Tag Archives: art

sunset self-reminders 

in the end 

all that really matters is love 

who you loved 

how hard you loved 

how much you loved 

everything else is just secondary 

so love deeply and love often 

human connection is so important 

even if it hurts, it’s still worth it 

love will always be worth it 


Berlin, Germany 

collage

Why I Am Who I Am

“Happiness is best when shared.”

*****

Being the only daughter definitely has its advantage, but inside a car it doesn’t. My two older brothers always get the window seats, and yet again, I found myself squeezed in the middle of them in the backseat. They both had their heads leaned against the window, and were fast asleep. I didn’t understand how the excitement wasn’t keeping them wide-awake.

The sun was just rising; dawn steadily breaking the deep purple horizon. My parents animatedly sat in the front seat, holding hands, and singing along together to Total Eclipse of the Heart. My mom was in the passenger seat, thumbing through the map with her free hand, and my dad keeping his eyes on the stretched out highway.

We had about 12 hours to drive to the coast of Texas: South Padre island. Every summer we took a family vacation, and this year was my turn to choose the destination, so I picked the beach, I picked the sun, I picked the clear water.

*****

I watched you grow, while I withered. That is the life of a tree — your tree.
You used to sit on one of the thickest branches that extended out towards the sky, and climb to the top to pick my peaches. I’d watch you toss them down to your brothers, while gathered them for your grandma.

I’ve watched many human generations of your family.

The older you got, less time you spent with me. I think perhaps my roots adapted to this change of pace, as each passing year I developed less and less fruit.

But on the summer your grandmother passed away, you stayed in her house for the following month like you used to during childhood.

Time is linear, my dear child, but growth is not.

*****

“El huevón limpia doble.” (The lazy one cleans twice.)

*****

In May of 2012, I had just arrived home from my second year of university for the summer. I was halfway through my undergrad studies of Biology, and left uninspired and out of place. So I welcomed the idea of going home, of being around friends, and family — of feeling like I belonged.

The drive from my university to my small hometown in Texas is about a 9-hour drive through many different terrains, one I have begrudgingly learned to cherish. Long drives and music really have a way of clearing the mind.

When I finally arrived at home, it was midday. My mom would still be at the hospital working, and my dad just getting off. It didn’t bother me however, our empty house. I preferred it this way, having the alone time to unpack my things for my summer stay without the bombardment of questions from my parents.

While putting away my things, I heard the faint sound of my front door being opened. Getting up enthusiastically, I ran over to the living room to greet my dad and hug him. He smiled lopsidedly at me and kissed the top of my head, “It’s good to see you mija, home feels better with you here.”

My dad took off his boots and put away his things. He turned on the TV and I could hear the news in the background. This struck me as unusually odd; he never listened to this bullshit, normally he’d annoyingly be watching a sports channel. While I let the food simmer on the stove, I walked over to the livingroom and sat with him. Then I soon understood why he had it on the news, his focus was on his phone. I peered over at what he was concentrating on, and saw his scrolling through his sports app. Laughing, I snatched up his phone from him and stuffed it behind a pillow, “You can look at that later.”

His rubbed the scruff of his uneven beard, and looked at me playfully, the corner of his mouth curling upwards in his fatherly smile, “I’m hungry.”

In the background, the news anchor in his haughty voice announced, “North Carolina becomes the 30th state to ban gay marriage.”

It caught my attention, and I frowned turning my head to the screen.

“North Carolina is no longer a shadowy place Trinh, now we can go there,” my dad said smugly, in a terrible reference to a Lion King quote by Mufasa to Simba.

I turned back to him, surprised, speechless and with anger welling up in my eyes.

“Whoa mija, what’s wrong?” My dad cupped my face, and looked at me intently. I didn’t know where this reaction was coming from, or where my delicate courage came from when I managed to accusingly utter out, “Why shouldn’t I be able to get married wherever the hell I want?”

His facial expression registered from confusion to understanding to blind anger, his hands dropping from my face, as he engaged me in a stare down battle.

The doorbell interrupted us, signaling my mom being home. I was frightened; my impulsive revelation to the non blood related man I considered my dad couldn’t be taken back.

*****

I used to loathe the smell of your perfume, and all the ways in which this single scent could make me re-live an overwhelming amount of better off forgotten memories.

Our last encounter, two years ago, ended terribly. On Christmas night, after we had had dinner at your parents, you told me you were seeing someone else. Not only dating someone new, but fucking him too. My brain shutdown, a normal response to trauma, according to psychology. I melted into your evergreen colored couch shocked. I wasn’t sure what you were expecting my reaction to be. In truth, that moment was the closest I have ever come to sincerely hating you.

You sat beside me hesitantly, and hugged me, desperately trying to console me and soothe my anger. I flinched at your touch, and eventually let you — I didn’t have the mental capacity to stop you.

The smell of your skin wrapped around me. Deep and musky, with an underlying waft of lavender and vanilla. I concentrated on this, let it completely blind and intoxicate me. It was all I could do to hold myself together.

*****

My favorite picture is placed in a black frame. It’s my most prized possession, and has been everywhere with me. All the countries I’ve lived in, and all the lands I’ve travelled — this is always the one thing that comes with me.

The picture is of my mom and I. It’s one of the few pictures I have of us together — even more unusual, I’m actually smiling. Not making a dumb face or being silly, but genuinely smiling. I look happy. So does my mom.

I fear missing out on the people I love.

you are my person
i have loved you from the start
and until the end

*****

Whiskey amber surrounds your pupils, while a light evergreen shade makes up the outer layer, infiltrating the golden color. It reminds me of Sunday mornings in the mountains, where I would look up through the ocean of trees to catch a glimpse of the sunrise, while streams of bright golden sunlight pierced through.

My love for your eyes, overpower my jealousy. Out of all of us, you alone inherited grandpa’s light colored trait.

Maybe that’s why I always felt growing up, mom loved you more.

*****

“You have abuelo’s hands.”

Berlin, Germany

———————————-

I reaction essay I wrote at the beginning of my first semester for my Creative Writing class. It goes as follows:

There are seven different short exercises which will make up a collage of your life. It’s important for each exercise to write spontaneously; let the words flow out; just follow your pen; don’t censor, don’t judge. Don’t ask: did this really happen – assume that it did.

My teacher gave us 10 minutes to write for each prompt:

Describe a smell from your past.
Describe a moment everything changed.
Describe a car journey from your childhood.
Letter from a tree.
Describe your favorite photo.
Quotations from your past.
Describe a part of someone you love.

Δlways

Today I have officially been home for a complete year. 365 days, come and gone.

And still, since I’ve had my feet on familiar ground, I’ve never felt more like a foreigner trying to dictate my every growing feelings of restlessness into words.

So finally, here’s my attempt… at making some coherent sense of my unsettled heart.

 

————————

 

It is never quite easy saying goodbye. It doesn’t matter how much practive I’ve had, I’ve never been able to perfect this art.. and truthfully, I’m happy with that. It’s kept me honest and vulnerable, it’s kept me… quite frankly, me, in an ever-changing journey.

It’s kept me coming back home.

The thing about returning home though, is that you are never the same person who left.

Not with malicious intent, but, unfortunately, people will still treat you like you are, and they are normally the ones you love the most.

(But who doesn’t hold on to the past? I’m guilty of this, too.)

And that, for me, is always the hardest battle to fight when coming back.

 

I am not arrogant or ignorant enough to think that constructive change only happens to people who travel, well, at least not anymore. It simply isn’t, and will never be. Life has many different paths to choose from.

 

Personally, however, it is my favourite method of personal growth. I love the feeling of being lost in a city. I like meeting new people, and listening to different languages. Sure it can be frustrating at times, but the challenge of adapting to a new environment keeps me grounded. It keeps me humble, and I’d like to think it keeps me kind.

 

Because what I’ve learned is, no matter where you are in the world, no matter your mother tongue, your degree of education, what skin colour you contain, or how much money you have…

 

There is a universal truth that we are all trying to figure out life to the best of our ability.

 

It’s my personal motto — always change for the better. It’s what my tattoo symbolizes, and it’s what I want my life to reflect, too.

 

And so — Travel is my catalyst.

 

But the culture and societal standards of where I come from is not always… understanding… of how I lead my life.

 

I’m a 24 year old female, single, and without children. I would like to think that this is normal, and it truly is… in other countries. But in my corner of the world, it isn’t. Specifically, my state in the US.

 

I’m from general small town name here, Texas. Known for proper manners, big guns, conservative politics, and churches galore.

 

I should be happily married with 2.5 children, and have a husband/superior that works 40 hours a week and grills steak on the weekends – while I mange the kids, and worry about what scent of laundry detergent I want to be present within the confines of my household.

 

Okay, soooo maybe I’m exaggerating… a tad. The thing is, I have absolutely NO problem with the women and men who lead their lives in this manner. This is how we were raised, and belief is a beautiful honour.

 

But I truly do not care how other people live their lives, so long as they’re happy, not harming anyone, and it’s THEIR personal choice.

 

Yes, you’ve guessed it, reader. I’m a filthy fear-mongering feminist… guilty, send me to prison asap, as long as it’s like the prison in OITNB plz.

 

Truly though, I would probably classify myself as a humanist. I want people to do whatever they want that makes their heart happy, societal norms or not be damned.

 

Realistically though, this is not the general consensus of where I come from.

 

Let’s also add that I am Mexican and Vietnamese American, I am pro-choice, I understand the true historical intent of the 2nd amendment, I have a uterus, I do believe in God but not the traditional Christian one, I’m for universal healthcare and education, and that I’m gay.

 

I do not write these descritptions of myself to make a political statement, or argue viewpoints.

 

Or to throw a pity party. I’m not looking for handouts, sympathy, or conversion prayer.

 

I write this, to understand my personal position in the world, and how my cultural surroundings will effect how I express myself to the outside eye.

 

And so understand, when I come home I have to battle this all over again.

 

Last year coming home from Spain was the hardest thing I’ve had to do.

 

I initially moved to Spain to heal my broken heart and discover who I am independently of a significant other. That, truthfully, was my biggest problem, and I know how privledged that sounds – for heartbreak to be the biggest ailment of my 23 year old heart, but nonetheless I cannot deny how lost as a person I had become.

 

And by the end of that year, I transformed into someone I was proud of again. I moved past just existence and learned how to live again. Spain was a beautiful experience, because it allowed me to shed every expectation of every single person I had known at that point in my life.

 

Half a world away, I had no obligation as a daughter, friend, or girlfriend. And the three major points of my life disappearned and the only obligation I had was to my heart.

 

I lived simply for myself.

 

Here, I learned the value of self-love, and this radical notion that my happiness mattered too, changed my entire outlook on life.

 

Before, I would have put anyone’s wants, desires, dreams, goals in front of my own. I wanted to save people, from themselves. I wanted to fix whatever emotional trauma someone had that labeled them as damaged goods, called it a “hero” complex, which I still have to remind myself not to do — truly, I thought I was being altruistic, but now I see it as a form of self-destruction.

 

And I know now, that I am solely responsible for my own happiness, and no one else’s.

 

And so when I finally came back home in the beginning of last July, I had to manuever through the obstacles of what that would mean, and how that would effect my personal relationships.

 

It was not easy. There were fights, and there were tears. There were offensive words, and there were broken promises. I hurt people I didn’t mean to, and I suffered my own pain.

 

But throughout all of it — there was love.

 

And that is the most transformative energy in the entire universe.

 

Time and time again, I relearn through different situations that love is the only thing that will save my heart.

 

Thus being home has simultaneously been one of the most rewarding and heart-wrenching experiences I’ve thus far had.

 

I came home specifically to spend time with family and friends. I know, in my soul of souls, I will never again live in West Texas for an extended amount of time. I fear missing out on the lives of my loved ones.

 

Being abroad, and away from home, you experience so much. You learn that the world isn’t as scary as the media portrays, that your country isn’t the best in everyone’s opinion, that cheese has many more ways of being eaten than you could have imagined – and just so much more. You grow in ways you never thought possible.

 

But

 

What I forgot

 

Is that I wasn’t the only one changing and experiencing. You see, I came home different. And instead of extending that gratitude to my loved ones — instead, in the same way that they treated me the same, I followed suit.

 

And sometimes, I wanted to prove so desperately that I had changed and fixed myself that I ended up hurting people I wish, now, I hadn’t.

 

But such is life.

 

I was so furious that everyone kept treating me the same, and kept placing expectations on me of how I should be. It angered me beyond reasonable logic that my family and friends couldn’t understand the mental and emotional ways that I had changed. How the golden buildings of Belgium changed my distate for gold, how Greek cuisine incorporated onions and managed to appeal to my tastebuds, how Spanish attitude for leisure time made me forget my desire to join corporate America, how the Dutch use of weed for entertainment/medical purposes eased my holier than thou southern attitude against drugs — just the ways in which my mind and been remapped.

 

 

And sometimes, it’s frustrating how no one can relate to your experiences. But I, too, was close-minded to their personal growth. And this caused a lot of unnecessary arguments and pain — but nonetheless, it happened, and I am better off for it now.

 

It made me realize that personal growth… is just that, personal. And I have no right to hinder someone’s attempts at becoming better — now, I only want to honour the universe that resides in each individual’s heart.

 

And if I assume someone hasn’t changed, I become toxic to their happiness.

So realizing too, that sometimes I’m the toxic person, has made me strive to not only always change for the better, but to always change people for their better, too.

 

To be the positive influence or constructive criticism they need. To try and not say anything out of a place of jealousy or negative intent, and to always try to love, encourage, and help — even if I don’t agree, or understand.

 

And I was only able to realize all of this, after I learned to fully love myself… no matter where in the world I was. Once I respected my heart enough to allow it to feel and love and change, I was able to extend this to others, and it has been miraculous.

 

I’ve learned to fiercely love people, and I’ve learned to delicately let go.

 

But, I still haven’t learned to say goodbye, and maybe one day I will, but for now, I’m happy with where I am.

 

In 3 months, I will move my life to Germany for a couple of years to begin my master’s program.

 

The thought of leaving is making me mentally prepare for it again, the goodbye part. But, this time I’m not running away. This time, I’m running towards my future — and that makes all the difference.

 

I wonder who I’ll be when I come home next time.

 

I pray to God it’s someone my parents are proud of, and my friends still love as loyally.


Backyard, Texas 

lost and found 

There’s something about 3am that shifts the human soul. 

I found myself laughing hysterically along with you, the night sky above, beautiful velvet white sand beneath, and you beside me — the end of a lemon flavoured beer bottle pressed against my lips. My kind of definition of paradise.

Well, maybe not the beer.

I hate beer, still do, and probably always will — but I loved tasting it off of you. 

The sound of crashing waves complimented the silence enveloping between us, as our laughter died down. 

It wasn’t awkward, it was comfortable. I could sit in your silence endlessly, and still be so captured by it. 

Your hand found mine in the space between our bodies, and instinctively I lifted your hand to my lips and kissed it. 

You turned on your side to face me, and placed the palm of your hand against my cheek, the end of your thumb caressing the skin beneath my eyes. 

You leaned in and affectionately planted a kiss on my nose. 

You had this weird obsession with my nose, found it cute you said,  I don’t know why — but I remember the way your soft lips felt curved against it. I remember the scent of your hot breath against my skin. 

But only because of you. 

Your eyes brightened, and you shot up into a sitting position. Rummaging through your backpack, you pulled out your sketchbook and pen. 

The pen moved fervently against the paper, you must have been inspired, I thought. But how you could see through the pitch blackness, I was unsure of. 

Once you were done, you rolled the paper up and shoved it inside my empty beer bottle. You stood up, and chunked the bottle into the ocean. 

“Hey I wanted to see what you had drawn.” I whined after you, now sitting up in the sand and watching you from the rear. 

You laughed and started to undress — obviously I was intrigued now. 

Your clothes fell to your feet, and you looked back at me waiting – coy smile stealing my gaze. 

Running over towards you while simultaneously shedding my layers of clothes — I crashed into you and our naked bodies collided and toppled into the ocean. 

Your adventurous heart was so — beautiful. I don’t know what other word or combination of letters I can use to describe it. But it was marvelous and I could no more contain my own heart from loving yours. 

We played like children in the sea, and the innocence of this will never leave me –you finally dragged me back to our blanket. I laid on top of it laughing, and you laid on top of me, your hands caging my face, a serious demeanor painted over yours. 

“Want to know what I put in the bottle?”

I nodded yes, sincerely curious by your change of pace. 

“I promise to love you forever.” 

“That’s a really long time,” I responded jokingly. 

You shook your head lightly laughing, “no, that’s what I wrote, so if you ever forget or if life ever takes you away from me, there will be proof in a bottle you kissed somewhere in the ocean..a little bit of us lost at sea.” 

—————-

Beer’s never quite tasted the same since then.. especially at 3am. 

columbian charm 

the joint of your fingers entwined and rubbed against mine as we stood outside the door to your flat, like flint, there were sparks surging through my bones ignited by your touch

 

i, admittedly, wasn’t used to this —

 

openly, more obviously clumsily, holding hands with someone

 

a gesture, I find to be very intimate

 

so I stood nervously behind you, clenched jaw, the tension locking up my body

 

i felt the squeeze of your palm and you looked back at me with your wide, beautiful smile, the sunkissed wrinkles around your eyes radiating curiosity

 

“has anyone ever told you how soft your hands are?”

 

my lips pursed into a half lined smile as i gazed into your liquid brown eyes — as your door creaked open revealing the inside of your livingroom occupied by a few people — your roommates

 

i introduced myself, the introvert within growing anxious with anticipatioin, the extrovert side of me displaying my natural wit and winning the room over with laughter.. a first go to social defense mechanism

 

i had become more accustomed to Spanish, now able to communicate my humour in ways i couldn’t before

 

as always though, I can never shake the first pangs of anxiety when walking into a room full of strangers, I let the dominant side of my personality take over, and put shy Trinh in cruise control

 

it’s always really impossible for people who get to know me to believe I am actually very shy

 

a shy confidence, i’spose

 

you noticed, as you pulled me away to your room, the coy laughter of your roommates fading into the background

 

greaaaaat, i thought to myself, as if I wasn’t nervous enough, I’ve somehow managed to luck my way into your intimate space

 

i cocked my eyebrow and sighed, as i flopped my body onto your bed — jokingly antagonizing you, “it’s barely our second date and you’ve already brought me home.. a little challenge por favor.”

your back to me, I heard you laugh, you probably even rolled your eyes and shook your head — i’ll honestly never know as you pulled your shirt up over your head and threw it at my face shielding my view

 

we had come to your flat for a change of clothes — i had been having a drink at a bar after work with some friends close to your university, and rather than meet up later, you asked if I wanted to meet up when your class was done and just come over while you got ready for our night out in the city

 

drunkenly, i agreed — wine is my best wingman

 

but i had sobered up already now, sitting on your bed watching you

 

i slid your shirt off from over my head after being intoxicated by your fragrance

 

i kinda have this thing for scent, if it attracts me, i am hooked

 

i’d even go as far to say that my own personal favourite compliment is, “you smell good.” i can’t help it, i’m a sucker for chemically inducing smells

 

and so I was pleased that your light scent fit you, fun and hardly over-bearing — your smelled like summer, warm and inviting, friendly, lovely

 

lost in thought i hadn’t realized you had stripped down to just the essentials of bra and underwear

 

either you were paying attention on our first date to when I said red was my favourite colour, or truly the universe is chaotically filled with lucky coincidences

 

the red lace hugged your hips delicately, your back still to me, you stepped into the middle of your chosen skirt and bent down to shimmy it up over your waist

 

my eyes traced the small birth spots on your right shoulder, to your spine counting each fragmented vertebrae, like stairs, my eyes were stepping down your back to the two dimpled cusps above your waist

 

i caught your eye in the mirror, watching me watching you, and looked away embarrassed — Madrid had accustomed me to openly gawking at someone without it being rude, it is just the culture where staring is not considered impolite — at least not in general

 

but now, here, i felt very soberly intrusive — “will you zip me up?”

 

flustered I nodded and got up behind you, taking hold of the top part of your skirt with one hand, and using my other to casually pull the zipper up

 

huh, i thought to myself, you could have easily done this yourself without my assistance —

 

i relished the view though, you were enjoying this as much as I, and that calmed me immensely — I don’t know why, but sometimes it’s hard for me to realize that maybe someone could want me as much as I want them on whatever level that manifests itself; emotional, physical, spiritually

 

you thanked me anyway, and swiped your waterfall of black hair away from your back to the front of your body fully revealing your naked bare shoulders

we paused for a few silent moments, our bodies inches away from each other, our gazes locked within the mirror in front of you

you turned around, playfully brushed your lips momentarily against mine, and nonchalantly shrugged on a shirt

 

for the next 20 minutes or so you put on your make up, and i sat on your bed advising you of what eyeshadows to blend and what lipstick to choose

 

i liked this about us, that i could simultaneously and mutually be interested in your friendship too

 

i am more than certain we had a great date afterwards, but it was the before part that i remember the most

 

the simple joy of experiencing someone doing normal things and having that intimate connection — the realization of the vulnerability to be allowed a glimpse of someone’s personal universe

 

————————-

 

Things don’t have to be extraordinary to be beautiful, even the ordinary can be beautiful.