Our Last Valentine’s Day

letting-go-hands1-669x272(This post was featured on Thought Catalog)

Had I known this was going to be our last Valentine’s Day, I would have stayed in that restaurant with you. Long after the check was paid. Long after the patrons, the waiters and the chefs had cleared out. I would have taken you to the dance floor and swayed to the sound of your voice, the dim lights glowing above like stars in the night sky. The band played, the waitress kept the drinks coming, and our hands held amidst a table full of food that we barely touched. Holding onto you, I felt so at peace. I stared into your eyes, smiling, murmuring how odd the night began, and how perfectly it ended.  Continue reading

My Life is a Beautiful Mess

My room is a mess. Clothes litter the floor like memories tossed away, and the books I have yet to read continue to crowd my desk. My bed remains unmade. Pillows and blankets lie crumpled and used, exactly the way I left them this morning and the day before. The blinds, too, remain shut. My way of closing out the world. Or perhaps it’s me shutting myself in. My room, my own personal cave. A tomb of forgotten ideas and broken dreams. It’s a monument of all things unfinished.

My life is a mess. I’m due to graduate college a year later than I had planned. I have stories lying dormant in my computer just waiting to get to that next draft. And I have a daughter whom I barely get to see because I’m at the mercy of her mother, my ex. On top of that, I’m in the middle of a long distance relationship. That, in itself, presents its own challenges. In a perfect world, I’d love to have graduated on time, preferably with a degree in Journalism, Biology, anything but English. I’d love to have my stories completed and ready to be sent off to publishers. And I’d cherish the opportunity to see my daughter every day, while also making my relationship work, distance not included. Everything in my life, it seems, is scattered all over the place. Or maybe I’m looking at it all wrong. Maybe they’re exactly where they need to be.

I am not a perfect person, more so like a draft of one. I keep tinkering with the little things hoping that I’ll somehow get better. We all have these expectations of ourselves. To have everything accomplished. To be, in some sense, perfect. In that pursuit, we blind ourselves from the fundamental truth of life. We will never be the best. We will never be perfect. And I feel like that’s okay. Because it gives us something to strive for, like a dream hovering in the air just inches away from our grasp. That’s not to say that it’s unattainable. It simply gives us something to chase.

There’s beauty in conflict. We just don’t see it right away. These obstacles, they’re all a part of life. We need conflict like a plant needs water. How else are we going to grow? We all have a choice: either settle into complacency or embrace conflict. Which one do you think allows us to evolve? That’s right, I’m picking number two. We learn. We gain a greater awareness of ourselves. We become. Over the course of time, we change, and conflict is simply the pathway that leads us down that avenue.

As I stand here looking at the mess I’ve made, I find myself oddly at peace. Yes, I am the one responsible. But I am also the only one who can get myself out of it. So as strange as it is to say, I am grateful to have these conflicts. They’re part of who I am. And they will determine who I’m going to be. Now, it’s true that when we overcome one hurdle, we face another. I know that as eager as I am to graduate college, I still have to face the harsh reality of finding a job, a place to live, etc. Other hurdles already in place. The point is to keep on going, to sort through the mess. After all, a messy room isn’t going to sort itself out. Neither will our own problems. We can let them pile up. Or we can manage them one at a time. That, at least, is in our control.

Of course, I don’t have all the answers. And that’s okay because I’m not perfect, nor am I striving to be. I just want to live. I don’t know what’s going to become of me further down the road. But that’s the exciting part. The uncertainties. The possibilities. That’s entirely out of my hands. I can only hold onto what I’ve got right now. My daughter. My girlfriend. My English degree. They’re more than enough to keep me going, to see me to whatever end that awaits me. For the first time in my life, I am embracing the chaos. I am finally managing the mess. Will I allow this room to get cluttered again? That remains to be seen, like an unfinished story. My life is an unfinished story. Then again, I should be grateful for that.

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You Are Your Own Worst Critic

Criticism for any writer is a must. We need it as much as we hate it. How else are we going to improve our craft? In a world where creativity is everything, we have to know what works and what doesn’t. Do you care enough about a character to keep reading? Does the storytelling match the story? Though we may adore our own work, we have to learn to question it if we want to get to that next draft. That’s where criticism comes in. Now, I’m not an expert here nor have I been published, yet. But I have had extensive experience in writing workshops to know a thing or two about criticism and how to tolerate it. Luckily for you I’m going to share a few tips to try and help ease the pain. Most of all, I’m gonna show you that these critics aren’t so tough after all. They’re people too, just like me and you.

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Letters to My Daughter – Part 2

Dear Chanaiyah,

Summer has come to an end, and so has my stay on Maui. I wish I didn’t have to go. I wish I could stay. I wish for so many things. Weeks have passed since I left, yet I can’t stop thinking about my last moments with you. I was still packing, still rushing, going back and forth from room to room. And no matter where I was in that house, you always seemed to find your way. Over and over again you came bouncing through that door and took me by the hand, leading me to go somewhere, anywhere. I couldn’t stop smiling because on we went, circling the living room, the kitchen, and back again. I would have walked around the entire island with you so long as you were leading the way. In those precious little moments, you showed me the absolute joy of life, which in turn reminded me to have fun once in a while. But now, I find it hard to remember such things, especially when there’s no one to take me by the hand anymore.

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Letters to My Daughter – Part 1

Dear Chanaiyah,

Happy birthday sweetie! That’s right, today is your day and no one else’s. Some people may think it’s their day too, but you and I know the truth: this day belongs to you. My my my, I can’t believe a year has gone by! So much has happened and even then it’s just the beginning. I swear it was only yesterday when I first held you. And I remember everything about that day. The sun stood high in the sky and the air was scorching. I started to sweat, but I was trembling. Nervous to see you, worried about what you’d think of me, yet all the more anxious. And when I cradled you in my arms, I collapsed inside. Oh how fragile you were and oh so precious. I remember you opened your eyes only slightly. Then, your cheeks bunched up together to form a bright smile. It’s as if you knew I was there with you. And it’s that very same smile that seems to make me stupid all over again. I try to find ways to describe that smile of yours, but every time I’m stuck. It’s like anything worth saying won’t do you any justice. Better to keep quiet and focus on your every movement. It’s not like you’d complain anyway since you like having all the attention. That’s right you do, you sweet little princess you.

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