Reader’s guilt

Since I can remember, I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of reading material floating in the ether. As early as the third grade I would check out piles of novels from my school’s library, certain I would read each one from cover to cover. I would quickly realize the sheer volume of pages I’d committed myself to and become frantic, starting several books at once and growing even more overwhelmed. I can remember crying to my mom at least once, frustrated I couldn’t read everything.

I continued to consume books at a fast pace for years after, but my interest waned as my school district placed more and more emphasis on its reading program. In high school, the amount of words I read and the required comprehension tests I took were integrated into my English grade.

Sometime after high school, I stopped reading.

It wasn’t on purpose. I didn’t consciously decide I was tired of following rows of print with my eyes and silencing the parts of my brain not conducive to the pictures forming in my head. Nevertheless, the desire dropped away. It happened between the relief of not being forced to quickly consume and regurgitate novels and the onslaught of reading required for my college classes.

Now a junior in college, well-adjusted to the reading assignments of upper-level college courses, my appetite for reading has still not returned. In the past three years I’ve read less than five complete novels and started several that I’ve read on and off, but not in a committed way. There’s a weird guilt that comes from abandoning the novel and I haven’t been able to shake it for years.

Slowly, though, I’ve realized journalism has filled that hole. I voraciously consume brief news stories and long form pieces. I spend around 20 hours a week listening to podcasts from NPR and the Center for Investigative Reporting and author Malcolm Gladwell. Maybe I haven’t yet been able to finish Their Eyes Were Watching God or The Martian, but I’m no slouch when it comes to the consumption of important and well-researched news media.

It’s my obsession with words that first informed my love of reading and writing. Maybe realizing that journalism, in all its forms, has become a substitute for novels in my life can ease some of the guilt I feel for not tapping into the world’s wealth of literary work often enough. Until I pick up the next book, I can feel a bit better by reminding myself that I haven’t forgotten what it is to be a reader.

Sticky Light

How I wish to retract my body and my mind until they swallow themselves. I dream of being capable of commanding invisibility, of sheltering my exposed consciousness from the outside. My exterior that can be so strong, so solid, seems to leave me at times, leaving unprotected my brain, my lungs, my muscles, my veins. A glimpse into my interior seems to leave me wounded, violent. Angry at whatever leaves it open to be viewed by others. I have yet to master the art of camouflage. Maybe instead of my exterior betraying me, my interior seeps out, leaving me exposed again and again. Susceptible to arrows that can pierce me no matter how far I run. While I live, I want desperately to keep myself in.

But when I go, I want to expand. I dream of stretching until I take up every molecule and fill every pore of the earth. I become like a gas filling in every crack. I cover my loved ones and strangers and bits of who I once was flow deep into the broken bits of others. A yellow light bursts from my chest as I split apart and become all of it. My nervous consciousness, my sticky emotions, my bright optimism, all gone. All have become my surroundings, and my spirit is infused in everything.


Tomorrow I’ll wake up. It will be Tuesday. I’ll get ready and drive to my new job. I’ll drive the 10 minutes I timed this morning. I’ll be nervous. I’ll be excited.

Three days from now, I’ll remember to turn the key to the left when I lock my door. Not to the right.

A week from now, I’ll have friends here. Well, I’ll have met people.

Two weeks from now, I’ll be confident. The voice in my head saying, “You’re going to screw up and no one in the field will hire you” will have died down. At least a little.

Three weeks from now, on my visit home, I’ll tell my family and friends of my exploits. I’ll exaggerate a little when I tell them I wasn’t scared to go on my first assignment.

A month from now, I’ll sit at this table, look out the window and watch a train go by. I’ll wonder why I was ever nervous to come here.

Two months from now, I’ll have a life here. I’ll go to the grocery store. I’ll have a favorite restaurant. I’ll be a regular at a coffee place a couple blocks from work. I’ll have friends.

Two and a half months from now, I’ll leave one home for another home. Part of me will be surprised at how sad I am to leave. Part of me will have known all along.

Tomorrow I’ll wake up. It will be Tuesday.

The Projector

I like you at arm’s length.

You aren’t close

but if I want, I can reach out and touch you.

I see everything I could want

that I don’t.

I see you sometimes at night,

and then I make you disappear.

I see you sometimes in daylight,

and I want you to disappear.

My illusions of you are harder to keep up

and I want to wave my hand and…poof.

You have long hair

and I don’t love you.

You go to the places I go

and I don’t love you.

You have the same ideals

I’ve tried you on

and I don’t love you.

You are a projection

and I don’t love you.

The projector

knows her hopes and dreams

and has the same for people.

Not all people.

I take my friends as they are

I take my family as they are

But that one person…

Yeah, I don’t take them lightly.

I cannot settle for anything.

My entire being is a constant storm of possibility


I cannot cut out parts of myself to fit into someone else.

I see you and you’re everything I think I want

that I don’t.

You don’t inspire me the way I inspire myself.

You don’t make me feel like the world is unending

like I do when I’m alone, writing, drinking coffee.

You love me

but I love myself so much more.

I love myself in a way that requires me to leave you

and never look back.

To subject myself to you would be to betray my

deepest feelings.

Stop crying.

It only reminds me that this is so much harder

for you.


Why do you drag your words out when you speak

and why do you constantly look so sad

as if the world has conspired against you,

you sad, sad boy.

It’s not that you bring me down.

We get along well.

But I don’t enjoy your company.

I don’t wish for more of it.

I am relieved when you awkwardly walk away.

I know you want me to kiss you like I do

in friend’s bathrooms

watching myself in the mirror

and one time under that tree

that beautiful tree

when it was dark and I

could imagine you were something more than

somewhere to put my lips.

You fucking placeholder.

I curse not because you deserve harsh words

but because I want to hear them

because I enjoy strong language when I say

truthful things.

So fuck my boredom that brought you back

because I’m tired of lying to myself.

I’m only sorry that you can’t feel as little

as I do for you.

Now, don’t mistake my words –

I feel everything.

I feel so much for everything that I know

I know I feel nothing for you.

Not the right things, anyway.

The idealist in me is crying out

she is romantic and ambitious and unsatisfied

this is not what she wants

she has tried to love you

but you are a mirage

and I cannot truly touch a mirage

and a mirage can certainly never touch me.

Untitled #1

Who will tell me

That I cannot wear dark clothes and be cheerful

That I must be cheerful all of the time

That I cannot care more what I think of myself than what others do

That I cannot feel empowered without the gaze of a man

That I cannot also feel empowered under that same gaze

That I cannot be beautiful and smart combined into one being

That beautiful cannot mean having an innate sense of self

That smart cannot mean radiating curiosity and wonder

That I cannot convey my entire self through one glance

That I could ever describe my thirst for life in one long conversation

That my eyes are not both windows and locked doors

That my hands cannot shake daily with anticipation

That my fingers cannot wear five gold rings at once

That my fingers cannot fly me around the world

That my nails and hair cannot be short and still feminine

That I cannot decide only what I do not want to do

That I have to be my best version at every moment

That I cannot be every single thing in the universe at once


She had a face straight outta magazine /
God only knows but you’ll never leave her

Rain smatters against the car windshield as I idle in the left turn lane

Her balaclava is starting to chafe /
And when she gets his gun he’s begging, “Babe, stay, stay, stay, stay, stay”

I marvel at the back and forth motion of the wipers that goes perfectly with the thumping bass through the speakers

I’ll give you one more time /
We’ll give you one more fight

Swishing across the glass surface, pushing clear water droplets to one side or the other

Said one more line /
Will I know you

Then suddenly the two are no longer in sync

Now if you never shoot, you’ll never know /
And if you never eat, you’ll never grow

As well as they seem to match for a few fleeting moments of perfect synchronization, the music and the blades are entities apart

You’ve got a pretty kind of dirty face /
And when she’s leaving your home she’s begging you, “Stay, stay, stay, stay, stay”

Unable to completely connect; neither listens to the other

I’ll give you one more time /
We’ll give you one more fight

Operating on different planes, one cannot expect everything to line up all the time

Said one more line /
Be a riot, cause I know you

Mostly a perfect chaos is all we can count on; nothing happens for any reason at all

Well, now that you’ve got your gun /
It’s much harder now the police have come

But when seemingly separate elements once again line up, that harmony can be felt

Now I’ll shoot him if it’s what you ask /
But if you just take off your mask /
You’d find out everything’s gone wrong

Felt especially in the bones, felt especially in the bass

Now everybody’s dead /
And they’re driving past my old school

As the wipers sync up perfectly with the music once again and everything has shifted back into place

He’s got his gun, he’s got his suit on /
She says, “Babe, you look so cool”

The Canyon

I can describe my anxiety in simple actions, such as

The constant pushing back of my cuticles

The picking of long-gone hangnails

The cracking of each joint in my hands

The rubbing of the back of my hand across my lips

The restless bouncing of my knee

The cycling of a single thought through my head

The intense focus on a single part of my body

What is harder to describe is

The carving of dark canyons through my brain that, if I wait too long to fill in myself, become rivers of rushing water that take away my breath

The fear as I am pulled from the warm bank into the angry and uncontrollable white foam

The feeling of my body tingling as less and less oxygen reaches my abdomen

The thrashing as I try to pull myself up through the water crushing my skull

The faint relief as I feel the first of my fingers break the surface and touch the air

The gasping breath I take as my head breaks through the choppy surface and I catch a glimpse of the steep canyon walls

The wonder as I notice the dusty orange color of the stone, the patterns of red and brown birthmarks horizontally layered in the sides of the ravine

The light as I once again glimpse the stars flecked across the blue-black sky

The strength returning to my arms to pull my shaking body from the underswells

The warm breeze like two arms around me as I set my palms firmly upon the earth

Anonymous has feelings, too

Almost six years ago, as an 8th grade English student at Pioneer Ridge Middle School, I was tasked with writing an essay about an idea I strongly believed to be true. Something interesting about this assignment was that my teacher had taken the prompt for this essay from a writing contest put out by a radio program entitled “This I Believe” that ran for four years on NPR. At 13 years old I didn’t have a lot of opinions that I was confident enough in to declare them in a school assignment (nor did I have any idea what NPR was), but one specific belief stuck out to me in my life then that I dedicated a whole page and a half to it. I found the essay today and thought I’d publish it (unedited) for a couple of reasons: one, my teacher thought it was good enough that she ended up entering it in the contest, which I think is so cool now knowing and loving NPR, and two, though the essay is a little corny, I still strongly believe its core message. I didn’t end up being featured on the program, unsurprisingly, but just being deemed a good enough writer to be entered into an adult essay contest by my 8th grade English teacher really boosted my writing confidence back then.

* * *

Even Anonymous Knows What He’s Talking About

Anyone who’s ever been inside the classrooms of an average American school knows the posters. From “Use your inside voice” to “Writing Skills,” big, small, custom, and generic, they cling to wall after wall. Long have I simply ignored these laminated messages, not even registering what they are trying to convey. Colorful signs have caught my eye, but I am often disappointed by what the text covering them reads. Sometimes it’s what the most simply illustrated poster says that I decide to let sink in…

This was the case with a certain sign, hung up in a humble corner facing a safe seat. I sat in my homeroom that first day of seventh grade, and for a while, not even noticing it. Unknown to me then, that piece of poster board would be a large factor in how I decided I would start my eighth grade year differently. Although I had soon read it, I didn’t fully understand the saying until later that year. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always gotten,” the poster announced. It was a quote.

At the bottom it read, “Anonymous.” What a significant thought, and the person who had written the quote didn’t get any credit. But whoever it was, they would’ve had to have been in that situation to really understand the feeling. That unknown person had wanted something to change in his or her life, and to get it, they had found that it required them to think outside of the box for once; to step out of their comfort zone.

I took that quote to heart, and as the summer before eighth grade drew to a close, I began thinking about how I wanted this year to be different, and about how if I wanted that, I had to change it myself. In eighth grade, I wanted to branch out; make new friends and become more outgoing, hopefully gaining good popularity at the same time. That first day of the new school year was a tough, hurried half-day, in which I became frustrated with the fact that nothing seemed different than the year before. But that night, I remembered that if I always did what I had always done, I wouldn’t get anything different than what I’d already gotten before.

The next two weeks passed quickly, but somewhere within them I tried it out; talking to new people, having more self-confidence, and not ever being afraid to put myself out there. Soon, I felt like an equal to all of my peers, not above or below them. In those first short weeks of eighth grade, I had already gained many new friends, strengthened and renewed old friendships, and become happier with my school life.

For this I believe: if you do something you’ve never done before, you will receive something new in return, and that people can’t just write the quotes on those posters, they must have been there in their own lives to really know what they’re talking about.

“Rand” – loosely based on a journal entry from December

you are exploding in the library

an open chest boiling and bursting

spilling passion over thick pages

“who can understand?” you ask

despondently you wait for a reply

a sightless philosophy open in front

taken over by a brief glimpse

five hours has passed since

crushing carefulness

cringing with over-awareness

longing for easier and warmer

tepid liquid to gloss it over

and then

a muffled voice from two shelves away

quiet but firm and sure –

“stand still!” it says

“don’t spill.”

the voice says it understands me best –

“this pain more precious than pleasure”

I had to write something, so here it is

For the past month I’ve been in somewhat of a creative stall. Honestly, it’s probably been building up. I was able to write a couple of blog posts earlier this summer, but the frustration has been here for a while.

I’ve always had the urge to write. As a young kid I used to have these little creative bursts and sit down to my old white behemoth of a PC or with a pen and my flowered journal (that I still have) and crank out an impassioned poem or two, sometimes even several pages of work I imagined I would someday develop into my groundbreaking novel.

Why can’t I do that anymore?

Don’t get me wrong, I still have these urges – these feelings that whatever phrase or idea I just came up with is too great not to write down. I used to have one of those books that would list advice for young writers, and one of the tips it listed was “carry a notebook and a pen with you at all times.” This seemed incredibly dorky to me at the time (although now, at least if I did it at 19, it would probably be considered pretty hipster). Thankfully, today I have the luxury of the Notes app on my ever-present iPhone. While this is super convenient and great in a lot of ways, it’s probably also part of the problem. I love that I can save all this stuff I think of for later, but why later? What am I going to use it for later that I can’t use it for now, when I’m still in the middle of whatever train of thought created that phrase or idea in the first place?

Why do I feel like everything I write has to be some earth-shattering, ideal-challenging think piece I just happened to come up with while sitting in a Starbucks?

I have this thing where I feel like nothing I think I should write about is actually worth writing about. Yeah, probably doesn’t make sense. That’s why this whirlpool of a thought process is so frustrating and exhausting. This is why I can only seem to write when I’m forced to by a school assignment or when I challenge myself with something that actually has a deadline (thank you Maneater for squeezing some pretty okay stuff out of me this past year). But I don’t know if that’s good enough to get me where I want to be.

I used to be able to just sit down and start writing. Hell, I wrote half a short story when I was like 12 about a girl who’d Googled a news story about a car wreck, discovered she and her mom were the subjects, and was involved in that very car wreck the same afternoon. I wrote about that because I thought it was an insanely awesome idea. I never finished it because I couldn’t really come up with any believable reason the whole thing could’ve taken place, but it doesn’t matter. At least I started it.

It’s been over a month since I even wrote a blog post. And if I’m being honest, I was trying way too hard when I wrote it. Yes, the words are sincere and I really did feel the things I say I felt. But the whole time I was thinking about how intelligent and thoughtful it would make me seem. I’m not going to lie and say that I’m not thinking about that as I write this, too, but it’s different. With that post, I was still very much in the line of thinking that I’m trying to break out of as I write this post.

If I’m ever going to make any kind of career out of writing, whatever form the writing may take, I have to actually write. A lot. I know this. It’s what I struggle with most. I love to write, I do. Not only that, but it’s the thing I do in my life that has always given me the greatest sense of accomplishment and satisfaction. So much so that I feel like even if I never do anything incredibly noteworthy in my life that has to do with writing, I will at least take some comfort in the fact that I did what I loved and pursued what I felt was my calling. It sounds cheesy, but that’s how I feel.

Throughout my short life I’ve been told a lot of things like “you’re a natural writer” and “you’re gifted.” Whether or not those things are true, they scare the hell out of me. I’ve tortured myself more than once with the thought that maybe I’m just an incredibly average writer and I’ve put way too much stock into this. Do I actually even want to be a journalist? What does “journalist” really mean as a job title? Do the things I want to do in my life line up with the reality of this job? I think I know the answers to these questions, but who knows if I’ll even get a job after graduation?

I have an incredible friend I met fairly recently who has made known to me her deep admiration for my small body of work. She told me that it’s a privilege to feel things so deeply and that my work will be valued because of the way I think. I owe a lot of renewed confidence in my writing to her despite not completely believing what she says (sorry). Maybe it’s just because I’m 19 years old and still have some left over angst, but this summer I have felt overwhelmed by unknowns. Sure, there have been some good times the past couple of months, but they’ve also been marked by a lack of friends and too much time to think. I don’t even know what I did with a lot of that free time. I know that I spent some of it jealous that while I was trying to secure a minimum wage job, one of my best friends was starting an internship that would introduce her to what she considers her dream career.

No, I don’t know what I want to do when I grow up. I’m sorry, family and friends. I have an idea but I don’t know how to put it into words; it’s more of a feeling. That’s why I can’t choose my interest area or decide if I want to double major. But trust me when I say I’m working on it. I’m also working on getting back to being 12, when I could sit down and just write. Because it’s fun. Thankfully, I still feel the thrill of being mid-sentence and knowing whatever comes next will be good. I’ll keep writing until I don’t feel that anymore and probably even after.

If you got to the end of this post, congrats – you made it to the end of an after-midnight boredom-induced word vomit. I realize how melodramatic it probably read as, but it felt good to type it.