When we could find no words.

When we could find no words.

Wednesday morning I woke up and walked to my documentary class and the streets of Chicago were chillingly quiet. And we could find no words. I sat in my class surrounded by students of all genders, races, ethnicities, sexualities, incomes, religions, and we wrestled with the rhetoric and with the implications. And we could find no words. After class I walked across the street to Jewel to do my grocery shopping and I watched my tired, disappointed, dejected neighbors attempt to carry on with their routine. And we could find no words. Later that night I sat with friends around a coffee table full of half-drunken cups of tea and tissue boxes, and we spilled our fears and our anxieties and our disbeliefs onto the floor. And we could find no words.
When hate and ignorance rear their ugly heads, there are no words. But we do not put our faith in words or in elections or in politics, we put our faith in actions and in choices and in people. 
We choose to be there and be present for our friends with endless cups of tea, some tissues, a warm blanket and the insistence that no one will stand alone. And we will find community. We listen to the stories of those who have been hurt and oppressed and we use our privilege not to silence them, but to empower and amplify their voices. And we will find progress. We show up for our children and we teach them to be brave and to be confident and to love unconditionally. And we will find hope.

reconcile

as the first sign of light flickers across the window pane

could we pass a treaty for a few more minutes, hours, days

my body rejects the slightest notion of survival

and my bones creak in protest with every step i try to make

as if to taunt me with the fact that one more day has never reconciled with me easy

the crackle in my joints mock my homesick soul

making sure that i know i am not welcome here, in this place, in this body

i want nothing more than to sink back into the cover of night

because the things of night have been with me for years

and its far more frightening out here

but the rare day comes along

when i’m pulled into the sun i’ve hidden from for so long

and the sky shines a light into every cavern of my being that i’ve kept for so long behind a closed door

and the warmth melts away the restless nights of longing for a peace of mind that everyone else can somehow find

and my body pulls me forward in search of my home

and i begin to make a melody of these creaking bones

A Letter to July

Dear July,

I’m sorry we haven’t talked yet this year and I’m only just now catching you at the tail end of your visit.

I read back on our letters from last year and I find it hard to recognize my own words.

I still am very much me, but there’s something else now. There’s a whole new chunk of me.

I met you this time right in the midst of a massive disappointment- I had just been fired from the job May had given me this year. I had created a plan for how I would survive these summer months and it was crumbling around me. Then as soon as you arrived I was catapulted into one of the most incredible experiences I’ve ever had. I thrived working that tv show gig and I found my little slice of sun. But when it was over as quick as it started I was left again with nowhere to go. No job to work, no reason to set an alarm clock and have a routine. Once I had given up finding a way out of this room I was seemingly doomed to live in forever, a friend came and knocked a huge hole in the wall and presented me with a new job. A better job with consistent full time hours. Everything I could’ve hoped for. I dove headfirst towards that opportunity and submersed myself into this new life. I created a routine that allowed me to laser focus onto each task, and, before I knew it, the days flew by.

Last year I left you with a hope and a determination.

I think this year I leave you knowing how much work it takes to maintain that hope and determination.

July, I think what’s been irking me lately is the fact that I am back in the same house that I was in when I wrote to you last year, yet I am not the same me. This past year has led me to people and places that this house has never seen. I’ve proven myself this past year in ways that the people in this place could never imagine.

I am not who I was and I wish I could convince these people at home of that.

But is it them that need the convincing? If it were would I bother writing these thoughts in a letter that probably only I will ever read?

Maybe I’m really trying to convince myself that this past year wasn’t random luck. That all the things I’ve accomplished and all the chances I’ve taken and all the obstacles I’ve tackled weren’t just flukes.

Have I allowed myself to discredit all that I’ve done this past year just because I have found myself back in the same physical place that I was last year?

Maybe what you’ll leave me with this year, July, is the permission to cut myself some slack.

I’m doing what I can with what I’ve been given.

And I haven’t done too bad for myself.

I’m afraid I must leave you now with this jumbled mess of thoughts. If I stay up much later, I’ll break my routine and right now that’s all I got.

I’m still figuring it out, July, and I think I have a bit more faith in my competence this time.

All my love, Nikki.

A left goer can’t go right.

There were a million roads laid out for me and I chose the unpaved footpath away from the golden city on the hill. These other paths you see, they’re perfectly good paths leading to perfectly wonderful places, places that many I know will thrive in, but places that I myself did not want to go. I veered left when the sensible option was to go right. I did not just veer left- I leapt left. I sprinted left. I yanked left and I dove left. I convinced those around me, including myself, that I’d rather be dead than go right. If I was going to go left, I had to commit. And so I trailed down that tiny footpath to the left. I ran as far and as fast as I could, longing to get as far away as possible. Because if I was gonna go left then you can bet I was gonna be the best left goer you had ever met.

If right now you are totally and utterly confused- that was supposed to a metaphor for me choosing to go to art school. I rejected a lot of the expectations set in place for me when I made that choice and because of that I forced myself to make it seem that, without a doubt, art school was the right place for me.

However, I’m starting to have second thoughts. I’m taking a break from my trailblazing to meet back up with those I left back at the fork- those right goers. And much to my surprise these right goers seem happy. Really happy, actually. I never thought I could be happy going right, but the right goers make it look fun. They tell stories of using their intellectual growth and their joyous, roudy, carefree celebrations. Going right seems really wonderful actually.

What if I was supposed to go right? What if I would be happier if I went right? Did I make the wrong choice? I tell myself I can’t afford to doubt my choice to go left- I risked so much taking this path. Yet, as my weary eyes read 3:00am I can’t help but not be so certain the risk was worth it.

I could be happy as a doctor or a teacher or a dentist or an entrepreneur, right? Well maybe scratch the dentist idea- but the other’s I could love. They’d give me stability, I could work with people, and I’d be challenging my mind. I think I could go right. I think maybe I should go right.

But then there are mornings like yesterday’s when I awake to a horrifying tragedy. Mornings when I feel nothing other than grief and fear. Mornings when it seems impossible to find any ray of light or hope. And then there are nights like last night. Nights when artists and stories are celebrated. Nights when we gather with friends to sing songs of loss and joy and revolution. Nights when we join around the television with those we love to find comfort in the truth and honesty of art and expression. Nights when I drive home with this unshakable ache to create. Nights marked by the need to turn this anger, despair, love, hope and passion into something tangible, something beautiful, something, anything.

I keep asking myself why I’m not going right, but maybe I need to ask myself what would happen if I stopped going left?

Because when I exist, I create. Because when I am too nervous and overwhelmed to find the right words, poetic metaphors allow me to communicate. Because when I don’t know who I am, I take dozens of self portraits to find the answer. Because when I long to travel but don’t have the means, I paint the beautiful landscapes I dream of. Because when I cannot bear the thought of leaving home, I start production on a short film. Because on sleepless nights when the bad butterflies are wreaking havoc in my stomach, I open up my computer and start typing the very words you are reading.

I am nothing without my creations. And yeah maybe I could’ve been happy being a doctor or a teacher, but I don’t think I can be okay not being an artist.

Maybe I won’t go left forever, but I think it’s important that I go left right now. It’s a dangerous and scary world out there, and I need my paints, my cameras, my musicals, my poetry, my books, and my creativity if I have any hope of surviving out there on my own.

So I’ll press save, close my laptop, go upstairs and get in bed. And in the morning I’ll wake up, stand up, and start trailing down that leftward path. Because it isn’t really a choice for us left goers, and that’s alright with me.

 

 

 

The one about college.

I don’t know how to write about these past nine months. I don’t know how to put words to the highs and the lows, the fears and the joys, the laughter and the tears.

I haven’t blogged much this year. Maybe I was too busy focusing on school or work or friends. Or maybe I was too afraid to slow down enough to pause and reflect on what was happening.

But now I am back at Point A. I moved out of my beautiful, spacious, and creatively cluttered room in the corner of the sixth floor two days ago, and now here I am in my small, dusty, overcrowded bedroom that I grew up in trying to reconcile these two vastly different lives I’ve been living.

When I left nine months ago I cried nearly every night before I went to sleep from the deep ache of missing my home friends. This corner room on the sixth floor was too hot, too empty, too foreign.

But as the weather turned cooler and we filled our room with our belongings, this corner room of the sixth floor became familiar. The wildly curly haired girl whom I slept a few feet away from every night became a friendly face at the end of a long day. We plastered our walls in photographs and paintings and museum tickets and anything else that would tether us to a life outside that corner room. We filled our room with familiarity, creativity, candles and christmas lights- and I stopped crying before I fell asleep.

The two of us and the blonde headed hipster next door stepped out of that corner and into the center of downtown. We forced ourselves to make the city streets familiar. We walked those streets over and over and over again until we knew every crack in the pavement. We fell into the rhythm of the train and the traffic patterns. We were running with the pack now.

And when I found myself longing for someone to chill out and drink coffee with I bumped into the brown haired girl with the nervous laugh. And slowly more characters were written into my life to help me up when I fell face first onto the sidewalk, or be there to comfort me when it seemed everything was falling to pieces. I still longed for the comfort of old friends- but I began too find a new comfort in these new ones. And now when I cried I had people to cry with.

And so we ran through this city, tripping occasionally, but keeping up to pace fairly well. We chased our terrifying dreams and often fell into holes of self doubt. But we pulled each other out and kept running. We found a way to make this new life work. It wasn’t free of disappointments and rain, but we always kept a friend nearby and and umbrella in our backpack.

Then it came time to stop running. To fall out of pace with the year-round city dwellers and to start disassembling our corner of the sixth floor. We peeled off our art and photographs and memories until all that was left were empty walls with a few spots of missing paint. I said tearful goodbyes to the wildly curly haired girl and the blonde headed hipster and we left that corner of the sixth floor forever.

And now I’m here. I’ve just finished one of the hardest school years of my life both academically and personally and I’m not sure what now. I’m exhausted and confused, but my mind has never felt clearer. I miss my city people, but I’m overwhelmed with joy to see my home people. I miss the fast rhythm of downtown, but I’m basking in the ease of the slow rest of this place.

Whenever you expand the amount of world you’ve seen, going back to Point A seems smaller. And right now home seems small. I grew bigger when I was away and I don’t know if I fit here anymore. And maybe I’m not meant to fit here anymore, but for now, for the next three months, I guess I will try to keep my big growth, but also find my small peace and quiet.

Because I think I need small for a while. I think I need to hear the chirping of birds and to see the stars. I think I need to drive with friends and listen to my mom talk about the latest neighborhood gossip. It was a big year and I think it’s time for some small.

 

run clear

These days I feel all wrong.

My words are jumbled- I can’t say what I mean.

My hands are clumsy- I can’t make what I want.

My brain is foggy- I can’t think a clear thought.

I feel upside down and backwards.

I work in loop de loops and zig zags.

I haven’t been able to make a straight line for a while.

My skin doesn’t seem to fit anymore.

I’m an imposter in my own body and I can’t seem to find my own reality anymore.

My bones creak in protest when I force them to move.

And sometimes I can’t even tell if I’m the one moving them.

I feel wrong, right now.

But, when you turn on the faucet for the first time in awhile it takes a while before the water runs clear.

So I’ll shout my jumbled words, I’ll flail my clumsy hands, and I’ll run through my foggy brain.

I’ll walk on my hands and run backwards.

I’ll twirl in loop de loops and jump in zig zags.

I’ll make a melody of my creaking bones.

I’ll turn my faucet on full blast and let the dirty water flood out.

With the hope that, one day soon, my faucet will run clear again.

Letters to July // Day 31

Dear July,

Wow we did it.

A whole month.

We made it through this entire month together, talking (almost) everyday and I haven’t gotten too annoyed with you!

July, I’m always surprised by how busy our time is together.

We went to several parties together, hung out with some of our favorite friends, went to freshman orientation and had our last camp.

July, we faced our creative blocks, and our struggles to keep hold of reality.

July we made a lot of dumb decisions and said a lot of dumb things.

July, we doubted ourselves, we doubted each other, we doubted our friends, we doubted our faith.

But, July, you helped me rebuild.

You gave me new relationships and the confidence that maybe I’m not as bad at making friends as I thought.

July, you’ve helped meet realize who I can hold on to and who it’s time to let go.

You gave me space to think and process everything happening.

July, you gave me coping mechanisms- I mean, who would’ve guessed I’m really into watercolor painting.

July, I’m still really scared about what’s going to happen after I leave you tonight until I see you again, but I think I have a bit more confidence that I can do it.

Because July, I’m allowed to give myself my best chance. And I’m allowed to have people help me figure things out when my mind is too clouded.

Please don’t worry about me, July.

I think I’ll be just fine.

I’ll miss you!

Until we meet again-

Love, Nikki Robinson