this is not a love letter

I want to tell you that there is no shame in wanting to be seen

there is no shame in wanting to be cast in the roles they don’t see for you, the characters you are too mean too sharp too fat to play

I love that every day you wake up and create a new story for yourself

See, I’ve been waiting for you

to realize that dreaming of yourself like that, like her, in the dress, in their arms, waiting outside the room, standing in front

of a cheering crowd

well – it gets you halfway up the summit

See, you have to

understand that there are always new selves tucked underneath your skins

there are no rules other than the ones you dream up yourself

the fruit is there on the tree ripe

take it

this is 25

I usually call her at around 8

when I know she’ll have just gotten to work

before either of us are mired in the tasks of the day because

there is something about having your mother, 300 miles away, be the the first person you speak to in the morning

I am starting to see her face in mine, rounder cheeks and darker half-moons under the eyes, but the shadow of her is there

at certain angles, on certain days, maybe when I miss her more

I found my first gray hair the other day and I know what they say about women and aging that the world says that we rot as soon as we ripen and I am now almost too old to date Dicaprio and that aging is a privilege and conforming to beauty standards anti-feminist but

I am not worried about dying or aging or becoming an invisible, frumpy middle aged woman

I am not worried about losing the currency of youth the slightly reckless edge of the days in the spring of your life,

No, I am simply exhausted by the feeling of being continually in motion

life constantly feeling infinitely more real like Dorothy slowly stepping into technicolor

there is a photo booth strip from 2012 taken in the rockaway mall

and it’s not that I want to be 15 again it’s that I want to be pressed into a photobooth with my best friends when things all felt a little more dreamy, a little less desperate

25 feels like constant optimization

like striving to be better in a way that makes you more palatable more worthy of consumption a better cog in the wheel of production

where is the time for languid repose and slow hedonism

you’re 25 and don’t stand for the same nonsense

sometimes its new nonsense

because you are having big feelings and because you are 25 you are rifling through the toy box of emotional coping skills you have learned through therapy, from friends, from knowing yourself better than you used to

you are trying to find the *right* way to emotionally regulate, to parse the waves in your chest until neat script is laid bare

detailing exactly what you should do and when and how

but there’s too much, too fast, and you are drowning within yourself

somehow bouyant and hopeful but also angry and afraid and your hands are simply too full

and you cry in your towel on a tuesday night (softly because you have a roommate and that is only polite)

you’ve forgiven so many people and are smarter and sharper

you are cooler now than you used to be

in most ways

she would be so proud of you

she would be afraid of you

she would want to impress you

she would wonder where the time has gone

maybe she would walk past you on the street and hardly recognize you

a list of things I am worried about – child of the internet edition

I am concerned that I am boring.

That every single aspect of my personality is just something I saw on the internet one time.

Maybe I am too online to ever be really authentic.

I am worried that I internalized 2012 tumblr too much and gave myself irreversible brain damage.

I am afraid that I genuinely enjoy fanfiction.

I am worried that fanfiction has altered my perceptions of romance probably forever.

What if I have given irony too much importance and sincerity which is actually cool has become gauche in my mind because my generation sometimes thinks its cool to not mean things cool to not care?

What if my sense of humor is broken?

What if tiktok audios are the only thing I remember in a crisis?

Maybe I am slowly chipping away at my ability to focus which was minimal in the first place and by the time I am middle aged any conversation longer than 2.38 seconds will bore me to tears.

Maybe ennui will be the strongest emotion for the rest of adult life.

I am worried that autocorrect has taken away my ability to spell and somehow my language skills are slowly regressing day by day.

I am worried that true peace

or at least the kind i need and am looking for

shall only be found if I can divest myself from the internet however

I am worried that i am addicted to my phone.

I am worried because I know I am addicted to my phone.

I am mildly, okay very, concerned that dating apps are the only viable path to romance but to use them is to reduce people to commodities and doesn’t that feel wrong?

I am worried that I am too worried about reducing men to commodities when in the objectification olympics they take gold every time.

good fruit

where I come from fruit is a love language

my grandmother offers us pomegranate seeds as the cure for any ailment

my mother always makes sure that there are apples in the house when I visit

my dad always eats the mango seed and saves the flesh for my sister and I

you bought lychees when we stopped at the grocery store

they were your favorite you said

I had never eaten them before so

you carefully opened each one before handing it to me

peeling fruit on a first date

and I realized,

I’ve had them ebfore

once, so long ago

I forgot how sweet they could be

Listening to Olivia Rodrigo as a 25 year old

I really fought the Olivia Rodrigo craze because I have a complex about being unique and contrary and quite frankly, I re-read all the Percy Jackson books during quarantine so I don’t need another path to regressing back to my teen years.

I finally decided to give it a real shot. And I’ve heard the best way to experience it is to put yourself in her shoes. Really channel that inner teenage angst. So now I’m sitting in my building’s lobby at one of their workspaces being brought to real tears by some Disney Channel teen shill.

I feel like there’s a lot of talk about healing our inner child or re-parenting ourselves but honestly a lot of my inner work feels like sitting in a parked Honda with my 17 year old self and talking to her like I’m her cool, older sister. That’s kind of what listening to Olivia Rodrigo feels like.

I remember what heartbreak felt like at 17. It feels never ending, like you’re smack dab in the middle of an endless sea. It’s probably your first real heartbreak and you cannot fathom doing this again. But you will. And some will be as big as the first one and you will feel adrift for a while but so many more will be these tiny heartbreaks that wear you down.

As a woman it is very hard to not be a bitter nihilist. Any woman who is still hopeful and optimistic in the year of our lord 2021 deserves an award. I am equal parts terrified of and feel great affection for teen girls. They know more about pop culture than me but they are also still more hopeful, more kind, and probably more forgiving than their mid-20s counterparts.

That’s kind of what this album makes me feel like. The kind of emotional pain that is best solved by scream singing to your catharsis song of choice as you whip your mom’s sensible sedan down quiet suburban roads. The kind of hurt that feels both infinite and manageable because you know how young you still are. Because you’re still soft. This album makes me a little more appreciative of everything I’ve learned about picking myself up in the past 8 years.

Sour reminds me of the beautiful vulnerability of being a teenage girl. Maybe a 17 year old has something to teach me after all.

24 things I learned being 24

  1. You should trust yourself when you feel like a friendship is toxic/performative/one-sided. It’s better to be alone than in a disingenuous relationship that makes you feel like you can’t be yourself.
  2. If a bartender tells you that one of their regulars is a bad dude, you should believe him.
  3. Dirty martinis are amazing and oysters and fries is a balanced meal.
  4. So much of your relationship with your parents sets the foundation for the other relationships in your life. If they aren’t going to get therapy, you should. You can love and be grateful for the material support your parents gave you but you don’t have to live your life for their validation and you can disagree with aspects of how they raised you.
  5. No one else is going to set boundaries for you.
  6. I like she/they pronouns!
  7. Sometimes I don’t know if I’m genuinely feminine or if society has just conditioned me to only feel valuable, desirable, etc. when I present feminine. Especially as a midsize WOC.
  8. Honestly, it’s fine to hate men as long you give individual ones a chance (within reason, and honestly only if you want to). Misandry is justified.
  9. [redacted] my family might read this
  10. Grad school is not as scary as I thought it would be.
  11. Grad school is also kind of what I imagined college to be and now i’m realizing maybe I should have just gone to a liberal arts school for undergrad. Oh well.
  12. I am never wearing skinny jeans again. I know I’m a cusp year but in my heart I am a millennial.
  13. Hank Green is actually the better Green brother.
  14. DC really should be a state and people outside of DC should also care about it.
  15. Olives are actually delicious, I’m sorry I hated on them for so long. (Just the green ones, Kalamata olives can still choke.)
  16. I have no water in my chart which honestly explains a lot of things about me.
  17. I need to get tested for ADHD.
  18. Dating apps are not means to be used for long stretches. They are eroding our ability to authentically connect but are also simultaneously establishing themselves as the primary paradigm outside of created communities (friend groups, work, school) for meeting someone.
  19. If I’m not destined to die alone as a very wealthy, kinda mean (but in a fabulous way) old lady with a custom built library and greenhouse in my victorian mansion in the PNW I will only be meeting someone irl.
  20. I’m combining all of my celebrity thoughts into one thing: Timothee Chalamet is actually not hot and the mainstream media is brainwashing you. Armie Hammer needs to go to jail. Please do not ever tell me anything about reality tv I do not care. Me and Henry Cavill have a really similar birth chart and I’m CONVINCED if I was hotter we would be compatible. Harry Styles would be a terrible boyfriend (emotionally, everything else would be immaculate).
  21. I am honestly okay not understanding certain new slang words/popular internet phrases. Most of them are probably AAVE I should not be using anyways!
  22. 40 is honestly not old at all.
  23. All of your friends are going to really annoy you at some point and that is okay!
  24. I can actually get away with only wearing bralettes/sports bras 95% of the time. For regular bras, CUUP has the best bras I’ve ever put on my godforsaken body. Also, I was wearing the wrong bra size.

Sin, Restorative Justice, and the Ethics of Care

The Catholic conception of sin was the first lens that I ever viewed moral wrongs through. If something was wrong, it was a sin. Sins weren’t just the things covered in the Ten Commandments but a variety of other wrongdoings, both defined and vague. Being reluctant to go to Mass was a sin, being mean to my little sister was a sin, lying to my parents was a sin. Through that perspective, if something wasn’t a sin, it couldn’t have been wrong. Of course, as I got older the line between sin and not sin blurred more and more.

The way I was taught as a child to right these wrongs was of course, to go to confession. Growing up, my sins were always the same: getting mad at my sister, not paying attention to Mass, lying, envy, etc. Honestly, most side effects of teenage angst would probably qualify as a sin. It wasn’t that confessing made me a better person, or at least stopped me from from sinning in the exact same ways year after year. At the moment of confession, I do believe that I was genuinely contrite, and genuinely sought forgiveness. I always mentally envisioned God, or maybe an angel since I’m sure the Supreme Being had to delegate, with reading glasses perched on their nose, crossing out my sins with a red pen in the ledger where they kept all of humanity’s transgressions. Kind of like Santa. But later in life two major questions began to arise.

As my sense of morality drifted from one rooted in the Catholic faith to one rooted in many things, it felt odd to confess things I didn’t really believe were wrong. I stopped regularly attending mass in college, due to a variety of issues with the catholic church and the feeling that I didn’t really get anything out of going to mass. But me sleeping in on a Sunday morning didn’t hurt anyone. If anything it allowed me extra rest for a day that was usually reserved for homework and other productive tasks. My sense of morality began to be rooted in the question of “did I cause harm?.”

Then of course there were many sins delineated by the Church that I could not and would not believe were wrong: being gay, being trans, living with your partner before marriage, abortion, etc. Even my devout parents didn’t really believe they were sins. My faith as moral compass was further eroded by the endless catalogue of sins that the Catholic Church had committed, even by its own measure, sins that had never been apologized for, harm that they had never been held accountable for, harm that was still perpetuated today. Was the Church ever contrite? Did they ever ask forgiveness? Asking for absolvement from an agent of an institution that never stopped its sinning, an agent who lives their life mostly in isolation from the regular tumult of the human condition, didn’t feel like a rectification of a wavering moral compass.

Running parallel to my waning faith in the Church was my education in restorative justice and abolition. Restorative justice is a response to crime that eschews our traditional notions of punishment. Instead, it takes the view that crime is not just defined as breaking the law, it’s causing harm to people, relationships and communities. We address this harm by bringing together all the stakeholders to cooperatively decide on a resolution. This method can cause fundamental changes in people, relationships and communities. Restorative justice is applicable not just to crimes as defined in the legal sense, but other wrongs as well. For example, many schools have adopted a restorative justice framework as an alternative to traditional disciplinary measures.

Restorative justice seemed like a more practical alternative to confession. If I lied to a friend, instead of just telling an old white man that I did and then doing 10 Hail Marys to erase my sin, my friend and I would work together to repair the harm that I cause and rebuild trust. Obviously that’s a very simplistic example, but restorative justice made sense in so many ways to me. Not only in the capacity of sinning, but in regards to all of the myriad ways we harm others. Instead of focusing on punishment or a violated norm or custom, we focus on whether harm was caused and how we can repair that harm in a way that includes both victim and offender. It teaches us that others are not disposable, that everyone is worth redemption, and that the relationships we have with others, our sense of community, is more important than an individual harm and while accountability is a solution, punishment is not.

I’m going to put a pin in restorative justice to briefly explain the ethics of care. The ethics of care is a feminist theory of morality, developed as a parallel (but not necessarily opposing) theory to the ethics of justice. It holds that moral action is centered on our interpersonal relationships and exalts the virtue of “care.” According to Carol Gilligan, an ethical framework of care is more common to women, due to the way they’re socialized to prioritize relationships and the feelings of others. However, it’s not limited to women and Gilligan’s connection of the ethics of care to femininity is obviously not inclusive of trans and nonbinary people. The ethics of care is at the core of restorative justice and explains how centering our connections with others. The ethics of care rejects hierarchy and instead elevates a network where everyone is a giver and receiver of care.

When we think about the forgiveness of sins and confession, it is framed as repairing our relationship with God. And of course, I recognize that for the devout, their relationship with God is the most central relationship in their lives. But what if we didn’t view our relationships as a hierarchy? And what if central to repairing our relationship with God was repairing our relationships with those we have harmed and those who have harmed us? The ethics of justice and Catholic perceptions of justice tend to view forgiveness, justice, and punishment as not very distinct from one another. What if we threw out the concept of punishment? From God, or the Church or from one another? What if we instead viewed forgiveness and accountability as part of a process of repairing and of healing? And what if we prioritized our relationships with God or faith or whatever higher power guides you by prioritizing our relationships with others?

What might confession look like then? What might the concept of atonement look like?

Why Enemies to Lovers is the Best Trope

If you’ve read young adult novels or fanfiction or really any kind of fantasy you’re familiar with the enemies to lovers trope.

For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s exactly what it sounds like. Two main characters who are at odds in some way, they may be on opposite sides of a struggle (i.e. soldies or spies belonging to opposite warring factions) or have met under unfortunate circumstances and loathe each other (girl meets guy in bar. Guy is douchey and charming and annoying. Girl is forthright and takes no BS. Their personalities immediately clash). There’s also the subgenre of enemies to friends to lovers where friendship is the transitional phase to a romantic relationship.

Most enemies to lovers stories feature a very specific kind of woman. She probably knows to fight, she tolerates zero BS, she’s very brave and argumentative and not easy to get along with or handle. She may have a lot of bravado or swagger, but she often keeps her real feelings close to the chest.

The women in enemies to lovers stories tend to be the opposite of the women in more traditional old school romances. To quote Megara from Disney’s Herculues their vibe is very much “I’m a damsel. I’m in distress. I can handle this.” These women are not lady like, they’re not nice or accomodating or friendly or subservient. They probably don’t have time to shave or do their hair and if they do happen to do those things they are never doing it for the male gaze just themselves. The anger in these women, often righteous anger, is celebrated, is given weight and importance.

In these stories, even though the characters start out disliking each other, even hating each other, and their aims are also often at complete odds, these are stories where the difficult woman, the closed off and argumentative and maybe even a little b*tchy woman is able to transform the person and forces that oppose her, so much so that they leave who they were behind to join her and devote themselves to her and her victory.

Enemies to lovers stories are where the characters see the ugliest parts of each other first. They see the violence and the anger and the vitriol. They might literally want to kill each other. The story is the process of them discovering the good parts of each other.

It’s the one dynamic that demands full truth and unconditional love of both parties and isn’t that really all we want? Someone to see the worst parts of us and embrace them?

I’m closed off and extremely argumentative and I like reading about strong women who can handle themselves and are a bit difficult to get along with and someone still falls in love with them BECAUSE of everything they are not in spite of. It assures women like that we are still lovable. And yeah yeah, this is supposed to be part of our inner journey and be an affirmation that we give ourselves or whatever. But sometimes it’s nice to be reminded.

Do I even need to say it?

I don’t want to make a post about this year but before anything this blog serves as posterity. It’s a constantly evolving letter to my future self so I can remember who I used to be and where I was.

I’m looking at pictures from last new year’s eve and I feel overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by how much I’ve changed and how so much of that change has been internal work I’ve finally had the mental space to do.

I spent a lot of time alone with my thoughts this year. More than I’ve spent since Netflix, smartphones, and all the other technological bits and bobs that make sure that I’m somehow alone I am never unoccupied.

Some things I’ve learned in no particular order: I consider myself an open book but that’s a lie because I just overshare about the things I’m comfortable talking about and push down the other stuff. My parents don’t know really who I am and I don’t know that they ever will and maybe that’s okay. I am not afraid of death, I am afraid of dying alone and forgotten with no one to grieve me. I don’t really know what my gender is. Or what gender is as a concept. I don’t actually want a relationship (and you probably don’t either) unless the person is *amazing.* I just want the affirmation and validation and performance of being in a relationship. Once you realize that can be gained from your relationship with yourself and friendship? It is truly over for these hoes. Hating men isn’t revolutionary. I need to read more theory. I can do hard things and do them successfully. How I spend my weekend nights is not an evaluation of how cool I am as a person.

This year sucked in so many different ways but I want to acknowledge that I was very lucky. I didn’t get sick, no one I loved got sick and I kept my job. I have never been more grateful for where I am and what I have. 2020 was the year I took the GRE, applied and got into my top choice graduate program. It was the year I lost a close friend. It was the first year in ages that I didn’t get my heart broken. It was the year I returned to my birth country for the first time in a decade. There were other funny things that happened this year that are not NSFTB (not safe for the blog) but if you know, you know.

I have really simple and straightforward resolutions for 2021. They are maybe my least ambitious resolutions I’ve ever set but they feel very right to me.

  1. 2021 will be the last year I can say that I only speak one language: I’m close to fluency in Spanish and a year of re-learning the complicated grammar, expanding my vocabulary and not getting stage fright every time I have to speak Spanish will get me to being able to say confidently “Si, yo hablo espanol” and mean it. (I’m too lazy to add accents to this but trust that I know where they are).
  2. Do my best academically.

And that’s it!

See you next year folks.