25 Days of Reflection before Turning 25 Years old.
Day 1 - March 1st: Poetry
I think its fitting making my first day of reflection be based on poetry. Since it has always been my first love. My first inspiration to have a voice. My first outlet to expose everything that has ever tried to hoard itself inside of me.
This morning I woke up after missing 3 calls from my best friend and poetry sis, Terisa. She told me she didn't get into Kundiman, the Asian American Writer's Retreat in New York. I checked mine, and realized that I didn't get accepted either. I felt a little disappointed but the fall wasn't too bad, knowing that I had a heart like Terisa's to hold space with. This one moment of rejection, is just another reason to be more hunry for this. For this growth in writing. For grasping more opportunties that are hiding in the distance.
I am doing this reflection to remind myself of all the opportunies and this phenomenal journey poetry has taken me on so far. A reminder, that this journey isn't over even if it feels stagnant at times. So here it is 25 things Poetry has allowed me to do before turning 25 years old:
1. Go to College. As th youngest in a family of 7, none of my siblings got the opportunity to go to college out of state. And out of all of my siblings I was the 2nd to graduate. Being in my poetry community, I was surrounded by individuals who were all hungry for higher education. My entire poetry team went to prestigeous universities. Naturally, this made me just as eager to go to the university of San Francisco. I can honestly say that to this day, I probably would have never applied if it wasn't for poetry.
2. Travel to Washington D.C. In 2008, I was a member of the Hawaii Youth team that went to DC and got to perform in the Kennedy Center, one of the biggest theatrical stages while it was all documented by HBO. Being 18 at the time, it was all so surreal. (#3 - 9 are all travel)
3. Chicago. 2009. My final year at a youth poet. Performing in the Lincoln Theater. To this day, it has been the largest audience I have ever performed in front of. Winning for a second year in a row. Am I sounding like an old high school football player speaking of their "glory days"? I hope not. What I'm trying to say, is that it puts a smile on my face when I think about my teenage years. How fortunate I was to be a part of Youth Speaks Hawaii. What other youth could say that they represented their state in an international competition and won twice? We represented Hawaii, for the Pacific, for our home that few ever get educated on.
4. New Zealand. 2010. Man, have you ever seen all the stars at night? I mean ALL the constellations? every single one of them? Have you seen green hills that seemed infinite? Have you ever slept on a spiritual holy ground?
5. Minnesota. 2010. There is absolutely nothing like seeing the land of a thousand lakes from a plane. All these places that poetry has taken me, has given me so much visually to remember.
6. Michigan. 2011 I helped to make the first ever USF slam poetry team and we made it to the College Nationals. Placing 5th out of 50 collegiate teams. Alaka'i, Saidah, Anja, I love you squad.
7. New Orleans. 2013. There are so many things that I'm not allowed to talk about. What happened in New Orleans, stays in New Orleans. All I have been given permission to say is: Bourbon Street, Hand Grenades, VIP Strip Clubs.
8. Boston. 2012. Cigars, Whiskey, and Poetry. Thank you NPS.
9. Seattle. All I can say is....ROOOBBIINNNNNNN!!!! :) Forever my sister. For.ever.
10. Explore My Identity out loud. My story of being a queer Asian Pacifc Islander will always be a constant shade in my poetry. When I came out, it was loud and unapologetic.
11. Facilitate. There is nothing that makes me happier than facilitating workshops with the youth in my community. The hold discussions that may not be had in regular school hours. To share my knowledge of spoken word and pass it on the future generations of writers. And to learn from them so much more than words can express.
12. Mentoring Youth. If I could list every single name of every youth poet that has meant something to me, then this post would be so extremely long. The connections we build. This thing we call poetry, can be so vulnerable, and scary and empowering all at the same time. I am so grateful for every poet that has trusted me with holding space with them, their stories, their truth.
13. Being a hand in building community. You don't do this work for the money. You do this work because of the love you have for your community. It takes village. I am honored to have mentored that have invested so much of their time and knowledge with me, to teach their ways in order to one day fill their shoes. This past year as Outreach Director has been a constant path of learning.
14. Theater. From my own one man show I got to do at USF's black box theater, to being a lead cast member of 36th Blues in the Greenway Theater in Los Angeles. Poetry has always been the catalyst to stepping a foot into the world of performance theater.
15. Being Vulnerable. Nuff sed.
16. Push boundaries. When I say this, I mean pushing boundaries in this art of spoken word. To incorporate different forms of theater, music, movement, ANYTHING. I want to be a hand to continuously make this art evolve. It is the living word afterall.
17. Publishing my own work.
18. Learning Praxis. Action and Reflection. Man, if I could get this word tattooed to my body, I would. After going through poet facilitator training, Praxis has stuck with me. It has been an echo into every aspect of my life. Its the reason why I am even doing this list. Action without relfection is just activism. Reflection without action is just though.
19. Dismantling Ego. Understanding that being a rockstar poet is nothing compared to be a dope community organizer. The world can remember you for your words on a stage but that means nothing if your village doesn't remember you for the impact you made in helping to take care and cultivate it first.
20. Conquering public speaking. Whats the top 3 fears in the world? 3. Clowns, 2. Death, 1. Public Speaking. I still get nervous as shit before performing but if I had to toot my own horn, I would say that I got this down pretty well.
21. Self care. There was an entire year after coming home from SF that I had to step back from poetry and take care of myself. My depression had gotten the best of me. Going to therapy made me realize how many people in our community dont take care of themselves. That we are so fragile as a community because we are so fragile as individuals. Once we start taking care of ourselves will the community take care of each other.
22. Loving loud. If you date a poet, you know that you will become poetry. I have loved so loudly. And I will never apologize for it.
23. Decolonizing the Pacific. We are a people of oral traditions. Writing was introduced from the west. The art of spoken word, brings us back to our roots. To sharing our stories. The urgency, the importance, the need for it. If we decolonize the way we share our stories, of simply just writing it, and tranforming the norm into speaking it. Then we as a community can liberate ourselves and our voices.
24. Harrison. My brother. Without poetry, I wouldn't have met the chubby awkward 16 year old filipino boy who would tranform in to the 23 year old dapper man I facilitate with today. I am so proud of your journey Harrison, through addiction, through trauma, through surviving. I wouldn't be able to do this work if I didn't have someone like you to create with, to cry on, and to reflect. As we say, thank you for being in the trenches with me.
25. My 2nd Family. Lyz. Melvin. Jason. Thank you for being the mentors and adult figures in my life, when home was not the best place to be. You guys are and will forever be one of the main reasons why I do this work. Because if it weren't for you and for sharing your poetry with me, I would not have fallen in love with this art in the first place.