(Still) In Europe– ON Finding Elucidation in a Jet-lagged dream

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Well my week in Dublin came and went… Ireland was great, from what I could see, unfortunately everything closes early besides pubs, so my work schedule didn’t really allow for much of anything else.

My impressions of Ireland though is that it’s pretty meh weather, very friendly people (or at least less of a culture of otherizing than what I experienced previously… it was great to walk around in space where I was only 1 of a very few number of black people and it was not a big deal… the other black people didn’t make eye contact, didn’t try to connect since we were the only ones of our race in a hostile space… ha ha… but everyone else went around their business: I never felt otherized).

Food was ok, but from what I understand, traditional Irish food is a lot of stews and a lot potatoes.  I didn’t really eat much of that… it was more hotel/restaurant food. I think I should have stayed through today (Saturday) so that I could really get a feel for the town.

I did go to the city center my last evening there and thought it was really cute (too bad again, everything closes so early…. 7pm ! on a Friday night!)

But something else happened during my trip, that I wanted to codify, a little bit. Laying in my lovely hotel apartment (it had heated floors!… ha ha, and a pretty comfortable mattress,  but overall I think it was a little hyped up… not complaining though it was lovely). I have been thinking about a  few things… related to my “new  year” philosophy.  I have had a disquieted spirit for a few weeks. Well, not disquieted really but there was some stuff I was trying to make sense of, because I felt overwhelmed and preoccupied by a a lot of different thoughts. The anxiety has been building, tbh, I was looking forward to going to Dublin and the subsequent vacation. It wasn’t just one issue, really, it’s a bunch of separate ones, some interrelated, some not. But it all felt so daunting.  Anyway…

Jet-lag is weird… I lay there that first night in Dublin, desperately trying to sleep and focus on sleep. But my mind kept staying super active, and going everywhere but to counting sheep. And boom somewhere around three AM I realized two important things: The first, about an issue that has lasted the past couple years. I have been trying to resolve it within my heart and mind, and succeeded only to a certain extent. But there was sort of a final piece that I realized, acknowledged and came to terms with and I immediately felt a source of peace…. The only hitch is that I also shared what I had realized that morning… In a manner that I thought was tactful with the other person involved… And their reception of it is still TBD.:

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FWIW… LJC if you happen to be reading this, I meant what I shared, but hope it wasn’t taken as an insult of any kind. I thought sharing was what you wanted, but maybe not… Ironic though, when I finally feel like the issue is completely resolved that manages to have (potentially) cringeworthy repurcussions. I can see how it can feel dragged out and maybe even like some sort of attack. Am hedging my bets that this is not the case here, that this is not how you read things. But I know that everyone has to do what they have to do. Sigh.  With that said, I value you and your friendship greatly.

And it would be really sad if as everything was making sense to me, the craziness of it made you say, fuck this…

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Can’t put it back, honestly I wouldn’t want to… There is a freedom in pointing out certain things… At least, I hope all parties can see this.

 

The other issue, is a newer one, in a newer dynamic that I am still trying to figure out… but as I tossed and turned, I figured out what I need to do for now… Some rules that I needed to clarify for my own self.  Gazelle figured out what she’s doing!!! —- in a situation where I didn’t realize there was figuring to do.

So it’s  a little crazy that it took traveling almost 5,000 miles to help me realize some key things that have been weighing on my subconcious. Still a lot of other things to sort out, but checking off two things from the list still feels good.

 

And now I am taking it easy this weekend. Breathing in and out… hoping for the best.

It’s Official: Europe Bound

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Yup I will be doing a short sprint in Europe in a couple of months! (not mainland Europe but whatever). Looking forward to seeing some family in the UK and being in another country that I have never visited before.

 

I didn’t expect to be kicking up my travel shoes again, but here we are. Thank God I have a new, very warm winter coat.

On Starting 2017: Honesty is the Best Policy

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There are things that I promise to do differently next year. Promises are often broken so we will see how many of them I can keep. In anticipation of my endevour to be more frank and cut the bullshit with others, I am starting with myself.

I am a reasonably happy individual, all things considered. But what things exactly am I considering? It’s a hard story to tell in one blog entry (and I am trying to keep it down to one).

I was a relatively happy child, but poor as fuck. Not rural poor. Not as poor and as desperate a situation as other kids (because of course, the sick beauty of this world is that no matter how hard you have it, there is always someone else who has it worse).

But yeah, childhood was intertwined with intuiting my family’s socio-economic status and trying to the best I could with it. To be honest, I have never gone to bed hungry in my life. To be honest, I have always had a roof over my head.

But to be honest, I’ve been homeless, for extended stints throughought my childhood and adulthood. The first time was when I was 8. Spending the weekend at my cousin’s house and wanted to call my mom. My uncle’s wife (more of wicked stepmother type than the cool aunt type) at the time, told me there was not point to call home becuase there was not home call and that my family (mother and siblings) were out on the street. Naturally, I didn’t believe her. I was already accustomed to her always finding the most mean and cruel things to say to me (I loved my cousin dearly, I guess, otherwise why the hell did I love going over there so much). Anyway, I tried to call the house, but the line was disconnected. And the evil aunty found comic relief in my confused face.

A couple of days later, my mom came to pick me up. I remember we needed some for me so we were going to the bastion of footwear for the poor: Payless Shoesource. It was there just a few feet away from the entrance that she told me we no longer had a place to live. I got my shoes, a pair of suede-like booties… and the memories of that time crstualized in my memory.

TBH the apartment was a hell hole anyway, teeming with mice and rats. I slept on the floor, another sibling on the couch (where the rats had bored holes and made a nice home for themselves no doubt.

But As I mentioned earlier, I have always had a roof over my head. We stayed with family for a couple weeks (interesting lessons learned from that experience for sure) and then with family friends. Within a month we were in a better apartment, in a better area. So I guess it worked out for the better in this case. We had fallen behind on the crappy place, and although we had a verbal agreement from the landlord that rent could be paid late, he double dealed and put in papers for an eviction anyway.

When I think about it, I never was the same after that. The new apartment was bigger, but we had no furniture for the first year. And eventually, with other members of extended family moved in with us there, the cycle began again…. By the time I was going to high school, another eviction loomed over us. This time, we got ahead of the curve though: We moved out before they could throw us out. And again we stayed with family friends until we got another better space.

Like I said, I’ve been homeless many times. This better space was fantastic at first, but when the working poor fall ill or lose their jobs, then their already tenuous situation gets worse. And this is how I started college. I worked my ass off (academically and literally in the dining hall shifts and other gigs) because my family could not support me financially at all.

The irony of the American dream is that here I was at one of the best colleges in the country despite my circumstances (and thanks to some good years of ebb right before)  and studied abroad (thanks to student loans and generous grants). It was not a fun time, (it was a very broke time!… but I made due).  But I came home to no home at all: In danger of being evicted yet again, after unemployment ran out, we had to move, this time leaving tons of shit behind/ or giving it awawy. This time, there were no real family or friends to lean on. What could you say? Yet again? Evicted yet again?

That stretch of time was some of the darkest days of my life to date: All of the complications, a sibling was also sick and I was sick too, in a way. I wish that I had done some therapy in retrospect, but therapy how? and Where?

This was the longest stretch of homelessness- from the summer before I went abroad. during the break between semesters we were living in one bedroom in the home of a then friend of my mom. Like I said, I can never say that I never had a roof over my head.  I worked that winter break and considered leaving school (but my mother said no). The house was in the suburbs but I walked two miles in shitty shoes in unpaved ice and snow to make 8 dollars an hour as restaurant hostess: Every penny counted. We were paying rent for the room, but things were strained and by the time I cam back from Morocco we were staying in an extended stay-like hotel.

I worked my ass off that summer, to help pay for the room for the night. My days were spent thinking about how to get the 77 dollars needed for the room that night. Our meals were either rice eggs and vegetables, or noodles eggs and vegetables (all we could afford and cook in the room). Depressed isn’t even the word to describe that time. We didn’t even have time to be depressed literal homelessness loomed all around. By the time I returned to college that fall, we had moved to stay with a family friend/distant relative. But that soon soured, and my siblings were in another hotel situation. The job situation picked up though, so by October at last… we had a place to call our own, a bigger one.

I always remember how people remarked so positively at all the weight I had last: Between shitty study abroad and shitty living at-no-home, I went down a dress size. They had no idea what I had gone through to become the then much skinnier me. Yet through it all, I studied for the GRE, got a fellowship to graduate school. Talk about high functioning depression!

Sadly, sickness would rear its head again and again so eviction happened some years later. By then I said fuck it and shouldered the responsibility of making sure as best I could that it didn’t happen again. There have been some near misses, especially when I went to grad school the second time (In search of the almighty steady paying job, I assure you, but before I would be able to get it). Needless to say, I was well into my late twenties before I could begin to maybe hope that poverty and homelessness were a thing of the past.

It’s been interesting to occupy my own unique form of intersectionality.

Being poor ate my youth. Sometimes I think it sapped our energies so much, that we couldn’t really have been fully functioning human beings. I see the effects on myself, on my siblings. I understand what the working poor go through, my life is the embodiment of that struggle. But I also have had opportunities that others perhaps have not. Despite the shit hole that so many months and even years have been, I was never prevented from pursuing opportunities… We simply made due. For that, I am always grateful to my mother; she saw that dropping out of program X,Y or Z or not pursuing A, B, or C would hurt me more in the long-run

Upon further reflection though, this thread of homelessness is the reason behind much of my decisions. Like I said, it ate my youth. Sometimes I look back on things and people and think why didn’t I do X, Y, or Z, but then I remind myself that I was poorer than a church mouse at the time and didn’t want to have to explain myself. Why am I explaining myself now? I don’t know, I just want to get it out and leave it in the dustbins of history.

I was never a flake. I was never afraid to make bold changes. I had real deal shitty circumstances to contend with and for longer than anyone knew. I think this is why time is so important to me. So much of my life has been wasted fighting this scourge, I didn’t have time for much else. I don’t like the idea of wasting any more time than I already have. Gazelle feels every trash relationship, every shitty business meeting more acutely because I feel like I’m playing catch up with life, like I’m just learning how to breath.

But I know I’m not alone. This piece on NPR and this one from the Atlantic say what I already know. It does feel good to get it out though. The one thing I will say for this life experience is that it’s taught me how to weed people out, and the importance of trying to be sensitive to other people’s sensitivities. You never know what someone is going through, has gone through. And you also never know where someone will end up. It should come as no surprise that I’ve had an inordinate number of people shit on me and my family (even members of my extended family) and yet many of those people who wrote me off as trash back then, have a very different opinion of me now. But I just roll my eyes. (and keep my friend circle amazingly small… ha ha… had to have some levity in this post, no?)

Finally though, needless to say it’s made me very sensitive to issues around homelessness. In my own way, I have tried to fight it on the individual level. Why I didn’t end up pursuing it as some sort of career goal is anyone’s guess.

I think what I call immigrant sense of shame kept me from saying any of this, like ever. But now I have declared it on a public blog(that a very finite group of people read, so there is that). I want to leave this heavy load in 2016. Putting it on here, and out there, is one way I am trying to do just that.

I guess I could write more, but this post is long enough.

This was a lot more cathartic than writing about the online and offline randos that I have unfortunately crossed paths with this year… ha ha

 

 

 

 

2016 in Review: Highs (so few), Lows (so many), Dating Woes- Part Deux

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So let’s start with January. Ah January came on the heels of a very shitty last quarter of 2015 on so many different levels. If you care to remember it was when I was int he middle of a lot of bad choices, lots of regret and lack of clarity on where exactly I would be moving onto in 2016 (jobs, locations etc).

But like the lighter, brighter friends (with the good hair… ha ha) I joined the online dating thing for real: partially because I was lonely and curious to as the possibilities the then New Year would hold, partially because I thought it would be good to do some unofficial gauging of what my options were, figuring that wherever I moved to next would be where I would beed to find my Mr. Wright…

I matched with an interesting Moroccan man.. an IM and he was funny and thought I was cool too. But there was hitch (and there always is one, isn’t it?) … Upon meeting in person I found that he was a lot lighter and a little chubbier than his photos. But still, I forged ahead. (I should have taken that as a harbinger of things to come). I soon realized that IM as mainly looking for a quiet penis receptacle. He straight up told me that he didn’t like talking and was looking for someone who would support him, he didn’t want a girlfriend who made him think: He did all his thinking at his engineering job…. Wow. This, plus his mistaken notion that since I am black and speak Arabic I must be desperate to be Arab and ashamed of being black meant that this was doomed from the start. I slightly regret how I ended things here, but at the same time, he pushed me till I felt like I had to choice but to be super duper frank, perhaps more frank than I wanted to be and not terse enough. Funny thing is the story doesn’t end there…. Ha ha… Before the end of January this budding relationship had died the death of a falling star.  It had hit earth and We both had moved on, or so I thought…. Queue Valentine’s day when I get a message from IM out of the blue. My response: “Who is this?”

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Give me some credit, I didn’t quite respond like that! ha ha

Apparently, that was not the response he was looking for. IM responded with a terse “No one” and (I believe) blocked my number… I was really confused by the immaturity of his response, but also reprimanded by friends for being unfriendly… ha ha…

Mentioning it in passing to my sister and she said that my problem is that I like to be in control… I as annoyed that someone who had written me off and I had written off would come back out of the blue  rattle me.

 

Who knows? For me this is the beginning of the encounters that I leave in the trashbins of history.

 

 

2016 in Review: Highs (so few), Lows (so many), Dating Woes

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So, I have been doing much reflecting on this shit-show we call 2016. Caught in yet another discussion with someone on the plight of black women, specifically dark skinned ones, specifically dark skinned ones with African Featuers, specifically dark skinned ones with African features whose bodies are not of the main stream ideal variety and are more curvy (whether we are regular, overweight or obese).

And I breathed a heavy sigh. Maybe a year ago now, a mixed friend, one who is black and Asian made me feel pretty bad…ha ha . We weren’t friends quite yet, but I was making a comment about standards of beauty, especially as internalized by men and how that translates into how different groups of women are treated. And her response was basically to state outright that no matter how bad it was for the kind of black women I outlined above, it’s worse for her because she is mixed and fetishized for her Asian-ness. I sort of just sat there quietly: I knew then that there would be a limit to the kinds of convos we could have.

I was talking about feeling invisible, of dealing with really shitty situations and people who try to make you feel less than dirt (even if they deign to date you), I was talking about being at the bottom of the totem pole, and her reaction was basically “Well you’re lucky because I never know if people really want me for me or because of how I look”….

 

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I don’t know Kat, I really don’t know…

Honestly, the second conversation was practically triggering as I had filed this lack of empathy incident away in my “Oh well, we knew human beings lacked basic empathy.” file.  I mean, I am talking about not even being under consideration in many circles, and you are talking about being wanted by many.

When I talk about these things, I am not looking for pity. I am just looking for people to acknowledge that maybe, someone has it worse than they do, that maybe it’s a little harder for some of us than it is for others. I acknowledge my privilege all the freaking time! I know it’s there, I know I enjoy it: I work in a space where most of the poc serve the food or clean or are security guards. I was born in a hospital in country that had 5 doctors total— 4 years ago (have no idea how many there were when I was born!).

But I digress.

Yest another conversation, this time with a black man, educated one, elite educated one, elite job holder now… who was lamenting his lack of matches on social media. Because I had gotten more matches that somehow meant that things were so bad for him.

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This is despite the fact that the negro had 3 count em 3 girlfriends (all reasonable attractive, at least two really well educated with white collars jobs, a plethora of travel experiences… etc. etc. etc….  in the past year alone, along with FWB/DTF – type deals as well. Ugh. No. You don’t have it worse. Nowhere in the neighborhood of worse.

After listing all the awful (honest to God awful individuals I have dealt with this year, his response was “well, I had better quality” but you had better “quantity” …..

Last time I checked having five bags of garbage as compared to his one containter full of recyclables means his house is a lot neater than my own.

And no, I am not comparing people per se, I am comparing experiences. But this entry has become more like an intro. more on the horrors of the individuals I’ve interacted with this year in the next post.

2016 In Review… Part I

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This year has had it’s ups and downs for us all. For many, 2016 can suck it.  I can’t say that I blame them. I don’t even want to think about what America will look and feel like come Jan 21, 2017. But that is for another post.

It’s coming down to the wire. This block will close in May and 10 years of doing this thing (off an on) will come to an end). For now, I am reflecting on this year as I do at the end of everyone. I’m trying really hard to count my blessings and not be too sour about what didn’t work out as planned. In doing this I am acknowledging the things that are awesome about me that I take for granted.

Writing for a lot of people is not a release. I say this as grad school application season is upon us and I have become ad-hoc admissions advisor to some. It’s real gift to be able to express oneself clearly with written words, and typos aside, I can do that. So Alhamdullilah. Writing is the way I lay my burdens down. Now, moreso in my private journal than on this public blog, but it’s all the same. I had some real frustrations in the last entry, but now, looking at it, it doesn’t feel like me.

I mean, I am completely cognizant of the fact that I felt that way, and sting and frustration of that moment has not completely left me… but writing about it helped calm me. I think I need to dedicate more time in 2017 to writing. Especially once this space closes, especially if it’s just letters to my future self.

I made the reverse switch and came back to America this year. When I started 2016 I had no idea how it was all gonna pull together. But something that I kind of just gave up on is what in the end fell into place. It’s almost as whirlwind like as when I up and moved to the UAE. Except, I am not the same person I was then, so some of the wonder if gone, as is my trust in human beings (to be real), but I embraced it all the same. Honestly a transAtlantic trip has its rough parts, as does starting a new job in a new place where you have to (try to) make friends, understand what your duties are and strategize my future plans as THE POC on your team… ha ha (I kid, but not really ;-/)

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On a happier/prouder note, I also stood up for myself a little more this year, which was very, very good. I am not sure I blogged about it, but a married man in my friend group in the UAE kissed me in public (and of course without my permission!) just feet away from people who knew the both of us and his wife. He then had the gumption to message me out of the blue and inform me that he had always had a crush on me (double eww—).

I was happy to put it plainly and succinctly that his advances were unwelcome, his “secret” crush was no secret at all and he should stop messaging me. This was a big deal because I would normally just ignore the message (much like I changed my lifestyle to avoid him at all costs during my last few months… and he took no hints!… ha ha).  It was a year where I cut off quite a few people who don’t help bring the best out of me… (and give me food for thought for doing the same to some more in 2017).

On an even happier/prouder note, my mother graduated from college this year! It’s an accomplishment I am so proud of her for taking on and finishing well. I haven’t made a post about it because it’s hard to describe/talk about. It’s awesome that she was able to do this, that she didn’t give up, that she did something a lot of folk with a lot less responsibility and baggage aren’t able to do. Three cheers for mama Gazelle!

There is still a lot to figure out in these last few days of 2016. Here’s to figuring it all out…. eventually!

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