At Sunrise

At sunrise, I leave the hotel, long before the world has woken up, carrying only my red-checkered jacket and cellphone in its pocket. I weave in and out of the street corners, entering the morning with wide-yawns that pull my skin apart. Scent of ocean salt, bread baking in wood ovens, and wet pavement – last night’s rain dance. I navigate to the Brooklyn Bridge. Wind assaults my exposed skin, today is frigid, but I stuff my fingers into my jacket’s pockets and launch my body into the direction of the wind.

New York City looks magnificent from the bridge. I see the sun stretched across the ocean water and above the buildings, many and tall, brick and stone and glass. They expand around the water’s edge, spilling above the ocean surface. Cars zooming, people moving, workers repairing the bridge rails: Life all around me.

A few feet over stands a young girl against the bridge rail looking to the glistening city picture. I ask her to take my photo and she nods meekly. Scrapping tears and mascara, with eyes squinting focus and intention, she clicks the picture. She hands it back, claims her brown leather notebook back into her chest. I see a tear slide down her cheekbone. Thankyou I say. And she is gone. I look back and she is already halfway across the bridge – her hands stowed into her black-matted jacket and walking away with a story I know nothing about. Mesmerizing. On Brooklyn bridge, in the heart of New York, a young girl faces her own story of hard.

Don’t we all have our story of hard?

At the semester’s end we meet for coffee. I wrap my fingers around a vanilla latte and admit it has been hard. He asks why. Silence lingers, hangs over the wooden table, void of discomfort: It is the sort of silence used for careful thinking and gathering of words. The minute-hand on his watch clicks forward. When it ticks past six, my eyes have seared two walls into the green-papered wall, and still, I have no words.

Sometimes life is the sort of hard that is not clear nor easily defined. Getting out of bed each morning is difficult, for almost no reason at all.

Depression, if I may label that, is funny in that way. It takes a seemingly beautiful, un-flawed life, and squeezes the joy out of it. Until all that is left is the ugly. And the aching. And the wondering how you travelled 10,000 miles from the person you once were.

Psychologists argue nature vs. nurture, and I wobble between believing that a human is a product of their environment and the everyday choices made. The answer must be both. The falsehood is that humans tend to be disillusioned to the cold, hard fact that they are much less in control of their lives than they think they are.

You did not choose where you were born, who your parents were, the chromosome pattern of your DNA…You did not choose to have your mother throw you into tennis lessons at 8-years old or to meet that first friend who noticed your wrist scars or to be given that paradigm-shifting book by your high-school English teacher. All the people that have walked into your story and the books that have dropped into your lap and the opportunities that your feet have stumbled upon – it is very well, that all of these might-not-have-been. And if they had not been, you would not be the person you are today. Life is formative.

G.K. Chesterton writes: “To me it is a solid and startling fact that any man in the street is a Great Might-Not-Have-Been.”

You are product of your parents, childhood, DNA, experiences, friends, books, music ect. That is a fact that cannot be altered, and it must be acknowledged.

Yet, to me, this fact does not provide comfort. Rather it taunts: make your choices. think you are creating a life for yourself. desperately try to put the pieces together. until she is mangled in a car accident or he walks away or the doctor says cancer. find your life utterly, and completely spinning out your of your control.

In David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech, (which I insist you watch) he asks:
“How [can you avoid] from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out?”

How do you live within the abominable, paralysing, insidious, framework of being entirely isolated in a world spinning out of your control?

If we can begin here, we can better understand the strange notion that we cannot understand another person’s story of hard.

Only you have your combination of mind + heart + experience + family + thoughts. There is no other person who may understand the gravity to which you feel despair or heartache or isolation. You may only draw from your own experiences, the way your story has led you to feel and know hurt: You are only allowed to understand your own universe.

This hard is yours alone.

And so, in the words of Plato: “Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.”

I wonder how I would feel if a stranger entered my story of hard on a bridge in the middle of the city.

Then again, we enter other people’s stories of hard

How to Be


How to Be

*a poem on learning the value of being alone and loving quiet places and finding healing*

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Lace up combat boots.
Tug on winter coat.
Press open the front door.
Move toward pond water
naked oak branches
and apple-red forest brush.
Slide one foot over the other
along nature’s ice rink.
Crunch leaf debris
with curious toes.
Hear wind funnel
between bark and skin.
Watch snow crystals drip
from a white canvas sky.
Notice how dull shades mingle
grey to white to apple-red.
Fill parched lung cavities
with white wisps of air.
Sense the chest rise up
and fall down.
Subdue stomach quivers
with heaved oxygen molecules.
Needle jabs in the chest, pinprick
reminders of rejection.
Wetness travel from
eye lid down to cheekbone.
Heart rate increase in rhythm
at the surge of panic
of another person’s absence.
Alone does not unfurl into lonely.
Courage mummers in still places.
Healing is gentle, abiding.
Standing on two noble feet.
Blood pumping through capable veins.
Hands stitched into unitary patterns.
You are alive.
You are okay.
You are whole.

when i hate people

Mikayla the hygienist calls my name. She leads me down a marble hallway – comments on new door frames and her’s sons manufacturing business and upcoming wedding and her frustration at their young marriage. I force my mouth to curve into a sympathetic smile for this stranger. Spouts of small talk. We have not yet completed the length of the hallway, and already, this lady’s voice is tiresome.

I hop into the cushioned seat, coloured with a shade of grey that reminds me of the metal lockers I used in middle school. The hygienist points out the “beautiful view” and I scoff, try to cover it up as a cough. Because through the window I see nothing but a run down street, cracking at the side walk and an abandoned parking lot, positioned beside a rickety building. 

I hold my phone with both hands, replying to snapchats and playing my trivia game, but it it seems this is not adequate to block the stream of questions.

She asks me about the weather and before I have a chance to reply, she is saying that is is lovely and nicely temperatured. Again, I look to the window in confusion. The clouds are wiped in a thick mass across the sky, it is gloomy and dim, not quite raining, and the streets are coloured dark by last night’s downpour. It is not the sort of weather one calls lovely. But who knows.

Continuing, she asks me about school and Christmas shopping and how my exams went and the number of siblings I have. Something inside me is cringing. The pain of small talk shreds my insides apart. But I must reply politely. I answer in single sentences. She grabs a metal prong, inches closer to me, and my eyes have no alternative but to scan the layers of make-up caked on her cheekbones and rose-pink eyeshadow painted on her eyelids. She wears a paper mask over her mouth, and uses her tools to begin poking my teeth. Still she continues to talk. I try to reply with grunts and the movement of my eyes. Does she not realize that my mouth is currently being prodded with a metal prong and I have no way of responding? I do not even know the polite action at this point.

Contrary to most humans, I have always enjoyed the dentist. They poke and prod, stuff my mouth with cardboard trays, scrap their tools across my pearly whites, but in the end, I walk away feeling like my teeth have just been through spring cleaning. They have never felt better. And in my mind, they have never looked better.

Yet today, the metal poking actually inflicts me with physical pain. I am a big girl; I must not complain. So I sink my shoulder blades deeper into the seat cushion, a subtle display of my discomfort. The hygienist doesn’t notice. She continues to poke and talk, yes, she is still talking. Now it is about Starbucks and their holiday drinks and how this morning they made her gingerbread latte much too sweet and then did not have time to re-make her drink.

Maybe if I close my eyes and pretend to sleep she’ll stop talking? Does she do this with each patient? How absolutely exhausting. Small talk of weather and Starbucks and holiday shopping with ten strangers every single day… I would not be capable of this. These conversations seem so incredibly pointless to me, empty, void, a waste of breathe.

We progress to the instrument that scraps mint on my teeth and the filter that sucks all remaining guck from my mouth, and she has finally quieted, run out of words perhaps. Ahh the silence. I enjoy the terrible view out the window and the sensation of my teeth being cleaned; my other senses come alive when my ears no longer are required for listening. We proceed symbiotically. I am still, subject to her work, and she does her work, precisely and efficiently. I think about how wonderful this is.

How wonderful it is to co-exist in silence with one another.

I just hate people

I cannot tell you the amount of times I have heard this statement made by some of the closest people in my life.

It always seem to be the introverted people in my life who say this. They use the words as a blanket statement, to articulate their love for solitude and frustration with the human race.

Its irony occurs to me. Here I am, building a relationship with this person, and they tell me they hate humans. I too, am part of the human population. I cannot help but take it personally; the words drop an anchor in my chest. Because narcissistically, I want to be the one person excluded from that statement. I hate everyone BUT you Mikayla. Your the only human I like.

And I realize that those people – the ones who tell me they hate people – it is not intended to be a personal insult but rather, a claim to their solitude. The statement is less of a hatred for people and more of an affinity for being alone.

This is why I have always loved those sorts of introverted people.

They keep very few people in their lives and do not trust easily. Upon meeting them, you start at the bottom and slowly, earn your way into their trust. But once you become important to them, they will never let you go – you are their’s forever.

I aspire to be like this.

I no longer want to be friends with three thousand people, I just want one person.

Grey’s anatomy speaks to me. I watch Christina and Meredith, people who hold human’s at an arms length and approach life with a cold demeanour, but they have each other – they are each other’s person. I love this. Watch a clip of them here.

Bitterness grows quickly. Like a weed. And then its 10:00pm, sobs rack my body, pain claws through the empty spaces. All I can do is stare at the white wall, and imagine what it would be like to not exist at all. I should probably not be alone right now. I should probably call a friend. Yet there is not a single person on the planet I want to be around right now.

Friendship seems to me about as stable as a paper-clip. People are wrapped up in their own lives, they find new friends they like better and leave the old ones lonely. Conversation never heals, words take too much breath and I just wonder – what is the point of it all? Do people even matter?

Somehow in the bitterness and messiness of it all, I know that people matter.

So I call a friend. Sob into her arms, tell her about the emptiness and all the fantasies that frighten me. Her kindness tells me that I must not hate myself. She says that strength is small things. The phone call. The admission that something needs to change.

I have learned to love solitude and silence.

I sure didn’t always love it. It used to frighten me.

Yet I am changing. Growing, learning, and coping. And today I breath in the quiet spaces and decide that I will only trust a few and no longer give my heart away so easily. We were never meant for 500 facebook friends and 100 instagram followers, but those one or two people that really matter.

underneath a paper tent

*a posting two weeks after*

Fully clothed in black colours – winter coat, combat boats and cotton scarf – my body tumbles into the hotel bed. Like a tower of legos, I topple over sideways until my head crashes into the fluffy pillow and my brown curls flop across it’s edges. Sigh. Inhale the solitude. Silence.

I am thankful to be alone.

Finally, the quietening of weeping and sniffling and laughter and chatter. Engines roar in muffled spurts outside the window. The hotel refrigerator hums a steady tune. A drum plays discomforting melodies in my head. My eyes too are dried up wells. I administer some advil to myself.

Everything around me is blurry. The picture framed over the bed is a mash of browns and reds and blues. I have no idea what the picture is. The ceiling is a white abyss, all lines and dotes have merged into one. The room itself is a singular sort of colour, all shades smooched into one. All details are unknown to me. This is what happens when I remove my contacts – the lenses that give me clarity and the ability to see rightly.

Today feels like a world without my contacts. The pieces don’t fit and the moments seep into each other, until time seems to move as a singular unit.

I saw the adults I respect most in my life weep for a dearly loved sister/daughter/mother/wife. My grandpa held tightly to my grandma as they spoke to the crowd of friends and family about their daughters life. How she is dancing with the angels, rejoicing with no pain. How one day we will see her again.

Underneath a paper tent, we placed roses on her grave. The sky wept raindrop tears and the clouds painted themselves the colours of ashes. Two sisters held onto each other, trembling, and together placed a red rose on the grave. My uncle wept behind me with his arm tucked across my shoulder, and I held his hand tightly. My mother embraced her brother – the two youngest siblings that grew up admiring their older sister – with many tears and trembling. I had to look the other direction. It was too much, the moment too beautiful. It made me weep. Because all I could hear was the heaved breathing and stifled sobs and sniffling and I love yous of two siblings that were going to miss their older sister very much.

I do not have anything profound to say about grief. Indeed I know very little about this entirely ugly and beautiful process. But I do know this. That it is breathtaking to witness – and not only witness, but be part of – a family that grieves a loved one together and [literally] holds on to each other in the weeping and continues to declare hope that one day we will see her again. A family that rejoices in her beautiful soul and a life that lived well and loved abundantly: A women who delighted in the one who matters most and is with him now, suffering no longer.

When in New York

We careen over the Brooklyn bridge, across the glistening body of water. I take sight of the city. Towering high with its skyscraper buildings and brick, ivory covered houses. It is bold, beautiful, fearsome.

Airport to train to subway to bus to walking the streets, we navigate from the New Jersey airport into the bustling New York city. We carry the contents of four months in our arms. Me, with my 80lb red suitcase, frayed backpack held together by a single makeshift knot, orange purse with stains and a broken zipper, and my beta-fish conspicuously hidden in an opaque plastic bag. My cousin, with her grey suitcase and six other bags attached to every available limb, a mess of purse, backpack and handbag toting along.

My red suitcase is so heavy I am physically incapable of carrying it up the concrete stairs. I try. Grasp the handle, employ both arms, and muster up all my muscle strength. My struggle is obvious. A sore sight: a frazzled young girl with her giant red suitcase unable to lift it out of the musty subway station. Each time, without fail, a man rushes to my side and offers to carry it up the stairs for me. They go to lift it, and groan, not expecting it to be quite so heavy, 80lbs and all. I quickly spurt out an abundance of apologizes and thankyous. I never see these men again. But to me they are the assurance that human kind can be good and kind indeed.

From the subway station we weave in and out of crowds. I have never seen so many people fill the streets on an ordinary day. They brush shoulders, step on toes, stampede from one location to another- with aggression, urgency and purpose. Immediately I understand why people come to New York for its energy. It pulsates all around. I imagine the lives these people must live- glamorous, strange, and foreign to a young girl who grew up in the city-country.

I am sleepy and tired, aching, but I breathe in the chilly air and feel New York fill my lungs. I am determined to navigate these streets and mull my way through these city crowds; I try to match their aggression. I yank my obnoxiously large suitcase in and out of people, crumpling the toes of too many innocent bystanders along the way. Before I have the change to say sorry, they are gone, glaring sharply as they slip back into the sea of people. My fish swishes around in its make-shift tank, held within a plastic grocery bag that flipflips around in the wind. Thrashing against elbows of strangers and subway doors. I fear that New York will kill my fish. be strong fish. we’re going to make it.

My cousin is kind and trusting and loquacious today. I am quiet and anxious and silent today.

I try to respond to her words with the appropriate nods and laughter and yes’s. Willing my eyes to convey what I do not feel: Joy and excitement that we are here, exploring this big city together.

Sadness of leaving one place to return to another.
The blur of inbetweeness.
Here I am, in this big, magical city,
but I am not really here.

I am somewhere else. Lost in my head. In the alternate space- that is intangible and immaterial- but as real as the itchy wool scarf wrapped around my neck. The space of memories and thoughts and questions. where I review the film roll of my life. where I lament old desires. where emotions collide with logic.

This is where I think too much.

And I am thinking about how this subway could derail and send me off of to my death. How this terrifies me, stills me into an internal panic, because I am not ready. Faith is still hazy and messy; I am still confused and stubborn. Please, not today. And I am thinking about a conversation back in November that I want to erase, forget, and pretend never happened. A month latter I still agonize over the words that had tumbled out and permanently altered a relationship. Never will I be able to take back those words. And I am thinking about friends who have scored internships, travelled the world, attended big conferences, started clubs, published writings in magazines…and I am jealous of their extra-ordinaryness. I feel inferior. What have I done with my little life?

And I am thinking about how I must learn to be kind to self. For these have been the weeks of hating me. Only wishing that somehow, someway, I may be strong. I scribble in my journal that: strength is trusting that you are wantable. strength is saying goodbye to people that hurt you. strength is saying hello to person beside you on the airplane. strength is keeping in touch with orphanage kids that you spent four months loving and promised you would not be another person to waltz out of their lives. strength is not giving you emotions to paper-thin hopes. strength is fixing communication lines that have been broken for too long. strength is submitting homework assignments on time. strength is integrity when no one is watching. strength is facing your problems rather than running away from them. strength is calling your friend at 2am admitting I need you. strength is talking to Jesus. Strength is everything I want to be but am not.

And I am thinking maybe one day I will be the person on the street a tourist will ask for directions. Maybe I’ll have a tiny apartment in Brooklyn and hop on the subway every morning to get to my office cubicle. Maybe I’ll write for the Wall Street journal. Maybe I’ll be published. Maybe I’ll go dancing on Fridays and spend Saturdays in my favourite café. Maybe I’ll be wise, able to quote Hemmingway and Dickens and debate politics with the best of them. Maybe I’ll learn self-kindness and find a loving home for my sensitivity. Maybe my hair will be long, finally stretching past my shoulders the way I have always wanted it to. Maybe I’ll find a man to build a future with, and match me bit for bit in this wondrous city.

And I am thinking about going home in a few days. Hugging my baby sister. Laughter and shouting in card games with my too-competitive family. Porch-swing conversations with my best friend. Mornings runs in the rain along that old dirt road. Forehead kisses from my grandpa. Home is people I love dearly. Home is also solitude, the space to exist without dozens of other college students bellowing through the dorm hallways or library corners. New York too is noisy and people filled. Home is quiet. I crave quiet.

For one of the first times in my life, I want nothing more than to be home.

This semester ends tired.aching.sad. I am worried that my mother and grandparents are hurting, grieving a women they loved dearly while the holiday seasons swirls around them.


I found solitude on a walk across the Brooklyn bridge. I left the room early, with only my red-checkered jacket and phone stuffed in its pocket.

From the bridge, the city looked magnificent. The buildings stretched across, many and tall, brick and stone and glass. They expanded around the waters edge, spilling above the ocean surface. Cars zooming, people moving, workers repairing the bridge rails, life was all around me. I snapped dozens of pictures of the scene. I wanted to remember this morning, this place.

A few feet over a young girl stood against the bridge rail, looking out onto the glistening city picture. I asked her to take my photo and she nodded meekly. Scrapping tears and mascara, with eyes squinting, focus and intention, she clicked the picture. She handed it back, claimed her brown leather notebook back into her chest. I saw a tear escape. Thankyou I said. And she was gone. I looked back and she was already halfway across the bridge, her hands stowed into her black jacket and a story I know nothing about. Mesmerizing. On Brooklyn bridge, in the heart of New York , a young girl faced her own story of hard.

Don’t we all have our stories of hard?

At the semester’s end we meet for coffee and he asks me about the last couple of months. Choosing to be a truth teller, I admit they have been hard. He asks, “why hard?” Silence lingers over our coffee cups. Not the uncomfortable kind, but the sort of silence used for careful thinking and gathering words. But after a few passing minutes, I still have no words.

Sometimes life is a sort of hard that is not clear, not easily defined. The days ache, seep loneliness and soak in sadness. Getting out of bed each morning is difficult, for almost no reason at all.

When I slap words to it all, it comes out sounding melodramatic and almost, silly. People observe and they think: what do they know of pain or heartache or suffering? they should just get over it. I too, I have made such judgements. The thing is, we only know our own story. We may only draw from our own experiences, the way our story has led us to feel and know hurt.

There is no other person who has your same combination of mind+heart+experience+family+thoughts.

There is no other person who may understand the gravity to which you feel despair or heartache or alone, all the sadness and confusion etched into your soul.

This hard is yours alone.

Depression, if I may label that, is funny in that way. It takes a seemingly beautiful, unflawed life and squeezes the joy out of it. Until all that is left is the ugly. And the aching. And the wondering how you travelled 10,000 miles from the person you once were.

I wonder how I would feel if a stranger entered my story of hard on a bridge in the middle of the city.

Then again, we enter other peoples stories of hard

“Always be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle.”

when i am ok

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Once again I awake early, taunted by dream and awake and the hazy in-between. Up the stairs I travel and scrub plastic bristles back and forth to preserve the pearly whites my father bought for me in an orthodontist chair. I see that my friend’s family has swivelled their way out the front door, dressed in their Sunday best, leather bibles tucked into their winter coats. Morning silence.

Thud. It hits me like a ton of bricks. Everything that should have been left unsaid, all that should have been left to linger in the invisible folder of what ifs – those things cannot be taken back. Words once spoken cannot be unheard so simply. And their ramifications are permanent, at-least semi-permanent, because weighty words knife themselves deep into the memory. Panic.

I see that my beloved murky brown liquid sits already-brewed in the mini Mr. Coffee maker. I pour its contents into a ivory green mug that has You make a difference in this world scribbled in gold lettering upon its surface. My friend is not yet awake, his wooden door shut tightly at the end of the hallway.

My mind refuses to quiet itself. And my thoughts are many, twirling, swirling about in this tiny head. I have long since discovered that I either think too much or not at all. This morning I think too much. I long for the quietening of torturous voices. I urge them to be silent long enough to hear the soft promise of strength, whispering that my wounds will one day become blessings, and that beauty waits just around the corner.

Out of the kitchen window I hear the winter breeze and I hear the songs of birds and the distant engines of trucks swooping by. Tugging on my too-large black coat and zippered black boats, I leave the inspirational coffee mug on the counter top.

Scuffling amidst fallen autumn leaves and wispy oak branches, I wander deep into the forest of his backyard. I move past the wooden porch steps. I move past the tall oak tree, the one with decaying, crinkled leaves still fighting to hang on- the one in which yesterday he shot a squirrel and offered to barbecue it for me and his mom’s face lit up in horror, shooing her son and his aberrant tactics out the porch door. I move past the spot where he taught me how to shoot, a shotgun and a 22 rifle, and I understood just a little bit of his love for the 2nd amendment and why this, right here, is his happy place. I move past the tiny pond he says will freeze over solid come winter time. I duck under the twigs of forest trees, untangle them from my frenzied hair rousing to and fro with the breeze. My boots sink into the muddied floor of pond water colliding with forest dirt. I emerge into a wide open space of corn stock and forest debris and a sea of barren oaks mingled with vibrantly red bushes. The colours are simple, dull, but beautiful. The empty greyed trees stand tall amidst the pale yellow-white of corn stock and the bright apple-red of the brush.

Finally. Alone. Silent. These are the moments I have been running from all year. The space in which pain demands to be felt.

I inhale cold air, allow it to fill my lung cavities, breathe out, see the white wisps of my heaved oxygen collide with the outdoor molecules of the cold air. This means I am still breathing. I am alive. I am okay.

As life would have it, I cannot run forever. And so I allow the ache to pound in my head and press against my chest and weave in and out with the breaths of my stomach and flow from the blood of my legs down to my toes. Physically I feel it. I allow tears to slip down my cheeks and dribble atop the forest floor. The salt-liquid blurs my vision, mashing the blue-sky with the grey-tree and the yellow-corn with the red-brush.

In this moment, I realize I must be kind to myself. All this bitterness is much to ugly. Masochistic even. So, through clenched teeth I declare that strength is walking away and courage is putting your heart on the table and worth is not through the eyes of other people and beauty is in learning to forgive self.

And here, I identify something new in my chest cavity- a feeling that has grown dim and strangely unfamiliar over these months. I want to live. I want to be alive. Life can be beautiful. And I whisper this to this sting of rejection and the hating of self and the wishes of it all to be over: I want to be apart of this life.

My eyes flutter like butterfly wings, blinking fast to unblur my vision. Now I am able to see clearly. More clearly than before. There is a new crispness to this forest picture before me. In fact, it is rather beautiful.

I never take pictures, but today I pull my iphone from my jacket pocket and click the button to remember. To remind myself that it is okay and I am okay and it is going to be okay. Breath in deep, pinch the skin of my arm, absorb the sting. The ache whispers your alive, its okay.

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morning musings

I wake up early. The clock ticks 7am. I laugh because most days, this is when my alarm clock blasts Forget You by CeeLo Green and I face the impossible task of dragging my body out of bed. Yet on this morning when sleeping late into the day is acceptable, I roll out of the covers with ease, bounce up the creaking stairs and set to scrubbing my teeth for the day. I am wide awake, ready to punch this day in the face, and everyone else in the house is currently lost in the land of unconsciousness shut-eye.

The kitchen floor creeks unfamiliarly as I tiptoe across its surface. The house is silent and dim, the sun has not yet peaked its way into the day. I am shivering in the basement, so I take my favourite floral notebook- the one I’ve carved all my emotions and questions into over the recent months- and I place myself cross-legged on the green carpeted living room floor. I think to myself how strange this is. To be alone in my friend’s living room with old family picture frames and the maroon coloured couch he probably sat on to watch TV during his high school days.

In college we seldom see the home environment of our friends. We arrive to this brick-built campus, with our baggage loaded in the back of an old Honda civic and our baggage hidden in the shadows of how we approach daily life. Every one of us with our own stories- of childhood, religion, culture, relationships and ideas of normality. Despite all the loquacity or viewing of pictures in the world, the people we meet will never fully understand the first 18 or so years of our life. These years will always be a sort of mystery, unique to you and the people that shaped those years.

I have noticed that we frequently consider how little we know of our college friends. Within the daily rhythm of classes, homework, meals, and sleep, we grow strangely accustomed to doing life with one another. I acclimate so quickly into conversations of last night’s awkward room mate situation or tomorrow’s horrid group project, that I forget how the person sitting beside me has almost two decades of their life that I was never apart of.

I pause to consider this.

These people that I see every day, merge my life with in the schedule of homework, meals and late-night panic attacks- most of these people have only been apart of my life for a matter of months. How quickly we have weaved our lives into one another. I feel as though I have known most of these people my entire life.

And I wonder how we measure friendship. Whether it is by time spent together or the number of memories made or the depth of conversation or the amount of facts known of each other. Is Time alone a fair measurement of friendship? Most often relationships are born out of happen stance situations- the shift you worked together, the dreadful group project, the teacher you both hated, the conference you both attended, the class field trip, the intramural volleyball team ect. When the friendship binding situation ends, the friendship ends along with it. Then there are friendships that transcend situations- the people who stay in your life when you quit the job or graduate to new classes or move to a new dorm. The people who become bound to you rather than bound to your mutual connection.

Time floats along and my perspective of relationships along with it. Freshmen year I was a friend collector, desperate to scoop up as many people as I could in the palm of my hand. This guaranteed familiar faces in the cafeteria and a long string of people I was able to wave to while walking down the mall way. I thought that if I met hundreds of people, somehow it would curb the imminent loneliness of beginning a new season of life. Yet having too many friends is hallowing, it creates a subsequent emptiness of not being known or understood, or having on one to call at 2am when it feels as though everything is falling apart.

My friend asks me if I think history is a good enough reason to keep someone in your life. Stowed up memories of volleyball practice and math class and friday night sleepovers, she wonders if all the time spent together is enough reason to meet up in a Starbucks to rehash old memories when you both find yourselves at home for the holiday season. My cousin tells me to make a list of people important to me, to write their names into a column of family-members, home-friends, and away-friends. I hesitate because it seems so normative to reduce my relationships, so beautiful and complex, to blue ink on a 8 by 11 inch sheet of paper. My favourite author writes how people come and go, with the ebb and flow of life, and our mandate is to enjoy them while they are here and let them go when they are gone. I cannot do this so easily. Come into my life and I plan on keeping you forever. I never consider time frames. I never plan on saying goodbye.

But an evening with a friend, senior, graduating in the spring, suddenly afflicts me with panic. He speaks of moving on to his future careers and new daily routines, and this is when I realize: This is the beginning of a long list of goodbyes.

I will never escape this churning of seasons and waving adiós to dear friends destined for more wonderful things.

This is reality I can choose to embrace or reject. Life’s truest facts are the ones that once heard, cannot be ignored. No matter how irritating or uncomfortable, they demand to be acknowledged. For they are the great big elephant in the room. And this has never been more profoundly true for me.

There is a room filled with boxes. Labels on the boxes read innocent blood of Newtown shootingboy that named me ugly in middle schoola midnight prayer still unansweredthe grief of a lost parentan unhealthy relationshiplosing self to unconscious sleep hoursscreams on a Russian train ride…hard conversations that need to be spokenthe once dear friend I now pass silently in the hallwaythe becoming of the person you swore you would never bea God that demands surrender… Over the years, these boxes pile high to reach the ceiling and fill the furthest corners. The room bursts with all my neglected problems and questions.

Every box demands to be attended to but I choose to ignore, I choose to keep cramming the boxes into corners, one on top of the other. It is much easier this way. People tell me to face the music, but the music bellows loud- pounding in my ear drums and thumping in my chest- its melody is too much for this battered soul of mine. Instead I build walls to block out the music. Thicker and thicker these walls become until the pounding of my problems grow strangely silent and I find a sense of temporal peace.

But through my cardboard walls, the music persists. I hear its melody in the silence of afternoon runs through neighbourhood roads and the solitude of moments I find myself alone. C.S. Lewis’ words ring clear, “Pain insists upon being attended to.”

Child, Begin Again

And I thought to myself, lets try some poetry. 
 Black boots dagger themselves 
 defiant towards the star-twinkled ceiling.
        Acoustic rhythms float beneath pew benches
        cutting through my consciousness,
        my traveling to a different space
        where I soar through midnight skies
        unbound by gravity governed feet
        or apathy shredded wings.
 The memory returns me to the present
 underneath the counterfeit cosmic canopy 
        of the two-tiered sanctuary, a night of
        hymnals for the knee-benders and hallelujah-shouters. 
        And I remember: Running quickly into the forest of coniferous trees,
        I trip over the old oak stump, blood splatters my knee.
        Sinking into the dusty forest floor
        weighed heavy by my anger
        the desperate demand for answers-
        will it forever be a fight? 
        will trust always be this damn hard?
 Once again I am running out of the sanctuary
 from a place I do not belong. 
        I escape into the midnight of the jet-black sky
        moon trapped behind a mass of foggy cloud
        a dancing hailstorm of tiny ice pellets.
        My feet carry me to crater sized puddles
        I stamp steel toed footprints into their surface 
        a child’s tantrum of defiance - 
        the refusal to accept the teachings 
         of a love-giving parent, only intending the best.
         My question writes itself across the stormy night 
         pounding against the sidewalk
         drenching the entirety of my body -
         am I to spend the length of my life resisting this?
 I sit myself cross-legged on the concrete sidewalk
 let adolescent hands fall defeated at my side.
          Just like I once circled the carpet 
          of my kindergarten classroom
          folding my legs, right over top of left, 
          chiming into the chorus of Old McDonald 
          and his tidy farm of chickens and cows and horses,
          To the rain I surrender: Her splendour melting me slow
          into a granular soup of wax substance
          come with the fall of rain 
          the distilling of flame to ember
          the only place to begin again.

Time is a Ferris Wheel

Christmas is exactly 47 days away. In my mind, Autumn has just arrived. The oak trees turn their greens to red-orange hues, creating canopies of barren tree branches and fields of crackling crimson leaves. Rain drips from charcoal grey clouds and the wind cuts through the icy temperatures of October turning into November. This season has just arrived but already Starbucks is sporting their holiday drinks, Peppermint White Mochas, Gingerbread Lattes and Walmart has cleared out their Halloween section for dangling lights and fake Christmas trees. Aware of the quick passage of time would typically make me anxious – inflicting a sense of panic in me, a desperation for all time to stop and give me a moment, just a moment, to catch my breath. But this time, I find myself merely surprised. My mouth curled outwards, my face describing a deer caught in the headlights; expression of awe and confusion. How curious Time is.

It brushes past me with the gentleness of October wind, chilly on bare skin. For a fleeting fraction of second, I consider its presence and then instantly, it has disappeared. I grasp at the wind; Time as it breezes past. I attempt to hold it in my hand but I cannot – wisps of wind cannot be held, but must be felt, absorbed, live in and around.

I do not understand how yesterday was the beginning of sophomore year and tomorrow is nearing the semester’s completion.

Seasons unfold and I unfold along with them.

Friday afternoon we work shop our creative pieces in my upper level writing class, the one I feel unqualified to participate in – me, college sophomore, major undeclared, inexperienced writer, sitting alongside senior writing majors who aspire to be novel writers and read Tolstoy and Hemingway for pleasure. There are four in our group, I only know the name of one person. She is first to share her piece, reading us a fictional story about a boy who seeks the approval of his father and she explains to us how closely it is tied to her heart, her own story weaved into fiction. He is second, and reads us a portion of his memoir. About how a 5th grade superhero birthday party taught him courage and how an older brother paved him a path of violence and how Grandfather bruised his body with iron fists – I am shocked that he reads us such sacred pieces of his story, inviting me, his classmates, to critique writings of his pain and treasured memories.

She shares third, a memoir too, but hers is specifically about relationships. Twenty pages that highlight the chronology of people she has woven into her life and waved goodbye to over time. On the final page she writes that life has taught her that people do not stay; that life is the swift, cyclical movement of time passing and people coming and leaving along with it. We discuss her piece. I hesitate but speak the words anyway, Is that really how you feel about life? She is quiet, I fear I may have offended her, but she begins to speak: I graduate college in December. Preparing to leave triggers many thoughts, not just about leaving, but about life’s cruel habit of churning and churning regardless of whether you have both feet firmly inside the ferris wheel or not. The more I consider it, if I had to use one word to describe life it would be sad…

This sticks with me. Life a cruel churning ferris wheel. Life in one word: sad.

This three lettered word makes me think of smiley face emojis with a black line swooping  downwards in a frown. Subconsciously I had always viewed this word as simple, petty, only to be used for small situations. Like when my gold fish died or I got a bad grade on my midterm. Yet in this Autumn season, she whispers that life is sad, and I fiercely nod my head along with her.

Because this week a dearest friend tells me that her world is always grey, charcoaled and empty.
Because in a midnight walk around campus he tells me that he cannot remember the last time he felt joy, he wonders if it even exists at all.
Because last night I scrawled stanzas into my artsy-blue notebook…

Sadness seeps into today
It is always hallow, aching,
emptiness in my chest cavern
Tears threaten to fall but
my eyes too, are dried up wells
that see the world skewed

I return to work shopping on Friday afternoon. Everyone in my group has shared their writing pieces which now leaves only me. It seems we have not run out of class time as I hoped we would. Today I do not want to read my fictional story. Because this is a class about autobiographical writing and no matter how much distance we attempt to put between ourselves and the characters, the pieces we write are deeply woven out of personal narrative. The story I wrote is about a girl soaked in sadness, misunderstand by a world of busy, bustling people. I am afraid to the read the story because I do not want my classmates to suspect my sadness. At 1:30pm on a Friday I over analyse this simple class exercise. Vulnerability, as always, seems to be a power struggle.

Days later, I email the same writing piece to my parents, along with several of my poetry pieces. They write me back expressing concern. Your writing it very dark they say. We are worried about you they say.  I am angry because to me it is entirely about the writing, about the encapsulating of story and emotion into word complexities and creative format – not about my writing being used to assess my current mental and emotional state. My parents only see the material, the sadness seeped into it, the darkness that illuminates most of my pieces.

But they are not wrong. I am always writing about tragedy or confusion or pain-soaked narratives. Oddly, I have always had a propensity for seeing beauty in the pain. And I know that I am not alone in this because our culture is obsessed with tragedy laden thrillers, outrageous tabloids and the 6pm news that informs us of the world’s most recent crisis’ or natural disasters. It is a little masochistic perhaps, but I am also realizing that it is very human.

This Autumn has too often seemed soaked in sadness. Life rich in blessing, knee-deep in college academia, a successful sport team, dear friends, a job I love – but sometimes none of that matters when the inside has frozen into icicles. When the thing that has always been your life foundation wobbles, crumbles, all the peripherals slowly become chaos as well.

Time whirls past, along with the icy Autumn wind and the nakedness of oak tree branches. It can be kind and it can be cruel; slow travelling and quick moving. They say that Time heals all wounds, but I disagree.

I do believe healing is found in the distance of Time, the travelling further and further away from painful memories. But it also true that Time expounds wounds – allows room for them to fester, grow, until small problems become insurmountable. And so, healing must occur within Time: In the rooting of feet to a stake in the ground – the cognitive decision to get counselled, admit the addiction, break up the relationship, eat the entire dinner plate, confront the friend, kneel before the soul-lover.

All this time I have been expecting Time itself to heal me, but Time was never meant to be the healer.

Here is the creative piece talked about in the post if you would like to read it:

An Autumn Loss

An Autumn Loss

*The following piece is my first attempt of Flash-Fiction. This is a creative piece that is not factual. I hope you enjoy the unique format of this form of writing – a merging of both traditional narrative and poetry.*

October Silence

In and out of trees I walk, beside the quiet river and through the green grass paths. Autumn leaves move in whirl winds around me. Red of gala apples, orange of sunsets, yellow of the sunflowers all surround me, the richness of their hues captivating me in this October afternoon.

She would be plucking branches off the oak trees, pulling up her sky blue dress and wading waist up into the gentle current, inviting herself into nature. Whispering words into the wind, speaking in her Socratic way, her tongue lined with the questions of aesthetics and ultimate existence. Forever filled with wonder.

But today I am alone in the forest.

Birds chirp noon day melodies and crickets sound the air with their mating call, but there is a deep silence bouncing off trees and echoing into the blue sky.

It is the sort of silence that begs you to remember: the way her icy blue eyes crinkled when she laughed or how her voice increased 10 decibels and her hands gestured wildly as she began talking about vanilla lattes or dancing or C.S. Lewis’ theory of punishment.

The Confession

“I hate my own story.” Six months ago we had talked by the icy winter river. Her voice broke through the hum of the current, carrying the sort of tone people use to confess cheating on their husbands or unplanned pregnancies or stealing money from a relative. The heavy and shameful sort of things.

Because those five words had been calculated over months of ink-black, starless nights. They were her confession. And now with hindsight I do believe, a tiny cry for help.

She had always been a lover of stories, soaking up books and conversation, chasing after the sorts of people that teach you to dream with the mountains and the clouds. Absorbing other people’s tragedy as it was her own: books of grieving fathers, movies of mass killings and weeping lovers, or conversation with friends who hid a dark past or an aching self-worth.

The darkness fascinated her in a way I think she was afraid to admit.
When I asked, she assured me that she only loved the redemption stories, the way ugly transformed into beautiful and the pain morphed into joy.


Her story began in a chocolate-brown house, white paneled with a black shingled roof. Sunday morning church, private high school, after school basketball practice – she lived between the blissful mechanics of desks, basketball courts and church pews. Two happily married parents, 3 siblings, a five-acre backyard, star athlete, honor roll student, more than enough food in the cupboards: her life void of the hard and painful most come to experience.

How desperately she wanted her story to be more, scarred by darkness and tragedy, the tale of a young soul marred by the ugly of the world. Instead she felt like a prisoner in her cookie cutter life, bound between walls of perfection and unmerited blessing. No excuse to fall apart. No alibi for a broken heart.

Shadows rimmed the blue of her eyes as we spoke along the shore and I identified anger, the resentment of her blissful life. What a strange, strange thing to be angry about, I thought.

From the outside, she had no reason to be anything but happy.

Yet sadness seeped into the corners of her days, at first subtly like tiny embers crackling on wooden logs, and then all at once, the bursting of flames high and blue and orange streaked.

Grief: Stage Three

I cradle her spiralled notebook in hand, keeling underneath a small oak tree. It is filled with the scrawl of a black-ink ball point pen, each page containing the tales of unscripted feelings and ideas. I am afraid of what I will read.

The purity of pain, the deep emotions hidden in the heart, the fierce pulse of ache and grief and remorse, I yearn to understand it…she etched across the first whitewashed page of the journal. I ached with each word I read.

Like the fiery summer sun, she has come and gone,
a young soul stolen in a dark October wind.

How could I not have seen this? She had always had an affinity for pain.
The propensity to somehow see it as good and beautiful.

The Shadows Beckon

Darkness did not frighten her, it captivated her.

And I saw how her story became one of taking the paint brush into her own hand and splotching black and grey masochistically across her ivory white canvas.

She absorbed all the pain she could find. Favorite teacher and mentor was imprisoned for child molestation. Sister was raped by a boy she called a friend. Best friend lost her father to a midnight heart attack. She loaded the pain upon her shoulders, wore it as if it were own, trying desperately to feel its gravity.

When the dark thoughts visited, she greeted them with the affection of a dear friend, inviting them into her, giving them a place to belong.

Our wooded walks grew distant and silent. I asked more questions, I begged her to let me in.

And slowly she disappeared from my life,
like wax dripping off a candle flame.
Ignoring my phone calls
avoiding me in the hallways,
leaving me haunted by images
of her charcoaled heart
and knife-carved wrists.

The Edge

It was upon an ordinary Saturday morning of coffee and scones that I finally saw her again. I bumped into her in my favorite coffee shop on Oak Street. She was sitting close to a man, their fingers intertwined and a possessive arm tucked around her waist. I was introduced to Jason; he must have been least 5 years her senior, broad, bearded and handsome, speaking with an air of superiority and arrogance.

Two months passed,
and he was gone,
clutching pieces of her innocence in his hands
and leaving her at the steps of South Avenue’s medical clinic.

A butterfly takes flight to my right, I read, so this is what a broken heart feels like… I have opened the journal again: The world looks different now, the aching is no longer outside, but it is inside me, he is inside me. I finally have a story, I feel pain, I know loss, I have seen ugly.

The Sky Wept Too

It was raining the day I went to see her. I walked through the front door of the house that had always been my second home. There was no need to knock. Spiral up the stairs, circle through the hallway, cross left to get to her bedroom.
When I found her she was weeping
Ruby red flowed from her wrists
Razor blade tossed carelessly on the floor

I offered my arms as a sanctuary. Her tiny body trembled and I wept too.
Through the window, I saw the skies had opened themselves up, the clouds a charcoal grey, and water pouring in acorn sized droplets. Nature understood. It wept with her too.

The Funeral

Eight days later, the sun shone its rays through church windows, and a women sang “Look for me in rainbows” by vicky brown.

On this bright, sundrenched October morning, nature sings warm temperatures and olive green leaves, but it is I alone who wept.