could be whatever we wanted, instead of telling us that NASA has no funding and no job availabilities. Instead of telling us that our dreams aren’t practical for this economy. That girls can’t hide away in forests or towers with their animal friends and wait to be rescued. That the first guy or the second guy or the third guy they meet isn’t going to be the one. That even after 8 years of grade school, and 4 years of high school, and 4 years of college (if you’re lucky) and dozens of meaningless standardized exams, and millions of As and gold stars, your 5 year plan can still turn out to be nothing regardless of whether you were sticking to your dream or financial stability.

I spoke to my uncle this past Christmas and he told me that I was born in a selfish generation… and I think he’s right. I feel the pain of no free wifi and 12% battery life while my uncle lived less than luxuriously through World War II. It’s not a fair comparison, but it speaks a truth. They had no choice. I do. And I’m choosing the stars over financial book keeping. My dream and my uncle’s dream come from two separate realities, but it has been said that parents try to live vicariously through their children, giving them all the things they didn’t have themselves. I’d like to think the right to choose is one of them.

I’m only 19 and if this choice is a mistake I know God put me on this planet not with a pencil to map out my future, but an endless supply of ink and a fountain pen so that all I can do is turn pages, keeping every cross out, every MASH, every plan that didn’t work out with futile attempts at improvement squeezed in between the margins. This isn’t third grade I can’t erase my mistakes and pretend they never happened.

And that’s okay, because after a while pencils go dull.