Category Archives: imagine this world

Blow Your Own Damn Mind

I try not to use too many four letter words on this blog, but I read this quote earlier today that I think you all need to read: “Once in a while, blow your own damn mind.”

I’ve been circling around this very idea for um, I don’t know, years? It’s the concept that keeps us chugging along when we’re tired at two a.m. but also humming with the buzz of a character’s actions taking shape in our Word document or sweating over a week-long DIY project in the hot summer sun.blowyourmind

Nothing particularly awful would happen if we didn’t push a little harder. We might wake up tomorrow feeling a little less awesome, but for that second it wouldn’t feel catastrophic.

I’ve seen seven movies in 2013 already (not all of them in their entirety but the majority). And though they’ve all been different, their storylines spanning hundreds of years of human existence, the same quite beautiful message keeps popping from one to the next:

This life? It’s going to be up for you when it’s down for someone else. Your actions won’t always make other people feel like rock stars. You might—OK, definitely will—lose people who you cannot fathom losing: whether it’s their life, their time or their respect.

And even if you’ve got it all figured out, whatever that means, somebody you know is suffering something unbearable.

And when you realize that, it’s pretty darn hard to wake up and feel like you deserve goodness in your life. Because if your best friend smashes in her car or your husband gets fired or your sister gets pushed around, you want to fix it.

Sometimes we can, but sometimes we can’t.

That’s what all seven of those movies taught me this week: that sometimes, you can’t feel bad about how your life looks right now but damn it if you don’t try and do something to blow your own mind.

I think that’s what 2013 is about: this notion that we cannot control the universe but we can control ourselves and if we want something—for our own or our friends and family or strangers halfway around the world—we better do something mind blowing to make it happen, because nobody, and I mean nobody, is coming to hand us hope and happiness on a silver platter with a shiny, polished lid. It just ain’t happening this year.

What I’m really dying to know is this: what are you doing to blow your own mind? What are the people around you doing?

If you haven’t figured it out already, I’m madly in love with cool projects started by hardworking and passion-driven individuals, and I never ever get sick of hearing about them. So please, enlighten me (and the rest of the readers) and share it. Whether it’s you or your best friend or a stranger whose YouTube channel you stumbled across six years ago, I’m interested. And I know others are as well.


The Things We Might Not Always Have

By fifth grade, I was a good little worrier. I say that because, at ten, I scanned the church library, a five-by-five corner in the back of the chapel, to find this book about a girl who professed her faith in God before being gunned down in another library across the country.

I can’t be sure, but at the time I was somewhere between grasping the idea of cancer hitting home and not yet learning that tragedy could hug a nation. And so I saw the front cover, a smiling blonde girl who said yes—to what, I wasn’t sure—and I wanted to know her.

Reading that book was like clutching onto an airport terminal goodbye—I didn’t want to put it down, now that I had learned Columbine’s nasty face, but it hurt more to hold on.

That year and the year that followed, I grew sure only in the idea that we might not live to see another day. There might have been dozen of bomb threats in my intermediate, then middle, schools. We walked with ducked heads across the street to the high school auditorium. Every time. And there were many times.

Before 9-11, I knew what it meant to worry about the gaping hole between this-is-not-a-drill and some-kid-wanted-to-get-out-of-a-test-and-wrote-empty-promises-on-bathroom-stall-walls.

In high school, we lined up with our books in our hands, no bags allowed, as we entered the building one by one, our teachers patting us down and searching us like TSA officers. We sat in the gymnasium for countless hours. Every time someone threatened to tear into the building with a gun, we waited with lips pursed and said a prayer that it was just another silly little lie.

The last time it happened, I was in the cafeteria. The alarms went off and everyone ran—panicked, already watching the way the world was shifting from once-in-a-while tragedy to everyday possibilities that we might not always be safe.

We just didn’t believe it. Even standing in the cold in mid-December for half an afternoon, we didn’t believe that people out there with far less practice runs, far less birthdays, could see the other side of that gaping hole.

But they did.

I may never know what it feels like to have every single one of those moments become more than just a wasted afternoon, a precaution, six years of waiting for the all clear. I hope children, precious little children, never learn tragedy like that again. That the closest they come is walking into a church library and devouring a paperback with a smiling blonde on the cover.

There are things we owe children: their innocence, their time, their tomorrows. We will have to return to our own youth, maybe, to play Make Believe and pretend those are still possibilities. Because they aren’t. They aren’t anymore.

They become the things we might not always have: birthdays, graduations, driver’s licenses, jobs, parents and children, bedroom sharers and twin brothers.

To Whoever Keyed My Sister’s Car

I’m sure you’re not reading this, because that would imply we know each other. And if, on the off chance we do, and I discover who you might be, I’ll be sure to have a frank conversation with you about using your words.

Battles have begun on this blog. I have laid down enough literature on heartbreak and relationships to stir up trouble offline.

I’ve been cryptic more than once, sure that the person in question could decide for themselves if I was talking about them. I like to think of myself as a real Tay Swift wannabe, on occasion.

So if Taylor’s car got keyed, surely she’d write a song about it.

That’s sort of how I feel about this whole situation.

And I never meant to turn you into a blog post. No I never intended to turn this story into a lesson, but man I am in need of a good lesson these days.

To be honest, after I told a co-worker, the first words out of his mouth were, “Did you blog about it?”

Well, no.

Well, not yet.

Here’s what I know about you: nothing.

I don’t know if you were angry with her, if you met her once or didn’t even remember her name. I don’t know if you just really, really have a passionate dislike for people who drive Honda Civics.

All I know is that you carved a four-letter word and the word “you” into that midnight blue paint and it cannot be undone.

I have thought about all the times I turned to words to pummel injustices, perceived and actual. I have thought about the mistakes in judgment I’ve made, turning this blog into a stage to try to get friends to admit they’d done something wrong.

For years, I felt guilty about my words.

And then you happened.

Listen, I know she’s kind of black and white like that.

Level with me. She’s got wicked good fashion sense, hair so bouncy and voluminous it was born for a salon commercial, and a wild, bold heart. I know she doesn’t walk on eggshells. She’s not that kind of girl.

Clearly, neither are you.

People either love her dearly or want to destroy her. I think we know which side you’re on.

But don’t you think I’ve ever gotten mad at her? Don’t you think she’s ever screwed up for someone else?

I hope you didn’t think she was perfect. That’s a terrible burden to place on somebody.

Really, it doesn’t matter what you think, though. What matters is that you’ve done something unfixable.

Do me a favor. Picture this world:

You pull up for a job interview with F— You scrawled across the hood of your car.

Do you think you’re getting the job?

That’s what I thought.

Imagine if we took our tweets and taped them to our backs like Kick Me signs. All the drunk text messages you ever sent hovered above your head like those thought bubbles in old-school phone commercials.

That’s what I imagine it feels like to walk outside on a Sunday morning, collapse to the pavement, and wonder how you’re going to pretend it never happened.

Maybe you were drunk. I don’t know. It’s not really my forgiveness you need.

I’m just letting you know, personally, that there are some things money can’t buy. And dignity, well, it’s one of them.

A Totally Un-Cool, Overly-Protective Older Sister

PS. Please don’t key my car?

Don’t you know that being naive can damn near break you?

There are no pretty metaphors tied with lace and ribbon to tell your story.

It wasn’t like the end of the world or as if tragedy came knocking on my doorstep. It wasn’t like anything.

It was just a slow unraveling of time, the greater part of the last eleven years, leaving us with an equation that always ends the same: tragedy one plus tragedy two equals losing you.

I thought there might be a way to write this in third person, you know? Like maybe I could pretend I wasn’t talking about us, the collective us, so much as some man I had never known but stood next to in the deli line, scrutinizing meats for carving and cheeses for grating.

In my memories, you hold a baby boy and whisper made-up melodies into his ear while his mom looks onward from the kitchen sink. You pull a white cloth handkerchief from your pocket and wipe his mouth when he spits up all over his Gap hoodie. You reach for diapers in the maroon Jansport backpack by the staircase and change him when he needs it.

You never grow older. Never past your sixtieth birthday party, my knees digging into that turquoise plush carpeting, my breath held, until you walked up the landing and found us all waiting for you.

That was before you decided the past didn’t exist anymore. Before you decided you’d rather not remember a Tuesday in September or a Saturday in April or a funeral for the only woman who’d ever been able to keep you in line.

That was well before the Towers dusted your shoulders with the ashes of strangers, clinging to you all the way to a home that belongs to somebody else now.

Nobody really wants to sit inside a tragedy and call it home, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t happen. That doesn’t mean the whole nation didn’t get down on hands and knees alongside you and inject the same fear and shock and rapid awakening into their own hearts.

You’re not the only one who lost someone. But you’re among a select group who chose to let that hollow you out and separate you. From your family. Your friends. The people who were there long before you woke up one Tuesday morning and decided to go to work even though you’d retired.

You went to work that day.

And don’t you know how it feels to be eleven years old and come home wondering why your mother is crying and you don’t even know your own grandfather takes the subway to those Towers every morning? Don’t you know that being naïve can damn near break you?

You went to work.

It was just every day after, for eleven years now, that you have chosen not to.

Chosen not to show up the same way you would’ve when I was just a girl who refused to keep her dress on or stay out of the mud or please dear God, would you two stop bickering?

That’s the real tragedy. The one you’ve left us with. Deserting the past and leaving us in the rubble.

This tragedy could’ve devoured our nation—it didn’t. For years, you’ve let it change you.

This Is Where I Come From

If you stand on the street in front of the Baltimore World Trade Center, the first thing you notice won’t be its height. It’ll be the slab of marble with two rusted pieces of metal sticking out of it.

They look like hands, presenting the contorted and twisted wrapping of steel framing atop them. As if, for the amount of time you keep staring, you will see only that—not the Inner Harbor behind the building or the building itself. Not the sea of teens and twenty-somethings in comic book regalia threading in front and around you, but that charred and melted and rusted metal framing that once kept somebody safe.

It is as if the metal tines holding it up are offering it to you, like, “Here, hold this weight with me. Here, have a piece of America’s history.”

It is a chunk of metal framing from one of the World Trade Center towers. I do not know how long it hung in place before collapsing, finally, under the weight of itself. I do not know which tower, which floor, which cubicle it used to shade from the Manhattan Skyline and the summer sunrises.

But it has found it’s way here. To me. To the city that promises to protect me if ever someone should want to crash into my life.

There is something about staring at museum exhibits that never felt quite real. Like it was easy to read the metal engraving listing the scene depicted behind glass and move on, flashing from one projector slide of the past to another.

But there is no glass standing between the marble slab and me. There is no blockade in front of the sundial sculpted from that same steel, which, on each September 11th, aligns the shadows of the sun with the minutes that tore that day to shreds.

And maybe there shouldn’t be. Maybe we were meant to be so deeply engrossed in the awareness that somebody else once took this piece of steel framing for granted. Somebody else once thought concrete was impenetrable.

Somebody else, somebody you knew, once told you all you needed was a house over your head. And you forgot that said house didn’t guarantee you your life. That cars crashed and boats sank and trees landed in your upstairs bathroom. You forgot to take three minutes each morning to say, “This is where I come from. Where do I want to go now?”

That’s how it feels to stare at that hunk of steel. Like we ought to get up tomorrow and pull ourselves from the rubble, turn for just a moment to bask in the reality of it, and then use our strength and our heart to forge forward into a future that looks equally as strong, but ultimately fragile, for the rest of our lives.