Category Archives: Stories

Be Excellent

I have started a new policy in my sketchbook that has held for the last few months. If I start a page, it has to end up with a finished work. This sketchbook has drawings I frown at. That I am not happy with. Pages pasted over with new paper. And lots of finished stuff. It is my best so far.

People ask me why I didn’t go to art school. I tell them I couldn’t afford it.
They ask me why I’m not an artist.
But I am an artist.
I make art.
They watch me bent over my little red book scribbling away and ask why I don’t make a living out of this. You’re so good! You should sell these!
I wish it were that simple.
Growing up, I drew constantly. I drew characters from books, imagination, TV, and everything else. I drew because I did not have another way to pass the time. I drew because I could not help but draw. My mother does not call herself artistic. She does not think the way I do. But she supported me. I had pencils, watercolor, sketch books, pens, and reference books. She offered critique when I developed enough to need it. And I got better and better.
Then I stopped.
Sometime around when I graduated, I got a job, discovered the internet and all the ways you can waste time, and finally made friends. I drew less and less, watching TV, hanging out, or working. Or sleeping. I slept a lot in those days.
I didn’t reliably create for multiple years, and I paid for that in lost skill.
Now I am forced to decide what I value. I am not willing to spend the rest of my life being mediocre at something. I want to be excellent.
I try to draw something almost every day. I try to allow myself to make mistake, to make bad work. If i keep creating, slowly my worst stuff will begin to look better and better. I set myself challenges in drawing new items or learning a new medium.
I grew up being told i was talented. I grew up being told i was smart. For a long time it was not hard to be the best.
Don’t take that too arrogantly.
For a long time, I liked being the best and it wasn’t hard, I wasn’t challenged. Things made sense too me. I expected things to stay that way. They didn’t. There reaching a point where I stood still, and I watched people who had been working for a long time suddenly get a pay off and they rose above me. They deserved it! I was being lazy and arrogant.
Now I am trying to buckle down, to work. To earn. To be excellent. Right now I am not remarkable, but I will be. I have to be.

Warmth

The world is quiet. A car whirs by outside every now and then. I can hear wind. The dark is peaceful around us.
He sleeps next to me. Breath in, breath out. Repeating. Now he shifts, turning towards me with a sigh as he rearranges his legs. His eyes open. I lean over to press a kiss to him. He is warm. I feel the difference in my cold nose on his soft, warm cheek. His lips move under mine and he slurs something in sleep as he drifts back down into unconsciousness.
It feels safe here.

New Hobby Gothic

There are the ones that you will tell people about. “You’ll never believe what I’ve been getting into,” you say, gesturing widely. They listen, and slowly, they begin to do it too.
You fill your Facebook wall talking about it.
Glitter begins to appear in corners, and you try to avoid looking at it.

Some of them are handed to you. Someone else tells you about it, or drags you along, or you hear about it 3 times in one week. It is useless to resist.
You smell vaguely of paint at all times. You are not sure why.

There are the ones that appear out of the night. You walk into a store looking for tape, and you walk out $137 lighter and a dazed look in your eye. You begin to read forums.
You mutter things like “water testing” or flex nibs”. People cross the street to avoid you.
Your bank account is crying. You ignore it.

It’s not about you. A poem that doesn’t rhyme.

It’s not about you, I whisper, clenching my toes in the ends of my shoes.
Another person with an opinion I don’t agree with, and this one brought God into it.
You’re threatening us, the way that we live and all we believe, they cry.
I’m not trying to, or I don’t think I am. . . I just want the option to do what I want.

It’s not about you, I mutter, resisting the square of opinions clenched in my fist.
It tells me to share, to say all that I think and to shout down the ones who don’t agree.
The truth is I don’t want men overthrown, or even knocked down.
I want women raised up to be equal, until we don’t walk a parking lot with claws made of keys

It’s not about you, I growl, as a bitchy white boy tells me why stereotypes of him are wrong.
He found an article about how men need to change their behavior
so he made a 20-minute video on why he was the exception and you needed to know it.
It wasn’t aimed at an individual man, and certainly not you, so move on.

It’s not about you, I whimper, as tears slip down my cheeks to the screen in my hand.
Millennials can’t, and here’s more reasons why! Why bother with facts?
When with ease we can draw up a list of cliches and over-used tropes, and call them entitled.
I have to remember that I’m not a target, just one in a million who all want to try.

Accompaniment

I was walking down a sidewalk with my father.
College students pass and one of them, a man.
He yells across the street, at a girl he wants to bother.
Where you goin’, baby? Lemme hold your hand.

I make a simple comment. How I’m glad to be accompanied.
My father turns, looks at me, and says it’s strange.
I knew that catcalling could happen, it’s everywhere I read.
It’s just it’s hard to localize, no context in my range.

I shrugged, kept walking, thought a little bit.
It’s something I cannot ignore, a luxury denied.
I have to suspect every man, to think they’d pull this shit.
No matter who it is, I always want to hide.

Nom

With the resignation of Ted Cruz and John Kasich from the Republican presidential race, Donald Trump was handed the nomination on a gilded platter.
Never mind that I cannot believe America has happily picked up the gun to shoot itself in the collective foot, but also?? All over my facebook dash, conservatives, mostly older Christians, are posting about how they “choose to fix their eyes on things above” and “God will do with this nation what he will”…..
I disagree with this tactic, because one thing God does not call for is passivity and ignoring of problems.
I don’t think that refusing to vote will help keep the problem of Trump out of the white house. I don’t think it is the right choice to look at the current situation and use the literal end of days as an argument for why it would be less of a problem??? Do you look at your flat tire and not deal with it because, well, maybe tonight, Jesus will return and no one will need tires in Heaven? We are living in this day and age, and given that we have literally no idea when the end of days will be, I believe we should do our damnedest to keep our lives working as best they can.

I’m just a little baffled by this race and the litany of responses that make no sense.
So in response, I will be throwing my brash, 20-something opinions at you and forcing you to accept them as gospel because that’s what every blogger is trying to do. Yeah.

Bullies?

There is an extreme conservative Christian blogger that shows up on my Facebook feed. He labels himself a professional truth-sayer, and seems to take a kind of self-righteous glee in denouncing anything he deems inappropriate or un-Christian. Recently, he published a response to the bathroom bill in Mississippi and North Carolina, full of frustration and hurtful terms. His post echoes the arguments I’ve seen scattered around every conservative page, and is a fairly efficient compilation of them.
Throughout the body of his writing, he is consistent about a few things. The first is that he builds up the transgender population as a group of petulant children and idiots, as if they are incapable of seeing logic or understanding the arguments of another party. In reality, he is being as intolerant and rude as he is accusing transgender people as a group of being.
The second is that he never addresses them in a serious or respectful way. They are labelled as “transgenders” or “so-called transgenders”, quotation marks denoting his scorn. It’s as if he were asked to comment on unicorn rights, and he treats a whole section of the population with as much respect as if they were, in fact, mythical beasts. Continue reading

Volunteering in College Town


 

volunteer-graphic


 

Today, readers, I have a different kind of post to share with you. I know you’re expecting snarky complaining, or a humorous story about work, but variety is the spice of life, after all.
In my English 102 class, we were split into groups and told to pick a topic, focusing on a problem we believe is relevant in our community. The idea is to do something to improve upon the chosen problem, so today, I’m presenting you with my group’s topic of choice.

Within Heartland Community College, there are clubs and groups and organizations and independent groups, and we have an awesome internal volunteer network. In many ways, we have everything the other two universities in town (Illinois State and Wesleyan) have, in regards of classes and degree focuses. However, one of the huge differences is that both of the other universities have centers and facilities for volunteering in town. There’s opportunities for in-home care for the elderly, a few homeless shelter and soup kitchen links, even one for animal shelters. But when it comes to Heartland, we are on our own if we want to volunteer off-campus. We’ve decided it’s time to change that.

Continue reading

?

Last year at this time, I was a wreck. I lived in a state of numb depression, feeling as though nothing I did had an impact on my life. When I think back on that part of my life, it’s shadowed with an overtone of grey.
I can look at the pictures on Instagram, where each of my selfies is my unsmiling, dead-eyed and lifeless. Even the colors prevalent in them are muted, shades of black and grey. When I try to insert color or joy into a shot, I look at that picture and all I can remember is the sadness involved in that post. I found myself in almost nothing in my life at that point.
I was living in a series of routines that I thought encompassed my life. Routine was all I had. It kept me sane and gave me slight handholds to try and grasp my way back to reality.
Even that Christmas was tired and listless, shadowed with my emotional problems. Added to that, I was working nights at that point, and the idea of being up with my exuberant siblings at the crack of dawn was dreadful.
In actuality, it was worse.

This year, I am myself again. I was happy as a child, but almost every child is happy. I retained that happiness for a long time, but real life has come around and beaten me down a couple of times, leaving me sad and broken in its wake. I sincerely enjoy being happy, and it’s a relief to have it back.

This year has held some of the most significant life changes so far. Everything from my mindset and attitude to my job and relationship status, along with my living situation.

(Somehow, that change is a familiar-feeling one.)

Another change is that I spent most of last year in close companionship with someone that ended up being very toxic to me. It taught me a lot about my life and myself, and it showed me a lot about the people to whom I choose to give my time. I used to call her my best friend, and last year, she sat with us on Christmas day. We had intentions to get a place together and decorate it according to various themes, and I was sure that we were good together. I defended her to my friends and family, convinced of my choice.
As time went on, I became sure of other things; first that I was at least good for her, and eventually, that nothing good was present in this relationship.
I needed to escape.
We no longer speak.
All of my siblings still adore her and spend time with her, so there are gifts for everyone under the tree with her name on them.
There is no gift for me.
I like it that way.

It’s hard for me to know what my future holds, especially looking back at things I used to assume were a guarantee. My life at 20 is so different from what I expected it to be that I cannot begin to fathom what may come.
When I was 17, I thought I would join the air force, and the way it looked was that doing so would pave my life for me. I thought the promise of free college could make my life infinitely better, even though I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. Figure it out on the way, right?
That decision was made for me by a phone call that never came. So I moved on.

I recently had a lengthy conversation with my mother where we tossed around the logistics of my future. I have goals for my academic career, and I have a field of study into which I plan to pour my time and energy. My life will need to focus on that, and a good amount of my money right now is going to college payments. It’s nigh on impossible for me to look ahead and see a point in my life where I don’t label myself as struggling financially with a noble intention to do better for myself in the future. I have to believe I won’t always be in my situation and struggle to get by.
But that is then. I can’t even know what will happen next week.

So it is that I end this year with a question mark. I’ve always said that the birthdays of 17, 19, and 20 are very pointless. 16 is momentous, and 18 is groundbreaking. No one really cares about the in-between years.
I must amend my statements. They may not have any achievement tags on them, but in the years between 17 and now 20, I have learned more in my life than I have since I was a toddler and discovered walking was a thing. I am grateful.