The shoot that pierces the heart and grows

I don’t remember meeting you. I remember dropping papers in front of you and embarrassment at your kindness as you picked them up. I remember playing cards and walking in the woods. I remember you.

I remember us. I remember you telling me you liked me at 3 a.m. over text. I remember feeling so complete, a tightening in my heart and a smile grazing my face even though I was alone in the room.

It didn’t last long. I wasn’t mature enough, and to be fair, neither were you. I ended whatever we had 3 months in. I don’t like uncertainty. I remember giving you the letter, the nervous feeling that you would open it before I bolted. I didn’t want to write a letter. But I really didn’t have the time to talk. I was off being a person, learning and growing. But I never knew what you felt during the whole ordeal. After a brief time we settled back into the easy pattern of friendship we had before.

Years later I questioned that it had even happened. We’d remained quite good friends. And I still had feelings for you. But I never knew how you felt.

I’m more assertive now. “I’ve been curious, ” I start. My mind is calm and clear. “Are you aromantic?” I pause for the answer. “Yes.”

A strange calm fills me. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about moving forward and moving backwards. It’s never been clearer that the way to go is forward.

It’s not that I’m not hurt to know that he never liked me the way I liked him. A part of me mourns the years I’ve spent considering a possibility that was never a possibility. A part of me feels like a comfortable loving future has been ripped from me. He made me question if I felt love. He made me feel like I could. I pictured us discussing politics over the morning paper and watching movies under the light of the fireplace. I pictured a life where I wasn’t alone. My future now feels uncertain. I may be forever alone.

But another part of me is blossoming, shoots growing through my heart. A growth of clarity, of direction. I’m no longer bound by a future. His words watered my roots giving me room to grow. I’m limitless.

(From February 2017)

Under the microscope: my fear of failure

Under the microscope, the Scud organism looks somewhat calm. Still for the past 30 seconds of observation, curled up tight, it’s tail arching towards its head. Calm. Still. In a moment the Scud stirs and darts along the edge of the Petri dish, curling and uncurling frantically. A deep strain of familiarity settles beneath my bones, somewhere intercostal and limitless.

What does a debilitating fear of failure look like? 

Is it 7 p.m. when I’m pacing rapidly, hands flying, jerky movements, shaking, clawing? 

Or the moments in between, curled up as tightly as the Scud, lights off, sensory input rejected as I lie in a state of calm cold panic.

It’s an honors college paragraph this time: literary analysis, a prompt that has always served me well in affirmation. But I can’t focus. My mind is cluttered with ideas of maximizing my success. If I can’t write my best, what’s the point?

A ringing in my breastbone sends me out of my chair in a moment, feet guiding me towards the silence of the chapel where, if I’m quiet enough, I can pace, gesticulate, tear, and scratch to my heart’s content without bothering another soul. 

Not enough rings by and by, a fluttery weight in the veins of my arms. Blood feels heavy and slow to glide along the tips of my fingers. There is time for work yet, but my mind has forsaken it, clothed in uncertainty and self doubt. In picking up the sword of the written word, I have dropped it straightaway as if the sword in the stone, when pulled from the rock, held too much weight to jab and swing and dived back into the mud, a rejection of your call to authority. Instead I carve my words into the mud, knowing their effect is so easily washed away, while my enemy lays unslain, the danger of a low grade marching toward my horizon. 

What is a fear of failure? 

Is it fearing a lack of accountability to the standards of others, or are you your own prison guard, glaring at yourself through prison bars, pulling yourself up before you have the constitution to stand? 

Words are comfort

Words are comfort, at times flooding in my brain, at times freezing like ice. At times the words leave my fingers softly and leave my mouth not at all: a catatonic state metered by inspiration and textually derived comfort. Words, my lucid and tractable form of control, a way of voicing my pains without a known audience, a hope of reaching someone, a fear of the known and concrete. 

I live in dreams, wandering around the interconnected network of ideas known as human thought, creativity blossoming along neural connections, flowers along vines of practicality and a priori knowledge, as well as the darker branches of personal experience, more murky, blurred and ever changing. Words are a comfort.

Anxiety is not. Shaking hands over a thriving heart, each pulse feeling like a rib drum against your chest. My hands flutter and weaken. My grip loosens. My body is a betrayal. My mind is a garden.

Scene: a woman steps off an elevator with two men. Each have a hand on her back. She stumbles forward, laughing. They guide her down the hallway. Exchanged looks solid in concern, uneasiness settles between my friends and I. Heart corroding, feet unfeeling, I leave the comfort of the Commons to find the girl. The guys are still with, supporting her as she stands in front of the sink, assumably holding back the bile in her throat. My friends and I agree that I go get the RA. My hands are rattling, my words jumble. Sense was not the order of my words, but my message was enough. She agreed to check it out. Walking back to my friends, one says, “you did what you can do.” My shoulders tense. I hate that phrase with a conviction of soul. If I were in that situation I would want someone to do more, to stand by until the men leave, someone to stay close by and make sure I’m medically okay. I would want more. I think we excuse ourselves too easily. We’re complacent, self-forgiving. I hate it. I don’t subscribe to the belief that there is a limit to what we could do. 

The men walk back and leave my floor. My friend assures me that the situation is now solved. The RA comes back and gives me the thumbs up, but still my head is ringing. She isn’t stable. She couldn’t seem to stand by herself. How do I know she has someone to watch out for her. I don’t speak. I respond in nods. My vision blurs. I hold my phone in my hands, scrolling through social media, but my feed ends quickly. Empathy is pain. I want to help more. I want to do more.

But instead all I can do is pen everything I am feeling and hope it is somehow enough.

The consummation of aloneness

Sadness runs along my skin like water. Alone, I lay, hair spilling out over the ground. Thoughts, slow to me, chase my feelings. Reasonable or unreasonable, I choose to not question this depth, the darkest swirling blue beyond the reach of sun’s tendrils. Shadows enter the stillness of my mind in a way that is warm and welcoming. I’m not fond of the founts of unrest springing below my breastbone, but with the sadness comes a deep calm sometimes, drawing me into inky sentiments and shady warmth. 

Sadness doesn’t always run cold. Yet my arms are electric, longing for the mere stabilizing touch of a caring entity. The warmth of my soul is no less longing than the cold of it. In wanting of the calm, my mind departs from the physical and leaves the electric to decay my body, transcending the physical to escape into the pained calm of aloneness. 

Aloneness. A biting feeling. Yet calm as the sensation of watching the surface from the depths of the pool, as oxygen flows out of you like a life force. Bitter. Yet I love it. Some days it runs along my spine like a playful wind urging me into a wanderlust. Today it merely assets itself in the touch of ink and the calming sensation of oxygen leaving the body.

I don’t want to be alone. But aloneness greets me with the kindness of an old friend. And to its credit I greet it as warmly. Because the feeling of consummation in the subtle hand of loneliness is more winsome than the emptiness of human contact every time.

They lied when they said we were gifted

When I was young I used to take IQ tests as part of a study. They were fun to do, challenging in a way that allowed me to hyperfocus. I’ve always liked finding patterns. It’s calming. It’s nice to find some order in the universe. It was a nice deal. I got to sit for an hour and challenge myself and earn 20 dollars in the process. That is-it was nice-until my brother and I got kicked out of the study for being outliers.

When I was younger I got put in the gifted program. I was two years ahead in math. I got test scores in the top 97th percentile. I was probably one of the top 20 students in my class of 600, and trust me, my school is one of the most competitive public schools in the country.

And yet here I am in front of a computer screen, yanking on my hair, anxiety thrumming through my veins as I try and find a transfer school that I can afford and that has a proper disability support.

I’ve never been enough. Top test scores and a top notch brain. I found out that I have an IQ of around 140. Not enough. Never enough.

12th in state in the 200 meter dash. Not enough.

2 year conference champion in the 200 meter dash. Not enough.

Golds at ISSMA. Not enough.

Writer of several research papers. Not enough.

Prominent member of several clubs. Not enough.

My poetry wins a contest. Not enough.

A poem gets published. Not enough.

Reserve champions in 4-H. Not enough.

I design a club t shirt. Not enough.

I’m asked to paint a mural for a club sponsored event. Not enough.

I help write an entire play. Not enough.

I co-compose one of the scores. Not enough.

I could be so much more. If I didn’t have asthma or depression or ADD or anxiety. If I didn’t struggle to get out of bed each day. If the thought of being responsible for other people didn’t make my heart pound. If my homework didn’t blend together and make no sense. If I knew how to ask for help. If I even knew what I was asking.

I have so many ideas-ideas that could change things if I could just get out of bed. If I wasn’t so afraid.

I’m not enough for these colleges. I don’t know how anyone is. But I’m not enough for colleges. I’m not enough for scholarships. I’m not enough. And my bank account unfortunately…

Not enough.

Thoughts on writing: Skeleton King

Writing in the abstract has always come easily to me. When focusing on ideas rather than memory, I write storms: that is, when I’m in the right mood and willing. Truth is easy to write in nonfiction. Your quill is dripping with it. And the abstract is a beautiful surface to work with. My one problem is: I get attached. I hate to edit and change the abstract. I hate to change words that flow like rivers and sentences that end like waterfalls.

I’ll admit. I’m a bit attached to the truth in the way it presents itself first, but with fiction the truth becomes more sly, more fickle to present. What does someone notice about someone when they first meet them? Is it that their eyeliner is applied asymmetrically or that their eyes are the color of the door to their childhood home. Or is it that they keep sneaking looks at the clock, tapping their wrist as if it would speed up time. Perception is a tricky substance, and we slide between something aiming at realistic and a little cheesy. Then again life is cheesy sometimes. A guy once told me he wanted to meet me ever since he saw me: he remembered my blue eyes from the first day he saw me. But I don’t know that that’s something I’d write. I prefer the slow build. Friendships that start a little romantic and blossom.

That is… when I write romance at all. Sometimes what I need is friendships or adventure. Sometimes the stories wrap themselves in philosophy and twist my pen into a political instrument. And sometimes I write about love. Or twisted love. Or family. My pen seems to find itself indiscriminate when it comes to genres, although my eyes are much more particular.

Yet either way I miss the ease of writing before I felt nervous to do so. Before perfectionism took the reins and drove the horses to death. And so stagnant I sit on a mountain of ideas like a skeleton King. Each idea lacking the flesh to push it forward, rolling around like a cloud waiting to drop rain at any second.

I want to be a writer, but I can’t fight the skeleton war.

The Wolf

Summer before the freshman year of high school: I don’t make the highschool soccer team. I start sobbing the moment I find out, and when I get home I immediately head to the basement where I sit in the dark for almost a week. When I emerge from the basement, I am not the same person. A part of me never left the basement.

Summer before sophomore year: Again I don’t make the high school soccer team. Except this time I put in a lot more work, over 3 hours every single day. And I still don’t make it. Again I’m sobbing. Except this time I hate myself even more. And I’ve lost my optimism. Apparently I’m so screwed up that hard work can’t even make me succeed. 

November of my freshman year in college: 

1.Trump is elected. The amount of people who are scared to live in America is astounding, and I am one of them. I cry more in one week than I ever have before. I’m looking at colleges in Canada. I no longer feel a connection here.

2. One of my close friends tells me that if I keep getting offended by things(such as sexism, racism, and ableism) people will only think of me as a complainer and won’t like me. And I realize I can’t be friends with her anymore. Other previous subtle bigotry comes back to me. I don’t know how to end this friendship without hurting another mutual friend in the process.

3. Two of my friends like me romantically. They keep persuing me even though I’ve mentioned before that I was only interested in platonic friendship with them. Now I have to hurt them by telling them I don’t like them. Why would they put me in this position?

4. I missed registration for my honors college classes meaning that instead of taking classes that excited me, I’m stuck with classes I’m ambiguous about. Which wouldn’t sound too bad, except that I’m already burned out from never doing things that interest me anymore.

5. I missed peer tutoring by oversleeping and made somebody wait an hour for me. Plus my Calculus test is on Tuesday.

6. Two of my friends just dropped out of school, one which completely blindsided me.

7. I had to cancel my Counseling appointment to make up a lab. Little did I know, this would be the week I would need it the most.

8. I have so much homework, one being calc homework that last time took me 20 hours to finish half of it. 

9. I am performing a show as part of my honors college. Participation is mandatory and it takes at least 6 hours out of each day. How am I supposed to do my homework?

10. I play an elderly person in the production, and the elderly makeup makes me feel so bad about myself. I look in the mirror and I see everything I hate about myself. My facial structure has changed since I got to college, and I gained 10 pounds even though there have been too many days when I’ve only eaten 1 meal that day. I’m out of shape, and even walking hurts.

11. I’m not sleeping. How could I ever sleep again?

12. My asthma is acting up.

Things that have gone right this week:

1. I don’t have to take Calc 2. I almost cried from relief.

2. I get to take biology next trimester.

3. I drew something I’m proud of, even though it’s just a sketch.

4. I finished my mural for the Diwali festival. It turned out great, and I’m immensely grateful for the opportunity, especially considering I’m not an art major.

5. I accidently missed Wednesday peer tutoring, but my peer tutor was sick, so she cancelled which I only saw in retrospect.

6. I got to talk to my best friend who I’ve talked to once in the past two years.

7. Because my friend dropped out, I get to see him over Thanksgiving break..

Despite the good things that have happened:

This is one of the worst three weeks of my life. I’m scared and numb. There have been parts where I’ve barely been responsive. I’ve been crying so often. I can’t stand to be around most of my friends. I’m so depressed I can’t even function. And I think there is a good chance that I have bipolar disorder. How am I going to get everything done when I can’t even spend an hour with other people before shutting down? And I can’t spend 5 minutes with most people before THEY shut ME down. I don’t know if I can do this, but I don’t know how to quit either. I can’t imagine taking a semester off, but I don’t know how much more I can take.