Sunday, March 30, 2014

Dear Mom

Dear Mom,

I write lots of personal stuff on the internet because I want to. Including my essay about Colby. I don't plan to stop.

Sharing personal stuff with other people is a priority for me, and I am not willing to not share. I don't regret sharing personal things with people who have betrayed me. I may regret that if we lived in some idyllic world where almost everyone was trustworthy and I had chosen the few people who weren't, but when I'm faced with the choice of sharing with an untrustworthy person and not sharing at all, I will ALWAYS choose to share.

I will never make friends at work as long as you're giving me advice. You've drilled into my head that I can't share anything personal in the workplace. The people I work with are very nice and I would like to make friends with them, but the only chance I have at that is to get everything you've told me out of my brain. YOU are the one holding me back from being myself at work - not Colby. It would be different if my main focus in my personal life were something else - if I was involved in community theatre or on a dance team or something, and that was what I wanted to tell everyone about. But my focus at the moment is writing, and I can't answer the questions, "What's your book about?" or "What's your blog about?" without revealing a lot about myself. And yet those are the things I'm focused on right now, so I'm absolutely not okay with holding back when people seem interested in discussing those things with me. Not okay at all.

It really hurt me when you kept talking about being responsible for your own happiness and how you only get one life and it's not a dress rehearsal. I understand that this philosophy is good for you and part of your own healing process but you really made me feel like I didn't have the right to grieve or recover after Colby, like there wasn't time to be upset and I had to just move on really fast. I know you regret not seeing Colby for what it was when I applied, but I feel like you never truly accepted what my issues with Colby were. You and Dad are a lot like the students who hurt me. You made it worse my not letting me be upset when it was over.

I do BDSM. I'm keeping it a secret because I'm scared you'll think I'm not a feminist anymore or that you'll think my boyfriend pushed me into it. I'm not sure you can accept that I have always had this interest - I think you'll think that I've been brainwashed by the patriarchy.

I have a BDSM sex blog on the internet. It is open to the public, but I am careful about not revealing my real identity or location. I will never tell you about this because I know you'll be disappointed in me. You'll think I've hit rock bottom and I'm just using my writing skills for this because sex sells, because it's the easiest way to get noticed, not because I actually want to write about my sex life. You will feel creeped out at the thought of other people masturbating to what I've written and you'll be worried about my safety. I want my blog to become popular, and it upsets me that if I do reach that goal, I won't get to celebrate my success with you like I always have.

I do BDSM with a friend other than my boyfriend. My boyfriend is fine with this, and it's been working fine for all of us so far. I know (from how you've judged other people) that you'll tell me this can't possibly work and that someone is going to get hurt and you'll be really disappointed in me.

Sometimes I have a really hard time telling you what's going on with me because more and more of my personal life - good and bad - is falling under the realm of things I can't discuss with you.

I'm not okay with most of the trade-offs I've made in my life - all the fun things I've missed because I felt forced to be a good student. But I understand the risks of all the things I just listed above, and I accept them. I care enough about all of these things that I am accepting the risks and trade-offs that come with them. Not that I want to miss a promotion at work because I am open about my personal life, but talking about my personal life is more important to me than getting the promotion, so it's a risk I'm taking.  I have a lot of support from my friends, and I would have never entered some of these things without that support.

Back in high school, you always told me that if I was ever in a bad situation, like at a party or something and I needed you to come and get me, I could call you and you'd come get me and I wouldn't have to explain what happened and I wouldn't be in any trouble for it. I appreciated that so much. I knew that most of my friends would get in trouble - most of friends didn't have parents who would do that for them. But the difference then was that I was sincerely never interested in getting drunk or trying drugs - if I had ended up in a "bad situation" where I needed to call you, it would have been by accident. I wouldn't have gone back to the same type of party the following weekend. I know you'd still be there for me if I got into trouble because of something I shared at work or posted online or if someone started harassing me because of my sex blog, but you would expect me to have learned my lesson and stop doing it. When I got in trouble for that Facebook post at Colby, you never accepted that I wanted to be able to talk that way and my main problem was that I couldn't do it anymore. You never accepted that I was not willing to limit what I shared at college. If I got harassed on my sex blog, I know you would never accept that I wanted to continue writing it. I know you want to know what's going on with me and you want me to come to you when I have a problem, but I can't do that with a lot of things anymore.

I love you more than anyone else in the world and I wish I could still share everything with you.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014


When I say "Meh," I don't mean I'm just in a blah mood. I am actively asserting my right to not give a fuck about what everyone tells me I have to give a fuck about.


Tuesday, March 25, 2014

In Defense of Being Cryptic

Dear Colby Writing Professors,

I have good communication skills. I had them all along. I was never someone who needed to "learn" to communicate clearly. I wasn't being unclear because I didn't know how to be clear. I was being cryptic for a reason. I was being cryptic because every time I did communicate clearly outside of writing class, I was invalidated. Every time I said, "I feel X about Y" I was told that Y wasn't a big enough thing to feel X about. This literally happened almost every time I shared how I felt. Good communication is effective communication, and since no one listened to me when I spoke openly and honestly, I learned that open and honest communication wouldn't get me anywhere. Not at Colby, and not at home with my friends who couldn't accept that Colby was unacceptable to me. So I learned to communicate in a different way.

Crypticism has several benefits:

1. No one can invalidate your feelings when they don't know what you're talking about. It's kind of hard to say, "It's not that bad" when you don't know what the "it" is. Okay, people did still invalidate me when I talked about my feelings in a cryptic way, but I had the defense of "You don't get it!" when those people literally did not know what I felt so bad about. And that's less bad than being invalidated when someone knows the full story. I KNEW that I would be told that X wasn't bad enough to feel Y about, so I just talked about Y without mentioning X. (And this was NOT my imagination - whenever I did bring up X, it was exactly as I predicted, or worse.)

2. When you say something in a cryptic way, you limit your audience to the people who care enough about you to ask what's really going on. You are throwing something very emotional out there and hoping to connect with people, but you're less likely to get hurt when you require that extra step of asking what you really mean, because people aren't likely to do that extra work just to be a jerk to you.  

3. Crypticism allows you to say what you want to say and not get in trouble. I was almost kicked out of school for a threat message I posted on Facebook, so I couldn't exactly write, "I want to burn down the school and everyone in it" in a poem. You KNEW this because I told you about it during office hours, I explained in clear English why I was literally not safe expressing myself in class, but you still kept talking to me about clarity as if I hadn't even noticed that I was trying to hide something.

4. Crypticism is often a more effective way to communicate. Lots of people have a very hard time understanding things that they don't relate to. Putting yourself in someone else's shoes doesn't help because we are all different and something that's not a problem for you may be a crisis for someone else. When people can't accept what I'm telling them, I try to come up with a metaphor they can relate to that's more neutral, something that most people would agree on. I may be cryptic in terms of saying what's wrong for me, but I'm more effective at communicating the problem to people who can't relate.

I know crypticism isn't some fancy official literary style, but it certainly has its uses, and I was certainly using in on purpose. Imagine you have a campus where it's very common for someone to jump out of the bushes and attack you, so you learn to be on guard for that. Then someone sits down and tells you that you're wasting so much of your energy being on-guard, and wouldn't it be nice if you could just walk along peacefully and enjoy nature and get lost in your thoughts? They say this to you while doing NOTHING to try to stop the attacks, as if it never occurred to you that you'd be happier being able to walk in peace.

Even you, my writing professors, promoted Colby ideals as universal truths. The tangents you got on in class - about how everyone loves learning, how we should have more intellectual conversations, how it sucks to go home where everyone just talks about nothing (the assumption being that none of us could possibly MISS talking about nothing or fit in more at home than at Colby) - just reminded me of how alone and isolated I was at Colby, and that I shouldn't expect anyone in class to care about my issues. You invalidated me when I shared personal things with you during your office hours - you gave me the "You can't possibly feel X just over Y!" that everyone else gave me. You told me not be cryptic, yet you contributed to the environment in which I needed to be cryptic. You told me to love the reader, but how could I do that when my writing was MEANT to attack the people reading it? I couldn't "identify the 'you'" in the poem because I was referring to YOU and everyone else in class! You described me as screaming without words, which was correct on your part, but I wasn't without words. I had plenty of words. But whenever I shared those words, no one heard the screaming.

This isn't just for my writing professors - this is for EVERYONE out there who thinks that just being yourself and communicating openly and honestly will solve all your problems. Everyone who refuses to acknowledge that YOU might be the reason that someone else is being cryptic.

I'm not encouraging you to be cryptic. If you're in an environment where you can express yourself clearly, that's awesome. But just know that people have reasons for sounding defensive and being cryptic. If you wish people would just say what they mean, try to BE someone that they can say it to.   

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Before We Met

I've always worried about our compatibility. I mean, I'm an instant gratification person and he's a work ethic person. A productive day for me is a fun day because my only goals are fun things I want to do. A productive day for him is getting chores or work done, which is a wasted day to me. I thought most of our incompatibility had more to do with how we present ourselves than with the way we actually are. But the truth is this...

Before we met, I didn't feel pressured to like camping. I didn't have people in my life who couldn't accept that about me.

Before we met, I didn't feel pressured to like being at some remote nature location with no cell phone service or internet access or big fun commercial stuff to do.

Before we met, I didn't feel pressured to want to sleep in close quarters with people and bond over or togetherness rather than getting separate hotel rooms.

Before we met, I packed lots of stuff into a small bag because of airplane regulations, not to fool people into thinking I'm the kind of low maintenance person who doesn't pack much for a weekend away from home.

Before we met, I could be as picky as I wanted to be without being criticised (in my inner circle, which your inner circle is now a part of).

Before we met, if I was too cold, then IT was too cold, even if no one else thought so. Before we met, I didn't owe anyone an explanation of why their space wasn't warm enough for me.

Before we met, I didn't feel pressured to be neat or do chores.

Before we met, I was free to be a princess because "princess" was a good word, not a bad one.

Before we met, I was just free to be my superstar diva partygirl self who's only looking for fun and instant pleasure. I didn't feel pressured to be a good hardworking productive citizen.

But above all else, before we met, I never would have put up with this. I would dropped the people who criticised my priorities and lifestyle and run back to my own world where I could just be a princess.

I want to go back where I came from. But I want to take you with me.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Postsecrets

My PostSecrets:

Monday, March 10, 2014

Poem: "Listlessness Is Like"

"Listlessness is Like"

Looking through a waterfall, the colors swirl
together like caterpillars smeared
like oil paint across the pavement.

Clinging to the center of a tornado,
bark and doorknobs and ligaments
turn to anthill sand and exfoliate those still living.

Riding on blender blades while torn photos
and ink scribbles and long-expired milk fuse
together into window-sealant paste.

Tasting hints of mold in the first bite of bread
like a new grain or seed added.  Swallowing
raw beef since you already have E coli.

Building an igloo just before a rainstorm, watching
each drop shatter your eggshell walls, the fortress
deserting you to join its element.

Plastering over cockroaches, their feelers
twitching beneath. Growing dandelion seeds

when the wind is your wallpaper.

(Spring 2010)

Poem: "If Only I Had Trusted my Night Vision"

"If Only I Had Trusted my Night Vision"

My bones bounce against
what I assume is a stretcher.
Oxygen is forced into my lungs,
like you forced me off the road.
And your high beams still
drown me in a whirlpool
of white mist. 

What were you thinking,
luring my eyes with your blaze?
Did you rope me in,
thinking I needed illumination?

Well, here’s a newsflash for you–
I have night vision.
I don’t give a fuck what people say
about my underdeveloped rods.
Don’t prescribe me some
expense I don’t need.

I’m easy to coerce
because I’m young.
Wearing glasses makes me think
I need a new prescription.
You compelled me to believe my
night vision was off. 
But you threw it off.
You flashed that high-beam flare.
You drilled it into my iris,
suffocated my visual cortex
until it couldn’t re-paste sensations
and make sense of my initial

You trapped me in your ambush.
You coiled that light beam around me
and wrung out my soul.
You were never strong enough
to bind me to your radiance,
but you twisted my body,
choked my equilibrium,
brainwashed me to think
I had escaped.
But I remained in your caress.
And for a moment, I felt safe.
I trusted your persuasion
to lead me someplace better.
But you’ve seduced me
for your personal pleasure.
I’m just another firefly
tangled in your web.
You impelled me to follow,
so you could swallow my blood.

The car toppled over.
Voices circled around me.
Again, I’m dragged away from
my direction. 

I should use my last breaths to
tell people I love them,
but my lungs are consumed with a desire
to knock out your headlights
and flood your occipital lobe with my own luster.
I want to strangle you,
squeeze out your blood for myself.

And don’t give me that shit that
you wanted to help.  When did you learn that
light alone doesn’t help you see?  Don’t you remember
turning lamps off to watch  
the stars?   Didn’t your driving instructor tell you
to flick off your high beams?

But so many try to lead with high beams;
I doubt any of us were taught.
I’m nowhere near your car,
or my direction,
but all I see is white mist.
Dead or alive, I’m locked in
your undying light.

(Fall 2009)

Poem: "From Your Failed Assignment"

"From Your Failed Assignment"

Your voice was lemon-lime soda that melted
me into cream and your hand was cake frosting on
mine.  You guided me through that salad bowl
of midnight mist, on the road I knew just as
well in the dark.  But your words were

an ambulance, when no one else believed
I was ill.  My fingers clung to yours, like
those roller-coaster bars, that time I couldn’t
pull them apart.  The steam of your breath was
a disorienting fog, convincing me I didn’t know

my way.  But now I want to run and you
won’t let me go.  You guard the door, like
a doctor in a mental facility, instead of a friend
in my room.  I see now how happy I was as a
spider, until a dragonfly said my wings were

broken.  And I made my nails salmon
because you didn’t approve of plum.  And
your frosting-fingers failed to regenerate
a blood flow that hadn’t stopped. And you
thought I was sick because my river wasn’t

yours.  I was your failed assignment, crumbled
or shredded or burned.  The plan you wrote on
me was centered but grounded on quicksand –
I’m not a hardwood floor you can stand on.  I see
now that I was never ill; it was just pollen –

you were just pollen – searching my lungs for
a home.  You worked my white blood cells, pulled
them away from anything else they should have
destroyed.  It was years ago when I caught this infection,
but those blood cells that absorbed you still hide you

inside, and some days your pollen seeps out of that
cage, floods my veins and my lungs, telling me that
I shouldn’t need oxygen – years ago I would have
believed you and died.  Why don’t you see that our blood
doesn’t flow the same way, that I don’t need you to

replace my night vision or feed me like a child.
I’m not your assignment, passed or failed. 
The world is full of pollen and you can have
all you want – just let the rest of us breathe.

(Fall 2009)

Poem: "The Beach, Yesterday and Today"

"The Beach, Yesterday and Today"

You and I once held eternity in a sand wave that stroked
our skin, swallowed our secrets, saved us from the day.
Our life span was the distance we could swim before
the current tossed us back.  Our lungs clung to air like

snails clung to rocks. We raced to the end of the path before
the lighthouse disappeared.  Each shell we stole

was a gold medal we won in our race against
time.  But we return, three years later, sift our

hands through the particles of shells left
behind.  For now we cling to string handrails

of a decaying bridge, racing maggots to step
on each board.  But they’re fast, and we’ve fallen,

been thrashed through the washing machine, drowned
in rip currents that slam us against their floor.

You’ve been under so long, the current caresses,
the motion rocks you to sleep.  The ones who brought

you here can’t reach you where they are, so instead
the ocean cradles you.  I wonder if it knows that

four minutes of its embrace will shatter you.  For
now we’re not racing time to the finish line, but

running from an oil spill, a hurricane, a plague. 
We dodge broken bottles instead of sand hurdles. 

Our award is not a medal, but the chance
to take another step without bleeding. 

I wonder if we are shells polished, painted,
and preserved, or if we’re the shattered debris

of last summer’s shells, tossed
with pebbles and glass.

(Fall 2009)

Poem: "The Cost of Focus"

"The Cost of Focus"

Your mind was a tornado
that sucked in anything
it could grasp –
the cornflower voices
of children screaming,
the tart raspberry taste of
a picture from a story,
the hailstorm symphony
you dance in when
you close your eyes. 

Your cyclone mixed
ingredients into a
whirlpool of glitter,
a brew that only you
would dare to swim
in.  It spun you around
the playground in an
interpretive dance only
known to your imaginary
friends.  The swings were
your dragons, the jungle gym
was your kingdom, and you
were a dandelion seed.

In the classroom, you tore
the words I read apart, grated them,
dispersed them into something new. 
Your way was messier, but also,
more perfect; like watermelon seeds,
you spat out the boring facts.  I listened
to what remained, what you generated. 

You never slept at naptime; the ceiling
was a circus.  I said close your eyes, and
you apparated to outer space.  I said pay
attention, and you told me a story, and
your voice was a swirl of finger paint colors
not fully mixed, and a lightening lived
in your pupils and shocked my veins. 

But one day, you staggered into class, your eye sockets drained of lightening.
You didn’t search for an outlet, you focused on my words, you swallowed
too many watermelon seeds.  Now the ceiling is a roof, and your eyelids are blank
space, and books are for reading and mats are for sleeping.  Your fantasies were
once platelets, feeding your blood tsunami, gushing over cities, melting
reality.  But someone built a rock wall that your waves can’t seep through. 
You sit still with folded hands at story time, and I need to test your vital signs,
to ensure that your ocean – no, your river –no, your stream of blood still
circulates, without a tornado to spiral and direct it.

(Fall 2009)

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Poem: "If I Could Fire Time"

"If I Could Fire Time"

I regret to inform you that I’m letting you go –
you haven’t upheld your duties thus far. 
You listed punctuality as one of your strengths, but
you never arrive when asked.  You race
like a dragonfly on a lake, but your grip won’t
protect me from slipping.  I didn’t give you
nights off, but you’re gone when my eyes
close. Lightning bolts bind me to my bed and use
my veins as wires to play reruns I’ve tried
to burn.  I thrash and throb while thunder fills
me like a rice grain expanded.  But I’m not there –
I can’t be – it was so long ago.  I try to think
of something pleasant, but you won’t turn
off the storm. You pull translucent faces inside.
Their breath is a river gushing over my head
and their voices seal the ice six feet above. 
It’s your job to drive them back to the years
they come from, but I lie on a bed of bones
with skeletons spilling from my pores and you can’t
even offer a Band-Aid.  You may be fast, but you’re
flying in spirals and I’m tumbling down the trail you’ve
left behind.  But I regret to say that I don’t have
the authority to fire you, so I’ll shut up and let you
drag me until it’s your turn to let me go.

(Spring 2010) 

Poem: "College-Induced Depression"

"College-Induced Depression"

I’d rather swallow mothballs than marshmallows. 

But harder than swallowing is injecting
words like hornet’s poison into
someone’s cleaner bloodstream.

Each line is a rotting apple I toss
onto your weedless lawn, a speck of mud in
your distilled glass of water.  You never

studied my blood type in your EMT training – 
You follow the laws of marshmallow fluff:
sugar = joy, white = dilution, stickiness = extraction of

venom.  But my skin holds coriander and cardamom and
cockroach shells, a whirlpool of larvae and autumn leaves. 
The maggots tickle as they await the day they’ll fly through

my lips, but you destroy them before they lay eggs in
your ears.  You strap me down and jam a feeding tube
into my throat with the other end in a gooey, sweet ocean. 

The worm I once drenched in rubbing alcohol is laughing
while sugar suffocates the tadpoles inside me.  I want
to smear my stomach acid across the walls,

but the paint roller would only soak marshmallow fluff. 
I recoil like the weaker half of a split-end hair.  And you’ll throw my bones
into a sewer and say it worked –

I was extracted, diluted, and by your standards, happy.

(Spring 2010)

Poem "Back Home"

"Back Home" 

Back home, dandelions were wildflowers.
I bathed in a puddle of pollen seeds.
A girl ate spider egg sacks on toast.
A boy used gutter mold as hair gel.
Beside my friends, I let centipedes
crawl down my throat.
We stood at the door,
drenched in mud and oak sap.
Ants built a colony inside our hair.
But the locks never changed. 
Someone was never scared of touching.
Someone was always there.

I took the highway north, said I’d be back,
but the path home isn’t here.
Now gutter mold is cyanide
And spider eggs are children

I lay beside the road, gasping for air
like a fetus ripped too soon.
twitching in a field of pesticides,
where a weed could never grow.

Back home, dandelions were wildflowers.
No one taught me that roads could disappear.

(Spring 2010)

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Poem: "Last Thoughts"

This is a poem I wrote senior year of college.  In real life, I have a great relationship with my parents. The conflict that the speaker expresses with her parents is a conflict I had with most members of the Colby community. For the sake of the poem, I thought it was more effective for the speaker to have this issue with her parents. Aside from that variation, this poem was pretty much true. 

TW: Suicide

"Last Thoughts"

I always wanted to go bungee jumping.
I always thought I’d do it with a cord. 
I thought I’d be screaming
like a fetal leaf pried open,
but gravity steals my voice,
pulls me closer to its embrace. 
Every lit window makes me wonder
who’s inside, what they’re doing up at 3 a.m.
I know where I would be.
I remember a time when
I would have been sleeping,
when Dad and I would
chase the moon home. 
I wanted to believe it –
I never told him I knew. 

Lego brick walls were
cemented together with
the frosting from my
seventh birthday cake. 
Strawberry was my favorite. 
But trust and deceit are intertwined
like the streamers of a candy cane. 
The red disappears with three licks.

It was something we never learned
in school, where we were told
it would never get better. 
I still see the chalk warning
on the first grade blackboard:
A+B = C. 
You’ll have to simplify that
someday, our teacher said. 
Now you have it easy. 
Now was always the best we’d have. 

But simple is for friends who think
love = hot chocolate,
and I’d be cured if they held
my head down in that bowl of
melted marshmallows and I’d
have no choice but to swallow. 
And with the years I spent translating
my dislike for cocoa powder,
I should have just inhaled
the boiling water.

Some consider that a choice,
like Mom’s bookshelf that
collapsed.  I listened to the music
of her anger on the phone –
she deserved a refund,
the box said fifty pounds,
it was one book she added,
it was practically empty.
Dad paced the room like
a mop that wipes a flood from
a pipe that continues to leak. 

It never stopped –
the saltwater broke through my walls.
I know which part of the candy cane is red. 
People should need a license to
act warm and fuzzy, to give
the you-can-tell-me-anything vibe. 
Why stick around when
that will never happen,
when frosting will never
work as cement? 
When hot chocolate will become
an intravenous injection
and bookshelves must collapse
when they don’t want to hold all they can 
and conditions are the pillars
our bridges are built on. 
Gravity has no conditions,
only laws of physics,
laws that know A + B = C
was the answer, there was never
anything to simplify. 
I hope gravity loves me
more than you ever did. 
And Mom –

I hope you get your refund.

** Note: In this poetry class, we all wrote each other letters critiquing our poems. This is the letter that I got from my professor on this poem (keep in mind that this is supposed to be a critique of the writing): 
Nikki, I think this poem scares me for you. I'm not sure why it would feel different than the others, but let's talk after class. I'm not sure talking about how your poems are made is the best thing for you - you seem to be using your poetry to communicate with the world in a way that's somewhat unusual.

Okay, I can understand my professor being concerned about my welfare and that that would be more important than actually discussing the writing with me. The problems with this theory are:
1. We hand in our poems a full WEEK before we discuss them in class, so if my professor was really worried, she would have contacted me before class, or at least tried to catch me after class. The fact that it was up to me to see her in her office meant that she probably wasn't seriously worried, in which case she should have just treated the poem like a poem.
2. When we did talk, I told her basically what I told you - that I don't have a conflict with my parents, that I was not literally planning to jump off a building (not like I could tell her - I was in trouble with the dean's office already and my professor KNEW it), but other than that, everything in the poem was pretty much true. Her response was, "Oh, okay" and that was the end of it. The funny thing is that even though she didn't seem to care about the conflicts in the poem being true for me, she clung to this parental conflict which I told her was actually a peer conflict and later told me to call my entire poetry collection "Dear Mom" no matter how many times I told her that none of these poems had anything to do with my mom.