Category Archives: Inspiration
Continuing this week’s exploration of the artistic struggle, I thought it’d be fun to dig through the crates, find a composition about “struggling,” and explore the emotions and events which evoked the piece. I shall take the phenomenological approach and react first, then reflect.
How old was I when I composed this? 2006…it’s 2015 now…that puts me at 29 years of age. Ooh! What a particularly conflicting year. End of February-beginning of March-ish, I had received an acceptance letter from The Graduate School at Penn State University. I was absolutely stoked, so stoked that I jumped onto my motorcycle, burned it to the job site, found my co-worker/secret lover, pulled him aside, and whispered, “I’ve got some big news!” expecting him to be proud of what I was about to relay.
Oh gosh, I remember being filled with excitement, wide eyed and eager to announce this achievement. Emotionally, I was still in that phase of thinking guys I’m fucking care about me as a person, so of course, when he interpreted my excitement as something regarding him and his mediocre achievements in the workplace, I was stunned! Clearly it had to do with me, how is he making it about him??
Dumb silly cunt I was.
The acceptance letter meant two things: one, despite being away from academia for seven years, my past academic achievements coupled with my professional achievements validated a Masters candidacy at one of the top three research facilities in the country, possible PhD if I was so emboldened. Second, my professional achievements since high school had risen me to executive leadership qualification, and all I needed was a Master in something to FINALLY break through The Glass Ceiling.
But again… dumb silly cunt I was.
Instead of taking his lack of care as a cue to tell him to fuck off, I collapsed into a depression. I recall taking a day off to make a three day weekend (I would fake physical illnesses because I was too embarrassed to admit my mental disorder then) and I sat there, a pajama pity party in full swing, writing sad, woe-is-me, nobody-loves-me poetry.
Thank the Universe for Penn State! And thanks to Spirit for trumping Ego, because I’m certain if Ego wrote back to Penn State, Ego would’ve said, “Thanks but I need to work on my career/desperate need for male affection right now.”
Spirit wrote an enthusiastic confirmation letter back, and in August 2006, I moved to State College, PA and became a Nittany Lion.
Reflecting on this poem now, I’m glad I kept it. It demonstrates the inner turmoil of the futility of trying to please Society. I did everything right, I followed all the rules, I followed all definitions of “success,” and despite all my sacrifices, I was not worthy of unconditional love.
It’s what comics fondly call “IGDI Girl.” I had Daddy Issues, but not with my father; it was the macro issue of having excelled in traditionally masculine roles as a woman. At the time, I was the only female salaried employee in the entire division. I ran a crew of twelve, all men. They took orders from me, orders I relayed straight from the executive director, whose weekly meetings I attended and contributed to. The acceptance letter was another stroke on the masculine tally board: I was going for a Master of Science in an economics concentration, not the stuff for girls.
I was 29, single, well-paid, no babies, I owned a sedan and a motorcycle, and I lived in an exclusive condominium. I was living the life!
A man’s life.
Critiquing this poem, I realize in bright technicolor the why of the matter…what man would want a woman who’s better at being a man than he is?
No wonder I was lonely…
I was raised an American.
I physically developed, formulated a personality, practiced social graces, and made friends living abroad, almost entirely outside of the United States of America.
Beyond America, as an American, no one gave a shit if your father was this race, your mother was that ethnicity, and certainly, without a hometown to tout, nobody cared which city/town/state in America your people came from. The determinant of a shared drink at the bierstübe or an all-out beat down was simple: conciliatory manners, meaning, demonstrating respect towards the culture one is ensconced in, for the sake of peace. This is how I came to understand “relationship building.”
Thus, my confusion when I arrived on these shores to find the Americans acting rather…feral…towards each other. As soon as I smiled hello, the marginalization began: What are you? What are your parents? Where do they come from? What neighborhood do you live in? Marginalizing box after box after box instead of just a, ‘nice to meet you’ in response. I thought it was a phase, but, twenty-three years later, that fervent need to make a person fit in a narrow-minded box is still definitive Americana.
Artistically, my race/sex/ethnicity/nationality/sexuality/etc does not matter. I have voiced men, I have voiced South Asians, I have voiced transsexuals through my artistry. It’s because I allow myself to be infused by these cultures that these stories and poems manifest, and manifest with respect to the attributes of the culture.
As an independent author, I had to manage my own marketing, so I tried assimilating into the literary world fold without utilizing Americanism, because it belittles me. If I’m only an [adjective] author, then I’m saying my art is only valuable to [adjective] people, which would be me belittling my target audience, the global community!
The last two months During the summer of 2014, I did decent with general sales but abysmal in representing my work without getting forced into a social cubby-hole. I incurred derogatory statements regarding my sex, my race, my ethnicity, and those statements then erroneously defined the quality of my novel.
While I try to respect the perspective of those who protect their “-ness,” I won’t allow my principles to be subjugated to the -ness. Does that make sense? That’s not my crutch; that’s that person’s crutch, and I needn’t lean on it. Here’s a sample of that:
There was an opportunity for I Blew Up Juarez to be featured in one of Tampa Bay’s [adjective] bookstores. This [adjective] bookstore, according to its owner, is the signature bookstore for the area’s [adjective] community. As well, the owner was a contributing committee member for a major area festival celebrating the [adjective] community, and she was THE person to talk to in order to be a featured artist in that festival. Struck gold, right?
The bookstore owner felt her endorsement of my work would be integral to achieving success in the Greater Tampa Bay reading community. It was here in the conversation I started to experience trepidation, as I observed her mentally pushing four boards together around me in the middle of her shop.
A bystander to our conversation felt compelled to declare, “We need to support all [adjective] authors!” He nodded heavily, proud of this statement. He supplemented his declaration by talking about inspiring the future generation of [adjectives], and the struggles of being [adjective].
Very rah-rah-rah this guy! I saw an opportunity and replied, “Thank you for that! I have copies in my car, would you like to purchase one?”
He blinked at me.
He looked at the bookstore owner.
The bookstore owner burned eyes into him.
He looked back to me and declared, “I wasn’t going to buy a book today.”
I retrieved my review copy of I Blew Up Juarez from her weeks later, as it became more evident her intentions were to puppet my [adjective] self, not my artist self. Even if she was a fellow [adjective] person in the literary community, she behaved like a complete asshole.
Unfortunately, it is socially expected to accept marginalization and profitable to -ness it up.
It’s disparaging, but…I suppose I’m the only one who sees it that way.
*: original post 06.24.2014 – edited content and toned down cynicism
I spent the last two years of high school with this grueling schedule:
7am – 8am: color guard practice
8am – 4pm: honors courses
4pm – 6pm: marching band practice
7pm – 2am: work at my brother’s store
3am – 6am: homework and maybe sleep
You can imagine how difficult it was for me to have a semblance of a balanced life then!
The nights I was not scheduled for work, I took myself to Red Team Gym, a fitness facility located on Fort Hood. This was my favorite place to pump out the stress of my so-called life.
Red Team was not the family-friendly gym; Red Team was for the serious body sculptors, the gals and guys who, after dismissed from duty, didn’t run straight to the barracks to their game consoles, but instead, to their sweats and back supports.
The gym was my happy place. Women weren’t segregated from men and everyone shared the equipment respectfully. Amongst my kindred I pressed, pushed, and howled through reps until I felt deflated, which meant, I felt good. The entire gymnasium was alive with random shouts and applause of positive affirmations. Gym rats, the lot of us, but we all felt worlds better after a challenging workout.
A year into university, on the first day of Weightlifting class, I simmered in quiet dismay as I absorbed my new free weight comrades: scrawny, nerdish, physically unwell, insecure. All males. No ladies. Not at all what I was used to! Guess SWTSU didn’t have any other warrior women on campus that semester?
Every class day I experienced disappointment. Since the boys wanted to keep it insular, the instructor had to force students to pair with me. The only guy who would throw just a minimal amount of shade my way had a heavy foreign accent and spoke completely indiscernible English. He also suffered from constant workout boners, and his strict adherence to tight pants certainly did not improve our partnering situation!
The scary part was pairing with someone who was so dedicated to his insecurity, he’d overload the bars. I knew deep down in my heart the weight was crippling him, but, as I’d slide my hands under the bar ready to catch, they’d scoff or tell me to back off, while their arms or legs wiggled for mercy!
Most the time, I spent Weightlifting class arms folded, waiting for my turn at the bar or bench, while the fellas chummed it up, curling Gatorade into their faces like dumb bells, using the benches as recliners, the bars as towel holders. I would’ve been completely content to work out on my own, but class rules required pairing. I left every session feeling less accomplished and more frustrated.
I signed up for Weightlifting class naively assuming the camaraderie and support I experienced at Red Team was universal, only to find extremely unmotivated, apprehensive people. That experience brought to light a fitness surety: no matter what weight, no matter what experience level, self-discipline is what begets success in body sculpting. Support comes from equally self-disciplined people.
After making an A in the course, I invested in the campus recreational facility, abandoning the nostalgia of Red Team Gym and focusing on my health, which was and still is the priority.
Maintaining my physique requires a strict, monthly discipline: no processed meats, no pork, brown everything, but the hardest discipline is no cheese. I love cheese just as much, if not more than, sex itself!
To compensate, I use the holiday feasting season to just go to town on blues, sharps, softs, creamy, fatty, beeyooteeful cheese! And boy. Did I overdose like a motherfucker.
Considering I run and bike regularly for fitness, I was like, no worries! Put on a little gut, melt it off by February. But oh no…my body did something completely awful. It didn’t go gut. It went BUNS.
Innocently passing by the bathroom mirror whilst wearing boyshorts, I was mortified to discover there was no break where my butt ends and where my thighs begin! So where I should look like a ? without the dot back there, I look like ∏ !!!
Time to invoke Debbie.*
Before P90X, before INSANITY, before Hip Hop Abs, there was Beach Body. Around 1999, I invested in the omnibus – Thin Thighs, Great Abs, Great Buns, errythang. I swear to you, especially my curvy, thick friends reading this – THIS SHIT WORKS!
Whenever I get the attack of the thunder thighs I put in this DVD. I select Thighs, then I’m greeted by a sweet smiling lady with a taut build but also, diesel legs. We are sistren! Debbie’s sweetness continues as she macerates every aspect of my lower body. By the time I’m done, my hips to my toes are quivering for surrender. Debbie ends the session with, “See you tomorrow!”
Fuckin’ psychopath. I love her.
When I bought this DVD, I was 22 and obese. Now I’m 38 and not obese. I found something that worked for me then and serves me well today!
Got a gig coming up in two weeks, and I’d rather not depend on Spanx to get through the evening (although they are at the ready, awaiting call up), so this is what I’m doing along with my stretches, runs, and rides.
We’ll see how Debbie did me by January 24th!
*All screen shots from Great Body Guaranteed! Copyright D2C