Friends that I miss

I miss my friends

The people I ate lunch with

Who I was connected to through

Homework and home rooms

Who drove me home Friday nights

And woke up next to me on Saturday mornings

Friends who I got lost with

Who I sat gazing at the stars with

Friends who held my hand and twirled my hair

Who told me I was cool

Who let me in their homes

Who called me and

Caught me when I would fall

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Turning 21

In two days I’ll be 21. In one day I’ll be travelling to D.C. with my best friend to see a singer who I consider to be my idol. Last night I failed my first quiz in Interpersonal Behavior. Today, I wake up feeling sad and anxious about all that is to come.

Turning 21 is a big deal for Americans because it is finally legal to consume alcohol. That’s all anyone cares about when I tell them my birthday is on Friday (January 26th). Everyone wonders if I’m going out, getting drunk, and all the other stuff that comes with binge drinking. Is it weird that I don’t care to?

I guess it’s not too surprising. I’ve been drinking since I was 18 and I feel like I’ve gotten my need to party out of my system. I’m not saying that I don’t enjoy a night out every now and then but I’m not too gassed about going out and getting wasted just to say that I did it.

So, what am I looking forward to by turning 21? Well, from what I know about my other milestone birthday years I will feel exactly the same. I’m not suspecting to wake up feeling like I’m in a new body. I doubt there will be some magical transformative moment for me. I’m expecting my birthday and the weekend following it to be extremely busy, tiring, and stressful but hey, that’s adulthood for you.

Am I an adult? I’m almost 21, in college, I have 2 jobs but I wouldn’t say I’m an adult or anything close to it. Some times I just feel like I’m in this sucky in between; not young enough to have no worries, not old enough to have everything figured out. I envy my older friend for how much he seems to have solved in his life. He tells me he is still figuring it out but from where I stand the grass is much greener on his side of 32.

Tomorrow night I’ll be in D.C. packed into an arena with thousands of people to see Lana Del Rey. Being able to do this is so special for me for a few reasons and I’ll tell you why. The first reason is that I purchased her tickets myself. As a birthday gift to me I bought two tickets for her concert, the second being for my best friend. Now, I’ve given myself gifts before but never to this magnitude. Not only is this my special gift to me, but it is the best gift anyone could have given me for turning 21, that is reason number two. Number three is that I gave it to myself! So my long time dream of seeing Lana is coming true, and I made it come true. For some reason I can’t shake how good it feels to do this for myself. I can’t ignore the importance of doing for yourself what others will not do for you. I hope to do more for myself in this 21st year of life.

When turning 21 I’m also looking forward to spending time with people who care about me. When ever I’m asked to list what I find most important in my life I tend to leave family off. In my life I’ve experienced a family who was not always there for me, not always kind, not supportive, not healthy, not stable, not responsible. I don’t hold resentment if that’s where you thought this was going. I’ve simply toughened up and accepted that for me family cannot come over everything. If I lived my life this way I’d have nothing in my soul, I’d be giving out pieces of myself to people who are less than deserving. I’ve been very lucky though to build amazingly intimate friendships with amazing people. I’m holding on to the thought of Saturday, when I can escape to someplace that laughter and hugs and happiness are never in shortage.

This year, regardless of my age, I just want to feel accomplished. I want to see myself take one large step forward. I want to see myself become more me.-J.A.

I went natural because I was broke

If you are a POC who has decided to stop using relaxers, texturizers, and other chemicals made to straighten your curl pattern and soften your hair texture then I’m sure you’ve watched and read your fair share of natural hair journey stories. This is mine.

I went natural in Spring of 2015 of my senior year of high school. That’s right, just in time for prom!

But before I got to the point where my aunt was shaving my hair with a pair of clippers there were many things that happened in between that made me go natural.

Guess I should first start with giving a bit of background to my hair. I am a half Nigerian, half African American woman which means as a child I was considered nappy headed. It wasn’t all bad having such a thick grain of hair. My uncle was a hair dresser and I remember monthly trips to the hair cuttery where he worked to get my hair relaxed and straightened. This was a routine I followed since pre-k, but by the time I reached middle school the luxury of the salon seemed like a distant memory. My mother, for what ever reason, decided to stop paying attention to when I needed to make a trip to the salon and I was left to fend for myself against the beast that is Nigerian hair.

This is when it all went down hill for me. My midback length hair slowly broke off until I was left to work with nothing more than dry, chemically damaged, lifeless strands that barely reached my neck. A solution that I began to rely upon was long twists. If you’re not familiar with the style let me explain; long twists are done at a braid shop and typically take around 8 hours to do and cost on average $200 to get. I’d go with my sister every 3-4 months to sit through some of the worst pain and discomfort of my life. Eight hours bound to a chair while small sections of your hair are parted and twisted around with fake hair is just as horrible as it sounds.

This style worked for a very long time. It kept my hair out of sight and out of mind. It took away so much stress of having to style my hair myself which always resulted in small strains falling all over the bathroom floor with nothing more to show for all the sweat than a stiff sad small ponytail. In comparison with my real hair, the long twists were like night and day. I could pretend that I had beautiful long hair again and push the ugly truth far out of my mind.

Eventually the long twists began to fade from my hair routine. For one, the cost was becoming unmanageable for my mother who herself has alopecia and doesn’t know a thing about hair care. For two, it was an eight hour process which I grew tired of. I just couldn’t sit through it anymore. So I began to wear more weaves in my hair as I way to keep it styled and out of sight.

Even though my hair had been damaged by both chemicals and heat from flat irons, it did have its moments of growth thanks to keeping it protected under braids, twists and weaves. By the time I entered high school I remember I had enough length to make one braid going down the middle of my head that I tied into a small ponytail that was just a tuft of hair sitting at the base of my neck. Now my ponytails were still little but were looking less sad with a bit more length than before.

I’m sure you’re thinking this is where things get better for me, right? Nope! They get worst and then they get better, I promise!

My uncle had came back into the picture of my hair. He was trimming it, washing it (and relaxing it still) for me. He would wrap my hair, which is when the hair is straightened and then wrapped around the head to fall softly when taken down. This was a great time for my hair. Like I said, it was growing, looking healthy and most importantly for me at that time it was soft and easy to work with. Admittedly, I was kind of scared of my natural hair. I had never fully seen it! It was always matted under strains of lifeless mess that knotted on my head. What I did see of it made me only assume it was rough, dry and made to be hidden. All my life I was told I had thick, nappy, Nigerian hair which basically translated to “bad hair”. All my life I had my hair chemically altered, straightened with heat, or braided and concealed. That was all I ever knew and felt safe with.

So, how did I get to senior year of high school just weeks before my prom with a shaved head? Well it all began I early in that school year. See, I was still depending on my mother to make hair appointments for me and eventually she did not want to take on this task. Additionally, communication with my uncle became difficult and the promise of doing my hair was neglected so many times that I’m sure I just gave up trying to contact him after a while.

If you don’t know what happens to processed hair that isn’t maintained then I’ll tell you. It falls off! The bonds of your hair strain are weakened when altered by chemicals, that means they are super dooper prone to just snapping and especially prone to breakage when you do nothing to care for your hair like myself at the time.

So slowly but surely the health of my hair declined until one day I looked in the mirror and noticed a large patch gone from the right side of my head. When the hair that was there was touched, it began to snap off again. Yes, after coming so far, I was back to square one. I did my best to maintain what was there but I couldn’t go on like this forever and the pressure really came with the approach of prom.

So there I was, balding, with prom just around the corner. I was hiding my lack of hair skillfully with pulling back the hair in front to conceal the patch which had up and vanished. I was 18 then and working a minimum wage job that all my money from was going towards paying for my prom dress, a place to stay for senior week vacation and there was still graduation expenses that I had to worry about. Needless to say I couldn’t afford to get my hair done. Even more than that I began to realistically think what could really be done to it? It was completely busted and so I faced one option really; to shave it all off.

I wasn’t really upset about having to do this. I had no relationship with my hair. It wasn’t special or precious to me. I remember one day running my fingers along the wide patch that had broken off. I could feel the warmth of my scalp, it was sensitive likely due to the strength of the last relaxer I had put in. Above my skin I felt a bed of curls, little coils that I could push down on. They sprung my fingers back each time I gave them a press. It felt good to rub and massage my head there and feel the hair curl into little balls under my fingertips, it was possibly the first time I had felt my real hair texture in about 12 years. Those little curls that had already began to grow told me that everything would be okay.

I made an appointment with my aunt, a master barber who takes more pride in her work than anyone I know. She sat me down in a chair at her house, pulled out her equipment and went to work. In a few minutes my hair was reborn. She left a bit of hair at the top and faded the sides elegantly. My thinned spot of hair was so large that it invaded the crop of hair that remained and had to be filled in with a bit of black hair coloring. But I was just happy to be free. Free from the brittle hair that was impossible to care for. Free from the worry about getting my hair done for a long time. Free to sweat, sleep, swim, and move freely without thinking about how my hair looked at every moment.

The next day of school after the cut I was dreading everyone’s responce. Not because I thought it would be bad, I just didn’t want any attention over a decision that was made ultimately because I was too poor to get my hair done. Surprisingly though the reactions of my peers weren’t only good but also super empowing and supportive! I went to prom with a shaved head and if you’re wondering, no, my date did not mind it at all.

Now, four years after I big chopped before even knowing what a big chop was, my hair is doing amazing. As it grew, I actually learned about it and what it needed to stay healthy. I can now say that I love my 4c hair! Washing, detangling, and styling my hair has become so therapeutic for me. For so many years I feel that I cheated myself out of this very special relationship that I now have with my hair. No, I’m not attached to it to an unhealthy extant but now I actually feel that it is apart of me. I’m proud to wear my natural curls, I don’t fear touching them any more and my tightly packed kinks and coils are now taken as a sign of health and happiness from my hair (which I don’t see myself straightening anytime soon).

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading my journey and all its ups and downs. I’m so happy I made the decision to give myself a fresh start all those years ago. If I could do it all over the only thing I would change is that I’d definitely go natural much sooner in my life. -J.A.

Hope

How can the world go back to the way it was when so much bad has happened?

Death and disease and hurt that feels like it will linger forever.

Pain spread by the super villains of the earth seems to touch everything and darken it.

Eventually it may come to touch you.

Then you’ll have to decide what you will hold on to.

Pain. . .or fear. . .or hope.

Hope can seem like such a distant thing.

Floating out where the sun already illuminates.

But hope still does live in the darkness.

It lives there waiting to be fed.

And as it grows strong it repays those who have nourished it.

It returns that great strength.

So, you’ve got to find it and raise it up and raise it well.

For when the day you are weak and weary hope will lift you up.

Hop. Hope.- J.A.

Addiction 

Coffee tastes like cigarettes

All my regrets taste like you

So I spit them out

And rinse my mouth

With the taste of him

It fades you out

I’m so strung out

I’m so let down

Too high off love

Now I’m crashed and drowned

Was it my mistake?

To go on that way

What’s a girl to do?

I’m just born this way

Just bored that day

Then I found you

You’re such a lush

You’re such a rush

Now I’m so messed up

From the ghost of your touch

So junkie sick

For one more hit

Need it like real bad

Got a real bad itch

And he gets the job done

It’s just stupid fun

But I’ll always love you

I’ll always want you

You’re the only one.-J.A 

5 things every college student will experience 

Congratulations! You’ve been accepted into an institution of higher education. You should really give yourself a pat on the back for making it so far. Hopefully you’re going to the school of your dreams, if not that’s okay! Everyone’s journey is different and I think that’s something that isn’t expressed enough. I myself go to a private four year catholic univeristy but maybe you’re traveling to a big state school, a small college, community college, or maybe you’re taking classes right from home.

With so many ways to seek a degree I can’t imagine why there aren’t more narratives and experiences included into the talk of college life.

I wanted to be one of the few who writes something inclusive for college goers off all sorts. So, here are my 5 experiences you’ll have being a college student (of any kind)

  1. Your finances will be strained.

It’s the sad truth. Whether you’re living on campus, off campus, paying multiples bills or having some help from mom and dad, your money is going to disappear faster then you’d like. After tuition you still have textbooks to buy (which you should really rent and will probably never use). Then there are all those weekends spent going out. If you’re not careful you can spend way more than expected on food and drinks in one night. Even if you don’t find yourself being a party person, it still seems to be pretty tough to ration money when you’re likely working a minimum wage job. Seriously, if you’re not living the broke college kid life then consider yourself blessed.

2. Your social life is going to change

It’s not just that you’re in college but you’re also experiencing your early 20’s. The dynamics of your social life are bound to change for a multitude of reasons. If you decide to go away to school or attend a university likely you’ll meet a ton of new people. As no body likes to be without a companion, friend groups tend to forge one way or another and way too fast in most cases. The first week of your Freshmen year, or Welcome Week as it’s called at Loyola, will be the most socially desperate time of your life. After one encounter with a somewhat friendly person you’ll be calling them your best friend and using all forms of social media to prove it. With age also comes a little more freedom that naturally you’ll want to use every now and then to go out and meet new people. It’s not unusual to come back from a night of mingling with new numbers in your phone. But college isn’t all about partying it up. In fact your social life can get a lot less active as you find yourself swimming in assignments, projects and other commitments. School comes first as they say, and it is important you learn to say no to some social invites. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find yourself among those who seclude into their own world going into college. Don’t feel bad for wanting to drop negative people, unsupportive friends or maybe a past that just doesn’t fit who you’re tying to be in this new chapter of your life.

3. You’re going to become a goal setter

If there’s one thing college makes you do it’s think about your life. After all, you’re not spending all this money and time for nothing. You’ll soon learn that it isn’t wise to just drift through your education with no clue of your end goal. I’m not saying you have to know what you want to do for the rest of your life but you’ve got to have a game plan to get you from point A to point B. You’re going to find yourself thinking about where you want to be by the end of the semester, school year, and even the next season. Take it from someone who once made the mistake of mentally checking out, you don’t want to neglect your to-do list. I suggest getting a planner and writing in it religiously.

4. Your mental health will need attention

Stressing out over school isn’t only for the nerds anymore. College is hard and most schools make it known that they are setting out to challenge you. Some of us thrive under pressure and competition, others may find themselves cracking under it. Even for the toughest of cookies though self care will need to come into play. The best thing you can do for yourself is know how to identify when you’re feeling off and have ways to get yourself back on track. This looks different for everyone, for some a hot meal and a good night’s sleep will do. For more serious or persistent issues you may need to reach out to someone qualified to help you. Things like depression, anxiety, and stress can affect everyone and anyone. So remember, you’re not expected to do it all and if you find your self breaking down I guarantee you’re not alone.

5. Lastly, you are going to change

College is 2-4 years of your life spent immersed in knowledge. Hopefully what ever class room you find yourself in (including your bedroom) you will be having discussions that open you up to new ways of thinking. Hopefully you get to experience traveling, service to your community and meaningful engagements that enrich your life. All of the small interactions you’ll come across in college are bound to impact who you are; even your mistakes you’ll come to grow from . There will be moments, whether by choice or force, that you’re going to question who you are. It is an important question that you should be asking yourself, but that’s just half of it. Hopefully, you’ll be able to answer it and maybe the answer won’t be found until you’re receiving your diploma, maybe not until long after that even. Regardless of when the answer comes, I encourage you to keep asking your self the question. Change can be a good thing. Lean into the discomfort and embrace it. -J.A.

Quiet 

If you know me in real life and we have managed to develop a friendship then you know I can talk a mile a minute. You know how humorous I can be. How I make the best shopping mate when you can’t figure out what to wear. And that I will never turn down a girls night and greasy foods at 4 a.m.

When I don’t feel like tapping into my social side though I practically go mute. I’m a quiet girl like a REALLY quiet girl. So quiet that people often can’t tell if I’m around until I decide to saunter out from my room or let out a cough by chance. I’ve gotten into the habit of just telling people, “I’m really quiet”, in the hopes that they aren’t too weirded out by my ability to be silent probably beyond capable for many.

But almost in a meditative way I enjoy being surrounded by the sweet sound of nothing.

The truth is that I like to create silence around me. A long time ago I read somewhere that people find energy in two different ways. Some love to surround themselves in the presence of others, while other folks need to take a large step back and spend some time recharging their social battery. When I first stumbled upon this fun little fact I felt like finally I understood why I like to be alone. No, not in the brooding teenager way where I’m sulking about life and writing emo poetry (though that does still happen). But almost in a meditative way I enjoy being surrounded by the sweet sound of nothing.

What I find myself doing in these moments of quiet is really strange I’ll even admit. I always say that in my past life I must have been a philosopher because I find myself just thinking about,well, things for a lack of a better word. My thoughts become like water flowing around my mind. In this state I can stay for hours in bliss! The conversations I have with myself could one moment bring tears to my eyes and the next become comical. I guess I just enjoy my own company way too much. Who could blame me; I’m smart, I’m funny, I’m interesting. Really, who needs friends when I’ve got the whole package right here (I’m joking btw. . .partly).

But really, I’m quiet because I enjoy the space in my head too much. They say nothing in access is good for you and I know that all the moments I spend in my mind take me away from moments happening around me. It withdrawals me from interacting and connecting with people alot. This is how I always find myself outcast or missing a seat at the cool kids table.

Sometimes the bridge between my thoughts and my mouth seems destroyed. . .

I wont cop out and claim to be “socially awkward” because when I want to I can be the total life of the party. When I’m not feeling so at home in my surroundings is when I find comfort in secluding into my mind. Sometimes the bridge between my thoughts and my mouth seems destroyed and the words on the tip of my tongue never find their way further. Sometimes I’m just too mentally exhausted to communicate what I’m thinking or even feel my thoughts aren’t important enough express (I’m running an entire blog so I see the irony here).

My silence should not come as a threat.

So I guess if you know me in real life and you haven’t had the pleasure of hours long phone conversations, inside jokes that never get old, and adventures which only are remembered through snapchat stories the next morning then this is what you should know- my silence doesn’t mean I hate you. My silence doesn’t mean I think I am better than you. My silence should not come as a threat. My silence is due to my bad habit of residing in my mind. My silence is me on autopilot just trying to make it through the day. My silence is me taking a moment for myself, not wanting to extend any further into the world because I fear that I’d disintegrate if spread too thin.-J.A.