A Cultural Resistance

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“The culture we have does not make people feel good about themselves. And you have to be strong enough to say if the culture doesn’t work, don’t buy it.”
- Morrie, Tuesdays with Morrie

Stop what you’re doing and actually, deeply read this and think about it:

Recall your childhood.
What did you believe in?
Did you believe in saving the world? Did you believe of prevention of animal abuse? Reform of immigration? Finding cures for sicknesses?

Recall the time in your life when you had to choose a career or a job because you were getting kind of old to be so dependent on somebody else.
Did you apply for a minimum wage and save while helping your providers pay the bills? Did you go to school? Did you look for a career without many requirements right then and there? What did you settle for?

Now think about where you are.

My adult readers, I think you’re flushing with nostalgia.
For my adolescent readers, I think this made you nervous.
For my young readers who haven’t begun the future train of thought, I bet you’re confused.

I constructed a life plan when I was a kid. I wanted to work part-time and help my parents pay the bills throughout high school. I wanted to go to a good East Coast school. I wanted to serve my country as a soldier. I wanted to serve my community as a teacher. I wanted to serve the future generations some knowledge and insight by dedicating myself to writing.

What happened? Reality hit. How could I balance both work and school? If I wanted to make more than twenty bucks a day, I’d have to work until 9pm or 10pm, when after school, I’d be too exhausted to do school work. If I messed up school, my shot at a good college was out the window, but what would I do after college or during college without any work experience? I could serve my country then serve my community, but who’s to say I won’t lose myself in battle and never be able to make use of a college degree? And how will I ever support a family on a public school teacher’s salary, especially in the district I’m from? Writers don’t make much, so I need a job, but who has the energy to put a book together when there are double shifts?

So where am I? I’m in the USA. The USA: where though it’s difficult to make someone of yourself, you can be absolutely whoever you want to be if you’re strong enough.

I could quit all my jobs and take a boat out to the middle of the ocean. I can speak my mind. I can be homeless and move around tirelessly to prove my point. I could resist this culture, but what do I do instead?

I wake up. I put on make-up, something I was totally against as a kid, but if it’ll get me hired at my thirteenth, fourteenth job interview, who’s it gonna hurt? The market for minimum wage jobs can also be a tough one. I get my student loans in order and prepare to spend my life working to pay it off. I intern at places to earn experience, but it takes all my time, money, and energy. I look for the safest job I can find because I absolutely need my money, my comfort. I need this comfortable culture.

The desire for this culture is the tightest pair of handcuffs I’ve worn.

I hope that one day I’ll have the strength to resist it.

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Coffee Shop Couples

 

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Let’s go back two weeks.

I am sitting in one of Guam’s coffee and tea shops. I order some food. I order tea. I go back to my seat and open my laptop.
I look across the top of my laptop screen at the tabs open in my Internet browser: a college website, WordPress, Gmail, New York Times, and an informational website about the SATs.

Five minutes later, a middle-aged couple walks in and heads toward a table diagonal to my seat. I try not to stare, but something about this couple catches my attention.

I listen when I hear the female whisper, “That is a beautiful view,” as she sits in the seat with her back to its beauty.

Her partner speaks up, “I’ll sit here. You sit across from me and enjoy your view.”

She smiles as she gets up and sits in the chair he pulled out for her.

I listen to their words.

Her mouth releases stories implying that she’s new to Guam. She hasn’t been here forever. She stops frequently to think of the correct English word to insert into her sentence.

The man across from her doesn’t say much, but he nods and smiles. The man is at the register ordering, and I hear him. He speaks unbroken English. I go back to my seat.

Their crepes arrive. The woman jokes, “Should I take a picture?” Both laugh. She continues, “Ah, a picture, some people are too much.”

I linger on those words: too much.

I look around the rest of the shop: teenagers on phones, workers on laptops, tourists watching TV shows on their iPads, the occasional reader… and I stop and look across of me. There is no person across from me. I am not interacting. I have a laptop, and I am sitting there looking busy; however, next to this couple, I feel like insignificant.

I snap back to the couple. I notice them again, engaged deeply in a conversation which fills that very second with significance. The couple has comfortable silences. They are not rushing. They are not on their phones. They simply sit across from each other, eat, listen, talk, engage. They feel invincible, they feel alive — I feel their liveliness radiating off of them.

I evaluate my position. I am sitting alone because I don’t want to be around people. I haven’t had a good conversation like that in a while. I am consumed with life’s luxuries, but I am not happy. I have brought with me $1,000 worth of electronic devices yet the people next to me, as they sit there deviceless, are happy. They look more content than I ever have, and all they’ve brought to the coffee shop is the company of another.

 

 

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Goodbye

1038“Goodbyes, they often come in waves.” – Jarod Kintz

Although unsure of the exact meaning, this falls over like a wave.

When I hear goodbye, I imagine the waves of the beach of my home crashing onto my feet and splashing the rocks and wetting part of my clothes — hitting me. If I sit in the ocean and a wave comes through, I am dragged with it, and I am changed.

And if I sit there and refuse, the wave washes over me. I am still change.

As Kintz said, goodbyes come in waves, and those waves, like goodbyes, have changed me, and will lead to an inevitable change.

You have to move with it. When someone says goodbye, you have to allow it. You can try to break a wave, but is that what’s best?

As more waves hit one after another, so does another’s absence — hitting randomly, sometimes lightly and sometimes powerfully, always continuously.

And waves, when I see someone wave goodbye, a world within this world leaves. And when someone waves, a world within this world enters until it’s time to say goodbye. The cycle continues.

 

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A letter to my eighth-grade self

Dear eighth grader,

It’s me, and I’m going to tell you some of the most important information you’ve ever heard.

You’re young. You have not screwed up your life, no matter how many classes you’ve failed, friends you’ve lost, or relationships you’ve ended. You didn’t even begin high school yet, so don’t worry.

If anybody tells you to grow up and not have fun, they’re wrong; and if anybody tells you not to grow up and just have fun, they’re also wrong.

Growing up does not have to be a boring thing. Your development through your teenage years is important, and if growing up means breaking off relationships that don’t grow you, then so be it. If growing up means realizing the importance of your education, so be it. If growing up means knowing what you want out of life, so be it.

Some days, school will overwhelm you, and if you want to play sick and stay home, do it, but make those days count. Rest and use it to your academic advantage. Get so much rest you wake up ready and prepared to face school the next day.

Make the school days count. Teachers will hand out busy work, but all work related to education has some significance to it. If your teacher won’t tell you what it is, find it. Nothing in this world will be handed to you, even if it seems like it is. Busy work will just be busy work if you make it busy work.

Read a lot of books. Don’t just read from one genre. Expand. Read some classics. Read some romance, some horror, some non-fiction, some fiction, some religion.

Write. Start a blog. Write short stories. Write letters to your friends. Write for your school website, school newspaper, local newspaper. Write a novel. Pour your heart and soul into your school writing assignments.

Dig deep. Why so surfaced? Why scratch the surface when you can plumb? Why not give meaning to everything? Life is beautiful when absolutely anything and everything has meaning.

Say thank you, and tip your waiters, baggers, bust boys $1. It’s not much, but you don’t have much, you’re eighth grade: share what you do have. Hold the door open and don’t expect to hear a thank you because half the time, you won’t. Pick up something that someone else drops and hand it to them. When you’re up at 5AM on Sundays, climb on the roof, watch the sun rise. Look at clouds. Talk to mom. Call your dad. Not around? Call a friend. E-mail a teacher. Talk to people. Gain perspectives. Expand your horizons. Swim when you go to the beach. Smile at the people you walk by on your way to your restaurant table. There is nothing wrong with being nice.

Allow yourself to be vulnerable. You might get hurt, but you’ll learn. Nothing comes without a lesson. Open up. Share your stories. Let them change the people around you. Let them change you.

Look for colleges. Request information. Four years will fly by. Take the SATs as soon as you can. It’s better to be three days early than a minute too late. Look for internships. Look for educational opportunities. Start clubs. Can’t find opportunities? Make them. Don’t let people tell you that you can’t. Write essays. Apply for every scholarship out there. You’re a unique individual and there are tons of scholarships; there’s something out there for you.

Your classmates have been watching you, and if you’ve always been a star, they’ll want to be the moon. Even your closest friends will desire to outshine you. When your classmates push, you’ll fall. Not all teachers are excellent, some will think you are dumb. Some teachers will believe you copy work. Don’t let that get to you. A good educator is an open-minded one. Any teacher who makes you feel less than ambitious isn’t a good one. It’s not them, it’s you. Learn how to study independently and stay true to who you are.

Sincerely,

Wish I’d Heard These Words Before

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The Day I Put You Before Myself

To no other I held higher regard,
To no other I demanded respect,
To no other I desired love,
Than myself… in retrospect.

One day, under galaxies we spoke,
You sparked a fire in my heart,
You transformed my blood into gasoline,
Sparks hit nerves as darts.

The thought of us was always there,
on my notebooks I had written
an ocean-deep love and faith
of all the things on you I was smitten.

I want to shift the continents.
I want to drain the sea.
It took me years to open myself
to a boy who couldn’t love me.

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If you don’t love her, don’t pretend to

Stop. 

Stop telling her you love her back when you don’t. Stop initiating feelings with that statement.
When you don’t reply to her, don’t say it was a mistake — tell her you didn’t want to talk to her, 
tell her that’s shes boring, that she sucks; tell her that you don’t like her. 

Stop using her as a safety net. Don’t play to keep her attached so that you can reap the benefits of her presence. 
Stop making a home out of a person. Stop staying in a warm place and leaving as you please
just because you’re sure it’ll be there tomorrow, because one day, a little butane might leave or you might forget to blow out a candle

Tell me, where is your home now?

Stop dropping by — why are you hanging around her house? Don’t stand outside your car and tell her to come out.
Don’t knock on her door or her window and expect her to give up her time and comfort to accompany you. 
Stop talking to her parents. Stop talking to her family. Stop talking about her to teachers who love her and people who miss her. 
Stop telling people what the two of you have is ineffable. What makes it ineffable?
It’s not that you can’t express your love; it’s the fact that you won’t. 

Stop sending her songs that remind you of her. Stop writing her notes filled with words that mean everything when you mean nothing. 
Stop telling her that it’ll be okay. Stop telling her you love her when’s she’s sad. 
Stop asking her if she’s hungry. Stop telling her about the things you are passionate about. 
She has a soft spot for people who can vividly remember their childhood stories: stop taking advantage of the fact. 
Stop going over when you are sick, when she is sick.
Stop taking care of her. Make her suffer. Let her die.

Stop telling her not to hurt herself when she tells you that she wants to.
Tell her she should; tell her she’s worthless, and when she replies, don’t reply again. Leave her hanging. 
Leave her hanging; let her hang… herself. 

Admit it, she was your safety net. She is who you fall into when you take risks — do you want to jump out of planes? jump off of skyscrapers? go bungee jumping? fall into love? All of that’s a little less scary when your safety net is at the bottom. 

Stop making her feel untrue love. Stop telling her marvelous things. 
When you talk to her, subtly tell her that she’s fat, “You’ve been eating a little more than usual, huh?”
When you talk to her, subtly tell her that she’s ugly, “No make-up today, huh?” even if you see her face is caked. 
When you talk to her, directly tell her that you don’t love her by staying silent when she tells you that she loves you. 

Stop hanging around. Stop studying with her. Stop telling her about books you think she might like, 
stop telling her about articles you think she’ll enjoy; stop telling her about music you think she should listen to. 
Stop telling her about movies that’ll make her cry, and stop telling her about TV shows you think she should watch. 
Stop coming over and looking at things that interest you and sharing them with her.
Stop exposing so much of yourself to her; the more exposure, the more she’ll fall. 

It’s awfully selfish of you to make somebody feel love from you when it isn’t true.

- “The Worst Thing You Can Do to Someone Who Has Been Abused”

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Have Sex | Make Love

When a man and a woman stand before each other, men take notice. This man, in particular:

“I see love in her eyes, but does she see lust in mine?
Can she tell if I undress her with my eyes?
Will the lady across from me at Table 35
two hours ago remind me of the woman I brought back from the karaoke bar in 2009?
I want to get in her because I want to fulfill the most empty places
There is no reason any part of her needs to be vacant
at the end of this night.”

And this woman:

“I see love in his eyes, does he know there’s lust in my mind?
Will he get deep enough tonight to get from there to my mind
My heart won’t fight because an empty space won’t put up a challenge
I want to drive my nails into his back and run my hands through his hair
He wants me in his head but I want the head that isn’t up there.”

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