Some Assembly Required

When I was younger, I fantasized about being a regular at a coffee shop—something about being recognized on sight and the warmth that came with that was super appealing to me. The same feeling applies when it comes to books and movies that emphasize the idea of “finding your people”—I loved mediums that described that perfect fit, where you finally find the organization/club/group of people that you know you’re meant to be in. Those kinds of stories instilled in me unrealistically high expectations for the day that I finally become The Regular: that I’d walk into the room and instantly find myself at home; that I’d know all the names to match the faces; that I’d never have to face that quiet, numbing feeling of distance when you’re with a group of people but not really with them.

Looking back, I realize I was chasing the idea of Belonging without considering the reality of how to actually find it. I’ve joined more clubs that I care to name, hoping to finally bask in the warm glow of yes, this is where I’m meant to be, only to stop showing up a month or a year later because hm, I guess this just wasn’t The One, I’ll have to keep looking. In my first year of university, I watched as my friends seemed to effortlessly find their people and fit into various campus associations while I—true to nature—joined a few groups, went a few times, and decided none of them had that elusive Belonging that I wanted. The cycle continued, and I indulged in sweet, sweet inertia; carried along by my own vague disappointment.

After having a couple conversations with some wise friends of mine, I’ve started thinking: maybe I’m going about this in all the wrong ways. Belonging might be something you have to cultivate. It failed to occur to me—for any club that I had quit in the past—that if only I had persevered and really tried to put myself in the thick of things, I could’ve had a shot at creating the Belonging I spent so long trying to seek out. Instead of imagining myself as a single puzzle piece trying to find a specific puzzle that I’d fit into, I should’ve accepted that I’d have to build the puzzle around myself. Some things in life don’t come pre-made, and maybe this is one of them.*

*Of course, there are exceptions. Also, I feel like that whole last paragraph was very Oprah-esque and maybe the Belonging that I’m seeking is something unattainable, and I should just lower my expectations a few notches?

When I put it this way, it seems like something that I should’ve known by now. In fact, I’m surprised my own metaphor didn’t give me a hint: to be a regular, you have to go into the coffee shop a lot—you can’t just walk in, expecting them to know who you are and what you like. Why would a new club or a new job be any different?

Ahhh, you guys, I miss writing. Posting something here forces me to edit (whereas posting something on Tumblr is more like a flash flood of impressions with no grammar/capitalization in sight), and I love churning out these longer, more thoughtful posts. Maybe I’ll come by WordPress more often (provided my discipline doesn’t melt away in the summer heat).

Annus Mirabilis

Annus Mirabilis (n.) (phr.) a remarkable or notable year in history; a year of wonders or miracles, used to speak hopefully of the future.

(Are end-of-year posts going to become tradition? Looks like it!)

I started this post 12 months ago with the intention of turning it into another letter from the past, but never managed to actually sit down and write anything, so this has been a blank draft until around 2 hours ago. Oh, Past Anna, with your incessant Tumblr blogging and nonexistent WordPress blogging. It’s a shame too: this past year has been a pretty eventful one as far as years go. Here’s a list of ten notable things that have happened, for the sake of posterity.

  1. Graduated from high school! Wow!
  2. Went to a bunch of places in Europe, which has been on my bucket list since the day I learned Europe is a continent.
  3. Enrolled in college! Look at me, adulting.
  4. Did the scary AP English exam that I have honestly been dreading since grade ten! Lived to tell the tale!
  5. Decided my future!
  6. Finished some poems; started 38462 poems, most of them still drafts! I’m not even joking
  7. Learned how to drive! Also lived to tell the tale, which is a miracle, if you ask me.
  8. Survived finals season for the first semester of college without too much crying! *cheers*
  9. Started and finished 61 anime series! (This time I’m actually not joking. I counted. If you ever need recommendations, I’m your gal.)
  10.  The most important of all: I baked brownies and they didn’t turn green like the Green Muffin Incident*. All is right in the world.
*Once, long long ago, I decided to try baking muffins. It was from a box mix so I thought, “What could possibly go wrong?” When the muffins came out, they were green. Evidently, a lot went wrong.

Looking back, more Big Events (graduation, starting college, etc.) have occurred this year than other years. When I started this post back in January, I was more than a little terrified of all of them. My thinking was, “How am I ever going to survive until December?” Now having survived, I’m not too sure what I was scared of. That’s life, I guess: you stress about things until they’re over, then look back and wonder why you were stressed. Your Future Self is looking at the current you through the memories you are making right now and thinking, “Man, I didn’t even need to worry,” which is both comforting and aggravating: comforting because everything will work out, aggravating because current you doesn’t know how it all works out. (If only letters to the past were a thing.)

But hey, we’ve survived yet another year of agonizing over whatever it is we were once stressed about. We’ve all become the Future Self of the person we were in January, and we’ll keep evolving into subsequent Future Selves. Letters to the past may save us a lot of stress, but they take the excitement out of the process of becoming, which is kind of what life is all about, yeah?


A/N: I now have an incredible appreciation for people who manage to write creatively on a regular basis while juggling busy college lives. How do they do it?

It all comes out in the wash:
Bloodstains, wine spills,
Lipstick, accidents,
Everyday catastrophes.

Dusty ambitions, forgotten passions,
Failed relationships, accidents,
The smell of him on your sheets.

Dirt roads, sweat,
Airport dust, accidents,
The weariness of escape.

The laundromat always feels nostalgic,
As if all your memories surface
Only to disappear in the rinse cycle.
Sometimes it’s a good thing:
Pour your detergent,
Shove in your fabric and regrets,
Watch the way everything blurs together.

But me, I can’t help but fall in love with clothes
That have memories clinging to them:
Campfire songs from smoky jeans,
Swimsuits and the dreams of fish,
There’s even a fondness for old chili stains.
(Only, I don’t eat chili,
(So what is that on my sweater?)

And I think my socks agree with me
When I say I don’t particularly mind not washing things:
Putting pairs into the wash is like the opposite of marriage counselling
And the divorce rate among my socks has gotten terribly high.

And I think my shirts would agree as well
Because sometimes I’ll forget to separate them
And the coloured ones will bleed into my whites
Just like how I forget to separate my memories
And they will all bleed into each other
There are some shirts that I can’t believe were once white
There are some memories that I can’t distinguish anymore.

Really, I’m just making excuses:
I tend to forget why we have to wash these things.
Maybe you tend to forget too.

Maybe the bloodstains are the hardest to get out.
Maybe it’s because you can’t stop thinking about
How he left you open on that operating table,
How you let him touch inside of you,
How he had his hands in your chest
And how it hurt,
How he stitched you up wrong afterwards
So you had to take your shaky hands
And make yourself new again.

Or maybe the dust is the hardest to get out.
Maybe all you can hear these days is the sound of suitcase wheel on tired carpet
And even more tired conscience.
Every flight takes you farther away from where you wanted to be.
You call yourself a horizon-chaser
But you don’t look up from your feet enough for that to be true.
You can’t honestly tell anyone what the sky looks like in other places
Though you can say that every country has stones that look far too weary.

Or maybe it’s that weird, darkish stain on the inside of your coat pockets.
You know you must’ve left something in there for far too long
But can’t seem to remember what.
Chocolate? Tar?
Both sticky,
But one a sweetness that you forgot you had until it was too late
And one a murkiness, a defilement, something you have to shoulder.
Whatever it is, it has seeped into the inner folds
Until your hands cannot distinguish where the coat ends and it begins.

I’ve never been good at doing my own laundry.
I’ve yet to meet someone who is.
Maybe this life is just messy
Or maybe it’s just us.

Astronomy Lessons

If you say my grandmother’s name a certain way,
It means “grow a star”.
And grow them she did:
When they came to her with guns on their backs
And shaking desperation in their chests, she said,
“Come, child.
“Let me teach you the language of our people.”

I did not understand when she mentioned how some met their end
The way stars often do–
In a supernova of light.
But when she told me about how others became red giants
And raised stars of their own,
I knew what she meant.
After all, she’s one of them.

Then she tells me my mother is a sun
While I am still just pinprick;
Almost chiding, she reminds me to not be afraid of burning too brightly
And to be wary of others’ gravity.
It’s easy to be sucked in.
And while things in orbit still move,
They never really get anywhere.
She tells me I was never made to be
Somebody else’s moon.
But it is still so hard to resist
The black hole pull of pupils,
Swallowing light and me and
Everything else.

It takes eight minutes for light from the sun to reach the earth.
If the sun disappeared, we would still have eight minutes of daylight:
Enough time to finish that last paragraph
Or apologize
Or brush your teeth.

If my mom disappeared, I know
Her residual light would last me a lifetime.
Some types of warmth never leave you.

They say “the bigger the star, the shorter it’s life.”

Maybe that’s why my grandmother’s first son did not live to see his thirtieth birthday.
He burned bright and short,
Spinning masterpieces like spiders spin their homes-
When stars die, their remains expand outward infinitely
To make new stars.
He burned out before I flickered into existence, but they tell me
I have his hands.
Once, my grandmother took my fingers in hers, chuckled, said
“Four people and 4800 stars are born every second
Out of the debris of old stars.
There is always new light somewhere.”

Then she told me I am turning into a lizard,
And that I should moisturize more.
I told her that stars don’t moisturize, and all she said back was,
“It’s because many of them don’t know how to make themselves soft.
“Their light is not tender.
“Make sure yours is.”

I feel small sometimes, but then again
So are stars from a distance.
Even far away, I can still be warm enough for things to grow.
I know this because I grew up playing under the blanket-heavy, baking-oven luminescence
That travelled 92.38 million miles to turn my mahogany hair almost birch-blonde for a summer–
I looked ridiculous.
But I swear my head felt lighter.

If you say my nickname a certain way,
It means “star stuff”.
And maybe that’s why my grandmother used to tell me
I was earthborn for reasons only the biggest red giant knew.
She’d say, “Earthbound Star,
“Don’t forget the constellations you make here.
“They all matter when you’re up there, too.”

Static Electricity

This is one of those poems that gets written really fast with no editing. Some of them work, most of them don’t– for better or worse, this one’s published.

When it gets to this time of winter, everything is dry
And every time I lean against a wall
My hair sticks to it
Because the static is everywhere everywhere everywhere
When I pull my sweaters off I see a bajillion sparks
Pop pop popping against my cheeks
Sometimes I wonder if this is what the Big Bang felt like
Sometimes I imagine if this is what being kissed by stars feels like
But mostly I cringe
I do that a lot when gets to this time of year
Another thing I do is punch:
I start punching everything before I touch it
Because getting shocked is easier to deal with when it’s against your fist
Instead of your fingertips
I am not joking–
I punch the light switch
Punch the keyboard
Punch my toothbrush
Punch doors before opening them
But I can’t punch people
So every time I have to shake hands
Or take something from someone
Or just touch in general
I am cringing cringing cringing to the alarms in my head
There are some things you just can’t avoid
Or protect yourself against

It’s always easier to go at things with your fists
Instead of your fingertips
Avoid avoid avoid
When I was younger I would have to leave the room
Until after the toast was done
Because the toaster was far too startling
Avoid avoid avoid
Nowadays I hate being somewhere with balloons
If I have to stay with them I will cringe
And curl away from the potential loud
Until I am nothing but human-sized fist
Avoid avoid avoid
When I was younger I would make friendships without ever unclenching
Because my hands were far too afraid of the electricity of connection
Maybe that’s why I hit so many people in the third grade

They say there’s a reason your heart is the size of your fist
You need to fight with it
But I have spent enough time punching
To know I would rather offer my heart as an outstretched palm
Everything is more startling that way
But I want to feel this life with my fingers instead of my knuckles
The joy pop pop popping against my cheeks
The shocks gathering at my fingertips like traumas
There are some things you just can’t avoid
Or protect yourself against
Like handshakes in the middle of winter
But I will take your hand
And you will take mine
Despite the shock
Despite the ache
(Despite that I feel like a lizard because it’s the middle of winter and I don’t moisturize)
I want to feel the press of your fingers and be reminded
That there will always be soft among the jolt
There will always be things I will not have to punch
Things I will not be afraid to touch
Things I will not have to avoid
And I will say to myself