Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What I Learned From Turning 20

When I was a kid, I used to be proud of being a little older than some of the kids on the block. When we would meet to play Tag or Hide and Seek, we all compared our ages to see who got to be "it" first. When nobody wanted to be it, either the youngest or the oldest would be chosen. "When were you born?" my friend asked me and another kid. "October," I said. "February," the other kid said. My friend told me, "hes' older." They both smiled and I felt like I lost some important competition. A competition made up by a bunch of nine year olds, but at the time, it was a big deal.

While I huddled with a bunch of second place losers, I quickly said, "Wait!" "What year where you born in?" Turned out, he was born a year before me, so I was redeemed. I was in first place again. Standing on top of the childhood stage where I stood behind my podium and marveled at the simple things that childhood brought.

(Hide and Seek was the best.)

One day, I saw my friend who lived on the second floor. I lived on the first. I saw her coming down the stairs and I ran to greet her. "I'm seven now!" I said. She looked at me like I was from a lower class in Mesopotamia while she was the mighty priest coming down the stairs to greet the people. "So? I'm eight," she said and walked away. I thought I had finally caught up with her. I wanted to beat her. To be eight. Or the cooler nine year old.

Today (Oct. 16), I turn 20 and all of that feels a lot different now. I no longer want to be the oldest in the room. I'm past the stage where I wait anxiously for the date of my birth to arrive. I miss that time in my life. Everything seemed so simple before. Everyone used to tell me growing up would be hard and I didn't believe them. I thought life would be one huge latter that came with a safety rope attached to it and yourself so that you never fall down while you were climbing. But really, it's being rock climber without any ropes or chains or hooks or pads. Your skin scrapes against the rough texture. And sometimes, there's places on the mountain where you can take a breather and enjoy the scenery. Rest your hands from the burn.

 Here's what I've learned so far:

a.) Life's full of pain. I see it everywhere now. Something I couldn't see from the comfort of under my blanket or inside a classroom. Everyone's trying to survive. Everyone's trying to be happy, but they don't really know how. 

b.) People are trying to please others. I was talking to my friend who's in college the other day and I asked him if he knew what he wanted to study yet. He told me, "I'm not sure. I don't care. I just want to make my parents proud." I wanted to tell him to forget about his parents and focus on himself, but I just stood quiet. People tend not to listen about those type of things. But ultimately, if you're happy with what you're doing, then the bridge lowers itself as you approach. And hopefully, it will rub off on those around you. That's how you make your parents proud.

c.) Life is full of little moments of fear. Those little moments where you make a jump into the unknown. They never stop. I just dropped out of college and it's been a bit different than what I'm used to. I've had to learn on my own. Learn only things I'm interested in. And try new things. Sometimes, you have to make that jump to wake up from that deep sleep. Problem is, you can't be sure weather you're dreaming within a dream, within a dream, etc. So you have to constantly keep making small jumps. That's what's great about life.

d.) Nobody's actually happy. Everyone's living in the past, future, or both. I always hear people saying things like, "once I get that promotion at work, then I'll be happy." Some guy I know actually said, "Once I retire, I'll have nothing to worry about." It's always someone saying they'll be happy until "X" happens. Meaning they're not happy right now.

I think that's about it. Or the main ones anyway. I hope to learn all the way to z.) one day. Or even passed that.

(A sea of friends)

Today all of my friends said Happy Birthday to me and that was actually kind of nice. It felt good. One other thing I learned is how to weed out the bad people and plant some roses. I'm not the best weed remover yet, but I'm doing okay. I'd like to thank those roses who have already blossomed and I welcome the ones on the way. One day, another 20 years will have gone by and I hope that I at least have some pretty flowers on my garden. In fact, you know what, that's all I really want. Today, I couldn't really think of anything that I wanted this instant. If you're reading this, please write some advice or some stories about when you turned 20. I am whole heartedly interested.

Last year, when I stared at the cake, I said, "I wish for happiness for me, my family, and friends." That's the first time I didn't make a selfish wish. And as I blew out the candles I saw a huge 19 on the cake. Written in blue. Right below my name. And I thought, that's the last time I'll see a 1 as the first digit until I reach 100. It made me a little sad, but sometimes, two is better than one.

Thanks for reading. And please, follow me on Twitter.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Who's The Real "You"?

I freaked out the other day. I had one of those moments where you suddenly realize something something impossible. Like realizing that I wrote "something" twice in the last sentence (not exactly). Like trying to think about a new color. Or thinking, what was before the Big Bang? You seem to understand it for a second, but the thought flees in an instant. Like magnets of opposite polls attempting to play tag with each other. And you try really hard to remember what that thought was, but it just wont come back. I think we all have them once in a while. I thought about me. Not this body, me, but the conscious, me.


For example, I'm typing this right this second and I'm looking at the keyboard and the computer screen. I can see part of my arms. My foot is tapping and my socks look kind of dirty actually. But I can't see my face. I know, this seems weird, but think about it for a second. Why am I me and not Jerry Brown? Who's Jerry Brown? I don't know.Why do I have this body? As I'm writing this, the thought is starting to leave again. It's starting to sound alien. Wait a second until I recollect my thoughts.

I read a book about teleportation a few days ago and it confused "me" even further. A physicist called Charles Bennett and some guys from IBM somehow figured out that teleportation is possible. However, the original person "going in" would be destroyed and the person "coming out" would be an exact replica. Right down to the tiniest subparticle. You will even have all your memories, goals, and ambitions. Amazing! To perfect such a device that will do this is still in the drawing boards though.

But let's fast forward. Lets say they've built the machine now and I plan to use it. I went inside the machine or whatever and reappeared in another country. Lets say, Switzerland. Why not. My old body was destroyed and I got a fresh, new one, with light up sneakers because those will be in style again in the future. But I was wondering if my conscious is destroyed as well. I mean, it'll be me, my memories and all, but will it still be the same me looking out of my eyes? Or is it now just someone else. Some stranger that thinks it's me.

(Nightcrawler from X-Men could teleport)

Because, I look at every single person, even my family, even my dog, and think, "what's being their conscious like?" Ugh, my comprehension is leaving again. I swear I had it. Let me try again: Life, to me, looks exactly like a video game. I'm playing "me." And every other person is just programmed inside. And I think that's how everyone sees the world as well, but of course, I can't be sure. So if my conscious is destroyed and replaced by someone else, well...I don't know. What happens to "me"?

I feel humbled and grateful that I, right this moment, have my own conscious and that I'm aware of it. No matter what crap life throws my way (and it often does), I still feel incredibly fortunate that I'm "me." Not my body, me, but the other "me." And the best part is, nobody else knows that it's "you" for sure. Just like you're not sure about everyone else. And being aware of this, I noticed that nothing really matters. I realized that things like being shy don't really make sense. Why would you be shy? For all anyone knows, you're not even the real you. You're just the replica. A program in their lives. Once you realize this, it's like, "holy shit." "I've been chosen to represent this body in this life in this time period." I'm not sure how to put it in words, but you, the person reading this, do me a favor. Look around you. Look at the palms of your hands, at other people moving around. Doesn't it feel like you were chosen for your body? Repeat, "I'm ME" many times and you'll see what I mean.

Worries we have, suddenly don't make sense either. Would you worry if you let the replica "you" face your worries while the real "you" watches as an onlooker behind the curtains? Of course you wouldn't! When I wear sunglasses, I become like sixty percent braver because no one's looking directly at my eyes. At my conscious. I suddenly feel like my body is a robot and the real me is somewhere in the center of my chest controlling it with buttons, levers, and switches.

So then, what becomes of life? It's all just an experiment. When you feel worried, be aware of it and say, "huh, so this is what it feels like to be worried." When you're heart broken, same thing. Scared? Same. You get the idea. In a world where nobody is sure if the other people are "real", we have nothing to lose.

Right now, this second, feel thankful for the "you" behind your eyes. When you picture it, it doesn't have a body. It doesn't have a gender. It doesn't have goals, ambitions, problems, worries. Peel away the layers like an onion of yourself. Once you find it, that's the real "you." And once you are aware, you can set out to accomplish anything.

I hope I didn't confuse anyone. Feel free to leave your thoughts on this on the bottom. 

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Monday, September 24, 2012

Who Did You Think About Today?

Who are you thinking about? A friend? A family member? A crush? A spouse? A stranger you met on the street? A party? A person you haven't seen in months? Years? Perhaps someone who hurt you? Or someone you hurt?

I have a huge fear. That no one will like me. That no one will talk to me ever again. No one will remember me. I always wonder if someone is thinking about me this moment. Or at the very least, if someone thought about me once by the time I'm in bed. Staring towards the white wall, but really, staring at complete darkness. The kind of darkness where it makes no difference whether your eyes are opened or closed. You can't even tell really.

But then I wonder, who have I thought about today? And it surprises me that I think about a lot of random people every day. Today, I thought about an old man who randomly talked to me on the street. My dog barked at him and he was startled. He told me he was deaf in one ear and blind in one eye. He couldn't tell where sounds were coming from, so my dog made him jump. He would turn around rapidly every time he heard my dog. He said, "A dog bit me on the face one day when I tried to pet him. The owner told me he didn't bite. I got eight stitches." He pointed at his face and stared at me with his good eye, bending down slightly because he was very tall. "So keep your dog away from me," he said. He looked odd to me. But I saw him walk away and that was that. This was five months ago. And here I am thinking about him. So if that man is ever worried about someone not thinking about him, then he shouldn't, because I just thought about him.

I felt terrible when a girl I had a crush on didn't talk to me. Her and I were friends and she talked to me less and less. When one day I told her, "Why don't you talk to me anymore?" And my heart sank when she told me, "I don't know, people change." We began texting one day and soon, she didn't reply to my last message. Random thoughts came in uninvited. That's how I am. I played in my head different scenarios of why maybe she didn't reply. I felt like a mystery fiction writer. The writer of Sherlock Holmes. Thinking about it now, I'm ashamed to even mention it. But at the moment, it always feels like a good idea. And being the distraught, weak person that I was, I texted her again. I thought I was being forgotten. I thought she didn't care enough to even say bye. The dark wall came back that night.

A good friend I had when I was a child moved away to Arkansas about ten years ago. I still think about the things we did together. Especially the time he punched me and left a huge bump on my forehead. But I wonder if he ever thinks about them as well. I can't even remember his last name. I think about many people every day, I just wish the thoughts were reciprocated. 

But if someone as random as the old man with the stitches on his face can get people to think about him months later, then maybe we're all being thought about. By someone. Maybe the least we'd expect. I think about people I never even talked to. People who probably have no idea I exist. I always think, maybe I'm the only one who does this, but that can't be true.

It's nice to be remembered. Whoever you're thinking about right now, say hello to them if you can. You never know what new beginnings sprout from the seed of a hello. And once you do, they'll remember you as well. They'll remember you because you were the mirror who reflected their face into your thoughts. Even though time tried to dull and scratch the mirror. But a real friend's connection is like Windex. 

They'll remember you when you're down on your luck and sitting in an alley with alcohol in a brown bag, deep in the darkest alley.

Then maybe, the mirror will be as shiny as a gem that brightens up the whole room. Even as you sleep and stare into the darkness. 

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

I Am Always Late

No matter how hard I try to stop myself, I am always late.

When my friends call to pick me up I say, "I'm not home, I'll be home in 30 minutes." But really, I just haven't showered yet. You might say, well at least he's going to use those 30 minutes to get ready. Wrong. I sit and do nothing for about 20. Nothing. Well, you know, the things people do when they say they're doing nothing. Watch T.V., check my email, things like that. Then I realize, "Oh shit, they're going to be here in 10 minutes." Then my friends have to wait outside for another 5 or 10 minutes. I'm totally a bad friend. And what's worse, they don't know I did nothing for 20 minutes. They think I just got home. Now you all know. Sorry.

I would be 10 minutes late for school every single day. And it was no accident. I planned my day that way. I timed exactly how long it took me to get to school and into my classroom so that I could have more sleep. What's 10 minutes? Nothing interesting happens in the first 10 minutes anyway. The lone, quiet walk to my desk was shameful. Everyone always stared at me. I was a frightening monster with bad skin to them. Or maybe they noticed a zit on my forehead. I don't know. As if they've never seen a late person in their lives before. This is the most attention I've gotten in my life. And in the winter, my shoes would squeak from stepping in the wet snow. It's such an annoying squeak. Announcing my presence. My shame to the whole school.

I sent in a college application once to some school in another state. I didn't really want to go there, but I sent it in just in case. The deadline was tomorrow. Weeks later I got a letter from them. They said, nope, sorry, you were too late. Well damn. 

I feel bad every time I'm late. I hate it. It makes me feel lazy. It makes me feel like I don't care. It makes me feel like people will think that I don't care. 

But I see it every day. Everyone is rushing to get somewhere on time. I was walking in downtown Chicago one day. I was meeting a friend for Chinese food when I saw a man with a suit holding a Starbucks coffee, walking really fast towards me. I don't know why, but I decided to say hello as we got closer. He looked at me and kept walking. In my mind I thought, screw you then. But he was just in a hurry. Probably late to get to his office. Worried his boss will yell at him because on top of being late, he forgot the donuts. Who forgets the donuts.

Life is a rush. It's a slave to time. It's filled with people trying to get somewhere. And once they get there, they're trying to get somewhere else. It never stops. It's a connect the dots puzzle of people trying to get from A to B. And from B to C and so on. Trying to form the bigger picture before it's too late. Nobody wants to miss the bigger picture right? What is that anyway.

When I was 8, I walked outside my house and walked around by myself. I saw some friends, played some cards with them, and saw strangers walk by me on a main street. 26th street. Some older kid was hiding cards around his backyard and we had to find them to keep. Like a scavenger hunt. I had lost track of time. I looked up at the sky and the sun was almost gone. The sky was purple. Not quite black yet. I was all muddy and had gotten a hole on the knee of my pants. I remembered I had fallen. I walked back home and was surprised my parents weren't mad. I lied down on the couch and emptied my pockets. A bunch of folded, useless cards I had found on a gutter I had climbed to get. I didn't even look at the time. It felt like I was gone for days. It was the best day of my life probably. I fell asleep on the couch, didn't even shower or change clothes.

I woke up to this. Years later. Every day is a speedy blur now. It's the middle of September already when I clearly remember being shocked when it was July first. I find myself trying to keep from being late everyday. I think, if I'm late, someone will beat me to that promotion, that job, that opportunity. Just like at school when we were kids. The teacher would hand out crossword puzzles to the class to do for fun. And I furiously and meticulously scanned the page to beat everyone. Show everyone how good I was. How fast. Early I was. What a terrible way to live.

Today, I'm just going to be late for everything. I want to go back downtown and say hello to all the late people. Because even  though they wont answer me, I'll know what they're thinking. You and I know. Because sometimes, if you're in a hurry, you might miss a new letter while you were heading for B. One you've never even heard of. And oh, what a beautiful letter.


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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

9 Things I'd Tell My Teachers If I Could See Them Again

I wish my past teachers could read this. Every time I look back at when I was younger, I cringe at how stupid I was. I mostly hate myself for not speaking up. For not saying what was on my mind or for being too naive. For not asking why?

Looking Into the Past
(Search for the colors you can no longer see.)

I was being brainwashed and I didn't even know. Sometimes, it takes taking a step back and looking at the whole picture. Holding it up, closing one eye, then the other. Tilting your head. The past is like that. It's a giant invisible painting with colors on a spectrum you couldn't see during the moment. But you can see them now. From a distance. Learn from it. Bring those colors out for others to see.

Show them what they were missing.

Ugh, I'm disgusted with the way I am. It's like how everyone hates going or says bad things about school, but they insist on going. Or at least, nobody makes an effort to change the way the system is. We get out of bed and walk inside the doors of a place that gives us a beating. A beating felt deep inside our bones. Deep in our marrow, scratching the surface of our soul until we all come out like empty bottles in a Coca Cola factory. But we need someone to instead, get out of bed and walk the other way. Find the colors that have eluded us all.

This is what I've found:

a.) I can write how I want to write. A few years ago, I had to write a short book as an assignment for school. I tried to copy the styles of authors from my favorite books. I wanted to be able to write like them, I thought. I started sentences with "But" "And" "Because" even though I had been taught my whole life that I couldn't do that. If these great writers can do it, why can't I? The teacher returned my book and yelled at me. She even called my house to tell my parents that I don't follow directions. My dad yelled. I even wanted to cry, I'm ashamed to say. So I'm writing this now. And I'm starting this sentence with "And" and ending it with a period. Literature doesn't have rules. It's a form of art. Just like a painting isn't more right or more wrong than any other. Teach the words to dance, and then, just let them go.

(Writing is art. Dance with it.) 
b.) Permanent record doesn't exist. Where's this permanent record I keep hearing about? I've certainly never seen it. And why is it permanent? Can't you just white something out? I feel like teachers and principles are acting like kids now. And after you graduate, where does it go? After you die? When I was in elementary school, my friend Joel and I were in the bathroom. He threw water over the stall I was in and got caught by a teacher. The teacher told him, "I'm gonna write you up. It'll follow you wherever you go." I haven't seen him in years, but I'm sure he's fine. Permanent record. Just another scam made up by the education system.

c.)          I can't believe I chose doing homework over getting sleep. My teachers would leave a lot of homework. On average, I think I slept four hours a day. I had this after school program three times a week that taught me how to make stained glass windows, which didn't end until 6 p.m. Looking back, I wish I would've just done as much homework as I could and made sure I slept well. I mean, what good is school if you're brain is running on 4 hours of sleep? But wouldn't you get a low G.P.A you might say? Read below.

d.)          G.P.A doesn't matter. I've had many people tell me, "Not once in a job interview, have I been asked about my G.P.A."

e.)          I worked hard at work that seemed meaningless. Whats the sum of two cubes used for? Three cubes? Factoring? Quadratic formula? Maybe one day, when the Earth loses the battle against aliens from a distant planet, they will capture us all and pick me from random. They will tell me, "We will spare you all! IF, you tell me what the quadratic formula is." And I'll stare blankly and say, "I don't know." So never mind, learn it.

f.)          Schools don't make you great. Everybody wants to go to a "good" school. I can't believe I'm only now seeing it. Schools are nothing without the students. It's easy to be the best when all you do is take the best. Wanna impress me? Take all kinds of students and show us what you can really do. But ultimately, it all comes down to you. You don't need a fancy school to make you great. You don't need a high G.P.A. to make you great. You don't need a clean permanent record to make you great. Your creativity, intelligence, and hard work does.

g.)          History was pointless. I'm not saying history is a pointless subject, but the way it's taught makes it sound that way. They force feed us names, dates, battles, treaties, wars. And what comes out? Nothing. Empty calories. Sure, I passed the tests and quizzes, but now I only remember random names and dates with nothing attached to them. Why? Because I wasn't interested in that particular part of history. It's true for everybody, you're more likely to remember things you're interested in. Imagine if we would have focused on things that interested us. Ask me anything about ancient history and I can answer it in a flash. But who was the eleventh president again?

(James K. Polk. 11th president of the United States. Died a month after retirement from cholera. Now you know.)

h.)          Making me read books I don't like. Same as above, there's nothing worse than being forced to read a book you don't like. Then they wondered why I did so bad on the test.

i.)          Making failure a bad thing. Failure simply does not exist in school. It's viewed negatively. However, life is filled with failure. Everyone tells you the way to succeed is to go to school, get a career, make a family, promotion at the office, retire, then die. IN THAT ORDER! And if you don't, then you're a failure. But life is rarely like that. I wish I could have seen that sooner. It would've saved me many sleepless night. Failure sucks, but it is often you're best teacher. One day, you discover that you're actually not a moth. And you steer clear of the flame.


A girl I barely knew once told me, "I want you and me to have sex." I said, "Why?" Then she said, "Wow. What are you gay?" She never talked to me again.

Is it so wrong to ask why?

What other things do you question? 

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Friday, August 24, 2012

5 Ways To Stop Worrying Right Now

My mind was bleeding. A few years ago. I was going to take a huge test and I couldn't control myself. It was all that was on my mind. I tried doing yoga to help me relax. I had never done it before, regarding it as a "girls' thing". My older brother had bought P90x about a year ago. It was a set of work out DVDs consisting of a DVD for a different muscle group on your body. One of them read "Yoga." It didn't even have a single ring around the bottom of it, so I knew no one had played it. For all anyone knew, it could have been a secret disc hiding all of Osama bin Laden's plans. The company, run by the Illuminati, knew no one would play it. They like to tease people. So that when a disaster happens, someone says, "It was on the yoga CD the whole time! How could we have been so stupid."

(Claudia Azula. Check out her great site on claudiayoga.com)

I decided to pop it in, while I was alone in the house. No one was going to catch me doing yoga. No one!

I couldn't finish it because it was too hard. Oh the beautiful irony.

I'm not so interested in doing yoga, but I do enjoy reading about its philosophies. I came across Claudia Azula's blog around the same time I started mine. What caught my eye was reading about Pranayama or the extension of life through breathing, which you can read more about here. When we worry, we tend to breath quickly. This kills us over time. Many believe that slowing down our breathing can lengthen our lives. When we sleep, we breath a lot slower because we are relaxed. Imagine breathing like that throughout the day.

If we look at animals who live long lives, it's usually animals who are slow. Turtles, elephants, whales. They all move slowly relative to their size, and as a result, breath slowly.

We all worry. Claudia had a great list on how to let go of worrying. I recommend anyone reading her blog about yoga and life. I just want to add something. Or ask something. Every advice on worrying I've seen seems to be on how to control yourself after you've already had some time working things out. But how do you stop worrying when it first hits you? Like how I'd imagine Atlas felt when they first told him he'd have to carry the world on his shoulders. He probably began breathing quickly. Zeus or somebody then gave him a book titled, Ten Ways to Stop Worrying (It was a huge book). He read the first sentence, closed it, and threw it to the floor while he got into a fetal position. Advice never really works on the spot. Your misery clogs your ears of any rationality, like the ear wax on Lincoln's head on Mt. Rushmore. It's hard as a rock. Reminds me of when you watch a horror movie and yell at the girl for tripping on the branch while she ran away from the killer with the knife. And then to top it off, she can't seem to keep her balance. "That stupid bitch," you thought to yourself. Okay, maybe that was just me. However, if it happened to us, we'd be doing the exact same thing. When I was on a soccer team, I collapsed on the floor in my first game, right when the referee blew the whistle at the start. I wanted to run, but my mind thought it would be funny to freeze my legs. I was nervous and scared. I lay in the dirt as I watched pairs of legs running around me. I think the referee was laughing at me. Oh the shame.

Of course, it's just your brain telling you this. Your brain likes to feel important. It likes to be the center of attention. Its a child feeling neglected because we give all the credit to its brother, the heart, when the brain does most of the work. It's having a kick right now. But that's just how we've evolved.

(Brain actually controls the heart. However, theories suggest that due to cellular memory, heart transplant patients  report having memories of the donor.)

But I actually don't know the answer to this. How do we stop worrying when it first hits you? When it hurts the most. Every time I worry, I focus on my misery. Almost like my mind likes to feel worried. I have gotten better at it though. And hope I keep getting better. Here's what I've come up with when the first thought of worry seeps through the follicles on my head:

a.)          Realize that most of your worries hold no truth. When I worry, I imagine every possible scenario of what could happen to me. All bad. I replay them over and over until my head hurts. "Which one of these will happen," I say. "which one is going to kill me." And every time, they're all wrong. This is the one time where I've never minded being wrong. And here's the thing, everyone is always wrong on this. EVERYONE. So once that first thought comes in, counter it by telling yourself that you're a great fiction writer.

b.)          Even if things are bad, acknowledge that eventually they will get better. Think it fast. When I look back at all of my dark times in life, it never stayed that way for long, even if it felt like it would. So, next time I worry, I will know that sometime in the future, I will be smiling. Your state of mind in life is like a roller coaster. Even in the lowest points, there's always enough energy for you to go up again. And then you get off in the middle.

c.)          Immediately take a shower. When we worry, we tend to neglect our hygiene. What's the point, we think. There's just something about getting out of the shower that makes me feel awake. I don't feel dirty and tired anymore. Don't take a shower today at all and write down how you feel. Then, tomorrow, take a shower in the morning and write down how you felt before you go to sleep. Compare the two.

Woman taking shower in clothes
(shower with clothes on if you want. Just get in there.)

d.)           Breath. Use that Pranayama. Breathing quickly raises your heart rate (Or is that the other way around?). I do know that controlling your breath helps lower stress. Stress causes so many diseases it's crazy. From heart problems to insomnia. I recently read on Claudia's blog that 10 breaths per minute will help you live to 100! Wait a minute while I count mine. Turns out, mine is 15. Practice right now. When I'm done writing this, I will practice.

e.)          Notice that we have nothing to lose. I realized this one day. I read a comment from a woman named June Chan on a site I can't remember, but I wrote it down. She wrote, "Thank God I've been through years of financial burden, relationship stress, and finally life-long medication that I learn the truth I really have nothing to lose. We have nothing to lose." I keep re-reading it whenever something bad happens and it puts me at ease. We start life with nothing, so there's literally nothing to lose. And nothing on earth has any value anyway. WE give it its value. WE decide what it's worth. WE decide what makes us happy. You know why a dog shits on the carpet? Because he doesn't give it any value. It's all from earth. Even its shit. A dollar, to a dog, is just a piece of paper. Or a weird looking leaf. We tend to put so much importance on the bad times. But really, the secret to life, I think, is to just be happy with what you have. Right now. It doesn't mean you can't have goals or want things, but you should be happy even if you don't get that promotion at work you wanted, or even if you don't have the house you want. Life doesn't always go according to plan, but sometimes, you can be happy regardless. Just do your best.

(99% of things we worry about never happens)

I'm going to be honest, I was worried about something before I wrote this. Worried about tomorrow. I had the knot in my throat and the stare into another dimension. I thought you should know this because every time you read a self-help article, the author always sounds so perfect. So lifeless. Like if Bill Gates just got a check for a trillion dollars and was walking home smiling. On his way, he meets a person about to jump off a bridge. So Gates tells him, "Hey don't jump. Life's actually really good. Look, I got payed today. Just work hard buddy." And then he walks away. What a slap on the face. That's how I imagine most self-help writers are. But I want you to know that I was worried about tomorrow again. And I felt better as I wrote this. So thank you.

All I ever wanted was to know that everything will be okay. I think that's what we all really want. But we will be okay. It's a practice. 

Take a deep breath. Do it with me. Slowly. Repeat. Your worries are nothing. Just some thought this human body came up with. Nonexistent. Not in the grand scheme of things. Imagine how big the universe is. And now juxtapose it with your small worry. It seems stupid to even to worry doesn't it? That's the practice. To realize it. Focus on what you have to do right now and you'll always be fine. Always.

And say:

"That's great Bill. I hope you have a great day. But have you met my dog? He'd love to see your carpet."

Do you have any suggestions on not worrying when it first hits? 

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Are You Fine?

Samara G. was the daughter of our English teacher. Students made fun of her because they thought she received easy As from her mother. I admit, I thought it once or twice. She was Puerto Rican and I had a small crush on her. I got nervous whenever she talked to me (the few times that she did.) She had long light brown hair and wore glasses. The prettiest girl I had ever seen. She asked me if she could borrow a pen. The next day, I saw her chewing on it. “Ugh, is that my pen?” She turned red and apologized. I didn’t really care, I was glad I had something to talk to her about. Even if it was about saliva covered pens. The next morning she gave it back. “I put it in some boiled water. My mom was like, ‘what are you doing?’ and I said it’s Efrain’s pen and she just walked away confused.” She was smiling and I took it. I was smiling. That’s the only memory I have of her personally.

But she had trouble with the other girls. I don’t quite know the story, but I didn’t even know until Ms. O’Neal told the class one day. She would go home crying every day. I pictured her face in my mind and I was sad that I couldn’t see her pain before. She masked it so well. Almost like she had a clone and they switched places every time she asked to go to the bathroom at the end of the day. In went the fake Samara, the one that wanted to look perfect for the world, and out came the real her. The one that went home crying. 

Then there was another girl. Anissa. She came in the school in the middle of the year. Her new eyes brightened the room as she walked to the back. “You want some gum?” I said. She declined. Only thing I ever said to her, for the very next day she began crying right in the middle of the classroom, right when we were leaving for lunch. We all stood up from our chairs, but she remained seated. Her dark hands covering her face. Her tears and frown distorting her face like a muddy kaleidoscope. She did this almost every day. She didn’t want to speak. Eventually she left, I never saw her again. I wondered what demons had followed her from her old school. The emotional baggage that also transferred with her. The ones she thought stayed in her old locker.

I’ve never seen those two since then. But they always remind me that we all have problems. That the faces that we see in the street, job, or school are never really real. Some just have a more convincing mask than others. Some wear a cheap plastic one with the rubber band on the back, like Samara and Anissa. The ones we wore for Halloween when we were ten. Eventually, the rubber band snaps and we can see the real you. But others use Hollywood-like effects. So convincing that you call them Alex in the street, but when you get closer, you say, “Oh, I thought you were someone else.” And you walk away, but you keep turning your head back because you think it has to be him.  

Demetri Martin: "I was on the street. This guy waved to me, and he came up to me and said , 'I'm sorry, I thought you were someone else.'  And I said, 'I am.' "

I wonder what mask I have. I have my own problems, but I wish I didn’t have to hide them. I wish that when I was sad and someone asked me how I was, I would reply, “Terrible, and you?” Instead of the constant lie of always being fine. No one’s ever fine. Like George Carlin said, “Hair is fine. That makes more sense.” I wish I didn’t have to hide who I really am. To have the innocence of a new born. To them, everything is as it seems. Every person is good in their eyes. Every story book true. But then they grow older and people hurt them. They are lied to. Made fun of. So then they start to fear the world. It’s foggy. They ask their friends, family, and colleagues to fill in the puzzle with the missing pieces. Until the puzzle doesn’t match what’s on the box and instead you have this ugly 50,000 piece puzzle of a question mark. Because they don't really know. They think they do, but they don't. I don't ever want to let someone else put in the pieces for me. 

I want to be naked. Take a shower and cleanse myself of the lies. I don’t want to go home crying. My name is Efrain M. and I am not fine. Sometimes I’m happy. And sometimes I wake up at 3:00 a.m. worrying. But I’m never fine.


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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Australian I Met on the Other Side of the World

When I was a child, I would go to bed and think about China. I would think that as I lay in bed, they're probably on a chair, at school or work.  Here I was, about to sleep, putting whatever worries I had during the day to bed. And the Chinese were already up battling their demons. I felt a little bad for them. I wanted them to be sleeping too. So I stayed awake for a few minutes. My room looked dark and the light from the street lights coming in made the various objects on my counter cast large shadows. Moisturizers, containers, and picture frames. I was scared. I wished I was in China, where the sun's light was already seeping through the windows. Half of the world was already buzzing. Like being first in line. The first person doesn't know what to expect. But the second person is a little at ease.

(To China!)

I couldn't sleep one night about a year ago.  So I went on the internet and looked up videos of my favorite cartoon as a kid. I hadn't watched it in so long. Dragon Ball Z. YouTube only had clips, so I had to look elsewhere. I googled "dragon ball z episodes" and found a site that had them all. Along with the videos, you could also chat with people watching them, but you needed an account. I didn't get one right away, but eventually I did. The chat wasn't part of the website. It was from some other website that was embedded into it. So if you had an account, you could talk to other people, not just the ones looking at the DBZ videos.

It was winter and I again couldn't sleep. I only had one cover and I was freezing. My house is always cold for some reason. I grasped my feet to keep them warm. I buried my nose into my pillow and breathed out to make it warm. I grabbed my laptop and went online again. More Dragon Ball Z because I'm such a dork. But, out of curiosity, I went into the main chat site that I had my account on. Chat sites are scary places. It's like walking into a masquerade party. People hide who they really are. They dance with complete strangers. They fall in love with them too. They don't like who they are in real life, so they start over. Maybe they're wearing an ugly sweater of shame. You could be from Mars if you wanted to. I have terrible experiences from using chat sites, but that's for another post. I saw this girl from Australia there. She was beautiful. Golden blonde hair and the nicest smile. So of course, I started talking to her.

(Waking up in the middle of the night is the worst!)

I was surprised that she was a really nice person. I immediately had a crush on her. Because that's how stupid I am. That's how I'm programmed. But it was just that. I didn't think much of it. She was in some distant country frolicking with the kangaroos I thought. But I saw her as a friend. I saw her as a stranger. And we met in the middle of this enormous outback called the internet. I have to admit, it's weird. I still think it's weird. Meeting someone online. But anyway, she was a triplet with two brothers. Her parents were divorced. I learned  a lot about Australia. And I told her about Chicago.

The world is huge. It's scary. I'm afraid to be alone. I like having friends to lean on when I'm limping. So Molly, if I ever get stranded in Australia for some wild reason, please make me feel not alone. Often, the friends you remember the most are the ones you don't expect. The ones who say the least. The ones who you used to hate. Or the ones who are on the other side of the world.

(Molly from Australia)

Every night I couldn't sleep I would meet her there. Everyone asleep. But it was daytime in Australia. Winter here and Summer there. I found it weird how they could have Christmas in the Summer, where over here, Christmas is characterized with snow and mittens and hats. Snowmen. But I thought about it. Seeing all of the Christmas decorations in the Summer sounds great too. Imagine walking through the city on a Summer day and seeing Christmas lights and colorful spheres. Decorated trees and bells. She showed me pictures of Sydney. The Opera House looked amazing. She thought my interest in Australia was a little odd.

They call McDonald's "Maccas" while we say "Mickey D's." I can't imagine myself saying Maccas. It's like it's a whole other world. Everything seems backwards over there. The snow they step on is warm and next to the ocean. Their snowmen are castles.

I'm glad I met her. A couple of years ago, I had never even seen an Australian. I'm glad I've met all of the wonderful people in my life so far. I'm glad for hearing all of their great stories. And I wonder about all of the people I haven't met yet. About that mysterious force that brings two strangers together, even if their lives are completely different. Like looking out your window at three in the morning and seeing a lonely car drive by. Catching it just at the right moment by chance.

christmas tree Sydney Australia
(Christmas tree in Sydney. Looks like it's gonna rain haha.)

Molly, thanks for being that car while I looked out the window. I was getting a glass of water. I'm glad I ran after you and told you stop. You were probably scared to roll down your window since it was three in the morning. And even though you could have pressed the gas pedal and leave me on the street, you didn't. You gave me a ride along Australia. And you dropped me off at my house and got my mind off China. I hope one day you get out of the car though.

You meet people you don't expect. You meet strangers on the other side of the world. Meet as many people as you can. Learn from them. And keep an open mind. Strangers have a way of smoothing out even the roughest stones. So go to sleep. Don't worry. One day, we will all sleep at the same time. At eleven at night. We will agree on that time. There will be no Eastern time or Western time. Just time. The only shadows will be those of another time. A simpler time. A more hectic time. And we will all say Merry Christmas in the morning. With snow under our feet. Yet our feet wont be cold.


Have you ever met someone you didn't expect?

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Give to be Remembered

I was on my porch, sitting on a chair one night. I don't usually do that, but it was a cloudy night and I love the smell of moisture in the air. My eyes felt tired. They had that "just got up" feeling. It's weird to feel that at night. I saw a friend walk right by my house. His name was Luis. He had red hair, freckles and pointy ears. If he was wearing all green, you'd think he was an elf. He was about four years younger than I was. We used to play soccer together in an alley with a lot of our friends. But as time went on, we played less and less. I hadn't seen him in years.

"Luis!" I stood up, walked down the stairs and went over to him. He was about four inches taller than me now. A tall elf. He was surprised to see me. And I don't know why, but I offered to buy him a donut at Dunkin' Donuts. "Sure," he said. I bought a small coffee myself and we sat by the window. It was almost 10 o'clock. There were about four people in there. One in particular was alone. Just sitting there with a large coffee and his big brown coat. I wonder what was troubling that man. Just then, it started raining. I like the rain. Luis and I talked about nothing important. We reminded ourselves about the stupid things we did in that alley. But that's for another post. We walked home when the rain had calmed down a bit. He thanked me for the donut. We said bye, shook hands and that was that.

(This is what it looked like.)

A few days later, I was playing soccer in the same alley. My friends and I got together for old times sake. We were all just sitting down on garbage cans because the ball got stuck on the flat roof of a garage. It always gets stuck there. It's a big garage. It has three doors. So no one wanted to climb it to get it. I saw Luis cross the alley and I yelled his name. I told him what happened. "I'll get it, but only because you bought me that donut." We laughed. He got up there and threw the ball down. I told him if he wanted to play, but he couldn't. He walked away.

Another time, I went over to a parking lot. My friends were playing soccer there (yes, we played soccer a lot.) There was this guy there who nobody wanted in their team. His legs were double jointed and he couldn't kick very well. His name was Oscar. He always had a bright attitude though. When I got there, they replaced him with me only I didn't know. In the middle of the game, I looked over and saw him standing by a fence. Just watching. I realized I had just ruined his day. He probably walked here from home and was excited to play. He was excited that there was just enough people here for him to play without being an "extra" and be left out. He was probably cursing at me as I ran. I know I would have. So I stopped running. I walked over to him and said, "Go ahead, we'll take turns." He smiled. "Cool, thanks dude," and he jogged to the middle of the parking lot with his shaky legs. One of my friends playing joked and said I was gentleman. It felt good.

Then, something happened. One of the guys playing walked towards me and said, "you want to take my spot? I'm not playing anymore." Yes, I said. I jogged over there with a smile. It's as if the universe had bent to my kindness.

(We used to use trash cans as goalie posts.)

Some angel was probably watching and said. "Hey hey hey. Get me God on line one. I just saw a kid here who did an act of kindness."

Then some angel secretary would call God. The line would be busy of course. But he's God, so he returned the call right away. "What happened?" God would say. And the angel would tell him everything. Then God would say, "Thanks, I'll take care of it." He would then make one of the guys too tired to play so that he would sit this one out.

Yes, I know, it sounds crazy, but that's how it went in my head.

The universe is strange. Nobody really knows how it works. But it's like it wants to bend things for those that it likes. It seems to sense everything you do. Your lies. Your anger. Your sadness. And for some reason, giving, makes it bend things for you. Maybe not instantly, but it's working on it. It remembers you. It moves things around to make your life easier.

(The universe remembers what you do.)

People also remember the givers, not the takers. So give away. At school. At work. People will remember. And even if it's years later, they'll help you if you need it. Or they'll give back because they remember you.

One of my favorite authors used to give Google as an example. Google itself has no real content. It just gives you a list of people who are better than it at answering the question you asked. And yet, we keep going back to Google because it's honest. Because it's generous. Those are the type of people we go back to every time. It's the most famous website in the world. And it's empty. Ask it anything. It doesn't know the answer. But it can give you the information of people who do.

The universe likes Google. I like Google. So I'm going to practice giving right this moment. Ask me any question, about anything in the world. Troubles you might have. Opinions you want. Or even advice. Fire away.

And hopefully you'll remember me one day. If I'm ever homeless on the street, dirty, with ripped pants and a starving look in my face, please put a quarter in my cup. And I'll remember you as well.

My friend.


Thursday, May 31, 2012

Nobody Prays For Satan

From third to fourth grade, I hated this kid and he hated me. His name was Angel. We were literally enemies. We were like Batman and the Joker, except I'm not quite sure who was who. On Valentine's Day, the class would usually give out Valentine cards to everyone. When I received Angel's card, he wrote, "sucks" right under my name and drew a box around it. He went over that box many times. You could tell. I took the card I was going to give him and ripped it. One of my friends came up to me and said, "I heard Angel didn't give you a card." "No." "Here, you can have his," he smiled.

He made fun of my hair because I used to comb it upwards and it looked like an afro. One day I got chosen by the teacher to sit in a table with him and coincidentally, his two best friends. They were girls. One I had a crush on. She was beautiful. I sat quietly in that table the whole time. Except. I forgot what they were talking about, but Angel said, "my dad doesn't really talk to me." And to add lighter fluid to the embers, I broke my silence, "That's good for you." Why did I say that? I don't know. We were both jerks. Neither of us was Batman. We were both Jokers. Trying to top the other. There could only be one Joker. At night, I wished something bad would happen to him. I wished an alien spaceship would come and swoop him away to a far away planet. Preferably Venus. Where it's immensely hot and the thick clouds keep it hot. Just drop him off there please, little green men.

2082479 batman vs the joker joker kills batman batman vs joker funny batman vs joker dark knight batman vs joker comics batman and joker

Then one day, in library class, the teacher sat us together in one table. We had to share some broken crayons that were inside a green strawberry basket. I love the smell of crayons. In my mind, I screamed. It was going to be the worst year of my life I thought. But something happened. We became best friends. I didn't want anything bad to happen to him. No, please don't take him away to Venus. All the hate was gone. We walked home after school one day and he said, "I wonder why we used to fight all the time." And we laughed. But like most of my closest friends usually do, he moved away to another city. I haven't seen him since.

From what I've read in the Bible, Lucifer was an angel created by God. He was one of the top ranking angels you could say. However, his head inflated like a water balloon. Like when you play hot potato with a water balloon and are afraid it will pop on you. And it did. God was all wet. He wanted to take God's place. Maybe even be above him. So God kicked him out of Heaven and replaced the locks. So now, with nowhere to go, he hangs around this world trying to make the people worship him and oppose God. However, his fate is sealed. He will be cast in the lake of fire forever. If we know this, he must know this too. Imagine the agony he must be suffering. He knows he will never go to heaven.

(Surface of Venus, taken by the Russians in early 70s.)

And yet, nobody prays for him. He, perhaps, needs it the most. He made a mistake. He's the Joker. Just like many of us are or once were. Just like many of us who wanted a second chance. Maybe he's angry because nobody really likes him. Nobody sat with him and made friends with him. Maybe he's heartbroken. Many of us fail. But we are cheered up by a close friend. "Learn from your failures. You'll succeed eventually." But no matter what he does, he will be cast in the lake of fire. A failure no matter what he does. No second chance. His fate, sealed.

Trillions of prayers must be sent everyday. We pray for a new car. More money. Health for yourself. Health for your friends and family. "You'll be in our prayers," people say when you're in trouble. You're going overseas to war. You're not sure if you'll even be back. "You'll be in our prayers." You don't know if your fate is sealed. And it somehow makes you feel good. It makes you feel brave. You feel loved. Safe. But nobody prayed for Satan. The one person who probably feels the worst in the universe.

He had it all, and then went to nothing. That's how you know he's suffering. A person who's had nothing his whole life is not fazed. It takes going from a high to a low. Many people lose their business. Others lose their son or daughter. That happiness is ripped away from them. And we want comfort. We want a prayer.

Now Imagine being Satan. You got kicked out of Heaven. And your whole story is on some book. And in this book, it also says that you will go to Hell for all eternity. You feel depressed. Everybody hates you. God hates you. You're the laughingstock of Heaven. Imagine having your parents hate you. But 100 times worse. You don't know where to turn. You lose hope. There's that pain in your chest. In your throat. The feeling of uncertainty. "Could that book be true about my future?" you wonder. You look at your reflection in the ocean and you're hideous now. Your beautiful white wings are gone. You no longer shine. You're red. The lowest on the visible color spectrum. You have scales. And the horns on your head make your head heavy so now you have to stand with a hunch. You ask for help, but everyone fears you. They all know your story. You cut yourself. You begin to plot. The bitter hatred you feel towards everyone now. Misery loves company. So you begin to cause mischief. Chaos. You make people kill each other. And you laugh.

But at the end of that laughter, your eyes grow wide open in disbelief. You're doing exactly what the Bible says you would do. "It's true," you say. You want to cry. But you're too depressed. You seek friends, but they all double cross you. You found some, but they're just your friends because they fear you. You curse God. You hate yourself. So now, like a suicidal person, you want to kill yourself. You want the suffering to stop. But you can't die. You're Satan. So you wait until the Book of Revelations reveals itself to the world. Just to get it over with. Just to let the suffering stop.

But maybe, just maybe, the meaning to life is to forgive Satan. What nobody thought of doing. To pray that his suffering stops. To make him an angel again. Then maybe God will listen. He'll be happy you prayed for him. He'll go to Satan and sit with him on some table made of molten rock. The Devil has tears going down his red face. God pats him on the back. They both smile. And they walk to Heaven together.

"I wonder why we used to fight."

"But who prays for Satan? Who in eighteen centuries, has had the common humanity to pray for the one sinner that needed it most."

- Mark Twain


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Friday, May 25, 2012

Candy I Ate in the 90s

There's a small store right on the corner of my block. It's been there for years and it's the place I bought candy as a kid. I asked my mom for fifty cents or a dollar and I walked a few feet to the store. The store closed at eight. There was a smaller store about a block away and it closed until nine, so that was always my back up store. One friday, when I was ten, my cousin came over and it was about 8:15. We wanted to buy candy so I asked my mom for money. "Just take some from my purse," she said. I grabbed her purse from the counter and started looking for a dollar. She didn't have change, so I took a five. My cousin and I went to the smaller store since it was past eight. I hate going there because gang members always hang out around there. But I was going with my cousin, so I wont be going alone I thought. It was pitch black. We had to cross an alley to get there. As always, gang bangers were there. There was about five of them, laughing abnoxiously in baggy clothing. We walked right through them. They usually don't say anything.

(Corner store in Chicago in 1909)

We went in the store. It looks just like a small 7/11. The little bell rang as we opened the door. Chingaling!  We started browsing for candy. All the colors. All the different buckets and boxes on the shelves. There's so much candy, how can we only pick a couple.

Chingaling! I looked up and saw a kid come in. I knew him from somewhere. I had volunteered to help out his class during spring break for community service hours. I got picked to help out the special needs class. I tought them how to spell their name, and count. He wasn't like the rest of them though. He was pretty smart. He was just crazy in the head. He approached me. Behind a shelf. Where no one could see us. Took out a knife and touched the tip of it to my stomach. "Wooaah," I said. I thought he was playing. "I'm gonna kill you." I had on that smile you have when you're panicking and don't know what to do. He put the knife away and laughed. He patted my shoulder and walked over to the cashier. They seemed to know eachother, they talked for a bit. Then the kid left. I took a deep breath and felt relieved. My cousin came from the back. I put a Hershey's bar on the counter and gave the man my five dollars.

"Where'd you get this kind of money?" he said. "What?" "Where'd you get this kind of money?" I didn't know what he was talking about. "It was a five wasn't it?" I said. "Fifty."  I had no idea. I must've gotten a fifty dollar bill by mistake. I explained it to the man. He gave me my change. "Be careful with that money when you go outside," he said. I nodded and we walked away. I was surprised that he actually admitted it was a fifty. He could agreed that it was a five and kept the rest.  There are good hearted people in the world. But man. The things we go through for candy as kids.

Candy, for me tasted better in the 90s. I just picture bright colors and creativity with the candy. Theres 10 in particular that I'll never forget walking to the corner store to get:

a.)          Power Rangers Lollipop. I tried to look for it on the internet, but I couldn't find a picture of it. I guess they weren't well known. But it was a round lollipop. Half of it was pink and half was white. The pink part was see through and you could see the Power Rangers logo through it. The thing I remember the most though, is that it came with a Power Rangers sticker. I would give every single sticker to my uncle and he stuck them on his door. He used to rent a room in our house. You could still see the residues the stickers left after all these years. Eroded away by the air if time.

b.)          Ring Pops. I remember I watched the commercials for these for the first time when I was a kid and immediatly wanted one. They looked so beautiful. After a while though, I started to hate them because they left my fingers sticky from licking them while I wore them on my fingers. Now that I think about it, it was a stupid candy.

c.)          Push Pops. They tasted just like the Ring Pops. Again, I always hated when the saliva ran through the bottom and on to your finger. I hate being sticky. Where do I wipe my fingers?
(I bet her fingers are sticky!)

 d.)          Neon Beach Bubble Gum. I wore this thing around my neck and thought it looked cool. It would always run out of gum so fast because you just kept putting more and more in your mouth. It was addictive. I never wanted to share!

e.)          Ice Cream Faces. Ice cream trucks had pictures on the side of characters from cartoons as ice cream pops. I remember The Ninja Turtles, Sonic, and Bugs Bunny. The thing I hated was that it would melt all over my fingers and mouth. My childhood was spent being sticky. The faces were always awkward and the bubble gum eyes were never in the right place!

(So disapointing)

f.)          Pixie Stix. There's two version of these. The ones you see below, and the Mexican kind. The ones that were made of plastic and were incredibly tough to open (at least for me). I always hated when saliva fell into the tube. Nothing would come out as the pixie dust would get wet and clog it. Scissors!

("Don't get saliva on them!")

g.)          3D Doritos. These were my favorite chips! I haven't seen them anymore since then. I always bit the end of the dorito and laughed at how it looked like underwear. What? I was a kid.

(When large chips were 99 cents!)

h.)          Squeezit. The top of these plastic bottles was hard to take off. I remember filling a cooler with them once and taking them to the park. Ahh. Nostalgia. Are they still around?

i.)          Candy Sticks. I pretended I was smoking with these. They were chalky and I probably only bought them because Popeye was on the cover of the box. These tastes terrible. But after a while, they were addicting. Just like the real thing, eh?

(Originally called, "Candy Cigarrettes")

j.)          Candy Necklace. I don't even remember where I bought these. I think I was always just given one. Like at birthday parties and things like that. But, I didn't like them very much. Now that I think about it, most of the candy when I was a kid was terrible, but I still ate them. We all did. There was just something irrestistable about them I think they also came in wrist bands. The sadness that came to your eyes as you had less and less candy on that elastic string.   

(Oh sure, NOW it's cool to wear them in public)

Candy is much more precious as a kid. You don't discriminate. You eat every type of candy, even if it leaves your fingers sticky. I wonder, what are the kids of today eating. As a kid, all the candy commercials stood out to me. I can't remember the last time I saw a candy commercial unless it was for chocolate. "Baby Bottle Pop! Baby Bottle Pop! You can lick it...."or something like that. But it stuck those things in my head like a catchy song.

Now, just looking at those type of candy makes me feel sick to my stomach. I hate hard candy now. It's too sweet. But wow, time flies by. All that sugar. All that running. All that falling. The scars. I miss the 90s. Such simple times. Every thing back then was filled with color and zigzag lines. My lines have been straight lately. Sometimes curvy. I miss the excitement. The sharp, unexpected turns. I wish I could give the 90s one last kiss. And hold on until she pulls away. She needs to move on. She says I'm too old for her now. And the new millenium begins to caress my face, like a cruel mistress. Like every passing decade does.

What candy did you like as a kid?

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Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"I want to die"

She wanted to die. I had no idea. People hide their problems. Whenever you ask someone how they're doing, they always say they're fine. Never in my life have I told someone I was in pain, even though at times I was. How many people have I walked by on the street and didn't even realize they were in pain. I was talking to a friend one night. She interrupted our conversation and says, "On a different note, can I tell you something?" I said yes. She tells me about a woman she saw on the news. She was stabbed to death by her husband and left in the tub with her wedding dress still on. What a gruesome image. The confusion that must've gone through the newlywed's head. A red wedding dress. And just like that, I felt how quickly death could come. But that wasn't what she wanted to tell me. She was trying to work up to the real thing.

She told me about her dark past. She painted yet another disturbing imagine in my mind. She was like a master painter from Italy, who had honed her skills by using her emotions and her past. She had been molested as a child. By a brother and a sister who were 13 and 15 (not hers). She didn't remember the details. "The memories are choppy. I don't remember getting somewhere or leaving. Just like little clips. Sweaty palms. Dry kisses. Sounds. Skin." To make it worse, one of her friends that she trusted this information with told the whole class in elementary school. She was ridiculed. She was an outcast. They called her a lesbian. She jumped from best friend to best friend.

But like many things, it's the smallest things that hurt the most sometimes. The kids tried to get her best friend to give her a dirty candy. Probably picked up from the floor or something.

To try to cope and find a better place, she tried cutting herself. She tried to starve herself. She was the painting of a child who wanted the suffering to stop. Each stroke of the brush adding detail and emotion with a steady hand. She hoped her medium were watercolors. So that they could at least eventually water away. But they're permanent. A Sharpie marker. "Did you feel like you wanted to die?" I said. "I did," she said.

Another friend of mine in high school wanted to die. I met him my freshman year, but we weren't really friends. An occasional hello. All my friends made fun of him. Some behind his back. And some didn't care from what side. I smiled at these jokes, but I showed no teeth. I didn't want to laugh. But being a teenager is tough. You want to belong. He was black and he acted feminine. Everyone speculated that he was gay. "That fucking faggot," my friends would say. But I never defended him. I should have. Years later, I spoke to him. He said he had wanted to die. He had finally announced to the world that he was gay. He didn't want to face his family. His supposed friends. He told me, "I felt dirty. People made me feel like I had AIDS or something because I was gay." I'm sure it was even harder because he was black.

Another man, in some distant country had committed suicide. He hung himself. A friend of mine told me all about it about two years ago. Some relative of hers in Lithuania had just committed suicide. She was down that day. I had never heard a story about suicide so close to me. It's one thing to read a story on the newspaper or see it on the news. It feels made up, almost. The whole time I kept thinking of what had driven this man to do this. What problems he must've had. How many people he passed through the street on his way to work or to the store. His coworkers probably had no clue. The cashier smiled at him like they do every person. And he would walk home and hang himself. His pain unbearable. How many people have we seen in the street that are dead now. That we had no idea were sick or battling depression. Who knows. And one day, someonone would open the door to his room, and find him there. His feet wont touch the ground. And all of the pain he wanted to get rid of is still there I'm sure. And it's keeping him from ever touching the ground.

And after hearing all these stories, what could I say? When someone wants to die, there's nothing you can say that moment to instantly cheer them up. No one sentence eclipses pain. The pain is the sun. It's much too big for the moon. But sometimes, when the timing is just right, the moon eclipses it

Wanting to die is like running away. I've wanted to run away many times in my life. Sometimes, I just hate the people. I hate what I've done in the past. I hate that I feel like I have no future. I've secretly wanted to run away to the woods or something. Or just drive one hundred miles in any direction and start over. But then, I feel like I'd miss some people. This is how I imagine dying would be like.

Dying is when your heart stops. No more thoughts rush through your mind. I've tried to picture dying and I always become frightened at the very end. I picture myself lying there and having my heart stop. Before it does though, my heart maybe beats extra fast. I can hear the beats in my ear like a drum. My chest frantically moving up and down. But what scares me the most is when everything starts to go black, even when my eyes are wide open. I imagine it like going to sleep, except there will be no dreams, and I will never wake up again in the morning.

I heard the shot of a gun outside my house one night. On the intersection of Spaulding and 28th. The whole block immediately looked out their windows. There was a man on the ground. Maybe in his mid twenties. When the police came, everyone was outside on their doorstep, watching like the finale of their favorite television show. It's always a sad episode. It's when everyone says goodbye. I was in my socks and was standing on concrete by my black, metal fence. I could see the faces of people, shining blue from the police lights. The ambulance took the man inside. And just then, I see the mother and the father slowly walking home, crying. "Why does this happen," the mother said. They walked right by me, I could touch them. The mother's tears, twinkling like the brightest star that night. The man's  younger brother was crying as well. He was in shock. When everyone went back inside, I'm sure every home was silent. I know mine was.

Many people lose a loved one and feel like they can't go on living anymore. Especially if it's a son or daughter. You feel like you failed as a parent. You let your child die. And the pain is excruciating. I know life will never be the same. My brother's best friend died from a gunshot to the head while he was DJing at a party in a backyard. When I went to that funeral, his mother wept uncontrollably. Her chest was having spasms as her lungs couldn't keep up with her crying. This family's life changed forever in an instant.

If you found this post, you're probably dealing with something similar. And you've been searching for something to make you feel better, or maybe for someone to understand what you're going through. My child, I wish I could pass you by on the street and talk to you. I wish I could be your friend and tell you it's all going to be okay. Tell you that there's no need to take your life away. That there's some people out there who care.

"How did you get over it?" I said to the first friend above. "I got over it when I started being accepted again. When people stopped hating me." But I know she's not fully over it. The memories still linger like a washed up piece of a house on some deserted island after a tsunami in an unsuspecting country. She saw shrinks (still sees them) and has trouble trusting people.

I asked the other friend how he got over wanting to die, and he said, "By support from family and friends. Just little by little and day by day." But he was lucky. Many don't even have that. Some hang themselves to escape the pain. To escape the loneliness.

I know the past hasn't been too kind to you. And I know the future probably seems bleak as well. You tried to kiss it, but it pushed you away. But listen to me. Take a deep breath. Right now. I know they probably feel fake. Forced. But do it anyway. Blow out as long as you can. It's what counts. I'll wait.

In every instance, I've noticed that it's other people that will make you feel better. Friends who will understand your pain. You don't have any good friends?

Okay, here's what you need to do:

a.)          Go for a walk or jog everyday. You've felt depressed this whole time. You probably haven't moved much. Being outside is good. If you don't want people you know to see you, then walk somewhere you're not familiar with. It helps you to see different things.

(If they can do it...Oh hell no)

b.)          Read spiritual texts. It doesn't matter if you're religious or not. It's not about religion. They help you be grateful. They help you to forgive yourself and others. Something you probably haven't done. There isn't just the bible, there's many others. Search for them.

c.)          Take a shower. I always feel better after I take a shower. I feel clean. I feel like going outside. It's tough to take a shower when you're down. You can't summon up the strength to get in there. But it's worth it, trust me on this one. After you take a shower, go to the city and just sit in one place. Stare at the people. Realize that every single one of them has problems. Some are just like you. Don't be fooled by the mask they wear or the pretty sweater they have on masking that ugly shirt.

d.)          Help someone. All your life you've wanted help. You've seen what not helping can do. Help someone who needs it. Expect nothing back. Make a list of people you can help. Volunteer maybe. You'll meet new people. Most people you've met up 'til now has sucked. Time to meet new ones. There's good people out there.

(Even if it's just helping someone get up)

e.)          Picture yourself die in detail. Sounds weird, but most people that want to die don't really think about it much. Really think about it. Think about your heart stop beating. Think about how you will NEVER have a thought again. Most people don't really want to die. They just want what's aching them to die.

f.)          Write down why you want to die. Write it down. Be as detailed as you want. Then, give it to a stranger on the street, and walk away. Have what's aching you be out there in the world. Don't keep it inside. It's like a parasite. It needs you to survive. But you don't need it to survive. So get rid of it. It's good medicine. It's hard to get rid of an idea. So make it tangible. Make it a "thing." Then get rid of it.

g.)          Make a sign that says, "free hugs" and stand by a busy street. People will hug you, trust me. I've seen it done many times. I don't care how old you are. You might meet some nice people and maybe make somebody's day as well. Don't be embarrassed to do this. Why would you? If you are, I will you hit you with a stick, I promise. Now is NOT the time to start caring what others will think. And at the very least, it's a nice story to tell.

(Isn't this sweet?)

h.)          Surrender. Surrender to the universe. There's that pain in your chest right now. I've been there. It causes you to bullshit everything. You lose interest in everything. You feel like you can't be creative until this pain stops. But sometimes, you can't control everything. Just let things fall into place. Accept that you're hurt and that it's just some feeling that your body perceives. It's not really real. Surrender to the universe. It's bigger than you. Just let things take it's course. Eventually, the pain goes away.

When you want to die, you never truly recover. It's such a strong feeling and it will be a strong memory. I hate when people say that killing yourself is selfish and that it will hurt the people who love you. It's selfish of them to say that. You are hurting right now and you want the pain to stop. You come first. But they are right about one thing. Killing yourself is not the right choice. My baby, you are a child. No matter how old you are. You just want someone to hold you tight. To cover you in a warm blanket and rock you to sleep. To replay that music that played the beautiful notes when you were a child. Before the bad came and crushed the piano. I know you know what's right. I know you know what you have to do. You have to fix that piano. Maybe the keys are stuck. Maybe some are missing. So fix it. Replace them. Little by little. Then relearn how to play the piano. Your fingers will have callouses of knowledge. Of experience. But the notes will appear again. And people will surround you because you're even more beautiful than before.

You passed me on the street. This is that street. "Hi." "Hello."


If you have any other tips or suggestions, please comment on the bottom. Any advice is appreciated.

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