Don’t Let Me Down

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2011

I  read a quotation sometime ago that said something along the lines of how even though you grow older, you don’t grow away from your past selves. When you turn 15 you don’t stop being 12, and when you turn 25 you’re still 5 in a way: you don’t grow out of yourself, but grow taller, with your younger selves forming the foundation of who you are.

While today might just be one of those days, I must say I’ve been feeling a little down.

I had an interview for one of the graduate programs I applied for that was specifically about financial aid. While it went well (as well as that could go), I left feeling defeated. Not for a reason that would actually mean defeat, like being turned down aid or a rejection from the program, but because I felt like I’d just been slapped in the face–dragged down from the clouds where my head usually rests and back into reality.

I was reminded that graduate school is an immense privilege, and that there’s a very real possibility it’s one that’s inaccessible to me. I was incredibly blessed with the financial aid package that allowed me to go to Penn, but I wondered if blessings of that nature could repeat themselves.

This, of course, got me to thinking about my time at Penn, which can be good or bad depending on which past self I experience the memories through. If I look back at undergrad through my 20 and 21 year old sentiments, there’s joy and laughter and spontaneous song. Through the lens of 18 and 19 year old Maegan, however, the memories are incredibly bleak.

Continue reading “Don’t Let Me Down”

A Post About Nothing

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The page this doodle is tied to begins like this:

It is three o’clock in the morning.

No, let’s be honest here. It is well past three o’clock and I cannot shut my eyes. I can’t shut them for fear of dealing with the problems against which this day serves as a barrier. Or served.

It’s always interesting to me that now when I come across stressful situations, or little problems that are completely out of my control, my method of avoidance is staying awake instead of sleeping like I did during my first three years of college.

That’s how I know I’m stressed–when I don’t want to go to sleep.

A breeze has entered through my open window, and though it smells like spring it feels like February. I’ve wanted to close the window for about two hours now, but have chosen to tuck myself into my throw blanket instead. Maybe it’s a sign.

I saw a post on Tumblr that said something along the lines of “when you think something of someone, tell them.”

When you’re thinking of someone, tell them.
The writer went on to cite instances where you could let someone know you like their hair or shoes, and I realized I misread the first sentence. But it got me thinking about someone that I used to know, or rather, kind of knew.

To spare you a story filled with insignificant and sporadic memories, I’ll let you know that I wrote a long post explaining those memories, then decided to condense them into a message to send his way instead. I think it doesn’t come off as too strange, but my judgement on that matter is not very trustworthy, so there’s a very good chance I just sent an incredibly weird Facebook message to an old classmate.

But are we really surprised? As guarded as I am most of the time, I ironically have almost no boundaries when I decide I want to do something, like hand deliver cookies to someone I barely knew, or send a Facebook message sharing a thought I’ve housed since I was eighteen.

Honestly, I should be surprised, but with me there’s honestly no room to be surprised anymore.

 

Goshen, New York

As I came into my teenage years in upstate, New York, blackness was a novelty. Whenever anyone said the word black, it was always in a hushed tone, as if a secret police was waiting to punish any and all politically incorrect conspirators. People seemed afraid of any form of blackness, attracted to it, repulsed by it, and eager to destroy it at the same time. Many times I heard people speak of rap music with the same mechanical disdain, then sing along to the 50 Cent song on the radio. Teachers made assumptions about those two students in the shadows of the classroom, yet smiled kindly at me.

At home, the relationship I had with blackness was always brought to my attention, with neither my invitation nor my consent. My mother always made sure to distinguish the difference between us and them. We were Haitian, she spoke French, and our straightened hair and matching outfits would make us more appealing to the world at large. Oppositely, those others were just black–less culture, more melanin, and no future.

Hearing this for several years caused me to view blackness as a system with varying levels of merit. Because my parents came from Haiti, a country ravaged by colonialism, the merit within the system of blackness came from being the least amount of black. “Your grandfather had blonde hair and green eyes,” my mother would often recount. Spending many summers hiding from the sun and running from the rain, it wasn’t long before I grew to feel slightly insulted if someone called me black, as if it were not obvious that I am Haitian.

When I moved to a school where most, and sometimes all, of my peers were white, I was foolish enough to believe that they saw the differences that had been instilled within me; black was not just black.
But I didn’t have to stay long at my new school before I learned that one black face was interchangeable with another. Suddenly, I was not just Maegan, but Chloe, Autumn, and if there were any other big black girls I’d be them too. Countless times people addressed me as Chloe, and eventually I grew tired of correcting them. I simply began to ignore them and let myself morph into the blackness that Chloe, Autumn, and I all shared. I studied the way Chloe walked down the hall, head bent, eyes downcast, as if she were convincing herself that she was not really there. Soon I walked that way too.

I couldn’t shake the irking that arose, however, when I was mistaken for Chloe. Chloe, who fell asleep in class, while I was alert. Chloe, who absorbed the taunting while I fought back. Chloe, who was afraid to be alone, while in solitude I thrived. How could one believe we were the same when we were so inherently different?

I asked myself this question for a month or two, was annoyed that I had to ask it for the duration of middle school, and am still asking it today, though Chloe is long forgotten.

Traveling While Black

A tentative list  
Traveling while black (and female) means:

  1. Being called “chocolate face” by the men in the Grand Bazaar (Turkey)
  2. Being expected to accept that as a compliment 
  3. Feeling relieved at the first sign of color in what feels like an all white airport (Ireland)
  4. Ringing a doorbell and seeing a look of fear before they see who you’re with (France)
  5. Having someone ask your friend for directions and not acknowledge  you when you answer their question (France)
  6. Feeling anxiety at entering an expensive store because you’ve been followed once and will most likely be followed again (France)
  7. Being given random memorabilia regarding blackness because someone thought it would interest you (France–see sticker above)
  8. Having people stop you on the street to pose for a picture (Turkey)
  9. Crying in your apartment because sometimes the world outside is too exhausting (Turkey, France, USA)