A Farewell to 2013

Dear Father Time,

We regret to inform you that your daughter, 2013 has died. We want you to know that our thoughts and well wishes are with you on this most difficult of days. We are so lucky to have known your daughter, even though she was a difficult person to know, we literally could not have gone on without her. Personally, I will remember 2013 as the most formative year of my life. My list of personal accomplishments and triumphs this year dwarfs nearly every other year of my life. So, I’d like to honor your daughter with my list of accomplishments:

  1. Your daughter allowed me to find myself by making me too busy to continue looking. She started her life with me being an unemployed and thoroughly depressed former educator, living with his Uncle. She forced me to decide what I wanted to do with my life and most importantly, taught me that happiness is never beyond my reach. She blessed me with a renewed connection to my Chicago Family, without whose support I never would have made it out of Chatham sane. With support from my cousins I was able to move into Su Casa which, though perhaps the single most stressful place I’ve ever lived, was fertile ground for a personal transformation.
  2. I pushed myself to create meaningful, fulfilling relationships with a diverse set of people who took me out of my comfort zone. Working at 57th Street Books proved to be an amazing experience. The people who I worked with were some of the most amazing individuals I have had the pleasure of meeting. We make each other laugh in the face of common enemies and problems too numerous to count. I was fortunate to work with some of kindest, smartest and funniest people I have ever met. I know they are all headed on to do great things and I feel so lucky to have been able to work with them. My time at Su Casa saw the renewal of a cherished Friendship with a veteran of my College organizing days as well several new friendships. Where would I be without my friend, confidant and platonic life partner the Liturgical Michigander! Would I view breakfast the same without the odd mix of hilarity and sexual harassment every morning from the Michigan’s other #1 export? Would the word Freedom instantly bring a smile to my face were it not for Simone? Would I have made it through those harrowingly stressful months without watching Jericho reruns and talking about my childhood until 2 a.m? Not to mention hundreds of Puns, impromptu performances of “Gungdam Style” and the families who taught me that laughter and love are universal languages. Or to mention Germans who proved to be capable sparring partners in fantastical debates and volunteers I met towards the end of my stay who probably think I’m crazy but can at least respect the method [and reason] of my madness.
  3. 2013 saw the rebirth of my creative endeavors and witnessed the largest creative outburst of my life. In the last six months I wrote over 50 post on this blog and sent 6 pieces off for publication [with 1 published and another accepted!] All told 2013 saw me right over 100,000 words! Yes, that’s right, I wrote over 100,000 words in poems, essays on Masculinity, essays on Hip Hop, personal journals and fantasy themed letters to dear friends. I wrote more words for fun this year than in any previous year. And, thanks to my blog, the majority of these words were read by more people around the world than ever before. I have been blessed with readers from around the world. From friends studying in Mexico and the UK to strangers and kindred spirits in Estonia, Brazil, India, Vietnam, Korea, Poland and many other countries. So, 2013 will also go down as the year my insecurities, humor and philosophy went Global! I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my loyal followers for that. I couldn’t have done it if it were not for friends who showed me what true beauty and unconditional support looks and feels like. From friends who discussed our principles in late night walks through downtown Chicago & who read everything I sent them to my Bay Area friend who gives me a much needed dose of reality. My Oakland comrade who teaches me to strive and taught me that sometimes all it takes to succeed is to have the guts to walk in like you own the place. And of course, my Bay Area native turned Chicagoan who encourages my writing as eagerly as he encouraged my teaching when we worked together in Englewood.
  4. 2013 saw me push past my geographic comfort zone in an all-out sprint towards my dream. 2013 say me move away from my erstwhile muse into the warm embrace of another city. I moved from Chicago to D.C and was greeted by dozens of amazing new friends. From Falcons who go as hard for social justice as they do for Dancing to social innovators fighting for a more just and democratic economy. I have met some truly wonderful new people here. Including some people whose drive, passion and creativity inspires mine. Though my Chicago and Su Casa family can never been replaced, I’m excited to know that I will not be lonely in D.C. I rekindled friendships with old SummerLinks friends, proving that the more things change, the more the stay the same. I’ve been blessed live in same metropolitan area as one of my most faithful snail mail correspondents, proving that sometimes the best friendships are the ones for whom distance matters the least.
  5. 2013 saw me struggle to understand my role as both oppressor and oppressed. I spent a large potion of this year thinking about the intersecting oppressions and privileges that constitute my identity. I like to think a have grown significantly from my first foray into these thoughts from a guilt ridden man to a confident man able to check his privilege more often than not and learn from mistakes when I don’t.
  6. I actively and respectively [if awkwardly] put myself out there. Never before have I gone for it so many times and failed so awkwardly or succeeded so unexpectedly. From awkward confessions of affections to completely disinterested women over NYtimes crosswords to 4 hour long dates that turned into new and exciting relationships 2013 was the year of putting myself out there. So, I may start the this new year as single as I started the last one but I start it with a lot more confidence and comfort in who I am.
  7. I was able to maintain and build upon my oldest and dearest connections. And, given that today is traditionally the day I spend with my two friends for whom Distance matters least to, I’d remiss if I did not give a shout out to The General and House Husband with no kids. My two oldest and dearest friends without whose friendship support and shared memories I would be lost. I was blessed to see the former get married and return safety from war the same the year. I was over joyed at knowing not only that he was safe but that his faithful wife, who I am thankful to count as a dear friend, can rest easier knowing he is back. The latter musketeer finally found love and college degree, while I knew both were inevitable; I am still overjoyed that he has found what he has been seeking for so long.
  8. I grew closer to my familyI developed stronger bounds by biological and informally adopted families. It was a year for learning my about my parents and being there as my friend welcomed his wife into our extended 21st century family. I have received so much support from both my families that it breaks my heart with joy.  2013 was also the year of the Goggans Family. Our arrival was announced by Drake, and we have started our take over. My parents are thriving in one of America’s better kept secrets, my Brother is traveling the world, my sisters are getting it done in D.C and my niece is coming into her own the only way she knows how: loudly and with plenty of style.
  9. I increased my commitment to my ideals. Whether it was by refusing to work in role that was unhealthy or by redoubling my commitment to service, I’m proud that stayed true to what I believe in. I was able to grow and create better, healthier relationships. I’m not perfect and 2013 stands as a testament to that fact as well, but I continued to struggle to live my beliefs despite set-backs and moral failings. I’m living a life closer to how I think it should be lived than ever before.

So, all in all, your daughter 2013 will be sorely missed by us all. Yet, I think 2014 will be Time’s finest year to date. While I know it will bring sadness and hurt, I have no doubt that 2014 will also bring triumph and success. Who knows what adventures I will find myself having in the next 12 months? All I can say is that for this 25 year old, youth will not be wasted on the Young! I look forward to new causes and new friends. Not to mention being excited to see a few old and cherished friends in a few weeks! 2014 is going to be a year for the record books.

So that’s my year in review. How about you? I’d love to hear about what 2013 meant to you. To paraphrase a question from my friend, what did you do this year that you were most proud of?

Unsent Letter To All The Girls I’ve Loved

bell hooks on love

[Below is an unsent letter to every female friend I’ve been secretly in love with whom I sent really long e-mails to or hand written notes to after/before I went to college/when you were studying abroad/when I moved back to Falcon in 2008/when I moved to Colorado Springs in 2010/when you moved to a coastal city once I made it back to Chicago/when you went to grad school/visited your family for Hanukkah/ moved with your significant other [sometimes another female friend I had also once liked] back home/I moved to D.C.  If this sounds remotely similar to a letter I once sent in you in one of these moments then this was probably the first draft of a letter I wrote and decided not to send for one reason or another. I realized that this a recurring pattern in my life that I need to analyze…so I did…and what better way to process self-analysis than self-parody?]

To All The Friends I’ve Loved,

[There always start with some  overwrought and florid metaphor for whatever I’m unhappy about in the moment. In most of these letters it is my hometown] I’m not sure if a tree makes a sound when it falls in the forest with no one to hear it but I know from experience that the speed at which it falls is in direct proportion to number of observers. Falcon is not a place for me to write. Falcon is where writers are born. It is where the bigotry and backwardness drips from the lips of neighbors destined to be characters; cold as molasses and twice as black, pumping sweet visceral into an author’s creative glands.  Falcon will serve as the time capsule I use to write of time so long ago that it never really existed, at least not in the way I remember it.

In my stories I call it Mesa Valley, my Yoknapatawpha County [always includes an oblique reference to writer whom I feel an unjustifiable though visceral connection to. Sometimes I’ve only read their shortest published work but count them among my favorite authors] I write about the villains and saints of my childhood in this Mesa Valley so that the fictionalized grandiosity of the moment evokes the same emotion as the tonnage of years of microagressions and mini miracles. Put simply, the events are lies but the emotions are real. My neighbors will undoubtedly protest but I imagine my fame will soften their protest the same way their privilege softened mine. Their bigotry bit into my psyche layering trauma upon trauma [I actually had a pretty chill childhood but I thought for a while that I need to be a tortured artist to be a good artist.]

Is life so miserable? Is the darkness seeping in, encroaching on my happy moments? No, I suppose not. [almost all of these letters start the second paragraph with a refutation of the overwrought opening metaphor…insecure much?] In reality life is bland and it is that blandness that frightens me. Like Oscar WildeI live in terror of not being misunderstood. [quote is purposefully out of context. In an example of hipster letter writing, it serves as an illustration of my meta awareness] Drama and vibrancy are my heroin. In their absence I fiend for the thematic like a smoker turned niciderm addict. I lust for action with all the gusto and impulsiveness of a sex addict.  In the late hours of the night, when time seems to drip like a leaky faucet in a silent kitchen instead of flow, I try to figure out why this is. I have always had an overactive imagination and I have always been vicarious reader, living the lives of the characters as I read them. If you had asked my 12 year old self what I wanted to be when he grew up he would have said “a living legend.” Yet no childhood trauma or tendency could explain this burning desire of mine in its maturity [though, when I was 8 I used to scream “I’m going through a stage!” at my family when my siblings complained about my parents bending over backwards to not accommodate my latest fixation. I heard my parents discussing my habit of hiding eggs around the house and whether it was a “stag” or ealy onset mental illness one night and decided to use the phrase to justify my weirdness…jury is still out about early signs of mental illness]

There is an answer to the question. And yes, that is the short one. I’m doing fine. [you are supposed to assume the unasked question “how are you?” Man, is this guy meta or what?] Living with my parents has been interesting though not ideal. I am doing what I can to not waste way. When the monotone hum of prairie life turns into a tempest of passive, almost inert, aggression that threatens to overwhelm me I try to think of you and your adventures in [insert study abroad program, grad school, or new city her]. I imagine your [insert distinguishing feature] as you [insert activity that can I think can only be done where you are]. How is it in [insert colloquial/pretentious nickname for current location]? How is the air? What are you thinking about? What things are challenging you? Forcing you push your limits? What do you know now that you didn’t before? [still not sure where this habit of asking these sorts of questions to people became a thing that I do…constantly… but I can remember doing it as early as middle school]

I know you are probably laughing at my intensity. You mention that intensity often and each time I want to tell you how I really feel. [this when I show my insecurity in a self deprecating way. This portion is usually added to qualify previous or subsequent statements that were overly florid or ridiculous but I found too well phrased to delete.]  I spend so much time trying to calm that intensity for fear of scaring you away yet sometimes restraining my love for you seems more intolerable than your absence. I want you too know, finally, that I love you fiercely. [this is the part that is ALWAYS cut out of the final draft. The unspoken longings off…ugh…I’m doing it again!] When we take our walks through [insert significant place in our friendship] I’d be convinced that my feet never touched the asphalt if hearing you about what’s one your mind this week didn’t make me feel so grounded. I love the way your mind unravels in those moments. Your thoughts are distinct and intricately laced like braided steel cables supporting intellectual bridges from Kafka and Morrison to Weber and Du Bois [I always reference Kafka but never actually read Kafka until like 6 months ago.] Sometimes I am too mesmerized by how an individual thought of yours develops that forget how your smile gives me butterflies.

Your wild and frantic idiosyncratic hand gestures that increase in their assertiveness as the topic turns from history to your theory of how we constructive our identities through narratives remind me of the awkward girl I first met and not the poised woman I know now. As your passion burns through your light brown eyes I’m tempted to believe that my world has the same golden haze has its reflection in your gaze. In these moments I want to tell you that I love you. I know you would just smile and say “I know.” I know that I would have to hold your heart-wrenchingly beautiful gaze longer. I would lock my eyes with yours to add weight to my words; to tell you this was that kind of the love. The kind of love that causes me to fear that I’m losing myself in you, the terror of thinking that maybe falling so hard for you that I forget who I am sounds more like heaven than white clouds and halos. [who says that…seriously….I mean…it has a nice ring to it though…reminds me of this poem I wrote about my first “real” love]

Instead, I smile and hold my tongue. We walk miles through this city, you and I, with the secret of my love between us like a warm invisible sea. Swimming through it is the most exhausting endeavor of my life but living without it seems dry and barren in comparison. When we hug goodbye I wish I could wrap my hands around your soul instead of your waist and I pretend that my sadness is contemplation and not the awareness of the inevitability of your departure. [this would typically get re-written to something about missing you but not loving like THAT.]

[I feel like some of my friend must have suspected that I was not so secretly in love with them. Yet, I still write letters to some friends like this, long after I’m crushing on/overly-dramatically in love with them so I think most of friends probably just think its par for the course…and I guess it is par for the course. I love all my friends dearly, male or female and I’ve had a crush on like 95% of the women I’ve met who are no more than three years younger or 10 years older than me. I think if I had to put a number on it, which I don’t but will anyway, I’ve been in love with about 30% of my good female friends at some point in my life. I don’t actually think I’m using the phrase “in love” lightly here either. I have a natural tendency to love easily, deeply, quickly and fiercely. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve been with a female friend and thought “we should just get married…like… right now. Why wait.” Yet for most, the timing was off or I was too shy. By the time either changed, we had changed.   But I’ve been in love with almost 1/3 of my female friends even if only for a moment and while that might seem pathetic and laughable…well…it might actually be laughable…it is not pathetic. I feel very fortunate to have befriended such amazing and beautiful women in my life.

I’ve been blessed to love women who have pushed my intellect, who have encouraged me to follow my dreams by pursuing theirs, who have shown me what it means to live by your principles, who have become teachers, and mothers, and executives and dancers and writers and organizers and PHd candidates. They are the unofficial therapist of their friends, the shoulder to cry on, fierce advocate for justice, level-headed and practical guides, the uplifting jokers and gorgeous wordsmiths of my world. I have learned and grown so much from these friendships and am so glad that we got  through the infatuation, the puppy love and the romantic love to richer and more sustaining and truly platonic love with my friends. I feel that with a few of my friends our relationship has matured into something greater than any romantic love I’ve ever experienced; we’ve learned to “love each other well.”  So to all the girls I’ve loved. From the playground to county fair to the main quad and whether I loved you for a conversation, a week or since the moment we first talked about our passions, I’d like to thank you teaching me, for bearing with my florid passion and intensity and, most of all, for accepting my love even if you were unaware of its true form. Know that every letter I send and note I write expresses the truth of how I feel about everything, even if only a part. Though honestly Erin, if you are reading this, my offer of marriage still totally stands. My romantic love for you is eternal and forever enriches my platonic love for you which is equally eternal. So, uh…call me, Maybe?]

With love [in all its varied forms and meanings],

Aaron

True Love