sleeping woman

How Do You Sleep?

Perhaps the best way to explain morality and our actions is by asking the question how do you sleep? Morals are subjective. Personal morals might be influenced by some outside source like religion or what we call “politics,” but at the end of the day the only judgement you really have to live with is that from yourself. So again I ask—how do you sleep?

Personally, if I’m stressing about a decision I’ve made because of its moral ramifications, I will not be able to sleep. As I mentioned in an earlier post I was who you might consider one of those irresponsible spring breakers living it up at the clubs in Cancún in March as the coronavirus pandemic slowly and then rapidly broke out in the US and beyond. But let me tell you: the night before I left, I barely slept. Tossing and turning at the thought that I would get somebody sick or be perceived as a malicious and ignorant person kept me awake.

And yes, again, I did go. Because we all have limits for what we’ll just accept and get over or negotiate our morals, right? This is not to say “poor poor pitiful me, I couldn’t sleep the night before vacation.” It’s to say that I personally deal with a physical response when I compromise on my own morals. I’ve done things against my morals for friends or due to peer pressure, or because I simply told myself “it’s not that bad.” We all do. That’s human nature and it’s part of growth. Personal morals change over time.

Yet, frankly I see so many people and experience myself this endless anxiety over a new moral panic every week. Whether it’s a massive event like a pandemic or national protest or a viral Instagram challenge, we’re constantly faced with these things that become moral dilemmas while we decide whether or not to participate. Celebrities get caught up in this time and time again where they do a thing or share a thing without doing an hour of research and find themselves “canceled” or “called out” or “clapped back” because their good intentions were lost in translation. 

Remember the ice bucket challenge? It was like a hundred years ago or something and thousands of people shared videos of themselves dumping ice water on their heads to “raise awareness” and money for ALS research. In one sense it was another stupid internet trend. In a more important sense, it raised millions of dollars for ALS research, which even led to a breakthrough in the fight against the disease. 

You will not find a video of me participating in the ice bucket challenge in the archives of the internet. Am I pro-ALS? No. IF I even was officially “challenged” at the time I didn’t feel like I had the means to make a donation, so I simply didn’t participate in the self-serving part of the challenge (sharing a video of myself for likes). The point is while I understood the fun and importance of raising awareness through this medium, by the time it was “my turn” to participate, I wasn’t adding anything. Everyone I would reach with my platform was more than likely already aware of the disease and/or the challenge. 

Did I lose sleep over my lack of participation? Not really. I did weigh the moral implications of how I would feel if I made a video and didn’t donate. While morally, I supported and believed in the importance of the cause, I was able to sleep tight knowing there were plenty of other people doing the work who could do it better than me.

Whenever you’re faced with a moral challenge such as: do I join this protest? Do I speak in support of this issue? Do I take part in this social media challenge? Ask yourself: how will you sleep? I haven’t joined a protest since ever, frankly. One time I went to a DACA protest but I left to have a panic attack in Central Park instead of marching. But Kamaron, don’t you harp on action and being real and standing up for what’s right? Yes! But I know my limits and my place and it is not the streets. How do I sleep knowing my friends, my peers, people I don’t know are out in the streets taking bullets, tear gas, and beatings for me and my rights? I find my place to support. I give money. I write. I share information. I talk to people, try to educate where I can. Those are some of my places. 

In recent years as it appears the general population has become more and more politically (I use that word loosely) engaged, I keep seeing the phrase “silence is violence” as well as that Desmond Tutu quote about being neutral in the face of oppression. Most recently, I’ve found myself brimming with rage at the silence of some of my peers when it has come to such issues as whether or not Black people deserve rights among plenty of other atrocities. At the same time, I’ve seen plenty of people “speak out” on issues by way of posting a black square or cute graphic saying “racism is bad” with little or no other visible work being done for the cause. 

Do you all have a “moral obligation” to do something? Well, what are your morals? How do you sleep at night knowing there are thousands of kids sleeping on floors in cages? How do you sleep at night knowing the president is sending rogue militia to kidnap people off the street? How do you sleep at night knowing people will be homeless due to an ongoing pandemic? How do you sleep at night knowing people will die from this pandemic not from the illness outright, but because they couldn’t afford treatment? How do you sleep at night knowing people in this country have been dying every day for years simply because they can’t afford simple medical treatment? 

There is too much work to be done for any of us to be sleeping at night, yes. But my point is are you doing enough to feel like you are contributing something for the sake of your own beliefs? No I don’t lose sleep over the fact that I didn’t solve homelessness today, but I might sleep better knowing I engaged with someone on the street today or even helped support them financially today. 

But Kamaron, isn’t it performative to do things just to make yourself feel better? Well dear reader, let me ask you this: what makes you feel good? Nothing makes me feel better, frankly, than justice and seeing people if only for a moment get a little bit better. So when I do things for what I believe are the greater good, I feel good. Sometimes I need more time to understand what I believe, but when I form an opinion, I usually share it one way or another. And if it’s something I’m willing to fight for, you bet I’m finding a way to fight for it. 

Some people can’t say the same. Or they say they believe something but their actions to support that statement are few or nonexistent. To those people, I ask: how do you sleep? And I know some of them have trouble sleeping because they get back on social media after they’ve been called out to try to defend themselves. I mean it’s one thing when they just get something wrong and they come back and say “I messed up.” I’m talking about the defenders who “do a thing” and after some backlash come back to say they “stand by” that thing “but some parts should have been thought through more” and they’re “listening and learning.” All that apologetic poetry that just says: “this was stupid and I thought it was cute.” 

Remember the “Imagine” video? Something like 17 years ago Wonder Woman herself Gal Gadot led a bunch of celebrities in creating a montage of them poorly singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” in an effort to cheer up the world engulfed in a pandemic. It did not go over well for several reasons, but as with plenty of things I think the backlash was a bit excessive. However, had each celebrity that participated done something meaningful to accompany this dumb gratuitious bit, no one would have made fun of their impeccable inability to keep a tune to one of the most recognizable songs in the world.

People scoffed and memed and mocked because all these celebrities filmed themselves in their million dollar mansions pretending that it was hard for them to “be in lockdown” too. Meanwhile, hospital staffers used garbage bags for protection and millions of people filed for unemployment. What Gal Gadot and company did was not harmful or even wrong in my view, but it just begs the question: how do you sleep? If you’re a multi-million dollar earning entertainer who uses their platform to speak about how you want people to have better conditions, you want people to feel better, you want things to get better—it would occur to me that you could use your endless supply of resources to do something meaningful towards those goals. Tell me you didn’t think singing Imagine was the best you thought you could do—how would you sleep?

And maybe they all sleep just fine, because again—it’s personal. And it can be private. There is also not a ton of good in announcing every time you do a good thing, but that’s my point. If you are able to go to sleep every night assuring yourself you helped make the world a better place today, then sweet dreams. But if you’re not sleeping well, maybe there’s a reason. 

cancel culture

For the (Cancel) Culture

Long before the coronavirus pandemic hit, 2019 and the beginning of 2020 were already beginning to shape an era that might one day be known as “the canceled years.” One might argue that cancel culture started before that, and I would agree if I wasn’t about to argue that cancel culture doesn’t exist. 

Like many of the other things we call “culture” here in the US of A, cancel culture is a made up idea to make you (you, someone with privilege) think your life is getting harder. Simply put, if there is such a culture (definition: the customs, arts, social institutions, and achievements of a particular nation, people, or other social group) created by the action of canceling some people or some things, we can skip novelty and just call it what it is: American culture. 

When you read the words “cancel culture” here, some images may have come to mind. They might be figures who went down in the early aughts of our current cancel cycle like Louis C.K. or Matt Lauer. You might have imagined classic TV shows like Dukes of Hazzard suddenly revising or hiding their problematic themes. Whether someone was accused of actual crime like sexual assault, or what I would consider a moral crime like saying the N-word, the accused allegedly get no defense and are swiftly canceled

The initial problem with “cancel culture” is clear to those who do the alleged canceling. Because as we have seen over and over again, it is very difficult to actually “cancel” a person in the way the cancellers want. When they say “Cancel Michael Jackson,” they obviously don’t mean kill him, because he’s already dead. They do mean stop listening to his music, stop financially supporting his estate, stop calling yourself a fan. This goes for most of the celebrities who’ve been the subject of cancellation lately: the goal is not to physically end their life, the goal is to take whatever power they have because they have somehow abused it. 

This is why cancel culture cannot actually exist in the America as we know it. To cancel, by definition, means “decide or announce that (a planned event) will not take place.” Alternatively, it can mean “(of a factor or circumstance) neutralize or negate the force or effect of (another).”

Two words ring important in those definitions: “decide” and “force.” In both uses of the verb cancel, there is power in play. The power is the thing that decides or the thing that loses its force. If you are the thing with the power, you have to either be matched or negated in order for you to even be neutralized, much less “canceled.” Thus in a society run largely by rich white men, there are very few rich white men who will ever see themselves actually canceled. If the people of Twitter had actual power to dictate and adjudicate moral and/or legal crimes, cancel culture might exist. 

But by and large, they don’t.

Think of all the falls from grace you’ve witnessed in your lifetime. I mean think of all the celebrities and public figures who within your lifetime went from beloved, revered, and/or famous to despised, condemned, and/or infamous. Paula Deen comes to my mind. In the sense that I somewhat remember the post-9/11 embrace of George W. Bush, in contrast to the rejection of post-financial crisis Bush. And then of course, Bill Cosby and every man who “went down” in the #MeToo movement. 

All those people did something or were accused of doing something harmful that gave reason for the public to want to see them “canceled.” But people who also come to mind include Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, and Mo’Nique. All for different reasons, these women had their careers permanently damaged. Yet when America did in fact “cancel” them, it wasn’t a culture. Janet Jackson was a harlot aiming to corrupt your children. Britney Spears was an outdated caricature of a mental patient. Mo’Nique was a traitor to her race. But no, we didn’t call that cancel culture, did we? 

Why? Because those were women. In some cases they were Black women. They had less or far less power than those who wanted them canceled. So it was justified and normal that we built entire TV channels dedicated to picking apart these women and men, too, who struggle with things like addiction. Or in Janet Jackson’s case, simply fall scapegoat to the nearest white man’s tomfoolery. In what compassionate world do we laugh and make jokes about people who struggle with mental illness just because they were once on the Disney Channel? I’m guilty of this too, for sure, having grown up watching the E! Network.

When we unknowingly canceled people back then, though, no one was up in arms about the suffocating oppression of “wokeness” raining down on them. Because back then we weren’t really canceling people for crimes. We were canceling people often for things totally out of their own control. But when we started “canceling” or at least attempting to cancel figures with power, suddenly we have a culture of oversensitivity? 

America was built on canceling. Columbus came in and canceled the native population. The founders canceled the British colonization. The Union canceled the confederacy (read it again). And maybe that’s when the tides really started turning. The formerly enslaved decided they wanted to cancel their chains, but the slave owners (with the power to do so) resisted by simply canceling their subscription to the Union. But THAT wasn’t cancel culture either?

Now that we the people looking for a better world want to cancel things such as racism, sexual and gender-based violence, inequality, hunger, homelessness, etc. NOW we live in “cancel culture?” I really truly hope so. Because that means we the people are finally getting the power to do so. 

But if that’s not the case and those with power refuse to give up those systems of oppression, then no. Cancel culture simply cannot exist. 

By The Way, I Forgive You

While I emotionally gear up for this year’s Grammy Awards, I can’t stop thinking about how proud I am of one of my favorite artists, Brandi Carlile. Her album By The Way, I Forgive You shattered me in the best ways a person can be shattered. I don’t like country music at all. Brandi navigates a couple of different genres, one of them being country, but her brassy roots put a soul so impassioned into her music and her lyrics that she transcends. I wanted to write about what this album means to me one because it’s full of important human lessons and notes on existence and two because I hope it will inspire you to listen to it if you haven’t already.

Every Time I Hear That Song

The opening track on this record might pack the strongest punch. Brandi croons the album title into this bittersweet tune. It’s thank u, next if thank u, next had a soul. Brandi says to her transgressor, By the way, I forgive you / after all, maybe I should thank you / for giving me what I’ve found / ’cause without you around I’ve been doing just fine. She’s learned a lesson here, and she’s grateful for that despite the pain she has suffered.  You feel the exact emotion she’s singing about—you love this person but they have hurt you so bad that it’s still hard to leave them. And she knows this person isn’t even really apologizing—I gave you all I had and got the worst of you—READ ME.

The Joke

I have to admit, this one took a few listens. It was the first single Brandi released ahead of the album’s debut. I loved it when I first heard because it showcases Brandi’s unbelievable vocal chops. But beyond that on my first listen, I wasn’t hooked. Then Obama put it on his 2017 list of favorites, and I had to listen again. And I was struck by the lyrics. It encompasses feelings of insecurity, oppression, all the nasty things the world can throw at you but then she embraces you and says the joke’s on them. And she took it further while promoting the song, explaining it’s not just a typical anti-bullying message, it’s political, too. Brandi said in one interview she was thinking about refugees in Syria when she wrote The Joke, and that becomes vividly clear when you listen back to the line, They come to kick dirt in your face / Call you weak and then displace you / After carrying your baby on your back across the desert. It’s an anthem.

Hold Out Your Hand

This one gets ya. Upon first listen, it’s the first super upbeat track on the record, but its lighter sound doesn’t mean it packs any lighter of a punch. Like The Joke, it rings as incredibly anthemic to me because of the way Brandi chants in the bridge: Deliver your brother from violence and greed / For the mountains, lay down for your faith like a seed / A morning is coming of silver and light / There will be color and language and nobody wanting to fight / What a glorious sight! / What a glorious sight! The song despite its cheerful sound is a prophecy of the days coming after these days of reckoning. When we’re all done with the violence and the hatred tainting our world and we find in our hearts to forgive those who’ve wronged us—what a glorious sight. That’s the biggest lesson, and it’s on the album cover: forgive. Ahead of the album’s release, Brandi wrote an open letter to a pastor from her youth who refused to baptize her as a teen because she’s gay. She wrote about the impact that moment had on her identity, and what it has taken to forgive this man. I had never thought of forgiveness as such a radical action, but in this world where someone can do something like that—say you’re not welcome because of x—it really is.

The Mother

I don’t have kids. I don’t want kids. But wow. Brandi paints the most beautiful picture of motherhood while managing to be honest about it. The first things that she took from me were selfishness and sleep. She acknowledges that having her first daughter, Evangeline transformed her life in the most inconvenient ways that doing such can. You lose sleep, things you loved, order and organization, but it’s all worth it. All the wonders I have seen, I will see a second time / From inside of the ages through your eyesIt stings because Brandi also acknowledges the hardships she has been through herself and that she knows her daughter will face. But she complements that fear with the hope and confidence that Evangeline will grow up to fight against the evils in the world as well—When we chose your name we knew that you’d fight the power too. Chills.

Whatever You Do

If I don’t owe you a favor, you don’t know me. This song ~attacked~ me from the first line but in a good way. What makes this song special to me is the way it kind of nuances that theme of forgiveness. Brandi waxes poetic on a few different struggles and how that kind of makes it hard to have a relationship. There are days when I change with the weather / To hold you in place would be wrong. The prose is nice because she doesn’t try to apologize for this. She acknowledges it as a fact of life, with love being the only thing that can mitigate that—I love you, whatever you do / But I’ve got a life to live tooMaybe that’s not the best interpretation of what she’s trying to say, but I think it is a fact that sometimes you love someone even though everything about your lives makes it difficult. You can walk away from it or you can kind of forgive the situations and embrace your loved one.

Fulton County Jane Doe

A wacky one. It’s not quite upbeat, but it’s not as much of a ballad as the other tracks. Jane Doe gets it bite from that feeling of being known, being accepted. Brandi’s message is very clear on this one—You’re more than Fulton County Jane—the imaginary “you” is this person who has been reduced to a noname. The idea of identity loss interests me because Brandi’s not saying this person has come to this place of lostness on her own accord, she arrived there by outside factors. Brandi in interviews talked about how the song like others on the album alludes to things like the opioid crisis and the global migrant crisis. She’s holding out a hand here, saying you’re more than a Jane Doe.

Sugartooth

I almost wish Brandi called this one “The Ballad of Sugartooth” because that’s what it sounds like—an old western kind of ballad that tells this story of a hero’s journey. This hero, however, is a tragic one. This is the other song I was just talking about that’s about the opioid crisis. That makes the song kind of hurt a little more because it doesn’t sound as sad and horrific as opioid addictions are. She offers an incredibly compassionate view of it though by kind of comparing addiction to someone with a sweet tooth. So many people dismiss those addicted to drugs because “they made that decision,” when that’s such a false narrative. Yes everyone can make the choice to try drugs, but whether or not you get addicted after one try is something far beyond your control. Nothing could tame him and nothing could hold him / He only took the pills when the doctor told him—we’ve seen the stories over and over of people who break their ankle and a month later they’re addicted to oxy, but the problem persists.

Most of All

One of the more personal tracks off the album, Brandi talks about her parents in Most of All. She reflects on what they’ve taught her, how they shaped her, and to remember what comes back when you give away your love. With the chorus here Brandi takes forgetting out of the proverbial instructions to forgive and forget. She understands that you shouldn’t forget when someone has wronged you, but remember what they give back to you when you show them love. If you show someone love and they stab you in the back, maybe you will come to be able to forgive them, but don’t forget what they did to you. But on the flip side…

Harder to Forgive

Brandi thought of everything on this album. With the penultimate track, she says yeah everything I’ve said here is a lot easier said than done. We want to say we forgive everyone, period. But she acknowledges that sometimes it’s remarkably difficult to do so. She offers, Sometimes I pretend we never met / Because it’s hard to forgive than to forget. We’ve all had that experience of just walking away from a situation because forgiveness kind of feels like a fix. If you forgive someone, that means things can be okay again, or so we’re often taught. So Brandi offers that solution of forgetting because sometimes people wrong you so bad you don’t want to have any hint that things can get better. But I think ultimately she’s saying you don’t have to reconcile when you forgive. When it all boils down, forgiveness is personal, and a choice that only you can make for yourself.

Party of One

This piano ballad closes out the album on a somber note. It’s deeply reflective and painful, even. I’m still kind of processing it a year after I first heard it. The song itself has such an insane body, that’s the best way I can describe it. The way Brandi’s voice kind of cracks when she belts, I am tiiiiiired. She’s talking about loneliness if you didn’t get that from the title. In doing a bit of research for this post, I learned she was reflecting on the loneliness she kind of experienced after the birth of her first daughter—something that came from what she called “internalized homophobia.” Brandi’s wife carried both of their children, and while Brandi is genetically related to her daughter Evangeline, she talked about how navigating motherhood in a same sex couple was an experience she had to kind of struggle through. To me it speaks volumes to the problem of loneliness in general that it really can change you as a person if you don’t work through it. And she does as we see at the end of the song she finds her belonging again and it ends on a bit of a lighter note.

 

I didn’t mean for this to get so so long, but there really aren’t enough words to talk about how much I love Brandi and how much her music has helped me to do introspection through so many different scenarios in my life. Thank you, Brandi and all of your team for your art. Thanks for reading. If you made it through this whole post, you really should just listen to the album it’ll be quicker I promise.

little

The world is a big bad place. It always has been, and unfortunately it probably always will be. I want to say that all I think about is how to change it. How to make it better, how to make a more peaceful future for myself and maybe my children. It’s exhausting, though. Thinking about change is a tireless, and often fruitless effort. It’s a pipe dream we may never achieve. So I think about the little things. I shrink myself down out of the big bad world and I think about why I keep getting out of bed every morning. I think about my little two-year-old niece. I think about the way she calls out “Abba!” when she searches for my mother. I think about the way her eyes light up and she repeats in chant, “I-cream! I-cream!” if you dare utter the words. I think about the tight curls of her soft brown hair. I think about the way she scrunches up her face into a tiny scowl when you tell her it’s MY blanket. I think about how she puts her mini fists on her diapered hips and yells at me in complete gibberish should I challenge her authority. I think about my own perplexity on the day of her birth—of course, I know where babies come from and how they grow in utero and I try not to think about my sister’s involvement in all of that, but I think about the day a new human being entered the earth and the population went up by one and my heart grew in size by one hundred. I think about her excitement at the sight of bubbles floating around her. I think about how she throws herself on the floor in laughter like she just heard the funniest joke on the planet. I think about how unfazed she is by the world she inhabits. I think about the way she runs to her daddy and shakes her whole body in fear when I put a napkin over my face and proclaim, “I’m a napkin head!” I think about the way she sticks out a miniscule thumb in response to the question, “How was your nap?” I think about her wild bedhead. I think about the way she runs out of the bathroom announcing to the big bad world, “I poopied!!” as if the act had solved all of our problems. I think about the tantrums she throws, destroying everything in her path when she knows it’s time for bed. I think about how little and how fragile this tiny human is, and yet I think about how special and important she is and how the future may not look bright and it may look like it’s going to be big and bad forever, but sometimes it’s nice if we don’t think about that.

To Those Who Taught Me

On the first day of preschool, my mom brought me into KinderCare, and asked if I wanted her to stay or leave. I told her she could leave, confident that I was going to be okay. I then proceeded to stand in the corner, watching other kids play with their parents, and choking back tears wishing I had asked her to stay. But I was ready. I wanted to play and learn and be a kid that goes to school without fear, and thus my journey began.

I am about to do the most important thing in my life. I consider myself incredibly privileged to be able to do this, and I do not take lightly the sacrifices my family has made so I can do this. Graduating college has been my biggest dream for a very long time. There is no inspirational story here about a huge obstacle I had to overcome to get here. I have loved school for most of my life, and even on my darkest days, I have wanted to keep going.  But that perseverance was instilled in me from the people who greeted me at the doors of each institution—to those who taught me, thank you.

To Mrs. Terri Olexa, who was the first mother I had away from my home. Who put care and compassion into our kindergarten classroom while cultivating young minds. Thank you for being there when a boy punched me in the stomach.

To Mrs. Dawn Santello, who gave me my first shot at being a leader. Who listened when an ambitious six-year-old told her, “I have ideas for the classroom.” Thank you for nurturing my earliest inclinations toward excellence.

To Mrs. Betty Smith, who allowed me to say “This is too easy.” Thank you for giving me space to push myself, and thank you for pushing me.

To Mrs. Liz Seipp, my first cool teacher, who understood that sometimes third graders think they’re really cool. I thought I was really cool. Thank you for making the classroom a welcoming community for everyone.

To Mrs. Leanne DeTample and Mrs. Annie Overton, a pregnant teacher and her replacement, who combined to show me the importance of adapting quickly. Thank you for teaching me about science and entrepreneurship and making it an adventure.

To Mrs. Jane Fetter, who is to this day the reason I know every state and every capital. Thank you for creating a classroom full of versatility from macaroni brains to weaving on a loom.

To Mrs. Alice Keffer, who kept it real no matter what. Thank you for introducing me to journalism, and the important struggle of math.

To Mrs. Maureen Mutinsky, who ingrained everything I know about grammar. Thank you for taking the time and impressing the importance of commas and apostrophes.

To Mr. Scott Kleinman, who was the first Vikings fan I ever knew, and who brought my dad into the classroom. Thank you for that memory, and thank you for teaching me percentages.

To Mrs. Joan McCloughan, who taught me about Mesopotamia, and how to take good notes. Thank you for being the first historian I knew.

To Mrs. Jessica Heller, who turned Kool-Aid into a science experiment. Thank you for hands on learning.

To Mrs. Amy Van Treuren, who gave me the space to ask more questions, learn more, and investigate. Thank you for going above and beyond. Thank you for treating an 11 year old like a person, and letting me be myself. Thank you for being a friend.

To Ms. Maria Przechacki, who saw me as a preschooler and again as a tween. Thank you for growing with me. And thank you for the bikes.

To Madam Baille, who did not have it easy from me or my classmates. Merci pour votre patience (Yes, I used Google Translate).

To Mrs. Jo Ann Groeger, who was so passionate about health and fitness. Who always practiced what she preached. Thank you for having fun and loving what you do.

To Ms. Sara Hyer, who navigated a rowdy classroom with grace and focus. Thank you for refusing to give up on me no matter how many times I tried.

To Mr. Tim Prugar, who taught me to love history, question everything, and reach higher. Who challenged me every day to think for myself and back up my theories. Who gave me space to heal when I needed it more than anything. Thank you for caring beyond your duty.

To Ms. Nicole Revere, who was relatable. Who understood the struggle of being 14, but never let that get in the way of learning. Thank you for giving us a break.

To Mrs. Jenny Kessler, who is still a mystery to me. Who might be the coolest teacher I’ve had. Thank you for bringing me into art, and remaining critical with a sly smile.

To Mr. David Kelly, who was a character. Thank you for letting me shine as brightly as I wanted.

To Mr. Daniel Van Lieu, who had the most hilarious classroom I’d be in before college. Who never took himself too seriously. Who saw the curriculum, and said there are missing narratives. Thank you for going off script, and teaching me how to write a single moment.

To Mrs. Lisa Quarry, who trusted my ambition, and harnessed my drive. Who didn’t shy away from bringing down the hammer, but never judged anyone in light of it. Thank you for introducing me to yearbook.

To my sign language teachers, who had probably the most difficult classrooms I’ve ever been in. Thank you for showing me the importance of accessibility.

To Mrs. Milissa Neirotti, who was always clear and ran her classroom like a tight ship. Thank you for never letting me fall behind.

To the Colonel, Mr. Charles O’Brien, who scared me, but who has such a kind heart. Thank you for seeing my potential when I lost sight of it. Thank you for teaching me the importance of attention to detail.

To Mrs. Lynn McNulty, who is an incredible historian. Who was the first teacher to bring world news to world history. I’m sorry I didn’t give you my best, but thank you for giving me yours.

To Mrs. Julie Davis, who gave me my second shot at geometry. Thank you for making math fun, while being one of the most brilliant women I know.

To Mr. Gary Brown, who really tried to motivate me, when I didn’t want to. I’m sorry I slept in your class every day. Thank you for trying regardless.

To Señorita Noelia Straight, who endured. Thank you for welcoming me into the world of Spanish.

To Mr. Marty Hoban, who was different than most of the teachers at Hun. Thank you for being yourself at a place that often made it really really hard.

To Mrs. Cheryl Beal, who displayed a passion for literature and its place in the arts. Thank you for your openness to teaching how we wanted to learn.

To Señora Melissa Dorfman, who always cheered me on in the classroom or the halls. Gracias para todo quatro años.

To Mr. Ryan Hews, who felt passionately about student-centered learning. Who taught unfiltered the parts of American history many others sugarcoat. Thank you for bringing history to life in a real way.

To Mr. Bob Groover, who also struggled to get me to want to learn in his classroom. Thank you for not giving up on me, when I gave up on myself.

To Mr. Matt Ator, who was the new kid when we met. Thank you for pushing me, despite my contempt for Algebra.

To Mrs. Joan Roux, who is elegance and intellect embodied. Thank you for insisting that my writing be better.

To Señora Jennifer Mitchell, who may have caught the last of my teenage angst. Thank you for your patience and for giving me a chance anyway.

To Mr. Allan Arp, who was always a friendly face. Thank you for teaching me how to paint, and about color, and thank you for not letting me give up after one try.

To Mr. Tim Pitts, who was on his way out when he taught me. Who packed a huge punch into a semester-long course. Who taught me to question my government, and my politics. Thank you for being always groovy.

To Ms. Aruna Chavali, who would be my last science teacher. Who showed me the importance of empowering women, who empowered me. Who was always authentic. Thank you for teaching me about force in more ways than one.

To Mr. Aaron Bogad, who let me be a diva for a moment. Thank you for showing me the importance of political art when I didn’t even fully understand it.

To Mr. Ryan Brown, who should teach everyone math. Who is unbelievably intelligent and multifaceted and humble. Thank you for your approachability, and thank you for helping me get it.

To Dr. Lucie Knight-Santos (أستاذ), who is one of the most impressive teachers I’ve had. Who taught me something completely new with immeasurable patience. Thank you for boldly bringing me into a whole new world (not ~totally~ meant to be an Aladdin allusion).

To Mr. Jonathan Stone, who would be my final math teacher. Thank you for pushing me out of my comfort zone.

To Mrs. Lisa Yacomelli, who is simply a fun person. Who brought context to literature, and helped it make sense. Thank you for bringing me Frankenstein and teaching me how to dance.

To Mrs. Rachel Cooper, who has such a gentle spirit. I’m sorry senioritis hit me hardest in your class. Thank you for being flexible and versatile.

To Mrs. Radha Mishra, who believed in me, and listened to me, and wanted me to succeed. Thank you for helping me do just that.

To Mrs. Heather Walsh, who empowered me and trained me in the world of journalism. Thank you for never ceasing to support me no matter the deadline.

To Mrs. Jessica Brimmer, who took on a role in an incredibly challenging moment. Thank you for never shying away from that while allowing me to continue to be a leader.

To Mr. David Bush, from whom I am lucky to have learned. Who never fails to bring a smile to my face. Who taught me to get my hands dirty, to look at things differently, to go against the current. Who is so much more than an educator. Thank you for bringing me into art, thank you for helping me see the world, thank you for loving me.

To David Peritz, who is a well of knowledge. Thank you for welcoming me to college, and never coddling me.

To Mary Morris, who is a remarkable person. Who pushed me to put any and every emotion into my writing. Thank you for taking a chance on me, and reminding me what my passion is.

To Michael Granne, who brought energy to law. Who taught me what reductio ad absurdum means, which I use more than you’d think. Thank you for your wisdom.

To Persis Charles, who is charmingly witty. Thank you for Reds.

To Carolyn Ferrell, who is the warmest professor I’ve had in college. Thank you for presenting voices we don’t always hear. Thank you for your guidance.

To Eileen Cheng, who is a brilliant historian, and always makes you question what we call history. Thank you for bringing me into academia, and helping me understand how to do research.

To Tim Kreider, who might be the classiest man I’ve met. Who is effortlessly cool while remaining annoyingly humble. Thank you for your work, and thank you for giving me time with mine.

To Cindy Gorn, who is a true Sarah Lawrence person, if such a thing exists. Thank you for opening my eyes to the world of inequality all around me. Thank you for being an activist.

To Sandra Robinson, whose expertise is unmatched. Thank you for showing me a world I never would have uncovered otherwise.

To Wen Liu, whose insane intelligence is only matched by her charm and effortless cool. Thank you for making me rethink my own thoughts.

To David Ryan, with whom I got incredibly lucky. Who is the most unrelatable person in anecdote, but the most significant writing teacher I have ever had. Who inspired me and awoke a voice I didn’t know I had. Thank you for listening, and for caring, and for believing in me. Thank you for showing me why we write.

To Jerri Dodds, who is an enigma. Who is ferociously academic while remaining insanely tender and warmhearted. Who pushed me to ask more questions and nuance the answers. Who took me under her wing when I decided Islamic Art might be a cool lecture. Thank you for inspiring me and advocating for me, and teaching me to advocate for myself.

To Angela Ferraiolo, who might be the most patient teacher I’ve had whose class I never slept in. Who is hilariously clever and made the most difficult language fun to learn. Thank you for not running away in fear when I cried on the third day of class, and thank you for letting me try something new.

To Sally Herships, who is incredibly talented. Who’s never afraid to give it to you straight. Thank you for tuning my ears.

To Lyde Sizer, whose academic prowess was originally intimidating. Who knows so much, but still questions everything, and is always eager to learn from her students. Who works endlessly to ensure her students’ success. Thank you for inspiring me when I thought I was tapped out.

To Kanishka Raja, who does not let me off the hook, ever. Thank you for giving me one last shot at being an artist.

To the classroom aides and substitutes, to gym teachers and principals, to those without whom schools would fall apart, thank you for never letting me stop loving to learn. To my educators, thank you for building me, and knocking me down, and building me back up again.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Life After Softball

When I was in high school, I played on an incredibly competitive softball team that in my four years never hit all the right spots to win a conference title. Every year we’d get to the semifinals or the finals and just blow it. During one of these dramatic games where girls were crying or visibly frustrated with the game, my coach said, “There is life after softball.”

When I was a freshman in college, I walked onto a team that was building. We were in our final provisional year of Division III competition, and I joined the first ever recruited players to build the program. In that year, I quickly became the only pitcher, one of a handful of the team that had ever played softball before college, and one exhausted player. Our season record was 6-26. That’s 6 wins and 26 losses, many of those by more than 10 runs. It was one of the most physically and emotionally exhausting seasons of my life. And about halfway through the season, I turned to my coach and said, “There’s life after softball,” to which he replied, “No there’s not!”

Today I begin my life after softball. Yesterday I finished my senior season with a pair of devastating losses keeping my team out of the playoffs. And I could write a book about the experience of playing college softball, the experience of playing softball at this school, the experience of making most of my college friends through this team. But I am going to reflect on my life and what I have given to this sport, and what this sport has given me.

I’m a lifer. I have been playing this sport since T-ball, not taking a season off since then. I really don’t even know what spring is without it, and I’ll let you know next year how it goes. It has been and will forever be apart of who I am. I cried more than I thought I was going to yesterday because I realized I’m not just closing a chapter in my life with this team, but I’m closing this subplot of what has really been my entire life, and it literally feels like I’ve had a death in the family. I know there might be a future in playing beer league or coaching for me, but there will never be anything like what I’ve been playing all these years.

Softball was a huge part of the relationship I had with my dad. He was my coach for many seasons, and even when he wasn’t the official coach, he was coaching me. And that didn’t even hit when he died nine years ago. I mean, it did literally because he was coaching my little league team and someone else’s dad had to step in, but I kind of obviously was more focused on losing a dad than losing a coach. But in reflecting on this big softball thing, I started remembering those last few months with him. I remember crying in the car after I was put on the “B” team for middle school softball. I knew I was good enough for the “A” team, but the B team needed a pitcher (I realize just how ridiculously presumptous that sounds). I sobbed at the thought of playing with girls I deemed worse than me, and missing out on the glory of being on the “better team,” and he comforted me knowing I would be a leader and learn more about myself this way. I remember being annoyed when he came home from the early coaches meeting with maroon uniforms when I instructed him to get a color that would match my red cleats. I remember running laps for him when I got cheeky at practice one summer. I remember him pushing me to throw a hundred pitches a day, and me finding any excuse to avoid doing so. I remember going to Dick’s every season and picking out new equipment and the thrill of it all.

One summer, my dad picked me up from practice and asked how it went. “It was great! I haven’t been hitting well, so Coach Tom made me just hold the bat out while he pitched it at me, and then I could hit again! It was awesome!” I was ecstatic. My dad smiled, “Ahh well then, maybe it’s time someone else coaches you.” Puzzled, I asked what he meant. He just said, “There’s only so much I can teach you before you have to learn from someone else,” and he left it at that. My smile faded. My dad had always been my coach from the stands, even if he wasn’t in the dugout. He came before any coach, and I couldn’t imagine it any other way.

So here I am, nearly ten years and probably as many coaches later, trying to figure out how to say goodbye to this part of me. I don’t think there’s a moral here. I am very sad. I have gotten so much out of softball. I understand people better, I understand leadership better, and I know the importance of patience. I could tie in a lot of metaphors about striking out or running everything out or being on a team, but I don’t want to get preachy about sports and how they make you a better person. I’m just going to move forward and keep on swingin’.

Eminem Takeover: Festival Season Has Never Looked So Shady

Music festival season is nearly upon us, and I like many other fans have been following lineup announcements like opening gifts on Christmas morning. But this year, Santa, or in this case the producers of festivals, seemed to all have the same idea: Marshall Mathers.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Eminem as much as the next guy. His bars occupy a lot of space on my workout and motivation playlists. I have appreciated every “return” Eminem has made to the charts, and welcomed his growth as an artist, despite being fonder of the original Slim Shady. But when it came to the announcements of these music festival lineups—Coachella, Governors Ball, Firefly, Bonnaroo, Boston Calling—seeing Eminem’s name appear in the largest letters on all the posters frankly bored me. Now certainly, I was not planning on attending all of these music festivals, if I could even afford to, but seeing the repetitive headliner bewildered me.

If I were to compile a list of the greatest artists of my generation, Eminem would likely be on there. But if I were to only pick one artist to play at every music festival, it wouldn’t be him. I don’t know that I could do that if given the chance, especially not if I was to be attending all of these festivals. Eminem’s latest album, Revival, debuted at number 1 on the Billboard 200, but only spent a week there. The album dropped in December of 2017, which likely contributed to its absence on notable year-end “Best Albums” lists, but I, for one, am still not seeing the merit of giving Slim headline spots at 5 major music festivals across the nation. Are the festival powers that be shoving Eminem down our throats? It kind of feels like it. Every year there is some overlap and in some years, an act has been the headliner at two festivals or so. But as far as I can tell, nothing like this has happened since Outkast reunited in 2014 and headlined Coachella, Governors Ball, and Firefly.

I asked my friend why she thought this happened with Eminem. She offered, “Because of what he did at the BET Awards.” Ahhhh. My friend was referencing the now notorious moment from October’s BET Hip Hop Awards when Eminem freestyled a roast of Donald Trump. It was a viral moment that coming from anyone else may have incited a tweetstorm from the President. But it didn’t. Eminem did something spectacular and unlike a lot of white artists by telling his fans outright, “If you’re for Trump, you can be against me.” The president did not respond. There are a number of speculations on why, but I think we all know the real reason—Eminem is a white man. That’s really all there is to it.

So while I think Eminem’s move was commendable, it still leaves me wondering if this is what earned him a spot headlining all these festivals. Does Coachella pick its artists based on activism? It’s unlikely. And if that is the case, if these festivals decided on Eminem because they think it’s a slap in the face of the presidency, I would advise them to think again. Yes, Eminem has picked his side and does not align himself with Trump, but if organizations are also trying to align themselves with the Trump resistance, it seems there are better options. Artists of color, artists who have been anti-bigotry since before the 2016 election, women, LGBT artists, Muslim artists, artists from “shithole countries,” the list of those better suited to stick it to the man is endless, and I appreciate the effort, but Eminem is not at the top of my list.

There are a number of different criteria for festivals to pick their artists, but the choice to have Eminem at all these venues baffles me. I’m underwhelmed musically and politically. If music festivals were really trying to take a stand, Slim Shady should probably sit down.

Women, America, and Selective Revolution

As a student passionate about American history, I read about all of the movements that have pushed this country to become better and better. I keep running into this issue, though, of the reaction to the American Revolution vs. nearly all movements that followed. I continue to be amazed by the amount of stubbornness in this nation. Why was the War for Independence the only revolution that was okay?

Simple— we got lucky.

We all know the story. The colonists, fed up with British taxes and ready to be a sovereign nation, overthrew their government and won the war to earn that right. Of course, it was not that simple, and the men that started the movement knew by doing so, they were accepting a noose if they were to fail. But they didn’t. Lucky for us, they were successful and thus we spell color without the u.

But the nation as we know her today was not born in 1776. In fact, she wasn’t really close to how we know her for another ten years. Yet, I am afraid the way the new Americans treated rebellions after their own was a red herring for the next two and half centuries.

First of all, the way Colonists treated their rebellion was not exactly justifiable in my book. While I am thankful for their efforts because of the outcome, I’m not sure it needs to be glorified the way it is. They quite literally held guns to the heads of men who did not want to participate in their acts of treason. They exiled them out of a country that was not yet theirs. No one pretends like this was a peaceful protest, but we forget when celebrating our Independence that it started as a protest.

Fast forward a century, and we are in the midst of the Civil War. Of course, I am thankful that the rebels this time were not successful, however, I have to question the legitimacy of Lincoln’s actions and the war that ensued. Weren’t the Confederates just replicating the Colonists? If they wanted to be on their own (granted, for horrific reasons), who was to say that they couldn’t? I suppose this is why war breaks out instead of peace talks, but it is so interesting to me that in a nation that celebrates the rebellion that founded it, why did we suppress any rebellion that followed?

The people in power get to decide if rebellions will work and when. Every movement that changed legislature or systems of government had to be accepted by whoever was in power. The first Women’s Movement did not turn into a war, but it changed some of the systems that oppressed women. The Civil Rights movement was closer to a war in the streets, but still did not go nuclear, and changed some of the systems that oppressed black citizens. The Women’s March was in no way a war, and hopefully will not turn into one, but the people in power have to make a change, but I am afraid they are too stubborn.

I’ve been processing the Women’s March for the last 24 hours and trying to make sense of everything that is happening in this country. I could not march because of travel, but I felt so empowered to see so many people standing together for equality above all else. Yet as soon as I go online, all I see is unrest. Not that I expected the march to defeat sexism and save the country, but I wish the opposition would see the issue here.

In general, the opposing side of events like the Women’s March are from people who continue to pledge their allegiance and patriotism to this nation. I do not understand how they see a difference between the women marching and the Boston Tea Party. In my history class, we talked about how the taxes on the colonists that allegedly pushed them to revolt were on objectively not that extraordinary. The thing we ignore, though, is that a colony of people felt oppressed. Were they themselves guilty of oppressing much larger numbers of people? Yes, of course, but that’s a whole other rabbit hole. Regardless, the colonists felt oppressed and they decided to do something about it.

We, the women and men who march, feel oppressed. We are not whining, we are not throwing a hissy fit. We feel oppressed, and we want to do something about it. You who oppress us do not get to decide whether or not we feel oppressed. That’s not how feelings work. Also, it’s not just a “feeling,” it’s a system. If the opposition had facts or evidence to support the idea that we are not oppressed, perhaps we would not be marching. The British could have pretended that the colonists had nothing to feel oppressed about, but they knew they were wrong so they fought back. Our oppressors know they are wrong, which is why they are fighting back with nonsensical tweets and “alternative facts” or whatever other circus acts they put out.

Maybe this won’t turn into a revolution, but I hope it does. It’s not about being conservative or liberal or green. It’s about being a human and acknowledging that we are all humans. And though the signers themselves did not believe it, this nation was allegedly founded on the idea that we are all created equal. The colonists felt unequal, and the British felt attacked, but they did not stop fighting.

Neither will we.

Noise

I have this weird form of claustrophobia where it only affects my well being in super specific conditions. The fear that makes my heart race and breath irregular appears whenever either the use of my feet or my ears is compromised. The feet is just one of those comfort things I think is somewhat normal. I can’t sleep with my feet under the covers or in socks, and footie pajamas give me angina. I just like to know when the boogeyman reaches out from under the bed I’ll be able to kick back and maybe poke his eyes out with my toes.

The hearing issue is different, though. It is affected in even more specific situations, but also in the metaphoric sense. For example, I can be driving by myself and blasting music with no problem. But if I’m in a car with other people and music is blasting and someone tries to have a conversation, it feels like the walls are closing in. Or if I’m in a group and we’re trying to decide something and everyone is shouting ideas in a competition to see who can be the loudest, a part of my soul starts screaming. I just have this real sense of panic whenever there’s too much noise I can’t control.

I bet you thought this was going to be a political rant. Surprise, it’s not, and you’re welcome. I know we’re all tired of hearing about it. I am going to speak to that, though. I am excruciatingly tired of it. All I wanted was for the election to be over so we could carry on our everyday lives, but something unprecedented has happened, and everything has changed and no one really knows where to go. Or so it feels. It feels this way, at least to me, because there’s so much noise. It’s not even two-sided anymore. Everyone wants everyone to do something differently and we’re all just screaming at each other trying to be the loudest. We can’t even claim we’re the most correct because who knows what correct even looks like. I just want it all to be quiet again.

And even that, I’m told is wrong. I know it’s wrong in the sense that we should not continue to be complacent with the systematic issues like racism and sexism, but I can’t help but wish we could be complacent because at least it was the devil we knew. It’s funny because we know that with Hillary the world was not going to get better overnight. It may not have even improved much in four years. We know under Obama things got better but surely a black president did not do much for racism, and a woman president would likely do the same amount to fix sexism. But at least we knew they were trying. Trump isn’t even officially president yet and it seems someone picked up America and started shaking it like a snow globe. I want the snow to settle so we can see what’s going to happen. I know he’s the bad guy. I loathe that man, but it’s so loud in this country right now that I don’t even know what’s going to happen.

 

The Mean Reds

In his masterpiece, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Truman Capote wrote, “You know the days when you get the mean reds?…The blues are because you’re getting fat, and maybe it’s been raining too long. You’re just sad, that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid, and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?” I have that feeling.

It’s 12:30 on a Sunday night and I was thinking about that book, that quote, and the Holly Golightly character. She is admired as the essence of class in her little black dress, but anyone who’s actually seen the movie or read the book knows she’d be institutionalized if she was a real person in the 60’s. She’s nuts.

I hate this character trope. She’s the manic pixie dream girl we all hate to love, but what happens when we become her? You think things aren’t going your way because you’re just too flighty and too tied down to the mundane musings of everyday life. You get the mean reds.

I’m suffocating. I love everything that I’m doing. I love my classes, my school, my activities, but when I let everything settle and I look at what’s in front of me, I get short of breath and wonder if I’m doing anything at all. My stomach is in knots thinking about the future but doesn’t untangle if I think about the right now.

It sucks because I know that I’m not depressed. I feel blessed that I don’t have the type of chemical imbalances that make people feel this way all the time, but what do I do when I feel this way? When I’m not “bad” enough to be medicated, but I’m not “good” enough to not feel like this today? I want to slap Holly Golightly because she’s being ridiculous and making everyone else miserable, but then I realize I’m doing the same thing. I’m watching myself do it, but I can’t slap myself and tell me to stop.

But I’ll get over it. It’s just the mean reds.

xoxo,

Kam