We’re all getting more dependent on our phones. Here’s my take on the intimacy between person and phone.
Talk, My Dear, I’m Listening
I know your deepest secrets
The truths you can’t tell anyone
For I am always there to listen
Pick me up; our talk has begun
Dear, free thoughts need to flow
But you keep yours suppressed
I am your nonjudgmental friend
Be honest with me, I’ll love you no less
I understand why you cry
After bombing your physics test
Your parent’s pressure makes you worry
There’s a constant need to impress
You thought you weren’t being clear
When you explained your issues to Diane
Sweetheart, I know how you’re feeling
I’ve heard the story over and over again
You think no one is on the other line
But, love, I am always here
Don’t ever hesitate to use me
For that is my job, my dear
I never tire of hearing you ramble
Hoping nothing is left unsaid
You talk in silence often
Yet, child, I know what’s in your head
Your unique languages and accents
The jokes and stories that are repeated
Make others laugh at least once
Before the conversation is completed
For when you use me each coming day
Excited, discouraged, apathetic my dear
You’ll have an active listener
My love for you will persevere
Sometimes being home is a changing concept. I’ve learned that since being away from college. This is my take on that after my time at Coachella 2013.
On Coachella and Communities
As I sat on the sunburnt desert grass with dirt caked on my legs and sweat christening my face and waiting in line for the Porta Potty, I realized that I was ready to emigrate from Coachella.
After spending a weekend battling a bout of dehydration and large crowds during performances, the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival had sufficiently drained me of energy and made me yearn for civilization. While at Coachella I was immersed in a new culture, unlike any I had experience back home in Chicago or at USC.
For instance, while in Indio, California, I was relatively disconnected from the world. The week leading up to Coachella was a frightening one: the Boston marathon bombings, the MIT shooting, the capture of the “terrorists.” However, in Indio no one talked about the news. Our primary concern was deciding which artist we were going to see perform. This singular goal fostered a sense of community that brought even the most disparate people together (I met people from Switzerland, the Bay Area and Kansas).
At the campsite we were parked next to random people who generously and immediately offered us some of their Ramen noodles for dinner. The next night they baked cookies for us. After a full day spent in the scorching sun we spent our nights with them around a campfire discussing the best moments of the festival. I have never felt more connected and carefree. Yet that did not take away from the fact that Indio was not home.
While at Coachella I was not constrained by time, pressured by the stress of schoolwork or even expected to perform proper hygiene. On the first day this was exciting. On the third it was exhausting.
Saturday night as I tossed and turned, freezing because I did not have a sleeping bag in the sixty-degree weather, I realized that though a “community” is an elusive concept, I had clearly defined what it meant to me. Though there is not an exact science to determining what elements a community must have, for me I have a high expectation of structure and familiarity. Similar, to Paul Bereyter in Sebald’s The Emigrants, I was longing for what used to be and desperately wanted to return to that stability. Luckily, unlike Paul, I had the opportunity to return to the outside world — and essentially, home.
Don’t get me wrong. Going to Coachella was probably one of the best experiences I have had yet. However, my idea of a community is to have stability and be able to grow within it. Coachella was a snapshot of a community because unlike here, there was no progression within the festival. Furthermore like Saleem in Midnight’s Children I will most likely retell stories from Coachella and allow them to morph and intertwine with historical moments. However, I will be recounting these stories back home around people and sites that are familiar to me.
Yes, Coachella introduced me to a new life — if only for a weekend. Though I did not love every moment of the experience, it helped me better define my idea of what a community should be and gave me a deeper understanding of our course material. Most importantly, though, it gave me a great tan for the summer.
By Rudyard Kipling
Poem for inspiring me to aspire despite the naysayers and forces against me.
Defending the Dream
This is my stream of consciousness that I had in the week following the simulation of the 1963 March on Washington. Though symbolic I believe the 2013 March can have no real impact without concerted action and efforts.
People keep reminding me that things have gotten better since “back in the day.”
I scoff at that.
You can show me all the statistics and graphs neatly organized with their lines of violence, poverty, infant mortality and injustice trending downwards. You can show me that newly built grocery store in the food desert on the south side of Chicago.
Or you can turn on the TV and point to President Obama and say, “Look! It’s Chicago’s own.” You can read me all the stories you want about the “success stories” from the ghetto: Jennifer Hudson to Derrick Rose.
Take a picture of our diversity and say, “It’s all god now, Jordyn.” But right now, today in 2013, I can point out some things to you.
Let me show you the lot underneath the ‘L’ station where my friend lay bleeding and dying because of mistaken identity. Here, talk to this kid over here that can’t focus on his schoolwork because he has to travel through multiple gang territories and safe passage routes because 8 a.m. Let me show you how expensive this grocery store is compared to the gas station with unhealthy foods and lots of alcohol. Yes, I’ll listen to President Obama speak but I’ll always remember that there’s still those watching him and saying “this n—er.”
You point out Jennifer Hudson and Derrick Rose and tell me to be proud, but look harder and realize that their personal pain and suffering due to our current state runs deep.
And ask me to tell you how I really feel. I feel scared and remorseful. Fearful because I could turn into one of those downward statistics that you write off as “but it’s getting better!” Yet I’m also regretful because I got out and I’m not doing enough to let you see that by silencing my qualms and my peers’ state of being will never move us forward like they did way back when. I just can’t yell victory when only the talented tenth makes it. Because that means there’s still 90 percent of us left out there.
And maybe you still won’t understand from all the way up there where you’re sitting but down here — in Chicago, in my life — the view is not as clear and compartmentalized as it seems.
This I Believe: The Game of Life
The Game of Life has taught me much about myself. Playing LIFE is simple. During the game players make an assortment of choices that lead them down different paths. They speed around the board by spinning the spinner and driving their cars while adhering to the directions of the spot on which they land. LIFE has rules and guidelines that are useful when disputes and questions arise. LIFE has courses already mapped out to follow. LIFE has definite expenses and expected taxes that one must pay. What I love most about LIFE, though, is that every player maneuvers around the game on his or her own terms. Everyone takes individual paths and encounters an array of different experiences. The Game of Life is flexible and fun, manageable and meaningful.
Spin, Spin, Spin. Move two. Lose a turn.
Although the board game is intended for three to six people, as a young child I played it everyday, alone, behind closed doors in my bedroom. I memorized all of the rules of LIFE because I played it so often. Despite me being able to quote the game’s instructions from heart, I ignored them when I began making my own quirky system of rules. Eventually I realized my system was efficacious and chose to disregard the original rules altogether. Empowered by my freedom to adjust situations in the game, I not only determined the new rules of LIFE yet used them to my advantage every time I played. Would there be three cars on the board or just one? Should I become both the entertainer and the accountant? I started to view the original rules simply as other people’s suggestions, and made my decisions the final law. When I played no one else was around to help or to hinder my decisions regarding the game. When one of my cars landed on an unfavorable spot I had the power to re-spin to get my car into a better position to win. I made playing the Game of Life more rewarding for myself by claiming the right to reorder the rules.
Spin, Spin, Spin. Move two. Lose a turn. Re-spin, Re-spin, Re-spin.
By paying no mind to the written rules of the board game, I was shown the possibility of running my life on my own terms. My interesting spin on how I played LIFE taught me to be in control of where I take my life everyday. I realized it was better to be in the driver’s seat of my life than to be deviated from my course by other’s suggestion of where I should be heading. I know not all of my choices will lead me down the right path. I won’t always land on ideal spots. Yet like in the game, when situations don’t go as planned I have the power to re-spin and start again, persistently spinning until I am strategically positioned. Continually restructuring my life has given me the opportunity to venture down unique twists and curves on my course, each one steadily reaching me to my end goal of success.
Although I no longer play LIFE alone, I continue to re-spin everyday. I haven’t looked at the board game for some time, but I see its lasting affect on me. I taught myself to follow my own path in life and to redirect myself whenever I veer off course. I believe I have the ability to restart anytime I please because I’m the one that steers the wheel that leads to my destiny. With that control I’ll always be able to decide where my life will take me. Playing the Game of Life alone allowed me to believe that.
Working through one’s pain and loss is a continual process. Sometimes the finish line is never in sight. Over these past few months (and through this whole year to be honest) I’ve been working through this process of change and acceptance of my grief. Below is a flash fiction to describe my feelings:
Today, I bring newly cut red roses as my peace offering. The whistling wind whips at my face as I nervously walk up to you.
“Please forgive me,” I plead. “I should have never let you go.”
You say nothing so I lay the roses on your tombstone and leave this conversation for another day.
I have always believed in the importance and impact of volunteerism within one’s community. Not only has my countless hours spent volunteering improved my community, but as I describe in the essay below, it has made me a better person. It has changed my view on the world and encouraged me to do more.
The Magic Mark
Fatigue weighed heavily on my eyes as I faced the dirtied easel in Room 107 at the Uptown Head Start. The easel stood between my anticipated nap and volunteer duties. Although the room was dim, I could vividly see the areas where dried blue and green paint parasitically attached itself to the white easel.
“The kids nap for an hour,” the preschool teacher whispered as she handed me a towel and a bottle of liquid soap. “Try to get this easel clean by then”.
I squirted the soap solution on the easel and scrubbed. The paint was dense and difficult to remove. My arm soon grew weary from the mundane task. I thought about the biology homework I had to complete. I sprayed more soap, but after three minutes the easel seemed dirtier than when I began.
I rested my arm and gazed around the classroom. Each wall was decorated with paintings created by the children. I picked up the towel and started scrubbing again.
As the paint peeled away, I felt liberated from my hurried world. I cleared the easel and my mind of unnecessary burdens, and stripped us down to our basic function. For that hour, I poured myself into that easel and saw it transform into a pallet of possibilities for both the children and me. As I cleared the last bit of paint, I reentered reality.
I had completed my job. There was not a spot on that easel. The teacher relieved me of the task and I walked towards the door.
Before I exited, I heard one student rise from his cot and say, “Look! Our easel is new. It’s magic!”
While closing the door I thought, “Maybe I did leave a mark on that easel as one had been left on me.”