Brain Maya, Nikon d3400
Brain Maya, Nikon d3400
The first thing you notice is the smell. Or rather, the smells. Plural. A hundred at once, flooding your nostrils without permission. it’s fresh bread. No, wait . . . fresh fish. Shellfish and trout. You don’t even like seafood but still, you are drawn in by its aroma. Hot tamales and barbacoa from a Mexican food stand poke at your tear ducts. Gyros and seasoned lamb tickle your taste buds. It’s warm and inviting. you didn’t know that smell could be so colorful, but it is.
Sound is next. Hundreds of voices climb over the stands and around the corner to where you walk, completely unawares. High and low, loud and soft. Some ask questions, some answer. Some harass and some condemn. Many query and poke and prod and laugh, searching for a meaning few can apprehend. It is quizzical and hearty, full of humor. You hear footsteps and clatter. The sound of grills sizzling, gulls chirping, paintbrushes splashing, and rain boots sloshing across the earth. It’s loud and quiet all at once. There is a peace in the chaos.
Then, once you see it, you understand. A wave of contentment washes over the feeling of uneasiness that plagued you before now. The booths stand haphazardly, crookedly against one another, using their neighbor for support. It’s wildly colorful against the dull gray sky above, and the people are just as vibrant. Skin so dark it looks almost blue contrasts cheeks so pale they could contest the moon. Leather and freckles with lines and creases that tell stories.
You take shelter from the misty rain in one booth and are overwhelmed by freshly cut wood, carved into beautiful trowels and walking sticks. Another contains handmade figurines with skeletal faces wearing the frilliest of dresses. Silkscreen sweatshirts, glass blown jewelry, ceramic mugs, and caricature portraits. There is magic in the hand that inks the Portland skyline. There is tenderness in the mind that molds such intricate tapestries.
In this place you find a sliver of hope. There’s a world in this snow globe market remains untouched, forever preserved. A community of people different as they are similar. You can see it in their tongues that speak different words and dialects. In their hearts that search for trinkets as unique as they are. There is a home here. It is safe. For a moment, everything disappears. Shoulders brush and prejudice crumbles. Fingers hunt and anger dithers. Cash is exchanged and so are you.
In the end you buy a blanket. You eat some curry, and you walk away. As your feet trod along the rain-soaked cobblestone you barely notice that you are heavier suddenly. Clouds invade your mind and mucks up reality. You lose the color, the vibrance, the sound. You slip back into a human mentality.
Remember when you were in high school, and you would buy that huge ass package of mechanical pencils before the first day of school? Like, literally, it was the holy grail of pencils, a rainbow fountain of writing tools. It was glorious. However, slowly, as the year went on each and every mechanical pencil disappeared. By year’s end you were left with nothing but that one inch-long Ticonderoga that you found in the hallway that had the eraser bitten off.
I feel like college is a lot like that. I always start off the semester feeling so goddamn motivated. I check my course syllabi the week before school starts, making sure to to get out and supply myself with everything I’m going to need for the semester well ahead of time. I already have half of my textbooks ordered or already purchased off of my local classified website before the first day. In some cases, like my math class, I already have the first week of homework done before I’ve even my met my professor. However, slowly, as week one turns into week three, and the far off week of finals seems more like a dream than reality, my metaphorical pencils of motivation start to dwindle and disappear.
Soon, I find myself submitting without proofreading and taking online quizzes while I am doing the reading (but, honestly, who doesn’t do this?). By week five two very different, but equally potent, parts of Matthew find themselves in the midst of an all-out war. Perfectionist-Matthew finds himself checking his course calendars every day the moment he arrives to work, just to see what is on his agenda for the next couple of hours. Procrastination-Matthew puts his distortion lens on in front of the clock reassuring himself that watching three episodes of Gilmore Girls instead of writing that reflection on the reading he hasn’t done yet won’t set him back at all.
By week thirteen, with only three weeks until the end of the semester, I find myself pouring over textbooks, creating checklists, and experimenting to see how low a score on assignments I can get and still pass the class. It’s taxing, it’s exhausting, and I can only blame myself for the downward spiral I have fallen into. The reality behind my existential crisis causing my hair to fall out is that it actually isn’t as bad as I am making it out to be. A dirty rotten secret that I don’t like to share with many people I that I actually work better when under pressure. Well . . . either that or I have really spectacular grounds for just giving up. Either way you look at it it’s a win/win.
Speaking specifically of the Fall 2016 semester, I managed to pull two A’s and two A-‘s out of my rear end and I am still not exactly sure how I accomplished it. So if you’ve ever found yourself in a situation similar to what I have described above, this one is for you, for me. To the procrastinators, the under-acheivers who highkey are afraid of failing so they just don’t try at all. Here are a couple of well-kept secrets of mine that help me stay afloat throughout the semester while still indulging the side of myself that wants to curl up into a ball and die.
Coffee: Okay, here is the truth about coffee. It’s never really about the caffeine, it isn’t about the sugar, it isn’t about warming up my frozen heart. To me, it’s about consistency. A lot happens in a semester, a lot of ups, a lot of downs, but one thing I am always able to count on is coffee. No matter what baloney happens I can always spend way too much money of a prissy-fru-fru drink that tastes like a gingerbread house. No one can take that away from me. Having something consistent to lean on is key. Don’t underestimate predictability.
Breaks: You have to, have to leave time for yourself. You will drown without it. No matter what happens you need to close that laptop, get rid of that text book, and take time for yourself. Do whatever you want, go to the gym, watch a movie, take a nap. Whatever your little heart desires most, do it. I have a good friend who tells me she always always stops studying as soon as the little hand hits the ’10’ at night. I think that is such wise advise.
Get out: Maybe it’s just me. But I do homework way better when I am not at home. Something about how comfortable I am in my own house, it just gives me way more excuses to slack off. My POC (place of choice) would have to be any establishment that I can get my hands on some coffee (see above). Beans and Brews, Starbucks, McDonald’s anywhere. Sit me down with a nice cup o’ Joe and I can strap in to do some intensive textbook reading for three hours.
Obsess: This one might sound crazy. But hear me out, okay? If you always know what is due, you can never forget to do it. As I mentioned before I check my course calendars daily, this keeps my priorities at the forefront of my mind. Further, the more I think about my assignments the more I get ideas. Example: I had the idea for my final paper in Sociology in the bathtub last semester, I pulled out my phone and immediately jotted down ideas. I find that if I keep tabs on school and stay aware I don’t fall behind, even if I neglect my responsibilities sometimes.
Sleep: Never ever ever pull an allnighter. I don’t care if you have a huge project due first thing in the morning. Go to bed at midnight and wake up at five and finish it before class. Studies have shown that no sleep is not better than less sleep. No sleep may feel better because your circadian rhythm (body clock) is tricking you into thinking it’s not tired, but you are.
You just need to take care of yourself, and when you can’t do it alone lean on others. I have a really great support system in my best friend Whitney, my boyfriend Brian, and my mom. They all keep me really grounded and level headed when I want to fly off the handle and drop three out of six classes. They are there to remind me that no, this won’t last forever, only two more years. And yes, C’s do indeed get degrees so don’t throw your self off a cliff for bombing that test. I am going to be o-kay.
Which is a really important thing for me to remember since I just got my first political science exam. I’m gonna need to see a therapist after that score.
My old friend, how are you? It’s not been but a few hours since you last reared your ugly head and still here you are, again, with your words like knives and venomous teeth that cut and slice and damage souls. Even the most malice of actions can be justified; murder by way of self-protection for example or theft by way of provision. Bigotry however, has no excuse for its actuality yet plain as day you come again red with hate and blue with fear.
I remember vividly the first day we met, on the playground in first grade when another boy of only six years old already knew well such hateful words as “fag” and “prick.” Since then your evil presence has loomed over my life and lives of other minorities that surround me. I have watched you draw targets on the backs of my African-American classmates, enforce stereotypes upon immigrants, and create stigmas about my sister, nieces, and female associates. Your spirit has never garnered feelings of hope, inclusivity, or love but rather it has spread hatred to all those who are different from you, including myself and the other 1500 queer Americans who take their lives yearly using the ammunition you provide them.
When human affairs directly and negatively impact the lives of others in the ways that you do they become dangerous. When religious, social, and economic groups are formed on the basis of hate and exclusivity these groups become advocates for everything that this country was built upon fighting. Freedom, equality, and self-expression are basic human rights but your design of suppression and supremacy have been advocates for the direct demolition of these liberties. The sad and unfortunate truth you don’t realize is that is you aren’t just attacking the rights of the people you subdue, but by extension you also besiege your own rights.
Every time a black man becomes another headline as a result of police brutality your safety at the hands of the law also becomes compromised. Every time a child ends their life at the hands of hateful and prideful words of peers your rights of self expression follow them to their grave. Every time a woman is treated as an object or incapable your credibility goes down the drain just like the thirty cents she isn’t making that her male coworker is. Finally, every time you rear your ugly head with hateful words and actions that literally kill, I feel nothing more but a great drive to strike you down and shut you out just like you have done to me for twenty-two long years, and who is to stop me from trying?
You never start off a New Year thinking, “I am going to have one of the hardest, most emotionally exhausting years of my life.” Alternatively you don’t start off the year thinking, “I am going to meet my soul mate” or “I am going to finally finally figure out where I am going with my life.” If anything, as that clock ticks down the last few seconds towards the next year I know that for me all I find myself thinking is, god dammit I hope I don’t screw it up again. I just simply hope. Hope for something better than what you have had, hope that you don’t make the same mistakes you did the year before, hope you learn, and grow, and change, and live. I know for me I try not to set up too many expectations, I’m too afraid of failure for that. So as a pessimist I’m either right or pleasantly surprised. As a result I could have never ever anticipated both the shit and the wonders that 2016 had in store for me.
I think sometimes we refer to time as ‘thing’ to cope with the reality that we are completely out of control. We say, “I can’t wait for this day to be over” as though the Earth’s rotation can change our mood, or “this has been a crap year” to justify the actions of the people in the world that affect us negatively. For me 2016 was both a benefactor and a sycophant, as much as it took away from me it also gave me so much.
In 2016 I lost 65 lbs, a feat that I know I could not have done by myself. I dyed my hair honey blonde, white, then silver, then brunette, then white again. I had my first real boyfriend which much too quickly turned into my first real break up, an event that rocked my life. I checked myself into and attended therapy for 9 months with an old friend who I owe my health to and made discoveries and changes in myself that completely restored who Matthew truly is.
I listened to the same two albums for nearly three months putting me in the top 1% of Carly Rae Jepson listeners on Spotify. I went on probably a million hikes, and took way too many photos of nature along the way. I worked two jobs and got into way too much debt buying clothes. I had a million book ideas and didn’t follow through with a single one. I got together with old friends from high school and put on a theatre production with the direction of our old drama teacher, just because. I made friends and I lost a few as well, and in one particular case I mended a relationship that had been broken years prior. I attended school full-time and finished out the whole year with all A’s, something I had never done before, not even in high school. I watched two nephews of mine come into the world making my already obtuse family just a little bit bigger.
I went on more dates than I had ever allowed myself to before, hitting walls in some places and simply making friends in others. I went to two concerts that absolutely changed my life with two of my very favorite people in the world, and listened to so much music that I was both embarrassed and impressed with myself when Spotify sent me my annual listening report. I had two Christmases and two Thanksgivings and way too many Rio salads to count along the way.
Last year was defining and life-altering. I made mistakes, I lied and I did things that were untrue to myself time and time again. But I learned and I grew and I opened myself up to change and truth. I got in fights with those I love most and with myself. I created decisions about my future and made paths for myself with goals and expectations. I strengthen my relationships with my parents, and siblings by communicating openly and honestly about who I really am and what I want in life. I cried more times that I could count or like to admit even if I could, and laughed even more than that. Lastly, most importantly, I met someone who entirely changed my life a person who as become more than just a boyfriend, but a best friend, partner-in-crime and loyal companion.
While in many ways 2016 was the hardest year of my life it was also the best in many many more ways. And I can only hope that 2017 is as heartbreaking, fulfilling, funny, hilarious, and incredible as the last year was.