Truth or dare or dare to tell the truth

A few days ago, my friend told me that he noticed I like to write from the points of view of imaginary personas. The next day, another person told me that I always write as “my ideal self,” hesitating to say what I really feel and choosing instead to hide behind a fa├žade of words. I realized that they were right, so I took out my pen and paper and told myself that no one would ever read what I was about to write. But I fell into the same trap once again, and ended up inventing a character:

She is an empathetic person, for the most part, but sometimes she decides that it’s not worth it to care anymore, because caring is a very tiresome occupation. Caring turns people into onions, because they make her cry.

Sometimes she looks around herself and tries to memorize everything she sees. Remember this moment, she’ll think in her head. Days will pass, then weeks, maybe years. Sometimes she remembers that she tried to memorize a moment, but she can never remember anything about the moment. Most times she doesn’t remember to remember at all. This is usually because there are not that many significant moments in her life.

A shadow grabs onto her ankles and follows her wherever she goes. On rainy days he is not there because he drowns in puddles.

The first time she said “I love you” was in her head, in a daydream that never became reality, because she realized he didn’t love her back. The second time she said “I love you” was in a text message that she stared at for a second too long before sending – causing her to brake the car too late. That should have been a hint that he was bad news, but she loved him blindly, and getting her heart fixed later cost a lot more than fixing her car. 

She always thought wishing fountains were silly. Who came up with the idea that tossing pennies into a fountain could make our dreams come true? What messed up logic could make people believe that their most ardent wishes and wildest dreams could come true with the petty payment of one measly cent?

Handwritten letters make her nervous. She doesn’t like things that are out of her control; once she drops the envelope into the mailbox, there’s nothing she can do to make sure it gets to its destination.

One of the things she hates most is waiting because waiting is wasted time, and time is the only thing she has. She wonders if time would still go on if the whole world went still.

She is a writer, but she knows she will never really be a good writer because she is too afraid. Her writings are never quite real because she worries that if they were, the world would think she is a monster. She tried it one time, but pretended she invented a character.

…I’ll leave it up to you to decide if some (or all) of this is real. But I assure you it's not. 

What does a soul look like?

If I had to describe mine, I would say that it was made of flames, but little flames, the kind that would lick my bones in an almost gentle way. It would be light orange along my limbs and warm at my fingertips, but deep blue around my heart, swirling like a dragon that is unraveling its body.

I think I was born with this intense need to be perfect, for the whole world to be perfect, and knowing that neither will ever be anything close to this fantasy expectation fills me with this strange cousin of guilt, a dissatisfaction for which I don't know where to put the blame. Sometimes I put the blame all on myself and I feel as if I am dripping with thick, black paint that I can't wipe off.

Are you ever startled by your own breathing? Sometimes I become so acutely aware of the action which keeps me alive that I need to concentrate on inhaling and exhaling because I am afraid that my own body won't remember how to do it without my instruction. During times like these I can feel the dragon hissing and spitting, and wonder if I've gone crazy, and I fear that I will erupt in the flames of my own soul.

The day I almost got a tattoo

I think we have all secretly wanted a tattoo before,

as dark as the shadow that follows you into various

questionable tattoo parlors where you suddenly

feel as brave as the red neon lights that spell out

a dare. You try imagining a pair of black, delicate wings

fluttering on the nape of your neck, beneath a wedding veil,

or a tiny figure eight tracing the veins of your wrist,

alongside the tubes of an IV bag. There are more people

in the shop than you expected, and you begin to judge them

because you suspect that they are judging you.

In the very neuron where ink first bled, you begin to doubt

why you wanted anything so permanent anyways,

and as suddenly as a drop of blood blossoms

from the quick prick of a needle, you retreat through

the very door you just entered. Sometimes I feel like my dreams

are too similar to the tattoos I never got: the same fears

have kept both my skin and my life unchanged.

*The style of this poem was inspired by a poet that I follow on tumblr:

How To Save The World

It is past midnight and I am drinking coffee. Part of me reassures myself that since I bought the coffee at a Korean supermarket and can’t read the foreign words on the label, there is a 50 percent chance that it is actually decaf, but the more sensible part of me realizes that I have probably just cost myself several hours of sleep. Upon this realization, I take out my contacts, put on my glasses, and prepare myself for a night of sad music and sadder musings.

Like any other young person with an inkling of hope to amount to something in life, I am plagued with the dilemma of what to do with my future. Now I know that I am only one out of 7 billion people who exist on this planet, but in kindergarten I was taught that it only takes one person to make a difference. And since they correctly taught me how to count double-digit numbers, list the days of the week, and spell the months in a year, I choose to believe them on this matter as well. But what must I do to make a difference?

I used to (and still do) wonder about what job to pursue after college, where to live, what my life goal should be. But maybe it’s not career paths or huge life decisions that ultimately change the world. Doctors save lives, of course, scientists help us understand the world better, businessmen turn ideas into products, the media keeps societies connected. But maybe the secret to making your mark on the world is that the real magic occurs in more subtle ways. In the words of Emily Dickinson:

If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Unto his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.

Maybe I am simply setting the bar low for myself for fear of failure and disappointment, but maybe I don’t need to prevent an apocalypse, discover how to harness nuclear energy, or run for presidency in order to do good in this world. What I do need to do is make my own small contributions whenever I can, starting right now, with no less heart and passion than if I was indeed saving the whole world. And if everyone did this, each in his or her own magical way, we might just live to see the world become what we always dreamed it would be.

If you're sad and you know it, clap your hands

You probably think we had no business changing what was written. It’s not our fault though, honest – we were abandoned. What were we supposed to do, scattered across this blank page, a chaotic array of floating words? Some of us were crooked, some illegible, some even violently slaughtered by angry slashes of graphite. We were scribbled across a flimsy sheet of paper, given a look of immense dissatisfaction, then cast aside amongst the piles of a messy desk. There was silence, at first, in this quiet world of black and white, but then we looked at each other – and the clamor began.

When I was alone,
I just needed some hope.
But now I know
giving up was easier.
I used to think
things have a way of working themselves out,
but soon I realized
my dream was just a dream.
I didn’t want to believe that
we don’t always get what we want,
but I know
everything fell apart
in the end.

It was written in bolded letters, etched with such force that we ripped the paper. There was fatigue and weariness amongst us all – we weren’t meant to carry the burden of such heavy misery. We are meant to inspire. Perhaps we could rearrange ourselves on this blank canvas, hold hands so that we form sentences, come together to rewrite the story that we didn’t want to be responsible for telling.

In the end,
everything fell apart.
But I know
we don’t always get what we want.
I didn’t want to believe that
my dream was just a dream,
but soon I realized
things have a way of working themselves out.
I used to think
giving up was easier,
but now I know
I just needed some hope
when I was alone.

The change was minor, but the effect was great. Maybe when our writer discovers us on her desk, she’ll realize that looking at life from a different angle is really all it takes to be happy.

(This is an old piece of writing, but I rediscovered it on my laptop today and wanted to share.)