Help Hyze’s Medical Fund

When I met Hyze, I didn’t know he had other names. We met at a NJ speakeasy bookstore that is no more and he volunteered to help me with my self-published urban culture magazine, Exist. We spent many hours, days and months talking through photos, stories, and basically… chilling. Trying to understand how to tell the story of where we’re from and what we live each day, though our stories, even, were vastly different. In any case, through the years Hyze revealed himself as Akintola Hanif. He and his work evolved. My magazine died. His photography grew. And his career became a combination of photo-activism, photo-journalism, and shooting the subaltern.

Months go by and he and I call, write, say we’re going to link up when I’m in town, sometimes it happens, sometimes it doesn’t. But, when it happens, my friend fills my soul. He reminds me of every artsy urban dream I ever had that I laid aside for a pay check and travel options. He reminds me that every bit of creative spirit in writing and image that I’ve produced over the years is honest to my core, because since before I was the me many people know today I was living that truth and he supported me (why, I’ll never know) from our day 1.

And so, it is with a heavy heart that I heard that he recently had a stroke. Ok, let’s be honest. I felt shock and guilt, even before I felt sympathy or concern. First, this dude is young and so shock set in before anything else. I considered that something had to have gone wrong here and that a stroke really is something that could have, should have hit a decade or two after today, maybe. Guilt came because I saw the “GoFundMe” page on his facebook account, but misread it for weeks. I thought he was starting a fund to help a friend. I didn’t realize his friend set up an account to help him. And you know how many hours I spend on facebook. I could have clicked the link and known sooner. He is my friend, a real one, seriously. I had emailed him weeks and days before with my usual two liner. “I miss you. That is all.” But, didn’t reach out beyond that. So, guilt… there you have it.

For the sympathy and concern, I could say I have a lot, but that too would be wrong. He is the second photographer in my life to have a stroke. Watching my grandfather transform into his post-stroke self was painful for him and difficult to watch, so I know the days ahead will be tough and will be different for my friend.  What I really had was fear. But, what I’ve seen in these past few days is that Hyze’s friends have come together – at least in social media land – to help support. That’s more than can be said for many people. And so that give me joy and hope. I hope it does the same for him, as he recovers and shoots new lives from a different angle.

So, he’s been many things in this life, a dancer, a single-father, a friend, a photographer, a magazine editor and founder, a son, a mentor, a whole person (with grills and glasses) with a story to tell.  #sammiches

I hope you’ll take the time to support my friend’s recovery so that he can continue to do what he does best… every little bit helps.

https://www.gofundme.com/akintolas-medical-recovery-fund

Travel is the giving tree!

Outside of my hometown, I consider myself to have “lived” in very few cities. Soon to join New York City, New Delhi, and Zaragoza is Maputo, Mozambique, which makes for four continents over the course of 15 years!  Unlike Raven Simone, I actually know the difference between a country and a continent, so I’d say that’s kinda a big deal. I’m quickly coming upon my one year anniversary in this southern African town and it’s got me reminiscing on the biggest lessons I’ve learned since embarking on a life of travel and subdued mayhem. People often ask me for tips and tools for life lived abroad. Usually I’m stumped by the combo of negatives and positives, much like the “Giving Tree,” but for this occasion I’m going to share the top ten lessons I’ve learned from living on the road…

ID card from the Apartheid Museum, Johannesburg

 10- Race is a figment of many people’s imaginations, but it’s real.  – I’ve been stared at like I have 3 heads in India. I’ve been called “Negrita” in a loving way, really. I can speak 4 languages, but I still have very few close friends that are of a different race. There is no such thing as post-racial. No matter where you go, people codify color in ways that will make your head spin. One isn’t worse or better, it’s just the stories people tell themselves to understand where they fit in a social order that you may not yet understand. You can’t wig out every time someone does something “racist”  or else you will be the subject of multiple international incidents. I’ve learned that understanding people’s thinking isn’t the same as accepting it. Understanding is something you can achieve with time & travel.

 

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Li Kitchen Dim Sum, Johannesburg

9-  Life is better lived when you can eat everything you’re offered. – Just friday, I was browsing the menu of a hot spot in Maputo and noticed ‘hamburger de espada.’ I asked what ‘espada’ was and I was told it was a fish. “You know, it’s mainly for the vegetarians,” the waitress said with a straight face. As a person who has traveled the world with food restrictions, I can tell you that I feel like I’ve been restricted from taking full advantage of the cultural connection food offers. I’ve been handed chicken and told “but it’s not meat.” When I turn down the dish, then I feel bad and undoubtedly I’ve just offended my host. It sucks. If you can eat everything that comes your way, you’ll be the better for it.

 

Ingozi, Durban (2015)

Ingozi, Durban (2015)

8-  Being bilingual is a gift. Being multilingual is best kept a secret. – I learned my first second language when I was 15 and I always used my powers for good. I always helped the Spanish speakers who looked stranded on the subway tracks staring at the English map. But then once Portuguese and Hindi started to muck up my brain waves, I’ve become very strategic about when to reveal my tongues. Seriously, it just makes my head hurt to switch between languages, and I’m always second guessing if I said the right thing in the right language. It stopped being cool the time I went to the nail salon and could actually understand all the languages being spoken by the workers – and they weren’t saying anything worth listening to. And just last week Thursday I went to a Zumba class and knew the words to all the songs. It was pretty cool at first, then I started to trip over my own feet while trying to translate “Chori chori..hum gori se pyar karenge.” Seriously, I almost long for the days when it was ok to just listen to people talk and not know what their words mean.

 

photo

“Hood spot” Newark, NJ

7- Money doesn’t make the world go ’round, but you’ll never make it around the world with no money. I’ve never said that I travel on a shoestring budget. Rather, I’d say that my travel style is modest – I like guest houses and family owned B&Bs. I think my approach comes from the reality that I don’t have the luxury of treating travel as a luxury. It’s a part of my life – much like brushing my teeth twice a day and checking emails, it’s so integrated that it’s hard to consider life without it. That said, many people blame their inability to travel on money and that’s just a thinly veiled lie. Travel is not about how much money you have. It is instead about how you choose to spend it. Some people will blow all their cash on souvenirs to show others that they’ve been traveling. Some people will eat through $300 on an exotic meal and great wine. Some people will not go anywhere because they value spending their money on things rather than experiences. Either way, money isn’t what matters in life, but travel is about finding a way to be comfortable in uncomfortable settings. That doesn’t come for free. It really does hinge on a cash flow that suits your travel needs and the currency of friendship, which can help you save your tour guide money and explore the joys of couchsurfing.

 

Siren, Swazi. 2014

Siren, Swazi. 2014

6- Art is life. No one remembers a city because it looked intelligent. You remember cities when they strike you visually. Barcelona and Chicago have a special place in my heart for their artsy architecture. Bangkok’s street graffiti juxtaposed with traditional Thai residential neighborhoods left an impression on me. I fell in love with every street corner in New Orleans’ Marigny and French Quarter neighborhoods, because of how delicately history and art were interwoven. Art tells all – the cultural struggles that exist or don’t. Even the absence of art can leave an outsider with very strong impressions about how little a people value or can access this mode of communication and expression. Beyond the galleries and sculptures, a city’s art scene (or lack there of) says a lot about what is important to the city’s inhabitants.

 

Tibet 50, Dharmsala, India 2013

Tibet 50, Dharmsala, India 2013

5- You always have it better than someone else, you just may not yet have met that someone. Many cities I’ve visited have had their flashy sides of town and their gritty underbellies. Usually people in both sides have a rivalry based in their lack of mutual understanding, nevertheless this tension can really be palpable to a traveler. What comes with more time and travel to different places is this sense that the rivalries in that one small place are just distractions from bigger issues. In Dubai, I was disgusted by the labor camps and the practices to help build this town of glitz in the middle of an inhospitable desert.  But then I thought, well having seen some slums in Delhi, I can imagine why someone would choose to be the lowest in the Dubai hierarchy, rather than somewhere in the murky middle in Delhi. Even when it seems like life in a particular place is unfair and unjust, there is always another place where people have it far worse. Sometimes it’s best to focus on the positive affirmation of what’s going well where you are in that moment, rather than focusing on the negative rivalries that seem more present and palpable.

 

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Shimla

4- It’s best not to compare traumas. Piggybacking off #5, I can’t tell you much I value people who can understand history and not compare traumas. People have asked me if I think slavery was worse than the holocaust. I’ve been asked in Portuguese colonization was worse in Cape Verde or Mozambique. I actually dropped my Spanish history class in 1999, because my instructor said in class that “Spanish colonialism was better than all other kinds of colonialism, because at least the colonizers mixed with the locals.”  Whatever makes people sleep better at night is their own business, but I would caution against statements like these that pit one place/time period’s inhumane treatment against another atrocity of a different hue. Can we just all agree that none of us really know (and we should quit before someone ends up saying something hella racist)?

 

Miudos, Maputo, 2014

Miudos, Maputo, 2014

3- Friendships come (and go), but they ARE the journey. Much like seasons, friendships have their moment. Good ones are cyclical and they are consistent despite the changes. Others, not so much. Each is important in its moment, no matter whether the lesson is learned from a negative or positive experience. I’ve traveled around the world, often staying with people who I knew, but didn’t really know very well until I shared a night under the same roof with them. Some connections were brief. Others dwindled, but I do feel that the friends I’ve met and made in many towns all over the world were really the reason why I have certain travel memories in the first place. I’ve been to carnival in Bahia and I can’t separate that from having met Urania. My first trip to Jamaica was spent at Teelie and Leslie’s place in Gordon Town. Were it not for them, I suppose maybe I wouldn’t have grown this lust for travel and the assurance that no matter where I am I’ll make the friends I need to make in order to enjoy that space to the fullest.

 

IMG-20131026-000162- Social media is the best thing that’s happened to me since birth. I got my first cell phone while living in Spain. I was 15 and it was a necessity. Our school had a computer room with 2 computers with internet and 50 students had to take turns sending emails and chatting with friends between classes. I remember thinking then that one day we wouldn’t have to ration our time spent staying connected. So, long gone are the days before Skype and Twitter and Instagram. Perhaps, now, there is the opposite challenge – it’s harder to unplug while traveling these days. I doubt I could have stayed as far away for as long as I have if I didn’t have the modes of modern communication to feel that I’m not as far away as it might seem on a map. 

 

dc aids walk31- Being a critical thinker is priceless. Being judgmental is useless.  From the likes of #4, #5 and #10, I hope you can tell that I learned to form my own opinions from a variety of experiences. Being an analytical thinker is the only way you can travel, absorb, and benefit from the experience. However, India in particular taught me that it is okay to strive to respect behaviors and practices you don’t fully understand and, even from what you do understand, you don’t like.  Being overly judgmental runs the risk of having others be offended and shut you out, then you’ll never even have the opportunity to be exposed enough to learn more.  Respecting isn’t the same as accepting, it’s being tolerant. I’ve learned that I don’t always have to have an opinion about something or someone, sometimes the curiosity to continue to explore is good enough – especially in a foreign setting. I’ve become a big advocate for learning and respecting, with no strings attached. 

Majestic Mixtape

RajasthanIn honor of cupid’s impending arrival, I’d like to dedicate a few songs to a few of the people I love dearly. If I could send you flowers and candies I would. If I could shower you with hugs and kisses you’d lose count. If I could send you Hallmark cards…well, I’d be broke. So, I decided to combine two themes I’m obsessed with these days – family & friends AND Majestic Casual music. For each of you, here’s a Majestic Casual tune that either reminds me of you or that I think might brighten your day. So, here goes…from the depths of the internet, through the bottom of my heart, to the innards of your ear canals!

P.S. Obviously, not EVERYONE I love has a song here. My bad son… don’t hate me. If you want a tune, let me know before Wednesday and I’ll post your selected lil’ diddie before Valentine’s Day.  See, we have to work together! Your forgiveness is appreciated in advance.

Ivan

Mom

Dad

Ameer

Elyse

Alyson

Charlie

Akintola

Leo

Julien

Ana

Juanita

Kai

Trudy

Jay

Girl Trippin

sisterhood-1

“Get outta town” was a household expression that I’ve grown to know and love.  It was my mother’s child friendly way of saying “Get the [insert four letter expletive] out of here with that [insert eight letter expletive].” That expression that expressed so much in disbelief, in torment of reality, in sheer shock, has been one I have heard myself say so many times here in India – not just in the way that my mother once used it, but also in its literal meaning.  Ditching Delhi and seeking new sights has become as powerful in my adult life as any expletive ever was in my childhood.

My childhood was encased in a YaYa Sisterhood-like circle of my mother’s friends.  My aunts by blood and/or by bond were everywhere, all the time.  They were at awards ceremonies.  They were at my house.  They were at my grandmother’s house.  They were at their houses with my brother and me (their kids, nieces and nephews too).  They were at the supermarket.  They were at birthdays and holidays and funerals and hospital rooms.  And while it never seemed that these 40-something mothers and sisters and businesswomen, my aunts, actually ever got outta town (literally), I remember them saying it quite a bit to each other.

“Ohhh girl, get outta town” was usually followed by throat gurgling laughter.  There was always a kitchen or dining room table that they were gathered around like the Knights of King Arthur’s court.  There was always food on the table and, more recently as my cousins and I have grown older, there has been more and more liquor on it too.

Just last week I went to a performance of a Durga Puja.  In this dance rendition, Durga, the goddess of destruction, grows her 10 hands by combining the bodies of five women in to one.  I’m not so much into the fiction of her having slain evil Mahishasura with her combined woman powers.  The story doesn’t make much logical sense in my cursory understanding.  But, I was fascinated by the idea of female partnership, by our power to be stronger together than apart.  It’s the fraternity of females that shows in the pantheon, but not in the reality.

What I noticed most when I arrived in Delhi was the lack of female-to-female relationships.  There’s never just a bunch of young women hanging out at a restaurant or bar or a coffee shop or a bookstore together, just them, no male escort in tow.  It has remained difficult for me to understand the need for women to be surrounded by men and to call that protection.  I missed the lack of girl talk, the silliness and the goofiness that gals are permitted when not around men they hope to impress or have to appear proper in front of.  I recognized that the circle of women that I had known and loved as a child was an anomaly in this space, and it pushed me more than ever to “get outta town.”

Beneath this layer of mythological female power, there is a very real Sita complex.  The tortured wife whose identity is based on her long suffering with her [insert seven letter expletive] husband who treats her like [insert four letter expletive] and really doesn’t much give a [four letter expletive] about her as person, so much as her as reproductive capabilities.  I digress.

There are huge absences of women in Delhi places where they could be, should be – on the streets, in the nightclubs, in the art galleries, in the professional work places.  It seems as if the women of Delhi have learned to simply get out of these places, minimize themselves in these spaces, be un-present as much as possible, so as not to threaten (what? I’m not sure) or be threatened.

As time has passed, my mother and my aunts have seen their children grow older, their parents pass on, relationships resolve themselves and now more than ever they are taking their girl gang on the road.  They’ve been to Spain, Italy, Saint Lucia and Germany, and while I’m sure I could beg, borrow, and steal their sympathies to bring them to Delhi I just can’t bring myself to do it.  How can it be that being a woman, enjoying a woman’s friendship is more foreign than being a foreigner?  These women who have had men in their lives, not as handlers, but as partners, wouldn’t understand how what has come so natural to them would appear so strange to these people of Delhi.

So while I long to hear their laughter and banter around my dining room table, to host them here and hear their stories washed down with high-end liquers, I can’t help but encourage them to go to a different destination from their next girls’ trip out of town.  What they see here might shock them.  They might be tormented by the realities of this place, and I am sure they won’t believe some of the ways that women are treated and some of the ways that women behave.  I’ve spent so much time trying to ‘get outta town’ myself, I’m not sure I’d have the capacity to make believable some of the absurdities and to make bearable some of the oddities.

How would my mom and aunts get along here? We may never know.

Things I learned from people I don’t like…

For the last two weeks my best friend from high school and her boyfriend have been here in town. Though he was perfectly pleasant the first time I met him, some three years ago, I was preparing for the worst from his stay this time. There were many factors that led me to inform my co-workers that if I didn’t like him there might be a very tall, very homeless African-American man wandering around South Delhi looking for assistance. But, it turned out to be such a positive experience that it inspired this very blog post. Go figure!

See, we must be candid about this boyfriend.  He remains on my shit list.  ‘Why?’ you may ask.  Well, because he needs to marry my best friend already (Hell yea, I wrote it)! And if he doesn’t, my shit list will turn to my hit list #alanancykerrigan. (No, just kidding – he’s like 4 times my size.) But, this trip was good for building confidence between me and my best friend’s Stedman.  Since she is hopelessly in love, I have given up on trying to lure her away from him.  To be frank, every time I have tried to hook her up with someone new, she’s ended up pushing me into the arms of some visible goon (she got me a couple of times with that one).

Anyway, my philosophy is if you can’t beat ‘em, beat ‘em over the head with your plan B.  Stedman has given me multiple assurances that her day will come and we established a timeline that I’m satisfied with.  I will send him progress reports and project plans over the coming months until he finally does the damned thing! #goodfriendshipsometimesinvolvesstalking

All this peace making and wedding planning, with a dude I’d previously said I really didn’t like all that much, got me to thinking about all the other people I actually still don’t like all that much. I usually hate to acknowledge that people with poor character or lame personalities (in my humble opinion) have any redeeming qualities, but recognizing that people aren’t 100% bad may be a sign that I’m growing older and weaker wiser. As I mulled it over, I realized that I have learned quite a few things from people I still find repugnant:

DON’Ts

faceoffmovementDon’t lay all your cards on the table all the time.  From a former friend, I learned that I don’t like people who don’t draw a line in the sand and declare what side of the fence they’re on. It’s a personality thing that I may grow out of. Actually, I probably won’t. But, I observed that when she interacted with people who were not like me, being useless aloof actually made her kinda popular. Having no opinion, moral stance, or declared conviction AND offering no additional information or assistance actually made her come off as neutral & ‘safe’ to disclose information to and court for support. In my personal life I still despise people like her, but in my professional life I’m learning how to play my cards closer to my chest without appearing deceptive in the end (yea, she needed to work on that part too).

 

mean-girlsMy high school arch nemesis taught me this little gem. (No, I don’t think we ever did speak again – except that one time in college when I saw her in the subway trying to hook up with my friend’s [now ex] boyfriend).  Never email anyone to tell them how much you really hate them.  This is common sense now, but it wasn’t then when the interweb was new.  P.S. It is highly likely that if you feel so compelled to tell them you hate them – they already know.

 

imagesA guy I dated on and off for way too long taught me that guitar players are bad people. I’m not talking about the guy who lends a hand with his local church band when the regular bass player is hung over. I’m talking about the lead guitarist in any band that accepts (or aspires to accept) cash payment for a performance in front of screaming ladies throwing their panties on stage. 4 out of 5 sane people agree that of all musicians, guitarists are the biggest narcissists AND the least likely to succeed.

 

DOs

images-1Be clear, not aggressive.  I actually don’t like this person, because they are so aggressive. But, I learned from their professional example to put my foot down (early and often) and to set the tone for how I’d like to be treated. I always shied away from letting my ambition come across as bossy, until this person added too much bass in their voice in a phone call. In our conversation, I can admit that I’d been proverbially pimp slapped. But, in looking back, I now know that I could have avoided the interaction entirely had I been clearer at the outset – instead of trying to ‘be nice.’ Since then, I’ve gotten better at explaining how I operate, the limitations I have, and the expectations I have for others.

 

300px-Chocolate_cupcakesBribe staff and co-workers with baked goods!  From a previous co-worker for whom I (still) have very little respect, I learned that Betty Crocker and Duncan Hines are the best office managers. People may not respect your personality, but they will listen to you time and time again if you offer baked goods at regular intervals. I find this particularly helpful in India where most people don’t have ovens – so baked goods are a special treat. If I want talk time with anyone, I just send out that email “Hey guys, cupcakes at my desk.” And, you know what? No matter how effed up their work product or their attitude, they will always come for sugar calories from a box. Then, it’s my time to ambush! This also works in the affirmative – for special requests for time off and thank yous for obnoxious things you have requested or will request in the future.

 

7.4ftWoman4Surround yourself with people who make you look good. (Disclaimer: It makes you look a lil desperate though if those same people also look up to you.)  I have very little use for this particular lady’s self inflated ego, but she’s been in my presence long enough for me to observe her skillful art of tailoring her company in specific situations. She’s not interested in having Turtle and Drama hang out with her all day just because they are her most loyal friends. Nope! For a special occasion, she will clean up a wallflower with basic education and get them to stand next to her, so that she’ll look like a rockstar. While there are visible flaws in her tactic of swapping friends for fans, I would say that it is a sign of maturity to be around people who both make you look good and who feel that they can grow from your relationship. I personally believe that people who make me look good are a crowd of my peers and mentors, ambitious people of stellar character. But if you – like her – think the people who make you look good are a group of adult sized gremlins, perhaps you should disregard this entire paragraph altogether.

Forget me Not

Nicole Young is currently a grad student at the University of Pennsylvania, where she is studying Education Policy. When she is not reading a million pages a night for class, her hobbies include loud laughing, eating, and pretending to be the star of her own music video/broadway musical. 

“Don’t forget me” was scrawled in a particularly high school girl style, with flourishes and a smiley face, underneath a framed picture in my cousin’s room. The picture was of my little cousin holding another high school girl, presumably the one who wrote the note, on her back – piggy-back style. Both of them were grinning madly and you could almost hear the giggles through the picture. It was adorable and one of many in a carefully crafted collage. And as I sat on the edge of my cousin’s bed, talking to her about silly things as she did her hair in the bathroom mirror, it really touched me. The three words struck me in such a deep way that I paused and lost my train of thought. “What were you saying?” she asked. I grabbed for something and began again, all the time thinking about the little graduation collage.

What struck me the most was that the phrase, “Don’t forget me” is one I think about almost daily. I don’t want my friends or family to forget me as they go about living their lives. I don’t want ex-boyfriends to forget those special things, those uniquely us things, that we shared. I don’t want the world to forget me when I die. I don’t want my living to have been just another flash in the pan. I want my being here to have meant something and I know I’m not alone. Everyday I watch people make fools of themselves on reality TV or social media all in an attempt for their 15 minutes of fame. Anthropologists and pop culture junkies talk more and more about the unique accessibility the Internet has afforded our generation. And while they discuss the ability of one idea or event or name to quickly saturate every single media market in a matter of seconds and how that has forever changed the human race, for good or evil, no one ever talks about WHY people want those 15 minutes. Maybe everyone’s in on that part but me. Maybe inherent in the phrase “15 minutes of fame” is a perceived opportunity for immortality, but the idea is pretty novel to me.

Believing that no one else loves the way we do or feels sorrow’s depths the way we have, is an inherently human flaw. And as we chide the less talented for their tawdry hopes of gaining celebrity through being a contestant on “Flavor of Love” or even the next “Love and Hip Hop: ATL,” we, the more intelligent, driven people of the human race plot our own 15 minutes. We call it policy, or a contribution, or art, but at the end of the day our attempts to change our stars and make the world a better place are just a cry out against the fleeting nature of life. We don’t want to be forgotten. And this 17 year old girl, writing a note to her friend at graduation, summed up the feeling perfectly in 3 words. It’s amazing how young the awareness of loss begins and how hard we fight from the beginning of recognition to prevent it. We don’t want to lose that piggyback ride or the laughs that followed. We never want to forget that sunset. We hope that even when we’re gone, there will be someone left to remember or something left to remind them that we were here. And what happens in our eternal struggle to make our mark, is that in a particularly human way, we forget that our friends don’t want to be forgotten either. We neglect to tell them that we think of them and that they matter to us.

So there’s loss, the permanent kind, the type that is so final that it leaves us breathless. And then there is quasi loss: the gradual falling away that happens as you get a little older. The kind where something triggers a hilarious, warm memory and you want to talk to the one person who would remember and you realize that you’re not really friends anymore. Sure, you like each other’s statuses and peruse each other’s instagram photos, but you don’t TALK. You can’t remember the last time you spoke and more importantly, you don’t even know if they remember. Somehow it’s even worse. To know that you could reach out to that person if you just had their number and even if you do have there number, if you could get past that first awkward, “So what have you been UP to for the past…9 years.” But you don’t do it. And the moment passes and you’re left a little lonelier, wishing you were your 16 year old self, if only because that version of you would have been able to talk to them.

So then I’m right back to this girl’s three words and the question her message poses. What if you never get your 15 minutes? How do you make them not forget you? After a million years, how do you let them know you haven’t forgotten them? How do you fight the quasi loss that’s bound to come? I’m really no sage about these types of things, but I think you just tell them.

I think you brave the brief moment of discomfort (and the nervousness about rejection) and remind them that their life matters to someone that they don’t see every day. You message them and say that even though middle school was ages ago, you think of them every time Titanic comes on TV or let them know that your Sunday brunch ritual, no matter how long past, was one of the highlights of your 20s. Shoot them a text that conveys ‘yes, you are thought of and often.’ You don’t have to have those awkward phone conversations if you don’t want to and you can continue to skulk on each other’s Facebook pages afterward. But why wouldn’t you want them to know that you remember?

Because truthfully, aren’t we are all hoping that in the busyness of living, they don’t forget us?

Second helpings of Single Serving Friends

I am an introvert, even though my social calendar and facebook photos don’t hint at it.  I struggle with the true meaning of friendship and I really don’t consider myself a people person.  I hate waking up to people, especially to people talking – even more so if they are talking to me. I make no promises that how I feel today will be how I feel tomorrow, but I am vocal about those changes and I honor all commitments regardless of my feelings. I figure what I lack in personality stability, I make up for in loyalty (or honesty about my lack there of).  And yet, about two weeks ago I reached a personal crossroad where my quantity of introductions superseded the depth of my interactions to a frightening degree.

Somewhere around that time a few things clicked for me.  I realized that I needed to get the hell out of India.  I needed to stop hanging out with people from work.  I admitted that there are a handful of people in this world whose friend I can never be. I was missing out on important family moments while in the company of people who didn’t merit my attention.  I wondered if I was happy and, if not happy, at least productive.  I unceremoniously de-friended people on facebook.  I called my grandmothers.  I phoned friends who I told myself I wouldn’t pester with my problems.  And I packed up, went to Nepal, and had a ball with two women I barely knew.

Well traveled and more worldly, these two really breathed new life into my purpose for being in India.  My idea of a good Saturday afternoon? Hearing honest stories of broken hearts, physical trauma, sensible love, personal triumph, and assured convictions in tea houses over looking centuries old pagodas. There was shopping and normalcy.  No talk of work or professional antagonisms.  There was a therapeutic exhale over ex-boyfriends, followed by facebook stalking of crushes, and discussion of global moves yet to come. Oh, the possibilities of double dipping two single serving friends! 

Not only was Nagarkot and Bhaktapur worth the trip to Nepal, but a Sunday in the Garden of Dreams resurrected the hope that friendships and relationships can be committed, but not so rigidly defined.  They can be location specific and still valuable.  And perhaps there is a term between friend and acquaintance that can better describe all the great people I have come to meet and know here.  These people who have shown me the ropes and exposed me to the wonders of this city. They who have come over to set up my t.v., bring me jolof rice, crash in my extra bedroom.  They who make home feel less like the only place on earth where I am understood.  They who share their stories sincerely, open their homes willingly, dance ‘til their feet hurt weekly and press me to address my moody interest in people daily.

Now that I’ve reflected on it long enough to choose a very deliberate direction at this fork in the road, I must say it’s a wonder that anyone hangs out with me at all.  It’s a pity for my friends that they are my friends at all.  I have personalities that aren’t split, but definitely Siamese conjoined at the nape of the neck, hence always divided of mind and predictably facing different directions.  All things being equal, I would have to say that I hide it well most of the time.  I host events.  I drop by shindigs I am invited to.  I offer to have tea.  Often.  But, I have always struggled with uninvited guests, one-on-one events that transform into group events, feigned intimacy, and fake distance.  I am a ratchet failure at these awkward, uncontrolled moments of social proximity that one must endure when the boundaries are uncertain and titles don’t send clear expectations.  Yet, I keep meeting new people who I keep calling friends.

I struggle with what this means for all my real friends at home, the loyal ones who know all my deep dark secrets.  And I struggle with what this means for a time beyond today, when social acquaintances and friends won’t look so strikingly similar.  I wonder if they’ll tolerate me when they realize all my quirks and idiosyncracies, when I move out of this house I don’t own, and go back to my one bedroom in the hood.  I wonder if they’ll understand my trust issues and if our friendship will withstand fleeting social pulses.

I wonder if they notice how they challenge me to fight my nature and inspire me to be unabashedly human.  Maybe it was the Brene Brown TED talk or the fact that I’m growing less self-conscious about my ability to be hurt and my need to love, but I’ve got Tyler Durden in my dreams whispering, “Fuck what you know. You need to forget about what you know, that’s your problem. Forget about what you think you know about life, about friendship, and especially about you and me.”

I know he’s right, don’t know who ‘you’ is, and am struggling to find a better way to say that India and I have unfinished business. Thank God for second chances.