Dating Journals

Talking to people isn’t easy. How do you start the conversation? Hello isn’t enough, there is no segue from compliments, all that’s left is questions.
But even asking to share doesn’t guarantee a bridge of compatibility will be built.

I’m on my 60th journal in eight years. I look at my bookcase that has all my handwritten and typed entries chronicling life around me. All the words I couldn’t trust to say among peers, I jotted down.

They could be a symbol of loneliness had I not done it by choice. I learned when I was 12 information was power. When you trade secrets, however much you trust that friend, there is a chance for them to use it against you.
I was that person. On a bus ride home, Shimmy and I told each other the names of our crushes. Just between us,  but I didn’t trust Shimmy not to tell. The next day as lunch gossip, I told the girls I sat with who Shimmy likes. The more “knowledge”  I got and shared, I became the Source.
Even after doing that, though, word never got around about who I liked.

In not trusting anyone, I became the Untrustworthy. Not who I wanted to be, I took advantage of my 8th grade free-writing journal assignment: write whatever we want. That freedom made me fall in love with words – and helped me be honest with myself.

I know what makes me tick, like mean jokes. There is trending relationships news that our meanest friend is really the one who wants the best for you, but I spend most of my time with that confidant: rereading my journals and twinging with regret. I don’t need another mean friend. I need someone who’ll support me to overcome my harshest critic, myself.

I know what makes me vulnerable, loving someone. To get that close to someone and to have it end is abrupt and deeply dissatisfying. I know that I avoid relationship titles – either I tell every person I love them or I tell no one. Because to pick the very best one and still lose them is like finding someone ate the last slice of your triple chocolate cake.

Most of all I know I am a bad verbal communicator. These past 8 years I have had a nose buried in a journal to vent. So now when Rich asks me how I am after a long day at work, I just stare at him. I’m not ignoring his question, I just need time to process! My journals are patient with me and accept me unfiltered. I can whine as much as I want! Aloud, I’m cut short and told to be positive. But I need to pour out all my oozing negativity first to stand tall like a glass of sparkling lemonade.

My journals highlight my weaknesses, but going through my first one from my freshman year in high school shows me so much growth! I bet my journals could have never predicted the slumping girl in the same sweater everyday would come to love her beach hair and have a closet of 200 dresses. I was waiting for someone to tear my walls down, but my confidence did it for me.
In the upcoming years I’m sure I’ll have fewer journals, just enough to showcase the better communicator I plan to be.

It’s true, you can’t be in a healthy relationship unless you are happy with yourself. The beauty of writing is you get to express yourself uninhibitedly. A cathartic outlet, scribbling will always let your prioritize yourself.

So date a journal today, April 29th, and hear yourself think.

 

 

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Haven for the Friendless

It’s Rutgers’ Day, and I am at Barnes & Nobles on campus. It’s so quiet. All the students have put off studying to enjoy the university wide celebration of all the clubs and booths representing the school.

I like it quiet. I feel – safe.

It’s not quite the word I want but walking through the crowds to get to Barnes & Nobles made me anxious. A Rutgers alum I chose to revisit, but every corner has people milling around. It makes me uncomfortable.

I don’t know when it started. I don’t THINK it was always like this. I was shy and clung to comforts in a new setting – be it my mom, friends or my purse with a stuffed animal and a notebook – but I didn’t always run away. Probably because I didn’t know if I could or where I could.
In high school, I got creative. I would save library passes and reuse them to cut classes if I’d forgotten an assignment or if I felt overwhelmed to do a presentation I would hide in the bathroom. That way I wasn’t cutting school. I would just disappear for a period. I never got caught.

Correction: I did get caught once. I skipped lunch in the cafeteria because I’d had a fight with my friend and having no one else to sit with, I chose to eat in the bathroom. Mind you, the upstairs B wing of J.P. Stevens High School was brand new and contemporary. Since the wing was so far away, it was inconvenient to use. I never had to deal with odors or flushing sounds while I ate in the handicapped stall.
But I got caught sitting on the floor. Some girl thought I’d fainted and went to get a teacher. I had to go along with the whole charade – they got a wheelchair for me, took me to the nurse, I was sent home, my dad hovered over me all day.

It was better than admitting I had no friends.

It’s different now. I do have more people in my life. Still, very few know.
Anxiety: I’m sitting and my mind is running, running, running, my heart won’t slow down. There’s no reason and there’s a million reasons: what if I embarrass myself, what if people see I’m walking by myself, what will people think of me, what if I’m the loner freak, what if I see someone I used to know, what will I say to them, I want to hide, run run run.

Those who know have told me to push past it, get over it, I’ll be fine. But when I force myself out there, I stand around the fringes of my community tentatively smiling, uttering nothing, feeling like a bigger freak.
It’s not worth it.
All I know is from the quiet second story surrounded by literatures – written by authors who may have once felt like me – I look out the bay windows and see people walking around in pairs and groups. Solitary, I feel comfortable in the intellectuals’ haven.

 

 

 

 

Spring Cleaning

My closet is organized, my schoolwork is neatly stowed away for future reference, but it’s not spring cleaning when I have to sweep my apartment daily. My impatient cat loves to jump out of her litter box and leave a track of herself. Her tail high, she doesn’t care of the mess she makes.

I have scrambled for months to find a voice for this blog. Subconsciously, it has reflected my inner turmoil of not recognizing myself. Cat mom, teacher, girlfriend, daughter, my roles are fixed. Who is Pooja outside the roles? I shouldn’t be stumped.
Time to go back to the drawing board. For me, it’s never about reinvention. Instead, I recollect and revisit what I loved to do.

That was my first revelation in 10th grade. Unable to find the crowd I fit into, I’d chosen the emo girl facade in high school. Until Daisy from grade school said to me, “I know what’s wrong with you. You hate the world.”

That wasn’t true! I was fifteen and petulant I couldn’t get a boyfriend when my friends did! My competitive high school didn’t make matters easier churning out popular kids in AP classes with A’s. I was dissatisfied with myself.
Brainstorming, I realized I was happy as a kid when I was coloring, watching romantic comedies, and making up stories. So I went back to doing that.

Journal

I wasn’t a changed person overnight. But pursuing my childhood hobbies in school – art club, school magazine and newspaper – gave me the confidence I documented in my journals.

And by confidence I mean befriending my studyhall teacher and learning about her personal life (she never thought she’d be a teacher!), eating lunch in the library to finish homework and getting caught (repeatedly), and becoming the girl who asked guys out (and failed).
We all have unapologetic stories of ourselves to tell. Here’s flash confidence: I think mine are a gold mine of hilarity! With a dash of theatrics that can leave the occasional reader cringing.

Directionless, I have poured out poetry on this page as of yet. Poetry can be beautiful – if the writer has mastered the art. I am not her. I hid behind manipulating snippets of words for the allure of reader interpretation. So this spring, I have decided to be yellow and blue (because black and white are much too dull) about the one thing I have spent my whole life analyzing: relationships. Squads, dates, mirrors, family dinners – it’s the people who we let into our lives that begin to shape us.

I’ve tried fitting in, I’ve tried lonerhood. I’m still amorphous.
The good thing is I’m a Leo and it’s almost my season to shine. I’m ready to dive.

kismet: a writer never quits

When the sun wakes up, shadows don’t fade
they’re lurking in corners, seeped deep into pavement cracks.
When your shoe snags you trip you see your own shadow:
your choice not to see where you were headed.

Patterns cannot be broken without an epiphany aspired by the mundane repetition translating into a perpetuating cycle that can heave anxiety into the humblest.

Under the surging wet white thicket, I was blind in the darkness left by the power outage. Deadlines not met, roads divided by electric lines, distanced from love, the ember of my inadequacy sparked once more. Old fashioned I returned to pen to paper, relearning my qualms are my birthmarks.

Chronicled: why is my cat throwing up is she dying/ I can’t lose power not me I have lesson plans to make/ I just moved out now I have to move back in with my parents?!/ great curfew again am I too old to be sneaking out/ how can I grow up if they can’t even trust me/ please never leave me cat I love you/ need to meet all deadlines!/ hold me my love.

compact cotton candy into a pebble
the appeal to savor fluff dried up to
reach sugar high capacity is a dare dismissed

ten commands given, none followed
my chest cavity ached, hollow and cracking inwardly
the torch of joy crisped when I stopped
looking at myself in the mirror

So I wrote my way home.

I dug my own grave

I  sat in the staff workroom perfecting the upcoming book celebration plan. After kindergarten completes reading a Magic Tree House book – a second grade reading level – we decorate the cafeteria based on the book theme and have a dance party. For Midnight on the Moon, the scholars will walk in to a read aloud about the moon to see a blacked out room with bulletin board paper, stars and rocket ships on the walls, astronauts and moons hanging from the ceiling, a bowl of moon rocks in moon dust as centerpieces at each table and a pumped up playlist to get them moving after they eat.
All for them and to prove that I can excel at creation.
When my boss walked in, I was listening to a moon lullaby. I stopped it to find a more dance inducing song, and Boss told me to not stop on account of her. Smiling, I admitted I was searching for a better option.
As she placed her Wendy’s lunch on the table to sort through and refrigerate, I moved across the room to check the printer. I can lead a class of twenty-six five year olds, but striking up a common dialogue with a superior makes me bite my tongue. It was her who spoke. Curiosity I don’t know, but the Boss mentioned my approved day off. “I also saw that you added another day. Are you going somewhere?”
A conversation I didn’t expect, I was unprepared to lie. Stumbling sincerity: no, I just wanted another day to myself to write. Like a fifth grader asked about her feelings for her crush by the crush’s mom, I awkwardly added, “I can come in if you want me to.”
Where was the future me traveling back in time to stop me from committing stupidity?
Of course Boss tried to be lenient. Would I want Monday or Tuesday? I was getting a day off March 12th. That was a gift.
She packed up her prepped salad to take upstairs to eat in her office. I stood there in the empty space knowing if I screamed everybody would hear.
The chasm of frustration had me teetering on the endless rim of black hole vexation. What’s a personal day if I have to talk about it?
It’s Rich’s spring break that week. This semester has been hard on us. He juggles work, eighteen credits and jumping into game design without prior experience. We don’t see each other so much. All I wanted was to spend a long weekend with him, Indigo curled up between us as we continued our Naruto marathon. That day for vacation is approved. I just wanted the extra day for myself.
Why should I feel guilty about what I want? I take pride in my work, the youngest of the pack, I try to maintain my gait with the grade leader. Somehow I’m still the twelve year old who’s not good enough in comparison to the teachers who spend their weekends traveling to teacher conventions and hobble in noncontagious but diseased.
Scholars, parents, boyfriend, cat – and those are just the people who covet time and energy from me. Ice it with my meticulous desire to excel at creation in school projects, I don’t know how Supergirl does it. I don’t want to be taken care of, but I’m not taking care of myself either. How can I be entrusted to bring joy into anyone’s life?
I am a balloon filled with slime. Mud masked it can’t be popped; trickling life force leaving a trail of unappreciative attitude. I can’t inspire if I’m not my best self.
Coincidence awarded me the chance to blog nightly this week. This literacy testing period will be over soon and I will have to write twelve more lesson plans instead. The next testing period begins two days before Rich’s birthday. Personal days then won’t be an option so I won’t ask.
The worst hell isn’t torture. It’s a stretch of bleakness.
I used to be an actress, Jack Daniels my teacher, but it was a bad habit I had to let go of. A dull rock will never have the luster of pyrite – fool’s gold yet it sparkles. So I retreat into my mental cave of creation – for work and for myself – because the words I say aloud come out wrong.