Where We Belong.

Nothing about life is predictable. We are human, and we are volatile, and we change. As children, we are forced to follow our parents where their lives take them. Us.

Often times, stability isn’t an option, and we are forced to find an external anchor that give us an identity. Something that lets us believe for a moment that we have something that ties us to….anywhere. For me, it has often been music.

When I was in the 7th grade, my teacher told our band class that learning and playing music was like learning and speaking a new language. The alphabet was smaller, and the expressions would feel foreign but, with practice, those things would become native to us. We’d not only create music, we’d work together to create a feeling, tell a story, speak a language. It felt special. It felt collective (and community is everything, all the time, but especially when you’re 12).

I picked up a flute and became part of a family. Not just at my school, but an international family of students, individuals, and professionals who read, made, and played music around the world. They could put music in front of me, and I could understand it. I could read the notes and hear the musical-phrases in my head; my fingers would twitch on sight-reading, and my tongue would dance as I noted where slurs and staccatos were placed along the page.

It’s been more than a year since I’ve picked up that flute, but that music still lives inside of me. I just had to remember.

Tonight, I saw an orchestra perform – for the first time in a long time. In recent years, I haven’t much thought about classical music, brass instruments, reeds, spit valves, or conductors. I hadn’t thought about tempo, or timpani, or how hot stage lighting is. I smiled as they tuned their instruments, remembering years and years of wondering if I was sharp, or flat, and could the sax player behind me play a C for me? And then they started playing, and I understood.

I understood the conductor in his dance on the podium. Silent words, silent leader (at least during a performance. We all know what the conductor is like during rehearsal, haha). I listened to the stories, and found myself (more than once) tapping my foot to keep the tempo. Old habits die hard, I guess. I winced when the woodwinds lagged for about 5 seconds during La Danza del Sable; I could hear them breathing panic into their instruments.

But aside from understanding and appreciating, I had an overwhelming rush of “home” wash over me. I had forgotten an integral part of who I am. That no matter where I travel, or how far away I am from friends and family, that I have this – that I can always anchor myself in the knowledge that I belong to a community, stretched far and wide, and speaking a language all its own. That I’m not foreign in this world, and that I can communicate with anyone who speaks this language – that we can tell a story together without ever saying a single word.

Maybe it sounds stupid. Maybe it sounds like a desperate stretch for a girl without a hometown. Maybe it sounds hippy-dippy and weird. I don’t know.

All I know is that it sounds like belonging to me.


Death by Poetry

They tell you to write a poem.
It should be easy, right?
Plug in rhyming words to a formula:
talk about death
or love
or make a strange connection between the flight of a bullet and fishing with your dad.

Just give the words a rhythm.
Just pick an extended metaphor
and then really beat it down
with as many
line breaks
as possible.

They tell you to write a poem
about that time a guy killed himself in front of you.
That’ll make for an interesting read, right?
So full of emotion! Surely it will translate beautifully into
3 cold stanzas.
Stark words.
Black and white.

Or maybe a haiku
if you want something….

We laugh.
We who write poetry.
We who feel words.
We, who have slant rhymes and extended metaphors living inside of us.
We laugh.

Because one does not simply just write poetry.
There is no formula to painting an image of death,
or life, or sadness, or depression, or love, or success,
or trauma, or nature
in words.
Because poetic metaphors and analogies are inspired,
not chosen. Not fabricated.
Because haikus are fucking complicated and
because nothing is black and white.
Because nothing about breaking and sharing bits of your soul

is easy.

Dear Readers: I am not your mommy.

Dear Readers,

Let me start with an apology. For as long as you have known me, I have probably gone out of my way to make sure you were emotionally intact despite having my own issues to worry about. As people in my social network, I have devoted too many hours caring about what is going on in your life, and neglecting what is going on in mine. I have made you feel like a priority, and that is comfortable for you. It’s nice to have a pushover as a friend, especially a friend who gets things done. Makes things happen. Follows through on promises. Stays up all night editing your crappy undergrad writing for no cost, despite your access to a writing center.

So, I’m sorry to be taking that away from you. I don’t say I’m sorry because I feel sorry for me.
I don’t.
But I know how hard and confusing it must be for you to see me giving myself the priority, putting myself first.

I’ve stopped telling you what you want to hear, or stopped talking to you altogether. That makes you feel a little icky inside, I know. But I don’t blame you. I created this monster.

But here’s the thing: while you definitely matter in the world, you are not exactly important to my immediate life. Unless you are my significant other, family, a former student, or in my very small group of close friends, your daily distress means about [ ] that much to me, and I’m tired of hearing about it.

Now, of course, I’m always here for you for the things that matter. You know what those things are.
But I’m tired of hearing how inconvenient it is for you that I haven’t planned a whole weekend, found dog sitters, taken time off work, rented a car, and driven 4+ hours to come visit for lunch. I’m tired of hearing how much it sucks that I won’t stay up until 3am again to re-write your essays. I’m tired of hearing how you’re returning to your cheating partner again, and isn’t there something I can do to help the situation?

I’m tired of being asked to give pieces of myself, hours, investments, emotional energy for no return whatsoever.
No, readers. You are not the priority anymore. You never should have been.

I know you’ve felt the changes, but we all know it needed to be said.
I no longer live in a world where you come first, because I now live in a world where I come first.

Your petty bullshit will not be tolerated.
I will no longer be manipulated.
I won’t feel bad for not having lunch with you, or for missing your performances half way across the city/world with a days notice, while knowing I also have limited access to transportation and funds.
You will no longer dictate who I am by saying, “The Nikki I remember…”
I won’t be guilted.
And if I extend help out to you, I will expect you to say thank you.

So this is what I have to say: if you can’t handle not being a priority in my already busy, wild, crazy, emotional life…
you can get out.

It will be exactly 0 sweat off my back.
Good day,