When I first started writing and performing, I was at the pinnacle of my pain.
I wasn’t eating right. I wasn’t thinking right. And most of all, I wasn’t choosing happiness.
What most, if not all, people at my shows didn’t realize was that they were saving me from my isolation. I couldn’t explain how it felt to write a piece at my parents’ house at 3am, the world asleep as I typed–tears falling from my eyes, then performing it later on without people judging or tearing me a part. Instead they were saying,”Yes, me too.” That was one of the greatest things to ever happen to me. One of the greatest things, no hyperbole.
I was able to exorcise my demons, not only by uplifting myself but by having the chance to uplift others. If that’s not a dream come true, I don’t know what is. It broke my naivety–the partying, the toxic relationships, the self-destruction–and it slowly but surely brought me to a place of constant yet still imperfect freedom. It allowed me to perform at Love 146’s conference in New Haven, CT, which is still, to this day, one of the most life changing experiences I have ever had. It popped the bubble of introversion, and made me see past myself.
I can’t take credit for that journey, or those poems. I have to give bylines to my Grandfather’s spirit, the holy spirit, my mother, my family and friends who supported me even though they didn’t understand why I was broken. I have to give bylines to my teachers: my sophomore English teacher who had me read Ralph Ellison’s “Invisible Man”; my junior year English teacher who had me read Zora Neale Hurston’s “Their Eyes Were Watching God”; my college poetry professor who wasn’t afraid to tell me my poems sucked but who later encouraged me to “never stop writing.” They can all take a piece of the pie, if not the whole damn thing.
It took all of my twenties for me to finally choose happiness. To even know what that means. I am now stronger, more resilient, and even more critical of the world around me. I watch the boat of self destruction sail away into a fading sunset as the last beams of light warm my face.
The pieces have been hording inside of me, twisting around my brain like a snake trying not to touch its tail. The words build inside of me, writhing on my bones, releasing the marrow of who I am–the heritage, the hurt, the history. Biologically, I’ve changed. Spiritually, I’m different. And so is my he(art).
Although I can say I’ve evolved as an artist, a person, today my heart wrenches as I see that the world remains the same. In 1992, a man was almost beaten to death because he was black. In 2012, a 17-year-old child was killed because he was black. In 1983, a Chinese American man was beaten to death in Detroit because he was Chinese American. In 2017, a Indian man was shot to death in Kansas because he was Indian. In 1942, Japanese Americans were relocated to internment camps because they were Japanese. In 2017, both Muslim Americans and Muslims from around the world are banned, targeted, and killed for practicing a faith that preaches peace.
I wish I could say that all of this is new but it isn’t. While I was more immature in my early twenties than I am now, I can say that my stance on social injustice has never changed. I wish I could say that after writing piece after piece about racial stereotypes, violence, misogyny, that the world has finally got its shit together. It hasn’t.
There is still so much work to be done and so many words to be said. After traversing the hill and now approaching the mountain, I’m just grateful I still have the chance to say them.
Til then, live by your pen,