Miscellaneous Musings

Just some creative writing I’ve never posted before.

“The Art of Breaking Up”

When she looked back now, it was strange. It felt strange. Looking at pictures taken a year or so ago and she didn’t recognize herself. How could one person change this drastically in such a short amount of time? It was strange. It was sad. The way she knew him, the way he knew her. And now they don’t talk at all. She never quite understood the art of breaking up with someone, and it made her infinitely sad. Not sad because she was no longer with him, but sad that she no longer knew him. The one person, who for so long was the only person she trusted, the one she was sure she was going to marry. The one. And now he was just another one. Just another disappointment.

He had asked her, of course, when it happened almost a year ago, “why?” She didn’t know what to say. “Just like that?” He questioned her again. No, not just like that. It took months of realization, months of dwelling on them, what they once had and what they would never have again. It was something she had never wanted to admit, but she was sure of it now. Once a relationship hits a certain point, either they fight for it, or they fall apart.

They fell apart.

“No, not just like that.” She finally responded.

“You’ve changed.” He had said bitterly. “What happened to you?”

“Yes, I’ve changed.” She replied, a bit surprised because at that point, she hadn’t realized just how much. He sighed, long and loud over the phone. She was crying silently, still could cry.

“Why couldn’t things have stayed the same?” He was talking more to himself than her.

“Could you imagine if they had?”

“Why couldn’t you have stayed the same?” He asked her.

My God

Could you imagine if I had?

-2013

 

“Feeble Fantasies”

Sometimes I wish I could stop time, you know? Sometimes, most of the time, I fear I’m letting life pass me by, but I don’t know how to live it. How do you do that? Teach me, please.

I’m growing old in my room without living, but I don’t know what to do.

Go to a bar? Go to…a play? New York for a day?

Go to…the movies? School?

Go to…the mall?

I’m fucking broke most of the time, so it’s a nice thought, but it’s not gonna fucking happen.

I live in my head. Oh, the lives I live in my head…

I have lived as a writer, a journalist, a singer, an actress, I have even lived as a nomad with no point but to travel.

I have saved lives, went to other continents, helped children learn to read. Helped women. Helped men. I have been selfless inside my head.

In my head, I have been to India, Rome, Egypt, London, Ireland, Tokyo, Zimbabwe.

In my head, I have fallen in love with people who write about me. For once I am not the person doing the writing. I have moved to Hollywood for a year.

New York City for two.

In my head, I have made enough money to give my parent’s some. My sisters some, my brothers, my nieces.

Just enough, you know? Just enough to get by…

That’ll be enough, won’t it?

Isn’t that what you say? We can do anything, we can be anything.

It’s America, after all.

My head.

It fucking scares me.

-2015

 

“Family”

The other day was my sister’s 22nd birthday, so I was going through old photo albums with my other sister. I was looking for an embarrassingly cute photo of the birthday girl, just so I could post it, you know? Write some cheesy ass caption, and then maybe call her and tell her happy birthday.

I was looking, and looking, and stumbling across all of these old memories. I was looking at younger me, chunky little kid me, holding an ice cream cone at Disney. I was looking at younger me, with my short haircut that led a teacher to mistake me for a boy, embarrassing me and cementing my place as an outsider from a very young age. I was looking at younger me, with my baggy shorts and baggy shirts, wrestling around with my younger brother and cousin, happy. Blissfully ignorant. I was looking at younger me and my siblings all dressed up for Halloween. My sisters as pink ladies, a dead bride, and me as an alien.

I was looking at me making my communion, standing before my dad as he held my shoulders, smiling.

I was looking at me, not recognizing me, and knowing the younger me would not have recognized the older me, with my pixie cut and currently pink hair. (My older brother keeps asking my mom if me constantly changing my hair is a cry for help. She laughs, I laugh). I couldn’t help but wonder if somewhere out there, in the galaxy or what have you, there is an alternate version of me. Someone who grew up differently, who is fine with the norms, who is fine with the path life has laid out for her and everyone else. If there is a happy version of myself.

I was thinking of these things, sitting next to my sister, sifting through old photos when a card fell into my lap.

It was a valentine’s day card. I turned to my sister, chuckling and said hey, remember when mommy used to give us gifts for valentine’s day? Nothing ever extravagant, just candy, soap, makeup maybe.

“Yea.” She said, still concentrating on the photos in her lap.

I looked at the card, at the words my Mother wrote, that read:

“To my beautiful daughter, Briana. I love you. Have a happy Valentine’s Day.

XOXO Mom.”

And it hit me so viciously. It twisted my gut, caused me to flinch a little. My God, I thought to myself, it is no wonder my parents resent me. All of us.

The things they do, did, for their kids. For us. All of us.

And I still can’t help but resent them a little.

I’m surprised they don’t hate us.

We are their lives. Sure, they raised us all with level heads on our shoulders, but my God, I am still disappointed in them.

Everything they have done for me, and I still can’t stand the sound of their voices sometimes.

Everything they have done for me, and all I can think about is the darkness that eats away at my brain. The demons that laugh inside my head. The voices that drive me to sanity.

Everything they have done for me, and all I can think about is yelling and fights and cries and tears and heartache and chaos and mess mess mess. Dust, dirt, holes.

And all I can think about is younger Briana with her ice cream cone in Disney World, looking at the camera with eyes that are my own, but they are empty. Unrecognizable. Those eyes that have not yet experienced anything but ignorance.

And all I can think about is my parents. All I can see reflected in those eyes is innocence, and when I look in the mirror today, I see pieces of that innocence turned into hate, disgust, regrets, pain, so much fucking pain.

Then the demons laugh again, and I am surprised I do not hate my parents.

I know it is not their fault. Life happens to all of us at one point or another. I know this. Life happens to some of us more so than others, but sometimes it’s your head, you know? I can’t balance out the chemicals in my brain. I can’t erase my anxiety. So I know life would have happened to me, anyway. I know, at that young age, it was already beginning to happen to me.

But who can I rage at? Who can I be pissed at? Who will take the blame for me growing up?

My parents, of course.

And then I looked at that card again, turned to my sister, and said how fucking depressing.

“What?” She said, in her own world.

Mommy and Daddy, I said, just how fucking depressing.

Her eyes cleared a little, and in them I saw shards of her younger self. Pieces of hate, disgust, pain, so much fucking pain.

“Yea,” she said, “I know.”

-2015

 

“Head Games”

Yesterday I told my Mom I needed help.

She told me to get another job.

It wasn’t in a mean way. It was more philosophical. Like she believes another part time job would really heal the pain, and maybe it will help.

But I need help.

I tried to explain it to her, but I don’t think she understood. She told me she would try to get me on antidepressants. Then she said she didn’t want this to hinder my future career plans. Like she didn’t want my medical record to show I was on antidepressants. Not that it would, anyway.

And I felt sad.

So I tried to explain to her that I think there’s something wrong with me. She told me there’s nothing wrong with me, that sometimes people just get sad and sometime a small dosage of antidepressants will really help. Then I can start to focus on myself, and what I want to do with my future and the plans I have.

I tried to explain it to her.

I told her I wanted to check myself into a mental health facility. You know? Just to get away from this town (world) and everyone in it for a while. She scoffed at the idea.

She told me that was for people who were really bad, people who needed to be numb.

I tried to explain it to her.

I started to, I really did, but then I stopped. I said, yea, you’re probably right, Mom.

I wanted to tell her that the other night, when I drank too much and sat outside my friend’s house crying hysterically, that I looked at the dark night sky and I thought…

It can’t be that bad. Being dead, you know? How beautiful that night sky was. How peaceful it looked. The darkness.

I swore I would never think about suicide after Michael, but the darkness is alluring…The light is blinding….

I’m so tired, Michael. I’m so very tired.

I felt peaceful in that moment when I looked up at that dark night sky and how easy it would have been in that moment to just…

In that moment, everything seemed right. The planets had aligned. I was at peace.

Well, a moment later my friend came out to talk to me, asked me what was wrong. I didn’t know what to say, so I let them assume what they wanted.

My ex was at the party and we got into a fight (no surprise there). Well, of course they assumed I was crying because of him, which I probably was, partly.

But I started talking to my Mom about him and she made things sound reasonable, like she always does. That’s a Mother’s power, isn’t it? The world will be burning around you and she will walk through the fire and tell you everything will be ok, and you believe it will be.

That’s a Mother’s danger.

Well, I let her assume it was mostly about my ex, too. I guess once she started talking about it, I might have been upset because of my ex.

But that’s not it.

I tried to explain it to her.

She wasn’t really listening.

I listened to her reason my sadness with words that meant nothing to me. For an hour and a half, I listened to her talk about my feelings.

I started to tell her that it wasn’t my ex. It was more than that. How can I explain it properly? I don’t know.

It’s this darkness, right, and the darkness is terrifying but beautiful. It’s perfect. It’s destructive. It’s alluring, this darkness I live in. It engulfs me and why should it not when I am tiny compared to it?

It’s a tsunami that hits me, drowns me, surrounds me.

It gets in my lungs. It’s in the air I breathe.

It seeps into my pores.

There are times when I see a light. A light that is so terrifying, much more terrifying than the darkness. It blinds me, this light.

When I see this light there are times I swim furiously towards it. I break out of the tsunami, I can breathe. I breathe the light in.

There are times when that light forces me to cower further into the tsunami, letting it consume me. I am too tired to swim. I drown.

I haven’t seen that light in a long time, and I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing. That light.

I tried to explain it to my Mom.

She told me to think about the future and my goals.

I thought about what I wanted in life. To write. To become a renowned author. A memorable person. I wanted to create masterpiece’s. I wanted to create classics.

I thought about where I wanted to live, in a city. A big city. London, New York, Los Angeles. I thought about the future.

I thought about helping people.

I thought about my ambitions.

Gosh I am almost indestructible with these thoughts swarming around my head. I create my own light.

I am light.

Weightless.

But, of course, I am surrounded by darkness.

What if I don’t get out of this town? What if I am stuck here forever, doomed to live a life of normality? Mediocrity? What if I am simply another brick in the wall?

All in all…

What if I become a washed up pebble on the beach.

Washed up, drowned, destroyed.

All in all…

That darkness has no name, no limits. That darkness which I live in. This darkness.

I look left, look right, shift in my bed.

I tried to explain it to my Mom.

I told her there are days I can’t get out of my bed. It is hard to move. Time is warped.

Everlasting, nonstop, seconds, minutes, hours.

Days. Months. Years.

And I cannot move out of my bed today.

I am thinking about him, and you, and me, and her, and us, and the future, the past, the present, happiness, sadness, what is happiness? Success. Love.

Is love worth it?

Am I enough? Can I be enough?

Can I move out of bed today?

Do I see the light?

How is today going to be?

Am I going to have a good day?

Am I going to cry today?

Am I?

Will I laugh?

Will I succeed? Am I going to fail?

Get out of my head.

Get out of your head, Bri.

Get out.

Get out.

GET OUT!

Wait, come back.

I am so lonely without you.

I am lonely.

Sometimes.

I enjoy being alone. I really do.

You will be fine, Bri. Move out of bed today. Go for a run.

I am too tired.

No, you are not. You will be fine. Everything will be fine.

Are you sure? Are you sure, little voice? How can you be sure?

I am sure.

I am so tired. I’m just tired.

Move out of bed, go eat breakfast, go get go.

I am moving, I am trying to move.

I glance at the digital clock.

It reads:

9:32.

A.M.

And today, I am moving out of my bed.

But it is so comfortable.

-2014

 

“Sludge”

He told me to write. Then he handed me my laptop, and went to do whatever it is he said he was doing. He told me to write, so here I am.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written anything. I am depressed, and I can’t even muster up the energy to go to class, or to do my homework. Even going to work drains me recently. I know this happens to me, the way it’s always happened to me. Each time though, it’s like it’s happening all over again. Like the first time. And isn’t it? Isn’t it happening to me each time?

I guess I get so high, not high, but creative.

Ambitious.

Driven.

Determined.

Indestructible.

That when it slows down, when my brain seems to slow down, it catches me off guard. Every single time.

I become heavy. Tired. Sad. I’m fragile. I’m breaking. I’m disintegrating. I’m blowing away

in the wind, and it feels good just laying down. Sleeping for hours and hours on end. I don’t mind it, but my head does.

When I sleep, my brain yells at me. Tells me to get up. Tells me how lazy I’m being. Tells me I should be doing things. Homework, writing, cleaning, writing, writing, writing. It’s no wonder I’m still living at my parents. Doing nothing with my life. I’m so lazy.

Then I get up, and I’m so tired.

I just want to sleep.

Monotonous routine of living, I suppose.

He told me to write, and for the first time in a very long time, I have nothing new to say.

***

 

“Evan”

I am afraid.

You only ever become afraid of anything when you have something to lose.

I have Evan. He is mine.

I do not want to lose him, but what choice do I have?

I once read things are sweeter when they’re lost.

If that’s true, I would embrace the sour taste of love, if I never have to say goodbye to him.

I would wake up with a bitter taste lingering on my tongue, if it meant I could turn over and see Evan sleeping next to me.

Does that make me…

What does that make me?

***

I am afraid.

You only ever become afraid of anything when you have something to lose.

I have Evan. He is mine.

I do not want to lose him, but what choice do I have?

I once read things are sweeter when they’re lost.

If that’s true, I would embrace the sour taste of love, if I never have to say goodbye to him.

I would wake up with a bitter taste lingering on my tongue, if it meant I could turn over and see Evan sleeping next to me.

Holly once screamed “People don’t belong to people.”

And for the longest time, I agreed. I may still agree. Logically, I can say people don’t belong to people.

Logically, I can say love is a societal construct that has no real definition. Ambiguous, intangible, unreal.

Logically, I can say these things.

But when I am sitting next to him on my bed as I stare into his eyes, I am anything but logical.

I am giddy, blushing, moaning, smiling, laughing, biting, squeezing him as tight as I can.

“You’ve got a glow about you.” He says to me.

I want to tell him that I don’t. Or I never did.

That he is the light inside of me, causing me to glow.

I want to tell him how very grateful I am for someone like him existing, let alone being mine.

And I am his, as much as I would never admit it to anyone else.

I belong to him.

I want to tell him that I have never met a person who makes me feel alive.

I want to tell him that I’ve only ever felt empty and numb, or broken and deranged.

I want to tell him that he makes me feel like I can conquer the world, as long as he stands next to me as I do so.

I want to tell him… although I’ve said I’ve been in love twice, I have only felt invincible once.

I love him, and I want to tell him that love has never meant anything but pain to me. But with him…

I can see why wars are started, people are murdered, and why humanity needs more of it.

I want to tell him that the feelings I have for him are so awe inspiring, so monumental, they make me forget anyone ever mattered to me, ever existed in conjunction with me before him.

I want to tell you that in my overly complex and twisted mind, you make things simple.

You make me happy.

I am in love, and I belong to you.

-2015

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Microaggression in the American Educational System: A Failing & Falling Structure

Imagine driving to a school out of town, because the education was supposed to be better. You’re driving there, just like any other day, lost in your own thoughts, lost in homework, dances, books, anything other than hate. You pull up with the rest of the students on the bus, who all happen to have similarities to you, and you notice something. Even though things like this happen at school frequently, it has never left a mark this deep before. Students standing outside, waiting for you, dressed in full KKK outfits. Imagine the fear you must feel upon first appearance, and the hate radiating off of these costumes, through the bus doors, and on your face. You feel the hate, yet you do not understand why or how someone can have that much hate in their heart, for people they don’t even know.

Now you have to go into school, and you have to sit with these people, these white people who do nothing but mock you, write racial slurs on your lockers, or, maybe, just ignore you.

For Dr. Tanya Clark, an English professor at Rowan University who teaches African American Literature, and co-coordinator of the Africana studies program, this was her reality. Although Clark grew up in the south during the ‘80’s, the issue of schooling in America is extensive, and while this sort of harsh racism may not be seen as much (oh, it’s still there alright) another form has become the new racism. Clark, who was in a program in high school with a handful of other African-American students, were ushered from their neighborhood onto a bus, and then dropped off at a predominantly white school for better education, said she recalls this memory from Halloween one year.

“There were about 5 or 6, who we came to learn were students, our classmates, but there were 5 or 6 people standing out in front of the stairs, dressed in full KKK outfits. Like hoods, crosses, everything.” Clark goes on to say the bus driver told the kids to stay on the bus, and they later came to learn that this was just a “prank.” They were students dressed up in Halloween costumes, and “thought that it would be funny for them to scare us. Or to see our reaction. I don’t know, you know, what their purpose was.”

While that may seem outlandish to readers today, and it may seem like something that would not happen in 2016, The New York Times tells a different story. According to Danielle Mayes, a student/reader who wrote to famed news source from Duke University, said she walked into the student center, and there was “a makeshift noose” hanging in plain sight. While this may seem like a “joke” or a “prank,” as Clark said her experience was described as, it is anything but. This is a racist act, and even if the person (who, according to Mayes turned him or herself in and is still on campus) did not realize or understand what they were doing, it is still something that can cause fear and terror.

So it goes. The schooling system in America has many holes, and many instances of racism laced throughout it, yet people fail to realize it until it is too late, or not at all.

Microaggressions exist all over the world, all over America, but some of the most prominent ones are things that happen within the schooling system. For example, something as small as saying, “You sound white,” or “You don’t sound black,” and for Modupe Akinmade, a 21 year old African-American student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, has heard both before. This equates intelligence with white, according to Akinmade, and it is detrimental to say to a person who is not white. According to a study done by psychologist Derald Wing Sue, PhD, this constitutes as a microaggression, which is defined as “everyday insults, indignities and demeaning messages sent to people of color by well-intentioned white people who are unaware of the hidden messages being sent to them.” According to Sue and the study he did in 2010, the theme of that microaggression is intelligence, and it subliminally sends the message that “people of color” are generally not as smart as white people.

This message seems to have been heard and accepted in American schooling systems. While some microaggressions, as Sue pointed out in his definition, are by white people who have no knowledge of what they’re saying, there are some microaggressions that are intentional.

There is a fine line being crossed from microaggressions, to just straight out racism. Someone who has thought about this, and has conversations almost everyday about race in America, and race in the American educational system is TJ Holloway. Holloway recognizes that “being racist and being a good person aren’t mutually exclusive.” As Holloway says, there are people that he’s has conversations with, and he knows they are being racist, but that does not fundamentally make them a bad person. Holloway, an English education major, with minors in international studies, psychology, Africana studies, and an honors concentration, who is also the Empire Guardian Regional Chair for the United States Students Association, says an issue that this organization focuses on is the intersection between education and social justice. According to Holloway, the biggest problem with race today is “centered around anxiety.” People are terrified and anxious to even bring race up, hence many of the color blind arguments people tend to use.

Holloway says that “white people are socialized not to talk about race,” and while that may be a plus, because white people know without question racist slurs are off the table and to never say them, it also creates anxiety with racial issues and discussing race. This is also why many white people are afraid of even engaging with black people, according to Holloway. Socialization seems to be the main culprit, and if anything is going to improve, Holloway says that, “recreation of certain ideals and values,” such as intentional whiteness and whitewashing, needs to change.

Whiteness, according to Holloway, “is an intentional and social thing,” that he believes was brought around to marginalize a group of people in order to exploit them with labor, and to gain economic standing. Holloway does not believe that the anxiety centered around race and racial issues or conversations is “an inherent aversion” to black people. It is not something a person is born with, but something a person is socialized with and forced to learn growing up in a western dominated world. This ties in with education, because I’m not sure about you, but my education was based around white cis men, colonizing areas that were already populated.

This is what has allowed microaggressions to prosper, and for well-intentioned white people to say things that are racist. This also enforces the idea that white people are smarter, inherently, and it is why the schooling system in America is failing minorities. Saying something such as “you sound white” meaning “you sound smart” is already setting a precedent for the African-American student to believe that he/she is not as inherently smart as a white student.

Another thing Dr. Clark experienced while a student at high school in the ‘80’s, was that even if she tried to participate in class, and she was the only one with her hand raised, she was often times overlooked by the teacher. This is something that Holloway says he feels as well, maybe not as intensely as Dr. Clark, but it is something that happens to him, and more so at Rowan than anywhere else.

Holloway describes it as being “pushed on the fringe” of environments, because of his “dark skin” and firm ideologies that people are easily intimidated by, without reason or cause. Holloway says it is rare for a person to be dark skinned, and “perceived intellectual.” Not because dark skinned people are not intellectual, but because that is not that image conjured up when speaking about intelligence in America.

The issue of schooling in America is extensive, but the research shows black students are projected to be less educated, while white students are expected to be more so educated. This is shown in a study done in 2015 by an organization called “Child Trends,” which is a non-profit and non-partisan research center that tracks data about children. Black parents are shown to have lesser education than their white counterparts, and therefore their expectations are less for their children. Lesser expectations, according to this study, is more or less a self-fulfilling prophecy. This creates tension with the idea of school, not very “positive attitudes” when it comes to school, and “less parent-child communication about school.” This all creates negative impacts and first impressions by students and teachers in the American schooling system.

According to this study, “disparities in discipline begin in preschool and continue through every level of schooling.” While blacks make up 18 percent of students in preschool, they account for 42 percent of students with an out-of-school suspension and 48 percent of students with multiple out-of-school suspensions. This is not the only disparity that exists between white students and black students. Even in areas where schools are predominantly minorities, “on average, schools serving more minority populations have less-experienced, lower-paid teachers who are less likely to be certified,” according to a report from the Center for American Progress.

Education, and school discipline leads to another problem, as Holloway talks about, the “school-to-prison pipeline.” Holloway refers to the “new slavery” as the mass incarceration of black people, which originated with Reagan and his supposed war on drugs. Although for Holloway, you cannot convince him that this war on drugs “was genuine at all,” and it was “pretty much an attack on black people, to capitalize off them, and black communities.” This school-to-prison pipeline is an issue Holloway and fellow members of the United States Student’s Association study extensively.

The school-to-prison pipeline is what happens when an educational system continues to push out, on the fringe, the most at risk students, such as minorities, based on all of the previous information delegated. A lack of expectation, plus discipline that is greater for African Americans than it is for white Americans highlights the more important aspects of the school-to-prison pipeline. The educational system refuses to acknowledge the problems it faces, and it enacts zero-tolerance policies that make it easier to suspend or expel a student, who is then left alone without supervision. According to a study done by the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, black students are three times more likely to be suspended or expelled than white students, and students who have been suspended are more likely to be held back a grade and dropout of school entirely. This is an issue inside America that is ignored, and something that enables a system in place, that is set up to fail minority students.

The issue comes back to expectations placed on white students versus black students, and a recent study found that teachers have their own agendas and biases. According to a study by John Hopkins University, “when a black teacher and a white teacher evaluate the same black student, the white teacher is about 30 percent less likely to predict the student will complete a four-year college degree, the study found.” If the teachers do not have high hopes for the students, why would the students believe in themselves? This is a form of microaggression, that is caused by societal constructions and intentional whitewashing. Assuming that white is generally smarter than black is clearly detrimental, and provides a never-ending cycle that will not benefit anyone in the future.

This is the reason TJ Holloway wants to go into the profession of teaching, although he admits he is “disillusioned” at the moment. What Holloway wishes to happen is to create an open dialogue between race, an interrogation of yourself, of your values, and as this generation moves into adulthood, accountability. “Being culturally and socially responsible,” as Holloway puts it, “This is the first time we held ourselves accountable, whether people are there or not.” He does not expect a miracle, and in fact still understands that “19-20 years of socialization” is not going to change within one year, two years, three years, etc. Holloway believes the accountability factor will weigh in at the end. If a person interrogates themselves, and understands that this socialization occurs, it will be easier to question certain standards, and remain aware.

Holloway believes there needs to be a dialogue about these issues. Not a call-out, but more or less a “call-in.” When something happens, or someone says something microaggressive, he says, there needs to be a moment when someone engages with that person, such as a simple, “Yo, we need to talk about this.” Holloway understands that socialization is something hard to separate oneself from, still admitting there is a part of him that is socialized, and he realizes each person has their own narrative, so even type-casting, or stereotyping them will never work. Every person has his or her own experiences that lead them to a certain point in time, and Holloway understands that.

Holloway’s motto when it comes to life, and how he can always improve himself is quite simple, really.

“Never get too comfortable.”