Arrhythmia

The vigil. A self-selected showcase of sorrows and serenades. A call to action, an inactive advertisement for hearts and minds, but what about tomorrow?

I counted the seconds, 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… and told myself I would go up to talk if no one else said anything, but my feet wouldn’t move from the concrete. I looked around, somebody must say something, it can’t end without any speakers, somebody please. And I’d count again, insisting, this time would be it, but it wasn’t.

And four speakers stood before me before I finally said, this is it, I can’t wait any longer, but I didn’t know what I’d say, what could I say? I got to the mic, opened my mouth, and all the words left me. I said, I’m sorry, I took notes, and took out my phone for reference.

I decided not to come out at Institute when my CMA (corps member advisor) told us this school wasn’t particularly open and other corps members have struggled for saying too much about themselves, and I was afraid if I came out it would get in the way of building the meaningful relationships I need to be the best teacher I can be for these kids.

But when I heard about Orlando, I realized I was just trying to keep myself safe, and if I stayed safe, my students wouldn’t have the safe space they deserve. So I added a brave space slide to my introduction, affirming that everyone in this classroom is loved and embraced, and I put a brave space sign on the wall, but I never told them I’m gay. I wasn’t brave enough for that. I wasn’t ready for it. I don’t know how I’ll ever be ready–it was easier a few weeks ago, when I was engaged, there was a ring to start the conversation. Now there’s nothing. I feel invisible again.

I said I went to the TFA 25th Anniversary Summit in DC back in February and Tim’m West said in the LGBTQ affinity space that “safety is a pretty low standard to set.” And I said, safety isn’t enough anymore. Marriage equality isn’t enough if being married can get you fired, if being married can set you up for hate crimes. Marriage isn’t enough when our trans family are murdered every day. Marriage isn’t enough when HIV continues to plague our community and access to healthcare only gets harder. Marriage isn’t enough when children are unable to come out of the closet without getting kicked out of home. Marriage isn’t enough when the queer community remains one of the most racist and marginalizing communities: we cannot celebrate marriage while we still ostracize our queer peers of color, when a Latino I’m talking with tells me he’s always been attracted to white guys and can’t even identify why. Marriage isn’t enough, because there is still too much equity to be earned–equity to be fought for and won and claimed by blood, flesh, and bone.

The same blood, flesh, and bone being lowered into the ground. Their graves must not be an ending, but a beginning. We–as a community–have become complacent and complicit, perpetuating the same oppression delivered upon us. The oppressed are now the oppressors. We can blame the media for erasing the fact it was a gay nightclub, the fact that it was Latin night, the fact that trans artists were their featured performers–but until we as a community embrace them, we are no less to blame.

We can spew fire at the politicians who champion anti-LGBT legislation, who offered their hypocritical hearts and prayers in condolence and then took this tragedy as another opportunity to spin their Islamophobia and stir up the electorate. But until we open our arms to our Arab and Muslim allies and family, we are no better than any of them.

I said, as I stood before the crowd, the mic now dead, exercising my teacher voice so everyone could hear me, I said we’ve settled for safe spaces for far too long and it’s not enough–safe spaces are not enough when safe spaces are daily infiltrated and desecrated, when our brethren in blood and spirit are shot down for who they are. It could have been you. It could have been me. Safety is no longer enough.

I said thank you for attending, for coming out to reflect, but reflection alone isn’t enough. We need action. And because my CMA told me I need to practice giving clear directions, let me practice my MVP (movement, voice level, participation) statements.

We’re going to get up and with our loudest voices, we are going to make sure that everybody knows they are embraced in our community, and whenever we hear hatred or bigotry, we’re going to call it out and invite them into the conversation, because if we push them away, that conversation will never be had, and that change will never happen.

I said I didn’t feel sad when I first saw the news, because I’ve seen so many headlines about so many shootings. I said I feel desensitized, dehumanized.

Don’t make us feel this way again.

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Aside

Heart. Hustle. Humility.

These are the core values of Teach for America Milwaukee, and yesterday we discussed our role as educators in the city. It was a long day full of thoughtful conversations and many, many ice breakers.

Today we’re heading into the communities we serve to begin getting to know them intimately. I’ll be reading to young children, and I’m really excited about it.

I’ll try to post longer reflections as time allows, but our Induction (and training, called Institute) has long days and my energy levels can only go so far. But if I can’t write longer pieces, I’ll at least share little thoughts like this throughout the summer.

Where the Heart Isn’t

My writing desk vibrates with the hum of Florence + the Machine, the echoes of her voice as it thralls and throws the air, a soft vibrato all the way to my fingertips, my toes.

My toes sit soft at the ends of my shoes, slightly sweetened by sweat and the long walk across campus I made today–twice–beneath the blistering North Carolinian sun.

My right shoe is pressed flat against the floor of the faded maroon carpeting of my new campus apartment, only the ball of my left foot hitting the floor, my heel raised as I lean forward, poised for creativity, ready for my words to rewrite the world.

I’d say it feels like home, but it doesn’t. It isn’t.

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Fear on a Face of Ignorance

I have a backlog of posts waiting to be published. Many of them talk about race, and maybe that’s why I haven’t been able to share them. I’ve fallen under fear–the fear of losing social capital, the fear of saying the wrong thing, the fear of looking ignorant, the fear of admitting my own faults, the fear of alienating the people I can learn from.

So where did I go wrong?

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Bittersweet Birthday

In math we study functions of time: a system in so many dimensions dependent upon another for change, growth, dynamic behavior. Life is one such function of time, but no mathematics yet known is enough to model it. Life escapes the linear, falls squarely into the chaotic, and leaves us all wondering and questioning in every moment.

Yet some things are certain, and these equilibrium points change everything.

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Wanted: Inspiration

National Novel Writing Month is one week away and I’m pulling my hair out, writhing on the floor, and scrambling between the rooms in my head to figure out what I’m going to write. I dream of telling stories that change the world–stories that impact a reader, share with readers an experience they won’t forget, and forge the kind of relationships I recall building between book bindings as I grew up and discovered who I wanted to be.

And I’d like to invite you along on this journey.

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Around the Block

Plans are made to be broken and clichés are meant to be forgotten, but when the sun rises, even if the blade is blunt, it hurts all the same. I’m making no sense, and doesn’t that leave me without change?

Cut the homonyms, they don’t work as well in writing.

Where to begin? It’s been an adventure–and every step unexpected.

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Severing Ties (and Making New Ones)

It’s been a year since this blog was reborn, the seams between its faces undone stitch by stitch: In an instant, The Writingwolf: Words & Wonders became solely dedicated to nonfiction, while Silent Soliloquy was born to be a library of all my fiction and poetry.

My blogs have only flourished since then–my audience has grown, my writing has improved, and now more than ever, I’m producing regular content on both blogs without needing to link them back and forth for traffic.

Now I’m ready for a new change, the next step in the Writingwolf’s life cycle.

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Apples and Honey

Last night Rosh HaShanah began, the start of the Jewish year 5774. For most this meant traveling to services, eating apples and honey (for a sweet and prosperous new year), and hearing the shofar–a ram’s horn–blown. For me it meant none of the above.

I could easily steer this conversation in about five directions, depending on how I choose my next few words, and since each road isn’t incredibly long and all equally relevant, my task now is to touch each of them in turn.

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August August

I was talking with my roommate the other about the number of days in the month, and he told me August has 31 days because Augustus had to have at least as many days in his month as Julius had in his, so he stole one from February, and now August has 31 days. Makes it a pretty noble–or shall we say, august–month, doesn’t it?

And now it’s over.

But that’s alright, because now we can savor the sweetness of its fruit once again.

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