I don’t know about you, but sometimes, on my way to something really grand, I’ll sit in silence and peer out the window.
It’s nice to bathe in the moments that come right before the finale: the burning in my chest, the sparks in my eyes, even the tingle just beyond the belly. This part’s always my favorite.
Ever since I was about five or six, my parents would count down the years until both my sister and I left for college. It was a number I found myself dreading… 12, 11, 10… though, it was never about my parents having to let go. I’d like to think it was a reminder that the time we spent together was precious and that the effort I put into my life really mattered. What did I want to learn? Who did I want to be? College had always seemed like this far-off concept that never quite arrived. Until the day that it did.
Moving out was hard.
Moving three thousand miles across the country was even harder. I left friends that I admired, family that I loved, and palm trees that graced only my dreams. Home became a multiplicity of things. If you know me at all, you know that perhaps I wasn’t fully devoted to my life out in the East. Yes, there were so many highs, but there were also handfuls of lows that boggled my sanity. Like many others, there were times I considered leaving. To this day, I can still remember the frantic calls made at one in the morning in the basement lounge as I muffled back tears.
But what good would that have done? Would I have met better mentors or more supportive friends? Would I have been a better person? The grass always seemed greener even though I was standing in a field of marigolds.
Four years later and here I am, right before the finale. Exactly fourty-seven days out. But graduating doesn’t necessarily mean bigger and better things. For some, it means infinite nine to fives that are spent staring out looming glass windows and reminiscing over days when all we did was lay out on the greenspace and pass around carafes of twisted teas. For others, it means gripping that diploma for dear life and wishing we could shake the meaning out of it.
And just like we did in elementary school, and middle school, and high school, and college, we’re going to make a lot of mistakes. Mistakes are what make us human. But if I leave you with one word of advice, it’s to never make excuses. Make mistakes and make them deliberately. Be decisive. At least, you’ll have a goddamn backbone.
I don’t want these years to be the best years of my life.
I want every year to be the best year of my life. I want passion and I want truth and I want long contemplative conversations over gin and tonics, and I want love. Most importantly, I want love.
I wish love to each and every one of you in your future endeavors. And I truly hope you found fragments of yourself within the folds of then and now; the parts that burn in your chest, the parts that sparkle in your eyes, and even the parts that tingle just beyond the belly.
I used to sit and dream of these moments.
I used to light cigarettes in hopes that the smoke would push my memories of you deeper into the abyss. But I could still feel them, lingering there like the faintest whisper of my name. I prayed—prayed to whatever was worth praying to.
I was a fool for you.
But heartbreak makes for good poetry material.
There is no time to grieve.
Life keeps going no matter how slowly you breathe, no matter how long you stare at those pictures: the ones of us holding hands, the ones of us smiling, the ones of you pretending you were in love.
I hate thinking about the time that has passed. Not because I dread the memories, but because they were all too sweet. Four years is a long time.
Four years is an eternity in the blink of an eye, it’s the moment your lips meet mine,
it’s every breath I could not breathe.
There is scrambled shouting, explosive laughter, elders sitting calmly at the head of the table, and an excess of food.
The majority of my adolescent life consisted of early Saturday mornings at Chinese school and the constant nagging of my mother to speak my native tongue, Mandarin.
Almost immediately after heading East for college, I noticed a dramatic shift in perspective.
During my time abroad I experienced racial prejudices far beyond the run-of-the-mill jokes.
Being Asian by heritage means I am the one responsible for bringing about change.
Poetry by Karen J. Wang
2 January 2016
Strength does not feel like iron bars growing in the place of soft flesh.
She’s more like shallow breaths and balmy temples.
Show me strength disguised in a cape and shield,
And I’ll show you faint and dark scars across my chest.
Strength strikes with a vengeance at night.
She is crippling, abusive, and so damn heavy.
Dry throat and fuzzy head, I’ve grown an interest in ceiling fans and carpet.
Strength sings you to sleep at night with the pattering of tears on the pillow
and shakes you awake at odd hours just to scream, “You Are Alone”.
People are talking and I can’t hear a word they’re saying,
So I count the beats of my heart with the ticking of the clock in the other room.
Strength feels like forgiveness on the tip of your tongue
held back by memories too painful to recall.
But I’ll play them over and over and over until my vision blurs
and even your name sounds foreign in my voice.
Strength does not feel like “I’m my own superhero”,
She’s more like silent screams and tears hotter than my bath water.
I’m consumed in a shroud of darkness.
Students in pleated skirts, shiny cufflinks, pressed ties, and black monogrammed binders flutter anxiously to and fro across the campus quad. Like marching bullet ants, I catch glimpses of furrowed brows and muffled conversations concerning summer internships and the like. On days like these I feel trapped in the leather bound coffin I created around myself, listening intently, palms sweaty, as the locks click shut.