Passion

Writer’s Note: This poem is written as advice to those who are hesitant to pursue their passions, whether their hesitance is due to financial restraints, time, or otherwise. I wrote this poem specifically in response to the pressure that I experienced when deciding to pursue a 200-hour yoga teacher training. I am proud to announce that I will begin my training in February, 2017, and would like to thank my lovely neighbor, Laurel, for encouraging me to take this step (Laurel, if you’re reading this, you rock!).

Passion

You are your passions

So let your life become so, too.

Stop worrying about the time.

There is no better time to pursue your dreams

Than now.

Stop thinking so much.

No decision is 100% perfect.

There are risks to take

And sacrifices to make.

But remember,

The greatest risk is not risking.

There is so much to gain.

So don’t pass up the opportunity

Without a second thought.

Your heart jumps excitedly

At the very idea

Of living your passions.

So satisfy your inner voice.

Give in.

Take a chance.

Stop questioning, “What if?”

What if I’m not ready?

Hushhh.

What if you are ready?

What if you begin to live more fully?

What if you find yourself bursting with joy

If you find

that the risk was well worth the investment?

Don’t hold back.

Time may be ticking,

But there is no better time than now.

There is no better time for you to achieve

The fullest

And happiest

Version of yourself.

 

Survival

Writer’s Note: I wrote this creative short-story as an outlet for a powerful statement regarding safety. Although there are myriad safety threats worldwide (i.e. terrorist attacks, driving under the influence, genetically-inherited health issues, etc.), safety is very much a right– not a privilege. Despite that safety should be guaranteed to all, regardless of (social, economic, cultural, or other) background, sometimes we must fight for our right to be safe. I hope you enjoy reading this story, as it is not only one of my most extensive recent works, but it also conveys a powerful theme. – Naima

Survival

Birds tweet along to the gentle patter of rain against the wooden dock, as I lay on my back, mesmerized by the sound of rain. Tropical birds travel from tree-to-tree in this beautiful forest. I observe wildlife through the length of tall, healthy trees that surround me. Blood gently pulses against my temples as I breathe deeply, resting all muscles. The warm rain lands on my skin like gentle kisses from Mother Nature. I blink several times to clear my vision. Raindrops linger in my eyelashes, on my skin, and in my hair. Not a thought of responsibility or worry traverses these woods. There is only space for calm in a quiet, controlled mind.

My heart is full. I occasionally think about all the things for which I am thankful. I am thankful to this forest for providing sustenance for me to survive in the outdoors. I am thankful for my health; I am agile and quick enough to hunt. Breathing deeply, I naturally stop thinking about time. I can stay in this forest for eternity and be safe, calm, and present.

Suddenly, thunder roars, causing flocks of birds to relocate. Lighting strikes a tree, and the skinny trunk burns to ashes. I remember my mother’s advice before I had left home several years ago. Always be aware of your surroundings. Fear trickles down my spine; I only have two choices: fight or flight. Well, Mother Nature wins this battle. I begin to run in search of a safer location. Instinct is critical to survival. My frock becomes tattered as I leap over countless twigs. Chasing safety, my heart grows tired with every passing minute. I have no choice but to consider time now.

After almost an hour of running, I reach a clearing. The rainstorm ended. I find a rock to sit on and relax. Just as my muscles release their tension, I hear heavy footsteps. Opening my knapsack, I pull out my bow-and-arrow. Poised, I observe the distant woods, listening intently to the rustle of leaves. “Hello?” A man’s voice. Where is that voice coming from? I continue to hold my bow-and-arrow. “Anybody there?” I turn around and see a tall, muscled man appear from the woods. He looks at me from head-to-toe and gradually raises his arms. “Hi, I’m Jethro. I’m not going to hurt you, so you can put your weapon down, hun.” I lower my bow-and-arrow and push my hair away from my face. He slowly approaches me.

“Magnolia. Nice to meet you.” I extend my hand. He shakes my hand firmly. “So, what business do you have here in the clearing?”

“I water the plants here daily. I’m growing crops for the spring harvest. You?”

“I—wow. I was just looking for a safe place to stay. With the rainstorm, the other night, I was just trying to avoid getting struck by lightning.” I begin to collect wood to start a fire.

He laughs heartily.

“You’ve gotta build a shelter for yourself. I built mine out of wood and rock, but it’s located about a mile from here.”

I watch bright orange, red, and blue colors dance around in the fire, thankful to finally have a source of warmth.

Jethro stands up and begins to water the plants from a red canteen that reads ‘CAUTION.’

“Magnolia, do you believe in survival of the fittest,” Jethro asks.

“Not really. As long as you have the right mind and resources, you ‘oughta be fine.”

I observe Jethro’s features: piercing black eyes, rugged hair, and a beige cotton shirt that is frayed at the edges. He turns around to finish watering the plants, walking around the clearing in a perfect circle.

“The right mind and resources, you say?”

“That’s why I’ve got—.” My eyes dart around the ground for my knapsack.

“Magnolia, you sure as hell got the right resources, but you might want to polish your mind.” Jethro wears my knapsack on his back and stands poised with my bow-and-arrow. I duck behind a rock.

The arrow is ablaze.

Jethro launches the weapon into the ring that he poured over the plants, and suddenly, I am surrounded by a ring of fire that gradually intensifies.

“Maybe you can use your pretty little mind to collect more resources,” he says, running away with the red canteen that reads ‘lighter fuel.’

The short-lived, gentle rain was an illusion of true safety. But perhaps we must create a safe environment within our minds and bodies before we begin to search for it within the natural world. Countless illusions present themselves in these woods. Danger camouflages itself as a safe environment, waiting to catch its next prey. I will fight to get out of this ring of fire, but more important, I won’t just survive. I will live. I will thrive.

Emotion versus Logic

Writer’s Note: I am so excited that I have been experimenting with diverse genres lately. This piece will certainly catch you by surprise. I’ve written a play to illustrate the conflict between knowing what is morally right versus choosing whether to act on such knowledge. I hope you enjoy this quirky, yet meaningful, short play. -Naima

Emotion versus Logic

Emotion: Oh my goodness, hey! How are you? I’ve missed you so much! It’s been a while since we last met.

Logic: Indeed it has been. We’ve been apart for quite some time, but it’s vital that we reconvene. I’m doing swell, how about yourself?

Logic takes a seat in the interrogation room, as emotion paces about with excitement.

Emotion: Oh, don’t worry about me! I’m so excited to see you, but I’ll admit I’m a bit nervous. I feel I might explode!

Logic: Well, why don’t you have a seat and we’ll talk things out.

Emotion: Alright, fine. Whatever you say. You are the better decision-maker.

Logic: So, Emotion, tell me what’s on your mind.

Emotion: Well, I can’t seem to build a healthy distance between myself and cultural expectations. I want my values to be the core of who I am, but at the same time, I just really want to fit in.

Emotion’s face turns red as he rests his arms on the table and slouches.

Logic: Emotion, you’re right. It’s important to feel a sense of belonging amongst our friends and family. But you have to ask yourself if fitting in is worth sacrificing your values.

Emotion: Yes! I just want my friends to accept me. If I just give in to all my wishes, don’t you think I would be happier?

Logic: Emotion, you might experience a temporary boost in overall happiness. But you must consider the long-term. Which do you value more, your values, which are the very core of who you are, or your appearance?

Emotion: Ugh! I just want to look and feel… well, beautiful, and confident… ooh! And smart! Eh, whatever, scratch the last one. I’ll never be that.

Logic breathes deeply and adjusts his neck-tie.

Logic: Giving in to the pressure will only create more room for more… well, pressure. It is crucial that we don’t lose ourselves in the temptation to please others.

Emotion: Well, duh. But if other people accept me, then we won’t have to worry about this whole “belonging” thing.

Emotion crosses his arms defensively and rolls his eyes. Logic continues to listen patiently.

Logic: Emotion, before you worry about anyone else accepting you, you need to accept yourself.

Emotion: Alright, Logic, how many more clichés you got? I’ve seen all this self-love crap on Instagram.

Logic: Emotion. Listen to me. You are so much more than what you look like. Well… um, tell me, what sparks your interest?

Emotion bites his nails as Logic speaks. Emotion looks up at Logic abruptly and is taken aback by the direct appeal.

Emotion: Umm… I guess I really like cars. Oh, hey! You know what I really want? A deep blue, Acura TLX.

Logic: Don’t get carried away now. Think about this. The exterior of a car doesn’t mean a thing unless the vehicle functions properly and serves a purpose.

Emotion: So what’s your point?

Logic: Emotion, you are so much more than your exterior. You are a walking set of values, a unique individual who has so much to offer to this world.

Emotion: Logic, you’re right. I think I just need some time to distance myself from temptation.

Logic and Emotion rise from their seats and embrace each other. The two figures blend into a single being.

Adrenaline Rush

Writer’s Note:  Neurological rewards, such as the adrenaline rush, keep me coming back to the gym for more. This piece is meant to capture that powerful sensation. I love reflecting on my deep enjoyment of physical activity. Hopefully, this piece will motivate you to exercise. Enjoy!- Naima

Adrenaline Rush

Mount the elliptical and don’t hesitate to begin. Hit ‘play’ on Halsey’s “Colors.” The body hits ‘play’ on adrenaline.  Head up, chest out, knees up. Sweat soaks my Under Armour shirt. Pick your knees up faster. The body craves an endorphin rush. The beat quickens. Heartbeat, light, and sound coalesce into a celebration of life. A fire kindles in my quadriceps and intensifies. Faster. The fire ignites an incomparable high. Open your lungs and take it all in. This movement is a dance in disguise. Halsey sings, “You’re dripping like a saturated sunrise.” My vision becomes blurry from sweat dripping into my eyes. Heart beat knocks against the walls of my lungs. Harder. I can feel my pulse in my bicep. Every inch of me has come alive. The mind is stimulated. The body refuses to quit. I increase the incline of the machine, increase the resistance. It’s not enough to spark a stronger high. Speed up. Use your arms! The song reaches its chorus. Techno music flows in, sweat flows out. Energy can be limitless. Energy must be limitless. I continue to celebrate my health, my youth, my happiness. The fire continues to burn through my legs, building heat. Nothing can blow out the flame. I have become the flame. Every muscle in the body is working toward the peak of this adrenaline rush. Light an entire forest on fire until there’s nothing left but hot wax. Sweat continues to soak every inch of my bright red shirt. Sit deeper into your quads and build toward your maximum speed. I can’t see my legs moving, but the fire still kindles. I eventually slow down and dismount the machine. The flame still fuels my pulse, as blood flows to my temples. Happiness floods my veins and is delivered to the heart. Let the fire burn.

Do Grades Measure Work Ethic?

College students take a long-anticipated sigh of relief, as final exams are over. We have more than enough free time to recline on the couch and watch Netflix, count down days until the next holiday, and of course, reflect on the semester past. Laptop lights glow in the faces of students eager to check their grades online. But when all is said and done– grades are submitted and GPA is calculated– we have to ask, do grades truly measure our intelligence? But more important, are they a precursor to how well we will perform in our future careers?

I am a freshman in college , and I rolled into IT 104 class on final exam day without studying. After the test, I rushed out of the room to avoid thinking about the damage that I had likely done to my grade. Well, you can’t go back and change the past, can ya? Long story short, my grades landed me a spot on the Dean’s list (thankfully), but I don’t feel that grades are always a true reflection of hard work. This past semester wasn’t nearly as rigorous as high school was. There was never any need for me to sacrifice sleep, wonder when I would take my next shower (high school cross-country running left little time for personal hygiene), or watch the minutes run away from me as I ate dinner.

One factor that attributed to my swift first-semester success was ample homework time. High school students are required to be at school for 40 hours a week. That’s like working a full time job! You must be in your seat, ready to work for the next 8 hours starting at 8am. On the other hand, my college scheduled left substantial time for me work a part-time job, spend more time at the gym (mental health is critical to academic success), and dedicate spare time for family. I never sacrificed any aspect of my health– sleep, hygiene, or otherwise– to pass a class on good standing. The fact that I put less effort into academic work yet received higher grades than I did in high school is incongruous.

I am confident that I am intelligent student with a strong ethic. However, my grades were a better reflection of my ability to calculate my desired semester-end grade than true grit and determination.

 

 

“The sane shift about in their seats. The ill remain seated.”

Writer’s Note: This creative short-story was inspired by the following quote: “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” In the United States, it is intriguing to observe various power dynamics: teacher-student relationships, presidential elections, parental authority, and more. This piece makes a bold statement about power: we must use our voices and our minds to act against those who abuse their power.

“The sane shift about in their seats. The ill remain seated.”

The floor rumbles with the footsteps of dignitaries and casual attendees alike, as guests flood the room. “How are we all doing today? Can I get you all something to drink?” I go from table to table, repeating a waitress’ script until my tongue runs dry. “Be a darling and bring me a glass of water,” a woman orders, dressed in a navy blue gown. The walls echo with chatter about the upcoming presentation.

As I shift my gaze, I feel the aura of a powerful man who appears onstage. The attendees drop their silverware abruptly and rush to the auditorium seats. Anticipation fills our lungs like helium fills a balloon. It’s not long before the rubber snaps.

“Welcome, everyone!” The man’s voice echoes for several seconds. The audience roars with applause. Light and sound coalesce, and attendees clap wildly.  Every ounce of attention is directed on the presenter’s words. As I peer about the room, I gaze at my dirty apron and realize I am the only one not applauding. I readjust myself in my seat, as if to help me fit the mold of an insider—someone who pledges allegiance to powerful ideas before careful evaluation.

The presenter quickly presents his innovation, making clear that the product is a “life-changing miracle.” I watch as their mouths and eyes widen in awe. Their faces glow in dim lights, like the faces of children in the lights of firetrucks. A rhythmic beat begins to play. “What is that sound,” I wonder. The heart is a drumbeat against the walls of my chest. “A hypnosis track!” People begin to scramble, their backs curling as they turn away from the stage. The man begins to mutter abruptly. You will buy my product. You will submit. You are in my control. Now slowly, drop your head. Sleep. He continues to repeat his words. Heads begin to fall, mouths close, consciousness shifts to an altered state. The hypnosis track grows louder. I imagine running. The voice of reason crumbles under the weight of fear. Faces blacken, as audience members resist their altered stage of consciousness. The voice is silent but the mind shouts. It’s too damn late to resist. You’re already a puppet to a company that you blindly support. The sane continue to shift about in their seats. The ill have no choice but to remain seated. “You will submit. You are in my control. Sleep now,” the man quickly mumbles. The ill fall deeper and deeper into hypnosis.

Logic begins to break through the barrier of fear. All hypnosis is self-hypnosis. I muster the courage to face the stage and run. My heart jumps inside my chest, as I rush past countless hypnotized individuals. The door is within arm’s reach. I can see the light. Stop! In my peripheral vision, I can see the man extending his hand toward me. His lips curl into a grin, as I stare at the ground. Time is still.

A choice weighs over the room. A choice between a powerful man and the targeted. Thousands of people in the room pledge their allegiance not to the man but to illusive power. To false hope. They are his puppets, unable to reverse their decision to submit to him. His arm is still extended in my direction. Should I trade the voice of reason for blind submission? In a split second, the decision is made. His hand is extended, but I turn my back on him. I turn my back on illusive power… on false hope.

 

Alive

Heartbeat

Echoes against

The walls of my lungs.

Breathing

Deepens

As I settle into

The pace.

Dismount the elliptical,

And rush to the yoga studio.

Dim the lights,

And bask in solitude.

Hit the ‘play’ button on Daughter’s “Smother.”

Open your lungs,

Creating a beautiful arch in your back.

Feel your body

Blossom like a flower

As you confidently

Open

Your chest,

Your hands,

Your lungs.

 

Dance.

Carefully

Cartwheel,

Landing gently

Onto the floor.

Strike a

Split,

Handstand.

Round-off.

 

Run!

The pace

Has quickened.

Let emotion spill out of your body.

Let lyrics flood your mind.

Let blood continue to flow

Through hard-working veins

And beautiful skin.

 

Heartbeat echoes

Against

The walls of my lungs.

I wrap my arms around my body,

Let movement

Ignite energy,

Ignite shamelessness.

Run,

And crawl,

And tumble,

And turn,

Until you can’t take anymore.

I want every emotion to come alive

Through movement,

Through the steady heartbeat that quickens

As the rhythm of music

Quickens.

 

Sweat glistens,

Along the temples.

Blood flows

to the brain,

Breathing

Deepens.

 

This is how it feels

To be alive.