Photo Essay: Project Face

I’m a self-taught photographer that loves taking portraits of people but hate getting my own photos taken. I know, I’m so original when it comes to that. I’ve struggled with self-image problems for a very long time. At first it was because of my weight and then it was because my parents “gave me the ugly” (brownie points if you get that reference) and then it was because of my teeth. Yes, after 23 years of finding something that I didn’t like about myself and then slowly overcoming it, I finally settled on my teeth. My gap to be precise. Just so you know, I’m not a gap hater. I love them. I think they’re cute and add personality to a person’s face much like a scar or a mole. Just not mine. Overall, I like my teeth. I like how big and white they are. I have a big face with big features, I can’t have those tiny “baby teeth” as my mom calls them. My face is just too big for all that. So I love my teeth, I just hate my gap.

This hatred towards my gap came later in life. I’ve always had a gap, a big gap on top of that, and it never was a sore spot for me. I just saw it as part of me–one of my features such as my skin color of the shape of my nose and I’ve never wanted to change any of those things, so why close my gap. When I was in high school, I developed an abscess and after being hospitalized, I had that tooth removed. Years later, I realized just how much that changed things for me.

In the latter part of my freshman year of college, I noticed my gap was getting bigger. Because I was more socially active in college than I ever was in high school, I was taking a lot of photos and as I flipped through my photos one night, the horror dawned on me. I could see the progression of my teeth spacing out with every image I selected. That’s when I started to dislike my teeth. Leave it to me to go to college, cut off my hair, fall in love with myself and then find something that has always been there, to pick at.

So this photo essay means a lot to me because it’s the first time in a long time that I purposefully took photos so up close and personal, where everyone could see my perceived flaw.

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Write With Me: That Didn’t Go As Planned

Week 1

Day 1 (9/2/18)

Today is the first day of the three month period I gave myself to write this novel and I didn’t write anything. I’m still recovering from a cold and the medication had me sleepy all day but that’s still not a good enough reason for a no-words-written day. I have a well-planned outline but the prologue was the only chapter of the book that had a one-sentence description. I didn’t do a very detailed description because I already knew the most important things: where it took place, who was there, and what happened but I guess I didn’t think I’d get white page fever. Well, we’ll always have tomorrow. 

Total Word Count: 0

Day 2 (9/3/18)

I wrote a little. I finally decided how I wanted to write the prologue. I wanted to introduce the readers to the magical side of the story but I hadn’t decided how the magic would work in the story. I knew the rules and limitations already; I’d created them when I was world building and for the more complex magic, I’d already created a detailed explanation for it. But the simpler magic, the magic a lot of the character would have, I hadn’t done that so I had to do a little research for that. Since the bulk of the magic is based on the elements (earth, air, fire, and water) I had to define what that meant and what that looks like.

Total Word count: 563

Day 3 (9/4/18)

I wrote a little bit today as well. It’s so weird. I’m used to writing about 1,300-2,500 words per writing session but I haven’t been able to do that because of my job. I’m used to working and writing but I’m currently working a physically demanding job, so when I get home I’m exhausted. I normally find myself falling asleep just from sitting and when I’m not napping, I’m trying to relax my body and mind. My writing windows, times in which I’m energized and have time to write, are disappearing. I need to figure out something or else I’m going to fall really behind in my word count and it’s going to be too hard to actually write the book in the amount of time I’ve given myself. I can’t wake up earlier because I’m already waking up around 6 am for work and I’m not a morning person. That’s just going to lead to me losing my job because I wouldn’t even be able to fake cheerfulness. Plus, it’ll make me despise writing and I never want to do that. I did finish the prologue and I like it. I know when I do the second draft, I’ll probably change it a bit but I really like my opening paragraph. The opening lines are always the hardest to write.

Total Word Count: 1,017

Day 4 (9/5/18)

I didn’t write today because something really important happened today. I was fired from a job for the first time. Now, before you jump to conclusions no, I’m not sad and no, I didn’t do anything wrong. I just recently moved to a new state and I took the first job I could get because the job I had in St. Louis ended up not transferring down to Houston. Anyway, I took the first job I could get and it was something I’d never done before. That, plus the bad management at the job, made me really hate it but I couldn’t quit because everyone around me told me I couldn’t. Everyone around me told me I needed that job even if the pay was low, the hours were short, and the management was bad. Everyone believed some money was better than no money and I was still looking for jobs.

But today my manager made my decision pretty easy. He refused to clock me in today (so basically he wanted me to work a seven-hour shift for free because that what would have happened if I’d worked without being on the clock). Why was I even there? I wasn’t supposed to work today, but he asked me to take on a shift and I agreed. He was angry when I walked in because the people who closed didn’t do what they were supposed to do so he took it out on me. This was nothing new. For the past week, I’ve been dealing with bad treatment and verbal abuse because I refused to work the night shift (a shift he told me after my interview I wouldn’t have to work). After I refused, that’s when the bad treatment started. 

But any, the way the computer system is set up, if you’re not scheduled to work that day or if it’s not your scheduled time to work, the computer won’t let you clock in or out. The manager will need to do a manual override to clock you in. At first, he lied and said I was clocked in and then when I realized I wasn’t, after close to 30 minutes of working, I asked him to clock me in. He refused and told me to get back to work. So I walked out. I don’t work for free and I wasn’t being treated like a human at that job. I value myself too much to let someone degrade me and so when I walked out, I walked with my head held high and a smile on my face to my manager’s dismay. He told me walking out was an automatic termination. And I smiled and waved goodbye.

I recently had a cancer scare. I have a mass in my left breast but the doctors don’t believe it’s cancerous. The doctors want to monitor it for the next two years because of my family’s history with cancer. My father died from it and my mother is currently in remission. During that period of not knowing whether or not I had breast cancer, I vowed to myself that I would cherish my life more and if I didn’t have cancer I would try to live my life as if I could die any day because it’s true. Life is short and it’s not guaranteed. I vowed to never do something I didn’t want to do. And I really didn’t want to work there with him. So I walked out, knowing he’d fire me but I didn’t care.

I spent most of my day at a workforce facility looking for work and I applied for unemployment. When I got home, I ate and finished the Korean drama I’ve been watching (it was the final three episodes) and then I showered and pulled out my computer, ready to write, only to realize 12:00 am had passed. It was a new day and I hadn’t written any words. But since I don’t have anything to do tomorrow except applying for jobs, I guess I’ll write.

Total Word Count: 1,017

Day 5 (9/6/18)

I wrote a little but I spent most of my day applying for jobs. I found out I have a preliminary interview with a staffing agency tomorrow so that’s great. I also found out what the difference between a staffing agency and a temp agency is. Temp agencies usually place you in very temporary jobs and they take a percentage of your paycheck as payment for their services. A staffing agency will place you in a more stable position although they are not permanent. It’s usually up to the company they place you with if you’ll get hired on to a permanent position. And if a staffing agency places you at a company, the company pays them a fee for placing you, so you don’t pay them. These are just a few things I’ve learned while in search of a job.

Total Word Count: 1,310

Day 6 (9/7/18)

Today was such a good writing day. I’m finally getting back to my average word count and I had a good personal day as well. But anyway, back to the writing. I finished the first chapter and I love it. I love the way the characters seemed to spring to life with their distinctive voices and the way that the first chapter brings the reader into this illicit world of blood and magic. I’m so amped right now.

Total Word Count: 2,586

Day 7 (9/8/18)

I didn’t write anything today. I opened my Scrivener document but never typed a thing. I started watching Netflix and nearly finished a whole season of a show in one day. Also, I finally bought a tripod so I started tinkering with that and my camera. I promise next week will be a better writing week than this one. I hoped I would reach 5,000 words this week but that didn’t happen but I did write a killer opening for the story. Let’s focus on the positives. Tomorrow, when I wake up I’m going to write before I do anything else so that I can make sure to get my minimum word count in for the day. I refuse to not meet my deadline. 

Total Word Count: 2,586

Why Don’t We Talk About Finances​?

Why is everyone so afraid to talk about finances? I grew up in a home that didn’t really talk about it as if it was “grown folks” business. It wasn’t until I was deemed old enough (senior year of high school) that my dad opened up to me about our family finances. The discussion we had was eye-opening because, for most of my life, I didn’t think we were bad off, financially.

I grew up living a simple life. We lived in a six bedroom, one bath, full basement, 3 story house that had belonged to my grandparents and was passed down to my dad. Our neighborhood wasn’t that bad, but as the decades went on, the neighborhood started taking on more and more negative connotations. We always had food and we always had clothing, a running car, and heating during the winter. We didn’t have central air, but that was because the house was a turn-of-the-century home and the remodeling would have cost too much. We had air conditioners and steel fans for St. Louis’ hot summer days. When I think about my childhood, I remember big Christmas celebrations,  birthdays, annual trips to amusement parks and even out-of-state field trips. If I asked for something, my parents always delivered it. Luckily for me, I didn’t ask for things often, so it was never really a burden on them.

But all of this was a lie. A carefully constructed lie. My family never tried to act like we were big ballin’ or whatever, but at the same time, I was purposefully kept in the dark on financial matters. During my senior year of high school, while I was applying for colleges, my father had a frank discussion with me about our finances. We were working poor. I would say we were working class but that would imply that there was money stashed away somewhere in a 401K or we had investments or something like that when in reality, we were working poor. We didn’t live paycheck to paycheck. We lived every three paychecks to paycheck.

My dad explained it to me like this: he could miss two pay periods and everything would be fine but if he missed the third one, one of the bills wasn’t going to get paid. My father was a master saver but he was a man with a family and he was the only person working. He had three kids and a wife that couldn’t really work due to the aftermath of chemotherapy and leukemia. Don’t get me wrong, my mom can work, but working a fulltime job would destroy her body. She has an extremely weak immune system and her joints are all messed up from the chemotherapy and leukemia. That all started when she was in her early thirties and still continues to this day. So my dad shouldered the burden of everything and became the sole provider for our family. We were staying afloat until the 2008 recession hit.

After two years without work, both of my parents finally re-entered the part-time workforce. Well, my dad started off as a full-time manager but because the economy was still so shaky, he slipped into part-time work and that led to another job, and that led to another job. Things were tough. By 2012, he and I were having frank discussions about our finances. My dad was of the generation that still believed that a college education was the gateway to wealth or at least financial stability. And since a fair and good education was something that my family was denied (my parents, aunts, and uncles all grew up before or during the civil rights movement) they always encouraged me and my siblings to do well in school and pursue higher education. College was seen as a gateway out of poverty.

During my freshman year of college, my father died from cancer. His battle only lasted for three months but it depleted all of his savings and the money I’d been saving while in school. It left us paying off medical bills, property taxes, and funeral fees. My father had insurance, it just didn’t cover cancer… Isn’t life great? But that’s neither here nor there. After his death, I ended up taking out more student loans because my dad was no longer giving me money for school. After four years at a private university, I raked up $38,000 in student loan debt. I know, your eyes just kind of glazed over, right? Originally, I was on track for $32,000 in loans, which would have put me closer to the national average, but I just had to study abroad (I say sarcastically). But in all fairness, I don’t regret studying abroad, I just wish I would have planned for it, starting in my freshman year, instead of doing it as an impulse thing the summer before my senior year.

But yeah, I’m $38,000 in debt and I’m not freaking out. Mostly because all of my loans are federal loans, President Obama made sure I wouldn’t be screwed over by the interest rates (Thanks, Obama!) and I plan to get an actual job. I’m working part-time, making peanuts, but I recently went through the process of ALMOST getting my first professional job. In this case, almost really doesn’t matter but at the same time, it does. It let me know that even with my very small job history, my degree allowed me to make it to the very last hiring stage of a job that would have started me off on a salary of $35,000-$37,000 a year. I really wanted that job but the whole experience just made me grateful went to college. It let me know that my degree isn’t worthless and that it can open doors that can lead to high paying careers and that made owing $38,000 in student loans a little less scary. It also made me believe that maybe my dad was right to believe that college really can be a gateway out of poverty. It just takes time.

My Natural Hair Journey

Tiny disclaimer: Everyone has natural hair if you have not chemically altered the texture of your hair but for the purpose of this article, I’m focusing on being part of the Natural Hair Movement which was created mainly for Black people but includes other POC because we have been historically (and currently) discriminated against due to our natural hair textures and forced to assimilate to a more Eurocentric beauty standard.

Introduction

 

Legend has it, I was born with so much hair that the doctors had to cut it in order to see my face. I was born back in 1995 to two loving Black parents. When I was growing up little girls still wore puffs, beads, and barrettes but it was the 90s so a lot of us also wore braids. Some of the braided styles used our own hair and some used synthetic extensions but the styles were still child-friendly.

 

 

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Me as a baby

 

When I was around 6 or 7 my mom found out she had leukemia and she became very ill and was hospitalized. During her hospital stay, my dad had to do my hair and let’s just say things didn’t go so well. He was trying his best, but every morning we’d have to wake up early to press (thermally straighten with a pressing comb, very similar to flat ironing) my hair in order to get it into the styles that he was used to seeing. After a few months both him and I were tired of him accidentally burning me and yanking my hair out. So, after talking it over with my mom and cousin, he decided it was time to relax (chemically straighten) my hair to make things easier on all of us.

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My parents on their wedding day

 

Childhood

Because I was so young when all of this happened and we didn’t take a lot of photos back then, I started to forget what my natural hair texture looked like. And as time went on, I never thought too hard about the whole thing either, but that’s a discussion for a different post. By the time I was in middle school relaxing my hair was normal and it was a normal process for all the Black girls and parents around me. In fact, it was very rare to see someone with free-flowing natural hair. I was used to seeing people with dreads/dreadlocks/locs and even older people with the “scholarly” short, grey/salt and pepper ‘Fro but I didn’t see many people with Natural hair the way I see them today.1

From the time my hair was relaxed, all the way up to high school, I didn’t have any major problems with my hair. It was thick (for relaxed hair) and it was a decent length. The only thing that upset me was that it wouldn’t grow past my shoulders. I was the girl who always had her hair braided; that’s probably why I never experienced any real hair problems with relaxing my hair. But while my hair was braided, my hair would grow about 2 inches but I would never retain that length when we relaxed my hair again.

 

Transition

Fast forward a bit; the year is 2013 and I just graduated from high school. During that summer, my parents and I were getting me ready to move onto campus and everything was going fantastic until my mom asked me what I’m was going to do with my hair. What she really meant by that was, “Who is going to relax your hair?” I had never relaxed my own hair; my mom usually did it and on a rare occasion my Aunt Nykyta would pay for me to spend the day at a beauty salon she favored. Something as simple as styling my hair sent us into a tiny panic although it seemed minor, it really wasn’t. It was more than a beauty/cosmetic problem, it was a cultural problem. We were already aware that Webster Groves was a really White county (I ended up finding out it was close to 98% White during a school project) and we knew there would be no shops, stores, or salons that catered to Black beauty needs and it would probably be hard to find a Black student I trusted enough to relax my hair. In retrospect, I now know that wouldn’t have worked either because during my freshman year I had classes in which I was the only person of color in the room. Let that sink in a bit.

 

So I spent my summer before college trying to figure out a way to solve my problem. I ended up joining Tumblr that summer as well and I can honestly say it changed my life. When I got on there, I kept seeing beautiful Black women with really long hair. Some of it was straight and some of it was puffy Afros. At first, I thought they were wigs until I started clicking on the tags and following links. That’s how I discovered the Natural Hair Movement. I was intrigued by it and I’ll be honest with myself and you all, I really wanted to know more about it because I kept seeing all of these Black women with beautiful, healthy, LONG hair. I discovered Curly Nikki and then I took my search to Youtube and that’s what solidified it for me. I knew I was going to go Natural. That was it. I was done. My radical college change had already started. It wasn’t a radical body change, religious awakening or debunking, or personality swap. For me, the biggest change I underwent was my hair and that did influence my overall personality, but that is a discussion for a different post.

I told my mom and dad what I wanted to do and they were sort of on board. Remember, this was 2013, and although the Natural Hair Movement started gaining steam in 2009 a) I was in the Midwest and b) it hadn’t hit its saturation point yet so at the time we still had people who were very unaware of it. There were no commercials with Black families rocking Natural hair, there weren’t as many Natural hair products available as there is now, and there were no discussions on who was part of the movement and who was being excluded. This was 2013, there were things available to us, but we were all still fumbling around.

 

I went to college rocking some very large and heavy box braids with the intent to grow my hair out and cut the relaxed ends, little by little, over the course of a year. During the first seven months of school, I struggled to maintain both textures of my hair. I wore my hair in semi-curly styles using Flexi rods and braid outs. My hair looked a hot mess but at least I was happy. My mom faked the happiness but my dad flat out told me the truth but at the time I couldn’t see the truth because of the way he’d stated it. During my trips back home, I had to flat iron my hair straight in order to avoid conversations I didn’t want to have, and even straightening my hair looked bad because my roots would puff up so quickly and I wasn’t used to styling my own hair. But at least it was growing, that’s all that mattered to me.

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The longest my hair grew while transiting from relaxed to natural

 

Eventually, though, my mom grew fed-up with it and decided to “help” me out. She offered to trim my ends to even it out because I’d started experiencing split ends due to the constant flat-ironing and the two textures. Instead of just trimming my ends or evening out my hair, my mom gave me a big chop. She cut off my relaxed ends and left me with about 4 inches of Afro-textured hair so it looked like it was about 2 inches of hair. I cried like a baby. But this was a teachable moment because since she cut my hair back in 2014, no one else has cut my hair. I learned how to cut my own hair because of that incident. But anyway, back to the story. After she cut it she braided my hair up into a bun with some braiding hair and the next weekend, I used my paycheck to get my hair professionally braided. I was natural.

 

Natural

 

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My natural curl pattern

After about two and a half months, I took my braids down and my hair had grown out a bit. I started styling it but found that I had a different hair texture than what I thought I did. At first, I was disappointed but within a month or two, I was fine, and a few months later, I loved my hair. For my dad’s funeral, I straightened my hair but halfway through the process, I stopped because something didn’t feel right. I washed my hair and thought everything was fine. I even styled it in a curly style and thought it looked fine. But as my hair started to grow more, I realized I had heat damage right around my right temple. It wasn’t extreme but it was noticeable when my hair was down so I started styling my hair in more pinned up styles.

 

 

During these months, I also discovered that I’m protein sensitive. That means I can’t use products that are high in protein because it makes my hair dry like straw and my hair starts to break off. Discovering this made me simplify my hair routine. Instead of using products that said things like “made with olive oil” or “made with shea butter” I just started using the actual thing that enticed me to buy it in the first place. For example, I now use olive oil in my hair care routine. It caused me to stop buying so many products and it made the whole process cheaper. In fact, on a standard wash day, I now only use about 4 hair products. 5 if you count water as a product.

 

Over the course of my sophomore year, I was slowly cutting my hair to cut out the damaged parts. During the winter is when I stopped cutting and my hair finally started to visibly grow. In some of my photos it almost looks like I’m a chia pet because the growth seemed so sudden but in reality, I just stopped cutting my hair. This is really when my healthy hair journey started and I started to see growth, both in myself and in my hair. Over the years, I’ve done blowouts to show progress and I’ve learned how to style my hair a lot of different ways but I haven’t tried straightening it since the heat damage incident. And I haven’t tried to dye it either, out of fear of damaging it. I’m hoping that 2018 will be the year that I become fearless.

 

My Natural Hair Timeline

  1. I transitioned from August 2013–March 2014
  2. Big chopped March 2014
  3. Heat damage by June of 2014
  4. My second transition starts June 2014–January 2015
  5. Healthy Hair January 2015–Now
  6. I’ve been Natural for 3 years and 9 months and I’m about 4 inches away from meeting my goal of waist-length hair.

What is your Natural hair story?

Making Friends As An Adult

Do you remember the good old days were all you had to do was sit down in class next to someone and BAM, you were best friends. It was like magic and I’ve been struggling with/failing at finding that again. Making friends as an adult is like pulling teeth. It’s a process you have to hype yourself up to do. It usually costs you money you weren’t expecting to spend and it rarely goes as planned. Sometime’s it’s painful and sometimes it leaves you feeling goofy. The whole process is bothersome if you ask me, and yet…I find myself trying.

Growing up I was socially awkward. It wasn’t until college that I become somewhat cool and even with that, I’m pretty aware that I’m a huge weirdo but at least I accept that part of myself. Embrace your weirdness. Own it. It’ll boost your self-esteem, trust me. But anyway, I’ve come to realize part of the reason I’m having a hard time making more friends as an adult is because I don’t get out much. It’s like I said before, back in the old days I made the majority of my friends by sitting next to them. Part of that was because I was so shy I couldn’t walk up to people and talk to them. We had to be forced to interact (group projects, sharing a workspace, etc.) in order for me to talk to people. Once I started talking, I usually made friends. I am a likable person and if someone didn’t like my personality, they liked how smart I was and how that could benefit them. I’ve come to realize I probably would not have made as many friends and acquaints as I did had I not been forced to be in a building with them 8 hours a day.

By the time I made it to college, I was aware of this. Most of the friends I have from college are all people that lived on my dorm floor freshman year. Sure, I made a few more friends hanging out with them and meeting their friends and every now and then I made a friend by going to an event on campus and bonding over something we both enjoyed but all of this is hard to recreate outside the magical grounds of a college campus or a school building. At work, I try to be friendly but I also try not to befriend my coworkers. It’s nothing personal, I just believe it’s good to keep your personal/social life separate from your work/professional life. So outside of work and work-related events, I rarely contact my coworkers.

But even with all of those obstacles, the biggest problem I’ve run into when it comes to making new friends is scheduling issues. Want to go see a movie Wednesday night? No, I can’t, I have to work. Want to eat dinner at my house on Saturday? Sorry, can’t do that, I already have something planned. What are you doing Monday morning? I have to do the laundry, wash the car, clean the house and go grocery shopping. What about next week? Sorry, I have a funeral to go to.

Yeah. So, even if I manage to meet someone cool I still have to deal with stuff like that.

Why is making friends as an adult so hard?

Writing Log 5: Trying to Balance Writing & Working

Day Twenty-nine—Sept 17, 2017

Today was a pretty good writing day. I hit 1k before sunset and I created a character and subplot that was unplanned. The only reason it’s staying in the story is because it helps me fill in my main character’s back-story without a whole bunch of exposition and the character will help me wrap up one of the larger storylines. It’s great when that happens. I killed two birds with one stone and the character is a fun character to write because she can be used to show what the world looks like from the perspective of someone who is not part of the main plot.

Total Word Count: 13,586

Day Thirty—Sept 18, 2017

Today was my first day back at work. I work evenings and nights so I decided to write in the morning. I feel that it’s important to note that I’m not a morning person so actually getting words on the screen was hard but once I got going, everything seemed to flow.

Total Word Count: 14,859

Day Thirty-one—Sept 19, 2017

My brain and my hands needed a rest day.

Total Word Count: 14,859

Day Thirty-two—Sept 20, 2017

So, after I wrote the sentence above, I shut down my computer and tried to fall asleep but I couldn’t. So I turned my computer back on and started making changes to one of my central characters. For the past few days, I’ve been trying to decide on whether to use a Western name or an Eastern name for an Asian character I’ve been developing. It took two hours for me to decide to switch the name from a Western name to a more ethnic name. Because I’d stayed up to like 4 a.m. doing this, when I finally fell asleep, I slept hard. I actually overslept and ended up waking up really close to the time I had to leave for work. I rushed out of the house, trying to make sure I wouldn’t be late, only to realize I was actually an hour early. So, I went back home and wrote for about 20 minutes and then went to work. I couldn’t work on my story during my break because I am training a new employee.

Total Word Count: 15,044

Day Thirty-three—Sept 21, 2017

Work is killing my writing time.

Total Word Count: 15,209

Day Thirty-four—Sept 22, 2017

I wrote for one hour and 15 minutes before going to work. On my break, I couldn’t focus enough to work on my novel but I did start working on a blog post that I will publish probably four days after this writing log is published.

Total Word Count: 15,908

Day Thirty-five—Sept 23, 2017

Today was a productive day. I learned all about wood burning stoves because I wrote a scene that took place in a kitchen where someone had recently cooked. I used some advice from a video about World Building. I have a multicultural cast of characters existing in one location (much like the USA but on a smaller scale) so there is bound to be some differences between the ethnic groups and sub-cultures. But my world exists in a future in which the past has been largely (and forcefully) forgotten or ignored and the countries that used to exist are long gone. I’ve been struggling to describe people ethnically or racially without using terms that people in the story wouldn’t use because they are irrelevant to them and without using harmful stereotypes. So, thanks to the video I came up with the idea to use small bits and pieces of a culture to try to reinforce what I might be alluding to and it works great with the idea that these things were at some point, part of the culture but has been watered down over the decades as people were forced to assimilate as history was covered up.

So although my story is set in the future it is still a dark fantasy set in a medieval-ish pre-industrialized world because it is easier to control people in a world where the spread of information is slow and technology has regressed. I can honestly say that a lot of the ideas I’ve put into my world are the things that are happening around me. The idea of having the erasure of history become a running theme as well as part of my world building came from what is happening in the U.S. There are states, mostly southern, that are erasing important parts of U.S. history such as the reasons why the U.S. civil war started and the U.S. involvement in the transatlantic slave trade. Angry parents have been posting their children’s syllabi and textbooks, highlighting areas of the text stating that the enslaved Africans were immigrants who immigrated to the colonies. And there have even been passages from textbooks that talk about the U.S. civil war as being a war over property versus a war over the right to keep enslaved human beings as property.

Everyday things happening in the U.S. have influenced how I’ve built my fantastical world. The rise in conservative influences in government helped shape my religious and political systems and the tension between the two institutes. Race relations both present and historical helped me write the history of the world and explain why there is tension between the Enhanced and the humans and even the level of classism displayed within the Enhanced species.

So, the big take away from this is everything you encounter in life can help you build a believable world. People say write what you know and that’s what I did. Even though my major plots are very fantastical, the blood and bones of this world are heavily grounded in the world we live in and I hope that whoever reads my book takes the time to reflect on some of the real world issues presented in it.

Total Word Count: 17,781

The Total Solar Eclipse Was Totally Amazing!!!

I didn’t go to any of the events for the solar eclipse but I did go outside during the event. I went outside with my mom just to know what it felt like. I’m in St. Louis so it was super sunny and hot but then, as the eclipse grew closer and closer to totality, the sun seemed to set. And then, instead of the sky becoming orange (like a sunset), it stayed a weird reddish color, fading into a stale blue hue. Then it got even darker and the street lights came on and the temperature dropped a few degrees and the wind picked up a bit.

One of the owners of a shop near us, saw us standing outside but not looking at the sky, so he offered us his glasses. When I saw the eclipse, I nearly cried. It was beautiful. It was like looking at a dark hole and then seeing a tiny orange sliver of light just on the outside. Because we were sharing the glasses, I was not able to take any pictures but I will forever remember.

 

The image used for this post was taken from Nasa’s official website.

I Am The Monster You Made

I have anger issues. Few people know that about me. Most people see me as a loving, caring, nice (to a fault) person—motherly even. But the very few people who have truly hurt me and made me angry know the truth. I’m the silent one. The calm one until I ignite and destroy the bonds you thought I wouldn’t. And once I’m truly angry with you, you’re just about as good as dead to me.

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That sounds cold. I know. I’ve been trying to work on it because you can’t cut everyone who hurts or enrages you out of your life, or so I thought, until recently. I finally found my line in the sand. The line I will not let someone drag me across. I will not allow someone to use the people I love to hurt me. I’d rather be the monster you made than to be the one hurting. Life is too short to let people try to destroy the little happiness we can find. It’s been months now; I’m not fine but I’m not broken either.

Stay safe and find light in this dim world of turmoil.

The Election Messed With My Writing

Just a little heads-up: my personal political views are expressed in this post

Before the World Crashed and Burned

A while back, when I was going through all the craziness that was my senior year, I made a POST. In that post, I said that when I had the time, I would sit down and explain why I had fallen so far behind in my senior project. I feel like it’s important to note that I’m a planner and my degree required that I do a senior overview. A senior overview is just a fancy way of saying independent study. I had to write a full-length screenplay without any adult supervision. 😉  I feel like the whole purpose of this independent study was to test what I’ve learned but most importantly, to see if I could stay focused and meet deadlines like the “real world” would require of me.

Well, first off, I knew the overview was coming up so I started planning for it back in October of 2016. I came up with a few interesting ideas. I wanted to do something that was reflective of the high school experience now that my college experience was coming to an end and I had four years of distance between me and high school. I found one that I really liked and I started developing the characters and plot. I even started outlining. It was a spunky, edgy, mystery about a girl who died while attending a private boarding school. Everything was going just fine and then the election from hell happened.

After the World Crashed and Burned

 

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“Not to be used for buying elections.”

What can I say? I saw it coming but there was still some part of me that had hope. Maybe it was because it was my first time voting in a presidential election? Maybe it was because I am a millennial and I went to a pretty liberal artsy school? Or maybe it was because I just placed too much weight on the shared human experience? Whatever it was, I wasn’t completely blindsided by the results but I was emotionally wrecked by it…and that’s something that I didn’t aspect to happen. It completely destroyed my mood for writing, for hanging out with friends, for engaging with others. Looking back on it, I can clearly tell that this was depression. And I wasn’t the only one having these feelings. All across the country hundreds of thousands of people were having similar reactions but I would like to point out one thing: we are not sore losers. The election wasn’t just about the people appointed to an office but a war of ideology. And for some of us, this was the first time we truly saw and felt the presence of the “silent majority”.

It changed my social life and the people I hung out with because, after the percentages of who voted and what they voted for came out, certain people on campus stopped hiding or pretending about their political views. It actually caused a lot of tension on campus because everything became extremely politically charged, as it should. The majority of my alma mater’s student population are White Americans but we also have a very large percentage of minority, international students (study abroad or exchange students), and students of non-Christian faith.  And so all of the political rhetoric that we’d been hearing throughout the campaign stage became a real fear for students that the rhetoric was aimed at.

So all the tension on campus coupled with my own internal turmoil made writing a no go. The edgy but upbeat mystery I’d been developing was dead. I couldn’t even bring myself to touch it. I didn’t feel like writing and I couldn’t force myself to write anything happy so I decided to write something sad…but this idea formed in late January of 2017, nearly three months later.

Three Months Later

The story that started to develop in January was very dark and moody. It was about a girl who was dealing with survivor’s guilt after surviving the car crash that killed her sister. Over the course of the months that passed, it went from being a family drama to a character study on how grief affects communities. I was still in my little slump so I really didn’t want to write but as the months moved along, I knew that I needed to write or else I wasn’t going to graduate. So as I put on my big girl pants and tried to force myself to write, life started happening to me. I got a new job, started working and then taking on a lot of hours because the place I worked at was understaffed. I started this blog (all of this is the reason the content for the blog is so fragmented those first three months). Classes started back up which meant that homework and classwork and projects started rolling in. And then all the stuff you needed to do in order to graduate started happening and before I knew it, I had 2 weeks left to write my full-length feature and I only had about 27 pages done and half of an outline.

 

Graduation

The outline. I will gladly say that before college, I was a panster but once I went to college and started working on screenplays and teleplays I was forced to outline and I grew to really love it. But not this outline. I have five different versions of this outline. Five. And they’re not small ones either. They all range between seven to eleven pages single-spaced. What can I say, I’m detailed orientated. So, just in case you thought I was slacking, I wasn’t, life just got super busy and I wasn’t decisive and I think that’s the overarching effect of the election on me—lack of direction.

It was hell and then some. I was so excited about graduation but everything was just moving too fast. I had the honors dinner, all the last minute graduation stuff, finals, work, and that damn screenplay. I was overwhelmed and wasn’t getting enough sleep. That lead to me writing about one hundred to two hundred words a day and it wasn’t like I was writing every day either. By the time graduation rolled around, I wasn’t finished with the screenplay and it took most of the joy from graduation and left me with nothing but the stress. Over the next four days, I hunkered down and wrote 58 pages, finishing my senior project five days after the graduation ceremony. By the end of the week, I received my grade and was thankful that I’d passed because it meant that I’d officially graduated. And all the stress and emotions from the school year and graduation drained from me once I realized that I’d passed. I was done. Free. Somewhat whole again.