On Openness

I have never shied away from baring it all, from being subject to scrutiny, from being judged.

It seems like something’s changed.

Talking with a dear friend, I realised I was holding back. I didn’t want to share a part of me because it would leave me feeling exposed. In my curiosity, I decided to pinpoint WHY I felt this way.

I write for my school newspaper. I am subject to the jabbing questions of fellow students about my writing and design.

I create art. I am subject to the critiques of my peers and my old art teacher that I keep in touch with.

I play music. I am a “target” for those who don’t feel like listening to my hackneyed rendition of Chopin, for those who are far more talented than I am.

I listen to music knowing that not everyone has the same taste as me.

I share my ideas freely, and in doing so become exposed to contrary opinions and rebuttals.

Mind you, I still try to be considerate of others’ ideas and feelings. I’m not entirely selfish.

I do all those things knowing that others might not like what I do or say, but that doesn’t hold me back from sharing those parts of myself. I strive to live life apologetically true to myself (part of that for me means being open). I mean, life wouldn’t be so ZESTY if you lived life in a shell afraid to rustle any feathers. You get the point… So it’s odd that at the thought of sharing one minuscule aspect of my life with my dear friend, I became uncomfortable. This is the best way I can describe my dyspeptic disposition:

You know that feeling when you hear your recorded voice or you watch yourself on video? It’s a strange phenomenon. You can hear the words being spoken, you can see the features of your face you’ve grown to recognise. But you ask yourself… is that really me? Do I sound like that? It’s unsettling every damn time. That vulnerable feeling that arises when listening to yourself from outside of your head creeps up your spine and slackens your smile because you are seeing what everyone else sees. No smoke screens. No faking it. You are defenseless from the perceptions of others. It’s just something that’s our of your control.

We craft identities for ourselves from the moment we can form those kinds of thoughts. And something about seeing yourself in a light that contradicts the identity you have encased yourself in is shattering.

Is lack of control the problem here? Vulnerability? I suppose the answer is yes. I’m used to being guarded, analysing others from a safe distance, keeping it all in my memory bank. If I allow myself to be vulnerable now, I’m open to the same treatment that I administer to others — a dismal thought, actually. So what does that say about me?

Maybe he’ll see something unfavorable in me that I see in myself every day. Maybe he’ll realise what a crackpot I am hah (I don’t mind this at all, actually). I really can’t tell how much he perceives sometimes… Or what he thinks he perceives. But that doesn’t really matter. It won’t change who I am… Maybe it boils down to this:

The only reason I am hesitant to share is because I actually care what he thinks.

Journalism Can Never Be Silent

For entry into the Al Neuharth Free Spirit and Journalism Conference, I had to write two essays. I have published the latter.

The prompt for this one: Why do you wish to pursue journalism as a career?

Essay 1:

At the front of room 127, my school’s newsroom, sits a white canvas with tacked on wooden letters. It reads, “Journalism can never be silent.” Deceptively simple, yet infinitely deep, these words so full of profundity, resonate deeply with me. When I am struggling to find the words within me, the motivation within me, I look to the front of room 127 past the framed photograph of a smiling Ronald Reagan to the unassuming canvas. Journalism can never be silent, I repeat to myself.

When I first stepped into 127, my virgin eyes grew wide at the ethos of the room. No classroom I’d ever been in rejected pretentious decorum like the newsroom did. No other class felt so much like a family,complete with drama and bickering of course, with everyone loving each other all the while. I instantly fell in love with not only the people within, but journalism itself.

A pillar of democracy, journalism serves the uninformed, the oppressed, and the misrepresented. Journalism is truly beautiful. What other career offers the prospect to rouse hope among the bleak? Where else can one be an advocate for honesty in such a pure way? Journalism is my chance to change the world in my own little way.

I want to walk amongst the forgotten, to tell the stories that are nestled abysmally in the confines of the underbelly of society, examining the issues we face, the despairs and loveliness of human existence. I will be a soldier, deployed by the First Amendment. I will fight not with a gun, but with a steno pad and a pen nestled behind my ear. My words will be an assault on ignorance and dereliction, a solemn battle cry for equality, hope, and justice.

Journalism can never be silent.

Looking Back

Published: Sept. 3, 2013

This op-ed criticizes the deeply-seeded American penchant for inane subjects along with its widespread ignorant disregard of deeper, more important issues.

 

VMA debacle acts as distraction from Syria

 

Americans gasped collectively as they watched what unfolded on their TVs. Parents held their children closer and shook their heads with dismay. And when it was all over, shocked expressions washed over millions of faces.

On August 25, 10.1 million people tuned in to the MTV Video Music Awards. Miley Cyrus’ eyebrow raising performance alongside Robin Thicke caused a tidal wave of criticism. In a hackneyed attempt to prove that she is no longer Hannah Montana, Cyrus twerked her way into headlines. While Cyrus was laughing all the way to the bank, families in Syria fled their homes in fear of being killed.

Writers galore penned opinion pieces dissecting her performance as degrading to females, discussed her embodiment of hip-hop culture, and her supposed racism. Her inauthentic performance, loaded with sexual imagery, served its purpose. It got people talking, but not about what really mattered.

The realization that a Disney Channel graduate’s actions took priority over a nation whose residents die daily at the hands of its leaders stunned me. Over 100,000 residents of Syria have died in the ongoing civil war. However, America’s attention was elsewhere while the Obama administration moved forward with its condemnation of the Assad regime.

On the day prior to the VMAs, British Prime Minister David Cameron and President Obama agreed that the alleged chemical weapon attacks merited a response. Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed 1,429 deaths including 426 children. On the day of the VMAs, U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced the United States believed the Syrian government used chemical weapons.

Chemical weapons, outlawed after World War I, wreaked more havoc than the standard bullets and explosives. Both Hagel and Karin hinted that the chemical agent Sarin was used. According to the CDC, Sarin works by “. . . preventing the proper operation of an enzyme that acts as the body’s “off switch” for glands and muscles. Without an “off switch,” the glands and muscles are constantly being stimulated.” Imagine a continuous cramp all over your body that leads to asphyxiation.

The taboo issue was made more “real” when pictures exhibited the bodies of victims piled in mass graves. The smooth, angelic faces of deceased children captured the horror of their last seconds. The issue at hand is that the American public’s attention should shift to more critical issues. With a decision as important as whether or not to strike Syria on the table, it is no time to ignore what is going on in the world. The choices made in the coming days could open up a Pandora’s Box in the Middle East, launching the US into another war. Does “dancing with Molly” seem so important now?

As Supreme Leader of Iran Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told his Cabinet members in Tehran, “Starting this fire will be like a spark in a large store of gunpowder, with unclear and unspecified outcomes and consequences.”

Free Spirit Essay

Prompt: Why are you a free spirit?

Essay 2:

It was 2010 when I stepped out into the chilly night air of rural Kenya while my family was having evening tea. I felt like being alone. I breathed deeply, taking the scene in. I don’t know whether it was the breeze or the sheer beauty of the sky that roused the hairs on the back of my neck.

Incalculable silver and white dots speckled the sky. The sky was bright as my wildest dreams, a boundless flow of obscurity. I had never seen anything like it.

I was left wondering about the strangest, darkest, craziest, immolating, perverse, hidden features of human existence. Realizing how infinitesimally small we all are, I was first struck with a sense of helplessness. I asked myself who I was, what my purpose was. Is life all just abysmal chaos or is there a pattern that eludes me? That feeling dissolved when I eventually realized who I am and who I am not. I am not a prisoner to my surroundings. I am not afraid to make mistakes. I am not simple: yes or no questions are too confining.  I am an artist. I am perpetually curious. I am a dreamer. I am illogical. I am a learner. I am strong. I am assertive. I am hopeful. I am beautiful. I am a free spirit.

I am compelled to gaze upon the brilliant flashes of love and beauty that fill the universe. I am driven to spend life in the wanderlust of musical vibration, feeling the ecstasy, creating pure moments, learning from those around me, all while refusing to give into apathy.

Boldness, a never-ending supply of hope, and passion might be just what it takes to change the world. I’m willing to take my chances.