Georgetown University Writers Reply

Prompt:  If I Were President

If I Were President…

If I were President, I wouldn’t know what to do. So many things to fix, so many things to cherish. I will wonder whether this title actually changes anything.
I will still need to listen to others. Others will still have to listen to me. But, is my voice louder? I think so. It it fair? Maybe not.
What would I even say? I don’t think I know as much as I should. Or do I know too much. People think this title gives me rights. But do those rights outweigh my responsibilities?
If I were President, I would have to find my place. I would have to take advantage of my loud voice. Make sure that everyone without one, everyone with a quiet one, is heard.
~SC

If I Were President…

People often ask the question of what they would do if they were president, but, I think, especially for me, is whether or not I would want to be president. For me, the presidency has a way of removing individuals from the masses, and forcing them to develop a macro way of viewing the world. For me, the greatest changes in the world happen on a micro level, it happens from groups of people who identify a problem and set out to fix it. Very rarely, does real change come from a government, a entity that cant help but be removed  from the concerns and workings of everyday life. Moreover, the thing that bugs me the most about the prompt, “If I were President,” is that it creates a false allusion that only people in the capacity of the presidency are able to affect change, when this is not the case at all. Each and everyone of us can create real and substantial change in our every day lives. Prompts such as these, although well intentioned, take agency away from people. True power lies in people, not offices.

~RD

If I was president…

I wouldn’t be.
There are a few things I wouldn’t want to do
and being president is one of those few.
Imagine why is it that every president
no matter how noble or grand
ALWAYS gives up on values to go with a plan
Not collaboration that implies consent
but the coercive gnawing of power
that breeds a discontent
Each president struggles under the weight
of much more than simply each state.
Each voice cries out but only some are heard
with money, greed, power to spend
on fancy words
The president listens takes and may try to give away
but that money has been tapered with each
constituent’s say.
I don’t want that power
I don’t want that pressure
I don’t want to measure myself against
values I hold when each new day brings
two fold evil.
Call me a coward but I never want to
place myself in a position again
where I am forced to
relinquish my values to
fit another’s plan.

~CKW

If I was President…

I’d have achieved one of my dreams!  But I really want to
be a Supreme Court justice…
I’d hope that I don’t ruin the country that I love,
there’s a tremendous amount of pressure.
I’ve always had big dreams and I hope to achieve them one day…
but anyway,
If I was president;
I’d propose different bills to reform
some of the systems in our country.  Education, Economy,
Justice, Prison, Public Assistance, etc.
I have so many ideas for this country I love.
I’d also help international relations, engaging in peace talks,
and deploying foreign aid in the right way, with the right materials.

I’m determined to turn that “if” into an “am”.

PS – It’d kinda be a big “Ha-Ha” to those who said I couldn’t.

~HA

If I were President…

I would NEVER want to be President.

But if somehow I ended up int hat position -
well, I wish I could think of something really creative and poetic.
But really, I would just try to do two things as much as
I possible could:
1.  Listen to people – to everybody
2.  Be open with people about what I am seeing and hearing and trying to do.

I have a naive faith in the power of first really listening and
then being really open about where you are coming from and what
you are trying to do and why you’re trying to do it.
I guess I have faith in people to try to understand and reach an arrangement if they (really see) the same efforts from me.
Maybe this faith is misplaced.  I know it won’t make everything
perfect, and I’m sure there will be times when I questions its validity at all.
But still, it’s what I hold on to, the belief that
if we could just listen to and be open with each other,
see each other and know that we are seen, maybe together we
could shift the trajectory of this world we’re spinning on.

~JA

If I Were President

I would sit in the big chair in the oval office
And spin around and around
And throw my head back
And laugh out loud
Because how on earth
Did I manage to claw my way there?
How could a woman
An unapologetic atheist
And adamant feminist
Possibly be elected in 21st century America?
Presumably by then we will
chuckle and guffaw that in 2012, those old-timer politicians
They actually said climate change wasn’t a thing
And women’s employers should control their healthcare
And “women’s bodies have a way of shutting that whole thing down”
It will reek of quaint absurdity
that once upon a time
to be elected president
you had to believe in God
and American exceptionalism
The land where we bombed children
with robots in far-away places
What a relief that those days are gone
Unless, of course, I had just rigged the voting machines
I wouldn’t be the first.

~MM

If I was President

First off, you would have to put a gun to my head.
A thankless job, despised no matter what you do,
your personal life put out like disgusting laundry we
never want to admit we still keep.

But if I was president
I would cut the bullshit (at least I hope I would).
I would say what is and not pander to people’s delusions.
I would admit we are a nation of hypocrites.
I would propose global redistribution of wealth.
I would pay teachers more, hedge-fund managers less.

And that’s why I will never be president.
Someone would shoot me dead first.

~RT

If I was president…

If I was president, I think I’d be pretty scared
Everyone always looking, hoping listening, poking-
I’d make sure to always look nice.

If I was president, I think I’d surround myself with the people I love
A Cabinet of friends and family,
Knowing they would be there to calm me,
Soothe my nerves and give a boost onto the stage.

I think I would try and create peace in the world,
But even that would frighten me.
I would try to help the people who are hurting -
The ones who have lost, the beaten,
The children sitting on the stoops counting the cars as they pass and looking to the  start and the Great Gods of Greek myths, hoping for something – something more – there has to be something
more than this bleak existence.

I think being president would be a hard job
Everyone here-there, now-then, past-present
Staring with eyes as deep, as black, as empty
As a fishbowl at the bottom of the ocean
Asking what are YOU going to DO for ME?

And all I would say is that I want to be here for you
A person to look to, look for -
Just finding the young lady with the hair graying from the stress of it all -
And look to her as a friend.

But is it possible to be a friend to all -
The big ones who tear down the little ones to build themselves up?

Maybe not.
Maybe being a president means learning all the answers.

~CW

Prompt:  If Walls Could Talk 

If Walls Could Talk

Lying here – In the dark
Starring at the white blank wall.

Asking myself if the wall would tell me to stop starring
If it could talk?

Silently asking the wall
All those questions that are still there
All those questions another day couldn’t answer

Asking myself if the wall knows the answers -
If the wall would tell me what to do -
If it could just talk?

~OB

If Walls Could Talk

If walls could talk I think they would whisper.  It sounds a little
creepy, but I just think of the second Harry Potter book where the
Basilisk whispers to Harry through the walls.
a brain?  Can they hear?
If walls could talk I think they would just shoot the shit with the other
walls and scare people walking by.
If walls could talk they would have relationships with other walls,
with other people.  People would try to line their house with the best
walls (we can’t assume that all talking walls are the same.)
If walls could talk they would wail, they would be unable to move,
unable to control their fate, unable to choose which walls they were
near.
If walls could talk, I think my mom would kill me.

~SG

If Walls Could Talk

If walls could talk
they would probably tell everyone I know that
I may be crazy.  From the time I just stare blankly
into them to when I come back and just talk into
my wall because I needed to talk but not to anyone
in particular.

Walls are important not because they protect us
but because they give us security.  And I am not
talking about physical boundaries or shelter from
the world but security in that no matter where you
are you may be surrounded by walls whether close
or far.

And these walls remind us that somewhere beyond
them there is always something else.  This is what
I mean by security.

Security that you can rely on knowing there is
something else.  When you talk to walls, you
talk about anything you want.

Because walls are not there to shield us,
but to open us.

~SC

If Walls Could Talk

If walls could talk I’d listen.  I’d ask why are you keeping them
an letting me be?  I’d ask what a wall can see – shapes, lines,
COLOR?  I’d ask what a wall sees when it looks at me.  Why I
am allowed to be when so many people don’t know what it means
to be free.

I’d ask how a wall chooses it’s victims.  Who’s in charge?
Is it an all knowing power, or is inequality, captivity,
imprisonment just a product of mass culture?  Or does a
wall choose who it wants to keep?  Do the structures that
those before us have manifested determine who is stuck
and who is allowed to sleep at night without any walls
waiting to hear what they have to say.

I don’t think I’d thank the walls for my luck.  Because
my life, my freedom, my ability to move from one space
to another is not exactly a product of luck.  If walls were
color blind, ignorant about which actors are principals and
which are understudies on the world stage, would they
even exist?

If walls could talk, they would listen.
Because it is our talking
that keeps them in place.  Upright.  Powerful.

~CW

If Walls Could Talk

If these walls I’ve built could talk, they’d tell you.  They would
softly whisper what they are made of:  hopes, unrealized dreams,
and of mistakes.  If these walls I’ve built could talk, they would tell
you what they guard.  They guard untold stories and unspoken truths,
they guard happiness and they guard hurt, they guard hope and they
guard disappointment.  Walls.  Concrete, invincible, protective.  Walls.
Foolish, trapping, incarcerating.  Nothing gets out and nobody gets in.
Like a fort, these walls are built to be strategically sound, impermeable, unbreakable.
If these walls could talk, they would.  They would reveal my most
rash action, my deepest desire, and my fears.  They would unravel
and turn to dust and leave me exposed.
If these walls could talk, they would.  They would reveal my dreams,
my aspirations, and my love.
Maybe if these walls could talk, it wouldn’t be such a bad thing.

~AC

If These Walls Could Talk

What an interesting saying. Walls, of course, cannot speak, but they seem to hold the voices of people who live within them and outside o them. I think this prompt speaks to the distinct culture of “place.” A city, with its unique history, array of restaurants and stores, neighborhoods and offices, has a certain culture and almost takes on a voice of its own.

I found this to be particularly true when I studied abroad in Paris. The city’s old ruins and picturesque streets told the story of a different time. Within the Paris “walls,” other stories were being told. I got a glimpse into the lives of strangers when I lived with my host family in a small ground level apartment in a residential arrondisement of Paris. If those walls could talk, they would speak of a family that was highly dysfunctional, but that often tried to put on a front of normalcy for me. Interestingly, the walls themselves were intricately painted by my host mother, who was an artist, with flowers and cupids and sweet designs. If you try to cover up a wall, you cannot even hide from what it has seen, the everyday life stories and experiences, both good and bad, important and seemingly inconsequential.

~SLC

If These Walls Could Talk

Well…I’d be scared, that’s kind of creepy. But that’s beside the point. There’s so much that happens within the walls of a room, that many do not know about. Government corruption, break-ups, secrets, etc. I think if walls could talk, it’d be like opening up a Pandora’s box, so I’m glad they can’t. Walls are our privacies and I think privacy is important; it keeps friendships, families intact – and ourselves – sane. But, it can lead to bad things as well; people doing bad things because no one can see. I think that we’d be surprised by how much we’d learn. If they could speak – and maybe instead of “don’t do things you wouldn’t want your mom knowing about” – it can be, “don’t do things you wouldn’t want the walls knowing about…if they could talk.”

~HA

If Walls Could Talk

They would not have much to say about me,
always shy, usually in the background.
Maybe this gives us some form of solidarity.
I want to change the world,
touch peoples’ lives,
give these walls something to say about me.
Maybe one day, the walls in some great building
will share stories of my life.
Or maybe only small community center walls will
have heard of me.
No matter which walls remember me,
I will be remembered, somewhere.
Africa, Boston, London, or Tokyo.
Some walls will have heard from me.

~MF

If Walls Could Talk

If walls could talk, they would tell us stories, but
some of them we wouldn’t want to hear.

There would be a lot of anger and a lot of sadness,
but also a lot of joy.

Some walls we would probably want to blindfold.
Or at least duct tape their mouths shut.

I wonder what the walls would think of us, what they would have to say
after all that they’ve seen.

Would walls be able to talk to each other? To say,

“No really, these people aren’t all that bad –

let me tell you about this one family I know.” ?

What if they could talk to us?
Would they try to intervene, to jump
into the fight and say, “stop, stop,
this isn’t worth it.” ?

Or comfort the girl who thinks she’s lost everything,
saying, “things will get better, I promise.” ?

Would they try to intervene? Would we listen?
Or would they get tired and sad
and cynical,
and just stop trying?

Would we have to ask the walls to talk to us?
I we did, what would they say?

~JA

If  Walls Could Talk

They would gossip at first.
They would be thrilled to be free,
to release all the tidbits
they’ve been storing up for years.
Never content to keep secretes to themselves,
they would shout and scold.
After all, they know better.
They would never have
picked up the phone at 2am
or analyze their silhouette from
different angles in the mirror and
throw their dinner away.
They would say, in your place
they would know better,
they wouldn’t fall
into the same traps
over and over again
I try not to look at them
directly.
I paper them over with
posters and photos
so all they can do is
listen to muffled sounds
and try to guess
what that foolish girl
is screwing up this time.
Sympathy doesn’t come from
encyclopedias or psychiatric observation.
But neither do you find it
inside an echo chamber skull.
Maybe if I could forget I could forgive.

~MM

               If Walls Could Talk

Coño!  If walls could talk
they would scream
they would bleed
they would plead with me
to stop

“Stop! Stop! Coño, para ya mi’ija!”
I rage.  Red waves splash against me
wrap around me
then fling me over like a trebuchet.
The anger melts,
from the solid chunks of coal
that singe my throat
it becomes lava
that poisons my blood.

And my fists fly.
Every.
bit.
of.
me.
goes into that punch

that dull thud
a salve for me

(God I’m weird)

The feel of plaster
against my knuckles
Brings me slowly to my senses.

Nobody
hurt.

Just me

and that poor damn wall

 Prompt:  The First Time I

The First Time I…

The first time I heard this prompt, I didn’t know what to write.
THat’s usually what happnes for most of these prompts. I hear it then I sit there, thinking, scraping my brain for anything I can write. Sometimes I try to make them serious and honest. Sometimes they are silly and dont’ really say anything. And sometimes nothing really comes out at all. But with each prompt, I feel like I have more experience from the last.
I remember the first prompt, “Freedom is.”
“What?!”
“How do I answer that?!”
“This is gonna be bad.”
But now that worry has subsided…a bit…and I am able to just write.

~SG

The First Time I…

The first time I heard a sound was awesome yet frustrating. My family cried of happiness. My parents, however, were a little sad – but mostly happy. The sounds I was hearing for the first two or three years were hard for me to understand. But I went through tons of speech therapy, listening training, and now I understand most, but not all. This is a lifetime commitment for me.
From that moment on, my life changed. I made new friends, communicated in two ways, and faced many challenges that come with stepping out of the deaf culture.
I could go on and on about this experience. But I won’t. It’s a complicated story and I normally spend two hours in front of an audience explaining it. I guess the first time I heard something was a beautiful moment that changed my life forever.

~HA

The First Time I…

Life is full of firsts. The first time one walks, first word, first child, first job. Our lives are defined by our firsts; people are celebrated for how quickly, or how efficiently they do their “first” things. What isn’t paid attention to is seconds. While people define others by their first (first time in jail, first time suspended), they rarely acknowledge peoples’ seconds. It’s funny actually, because our biggest growth, and our most transformative moments happen during our seconds, thirds, and fourths. It is in those succeeding tries in which people learn from their mistakes; they learn how to be better citizens, better parents, and better people. The beauty of life is that we get these second chances to be better, in whatever facet we wish. So while people focus on their fists and how well it went, or how bad it went, I will stand as a man of seconds and thirds. Who I am today is not an augmentation of impeccable firsts, but a resilient culmination of second, thirds, fourths, and fifths.

~RD

The First Time I…

It took me a long time to forgive myself. For years the mirror was my worst enemy, taunting me with the image of a stupid girl I wanted to beat the crap out of. I was caught in a vicious cycle. Identify the hated elements. Figure out a battle plan. Seek to eradicate the target. Failed mission. Restart.
It was, needless to say, an exhausting process. So tiring. So draining. I lost myself for a while in a first of doubts, hatred and despair. But one day, just as I was about to embark on another fruitless attempt, something made me abort the mission. I looked at that girl in the mirror. And for the first time ever I saw something I could potentially come to love there. This opened a door to self-forgiveness, and an exit door to from the vicious cycle. The first time I forgave myself, led to the first time I was able to love myself. Now, it is so much easier to forgive and love others as well. You cannot open your heart to others if you don’t open up your heart to yourself first.

~RT

The First Time I…

The first time I stumbled I fell
Flat
My hands hurt
but my pride stung more
The first time I fell in love
I fell with a splash
and drowned
The first time I laughed
It was from the belly
so hard I couldn’t breathe
The first time I tried
something new
I failed but with a flourish of best efforts
The first time I danced
I ran out of breath
and circled and circled
dizzying
The first time I looked up at the stars
I couldn’t look down
The first time I realized supermarket hallways echoed
I danced
loudly
The first time I heard silence
I stopped breathing to be with it
The first time I got angry
I held my breath and passed out
The first time I shouted
I went hoarse
The first time you ask me my name
I will panic and forget the word
The first time you say hello
I will throw my arms around you
in a big hug
The first time you say goodbye
my stomach will drop out
as I watch your spirit go
Shining to others
The first time I was alone
I was scared
The first darkness touched my life
I was angry
The first time I whispered
it sounded weird
and the first time you whispered back
I couldn’t hear
The first time is exuberant
overdone
underthought
pure vibrating energy and emotion
the first time i freak out always
and the second time too
and the third
and fourth
and the almost eternity
you can expect to see my
over-happy
over-sad
over-joyful
over-quiet
over-loud
over-me
until I’m over everything

~KEW

The First Time I…

The first time I remember seeing a transsexual person I was confused. Because I was confused I was disturbed. Maybe because transsexuality crossed two lines of gender that we are told should never cross or maybe I was mostly disturbed by her cheetah print jacket and her bright orange lipstick. But as I grew up and saw more transsexual people I became angry. Angry that they chose to live a life of in between and make people hate them. I thought, “Why can’t they just be gay or lesbian? Why do they have to dress like someone they aren’t?” All throughout high school I denied myself the privilege of getting to truly understand the transgender community. I pushed them out of my sight out of existence. It wasn’t until I got to Georgetown and enrolled in my first Women’s and Gender Studies class did I let myself understand their lifestyle. I remember going back to my room after class to watch a film we discussed, when I realized that I neglected a community of people because I was closed-minded. I have since then opened my mind to understanding. The transsexual community in America is probably one of the most misunderstood. Now I major in Women’s and Gender Studies with a concentration in Transsexuality Studies. From this community I have learned so many great lessons of confidence, self-worth, and the ability to follow one’s own heart no matter how different it is. But I also learned that in America transsexual teenagers have one of the highest rates of suicide and substance abuse. I think it is important for people to understand others so they can learn great lessons.

~CCC
The First Time I…

The first time I decided I was going to do everything in my ability to reach my goals, it felt amazing. I decided I would not let my sometimes-discouraging father make me feel inferior. I decided it did not matter that he thought I would have to work much harder than my brother to even fathom reaching his academic level. Or maybe it did matter in a good way. His words of discouragement only made me want it more, not for him, but for himself.

I decided that everything I was going to do from now on, would be for me. not in a selfish way, but in the sense that no one’s approval is more important than that of my own.

I get to decide who I want to be, how I can get there and why I want it.

The first time I realized, no one could make me feel inferior without my consent, I was liberated.

~SC

The First Time I…

The first time I fell in love, I fell hard. I had wondered for twenty years if I was simply not the type to fall in love, if anyone would ever hold my attention for more than a few short minutes, always on to the next person with a painful longing that he would be the one.
The first time I realized I loved him was after it was over. It’s funny looking back on things, how I could have ever been so blind. I tried to disguise my wants and needs as indifference until I couldn’t hold it anymore. We burst in two because it’s better to explode than fade away.
But life has a way of leaving one cinder burning to remind us of the fires and passion that were. We were reignited, reborn stronger than before. The first time you told me you loved me was last week.
It was the first time I’d heard it.
But it was always you.

~SLC

The First Time I…

I don’t remember the first time I sang, or played piano. Apparently, I started taking piano lessons when I was four. According to my mother, I started singing almost as soon as I could talk.
So I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have music in my life.
I guess I was one of the lucky ones – lucky in that I took to the activities they chose for me when I was young -
lucky that the path they started me on so early was one I ended up loving even as a teenager.
It doesn’t always happen, of course.
(my brother too started taking piano lessons at age five -
but by middle school he was done with the whole idea.)
And of course I haven’t always followed a path that my parents woud have chosen.
But how could they have known?
How could they have guessed right
and started me learning this thing that, now,
makes my eyes light up
and centers me when I can’t tell which way to turn?

~JA

The First Time I…

The first time I live alone
will be the last time I’m afraid of the dark
I’ll shut off my lights and
the shadows from trees thrashing
in the wind on my bedroom wall
will be a dance
not a fairy-tale terror
I will not run, heart thrashing like trees
take a wild, desperate jump and land
pulling the covers over my head
I’ll close my eyes as I walk
Across my bedroom floor
So confidently will I know my way
Across the minefield to the safe terrain
It will almost be as though I am floating
when I lie in bed and sleep takes me
sweetly, swiftly away
From the ghosts and haunts of a struggling day
I can’t say
if the mosters will be all swept
like cobwebs from the closets,
vacuumed out like dust bunnies under the bed
That spindly hands aren’t waiting to grab me
That no corpses lie next to me
Freezing to the touch
I can’t say that I will better outrun them
out-battle, out-wit, seduce then betray
But I’ll say that by then I’ll know its secret
And the dark will fear what I might be hiding away.

~MEM

Prompt:  Freedom Is…

Freedom is the moment when inhibitions utterly fail. When the words I write cut the bonds that held my mind to the page. It is when I sing a new song of longing so deep and old it reverberates in my bones. A song of myself in all the twisted human ways I struggle each day to cover up. Does anyone listen? Would anyone listen? My song is often weak, there are times when the chords are so abrasive my ears want to bleed. There are times when it is so loud it drowns out the songs of other hearts. I don’t always like the song and the way it sounds. But freedom is in ownership of that song. In seeing its rests and harmonic keys and singing anyway hoping that the cycle of fifths will eventually bring me home.

__________________

Freedom is not thinking about you anymore. Letting you go. In the misty fog of reason I see you behind me looming, dark and terrifying threatening to engulf the now. But you are behind and the fog around you is not letting me see you clearly. Time heals all wounds, you are not a wound. You are an expression of time that draws my gaze from the future. You are a memory that with clammy hands reaches towards my present sunshine. Never quite free of the fog of my memories. Freedom is not in you so I try to look away from the thought-habits that have built roads to you and turn to the wheel that steers forward into a sunshine so complete I can’t see. Freedom is not in ignoring you, but in the turn of my head and the opening of my eyes towards that which I cannot see. You are the past I am the present and golden is the future.

__________________

As a youth, I spent many of my summers attending academic programs around the country to supplement what many would call a sub-par education in inner city Newark, NJ. Oftentimes during these summer excursions, the idea of freedom would arise in a civics, or pre-law class. For my professors and mostly white and affluent peers freedom was always framed in the ideas of speech or religion; while I agreed with them I knew deep inside freedom meant something much more tangible, much more blunt. For me, freedom meant making it to college without being thrown behind bars, or trapped and killed on city streets. Quite simply, freedom for me was being free, or being able to rise above the confining circumstances of jail and death, two elements that in many ways seemed imminent as it plagued not only my city at large, but friends and cousins whom I had played and grown up with. I thought I would feel that sweet taste of freedom when I stepped on Georgetown’s campus, but I didn’t. As I walked around the lawn seeing happy faces, and beautifully manicured rose bushes, I couldn’t help but realize that just as a bush of flowers that grows from the seeds and roots of its parents, freedom is not a moment, but a process, not something reserved for individuals, but something embraced by a collective. I knew from that moment that if I ever wanted true freedom, I must help make sure others who come from places like me have the freedom to dream without fear of these limiting constrictions of death and prison. My freedom, therefor, is ongoing.

__________________

Freedom. Libertad. Liberté.
Es fuerza. It is strength.
Strength to be allowed
to be weak
Strength to be allowed
to be vulnerable

Freedom. Libertad. Liberté.
It lets me sit on a verandah
listening to my brothers laugh
listening to the echoes
of our childhood scuffles.

All the while, I am allowed
to note the flight of
guacamayas
as they streak blue and red
across my Caribbean skies.

Allowed to breathe in
the aroma
of my mother’s “pollo asao”

Allowed to surrender to
the mindnumbing
electrifying beats
of my neighbor’s
way-too-loud stereo.

Freedom from
Freedom to
Freedom. Libertad. Liberté.

To be allowed to be
to be allowed to live

Uninterrupted humanity.
This is the essence,
the catalyst, the goal, the
process, the expression

of freedom.

__________________

Freedom is not having to worry or be afraid.

Of course, it’s really a lot more than that, but when I think about freedom, when I fill in the rest of that sentence, my mind jumps to what weighs on me most – what keeps me, personally, from feeling (being?) free.

There is shame in my mind when I think about this, something like guilt even, when I move beyond the initial, instinctive response to consider all of the other things that freedom means and is. I’m ashamed that my response sounds so privileged, that it seems to reveal that I have never experienced some of the more severe losses or lacks of freedom, and so I’m able to jump to this “less essential” aspect of freedom when I’m asked its significance to me.

But is it less essential?

I feel like it would sound more “legitimate” to say that freedom is being able to make your own choices or focus on non-survival interests. Maybe when I look at the way I’ve defined or named a freedom I don’t always feel, I am reminded of all of the freedoms I do enjoy and even take for granted, and I feel guilty for naming a lack when there is so much that I have. Like this reveals me to be a smaller, less grateful person.

But maybe it’s not a wrong answer. Maybe there is some element to how we each define freedom that has to do with a dream, a wish, or a longing – something that we value precisely because it hasn’t always come easily to us. In our minds perhaps freedom is always interposed (consciously or unconsciously) with something that’s hard, something that holds us down or back – so when we think of a personal understanding of freedom, what freedom means to us, we think of the freedom from this struggle.

Prompt:  A Lesson From Me

CC

Be too sad when you’re feeling too sad. Your emotions are not your weakness.Your weakness is not utilizing your emotions properly. Be passionate. Don’t be patient. You will be surprised at what you can change when you decide not to wait anymore. Be yourself and as much of yourself; be there for others. Treat everyone equally. You don’t know who you are going to need help from tomorrow so help everyone today. Don’t get too stressed over the little things because they will turn into big things and block your view of the important things. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Your biggest weakness is your pride when you know you should change and you don’t. We all live and we all die. We all have moments that make us cry. Don’t turn a cold shoulder. Don’t think twice to think things over. Do realize that with two very real eyes you can see the future. You can make it happen. You control your world.

—————————

AC

“I told you so,” are never the
words we want to hear.
We enjoy the freedom of
making our own mistakes,
we savor the experience, but more often than not,
we dwell on “could have
beens.” When you see that
opportunity, take it, without
regrets, without fear, without
doubts. There is a reason
why it manifested itself in
this way. It chose you. It
harbored over your
headboard as you slept,
it clung to the covers
in which you dreamed
It was the ink on that
pen, it was that word
in that song, it was
that breath that went
unnoticed, it was that
promise unkept, it was
that dream that seemed
too big and too unreachable.
When you see it, take it.
Take it without regrets,
without fear, without
doubt.

——————-

SLC

I was told once, from a professor here at Georgetown,
that “this is not school, this is your life.”
And I took his words to heart and thought
“This is not a job, not just work, this is your life”
Why do something if it makes you unhappy?
“This is not just a quiet Sunday with friends”
“This is not just a boy”
This is your life
Who will you share it with?
This is your life, and you have your choices
You have your actions
and you have your words and your word
That is enough to shape the world
To make the life that you want for yourself
It is often easy to fall into place
To go through life’s daily motions
And forget that you are a creator
A shaper
A life maker
When I feel like my life is starting to
fall out of my hands
I remind myself what it is that I want,
And then I find the strength to ask for it.
This is half the battle
The other half is accepting that it is already yours
Because your life belongs to you.

——————–

SG

A week ago I quit swimming. Everyone was shocked (but not shocked at the same time). I have been in the water as long as I can remember. And I have been competitively swimming since the sixth grade. I wish I could say that I loved swimming and always have, but that is not the case. Before I quit I think the reason why I was swimming was because it was a convention for me, something I have always done – the only thing I knew how to do. It ate up my time, but I was used to that. I was used to not being in clubs in high school or having a daily social life because swimming was my club and my social life. It was what I did. I can’t say that this was my first time that I thought of quitting. There have been many times in my past where I have come home in a rage about practice being too hard or someone saying something to piss me off. But those weren’t good reasons to want to leave the sport. If I had quit after an incident like that, I would have regretted it. This time was different, it wasn’t stemming from irrationality or anger; instead, it came from a realization. I realized that when I got up on the blocks, I didn’t care if I beat the person next to me or broke my best time. My competitive spirit was gone, something that I’ve always had. Upon the realization I felt with all the confidence in the world that it was time to hang up the towel. And it was this confidence that allows me to have absolutely no regrets. And as weird as it is to have 20 more hours of free time each week, I’m excited to find myself and to find something that will bring back my competitive spirit.

I thought I would swim all four years of college. I only swam one. Did I fail? Maybe, but I don’t see it that way. If I quit swimming and used those extra 20 hours a week to watch movies and take extended naps, then yes, I failed miserably. But I don’t think that I will do that; however, if I find something else that I am passionate about and fully commit myself to it I don’t think I failed at all, I just think I took a different path of college than I had expected. Life can’t be planned out.

——————–

HA

If I could give anyone a lesson – it would be to not judge or be afraid of a person before you get to know them. It sounds like a cliché, but it happens to me and my family every day. The first thing someone thinks, when they hear that I’m deaf, is “How do I communicate?” or “Well I can’t talk to her” or worse – “I don’t have enough patience.” If they had taken the time to get to know me, they would know that I have two cochlear implants, have been in speech therapy for the past 15 years out of my 19-year life. They would know that I would love to talk to them, they would know that I can understand/speak well…most of the time anyway. It’s tougher on my parents and brothers because they can’t speak or hear like I do. People automatically assume that they don’t have capabilities or intelligence. But if they had taken the time, patience, to get to know them, they would know that we are a regular family, just like anyone else. My mom can build an awesome cabinet, garden, and fix a car. My dad loves to crunch numbers. My youngest brother has read more books in a year that I have throughout high school…and that’s a lot. My other brother can assemble a model car in less than three hours. It hurts me when people judge or disregard them just because their language capabilities might not be the same as them. I guess, a lesson from me, would be to be patient, view each person with a blank slate unless you get to know them, understand where they come from, their life experiences, and maybe, add a friend to your list. I see it every day, not just deaf people. Someone plays on the football team, they’re automatically stupid, someone’s in a frat, they must party too much. Someone’s in a wheelchair – they can’t do what “normal” people do. Someone’s from the inner-city, they’re not educated. I say, remember – everyone has different experiences, personalities, and lifestyles. I try to only consider their names, and I’ll make my decision after I try to get to know them. It’s hard, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

—————–

MM

The only way to stop making your mistakes is to keep making them. I made mistakes that once took the form of a bad relationship. It would never work, it made me miserable, it took more energy from me than it gave, but after it was over, even though I saw with clear eyes all the places I had taken wrong turns, all the potholes I had fallen into, even though I had a clear map from hindsight of how to move forward, what your mind knows and your heart – your sadness, your broken parts, your bruised and sore muscles – what they want might not match up. So I followed my muscle memory instead. It was easier and it felt right. And somehow I just had to keep falling into potholes until my heart had had enough and I could take another route. So I suppose my lesson is to be easy on yourself. Give yourself a break. Have someone to talk to. Try, gently, to be honest with yourself but honesty goes both ways – don’t flatter yourself too much, but don’t be needlessly cruel. We have compassion for others, why can’t we spare some for ourselves. By honesty I mean insight – don’t judge, but ask why, and once you understand, you can move on, and you can start to heal. Don’t push too hard. Don’t spend time in rooms without sunlight. Make time for breakfast and a cup of tea in the morning. Find one thing every day that you do just for yourself. This is a form of kindness. Build your own solid roads, and then you’ll never fall into anyone else’s potholes.

—————

JA

What would I give as a lesson from me?

I can’t decide if I should be silly and light-hearted,

or serious and profound.

Ideally both, I suppose…

but I’ve never been very good at that.

Should this lesson be something that I feel I have within me to teach?
or should it be someone I struggle myself to learn,
over and over again?

Maybe something that I wish everyone could learn?

I think, if I had to choose something to teach,
a lesson that I hope would take root deep in every person’s heart,
it would be the conviction, the absolute certainty, of
the deep and intrinsic value of oneself and of every human being one will
ever encounter. (and not encounter, for that matter)

To really (really) believe that you are amazing and beautiful and wonderfully
unique, and capable of great things, and worth loving, and to believe that
the world needs you in a way that it has never needed and will never need anyone else -
and to believe that this is true for each and every
human being – and to live your life like you really believe
this, like it matters and makes a difference -

I think that is one of the most important and powerful lessons we can learn.

—————

RT

I’m good at excuses. I brandish them with the deftness
of a world-class fencer. It was the constant moving.
It was my mother’s never-ending crying fits. Blame the
pills, the maldito siguiatra. Blame the empty facade of
family gatherings for Christmas. The taunting remarks, societal
expectations, “vanidades” magazine ads.
I’m great at excuses.

But each excuse leaves me feeling more hollow.
I am silencing mi alma – and it’s screaming
shrieking
It’s kicking at my insides.
Leaving me bruised.

I look int the mirror; there lies the biggest obstacle.
There lies my most formidable opponent.
Who I most fear to face.

I am the straps that pull me back
the glue that keeps me adhered to the ground
the cement block that drags me to the ocean depths.
I clipped my own wings.

Once I recognized that, I could breathe again.
Feel again.
Cry again.
Laugh again.
Genuinamente.

—————————

KEW

What is the truth?
When you tell me things whisper in my ears
grand majestic tales that I want to believe…
What is the truth
When it’s not that you are a liar and
a thief of hearts.
Where is the truth? Is it somewhere in between
the lines of your monologue and my dreams
Was it there at all?
The truth has nothing to do with us because
as a good friend once said
“All stories are true, some actually happened.”
And our story happened therefore it is in a sense true
regardless of the currents of pain you put me through
I no longer need the truth that was there
it lived it sang it breathed the air
Whether it was tied to lies is your say
because I never made it that way.
I’m leaving it there in the past
with you and that place where you’re cast
Walk with it if you wish
it’s your construction of mist

Go away leave this place and pain
Find a place between right and wrong
in the fields beyond
Go to Rumi, we’ll both meet you there.
Words have power to hurt and betray
so leave here now go beyond what they say.
Meanings and lies change in an everflowing tide
of good and bad here and there
be placeless live out of water, breathe air
water looks cool in the depths when the sun is scorching
you with questions of why
you have to stop living in the sigh of
a lying wind
Go now begin anew
Live, be through!

A lesson.
Pain, there is some you can’t avoid
a broken heart, a truth devoid
when you trust and words are twisted
the truth is still there you haven’t missed it.
Calm slow breaths from within
It’s okay that you don’t know where to begin
untangling a lie or an alibi
takes time and patience
You are worth this.
We’ll mend it, yes it will happen
though you feel uncannily broken
Where did the cracks begin?
You can’t win at guessing
just count your blessings
you still have the pieces.

——————-

RD

Surprisingly, this is a hard topic to write about for me. On the surface it seems as if I should have dozens of lessons to share with the world, based on some of the events I have seen in my life, but I don’t. The best thing that I can say is that I am a boon of other peoples’ lessons. All my life, I have had people giving me second chances and advice based on the hope that I would take their lesson and learn from it in a way that they never did.
As a book of lessons synthesizing everything from the guns life to relationships, my lesson to you is to never be afraid to take someone else’s lesson and make it yours. I know oftentimes we, as people, harbor resentment towards anyone who pretends or thinks they know or an relate to our struggle, but it’s important to break that habit as I have learned. The more you take in from other people, the more wisdom one gains. Wisdom is a truly precious commodity that can help one steer their life in the right direction. Although many say that wisdom is reserved for the old, I believe that young people can harbor the same sort of wisdom if we learn to truly digest those stories and advice that we often shrug off. While lessons are indeed a symbol of resilience, and strength, they are also symbols of regret and mistake. Why not limit your regrets and mistakes by learning from someone else’s?
A lesson from me…take lessons from others.———————–
SC
I do not cry. I laugh and I smile and I get angry. I do not understand sadness, but in no means does this mean I do not feel sad. I cannot express grief, but it does not mean I do not grieve.
I have learned to construct a wall around myself. This wall means not having to explain my feelings, not having to explain my feelings, not having to care. I lecture through my experiences, not talk through my thoughts. It was a thin glass wall, quasi-transparent and not concrete. But I have now realized I can barely see through it. It is mounted in bricks. I constructed a wall, and I thought that made me strong.
When my friend passed away on my second day at Georgetown, I was angry. When I found out my brother was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was annoyed. And when my best friend left yesterday, I laughed…as my other friends cried.
I do not think I am heartless, I think I need to learn to feel, I need to learn that strength is not not crying, it is not concealing emotions and it is not not caring. Strength is letting yourself be weak, it is allowing yourself to feel. To feel happy, to feel sad and to feel hurt. I thought I was strong but I am still learning the meaning of strength. This is my lesson from me, a lesson that I am still struggling to learn every day.
Prompt:  The People I Love

KEW

I see you.
Our mouths move but words do not form
feelings fill the air between us
thoughts float on the breath we breathe
but no words no sound is heard
Moments stretch in happiness
We dance together in the emotions
We live in each second
I do not see your form
the legs that stretch to the ground
nor your funny little frown
I see you. What’s underneath
What is there even when a mirror can’t confirm it
And you see me.
Our lips move throwing laughter to the stars
but I’m not listening to the sound
I’m hearing the happiness
I’m not seeing the form
I’m seeing you
You are my sister, my blood, my family.

——————

KEW

I would kiss the ground you walk on
but you would laugh awkwardly
I am not mother
but you are the closest thing to a son
I am no saint
and you certainly do no make me saintly
You pull my hair
you step on my feet
you leave your things on my couch
I pull your hair
I poke you incessantly
then I refuse to leave your seat
But we laugh.
We laugh together
and we cry together
I am not always your best friend
but you are always my best friend
Don’t leave
can we play one more game?
Do we have to grow up?
Can we play with Spangles and Monkey one last time?
Can we dance?
Can I kiss the ground you walk on my brother?

————-

SLC

I am fortunate in my family that we say
the word “love” all of the time
When I was growing up, every phone
call would end with a “goodbye, I love you.”
Every day would end with a “goodnight, I love you.”
Even when I would fight with my parents,
yell at my sister,
scream, slam doors, punch walls
I knew that I was loved and that I loved in return.

One of my earliest memories is of my dad,
A big man, 6 foot 1 with tan skin and a balding head
stretching out his arms as wide as he could
and saying “how big is Sara? Sooo big!”
I am lucky that my father told me every day
that he loved me.
Not everyone gets to hear those words, outloud
You never forget them.

I have let all of the love from my childhood
fill me up, and I take that love with me
I let it lift me
And the more I am conscious of it, the more I
like to share it with others, the more I
fall in love over and over again with life,
with people.

And yet, I am still afraid to love
Because it means so much to me
It means letting someone know everything that
I am made of, everywhere I’ve come
from, everywhere I’m going.

—————–

The people I love. It’s almost as if this is the hardest topic to define of all. How to talk about the people I love? I could say they are my friends, my parents, my sisters – but you already know that. The people I love are the people I can’t stand to spend a minute without. They are the people I can’t stand to spend one more second with. They are the people who make me laugh so hard my head hurts and my voice gets hoarse. They are the people who drive me up the wall, make me angrier than I knew I had the capacity to be – because I let them. The people I love are the ones I let in – spilling my soul and shutting my eyes. They are the ones who hear my heart beat and can feel my emotions. The people I love, truly love, are few – but they are full. Full of life and full of comments – full of things I need to hear. I think the people I love are the people who love me, because after, is love, love if you can’t say the words? Love is good. Love is harsh. Love is bursting. It’s impossible. It’s everything you want to say and everything you can’t say – but you just said it. Love is the stillness of silence and the slowing of a heart’s beat.

————–

RD

Theoretically, I would love to be the type of person who loves everyone; but I know it’s not that simple. Love is an incredibly strong word that has many different meanings, understandings, and intents. I’ve learned through 20 years of life, and hearing people throw out the “L” word like it was Halloween candy, that love is only as strong as what is behind it. Love is more than a declaratory statement of emotion, love is a very that manifests itself through action, commitment, and sustainability. I can’t even tell you how many times I have heard people say they love someone then lie to, betray, and disrespect that very same person. As for me, love is a rare commodity, something that I use when I’m actually sure I’m willing to do the things it takes to bring that empty word meaning. Of course, I love my family, and a few friends here and there, but I find this sentiment no more true than for my love of Newark. Newark is a city of light, and its people: a collective of hope. I love that city because I am willing to fight for it, to improve it, and to innovate it. My love runs far and wide for it and its people. Some people say that I am selfish with my love, but as 1st Corinthians Chapter 13 says, love is both strong and kind. The strength is in knowing the limitations of love in action, and the kindness is naively believing that you can love everyone.

————–

MM

I somehow can never stop talking about my mother.
I want so badly to be as strong, courageous, confident,
compassionate as she is, as at ease asking everyone about
their stories, as generous, as smart
I want so badly to never feel the guilt she feels – when she
isn’t home to pick me up at the airport
that she had children late enough that my grandmother didn’t
get to see my graduate high school
that with a five year old daughter, a one year old baby, a
business to run, a husband always traveling, and her
father sick with cancer, she spent every weekend for a
year driving to Boston and back
I remember a highway late at night, red lights flashing,
I’m in the backseat and my mother
tells me, “don’t worry honey, everything’s ok” between
gasps of breath
Guilt at the fear on her
five year-old daughter’s face when she saw her mother
entangled in tubes at the hospital, after an anxiety attack
on one of those midnight drives
I hate remembering those times of vulnerability, those images of her
in a hospital bed, wearing colorless fabric, her hair limp
and frazzled, her face puffy and pale.
It’s an injustice that she had to go through cancer
treatment not once, but twice, the second time a completely
different location. But what does it really mean, to catch
two kinds of cancer in stages early enough to treat? It means
she is more than the individual organs inside her body,
she is stronger than radiation. Cut her open, scar her, take pieces of her away, and on Monday
morning she’ll be fighting again. It’s an inhuman burden,
but she carries it. I hope not to have to carry those
burdens, but I pray for her strength.

————–

NO

私が大好きな人。いまなら家族って即答できる。
私は家族が嫌いだった。最近になるまでずっと、私は家族が嫌いだと思ってきた。
お姉ちゃん、いないほうがいいって、お父さん、いないほうがいいって
思ってきた。
けどちがった。お姉ちゃんがいてお父さんがいてお母さんがいてもえちゃんがいて、
それでやっとわたしがいる。それが私の家族。それが私が育ったところ。
大学に入ってからもまだ喧嘩して、いらないって思って、ひどいことたくさん言ったけど、
私はお母さんが大好きで。いっつも喧嘩して好きじゃないと思うけど、心の底では
家族思いのもえちゃんが大好きで。
私は最後に仲間になったんだなあって思う。
おじいちゃんもおばあちゃんも大好き。私の大好きなお父さんとお母さんのお父さんとお母さんだもん。
英語でthe People I love っていうとなんか違うけど、やっぱり私は家族が大好き。
The people love. Now, I can answer “my family, ” without thinking.
I hated my family. Until recently, I had been thinking I hated my family.
I wished I had had no sister, no father.
But, I was wrong.
My family has dad, mom, two sisters and finally, me. That’s what my family is.
That’s where I have grown up.
Even after I entered university, I hurt you a lot, mom. But now I know I love you.
Every time we have fight, I think I don’t like you, but now I know I love you, Moechan.
I joined my family as the last member.
I love my grand parents, because they are beloved parents of my parents, who I love.
When I say “the people I love” in English, it sounds different, but still, I love my family.—————-

MF

The people I love don’t always love me
back. I can be stubborn, impatient and
moody, resist change and cause problems.
But the constant is that they will always
be there for me and I will, always and forever,
be there for them.

The people I love make me happy and sad
angry and glad, but no matter what
they have my back.

They are the ones who catch me when
I fall and support me when I fly. I love
them because I am one of the lucky ones,
chosen to receive their friendship.

They watch Big Bang Theory with me
deep into the night, go on adventures
with no end in sight, push me to
try things I have never considered…

At the end of it all, they will go
the mileage with me, and I will go with
them. On foot or by car, from near or
afar they are in my heart.

——–

SC

The people I love are who give weight to my decisions, who make each moment and day matter.
I don’t know how to explain who they are -
a list too short seems silly and a list too long just seems unnatural.
So, I want to focus not on my friends, or family who are the most important people in my life
and who I love most but instead on the strangers or people I love that I do not know.

I love the policeman I see everyday on my run who never forgets to smile. He is hard at work
but makes sure to greet me every morning. He is someone I love.

I love the cashier at Sweetgreen who gives me extra strawberries because I always as her
how her day is. She is someone I love.

I love the lady that sells fried chicken on her stall in front of my high school. She always made sure
she gave us just the right amount of food. She is someone I love.

I love the people who add flavor to my life,
and remind me every day that there are good and kind people in the world. I love that I don’t know them
and they don’t know me but we have something to share.

These people who I love make ever day more special, more meaningful and more rewarding.

———————–

AC

The people I love know my faults and my strengths, the know my truths and my lies, my goods and my bads. The people
I love are the first to come to my head when asked “what my ideal place is.” The people I love are the ones
who I miss the most, those who have accepted me and loved me even on my worst days.

The people I love is that mother who has given me advice on everything, accepted my right to make my own mistakes, and been
there every step of the way. She is my rock, she is my strength, she is my example.

The people I love is that father who works tirelessly to make sure I never needed anything; he is the voice of reason behind
my head, and the one I’m most afraid of disappointing. He is my rock, he is my strength, he is my example.

The people I love are those two sisters that grow more and more each day while I’m away. They are my laughter, my home,
and my best friends. They are a source of pride, of hope, and of happiness. They are that afternoon at the park, that day at the
beach, that desperate council of understanding at home.

The people I love is also me. That respect, that trust, and the belief in myself. The love I have for me; the choices I make, the
experiences I choose to have, and the person I am is somehow for me. Because we all know that without counting yourself
as the people you love, you can never really start loving others.

The people I love is that man counting his change, the lady with an umbrella even when it’s not raining, and that kid walking
around with his mom. The people I love are those strangers, because there is nothing more beautiful than to love humanity itself.

————–

RT

I am paralyzed.
Whenever I think of my loved ones, I immediately
am assaulted by the possibility of losing them. Be it
due to death, break-ups, fights:
the notion of never hearing their laugh or feeling their
caress makes me feel like someone has a vice-like
grip on my heart and is slowly, slowly making a tourniquet of it.
Shreds.
It can’t be healthy to always associate love with loss.
But I am just so afraid. And for that reason I cultivate
love carefully.
Oh so carefully.
I try to choose just the right spot, just the right
amount of nutrients. I carefully place it in the perfect
corner to get just enough light and shade.
Needless to say, I don’t cultivate genuine love often.
It drains me. And so, I am often seen as cold.
But to the ones I love, I am fiercely protective:
my love scorches to the point I feel I might suffocate
them. So I back away.
Oh so careful.
I wonder what makes me fear loss so. I wonder why
I cannot easily love.
I am friendly. but not open.
Amicable. But not very approachable.
I guess most of us are like this.
Love is scary, terrifying.
It is also what makes me feel alive.
Is it any wonder we would to anything to keep
our loved ones always with us?
I just have to be careful not to stifle
them with my fears.
I keep my fears to myself mostly.
Cannot let them know.
Will it scare them to know the strength
and passion of my feelings for them?
It sure as hell scares me.

———

CC

It’s not always easy. Determining what love is.
What is easier is knowing who you love. I love
my family, out of choice, I love my friends as well.
I love my boyfriend. I love my pastor and the people
in my church. I love my classmates and my teammates.
But, what does this mean? What do I give to them by this love?
What do I take away from it? Like everything in the world,
love doesn’t exist in a vacuum.
So do I love them regardless of the circumstance?
What is love if it isn’t stagnant, unchanging?
Can I love people in the moment? And is this
love reciprocated? How do I know if they love me?
Do I feel their love at all times? No, I don’t.
The people who I love sometimes make me feel the worst.
They make me feel neglected and annoying and embarrassing and stupid.
But I was taught that nobody can make me feel a certain way because
a feeling isn’t forcible. But they do things and I respond to it with sadness
and anger and guilt. The good thing is that the people I love
also have the power to do things that I respond to with happiness and
joy and smiles. I guess the real truth about the people I love is that they
are humans, not objects. And we can interact and have emotions
yet at the end of the day will still be there for each other.

—————

OB

When I was little I had a special evening ritual. Lying in bed – staring at the ceiling, spotted with little shiny stars -
glowing in the dark – that my dad had bought for me – I tried to think of all the people I love.
My mum sometimes told me that praying to God to protect my family and friends could have a great impact
on their lives and make them feel better in whatever situation they were in.
I didn’t really pray but I believed that just the good and loving thoughts I thought about them would have some
little impact  – even if it was just making the smile for the short moment their image was in my head.
So I thought about everyone I loved which soon turned into everyone I liked and to everyone I knew.
I would just start with my mum and dad, my really close friends, good friends, people I knew from school,
my neighbors, the friendly lady from the bakery across the street.
For every one of them I made their image pop up in my head and hoped deep in my heart that they were
happy in this very moment.
When I grew up – getting to know more and more people – I gradually stopped doing this every day and just did that
little personal ritual once a week, once a month, and eventually stopped doing it. Sometime last summer I
remembered it and tried to do it once again. It took me more than an hour and made me realize how many
people – all over the world – mattered to me…how many people I’d loved, and how many people I still love today.

——————

SG

I love my family

I love my friends

I love the people I meet in everyday life

For me love for a person comes from interactions and association. I say association because when I say I love my family, I can’t base that all on interactions. I have not met my whole family, but my ancestry and bloodline is something that I have grown up to appreciate its importance. Family will always be there for me, and I will always be there to reciprocate. As my love for my family stays more or less constant, my love for friends has a much looser standard. Don’t get me wrong, there are some friends who I consider closer then family, but there are others who are more of a loose acquaintance. It is unfortunate that my love for friends is so loosely defined and there are many times that I wish that I could be more loving to some of my friends. But with friends, sometimes I can’t forgive or forget. These people who I meet in my daily life can range from a small blip in my memory to a life defining change in my life’s path. With these people my love will either fade to memories or last in my heart for the rest of my time here on earth.

Prompt:  Truth Is…

SC

 
A glass door. On a nice summer day, we look
through this door and see beyond ourselves.
On a nice clear day, this door allows us to see
ourselves amidst what surrounds us.
It can also shield us, from what we think we
know. Though transparent, it still separates us from
ourselves, our thoughts and what’s beyond the door.
On a dark day, it is hard to see through
this glass door and the truth that we
know is trapped behind the confines of the
glass door.
This door also confuses us. It becomes foggy,
quasi-lucid and almost impossible to see through.
On a rainy misty day, this glass door
hinders our vision to the outside. And
unless the rains stops, our vision is impaired.
Truth is a glass door. One that we can use
to see clearer or to shield ourselves from
what we’re too scared to see.
——–

Anonymous

 
Truth is…I’m scared. Not all the time overwhelmingly frightened but scared. I’m afraid that one day I might start
hating myself like I used to, jump back into bad old habits and start cutting myself like I used to. Everything was
right in those days except for me. My mind. Too many things can be used to describe what was going on, I was
facing a lot of change in my life, maybe I was stressed, I have Bipolar Disorder. But none of these things could
accurately describe how I felt. I didn’t feel the changes, the stress, Bipolar. I felt empty. It was the most awful
feeling and I hate revisiting it. But if I’m going to be honest with myself and spill the truth I might as well spill some
truth on you too. So that maybe you can open up. Maybe you can know that you’re not the only one that knows how
it feels to feel empty. You’re not the only one to go to mandatory sessions with your psychologist and psychiatrist
every Thursday. Maybe you’re not the only one who thinks that they are full of bullshit and that the medicine they
give you is dangerous and useless. Truth is I don’t want to open up to anyone because I just don’t think I’m good
enough. Yeah, I’m getting my life back in order. Not being so outwardly depressed sometimes. Swallowing my fear.
But the truth is it had to come out sometime and I want you to hear it because I care about you enough to let you
know you’re not alone.
————–
OB
 
Truth is…
not always easy – actually not even easy most
of the time – actually always pretty hard.
Truth is hard.
It is more often the rocky and stony
path – but also the one that leads us to great
things, to things that are more beautiful
and amazing than the things that other paths
lead us to.
Truth is hard.
Sometimes it hurts – but a lack of
truth hurts even more.
Truth is hard. But it gets rewarded: with trust.
And trust is the most solid foundation
to build any relationship on.
It’s something that makes you feel respected.
That makes you feel safe.
And loved.
————
HA
 
“The truth sets you free,” is a hard concept to follow.
It does set your conscience free, but in some situations -
it causes problems. But, it can also be a good thing. I’ve
been raised to always tell the truth, that it is
the absolute worst – if you lie. To this day, I live by it.
Whenever I lie, I feel guilty about it for years – so I try not to.
An example – I lied when I was 7, that my brother pushed me off
the bike and got him in trouble. To this day, I feel horrible about
it. So I always try to tell the truth – even if it is harsh. But, I
feel that white lies are ok – to boost one’s confidence, or to
make one feel better. I guess, there is something behind the
concept, “truth,” if you didn’t do anything wrong to begin
with – there isn’t a need to lie about anything.
But truth is also honesty, and I feel that one needs
to be honest with oneself. As I’m writing this – I’m having a little
trouble understanding it myself, it’s vague but has so many effects and
sides to it. I guess I’ll end with Truth is good, Truth is honesty, and
I like it when I am honest and when others are honest.
————
SG
 
Truth, for me, lies on a wide spectrum. It ranges from positive to
negative, happy to sad, easy to difficult. There are some things
that are inherently obvious to me, and the truth is not hidden, not
painful or not difficult to accept; however, there are other truths that
I myself could never accept, even if they hit me right in the face.
These truths take a much more painful form. The ones that torture
you, the ones that you pretend are not really there. Yet they keep
coming back even more daunting and terrifying than before.
How can you accept these truths? How can you open your arms
and embrace these truths? Is it better to be deceived? To play
stupid? To look the other way?
Yes, it’s easier not to accept some truth because truth has no
feelings, it has no sympathy.
Truth is truth.
————
RT
 
La verdad eh, I don’t know you
La verdad eh, I probably don’t understand
what you’re going through
Truth is, two months ago you never
crossed my mind.
I have come to see that, when it comes
to human beings there is no such things
as an “objective truth”. The moment you place
that adjective before the word truth, you
castrate the concept. Truth should take into
account nuances, background, different
definitions and perceptions. Though I
recognize doing so is troublesome especially
in our Swiss-clock-loving, categorized society,
it is imperative our institutions set forth
the mechanisms to spread this more
accurate definition. We need to get rid of
the monochromatic approach to truth. Why do
we insist on its tidiness?
Why do we insist on it having perfectly
dissected components? Truth is messy, nasty,
smelly, transcendental, heavenly, scalding,
cathartic, agonizing, disconcerting; if the
adjective implies chaos you are most likely
on the right track.
Otherwise, truth has no value for me.
If you insist on feeding me that
worthless truth, just skip it and go
straight to the bullshit.
————
AVK
 
Truth is an elusive ideal, something we approach but never quite
reach. Everything we sense or perceive is an approximation of what
really happens; therefore, all truth known to humans is subjective.
Institutions that claim to know the truth – many religious institutions,
governments, courts of law – are frustrating to me, because I resent
their self-professed monopoly on something that they cannot possess.
Mahatma Gandhi said that by adhering to the principle of love and
nonviolence, we can know absolute truth. With all due respect to
Mr. Gandhi, I disagree. We cannot know , but I do believe we can
get closer.
If truth is an asymptotic idea that we can approach but never quite
realize, it doesn’t excuse us from the hard work of getting closer to it.
What we must do is try to reduce error, make estimates, and zero in
on the plot, however unknowable.
It’s possible for individuals to have different views of the same
truth depending on one’s particular vantage point. I believe that
all these views, no matter how distant, give us a fuller picture of the
truth.
Prompt:  A Letter To My Younger Self

SG

Dear baby self,
        You’re probably chasing after your brother, pissed that he is taking all the attention.
Don’t hurt him too bad because one day you will appreciate his existence.
Dear toddler self,
        You’re probably doing crazy things like hiding in the pantry to scare your parents,
pretending you are missing. Don’t give them a hard time, they really love you.
Dear kid self in MN,
        You’re probably rolling around in the dirt, making up games and laughing with
your brother. Don’t ever change, that is you.
Dear kid self in MA,
        You’re probably sitting at a desk quietly, not saying a word, wanting to fit in,
but just can’t find the words to say. Don’t be so scared try to be more like yourself.
Dear preteen self,
        You’re probably meeting a lot of people and making a ton of new friends. Great!
Just don’t get focused on things that don’t matter.
Dear early-teen self,
        You’re probably very defensive, you already question authority and you’re not sure
who you can trust. Just be a little more accepting and don’t cut adults out right away.
Dear late-teen self,
        You’ve probably figured out a lot, but you have a long way to go. You’re probably
in a really good place, but just beware that a high is only a high because of lows.
——–
CKW
 
I remember my elementary school principal like I remember the layout of my childhood house -
the one I lived in for 18 years. From kindergarten to eighth grade we’d sit in those misshapen
rows of desks in the beige classrooms with our backpacks crowding the aisles between rows,
polo shirts of our uniforms untucked, and papers scattered beneath our desks like fallen snow.
And then we’d hear it – the jingle of that ever-growing bundle of keys, the click-clack click-clack
of her conservative nun shoes and we knew…it was go-time. It was like the clock of reality stopped
ticking, or at least we wished it would and we began the race to clear the aisles, tuck in the shirts,
put on the uncomfortable belts that we had carelessly thrown into our backpacks. “Good morning Sr.
Patricia,” we chimed in unison like songbirds, or soldiers acceding to the general. I remember the
power that Sr. Patricia had over us. We feared her for her quiet, stern expression, the stiffness of
her posture and her searching peering eyes that we hoped with all our hearts would not discover
a missing uniform item or a fire hazard-creating backpack. But we revered her. Looking back, what
I remember most about those surprise visits was probably the hilarity of the spectacle of 36 kids
scrambling to put our lives back into place so we could be accepted and approved by a single, tiny
frail woman. But I also remember one of the thoughts that she left us with engrained into our childish
brains at the end of each of those visits. “Work hard, play hard, pray hard,” she said. At the time,
I dismissed this piece of advice as pointless nun speak and kept that smile plastered on my face
until she exited the room. But now I know that what Sister Patricia gave me with her simple
suggestion was the most poignant and timeless piece of advice I have received to date. Try your
hardest at the things that matter, but don’t sweat the small stuff. And most importantly take time
to enjoy the hilarity of the moment – the image of a room of school children flailing wildly to impress
a nun.
——–
SLC
Dear younger self,
     There is a lot that I could share with you about what the future holds, about the things you will do,
the places you will go and the people you will meet. I could tell you all of these things, but it seems
unfair to ruin the surprise. I could try to stop you from making the mistakes you have yet to make,
but I have no regrets, as these mistakes were not failures and helped make you the person that you
were meant to become.
     Don’t worry – I won’t keep you completely in the dark. I will try to give you a few words of wisdom,
assuming that age has made me wiser, although you do possess an honesty and curiosity that I would
love to hold onto. I will tell you that life moves quickly. There is no need to stress about the little things -
in hindsight one bad grade or that time that you lost your cell phone are insignificant compared to the
moments of happiness with friends and family. Speaking of family, be nice to your little sister and to
your parents. Don’t be so embarrassed by them – they love you and you shouldn’t feel uncool that you
love the back. Soon you will go to college and see them less and less, so treasure the time you have
together now because times change, you will evolve, your friends will come and go, but they are forever.
——–
JA
 
If I could, I would tell my younger self
to not be so afraid.
Little big girl, walking down the hall
holding onto her books just as hard as she can,
darting glances at faces and then away,
glaring at everybody
(or so I was later told)
but terrified inside
“You’ll find friends, I promise,”
I’d tell her.
People aren’t as scary as you might think.
Very rarely are they going to completely shut you down,
especially before they’ve had a chance to meet you.
(and if they do, don’t let it bother you -
allow them the grace of needing some time to grow).
But mostly, if you smile at people,
they’ll smile back.
If they don’t, keep smiling.
Someday, they’ll probably smile back too.
——–
HA
 
Hi!
I wanted to tell you that even though things seem not-good, if you keep working
hard, like you always do, everything will work out. I’d tell you to listen to your
grandmother more, to talk to your family more and make a habit out of it. I’d
tell you that things aren’t always easy, but attack everything with the same
determination you had when you were five, and to always continue that. That
it something that sometimes I need to remind myself about. I’d tell you to pay
attention to your speech therapist and appreciate her. You won’t realize how
valuable she is until after you can’t work with her anymore. I’d tell you to get
the second implant sooner than later – but, everything worked out well. But most
of all, I want to tell you that in the long run everything will be fine. You have your
health, your family, your education, and your best friends. Additionally, college
will be wonderful! Most of all, let others help you. I know it’s tough, but do it.
Love,
Your older self.
——–
AVK
If there is one thing I could communicate to my younger self (besides
“what were you thinking?” with regards to many of my clothing choices),
it would be the importance of kindness that I have learned over the years.
Though my mom always told me that being “pretty on the inside” was more
important that being pretty, it’s only through experience that I learned just
how important it is. Some of my deepest regrets, much more profound than
anything I ever wore, were the times I have hurt people. I wish I could say
I have no regrets, but I definitely do. As someone that has relied on the
kindness of others in times of darkness and need, I now understand very
truly why it is so important to not only return kindness but to actively practice
it, and now I’m better but still not perfect.
——–
NO
Hi, it’s older me. I mean, older you.
Now I’m in the position you are hoping to be.
Yes, I did make right decisions, took right ways.
Yes, you will make right decisions, take right ways.
You might be wondering which choice you should choose, which way you should take.
That’s exactly what I am wondering right now.
But don’t worry too much, I know you’d do great.
Because you’re me.
You might think older me having the same questions means you haven’t grown up. It’s not right.
It’s true I’m in the same question as you’re now, but
It doesn’t mean the situation is exactly the same,
Because I learned what you haven’t yet.
Trust me, whichever way you take, you’ll be fine.
You’d find yourself in the best position, as long as you believe in yourself.
Trust me, that’s what I learned. I never make a wrong decision, because by believing in myself, I’ll make the best decision.
——–
 
MM
Your handwriting is so small, so scrunched
you think it’s efficiency, conservation of space
and anyway, it looks better smaller.
The larger you write, the more apparent it becomes
that your letters are deformed, swollen,
disjointed, twisted, bloated.
Hide them away. Minimize, you think,
and no one will see who you truly are.
I would tell you this: handwriting
like family
like personality
doesn’t change.
Or like eyesight and politics,
just gets worse.
But you have to learn to live with it,
believe me, it’s a struggle.
But to hide it away from the world
means that your voice will never be heard.
Spend all of your time, your thought ,
your calories, burnt and consumed,
on worrying, fearing, trying to change
something that by nature
never changes.
What is the difference between form, substance.
It’s a matter of directing your attention
inward and outward
in any case
away from the surface
——–
RD
Perseverance must become your ally. Your life, in many ways will be defined by this word. I know how you are feeling right now, like you would do anything to get you and like you would do anything to get you and mom out of this building, this complex, this neighborhood, this city. I know you’re frustrated because you feel as if you have the wight of the world on your shoulders. I know you go to sleep dreading waking up in the morning because it means another day in the jungle, dodging bullets and fists, trying to read A Tale of Two Cities amidst the constant pressure to put down the books and pick up dealing. I know it’s rough, but I am here to tell you it will all be worth it. All the obstacles, struggles, and everything in between that you have seen out your 10th floor window o fKing Village, will make you a strong person. your perseverance through these issues will put you in the place one day where you won’t be ostracized because of fear and unwillingness, but will be celebrated because you made it, and you have the unique ability to act as a microphone for those who didn’t. For Dorian, for Marquise, and for Ernest. You carry their stories, and that is an incredible honor. In the meantime, keep your head up and persevere. No pressure, no diamonds.
——–
MF
I want to tell you to not be afraid to trust.
Trust that when you put your thoughts out

there, someone will listen.

Trust that when you give someone your love,

they will love you back.

In the same breath I will tell you that humanity is flawed. People don’t always listen and people don’t always love. But trying – even if you might be rebuffed – will make you a stronger, braver person.
Take this bravery and this strength and reach for things you think are out of your grasp. Go places you’ve never dreamed of going and meet people you never thought you would meet. You will face failure along the way, but let the lessons of this failure catapult you further, higher into the sky.
If you think you aren’t good enough, reconsider
If you think you can’t do it, think again
Just promise me, your future self, that you’ll give life an honest try
——–
RT

 
Querida Gordi;Sí, querida. Even though you do not believe that it is possible to see yourself that way right now. You will surely scoff when I tell you that one day emotions will come back. One day you will know what laughter is again; it will cease to be a stranger to the contours of your mouth. You will no longer avoid mirrors like the plague, nor will a furtive glance at your reflection make you crumble in agony as desire for your own blood to spill clouds your judgement. One day, querida, your tongue will cease to have the consistency of barbed-wire, tearing up your entrails with every hateful word that dredges itself up from that murky, foul-smelling part of your soul. You will cease your lonely wanderings, your howling at an impassive, uncaring moon; you will find that sense of belonging that seems so elusive to you right now. Your back will straighten as you look up at the sky. On that day, the smell of sunshine will intoxicate you.One day, querida, your hands will no longer be curled up in fists, instead you will be interlocking fingers with one who cares. Yes, querida, one day your lips and heart will be defrosted by a honeyed touch. Right now, you believe you do not deserve this; your heart has lost the capacity to receive such a thing. A poisonous blood-transfusion. But this is a delusion, your heart has never forgotten how to love.Do not give up. Keep that tenacious, stubborn spirit. Look ahead and do not forget, do not regret the pain (well, at least not too much). It will make you stronger, more compassionate and more loving than if it had been otherwise.

Mil besos;

RT

——–
NO

 
Hi, it’s older me. I mean, older you.
Now I’m in the position you are hoping to be.
Yes, I did make the right decisions, took the right ways.
Yes, you will make the right decisions, take the right ways.
You might be wondering which choice you should choose,
which way you should take.
That’s exactly what I am wondering right now.
But don’t worry too much, I know you’ll do great.
Because you’re me.
You might think older me having the same questions means
you haven’t grown up. That’s not right.
It’s true I have the same questions you have now, but
it doesn’t mean the situation is exactly the same,
because I learned what you haven’t yet.
Trust me, whichever way you take, you’ll be fine.
You’ll find yourself in the best position, as long as
you believe in yourself.
Trust me, that’s what I learned. I never make a
decision, because, by believing in myself, I’ll make it the
best decision.
——–
MM
 
Your handwriting is so small, so scrunched
You think it’s efficiency, conservation of space
and anyway, it looks better smaller
The larger you write, the more apparent it becomes
that your letters are deformed, swollen,
disjointed, twisted, bloated
Hide them away, minimize, you think,
and no one will see what you truly are
I would tell you this: handwriting
like family
like personality
doesn’t change
or, like eyesight and politics,
just gets worse
But you have to learn to live with it
Believe me, it’s a struggle
But to hide it away from the world
To hide yourself away
means that your voice will never be heard
Spend all your time, your thought
your calories, burnt and consumed,
on worrying, fearing, trying to change
something that by nature never changes
What is the difference between form and substance
It’s a matter of directing your attention
inward and outward
In any case
away from the surface
Prompt:  You Think You Know But You Have No Idea

RD

You Think You Know But You Have No Idea

They can’t ever know my past
So they look for other things about my path

As I walk the paces of the lawn
Eyes stare at me as if I already did something wrong.

The sea of white faces stare at me in condemnation
As if I weren’t free

They see my skin and hear my name
And think how generous someone else must be

I must be here because of a handout
I must be here because someone saved me from myself

They think they know me
But they have no idea

They have no idea I almost got a perfects score on my SAT’s
And they’re to blind to see that I graduated high school with an associates degree

None of that matters to them
Because they see my face and hear my name and say oh “I know all about him”

KEW

I think I know but I have no idea…

I do not know anything…
I write but the words that spew forth onto this page
They have no meaning except for the meaning you attach to it
They have no life except in your mind
I think I know what I am imparting
But I do not know anything

Darkness at the edges
See the pain from his eyes
Feel it through my heart and in my throat
Caught, words are dammed there
They cannot swim upstream
Just an inflow of pain and memory
From his eyes to mine
It seeps to the pit of my soul
It sits there in my sacred space
Pondering my hidden light
Thinking that by association I can heal
I do not have that power

I long to heal with words
I long to speak with sounds that mend
I do not know the words
I do not know the song

I think I know his pain
But I do not; I only see what he gives
Like a clumsy child
I kiss each wound
But they do not close
I bandage every scar
But they do not go away

I am helpless to help
And slowly, slowly
I forget that I exist
I am caught in his hurt
I do not see the wounds
Slowly inflicted on my heart
I ignore the pain that I feel
By trying and always failing to heal

I didn’t understand,
He might have wanted my comfort
But the pain was his to bear
I could never heal
And so he walked
Away, away

MM

You think you know but you have no idea

which way is true north, where
the moss grows on the trees
The compass is broken, the magnet’s
switched its poles
It happens so easily, with so little fuss
You dive into an unknown ocean
the adrenaline pounds in your heart
propelling your torpedo body so deep
the sunlight is swallowed
and you no longer know which direction is up
This fear haunts me at night
to think I’m swimming to salvation
when I’m jetting myself deeper
into the inky-black
They say the pressure will rip you apart down there
But somehow those blind, limp,
colorless worms can survive
Are they feigning weakness
or simply cutting themselves off
From any ties that might tear them apart
Sure, others can drag you down
but what else is going to pull you back up?

RT

No veo un futuro contigo
y sé que no lo ves conmigo
un sólo instante de placer
a cambio de una eternidad de remordimiento

Aunque no lo creas
temo
Aunque no te importe
lloro
Aunque no me temas
hiero

Como abeja que punza
haciéndote soltar alaridos
mientras yazco postrada
empapada en mi sangre de guerrera

Yo ya no me rindo.
Aún en desigual lucha
seguiré hasta que mi último puño
dé en el blanco
mi cuerpo caiga
y mi alma vuele

OB

You wake up. Quietly. Slowly. One more moment.
Then you open your eyes and you smile at me. And I smile back. And I
can see in the way you look at me that you think you know.

You sing. Just for fun. Just for me. And I laugh and laugh. For minutes.
Until I can hardly breath. You make me happy. You’re still singing.
And I can hear in your voice that you think you know.

You wait at the airport. With flowers. For hours and hours.
Until everyone else is gone. Until I come out. And you smile at me as
if you’d just arrived. I hug you – I hold you tight. And I can feel in
your touch that you think you know.

I tell you how my life used to be. Without you. For years.
Searching. Not knowing what for. You listen. And I can tell by the
look on your face that you think you know.

I try to let you feel it at every moment.
I try to show you every single minute.
I try to tell you every day.
And I know it will stay. This way. Never go away.
For Months. Years. A Lifetime.
And you think you know it.

But still you have no idea. How much I really love you.

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