I have had this blog since I first moved to New York, a year and a half ago. September of 2013 was the first time I introduced this site to the people in my world. I was 20 years old and in between being a freshman and a sophomore in college as a Journalism major.
I am now a few months shy of being 22 years old and am on the brink of being a senior, graduating with an English degree.
I can, with confidence, say that I am no longer the girl who started fromlosangeleswithluv.
I dont think it is possible to explain the lengths in which we grow in our early twenties. Every adult in my life for-warned me that this would be the time of my life that I would find out who I am, only by finding out who I am not. I never understood that until now. Every day I wake up and am wiser than I was the day before. I walk through my life and my mind feels like a filing cabinet. Every piece of advice, every new lesson learn, every mistake I make, I file it. Each file with a different title –
“Things to remember when applying to grad school”
“Things to remember when I have kids”
“Things to remember when I get married”
“Things to remember to tell mom”
“Things to remember to pray about”
“Things to remember to buy”
“Things to remember to write about”
“Things to remember when I’m giving advice”
& Recently my most called upon tab has been “Things to remember when I forget who I am.”
There is so much pressure on human beings to constantly know what we were created for and exactly how are we going to accomplish that. We lose the dream amidst the planning we made to make that dream come true. And before we know it that dream we once had feels a lot like resentment.
I moved to New York City to write. I attend university and surely enjoy my life here but the sole purpose was to live somewhere where words could endlessly flow to me. Within the last 18 months I have felt more illiterate than I have any other time in my life. I have battled with this for the last year and a half, and could not come up with a solution as to why.
Why had the one thing in my life that gave me air suddenly suffocate me? I am surrounded by world renowned art. I walk streets that nearly every influential person has walked down. These sidewalks and buildings breathe inspiration. Yet…nothing. I expected to move here and have a never ending stream of consciousness that flowed on to paper. I would be kept up in coffee shops, little did the world know, creating scraps and pieces of a future literary masterpiece. I would recite poetry to strangers and find out the depths of which words can harm and heal. But none of which happened. Every time I put pen to paper my mind went blank. & Suddenly I got no relief from words. They felt forced and dry. My stomach would cramp at the thought of putting letters together to make meaning. I was drowning in my own inadequacy and every blank sheet of paper I looked at just reminded me that I was failing.
Tommie has to be a writer. There is no other option. I’ve told people, I’ve bragged about it, I go to college for it, my family is counting one me, it was written in the stars. I have to succeed.
These are the thoughts that hammered into my brain, all with the faint echo behind each thought whispering “You’re failing. You’re failing. You’re failing.”
Unfortunately I have first hand learned that when everything in your life feels like its going against you, the last thing you want to do is find what you were “meant” for. Who cares what I’m meant for? I cant even get up in the morning or take a shower without agonizing anxiety taking over. I’m trying to get through this day, not figure out who I am.
But what I found is that, unknowingly, we are telling ourselves, “This is who you are.” The tiredness, the suffocation, the panic, the aimlessness…this is who you are now. It’s this deep rooted, silent, gnawing voice that never stops reminding you that you are not who you wanted to be. That you are not accomplishing what you wanted to, you are not, you are not, you are not. And that voice tells us to find a new path. That voice is the gentle nudge in our side that says “Just find a new dream. It’s okay, you weren’t cut out. Let it go.” Some of us give into that nudge and before we know it we have degrees, and careers, and families, and cars, and houses that our 5 year old selves would be ashamed of. While the rest of us fight back with plans and calendars and bullet points and sticky notes and Pinterest boards to constantly have the refusal to fail in our faces. As if drawing a map and forcing ourselves to stay on it will make us become who we said we would be. Yet in both scenarios all that happens is we forget why we had that dream in the first place.
I used to want to write because I believe that words give life. That at the core of every single thing any mind can imagine, you will find language. I moved to New York and I forgot about that. Sometimes you get so caught up in the hustle that you fail to remember what you’re even hustling for. All you know is that every day you wake up tired. It feels like you’ve been running and running, chasing after…what? Who knows. You just know that rest has become foreign. And all the while you’re telling yourself “Its for the dream! I’m so excited, I’m so focused, It’s all going to be worth it…”
A few weeks back I was on the subway heading back to Queens when I asked myself, “Do you even like to write?” I realized that I have never asked myself that before. And for the first time, I felt my anger. My eyes got hot and foggy with tears and i gritted my teeth. And from the pit of my stomach on public transportation I thought, “I hate writing.” It was a part of me I have never heard…yet it was my voice. I recognized it, I knew it as a friend, without doubt it was me.
So for the following few weeks I stopped. Stopped thinking about it, stopped worrying about it, stop dreaming of it, just stopped. And it was relieving beyond comprehension. I started sleeping better, I woke up early very morning. I drank more tea, read more books, I even grew an addiction to reading the New York Times. My clothes started to fit a little better, my hair felt a little longer, my room started to look a lot like me. I was at peace. There was no tap on my shoulder letting me know I was off track. I would sit at the head of my bed, soaking in the little sun rays New York has to offer this time of year, and I felt pure joy and comfort. I spoke to old friends more, I spoke to my mom more, I spoke to God more. I got the confidence to cut out negativity in my life and the courage to welcome positivity. I could breathe.
But, that’s not at all that happened. Towards the ending days of my literary dry spell something, for me, astonishing happened.
I started to write.
Not on paper, but in my head. I wrote stories and poetry about the people who sat next to me on the train. The drunk hand holders who stumbled into the streets on Friday nights and the crying girl hid away in the coffee shop became my friends. I made up stories of where they were going, where they came from, and who did they love. I could physically see the words dancing around them, making everything surreal. At one point I thought…I’m not awake. Life felt too much like a movie or a Sex in the City episode to be real. How could this be happening?
I was standing in the snow on the corner of Brume Street one night in SoHo when I encountered 5 rowdy adults in their later 40’s or 50’s who were obnoxiously intoxicated and laughing as loudly as they could. One woman who wore a fur hat caught me smiling at them and exclaimed to her dapper gang, “See? She thinks we’re fun!” And for a moment, I existed in their world. I was an active member of their adventurous night. And the words of my beloved F Scott swam through my head. “I was within and without. Simultaneously enchanted and repelled by the inexhaustible variety of life.” If you have ever read The Great Gatsby, you know the importance of that line. If you have not, bare with me.
Something Nick Carraway and I have always had in common is our deep feeling of being both a participant and an outsider of life. Being involved, as well as spectating the world. And instantly I thought,
“Write this down.”
Yesterday I took a visit to The Met Museum. As I marveled at the strokes of orange and blue paint that made up Van Gogh and Monet’s prized possessions, I remembered that neither of the two had any idea they would change the world in the way that they did. Van Gogh was in a mental asylum while he painted one of the worlds most famous pieces of art, The Starry Night. He wasn’t painting it to get a check in the mail and a pat on the back. He was painting it because it was his form of worship. It was the image he saw while looking out of his cellar window, where he said God met him. They didn’t create art because they were trying to force success. They created art because it was their way of saying “I love you.”
Existing is a terrifying task. And having the weight on your shoulders of the demands to be who we promised ourselves we would become does not make it any less daunting. I am only 21 years old. My mind will change more often than my moods and more times than not, I will insist I am right when I am absolutely wrong.
But this one…I am sure of.
The first person in this world we need to forgive is ourselves. The first person we need to cut some slack is who you see in the mirror. The first person who needs one good nights rest before they take on their demons is the person you know best. The first person you need to love…is you.
We cannot forget who we are while trying to become who we want to be.
I am a writer.
Who are you?