Fire and Ice

snow and trees

Photo by Mitchell Henderson on

You know that feeling you get towards the end of winter, when that first real break from the cold comes at long last? When you walk outside and the sun is shining for what seems like the first time in months, the warmth of its rays felt from your skin all the way into your soul. After a season of self-isolation and heavy clothes in fruitless attempts to shield yourself from the harsh and frigid air, you can finally remove those added layers and bask in the beautiful, albeit temporary, freedom that such a day offers. That thick layer of ice that had formed around your heart also begins to melt away as the day progresses, sometimes thawing completely. And you can feel the stuttering of your heartbeat increase with joy and excitement as your spirit awakens – a revival of your entire being.

You know that feeling when you lift your face toward the sky and the heat from the midday sun feels like a caress on your cold, pale skin? After the season you’ve been through, nothing has ever felt so sweet. That’s what it was like when he kissed me for the very first time; at least that’s the closest comparison I can draw upon now.

It was there in the silent cottage under the cover of darkness that it finally happened. After years of hopeful longing, his lips met mine and everything changed. The warmth that radiated from that single touch was overwhelming, drowning out any other sense of time and space, silencing the wary thoughts that lingered from past mistakes. I was like someone who had gone so long in a deadened state that I’d become numb to even the cold, unaware of it entirely until awakened by the contrasting heat; an ice sculpture that didn’t know it was frozen until exposed to a flame.

The thing is, that first break from winter is only that – a break – and it won’t last long. The season is far from over and summer is still months away. The fickle nature of spring cannot be counted on either. But it’s the rarer warm days of winter that are the most bittersweet of all. You’ll be able to enjoy the delicious relief for perhaps a day, two if you’re lucky, until the sky returns to its somber gray and the bitter cold sets in just as before. Winter seems somehow worse after that, as if offended by the interruption and then has something to prove. And you are at its mercy, tortured by the fresh memory of blissful sunshine as you are forced undergo the awful experience of the refreeze.

Returning to my frozen state was all the more difficult after exposure to such heat, only afterward realizing just how much I hated the cold. But loving him was always a tug of war between hot and cold, and any warmth I ever experienced only a brief respite in the midst of an unending winter.

Thawing out – melting away the chips of ice that had taken months, sometimes years, to develop – was easy, much too easy. I acclimated myself to his love as if I had been living in it all along, as if I belonged there; as if I’d never known what it was like to be broken. Then, just as soon as I’d forgotten what it was like to be without him, he was gone again. Leaving me to gather up the exposed fragments of my heart and pray for the very cold I detested to seep inside and mercifully freeze them solid once more.

For as much I love that brief interruption from the bitter season, I hate it even more. It’s better to have an unending winter than merely a tease of summer; better to have only the cold than the sporadic moments of warmer days that won’t commit. But kissing him began the longest season yet. He was the summer sun and my days were spent aggressively soaking up his presence, unaware of the burns it left behind; uncaring of the lasting damage the exposure would cause.

When he had gone and the sun had set, I didn’t know if I could survive the stark climate change. Even worse, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to.



Live Fast

A little change of pace here. This is a short story that was written some years back, when I was playing with narrative point of view for an assignment. It’s not really relevant to this sort of blogging, but it’s based on actual events that I’d rather treat as a fictional short story than actually talk about. Plus, I was just kind of proud of it, so why not.


They loaded what was left of me into the back of the truck. My twisted pieces scraped menacingly against the metal bed before they slammed shut the tail gate, finally blocking my view of the tragedy at hand. I was grateful when the diesel engine roared to life and drowned out the woman’s piercing screams. I wasn’t sure where they would take me, could only hope that my fate would somehow involve being melted down to nothing. Even this, however, might be more than I deserve.

None of this was ever supposed to happen.

I remember quite vividly the day I came to life. I was still on the assembly line when I first heard the beautiful purring sound of my engine. And those first moments of awareness were filled with the longing to test the speed that I, by instinct, knew I was created for. They called me Ninja; I liked the way it sounded when they said it, liked the way the men looked me up and down with reverence. I knew I was something special. I couldn’t wait to hit the road.

As it turned out, I wouldn’t have to wait long. I was on the lot for sixteen days. Sixteen days of going no more than fifteen miles an hour as they moved me to and from my displays. I was sitting outside by various other makes and models the day my first owner approached. I was looking my best that day- my vivid red, white, and chrome caught his attention from the other side of the lot. I knew almost immediately that he would take me home. He eyed me with appreciation before running his hand alongside my glossy exterior. I was confused when he began speaking with the salesman about the economy and rising gas prices, and tried not to take offense to the fact that my MPG drew him in above all else.

We pulled out of the dealership later that evening and I felt the full force of the wind breaking against my headlight for the first time. The freedom of the open road was exhilarating! I wanted to show what I was made of, but the needle never crossed over sixty during the forty-five minute drive. Was this what I had to look forward to? Surely he understood that I was made for so much more.

My first owner had me for four years. And during that time I took him to and from work five days a week; there was nothing else. He had purchased me for my economic gas prices and convenience of parking, but he blatantly ignored everything else I had to offer. He never once went over the speed limit, never once weaved in and out of the stopped traffic during his morning commute, and never once took me out just for the joy of driving. Four years of existence and I had yet to experience full throttle.

I was seen by many young men in the six months the tacky “For Sale By Owner” sign was taped to my windshield. In the end, none of them could justify the buy (my then owner would translate for them, stating that they really meant their moms or wives would kill them). When my next owner first came to see me I immediately liked him, not just for the way he commented on my sleek design, but for the test drive for which he politely asked. It was only seven miles, but those seven miles were the most free I had ever felt. We were flying! Every part of me rejoiced when he took me home the following day. We were still driving conservatively, but I felt the thrill that went through him as the needle crept toward seventy-five. This was a man who knew what I was made for, though he was hesitant to fully experience it.

My first year with this owner was filled with joy rides. He never drove us recklessly, probably because of the gentle reminders his wife would give as he backed me out of the garage. He was extremely conscious of his role as husband and provider and I knew it held him back. When that role expanded to include father, our joy rides became less and less until one day I was moved to a corner in the garage next to the ATV to make room for the white minivan. I mourned the loss of our fun.

The garage door surprised me one night when it opened well past my owner’s usual bedtime. He walked in and was followed by a young boy and girl, teenagers by the looks of them. They were already in mid-conversation when I heard the boy explain that his friend had driven him here because he had no means of transportation at the moment. “I’ll drive you around for the rest of your life if it means you don’t get a motorcycle,” she responded.

Why had my owner brought them here? This girl obviously had no respect for the freedom and thrill I represented. I was nervous about what their presence here could mean…until the boy got a full look at me. His eyes were wild as they took me in. He clapped his hands together once and rubbed them excitedly. “Let’s take her out!” he exclaimed.

“The headlight went out a couple months ago, but there’s a well-lit parking lot not far from here if you really want to,” my owner answered.

“Oh, yeah!”

A thrill went through me as my owner wheeled me out of the garage. It had been weeks since he’d last taken me out. Even though it was just a short drive, I enjoyed every second. He hopped off at the parking lot and waited as the girl parked her car nearby. The boy practically ran our way. Much to my satisfaction, the girl stayed by her car, leaning against the door with arms crossed disapprovingly.

“Have you ever driven one of these?” my owner asked cautiously.

The boy didn’t take his eyes off me, but shook his head no in reply. I listened as my owner explained to him all the basic instructions of how to handle me. He motioned for the boy to get on so he could point out all of my controls. I could feel the excitement pouring out of him. My own anticipation was building as the boy revved my engine a couple of times. Across the lot, I saw the girl roll her eyes. I couldn’t wait to give her a show.

The boy slowly inched me forward, getting a feel of my gas and brake pedals before letting his feet off the ground. It was very slow at first, just an easy circle around the wide lot as he familiarized himself with my movements. I sensed he was just as impatient as I to really get moving, and on the second turn around he let me loose. He called loudly as he took me around the girl’s car and then proceeded to complete a few 8s. I showed him how perfectly I responded to his movements.  It didn’t take him long at all to really get the hang of it and I was as disappointed as he when my owner waved his hand and called us over. The girl had walked over to stand by him at this point and she no longer appeared disapproving. Instead she laughed out loud as we approached.

“Isn’t she something?”

“You’re crazy,” she answered the boy.

He dismounted and propped me up on my kickstand before turning to my owner. “I’ll take it.” This changed the girl’s attitude almost immediately.

“Are you sure about this? You haven’t had much time to think about it,” she pointed out.

“That was all the time I needed. He’s practically giving it away. It’d be stupid to pass up,” he argued.

I was glad when the girl did not respond to this. I wanted this boy to have me. I needed this boy to have me. My then owner shook his hand.

“Come by tomorrow and we’ll work out all the details.” The boy agreed and walked over to me, he gripped his hand on my gas pedal one more time before sliding it across the seat. “Until tomorrow,” he said.

“Are you sure you don’t want to kiss it goodnight?” the girl asked with a smirk.

The following day the boy’s brother replaced the girl as chauffeur and I waited patiently for their talks to wrap up. My owner had washed and waxed me the night before in anticipation of the sell, and I gleamed in the sunlight as the three men finally made their way over to me. After a few cautious reminders and polite thank-yous, the boy took his seat and together we pulled out of the driveway.

I’ll never forget that first drive, though each one that followed was just as intensely beautiful. My new owner and I connected on an almost psychic level; I responded to his direction sometimes even before he made a conscious, manual effort to do so. Our movements were fluid, and whether we flew down crowded highways or empty side streets, the thrill of the drive commanded all of our efforts.

He did not hold back as my previous owners did. The boy not only understood what I was truly made for, but how to let me make the most of each experience. The first day he reached ninety-five miles an hour, and each day after we would try to break our own record. In just four short days I had experienced everything I had been held back from. It was excitement. It was freedom.

This was life.

The fifth day of my new life my owner pulled us into the driveway of a home I didn’t recognize, though the car parked there was familiar enough. Light rain had just begun to fall and so he carefully guided me under to protection of the roof on the front porch before he entered the home. A couple of hours later the boy exited, followed closely by the girl who had accompanied him that first night. Just the sight of her made me uneasy and she cast a wary eye my direction.

Their conversation was easy, no doubt a product of years of friendship. Yet my owner’s responses confused me; he was not his usual carefree self and I wondered about the sudden change. I wondered if she even noticed. I watched the girl embrace the boy and she eyed me over his shoulder. “Promise me you will drive safely.” The urgency in her tone unnerved me, but the boy just chuckled.

“I’ll try, but you never know…it has been raining.” The girl pulled back and lightly punched his arm. “Okay, okay,” he added.  The two said goodbye and we set off.

I could immediately tell his heart was not in this drive as it had been before. He seemed distracted and not fully invested in the direction he was giving me. I tried to compensate as best I could, but there was only so much I could do. I became increasingly aware of the slick roads and the setting sun, but my lack of headlight seemed to only concern me as we flew down the darkening county road.

I saw the pair of headlights approaching us before he did. This particular county road was dangerously narrow and I was thankful when I felt my owner ease off the gas.  The next series of events happened so fast that no time was left for me to compensate or react. There was no signal for a left turn, but I could see that the vehicle ahead of us was motioning itself to take it. My owner didn’t see until it was too late. I heard a sharp intake of breath as the vehicle crossed into our lane and he gripped the brake pedal with the force of all his strength. The loud screeching of tires filled the otherwise quiet night as my back tire fishtailed around so that the entire length of my body collided with car’s passenger side doors.  I had only a split second to register the three horrified faces inside.

Upon impact I was forced under the still moving vehicle. The world spun as my body was ripped apart by the concrete. I felt parts of me crush under the impossible weight of the vehicle’s tires. Thrown out on the other side, I flipped and lurched down the narrow road until I crashed in a heap of twisted metal on my side. The entire event could not have taken more than ten seconds, but the results of those seconds were difficult to compute.

And now as I am being taken away from the scene, I’m forced to try and block out the images that are forever burned into my mind. The hopeless cries of the other driver; screaming sirens; uniformed men shouting orders that would prove fruitless; and finally, three white sheets on the steamy asphalt. As for myself, I wasn’t fortunate enough to get a sheet. Instead I was left to watch it all play out with sickening clarity.

Six years of existence, five days of living, three innocent lives lost, and who knows how many hearts broken by my miserable excuse for being. Was this what I was made for? Was this the only legacy I would have to leave behind? I understood the answer to this was obviously yes. The truck pulled into the gated yard before two men jumped in the back and carelessly threw me out to the nearest clearing. There was no need to take care anymore. I now rest with the other junk.

The boy’s mother and brother came to see me three days later; for what reason I could not imagine. For several moments they just stood there before the mother eventually succumbed to tears and walked away. I could not read the emotions on the brother’s face as he turned to follow.

The girl never came, and for that I was thankful.


My Crippling Fear of Roaches (and other stuff)

I blame everything on roaches.

That’s roaches in general, not any one offender or particular circumstance that scarred me in the past. The deep-seeded hate turned paralyzing fear of the abysmal creatures has always been there and, irrational as it may be, I just can’t seem to get past it.

It can be humiliating, especially on occasion where my reactions are witnessed by others, but it can also be a useful tool at times. While still living at my parents house it came in handy often. Sort out the shoes in the closet that no one ever uses, i.e. Roach Motel? Pass. Get the Christmas decorations out of the attic? Hard pass. Bring in something from the garage? Nuh uh. Roach City.

Ok, I may have abused it a little, but it always worked. One mention of roaches and my parents would simply nod their understanding and drop it. Why? Because they knew. My fear was no joke; it was a reality we all lived in. (Also because I was definitely a spoiled brat – their fault.) You need only witness my hysterics once to know it was something to be avoided. That sounds melodramatic, I realize, but it’s the absolute truth.

The point I’m trying to make here is that my fear of roaches is real. And to everyone that knows me, it isn’t questioned. So explaining my recent lack of peace and inability to sleep is pretty easy – I blame roaches.

I realize as I’m typing this that it sounds like I’ve lived in horrendous conditions my entire life, but that’s no where near the truth. My childhood homes were clean and well-kept, as is my current rent house; I wouldn’t risk cultivating a roach paradise! However, here in the South we have big trees and hot summers. Big trees almost guarantee the abundance of gargantuan roaches; hot summers lead to those monsters trying to steal some of that sweet air-conditioned air inside. Mooching bastards. The home I grew up in was literally surrounded by woods. The occasional appearance of tree roaches inside was inevitable even with the bug spray service my parents paid for every two months. When I was 16 we moved out of the woods and into a neighborhood with wide open spaces. The property our house rested in had a grand total of two trees, positioned far enough away from the home so that I never had to encounter any of those vile creatures again.

I couldn’t stay there forever though (but I delayed leaving as long as possible anyway 😉 ). The house I am currently living in is nestled between several large and looming trees, each one hosting unimaginable numbers of cockroaches. I’m a grown up now though, which means turning down a perfectly good living situation because there might be a few roaches crawling around from time to time isn’t really an acceptable out anymore. So I did what any God-fearing adult moving into a new home surrounded by threats would do – I prayed that sh** down. Just like Mom taught me, I was pleading the Blood of Jesus over every square foot. Roaches might be able to survive a nuclear apocalypse, but they don’t stand a chance against Jesus.

One year of living here and I have yet to see a living cockroach inside my home. I’ve seen two dead ones though, which isn’t exactly a pleasant sight but it is still comforting – Jesus is killing them on site. This past week I found a dead roach in the sink, that same night I went to take the trash out only to see the largest freaking tree roach that I’ve ever laid eyes on just chilling on the window of my back door. It was outside, but it was very alive. I raced to the other side of the house and locked myself inside my room, my mind cataloging every possible entry point that the beast could use at any second. The crack at the base of the door. The poorly sealed kitchen window. THE DAMN ATTIC RIGHT ABOVE MY HEAD.

With so many access points, it was a miracle the place wasn’t crawling with them already. Then it hit me – it was literally a miracle that I had never seen a live cockroach inside. They hadn’t breached the walls yet because they couldn’t. Once hit with this revelation, I knew I had nothing to fear. I texted my mom anyway and she confirmed the spiritual protection covering my home. I texted my cousin / roommate who unfortunately works nights – prime time for roach assaults – and he also settled my frazzled nerves, informing me that he’d sprayed every crack and crevice of the back door just that morning. The beast wouldn’t live for much longer. Crawling across my door was a death sentence for it.

It didn’t take long to reclaim my sense of security after that, and yet I still would not sleep that night. For hours I laid in my bed willing myself to try and get some sleep, but unable to silence my thoughts. I may have felt safe from a roach invasion, but peace of mind and spirit was elusive as ever.

I blame it on roaches. It’s a simple enough explanation and easy to defend, but it’s a cowardly way of avoiding the real reason I sometimes can’t sleep. The truth is my thoughts can be a threat far worse than roaches at times, and much like roaches, nights are prime time for assault.

A coworker correctly presumed I was worried about something and it was keeping my mind wide awake. He was right, sort of. It’s not just one particular thing I worry about, it’s everything. Nothing is excluded from analysis and doubt. I go through every last detail of  my life and question everything.

And I always circle back to the same pitiful conclusion – I don’t have anything in my life to claim as mine. I don’t have a husband or family. I don’t own a home. All my furniture and television was split between my cousin and me. Even my ticking time bomb of a vehicle is in my father’s name, so I can’t trade it in. It’s really really stupid to waste time comparing your life to another’s, but that’s my sleep-deprived mind’s favorite past time recently.

I was in pretty much the same situation two years ago, but I didn’t really worry about it. I still lived with my parents and didn’t care. I spent most weekends with my best friend (another cousin) doing nothing or hanging out with the rest of our family. My family is a bit strange in that we actually like spending time with each other; my cousins are literally my closest friends in the world. My best friend and I were unattached though, so we went on Florida vacations and spent more time together than apart.

Then one day she decided she was ready to get married. Very soon after that she decided on the man she was going to marry, even though he seemed uninterested at the time. When she decides she wants something, she makes it happen. I’ve always admired that about her. A month later they were living together. Five months after that they were engaged and expecting a baby. Fast forward a  few more months and she now has two brand new vehicles in the driveway of their very own home.

I’m happy that she got everything she ever wanted. I hate myself for feeling left behind, or worse – bitter and jealous.

I didn’t have my best friend to waste the days with anymore, but it wasn’t so bad. It wasn’t like she disappeared, we’re cousins after all. I moved in with my other cousin during this time. He was the only other member of our close knit family still unattached like me. We all have each other, of course, but there’s still a sense of being apart from those units. He understood that more than anyone else. Like me, he preferred to hang around family than cultivate friendships. Also like me, he had doubts about his place and purpose surrounded by so many growing families.

We once had a debate over who could go missing the longest amount of time before someone noticed. Sounds pretty dark, but that’s just the sort of thing we related to one another over. Things just sort of happened for everyone else and we were essentially tagging along while all of our other cousins’ lives fell into place.

I knew as well as he that we couldn’t exactly blame anyone but ourselves for our perpetual singleness. The few friends we have that aren’t family are all already married, our church isn’t ripe with eligible dating candidates, and we had probably become too complacent with our current lot. I’ve never been in a relationship. I wouldn’t even know how to be in one. He understood that sort of anxiety better than anyone.

Just a few months into our lease however, all of that changed. The things that just sort of happened for everyone else, happened for him. The girl of his dreams moved in right next door. Her toddler son may as well be his now, it’s clear how much he loves them both. And I am so very happy for him. I can honestly say that if anyone deserves that kind of happiness, it’s him.

I don’t want to envy the happiness of my loved ones. I don’t want to feel a twinge a sadness every time I see something wonderful falling into place for someone who truly deserves it. I just can’t help but wonder why it keeps happening for everyone else but me.

God worked it out so that he didn’t have to venture very far to find a partner. He basically planted her right smack dab on his doorstep.

And I’m still here, sitting in this empty house, staring at the words no one else will ever read, wondering if this is all I’ll ever see.

It does beg the question, how long would it take someone to notice that I was missing? I don’t think my coworkers would take very long before attempting to track me down, but I think that might make me even more depressed. The Parks Department would notice my absence before anyone else. That’s not being very fair to my family though, I realize. I’m definitely being melodramatic now, but that’s why we blog, isn’t it?

That’s just the sort of path my mind likes to take me on as the evening hours drag on. Today was the fourth time in recent months that I gave up on sleep and went into work before 5am for want of something to do. Because if I let my thoughts get the best of me, they take me deeper into the pit of sadness and self-loathing, they show me a future of loneliness and dissatisfaction.

Thinking of the future is what I hate most of all. Because someday – and I pray to God that someday is far, far away – I will no longer have the one piece of my life that I cherish most of all. My mother won’t always be with me in this life, and when she’s gone I fear I will truly have nothing at all.

Fear is a powerful force. You can be moved into action by its presence, or paralyzed in place instead.

I blame it on roaches, but such a childish phobia doesn’t hold a candle to what truly terrifies me. I am afraid of being left behind. I’m afraid of never having anything that’s mine. The fear of being alone for the rest of my life is enough to keep me awake at night as I agonize over how to avoid that fate.

But I think the thing that most scares me is the possibility that I might have already chosen this future. I worry that I like being alone much more than I should.

That said, it’s still the roaches’ fault.






Convincing Lies, Unwanted Conclusions

As far back as I can remember I was considered ‘one of the guys.’ And my position there wasn’t something I ever actually wanted, nor gave any conscious effort to achieve. It just kind of happened. For some reason I often ended up as the trustworthy pal to any one of the individual boys in my group of friends, and for a long time I prided myself in that fact. There was a time that I was even flattered by the tendency of my guy friends to include me in their conversations and consider me a confidant. As I grew older, however, I came to see the unflattering truth that it was.

As one of the guys, I could never hope to be seen as anything beyond that. As a young woman, this led to many years of disappointment. As a woman on the less-optimistic side of her twenties, it’s clearer now just how much it has affected my adult life.

I can trace this trend all the way back to elementary school, where I was one part of a six-member group equally divided in genders. Even then I gravitated more toward the guys, though I counted another of the girls in the group as my best friend. As time went on and circumstances changed, our group of six dwindled to three at the start of junior high, and was further changed by the newly discovered feelings the other two had for one another. There is admittedly no such thing as dating in junior high, but the fundamental dynamics of the group shifted nonetheless. Suddenly I found myself the third wheel in what was once an equally balanced system. Worse than that was to realize I would be the one with whom they would each confide in respectively, on anything and everything regarding their adolescent romance. But the absolute worst part of it all was that I had discovered my feelings for this guy friend long before then.

My feelings had never been made known of course, so I had only myself to blame for the position I was stuck in for the better part of two years. I never said anything before, during, or after their ‘unlabeled mutual affection,’ not even when our group gradually disbanded into separate, but never quite as strong, friendships. I thought about confessing those feelings many times in the years that followed, eventually deciding that there was no point. Somewhere along the line I had settled for my role in the just friends category, consigning myself to this position on more than one occasion. I suppose it had become easier to occupy that state of mind than to hope for the day when someone would see me as more than a pal. But if it was hard for me to even imagine being the object of someone’s affection then I couldn’t expect anyone else to perceive me differently.

It was in this state of mind that I entered into the new friendships defining my high school years. This time I was the only girl in our unlikely trio, somehow bonding with the pair of outsiders after their respective court-ordered probation resulted in each of their mothers’ decision to switch schools. Despite our vast differences, I was quickly enamored by both of these boys, whose individual characters put them miles apart from each other. One was a free spirit, careless and infuriating, but could charm his way into any heart and out of any situation. The other was more careful and reflective, but had an unmatched sense of humor beyond the walls he often erected.

There was never a question of what we meant to each other – we were friends in the best sense of the word, and for a season I happily existed in that singular awareness. It would take years of painful retrospect for me to fully grasp the effect that this brief season had on my life as a whole. Thirteen years later and I’m still finding new areas of damage that time alone could not repair.

Yet even with this burden of knowledge on my shoulders I still cannot entirely regret those years, nor can I justly assign all the blame to those severed ties for my current damaged state.

There is not a singular moment that stands out as the root cause for my guarded nature. I was born into a happy home and was blessed with a loving family – no childhood trauma or abuse, no abandonment issues that resulted in my constructing walls out of self-preservation. Without any real or justifiable reason I became this untrusting and unreachable person. I hate it. I want to fix it. But like most things, it’s easier said than done, and even the ‘said’ part is a struggle for me.

Speaking has never come easy for me, and voicing my thoughts or feelings is nearly impossible. I was never able to tell my friends how I felt back in junior high, nor was I able to put into words the deeper level of attachment that grew unchecked in the years that followed. I kept it all inside, sometimes writing the words on paper before shredding the evidence, and always – always – denying the truth when guessed by anyone paying close enough attention. There is a barrier between the truth and verbal language for me, one that has been there too long.

A slightly out of focus image of my third grade self comes to mind. The poignant memory of shattered feelings in that moment are much clearer to recall, set apart as one of the only times I gathered enough courage to tell my crush that I wanted him to be my boyfriend. Using the standard ‘check yes or no’ note as my confession of love, I placed it along with a hand-made wrist band into his desk and waited for his reply. To my horror, I did not receive a note in return. Instead he would meet me in the hallway, note and bracelet in hand, and proceed to voice his confusion over the message since he had thought we were friends.

Yeah, we’re friends, definitely just friends, that’s what I meant, of course that’s what I meant, it’s a friendship bracelet, because we’re buds, duh.

I can laugh about it now – that friendship bracelet excuse was actually used – because it is pretty funny, but the amusement invariably comes with a twinge of sadness. When I relive the event in my vague memory looking through the eyes of that little girl, I can feel her point of view steadily diminishing as the gap of time widens between us. I know that someday I will have forgotten of her rejected first move and fumbled recovery entirely. Which I really should consider a good thing given how my mind likes to sneak attack me with the most humiliating of memories in its dossier right when I’m about to doze off at night, just so I can get a good taste of humility and self-loathing before the day’s end. But in this instance I can’t be glad of its riddance from my memory because it is the only event of its kind that I have to relive; the only time I liked a boy and made my feelings known.

I put my hopeful heart on the line that day in a way I never could again. I couldn’t risk making my feelings known, no matter how long they burned inside me. I couldn’t when that same boy went on to ask the girl who sat next to me to be his girlfriend so that they could hold hands and walk around the playground at recess for a whole week. Nor could I when the boy whom I liked from the fifth grade and all through junior high fell for my best friend. I wouldn’t be able to at the start of freshman year either, when I was crushing big time on my brother’s friend who amazingly seemed interested in me as well until later revealing his hope at getting closer with my cousin. And certainly not in high school when my two closest friends were determined to play the field with every available option except me. In a private school where the student body barely surpassed triple digits at its peak (there were eight of us in my graduating class), the choices to pursue were very limited. Yet somehow, even with those kind of odds in my favor, I was never anyone’s choice.

With that type of evidence, it’s hard to argue against the conclusion that I simply may not be desirable to the opposite sex. Even in desperate times and small populations I was neither an option, consolation prize, or a last resort. I didn’t have any more luck in college either. Despite losing some of my teenage awkwardness and most of the extra weight, the years in junior college and a larger university were spent with nary a passing glance of interest. It wasn’t that I was putting off some sort of unavailable vibes either, for I managed to muster up enough courage to “put myself out there” at one point in particular (though I’d left the directness of my approach in that third grade classroom).

He came at a vulnerable in-between stage in my life, just after losing all the weight but before regaining the confidence lost in years of unrequited devotion. He was tall and charming, intellectually intimidating and bold in a way I envied, but most attractive of all was the unapologetic way he expressed his Christian faith. In a mostly left-leaning liberal arts college, his presence was invaluable for me in a time where my own faith was flimsy at best. I was drawn to him for all of these reasons while being mindful of what caused me to recognize such characteristics, for I had very recently grieved – and had yet to fully recover from – the back to back losses of the most important relationships of my life to date. I was careful in my approach, disguising my interest as like-minded scholarly companionship until the semester ended and I was able to hide behind a computer screen to Facebook message an invite for “hanging out.” I tried to behave as a 21 year old college student should and not reveal the giddiness I felt at his positive response, but my naiveté was a constant hurdle in the efforts of getting to know each other. I experienced the best first date of my life with him, which holds true to this day. Instead of following up evening dinner with an awkward movie showing or hasty goodbye, he had timed the occasion on the day of an historic meteor shower and we watched the stars on a mound of pillows and blankets in my backyard, talking for hours about nothing and everything in between.

That evening was the first time I entertained the hope of a life without thoughts and emotions consumed by the disappointment of what was lost. For the first time I wanted something that seemed real and actually attainable. I listened and was completely enthralled by his opinions on literature, philosophy, politics and more. I listened and offered not much more than the occasional insight to my own less-developed conclusions, but he never needed more than that to carry a conversation. He revealed the deepest layers of his character in those few hours, holding nothing back as he told me of his long road back to God with all its struggles. He had no hesitation in confessing his battle with alcoholism and the pride that hindered his road to recovery. He laid it all out with a raw sort of honesty that I found both beautiful and intimidating. And as wonderful as the night was for me, that inability to match his honesty and express my feelings set the tone for our future conversations, in which I never managed to take down my cautious walls.

In this manner we would carry on many more conversations almost every night on the phone during our summer hiatus. We would talk for hours without ever needing to search for a topic. I opened up to him as much as my insecurities allowed, and only after he learned to ask direct questions in order to receive less filtered responses that sleepiness made possible. Guarded is the word he once used to describe me hours into his tireless attempts. I hated the way it sounded, but couldn’t deny the conclusion he’d reached. He said he’d never met anyone so guarded before and, though it was frustrating at times, he was intrigued by it as well. I hated this too when it was said and apologized. When he asked me point blank what my expectations for us were, I panicked. He was demanding the words I’d never been able to say out loud. He was forcing me to put my heart on the line, to risk everything I’d worked so hard to protect. He wanted me to speak, and I didn’t want to disappoint him. But the barrier was still too thick. I don’t have expectations, I confessed. I hope for a lot of things though. I hope I can let down those guards someday. But my greatest hope was left unsaid, that he’d be there when I was finally able.

Good, he replied before mercifully dropping the subject. We continued our nightly phone routine for a few more weeks until school resumed and just when my anticipation for his phone calls grew into an expectation of their eventuality, the phone stopped ringing. My first time initiating the call became my last attempt once it went to voicemail, and I accepted it then and there as the end to our almost romance. We maintained a casual friendship that any classmates in the same degree plan would share, catching up between classes, complaining about professors, and sharing snacks in the hall as we laughed at the Creative Writing majors that passed us by. I never asked him what changed or what led to his suddenly pulling away, eventually counting it as just another unknown in a long list of closure-lacking ends, all leading to the unavoidable conclusion that I am simply unlovable.

The amount of supporting logic confirms it as far more than a theory based on silly insecurities. Honestly, at this point how could I not believe that the problem is me? The last thing I want is for this to somehow come off as my fishing for reassurances or compliments. I don’t need anyone else to tell me who I am and what I have to offer. I know what I am, and I’m okay with it for the most part. I boast no extraordinary characteristics in talent, intellect or looks. I am on the average scale in just about every respect. And I’m content with being average, too. I’m not bold, but I’m not completely lacking confidence either. I have absolutely zero skill in the art of persuasion or flirtation, but I am hilarious (my sense of humor – in my oh so humble opinion – is undoubtedly my best quality). And I may not be classically beautiful or a size two, but I’m comfortable enough in my own skin to know I’m not exactly an ogre.

I could go on for pages listing the things I don’t have but wish I did, all that I am but wish I weren’t. Doing so wouldn’t bring me any closer to the answer of my confounded heart, with every beat echoing the same question: What makes me unlovable?

Rationally speaking, such a depressing thought is bordering the absurd when taken in consideration the actual amount of love I do have in my life. I am blessed to have the support of both  parents, as well as the encouragement offered by my large extended family, all of whom I remain close with to this day. The value of their combined presence and genuine investment in my well-being goes without saying, but – and I’m sorry that this comes at the risk of sounding ungrateful – it’s just not the same. While their love is a constant source of strength for me to lean on, it comes as a byproduct to the ties in which we were bound at birth. I was literally born into this type of love – a preexisting condition that solidified our life-long connections to one another.

Simply put, my family has no choice in loving me. It always was and always will be. That fact makes it no less valuable, of course, but it does make it different. It’s wonderful, but it’s just not the same.

No one has ever chosen to love me. No one has ever linked their heart to mine without conditions or obligations.

Let it be known that I am grateful for the love of my family and of the few close friends that have stuck around; this love means more to me than anything. It cannot be questioned, nor can I doubt its strength even now that most all of them have married and started families of their own. I know I matter to them still. I know I am valued.

However, I also know that I am outside the boundaries defined in these units respectively. To occupy a space inside such a family unit is to be irreplaceable. It means you play a vital role that, if ever lost, can never be filled again. Where I stand now, my role would only leave a permanent void in this sense for one person: my mother. Many more would feel sadness, some might even grieve for a while, but only she would experience any type of brokenness. And no one would be more affected by the loss than she would. Those with whom I work on a daily basis would likely be the second most affected, though they would eventually adapt out of necessity.

Therefore my theory is neither absurd, nor unfounded. The reality is quite clear – situated where I am, the most significant role I occupy is at the job I’ve held for 9 years. From an operations standpoint, no matter how strong the bonds of my personal life are, I am not on the essential list. At work I have the title of Operations Manager; I am vital in that role, essential. I feel needed there and it’s a good feeling. Yet even that seat is replaceable. The need I currently fill will not suddenly vanish if I fail to show Monday morning, and eventually someone would pick up just where I left off. As someone once told me, a trained monkey could fill that position. I would’ve been more insulted if I didn’t somewhat agree with his assessment. It’s simply the nature of any job – if there’s an opening, it must be filled. And there are plenty of willing candidates to get on board and work until they feel necessary.

I’m sure I knew it already, but hearing that literally anyone could come in off the street and take over, could assume the role that often seems to be the only place in which my showing up truly matters, was the last piece of evidence I needed to prove beyond a reasonable doubt the case building against me. It wasn’t insulting; it was a punch to the gut.

Where am I vital? In what area could I never be replaced? In what way has my existence on this earth truly and fundamentally mattered?

The long list of times where I thought to be making a difference is only an account of my failures. Circumstances may vary and the cast of characters change, but the theme is constant – an end was reached. Some were drawn out far too long, others occurring more swiftly, all were out of my control. The tragedy of my story found in the pathetic repetition of chapters:

I had hoped listening to his dreams for the future would make him see a place for me there, but he was gone from my life once he fixed his eyes on the road leading him out of town. I never told him how much I cared or how lonely I became in his absence.

I thought he was happy in his new life, this fresh start that came with a pair of best friends that tamed his wilder inclinations and humored his constant excitement. I loved every second he was with us and would choose his company over any other. I was his friend but he chose me two years in a row for his homecoming date, and I loved him for it. But when he was given the choice, he left us. He returned to his old life, his old friends. It would take one full year before he came back, but I felt even then that it was temporary. I couldn’t allow myself to hope he’d choose differently this time. And he died before I could tell him how desperately I wanted him to stay.

I believed he was too good to be true. I believed he was too good for me. I believed him when he said that I was special. I was drawn to his confidence and unapologetic faith; I fell for his mind and sense of humor. It was easy to believe that he had high hopes for where this would go. He urged me to keep guarding my heart in the meantime, and I didn’t listen. One quick side hug after graduation was our final farewell, his backward footsteps leading him further and further away from me while maintaining the crooked smile in my direction. I pressed my lips firmly shut until he turned around, trapping the question hanging on the tip of my tongue for a year. Why couldn’t you love me? 

I gave him everything, wanting nothing but him in return. In a world full of people he was my first choice. Years of heartache and wasted time would reveal I was never even his last resort. He tortured me with the steady stream of disastrous flings, knowing I’d be there as the supporting friend to fall back on. It was only after he exhausted all else in his attempt to find happiness that he finally chose me. He promised that he’d wanted it all along. He claimed to finally be at peace. Seven years of peaks and valleys should have made me wiser than I was. I was his choice for barely a moment, he was mine long before and longer still after. It wouldn’t take long for him to realize that I wasn’t what he wanted. And I’ll never know what it was that led him to that decision. I would never get a goodbye or an explanation. I’ll never get the closure I once desperately needed. There was nothing I could ever do to change the simple fact that he didn’t love me enough to choose me. He just couldn’t love me at all.

None of them could.

I’ve got all the proof in the world against me. The outlook is admittedly bleak, and had I not the systems of belief and family in my corner to lean against, it might be impossible to see past it. The foundations of faith instilled in me throughout my childhood are still in place, as are the convictions and beliefs that developed later through my own pursuit of Truth.

But the truth can be a hard pill to swallow, especially in times when the lies are so much easier to believe.

The single most destructive lie we fall victim to is the one that says we don’t matter. That our very existence is inconsequential. That the individual roles we play in life are interchangeable, replaceable, and therefore unimportant. It is this lie that is whispered in our ears on those lonely Saturday nights where we find ourselves – yet again – without plans to fill our weekend. The lie we hear as the clock ticks closer to the end of another long work day, consuming our thoughts until we see the foolishness in anticipating such freedom at all when it so often means another set of long and empty hours. The lie perpetuated by endless Facebook and Instagram posts on our feed reminding us of everything we don’t have. The same lie that tells us that without a partner, without children or a family unit, our lives are comparatively meaningless to those who do; as such, our posts aren’t worthy enough to grace anyone else’s feed or timeline even if we had a status to update them on.

We hear this lie every day. We live this lie. We give the lie authority, so much so that to make plans or simply spend time with others for companionship instead only serves to confirm the despair.

We don’t matter, the lie whispers.

That place we once held with friends is replaceable, the lie shows us.

Our absence at family gatherings would go unnoticed anyway, the lie presumes.

Going or staying, joining in or standing aside – it makes no difference at all. We make no difference, breathes the lie.

The single most destructive thing we could do in life is to allow the lie to become our truth; to let our reality be the manifestation of our deepest fears and insecurities. In listening to the lie, we give it a voice strong enough to diminish our self-worth and loud enough to drown out that still, small voice of reason. We forget that the lie is only ever as strong as our willingness to listen, but the lie knows and buries itself into our subconscious so it can continue beyond our waking thoughts. The longer we let it speak, the louder it becomes, and the less satisfied it is with merely self-doubt. The lie wants more.

Once we surrender our situational contentment by comparing our lives to others, the lie has taken a foothold. Next it wants our time and energy. It wants our ambition. It wants our talents and confidence. It wants our personality and interests. It wants our thoughts, prayers, joy and peace.

The lie wants to take our individuality from us one piece at a time, until we have nothing left, until we can’t hope in our own ability to perceive it as a lie anymore.

The single most important thing we will ever learn is that there is a Truth far greater than any lie. A Truth that tells us we are not alone in this struggle. A Truth that regards us as important, noticed, and loved; deeming us worthy of that love. A Truth that places so much value on individual lives that even if it were an act for one, He still would have laid down His life in their place. A Truth that reminds us that we are more than our circumstances, more than our feelings – we are children of the most High. A Truth that is the only Way to peace. A Truth that is life.

A Truth declaring with unmatched authority that we are worth it all.

Where the lie whispers unwanted, the Truth says mine.

Where the lie whispers rejected, the Truth says mine.

Where the lie whispers unimportant, the Truth says mine.

The Truth says that we are known, each of us, and that we are called accordingly and individually. That we are valued both collectively and separately. The Truth promises a place, a purpose; it offers us peace and joy; it lends strength when we have none.

The Truth chooses me, cherishes me, and emboldens me.

The Truth calls me beloved.

This is the truth I cling to. Because the loneliness I feel may be very real, and the despair at the unanswered questions of my heart might be legitimate in its causes, but none of these feelings can lessen the weight of His promises. One of the beautiful things about surrendering our whole selves to the Creator is that He understands our human nature with all its faults and limitations better than we ever could, and instead of holding it against us or withholding His grace, He accepts these failings and covers them by His love along with all the rest. We need not be ashamed of the fickle nature of our untrustworthy emotions because He does not judge us by our shortcomings.

So while the condemnation in the question of my being unlovable is not absurd in reasoning, I can take comfort in the fact that my heart and such warring emotions must submit to a higher authority. For if our hearts condemn us, God is greater than our hearts and He knows all things.

As far as worldly definitions of romance are concerned, I have no experience or notion of its effects, but I do have something far greater. I have the unfailing love of a Savior. I am the object of His affection, the receiver of His devotion. The greatest power in existence – the Creator of existence itself – singles me out and pursues me without end. He has all things, holds the universe in His grasp and all its creatures at His disposal; He is wanting for nothing, yet He wants me still. He’s jealous for me.

He chooses me.



Trade Up

To put it simply, I am not very good at speaking.

And not just public speaking, which is met with a healthy level of nervousness for most people, but speaking out loud in general has always been a challenge for me. I don’t know the reasons or cause behind such an impediment, nor could I ever attempt to rationalize this difficulty in communicating as anything more than a simple fear of failure. I’m just scared of messing the words up, so instead of taking the risk, more often than not I choose to keep my mouth shut.

As a self-proclaimed writer, words are quite literally my livelihood. I rely on words for everything – for expression, therapy, introspection, prayer, etc. And I’m good with words, too. I can articulate thoughts and opinion, defend positions and offer sound conclusions with some pretty effective language when the occasion calls for it, but only as long as these words are put on paper. Attempting to do so without a pen in my hand usually results in any intended meaning becoming lost in translation.

This is a big problem. In point of fact, a writer with a communication problem is no writer at all. At least this was the conclusion I came to early on in life. You see, for as long as I can remember there have been stories circulating in my head, pages filled with characters and ideas since I first learned to construct sentences. Solace was found in the blank pages of my notebooks, where I would retreat into distant worlds and go as far as my imagination allowed, becoming anyone I wanted to be. Contrarily, in the reality of my actual world I knew exactly who I was, and she was no story-teller at all. She was shy, uncertain, and scared. Worse, she had no desire to fix the reality in which she lived.

Avoiding this fear was never really an issue until I graduated from the small and comfortable private school that I’d spent over a decade of my life in, forcing me to enter into the unknown arena of college classes. Somehow I managed to survive the brutal instances of being called upon in class, and even muscled through the much-dreaded presentations that the more malicious instructors loved to assign. All such assignments occurred in liberal arts classes, where talking was not only encouraged but necessary for a passing grade. Once finishing the core curriculum at junior college, I had an Associates degree in hand and absolutely no clear direction for moving forward aside from knowing that whatever it may be, my continuing education would never include studies in the liberal arts.

I also knew, however, that a Bachelor’s degree in anything would at some point or another require speaking up, so I began the search for a field that I found interesting enough, and one that didn’t require anything more than introverted study and silence. I had found the courses in Criminology the most engaging and for a time I entertained the notion of becoming a criminal psychologist with career goals as a juvenile probation officer. For one semester I fully embraced this aim and excelled in all my studies of crime investigation, courtroom law, and psychological analyses. Having had two close relationships with juvenile offenders in high school, I rather naively regarded these personal experiences as motivation and qualification for my higher education.

I felt qualified because these individuals that I had formed relationships with had let me in when they’d trusted no other. I believed that this meant that I could someday make a difference in the lives of other similarly troubled souls. I hoped I could achieve with others what I had failed to do as a teenager with these friends, which was to prevent a continued pattern of destruction and save them from a future of disappointment and misery.

The memory of my own disappointing failure was all too fresh at that time, for I had already seen one such friend’s struggle end with his dropping out school our senior year, only to be killed in a motorcycle accident a few months later. The other friend finished school with me, but had resigned himself to a constant state of despair that he attributed to our friend’s death, using it as a reason to drink himself to sleep each night, lamenting his unfulfilled life with bitter rambles in the long evening hours. For my part, this mourning period was recorded in the safe confines of my secret journals, keeping the words that might have helped him in his struggle locked away out of the fear that I might lose him too. I wouldn’t dare tell him the true motive behind my going to classes night after night, this after working all day in order to pay rent for the lease we shared. I couldn’t tell him how desperately I needed to keep him close, to take care of him while he couldn’t do so for himself. I could never say the things I felt, utter out loud the words written daily, for to explain that my greatest hope was to see him happy again, that saving him was my only true goal, would mean opening the door to the worst disappointment of all: rejection.

I couldn’t speak, not even to my closest friend in the world. On paper words have meaning, but they have no weight if never read; out loud, words have consequences.

While I may not have told him the whole truth, I was as honest as my protective walls allowed. When asked why I would choose such a profession, I told him of my desire to help troubled teens, even if it meant that only one life might be saved.

“You can’t save someone from who they are,” he told me. “If they’re anything like me, they’ll hate you for even trying.”

Unlike me, he was never lacking for words once he felt comfortable enough around a person to speak. And once he did, people listened. I was always listening, and this is sometimes all that a person needs – which I told him in response.

“And sometimes people are just pissed off at the world. Kids like that won’t ever trust you or accept you. I don’t think you have what it takes for that kind of rejection. You just don’t get it.”

Words have consequences indeed. These in particular have weighed me down for years. Soon after that conversation I abandoned my goals in juvenile rehabilitation and, at the semester’s end, enrolled in a paralegal certification program at a neighboring city’s community college. If I couldn’t enforce the law and avoid confrontation at the same time, and if I couldn’t practice the law with my inability to speak to defend it, then I would become an expert on the law and work behind the scenes for those who could.

This period of discontent is recorded in my notebooks as well. With my pen I described my growing depression and longing to fill the void that I couldn’t name. I wrote and wrote, scribbling words on countless pages until my hand could no longer hold a pen. Weeks of scribing my confused thoughts and searching through the words they produced brought me no closer to the answers I needed, even though the meaning was there all along.

Words are my life, my soul, my voice – even when I can’t speak them aloud. As an imaginative yet inhibited child, I retreated into my writing and relied on it as an outlet; the same was true for the aimless 21-year old version of myself. Writing has been one of the few constants in my life. I had always been a writer. I had just missed the meaning between the lines of my work. I had mistaken purpose for pastime. I’d harbored my words on paper out of cowardice, ignoring the calling on my heart.

In hindsight, I now recognize this calling as the voice of God spilling through the lines of my words, urging me to step out, to trust His promises, to accept His offering of creative gifts, to rely on Him for strength, and to believe that I do have what it takes because He’s all that I need.

I wish I could say that I answered this call from God after a personal revelation, but He had to use an actual voice and public setting in order to get my attention. Money and months were wasted by dropping out of the paralegal program, but I could no longer ignore what I had subconsciously felt all along. I was a writer, and I would pursue writing the way any person whose father insisted on their finishing any form of higher education should, by enrolling in University of Houston’s College of Liberal Arts English Department.

I wanted to quit after two weeks, having discovered rather quickly just how out of place I was among so many who had embraced their writing long before college, and who enjoyed the sounds of their voices as much as their written work. Opinions were eagerly offered, self-indulgence commonplace in every classroom. I found that most writers, or at least those of my generation in pursuit of an English Literature degree, consider themselves creative geniuses and jump at any chance to showcase their talent or well-read knowledge. The majority of my essays reflected this cynicism toward novice literary critics, while in class discussion I learned to pretend my way through academia, mastering what I dubbed “literary bull shit” in order to blend in with my liberal peers.

It was awful, but also entertaining. It was hard, but doable. I didn’t even throw up before or after my first required presentation in class, which had been assigned in a course of study that I had registered for based on nothing but its safe-sounding title – Hong Kong Cinema. Contrary to my assumptions, there was much more involved in it than simply watching Kung Fu movies for homework. The class centered on the cultural influences of films during Great Britain’s lease agreement of Hong Kong as colonized territory and after it was released back into Imperial China’s possession. Multiple film analysis texts were listed as required reading along with studies on the history of Hong Kong’s ownership, which was discussed for the effect it had on cultural development, especially for those in the generation without memory of being under the umbrella of the Chinese empire. As an autonomously operating government inside the legal but not exercised control of Great Britain, Hong Kong’s 101 years of freedom were spent with the unavoidable knowledge of the fast-approaching lease expiration, and the independence they felt but never owned was expressed most poignantly in their budding film industry.

Movies that I had often enjoyed poking fun at were now seen in an entirely new light. Each one of the sampled viewings was a character study of the clashing generations that divided Hong Kong between those clinging to their heritage in motherland China, and those whose identity was linked to Hong Kong alone. Filmmakers’ opposing views became easily recognizable as the weeks progressed, presented in the different forms of heroic tropes and varying fighting styles, in reverent depictions of ancient custom versus anti-establishment underdogs who stand against an ambiguous figure of oppressive authority. And while all of the films’ dialogue had to be translated by subtitles, the languages used were also telling of this binary cultural state, spoken in either Cantonese or the more traditional Chinese-spoken Mandarin.

It was my favorite class, taught by my favorite instructor, but at the same time it was the scariest and most dreaded of all the courses taken. For as much as I enjoyed it, I could never forget that I was fast approaching the day of my assignment, when I was to lead the class discussion as the “expert” on that week’s material.

Again I wanted to quit. I wanted my car to break down, or my college funds to suddenly run out – anything to avoid the collective gaze of a classroom full of confident intellectuals. I couldn’t speak from the seat at my desk, let alone from a podium at the front! Surely not even God could expect such an effort from me. He had purposed Moses and still let him speak through Aaron, hadn’t he? Where the heck was my verbal articulator? Who would step in to translate for me when I failed to profess the knowledge burdened to me at no choice of my own? What was He thinking?!

I hadn’t wanted to go to college in the first place; I didn’t need to be there! And this became the running theme of my “prayers,” which in the days leading up to my presentation sounded more and more like a tantrum thrown by a petulant child.

At the risk of building up to an event that might seem to be this essay’s intention, I must confess here that my presentation was a massive non-event, the most anticlimactic conclusion to a semester’s worth of preparation and anxiety, and barely worth mentioning at all if I’m being perfectly honest. I wish I had something inspiring to recollect instead, that I could have that moment as a personal testimony of God’s promises fulfilled, and describe a manifestation of God’s gifts as I boldly delivered the most satisfyingly kick-ass end to a lifelong struggle that anyone’s ever seen. I can’t though, because it wasn’t any of these things. The presentation itself wasn’t terrible, I’m happy to say, but I didn’t knock anyone’s socks off with my dazzling insight either. I did, however, walk away with a B- that day, and an A average for the class overall.

Despite my uninspiring performance in class, that day is nonetheless notable for the first attempt of many in pursuit of my degree, and also for what had occurred before class earlier that same morning. One hour before I was to stand at the podium I was sitting in a narrow space between the gray cubicle wall and clerk desk, nervously tapping my foot as I waited for the registrar’s office worker to return from making copies. Because I was still agonizing over the task that awaited me in the next hour, what I had already considered a waste of effort turned into a colossal waste of valuable prep time as the minutes passed by. But there I sat, having brought in my father’s military service documents at his urging, waiting for news that may or may not validate the information that had been passed along by a friend of a friend’s cousin and shared with my aunt, who in turn had told my dad about a supposed Texas legislation that possibly offered some Texas residents the chance of transferring their unused G.I. Bill into “legacy” funds.

Yeah, it sounded made up to me too.

From what little I understood of the fine print, eligibility requirements depended on a large number of factors including date of enlistment, amount of service years, proof of Texas residency, etc. So while the clerk was away from the desk making copies, I had plenty of time to speculate as to how long the review process for such an application would take.

At long last she returned from her task. Separating her paper copies from the originals, she then focused on the computer screen as her fingernails tapped against the keyboard, glancing intermittently at the documents before keying in more information. Her fingers stilled on the keyboard and one hand moved to the mouse, after a few clicks she looked over at me and smiled.

“All right, Ms. Creswell, that about does it,” she said. “Unfortunately you will have to repeat this process for each enrollment period, but it should be much faster now that we have all the information on file.”

Confused, I met her smile with a blank stare. “So when will I know if I’m eligible? Will they call me, or this office, or…”

“Oh! I’m sorry, there was a misunderstanding; I thought you knew! You are eligible to receive the full benefits for tuition fees, but it won’t cover text books, parking…”

I couldn’t even hear the rest of her sentence because I was too focused on the other words. “Full benefits?”

“That’s right.”

“So my tuition for next semester is covered in full?

She smiled patiently and shifted her computer screen toward me. Leaning forward in my seat, I squinted to read the number her long fingernail pointed to – the negative number at the bottom of the page.

“They’ll all be covered. Your refund for this term’s payment should hit the account in one to two business days.”

Through my blurred vision, I saw when her eyes filled with unshed tears of her own and she reached over to hug me before we both began to laugh. We soon drew the attention of her curious co-workers; one by one they each exited their cubicles and, upon hearing their colleague’s excited explanations, all took turns hugging me too.

Over five years have passed since that morning, and I’m struck with a similar yet different wave of emotions. Disbelief, humility, awe-struck wonder and joy are just a few of the emotions experienced that day as well as today, but retrospect on the event has added a lot more to it now. Recalling the complete and utter amazement I felt at the moment of God’s blessing, I can’t help but feel convicted for allowing it to be taken for granted for even one second.

Looking back, I am reminded of both the simple and the profound instances God shows up, the crazy and unbelievable ways he chooses to bless us even when we aren’t looking. At the same time, I’m ashamed at the crazy and unbelievable lengths He must go to at times just in order to get my attention. For over twenty years I failed to see or hear Him, even in the hours of my darkest need when He revealed Himself to me as the light that led me through. He alone deserved the glory, and even in my ungratefulness His mercy and grace never failed.

I missed what was right in front of me all along, and eventually He just called me out on it. Literally called me out from where I sat in the back of the crowded church.

Hey, remember all those times when things just happened for you out of nowhere, when things just worked out with no explanation? Yeah, that was Me.

So you know that emptiness you feel inside and keep trying to fill? Also Me.

And that direction you’ve yearned for? That purpose-filled life you imagine, the undiscovered passion that you write with hope of someday finding? Do I need to spell that out for you too?


Admittedly these were not the actual words spoken to me that day, but it’s pretty close to what went down. The message was clear. I didn’t have any more excuses after that. In less than two minutes, God had effectively removed any vestige of doubt keeping my writing in the shadows by shining His light on the matter.

But recognizing His calling in our creative gifts is only the beginning of the story, regardless of how long it takes some of us to get there. The real challenge comes in how we choose to respond to this call. As C.S. Lewis explains, “we are not necessarily doubting that God wants the best for us, just how painful God’s best will turn out to be”. Remember, to much that is given, much is required. Taking classes at a University was only the start of this for me, and while the experiences never got any easier, I now know that I am capable of overcoming my fear. I do have what it takes to speak out. Even when I fail miserably, even when I stumble on words and embarrass myself, credit can still be received when trying in itself is a victory.

I now see the miracle of my debt-free college education as God’s ultimate reminder – a small example of the kind of favor that awaits those who are willing to step out and into His plan for our lives. I went kicking and screaming the whole way there, and He responded by taking away the burden of tuition. I traded a fast and easy education for a grueling pursuit of a Bachelor’s degree; traded a comfortable, thankless job behind the scenes for an unknown future in writing that will require courage and confidence to share.

Sometimes the trade doesn’t look like it’s in your best interest at all. Sometimes it just looks like a bad deal. But we can’t expect that trading our plans for His best will be an even trade. It may come at great cost, and it may even require going backwards at times, but it will always be progress, and it will always be trading up. What we gain in return – direction, renewed purpose, confidence, etc. – are priceless benefits, and so worth it.

It was never easy in college, but it was worth it after all, and the same will hold true in my future endeavors. The things I have to say are yet to be heard, the stories have yet to be told. The greatest test of my faith and trust in God’s promises has yet to come, though it’s now closer than ever before. I know this to be true because I am writing now in response to this renewed calling on my heart. The fear of failure is a familiar stumbling block on my path; writing in recollection of previous victories is the best defense. When I can’t yet speak, I will write until I can.

I’ll write it out until I remember that I have done it before.

In my final semester of college I took an advanced course for credits required only by graduate students, my only reason being that it was taught by the same instructor of the Hong Kong Cinema class in my first semester. I knew it would terrifying and challenging, based on my own experience and from reading the comments on its online rating, but I also knew it would be interesting and engaging, just as before.

The structures of the two classes were similar, with discourse ranging from various texts and film analyses in a study of surveillance and its effects on society. Unlike the other class, it was held in a quasi-stadium style room with seats surrounding the podium in the center floor. Also different from Hong Kong Cinema, there was no volunteer for the first presentation slot, leading the professor to single out the one recognizable face in the crowd since – in her words – I had done this before. Not having months to prepare and agonize over the assignment made it better and worse at the same time, and in the third week of classes I found myself at the podium and at the center of everyone’s undivided attention.

The focus of that week’s study was Michele Foucalt’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison and I was to deliver a lecture that covered the 1st third of the book, which discussed the history of international penal systems, in correlation with one of the films from the course’s selection of study. The film I chose was Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. A swan song to the silent movie era, Modern Times was released shortly after sound technology revolutionized the film industry and served as a final farewell for Chaplin, who also starred in and produced the title. It helped that I’d found the movie surprisingly entertaining. Filled with Chaplin’s signature antics and hilarious physical comedy, it provided fans a satisfying conclusion to a cinematic era, while instances of sound disrupting the typical silent narrative were used conscientiously and ironically.

I spoke of these details briefly, keeping focus on the themes of authoritative watchfulness in the narrative as it follows Chaplin’s factory worker through a series of unfortunate events. The story and character derived from Chaplin’s real life experience touring a major automobile factory in the U.S. His observations on the treatment of its workers and the environment as a whole became inspiration for the script, which was layered with social criticisms stemming from Chaplin’s growing disdain of American government. While not the agenda of Modern Times’ lighthearted script, the subtle political tones that spilled out on screen were the product of Chaplin’s controversial socialist ideals that would later lead to the U.S. government barring him from reentering the country.

Like Foucalt’s study on prison ethics, Chaplin too was offering a deep criticism on the heavy hand of authority that demanded uniformity and surrender of self, the discipline found in free society and prison alike. It was a fascinating topic of discussion, and I presented it what best I could in the allotted 25 minute window before posing the first of a series of questions to the class for their input.

I breathed a silent sigh of relief, having made it through the worst part of the assignment, and knew already that I had fared better than my previous attempt. Upon delivering the pointed question, hands went up all across the room waiting to be called upon, but the instructor stepped up to the podium before any answer was given. She apologized to me for the interruption and proceeded to address the student body on the nature of our individual presentations, reminding us of what all was required for the grade.

I felt sick to my stomach and nervously wiped my sweaty palms on my pants, grateful for the podium that partially shielded me from the rest of the class. Before losing what composure remained, the measured breaths I was exercising stopped altogether when she added how fortunate it was for those in attendance that I had gone first, as they now had an example of what exactly she was looking for in these assignments.

With that, she stepped to the side and nodded for me to continue, completely unaware of the fact that she’d just gifted me with the second best moment of my college career. I doubt that she remembered my first venture into her classroom, or my mediocre performance as a pupil that led to her scribbling the words “speak up” on one of my earlier in-class exams, so she had no way of knowing the impact of her comment then. But I did know, and have cherished them ever since. She had recognized only my face in that first day of class, and that alone had led her to assign me the presentation. Her confidence had not been marred by past failures, the memories of which only I possessed.

That is a lot like God and how He operates. He isn’t bothered by our stumbling in previous attempts, or our professed short-comings that we use as justification to dodge what’s been asked of us. He doesn’t give a lick about the opinions we have of our ability. He doesn’t keep record of times when we’ve shied away from the uncomfortable path He’s laid out for us. He only recognizes the qualification assigned by Him, sees only new opportunities to show His strength in our weakness.

To be perfectly honest I am not very good at a lot of things, and that still holds true for public speaking as well. Thank God I don’t have to rely on my ability alone, or at all for that matter. I don’t even have to wait for the sudden emergence of supernatural confidence before I step out either, which may yet happen; you never know. The point is that my confidence is not in me, but in a much more reliable Source.

So it’s time to trade up.





Alexander Hamilton and the #RESIST movement

Hamilton is so hot right now. I’m talking Hansel-level hotness.


In fact, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Broadway production and hip hop masterpiece, Alexander Hamilton is easily the sexiest figure in American history. And while Miranda and his genius approach can (and should) be credited for the revival of cultural interest in Hamilton’s largely overshadowed role in our nation’s formative years, the real Alexander Hamilton still remains, to most, lesser known than his battle-rapping namesake. Like many of its fans, I jumped on the Hamilton bandwagon with very  little knowledge of the true story it’s based on. I knew that the titular character was the face on our ten dollar bill, that he had been involved in a duel at one point, and that was about it. I honestly can’t recall any history lessons or exams that went beyond a brief mentioning of his name; and if I did at one point learn that the infamous duel resulted in Hamilton’s death, it had long since been forgotten by the time I first listened to the musical’s cast-recording album.

As a writer I can only imagine the depth of research that went into Hamilton‘s story production, the first of many steps in that long journey to opening night on stage, and can appreciate the bravery required by an artist for such an undertaking. From what parts I have read of the biography that first inspired Miranda’s vision (reading the massive book from cover to cover is quite the undertaking in itself; it’s a working progress for me), I am utterly amazed at the amount of historical accuracy Miranda managed to include in the play. The iconic story of Hamilton’s journey from immigrant to American hero is told in two acts, spanning years that highlight events of struggle and victory, political achievements, personal loss, national scandal, and endless opposition throughout Hamilton’s adult life. Of course, there is only so much that could be told with a run time of 2.5 hours. Miranda was forced to leave out many events and details for the sake of time, but also for the sake of creating and maintaining a sympathetic character from source material, one that would connect with his intended audience while remaining as true as possible to a notoriously disliked figure in American political history.

The play’s widespread coverage of factual details, already criticized by some as being overloaded and too long, could not have very well included Hamilton’s general distrust of American citizens, or his warnings against governing authority giving too much power to the people. It’s doubtful that even Miranda’s level of creative talent could have achieved a way of cleverly explaining Hamilton’s defense of an electoral college, grounded in his ardent belief that people generally did not know what was best for them, and were too easily influenced by every exchange of opinion and ideals.

Or perhaps Miranda simply recognized that the majority of his intended audience would fail to understand the ideals professed in Hamilton’s Federalist Papers, which offer reasonable conclusions and a sound defense of the United States Constitution, while extending less-than flattering faith in the citizens that the Constitution protects.

This Hamilton would not have been as entertaining to the masses. This Hamilton was never a favorite of the masses, in his lifetime or any.

But it is this Alexander Hamilton that we all have to thank for the institutions we all take for granted every day – the first Treasury Secretary, the author of the Federalist Papers, the decorated military officer, the founder of the National Bank, and most trusted adviser to George Washington. Hamilton implemented financial systems still in use today; he stressed the need for a separation of powers in government; he outlined Federal and State jurisdictions; he laid the path for continuing functionality of the government while it was still in its infancy.

Without any precedence or examples to draw upon, Alexander Hamilton and the rest of our founding fathers built this nation from the ground up – an experiment that no other country in the world has been as successful in exactly replicating, though many have tried. But as with the nature of any experiment, its ultimate success or failure is yet to be concluded so long as it is on-going.

The American experiment  may still yet fail. And that is why now, more than ever, it is imperative that this generation heeds the wisdom and warnings put forth by those first in possession of the unified American spirit.

We need to accept the fact that the men responsible for pages and pages of documents, and bills, and declarations were a lot smarter than we claim to be. And that the author of these words in particular understood current issues beyond the limits of his own generation:



So I’m talking to you now.

That’s right – you. Ye legions in pursuit of social justice, ye “resisters” of imagined oppression – you are the very disease warned against by our founding fathers, corrupting the principles and truths upon which the American experiment was founded. But you’re ignorant of the problem you represent, and have become blinded by a false sense of morality in your community dwelling of media-fed ideals. You can’t see beyond your self-seeking aims to consider their consequences. If each “trending” outrage is answered with shifting policy, then the governing body – and our nation as a whole – is in effect no more stable than the moods of a hormonal preteen. And will be regarded as such by our global peers, who may choose to wait for the air to settle again, or take advantage of our divisive state in the gusts of “fashionable outcry.” The result – this new America fashioned by popular demand, where prejudice and self-indulgence are confused with patriotism and equality; and where the greatest threat to its liberty isn’t faced against a tyrannical force, but found in the entitled voices of its own disillusioned citizens.

FullSizeR (1)

Translation: Get over yourself. Be chill. Carry on.

Coming at ya from the “ten dollar, founding father without a father who got a lot farther, by working a lot harder, by being a lot smarter…” you know the rest.

His name is Alexander Hamilton, and there’s a million things he did see done. So let’s not ruin it for him or the rest of us.


When my Muse won’t shut up about Star Trek Beyond

Later Post.

I mean late, late. As in the why-the-heck-am-I-still-thinking-about-this type of late. Oh well. She wouldn’t take no for an answer. Deep breath, and GO….

Image result for typing gif

I am a fan of science fiction. I love stories of space and/or time travel, of bending the rules of “acceptable realism” and credibility for the sake of a great tale of human, or nonhuman, adventure. I count myself a fangirl of many such franchises in this genre: Stargate (the movie) and its spin-off series, SG-1 and Atlantis, The X files, Terminator (yes, all of them), Firefly and Serenity, Farscape, Star Wars, and Star Trek., to name a brief few. I’ve had an on-going love affair with them all. So of couse, like most other self-proclaimed geeks, I was very excited to learn that Simon Pegg – another well-known and much loved geek – had taken the helm in penning Star Trek’s latest entry,  Star Trek Beyond.

The film, which is the third installment in the “Kelvin Universe” introduced in 2009 by JJ Abrams, was set to stand apart from its predecessors, however, as it is the first of this reimagined brand without Abrams in the director’s seat. (He was kind of busy with another Star-based franchise at the time.) No matter, because like most fans, I thought the Enterprise and her crew in the capable hands of Pegg and Justin Lin, the director credited with reviving the Fast and Furious franchise to unimagined success. And for the most part, Star Trek Beyond meets expectations. Unless you are one of those haughty critics who finds fault in every creative choice. Or unless you’re one of those die-hard purists who detested the new Kelvin timeline from its onset, in which case I have to wonder why they keep watching at all. Or unless you’re just not a fan of fun in general. If you fall into any one of these categories, then Star Trek Beyond is not the film for you.

Because above anything else, Beyond is fun. One would have to be brain dead to not agree. Simon Pegg’s script manages to capture more of the original spirit that fans grew to love back in Gene Rodenberry’s day, while its release near the 50th anniversary of the maiden voyage provides one of many nods and easter eggs to the original series. The crew of the Enterprise, now in year three of their five year voyage, have found their niche and work together like a well-oiled machine. Sometimes even too well for Captain Kirk’s liking, as he is beginning to find life on the final frontier monotonous.

Which is where we find him in the film’s opener – contemplating his life choices that now seem pale in comparison the legacy left behind by his father; and contemplating life in general. We learn that Kirk is nearing his birthday, significant for it would make him one year older than his father had been at the time of his death which occurred on the same day of Kirk’s birth. The state of mind is a bold choice for the writers since the James T. Kirk beloved by Trekkies across the galaxy had never, and would never, be seen considering a desk job outside of space travel. The notion was risky, and for many it failed to pay off, as even supporters of the Kelvin timeline found it hard to believe and out of character for Kirk.

The character arc didn’t bother me, however, for I found such questions of life and purpose an understandable and even relatable concept which would eventually meld nicely with revelations on the villain in the third act. The brilliance of altering the timeline on the day of Kirk’s birth breathed limitless opportunities for the story itself while also changing the core dynamics of James T. drastically. This timeline’s Kirk was not groomed for Federation service like the original; this version was not born into Starfleet, he was born on the ship that would claim his father’s life. To assume he would face the same challenges with the same relentless spirit after such a huge alteration would be absurd.

So, no, Captain Kirk’s characterization was not the problem I had with Star Trek Beyond. Nor is Justin Lin’s imagining of the Star Trek universe. True to Fast and Furious form, Beyond is a thrill ride from start to finish. Viewers feel like they are in a space race against the film’s resident ‘baddie,’ whose ambiguous origin and motives are saved for the final act. Which was fine for the most part, as we are too engrossed with the ship-eating mechanical bees wreaking havoc on the Enterprise and the vestige of problems facing the marooned crew members on an uncharted planet.

The division of the crew enabled the plot to finally shed light on its supporting cast members, which to date had left them unforgivably flat. Mr. Sulu shines in his position with Uhura and the remaining captured crew. And Chekov finally gets his moments of screen time which, though often upstaged by Kirk’s presence, allows for fans to enjoy Anton Yelchin’s final performance before his real life tragic death. I like to think the talented actor would be proud of the film; I know his friends and fans were.

Elsewhere in the movie, marooned apart from the others on the same planet, Spock and Bones get to flesh out their tense working relationship that never quite meets friendship, providing moments of levity and comic relief from the dire circumstances. I enjoy Zachary Quinto and Karl Urban both, but their banter at times feels contrived and lack-luster, neither finding the same on-screen chemistry that each shares with Chris Pine’s Kirk.

I’ll share one other delight before delving into the ‘problems’ I retained from my viewing of Beyond. That being the space cowboy sequence accentuated by the Beastie Boys “Sabotage,” which brought us back to our first introduction to young Kirk’s troubled youth in 2009’s Star Trek. I have no idea the so-called science necessitating the blasting of the song through the air waves, seemingly instrumental (pun intended) to the disruption and defeat of the villainous tech bees targeting York Town – the newest Federation colony / space station. But it sure as hell looked and sounded cool, so who cares? As Kirk remarks upon hearing the song, “good choice.”

Star Trek Beyond is filled with similar examples of good yet (arguably) unnecessary plot choices, culminating into an enjoyable and entertaining as hell movie overall. And I would have left it at that had it not been for the two instances in the film that stood out as something else entirely. I can understand why it might have been done, or what the filmmakers thought they were trying to achieve, but the inclusion of both moments respectively were strange enough to give me pause. Which should NEVER happen during a movie where the audience is expected to practice their ‘suspension of disbelief.’

Only a few minutes into the film, Kirk’s Captain log is the voiceover during a montage-like sequence highlighting various crew members on the ship, providing visual examples of the personal sacrifice he refers to. When the camera pans over Mr. Sulu’s station, we see a wedding band on his finger which is next to a small photograph of a young girl. Viewers are meant to think, ‘aw, Sulu has a family,’ driving Kirk’s meaning home, so to speak. Later, when the Enterprise docks for respite on Yorktown, Sulu races to his awaiting daughter’s arms while another man looks on affectionately at them both.

Sulu is a happy father in a domestic partnership. His daughter and husband greet him tenderly. The audience gets it immediately; we acknowledge it immediately and prepare to move on with the narrative. But that doesn’t happen like it should have.

Now before anyone gets the wrong idea about my “problem” with this part, just wait. I have ZERO issues with Mr. Sulu being gay. I am not anti-gay nor do I harbor any ill-will or feeling toward the entire LGBT community. Seriously, be gay, be open about it, be whatever you want – if it makes you happy then why should I care? The problem I had with this addition to the plot, however, is its addition to the plot. The filmmakers hanging a lantern on its inclusion of gay characters was done so in a way insulting to my intelligence. And in a way that should have been offensive to homosexuals.

Let me explain. When, after Sulu gathers up his daughter and walks off into the crowds of the space station with his husband by his side, the camera zooms in on the couple’s arms around each other. This close up was completely unnecessary and upsetting to the fluidity of the storyline. Because of this, every person in the theatre sort of stopped and glanced around the room, as if to say, “Did I just see that?”

With such an egregious use of camera angle, I am left to assume that this was the director’s intent all along. For him to deliberately suspend the film’s narrative playing out of events so that audiences are forced to form opinion on the spot is not only disrespectful AND irresponsible filmmaking, it is unashamedly trying to piss someone off.

And it succeeded with a lot of movie-goers, which I’m sure the culprits loved. For me, however, I am not pissed off by their writing of Sulu has gay. I am disappointed by how ridiculously it was handled. There is a time and a place to shovel agendas down someone’s throat (a democratic convention for instance); in the middle of a movie is not that place.

Had they handled it any differently, had they not zoomed in, literally, on the gayness, I would have nothing critical to say. Show Sulu with his family, show is partner standing next to him in the final scene, reveal their relationship organically and not as a shock-and-awe presentation – it still would have pissed the right people off, but it would’ve left me with a better feeling about it. It wouldn’t have felt so forced and awkward.

I know, I know. I’m not gay so I just don’t get it. And maybe you’d be right to say this; right to argue that LGBT have come a long way in their right to screen time in film and television; maybe they feel as if they are finally being represented. But are you really? Are you really only your sexual orientation, as was the take away from this scene? Sulu is gay. The hanging of a lantern on this fact should not be heralded or admired, nor should it be something to inspire future filmmakers (Please, I beg you… do better!), for he was made to be gay only for the sake of being gay. The zoom to close up camera undermined whatever agenda the film had by acknowledging said agenda openly. It screamed, look what we just did!, instead of just progressing naturally. Helpful hint for directors: attaching flashing neon lights on your ‘forward-thinking’ plot choices only comes off as a desperate and contrived antic to appease a percentage of your audience. For the larger percent of moderate viewers who, like myself, go to a movie like this expecting to have a break from the daily political circus we see on the news, it only succeeds in leaving a bitter taste in their mouth.

I am not gay, but if I were I think that the scene still wouldn’t sit well with me. All I could take away from Sulu’s character was that he was gay; the filmmakers missed a great opportunity to make him so much more than that, so much more than his orientation. Where I should’ve been please with Mr. Sulu’s happy ending, I instead only felt manipulated.

Do better.

Another quite obvious political motif was presented in the villain himself. In the final act, we learn that Krall is not just any angry, slighted alien but in fact a former Starfleet captain and Federation soldier. In another of the film’s revelations (not as awkwardly timed as the aforementioned, but still pretty bad), Uhura conveniently happens upon a ship video log in which she recognizes Krall in his human form as Captain Edison. From his Federation history, they learn that Edison was an accomplished soldier in the wars against the Klingons and Romulans before peace was reached and the Federation formed. Subsequently, Edison was reassigned to Starfleet Command as a Captain, where it’s inferred that he wasn’t quite content with.

When Edison’s ship – the Franklin – became lost in uncharted space, and his crew forced to land on the nearest planet, Starfleet never found them; Starfleet never came for them. In his final log as Captain, Edison tells the camera and, by extension, Starfleet that “you’ll probably never see me again. But if you do – be ready.”

In ways that I’m still not quite sure of, Edison is able to prolong his life by sucking the life force (for lack of a better word) from others. If this reminds you too of Stargate Atlantis and those creepy Wraiths, we’re a kindred spirit. Anyway, the process alters Edison’s genetic makeup considerably, eventually turning him into the unrecognizable villain the crew of the Enterprise first meets. And staying true to bad guy form, Krall reveals his plan to attack the Federation at its heart, namely Yorktown where interplanetary species live freely and peacefully together. As one of his followers tells Kirk, “he means to save you from yourselves.” While Uhura defends her fellow crew members’ loyalty, Krall argues that their unity is a weakness; to him, it’s the most reprehensible aspect of the Federation.

So, okay, he’s crazy. He’s a terrorist. It’s a common factor with Star Trek villains. But his final show down with Kirk left me puzzled, once again causing a disrupt in the film’s progression.

“But you won,” Kirk argues, trying to make sense of Krall’s dastardly ways. “There is peace now. Because of you.”

“We are stronger when we struggle,” Krall counters. These words, uttered breathlessly but with effortless conviction, pulled me out of the movie and into my own thoughts. My spidey-senses were tingling; something was being said, something separate from the plot.

“Then we risk fighting the same battle over and over again.” Kirk’s exact words escape me now, as I was too distracted by the underlying message at the time. Krall didn’t want a solution; he wanted a struggle with no end.

So what then is the film actually saying? In the midst of constant chaos and terror – rioting in the streets, news channels repeating each night more tales of police shootings, of peace officers being demonized and attacked – we are forced to acknowledge that the struggle is all we know. All we have ever known. Another injustice to rally against, another cause – the same battle over and over, only with different players and new, sometimes old, motivations. Peace, unity, then seems an unachievable goal now, both globally and in the so-called United States.

Then is the message more of a question: can we ever achieve peace when so many thrive on the struggle? More and more today it seems that humanity has become complacent in our animosity. We love the fight. And if we don’t have a cause, we find or create one. Without realizing it, we have become warmongers, cultivating the hate we publicly admonish.

This film itself is guilty of being a perpetrator of this conflict, for weren’t they intending on angering a targeted audience in directing our gaze to Sulu’s arm around his husband? We don’t want the struggle to end, to live in harmony. Like Krall, we wouldn’t know how.

The thing that really defines Star Trek’s science fiction is not its advanced technology, or space exploration, or alien species, but its themes of unity – the idea, the fantasy, that differing peoples can set aside their differences and work toward common goals, for the good of all. It’s a beautiful idea, one that I think most people would hope for, even if it’s difficult to fully imagine. Which is likely one of the reasons Star Trek, in all its versions, is so universally loved. We’d like to believe that we’ll get there someday.

However, in reality we are a world full of Kralls intent on fighting the same battles over and over and over again. What lies beyond the struggle, beyond the strife, the hate? We may never know.


There, I said it. I’ll move on now. kthanksbye




It’s kind of funny…scrolling through Facebook has become, almost a bit of a luxury here recently. Before, in NYC, it was just another time killer when I was bored or waiting for the subway. But here in Ohio, it’s an extravagance if I have a free 3 minutes to scroll through my FB timeline. There’s just no time.

But yesterday, I was lavished with a few minutes to luxuriate on my phone.

Actually, it was the entire day. I have never received such a thoughtful gift in my life. My brother and sister-in-law surprised me yesterday with an incredibly beautiful day: a trip to the spa and beautiful 5-course dinner at a restaurant that caters to people with stomach issues, cocktails at a fun bowling bar, and sleep over at their place downtown. It was so wonderful.


But while I was sitting in the spa chair, I flipped through…

View original post 678 more words

Out of the Grave

As much as I wanted to in the beginning – as much as my heart cried out for retribution and my soul for understanding – still, I could not hate him. And I could not hate him because I couldn’t blame him. Not even when it seemed that breaking my heart had become a thoughtless exercise which he mastered completely; not even when his silence tore open my barely healed wounds, and his indifference rubbed like salt into each and every one of them. In the end, neither one of us was to blame.

I came to understand that he couldn’t will himself to love me anymore than I could will myself to stop loving him. Though we both tried; God knows how much we tried.

But it was a wasted effort, each one of us warring against the rival parts of ourselves that knew beyond a shadow of a doubt what needed to be done. I knew his toxicity would inevitably destroy me just as he knew that I was the one with whom he might finally find peace.

We were like soulless creatures buried in graves of our own making, clawing our way through the crushing weight of dirt piled on top of us in desperate attempt to become alive again, but stopping just beneath the surface. For though the dirt was suffocating, it was familiar, and we’d grown accustomed to not breathing. And though breaching the surface would have meant a fresh start and a new life, we were both addicted to misery and death.

He was the vice I could never surrender, and I the redemption he could never accept. In the end – though he was the one to walk away – the decision was ultimately out of either our hands. The closure I received was not in retribution or even in understanding, but from the Author of our respective fates whose hands closed that door forever. Strong yet gentle hands that dug themselves into the dirt, grasped my outstretched arms, and lifted me out of the grave.

It was there that I breathed in for the first time in years, letting the fresh air fill my lungs and restore my soul.

We shall draw nearer to God, not by trying to avoid the sufferings inherent in all loves, but by accepting them and offering them to Him; throwing away all defensive armour. If our hearts need to be broken, and if He chooses this as a way in which they should break, so be it.”                                      The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis

Concerning Old Maids


Mamaw was afraid I would die an old maid.

Her words, not mine. And she expressed this fear quite frequently. At least once during each of my visits or phone calls, and never in an unkind or rude way, but in a gentle, I-am-genuinely-concerned-about-your-well-being kind of way. When I graduated college in December of 2013, she told me how proud she was of me first, followed by expressing her greatest wish of seeing me married before she died.

I had laughed and promised to do my best, though she in turn would have to promise to stick around for at least another decade as it would no doubt take that long to find a suitor.

She died four weeks later.

Granted I wasn’t left with a whole lot of time to fulfill her dying wish (I hadn’t known at the time it was a dying one, but if I had I don’t know that that would’ve made a difference anyway), but I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d disappointed her. Of all her grandchildren I was the only one unattached, so to speak. At 23 years old I had a college degree, a good job, and no boyfriend, and since I was her only granddaughter, that truly concerned her. The amount of failed marriages among other members of our family did not. I’m not trying to offend any of my family here. None of us is perfect, least of all me; I’m just trying to be real.  I’m also sensible enough to accept Mamaw’s concerns for what they were – a desire to see her only granddaughter happy. To her, that meant being married.

The idea that marriage and happiness go hand in hand is common for folks in her generation. Back then you got married; it’s just what you did. I find it harder to excuse the generations after that though for posing the same questions about my singleness. The generation of my parents who boasted free love and used that as a permissible reason to have sex with anyone willing; the generation of baby-boomers who, according to shared statistics, have at least one failed marriage under their belt; the generation of women who publicly burned their bras and declared to the world that they didn’t need a man.

Or my own generation which is perhaps even worse. The generation that believes every detail of your daily life should be public domain and posted on the internet; the generation that doesn’t consider a relationship official until it’s “Facebook” official; the generation that has reduced our lives to a social media popularity contest by posting for all to see reasons why their husband is better than yours, or wife more thoughtful, or kids more successful. Look, here’s a picture of my perfect family being better than yours. It’s a game of disingenuous fluff that more often than not leaves me questioning what society has come to as it’s no longer enough to simply experience something, we must document it for likes and comments.

There’s a good chance I’m overthinking all of this. Maybe people are just genuinely curious about personal aspects of their Facebook friends’ lives; and maybe others just want me to find the kind of contentment they found with their 2nd or 3rd spouse. It’s entirely possible that the problem is just with me.

I don’t consider myself a feminist. I believe in marriage and someday, God willing, would like to find a husband to be my partner and best friend for the rest of my life. And most days, I’m okay with the waiting game. Most days I go to work where I’m blessed to have tolerable colleagues, come home to the best roommates in the world (you can’t beat the rent rate at my parents’), and spend a few hours outside drafting my novel. I like this routine. It may seem awfully boring to most, but it suits me. So most days, I’m okay. Content.

But not always. There are other days, of course, where the nagging notion that something is wrong with me sneaks back into my mind. Days when work is so dull that I can actually feel myself getting stupider, and evenings when my Muse is silent, replaced by the voice of Mamaw and her ever present concerns. Or other voices from equally well-wishing friends and family members saying more or less the same things. You’ve probably heard them yourself: Are you seeing anyone? But why not, you’re so pretty? When are you going to give your folks some grandkids? You’re not getting any younger. Or my personal favorite: You’re just too picky.

The funny thing is, I’m not picky in the slightest. Girls will normally start off with a list of qualities they want in a husband, but all those things are usually forgotten with their first crush. I’m not sure if it’s the same for boys, but for some reason I’m hoping not. So yeah, at 15 I had a pretty long list of criteria for my future mate. Ten years and countless first dates later, that list is nonexistent. I really only have two deal breakers: if a man isn’t a Christian, I won’t waste my time; and if I’m taller than him, I won’t waste his time.

If that’s picky then I guess I really am hopelessly screwed.

I think a lot of people assume that I have this grandiose idea of love in my head because I’ve never been in a relationship. Which is true, I haven’t really. But I have been in love. I lived at the mercy of this creature of love for most of my high school and college careers. And a not-so-small part of me sometimes worries that this is where the crux of my problem lies. I see people switching out their relationship status on social media as often as their profile picture. I hear of unexpected divorces between people I’m acquainted with, only to discover them three, four, five months later happily in love with someone new. And not just trading out one placeholder for the next, but genuinely in love with that new person.

And I cannot understand this, try as I might.

Sometimes I’m worried that the love I felt was so wrong that it damaged what was left of my heart beyond repair. I know this sounds hyperbolic and silly, trust me. I also know how I feel, better than any reader of this page. I honestly don’t know if I have it in me to feel like that again. I’m not discounting anyone else’s experience of heartbreak; I’m sure we’ve all been there before – that point where you just don’t see how you could ever be unbroken again.

It’s a horrible feeling, maybe even the worst. Just when you’re sure that the rest of your days will always begin with the heartbreak as your first waking thought, it suddenly becomes the second. Then the third. And so on and so forth until without even realizing it was happening, you’ve healed. At least that’s how it was for me.

I did heal, and though I’m thankful every day that the pain is long gone, I don’t know that I could ever consider myself entirely whole again. My friends think I’m joking when I say that I just don’t have those feelings anymore, that my heart is frozen. And for the most part I am joking, but to quote the great Stephen King, “most humor is anger with its make up on.”

You see, I am angry. Angry that I can’t answer why I’m still single; angry that there doesn’t seem to be any tall men left in the world; angry that most assume that I’m unhappy because I don’t have a boyfriend; even angrier when I do feel sorry  for myself for not having one! Angry that I can’t figure out why it seems so easy for others to fall in and out love.

I’m angry for being angry, confusing as that may sound.

But mostly my anger is directed at the 15 year old version of myself who was stupid enough to fall hard for the one guy who would never love her back, who could never love her back (I don’t even blame him for this anymore, I’ve come a long way in that respect). I’m angry because she stayed in that state for seven years, feeling too much for far too long. Because when it was all over and she was forced to come out on the other side alone (but really she’d been alone all along), she was changed.

I was 23 years old when I realized that I may never have anything of my heart to offer again. Next month I will be 27, and the thought is still with me.

I hope that this isn’t true. I pray that love finds me unexpectedly again, however far in the future that may be. I don’t intend on rushing anything.

But for those of you out there who think it means nothing to voice your curiosity about anyone’s relationship status, please stop and think before you do. I know that most of you, like Mamaw, honestly mean well. That nothing hurtful should be taken from your words. I’m just telling you that it might be hurtful to someone. Because you should never assume that the questions you have don’t hold weight; that they aren’t the same ones we’ve heard over and over again since we were old enough to date; or that we aren’t sometimes unable to sleep at night because of these very same, politely intended questions.

So I’ll go ahead and offer up a few answers while we’re here:

Why aren’t you married?  -No one’s asked.

When are you going to have kids?  –Since I am not married, not engaged, and not currently dating anyone, I can’t say that that is something I’m actively planning.

Why are you so picky?  -Because it’s my effing right to be picky! And, really, I just want to be able to wear high heels to dinner without towering over my date.