Sorry not sorry.

My heart is heavy, yet again.

I wasn’t going to post or write about this but I can’t not talk about it. The shooting in Charleston has left in me in tears. Tears for these people who have lost their lives because of hate. Tears for their families and loved ones. Tears of frustration at the sheer amount of people who are still refusing to admit that this was a hate crime, an act of terrorism. (Even though now it has come forward that he absolutely meant to start a civil war.)

There’s a lot I could say about this completely senseless massacre, but it’s everywhere. Everyone is talking about it. What I wanted to write about is the persistent narrative that I keep seeing on the internet of people trying to deny that this event had anything to do about race. That these 9 Black people, attending a Bible study class in a historic Black church, were murdered just because of some crazy guy. It’s infuriating, it’s insulting, and it’s wrong.

Here's a doodle I made of a stick figure being mad a computer. He's probably reading YouTube comments.
Here’s a doodle I made of a stick figure being mad a computer. He’s probably reading YouTube comments.

So naturally, I’ve been getting into internet debates with strangers, and I wanted to share two very different conversations I’ve just had.

1) Site: Facebook

A friend of mine posts the Jon Stewart video (that is so amazing and made me cry again) and here are the comments in their entirety, I didn’t even correct grammar or spelling issues. Obviously not using real names but the one labeled “T” is with whom I’m debating. I’m going to use colors to help break up blocks of text but also to make this a little less painful to read. Colors are fun, right?

T:  I think people need to learn the distinction between bigotry, racism, discrimination, prejudice and hatred. Then unlearn words like micro aggression and other PC era terms. acknowledge that people “profile” others all the time based on looks. Race. Age. Accent. Size. Scent. Hair. Clothes. Class. Speech etc.
People need to understand that being offended doesn’t make you a victim. That being an asshole doesn’t make you a criminal. People need to stop reducing racism to someone’s perception of what someone might have thought, and leave it for when it actually matters. People are way too sensitive and it’s a disservice to those who have suffered and actually suffer injustices now

A (original poster): I love to read your posts because, you always do such a compelling job of outlining a position I don’t fully agree with nor fully disagree with. So, yeah, I appreciate your post….Moving on, it’s difficult to have a meaningful conversation about a complex topic like racism, especially over Facebook. So I won’t attempt to prescribe a balance on sensitivity or take on your misconceptions about the power of perception, but I hope someone, who is ripe to confront themselves about this will see my post today. Thanks for reading.

(Super nice diplomatic response that should’ve ended the conversation but ooh no… not while I’m around!)

T: Well thanks 🙂 yeah I’m not sensitive. I’ve not a bone of guilt. I never get defensive. My conviction is my freedom. Being right or wrong or judged or labelled compels me personally to do nothing. I use my life experiences to determine my perspectives and I don’t expect everyone to agree with them and I surely don’t expect people, especially on Facebook as you say, to judge me simply for my character and not as a white or straight or male. That will never happen. So I may as well say what I feel since people will dismiss it anyways 🙂  let them be hypocrites and regurgitate whatever the college professors are spewing. It’s just like rap music every generation likes their voices and thinks the new/older ones are lame. Doesn’t matter if it’s flavors of Gatorade or brands of feminism. Nothing is more American than arguing about things with emotion and sentiment instead of logic or reason

A: That’s great for people to know when they consider your ideas and point of view.

(Oooh, gurl, the shade, the shade of it all. Go you.)

R (another commentator):
Logically speaking:
Racism is discrimination based on race, specifically occuring when that race has been historically discriminated against and demoralized and put in a position of oppression. (So logically those historically in a position of power cannot be discriminated against in this way).
Systemic racism is when that oppression and discrimination becomes ingrained into the very system something is built upon. So in the case of the US, that’s our constitution. Your freedom that you use as your conviction was built upon the oppression of others. I’m not dismissing your opinion. You have as much right to it as I do to mine. But I’m looking at facts. Your opinion is one that has been heard before. In fact, the majority have been saying this for longer than America existed. It doesn’t mean it is correct.
But then again logically those in a position of power will seek to keep that power. So yeah maybe it’s time emotion had its day because at least if we look at our emotions we might understand the place in which others find themselves.

T:  Emotion always has its day now. People get outraged all the time now. And like John (Editorial note: he means Jon Stewart) says. Nothing happens. My initial response was to A’s words about racism, if its inherent, what people need to do about it etc. my thoughts are that too many people try to make feelings reality. It’s not logical for society to enable that, but we do. If someone is offended, they’re offended, and they’re validated. No matter how much of a stretch it is. we’re obligated to respect their feelings no matter what now. I just call bullshit.
I don’t need to express my emotions publicly to empathize. And I don’t need to empathize publicly to show anyone I’m human, cool, forward thinking, progressive, liberal, warm, loving, etc. I know I am. This is the freedom I speak of. Don’t coopt the term for your own argument I’m. Not speaking of our 3/5ths men days of old, of slave times or suffrage. I’m talking of a personal freedom to speak my mind without fear of offending someone, or worrying about being judged. You proved my point for me. insinuating that I’m “in power” and my opinions are to be dismissed. You can believe that all you want. People have been labeling people to dismiss them before America existed. It’s time I show some emotion about it don’t you think?

(I don’t even know… most of that didn’t even make sense… where to begin… So naturally, I engaged.)

Me: Chiming in here because I don’t know you, so I can’t quite tell what is tongue-in-cheek and what is sincere in your comment, T, but it sounds like you’re being a bit dismissive and defensive towards R’s comment, which to me was very straight-forward and actually not emotional at all.

First of all: 1) You wrote, ” If someone is offended, they’re offended, and they’re validated. No matter how much of a stretch it is. we’re obligated to respect their feelings no matter what now. I just call bullshit.” But you’re missing the point. We’re not talking about the PC police or someone being offended over a Hollywood movie and posting about it on a blog, we’re talking about 9 people who were brutally murdered on Wed night because of the color of their skin. But as Jon Stewart said, this isn’t an isolated incident. This isn’t just the work of one lone wolf crazy person. This occurs all the time and it’s indicative of the systematic racism that this country is built upon. It’s everywhere. This isn’t a fluke, it’s a physical eruption of a hate culture that we live in. To dismiss it as people simply playing victim every time they’re offended because all people profile is incredibly insulting to those who live their daily lives being profiled every single day because of their race. And not just in a “oh that one guy doesn’t like me” kind of way, but the way where policemen shoot first and ask questions later, employers won’t hire you, store owners follow you – it’s systematic. Jon said, these people drive on roads named after Confederate leaders who fought to keep them in slavery. I insinuate from your earlier comments that you’re a white, straight, male. And you are entitled to your opinions, but the biggest point Jon was making is that we can’t deny that we are part of a racist society. People hate the term privilege because they react to it emotionally, but the actual meaning is that you have absolutely no idea what it’s like to be black in America (and neither do I), so check your privilege means stop telling black people to stop being so sensitive and listen to what they have to say about their experience.

2) And on that note, no, I’m sorry, you can’t have that “personal freedom to speak my mind without fear of offending someone, or worrying about being judged” – first of all, that’s called being human and everyone has that. You just don’t want to be challenged or debated. You don’t want to discuss. When I hear that, I hear, “don’t bother arguing with me because I’m right. I’m allowed to say whatever I want in a public sphere and I shouldn’t have to suffer any consequences for it.” And yet as soon as an opposing opinion is voiced, you shut it down with talks of freedom of speech. That’s fucking hypocritical. You can absolutely believe whatever you want. You can say whatever you want. You CAN’T then expect to not have to deal with the consequences. That’s being an adult. Be offensive but then stand by it. What’s wrong with saying, “Yeah, I am offensive.” I think A was speaking to that – we all need to say, “You know what? I am a little racist. I can be part of the problem. But I want to be part of the solution, so let’s talk.” That’s progress.

3) What is wrong with emotions? In intelligent debate, emotion is always dismissed as weak or feminine or useless, but all progress by humankind was made when emotion met intellect and skill. People were killed. People are still being killed. We are human beings, made of flesh, and emotions are what sets us apart as evolved beings. There’s nothing wrong with emotions. I’m sad that these people died. I’m sad that we live in this type of world still. I’m sad and angry that my black and brown friends have to deal with this every day. I’m sad and angry that my Asian brother is even profiled by authorities still. I’m sad that I’ve been made to feel like I wasn’t American, like I didn’t belong, and that I was a freak, constantly every single day of my life growing up and in ways that continues now. I’m angry and sad events like being called a “Chink” in 7th grade, to my Muslim friends being taken aside at airports, to the tragedy in Charleston are all indicative of a giant complex racist culture and history that is America. I’m sad that we still have to have these discussions. I’m worried that you’re not even going to read this. I’m embarrassed that I’m blowing up A’s wall with talk about politics and race and sociology. But I’m incensed to reply and keep talking and not being quiet. Because this is my experience, because their lives mattered. Because silence = death. Because we deserve the right to be fucking emotional. But what do I know? I’m just human.

T: I myself was never talking about the hate crime murders in the church. Also I don’t care what people think about some of my opinions. It’s not that I “shut them down” it’s that I simply don’t feel a need to get defensive nor appease people should they be offended by my opinions. (In a public forum) it’s a nice freedom, a luxury, a privilege even that most people don’t have, because they don’t want to offend anyone or be called sexist or racist etc etc even if theyre speaking the truth or have an unpopular Opinion.

(Editorial note: He then went back later and EDITED his reply and added:) Which was my point about people’s feelings being reality and how as a society we enable that. Being offended equates to being a victim now. Being an asshole equates to being criminal. Maybe it’s a generational thing. Even professors have to watch what they teach so they don’t offend one single student. Lest they complain. It’s an awful climate. The irony being that the enabled offended people tend to be the ones who won’t listen – their feelings are reality. It’s a slippery slope. I find people agree with things or don’t say anything just to avoid drama. It’s pathetic.

(You can tell he’s starting to flail now.)

Me: Okay… so… what’s your point? Then how do your comments add to the conversation that A started by posting this video that was about the hate crime murders? Are your comments completely non-sequitur? I don’t get it.
PS: This article (written by a white male with a Ph.D.) is exactly what I’m talking about.

Here is a soothing picture of a beach at sunset to help prevent rage stroke. Picture by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/
Here is a soothing picture of a beach at sunset to help prevent rage stroke. Picture by https://www.flickr.com/photos/chiaralily/

T: And as for your personal anecdotes, welcome to the world. People can be mean and hateful and the easiest thing for lazy people to do is attack or judge someone by their appearance / race. What could society have done besides tell kids it’s not ok and punish them for racial slurs? Nothing. It will still happen. Even as adults. Everyone will handle it differently. Some will feel like victims others won’t give a shit. Being called names sure seems like child’s play compared to being killed or beat because you’re black or gay etc. but who am I to judge? I’m not even talking about racial slurs and things that are already illegal and or forbidden in schools or the workplace. I’m talking about misco aggressions and other bs. People are looking for ways to be offended it seems like. Do I call it a micro aggression when cars try to charge me more for a fare? Or when bodegas won’t sell me loosies because they assume I’m a cop? Both of those happen because of my race. Am I a victim? You will surely say no. Do I have a right to be upset? Sure. Are they doing anything illegal? Not really. Where do we draw the line.

Me: No, but that was my point, I’m in NO way saying being called (racial slurs) names as a child is equal to being shot – please be clear about that. It’s all symptomatic of a larger issue – you being charged more for a car or not being sold loosies DOES make you a victim of what is a racially divided and problematic system – slavery didn’t end that long ago. Jim Crow laws were just over 50 years ago. Our country is built on racism and we need to admit that. Then we can start trying to enact laws and measures to try to make it better. Mindfulness, like A was advocating, is the key. We can’t just say, “Oh well, people suck, that’s life.” That’s so defeatist. In this kind of society, we all suffer, regardless of our race.

T: Yes it is built on slavery. 100%. Indentured servitude too. Which continues to this day with student loans. (Oooookay… not touching that one.) Acknowledging it out loud doesn’t do any good. All we can do is live by example and fight for and speak for those that can’t themselves. To demand justice. Maybe people have a different idea of what that means. Maybe people have different expectations. I know this, insults based on race (or size, class, slut shaming, ginger (sorry ash) etc etc will exist forever. I know I’ll prepare my multi racial kids for it, what to do, how to handle it, not to do it etc. beyond that idk what more an individual can do. I just won’t respect when people cry wolf. Which goes full circle to what I posted earlier.

Me, trying to not let him derail the conversation: But who is crying wolf? And how is talking about crying wolf even helpful on a FB post that is absolutely about a hate crime where people died because of the color of their skin?

T: There are already enough laws and enough people losing jobs over bs. IMO. God forbid you offend someone. It’s not helping anyone it’s taking away from legitimate cases of discrimination etc etc like I said originally. If anything I think it’s polarizing people and creating divisiveness.

Me:  I guess I’m just confused why we’re even having this discussion. This has nothing to do with Ashley’s post then. And can you site real examples please? Of people losing their jobs over people being offended?

Me again: Whoa, also I just notice you added a whole new addendum to your earlier comment that was NOT there before (I quote that extra part mentioned earlier).
And while I do agree with you partially (I actually wrote a blog post about the PC police and how it hurts our cause) I don’t think that it’s a bad thing for us to look inward and see if we’re part of the problem and discuss these issues because as I said earlier, silence equals death.

T:  I speak up for those who can’t speak for themselves and try to silence those who try to coopt or steal from them. Like these memes out now comparing the white kids arrest to the five worst domestic assault/murders of Black men in the last year. No. Right message. Wrong day. Don’t exploit this for click bait. Don’t manipulate angry people. Don’t exploit actual victims and dead people to bring awareness (clicks and likes to your FB page) to the obvious fact that black people are sometimes mistreated by the cops. Don’t disrespect the men and women who caught this mass murderer by complaining that they didn’t beat shoot or sit on him like a teen age girl. I’m shocked how many people I know are sharing these dumb memes I’ve been up all night shaming them.

(I KNOW. I KNOW.)

Me: But I don’t think people are posting to just get clicks and likes, they’re showing the disparity between the way white people vs black people are treated in this country. Racism is racism is racism. It IS all related. We do need to talk about this. These issues are real and they are important. The senator did a lot of work to try and benefit the black community. If we’re not going to talk about these issues now, then when? How many more people have to die?

T: You can’t compare how local yokel cops abuse people with a multi agency intrastate manhunt. It’s beyond naive. There are thousands of people arrested daily without any incidents, also white people do get beat. We all know the disparities…. Still. Wrong place. Also The people who make those memes have like a million likes. They’re garbage pages like tmz. He’ll be sold for profit to a business.The only valid comparisons to this mass murderer are the last 4 black mass murderers. 3 of whom were taken peacefully while one was shot but not fatally. 

But who cares about logic! People are mad and they need to show it so they repost whatever manipulative meme comes their way. Ignoring the facts. As for the issues? I’ve been talking anouth Them since the 80’s. Nothing has changed. Idk I think people will continue to die until the government isn’t owned by the NRA and corporations. It is up to the individual states at the moment.

(He posts a picture of a young black man in a white bullet-proof vest.)

Oh look a young black mass murderer being treated just like yesterday’s white one! ^ but why remember this.. It doesn’t go with our memes.

Me: Yeah, these memes aren’t helpful ultimately, but people are angry, people are upset. I can’t blame them. It’s sparking discussions though, like this one, so it’s not all bad.

I think we actually agree on more points than not, I just think when you come out and comment on a video about 9 people being murdered as an act of terror talking about the world being too concerned with political correctness or offended parties calling themselves victims being bullshit, you can see how I would infer that you are trying to dismiss the fact that the Charleston killings were racially motivated and telling everyone to stop being so sensitive and making this about race. Because that’s what a lot of people on the internet are saying, and it makes me, as you say, “emotional.”

I’m going to stop responding now, not because I don’t want to keep debating, but I think we’re reached a pretty good impasse and we should give A’s wall a rest.

T: It’s as obvious as can be that those murders were hate crimes. Like John said. I was referring to A’s words about personal responsibility. (insert emoji of fingers in a peace sign.)

Mmhmm
Wish I could send back my own kind of peace sign, amirite

Ugh what a waste of a morning, right? We’re just talking in circles, which is usually how debates like this end up. Usually the guy (and it’s always a guy – but don’t worry, #notallmen) will at one point realize that my calm, rational points make sense and either concede but more likely, he will twist his original point while continuing to argue until I say, “Wait a minute, we are actually agreeing, why are we fighting?” And then he gets to not be the bad guy or lose, but rather it’s a “tie.” Seriously.

I’m sorry, I know that was probably painful to read and it’s okay if you skimmed.

BUT THEN I had this great exchange with another stranger. You can see it all on my Twitter but as we were using multiple tweets to reply, here it is all laid out for your reading pleasure. This is a good one. But I’ll use colors again because we already established that colors are fun.

2) Site: Twitter

kickasskmo (that’s me): Can we start calling the #CharlestonShooting an act of #terror now? He says it himself! Link.

gragonstout: @kickasskmo no for it to be an act of terrorism they have to be a political agenda you should know the definition of words before using

me: Did you even read the article? CNN reports: “To start a race war, Roof told investigators, according to one of the officials.”

me: Is a race war not a political agenda? Maybe you should check your facts before you tell me I’m not using my words correctly.

him: he is not a member of an organisation so it was not a formal act for terrorism it was one crazy guy

him: and its according to one office let the dust settle before you talk shit and stop race baiting crying voice white people bad

me: Was the OK City bombing not a terrorist act? He was also “one crazy guy”. I’m not “crying white people bad” it’s racism = bad.

me: Dictionary does not say that terrorism must be part of an organization anywhere. Your logic has holes.  Link.

him: my friends say I should do stand up toin the UK the scenes really big right now

him: because they are all one community the food is a mix of Spanish and Asian they do the best seafood what’s your stage name

Um what?

me: wait, what? That’s it? We were just discussing race and the Charleston shootings and now we’re talking food and comedy? Wha?

him:  to be honest you prove me wrong I didn’t know what else to say but do like food and comedy

#micdrop
#micdrop

me: oh my god, I am literally LOLing. Thank you for engaging with me, this has made my day. Def try stand-up! It’s scary & fun!

him: I was going to try the feminists and race baiting way of dealing with it being proved wrong letters I just couldn’t do it

me: well, good sir, I applaud you. I think discussion is so impt. Thank u for not being an arse. We need to promote love, not hate!

him: thanks you give me confidence now all I need is a time distance girlfriend

(ignoring that…)

him: thanks but do you have any of your work on YouTube

me:  I do, you can check out my webpage in my bio!

him: thanks for sharing video good luck in the future

me: Thanks!

Wow. Yeah. I don’t know what to think now. Just when I’m ready to go jump off a cliff, I actually get to have a meaningful intelligent conversation with a stranger who seems to be just a troll and change his mind.  You win some, you lose some. The internet, amirite?

ANYWAY.  Want to do more than just debate with strangers on the internet? Let’s end this on some important links:

Donate to the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church.

Sign a petition to remove the Confederate Flag From All Government Places

Find out how you can have more constructive conversations about race. 

I am sending my thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims. In the end, people lost their lives to a senseless act of violence, and that will never make sense and no amount of debating can bring those lives back. But I maintain that it’s important to keep discussing, keep talking about it, and do what we can to try to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Don’t let them die in vain.

 

I don’t know.

I haven’t written in this blog in a long time. And until just a few moments ago, I couldn’t really tell you why. Being busy, not feeling “inspired,” or not having anything to share are not really accurate excuses. I think it’s because I’ve been hiding.

Photo by A. Pagliaricci
Photo by A. Pagliaricci

I didn’t know I was hiding, not at first. But like a shapeless, dark monster that creeps into your dreams, vignetting what seems to be a fairly standard happy image, I had this growing suspicion that something was not quite right with me. It’s been plaguing me for weeks, this sensation that something is about to fall apart, that I’m not truly alive and aware, that any happiness I’ve felt was false. I’ve talked about it at great lengths with my close friends, my therapist, writing about it in my journal. I could articulate it, yes, but at most it was an intellectual diagnosis. It felt like someone dubbing over my own voice in a foreign language. I knew, but I couldn’t touch it. It hadn’t hit me yet, it floated above me, mockingly. I was pretty sure of what I wanted to eat but I had yet to order it and actually ingest it.

Okay, enough metaphors. You get the idea. But for someone who always has to know the answer to everything, this uncertainty has been difficult for me to live with. So I simply didn’t. In the past 3 months since I’ve last posted, I’ve been quite busy. I held a fundraiser party, I went home for the holidays, I finally wrapped principal photography on my film, I started a writers’ group, produced and acted in a new comedy web-sketch, as well as started developing more web-sketches for PITtv. Meanwhile, I’ve continued to work full-time and go out with friends or on dates. I’ve been very busy. I’ve been barely home. I’ve been rarely alone. Because I’m hiding.

When my best friend suddenly died last June, all I wanted was to be alone. Grief was the most isolating experience of my life. I’ve lived quite an individual life so far, but the alone-ness was palpable. I couldn’t be around anyone, I couldn’t smile for anyone or make small talk with anyone. I just wanted to sit outside and listen to our favorite music and cry. Nurse my grief like it was the last drink I’ll ever have. I walked the streets of New York with a bubble around me, protecting me from interaction, from engagement, from life. I just mourned.

So when I finally came out, when the sun’s rays finally actually got to touch my skin again, when I looked up, it felt miraculous. I slowly started to feel inspired again, the need to be productive, to continue living. After a while, I wanted to see other people. I wanted to start working on my projects again. I would never be the same, but I was back. And once I got my footing, I took off running. I filled my schedule and took on new projects and set up meetings and dates and outings and laughed and talked and acted like my old extroverted self again. But I was hiding.

I was hiding because I was afraid of being alone again. If I was alone, then I would think. And if I thought, I would think about Matt. And if I thought about Matt, I feared I would slip back into that dark yet brightly-lit, stark, empty room of despair again. I still am. I’m afraid. I’m afraid to be sad. I’m afraid to let myself continue to grieve. I’m afraid I won’t come out of it again. It’s been 8 months and 17 days since Matt died and I’m not still fully healed. I’m not over it. That’s okay. I’m never going to be over this. People tell you about that deep loss. I know this. But I might not also fully heal from this.

Why do we look at wounds as things that need to heal? I kept trying to become this holier-than-thou totally enlightened wise being in the last several months. How pretentious of me to go on and on about how my best friend’s death changed me? I would wax poetic about death and the meaning of life like I suddenly had all the answers now that I’ve experience such profound, tragic loss. (My friends know exactly what I’m talking about. Thank you for not slapping me, but god somebody please slap me next time.)

That is total bullshit. Okay, not total, but I was missing the point, I see that now. That was me trying to tie everything up neatly with a bow again. That was the same Katie that pretended to give eloquent interviews about world issues to the mirror when she was 9 (okay 15… okay 21… okay fine, last night) but still – I have this need to romanticize everything in my life, to package it neatly and analyze it and understand it all, but the truth is, I really don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know anything at all.

Photo by danabooo
Photo by danabooo

I’m a mess. I’m a flawed, messy, emotional human being. Made of flesh and blood and bones and chemicals and weird shit like that and I’m trying to figure it out desperately like everyone else. I miss my best friend and I still grieve for him but also sometimes I don’t think about him. And yeah, I feel guilty about that too. I don’t always stick to my diet and sometimes I get drunk on weeknights and I date the wrong people and I can be flaky and I don’t call my parents nearly as much as I should. I make snap judgments and I say things sometimes just to get a rise out of people and I get secretly possessive over my food. I have hateful thoughts sometimes and I’m mad at my best friend for dying on me and I miss him so frickin’ much and I worry way too much and I really do want love and children and a family someday. I cry at the drop of a hat and I have dry skin and I don’t like to follow rules and I’m okay. I’m okay. I’m a human. I am not a saint, I am not the Buddha, I will not rise out of this like a glorious wise martyr. I am ugly sometimes, and I have ugly emotions sometimes, but that doesn’t mean they’re bad. I’m allowed to be ugly. I’m allowed to be human. I’m allowed to let this wound fester a bit.

This all came to a head while I was listening to the Strangers podcast while at work.  I highly recommend everyone listen to this episode. When I first started researching about grief in the initial months after Matt’s death, I would scoff at those articles about broken hearts. “Who cares about a break-up? I f*cking lost my best friend – he f*cking died! We can’t ever see or talk to each other again because he doesn’t exist on this planet anymore!” But the fact is, a broken heart is a broken heart. Listening to these storytellers talk about their own experiences after a devastating break-up, it echoed exactly what I went through last summer. When Annie McEwen and Lea Thau said that even waking up is hard, realizing that this is the world you live in now, that’s exactly how it felt waking up every day last summer. And in Annie’s story, when the female character mentions just living with her lost love, not being consumed by it but giving it space and just knowing that she has to live with this feeling, without him, every day – it resonated with me.

Like these two women, my heart is broken. And I agree with Annie, I don’t think I’ll ever love the same way again. I don’t think losing Matt is something I’ll ever fully heal from. What Matt and I had was special, our friendship was truly one-of-a-kind. But I don’t think I’m necessarily a better person for having lived through this experience. I am a person. And it has deeply affected me. That’s really all I can say. But like Annie, I am more compassionate than I ever have been, and I’m finally going to start being compassionate with the one person I’ve been hardest on my entire life: yep, myself. Me. I’m going to do that by letting myself have flaws. By letting myself be messy. By letting myself grieve and cry and scream and laugh and dance and drink and eat carbs – and do whatever I need to do.

Death sucks. Break-ups suck. Having your heart ripped from your chest and stomped on really frickin’ blows. And I can’t tell you why. I have no idea why life is so unfair. I don’t know. I really don’t know. And that’s okay.

It ends today.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
Martin Luther King, Jr. 

I can’t stop crying.

I finally watched the video of Eric Garner’s arrest and death and I can’t stop crying. Just like I had resisted reading about Bill Cosby’s rape allegations, I had resisted watching that video. I knew about it, I had read about it, but watching this man’s last moments was too much for me to handle. But we all must face the facts, no matter how unpleasant or upsetting. We owe Mr. Garner that much.

Yesterday, the grand jury refused to indict the NYPD officer who tried to subdue Eric Garner (unarmed) in an illegal choke-hold, then pushing his face into the sidewalk, all the while him repeating, “I can’t breathe.” He died while in custody moments later. Just two weeks ago, a grand jury in Ferguson, MO, refused to indict a police officer for shooting an unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Just a few days ago, manslaughter charges were dropped against a police officer who mistakenly shot and killed a 7-year-old girl, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was sleeping on the couch. They were searching for a murder suspect. The officer now faces, at most, a misdemeanor charge for “accidental firing of a weapon resulting in death.”

Last month, a Cleveland police officer shot and killed 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was playing with a toy gun in a park. We now know that the same police officer was recommended to be released from duty back in 2012 from a different town before he resigned and then was hired by the city of Cleveland.

All of these victims – these human beings – were of Black descent. All of the police officers are of White descent. These are just a few examples of excessive police brutality, but this is not new news. We are just all aware of it now because of social media and technology. But this has been going on for years.

I have resisted posting about this because I don’t know what to say that hasn’t already been said. The tensions are palpably high in this country. But I can’t be quiet about it anymore. I’ve been feeling such sadness about these events in the past few weeks, but now I’m angry.

This is about race. These police officers acted illegally and their crimes need to be punished.

I am not against police officers in general. I do not think the anarchist anger is helpful in this situation. But we need to do something about this. We need a system overhaul. We need accountability and we need to address the blatant racism that exists in our country.

From left to right, top to bottom: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Look at their faces. Remember their names.
From left to right, top to bottom: Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Look at their faces. Remember their names.

I am not Black. But I see and acknowledge the centuries of systemic oppression and discrimination that this country was built on. I’m not sure which is worse, those supporting the officers and blaming the victims, those who are just out-rightly racist and believe the victims deserved their untimely deaths, or those (who are usually very young) saying they agree this is wrong, but they don’t see what it has to do with race.

The fact is, if you are not a Black American, then the most you can do is sympathize with the Black American experience while admitting that you do NOT know what it’s like. Because you don’t. And neither do I. But I see what my friends and fellow citizens go through everyday and it pains me. It goes way, way back – deep into the roots of this country. Do not discount 500 years of forced enslavement and treatment of an entire group of people as property. It was not that long ago. We still have a long way to go. Schools and public property were desegregated just about 40 years ago. My father was a teenager then.

I could go into the extensive sociological history of racism towards Black people in this country but to keep things brief and approachable, let’s just do an experiment.

I am not Black. But I am a woman of color. I live in New York City. Say, for example, I was in the exact position that Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, or Aiyana Stanley-Jones were in. I am willing to bet you a lot of money that I would have not been shot and killed in any of these situations. Even if I had acted exactly as they each had.

The universal frustration of the Black Man is evident in Eric Garner’s video. His speech before his death broke my heart. He said, “I’m not doing anything, I’m not selling nothing. You guys are always giving me trouble and I’m tired of it. It ends today.” And he’s right – the racial profiling of Black men (and women) as criminals and thugs is deeply ingrained. I see it everyday in New York City, as I walk by, unsuspected and not bothered – just an innocent-looking Asian female. I know we’d like to believe that he must have done something wrong to deserve the special attention. But in truth, what he did wrong was be born Black. Just like the victim-blaming that happens during a rape and sexual assault case, we are all terrified to believe that something terrible can happen to us for absolutely no reason or fault of our own. That loss of control is paralyzing, but it is a daily fear for many. And yes, it can happen to you. This may be a race issue, but it involves all of us.

It doesn’t matter what any of these victims were doing when the shooting occurred, they were all unarmed. The police officers only feared for their lives because of their fear of Black people. The Fear took over, they shot off their guns, and innocent people died. And when I say innocent, I don’t care if the toy gun didn’t have a red tip or if Michael supposedly bullied a store clerk. That does not justify their deaths. I mean that none of them had been convicted of a crime and sentenced to death by a judge and jury of their peers. None of them threatened the lives of those officers. Their deaths were unjust, illegal, and unconstitutional.

This is scary, people. We should be scared – and not because of possibly damage property during protests. We should be scared for the system, for our government, for our police, and what that means to us as citizens. What does that mean for our children?

We are upset, we are angry, we are sad, we are fed up. Not just because these people died. But because the law is letting policemen shoot and kill whomever they please without repercussions. There are other ways to detain a suspect that should not involve shooting to kill. Those who lecture about how to “just behave and avoid getting in situations like this” are blind and in severe denial. Wake up, everyone. You may find yourself someday in an unfortunate situation with a police officer. And even though you may be a law-abiding citizen and unarmed, what these non-indictments are saying is that, he or she can still shoot and kill you if he feels like it. And there’s nothing we can do about it.

Except be heard. So march. Protest. Peacefully – of course – I don’t believe that violence is the answer. But stand up. Speak out. Talk about this. That’s the least we can do for Eric, Michael, Tamir, and Aiyana. Where are you marching today?

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.”
Martin Niemöller

Be an Adult.

I’ve been formulating this post in my head over the past few days, and I feel it’s only fitting to write and post it now, on the 27th anniversary of my birth. There’s a lot in the news lately, but I’m going to resist writing about that, (there are plenty of articles out there that are written by far-more qualified people than I), and hone in on a more personal, individual topic:

Being an Adult. (Insert collective groan here)

What does that phrase even mean?

To some people, it means paying your bills on time, staying organized, buying a house, starting a family. Or it means staying in more on weekends, focusing on your career, and letting your pool of friends shrink to just those few close ones. Some think that you’re “only as old as you think you are!” or that “you can grow up, but growing old is optional!” A lot of people resist becoming an Adult, because that means childhood is over, and Old Age (and subsequently Death), are that much closer.

But when I say, I’m finally becoming an Adult – what I mean is, the choices I make on a daily basis have been changing lately. I have actively been choosing Love over Fear. I have been taking responsibility for my life, and my actions, in a way I never have before.

Remember when you were like this little girl walking in a grassy field? Yeah, me neither. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/4444/
Remember when you were like this little girl walking in a grassy field? Yeah, me neither. Photo credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/4444/

Regardless of psychology, I do believe that as we grow, we take on the weight of our life’s experiences. We hurt, and those wounds become scars. Rather than risk opening up those wounds again, we protect ourselves with barriers. Why risk another scar? Why hurt again?

You understand this metaphor. But as I ranted to my roommate the other day, I believe that we need to not protect our past wounds, but willingly, happily, and gratefully, go running head-first into the possibility of pain. We should embrace the suffering. Be the responsible Adult and accept the wounds, scars, and broken bones with kindness and Love.

Let me try to elucidate.

I was an extremely willful child, as my parents can attest. Even at 3 years old, I was ever the storyteller with a flair for the dramatic. I would talk off the ear of whoever would listen, usually recanting the full script of Beauty and the Beast from memory. I even convinced myself that my life was in fact, a TV show. When I realized that at some point, the series would end and I would not get a spin-off or direct-to-DVD movie, I was devastated. Nevertheless, I still had the same penchant for drama throughout adolescence and early adulthood. I wanted to be loved, I wanted attention. Desperate to be seen as the leading ingénue I always wanted to be, I became an insecure doormat. Yet I was still extremely volatile. My emotions were fickle, fiery, and hard to control, and I took them out on those closest to me. Every time I was incredibly sad or angry, I was subconsciously convinced that I would feel this way, forever. I wanted to be a better me, but in a materialistic sense. I ran to the pain, but with masochism, not as acceptance. I didn’t love myself. I didn’t think I deserved it.

Over the past couple years, I’ve noticed that I’ve slowly grown calmer, quieter, and more introspective. But rather than emotionally retreating, as I have so often in the past, I was actually just observing. The many (usually painful) wake-up calls I’ve experienced over the years have forced me to realize that I don’t have all of the answers, and I’m continually becoming okay with that. Experience has led me to conclude that nothing lasts forever, and I’m continually becoming okay with that as well. I continually strive to listen more than talk (still working on that, friends), and really be in every moment, that life has to offer.

Earlier this year, when my best friend suddenly passed away, it felt like all of the work I had done on myself was lost. My old enemies of self-hatred, anger, desperation, all came rushing back. I was simultaneously appalled at my regression and yet felt justified. I had just lost my best friend, I could act however the hell I wanted, right? And partly, yes, that’s true. But what astounded me, even during the darkest moments, was the awareness of my behavior. I was not blindly acting out, rather I was very much conscious. Instead of shutting down, which I could have easily done, I chose to love myself, be kind to myself, and treat myself with care instead of condemnation. I let the emotions flow through and out of me, instead of shoving them down. If my friend had died a few years ago, I’m not sure I could say I would have the same experience. But my spirit had already been in the long process of Growing and Loving when it happened, and I proved to be stronger than I thought.

After the first few months, I rose out of the heaviest of my grief and suddenly felt incredibly inspired. I had always struggled with my weight and dreamed of being thin, but never really did much about it. So I now follow the ketogenic diet, and lost 15 pounds within weeks. After temping and freelancing for over a year, I faced facts and got a new full-time job. I created a financial budget for myself, something I had resisted doing all of my adulthood out of fear. I started dating again, but without Ego. Some dates didn’t work out, and I calmly walked away from those who were unavailable emotionally or destructive instead of clinging or swearing off dating forever. I started actively implementing all of my spiritual growth in the physical sense, for the first time in my life.

This is not a humble brag. Rather I tell you this because that’s what I believe is Being an Adult. It’s looking honestly and without condemnation at your past behavior and choices. And whenever faced with a new one, choosing to not go towards what is comfortable and easy (which is usually Fear), but rather face the struggle head-on. I’m not magically perfect, I never will be. My body, my career, my love/social life, and my Self will always be areas that I have to actively work on. Like our elders have always said, sometimes the right choice is the hardest one to make. But by recognizing my own destructive behavior, I can make the continual effort to choose Love. I choose to Love myself and others. My heart is open, in a way that is reminiscent of my earliest childhood, before the shame and scars, but also in an entirely new way.

Today, I am officially older. I can say now that I am 27. But we grow older every day, not just on our birthdays. With that old age comes pain, joy, experience, knowledge, and hopefully wisdom. I may be a little more worse for wear than I was before, but I am alive. And I have grown. For that, I am incredibly grateful.

Let it go.

Today, instead of writing another long-winded entry about how grateful I am that Life is so beautiful (or about feminism), I figured I just share with you one of my favorite videos from my friend, Marushka Mujic. Log into your Facebook and check out her timeline. She posts these wonderfully poetic public videos about once a week. Each one is about 6 minutes, and all are definitely worth watching. Her messages are simple, loving, and yet so illuminating, and often come into my life right when I need them most.

Happy Friday!

Screengrab from one of her amazing and inspiring videos. Click the link below to watch on Facebook.
Screengrab from one of her amazing and inspiring videos. Click the link below to watch on Facebook.

//

Taken Care

Okay, I’m going to try and keep this one short, but I just had to share something that happened to me this weekend.

On Sunday, I had booked several meetings for “Are You Afraid of the ’90s?”  pre-production, and catching up with old friends that I haven’t seen in a while. I met up with my hilarious and talented line producer, Emily Duncan, and she broke the news to me that despite all of the fundraising we’ve done, we were still over $3,000 short for our last shoot in January. I was crushed, naturally. Not only did I have to somehow find a few more thousand dollars, but even then I wouldn’t be able to afford to give my hard-working crew the measly raise they really deserved. This shoot would, again, be about scrambling and penny-pinching (#indiefilmproblems). We joked about going into prostitution (as I’m sure all poor artists have before us) and promptly went to get a glass of wine.

The cuteness is too much, right? Photo credit by Jimmy Sireno, of course.
The cuteness is too much, right? Photo credit by Jimmy Sireno, of course.

I then went to visit my good friends and producers, Chelsea and Jimmy Sireno. Chelsea has been working with me on this film from the beginning and is one of my biggest cheerleaders. And her husband’s extensive knowledge/talent on all things video and production, as well as his infallible cheerful attitude, have been my saving grace many a time. As if they couldn’t be more awesome, Chelsea just gave birth to their first child, James Phillip Jr., last week. As I held their baby son in my arms, I could feel myself just melt. He is perfection, right down to his little fingernails. What a wonderfully lucky little human. Here he is, just 1 week old, surrounded by unconditional love. He has the best parents he could ask for, a loving extended family, and really cool family friends. (Wink, wink!) In my arms was Possibilities. He has years and years ahead of him to experience love, loss, happiness, excitement, disappointment, pain, sorrow, anger, pleasure, peace – it’s magnificent.

After, I made my way home, feeling full of love. On the train platform, I took out my old journal. I re-read old entries from July, but they seemed like they were written lifetimes ago. I rode the train with my rose-colored glasses on, thinking about how far I’ve come, my place in the universe. I am still sad for the loss of my friend. I’m still anxious for our upcoming shoot. But the night was crisp and clear, and I felt so grateful.

And then, as I went to unlock my front door, I noticed my keys were missing. As I knelt down in the lobby of my apartment building, the soft, dreamy tendrils of my zen-like state quickly began to recede as panic set in. I had lost my wallet and keys. They were nowhere to be found. And of course, I had kept everything important in one place, so my license, credit cards, monthly Metrocard, insurance card, everything – was just gone.

I will skip over the hours I spent freaking out, calling my banks, and making poor, exhausted new father Jimmy check out the subway stations for me (thank you, Jimmy!) but needless to say, my grateful mood was ruined. I felt so stupid, my self-esteem plummeted, and I couldn’t stop kicking myself. More so, I felt betrayed. I had trusted in the universe and right when I felt so grateful, it goes and screws me over. What the bleep.

The next day was rainy and so was my mood. I was so grumpy and the whole work day felt as if I were in a fog. But then I got a phone call from my gym. (I thought it was to hit me up for paying my fat tax) Turns out, two kind elderly ladies had found my wallet and had been trying for hours to get a hold of me to return it! But I had already cancelled all of my cards and by then, my mood was so foul and low that even that news didn’t seem to cheer me up much.

After work, I went to a seminar at NYU Tisch about raising money for the arts. I was skeptical but as mentioned earlier, in pretty desperate need. It was informative, but most of all, inspiring. One thing that Andrew Frank, the instructor, imparted to us was to have a daily mantra:

“Money comes to me easily.”

When he said that, my immediate reaction was to do a spit take. But alas, I was not drinking anything at the time. Even now, that statement makes me want to cry-laugh loudly. It sparks an anxious little flame in my gut. But he continued, saying that we should say it 10-15 times a day, putting it out into the universe.

After the class, feeling a bit more invigorated about my film’s financial situation, I went over to the apartment of the ladies who have found my wallet. They were so sweet, the first thing they did was wrap me up in a big hug. We chatted in their home, me profusely thanking them and trying to give them money, they refusing the money and telling me to be more careful. They were the African grandmothers I had always wanted. We agreed to get drinks next time and I headed back out into the night.

source: wikipedia
Look at how much those stars and planets love you. They twinkle with love. source: wikipedia

On the way home, my spirits were flying once again. How silly I was, to think that the universe would not take care of me. I was being a spoiled child, crying over spilled milk. Here I was, in good health, with wonderful friends and family who support and love me, living in one of the greatest cities in the world, pursuing my dreams and creating art, working a full-time job with great co-workers – and I was stomping my feet over losing my wallet! I thought the universe had failed me, when maybe this all happened to show that It is actually really taking care of me more than I think. Maybe it’s not some old bearded man in the sky, maybe it’s just Energy, or collective consciousness, but sometimes things do work out in ways that, at the time, we might not always understand.

That’s not to say that tragedy never happens or that we should force ourselves to ignore feeling horrible. As my friend Terence was telling me while I was ranting, most likely the Buddhist thing to do is just acknowledge the emotions I was feeling, without judgement. This whole experience has made me recall one of the first conversations I had with one of the actresses in my film (who is also incredibly zen and centered), and she looked at me across our lattes and said,

“Do you think the universe is out to get you? Or are you the type of person who believes that you are loved and that you will be taken care of?”

I don’t want to think the universe is out to get me. It sounds like an exhausting way to live. I agree with my friends, Mr. Frank, and Björk, and I will repeat these mantras every day, believing them as best as I can:

I am given love. I am loved.

I am taken care of.  

Money comes to me easily.

So. What are your mantras?

PS: How appropriate that my coworkers have this song playing right now?

PPS: Here are some other wonderfully heart-warming stories of human kindness to lift your spirits.

Inspired during an early evening commute home…

Every single writer, poet, filmmaker, musician, and artist who has ever lived in New York has tried to express how much they love New York. Or how much they hate New York. It can be the most magical place on earth or it can make you want to jump into the tracks of an oncoming train. The skyscrapers and glittering lights can inspire and enlighten or it can feel as though you carry the weight of many tons of steel and iron upon your shoulders. However, one thing can always be said about New York: there is so much life here. It’s every where, at every block, every building, stoop, subway platform, alleyway, and corner- there is so much life. At any one time, there are over 5 million stories happening.

Most of those stories are right out in the open for all to see. The woman crying on the phone as she walks east on 52nd st. The homeless boy in the blue coat with a bent cardboard sign on 8th avenue. The 30-something woman whose pink jogging jacket match her purebred chihuahua’s little boots on 6th avenue. The smiling man with large boils on his face sitting on the Canal st train platform. Life is every where you look here. No matter the time or day, life is happening here. Stories are being written here. For any artist, it’s absolutely thrilling. But in a place with so much life, there is so much death – so much decay. Sometimes the amount of life and death is too much for one human to withstand. It can overwhelm, like a cacophony of disheartening news reports that grows so loud one cannot hear anything but the din of sadness and suffering. For life is suffering, as the Buddhists believe, and for a city full of so much life, it is also filled with so much suffering.

Imagine being acutely aware of ever single moment of emotional and physical pain in the world as it is happening. To be so sensitive would surely break one’s heart so completely so many times. It would drive any normal mortal to end the pain as soon as possible. But why is it a bad thing to feel sadness? Is a typically “happy person” more in tune with the universe and more generous? Is a mostly “sad person” selfish and a pessimist? Or is the happy one merely in denial and the sad one more intuitive? Maybe it’s more complicated than that. No one likes to feel sad. Many try to avoid feeling sad as much as possible, whether that means diverting and distracting feelings, emotional strong-holding, or resorting to substances to dull the senses and pain. Is this healthy though? Is there a way to stay with the pain, accept the sadness, and not want to kill oneself every waking moment? Can you feel sadness but not become sadness?

There are many institutions that have formed over the centuries to help alleviate everyday sadness. Religion, spirituality, sports and exercise methods, the arts – they all serve to give us a greater sense of purpose. Without purpose, our egos start to flail and our sense of self begins to spiral. Religion gives us an explanation of the sadness and suffering. The old books of old prophets tell us why and what’s next. It seems we humans have a very hard time functioning with the knowledge that life could just be random chaos, that our suffering was senseless and never-ending, with no reason or goal to look forward to. But what if there was no sense to it at all? Perhaps that’s what the Buddhists meant when they said that Life is Suffering. It is not a means to an end or even something to be explained, but rather it just is.

I myself cannot begin to even pretend to know the truth behind what we feel and what we are. The only supposed “truths” I can begin to understand are as follows:

1) I am here.
2) I feel pain. I feel happiness.
3) Things that seem and feel awful happen – to me, to “good people,” to “bad people.”
4) Things that seem and feel wonderful happen – to me, to “good people,” to “bad people.”
5) But no matter what happens, it is my judgement that deems it “bad” or “good.”
6) And regardless of all of the points above, everything is impermanent. Nothing is forever and everything changes.

It can seem hopeless to think that one could spend years and years building an empire or creating a work of art or nurturing a family – and in one instant, it all could be destroyed and cease to exist. But that thought can also be incredibly freeing. It doesn’t necessarily mean one shouldn’t strive for anything or the human race shouldn’t progress and evolve, but like the rhythms of the city – the way the garbage and snow will pile up and then seemingly disappear within a day, the way real estate here can seem to change ownership every month – it might just be worth it for us to continually try to be conscious. Conscious that we are all part of this life, this suffering, and even more so, this impermanence.