Blank and Broken Pages

What do you do when

the world seems so cold that

even writing can’t provide warmth.

Your being shivers as you try to

cover yourself with the tiny flame

that normally is an inferno;

your hands type along the keys

but they are slow and weak.

Your eyes are soft, your heart motionless,

and mind blank. Who has this power?

How do you conquer? Or is this

just the way that it is going to be?

Don’t Kiss Me, I’m Dying

Forget me not’s in plastic cups

You bring to your lips

To run down your esophagus

Like it is a drain and your body

The ocean where the rest of

Your being will soon drown.

 

A river of death but I am not sad.

This is the choice of the sinister

Twisted head figure that scurries

From bar to bar grasping

For that one last drink. Blacked-out

 

Is how you would rather be, but please

Don’t try to convince me

That this being is free.

The tide is stronger than it seems

And you are already caught in a riptide.

Bodies balance atop the bountiful seas,

Buoyant and battling a demon

 

Brought to you by the local liquor

Store. Blame the man. He surely put that

Drink in your hand. I repeat verbatim.

You sink voiceless. Only your eyes scream

And your skin sags but your mind is too dazed

To notice the water lifting you towards the sky.

If only you’d open your eyes and look up;

 

The sky is so peaceful and the birds still fly

Despite you feeling like you’re dying.

I won’t say “it gets better”,

Things never “happen for a reason”.

I speak to you in clichés because that

Is how the world will lie to you.

Don’t believe in bumper sticker talk,

 

Billboard promises, and talk show tales.

The news carries nothing new. To begin

Life anew it all starts with you. And yet

Here I am pretending to be speaking to

Someone else when I know all to well

That the “you’ in this poem is me,

And the feeling of dying comes

Before I take the bottle and only

 

Worsens after the twentieth sip.

I pace in my bedroom mumbling,

Crying, silently sobbing, sipping,

Gulping, drinking, bleeding from

The inside then purposefully

On the outside. This is life.

This is depression. This is the glorious,

Romanticized disease that carries

Me across the ocean after I’ve jumped

From the canoe, hoping to drown.

This. Is. it.

In a World of Sunbeams I am a Walking Shadow

Confidence is what I desire. Being able to fit into a new setting with as much power and glow that I seem to fit naturally; a perfect piece to any puzzle. But instead I fight with myself. I may begin with as much life and sheen as any other; however, soon I begin to unravel and crumble back into the weak self that I try so much to coat with all the bells and whistles that come with confidence, only to have them later hit the floor.

I managed to work up the courage to go into that job interview; shining bright as the sun; personable, bright, beaming, and radiant. It wasn’t until I got home later that night that I began to unravel and fold back into myself. The interview went well (probably better than I’m imagining it to have gone) and have been asked to come back for an evaluation period to see how easily I pick up information and work with the staff. I was elated to be asked to come back because it means I am one step closer to having a job in the field I wish to have my  own business one day.

I felt accomplished and yet when I arrived back at my apartment and realized what just happened and let all the emotions sink in, instantly I began to panic. The simple decision of what I was going to wear on that day put me in a frenzy and near a full blown panic attack. I am proud of myself for not letting these crazed emotions take control of me, and yet, I still can’t wrap my head around the idea that I CAN actually get through all of this and these feelings of doubt and fear are not necessary. In fact, if anything I am over prepared. I have studied the menu and have practically everything memorized except for the alcohol menu, and despite not having previously worked in a cafe or have made all of the espresso drinks, I have the measurements and ingredients memorized. So what am I worried about?! Why can’t I just own my confidence and let everything fall into place as it will? I’m prepared. I’m smart. I have so much more potential than what I am showing myself. I just hope I can find this confidence somewhere deep within me and fight back against those shadows that tend to cover and shade my body and mind, and instead let the small sun grow from my soul and shine through my skin. Just please shine, sun, before Thursday.

The Dirty Truth Brushed Under the Rug

It was something I never expected to hear in high school. I walked into the school, running late and missing the normal crowd of people I usually enter the school with. Everyone was already in their classrooms so I rush, trying to get into class before everyone settles down in their seats and begins their work. What I walked into was not my normal History class with students laughing and the teacher cracking jokes. When I entered the room I could see the walls that have been raised around the students and the teacher. Some of my classmates sat in groups, some hiding their faces between their arms while their bodies slump across their desks. The teacher was sitting in one of the small desks and was comforting a student who was crying, her friends surrounding her with their eyes just as strained red and lips quivering.

Walls grew around me as I felt a sense of seclusion and a desire to be alone, without even knowing exactly what has happened, I just knew there needs to a separation from me and the class as everyone else has created a barrier to hold in emotions, to seclude themselves, to be alone.

I sat at my desk and remained quiet, the air was deep and heavy as it weighs down my body as the stone wall grows higher. I have never seen my class so still before. Between the sniffles and the tears running off of desks and cheeks, I saw the troublemakers sitting at their desks, still in their click but all at separate desks facing forward, eyes down on their desks and phones out of sight. There silence was something I never knew existed. The normally social and energetic kids were with no desire to move or be heard. They were separated from the class as if their bodies were only an outline and their souls have slid from their mold and just went away.

Soon my teacher got up and moved to the front of the class, his voice was soft as he spoke and his eyes were drained cold and welled up as he said “If you need to, feel free to leave class whenever you feel the urge and go to see a counselor. The principal has brought in a few extra people who can offer you assistance.” He then handed out a piece of paper with questions on it and put on a tape of a show from the History Channel. He went back to his seat next to the student he was comforting earlier. No one did their assignment, the teacher didn’t ask for us to turn it in.

Before class was let out the morning announcements came on. Instead of hearing a student’s voice being loud and obnoxious the principal came on. He didn’t address the footballs team big win or events that would be taking place through the rest of the week, but I didn’t expect him to. He started with “I know many of you have already heard the terrible news about one of our fellow students. Please come to the office to speak to a counselor if you feel the need, we are here for you. Let’s try to make this day as a time of remembrance and positivity as well as we can.” What I soon learned was that one of the students has commit suicide and was discovered that morning by her father when she didn’t wake up for school. She was a star athlete, had straight A’s, was a popular girl full of positivity and was loved by all students and faculty, and by her twin sister.

I didn’t know her directly but I had class with her sister. I felt like my sheltered life has been hit with a sledge hammer and started to crack and crumble. We have all heard about suicide, seen it take place on television or in movies, even read about it in books, and despite dealing with my own anxieties and depression, this feeling was unknown territory. I felt terrified and I couldn’t explain why. I was scared for my friends, how were they dealing with this? Are they depressed or suicidal? Do they need help? I began to visualize every person in that school as glass dolls, dangerously close to breaking, their own fragility becoming more and more apparent with every step they take through the hallways.

After graduating high school I heard the news of another suicide of a female student. Although I am unaware of the reasons for either of these suicides or of the students themselves, the news hit me and rattled my spirit. Facebook blew up with posts about suicide awareness, depression, hotlines to call if you’re feeling like hurting yourself, and support from everyone in the school system and community. Everyone stepped up offering support, some even posting their numbers to call if you wanted someone to talk to, however, all this love and support would then vanish back into nothing as the daily routine was rediscovered and everyone went back to facing their own stressors. Everyone began to move on.

Now I’m a junior in college, scrolling through social media and seeing various posts about suicides. I begin to think about my experiences and about how I feel on the subject. Since my two encounters with high school suicides, I have been exposed to the death of a friend’s significant other and a friend’s grandfather who took his own life. Suicide and depression is a topic that is shut out from reality because it is viewed as personal and something you need to deal with alone, behind closed doors. From all of this I felt as though I needed to evaluate myself and come to terms with my own reality that I’ve kept hidden behind closed doors.

Time and time again you hear a suicide take place and everyone says “We had no idea she/he/they was feeling this way.” This made me think, if my depression and anxiety got any worse and I begin to greatly consider ending my life, who would I turn to for help? My first thought was on my family. Could I confide in them? The quick answer was no. Why? We’ve never been an open family, freely discussing emotions. I thought about when I broke off a past relationship and how when I told my mom I found no comfort in her. I sat on the couch, trying to hold back tears, she sat in the rocking chair across the room. I thought about when my parents came across a post I wrote on my blog about the bullying I faced in high school and how I had to deal with it alone. It wasn’t until my parents had a glass of wine or so that they addressed the post, they said I made them feel like bad parents because they didn’t help me with my “issues.” I thought about the time I was being called bad names for giving an answer to a question in a way that my dad didn’t like and then he said that if I’m upset about something I need to just get over it.

As much as I’d hate to admit it and accept it myself, I have gone through phases of dealing with depression and anxiety, never being able to find comfort in the people you should be able to always rely on. Maybe they weren’t phases, and instead I’m still trying to make light on a subject that really shouldn’t be, but I’m a conservative person who has problems with opening up to people. My last relationship lasted four years and even then I struggled to let him in. I would fight myself from telling what I was actually feeling in the moments of crying and panic attacks. I felt like a fool for behaving this way and was too embarrassed to explain what was going on in my head because I never wanted to be looked at as weak or crazy. One day a panic attack hit when we were sitting in his car and I began to cry uncontrollably, unable to catch my breath, and my whole body hurt and shook with every gasp of air and thunder of sobs as tears exploded. I balled myself up and hid my face as he just sat there and waited for me to finish.

To me, having depression meant you were a statistic, one of the millions of people who claim their life is something less than stellar and relies on mind altering drugs to be happy. I didn’t want that. I didn’t want to be someone broken, I wanted to have a perfect life, to fit in with my family, have good grades effortlessly, to be pretty and perfect and normal.

I’d fight with myself at night, often crying for no reason and beating myself up for the way I am: my body, my face, my style, my brain capacity, anything. I would do things that I’m not proud of in these moments as a way to control what I was feeling and to take back any sanity I had left with myself. I hated who I was and dealing with the feelings I have with who I am today, but I still remain silent.

Depression, anxiety, any other mental illness, and suicide are not something you should walk around. I know I’m being a hypocrite when I say this, but we need to be open. We need to find ways to allow ourselves to heal. I feel like I’ve wasted so much time on being unhappy without ever addressing it, and still…

I guess what I am trying to say is that to prevent suicide there needs to be more done within a household, within a community, and within the school system. The only time there is light shed on these topics is when depression has run its course and a life has been taken. We need to prevent this from happening instead of focusing on how to move forward after it is already done.

Molding a Writer

An English Major: a person who enjoys reading and writing, the parts of life many people run away from or drop as soon as they get out of high school, but for a select few, there is somehow enjoyment formed out of it. Starting a new book before going to bed and not being able to put it down until you find out who killed who, who marries whom, what happens next, or how it ends is one of the many exciting parts of an English Major’s life, and being able to create your own stories is something amazing in itself. We move from being the admirers, captivated by an author’s work, to the ones who hold the power to create and destroy with a simple click of a key or swipe of a pen. But this life is not for everyone, the constant judgment of “not having a real job” and the countless rejections received when submitting your work into journals and publication is enough to make anyone lose confidence or sight of the glimmering light of publication and consider other paths. But this never ending trail is rewarding. With every poem or story is the creation of self-expression, an inner release that creates a new life more magical than the stale world we live in. A world of endless possibilities that begins as a blank canvas for our ideas to pour out and paint a new reality. For me, this path has been laid out as more of a hiking trail along a mountains rocky edge than a linear path with birds flying overhead. I have though many times about turning back or taking other routes but somehow I manage to keep going, climbing along that rocky mountain with a goal in mind strong enough to push past the negativity shot in my direction.

From the early years of my education I acquired a love for writing poems and stories. I would finish an assignment as fast as I could and doodle on the back of my paper any scene that popped into my head and write a story about it. Of course this meant I would do poorly on the assignment from blazing through it, often being reprimanded by my teachers, but how could I think straight with a story buzzing through my head and characters screaming to come to life through my poorly drawn doodles? Although I enjoyed writing, I faced one major obstacle that would leave me hanging off the mountains edge just when I thought I found my calling.

I was a quiet student, sitting next to friends or other students never enticed me to talk. I would silently sit at my small metal desk, my fifth grade mind dizzy with stories and ideas as I would daydream out the window, imagining my stories taking place before my eyes, like the window was a TV screen. The class would continue without me, I could hear their voices switch back and forth with the teachers as they moved through the lesson plans. Eventually I would be called on and my TV screen would flash back to the trees and cars moving by outside the classroom, I have to read the next paragraph. Instantly I begin to sweat, my legs and hands shake under my desk and I can feel my body become numb as my heart races within my chest. Paragraph five, I can read that, it is not that long, but what if I mess up and stutter? What if I come to a word I do not know? My classmates always laugh when I have to sound out words and they always jump in every time I take too long. As I begin to read I instantly start to stutter. Every word blends together and I switch them around without even realizing it. The class quickly intervenes, I can hear them huffing and tapping their fingers on their desks as I try to continue, but I have already stumbled and do not know how to regain my footing. I try to stay positive, maybe if I act goofy everything will be okay. I hear the class laughing so I do the same, my teacher’s becoming aggravated and stops me. She reads the rest of the paragraph and I look back to the window that turns into my TV screen again, my heart rate slows and the jitters subside.

The anxiety of reading out loud got worse as I began middle school. I would find any excuse to keep me from reading to the class and sometimes left the room right before it was my turn, hiding out in the bathroom until I decided it was safe to return to class. High school was not much better. I became a pro at speed reading ahead to become familiar with the section I would be given. One of my English teachers would use popsicle sticks with our names written on them to pick the next reader, so one day when she was not looking I found my popsicle stick and stuck it in my backpack. From the anxiety I felt, I soon lost my love of reading and even my love of writing. My journals housed more blank pages than they use to and when I did feel the urge to write I would get frustrated and rip them out and throw them away.

Junior year of high school I chose creative writing as an elective. Although I knew I used to love writing, I was nervous and sometimes dreaded coming to class. We wrote countless stories and poems but each one had to follow strict guidelines, offering very slim wiggle room for open expression and creativity. While writing, I would regain the feeling of excitement as I crafted my unique poems and stories. Feeling elated with what I came up with, I read them to the class with pictures bouncing through my head of the story I created coming to life. But I would leave the class confused and full of judgment, I did not follow the directions correctly or they would say “that is not even a poem,” leaving me dangling dangerously close from losing grip of the mountains edge with no power or motivation left to hang on any further.

In college I switched my major three times. With no idea what my calling is, I started dabbling in different careers from various classes: criminal justice, environmental science, and nutrition. I enjoyed all of these classes but could not see myself doing them as a career for the rest of my life. It was not until I took a Women in Literature class at the Anne Arundel Community College that I realized the burning desire I still had to be a writer. My professor was very passionate and despite the class taking place online, I could feel her love of writing and to see her students succeed in the literary world.

The class focused on the movement from female discrimination in the 1600’s to how females have gained their voice in present day writing. I became very expressive towards gender equality from this class and without even realizing it, I soon regained a passion for writing all over again. I felt inspired to start a blog and one of my first posts was called “The Female Traveler” where I spoke on the topic of female empowerment and being fearless when diving into life without the bind of discrimination to hold us back. I later wrote a post called “The Unrealistic Expectations of Beauty” where I spoke, probably way too strongly, about the way media has created a false reality of how women are to look and act. These topics soon expanded to praising various female writers such as Sojourner Truth and Gertrude Stein. In my writing I became an activist, rebelling against the norms of what it means to be a female and expressing myself through the pages of my blog and later through the stanzas of poetry and lines of short stories.

The desire to be a writer was back and I obtained the strength to hoist myself back onto that rocky path I have dangerously dangled off of for years, and sprint head on into the mysterious world before me. The trail may still be twisted and narrow, but how satisfying it is to be able to face those hurtles with all the power and determination I have gathered from my past. Writing became a regular part of my life, and the old habit of creating stories in my head was a great way to pastime between classes, but this time I make sure to have my phone or laptop with me so I can take notes or blog about it.

As I continue on this path, I have managed to meet so many amazing and inspirational people who have guided me when the path left me dizzy and confused. One being an author who agreed to mentor me. She helps me expand my confidence as I submit my poems and short stories into literary journals, and offers reassurance when I receive countless rejections. Her story inspires me to keep writing and where she shared her own personal journey of facing discrimination in the literary world from being a female. She told me of her new identity as a male author and how she became published under a pseudonym, all while sending in the same work that was once rejected under her real name.

The rejections and negative comments I receive about my choice in major and dream career are what empowers me to keep moving forward. Even when I am told “writing is not that hard,” “that is not a career,” or “you are not going to make money with that career” I still dream of writing and publishing my own novels one day and maybe even working in the TV or film industry as a writer. The path of an English major is not for everyone, but for those who have a love for writing, it is impossible to see yourself doing anything else.

What It Means To Be Successful

iceberge illusion

There is so much that the rest of the world has not seen about you. Your greatest accomplishments may be something as simple as continuing to go to work every morning even when you have a huge gap where sadness has flowed in. This is something that your fellow coworkers or closest friends may never come to know or understand, which is why I find this image to be an amazing representation of what we hold within ourselves; all the effort we put in on a daily basis just to live “normal” lives and be successful.

Our primary focus is on what we’ve achieved and how far we’ve come, not the hard work, downfalls, or saceficises we’ve made in order to get there. When coming home from college I’m always asked how are your grades? A simple question with a direct answer I would give back, however, the people who ask these questions will never come to understand the countless nights I spent wide awake in order to revise English papers, numerous panic attacks over the dumbest assignments, and the little to no interactions I had with friends because I couldn’t allow myself to skip out on studying even when I knew the material.

These are the things that we keep hidden so we can focus on the glamorous outcome rather than the hard work. We hide the battle scars of our dedication and loyalty in the hopes of keeping up an image of success instead of hardships and failure. We don’t want people to know we have endured disappointments, fallen in and out of good habits, and met our match numerous times where we have not accomplished our goal.

An Iceberg is a great representation of the realities of success. 80-90% of an iceberg’s size is found below the water’s surface (Encyclopedia.com), leaving much to be unseen at first glance. These large drifting free-floating ice chunks have broken off from glaciers and are pushed by the sea’s current rather than by wind due to its abundance found underwater. What causes the iceberg to be seen with less on top the water’s surface is due to it’s volume and buoyancy. The upward force exerted by an object while immersed in a fluid is equal to the weight of water it displaces, as shown in Archimedes Principle of Buoyancy (Navigation Center).

buoyancy diagram

The weight of the iceberg, along with its shape, is what will determine how much of it we see and how much is underwater. So to tie it back to success–the larger the achievement, the more responsibilities we have sunk below the surface in order to keep up our image. To achieve success there is so much more that has to be done besides flicking our wrists or wiggling our nose, things that become buried to hide the ugly side to our achievements. However, every once in awhile it would be nice to have some kind for recognition for our hard work and dedication. But nevertheless, what makes us appear amazing is that we often reach success while appearing calm and collected, but meanwhile on the inside we feel completely tired and stressed.

Humans have a huge desire to hide their inner struggles, which is one of the many reasons mental illness has increased over the years (approximately 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness in a given year (NAMI)). The ideal of appearing perfect has taken hold on our lives as we fight struggles on a daily basis with little to no release of tension. We often work ourselves to the bone in the hopes of achieving greatness but never allow other’s to see our inner struggle; something we call the ugly side of success.