How blessed I am, I cannot begin to comprehend

My life outstretched in front of me, I decided to extend my arms longer although I thought my arms had made up their mind. No farther.

I hijacked my body for hundreds of miles, although each fiber conspired to remain.

I lost everything that ever meant anything to me and found my meaning in having none of it.

I laughed at how painful it was to keep moving, and moving, and abandoning the world I had claimed previously.

Realizing, the world is not mine to claim.

I am simply its pawn.

It has claimed me and assigned me to this mission.

So if you love me, let me go far-

Let me go tell the others the heaven that awaits them

When they take that next step, and

Grasp their chance at living.

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finding my words // keeping them safe

I never ever ever want children. // I would have your children.

Thank you for humanely removing bugs from my room. // he called it “his room.”

He mentioned our honeymoon. // how many times can we talk about the future until it is upon us?

Pain is leaving your side. // strength is allowing myself to break each time.

I’m not vulnerable. // I cried during sex. // tears of joy // when will you show me your tears?

You called it the best day of your life. // all I did was come home.

I apologize for leaving so often. // wandering hurts when you’re in love. // a tether to home

How can we survive this? // hard times ahead // that has never caused fear before

You swept me off the ground // lifted me to the heavens // kissed me like it was the first night

The moment stole my words // nothing so perfect as our silent bliss // can we freeze time?

Wrapped myself around your body // refused to let go // every laugh is like the first // you // out of anyone fill me with life // there is nothing without you // I can’t call you anything else /

I will never get a tattoo. // I would get matching ink with you.

I teach you various languages and you pick up certain phrases // media naranja // my half orange //

I searched the galaxy and came up empty // lost in your eyes // I knew it // my soul- mate

The case for more conscious rap

**Trigger warning: sexual assault**

Conscious rap is a term that describes rap that aims to impart knowledge on listeners and has a higher meaning than other rap. For some, it’s a preference. I believe it is necessary.

As I explore more rap, the more I discover its damaging aspects. First, there’s the misogyny. This is so much of an issue that there is an entire Wikipedia page devoted to it.

Tied to this misogyny is the disgusting usage of rape as a joke. Tyler the Creator rapped about raping a pregnant woman in “Tron Cat.” Eminem says in “No Favors,” “I sodomize like an ass-raper.” These two artists continuously promote sexual assault and abuse with their lyrics, and it’s not something we can laugh off.

Sexual assault should not be mentioned in a song unless it’s to raise awareness for the alarming rate of it. (See: Lady Gaga’s “Til it Happens to You” from the Hunting Ground)

As rap becomes more popular with young listeners, the more damaging its overt talk of drugs, crime, and sex becomes. For young men, it’s encouraging. For young women, it’s threatening.

I don’t have a problem with explicit lyrics, but I do have a problem with misogyny and the glamorization of drugs and crime as attributes of success.

I will be the first to admit that I do listen to problematic rap. My favorite rapper, Kanye West, while “conscious” in many ways, is also famed for his misogynistic lyrics (“I made that bitch famous”). I still believe the rap world needs more conscious rappers. Rappers like Kendrick, Logic, Raury, and Cole address social problems and use the attention they receive to educate the public on things that matter. And while they aren’t without their flaws, I recognize their efforts to address social issues and use their art to promote a positive message. I worry that other rappers have strayed from their original intent to do the same.

Rap has been a heterosexual male-dominated genre since it originated, and time is well overdue to bring justice to women and LGBTQ+ individuals. It’s already hard enough for anyone other than straight men to succeed in the game, and to succeed female rappers typically must either masculinize themselves enough to be on par with male rappers, or sexualize themselves enough to receive their validation. Justice is long overdue for women and queer folks in music. The continued exploitation of sexual assault in rap is threatening to their well- being and provides an overall unwelcoming environment for their success.

It’s time to open the world of rap to more social consciousness. As more and more citizens become engaged with social justice, they will no longer tolerate ignorance in their music. Artists needs to catch up to the times. I don’t believe all rap needs to be conscious rap, but all rap should be free of blatantly irresponsible lyrics. If you’re going to rap, say something worth listening to that doesn’t demean anyone.

While conscious rap is on the rise, with albums like All Amerikkkan Badass by Joey Bada$$ and Everybody by Logic addressing the current political sphere, there remains a large portion of rap that continues to perpetuate not only negative, but destructive ideas. Rap may be free from clean language, but it should not be a free-for-all where all ethics go out the window. Rappers receive ample attention and fame, and they should use their influence to advance knowledge. When they promote negative ideas, their artistry is trashed and the name of rap is defamed. Rap has deep roots in protest culture and pride in one’s identity. A return to this will not only appeal to more listeners, it will help empower the public to continue fighting for justice.

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Conscious rap selections, from top to bottom: Logic’s Everybody, Joey Bada$$’s All Amerikkkan Badass, Childish Gambino’s CAMP, and Vic Mensa’s There’s A Lot Going On

Am I a Fake Minimalist?

Moving back into my father’s house, I was unpacking suitcase upon suitcase. It wasn’t an extreme amount of stuff, since it could fit in my car to make the journey home, but it was enough to take me over an hour to organize. It was too much.

After downsizing my life and trying time after time again to sell and responsibly ditch my possessions, I had too much.

Was I a fake minimalist?

What is a minimalist anyways?

You apparently must buy a very small number of things from the day you start bringing things into your life. I will be twenty this year and I am still drowning in possessions.

This is a warning to everyone: stop buying stuff. You don’t need even half of what you buy.

Re-evaluate why you bring things into your life. Do you feel better when you buy things? How long does it take for that feeling to fade? Then you’re stuck with less money and more junk. More things and less space in your home, and less time since you must spend some of your time organizing and tending to your possessions.

Your possessions will possess you.

It happened to me.

I went through an emotional process of purging myself of possessions, and I still have too much. I have repeatedly had to confess my sins: my past prioritization of possessions and my past purchases from unethical businesses. The businesses I paid to enslave other humans for my benefit.

I have been disgusted and disappointed with my former, ignorant self. And I have drastically transformed my habits. Now, I only buy what I need. I shop from responsible retailers, and I promote sustainable choices to others. I try to repent for my sins, but I still have the evidence of my former self.

I have realized nothing I do now can erase my past mistakes. I will be shedding these remains for years to come, as I learn, my style evolves, and I let go. I realize I am more myself, less stressed, and can travel more easily with less stuff. I can’t erase my past mistakes, but I can make better decisions today. Now, I am extremely hesitant to purchase anything that is not a necessity. Now, I stay woke about the movement for fair labor, and I stay active in pushing for this. But still, I can do more. I can write to companies asking for better. I can use my voice to speak to mainstream companies, rather than just opting for ethical alternatives (a boycott might not always be the best solution- more on this later).

I am less concerned about the “minimalist” label, and more concerned about the role I play in the overconsumption that swallows this country whole. Now when I stumble upon my mindless purchases, I can acknowledge where I was when I made the decision to bring that item into my life. I realize how far I have come, and how healthy it is for me to keep letting go of my old possessions. When I brought these things into my life, I was trying to fill a void. Now, when I let go, I can fill that void with something more meaningful: travel, introspective time, and exploring. The less I have, the freer I am.

Heed my warning now and save yourself some heartache: stop buying so much stuff.

 

To become more aware of the impact of your consumption, visit:

Slaveryfootprint.org

Weak

 

She is breaking her spine to love you.

Splitting vertebrae to render her spine yours.

Turning limbs in every wrong direction,

Fracturing her extremities to fit your theses.

She is dividing herself within in order to let you in.

She is piece by piece removing fallen branches

Returning the debris to her innards

So you are unable to see her dying.

Her world is curling up, so you may breathe

She is igniting forest fires.

To let you run free

She is conquering herself in private

So you are convinced you are supreme

She is demoting herself to lender

So you may take ownership of her bones.

You have taken her keys, and invaded her home.

Your capability of cradling a life form

Displayed with one minor tongue flop

Overcome with grief

she capsized-

“I am no longer weak in the knees

I am just weak.”

Ode to Mary Oliver

Mary-

 I am calling out to you in the dead of night

But my voice is only a whisper compared to yours

I am breathing your truths into my bones

Until I am convinced they are my truths

How easy it is to convince myself of our lineage

When the sounds of the pines echo back at me,

Your language.

Everything around me,

Echoes back your language.

Pointing at me and hissing,

And claiming I do not belong here like you do.

These are my words,

These are the words of the achingly innocent

Convinced they are drowning.

Convinced that every strand of lyricism

Is another breath to their tired bodies

Convinced that Mary was right when she said,

“You do not have to be perfect.

You only have to be good.”

And so, I settle the four corners of my feet

Like cardinal directions in the grassy earth

Pointing me to not one way but all ways-

Pointing me to not one truth but all truths-

Pointing me to every corner with every strand of hope I will cling to

Like the human I am,

Anchoring down through my soles.

Dream House

What do you have to say for this love we built like sand castles

For the way you let my legs drape over your shoulders so that I could use our combined height

To create our dream house

For the way you stood on your tip toes and stretched your arms longer than I have ever witnessed

To build our dream house

For all of the wind and the weather and the waves we ignored to keep building and building, building

To create our dream house

What do you have to say for the fact that we chose a beach and we chose sand

To build our dream house

What do you have to say for the fact that we chose the water but we live in Michigan where it’s cold

What do you have to say for the fact that we took our separate dreams and amputated them from our bodies

To birth our dream house

What do you have to say for the fact that we let these limbs wash away

To create this dream house

What do you have to say- what do you think- what do you think about the separate realities we have attempted to merge

What do you have to say for the fact that I was building a sandy ranch on the beach and you wanted floors, and floors, you wanted a palace

What do you think about the fact that we were both working on the same house but a different dream

What do you have to say about the names I wrote in the sand, how I perfectly merged our names

How nothing ever really stays

in sand- it either blows away, or is crushed, or washes away

What do you have to say. What do you think about the fact that we have not washed away

But the floors of this dream house keep collapsing

Each gust of wind is like a spell against us

To build this dream house

What do you have to say of all the sand covered spells we cast on each other with eyes and tongues

What do you have to say of all the sand covered love we have shared in the sun

When the winter we live in has crept up slowly on our backs

And the tingle on my spine has a name written in the sand but it washed away with ours

And what do you have to say. What do you have to dream about anymore?

Now that the water has come and gone are the walls and the floors and every imaginary door

Of our dream house

sandcastle

 

10 Reasons why I’m 19 and will never drink again

Don’t get me wrong, I used to drink alcohol. It was a good year from the summer after high school to the summer before my sophomore year in college. But I slowly started to realize I do not need nor do I want to consume alcohol or drugs in any way. There wasn’t a singular bad experience that brought me to this; just the realization that I am more me, and a better me without the façade of drugs and alcohol. Here’s why:

  1. I only really did it to conform in social settings. Party without alcohol? I’m not begging someone to go get it. Party with alcohol? I’m drinking what everyone else is. To me, this didn’t make sense. I equally am not motivated to consume alcohol in either of these situations yet in one I feel coerced into doing so simply to fit the social setting. The solution? Don’t put myself in that setting.
  2. Drinking “to get the edge off” is not a good thing. For me, drinking was a way to rid myself of the nervousness of being in settings with many people I didn’t know and probably wouldn’t hang out with under other circumstances. When you’re half-drunk you can have fun with anyone, even if they’re kind of a terrible person. This seemed appealing at first but I’ve realized I would rather have three real friendships than a billion fake friendships with people that I really have nothing in common with other than we drink together. That’s not enough to build a positive relationship, nor a meaningful social interaction. Translation? Not worth my time.
  3. Again, not worth my time. I only probably have a good 82 years left on this planet and I don’t want to waste a single more second with a hangover. Even moderate drinking isn’t worth it. You know what’s five times as fun and takes absolutely no loss of motor skills? Road tripping. Traveling. Things you probably shouldn’t do half- drunk. Although I’m young, I have far better things to be doing than wasting my time getting drunk. Do you see the world we’re living in? My time is valuable and can help others. Which brings me to…
  4. I know I’m young, and I’m “allowed to have fun” and I do have fun. I’m young but I’m not immature. The mistakes I make are honest mistakes. I don’t see the point in intentionally getting myself drunk and getting sick, and calling that my valuable youth experience. My valuable youth experiences include navigating the middle of California by myself and trying to learn as many languages as possible. I still make human errors along the way, and I am learning about life. But with intention, not in a beer bottle.
  5. I know I’m in college. I know a good majority of the kids in college consume alcohol and use drugs. Truthfully I don’t care. I am at a university to learn something that is hopefully useful for my future. I am here to become a better human and change agent. I’m not here for the parties. That’s literally $1,000s for parties. No thanks.
  6. I understand myself more deeply now. I know my desires and goals more and more each day and I am centered on these. I am so purpose- oriented that I don’t have the time nor the energy to pretend I am not. Yes, I have plenty of fun but I will not waste away my nights doing something so purposeless. I do not need to conform to others; I need to keep my eyes on my purpose.
  7. I have determined by now that I am an introvert. Expanding my social circle is not necessarily my goal right now. I have enough friends. Going to parties to blend in with the drunken crowd is at the bottom of my priority list.
  8. Alcohol isn’t healthy. Many studies show increased cancer risk even with moderate alcohol consumption. There’s added dyes, chemicals, and sugar in most drinks, and I already avoid these as it is. Plus, over time, alcohol damages your liver and other internal organs. It isn’t worth the risk.
  9. Drugs control you. I even avoid caffeine. Even a small amount can help you develop an addiction. Drugs alter your mind and perception. I am the only one who is in control of my mind and I want it to stay that way. As a yogi, I honor this and practice this. Allowing a substance to control me is dishonorable to my mind.
  10. By keeping my body free of foreign substances, I allow myself to further purify my soul. You probably didn’t think this would get so philosophical, did you? The truth is- my mind, body, and soul are near and dear to me. They are my temple. My home. I guard that shit with my LIFE. I try to live the most minimalistic and natural life I possibly can and honor what I need at any given time. If I have too many distractions, I will lose sight of this and will not be as satisfied with my life overall. I am the sole gatekeeper of this precious life.

As a young college student it can be awkward being one of a few that choose to not consume alcohol, but I avoid putting myself in uncomfortable settings as much as I can. I know my true friends will honor my decision. I am not condemning the consumption of alcohol for everyone; in moderation it can be okay. I can only speak for myself and what I know is that, I have many goals in this life and I am determined to do as much as I can to alleviate the societal ills in this world. Without added distractions, I am more focused, physically and mentally stronger, and have more time and energy to do this. I know now how to listen to what I need much better- and refraining from drugs and alcohol is just one of the ways I can honor that. I just encourage everyone to truly uncover their short-term and long-term intentions, and figure out what is their best path to achieving these. And honoring that fiercely.

And to the people at the party-yes, really, I’m fine with water.

Signed,

Forever D.D. (designated driver)

Unraveling

You came to me in a dream

I saw a light and followed it like a moth without a reason

Other than it’s light. And this might

Be the sun from which I radiate

I unraveled my skin and bones to let you in

But you quickly realized blood is thicker than water

And you can’t even swim

And within this likelihood of finding hope and finding home

I lost my voice by failing to scream when I needed to the most

There are objects that felt my rage passion and desire stronger than you did.

Now my dreams are flooded with other men.

I wake up in a sweat and cry in the darkness.

No one really knows how much I am-

Unraveling

Unraveling

Unraveling

For you. To give myself to the light and not the moon. To tell myself that constellations connect stars that are millions of miles apart and there is a reason I was drawn to you. Even if I forgot it.

And there’s a reason for everything right?

And why do I feel like this, why do I charge myself with crimes I didn’t commit why am I not committed

How does one be committed

How do I keep a promise I never made?

To you. Because truly it’s true I made every single promise to me and not you because I am just that incredibly unsure of my words when I am around you. and I hold them in until I am away and can let my mind run free and play and proclaim myself a sunflower, a shining star in the night sky on her own, in her own poetry, in her own galaxy, in her own darkness. Lost in her own darkness.

And I am sorry if I didn’t spin on my head for you or turn the world upside down.

Magic does not come from me when I am numb, you took my words from me and escape was the only method of liberation. With you I feel tied down like you are my only obligation. Like I cannot even fall off the face of the earth without dealing with some sort of repercussion. Because there is a whole branch of you that is me, and to me you are leaves.

And I am devoid of hope and there isn’t a fire in me now because I tried to clear my mind out to love you. I folded in my limbs and made myself compact so if you ran me over I wouldn’t be crushed, I could still walk again. Remember I gave my spine to you. there is nothing to break. Don’t try there’s no use

And is it wrong to say I could never protect you?

And if there was a bullet I wouldn’t let you

Save me. There is no saving a woman who is her own hero, her own lifeblood, who breathes fire, and can expand and contract herself when needed. I contracted myself but you never see it

Your eyes are pointed downwards and you are encumbered with yourself. I am a world to you, but I am not your world. Love comes in waves, but is no ocean. When I found the source I thought it was never-ending, but it really was just accumulation from a storm. There isn’t enough clean drinking water for all of us

Each day I bend my back over to look at the world, burn holes in my eyes to withstand the collective pain of humanity. I ache for others, and repair myself-

You ache for yourself and I will never be able to accept your lack of investment in the living of others. I carry their weight on my back.

But I do not want to carry yours much longer. I am weary from the long winding road and I have much time ahead.

This vision had prospects but lost itself midway. Neither of us wanted to get wet we just dipped our toes in and I wanted to be fearless but I don’t think that you are ready to release yourself like I have

You cling to your bones like your name is engraved in them

I lost my skin years ago

Another word

You open your mouth but nothing of truth comes out.

Only the regurgitated lies you have been fed, and eagerly swallowed.

It hurts to look in your eyes and imagine that we are more than strangers.

It hurts to walk when the weight of each step is so heavy,

It crushes the ground below me.

Some of us change the earth, for some the earth changes us.

It is not a daughter’s duty to convince a parent of their privilege.

Your lack of transformation comes from your stone feet.

You have never moved enough to ripple.

You have lived and you will die exactly where you were born,

Forsaking every opportunity to be better.

So when you speak to me,

Your words are colored with hypocrisy. It is difficult to resist the sorrow. The space between us. The tense unspoken truth I hold under my tongue.

It crushes me.

Disappointment is too light a word.