Predawn reflections, on consistency;
I’m not. Consistent, that is. In fact, one of the few things that I do on a consistent basis involves no shortage of inconsistent behavior. I don’t really look at is as inconsistency, though; I see it more as calculated bouts of spontaneity. You see, predictability frightens me. Stagnation scares me. Monotony drives me up the wall, without any hope of finding a way back down.
I know myself pretty well, at least I think I do, and it’s a ceaseless challenge to continue learning more about how I think. I don’t think it’s work that can ever really be finished, because that would imply a cessation of personal growth. That would mean stagnation, and as previously mentioned, that scares the dog hell out of me.
I’m a creative type, as are most folks that I gravitate to, but I think the only thing that separates creatives from non-creatives is a willingness to acknowledge and nurture their own creativity. This involves taking many an unorthodox step, such as impromptu detours to state parks on the way home, just to explore new grounds, and to behold the beauty of the setting sun as it filters through a sea of shedding deciduous trees at the peak of Autumn.
Creatives live for those few moments of unscheduled mayhem, if one can call a quiet walk in an abandoned Forest mayhem (and maybe it is mayhem, mayhem to the crushing structure of a 9-5 that is emposed on the working class, on paupers and princes alike).
The problem is that we have to go to work to pay the bills, to come home to a space that we can call our own, and to support loved ones half a world away that only wish they could provide for themselves, if only their country hadn’t been robbed blind year after year. As grateful as we should be for our situations, every situation has its difficulty and its detractions and no two situations can be fairly compared.
When we come home to that space, all we want to do is to shut out the outside world. All we want to do is retreat into our preferred cocoons to recharge our batteries; a Netflix session, a bottomless mug of tea, a weathered book that we only manage to read 5 days at a time, 2 days a week. All we want is to regain the freedom of choice that defines a large portion of humanism, the one that we relinquish every morning and for 8 consecutive hours thereafter.
It doesn’t matter what you do to reclaim your time, to reacquire your agency after clocking out, but it has to be done. Throwing caution to the wind is highly appreciated by people like me, but always in moderation. I find that living recklessly for a few moments each day, insofar as you can call taking pictures of ladybugs and wood termites in Macro mode recklessness, really helps me to overcome the melancholy produced by maleficent monotony.
Inconsistency in my spare time helps to counter the ordained consistency that this world requires of me to survive. If I could, I’d stand on the street corner as beggers often do. My cardboard sign would simply read, “Do you have any time to.spare?” Passersby would have no choice but to ask themselves where exactly all their time went, and was it even possible to donate some of your own time to someone more desperate for it?
So I walked into the local ethnic restaurant at about just past noon the other day. Everyone kind of knows each other there, for the most part, so we tend to act pretty informally. I made my way back into the prep area where a solitary employee was busting out order after order, the concentration etched into his face like the branding on a prize racehorse’s hindquarters.
It was the lunch hour rush on a Friday, one of the busiest times of the week for the quaint little eatery. I stood there as I always did, equal parts uninvited and uninhibited. This place is like Cheers, except nobody knows your name and nobody really cares what you do so long as you don’t break or spill something.
There I stood, as I always had in moments of free time in the last few weeks: idle in a commercial kitchen. To my right stood this out of the blue looking character, this uninteresting type of dude who kind of just existed in the background like the constant drone of the large hood vent fan over the flat-top griddle. There was nothing special about his face in any discernable way. He kind of just was, as an amoeba floating in amniotic fluid was: existing.
We made eye contact and I shuddered to a start, social anxiety kicking in like a rage of bundles, materializing without heed, like, all knotted up in the pit of me gulliver. I couldn’t tell you what did it to me about his countenance, dear brothers, but the effects were undeniably moving. As I struggled to get ahold of my nausea, as I fiddled nervously with the hem of my button-up, this peculiar patron of the employees section decided to pipe up, in my direction, no less.
“Sir, this area is for authorized and pre-approved employees only. You can’t be back here without the proper paperwork.” I looked him up and down like a Doberman staring down it’s next meal. I held my tongue, my anxiety having morphed into bewilderment followed quickly by a quiet quiver. The nerve of this cat, the unmitigated audacity of this goon. I really didn’t know what to say so I got on my high horse, popped a 180 and high tailed it out of there. Hi, Ho, Silver. I rumbled, young man, rumbled straight back to my house and helped myself to a complimentary banana at the front counter.
Sometimes the only way to win a battle is to not even acknowledge the existence of your opponent. Sometimes you just gotta walk away, slowly peeling a banana and whistling Dixie.
The thing about having demons in your closet is that you have to let them out from time to time. They need to be given attention, otherwise they’ll break out of the prison you’ve crafted for them and consume you whole. You have to talk to your demons, you have to feed them and give them sustenance. Some demons can be abandoned altogether, but most linger indefinitely.
The thing about letting your demons out of their 4×5 cell to go for a walk, to get some fresh air is.. once they taste a little bit of freedom, they remember just how oppressive that dark space you created for their confinement really is. They become reckless, high from the sudden loosening of their leash and unable to keep their desires hidden from you.
The thing about having demons is, we don’t always choose to carry them with us, but we have to acknowledge them just the same.
The thing about demons within our core being is, the more you try to avoid them, the more power they have over you. The more you tell yourself that everything is fine, the more the demons smirk with a reddish tint in their eyes; chuckling softly from an increasingly large corner of your very psyche.
The thing about these demons is, they are just as much a part of you as the face that stares back in the mirror every morning.
The thing is, these demons.. they’re actually the parts of yourself that you refuse to accept.
Embrace your demons, don’t shut us out. You’ll only hurt us in the long run, you’re only punishing yourself.
I remember working at a temporary labor staffing agency, back in 2008, just to make ends meet after I dropped out from the UW. My main assignment came in the form of a graveyard shift, sweeping away peanut shells and detritus using a gas-powered leaf blower at Safeco field after Mariners games in Seattle.
The work was terribly underpaid and mind numbingly simple, but it gave me peace. It got my family off my back because suffering from existential depression wasn’t an excuse to not work. It let me stay awake all night, which I did anyway, which was by design because I avoided seeing people at all costs. Seeing people smiling and going about their days, which could only remind me of how little desire I had to do anything with my life other than avoid people, avoid conversations about my past and my present, my future and my fall from grace.
The sound of dozens of leaf blowers running simultaneously as we crawled down the bleachers of the stadium one section at a time, blowing away the discarded remains of capitalism and American privilege. We were all poor folks, black and brown folks, mostly. The wide-open spaces, the repetitive motion of the leaf blower nozzle being moved side to side, the vibrations of the engine forcing you to keep your jaws wired shut for fear of losing any fillings. The crisp night time air, the chilly fog that only the pacific northwest produces so consistently. The smell of the Puget sound enveloping you as the high tide washes back in to shore a few hundred meters away.
Poor folks, cleaning up the mess of rich folks at a stadium that we couldn’t afford a ticket to enter during daylight hours. Working ten hours in the dead of night and getting paid the price of admission for one person, not including food or beverages. Catching the metro route 120 home as the sun rises over the horizon, heating up leftover hamburger helper for dinner at breakfast time. Letting the sounds of the projects rising to tackle another day drift you off to sleep.
It was the absolute bare minimum for a working age adult in the United States of America, but it was more than I could ever ask for at the time. It met my needs, it let me walk the night without a care in the world. The Talib Kweli and Styles P albums playing on repeat inside my earbuds, underneath my ear protectors. Outside of that, the incessant whine of 10,000 leaf blowers competing to drown each other out. Just past that, the city of Seattle was asleep. The crackheads jostling and finessing each other for hits, the heroin junkies leaning, strung out on the corner of 3rd & Pine like some overpriced art installation pieces. Like weeping willow trees, overburdened with hundreds of years of strange fruit, until they could no longer stand straight.
I got PTSD from America, but I was blessed enough to have a way out. Even if that way out was a war torn country that hadn’t seen peace in a quarter century, it was still a way out. I never forget the fact that so many of my black cousins, born and bred in that hellish place, don’t have such a luxury.
I’ll never stop being thankful to my black brethren who took me in from jump, especially when my own people saw me as too unorthodox to associate with. I’ll never stop fighting for the liberation of all black people, everywhere, but especially in places where they don’t have a way out. Black America, you helped shape me into the man I am today. Even when I was lost, I always had an anchor. An unspoken acceptance, a seat at the table regardless of how I expressed or repressed my blackness.
In coming to America, I adopted the black struggle as my own, because it became my reality. I don’t know what generational trauma feels like, but I know that trauma has more parallels than it does differences across cultural lines. I see myself as black, I saw my ethnicity stripped away from us as soon as we landed at JFK all those years after having escaped the very real trauma of a country scattered.
I saw myself staring at those 5 options whenever I helped my parents fill out a public housing application in elementary school: White/Caucasian, Hispanic/Non Caucasian, Middle Eastern, Asian/Pacific Islander, Black/African American. In between asking my teachers at school what the hell a spouse was so I could finish these applications and get that section 8, I was asking myself if there was a difference between Black and African American.
Was there a difference between Somali and African? What did that make me, an African in America? What box did I check? And why did the white female teachers treat me differently then my African American counterparts? Was it merely smugness, that their ego was being stroked by my presence? That they felt responsible for saving my family from a sad, unfortunate fate in despicable, destitute Africa?
Was my very presence in their classrooms a physical assuaging of their white guilt? Why, then, did I feel guilty for this special treatment? Why did I shy away from their praise and try to keep my thoughts to myself, my mouth shut in the back of the classroom?
How did this help me grow a triple consciousness, trying to navigate through it all as a third culture kid? What does it all mean, how can I reconcile all of this shit within me?
I was more traumatized by my life in Seattle than I was from escaping civil war in Somalia as a toddler, with bullets flying overhead and people dying right next to me.
I remember making eye contact with my dad as he backed up a trailer truck that was being used to pile up the casualties of conflict and drive them off to be dumped in the mass graves. People were dying so fast that there wasn’t any time to dig individual graves, and there weren’t enough people left alive to do it.
Y’all really have no idea how terrible of a place Seattle is for me to feel this strongly about it, with the background that I have. Stay tf away. If you live there, get out while you still have a soul.