Month: May 2016

No High Voices in the Room

Before you urge a woman to

“Speak Up”

Notice whose

hands are covering her mouth.

American Sugar

The American dream was a sweeter snack than Oreos,

More satisfying than a steak dinner.

How full I felt on reveries of ascendance,

A descendant of our independence.

I’m older now.

No longer covered in cookie crumbs and innocence.


Zip codes

And classes away,

Poor kids feast like I did–

On dreams like candy bars.

On a name brand future to erase a Goodwill past.


They’ll grow up too,

But not like me.

Obstacles will slice their dreams just large enough to fill a jail cell.

Access will be a foreigner to their fingertips.

Uncle Sam is a fair-weather relative to the projects,

And a wealthy politician scolds them for not trying,

For not vying for the highest.

They are dodging bullets,

Raising babies while babies themselves,

But a pointed finger has no sympathy.


The American Dream is a craving too strong for Weight Watchers or Jenny Craig to overpower,

Night after night,

Generation after generation gorges itself on too many fantasies and not enough resources when morning comes.

I ponder why my dawn is sunlight and roosters crowing

While theirs is sirens and food stamps.

And I have to wonder

Can we wake from the American dream?

Labor of Selfhood

It’s been a while since my last entry.  The realization that it is my responsibility to save my life is the aftershock of publicly shouting my suicidal thoughts into the cyber-void.  Nobody can do this for me.  I am, in the most anxiety-ridden of ways, becoming my own heroine.  This trek to happiness uncovered ugly realizations, mainly that I don’t believe I deserve good things.  Self-care is such a shamed topic in my mind.  I used my tax return to buy a new professional and casual wardrobe.  The last time I purchased pants for myself, I was 19.  Shorts?  15.  A suit? 15.  My 23rd birthday is in 1 week, and I realized I wanted to wear something with a future instead of a past.  Still, I shame myself.  How could you spend so much money on yourself?  Who the hell do you think you are being so wasteful and consuming?!  I have no one to answer to but myself.

My strides out of suicide have direction.  Life might give me what I want, and now, I’m getting scared.  Again and again, my head rings, “Do I really deserve this?”  Endurance is my homeostasis.  I am always chasing one thing while running from another.  My lungs are always reaching for air as my head reels.  This isn’t a sustainable way to be, but I don’t know that I feel I deserve better.  Acquaintances regard me as such a confident woman.  Depression distorts my self-image.  It dwarfs my titanic spirit, and whispers lies about the abundance in my soul.

I began having second thoughts about pursuing a happiness, about how the steps that will lead me to joy may deter me from professional success.  But if misery carries me across the career jungle gym, would you even call a rise to the top success? It sounds more like compromise.  “You aren’t defined by the way you make money, Marisa.  You aren’t defined by the way you make money,” in exhales, I tell myself this.  I needed the encouragement of my loved ones.  Each time, I posed this situation to them– the pros, the cons, the costs, and the gains.  What astounded me was how deeply everyone wanted me to be happy.  They didn’t want to hear my hurt in phone calls, and they missed the fire in my eyes.  Even when I can’t want what’s best for myself, the people around me will want and urge and push for me.  But they can’t love me out of this.  They can’t do the emotional labor of overcoming for me– I must do it.

Deep down, I lack the belief that I deserve good things.  I fear the good.  Joy is a terrifying beast that lulls me with euphoria before something goes awry. It offers deceptive safely.  I have to summon the courage to unlearn my defensive reflexes.  Joy doesn’t come with the sandbags I tie to it.  It’s not enough to want– wanting is easy.  Belief, a steadfast conviction, that I deserve to be loved, to be happy, to have all of this now– that is a labor of selfhood.



A Commencement Address to Myself

It’s graduation season.  Caps and gowns and sappy posts define the next month.  I love it.  I love graduation season because I’m corny and sentimental. Because I am endlessly starved for inspiration, and commencement addresses provide inspiration.

This is the commencement address I’d give myself one year out from my undergraduate commencement:

Marisa, today ends a chapter you waited your whole life to write.   You’re experiencing writer’s block now.  The prompts everyone has fed you have run out.   You’re sitting in a sea of 11,000 people with a racing heart and frantic hands.  This feeling will linger for five months.   You don’t have to embrace it, but I hope you don’t waste the energy fighting it either.  Like all dark and uncomfortable things, give it the space and sound it needs to announce it’s presence.  All most sad things need is to be heard.

Being 22 is hard.  Taylor Swift mislead you.   In just under a year, you’ll be frustrated, humiliated, stressed, disconnected, lonely, vulnerable, pissed off, and despite everything, hopeful. Agonizing hope.  Somehow, hope will underlie unemployment, moving, being hit by a low-speed car, your workplace catching on fire, loved ones disappointing you, and suicidal depression.    You’ll miss the woman you once were.  You’ll feel like you aren’t brave as you’re jumping into unknowns daily.   In instagram posts, snaps, and reckless expectations of youth, you’ll hold yourself to other people’s standards.  Stop.  Don’t do it.  At 22, you have no obligation to be inspiring or interesting or to have it all together.  Screw inspiring!  You are ordinary.  You are fallible and fragile, and you deserve to live a wholehearted life.  Disabuse yourself of romanticized exhaustion, work as life, that your resume matters more than you do.  Stay deaf to anything that doesn’t keep you whole.  And when you do fall apart– run to everything that awakens you. Trust me, good things will find you.

Stay bold.  Stay brave.  Remain vulnerable, even though you know that life will kick your ass.  Your best talent is how you pick yourself up.  It isn’t fair that I’m asking you to do this.  Over and over, you will raise a mirror to the experience of your peers in the hope that your life matches their reflection.  It won’t. Life doesn’t offer a comparison tool, and you’re going to wonder why you’re carrying a deck of half-torn cards while others have some limited-addition sparkling deck.  There isn’t a rhyme or reason to it. Meaning is something we assign to all the things that don’t make sense.  Meaning becomes powerful because we make it that way.  How else do you explain why we still discuss astrology, knowing the Greeks constructed it to make sense of the stars?   Pick your meaning.  Don’t be afraid to change it if it no longer holds significance.

Your passions may not be profitable, and that doesn’t invalidate them.  That’s not an excuse to give up on them either.  Continue to write and sing and dance and fight for what sets your soul on fire.  You have to pay your bills.  You have to feed yourself.  You have to address everyone with kindness and sincerity.  But you have no obligation to compromise your morals or values for the sake of pay.  You don’t have an obligation to curate your life for the comfort of others.   None of your choices require an explanation.  Your life is not a democracy.  You’re the queen of it all.

Saying, “you’re going to be ok” is lazy, and kind of a lie.  It may not always be ok.  Still, your indomitable spirit transcends adversity.  It has a million times before and will again.  That’s why I’m still here.  I believe in you.  My faith rests in all the women I’ve been before and those I will become.   Shitty as this year has been, I have survived every terrible day I’ve faced.   Those are pretty spectacular odds.   To my graduation self:  you won’t have any more answers than on the day you graduated.  You’ll have a way to pay your bills, the knowledge that you are loved, and some spectacular premonition that your purpose is being nurtured by these bruised days ahead.  Congratulations, self of 2015. Go out into the world and do good.