I’m Not Sorry

Hey guys! Sorry (once more) for the hiatus. Grad school is crazy busy. Plus, on top of that I was having some personal situations. Nevertheless, I am back. I usually like to post on odd-numbered days but seeing how busy I am, I have decided to try to post once a week. I can’t make any promises I won’t disappear again, but I’ll try my best.

Life has a funny way of coming together. We are born, we grow up and we die. But what happens between those lines? Well, life of course. However, we spend so much time trying to make life happen that we forget to stop and listen, to observe. More than that we forget to feel. We forget to take the time to actually laugh, to scream, to cry; and all these feelings just get bottled up. Much like Freud’s theory of the unconscious, these feeling will inevitably explode out of us. And a rainbow of anger, pain, and tears flows through us and out of us.

A couple of weeks back, in one of my classes; we were sharing creative responses to a peer’s past artwork. The process in itself became an emotional exercise because it touched upon the idea of being seen and heard by others. More than that, through the artistic response of others we were able to see ourselves and see how others saw us. In itself it was a beautiful thing to experience. However, as a classmate was sharing about a personal experience she had and how that responded to her peer’s artwork another classmate broke down. The topic being discussed touched upon a situation she had not been able to overcome and thus, had such an emotional and violent reaction to the topic. After her emotional overflow and her passionate explanation she apologized for her feelings and her behavior.

She was not prepared for what was going to take over her heart. She was not aware she harbored so many feelings for that topic. She however, admitted to not wanting to deal with the situation. She realized that it had happened in the past but she did not, or could not, handle it then. Since then she carried it and quietly fed it, without noticing; until that one day she let it all out.

Her situation made me realize how we slowly destroy ourselves. We place unrealistic expectations and pressures upon ourselves and expect us to take that beating day after day. It is one thing to have the outside world do this to us, but when we do it to ourselves it’s just plain destructive. We have to realize that we are not perfect, we are not robots and we can’t control everything. Bad things will happen to us, with or without reason; however it is up to us, in our due time, to work through it. The key is to realize that it did happen, and that we need to take time out to work it out. We can’t expect that bad feelings or situations to go away; it doesn’t work that way. We can’t expect that we can turn on and off our emotions when necessary. We have to realize that the more air we blow into a balloon the faster it will pop. We have to know when to let that air out, even if it’s little by little. It has to be a process which we have to work on. We have to realize that we NEED to take time out for ourselves. We have to realize that if we don’t take care of ourselves no one else is going to do it.

“But Wanda! I have so much work to do!”. Hey reader, I hear ya. Grad school is a crazy train fuelled by Redbull and kids with ADHD. In the real world there is no time to step back and enjoy the sun or the sound of the wind; but that’s where you come in. You as a person need to make a conscious decision to take care of yourself. You need to accept the fact that you are human and that you will burn out. And that it’s your job to take that day off, or go and take that sunset walk, or just sit underneath the Autumny tree. You have to make time to take time out. Care for yourself. Love every inch of who you are and what you are. Take that bubble bath, ain’t nobody gonna judge you. Eat that pizza, your mind will thank you. Know that there is enough time in a day for you to breathe, to scream and to cry.

It’s a process to know when to stop and when to make time. So it’s okay to break down every once in a while. You’ll get the hang of taking care of yourself as you slowly work towards it. In the mean time, if you find yourself crying or losing it, it’s okay, let it out. Don’t apologize for who you are. Don’t you dare say you’re sorry because you’re crying in front of a class. You’re human and you have a right to your feelings. Yes, crying in front of people will make them uncomfortable. And no, you won’t know who will react in a helpful way and who will simply walk away. Just know that you never have to apologize for feeling bad or for crying. You are human, you are imperfect and that is just fine.

Reader, care for yourself. Know your strengths. Know your limits. Don’t ever apologize for what you’re feeling (unless it’s irrational anger). Just remember to take time to work on your mind, your body and your soul. There is enough time in a day and there is space for you to do all these things and much more.

Signing off,

TWS

Advertisements

Open Cage, Exit Bird

I come from a home where I was not given the freedom of choice. I was told what to say, what to believe, where to study and what to study. The first couple of years of my life I believed it was okay, because I didn’t know much. However, as my life in high school started shaping me and molding me into who I am today I started trying to go against’ the grain. Nevertheless, when you come from a house of old-fashioned people with authoritarian believes you don’t have much space to spread your wings. Of course that didn’t stop me from trying. I was forced to go to one university and when I tried to transfer to a better one, I was denied that choice. I was forced to study one thing and when I wanted to change majors I was forced to feel ashamed so as to having to have a double major in order to actually do what I wanted.  When it came to choose a graduate school and a major for my studies I was held back. I was constantly told to stay at home and to do what they wanted me to do. Yet this time I refused, I finally opened my wings and flew. I am here now, and I assure you that I never want to go back.
In this process of adjusting to my new life here in NC and learning how to be a graduate student I have found the one thing I have never had. The freedom of choice. Back home I was never asked what I wanted to do or how I felt about things. Instead I was prescribed a personality, a role, a strength, a list of abilities and a set of beliefs; all which were never mine. I realized, a little too late, that these forced ideas of me created in me an inescapable anxiety that drove me to self harm and suicide attempts. I looked for ways of communicating who I was and what I really was but in my home I never found ears to listen to me. Instead I had comments such as “you’re young, you’ll grow out of it”, “you’re being dramatic” or my favorite “you’re just emulating what your friends say.” In each statement I was denigrated and made to feel ashamed of who I was simply because it didn’t fit the lifestyle of my parents or because they didn’t have the ability to accept me for who I am.
We can’t all live out of dreams and hope, and so while I waited for my time to fly away from the nest I found like minded friends. I studied and prepared for a battle that I knew would take place sooner than later when I left home. Today, I am still in this battle where my parents believe that I will change and become like them; never knowing that I can never be anybody but myself. And that no matter how they see me, I finally like myself. I no longer struggle with having to suppress myself, to catch every word I say and be careful of saying too much. I am finally able to breathe and be happy as I was intended to be.
In my new home, because home is where the heart can rest, there is no judgment for what my mother would call ‘hippie thoughts’, where I do not suffer from ‘being perfect syndrome’ and am not forced to live up to the expectations of other people. And I am glad because I have finally found happiness. I am free to choose my life as I would like it to be; even if people don’t agree with it. I am able to say what I want to say; even if people don’t want me to say it. I am able to believe what I want; even if its not what I was taught. In short, I have found peace with who I am; I am working towards being who I want to be and forget who I was forced to be.
One thing I learned and I hope it resonates with you as you read this: No one can force their life on you. No one can make you believe in something you don’t believe in. No one can make you think or be one way just because this other person is that way. You, as a human being are worth as much as the person standing next to you and your right to live as you choose is as valuable as that other person’s life choices. Just because you were taught one set of values, or a doctrine or a particular way to live it does not mean you have to live by those things if you don’t feel it. Each person makes their choice, each person takes a path; don’t ever let anyone make that choice for you or guide you through the wrong path because you didn’t have the courage to see your value as a person. You are not anyone’s clone. You are not anyone’s doll. You are you, beautiful you. And people have to accept that.

Signing off, TWS

Caged Birds Don’t Sing

Silent drip drop from my face

Your empty stares, my colorful shame

I stop, my voice cracks

I swallow, I try to get back on track

Your judgment is amiss

Your expectations of me

Are more than I can bring

I apologize, my words trip

I stand up, I run from me

Trapped birds can’t sing

They can only flutter their wings

And you know this

You can’t stop what I’ve decided to be

I hold the sound in my beak

I stutter around in the hallway

I look lost, in my mind I am miles away

I know, I must go back in

Face the things I’ve brought up

I need to go back in

I have to finish my thoughts

I am ready to sing

But there is not time

And no one will listen to me

Signing off, TWS

Level Playing Field: What’s your Level?

In one of my classes we were asked to do an exercise that consisted of the professor reading out some statements and we had to either take a step back, forward or stay still, depending on the instructions. This exercise served to bring our reality and that of our classmates into perspective. At the end we were asked to write a reaction paper, and here’s mine.

 

I had seen this exercise done before in the movie Freedom Writers but it was done a bit differently. The professor made a straight line on the floor with duck tape and she had asked her students to stand at either side of that line; thus making two parallel lines. The instructions were that the students had to walk up to the line every time a sentence, which she read, related to them. At some point one student would be standing right in front of another student. This way they would see their similarities and feel a connection to their classmates. The purpose was to unify the classroom as a family.

In our case, I saw a different purpose. In our exercise we all started out the same and with each sentence that was read I saw how my classmates and I would take either a step in front or back. I realized that the purpose was totally different from that which I had first thought; and instead of seeing like my classmates and I were a united family, I saw the invisible differences that held us apart. In a way, it placed the silent reality into perspective.

It made me uncomfortable to see how much farther some of my classmates were; especially when they were the traditional Caucasian North American students. As a designated ‘minority’ I am told constantly, even in my home land, that no matter how hard I work I will never be able to stand shoulder to shoulder with said Caucasians; and this exercise made that statement a physical reality. I personally don’t consider myself a minority but I, and others, can’t help but to feel identified with this ideal of the lesser when it’s all we are fed even at home. Seeing how my fellow classmates went further than me made me aware of how those cultural ideals are real.

At the same time, this exercise brought an awakening between the myth and the reality of what it means to be a ‘minority’. As I stood, mid-way away from my fellow Caucasian classmates who were in front of me, I looked back and I saw some of them behind me. In that moment I realized that yes, race had a greater hand in placing me where I was but it was also the opportunities I was given. My parents may not be rich and I am the product of the public school educational system, but I had done fairly well for myself. I mean, I am in graduate school after all. In reality, race and cultural values, pull you back but I believe that it is our actions that pull us forward. It is a sort of fighting for your life kind of struggle, where you can sit down and believe you are all those negative stereotypes or you can try to null that stereotype and rewrite it.

Another thing I noticed throughout the exercise was that some sentences talked about our ancestors and I had no problem with that until I noticed I don’t know much about them. When talking about family, my mother and father mostly mention the immediate family like grandparents and at times great-grandparents. However, if I ever asked my parents about how our people came to be they’ll probably give me the generic story about the Puerto Rican mixture of the Spaniard, the African slave and the native Taino. And I know that, what I don’t know is if we were part of the Spaniards who owned land or if we were the slaves who worked it. I’m pretty sure we don’t have much or any Taino heritage because if we did our noses would be sharper and longer, and our hair would be straighter and not so wild and curly. So, as the sentences were pronounced I tried to make a coherent answer for myself and not being able to come up with one I ended up just standing still. It worries me that I don’t know about my ancestors and I believe this exercise has ignited my interest in my search for my real roots.

Finally, the there was one thing that really struck me about the exercise and it was at the end when the professor said “that white board is the American Dream, how close are you?”. That one question knocked the wind out of me and left me more confused than the heritage situation. As a ‘minority’ I am told that my definition of the American Dream is a revised and limited one. Yet, as I was standing in that one room, three feet away from that board, I noticed that I wasn’t that far away. So in a way I am in the right track to my dream, which is not necessarily the American Dream but part of it; but at the same time I am being held back by my mind-set and my perception not only of me but of my classmates. Believing that I am lesser than them is what keeps me still; it is that which makes my potential tank and causes self-sabotage. Also, believing that I am better than those who did not step next to or ahead of me creates a poisonous effect because it makes me feel superior and blinds me to that other person’s needs.

In conclusion, the level playing field exercise did the opposite of the Freedom Writer’s exercise. It made us see that we are not all equal and that, like a game, we are at different levels. At the same time it made us more aware of the struggles our classmates are going through. It broke some stereotypes we may have had of each other and it made us realize that even though we are in different stages of life that we are all there, in that same room, working for a common goal.

Signing off, TWS

P.S. Here’s the LEVEL PLAYING FIELD document if you’re interested in duplicating the exercise.

Blue Fly Suicide

He just kept buzzing. Up and down, in and out. He followed me to the bathroom. He sang me to sleep. He made sure there was always enough for me and him to eat.

He would only stay a few days. You see, his clock was tickin’. I just never thought he’d leave so quick.

He just kept buzzing. Making sure I knew he was there. He laid kisses on my head, kisses on my chest. I gently swatted him away.

He saw me in eight ways. All kaleidoscope and strange. He had no love for the outside world, none that he could tell. I always found him by the window sill.

He just kept buzzing. Enamored by my art. Astounded by the colors, but no other caught his eight ball eyes like blue. If only I knew.

He dreamed of blue. To dance within it was his only calling. To splatter his wings in that primary was his mission. And he did accomplish it, to my dismay.

He just kept buzzing. As he drowned in blue; the only love he knew. His golden body now dressed in navy hue.

He reveled in the feel of that silky liquid. Made sure every inch was covered and plastered. With his last breath he modeled for me. He asked me, “am I art yet?”

Signing off, TWS

She Could Not See Me

She could not see me

Even in the nearness, she could not see my eyes

She could not see the distance in my soul

But in that room she could hear the echo

The rattling of my bones as I took a breath

Sobbing uncontrollably, wheezing in the process

She could not see me up close

She could not see me even if she chose

But she could feel every vibration of my soul

She could feel my struggle and my hold

She could not see me sitting there

Vulnerable and bare

She could not see me through her empty stare

Yet she could speak louder than anyone

A low whisper, an encouraging laugh

It was enough to know that I was not alone

In the room that shrunk with my every word

And yet she had not left

She could not see me

And most people with sight couldn’t either

She, with her sightless eyes and her soft-spoken voice

Could give me back what most people couldn’t

Signing off, TWS

Boss

New place, new university, and but of course, new job. For anyone who does know me, they can easily tell you what a workaholic I am. I mean, I love helping people out, especially if it gives me experience in a desired area, discipline or just plain ol’ money. And even if I don’t get anything in return, I’m still happy helping out because that’s how my grandpappy taught me. He would always be helping people out, even if he didn’t know what he was doing. I remember this one time we were in a town we’ve never been before and we didn’t know anybody and we were there because he had a doctor’s appointment; and there was this one lady in a car and apparently it had broken down and her 12-year-old son was trying to push the car. My grandfather instantly stopped and went over to help them. Needless to say he was late for his appointment but he was happy because he helped someone.

And I guess I got that from him. He would always tell me to do things right or to not do them at all. Hence, I grew up with a need to be busy and a desire to help. That, apparently, is how I’ve landed all my jobs. My professors found out that I’m hardworking, responsible and have a good sense a humor about being over worked. And I am very grateful to all of them, because I know that it was that which I learned with them that has brought me here.

However, I believe what really helped me through the process was that each one had a different way of being a boss and a leader. My first job was an editorial job with Dr. A. She was the kind of boss that would give a million tasks but didn’t give you a deadline and still knew you would have it done the next day. She was mostly touch and go. She would give a particular task and if I did well she would give me harder things to do. Her particular method helped me develop myself as an independent professional and a student. She knew I wasn’t going to screw up and if I did, she would be there to guide me back to the right path.

The second boss I had was Dr. V; he was a funny one. He was (and is) a great man with a lot of responsibilities, and just like me he likes to take on all the jobs that are offered and slowly transition from the old to the new. His way of being a boss was a trying one but worth the struggle. He believed that the people he employed were capable of working with the most minimal of instructions; and it was true but a bit hard to transition into. He would tell me to do one thing and walk away; and if I had a question he would ask me what I thought was the best way to do it. He taught me how to make decisions and how to be creative about my decisions. He taught me how to have initiative and to always think one step ahead.

The last boss I had at my old university was Dr. C. She was my main mentor and undergrad mother (now she’s my fairy godmother).  She was more direct with what she wanted me to do. Her method was always to think big but she wouldn’t build everything in one day; no, she would ask me for specific and small things which in the end would turn out into this big wonderful project. She would also ask me to do computer based things which I had never done but I knew that if she had asked me it was because she trusted me to know how to fix it. And I did fix it. I did learn and even implemented things I had learned while using Myspace. Her method taught me to think in a bigger scale but to build that thought step by step; she taught me to step out of my comfort zone and learn new things, even if I never use them.

So every boss, in a way, has been a mentor to me. And all their love, care and leadership brought me to this new job with Dr. K; which is a whole different world from me. She’s calm, collected and tranquil. She believes in silence and in working things at a slower pace. While I’m a Chihuahua on redbull mixed in with a parrot who’s going through sugar rush. So yes, we are two different universes in alternate realities. However, from the little time I have been working for her I have noticed that her peace and tranquility does good to me. When I’m anxious she reminds me that there is enough time for X project. When I’m lost she assures me that she can teach me. And when I do something right she gives me positive feedback.

Yes, I am a little anxious as to how I should act around her and what I should say. But it’s a work in progress and I believe that as I am trying to get use to her tranquil pace she is getting accustomed to my Tasmanian Devil pace.

As far as this whole experience goes, I am still taken aback at how much space there is for me to grow and to smooth out some rough edges. I am also very surprised at how every aspect of this new life is a new learning experience. And I believe that’s what makes this whole trip worth the work. I came as one person and I know that when I leave I’ll be an even better person. And I hope, that where ever I go I am able to meet people like my ex-bosses and new boss, who will teach me their method and through their way I will learn my own.

 

Signing off, TWS