taking the train to my younger self

my mom enrolled me in piano classes
I sat piously in front of black and white keys
all I wanted was to make noise in spite of melody

the same happened with ballet class
two short years later, I retired the leotard
grace and strength do not come from practice

my teachers sat across from me on parents’ day
they cast euphemisms for ‘troublemaker’
my opinions were not welcomed in class

I started taking swimming lessons
I hated the way the suit hugged my body
and how unwelcoming the water moved against me

I was told to “grow up”
so I wouldn’t lag behind my peers
no, we simply couldn’t have that

in a screenwriting class
the teacher read my script
called me “wise beyond her years”

my shelves began glistening
with trophies from writing competitions
that affirmed who I was

I graduated from the top class
among peers who were encased in ivy futures
and they hung our names on banners like war heroes

my college transcript saw
nothing but a feral row of A’s
my referral letters rang of praises and validation

I ran for student council president
and lost ceremoniously
no one understood what that loss did to me

I lost confidence in everything
my words, my image, my body, my ambition
and amidst my loudest screams, the world chose silence


when I get hungry
I wonder if I could eat away at the chip on my shoulder
and I wonder if doing so would make me hungrier or fuller

when I laugh or love too loud in front of others
I wonder if I could rip my heart off my sleeve
and I wonder if doing so would let them see more or less of me

when I feel less-than
I wonder if Kafka was right
that life is a costume party and I had attended with my real face

do they not like what they see?
do they not like what I am?
do they want me to pretend?
do they want me to pretend to be fine because emotion stunts progress?

I’ve always known I grew up too fast
I’ve always known I shouldered too much
I’ve always known I lived off validation
and is that the consequence of my own actions or the world around me?
does the consequence of my actions create the world around me?

I never learned to say no
and so my inability to decline is mistaken for overeagerness
I cry behind closed doors
and so my optimistic front is mistaken for a helpful pillar
I persist through pain
and so my silent suffering is mistaken for strength

I am not strong
my shoulders stagger
my spine shivers
my knees buckle under the weight of the world
my fingers brush the bars of the cage I have built for myself
my eyes only see the sins I have committed

I make noise in spite of melody
I talk not to please but to make myself heard
my grace and strength come from the people around me
and somedays they fail to breathe
despite swimming lessons, I struggle to stay afloat every day
and I learn to deal with people who say, “at least you’re not drowning”

most nights,
I wonder about what went wrong
most nights,
I don’t feel real
most nights,
I wish the world were ending the next evening

so I might take a train to my younger self
and tell her to do us both a favor