Hair, or how this blog post turned out to be longer than I expected. Like my hair.

One of my earliest memories is spurred by a sense of disdain towards my own hair. In kindergarten, I experienced my first crush on another person. To my clumsy sensibilities, he was perfect. I’m not sure what goes on in the head of a four-year old vis a vis attraction, and I definitely don’t want to go that far back down memory lane, but I still remember his name, and I remember being wracked with equal parts guilt and thrill when, in response to what was likely an innocuous comment, he said that my hair was stupid. 

I was doomed from that moment on.

I have always had a lot of hair. My parents used to joke – or maybe it wasn’t a joke – that any wretched fly within a certain radius would be snapped up and trapped in my tight curls. As far as I’ve been small, my hair has been large. For many people, my hair was who I was.

So, of course, when my young beloved told me that my hair was dumb, I set out to destroy it. I’ll spare you the gory details, but after my poor mother woke up from her nap to see a bin full of perfect ringlets, she cried for a really, really long time. Apparently, my uncle, laughing as his wife tried to salvage my hair, said I looked like Ava Gardner. My mother cried harder. 

I started drawing not long after that incident. Despite the fact that my burning love for a fellow kindergartener dwindled without ceremony, I retained my hair-anxiety. In every picture I drew of myelf, I made my hair straight. And that’s not to say that my hair was defined by rakish lines consistent with poor motor functions – it was a conscious effort to make my hair “silky-straight” like so many of the other girls around me. I began seeing my curls as a masculine feature. Pretty girls had straight hair. Any compliments I ever received were condescending in nature; pretty girls never got condescended. (As you can tell, I hadn’t quite had my intersectional feminist awakening yet.) 

As funny as this seems in retrospect, it was also the beginning of a long, difficult battle with self-loathing. The longer I observed my hair, the more I began to notice my face, my blemishes, my thick eyebrows that were not yet en vogue, the slightly crooked bridge of my nose, the baby fat that seemed so much worse than everyone around me – another point of condescending adoration. I started listening to the sound of my own voice and I hated what I heard. But through it all, I begrudged my hair the most. I didn’t necessarily hate it; I could make pigtails that looked, more or less, like Bubbles’ from the Powerpuff Girls, how could you hate that? But it annoyed me because it was silly, it was cute. It was never pretty. I was never pretty.

In my defense, I had just woken up. As a point of horror, I had just woken up.

I grew older. After chopping all my hair off, my curls never grew back quite the same way. The corkscrew ringlets were gone. Now, as if to rub it in, my hair grew in coarse, thick, twisted coils that – and I can’t stress this enough – grew up and out. While, internally, it was pretty empowering to realize my hair was akin to a mythical she-beast that was able to turn men into stone, outwardly, that was a pretty embarrassing image to convey. So, I did my best to turn that embarassment into a thick skin. I cultivated a self-deprecating sense of humor that I convinced myself was sincere until it actually became so. (Occasionally, that sense of humor has backfired on me in the form of some pretty heinous, one-sided relationships, but for the most part, I’ve learnt to own it.)

Things were worse when my family moved to Dubai. It was a different landscape, and more diversity meant more ways you could be pretty: I wasn’t pretty any of those ways. As a kid going through puberty, I got two things: my period and breasts. Like, larger breasts than a girl my height should have had. What I didn’t get was a more graceful face, or an opportunity to shed some of the baby fat. So I was pudgy. And, as someone would eventually put it, I had “gigantic jugs” at 13. My hair was still massive. The side-fringe trend swept my high school, and deciding that this could be a fix for my hair woes, I decided to steal my mother’s flat iron and began straightening just one, thick lock of my hair. It flopped disappointingly down the side of my face, but I was proud of it (I had no right to be).

At some point in high school, I decided that the solution to all my hair problems was to chop it off. So, I had my shoulder-length hair shorn up to my chin, and was pleased with the stylish bob I was given (I had no right to be). Unfortunately, the blow-dry wore off, and my hair blossomed into a majestic mushroom cloud that, you guessed it, went upwards. Luckily, the one solid my hair has always done me is that it grows extremely quickly – which means body hair is a misery – and when my hair got a bit longer-

Well, I’m not sure what happened here. Maybe God took pity on me and decided that I could use some help. Maybe it was the estrogen in my birth control pills*. But I turned 16, and the hallowed period of my life that I have christened Second Puberty took place. 

I had recently discovered Instagram, as evidenced by the intense filter. Note the hat. Note the weak eyeliner.

Slowly, but steadily, the baby fat finally started dropping. My body suddenly evened out and while I became increasingly more top-heavy than my frame could necessarily handle, I was an actual shape. As problematic as that body-shaming mentality is, I stopped hating myself as much. I thought I was actually kind of pretty. And, most importantly, the sheer weight of my hair started weighing it down. It grew outwards, still, but not upwards. 

I felt a renaissance dawning.

Suddenly, I could talk to pretty people and feel like I was holding my own. I patted my hair to make sure it was still in place. I would adorn my hair with barettes, hats (so many freaking hats), even fascinators. All I was missing was a dress just below the knees and an ascot, and I could have been off to the races!

Of course, it was’t that easy. I still spent an unfortunate amount of nights wracked with horror at my face. The shape of my body lent itself to an anxiety of its own, one that culminated in me flinging clothes across the fitting moon at Forever 21 or whatever unfortunate store I shopped at. Few clothes could accommodate petite with a side of curvy. I felt, still, despite the renaissance, not as pretty as the status quo. But at least my hair was the least of my problems. 

Weirdly enough, that was the best thing that could have happened to me. My ambivalence towards my hair was an opportunity to let it do what it wanted to do. My hair grew longer with each passing year, and the only real dramatic change it went through was two instances of pink ombre – a childhood and, well, adulthood wish that I wanted to fulfill, and I loved it so much that I did it a second time. The only real difference in my routine was that I started caring for my hair a little more. No heat, no dying after that second time, and occasionally, a bit of argan oil. My hair appreciated this, evidently.

Here’s the thing. At some point, I realized how long my hair had gotten, and I freaked out a little. I let my hair grow out since that misguided bob, but I always just assumed my hair was short no matter what length it had gotten to. Eventually after the first couple of nights that I spent accidentally pulling my hair so hard while asleep that I woke up, I had to contend with this new reality: my hair was actually, truly, fashionably long.

Featuring Sabrina, who has seen me through all phases of my hair.

And it was curly. It was curlier, truly curlier, than it had been since I lopped off my ringlets in the name of love. I was awed by this new power – power? – that I held upon my head. I could braid it, I could put it up, I could even leave it down and it wouldn’t go everywhere! And if it did, well, apparently that’s stylish! People started asking to play with my hair – not with a fever-pitch, as if frenzied by the thought of taming the beast with a flat-iron and some mousse, but because they wanted to admire it. Like an art installation, it held people in its thrall, and not even in a literal sense like with those poor flies when I was a baby! It was, and still is, an awesome feeling.

So, of course, being the superstitious South Asian that I am, I grew afraid of my hair.

If there’s one thing I’m never going to deny about my heritage, it’s that the fear of the evil eye is a valid one. Too much praise, especially masking envy, is a huge no-no. Say Mashallah, I often think at people, locking my jaw and straining to project fear-of-God unto my unassuming companion. I try to humble myself every time I have too much of a good hair day. Okay, but you forgot to go to the gym, and you said you were going to, so really, what gives you the right? One well-placed, strategic barb later, and I feel safe from the evil eye. 

Anytime my hair sheds, and it sheds quite a lot, a fleeting panic makes its way through my bones. The beginning of female pattern baldness! Or hell, male-pattern baldness, what does it matter! I have to be careful about how I bind my hair at night or I’ll wake up from the sharp pain and shame of having had my hair try to commit seppuku under my elbow. At this point, I’m a little afraid that I’ll wake up with my braid coiled tight around my neck, like a particularly fuzzy, tresEMME-scented boa constrictor.

If Second Puberty was a renaissance, this is, like, baroque. Extravagant, filled with religious paranoia, and distinctly impractical. But damn it if baroque isn’t my second favorite period of art. For all that I’m afraid of it and guard it kind of jealously against the ill-wishes of the ill-intentioned, and against my own pride, I love my hair because it’s an indication of how far I’ve come . I’ve come from having cut my hair at the behest of my first love to proudly, and then apologetically, whipping it against the faces of people I love. 

A huge part of me wants to donate my hair before I move to the Netherlands for my last co-op. It feels right, to pay forward the lessons I have learnt and amassed in each lock of my hair. Besides, I’m kind of curious to see how my head feels 10-inches lighter. 

And, well, if my hair starts growing up and out again, I can wrangle it into place with hair smoothies and argan oil. Plus, that’s 10 fewer inches to be paranoid about. It’s a win-win. 

*don’t even start with me, I needed to stop missing school because my periods were that bad

My internal politics of dress

Of the many good qualities imbued in me by my father, one of my favorite ones is the love for fashion he inspired in me. I loved fashion even before my appearance reflected it, to the point that I seriously considered studying Political Science at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, because, “Can you imagine how perfect studying politics surrounding by fashion designers would be?!”

It behooves me to mention here that at this aforementioned point in my life, I also dreamt of being married and pregnant by  grad school. 1) I was so, so wrong, and 2) if any one tells my paternal grandmother this, I’m not above committing an imprisonable offense. She’s already waiting for me to get married as is, and I refuse to add fuel to the fire (read: her co-opting of my brother’s marriage in order to orchestrate mine).

Anyway. My father has always been an impeccably well-dressed man, for as long as I can remember. Most profoundly for me, my father dressed well even when circumstances allowed him – or at least excused him – to dress down. His father’s death, family problems, personal health: he was immaculate in every carefully ironed pleat. And this is not to say my mother isn’t beautiful herself. Each day begins with carefully choosing lipstick and applying the eyeliner-kajal combo that always rims her eyes. She too is immaculate in her signature sunglasses and every perfect wave of her hair.

We are not wealthy. The stereotype associated with how my family presents itself begets the image of a privileged international student from a privileged international family with no conception of financial troubles or the weight of loans. I beg your suspension of disbelief, and remind you that this is part and parcel of my love of and appreciation for my parents’ image.

I think I was in a crappy mood one day, sulking in that uniquely teenage way, when my mother told me to get up, take a shower, and put on my favorite clothes. She said it’s what she does when she wants to feel better than she is. So  I tried it. I never stopped.

Puberty took me for a wild ride and I hid it all under absurd ponchos I re-wore way too much. Needless to say, it took me a few years to figure out my style, but I did, and now unless I’m really, really, horrendously late for something, I need to have a full face of make up on. Sure, there’s a lot there to unpack regarding my own well-documented struggles with self-loathing, but dressing up is my time as much as reading, writing, drawing are.

As long as I’m dressed the part, I can play the part I need to play – I can be the human being I need to be. No matter the internal state of my mind, I know I can at least look put together, and if I can look it, I can feel it. Is it superficial? Well, yes and no. But I put a lot of myself in every outfit I wear. Every day I try to wear something from Pakistan, or an outfit that has a history; maybe I’ll remember that my father told me I looked beautiful in a specific dress; maybe someone will compliment me on my jewelry and I’ll say “It was my mother’s;” maybe I’ll wear bright blues and pinks and know I’m representing Pakistan in every stitch of my koti or kameez.

And, as ever with my blog posts, here’s where the self-critique comes in: am I misrepresenting who I am?

I’m an international student, and that’s reflected most keenly in the 100% tuition I have to pay to stay in college. Thing is, that tuition is carefully and nervously spaced out in a way that doesn’t bankrupt my family. Loans have been taken out – very painful, very large loans I will add – co-ops have been strategically placed, part-time jobs have been taken on, just so I can get a degree. That I’ll have to strengthen with another degree.

It’s hard not to be despondent and wonder if this was all worth it. Retrospect is 20/20: no one could have seen the sudden financial hardship that befell my family, least of all an 18-year-old that was as giddy and excited as I was to go to Boston and (without exaggeration) follow my dreams. My education is as much an opportunity as it is my cross to bear, and I bear it every single day as surely as I have a lick of concealer under my eyes on any given day. And it’s hard to admit this to myself because I feel like I’m breaking a taboo by doing it.

I fidget uncomfortably in my heavy, Pakistani earrings and bright lipstick. What do people think when they see me? More importantly, what do they think when they hear me speak and the soft but evident accept slips out, some days more than others?

Do I look like just another rich international student?

And that bothers me more than it should. It doesn’t matter, it shouldn’t matter, because I know what I am and what I’m not. I’m the sum of my parents’ faith in me and their endless, hard work. I’m the sum of my stubbornness and my own hard work.

But what do I look like? Who do I look like?

I suppose the reason this is bothering me more than it usually does is because I’ve had to deal with a lot of ups and downs on my way to my dream co-op. The first one, unavoidable, was the visa issue – I had every thing in the bag, minus the bit where I couldn’t get a visa in time. So, I took out a loan to stay in school, readjusted my co-op cycle to the Fall instead of the Spring, and took a deep breath. In that order. And then I decided, you know what? I’m going to fund this co-op myself. Yeah, I’ll pay for the flights, the rent, everything! So I got a job on campus (which is not necessarily as reliable as I thought, but at least it’ll take care of grocery money?) and put my heart into applying for a scholarship to fund my co-op. I was guaranteed some money, up to $6000, and I was going to get that! Or at least $4000!

For a little while, I felt good. The whole Trump thing tripped me up quite a bit, and I didn’t (and don’t) know what the future holds regarding the Muslim ban, but at least co-op was certain?

So imagine my feelings when I got my scholarship back and realized I had been awarded a generous $2000 for my pain.

The worst part is, I was so resigned to being tripped up that I didn’t even have it in me to cry all that much. I set about emailing who I could to try and appeal it. It took me 3 weeks to see if I could appeal this, and I hid the fact from my mom for as long as I could. I know my parents, and I know their love for me, and I was assured that it would work out if they had any say in it.

I’m going to fund this co-op myself.

I started looking for another job. I talked to my future co-op employers about worst case scenarios. I started working on research proposals that I could use to supplement my living expenses while in the Netherlands. And I finally, finally got some kind of an answer about why my scholarship was so low despite the fact that I literally begged for enough money to keep me self-sufficient.

Remember that loan I took out? I got enough money so that I could fund this current Spring semester and the subsequent Summer semester, which I needed in order to graduate on time. The Spring loan was disbursed to Northeastern while the latter stayed in my account until it too needed to be disbursed. So, I have a tantalizing amount sitting in my student account that will go untouched until the Summer semester.

The person working on disbursing the loans assumed that very substantial amount was for my own recreation, and that clearly, my request for more money than the 2k I’d gotten was perplexing. Clearly, I could fund my co-op with a sum of money that is literally, cent for cent, the tuition cost for a Summer semester.

I can’t begin to describe my anger.

If I was an American student, that assumption would have never been made. I’m an international student, and therefore, it’s a 9/10 chance that I’m probably really wealthy. At the very least, wealthy enough to have multiple digits in my Northeastern University student account just sitting there for my recreation.

Take a look at my actual bank account and you’ll know that’s very clearly not the case.

My family has given an unjust amount of money to Northeastern, most of the time money that I’m still not sure how they managed to come up with. There were never any questions asked, but this time, I’m adamant about asking questions and I don’t like the kinds of answers I’ve been getting. I also really don’t like that it’s making me double-guess how I present myself. The person allocating scholarship money does not know what I look like, so why do my earrings feel heavier?

I think I’ve been tripped up so much over the past couple of years that I’m double, triple, quadruple-guessing who I am and who I’ve become as a person. It feels melodramatic, and maybe it is. But I’m tired of feeling like I’m constantly short-changed through little to no fault of my own, and I’ll have you know that I am very, very good at admitting when something is actually my fault.

This was hard to write, which means it’s important that I write it for some reason. All I know is, I’m working hard to remedy what seems to be a string of bad luck. I hope that will be enough to make me feel comfortable in my own clothes again.

Long note: honest despair

I realize my last few blog posts have been a little more depressing than I usually put out. I try and imbue optimism in everything I write, because there’s enough sadness going around without me adding to it. And yet, here I am.

I forced myself to take a social media hiatus after some encouragement from friends. There is such a thing as too much engagement, and I had overextended my capacity to that end. That…was a sucky realization to say the least. I always thought of myself – forced the view of myself – as being impervious to emotional exhaustion. I feel, therefore I am, and I am lucky to be around so why ever stop feeling? If I want to give my life to some sort of public service, then I need to be able to power through the fatigue, muster every ounce of energy and positivity in me and somehow add to humanity’s global reserves of drive and perseverance.

Perseverance. Fortitude. Resilience.

Resilience.

Is there such a thing as being too resilient? is a question I’ve asked of Pakistan as a whole many times before. I look at when this debate first began – the night of the APS massacre – and wonder why it took that long for me to begin considering that question. As was at my emotional worst – and also at my angriest. The emotional wreckage felt welcome because of my physical distance from Pakistan. It felt like I was doing something if I was in so much pain – that there was a connection that mattered so much that it bruised no matter how far I was from home. It was comforting and despite the despair that still itched at my heart, it helped me heal.

At some point, we need to break down our shell and allow ourselves to feel the heft of lives lost and lives scattered, of normalcy shattered and routine decimated. We risk losing our humanity and capacity to empathize and mourn if we don’t let our walls down; we risk losing the opportunity to recharge.

I think I have let myself feel too much. I think I pushed myself to take in so much sorrow that I burnt myself out. Sometimes when I’m alone and I let myself be vulnerable, I cry for myself, for my family, for families I do not know, for people who have cried like I have. I cry for my own little microcosmic problems, and I cry at the sheer scale of the chaos I cannot even begin to comprehend.

And when I’m not crying, I try to fight a battle I’m not sure I picked wisely. We are all guilty of that. We pick fights out of self-righteousness in an attempt to feel vindicated, to feel any sort of productivity in the face of helplessness. We try to educate and inform, when we are the ones who want so desperately to be sat down and educated and informed. We project our own confusion, hurt, chaos of mind and heart onto others and I’m not sure if that heals anything.

And what we all need right now is to heal. Whether the wounds are global, local, personal, we need healing and kindness. Taking part in the “right” discourse can only help so much.

I suppose that’s what I’m tired of. I used to think that argument was the basis of all knowledge, and I still do believe that, but an argument requires some desire to find understanding. The dialogue I attempted to engage in was for the wrong reasons. And so I never truly let myself heal. I just held myself together with spit and gum and pretended I had recharged.

None of us really let ourselves recharge. We have forced ourself to always be “on” and ready to engage.

Screw engaging.

We have outsourced interaction unto words that are cold and impersonal.

I turned the pursuit of kindness into a game of skirmishes that I decided to ascribe intellectual properties unto.

We are – I am – so busy talking that we forget how to really feel, when our guard is down, we are broken and raw. That’s no way to recharge. You do not heal a wound by exposing it to the elements when it needs to be tended to overtime.

I’m tired, and that’s okay, but I need to do something about the fact that I exhausted all of my facilities in self-destructive perseverance.

Being too resilient is a bad thing.

At the time of writing this, I feel smaller and more helpless than I ever have. I don’t think that’s an uncommon sentiment lately, regardless of where you’re from. I find myself turning to art, music, writing but at the time of finishing this draft, an artistic Giant has been assassinated in Pakistan, and rather than taking the time to mourn him, I see my countrymen sharing videos and pictures of his ruined body. There is nothing sacred left about the horrors we as a world are facing. We have monotonized what should be held as unusual and unwelcome, for whatever reason (I have my own theories as to that).

I don’t really have a solution to my own despair, but maybe that’s the point.

Maybe there is no point, but maybe the point is loving fearlessly, whether that’s yourself or others.

There is some comfort in platitude.

Resisting

When fending off darkness and jadedness is resistance, you walk as if your joints are sandpaper.

There’s a constant ache in a part of your body you can’t quite pinpoint. Every time you smile, you throw the bags under your eyes into relief. You still smile with your eyes, though.

There’s tension in the tangling vines that grow in your core and stand sentry against any creeping despondence whenever you read the news. The knot murmurs nervously and your heart sinks a little, but you always make room for it to sink a little more. So long as there is room for your heart to sink, the fight against cynicism can keep on going. You can keep resisting. So you force your rib-cage to accommodate the shifting real estate. Your sentries hold vigil.

The walk from my workplace to my subway stop is about five minutes. It was raining when I left work; not pouring, not drizzling, just raining in that straightforward way you see in movies. I did not think to bring an umbrella with me.

I tend to forget my umbrella a lot.

For five minutes, I listened to Pure Heroine (two songs filled that journey: Bravado and A World Alone) and walked with my hood down. At some point I decided to unbraid my hair. I tried to imagine what a sight I must be, a small woman in a puffy jacket, dressed ostensibly in work clothes from the hips down, with damp, wild curls everywhere.

I smiled. I smelled the air and I kept walking. I never stopped smiling.

“I feel awake for the first time in days,” I texted. I cried a little on the train from how overwhelmed I was.

When pushing away futility, you try not to question why you feel the way you do. Feeling is enough; feeling is resistance.

I realized a few weeks ago that I never mourn losses or traumatic experiences. I grit my teeth, wipe a few tears that had the audacity to leak, and go straight to autopilot mode as if my productivity is more important than feeling. What this, of course, means is that whenever the emotions do come out they’re never apropos to the given situation.

The only thing worse than not feeling is misguided feeling.

I am scared of the future. I am cautiously optimistic in my generation. I am angry at the generations that have come before me. I am nervous about my place in the world, but I am sure about my purpose. I cry freely when I read news of death and destruction, I seethe in the face of injustice.

I’m afraid to say I’m sad, but I think I’m just tired.

I am fighting the impulse to numb myself as a person because I fear death; not the death of a mortal vessel, but the death of my personhood.

It seems like an exaggeration to say being jaded against the darker aspects of the world is the same as death, but I spent years in the shoes of my Pakistaniat, knowing people die because the world is cultivated by the jaded.

My feet hurt. It is a reassuring ache.

Short note: fraud

Stuck inside on this snowy, snowy day, I find myself mulling over my future and accepting, unwillingly, what I have been denying for quite a few years:

Knowing what field I want to be in does not, in fact, amount to knowing what I want to do with my life; moreover, knowing I have plenty of options does not amount to knowing what I want to do with my life; and, quite frankly (say it now, say it loudly so you can get this through your head):

Talking about how many things you want to do in your life definitely does not mean you know what you’re doing with your life.

…yikes.

Why do I call myself a fraud? Self-perception. Despite my lifelong issues with, uh, being who I am, the one thing I’ve always been proud of is the fact that I realized very young that I wanted to go into politics of some sort. And then I got complacent. Actually knowing what realm of politics I wanted to go into has changed a lot since I was 12, and even now I find myself two years away from a Bachelor’s Degree, contemplating my graduate career, slowly realizing what it actually means to be an adult, and staring down (at least) two distinct career paths.

Why do I call myself a fraud? I guess because I (think I) come across as someone who is self-assured and assertive. What would it mean to the people for whom I’ve asserted myself as a mentor if they realize I’m not as confident in my future as I seem to be.

Why do I call myself a fraud? Because, likely, the above is me tooting my own horn.

Why do I call myself a fraud? That doesn’t make much sense. Being lost is something everybody goes through. Is it part of a bigger delusion of grandeur that I think I am unique in the “implications” of my own confusion? (Actually, that does make me a bit of a fraud but in a different way.)

Why do I call myself a fraud? One day I’ll tell people (including my family, other Pakistanis) that I want to come back home as a foreign service officer like a good patriot, devastated as I am about the lost potential of a country born of trauma. Some other day I’ll be enamored with critical theory and the macro of international diplomacy and wax poetic (hah) about how beautiful the world is and what my place in it is. Is this a career crisis or a personality crisis? Who knows. Fraud.

…but why do I call myself a fraud if what I want to do with my life is be kind?

Everybody is a little bit of a fraud, but that’s only because we’re all constantly going through changes, internal or external, whether in sparks or cascades. Change is beautiful, change is human, and I suppose so long as your change does not lash out and become ugly and cause you or others pain, what’s wrong with being a fraud?

Why should I have to know what I’m doing with my life when my life is in constant flux and my decisions meld and flow to fit around a shifting framework? What you’re doing with your life doesn’t begin and end with your degree or your career choices, and if there’s anything I’ve learnt from my limited working experience, eight hours of your day are just that: eight hours of your day.

The rest of your life does not play like a gameshow where your decisions are locked in and cannot be changed or impacted by anything else. Certainly, commitment is necessary and important and I have talked extensively about the benefits of routine inthatoneTEDxTalkitrynottoremember, but considering myself a fraud because I am still growing as an individual is unfair.

Being a fraud is not an identifier. Fraudulence is an aspect of human experience fraught with flux. But you are not a fraud.

An invocation towards kindness

I don’t like keeping resolutions, because I know I’m going to break them. If you’re one of those people that thrives off resolutions, I envy you.

Ever since I watched Ze Frank’s Invocation for Beginnings, I’ve found myself ingratiated to the idea of a manifesto or invocation whenever I start something; whether it’s a notebook for school, a new semester, a new journal I’m hoping to actually fill up all the way. It forces me to think about what I’m going to write, and writing something down – for me – injects a certain permanence into the manifesto. It gets burnt into my memory, and especially the bit of my brain that’s behind my determination (and overambition of course). It becomes an ego thing.

I don’t like admitting I have an ego, but I totally do. And at least in this case the ego serves me well.

So here is my invocation: Towards Kindness.


 

I will charge forward into this blank slate with confidence in my steps and caution thrown to the wind. I will be ready with a smile and an open heart to welcome opportunity and friendship into my life; I will remember that I have trusted and been broken for that trust but that it has never stopped me from trusting before, so why should it have any effect now? I will remember that the best nights are those where I had no intention of staying up late and do anyway; I will remember that that is how I made my best friends and met those who I love. I will not be cranky if I only get 7 hours of sleep as opposed to 8, and I will (try to) not regret being bleary-eyed and exhausted the following day.

I will remember that life is about art and the written word and music. I will remember that I have learnt about the meaning of art from engineers, about the nuances of the written word from computer scientists, and about music from beauty gurus on Youtube. I will remember that life is all around me and that it is the grandest Work in Progress; and I will remember that the best art I have created is that whose final manifestation I had no inkling of when I started drawing.

I will not compare myself to other people. That’s not fair to anyone involved. And I will not tell myself I hate myself even when I do; I will not say those words again.

I will remember on my darkest days that I can create. I will remember when I am angry how it feels to love and be loved. I will remember when I fail that I have succeeded. I won’t remember my mediocre IGCSE grades because that is how irrelevant they have become to my present; and that is how it should remain and how it will be when I am an adult, whether cum laude or not, magna or summa notwithstanding.

I will remember that laughter is only a breath away. I will remember that my loved ones are only a phone call, text message, walk, or some number of train stops away. I will remember that love sneaks up on you in beautiful ways. I will learn that friendship is a matter of retrospect; so reflect. I will remember that people I used to dislike are now my close friends. I will remember that adulthood is a sharp learning curve, and that’s okay.

I will remember that some music hurts to listen to because it meant so much.

I will remember that there is no greater feeling than that of being held.

I will remember that I have as much to teach as I have to learn – and I love teaching.

I will remember that there is nothing like losing yourself in a book – so read as much as you did when you were younger.

I will remember that if I can’t sleep it’s probably because I have a poem I need to write – so write it.

I will remember that if I still can’t sleep properly, it’s because I’m fantasizing instead of drifting off – so, I don’t know, is it a really good fantasy? Because if it is that’s okay.

I will remember that I have been shown kindness in ways that have and will shape my life. I will remember that my life’s goal is to change the world; and if the world is made of 7 billion individual lives, and if change starts from your immediate circle, I cannot be unkind even if it is unintentional.

I must be the light in the darkness that I seek in my darkest moments. I must be the open arms I myself rush into when I hurt.

I will invoke kindness and beauty and grace in everything I do. I will feel rage but I will turn it into creativity and not destruction. I will ease my anger into sweetness. I will be honey and the honeybee.

And I will invoke all this unto myself.


1/1/16

 

Five years & another damn poetry dump

According to WordPress, this blog turned five years old on Sunday. I don’t really know how much I believe that, but then I refuse to believe five years ago was 2010. Seriously, don’t correct me on that, five years ago was 2005.

Regardless of whether or not this is entirely accurate, five years is still one hell of a milestone and I’m honestly surprised I kept up a blog that received its baptismal blessing in the form of a Year 11 English teacher (it was an assignment for my IGCSE First Language English class). I don’t like going back through this blog all that much – I have enough of retrospect as is without having to parse through my own words – but it’s reassuring to know it’s out there. Far more reassuring than the existence of 75% of my other social media platforms.

I’ve been reading a lot of Kierkegaard lately in the form of a little anthology comprising his journals and essays and seminal works; I love reading journals and letters written by my favorite thinkers because I’m that pompous ass and because it explores what is a distinct beauty in their very musing, a grace in the core of their self. Allow me to indulge my fantasy: in an ideal future, I’d love to be the kind of person whose “journal” and correspondence inspires and is widely circulated because it’s believed that I have something of value to say, and that there’s merit to my first draft thoughts so to speak. Now I doubt that that would be the case. And there’s very little romance to sharing links. And I think I’m the only idiot who still writes letters out of sentimental value on occasion.

(To my future publisher: I do have a journal. It’s not worth it except for scribbled down poems and maybe a proper entry here and there. And a few of half-decent drawings. Ask for it at your own discretion. I’ll probably have thrown it away though. Also, my handwriting isn’t all that pretty so it’s not even worth it for the aesthetic value.)

Now that I’m done destroying any chance I might ever have of being a published fauxlosopher, here’s some poetry. Continue reading