THIS IS AMERICA: the fearful Black man

If you haven’t heard, about a week ago, Childish Gambino, AKA multi-talented musical artist, screenwriter, actor, and comedian Donald Glover, released a new single called “This is America,” along with a shocking video that left people with one question… what does it all mean?

There are countless think-pieces, listicals, and Reddit threads trying to decode the video that try to break down every little detail, from clothing choices to background activity. While its true that “This is America” is masterful in its delivery, I think we are getting too wrapped up in the metaphors, imagery, and references– and forgetting about the message that the video sends: that there is a dangerous bifurcation in the stereotype that the white man has created for Black men. The Black man is either a cheerful servant to white culture and society, or a dangerous and violent criminal.


The Cheerful Servant


“This is America” begins with a happy, almost manic harmony over which Glover sings, “We just wanna party/party just for you.” In the video, a man sits on a chair and starts playing guitar and singing these lines as the camera pans over to Glover, who dances as he makes exaggerated faces. These faces which toe the line between smiles and grimaces recall images of minstrel and Blackface shows, which portrayed Black men as happy servants who were uneducated and childish, and therefore benefitted from their servitude to white people.


About a year ago, when I got my tattoo, the artist and I talked a bit about music. I asked him what he was listening to recently, and, surprisingly, he said, “Mumble rap.” This is music features heavy beats, often incomprehensible lyrics punctuated by “skrrrr” and “brap,” much like the second half of “This is America.” In response, I told him how much I loved Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. He said, “Yeah, I liked Kendrick a lot, but it got lost on me when he started talking about Black power.”

Much like when Colin Kaepernick took the knee, white people become angry and dismissive once a major star of Color starts talking openly about race politics. The idea that these people are meant to entertain and not to express their views is problematic. It means that we look at people of Color as people who should use their creative talents to make something that white society can easily consume. The truth is, however, entertainers are people, and they have the right to express their views however they like, in their creative work or otherwise. Also, as I’ve continued to listen to music by POC, it has helped me to understand Black Lives Matter from a variety of personal perspectives, much like reading post-colonial literature in college helped me to understand how racism in America– which has not died out with neither the abolition of slavery nor desegregation– affected POC through history and today.

As the camera follows the dancing Glover back to the guitar playing man, we find that his head has been covered by a burlap sack. Glover pulls out a gun and shoots him violently. Upon the gunshot, the song then transitions to the darker beats and rap music.

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The Violent Criminal

Immediately when a Black man becomes disobedient, whether this disobedience is peaceful or not, whether this disobedience is legal or not, they become a dangerous and violent criminal. This is why Glover’s persona in the video commits these crimes.

The second the music switches from bright gospel vocals to deep, pulsing hip hop is when Glover becomes violent. The lyrics also become more deadpan and matter of fact: “This is America/Don’t catch you slippin’ up.” Not only does Glover become violent, but he  expresses his own views and opinions outright, rather than “partying just for” us. The instant change in his character and his music highlight the contrast between these two personas and the dangerous balancing act that Black men must perform in order to survive.

Okay, so it’s true that there are gray areas here. What about rappers who promote violence in their music? Are they criminals? Sure, like other celebrities (and people in general), some commit their fair share of misdeeds, but as long as they keep quiet about race politics and keep making good music (regardless of what the lyrics may or may not promote), white America continues to consume the music they make. As long as Black people are contributing to our culture without expressing deep thought, especially about race politics, white people are quite happy.

On the other hand, think of all of the bodies that have piled up just because a Black man didn’t do exactly as he was told by the police. Or when Trayvon Martin was killed for wearing a hoodie and reaching into his pocket. Or when Eric Garner was killed for selling cigarettes illegally. Or when Philando Castille was killed in front of his girlfriend and her daughter at a traffic stop for telling the officer that he had a firearm. Have you ever heard of a white man or boy dying for any of these crimes?

In the video, Glover is the hyper-masculinized villain with assault rifles. He is the criminal, and the murderer. This being said, t all of his victims in the video, from the guitarist in the burlap sack to the singing choir, are also Black.  When he is finished shooting, the guns are taken away from Glover by other people, carefully handled on a red silk cloth. The bodies of Glover’s victims, however, are battered, beaten, and dragged away, or, in other words, disposable. This creates a strong metaphoric message: Black people are worth less to America than firearms.

Ironically enough, the crimes that Glover commits– from lynching to slaughtering several Black people– are crimes that were historically committed by white people TO Black people. Therefore, Glover is only embodying the stereotype that has been given to Black men, as white people are quick to defend themselves by citing Black on Black violence. This stereotype makes it easy for white people, as a group, to deflect blame for the violence that racism continues to cause at the expense of Black lives.

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Everybody Else

Aside from this persona that Glover embodies and his victims, the other characters in the video are current Black celebrities (anyone catch SZA chilling on the car?), Black people who clean up Glover’s messes, and Black schoolchildren. Oh, and I think there are a few white people here and there, but they are mostly just blurry members of a mob that seems to be beckoned by Glover’s acts of violence.

Glover’s victims are all killed, ironically, as they are making music. Though they are contributing to the song that Glover is dancing to, they are still disposable and replaceable. Glover’s victims in the choir, however, brought a haunting memory to my mind. It reminded me of a night when I was told to be careful because there was a shooting behind my house. It was a night that I was told that nine people were killed just yards from where I lived. I discovered more details later. That all of the people killed were Black. That the shooter was, not only white, but a white supremacist. That the victims had welcomed this white shooter into their church to worship with them. That the church had a history of being a haven for southern Black Christians. These people were killed for nothing more than being Black.

The Black celebrities, the Black servants, and the Black schoolchildren, however, remain untouched. This is because they are contributing to society by either cleaning up messes and doing as they are told or creating popular and commercially successful music. The schoolchildren, however, retain their innocence and remain unharmed as they follow Glover through the video. This is because Black youth look up to stars such as Glover and SZA, celebrating a boom of Black representation in the media, but they are also blissfully ignorant of the more violent threats to Black people in America.

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The Final Shot

As the song’s beat winds down, the camera zooms out from Glover dancing a top a car.  The dark doorway through which the camera backtracks serves as a frame, which contains the narrative we just saw to just that- a frame, as if the whole thing were just a dream in Glover’s head. We leave this dream (or nightmare) as the camera flips over and reveals the same building, abandoned and dark, and a terrified Glover running away.

Glover sings:

You just a Black man in this world
You just a barcode, ayy
You just a Black man in this world
Drivin’ expensive foreigns, ayy
You just a big dawg, yeah
I kenneled him in the backyard
No proper life to a dog
For a big dog

These lyrics show what a Black man has been reduced to: a barcode, a product, an animal confined to the metaphorical cage (or literal cage when you account for the fact that Black men make up for 37 percent of 2.2 million incarcerated men) that we have locked him in because of the reductive stereotypes that we have created for the Black man.

“This is America” concludes with show one last shot of Glover, running through the building, which is now dark and abandoned, from the blurry mob, which contains the only white actors in the entire video.

The camera doesn’t focus on the mob, though. It focuses on Glover’s face, which is strained in absolute fear. The Black man, then, is not something to be feared. He is neither a vicious criminal nor a cheerful servant, but he is a man caught dangerously between these two stereotypes. He is a man who sees people like him so easily disposed of, and is afraid of being hurt, or worse, killed, for nothing else but the color of their skin.


Best Albums of 2017

2017 was arguably a trash fire of a year for many global and political reasons, but this outrage has sparked some strong music. Some of the music on this list is a direct response to the political climate, such as Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN and, partially, as Björk explained in an interview with Pitchfork, Utopia. As we enter 2018, I am excited and hopeful that we will see some great art, for art is the opposite of fascism. With that out of the way, here are my favorites of 2017:


Visions of a Life – Wolf Alice

I was very lucky to see Wolf Alice perform at Great Scott in Boston over the summer, and their energy onstage is infectious. Ellie’s frantic energy colors Visions in tracks such as “Yuk Foo,” and “Sky Musings.” “Sky Musings” is actually one of my favorite tracks because of its candor: Ellie Rowsell, Wolf Alice’s frontwoman and lyricist, explains that she had an existential crisis on a long flight, which is something with which at least I, if not most people, can relate. 2017 was an exciting year for Wolf Alice, as they continue to grow an audience, performing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert and opening several European dates for the Foo Fighters.

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Three Futures – TORRES

TORRES as a musician, to me, is very much like Elizabeth Bishop as a poet (yes I want to write an essay about this); what I mean by this is that, what is left unsaid is just as important as what is said, or sung, in TORRES’s case. As much as TORRES is a vocalist, she is a guitar player. What I mean by this is that she doesn’t play guitar simply to accompany her singing; her guitar playing takes center stage just as well. I saw TORRES perform at the Sinclair the day after she released Three Futures, her third album. What she could not say with words, she communicated with riffs and shreds.


Utopia – Björk

I’d agree with many that this is a sort of companion piece to Björk’s 2015 release, Vulnicura. While Vulnicura explores and wallows in the heartbreak of divorce, Utopia is about beginning again. Björk sings with childlike wonder: “All of my mouth was kissing him/Now, into the air, I am missing him/Is this excess texting a blessing?/Two music nerds obsessing.” Despite these songs, Björk does not forget to mention the trauma caused by her divorce. In “The Gate” she alludes to her “chest wound,” a visual and lyrical motif from Vulnicura. She describes this wound as something that has become a gate from which she can give and receive love, albeit, cautiously.


Masseduction – St. Vincent

Is it a coincidence that I was able to see many of the artists of these albums live? For St. Vincent, I think it was fate. A friend of mine told me to listen to this album, and I was not disappointed. St. Vincent’s music has a theatrical and cinematic quality that very few musicians can achieve. Not only is Masseduction artful, but it also produces quite a few bangers: the dark pulsing of “Los Ageless” is at home in a nightclub, and the conclusion to “Pills” sounds like a ballad from Queen. In between these colorful pop songs are piano ballads recounting old and lost friends; in contrast, these songs focus on Annie Clarke’s lyrical abilities. The album concludes perfectly with the dark, brooding “Smoking Section.”


Capacity – Big Thief

If I had known about Big Thief in 2016, their previous album, Masterpiece, would have made last year’s list. Adrianne Lanker’s poetic lyrics, and shakily delivered vocals are what make Big Thief a lifelong staple in my music library. Unlike TORRES and St. Vincent, Big Thief’s delivery is not known for precision; but Big Thief’s messiness, as if you are in a garage with Lanker or having a conversation with her, is what makes them so great. Big Thief’s growing catalogue is something that gives me lots of hope- and lots of music that makes me feel at home in my intense emotions.

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Cigarettes After Sex – Cigarettes After Sex

Being a perpetually single person, it’s really hard for me to like an album that is composed entirely of love songs- but here I am, falling in love with Cigarettes After Sex. I don’t think this album could ever get old. Greg Gonzales’s vocals and the band’s timeless sound make this a permanent staple in my playlists.

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Soft Sounds from Another Planet – Japanese Breakfast

Japanese Breakfast departs from last year’s Psychopomp with a more electronic sound that transports its listeners to… well, another planet. Soft Sounds channels Bowie in slower tracks such as “Till Death” (which is an ode in and of itself to Bowie, as Michele Zauner sings, “All our celebrities keep dying, while the cruel men continue to win.”). Other strong points on the album are the groovy riffs from the opening track “Diving Woman,” and upbeat and disco-y “The Machinist.”


Melodrama – Lorde

My unedited thoughts to Lorde’s second album are exactly as follows: wowowowow how can you only be 21 years old? Lorde is an old soul AND a party girl, and I don’t think I’ve ever related to someone more. Lorde is an example, to me, of how powerful great pop music can be. Heartbreak, manic rage – Lorde shows a more fierce side on this album, in contrast to her cool and composed 2013 release Pure Heroine. Her vocal range is larger, and her tracks vary between soft and sad (“Liability” and “Writer in the Dark”) and large and epic (“Green Light” and “The Louvre”). As much as Lorde is a participant in the party, she is also a keen observer. On Melodrama, Lorde explores young relationships, those that are full of high moments of pleasure but altogether unsustainable and rocky.

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A Place I’ll Always Go – Palehound

Palehound represents two things I love: Boston and queer women taking over music. Palehound has gained national attention. I’ve seen them twice as they opened for Waxahatchee and Big Thief. Despite their renown, they remain true to the Boston scene, and I’ve seen Ellen Kempner, Palehound’s frontwoman and lyricist, working at the Harvard Bookstore Warehouse sale (yes, I freaked out a little). A Place I’ll Always Go explores relationships in many different ways: “Room”is a laid-back tune about a new relationship. “If You Met Her” is evaluates a former flame in comparison to a new relationship, though it leaves the listener wondering whether or not, within the moment this song illustrates, Kempner has moved on or not.  I’m sure she has though; Kempner and Palehound have toured with the likes of Mitski and recently released 7″ with Saddle Creek. Kempner’s songwriting really shines on my favorite track “Feeling Fruit.”


Slowdive – Slowdive

With their first album release in 22 years, Slowdive made quite the comeback, earning Pitchfork’s title for Best New Music. “Give me your heart, it’s a curious thing,” Neil Halstead sings on “Slomo” the album’s opening track, and an invitation for the listener to – pun intended – dive in. Slowdive creates a large and open soundscape on their newest record.


Ctrl – SZA

“Why is it so hard to accept the party is over?” SZA sings, I imagine, on a couch, surrounded by friends still groggy or asleep from the night before. They begin to awaken from hunger, and commence to binging Narcos from episode one, as Solana commands. SZA, just as much as Lorde, is the introspective party girl. Maybe it’s a Scorpio thing, because I, too, relate to this newly found archetype. On her first full-length record, SZA explores female sexual autonomy. Sometimes she’s the heartbroken, and sometimes she’s the heartbreaker, and I love her for her versatility and her ability to capture the myriad self.


DAMN. – Kendrick Lamar

Lamar’s powerful storytelling on DAMN. is an example of how the personal narrative can be made political, and so damn powerful. DAMN. opens with a monologue in which a man is taking a walk, opts to help an old woman, and is ultimately killed for it, which recalls the past few years of police brutality, racial profiling, and its divisive responses (such as the one Lamar samples from Fox News). Lamar produces big hits such as “HUMBLE.” and “LOVE.” but truly, his storytelling and powerful verses shine on the powerful protest of “XXX.” and the personal “DUCKWORTH.” “DUCKWORTH.” closes the album (or opens it, as Lamar has said the album can be played forwards and backwards, and can be looped) with the story of his father, whose life was spared in a robbery at his workplace, KFC. Ducky, Lamar’s father, “drove to California with a woman on him and 500 dollars. They had a son, hopin’ that he’d see college, hustlin’ on the side with a nine-to-five to freak it.” While the song is a thank you note to his parents, it is also a thank you note to fate, which kept Lamar from growing up fatherless and violent. “Whoever thought the greatest rapper would be from coincidence? Because if Anthony killed Ducky, Top Dawg could be servin’ life while I grew up without a father and die in a gunfight.”

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I See You – The xx

If I have any regrets about Boston Calling, it is that I wasn’t able to see The xx perform. Their performance directly conflicted with the 1975’s, and everyone who knows me knows how hard I stan the 1975. The xx’s third album, I See You, is sexy and sleek, perfect for a party playlist. One of the most memorable tracks, “A Performance,” describes how appearing to be over a breakup in front of an ex is a performance. Two of the other strongest tracks, “On Hold,” and “I Dare You,” became hits worthy of the dance floor.

Branching Out

Hello, friends! Sorry it has been so long!

As many of you know, I am very happy with the life I’ve built in Boston. I have a very supportive group of friends and I have a job I love.

Which reminds me of the many things that have changed since I last posted!

In September, I wrote about how I decided not to go to Thailand after all. I felt I needed to stay here longer and that I was looking to remedy something that didn’t require moving away. I didn’t want to end this beautiful chapter that was just beginning to bloom. Turns out, the thing I needed to fix were my jobs.

Anyone who’s done this before knows this for a fact – working two part time jobs is HARD WORK. I worked an average of 50-60 hours making only about $12-15 an hour. I could pay my rent and bills, and I wasn’t starving, but I was exhausted. I was anxious, and depressed. My mental health suffered greatly, and, as a result, I called out from one of my jobs pretty frequently during the month of September. I had to get a doctor’s note eventually, which my psychiatrist provided. What was the point of working so much that it rendered me unproductive? What was the point of paying to survive when this was clearly no way to live?

Obviously, everyone has different thresholds for the amount that they work. This was mine. My brother works about the same amount per week, but he has many benefits that I don’t have, and much higher pay. Also, his days were more structured – he had time to get lunch, go to the bathroom, and do other things such as that. There were some days working for the dog walking company that I worked for when I didn’t have time to stop for lunch. I would walk dogs exhausted and starving. Then, after, if I had time, I’d try to eat and shower before going to my other job at the grocery store. Some people are grateful for a day off; I was grateful for days that I only had to work at one job.

Working like this really gives you a glimpse into others’ lives. There are people who have jobs like these and are single parents. There are people my age working these jobs who have college loans to pay off. If something happened to me, for example, if I were seriously injured, I wouldn’t have much of a financial fallback. This is what Senator Bernie Sanders means when he says, “It’s expensive to be poor.”

Something had to change. I started looking for full-time jobs, so that I could stop this mad, busy, unpredictable schedule.

At first, I wanted to work in higher ed, possibly in an office. I was busy looking for these sorts of jobs, but my mom found a full-time dog walking job. Unlike my last job, this position was higher-paying, full-time, and offered more benefits, such as reimbursement for gas. I applied to this job and almost immediately got a reply from the employer expressing interest. We had a phone call, and then had a more in-depth interview at a cafe in Somerville. Then I shadowed for a day to see what it was like.

I should also mention the primary difference between this company and the last one I worked for: this company specializes in off-leash hikes. So, it’s much different from leash walking in the city.

I met my new boss (spoiler I know) at a place about 10 miles from where I live called Cat Rock Park. Cat Rock Park is conservation land that allows people the opportunity to walk their dogs without leashes. The park is almost like heaven on earth for me. It’s a nice retreat into the woods, and you’re surrounded by dogs who are free to be their goofy, playful selves. Not far into the park is a large pond with a small dam. The dogs often stop here to take a dip or a drink. After that, there is a large glade where the dogs can run freely and socialize with others. This happens in the woods, too, but it’s much easier to keep an eye on them in the field. In the woods, I try to focus more on walking.

I was offered the job and quit at my other company early November. Right now, I am working this new position part-time for two days a week, and I start full-time in January.

In the mean time, I’ve been picking up more hours at the grocery store, and I’ve been depending more on this job than before for supplemental pay.

About two weeks after quitting my last dog walking job, I found out that the store where I worked would be closing permanently.

Let me give you a glimpse into the communication of this company.

I found out that we would be closing permanently in about a week in late November. I did not receive a formal phone call nor an email. Instead, I found out from a group text of me and my coworkers, who are my closest friends in Boston. At first, I ignored what my friend Charles said (no more BFresh!), because I thought he was talking about his new job that he got at Gillette. Then my friend Bill said he’d be having a party after BFresh closes on the 25th. He made a joke that it was for the closing, but really it was for his birthday.

So I and my other friends all had the same reaction of surprise and confusion. Even though I was off that day, I walked to the store to demand an explanation and definite answer. I got what I was searching for and lamented – of course the store would close when I needed it more, and also when I only needed the job for another month or so.

Luckily, instead of losing my job, I was able to transfer to another location in Allston. The commute is slightly longer – I have to drive about 2 miles to get there, which doesn’t sound like a long drive, but it can be depending on the traffic. I now work here, but I am planning on quitting soon. I did think about keeping it even when my dog walking job went full-time, but I return home exhausted from hiking and driving all day (I drive about 80 miles a day, and probably hike about 4-5 miles. I’d love to get my fitbit working again so I can more accurately track how much I walk.).  Would I really feel like going to work for a few more hours in the evenings? Secondly, I’ve started focusing on other things. I’ve worked hard and built a strong foundation here, as I’ve said many times before: I live in a great apartment with awesome roommates, I have a strong network of friends, and, now, or at least next month, I’ll have a steady paying job with a regular, predictable, and manageable schedule. In addition to this, it’s a job that I look forward to working every single week.

So, about those other things. Now that I have a foundation, I need to build a house, right? For those of you familiar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, I feel that I am now in the self-actualization stage.

For a while, I’ve been wanting to date. Pursuing a relationship in this modern age is hard enough, but, just to make it harder, I am queer and searching for a relationship with a woman. I do more specifically identify as bi – I do like men sometimes, but I like women more. It’s something that I had a hard time accepting until the past year. Through high school and college, I knew somehow that I was different, but I couldn’t put a finger on it. I had a crush on a girl in high school, but it went away, and I sort of forgot about it and buried the experience. It was a shameful one that didn’t end well. I went away for the summer to work at a camp and developed a massive crush on a guy there (which ended in a similar manner). Essentially, I used my attraction to men to negate and ignore my attraction to women.

Over the summer, I briefly dated a woman. She was from Orlando and living in Boston for the summer, working an internship at an international exchange school nearby. We talked constantly for a month, since she hadn’t moved here yet. When we met, we had a lot of chemistry, and we had some great dates… for about a week.

She didn’t ghost me. She still talked to me, but she flaked when I tried to make plans with her. I tried (REALLY HARD) to give her space and let her have her own life and friends in this new city she came to explore. I knew that she didn’t want her entire experience to be defined by a relationship that wasn’t even sustainable in the long run. My heart is often louder than my logical thinking, so even though deep down, I knew this to be true, I kept trying to pursue her in a more serious way. I think I chased her away. Obviously, this blog will be great information to put on my dating profiles!

Of course, at the time, this felt like the end of the world, and now, as I’m writing this, I’m laughing. Everything works out in the end, I suppose. In fact, she sort of triggered a period of self-examination that inspired me to stay here rather than move to Thailand and to look for better jobs here. So I have that to be thankful for, though it may have happened without her help.

So, I’ve been browsing Tinder on and off. Online dating is rough though. Some people swipe and swipe and swipe and never talk. Some people (like me) aren’t responsive because maybe they don’t look at their messages all that often. And most dates are pretty unsuccessful, but hey that’s part of the game.

So, I decided to get out there and meet some people “IRL” (In Real Life for those not fluent in Internet-speak). Obviously, people do this a number of ways, but when you’re queer, it’s a little harder, especially when you’re a woman. Queer women are sometimes less visible, especially when they’re femme (which means they wear make-up, dresses, or have long hair). Sometimes, I don’t feel visible. I cut my hair short, but thats about it. I still wear make up and dresses and consider myself to be pretty femme, although sometimes I toe the androgynous line. It feels like, essentially, when I meet other people in spaces that aren’t necessarily queer spaces, I want to shout “HEY I’M QUEER” without shouting “HEY I’M QUEER.” Obviously, this isn’t what defines who I am, or the thing that makes me interesting, but it still is a pretty large part of who I am.

To meet queer people, specifically those interested in dating, you have to put yourself out there. That’s why there are queer communities, gay bars, and other spaces such as these. These are places where queer people can be visible and can flirt with each other without worrying about whether or not the person they’re flirting with is actually straight.

On Monday night, I went to an event called “Feminist and Queer Happy Hour.” This was perfect, as I fell into both categories, and though it wasn’t exclusive to women (obviously men/genderqueer people can be feminists too), I knew it’d attract a lot of women and femme people. Also, it was low pressure; it wasn’t a dating event, but rather, a networking event. More than dating, I was interested in meeting friends and getting involved in the Boston queer community. I got out there and actually met some pretty cool people who live nearby! I just need to keep in touch with them and keep hanging out with them. So, while dating isn’t my primary focus with this, I am trying to make myself available to people that I’d be interested in.

So, this is one way I am trying to branch out. Another way I am trying to branch out is through my creative projects. Though I was working like crazy, somehow, I never stopped creating. I mostly wrote – poetry, songs – I even started writing a novel recently! But this writing wasn’t going out into the world. It was staying put in my journals and sometimes in correspondences with other writer friends.

What I am doing now is focusing on my music. I am hoping to buy an electric guitar soon, and I’ve been writing and recording songs. This is where I am really lucky to have my roommate Donna. She’s a musician who’s in a band called Strawberry Machine, and she also has her own solo music and has started another band called Moon Sisters. She has a network of musicians and plays semi-regular gigs at places nearby. On top of this, she’s a lovely person who I look up to and cherish dearly. It’s so nice that I get to pester her with my writings and recordings by simply walking into the next room.

I made a post about my band on Craigslist and Facebook, and I’ve had several people contact me. Out of those many people, there is one who’s sustained interest and invited me to a gig on Friday night. So, because of this project that I want to bring to life and put out into the world, I am meeting more people who have shared interests and making myself open to meaningful relationships (not exclusively romantic, obviously).

I am really excited about this next chapter! I’ve got some very strong roots – now it’s time to bloom.


Staying: A Change of Plans

As of one week ago, I have been living in my apartment in Brighton, MA for one year. This apartment has been a milestone for me: it was when I committed to supporting myself financially by paying my own rent and utilities, and it was when I fully immersed myself into a city where I knew no one. Furthermore, it is the apartment that I agreed to live in for not just one, but two years.

This comes as a surprise to some people, but not all. I had not made my decision public, but, earlier in the summer, I had been accepted to Teach Abroad. I had been accepted to my first choice in South Korea in early May. South Korea attracted me for two reasons: one, because a city called Wonju is, strangely, a sister city of my hometown Roanoke, VA, and two, because my family hosted a resident of this city when I was 12 years old. Sol Ki was the first of a long line of international residents the Worthy family would host.

Sol Ki became my introduction to the international. Before meeting her, I’m not sure that I had much exposure at all to people of different nationalities and cultures. Living with her allowed me to learn a lot about Korean culture, and it made me excited to share my culture with her (though Roanoke, VA is not what I would think of as a prime travel destination).

Shortly after receiving my acceptance, I was warned of three red flags when applying for a South Korean visa. Things that would interfere with my ability to obtain one of these included a criminal record, drug use, and, strangely, use of prescription drugs for mental illnesses. My ambassador told me to reply immediately if any of these things applied. Without thinking much of it, I told him that I do take antidepressants for depression and anxiety, and that, because of these medications, I am healthy and stable.

I was devastated to hear that this did not matter. I would be unable to obtain a visa to work in South Korea.

One thing I didn’t know about South Korea is their strong mental health stigma. I know that things are progressively improving in the United States, at least for more common disorders such as depression and anxiety, and that other countries and cultures view these issues much differently. This led me to articles that told me that South Korea has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, and that Confucian ideals of piety and hierarchy, as well as a responsibility to family and community, contribute to the stigma of mental illness and the urgency of those affected by it to keep it under wraps.

As a result of this, the program through which I applied offered me to switch to another program in another country, given that I was already accepted. They suggested China and Thailand. On a whim, I picked Thailand.

I was drawn to Thailand because my two roommates traveled there earlier this year and had the time of their lives. One of my old roommates in Charleston taught English there for a year and thoroughly enjoyed it. My best friend traveled there to visit her brother and recommended traveling there. All of these people spoke of the friendly people of the Land of Smiles.

So, I chose Thailand. And I had two months to prepare my documents, including a state level criminal background check and an application for a working visa, to collect my belongings and move out of my apartment, and to say goodbye to my life in Boston.

But certain things happened between the time that I applied to teach abroad and now. I realized how torn I was to be leaving Boston. A place where I had once felt so alone was now a place filled with friends. I find myself spending more time going out with my friends from BFresh than staying at home. I find myself staying up an extra hour late talking to my roommate about her week. I find myself nourished by my connections here, and I find that I have built a community and a family.

This all reminds me of when I first moved here. I remember crying in my room and missing my all of the friends I had made in college who were all now so far away. As I lay in bed, I remember feeling similarly when I first arrived at the College of Charleston. I felt that I couldn’t fit in with my peers. I found myself more inclined to spend time alone in my room watching Netflix. There are times when all of us need this time alone, but I did this not to refresh myself, but to avoid the anxiety of interacting with others. I felt helpless. I was so happy to finally leave my hometown and my high school, where I had been less than happy (i.e. miserable) for so many years. My senior year of high school was the best year simply because I had already begun to let go. The fact that I did not fit in at my school was something that no longer bothered me because I knew I was moving on to something better. I focused on my applications, on my studies, and on saving money. To see that things did not get better when I left made me feel as if that light that had guided me for so long had been snuffed out.

I realize now how juvenile the assumption that a change of environment would mean instant peace. Home is not a place that we find or stumble across. Home is a place that we build. I began to choose my friends; friends I found that gave me energy and life rather than taking it from me. I found my passion for writing and began creating more. I discovered a love of adventure, exploration and travel in a historic tourist town. A place that I had originally regretted coming to became my home.

Fast forward again to me, lying in bed, crying about being alone in an unfamiliar place I had chosen to move to. As I thought of what I had done in Charleston and what I needed to do in Boston, I had a realization. Boston was my mountain; I needed to climb it, to work hard if I wanted to make this place my home.

It’s been a year and I can say that I have climbed that mountain. I have found a place that I enjoy living. I have built a community that I can’t stand to leave.

Which is why I did something unexpected: I stayed.

Collecting all of my documents and things to go to a new place didn’t make sense when I was so reluctant to leave Boston. Of course, I wasn’t happy or eager to leave Charleston as I was to leave Roanoke, but I knew that my time there had come to an end. Beyond the college, which was my community, there wasn’t much left for me. I felt that I had fully lived out the life I was meant to live in Charleston through the College. If I had stayed, Charleston, of course, would still be there, but the classes, the campus community, and most of my friends would not.

I had come to find, too, that the only thing that I am currently unhappy with is my job situation. Working two part time jobs is no easy feat. This past week, I have worked three days for about 14 hours straight between walking dogs, bringing them to daycare, taking care of cats, and working at the grocery store. Today is my fourth consecutive day of such a schedule.

I find that I don’t have as much time for my creative pursuits. I am envious of my roommate who has time to write music and play gigs with her band. I am eager to start submitting my poetry and writing to more literary magazines. I am wondering what path I should take next, be it travel or teaching abroad or grad school, but I still feel like I don’t know enough to commit to such large decisions.

I’ve had many people tell me that I can always come back to Boston. While this is true, my opportunities to teach abroad will also be something that I can come back to, if I choose to do so. I felt that I had been applying for the wrong reasons. I applied because, as someone who wants to travel and as someone who majored in English and is having a hard time in this competitive job field, it was something I could do to quell my itch to visit new places, and something impressive I could add to a resume. Finding a job teaching English abroad is much easier than finding a job here, as openings abroad are abundant. Of course, I am not putting down those who choose to do this (at all!) because it is an amazing experience and it is one I am still very interested in. I just don’t think it is the right move for me right now, especially given my faulty reasoning behind applying, and my restlessly ambivalent intuition that told me to stay.

So here I am, having woke up at 4 am, not being able to go to sleep. I have applied to three jobs since then, and now, suddenly, for the first time in months, words are pouring out of me, like a heavy rain after a drought.

It’s true that I have accomplished a lot since those nights I spent alone. If Boston is my mountain, than I have certainly ascended, and I can look behind me and clearly see the path of the labyrinth I once felt so lost within. I am on the face of the cliff; leaving Boston behind would mean falling or undoing much of the work I had done.

I have come a long way, but I am not finished climbing yet.


Chester Bennington, 1976-2017

I was at a concert with my friend last night. Korn was headlining, but bands like Skillet and Stone Sour opened. It’s not really my type of music, but it was fun, and he really wanted to go. Remembering countless concerts to which I have dragged less-than- enthusiastic friends, I was glad to finally repay the favor to someone else.

Earlier that day, I found out that Chester Bennington, the lead singer of Linkin Park, had committed suicide. He was only 41 years old, and Linkin Park had just released a new album. I was never a huge Linkin Park fan, but a few of their hit songs, including “Numb” and “In the End” definitely frequented my playlists as a teenager. One of my good friends was looking forward to seeing Chester front the band only a week later at the very same venue that Korn was playing.

Stone Sour opened their song “Looking Through the Glass” with an introduction. “We lost a friend today,” he said. “This was one of Chester’s favorite songs, so I’d like to dedicate it to him.” The audience applauded passionately. After the song ended, people chanted his name over and over again. Chester… Chester… Chester.


Mental illness is difficult. It twists the truth and makes it seem something completely different. No one knows what Chester, or Robin, or Kurt, thought in those last dark minutes.

I am a person diagnosed with such an illness, and I commend Chester for speaking and writing openly about his struggles in his music. I know it helped many of my friends through tough times. I, like Chester, have had suicidal thoughts before. It’s a scary, scary thing. It’s not something you can fully control. Sometimes it is an impulse, or a thought that somehow doesn’t even feel like your own. Sometimes it’s a feeling in your gut that overcomes any logical thinking about your living situation. Something that tells you that you are alone, and always have been, or that you are not good enough, and never will be.

The point is, that this successful musician, who was beloved by so many, still felt such overwhelming pain that he took his own life. He did not only think about suicide, but he made a concrete plan and executed it. I wondered if things would be different if he could’ve heard that arena tonight. How his music has impacted so many people.

Wherever he is, I hope that he is free of the pain that burdened him in his life. We cannot judge people’s lives, much less their minds, from the outside. Suicide is a tough subject that is still heavily stigmatized, but we need to talk about it. It’s the only way to prevent it. We need to encourage openness about the subject. Encourage, not only those who are haunted by such thoughts to share them with others they trust, but also for us to be on the lookout for signs of suicidal thoughts in others.

***If you or a loved one is experiencing a crisis, please call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255

“I’ve been waiting for you.”

Location: My porch, evening

Song Title: K.

Artist: Cigarettes After Sex

Album: Cigarettes After Sex

Label: Partisan Records

Duration: 5:20

Genre: Alternative

Source:  Headphones

Who I want to share the song with: I want to shove this song into everyone’s ears to let them know how wonderful it is.

How I discovered this song: NPR’s All Songs Considered


When I first heard this song on All Songs Considered, I fell in love with it and this band, who just released their first LP last Friday.

I can hardly put into words what this song makes me feel. The melody is perfect and bounces around in my head all day. When I hear it, I can’t help but sing along. Greg Gonzalez’s vocals are so cozy. The bass lines make me want to feel summer breezes forever. This song makes me positively euphoric– that’s the best way I can describe it. It’s one of those (very few!) songs that I can listen to over and over.

Sitting on my porch, watching the sunset, I am peaceful above the hum drum traffic of Washington Street. I am taking a moment to be thankful for where I am, who I’ve become, and the opportunities that lie ahead. I’ve fallen in love with myself and with the season.

Oddly enough, this song, though it is about discovering a romantic connection, signifies, for me, inner growth. I feel as if I have almost fully become the person that I’ve always wanted to be and that certain fears have stopped me from being. Today, I feel, I am reaping many rewards. I’ve come a long way.

Boston Calling: Alone and Invincible

Last weekend, I went to my first big festival. And, I went alone.

For those of you considering going to a festival alone, I found my experience to be totally worth it. Keep in mind, however, that I only live a few miles away from the location of the festival, which, this year, had changed from the City Hall Plaza in downtown Boston to the Harvard Athletic Complex in Allston.

I went because I decided that I would rather be alone than deny myself the experience of seeing some of my favorite bands live. I do this a lot with concerts, and I know a few others who do so as well, but going to a festival alone, navigating the time between sets alone, is a little more daunting.

Day 1:

On Friday, I still agreed to work for the dog walking company, knowing that I would still be able to catch my favorite acts (Car Seat Headrest and Bon Iver) in time. When I got home, I had a chance encounter with my roommate, Davina. “I’m going to Boston Calling,” she said.

“Me too!”

This seems contradictory to the title, I know. We did ride to the festival together, although we split up immediately after entering the gates (she opted for Sylan Esso over Car Seat Headrest), we kept each other company in the long line at the entrance.

This was unexpected, and, on the festival’s part, poorly planned. The festival increased security measures after the Manchester attacks. So, even though Davina and I got there a little later than 4:30, we didn’t make it through the gate until 5:15.

I was glad to have Davina there, because I would have felt anxious navigating the unorganized line by myself. Uncertainty, like misery, loves company, I guess.

When I got through the gate, I never ran so fast in my life to catch the rest of Car Seat Headrest’s performance. I ran over to the blue stage, which was far away from the ferris wheel, and the other two stages, as they were playing “Fill in the Blank.”

After Car Seat Headrest, I went over towards the ferris wheel to get some food, and I listened to the end of Sylvan Esso’s set. I met two guys in the food line from the Burlington, Vermont area. We switched from line to line, trying to decide which line was the shortest and which food truck had the most reasonable prices.

“You look cool enough to know where we could get some weed,” one of them said.

I was really flattered, but I told them that unfortunately I did not. “It is legal here, no?” I told them, yes, it is, but it’s not as easy to get as say, alcohol or cigarettes. While possession (up to a certain amount) and use, both recreational and medical, is legal, it’s still not legal to sell marijuana. However, you can “gift” it. I told them that, in the future, Boston may have some weed cafes, but not for another year or so. Who did they want to see? “If it weren’t for Tool, we wouldn’t have come.”

I went back to the blue stage and caught some of Mac Demarco’s performance. He actually went on early, and he invited people up to the stage to dance. After staying there for a little while, I decided I wanted to get a good view for Bon Iver.

I made the right decision. The Red Stage was packed maybe an hour or 45 minutes before Justin Vernon & co would come on. I was able to secure a small space behind the VIP area to the left of the stage. I met a young, drunk guy who claimed to be a Justin Vernon superfan. “No one makes music like him!” he said. “Hey! Can someone pass me a beer?” I passed him mine, which only had a few drops left. Surprisingly, he obliged and turned the can upside down over his lips.

This guy was garnering some strange and annoyed looks from others in the crowd. While he was nice and fun to talk to, I tried to make it clear that I wasn’t with him and that I didn’t know him. I looked at others with a “haha yeah get a load of this guy” sort of look.

Let me tell you about Bon Iver’s performance though. Bon Iver is a band that I thought I’d never get the chance to see live. Something about their status within the music world made them seem unattainable to me. This ended up being my favorite performance besides the 1975. I was entranced. Bon Iver’s latest album, 22 A Million, is different from the two previous albums. Where the previous two albums were more folky, this album was more electronic. Still, there is something transcendent about Bon Iver’s music. I remember the aggressive chills that formed when they played “715 CRΣΣKS.” I remember the magical way the stage lights caught the drizzle during old favorites like “Holocene.” More importantly, I remember everyone screaming “I told you to be patient, I told you to be kind” during “Skinny Love”– Mr. Justin-Vernon-Superfan being louder than the rest.

Before leaving, I stayed for a little bit of Chance the Rapper’s headlining performance. I don’t know much of his music, I was far away, and I wanted to get home at a reasonable time rather than leave at the same time as everyone else.

Day 2

To be honest, this day completely centered around the 1975, and not always in a good way.

Earlier in the week, I had won two passes from a local radio station that would allow me access to a “secret listener lounge” with the 1975 at a bar near the Harvard Athletic Complex. At this event, the 1975 would play a couple of their songs “stripped down,” there would be a Q&A session, and then a meet and greet with the band. I could hardly sleep on Friday night knowing that I would be meeting my favorite band the next day.

And then I got a call from the radio station at about 10am. “We’re sorry to tell you that the event has been cancelled for reasons beyond our control.” They offered me some free concert tickets, which I still have to swing by the station to get.

I still have no idea why the event was cancelled, but I was so mad and sad. I was mad at my favorite band and sad that I wouldn’t get to meet them. Being upset about this made going all alone to the festival that day a little more difficult. So, I missed the first few bands play, and I hung out with my other roommate, Donna, who listened to me complain about the whole thing.

Anyway, I’m still upset about it. But I walk away saying this to myself:

You know what’s more sad than me not meeting the 1975?

The 1975 not meeting me.

So, all that aside, I arrived maybe sometime in the mid afternoon. I ate, caught some of Oh Wonder’s performance, and decided to head over to the blue stage where the 1975 would be performing later, and where I, propelled by my anger, would be in the front row. My mantra was, “I am alone, and I am invincible.”

I wasn’t in the front row. Not quite anyway. Apparently standing in front of the stage for four hours was everyone else’s idea too.

Despite being alone, I met a lot of people in the crowd. There were a few girls who came together from New York and had never seen the band before, and then there were two girls who came together. We asked each other the usual questions, where are you from, who did you come here to see, etc.

“I live here, but I’m not from here,” I told her.

“Oh, then where are you from?”


“Which part?”


She then told me that she graduated from Roanoke College in 2008. We talked about Roanoke things. She said she loved Grandin, and I said “I got this jacket from a shop in Grandin!” We talked about Pop’s and the Star. She talked about how she missed it and I talked about how I hated it when I was there, but that the city really seems to be growing. To be honest, I like visiting there a lot more than I liked living there.

She also went to the same 1975 show I went to in November, which was at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. I told her that coming here alone was a lot cooler because I made some connections, if only temporary. At the last show, I was in the stands, next to a man who looked like he was a chaperone for someone. I danced by myself.

This time, however, this girl (I never learned or forgot her name) gushed about Ross’s beard and sang to our favorite songs. The 1975 were as amazing as the last time I saw them. I could watch Matty dance forever. I love their infectious energy. This wasn’t my first time seeing them and it certainly won’t be the last.

Before leaving, I saw some of Mumford and Son’s performance. I was crazy about them my freshman year of college. Babel and Sigh No More were both in heavy rotation on my playlists. Then their third album came out, they added in electric guitar, and I just wasn’t that into it anymore. I stayed for a couple of old favorites: “Lover of the Light,” “Thistle and Weeds,” and “White Blank Page.” I left when I heard them pull out the electric guitar.

Day 3

Sunday, I made sure to get to the festival early to see Mitski perform. She has an amazing voice, relatable lyrics, and her music makes me feel a lot of things. So, she’s also one of the loves of my life.

Before Mitski, a band called Mondo Cozmo performed. I actually loved their performance, and they did a pretty good cover of “Bittersweet Symphony” by the Verve. The lead singer said, “Cozmo is spelled with a ‘z’ because that’s how my dog spells it.”

There was a group of people in front of me, and I asked them if they were here to see Mitski. They said, instead, that they were there to see Flatbush Zombies, who came on after Mitski. We talked for a while, and it turned out that they were also big 1975 fans. We became allies, and, I asked them if I could have their spot on the barricade for Mitski and promised I’d give it back for Flatbush Zombies. They agreed.

Mitski was not energetic in the way that many other musicians in her genre are. She sang like a stone-faced angel. I didn’t care if she didn’t jump around; her intensity was electrifying. I cried when she sang “Your Best American Girl,” which is the first song I ever heard by her in an Urban Outfitters in Harvard Square. She played “Drunk Walk Home,” and “My Body’s Made of Crushed Little Stars,” and screamed during both. After finishing a song by taking the tip of her mic in her mouth and growling, a man from the crowd yelled, “You scared me!” She cooly replied, “Thank you.”

After Mitski, I hopped from stage to stage. Among some of the acts I saw were Converge, Frightened Rabbit, and Flatbush Zombies. I stayed for all of Piebald’s set. I was introduced to Piebald in high school. A friend that I worked with when I volunteered at the gift shop in the hospital burned me a copy of their album We are the Only Friends We Have. She said she saw them open for Say Anything.

Piebald was psyched to be at Boston Calling. In fact, the lead singer said that the festival actually asked them to play, rather than the other way around. They were among the few acts, including Vunderbar and the the Hotelier, who are from Boston and its surrounding areas.

After Piebald, I stayed for some of Cage the Elephant’s performance, who were very energetic. I would have stayed for their entire set but I wanted to see some of Weezer’s set too, and they were playing on the other side of the festival and started less than five minutes after the end of Cage the Elephant. On the way to the blue stage, I ran into a friend from work, who I had been trying to meet up with that day. The reason we hadn’t was that the festival had become so packed that neither one of us had good service, and we could text each other, let alone find each other among tens of thousands of other people.

This was my third time seeing Weezer, sort of by accident. The first time I saw them was when I took my cousin to a concert last summer. They co-headlined with Panic! At the Disco, who is one of my old favorites. Despite this, after the concert, I decided I liked Weezer’s set better than Panic’s. I saw Weezer again in December when I won a pass to a Songs and Stories event through Alt 92.9 (apparently I’m good at winning things). I got to see Weezer play an acoustic set in Brighton Music Hall, a small venue in Allston. This third time, I stayed for maybe half of the set and left after they resorted to playing covers of “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.”

Finally, it was time for Tool. Tool is probably the reason that the GA one day passes on Sunday had sold out. The festival was the most crowded I had ever seen. I was very far away from the band, but I didn’t care. And, despite the distance between me and the stage, I could feel the vibrations of their set.

One thing that upset me was that, unlike the rest of the performers, Tool used the screens on the side of the stage for a light show/animated film to accompany their music. So, I didn’t really “see” the band at all. Still, being an artist, I understand why musicians present their shows a certain way. Tool is known for their artistic integrity: they refuse to be on popular streaming services such as Apple Music and Spotify. In fact, you cannot even download their music from iTunes. I Googled this to find out a little more about why. My favorite answer was from a reddit user that said that Tool opposed the “a la carte” experience that streaming services and iTunes cater to listeners. In other words, Tool wants Tool’s music to be experienced as the band intended or not at all.

Out of all of the headliners, I stayed for Tool the longest. Their set mesmerized me. Still, I wanted to leave before the end of their set so that I could avoid having to leave with everyone else. I remember I kept turning around to leave, and then hearing them start another song, and turning back around to stay a little while longer. Their music is melodic and dark, and darkness is something that always fascinates me. Apparently, it fascinates the rest of Boston as well.

All in all, going to Boston Calling alone was an amazing experience. I know it would have been different with some friends by my side. I never felt unsafe, especially since I was only a few miles away from my apartment, and many of the other people there were very friendly. We live in a society in which we think doing certain things in public- eating in a sit down restaurant, going to a movie, going to an event- alone is sad and lonely. If you’re in the right mindset, however, it’s an adventure. If you feel lonely, you can often talk to people. This was easy to do because, you have something in common if you’re both waiting around for a band to perform. You can talk about other performances that have already happened or are yet to happen. You can talk about how far they traveled to get there.

What’s more, being alone, I had no one to tie me down. If I didn’t like what I saw, I could leave a set and go see another band perform. If I was hungry, I didn’t have to ask anyone if they were hungry too and would they like to get something. If I wanted to get closer to the stage, I didn’t have to worry about being such a nuisance in a big group of people. I could come and go to the festival as I pleased. I was alone, but I was also untethered. This weekend belonged to me, and that was a great feeling.