Thursday, 31 December 2015

2016


I washed my hair with salt shampoo and realised, when I dried it, the thin brown strands might have gained a little volume, but they weren’t beach kissed, not like the bottle promised. And I laughed because, why would they be? The beach is for beach kissed hair, the kind with the ever so subtle waves to match the flow of the evening tide, when the sandy families and PDA couples have long gone home and you are alone amongst the last remaining dog walkers. The beach has more time to kiss you that way. It is the kind that always seems to look better on the models, those that run in slow-motion with a tan that manages to stay smooth even around their ankles. It is the kind that you spit out when it sneaks its way into your mouth, the kind that refuses to follow the pattern of the wind.

It stands out.

I spent so long trying to come up with a metaphor, a way for the December beach walk to represent the months of the past year. It resisted with a bitter smirk. Because sometimes there isn’t a metaphor.

There’s no witty way to say 2015 was an A+ on a test I didn’t study for. I didn’t know how, at the time. And there’s no funny way to admit that I still don’t, and I don’t think I ever will. There’s no clever spin to wishing 2016 could excel. Hoping for it to be a year of surprises, of nights that morph into mornings and sunsets that refuse to give up their grip on the twilight sky. Praying it could be a year of things not turning out the way they’re planned, not following the blue inked bullet point list plastered to the fridge with a magnet. Because life can’t be planned. And the expectations that we continue to make, year after year, get lost in the cloud of unpredictability that lingers over all seven billion of us. And maybe what someone expected to happen to them happened to you, and your hopes are being played out in an Italian restaurant somewhere in the Eastern hemisphere, buried within the spaghetti strands. And that person will never know.

The idea for this blog post was born in an afternoon shower, the water causing shivers – goose bumps licked my skin because someone else in the house had thought it a good time to jump into the tub.

Maybe I’d have never made it to the beach that day if it wasn’t for the salt shampoo, the broken promise, the expectation unmet. 

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Our time


My best friend got into Stanford University. Like always, my heart reacted first – pounded hard against my ribcage, almost as hard as all the work she’s put in to get there. But not quite. For eight months, sleep was replaced with rewrites of college essays, fitting words into limits they resisted with a bitter smirk. SAT words drifted away with the chai tea smoke as she blinked her eyes behind pink-rimmed glasses, solving equation after equation until her life became one big formula. And she found ‘x’.

“There’s no chance,” she’d say to me, listing every reason she wasn’t good enough until my eyes refused to roll back any further. “Think about it, of all the applicants...” I guess I had enough belief for the both of us.

Because their campus wouldn’t be able to pride themselves on intelligence, passion or determination without having the most intelligent, passionate and determined person I know as part of their student body, her boots making imprints on the grass, the rays of California sunlight painting a layer of gold onto her cheeks.

And while she spent her midnights studying, mine were met with numb limbs at the thought of her being across an entire ocean. At the thought of high school becoming just another memory. I can already taste the saltwater tears on my lips, those that will trickle down as we throw our caps up and float away with them, leave it all behind. All of this, every bridge we’ve built, every brick we’ve layered with our own amateur cement. Every morning of under-eye circles the size and colour of plums, every worksheet we moaned about memorising. I’d do it again tomorrow, if I could. Every person we spent so much time hating, every friendship we didn’t know we needed, every laugh characterised by aching abs and pained throats. Can we start over?

This whole college thing – it’s a giant leap for a teen. A leap into the arms of foreign buildings and crowds of unfamiliar faces. A leap into a world with too many hopes and too few expectations, or maybe it’s too few hopes and too many expectations and maybe we just never thought it would be our time. Our time to think up senior quotes and decide which bed sheets to pack. Our time to taste independence, let the flavour linger on our tongues.

Be proud, Stanford. Because that leap she’s taking, it’s for you. You don’t know how lucky you are. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Puzzle


A quality that everyone needs. Fourteen letters.

Another day goes by and your biggest accomplishment has been filling out someone else’s crossword puzzle. Given them answers you never gave to yourself; fit feelings into boxes into which they’ll never fit, but you like to pretend, don’t you? It’s easier that way, easier to live a life in another’s shadow. And before you can blink away all that you’ve missed, the left cushion of the living room couch becomes your haven. It hugs you like you wanted to be hugged after you finished that crossword puzzle, strangles that desperate urge you have to wander, to roam. But there’s no time for that anymore. Your favourite blue ballpoint pen rests on the same corner of the coffee table; the armchair is taken, the footrest off limits. That’s the way it’s always been – the adventure you wished for is little more than the routine you’ve built for yourself. It’s a box that you’ve forced yourself to fit into. And it’s not even yours.

Self-confidence.

A pearl all should dive for. Seven letters.

I heard somewhere that the days are long but life is short. I’m not sure you’ve realised that yet. Or maybe you have, but admittance is a bullet you’ve learnt to dodge. It’ll catch up to you one of these hours that stretch before you, those in which all that stands out amongst your otherwise blurred vision are dots that beg to be joined. Black pinpricks that hold your hand, lead you forward, press a palm into your back to keep you upright. They’re hypnotic, aren’t they? Months drift by, unfinished canvases line your garage wall; illegible poems litter your bedroom floor. Once again, New Year’s Eve races by, just another hollow resolution, a life of joining the dots. The aftertaste of regret lingers on your tongue because you and I both know you wish they were yours. The worst broken promises are the ones you shatter for yourself.

Passion.

Give yourself this. Two words – one and six letters.

There’s no denying that the couch hugs you; but you’re the one who’s tied your arms behind your back. You’ve jailed your mind and chained your heart to another’s, so there might be double the pulse but I see half of the person you desired being. When your mother asked you what you wanted to be when you grew up and you answered with “a teacher”, she thought you were noble. So did you, until that Thursday morning that you were standing in front of an entire classroom of fluttering eyelashes and open mouths and you realised that, amongst all the formulas and theories, the diagrams and equations, you’d forgotten to teach them the most important lesson of all: how to be an individual. How to live in a world that rains rocks, how to walk on two feet, how to survive in a society that strives to stand in the way. And how to do it alone.

A chance.

So when you buy the newspaper next Sunday, try filling out your own crossword puzzle for a change. Join the dots of your own life. Stand in front of the mirror and meet every blemish, shake hands with every freckle and welcome every inch of skin. Colour by your own numbers before anyone steals the pencil away. Because those kids depend on you to teach them what it means to live. Show them you know how. 

Sunday, 25 October 2015

The future


My friend and I went to a university fair last Wednesday,
She came back with an armful of brochures
And a mindful of dreams.
A plan for a future she would never know of
Until she got there.
We talked to admission officers,
Professionals in blazers and patent leather shoes,
Entry requirements rolling off of their tongues,
Boasting about how their schools stood out from the rest.

We read each brochure cover to cover,
Leafing through a prospectus to tell us how we’d live,
Dorms we’d make our homes,
Parties we’d firework through-
The kind of people we would turn out to be.
                   
With that, we lost the kind of people that we were
Right in that very moment,
Shuffling through high school hallways,
Back and forth,
Drowning in assignment after assignment,
Exam after exam,
Sinking deeper into shadows of a lurking future,
One that we couldn’t control.

Maybe it was this lack of control we feared,
Longed to discover,
Giving up every moment in an attempt to understand the next-
Obsessed with the mystery of tomorrow.

Our future lingered in the fine print of that university brochure-
The one part we failed to study:

You will be fine, it read. 

Monday, 12 October 2015

This generation


Welcome to this generation. Come in, take off your running shoes – you won’t need those. This is the sofa, take a seat, get as comfy as you can. You won’t be leaving for a while. Can I get you a drink? I’ll bring along some snacks. Put your feet up. Relax.

We’re a generation of homebodies, couch potatoes, those who bury themselves amongst blankets and sink into cushions. Sink into the familiarity of it all.

Aluminium packets glisten in supermarket aisles – red for crisps and blue for cookies. The discount sign screams for you to grab two of each. They end up being half the price of the pack of vegetables your eyes skimmed over.  Another win for corporate companies that put money far before health on their list of priorities.

Should you?

We live in a world where Netflix marathons are more appealing that walks in the countryside. Where a film set by the ocean is enough to prevent us from needing to visit it ourselves. Where we would rather stare at others living their lives than go out and live our own. Because a bowl of snacks beats experience, right?

It might be years before you realise. You could be eighty three sitting on a sofa that you can’t get up from, looking back on a life of sitting on a sofa that you chose not to get up from.

So get up.

Challenge yourself to do squats in the show’s ad breaks, lunges while the film plays. Better yet, turn the TV off, hide the remote and leave for long enough to forget where you left it. Let fresh air fill your lungs, free yourself from the dust of your living room, the lingering residue of artificial cheese and cocoa powder. Build a campfire just the way you saw on that reality show. Replace the ready salted crisps with vegetable crisps. Replace those with actual vegetables. Find the running shoes you threw into the basement and explore areas of your neighbourhood you didn’t know existed. It’s free. Escape the familiarity of it all.

Give this generation a name it deserves. A name, a life, that you will want to remember. 

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Alive


It started raining when I went running last week. An actual avalanche - a grey blanket enveloped the streets.  The raindrops were catapults – the size of small bombs. I was four kilometres in, jogging on a cloud, fuelled by motivation to run a full ten.

The clouds had their own plans though.

Instead my shoes sank into puddles and soon, with damp socks and a soaked-through shirt, my eyes blurred. I had little idea where I was or where I was going. Where I should be or how I’d get there.
But I was – and, right then, that was all that mattered.

All too often we hide away at a mere drizzle, curse ourselves for forgetting an umbrella, for wearing open-toed leather shoes that refuse to be moistened. We pray for the wind to stop whistling, for the air to stop tingling, for the sky to stop being so damn blue. We wait all summer for winter and all winter for summer. It’s mid-July and God forbid the sun burns too bright – it’ll be a race to the nearest air conditioned space, inhaling and exhaling, a superficial smile plastered onto our face.

Because that’s what living is, right?

It doesn’t have to be.

Try it sometime. Go outside when the sky roars, when it feels as if this earth is on the verge of crashing down around you. Delve into the destruction, rummage amongst the shatters – you never know what you’ll find. Let the drops dampen your cheeks, lick away your inhibitions. Sing with the melody of the thunder, dance to the rhythm of the lightning. Let your eyes wander, peek at the sun even though you were always told not to - everyone’s done it. Run until your legs lose all feeling, let the sweat drip down your nose in summer, allow the frost to nibble at it in winter. Either way it’ll turn red. Red for passion, red for excitement. Red for the blood that erupts through your veins. Red for unconditional love for this. For all of this.

Red for alive.    

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Dublin


His lips opened up, a little pink from the autumnal chill; my eyes met his – a glimmer through the drizzle of the afternoon. A passerby, a man I’d never seen before and would never see again, yet one that looked at me as if I were worthy.

That’s when I knew I’d like Dublin.

A city with sunsets like a child would paint them – yellows, oranges, and pastel pinks splattered across the sky. A city that soaks your shoes and reddens your nose but one that wraps its arms around you and holds you tight, makes you feel worth it. One that hands you burning plates that overflow with foods you’d never be able to name. Plate after plate, bowl after bowl until your stomach smiles. Every cobbled street stained with its own puddles of Guinness, dusted with its own powder of Irish pride. Every mug of coffee fits, as if the handle was moulded for your hand and nobody else’s. Music echoes around corners, laughs sound from every sidewalk.

 “Pick a word to describe Dublin,” Mum said.

“Vibrant,” I answered without much thought.

But it is so much more.

There is something magical about Dublin. Something vibrant, yes. But something electric also, something that makes your tongue tingle, draws goose bumps up and down your arms even though your coat is zipped up tight. Something laidback but something ambitious. A city that sprints from stillness but, if you blink, you won’t miss it. It’ll wait for you.  

A magnetic city – it could be positive and you could be negative, or it negative and you positive but, either way, you are drawn together. There is a pull, an attraction. Your fingers find each other, your head fits into the city’s chest. Like a puzzle piece you didn’t know you were missing. One you didn’t know needed to be found.

I found it.  

Dublin, I’ll be back. 

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Senior


Senior year.

Are you ready? they ask. As if it is ‘easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy’ to prepare for your last year of school. You’re almost an adult, and yet you find yourself wishing for nothing more than to be young enough to learn that rhyme for the first time.

Because here it is.

The last year of a routine you’ve been following since the day you were old enough to hold a pen – it’s all you’ve ever known. The last first day, the last spiralled notebooks, the last locker combinations and report cards. The last lunches in the school’s rancid cafeteria and the last scribbled notes passed across desks. The last year to feel like a child.

It’s electric. Voices ring through hallways, goosebumps layer students’ skin. Everyone knows. Teachers purse their lips together as a silent way to say: “this is it”. 

The last year that everything stays the same.

So enjoy it. Every moment. Don’t hold your breath through the homework assignments and exams. Don’t wish away the hours in a day or the days in a week. Why rush it? For the last time in your life, sit in a four-walled classroom and let your eyes wander over every poster plastered onto the corkboards. Listen to the teacher’s words, taste the flavour over your tongue. Allow yourself to be taught, to be led through life because you’ll soon see that there isn’t always someone to follow. Exhale the stress and inhale the finality of it all. The exhilaration.

Senior year will be everything that you make of it. Make something great – like nothing you’ve ever made before. 

This is it.  

Friday, 7 August 2015

Everything


Froth filled waves licked my ankles. It was just 10am, but the sun shone brighter than I ever thought it could. It reflected on the water until my sister became a glistening blur of colours and smiles. I liked her that way. The beach was still empty at that hour on a Sunday– it was as if the entire sea was ours to keep, the tide dancing at the tips of our fingers. We danced with it.

And in the midst of all the frolicking and salt water splashing, my eyes flickered to my mum. She sat on the blanket under our umbrella, not because the sun’s beauty was too much for her, but because hers would have been too much for the sun. But her eyes weren’t focused up there anyway. Or on the coast’s rugged cliffs or the crystal blue sky. Instead, they stared into a screen.

I bit my tongue at first, held it in, waited for her to realise. She didn’t. Most people don’t.

“Put the phone down, Mum.”

“Why?” She asked, the line of her furrowed eyebrows grazing the tops of her sunglasses, shielding her gaze from me. I didn’t need to see – I could picture what it looked like. “What else am I supposed to do?”

I must have rolled my eyes in typical teenager fashion, but I tattooed the line somewhere onto my brain for a later date.

Had I replied, she would have laughed anyway. Because the real answer to her question was: nothing. She didn’t need to jump up and dive headfirst into the water or start jogging along the shore. She didn’t need to busy her fingers in making a sandcastle or dig a hole in which to bury my dad – that could come later.

All she needed was to look up, allow her eyes to wander, let the saltwater breeze waft through her nose until the stress of the week before drifted away, soon becoming little more than a distant memory. All she needed was to sit and feel the ripples of sand across her feet, feel the strength of her legs beneath her.

All she needed was to be.

Life doesn’t always have to be about finding something to do. It isn’t about planning out every second. It’s about using every second, taking each moment to inhale and exhale and remember everything you love about the humble little life you’re living. The intensity of that first sip of coffee in the morning and the smell of the lavender bush you walk past every day. The animal shaped clouds and the way the strings of your guitar echo in the evening – all that you miss if your eyes are focused elsewhere. All that you miss if you make your life a constant cycle of doing, and craving, and doing some more.  

Sometimes nothing can be everything.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Sonder


There’s something about airports.

The feeling of being surrounded by countless lives so drastically different from your own. But just as vivid, just as complex. The feeling that all those unknown faces and anonymous names have gathered in a single space. Snippets of conversations drift into your ears, images of people you’ve never seen before and will never see again. And yet your paths happened to cross.

You sit in a seat whose comfort is deceiving, another traveller an inch away from both of your arms. You got the armrest. You’re close enough to see the swell of their chest with every breath. Your finger glides over the seam of your wallet, tempted to buy overpriced items that you never otherwise would. Airports with waiting halls that require no necessity for distraction, no constant page flipping or social media scrolling. For once it becomes enough to sit and sip lukewarm coffee from a polystyrene cup, eyes flickering from side to side. Watching other lives being lived.

It’s electric.

Walls that have watched, toilet seats that have felt more than most. Every battered suitcase its own level of stuffed, wheels sliding over floors that have licked the sole of every shoe, halls that have heard the sincerest of goodbyes and the most heartfelt of hellos.

On your left, or right depending on the mood, light cascades through larger-than-life windows. Views of planes waiting to take off to destinations of which you may have never heard, places you might not ever get the chance to visit. Pilots that perform under the pressure of countless lives on their shoulders, air hostesses that purse their lips together in a failed effort to hide the pain of their uniforms digging into their chests.

Lean back in your fake leather chair and take a second. Just watch.

Watch the frequent flyers with their spotless suits and ties, the ones that can navigate through the airport with their eyes closed. Sometimes, early in the mornings, they do. Watch the picture perfect family ready for a holiday – sunhats already unique to the shapes of their heads. Watch the frantic duty free shoppers and the young, sun-kissed couples ready to conquer the world – together.
Together. Just for a while.

Before, within an hour or two, everyone will evaporate into their own separate directions. And the lives that lived around you will grow all the more vivid, all the more complex. As will yours.



Thursday, 16 July 2015

Summer


Days seem so infinite sometimes,
Nights never end.
A summer stained with invincibility,
The entire world at the tips of your fingers,
You think you’ll be the one to change it.
When?

You’re naive to think that problems will dribble away
While you lie by the pool,
Tanning your back,
Then your front,
And then your back again-
Making things even,
Making things repetitive.

You longed for summer,
For freedom,
For opportunities to burn bright,
To have chances to do what you promised yourself you would,
Find time to chase all those dreams you dreamed.

Hours trickle by,
Countless left to make a difference,
But that funny little thing that they call
Time-
It runs out.

And before you know it,
Endless days ended,
And the nights that seemed as if they would never betray you did-
Pastel sunrises painting the skies once more.

Stop wasting time you think you have,
There’s never,
Ever,
As much of it as you think.

So find the bucket list stained with coffee cup rings,
Pick a place and start,
As if you never mean to stop.
Time exists tomorrow,
But it also exists today-

It exists right now. 

Sunday, 28 June 2015

On your own


They say that all we need is somebody to lean on. But be sure that when that person pulls back, you’re still standing. On your own.

Stop relying on others to determine your worth. You don’t need their winks or smiles or compliments to convince you that you can make it for a little while longer.

Let your own words convince you, instead. Be your own hero.

Take this world into the palms of your hands and hold tighter than you ever have. Grip on to the mountains and let the desert sand slip through your fingers. Let the rivers run down your arms and breathe in the ocean air until your lungs are reminded of how much they like the taste of this little thing that people call life. It can be quite nice sometimes.

Beautiful, even.

As you hold this planet, try lifting it up over your head because, guess what? You’re strong enough. Even if you forgot to go to the gym last week and lied about it because you were too embarrassed to admit that you mess up sometimes. Swallow the guilt, because we all do. And whenever you need a second chance, or a third, or a fourth, don’t wait for others to give it to you. Give it to yourself.

So I know this life might not look so beautiful right now, and I know that the stars might not sparkle quite as bright as you wished for them to, but you are still you. You’re the same skin and the same bones and the same birthmarks, dimples, and freckles. And your smile is as bright as it has ever been. The soles of your feet can carry you anywhere, climb to the highest peaks and the lowest levels, take you places you’ve always longed to go but never imagined that you could. Not on your own.

Because all those compliments you thrive off of, they mean nothing unless you let them, unless you listen.

So let the sun peel your eyes open in the early mornings. Switch your phone off for the day. Disconnect. Take yourself to a hidden coffee shop and sink into the armchairs; let your worries drift away with the thick espresso smoke. Hear the chatter around you, but don’t listen. Concentrate on your own thoughts instead. They’re more powerful. Go on a walk, lose yourself. Alone. At night. Paint constellations across the skies and let them guide you for a while. Clear your mind to make room for new plans, new goals, dreams that you’ve never felt you deserved to have. But you do.

And you always did.


Friday, 26 June 2015

Unspoken


It was 4:12pm when I got the phone call. The nurse’s voice was heavy, but unwrinkled, as if she knew everything that she had to say and didn’t question how best to say it because she’d done it that many times. And if there was ever a contest, if a sick-minded madman ever decided to organise a contest for the best bad news giver, I think that nurse might just get the gold.

But, it wouldn’t be a fair victory. Because see, there is no “best” way to tell someone that their brother was in a car accident, no matter how many apologies you weave into the words. There is no winning way to talk about someone’s life slipping through their own fingers – lost. 

Forever.  

As her voice faded, I lay down and kept every one of my numb limbs as still as possible. I pretended that if I didn’t move, time wouldn’t either. And I wouldn’t have to face the fact that I never told my brother how proud I was of him, of the person he’d become. Not because of his basketball career or his fancy car I couldn’t even pronounce the name of, but because of him. His selflessness, his charm. His determination to be the best possible version of himself, and the way he inspired me to do the same. He never knew, and he’d never know.  

Say what you want to say because, before you even realise, it will be too late. You’ll be laying your left cheek on a damp pillow and you’ll wish on every silver star for another chance. And you might think you’re safe because good things deserve to happen to good people, but this world doesn’t always work out that way. Time, it runs out. Fast.

So speak. 

Tell the girl with the thick rimmed glasses and a nose dotted with freckles that she is everything you’ve ever desired and watch her cheeks crimson at the words. Say thank you to the bus driver, and to the shopkeeper, and to your high school history teacher. Save a thank you for your mother for not only bringing you into this world, but teaching you how to live in it because, I’m pretty sure that without her, you wouldn’t have a clue how. Swallow the self-pride and stretch your tongue to tell the teenage boy in line behind you at the supermarket that the twinkle in his emerald eyes is breathtaking because, after the day he’d had, such a compliment would help to swerve the knife away from his wrist. Words can save people, you know.

If they’re spoken.

Don’t wait. Don’t wait until it is a second away from being too late; don’t wait for snow white hospital sheets and tear stained funeral parlours. Don’t wait for the nurse’s phone call. Don’t wait for the air to thicken as the world tilts a little to the left and then a little to the right and your head feels like it’s about to explode with all those words you left unsaid. Say them. 

Monday, 1 June 2015

"Do you eat?"


Once upon a time, “skinny” was a compliment. It was a word I longed to be directed towards me, one that lit the spark of self-worth inside of my exhausted body, as if “skinny” was synonymous with “worthy”. “Skinny” would tell me I’d made it, “skinny” would be the pat on the back, the hi-five, the certificate I’d always wished I could deserve.  

Not anymore.

“You’ve gotten so skinny,” they say – a dangerous fire burning through their eyes, a gaze sharp enough to scratch my bones. And as they purse their lips together, I can hear the words they’re holding in. She must be anorexic, the voices echo through my ears. She’ll probably throw up that sandwich she’s eating. Their words, or lack of them, are needles piercing through my suddenly too transparent skin. They wait for a while and, with a condescending laugh, ask “do you eat?”

“I do a lot of exercise,” I open my mouth but the words seem worthless. Just like me. Their bitter judgements are heavy metal music, deafening the ringing of my alarm clock at 7am on a Sunday when any normal teenager drowns in a swirl of sheets and dreams and I am tying up my running shoes because I want to have a reason to be proud of myself. Their eyes are blind to the platefuls of vegetables, the carrots I learnt to roast and boil, the ingredients I go out and buy to avoid my mother’s idea of a Wednesday night meal: McDonald’s. Their superficial smiles are shadowed with the assumption that starving yourself is the sole option when the thought had never even crossed my mind.

Not for a second.

And the brisk morning runs and the grass green smoothies and the extra push up when my arms felt about ready to snap seemed to vanish into air that hung heavy - tainted, just like the handful of pride I’d worked so hard to save. Because the come on, believe in yourself doesn’t mean quite so much when no one else believes in you.

“Skinny” used to feel like it would be a compliment. Once upon a time. 

Sunday, 24 May 2015

High hopes

I guess I expected more. I guess I waited for something out of this world, a lightning bolt to shoot through me and knock me off my feet, dance through the rain that licked our lips, the thunder that echoed through our bodies, quickened the rhythm of our hearts. And in that, I guess I asked for disappointment to blur my vision, to slow the beating of my heart until I had to press a finger to my wrist to check if there was even still a pulse. I don’t think I would have minded if there wasn’t.

Because that’s what I do – I let my hopes fly high, let them soar, wishing that they’ll stroke the moon and land somewhere amongst the stars. So that when they fall, they tumble, rocket down and crash to the ground like the pile of bricks I’ve been trying to build over and over and over again. But I guess some things just aren’t meant to stand.

I thought we would be the two that made it. I thought we would let the flames lick our toes but never rise higher than the ankles. I thought we would let the ocean waves kiss our lips but our heads would always stay above water. We would float. Or, so I thought. I thought that our hands were magnets and you seemed to pull me closer and closer until the day we both became positive, or maybe it was negative, and we just didn’t attract anymore. Our hearts beat, but not for each other, not like they used to.

We were the ones that burnt in the fire, let the tug of the tide pull us further and further away until it felt like we were on opposite sides of the universe and nothing would ever be strong enough to push us back together again. Not you. Not me.

And my hopes hovered above us, taunting, teasing. We never got there, not to the moon or the stars. Not even close. 

Sunday, 17 May 2015

"Pretty"


When I asked my little sister what she wanted to be when she grew up, she answered with: “pretty.”

What an ugly word.

A seven year old with the entire world at her fingertips, her life an unexplored forest, every tree ready for her to climb. There’s room for dreams bigger than the moon she watches every night, brighter than the stars that dance in her ocean blue eyes when sleep won’t steal her away.

But she wants to be pretty.

I watch her clumsy little fingers flick through the pages of the magazines and her eyes widen at the images of girls that look like dolls, with legs as thin as breadsticks she now refuses to eat and skin clearer than the mirror through which she spends so much time glaring at herself. And every time she blinks, my heart pauses because I hope that when she next opens her eyes, she’ll see her own beauty. But instead, I catch her tugging at the ends of her hair in a hope it’ll grow longer, colouring strands with yellow highlighter because blondes beat brunettes, according to the magazines.

As I do, I want to scream loud enough to silence the voices that echo through her mind, those that tell her that being pretty is all there is and the rest doesn’t matter unless your eyelashes have enough volume. Because I think she thinks that pretty is synonymous with being worthy because, after all, that’s what I used to think. The tears start to stain my cheeks at the mere thought that the same dark doubts could cloud her head as they did mine.

And when the day comes that she asks me if I think she’s pretty, I’ll swallow the sorrow and I’ll tell her that the word pretty will never contain everything that she is, or everything that she will be. Because she is more than two sorry syllables and six empty letters. I’ll remind her that she is full. Full of life, full of love, full of everything that it means to be a young girl born into a world that doesn’t make any sense and yet there she is, trying to make sense of it all. Because she is pretty determined that way. I’ll tell her she will always be pretty creative, pretty intelligent, pretty fearless. But she will never be merely pretty.


Monday, 11 May 2015

Self-love


They tell you to love yourself and then set you free in a world where you meet people that steal – thieves, robbers, boys in black who smell musky and know all the right words to make you collapse into their arms until you forget the girl you’re looking at in the mirror. And what happened to her.

Learning to love you was one thing. That happened in days – one look and I melted into the chocolate pool of your eyes. But learning to love who I was –something else entirely. A battle I’d been fighting for as long as my fragmented mind would let me.

And that love that I had saved up for myself – I held it out to you and you snatched it away from me. You emptied it out into the ocean; let the tide drag it away until I couldn’t reach it anymore, not even with the tips of my fingers, those that you used to kiss with your lying lips. I’ll love you forever. And no matter how much I begged, the waves never came back quite the same after that day. You left me empty. Hollow inside, like the glass vases I used to fill with roses you bought me. The roses were gone and the vase broke and my skin was as transparent as the splinters of glass I watched slip and slide across the floor through the bitter blur of my tears.  You threw rocks at me until my heart was stained with bruises. That wall of self-confidence that I had been building up for so long crumbled, crashed to the ground. And I was suffocated under the bricks, gasping for help, but you couldn’t hear me. At least that’s what I like to tell myself because that way I can at least pretend that you care.

Because sometimes I can still hear the echo of your laughter, because I guess it must be kind of funny, mustn’t it? How something that takes an eternity to collect can be stolen away in a single second. I don’t know if it was your mistake for taking it or mine for letting you but, either way; the love that I had saved for myself is gone. And I can’t get it back.

Friday, 1 May 2015

Cookie dough


I sat on your porch one Thursday afternoon with my legs crossed, hair braided and nose kissed with freckles. My stomach whirled with butterflies. You came outside with one of those smirks, as if the world were at tip of your fingers and you had everything to smile about. And in that moment, we did. Our hands found each other, fingers intertwining as we walked to the ice cream stand across town. I told you to guess my favourite flavour. You stuck your tongue out to the side and furrowed your eyebrows together in a way that made me melt. “Cookie dough,” the words slipped from your lips. I nodded and giggled like one of those girls in the movies that falls in love too hard and too fast. Because that’s what I’d become. And when evening came and my fingertips froze, you kissed them with your cherry lips. You traced hearts on my arms with your index finger, the same finger you used to point up at the stars. “They shine for you,” you said.

Two years later, I stood on your porch with greasy hair and pale skin, fingernails bitten down to the bone. I held a box full of old t-shirts and records that once seemed to mean so much. I waited for you to come down with mine and, as we traded, our hands brushed against each other but the spark was gone, just like the one that would flicker through your eyes at the mere sight of me. Vanished. You asked me what I’d been up to in the same voice you used to tell me you loved me. “Remembering,” I said. And with that, I turned around and walked away to never see you again. And the stars continued to burn bright and I cried myself to sleep because they weren’t shining for me, but for the next hopeless romantic. The girl who falls in love too hard and too fast and will not be strong enough to pick up the shattered pieces of herself when she realises that that very same love that used to move mountains, fades just like anything else.  

Monday, 27 April 2015

Deadlines


The biggest mistake that any of us ever made was deciding that school was synonymous with having an education. We assume that four-walled, poster-covered classrooms will be the golden path that’ll lead us straight into the arms of success, open our minds until the depths of our knowledge twinkle in our eyes. We all fall into the trap of sleepless nights, bottomless cups of coffee and a headache that feels as if it will never end. We spend years inhaling dates, facts, and formulas to later spit out the information onto a page you hope never to see again to in turn receive a page that was supposed to make it all worth it – the red ribbon wrapped certificate you are congratulated with at graduation. Is that what you were waiting for?

Because school is aching shoulders from a backpack that gets heavier with every tear-stained textbook you wish you could understand. School is the ink scribbles onto the pages of an agenda that begs you to stop writing, pleads that it has no more room to remind you of new assignments, but they keep coming anyway. School is the glass-eyed look that your teacher gives you at the mere mention of too much work due. Manage your time better, they say without the slightest hint of sympathy. School is a week in which each exam looms like an ominous grey cloud over your head, all those projects with deadlines that feel impossible to meet, the essays you rewrite a thousand times to add a + next to that B to feel just a little bit better about yourself. 

Because at the end of the day, all the deep purple bags under your eyes, all the tears that tattooed your cheeks, all the teeth bearing and fist tightening comes down to that one letter. One letter that claims to define you, has the power to dictate your future. And, if it isn’t good enough, neither are you. You never have been, and you never will be. Because that’s what school is. Now tell me, what happened to the education? 

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Sunday feeling


You wake up a minute or two before your alarm and find that the morning’s tricked you. The sun smirks through the glass of your rain-stained windows and as you lie beneath blankets you feel the entire world is right there in front of you, within your reach. But it’s never quite like that, is it? Instead, the alarm ring deafens, reminding you of all you said you’d get done. Do you listen?

And then you start to realise that it’s become that time again. That time where everything just kind of sinks into the pit of your stomach. The feeling deepens around lunchtime as you flip the pages of a textbook you wish you could take the time to understand. It becomes more intense with each speck of dust growing on the gym membership card you pretend to use. I work out four to five days a week. Keep telling yourself that. It’s 4pm. Your sister took the dog for a walk –got tired of waiting for you. You reach for your phone because you “deserve a break”. But what have you done?

All those plans and promises you made, did you ever get to any of them? Or are they just there for the future that’s never quite as near as it seems? That voice inside your head lies to you, tells you you’ll start in five minutes. It soon becomes ten, and later fifteen. Time ticks, the seconds slip through your fingers.  

You spend your entire life telling yourself that you’ll do things. The question is: when? Shake that Sunday afternoon feeling, forget about the dread for the week ahead and look at it as another chance. Because it could be your last. So all those items on your bucket list, start checking them off.  Get on a bus you’ve never been on before, see where it takes you. Fall asleep to the sound of the rain. Order an entire pizza just for yourself and spend fifty cents on extra cheese because you know it’s what your heart desires. Watch all of the Harry Potter films in a single night and marvel at the magic – it doesn’t just have to be in the movies. Ask a stranger something, anything, look into their eyes and listen to their stories and realise that that is what life is all about. And all those promises you made, start keeping them. Because maybe then you’ll go to bed on a Sunday with the thrill of the next week spilling through your veins. Sundays shouldn’t be solemn, they should be worth something. Make them worth something. 

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Breathe


From the second I woke up this morning, I knew it would be one of those days. A day in which the tears don’t stop tickling the backs of my eyes. They beg to be released, as if that would help somehow, provide me with some bitter clarity. A day in which I am both empty and full for all the wrong reasons. And I don’t know which one I prefer. A day in which my voice cracks and shakes in a way that resembles the shattered thoughts inside my mind. A day in which I want nothing more than to lay in bed and play my music on shuffle until Coldplay’s The Scientist lights up the screen, and then I’ll play that on repeat because nobody said it was easy. But no one ever said it would be this hard.

On those days where your feelings can’t quite fit inside of you and everything you’ve been trying so hard to hold onto seems to be slipping through your fingers, breathe. Breathe through the storm that’s gathered inside your body. Take a second to remind yourself that that growl of thunder wasn’t aimed at you. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Wipe away the guilt-filled raindrops that blur your vision, you don’t deserve to look at them anymore. And, one more thing, never ever apologise for the way you feel. Not to yourself, or anybody else.

So, on those days where your veins throb and your heart aches and you feel as if you’ve lost everything you ever were and everything you ever had in that grey cloud, try listening to the thunder. Let the lightning guide you for once. No matter how dark it gets, the storm will pass. Breathe through it. 

Monday, 30 March 2015

Moments


I watched the sunset tonight. Dropped a teabag into a mug printed with images of Santa Claus, ignoring the fact that it was almost April. Crisp evening air greeted my bare ankles as I pulled up a garden chair; the ones made out of plastic that everyone pretends are uncomfortable. I could have sat there for hours. But the sunset didn’t last that long.

Pastel pink paint strokes stood out against the twilight sky. And for a minute, everything was still. Birds tightened their beaks, fresh springtime leaves refrained from rustling, every car engine silenced its roar. I was alone in a crowded world. Breathe, I told myself. For a minute, I let my mind wander, let my thoughts whirl like the very first rollercoaster my father took me on for my seventh birthday. In the garden, that minute turned into two, and then three, and then it slipped through my fingers like the sand did on my first date with a boy I thought I would love forever. He stopped my world from spinning with his own two hands. They used to hold mine so tight. But the boyfriend left and the relationship ended, just like the sunset.

Because that’s the thing. Nothing is forever. Moments come and moments go and life doesn’t come with a rewind button. So on those days when all you want is to bury yourself under the covers, listen to Coldplay’s Fix You, and wait for it all to be over, remember that the world does keep spinning. And on those days where your cheeks are stained with warm kisses and the tide tickles your toes and you can’t stop wondering how you ever got so lucky, cherish it. Because even when the moment passes, disappears into what feels like thin air, you’ll know that you were, that you are, alive. And every single moment is worth it. 

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Keep going


This one is for the little girls that dream of becoming princesses. Those that torture their feet through plastic heels and play with tiaras that twinkle almost as bright as their eyes. Almost. This is for when that tiara breaks. This is for the boy who looks up to his father, even when his breath is stained with drinks he’s too young to know the names of, let alone taste every time he leans in for a hug. This is for the single mothers that hold down three jobs just to hold their three children up, letting caffeine spill through their veins but never waking up from the exhaustion that has become their life. This is for the teacher who dreamt of something more, the Hollywood waitress who wanted her voice to sound through the speakers at the diner of which she instead cleans the tables. She wanted it so bad. This is for the granddad that can’t shake the memories, the grandson that wishes to remember a time when everyone around him smiled and meant it. This is for the teenagers that spend too much time on technology because it minimises the time they need to spend in the reality they would kill to escape from. This is for the university graduates that have fallen into the black hole they call the “real world”. Now, they are trapped. This is for those that think they are prettier with scars woven around their wrists, those that want to start over, the ones that wish they could have been better. For those that are lost and those that think they have found themselves but should keep searching. This is for those that try and try and try again in an attempt to become a person they can never be.

But most of all, this is for the people that gave up with the desperate hope that someone would tell them not to. Because nobody ever said this life was easy. But I’m telling you that it will be worth it. This is for those like you and like me. This is for us. Keep going. 

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Take a risk


Think about the life you’re living. You sit in classroom after classroom and listen to stories about what the world is like – the real world, that is. The people that lay their exhausted heads on the desks surrounding you are the same people you won’t remember the names of in just a couple of years. You tell yourself that you’re in high school – you’ve still got your entire life ahead of you. Countless possibilities, endless moments waiting to be grasped. But, they’re not really endless, are they?

Because before you know it, the real world you heard all those stories about will be the one you are living in. The dream university you laboured to get into is nothing but a memory, and a blurry one at that. Your life has become an endless cycle of bills, banks and supermarket trips- all those things you used to hear adults complain about. You were naive to think they wouldn’t happen to you. And you would do anything to rewind a little, get back the moments that seemed to slip through your fingers. You say you’d do things in a different way. So, tell me, would you take the risks you never took?

This life you’ve been given – it’s just too short. It’s too short to not go for the chances that make your mind whirl and skin tingle. It’s too short to hide away at the mere scent of rain and it’s too short to search for shade at the sight of the sun. It’s too short to fear, to doubt, to question. So go up to that girl and tell her about the butterflies that flutter in your stomach whenever you hear her name. Tell her she’s consumed your thoughts. Relish in her smile, the way her emerald green eyes dance. Stop worrying. Don’t cry about one failed psychology test. Eat that last slice of pepperoni pizza your heart begs for. Forget what anyone else thinks. Just live. Throw the word ‘love’ around as if it could never run out because, guess what? It can’t. Hold hands a little tighter, laugh a little harder; dream a little bigger than you ever thought was possible. And, for once in your life, take a risk. 

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Full moon


I watched the full moon last night. It glistened like your eyes on the night you told me you loved me. The night that we laid our heads down and let the blades of garden grass tickle the backs of our necks. We danced to the rhythm of the wind and let our laughs drift through the air. We didn’t have a worry in the world. Your skin felt electric next to mine, sent fireworks shooting through my body. That was the night I collapsed into your arms and understood that that was where I wanted to be. And, when the world was crumbling to dust around me and I was on the verge of falling, you would be there to catch me. You would press me into your chest and let me listen to the beats of your heart and I would be reminded of the words you whispered into my ear on our first date.

“Someday we’ll reach the moon, together.”

***
The grass was itchy on the night I gazed up at the moon alone. It shone but it didn’t shimmer. Its touch didn’t feel the same as yours – not as intimate. Because I knew I was sharing the moon with billions of other hopeless romantics, lost hearts longing for someone to call their own. Someone they wouldn’t have to share. Someone that would make their cheeks ache and insides explode, just like you. Someone that would make them feel worthy, make them feel as if their life had some sort of purpose, just like you. Someone they would find and promise to never let go. But, unlike you, they might actually keep their promise. And those lovers, they might reach the moon someday.