NY, Do or… I don’t know.

In the past 24 hours, I have been contemplating some very big decisions!

The first: Apply for a few online editorial internships, in addition to submitting for journals and grants, so I when I call myself a writer, I don’t feel like I’m frontin’.

The second: Using the money I’ve saved up this year for a used car… and instead, moving (back) to New York City this summer, like I’ve said I would do for the past two years.

I hate making important life decisions. I’m very good at deciding what to buy at the grocery store. I’m very good at deciding which Internet service plan from AT&T U-Verse will allow me to stream at optimal speeds for the lowest price. I’m not so good at deciding when I should move 3,000 miles away to pursue my clichéd dreams of becoming a writer in New York City.

Like most adult-ish types today, I posted a Facebook status about my dilemma. I have a lot of friends who want me to get on to New York. I don’t know if I should be flattered by their enthusiasm for my dreams… or offended that they want to get rid of me. My brother was the voice of reason and practicality: Will you be able to pay bills and live comfortably in New York? My very best sistafriend reminded me that I’m supposed to be focusing on writing and performing, and would I do that any more in New York than in Los Angeles?

I’m still trying to figure myself out. But I am honestly leaning towards New York. Cold, gritty, expensive-ass New York. Far away from the comforts of my birth place and my momma, New York. Some of these apartments on Craigslist look very scary, New York.

This feels like such a grown-up decision. This feels like such a ballsy decision. And although I sometimes talk a good game, I don’t know if I’ve ever considered myself “ballsy”.

 

Stuck in the Middle with Me, Myself & I

For the most part, I have been a failure for the past seven months.

I say this because it is true. I say this because there was a time when failure terrified me. I say this because I need to.

I left my full-time job at Planned Parenthood at the end of August last year. It was the first job I had after college. Although I loved my co-workers and the work was rewarding, I was burnt out with youth work. I was becoming disillusioned with non-profit work. And more than anything, I was just ready to do something different. I graduated college planning to work for a production studio or arts non-profit. Never in a million years did I think I’d be saying the words anal intercourse or clitoris to a bunch of high school kids on a regular basis.

So when I decided to leave, my plan was to spend a year writing, performing, and seeking other artistic opportunities. I made all kinds of charts and lists. I prepared a proposal to present to my parents, outlining everything I planned to do , in case they went Super Negro Up-Bringers on me and tried to cuss me out for being so reckless. I reached out to friends who were self-employed/making it “twerk” as artists to get advice. I was excited.

And then I got scared. I got hella scared. When a colleague mentioned a part-time contract position doing more youth development and reproductive health work, I was apprehensive. I was leaving it behind for a reason. Why would I do the same thing? But then I thought, Maybe this will be different. I could work flexible hours. I would still have plenty of time to pursue other things. And plus, I’d have steady income as a safety net. I applied. I interviewed. I was offered the job and I accepted it.

I do not blame my current job for why I feel like I’ve been a failure for the past seven months. This current job has brought many new opportunities—to work with local government officials, to design and implement a youth program from scratch, and to plan two community-wide youth summits. It has allowed me to develop skills and flex grown-woman muscles I didn’t know I had. It also allowed me to pay for a two-week trip to Europe and save up for a new car. (I definitely ain’t mad at that!)

But the safety net made it possible for me to feel comfortable.This year, it dawned on me that I’m a creature of comfort. And I think comfort is probably the worst thing for an artist. Because the process of creating art is not comfortable. All of this has made me wonder, Am I really an artist? Do I really have what it takes to create for a living? I’m still figuring out my answer.

I’ve learned a lot of other shit about myself this year too. Working from home allows a lot of time for self-reflection (and/or self-pitying, depending on the week). In the past seven months, I have learned the following:

  1. I am not as brave as I told myself I am.
  2. I have a lot of self-work and healing to do, especially when it comes to self-esteem, body image, and taking care of myself.
  3. I am a pretty selfish person.
  4. I spend way too much time on social media and watching Netflix.
  5. I think way too damn much.

All of this being said, my regrets are minimal. Angry? Yes, but only with myself. And I’m disappointed in how easily I get distracted and discouraged. But I firmly believe that everything happens for a reason… even if that reason is to teach you not to do something ever again.

My contract for my current job ends on June 30th. Two weeks later, I will turn 25. (It doesn’t escape me that all of this angst is probably my quarterlife crisis.)

There are roughly three months left for me to figure out my next steps. I have no intention of becoming a quarter-century old in the midst of a Girls-esque meltdown. It’s bad enough that I’m pretty much in the same place decision-wise, as I was last year. And I think that’s the real kicker: I haven’t changed much at all in damn near a year. This is the first time life has happened to other people and I was just a bystander. Friends are getting their graduate degrees this year. Two of my best friends are getting married. Another friend will be starring in a TV pilot. So many people have had children. And here I am, living at home… not doing what I set out to do… feeling sorry for myself.

I keep having fanciful, romantic thoughts about packing up and going off to New York or the Bay Area. Maybe Chicago or Washington, D.C. When I’m really dreamin’ and not giving two fucks about reality, I think about running away to Paris. My mother has been very kind, letting me live at home rent-free. But I am itching to be “out on my own”, even if “on my own” means hella broke and sharing a place with 3 roommates. These are all non-plan plans. It’s a way to pass the time and to not give up all hope of making something meaningful and interesting happen with my life.

But really, I don’t have much of a plan. For the first time, I’m “winging it”. How do these spontaneous, adventurous types live like this regularly? This shit is horrifying. It’s overwhelming. I spend a lot of time anxious and stressed out, which I did not anticipate being a side effect of this “year off to live my dreams”. I have exhausted my text-friends-about-your-existential-crisis privileges.

I have been wanting to write this post for a while: (a) because this blog gets no love; and (b) because I wanted to be honest with myself publicly. I spend a lot of time trying to convince other people I have my shit together. Or at least hiding from them, so they don’t catch on to how much I’m lying. But I am tired of lying. The truth is: My name is Michelle. I’m almost 25. I live at home with my momma. I work part-time at a job that has nothing to do with what I went to college for, or what I want to do long-term. And I have no idea what I’m doing most days.

Yay.

 

Swoon (Poem)

SWOON

If no one ever celebrates me,

if I spend my life as the dusty champagne in the pantry—

I am okay with that.

This is a “hoarded joy”[1],

a joy I have taken by any means necessary.

This is a joy I have inherited from God and the Orishas.

It was given to me by sacrifice from those

whose blood rivers the delta of my veins.

A behemoth,

a religion to which I consecrate

all the bones and flesh of my body.

This is a joy that survived in the wilderness

for 23 years, afraid and lonely and angry.

This is a joy that grows in the mud,

endless-blooming lotus flower with infinite seeds.

This is a joy I have named and buried in my womb.

After my mother has gone to bed,

amongst the sirens and traffic lights.

It is still in the early morning hours,

it is idle as I sit in traffic,

it is asleep under a pile of papers in my cubicle at work—

it is thrashing and burning and dancing at the pit of my most centered place,

waiting to emerge in the fury of my dreams.

This joy is my oldest friend and my most intimate lover.

This joy has been reincarnated 1,000 times and saluted every sun.

It will be the final nail in my coffin,

the language by which I will commune with the Divine after I am ash.

It is an ancient thing,

a relic of an old and fabled magic.

I have known how to rejoice in more than my human being,

but my human everything.

I know you have wondered:

Why does the stem of an orchid bend?

I bend because I am humbled by my own weight,

my body is a constant benediction that I will not end.

If the most I ever am is all of the things you are not,

I will not ask myself,

Why wasn’t I the sun?

I will join the company of Moon and her chorus of Cosmos.

I will wait until night, when you can witness how

shadows sacrifice themselves to me.

I am beheld by my relationship to others.

I am gravity and I am song.

If you ever find yourself asking:

Why choose this invisibility?

Stop.

I am here.

This is my rapture;

I have chosen to belong to myself.

 


[1] From Rachel McKibben’s “Untitled Poem”

The Girl Can Sing (Poem)

THE GIRL CAN SING

for amy, coco & nai

raise me

sanctify                                                                             this gravel

rolling in the back of my                                           throat

the first time I opened my mouth

I realized how close I could be to                         the sky

this voice

a turbine engine

the first time he saw me, I was nothing

special. but then I opened my mouth &

he realized how he could dig himself in.

this voice

a troubadour’s dreadlocked sheets

extension of hip, finger,                                last night

the first time I saw myself, I burned envious of

paper—what a blessing to be plain, white, & flat.

then I remembered the value of paper is what

one does with it.

this voice

origami, sloppy love note

bold stroke, last page in your diary

first dollar, where my body                        opens up

this voice

broken high heel

a psalm forgotten, dusty phonograph

a dirty martini, dry

river of mascara, in the closet,

the only thing that’s ever belonged to me

& I still                                                                 give it away.

A Defense Against Madness (Poem)

There will come a day when you come out of this wilderness—

when the howling will mute itself into a faint whisper.

You will emerge, fur pelt on the ground

with skin singed and raw.

You will be human again.

You will be woman, even if not how you meant to be.

Your mother will forgive you

for being an ungrateful runt of a daughter.

Your father will see you as you are,

and still love you the same.

This will be a birth not worth celebrating,

this will be a death not worth mourning.

You will only live,

as you were meant to all these years.

There will come a day when the madness is old and exhausted,

it doesn’t have the thrash or bite like it used to.

It will go down easy,

even if its jaw loosely snaps in protest.

I can promise you, from the hearth of some faith I barely believe in:

you will not be damned and crazy forever.

This hell of having a mind that betrays you ends,

ends and you still have the possibility to live after.

You came into the world with a little death inside you,

a little reckoning of this empty darkness we all try to run from.

This is a gift wrapped in thorns,

this is a blessing baptized in blood.

This is a burden,

but it is not your legacy.

You will come out of this embattled,

but you will come out of this. Period.