The Juiciest, Ripest, Sweetest Mango

Culture

You’re always going to be too much of something for someone: too big, too loud, too soft, too sensitive, too goofy, too serious, too dumb, too smart. You could be the juiciest, ripest, sweetest mango in the world, and you’ll still meet someone who just doesn’t like mangoes. And yet, if you try to round out all your edges, you’ll lose all your edge. So right now, I’m focusing on apologizing for the mistakes I make, and apologizing profusely when I unintentionally hurt someone, but I refuse to apologize for being myself. That’s nothing to be sorry about, especially if it’s because I’m too much for you. And while I’m being and doing the most, I’ll be sure to enjoy myself.

A Day in the Life (or Dating Manifesto)

Culture

The world is full of beautiful, loving, generous, compassionate, intelligent, creative and expressive people. The world is also full of evil, messy, selfish, bitter, hurtful, trifling and purposeless people. Know the difference between the two when they cross your path, and know that you don’t owe either of them any amount of love or hate. Acknowledge them and decide whether you should move on alone or take them with you (beware: meeting the first kind of person doesn’t mean the rest will be as kind, and meeting the second type of person doesn’t mean the rest will be as cruel). Luckily, you have an infinite number of soul mates that you can meet in an infinite amount of ways (you can’t bind God), and the best part is that love will never run out on you, even when it seems to run dry. This is power.

The Essence of a Queen

Culture

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It’s a difficult thing to conceptually grasp (like the particles of a perfume after they have already mixed with the air). One doesn’t just wake up a queen. Your crown has to be forged over years, hard-won victories where you have claimed your worth against all odds splattering over its’ jewels, leaving it blood-spattered and chipped and scratched and more valuable than ever.

Think about it… A queen doesn’t allow just anyone into her presence, let alone allow them to kiss her hand (the people around you must be worth). She has to hold her neck steady so her crown never slips (even on your bad days, you hold your head up). There are rules to her kingdom–break them, and you’re executed (you’re not afraid to cut people off). Her advisors never critique her, only the areas she has managed to overlook (taking advice only makes you stronger). And even after her scepter is put away in the closet, her jewels are safely locked in a vault, her crown is resting on her dresser, and her makeup and clothes have been whisked away, she is still a queen (nothing makes you a queen, except you).

Out of all of these, the hardest one is cutting people off. Everything else on the list depends on you: being malleable enough to take and adhere to good advice, maintaining your self-worth, staying in the right environment, etc. It’s crazy because we are able to make so many excuses for other people that would never fool us; and yet, there we find ourselves, lying in our beds praying that the same person won’t do the same thing to you that they just did again in the same way.

The worst part is that we believe us.

Try saying this to yourself the next time (or before the next time) someone who you know 9 times out of 10 will cause you harm (it’s always the 1 time that we fight for):

I will rise above and beyond you until I am a speck in your sky. You will try to use me to light your path like a star at night, but what you don’t understand is that I am an entire constellation. When you do catch a glimpse of me, you in your ignorance will think that you know me. In reality, you are only seeing my back as I walk further away from you.

Now tell me that ain’t what a queen would do…

When Blessings Aren’t “Blessings”

Beauty

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Some people think that I wear my hair in an Afro as a political statement or as a form of protest, but it’s just freedom for me.

Since I started fifth grade I was teased for my hair. From hearing that it looked like poop that it smelled like it, I was embarrassed that it was so curly. And all over the place. And untamable. And inconsistent. So, to blend in, I straightened my hair–so much that it started to break off and fall out.

It wasn’t until I lost half of my length that I started to think that maybe it was everyone else who was wrong. Not me, not God, but random people that I let change my view of who I already was.

Now, I roll out of bed and fluff my hair with water. It just sucks though because I’m not the only one.

So often we let people, who don’t have what we have, take gifts away from us. Anything like music or painting or soccer or poetry or your hair or your major or your dream or your passion… It’s easy for people to talk you down without realizing that, 9 times out of 10, they’re actually talking down to themselves.

Be awesome and blessed and do you cause that’s more than good enough

 

Pre-Life Crisis

Culture

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It’s easy to think that you’ve already peaked once you get into your twenties, especially when you’ve done a lot in high school or college; your past usually starts to look more attractive the further you get away from it.

My struggle was not letting what I’ve already done become all that I am. There is so much more to life than those big, big moments of success. When you think about it, those moments are built over weeks, months, sometimes even years. That’s why we have to show up for every day.

It’s like how they say character is what you do when no one is watching—life is what we experience when we aren’t getting recognized for anything: how we forgive ourselves and others, treat the people who have little to no power over us, choose to have hope despite our current circumstances, etc.

The bottom line is that our lives aren’t determined by any one thing that’s already happened, good or bad. What we do today counts towards the total of who we are, regardless of who’s watching us at any given moment. 🌻

 

Something Old, Something New

Beauty

IMG_5728It’s something, to wake up one day and realize that you’ve been living for other people…

I’ve always wanted to wear earrings. But because I grew up (and am still a part of) such a conservative religion, my community saw piercings as one of the worst things a young person could do. “If God wanted you to have holes in your ears, he would’ve put them there Himself,” “Jewelry was only used in the Old Testament to make idols out of gold—if you get your ears pierced, your making yourself an idol,“ “Women are supposed to be modest, and lipstick and earrings are the things of Queen Jezebel.” These ideas caused so much trouble between my generation and my parents’ that it was common for my friends from church to get their ears pierced behind their parents’ back. Sometimes they would be grounded, sometimes their parents wouldn’t speak to them for months. I didn’t want to go that route.

When I was 18, I explained to my parents that I was an adult, that I would like their blessing but didn’t necessarily need it, and would be getting my ears pierced regardless(my mom ended up coming with me; she was silent in the car both on the way there and on the way back). I had the time of my life after that in Argentina, and bought earrings as souvenirs in every city I visited—Machu Picchu, Perú, Río de Janeiro, Brasil, Santiago, Chile, Buenos Aires, Argentina… I even bought a pair at the 50th Anniversary of Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama, when I heard President Barak Obama speak, just as a memory. My Earrings were a trail of the places I’ve been, the people I met, and the parts of myself that I left behind.

When I became Miss Oakwood 2015-16, I decided to stop wearing any type of jewelry because it wasn’t congruent with the ideals of my school. For a while, I would wear earrings to sleep to keep my holes open, but then I gave up. I had met people who encouraged me to not wear them anymore (for their own reasons) and had let myself agree with them. Then I kinda lost myself in general, for a very, very long time.

Yesterday, I was getting dressed, tying my head wrap, and suddenly realized that my outfit needed some cubic zirconium. It needed a touch of personality and familiarity and foreignness (I had never given or sold my earrings and still had them on my dresser). I picked up a couple and gingerly placed them by my ear, just to dream. And then I realized: I stopped doing something I loved to make the people around me more comfortable; so that they would accept me, and judge me less (or for other things). I already know that God literally couldn’t care less about what glittery stud I wore in my earlobes. So I got my wallet and went to Claire’s and got my ears pierced, again, after two years of not wearing earrings.

It was the best decision I’ve made in 2018, and trust me, I’ve been making some life-changing ones already. 🧡 💕 💎

Sunflowers

Poetry

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Sunflowers are nice in theory. Personally, I’ve never liked them because they seem a lot less flower and a lot more weed, and a lot less petal and a lot more seed, and there’s a lot more sunshine associated than actually perceived but…

If you’ve ever had a friend die… then you know how important what they loved becomes

And Katie loved sunflowers. She loved a lot– in fact, I was the first one to nickname her Kate, cause in the seventh grade, Kaitlin wanted a new slate, and it just seemed so much cooler.

And she was my, “Asian sister from another mister,” meaning she was my baby sister, because she was the only friend I was older than. And Christmas was always extra special in her house, because both her and her older brother were born on Christmas Eve,

And at some point, we decided we should leave high school, and start our own fashion line, but not before getting banquet dates for the first time, stealing popularity, partners in crime…

But after a while, the plans stopped because Katie stopped coming to school… for a week. For a month. For a year.

And I never visited her in the hospital.

Because my prayers visited… and vested her chest with a bulletproof, cancerless rest ahat would protect her, even from her dreams..

And I never visited. Because we all knew she was coming back, so we cut her some slack, and made wrist bands that said, “The power of prayer, keep strong Kaitlin Pham”

And Katie loved sunflowers. So twenty-four days after her fifteenth birthday, when I walked into the chapel, they were everywhere, on the table, on the mantel, in the vases, and even in the programs.

I wore mirror aviators to mirror the emotion of those around me because my thoughts laid in a place too dark for reflection, reflecting upon her mother repeating

“I should not be burying my baby,

I should not be burying my baby,

I should not be burying my baby.”

Imaging, my class graduating and her parents receiving an empty diploma, her brother always celebrating his birthday alone-a family of four now standing on three legs, a home now a house never seeing an end to its days…

After the funeral, I walked home alone, allowing my mind to roam, until I walked into my bathroom and looked in the mirror and accused you–

Because you should’ve done something. You should’ve visited. You should have called. You said you were her friend. You prayed too little. You hoped too little. And you didn’t trust God enough.

I collapsed, In a heap on my sink and cried out, “God! It shoulda been me!”

Cause I would’ve taken the bullet for her if I could, but how could I when the bullet was her blood, and the fragments were her bone marrow, and the gun was being dissolved inside of her body, how could I pick up the casings?!

“God, if you kill me now, could I take her place?”

And I paced, my mind raced, so my thoughts sprinted until I came face to face with that mirror image, and I heard God whisper,

“Look in your eyes.”

Unfocused, Bloodshot, Dilated…

I saw something I’ve never seen before.

See the top part of my iris is green, and the bottom part is grey, but for the first time, I saw an amber ring encircling my pupil that shot out like fire at every angle

And it

Looked

A

Lot

Like

A

Sunflower.

Two sunflowers, staring back at me. And maybe I only imaged it, but Katie loved sunflowers.