Category Archives: Flashback
This week, Thursday, is my 39th year on Earth. It’ll be a Taurus Moon, and, at its setting, it’ll be the 1st new moon of the month. So, with my return from WordPress hiatus, I warn all of you I may turn into a Minotaur. Don’t let that stop you from buying me a margarita.
The demigod Prince has entered another realm. A day out thrifting, my partner-in-thrift answers a phone call from her roommate. A quick ‘okay’ then she hangs the call. She turns to me and simply states, “Prince died.”
“Uh uh,” I scramble for my phone and seek 3 reliable media sources. I’m not convinced but Yahoo News has it splattered front page. Then other sources turn up. I feel my chest sink. The overhead music shifts to “When Doves Cry.” Just like that. Phone call. Statement. Funeral song.
This is where I share my Prince-related tragedies. Flash to high school, 1994ish, and Excalibur Color Guard is entering its winter season. Traditionally, the juniors and seniors of the troupe put together solo or combo shows for UIL competition. I had a wonderful vision for “When Doves Cry”: a gossamer flag with matching, fluid dress, a thunderous dance routine with a recruited male dancer strong enough to execute lifts. The recruited dancer was my good friend Shamon, who was not only openly, proudly gay but also did. Not. Give. A. Fuck. Shamon’s vision involved much pelvic thrusting and grinding, which, for the music, I felt worked. My director, knowing Shamon, instantly shut us down. Didn’t even get to demonstrate our crotch lift!
Fine. Gotta come up with something…softer. I go to Prince’s “Diamonds and Pearls” era, the song “Seven”:
All seven and we’ll watch them fall
They stand in the way of love
And we will smoke them all
With an intellect and a savior-faire
No one in the whole universe
Will ever compare
I am yours now and you are mine
And together we’ll love through all
Space and time, so don’t cry
One day all seven will die
Can you envision a trio of fiery young women, tossing sabres up around and in exchange with each other, sylphs, seers, soothsayers, aflame with cosmic veneration? Oh! How lovely. Yup, that got shut down too. The music, it turns, was too “sexually suggestive.” Not to soon after, I quit the guard. My farewell solo was a boring sabre-flag dance to Boys II Men.
Thank you Prince, for teaching me to stick to my artistic guns, and not give in to other people’s preferences.
Hospital visits were at an all-time high this year. BF and I are fortunate that we had one solid month of no hospital journeys, but that doesn’t mean we have an all-clear. It is the stuff of all treatment plans: doctors diagnose, assign medications, see what works, and then keep mixing it up until something sticks. My meds have caused terrible difficulty with memory and focus (which is why this blog was put on pause). It’s as if I’ve inherited an attention deficit condition. Thus, I’m not writing much other than in my journal. However, my interest in other mediums has increased. I’m hanging out more with my visual artist friends. I’ll be signing up for some paint and photography parties this summer. Just because I’m not writing doesn’t mean I can’t produce quality art, nor does it mean that my other talents can’t be sourced. I’ve been helping out in various community projects and I’m tickling a proofreading/editing gig which would help finance a Busch Gardens visit at minimum. I’m not giving up on me by a long shot, people. Don’t you dare give up on me either.
And now, random photos for your enjoyment. Happy May, everyone!
I have always been in love with O’Shea Jackson. The way he carried himself, that street-borne braggadocio mixed with literary genteel, a marred Dionysus not outdone by our screwed up society. The crushing weight of discrimination, heavy to bear, yet O’Shea kept his shoulders up, his head high, never quite frowning. Bothered, but not broken. His Jehri curl, perfect.
Cradled face on twin bed as my heart sighed towards the telly, ankles crossed, marking the beat for Straight Outta Compton. The rest of the clan: Eazy-E, Dr. Dre, Yella, MC Ren, they were alright, but not the focus of my tween attention. Ice Cube was bad, but not bad meaning bad…well, you know the rest.
Of course I went and watched the documentary this past weekend, of COURSE I did! And please, whatever is causing you to be scared to go, don’t believe the hype. It’s just like Coal Miner’s Daughter. A story of struggle against the status quo, of artistic starvation, of personal definition. The moment Loretta Lynn decides to write and perform a song about birth control, wanting to take back womens’ right to be a human being and not society’s brooding sow, she is forever marred. Instead of being recognized for her bravery in speaking out for the oppressed, she is demonized; her music, considered dangerous.
As I pass the movie lobby poster making note of ‘the most dangerous group in the world’ or whatever, I smirk at the thought of, who labeled N.W.A. as such? They certainly didn’t. What they did with Fuck The Police was utilize momentum to take back the right to be acknowledged as human beings and not society’s kicked down domesticated dogs. There was a scene that was so agitating for me I squeezed my man’s hand really hard, then realized he was angrily squeezing mine back. Damn right, fuck the police, we both expressed in pissed-off embrace.
I knew I was going to cry once E got sick. His voice, his crowd command despite his tiny build, reminds me of my monster days. I let the tears flow then broke a selfish smile at the thought: “I bet you would’ve liked I Blew Up Juarez, E.”
Straight Outta Compton the documentary did everything right. Honored Eazy and Dre; made me smile as I learned more about my tweenage boyfriend’s skills as a writer.
I had my demigod Oprah’s ‘a ha!’ moment at an early age, listening to West Coast rap albums, following Ice Cube’s skyrocketing career, putting into practice what Cube was extolling: people are out to placate, not celebrate, dark individuality. My a ha was realizing everything is not unicorns and rainbows, and I’d be lying to myself if I even attempt to write prose or poetry without darkness. After all, that’s the point of “gangsta” rap: tell the ugly truth, expose the pretty lies.
Great documentary; I will likely own it once it’s out on Blu-Ray.
My friends and I believe I met an angel in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Here’s the story…
We’re at the Center of The Universe! The festival, that is, although the psilocybin and cannabinoids and diazapam coursing through my body makes me feel as if I’m standing on the sun. Arms swinging gaily, feet bee-bopping as my team travels towards the main stage, I am feeling rather…superior.
Riding the wave of musical enlightenment, I spy from the corner of my eye a herd of blue boxes. I stop walking and proclaim, “Necesito mear!” which means, I need to pee. My girls round the bend and lean against a poster-bedecked wall while I experience the rare joy of no line for the port-o-potties!
I exit the pee terminal and locate the wash stand. Now this is cool; a foot pump to deliver the water, a touch-less soap dispenser, ahh hands-free technology! Fulfilled by this first world wonder, I then open my backpack to search for hand lotion. The bag’s darkness mixed with my intoxication fills me with desperation. As the harried search continues, I notice a group of festival-goers carrying on in laughter and play. Without looking up, I feel one of them drifting over.
“You’re just digging away in that bag!” he comments merrily. I offer an apprehensive look. His hands are behind his back.
Suspicious, I declare in my head space, “Go ahead and try me buddy, I’m fucking Wonder Woman right now!”
The jovial stranger, taller than I, lowers his shoulders so we’re face to face. In a contented voice he says, “I want to give you something.” His hands flutter from behind his back to his temple, removes blue eyeglasses without lenses, then waves them towards me.
I smile and refuse politely; in turn, he’s sweetly adamant. I shake my head as I take him in: wide smile, dark blue fitted ball cap matching his eyes, endowed with a Bruce Campbell chin. His body is immaculately sculpted. Madre de Dios…this dude is HAWT!
Inside I feel a wash of achievement: it’s now natural for me to notice a person’s energy before I notice his facade.
“Sweetie, I don’t want your glasses,” I insist.
He gestures towards me, “Take them!”
“But I already have glasses.”
“You’ll look great in them…”
“But I need glasses to see,” I explain, “there’s no lenses; how am I gonna see?” I smile smugly, then squeeze my eyes shut, remembering to hydrate my contact lenses.
When I flutter them back open, he’s wearing the saddest look of dejection! I kick myself internally: aww dammit, I did that thing again where I say something that makes sense to me, but comes off dickish to them! Puppy eyed, tail tucked, he starts back-stepping towards his friends. “Come here,” I sigh, widening my harpy wings to encourage him back so I that can deliver an apologetic hug. “Come, come,” I insist.
His smile beams to the moon and back. His huge arms wrap around my tiny torso, then I feel, undeniably, the purest form of authentic happiness pierce my cynical skin and invade my corroded heart. Time splinters in fractals, gravity is no more, our bodies rock in synergy. I tighten my hold as if we’ve known each other for lifetimes.
Forever returns to right now. We pull apart.
I’m relieved to find my demonstration of loving kindness has restored his playfulness. He reaches out his hand. “High five!”
I extend my hand to flatten against his.
“Now stick out your thumb,” he instructs.
I flex my thumb outwards. He does the same.
“Now bring it in…”
I wrap my thumb around his hand. He does the same.
His face touches mine. “Hand hug!”
I smile. He smiles. Tears fall like cleansing waters.
“Pay it forward,” he instructs.
For this year’s Put A Poem In Your Pocket Day, I decided to flash back to my fledgling blogger days on Patch.com! Here I (rather verbosely) share how two popular poems related to my personal experiences two years ago. Now? I believe the dream is no longer deferred! The road I travel upon has been quite adventuresome. My blogging? A bit tighter… geez, am I one wordy sumomabitch… Enjoy!
Original Post Date April 17, 2013 at 04:26 PM
Remember having to memorize and recite poems for a grade? You couldn’t get away with a haiku either, oh no.Shakespeare’s sonnets, any of them, incited hemorrhaging. I had the (cough, cough) joy of tackling Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock for a project. Thankfully, The Dragon (yes, she wanted us to call her that) only required Canto I of the five. Do the kids do this in school anymore? Is it another assignment they can file a legal injunction against?
This is why I respect poets. They can stand in front of an audience and spin a tale with grace and excitement and without needing to reference notes. Me? I tried it a couple of times with my own poetry. I can’t even memorize my own poetry! Perhaps I blew out that particular section of my brain during my recitation of Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky.
Poems can amplify your life experiences. One example is Stopping by Woods On A Snowy Evening. “Of easy wind and downy flake” is a beautiful line, full of imagery. I’ve enjoyed Robert Frost’s work since my childhood, but this poem literally came alive for me one winter driving in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Whenever I come across it now, I remember me and my dog Bear driving from Altoona to State College, stopping on a peak to admire the downy flake of an Appalachian winter.
Poetry can pronounce your experiences when your own words can’t do it justice. A Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes did that for me three years ago. I remember reciting it for a stage production and for junior year English but thought nothing of it then. Seventeen years later I was fumbling over my state of being, crippled by uncertainty, and then happened upon this poem (courtesy of cswnet.com):What happens to a dream deferred? Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore–
And then run?
Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet? Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load. Or does it explode?
And with that, I said, it’s time to become a writer. Novelist, poet, blogger three years later. Thank you Langston Hughes.
Remember to put a poem in your pocket tomorrow. Share it with everyone in listening range; posting on social media I deem cheating! I close with two of my own works for you to enjoy. One light, one dark, depending on how you prefer your poetic coffee.
Ode to Three Birds Tavern
(Composed 5.31.12)Once upon a day dreary wind choppy, sky bleary I wandered into tavern here soaking wet, ordered a beer Soon it amounted to more than one and out peak’ed the afternoon sun Kristen sparked the music box right with rockabilly to delight the boys in the back pushed the cue the bartender kept pouring brew the winds calmed down the sky did clear and all of this cause I stopped for a beer. ©2015 VS Enterprises
Stopping By The Master’s Grave
(Composed 4.4.13)youandI have been here before youandI youandI have spoken in cold air and youandI were youandI despite the chill youandI have much in common youandI darkness we wear like a furry cloak in the air of despair will me towards the black trust me to honor your way your words your fundamental melancholy youandI have much in common youandI I will see you brother it will not be too soon. ©2015 VS Enterprises
Let’s close out Women’s History Month with a musical group who impacted my most formative time-space moments: Cheryl ‘Salt’ James, Sandra ‘Pepa’ Denton, and Deidra ‘DJ Spinderella’ Roper! Collectively, you know them as Salt N Pepa.
I remember my first encounter with Salt N Pepa. “Push It,” came on the radio, and I listened to the lyrics as it played. I had no earthly connection to what they were talking about, but their vocal delivery, their ‘out there’-for-a-tween lyrics, and frankly, their female-ness sent me into an array of emotions: Amazing! Who are they? How cool; they’re rappers…and women! With boom box in tow, I ran into my brother’s room, breathlessly exclaiming, “They’re girls! And they’re rappers!!” in a tone suggesting, “See big brother? Girls are just as good at hip hop as boys!”
He responded, “GET OUT OF MY ROOM!” which, translated, meant, “You are the best sister anyone could ever ask for. You are correct; that is a wonderful discovery and what a historical vault for American womankind.”
During our last art date, Marie and I talked about how “Let’s Talk About Sex,” the seminal Salt N Pepa pop tune that spurred much controversy, saved us from haphazardly jumping into an activity with serious life consequences. The song came out about the same time my classmates were getting physical, yet none of them could answer for me, “Why do you have to have sex?” Here they were, 13, 14, 15 years of age, engaging in mating ritual, without putting much thought to the significance of the act. Then this song came out, and I’m practically stuffing my headphones into my ears. What the hell is this ‘sex’ business about??
Let’s talk about sex, baby
Let’s talk about you and me
Let’s talk about all the good things
And the bad things that may be
I set out to talk about it. My mother, when confronted, checked out a copy of “The Joy of Sex” from the library and hid it under my bed, with a simple suggestion to check under there for answers. My best girl friend gave me a copy of Nancy Friday’s “Forbidden Flowers” to peruse. The following summer, I took a job at the local daycare center for Army babies. Oh boy…that’s why everyone’s having sex?? Seems like non-fun.
Salt N Pepa prepped me with life-saving messages in lyrical form. As such, when the guys pushed up, I asked, “We’re friends. Why complicate that with sex?” I had no want for disease or oopsie babies, thanks to my hip hop muses.
I fear today’s young ladies in their formative years aren’t receiving the right empowerment messages. Iggy Azalea prides herself in…what? Guys noticing she has friends and a huge ass (which is how I summate her freshman album)? Nicki Minaj wants to encourage sexual desire, but only on the B side does she refer to its consequences (which is how I summate her sense of accountability)?
Perhaps I’m just a tired old bag who feels the genitals have nothing to do with self-esteem or positive living, but I am glad that, because I listened to my musical mentors and their messages of truth, I own my sexuality. I determined upon my start and still today, when, how, and with whom I engage with sexually. I am a goddess, I only get this one body, and only I am responsible for it!
Thank you, Salt N Pepa, for using Hip Hop to educate, influence, and lift up those within listening range.
If you’re a high-level thinking individual who’s sexy to boot, then you’re already enjoying Aeon Magazine. I appreciate their thought-provoking articles and intuitive content contributors. Recently, I beheld an interesting editorial section, Aeon Ideas, in which they posited: If you could undo one historical event, which would it be? Mr. Haselby responded with the U.S. Government response to the Elian Gonzalez affair. Good one, I thought, as US-Cuban relations are now the hot topic.
Reflecting on the past, I tried to pick an event I would undo. The Holocaust? Pol Pot? Every Kardashian?
It’s so obvious: I’d revisit my SAT exam!!
Let me set the sad story. I moved to Texas from Germany mid-high school. Probably before the end of my first semester in America-American school I realized this country was academically slow. Wherever the America-American curriculum was set at, I’d already completed it before moving to the Western Hemisphere.
Because of this inconvenience, I would cut school, pretty regularly. Kept a decent routine; you know, be present for roll call at the beginning of 2nd period, then throw a few hand signs to a select group of people before excusing myself to the ladies’ room, winding down the stairs to the parking lot, where those who interpreted the signal correctly would be waiting to enter my family’s Ford Aerostar. Lots of coffee and pancakes at Kettle, day trips to Georgetown or Austin. We had a good time!
My first official boyfriend was not into school at all. Like this should come as a surprise to you regulars…he was quite involved in gang activity. When not day tripping to the Salado gift shoppes, I was rolling around town with this wonderful-to-me/nightmare-to-society individual. Lapses in judgment and time resulted in several Saturday detentions, which was fine, because my boyfriend would be there too! Aww, young love…
Still an Honors student, I scored high on my course exams and was ranked in the top 10% of my graduating class despite hardly entering the building (save for Band, gotta stick with Band). Used to being told to show up to the gymnasium, I trotted in one Saturday morning blissfully expecting to see BF and his gangsta cohorts. Instead, I saw kids that were in my Honors classes, looking nervous as fuck.
What happened that got all the Honors kids detention? I actually thought. I was yelled to sit down, so I did. I was handed an answer sheet and a pencil. What the…? Am I in the wrong gym?? Slapped down in front of me was the official examination handbook. SHIT.
Didn’t know, so, didn’t study! I scored a dismal 950. However, stroke of friggin’ luck…in Texas, if you are within the 90th percentile of your graduating class, your SAT scores don’t matter if you apply to a state school. Hurrah!
EXCEPT. You’re also automatically enrolled in remedial courses if you score less than average than the graduating class. Fuck fuck FUCK!
Here I am, a proficient writer in and speaker of the English language, enrolled in collegiate remedial English! Our instructor was a frail, wool-chested, chain-smoking idiot who wore his shirts unbuttoned to his naval. My first paper for the course, I misused a word: condone. To condone is to forgive or allow, I knew that, but I intended to use the word condemn, which is to judge as unfit, as I remember it was a position paper and I wasn’t agreeing with the stated position. Either way, simple mistake, especially for a handwritten, in-class assignment.
Chesty McDickerton marks my paper as a Fail. To the right margin, in creamy, red felt ink, he noted, “I understand why you made such a simple error. You haven’t mastered the English language yet.” Such gravitas!
I went from being one of the brightest and gifted students the Department of Defense Dependent Schools system has ever had the glory to educate to a fresh off the boat, English as a Second Language, special needs student in the eyes of Texas.
All because I kept skipping class.
To celebrate Women’s History Month, I am featuring TWO artists! One, a discovery: new to me, doesn’t mean they haven’t been out there for a while and the other, a reflection: I want to introduce you to musical artists whom influenced my wordcrafting, all women.
I do not review, I do not critique, I merely esconce myself in the artistry. But I’d love it if you all, especially if you’re talented at music critiquing, to please use my Comments field to share your aspect of the experience. And by all means, share share share to the moon and back!
(read time 7m22s)
I found Trish and settled in the seat to her right. She scored us an ideal location, perfect line of sight to the podium, a couple rows back. The aisle was two seats away, good. There’s the door. Got my noise cancellers around my neck, check. I’m fully prepped to endure crowd anxiety for this momentous occasion: an evening with my teacher, Chuck D of Public Enemy. I open my Darth Vader notebook and prepare to shorthand whatever lessons I can gather today.
I noted my inflammed joints and stiff hip from a week of unusually low temperatures, and imagined what it’d be like now to kick up into a one-handed handstand from a flattened cardboard box. My seven year old hands clapping along to the beat, sidestepping to the tempo, watching my brother attempt to breakdance. As I entered into the obligatory, “Go ‘head, go ‘head…” with the other block rockers, I thought, yo that kid is WACK! Hours spent in my room, duplicating what I observed on the cardboard then snapping it tight. My brother wouldn’t let me join his crew, but I figured, one day I’ll have my own, so I better be ready.
A group of three slide from the left into the row in front of us, and I see the muscular man in a blue t-shirt intends to take the seat in front of me. As I scrutinize his eyes and nose, I feel certain I know him. Personally? Historically..? Been a lot of places/seen a lot of faces… My mental Rolodex is spinning wild. He sits down, and I’m relieved his sculpted shoulder doesn’t impede my view of the podium.
We’ve just finished playing Masters of the Universe and my brother has a swell idea: let’s be DJ s! He orders me, as is his right as the elder, to pick some vinyl records from our parents’ collection. Tina Turner’s Break Every Rule? no… Michael Jackson’s Thriller? no… Commodores..? Hmm. Nah. So I grab Kenny Rogers’ 1983 Greatest Hits. That one’s mom’s. She won’t miss it.
I watch my brother and his friends pull the vinyl back and forth, three fingertips along the grooves, making the now iconic rip rip rawr a la Jam Master Jay of Run DMC. We giggled once the record was left to play, only to interrupt his vocals:
You picked a fine time to leave me Lucille/ rip rip a fine time/ rip a fine time/ rip rip
We didn’t know scratching the record might actually cause scratches to the record, and once mommy told daddy, our DJ days were squashed!
A thought fills my head: what if you get a chance to speak to him? Mr. D..? Mr. Chuck? Can’t just call him Chuck, he’s not your friend. Consummate confusion of mine; how to formally address an emcee. Madame Lyte? Mr. Cool J? I never could come up with a cool MC name. Heck, I wasn’t even a good emcee to begin. Middle school lunch room, two rows decide to enter into freestyle rapping. Me, the closet poet and at the time, theater kid, went up against my best friend. Oh I got her, I was sure, she don’t know about rap! So I busted out something so generic: My name is Vonnie, and I’m here to say… surprised that wasn’t followed by a round of boos. She stands up, smug faced, and I immediately realize I have failed. I still hear the smackdown clear in my ears: C to da A to da R-OL-I-N-E/Sweet/Ahh!/Like caramel candy…
Grimace. Melt. Never battle rhymed again.
The poetic political enemy takes to the podium and I grin big, taking in the fitted cap, the wide stance, then eagerly press pen to paper. Chuck’s voice has a signature resonance, and everytime I hear it, I’m called to listen; I the faithful, he the muezzin. Listening to Public Enemy, these “radicals” telling you to question authority and call out injustices, conflicted with daddy’s job, and the environment we lived in. As hip hop flourished into a global movement, hitting the Armed Forces Network radio airwaves and featured on MTV Europe, daddy was adamant in keeping those sounds and influences out of the home. Disobedience meant repercussions:
Playing Salt ‘N’ Pepa too loud from my little red boom box smack!
Dad home early from work, caught wearing sneakers with no shoelaces twack!
To no affect, of course. I’m still pissing people off with my principles to this day.
— Von Simeon (@VonSimeon) February 27, 2015
My teachers – musicians, storytellers, poetic prophets – provided examples of how to protect my mind, gave me fodder for philosophy, reminded me bruises may break my skin but never my soul. It dawned on me as Chuck D reminded the collegians how valuable intelligence is, Hip Hop saved me from abandoning my wits. The movement, not just the music, fortified in me that my art is just as powerful a weapon as a machine gun, that I could equally call for change or kill a man simply by placing the right set of words together. My teacher lamented that we remain a society too caught up in SocMed to truly understand our reality for what it is: too much individualism, too little discourse, too few moments when information technology doesn’t intercede in decision making. Oh my gosh, I realize, I attack those very issues every day, on this blog, in my prose, and in my freestyle poems. Good job MC Von, you paid attention.
As he entered into the original days of hip hop and the struggle for equal air play, Chuck pointed out, “The Cold Crush Brothers were selling out shows, never blew up, never got their fair share of airplay…” Ah yes, nodding in my seat, I remember the Cold Crush crew, and then Chuck D extends his right arm my direction and says, “Charlie Chase is sitting right there, he can tell you…”
Rolodex stops at Cold Crush Brothers. The DJ. DJ Chase. DJ CHASE IS SITTING RIGHT IN FRONT OF ME.
“Don’t. Explode,” My inner sargent-at-arms instructs. I shudder with pure excitement, then chuckle a bit. My big bro can suck it!!
I wanted to pull DJ Chase towards me and exult, “You know, I used to DJ my friends’ house parties? I love music! I love youuu!”
Phone is ringin/oh my god Get it together..
I still dance but I’m afraid if I start popping I won’t be able to push my bones back into their joints! I may not have vinyl to scratch, but I’ve got eclectic playlists out the wazoo, and I share what’s new to me every week on Turn It Up Tuesday. While my spoken word sucks, my written word is vicious, and now, available in book form.
Knowing there are few moments in life when you can credit people who’ve positively influenced you, after the presentation I quickly, timidly tapped Charlie Chase on his shoulder. He was slow to turn then presented a warm smile once he saw me. I fought the tremors to tell him, “I just wanted to shake your hand and let you know because of you I wanted to be a DJ.” He was kind enough to shake my hand tightly, then asked, “What’s your name?”
What’s my muthafuckin’ naame..?
“My name is Von Simeon. I’m a local artist. Thank you for your time.” Zoom! Towards the door.
“You handled that very well,” Trish complimented. I could feel the tremors building up. There’s no way I can approach Chuck D in this state, so I’ll just follow him on Twitter, @MrChuckD.
Oh. So it is the full emcee name after Mister or Madam. Good to know.
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 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.