Uncomfortably Numb

I am numb
yet I feel everything so powerfully
so deeply
that my bones ache
and my veins throb
and my head weighs down my fragile neck

I am numb
and I know not how much more I can take
how much more these shoulders can carry
and these hands can grasp
that have lived to see so many days
but have never felt alive

Deconstructing “7 Harsh Realities of Life Millennials Need to Understand”

I recently came across this article entitled “7 Harsh Realities of Life Millennials Need to Understand”, written by Tyler Durden and published on the website Zero Hedge. In the article, Durden lists seven ways, in which he thinks millennials, as an entire generation presumably, are lacking in intelligence and hard work ethic, in addition to being too soft and too politically correct. While his tone, throughout the entirety of the article, is unquestionably demeaning and mocking, I, however, am going to provide an adult analysis and counter argument to the content he has provided thus far.

  1. YOUR FEELINGS ARE LARGELY IRRELEVANT.

In his first point, he claims that millennials insist that others tip-toe around their feelings and are much too fragile when it comes to receiving insults or negative criticisms from those with either different perspectives or backgrounds. One example he provides is the concept of mis-gendering someone, which could involve using the wrong pronouns when referring to an individual in the third person. This, however, is not a matter of feelings or an inability to accept criticism, but more about a denial of identity. Yes, you have the right to say whatever you want, and you will obviously continue to do that without fail, but maintaining a basic level of respect for those around you is not a radical idea or a ploy for millennials to be coddled. For example, if I insulted someone’s religion or Christian identity, they would likely get very upset and the majority response would not be that they insist upon be coddled or that they are playing the victim card, but rather, any uproar or objections would largely denounce this comment as disrespectful. While one is very much allowed to say it, doing so is not an effective way for someone to gain and maintain the basic amount of respect one should hope to receive in return.

2. YOU CANNOT BE WHATEVER YOU WANT TO BE.

For years parents have told their children that they are capable of anything they put their mind to or work hard enough at, but no one ever seriously believes them, especially in today’s economic and employment climates. Considering how difficult it is, currently, to get an entry-level job, many people do not waste away their days chasing pipe dreams. Obviously, there are a few, as there have been among many previous generations, but this is far from the norm. Despite the claim that they are much too entitled, many millennials do not have the luxury and certainly cannot afford to engage in a hobby or profession which does not guarantee a livable wage or substantial pay check. At my university, and at many others, there are students from various economic backgrounds, who not only dedicate themselves to their studies, but also work part-time jobs to help alleviate some of the students loans they will eventually have to pay off. In addition, many students choose to volunteer, teach inner-city youth, intern at various organizations and corporations, take on independent study projects, or even tutor each other; and there is nothing lazy or entitled about that.

3. GENDER STUDIES IS A WASTE OF MONEY.

While a degree in gender studies may not guarantee the same salary as a medical degree, it is not per se a waste of money. Firstly, there are a considerably small amount of students who choose to study gender to begin with, so it is not as if this is a rampant or widespread course of study, and neither is it new. Secondly, some of the greatest intellectuals and theorists have studied gender, such as Judith Butler and Michel Foucault. Based upon their many works of essays, books, analyses of theories, and their common occurrences and relation to a number of subjects, it is reasonable to claim that their successes have been largely sufficient. Whether a degree is or is not a waste of money is largely subjective and depends upon what one chooses to do with it. There are various other degrees that people have often deemed to be useless like history or psychology, yet there are many successful and brilliant people who have attained those degrees and based on the outcome of their lives would argue that it was not, in fact, a waste of money.

4. IF YOU LIVE IN AMERICA, YOU’RE ALREADY IN THE 1%.

The one percent refers to people in the United States who are the top earners within the country and contain the most wealth overall. It is not a worldly concept, but is rather particular to one nation. In addition, no one has ever looked at Uganda and thought that the people who lived there are better off than even the poorest of Americans. That is quite a fabricated notion. So yes, the U.S. is far better off than other countries, both developed and undeveloped, but the concept of the 1% is not applicable because it is based on a measurement of wealth owned by individuals or corporations within a specific country, and is not a comparison of one country’s wealth and privileges versus all the others.

5. YOU DON’T HAVE A RIGHT TO IT JUST BECAUSE YOU EXIST.

In this section, Durden says that one’s existence does not mean that one is entitled to healthcare, shelter, etc. And while this seems reasonable, his argument claims that individuals need to work hard to acquire the money to pay for things like health insurance and a home, implying that that is currently not the case, that people are just sitting around, not making an effort to get a job even though they are quite capable and able. However, an overwhelming majority of those who are near or below the poverty line or can barely get by, work more than one job and still cannot afford healthcare. Working hard does not guarantee economic success. It should, but currently that is not the case. So it is difficult to attribute a lack of healthcare or wealth to laziness when there are single parents, most often mothers, working up to four jobs, trying to keep their families afloat, by providing an income to pay for food, clothing, and shelter, whose jobs either lack health benefits or simply do not have enough money to purchase healthcare after all of their bills are paid.

6. YOU DO HAVE THE RIGHT TO LIVE AS YOU PLEASE—BUT NOT TO DEMAND PEOPLE ACCEPT IT.

Durden claims that living one’s life does not require the acceptance of others, to which he refers to cross-dressing as one of those possible options. Assuming this is referring to transgender individuals, it is not cross dressing if they are wearing clothes that they feel represent their gender, but that’s besides the point. Once again, he misunderstands the difference between respect and rights. Any given person can freely insult someone else, but even free speech has its restrictions. For example, if someone says something that presents “a clear and present danger”, that essentially threatens to harm the well-being of others, it is no longer protected by law. With this is in mind, I can criticize someone for their ethnicity or gender identity, and I would be protected by the law. But, I would also be an asshole, and usually people try to avoid that. Furthermore, it is not as if individuals being attacked or criticized for certain aspects of their lives immediately burst into tears every time someone is rude to them. Chances are they have experienced this backlash time and time again, and while they should certainly not have to, this constant exposure has most likely prepared them to face whatever insubstantial insult any given person decides to hurl their way. And being open about who you are as a person, is certainly not an invitation to be targeted by others.

7. THE ONLY SAFE SPACE IS YOUR HOME.

The concept of a safe space is not some room with padded walls in which people are coddled and protected from hurtful words like being called fat, or stupid, or ugly, but rather a place (an office, classroom, etc.) in which someone can confide in others without facing violent backlash that they might otherwise receive elsewhere. Many educational institutions have done this for years. I remember even in high school, some of our classrooms had little stickers on the doors consisting of some sort of rainbow pattern and the words “safe space” written on it. If anything, it was more of a way to let students know that it’s okay to be gay, or trans, or bi without having to specifically verbalize it. It was a very tiny symbol of acceptance and some may have found comfort in that. However, it is understandable why some people do not understand or are vehemently opposed to an environment that attempts to maintain a peaceful atmosphere . If someone has never been marginalized for a fixed aspect of their identity, it might be difficult to relate to or understand why some people might want a place to go to help them feel accepted. For many students, universities are a much more accepting environment than their own homes and families, and depending on their circumstances, they may no longer be considered a part of the family they were born into.

If anything can be generalized about an entire generation of people, it is that millennials tend to be more accepting of people who don’t look, or think, or love exactly like them. This, however, is not an indicator of entitlement. It is simply a natural progression of social change.

A Weight of its Own

I used to feel an aching sorrow
in my chest
as if every mistake I had ever
made had been piled on top
of me

and although I have since been
relieved of that weight
I do no feel light
I do not feel free
Like a soaring bird heading
to find warmth

all I feel is anticipation
for a journey to a
destination I am still
uncertain of
and that is a weight
of its own

My (Unofficial) Coming Out Story

I struggled with my sexuality all throughout high school and partially throughout middle school. The main part of my struggle was the inability to accept myself for who I was, who I am. Of course now I cannot fathom how I ever thought I was straight, but accepting myself and being open about my sexuality gave me a whole new perspective on the matter.

While I was in elementary school, I became overly attached to quite a few of my female friends. At the time I didn’t think anything of it, especially when girls are supposed to think boys are gross at that age. However, I was submersed in a heteronormative culture and I attended a very conservative Catholic school, so I evidently suppressed any thoughts and feelings that had anything to do with liking girls. It wasn’t until I was in sixth or seventh grade that I had my first lesbian awakening. I was watching the ever popular Desperate Housewives with my parents, and two of the female characters on the show kissed. At that moment, it was like something suddenly clicked inside of my brain. I liked girls. I liked the idea of two girls being together. It finally all made sense. But I still could not truly accept that about myself, so I again suppressed any feelings I had and attempted to be a nice heterosexual girl. While it surprisingly didn’t take that much effort, it also didn’t exactly work well for too long. I was still developing feelings for my female friends. They would tell me all about boys they liked, and I would get so jealous but just pretend I was disappointed because I wasn’t receiving any attention from boys.

During my freshman year of high school I kind of fell in love for the first time with my best friend. It was very confusing and very hard to differentiate feelings of close friendship and feelings of romance. I drove myself crazy over it. She began to date a guy who was much older than us, and I was once again disappointed. I was weary about the age difference because perverts are still unfortunately alive and well, but I also selfishly wanted her to myself. Of course, I didn’t say any of this. I didn’t actually voice my sexual confusion to anyone until sophomore year. There was this girl a year behind me that I really began to like. Let’s call her S. She would follow me around everywhere and hold my hand as we walked to class, even if her’s was in another building. I really thought that she liked me, but she would always mention this other girl she had dated so I quickly abandoned any hope. She had perviously told me that she was bisexual and I immediately blurted out that I thought I might be bisexual too. Not knowing what to make of this, I called my gay friend, and that was when I told someone for the first time that I liked a girl. It was so difficult for me to do at first, but I felt so relieved for finally having done it.

Throughout my first semester of sophomore year, I spent many nights crying and watching a mix of lesbian flicks and depressing suicidal films, all courtesy of Netflix. It was too difficult for me to come to terms with who I was, and I honestly had no idea why. I clearly did not have a problem with other gay or bisexual people, but I was afraid of being treated differently again. I was bullied nonstop from second to eighth grade, so when I finally got to high school it was my time to start over and actually make friends and not be called names. Because of this, I just stopped talking to and hanging out with S as much, but I thought about her. I thought about her all the time.

I wasn’t really all that vocal about my sexuality until the beginning of senior year. That was an interesting time in my life. So many of my friends had come out as gay or bisexual as well, so I just jumped on the bandwagon. At first, I came out as bisexual. This felt like the safest option to me at the time because I could like girls but still maintain some heterosexual privilege. But after a couple of weeks, I decided to finally be honest with myself. And for the first time, I told my friends and family that I was gay. It was probably one of the happiest and most relieving moments of my life. I was so lucky to be around so many people who accepted and supported me. At this point, I had resumed talking to S, who had now become M, and we started dating shortly after. And that’s pretty much it. No more struggle. No more shame. Just love and acceptance and a whole lot of gay.

Inconsistency

It comes in bursts,
like the rising and falling
of a fickle storm
with no end or
destination,
and like a storm
It is wet and violent,
treacherous to
those nearby
and beautiful to those
who watch from
their windows,
blissful and far removed.
Sometimes I seek comfort
in the storm;
in the rage, the tears,
the spiraling thoughts
and emptiness I do not
wish to feel, yet
it is all I have ever
felt. And we all
cling to the familiar.

Sometimes

And sometimes it still hurts.
Sometimes I still feel the lingering sting of it all,
a memory long gone, slowly fading, but still within sight.
And sometimes I have nightmares about you
that give me shivers and cold sweats,
the image of your screaming face still imprinted in my mind.
But you were poison oak and my skin was much too fragile
to make it out unscathed.
And sometimes I can still feel the bruises you left behind,
jamming my fingers into them,
as they weep like tiny stab wounds.
And I am left here,
still trying to wipe your name from my tongue,
and oh how bitter it tastes.

Loving you

My heart has swelled
to the size of an ocean,
and all I can do
is blame you.