Start

It’s a little less fuck the patriarchy and a little more gather the faithful, 
              the architects, 
              the incendiaries,
              the beautiful brainiacs.
And this is the start.

There’s a wisdom in the world that tells us all to put in our time. Drawing lessons across days in fortified walls where, softly painted in white-washed intentions, we emerge more palpable for immersion into revolutionary ranks. CEOs setting their KPIs ask me my 1, 2, and 3:

  1. What do you want to do? (Increase global access to essential medicines).
  2. How will you do it? (Cue economic x’s and policy plans—the good stuff).
  3. Why will you do it? (To alleviate pain. Always, to alleviate pain).

It’s the last point where I tend to diverge from my cloistered colleagues and it’s given rise to the true list I want to be: honest and fearless and kind.

This year, I will leave academia and in that departure, I hope to convey my gratitude to those who have trained me. With humility, acknowledging what my mind could not have seen years ago: that my view of the world and myself needed breaking, strengthening. And with pieces now joined in new ways, I can thank those before me for knowledge and drive and empowerment—

the tenants of their institution I can respectfully hold while passing them by saying:
               Trust me.
               We’ve got this next part.
               We’ll do it right.
Now let us begin.

At Her Feet

Raat ki rani—Queen of the night.
Sitting beneath her, words softly chanted
at the base of this plant blooming in darkness.
Saturated stillness as she transcended

to spiced air thick at Coco Beach, that blue coast of Dar.
A riptide. Left suspended in deception of
flowered sweetness
she lands on a Punjabi night, sitting silently
in Sector 8 (the name, that name sounding
already of dystopian fate).

Ringed through an ocean and four states to this place,
and who was I?
Who was I to stop her flight?
Her world divided, and who am I?
To say she isn’t right.

In frantic expectation her open eyes see me
my father’s dark tone, her own wild hair,
all rooted here in a world unknown.

Roots will twist and weave, in unending strife
to an undying glow. And who is she?
Rootless and light.
For what does she yearn, if denied that right?

Her rootless flight.

Screaming now at the days she was deprived.
Screaming now at the love she cannot find,
Screaming, screaming to get out of the sun,
-it was never meant for me.

And who am I to cry back at her?
A heart can split in so many ways.

“Create”

“Create before you consume.” It’s a line from a fictional guru – a gently satirized instafamous narcissist dealing with unresolved trauma coated in turmeric lattes and crystalline water. I’ve been reading a bit more fiction recently and it really blurs the boundaries of creation and consumption. As a reader, you sometimes end up doing half the work in making the story come together. That’s my favourite – the freedom to let your experiences, concerns, subconscious thoughts intertwine with another’s and give a story multiple dimensions. I like reading reviews after I’ve read a book just to see all the different interpretations one text can take in the hands of its readers.

That said, this level of “creation” (and I know it’s a stretch to call it that) seems to be all I can muster these days. At least my creation and consumption rates are balanced – I’m not consuming much of anything besides fiction and sweet potatoes either.

I don’t know why. I have time. I should have mental energy. I guess I just don’t see the point?

It’s always the same refrain in my head,

“why write if it’s all been said.”
“why paint when so many people do it better anyway.”
“why play the piano when you’re not naturally talented.”

The same general pattern of thinking plagues my ability to think of satisfying work options.

I know it lacks some fairly fundamental logic. I mean, why breathe if 7 billion others are doing it too. But I’ve been like this since I was little.

Even writing this seems stupid. I’m only doing it because I have an awkward amount of time between having finished my book and needing to go pick up my mom.

And that time just ran out.

Overnight

11:45 pm.

On a night in late November, I arrive home dead tired. It was a long evening in the lab, staring at a 27-inch screen until my brain turned to mush. I drop my bag to the floor. Brush my teeth. Change my clothes. And fall into bed – to no avail. I turn on my bedside lamp, read a little.

Finally, it’s time for sleep. It needs to be or I’ll hate myself in the morning. I turn out the light.

12:45 am.

I’d mistakenly thought that that Moroccan Mint tea would be fine. My mind is wired though, flitting between the problems in my code, the fires I’ll have to put out in class tomorrow, and all that needs to be done by Friday, the day after. I try to quiet my mind. I listen. My apartment is asleep, but there are still noises in the night. Cracks outside. Like gunshots, I think. I put it down to whatever trauma I still carry from Baltimore and my obsession with true crime.

1:00 am.

The alarm starts. I lay in bed listening for a few seconds, initially unsure. They must have replaced the fire alarms while I’d been gone over the summer. I’ve never heard these before. I open my door to the dark hall, staring at what must be the alarm in confusion. It could only be that.

It doesn’t stop. Footsteps start upstairs. My roommate steps out from her room, the same expression of confusion mixed with questioning alarm. The footsteps become increasingly frantic. Smells of burnt toast. Perhaps that all it is. We don’t say anything as we go together to open the front door, which opens to the entrance of the complex. It’s unsettling to say the least.

A few seconds of waiting and listening and people are running down the stairs.

“Get out! The whole building is burning!”

I look back down our hallway. It stretches the length of the building. An unmistakable orange glow is now dancing across the white of the refrigerator, the pots and pans gleaming. The air now reflects light, increasingly paled by smoke.

My third roommate finally pokes his head from his room. Despite his dazed look, I think he gets the point. The fourth has yet to emerge from his room. As the kitchen grows brighter and brighter, I yell down the hall as I get myself together. He finally emerges.

In these seconds, you don’t think, you simply do. I grab my bag, shoes, coat, phone.

1:03 am.

With these things overflowing from my hands, I stumble out the door. I pull my boots on in the carpeted foyer. Getting out to the sidewalk, I pull my coat on. It’s still a cozy 34°F outside. The last few people flow from of the building. Some are already in tears. I realize that I’m shaking uncontrollably. Thoughts of what to do now are only faintly beginning to filter in. Sirens.

1:05 am.

Policemen are on top of us, yelling, pushing us to get off the block, anywhere, just away from here. Sledge hammers are already pounding away at the electronically locked glass doors to the foyer. Only just installed last week.

They’re already in our unit. We can hear the shouting, making sure everyone is out. We slowly heed their words, backing away slowly, but not sure where to go.

We can’t help but watch. We can see the flames rise above the building. You can’t help but think that everything is lost. All that wood.

I take a minute to feel the air. It’s dry, but there’s only a little wind. Thank goodness, I think to myself. The four of us continue walking to nowhere in particular. I concentrate on stopping the shaking.

1:15 am.

We find a late night café and sit. We sit in silence. Some minutes pass. Logic begins to come back to us. During these moments, your mind inevitably files through all that you have in there, now presumably in flames. Yes, there are childhood mementos, my passport, the products of some hard work. You realize what you truly value for those few moments, and it’s little. More sirens.

The logic comes flooding back. Priority #1: a place to stay for the night.

7 am.

It’s Thursday. I respond to text messages, explaining 2 am phone calls. I check my email. I find presentable clothing. I go to my meetings. I go to class. Carry on as usual. There’s not much else to be done. I carry on as usual.

Sure, I’m sure that I do.

Twenty Seven(teen)

Happy 2017 people! We’ve seen the memes, the tweets, the snaps – 2016 was an unpopular year. In the end, it became a bit of an exaggerated villain if you ask me… given that humanity doesn’t necessarily do all that much better on average, but still – enough maniacal events call 2016 their home that it’s safe to say we’re all hoping for better.

I, for one, am going to approach this new year with so much love that it’ll give the ending of every Hallmark holiday movie a run for its money. I’m throwing love at the problem (partly because that’s basically my only form of capital at the moment).

Onward and upward ❤

The objects of my affection.

There’s something rather sinister about the fact that when I was trying to think of a special holiday edition of GJH posts, the first thought that popped into my mind was “objects.” There are so many instances where what makes a (wo)man ends up being a collection of objects or the lack thereof. Haves and have nots.

A man is let out of prison. His freedom starts with the reclamation of his belongings. The right to own. A grandmother dies. Her family fights over claims to the object sum of her life.

We are sold success in business class seats, enlightenment in yoga mats, empowerment in red-lacquered soles, productivity in coffee cups, relief in wine bottles.

So, this GJH holiday series will objectify the subjective. Each post focuses on one object and the writer’s subjective experience of it.

Let the countdown begin.

The occasional concussion

I was supposed to write about objects today, and I am so excited to write about what I’ve learned from The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo, which instructs on how to intentionally own and interact with your belongings. It’s been a lifestyle gamechanger. It’ll come!

pole2-300x206

Google image searched “walk into a pole” and found this gem from from http://www.blog.sibt.nsw.edu.au/tag/atar/page/7

But…a few days ago I sped-walked into a pole  while trying to catch my bus (100% sober) and gave myself what I’m realizing only a few days later must have been an actual concussion. I’m very disoriented still (even still have a bruise/bump on my forehead) and want to let my brain rest, but before I do, let’s take a moment to list out “Things that happen to Michi in two days when her brain is injured”

  1. Have taken the wrong tube train multiple times on my commute, and can’t figure out what happened or where I am. It’s incredible how confused I’ve been doing something I normally do without thinking each day.
  2. Missed my tube stop this morning, but had been trying really hard to pay attention so this didn’t happen.
  3. Locked myself out of my office.
  4. I am writing a report right now, and constantly I think that I have made certain changes or written entire sentences only later to realize that I have made no changes at all. (I don’t know what happened. Did I press ctl+Y a bunch? Or completely dissociate??)
  5. Couldn’t figure out how to turn my stove on, and finally just stood in front of the stovetop with my head in my hands, certain I’d never be able to make dinner.
  6. Somehow moved a ton of folders around my team’s dropbox but I don’t understand how I did it.
  7. Tried to put something into a cupboard multiple times in the same way, each time it fell out, but I couldn’t figure out what was happening enough to adjust what I was doing
  8. Went to my French lesson a day early
  9. Printed a report on A3 paper
  10. Had to return to my office three times before I could go home because I kept forgetting things.
  11. Am generally mystified by everything.

I’m usually a hot mess, but the past few days have been above and beyond. The utter confusion may not come across in the list, but this has been a very out-of-body experience. It feels like I have a loose grip on my brain. I am aware that I could do everything better, but I can’t seem to muster the thoughts/intention to make it happen. So, resting my brain for a few more days and crossing my fingers that things go back to normal soon.

Lesson of the day, kids: Don’t walk into poles.