Inquietud.

Are you ever overcome by moments of restlessness? The word for it in Spanish is inquietud. This feeling of restlessness, it hits me especially hard while traveling. I don’t become melancholy as the plane takes off and I watch dreary Warwick get smaller and smaller (I mostly beg the universe for no turbulence but does she ever listen?). You don’t notice how dull home can be until you’re descending into Rionegro, D.C., or Oakland and your destination reveals itself in all of its busy, lit, and endless splendor. Oh my god, the bright lights and see-through waters are beautiful. You can’t help but be a little nervous, for who knows what you’ll find?

I sometimes have to be reminded to get in touch with everyone back home (unless you have Whatsapp or can text, you’ve left me with no choice!). A little sadness starts to kick in on the second to last night of my trip and I think about losing my ID so I can’t travel. Traveling means I will inevitably have to say “see ya later, I’ll be back!” to people I love, my maleta stuffed with new crystals and leather shoes, and that adds to the little puff of sadness in my chest. It’s not that I don’t want to go back home; I love my cozy ass home with silly nephews and I dare anyone to say that a New England autumn isn’t breathtaking. It’s just that I don’t want to leave this new place. Know what I mean?

Other than my huge and amazing family/friends, there’s nothing in Rhode Island for me. Nothing tethers or binds me here, only loyalty and fear of the unknown. It kinda lost its shine once I realized that the world was so much bigger than one square mile. Yesterday, as I shared my recent D.C adventures, I had a slip of the tongue and said to my coworker, “Nothing here excites me anymore.” For the rest of the day, I wondered: is it sad that I feel that way?

The more I think about it, the more I decide that NO, it’s not sad to be bored of the place you’ve lived in for over three decades. It’s human nature to want to shake things up every now and again. It’s okay to acknowledge that things have gotten staler than an old caesar salad and that you have an itching to discover new things. I know I am not the only one that feels like there’s a place out in the world just waiting for me to claim it. I can feel it.

My cousin once advised me to “just jump.” JUST jump? ‘Ta loca, I thought. But that conversation always manages to worm its way into my psyche because it proves that there is, in fact, a very easy fix to inquietud. You just have to jump.

La Virgen.

I follow the beams of yellow light through the kitchen, past the ajar door, and into the dark bedroom. I can’t see much, but by memory, I make my way to the wooden bureau. I gingerly pass my fingertips along the perfectly-lined belongings: the jewelry box with the missing dancing ballerina, the ceramic Virgin Mary with the chipped fingertips, the Avon deodorants. My hands land on the round jar of body powder and, with a rush of boldness, I grab it. I have watched Mamita enough times to know you don’t twist the lid; you simply pull it off. I inhale the smell I know well. Standing on my tiptoes I lean into the mirror and ever so slightly see my reflection. My brown curls are pulled back into a tight ponytail, untamable little frizzies surrounding my face. Before I slip my hand through the powder puff’s ribboned handle I already know it will be a perfect fit.

“Don’t forget: you always have to smell good,” I whisper to the pretend camera in the mirror as I bat my lashes. White circles begin to form on my neck as I dip the puff into the tiny mountain of powder and press it against myself. I bang my knee into the brass drawer handle. There’s a creak by the bedroom door and I clumsily try to place the lid back onto the jar. My hands are far too small and it’s too dark.

Jacqueline. Qué hace aquí?” Mamita asks sternly as she flicks on the light.

I freeze, thinking she might not see me, my fingers tightly gripping the edge of the bureau. I refuse to make eye contact with her through the mirror. I’m only five, but I know I shouldn’t be in this room alone. I look down and notice the powder has landed over the front of my puffy red dress. She pinches my chin with her thumb and forefinger and forcefully turns my face upwards as she grabs the jar of powder.

Siéntese,” she says, and nods towards the edge of her bed. Somberly, I take a seat. A tear threatens its escape as I close my eyes. I am expecting her to call my mother into the room for a swift punishment. Instead, I feel a gentle swipe at my neck. Through the mirror, I watch as she wipes the ivory powder from my skin with a soft handkerchief.

“You added too much. Es asi,” she says with a laugh. She dabs the powder puff around my neck and under my chin. I laugh, my gap-toothed smile wide in the mirror. She steps back and watches me, her dark brown hair greying around the temples. Lightly, she brushes it against the tip of my nose. Boop. The puff, originally a light pink, has turned white from overuse.

“It smells so good,” I say.

Lila symbolizes innocence,” she says with a gentle swipe. “Ámbar is for courage and jazmín is for love. Entiende?” I nod my head to say that yes, I understand, but I don’t. She tucks a lone, loose curl at the base of my neck back into my ponytail. I giggle once again with delight at the tickles.

Hermosa,” she smiles. “Que la Virgen siempre la acompañe.” May the Virgin Mary always be by your side, she wishes. My eyes wander to the ceramic statue at the bureau. The Virgin’s tiny, pearl white hands extend outwards, as if waiting for someone to fall into her open embrace.

I look away, shyly, trying to hide my grin.

A letter.

As part of my job, I sit in on the classes we offer to provide technical assistance support to anyone that might need it. A benefit to that is that I get to participate. During last night’s class, the instructor asked us to write a letter to our younger selves. I smiled, and the following is dedicated to 6-year-old me, short and in a cheetah print with a book I had no business reading at that age in hand.

—-

Hi, Jackie –

I’d sadly like to confirm that your suspicions are correct: life isn’t always easy. Or fair. Or delightful. I am writing from a time in which lots of things just don’t make sense. Everything feels out of whack and out of your control. And we know you hate feeling out of control. You’ve gone through some difficult times – mostly internal and self-imposed – that have brought you to rock bottom. You’ve fought really hard to earn your successes, however small, and it sometimes felt like it wasn’t even worth it. But fear not, my curly-haired & neurotic child, because I am happy to report that you made it out to the other side. You’ll never feel like that again. Te prometo.

You’ve also gone through some fantastic times, times that far supersede the bad. The friends you made early on are still there, backing you up to the end like an army of a million. Your family – parents, sisters, cousins, aunts & uncles – they love you unconditionally and you sometimes wonder why. When you wanted to quit, your nephew Jonas kept you fighting. You didn’t know, then, that you’d one day meet Elias. Those boys brighten your world. You’ve traveled to places that have made you feel tiny and in awe and that is how you’ve come to learn that there is so much more to this life than your tiny Central Falls heart could have imagined.

Your other suspicions are correct: being shy, reserved, and making yourself small to make others feel comfortable doesn’t get you very far. When you enter a space and feel so out of place that you mute yourself, don’t. When you’re positive you know the answer, don’t hold back. Open up, talk; you’ve got valuable things to offer. When you want to tell someone you love them, say it. And when they inevitably hurt your feelings, don’t leave it festering in your chest. Be careful, however: your words are like caramel but you’re also really good at hurling them like daggers. You’re little, but you’ve already discovered this, huh? Be nice to those around you.

You’ve got a dream, baby, and we all know what it is. Follow that creativity and keen eye for detail and nuance that create stories in your head all the damn time. Stop lying and give into the geekdom: you love words. You love books and how they smell. You love the crinkling sound the spine of a book makes when you open it as you read by flashlight. I know you picture yourself sitting beachside, typewriter in tow, drinking a mimosa while working on your next bestseller. But to get there, you have to put in work. And then some more work with another layer of work. Things don’t just magically appear because you want them to. You’ll learn it time and time again, trust me. Do right by yourself and just go for it. Just jump. You’re smarter and cooler and far more valuable than you give yourself credit for.

Friend.

Back in December I ranted about my inability to move forward with my writing and my desire/hesitation to apply to RIC’s Creative Writing Certificate program. Update, my babies: I applied and was accepted! I was dropping off my mom at home and on my way to dinner with my pumpkin patch Cindy when I received the email from the Graduate Director notifying me of my acceptance. “MA, I GOT INTO THE PROGRAM!” I yelled through my window and sped off. I clutched my crystal rings and thanked my lucky stars.

Since then, cynical and ruthless Jax has had a bit to say, like: “the program isn’t that hard to get into,” “there probably weren’t a lot of applicants so they accepted you by default,” and “you are a shitty writer who can’t compete with the big dogs.” But my excitement and yearning for a transformation and the realization that I am moving forward – and never again back – silences such needless thoughts. The encouragement of my family and friends has also been amazing; having people in your corner makes you less afraid.

Shit feels like it’s going right. Not just right, but upwards and at the speed of light. I am making amends with my body by treating it better and going to the gym as often as possible and making healthier diet decisions. I am taking a creative writing class that has forced me to be creative and analytical once again. I am making an effort to travel more and can’t wait until my next trip in May. My friends and I are branching out and trying things we were once ashamed to admit we liked. Two weeks ago I was at the State House in support of the RI Promise being expanded to RIC and two days later attended a Women’s Summit. Next weekend I will be attending a Latinx conference. Not all is perfect; life never is. But growth is happening, things are busy.

I attribute this change in attitude to my experience with Stranger Stories PVD and my recent trip to Orlando. Sharing my story aloud validated that people like what I have to say. My cousin Tito reminded me that while I have made a lot of progress and growth, there is still a lot more to be accomplished, and that the search for happiness and purpose never ends. But more than that, I feel like a different person. I have let go of some baggage and just want to laugh and travel and learn. It’s as simple as that. I’m tired of the gray, tired of the stagnation, tired of limiting Jax to what she knows or is comfortable with. I feel so selfish and, for the first time in a long time, purposeful. I like myself, and it’s so fucking sad to think that at one point I didn’t. I ain’t ever felt bettah.

“and i said to my body. softly. ‘i want to be your friend.’ it took a long breath. and replied, ‘i have been waiting my whole life for this.'” – Nayyirah Waheed

Stranger Stories PVD.

Last night was big for me. Life-changing, almost. I submitted a true story to Stranger Stories PVD back in December and was chosen, along with six others, to share my work at the Artists’ Exchange in Cranston. The theme was “Dinnertime,” and I went with a piece that I had posted on this blog back in 2013, titled “Figs.” I made edits and fleshed it out, trying to make it more story-like. I submitted without actually thinking it would be picked.

A big thanks to Jennifer, Stephanie, Cindy, Charmaine (and for the edits/feedback) & Jake for attending. Thanks to everyone else that encouraged me and checked-in. Your support means more to me than you’ll ever know. Thank you to Stranger Stories PVD for the opportunity and making me part of a community I didn’t know I desperately needed. Presenting “Figs:”

The spoonful of white rice is halfway to my mouth when I hear: “Exactamente de que se graduó usted?

Goddamn. Here we go. It’s been over a month since I graduated college and my father is once again asking questions.

“English. I have a degree in English.”

“So you went to school to learn…English?” he asks, a jar of plump, syruped figs in his hand, a fork in the other. I avoid his gaze and focus on the half-empty glass before him. Such an odd combination, brevas and cold milk.

No. Literatura.”

There’s a pause. “So you got a degree in books?”

I know where this is headed so I try to make a joke: “No me vio con un libro siempre en la mano?” Didn’t you always see a book in my hand? A brief silence and a slight arching of his eyebrow promise that I am not amusing.

“It’s just that when people ask me what you studied or what you do, I don’t know what to say.”

“Usually English majors become teachers…” my voice trails off. I watch as my mother rips off a leg of her fried chicharron and pops it into her mouth.

“Usually? But what about you?”

With a rolling of eyes, I shrug and turn my attention to my beans. The way he slams the jar on the dining room table startles me. His brown eyes are wide and he points the fork with a half-bitten fig towards his chest.

“You see, I’m an electrician.  When people ask what I do, I say ‘electricity.’ When you ask the head of a law firm, he says ‘law.’  He’s a lawyer. He has a profession. Entiende?

I want to say that yes, I understand, but I am afraid to speak because I feel the beginnings of a tremble in my chin. My dad has always had a way of getting under my skin and ever since I can remember our conversations have never been conversations but yelling matches.

“So tell me,” he says, trying to lower his voice. “What is it that you want to do?”

“There are lots of things she could do. Jackie, answer him. What do you like to do?” My mother’s hands are now clasped under her chin. She tries to keep her face calm, but I see a darting nervousness starting to brew. It’s easier to look past her eyes and up at her crimson-colored bangs.

Nada. I haven’t been able to find a job.”

Ah. Ya,” my dad replies. Oh. Okay.

I chew my food as my parents turn their attention to the rising costs at the local meat market. I now know he wasn’t trying to pick a fight. He just had a very valid question – what the heck do I do? It made sense to pursue a degree in English because reading and writing were what I loved to do. They were all I was good at. I wasn’t thinking about a career choice or the possibility of graduating at a time when the state’s unemployment rate was at an all-time high. I never thought that I would graduate college without a solid plan.

My father, his figs, and his booming voice make my mind travel to a thought which nearly breaks my heart: I have let him down. I think of him, all of seven-years-old, walking two hours to school by himself and hiding in doorways to stay dry from the downpours. I try to imagine his fear when he stepped onto US soil for the first time, thousands of miles from his warm home. The past 45 years of his life have been dedicated to back-breaking work. And for the last three years he has woken up at 6AM to drive me, without complaint, to the train station as I worked towards my undergraduate degree in Boston. I am ashamed to think that all of his hard work has been for nothing.

But then I think of my own accomplishments. I went from drinking 40s on a friend’s porch for two years to graduating from community college with highest honors. I was then accepted into colleges I never thought could be options for me. I am reminded of the times, during my first episode with major depression, when I would leave Statistical Psychology to cry in a bathroom stall. Although the pain was all-consuming, I would dry my tears and return to class, determined to finish senior year. I, too, made those 6AM trips for three years. I, alone, made the 8PM trips back, packed like a sardine against strangers, body and mind exhausted. And while things haven’t turned out as expected, my hard work cannot have been for nothing. I refuse to believe that our work hasn’t been for something.

“I know!” I say, interrupting their conversation. “I went to school to be una escritora.”

In the middle of dinner, on a chilly September evening, in the midst of my father’s impromptu interrogation and the angst of not being able to find a job, while sitting in my oldest and most comfortable sweatpants, the most fundamental truth of my existence hits me. I say it again, so that he knows. So that I know.

“I am going to be a writer.”

He studies my face, so similar to his own. Eso si. That’s more like it, he answers with a slow head nod as he closes the lid on the jar of figs.

Self-care.

For whatever reason, when it comes to going through with things that will make me a better me, I tend to flake. I pick up newsletters to find events and workshops – spiritual, financial, creative, professional – and don’t go (except for last Sunday. Thanks, Jenn and Cindy, for entertaining my ideas). I buy body scrubs and hair masks and books on self-care and then give them away or throw them in a drawer. I lie awake at night and promise myself and all the stars that I will not go back to a toxic friendship or relationship, and guess what I do? When I really think about it, it’s because I have a love/hate relationship with myself and hate wins 98% of the time. I sabotage my happiness. But that’s a subject for another time. Point is, I go out of my way to put others first and encourage everyone to take care of themselves but don’t always give myself the same attention.

Yesterday, however, I stopped by the RIC Graduate Studies Open House. I registered for the event about two weeks ago and really had no intention of going. I can still apply to the Creative Writing certificate program without attending this awkward-ass, fake-ass event, was my justification. I had some questions, though, and something urged me to go. Mostly, I really want to do this program. So I put on my big girl trousers and attended, and I’m glad I did. My questions were answered and I met staff and even bumped into students I know. It got me excited and thinking about my future, something I had put on hold. It made the possibility of one day applying for an MFA program real.

The application deadline is March 1st, meaning I don’t have much time. I plan on revisiting and revising some stories I already have, and creating new ones from scratch. I had started a post a few days ago on memories that I have, but I think they can be fleshed out individually, played around with, and made into longer stories. Below are three memories. Feel free to write in the comments if there’s anything that stands out, or if you have any new ideas/requests that I can work on. It’s crunch time, people, and I need all the help I can get!

Memory #1: I wouldn’t be able to tell you who broke the piñata or the madness that ensued, but I do remember holding the prize I’d caught with absolute delight: a blue-haired troll doll, belly ugly and distended. What a gift! Before I could open my mouth to call my father over to share in my joy, a long-nailed hand came into view and snatched the box from my hands. I was so startled, it took my breath away. No words were exchanged and the woman who is now a faceless memory walked off with my troll. I just stood there, arms outstretched, wondering what I’d done wrong. I couldn’t have been older than five.

Memory #2: I was around six when my father took me for a bike ride in Lincoln Woods. For whatever reason, our journey brought us to a tiny, muddy lake with a tree strewn across it. He tested the tree’s sturdiness with his left, sneakered foot. He hoisted my bike over his shoulder and said, “ojo.” Watch. With a quick one two three he walked over the trunk, safely to the other side. He beckoned me over. I had every intention of following his steps, but I noticed another branch, partly submerged in the mud as well. I made the decision, and stepped on it. It gave way underneath my weight, and into the mud I went. I flailed in fear, since I couldn’t swim and didn’t know what monsters lurked beneath. I called to my father for help. For a solid five seconds he didn’t react. He just watched me, and I’ll never forget his expression. I haven’t been able to erase the look of disappointment from his face ever since.

Memory #3: I had just turned seven. I was sitting on the floor against the wall of my grandmother’s kitchen. The dark, red carpet felt sticky underneath my palms. I watched, quiet and unnoticed, as my sister Alexandra wept. I had never seen her – or anyone – cry like that before. My sister Gricel rushed into the kitchen and ran into Alex, holding her tight. Tears fell from their faces and I, too, began to cry. It was the first and last time I ever saw them hug.

Rant.

If you’ll permit me, I’d like to go on a rant. Leave now if you don’t feel like hearing me whine and complain about my existential crisis for the millionth fucking time.

Binge-watching Jane the Virgin (a show about an aspiring Latina writer), working on a college campus buzzing with creativity, and an overall sense of what am I doing with my life? have led to an unsettling feeling in my chest. I keep thinking of eight-year-old Jax and her dream of one day sitting on a shore, typewriter and mimosa in tow, tic tac tic-ing bestselling ideas onto paper and seeing her book on a shelf at Borders (RIP!). That’s what I envisioned life as a writer – my life – to be. Obviously, that’s not how it has turned out because devoting oneself to words doesn’t work that way. Great writing doesn’t happen that way. And also because, really, I’ve treated it like a hobby and not what it truly is: what I love to do.

It’s become a tiresome theme. I’ve written countless blog posts about the issue: Woe is me, I’m an anguished writer with no direction! I talk about writing all the time: Yeah, if I could be anything I’d be a writer! I’m so judgmental when reading others’ work that it’s become hard to enjoy anything: Wow, people like this crap? How easily amused! I’ve carried around pretty notebooks in preparation of the moment creativity strikes: Writing down all my ideas will do the trick! Everything is a story or poem to me. I watch and analyze interactions and people and moments and story lines are constantly forming in my head but when it comes time to sit the fuck down and write or let a story actually develop and evolve in my head, I ain’t about shit. I just can’t seem to…go.

Truth is, I am a) unsure as to how to begin, b) facing a years-long creative drought, and c) petrified that my writing sucks and my ideas are trash. That’s the honest truth. I AM SCARED. I look at the imaginations of my idol Toni Morrison and Gabriel García Márquez and William Faulkner and I analyze the commentary of bell hooks and Aldous Huxley and my boy Anton Chekhov and goddamn, their work is mind-blowing. It puts anything I have ever written to shame. It’s silly to compare myself to writers of such magnitude and stature, but if you can’t evoke emotion in your reader or if your work doesn’t actually say something, then what’s the point? Have you ever been brought to tears by a book? It’s magical. Has there been an author that makes you look up and think OH, SHIT? That’s the kind of writer I want to be and I AM SCARED that it’s not in me.

Logical Jax knows that I don’t have to be a literary great and go down in canonical history. Maybe the simple act of writing and trying is enough. We can’t all be Shakespeares and Frosts and Brontës and Nerudas. There’s a Creative Writing certificate program here at RIC and I am tempted to apply. Applying requires 15-20 pages of sample work, and the thought is daunting. However, I feel like it’s a great way to determine whether this is worth devoting myself to or not. Maybe it’ll unclog the hairball in my brain and I’ll finally be able to tap into the ideas I think are there. Or maybe it’ll prove there’s no need for Drano and I’m just not made for this. Regardless of the outcome, I have a great support system that will continue to read my blog and entertain my dreams and encourage me. Words will always be beautiful to me. So we’ll see.

End of rant. Thanks for listening.

Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is a good time. We dress up all nice and spend time with our loved ones and we shove our faces until we can’t breathe and promise to begin our diets tomorrow. It’s a chance to reflect on all the good things we have and how far we’ve come and we begin to prepare for the end-of-year festivities. For an evening, we do our best to tuck away the things that hurt and plague us for the sake of gratitude.

I miss the Thanksgivings during which 100 of us crammed into my grandmother’s apartment on Fales Street and ate and danced and laughed and watched the football games on mute while salsa blared through the speakers. Our Thanksgiving dinner was never traditional: pernil burnt nearly to a crisp, arroz con coco, empanadas, buñuelos and natilla, lasagna (god bless my aunt Olga), you name it. My mother always brought a salad or chips ‘cause she wasn’t trying to cook. There were older cousins, the teenaged cousins, and the punky brewster little cousins. Us little cousins would sneak alcohol and we would…I actually can’t remember anything else we did, we just loved our grandfather’s Carlo Rossi wine and uncle’s Budweiser. Our aunts and uncles wore their finest clothes, but there wasn’t a single soul better dressed than our grandfather. I swear I remember people hanging out the windows like in the movies, but I definitely made that up. In my mind, those days were larger-than-life. Christmas was even better.

I miss my grandmother the most. Anyone who didn’t have a place to spend their Thanksgiving could spend it there (Don Ramon comes to mind, may he rest in peace). She’d sit in her favorite seat and laugh or eat, rose-colored cheeks, taking total control of the remote when she wanted. Or sometimes she’d just sit and watch, silent in her understated elegance. She’d quietly cry when certain songs came on (“Nadie Es Eterno” comes to mind). Her bedroom was sacred and only meant to store the coats. If we were in there, we had to be on our best behavior. I loved sneaking my nose into her powder and inhaling deep. So deeply, in fact, I can still smell it. No matter who brought what, the best dish was always the Kit-Kat/Kool-Aid combo.

While I am melancholy, not all is lost. I’ll certainly enjoy tomorrow with my cousins, believe me. It’ll just be three cousins instead of fifty. We grow and people pass on and times change and holidays are celebrated differently, and I have to accept that. It’s not a void in my heart; it’s love for the things that were.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving, reader. Eat and be merry. Pick up a bottle of Carlo Rossi. Don’t be too shy to hug and love those around you. Truly give thanks for all you have and all you’ve accomplished. And I hope the memories you make are just as brilliant and unforgettable as mine.

Thankful.

In my selfishness, I have never thought to ask: Ma, what did you want to be when you grew up?

My mother was pulled out of elementary school early, and she remembers sighing in lamentation as girls walked by her house in their school uniforms, notebooks tucked neatly under their arms. She devoted herself to los quehaceres at the age of eight and hasn’t quit since.

But did she want to be a doctor? An actress? An engineer? A baker? A schoolteacher? Did she actually want to be a mother? Is she proud of her daughters and did they turn out the way she expected? Does she have any regrets? If she could start anew, what would she do differently? Or would she do everything the same? I’m ashamed to say I don’t know the answers to these questions. It’s probably time I ask.

What I do know? I know her first love broke her heart – almost beyond repair – but that her pride is unmatchable so she never looked back. Being proud doesn’t mean we don’t hurt inside, however, and I can sense it at times, when we talk about love, a certain tango comes on, or the protagonist in a novela locks eyes for the first time with who will prove to be the love of her life. My mother’s shrine of pictures and her quiet, melancholy demeanor on anniversaries tells me she dearly misses her parents and siblings that have passed. I know that she is proud of her lineage, by the way she says MARGARITA CANO when they ask for her name at the voting polls. I know that her devilishly handsome grandsons take up 95% of her heart, and that they come close to fulfilling the desire she always had for a son of her own. I know that she is incredibly bright. Her vocabulary is so extensive she uses a new word just about every day. She taught herself to read and understand English and one of my favorite images is her sitting at the kitchen table, glasses on, reading the Pawtucket Times. She is super quick with the arithmetic and could easily swindle me out of $100, leaving me with my head spinning. My mother is a great mother and an even greater person. Everyone that walks into our home doesn’t just feel welcome, they are welcome. My friends love my mother, and I am convinced they’d rather hang out with her than me.

We are so used to having our parents to ourselves that we cannot imagine their lives being their own.  It’s all about our goals and our problems and our trajectories in life and rarely do we stop to think: are they happy? Did they reach their full potential? Is there more they’d like to accomplish? It’s easy to forget that they, too, are human, minds whirling with thoughts and ideas and hearts buzzing with decades of sentimiento. Mischief, laughter, sex, music & dance, bad decisions, heartbreak, debauchery, molecules. All of those things are part of them, just like they are part of us.

I am a lot to deal with, I know this. My mother literally picked me up at I time when I was so down it would have been impossible to be more down. She has taught me goodness, generosity, and selfless love. She has held our home together during times that it should have imploded at the seams. Her being her created me, and I have a lot to be thankful for.

Purpose.

I use BB cream on my face and I vacuum my car (RIP Snowbunny!) and I go to birthday dinners with friends and I buy books at Savers and I struggle on the ab machine while staring at my future husband (I promise to summon the courage to ask his name!) and I pay the water bill on time and I buy crystals for spiritual healing and I take my mother to Christmas Tree Shop and I write out detailed progress notes at work and I try to be nice to strangers and I schedule doctor’s appointments all while thinking: what the fuck for?

Ever since I was a child I’ve had moments where I sit back and feel like I’d rather be somewhere else, doing something else. Like I’d rather be someone else. My life should look different but I don’t know what or where or how to get there. I get this thing in my chest and I want to claw it out. It even wakes me up at night. And I know that I am not the only one that feels it. During a soul-searching conversation on WhatsApp, someone who I thought had it all figured out and that I have always aspired to be like raised the question, “Yeah, I feel the same. I think, what’s the purpose?”

Their questioning, their inner turmoil and angst, hit so close to home I nearly cried. Purpose. That’s it. I’d been wondering but hadn’t been able to place what was wrong. I don’t have a purpose. I used to think my purpose was to love. I used to think my purpose was to write. I used to think my purpose was to help people. But doing those things have not gone as planned. They’ve backfired or they haven’t fulfilled me as I expected they would have. They’ve left me emptier than when I began. I’ve been left on the floor, kicking into the air like an inconsolable child who’s trying to explain what’s wrong but doesn’t have the adequate vocabulary.

This could be much ado about nothing and I just have an inflated ego and have come to the conclusion that I’ve failed at life. Perhaps I have a skewed sense of self and my actual abilities. It’s possible that my insecurity has altered my perception of what the fuck is going on. It could be that the universe doesn’t hold anything magnificent in store for me, for any of us. You could even call me an ingrate.  But this restlessness in my chest never lets me forget that something – whatever it is, however small or large, real or fictional – isn’t quite right. A big part of what makes me ME is missing, undeveloped, squandered. Do I stop looking or continue the search with fury? I don’t know.

“Tell me somethin, girl / Are you happy in this modern world? / Or do you need more? / Is there somethin else you’re searching for?” – Bradley Cooper, “Shallow”