“Working 9 to 5 to stay alive…”
-Beyoncé, Haunted

As I’m getting closer to becoming 24 years old, I’ve come to realize that with age comes more maturity. Even though this is something that I’ve gathered quite some time ago, it’s becoming more realistic as each day passes.

I’ve always been an independent person when it came to financial matters and taking care of myself in general. Despite still living with my family, there’s not a day that I reach out for a dollar from them for the simple fact that I have no problem working towards my own stability. With this in mind, I’ve been off from work for almost a whole week now, and although some may think, “Hey, you’re lucky! That’s a great thing,” it’s not such a great thing when you’re losing out on the little bit of money that helps you pay bills and maintain your life.

My time off from work, however, has been used productively. I’ve been filling out job applications, actually spending time with my close friends, and doing a little bit of self-reflection, which is always a healthy thing. The other day, I came across my horoscope and it almost made me drop the paper altogether.

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The above horoscope spoke to me in high volumes. Granted, I do appreciate the advice that I receive from my family and friends, but when it comes to matters dealing with my life, I have to learn to listen to myself more and not try to please others. I may not become a billionaire right away, but I know that my time to achieve great things is drawing closer. There’s something about this year that I can feel a positive change will shift my way, but only if I’m in tune with myself. Beginning with this horoscope, I will continue to listen and see the signs given to me. All I have to do is be patient and not be distracted by what everyone else wants for me.

Perfection is the disease of a nation, it’s the soul that needs the surgery…
-Beyoncé, Pretty Hurts

It’s definitely no surprise that I’m a camera whore. If you were to go on my Instagram feed at this very moment, 90% of my feed would be plastered with selfies if not anything else. The ironic part of this is to the outside world, I may come off self-centered, pretentious, and somewhat unapproachable; however, I am well aware that I have my flaws both internally and externally.

Not too many people know this, but when I was younger people used to make fun of me for a couple of things: my forehead was too large, and my eyebrows were too thick. Getting the ‘five-head’ joke here and the ‘caterpillars-over-the-eyes’ joke there made me quite insecure despite my Kool-Aid smile in class photos. Although dormant, the jokes carried over to my adolescent years to the point where I found myself at one point getting my eyebrows done. A part of this was because I used to walk the Face category in the ki ki ballroom scene (that I’ll probably save for another post someday), but the underlying reason was to assimilate myself and have “normal” looking eyebrows.

In a past post, I discussed how much people used to–and to a certain degree, still–make comments about my weight. I will be the first to admit that when I was nineteen years old, I was a lot fuller compared to how I am now, and I kind of miss that. However, just as much as plus sized individuals would be picked on for having too much weight, in the eyes of some I never had enough weight. I can eat a person out of house and home, yet due to my fast metabolism I would be lucky to even gain a single ounce of fat.

With so much ridicule from my childhood to the present, one may wonder if I’m comfortable in my skin now, and the answer to that would be yes. At the age of seventeen, I stopped making trips to get my eyebrows cleaned up and let them grow as full as the Higher Powers intended them to be. More recently, I eat for the sake of eating and can care less (to a certain extent, of course) about how fat my ass is or how thick my body is in general. It took a lot of time, but I’ve come to realize that the more real I am with myself, the more people respected me for being myself. Nowadays, I’m complimented by the same eyebrows that people used to shame me for, and as for my forehead? It’s there for the world to see and I couldn’t care less. At the end of the day, outer beauty in general can fade in the blink of an eye, but once you have inner beauty it will show inside and out.

So what’s the real reason behind me taking so many photos of myself? No, it’s not because of narcissism; I barely even look in mirrors throughout the day. I do it as a reminder that no matter what my personal flaws may be, I’m still human and I can accept them even if a thousand people think otherwise. Besides, based on how I interact with people, they cherish me not because of my looks, but because my personality is warm, welcoming, and I’m real. Once you learn that no one, not even yourself, is perfect, worrying about vanity goes to the back of your consciousness. Pretty hurts, but acceptance of self heals the self-inflicted wounds.

“I just can’t stand to see you leaving…but Heaven couldn’t wait for you…so go on, go home…”

-Beyoncé, Heaven

First and foremost, Happy New Year to those who I haven’t had the chance to tell. Now straight to the business behind the upcoming blog posts, including this one.

With a new year, there’s hope for a fresh start and a fresh mind. You set goals for yourself that you hope to accomplish by the end of the year, or sometimes these goals can be for the long term. After seeing me for the first time today and wishing me a Happy New Year, one of my managers asked me, “so do you have any New Year’s Resolutions?” At first, I honestly didn’t know how to answer his question other than knowing I always try to make each year better than the last. One resolution, however, came to mind as clear as day in which I responded to my manager, “my resolution for this year is to smile more.”

Backtracking a little bit, from New Year’s Day until now, I have had the best days that I’ve had in ages. I spent time with my family, my closest friends, and my loved ones. Watching movies, having a few glasses of wine, just enjoying each other’s company with minimal stress and all smiles. To me, these past few days have been the epitome of perfection in my eyes. Unfortunately, during my late nights on social media, I came across some terrible news: someone who I’ve grown to know and adore took his own life.

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m still very optimistic about this year and the plans that I have set for myself. On the other hand, this sudden event reminded me of how short life really is. Although I did not get a chance to meet this person face to face, the conversations that we’ve had were always full of vitality, humor, and wisdom. Not only did I lose someone who I will now never get a chance to meet, but last year I lost a close friend from high school that was just about my age, if not a year older.  Prior to that, as I have mentioned in a previous post, I lost another genuine soul that made their mark on my life. As much as I would like to believe that life will be long and everlasting, these premature deaths have reminded me that we only have a limited amount of time in this world.

In retrospect, I ended last year quite bitter, almost charging off everyone whom I believed did me some kind of injustice or simply just not wanting to be bothered. Thinking about past and current events, I’ve come to realize that we have to cherish those that are within our grasp, no matter how fed up we can be with them at the moment. We never know who will be next to cross over to the after life, nor do we know how we will leave this earth. It is in our power, however, to take each day and live it to the fullest no matter the circumstances. As many times I’ve wanted to give everything up, the beauty of breathing air for another day has kept me pushing forward. Regardless of the debt I’ve succumbed to, working retail, and overall family drama that every family has occasionally (my family more occasional than others), waking up to the sun and starting a new day allows me to appreciate the little things that I do have.

In dedication to Matthew Mendoza, Akeem Henry, Travis Veada, and those family members that were taken away from me, I know that you are living a better life with no worries, no pain, and no trials or tribulations to endure. While I’m on this earth, I will take on the challenges of living and succeed every chance I get in memory of each and every one of you. “Heaven couldn’t wait for you, so go on, go home…”

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In every battle that occurs in life, one must know when to continue fighting the good fight and when to throw up the white flag to surrender. I am the warrior who realizes the latter: it’s time for me to give up.

Things that are horrible cannot simply just be covered up in roses and expected to still smell sweet when they’re sour. I would be lying to myself to say that everything is and/or will be ok when it’s the same cycle of events. I am tired of preaching unity within a household that contradicts themselves, one minute wanting to come together and next minute going at each other’s throats. I am tired of holding onto one-sided, no effort friendships, and as far as love goes? There’s not a doubt in my mind that love is just a fallacy written in pretty ink made to give false hopes that someone will sweep you off your feet and you’ll live happily ever after.

Not just for the new year ahead of us, but starting tonight I am completely on a solo mission. Anything that has absolutely nothing to do with my success and well-being as a healthy individual will be ignored. Anyone who wants advice that I know for certain will not follow it, I will remain tight-lipped; after all, you cannot help those who don’t want help.  I’m definitely not entertaining those who wish to talk but have not a listening bone in their anatomy, because quite frankly if I’m going to waste my breath, I’d rather breathe on bricks than to have my opinion in one ear and out the other. I am officially done with chasing after those who do not care about me as much as I care about them, because in the midst of it all I will eventually lose myself trying to find someone else. I refuse to be miserable anymore with the stress of others, and I’ll be damned that I lose focus on my security because I don’t have a shoulder to cry on since everyone else is busy killing each other (in the figurative sense, of course).

Overall, 2013 was the worst year of my almost 24 years of existence, and I am highly aware that the only things you can control are matters that are in your direct hands and no one else’s. It’s about that time that what is enough for me is enough for me, and anyone else that’s not hearing it can kindly exit stage left out of my way. I am thankful for the friends that I have as an amazing support system when all else is up in flames, and those people will be the ones that I will continue to gravitate towards. Anything else that’s negative and has no benefit to my existence will cease to exist in my life.

“You must use the DARK skin slaves vs. the LIGHT skin slaves, and the LIGHT skin slaves vs. the DARK skin slaves.”

-Willie Lynch

On a day to day basis, I check my Twitter feed, scroll through Instagram photos, and things of that nature. In all honesty, the majority of the people that I follow are people of color; predominantly African Americans like myself. Fast forwarding to the point I would like to get at, if the people I’m following are not arguing about pop culture celebrities who don’t pay any of our student loans and cell phone bills, they’re blatantly pitting light skin people against dark skin people and vice versa. The nature of these comments are more on the strength of what light and dark skin people do. For example, some people might say that wearing colored contacts is a “light skinned thing,” or simply calling all dark skin people ugly. Although very general, the jokes can get much worse than what I’ve provided.

Here’s my issue with this: no matter what your complexion is as a person of color, at one point in time we were all looked down upon and oppressed. I will even reach as far as saying racism still exists, and with this being said no matter if your pigment is caramel or dark chocolate we are equally subject to racial profiling and acts of racism. Even President Obama–a light skin African American–has been subject to subtle racism within his own administration, because at the end of the day he’s still Black. Our skin color also does not equate to the things we do. Going off the example I used with the colored contacts, colored contacts have been used not only by light skin folks, but also by dark skin folks, white folks, Latinos, hell everyone. Dark skin people are not the only ones who sag their pants, are subject to welfare, or go to Waka Flocka concerts (I’m making up dumb stereotypes, clearly). Each and every one of us have equally done what we’ve proclaimed the other has done, and that’s because each and every one of us are human beings who do things that any human being is capable of doing.

The quote that I provided above this post is just one of the many tactics to keep Blacks enslaved, originating from a letter written by a British slave owner named Willie Lynch. Despite the fact that we are free citizens in this country, this train of thought dating back to 1712 (the time the letter was written) is still in effect, and we’re the ones keeping it in fashion. Essentially, Willie Lynch has won.

We need to realize that all people of color–light and dark skin–are of African descent. People were forcefully brought over to this country from Africa in order to build the nation that we see today. Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Bayard Rustin, and other Civil Rights leaders did not put their lives on the line for us to tear each other apart like wolves. Instead of dichotomizing each other more than we already are, we should become more hip to the similarities that we all have.

Some might think that I’m taking the jokes a little too serious; others might even suggest that I unfollow the people that I’m following. To respond to these things in advance, even if I were to unfollow all of the people who think this way on my timeline, it doesn’t take away the mere fact that it’s an issue that’s still prevalent within our community. Being a light skin male myself, I take offense to most of the jokes made about dark skin people simply because I’m just as African American as any other African American. My complexion doesn’t make me look any better or do anything better than the next dark skin person, and the same can be said for the opposite.

To end this, don’t let Willie Lynch win. When it comes to anything in relation to human rights in general, there’s a slow road to progression, but begin to progress regardless of how long it takes. We as people of color need to make the necessary moves to educate ourselves about ourselves so that we can better love one another. Don’t let the complexion of one person make you see the rest of those people as inferior or gruesome. Judge each person by their nature and how they treat you, not by the skin they’re in.

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“You’re so skinny!”

“You need to gain more weight!”

“Where does your food go?”

To be quite honest, if I had a dollar for every time someone made commentary about my weight throughout my lifetime, I would probably have enough to pay off my student loan debt. I can’t even begin to tell any of you how much I eat on a daily basis just on the strength that I love food, but it goes absolutely nowhere from what I can tell. It even got to the point where I would look in the mirror most days not just for the sake of brushing my teeth or making sure that I look presentable for work, but to see if there was an inkling of fat on my body that may have magically appeared overnight.

When it comes to being a gay man, that’s where the pressure really piles up. Although I have a great personality and intelligence that I’m surely proud of, when it comes to the realms of sex, doubt can be a strong demon. Trolling through social networks and dating sites, one of the physical standards set for bottoms nowadays is to have a fat ass—something I can admit that I lack despite being confident in my bedroom performance. Yet still, no matter how many Chipotle burrito bowls I consume on a weekly basis, my fast metabolism is the clear victor in the equation.

Of course, the issue of body standards doesn’t just occur with myself or is singled out for bottoms. As stated previously, when it comes to keeping up appearances within the gay community in general, our peers put so much pressure upon us. When you go on a site such as BGCLive or Jack’d, what’s one of the first things that is mentioned? “No fats.” Now everyone is indeed entitled to their preferences, however I’m pretty sure there’s a less abrasive way of saying that you’re not interested in someone who is on the thick side. In some instances, those that are overweight are driven to unhealthy practices in the pursuit for weight loss, leading to such issues as bulimia and anorexia just to name a couple of obvious plagues (and no, these are not exclusive to women).

Let’s not forget the one place that most gay men frequent more than the church: the gym. Don’t get me wrong; being a dancer, I’m a firm believer of maintaining your well being through exercise and athletics. On the other hand, the gym has become more of a factory to mold our bodies into the image of Greek gods rather than being a sanctuary for staying healthy and fit, and if you don’t fit the mold then you’re unapologetically exiled or ridiculed. Now you would think that this would only apply to those who are classified as obese; however, the skinny struggle is real in these streets as well. For the most part, this ideal of the “perfect image” is on the strength of sexual attraction, given that the first thing we mainly see when we meet anyone is the outer appearance before we delve into who the person truly is on the inside. Plenty of times, I’ve heard guys say, “I’m going to the gym so I can get my life this summer,” or, “I need to be beach ready, let me hit up Planet Fitness.” What ever happened to going to the gym for the sole enjoyment of feeling like you’ll be a better person inside and out?

Recently, I looked in the mirror to find some kind of fat, and I had this grand eureka moment. Physically, I’m not made to be any thicker than what I am now. Standing at five feet seven inches tall and weighing in at 132 lbs, my body mass index on paper is technically perfect for me. My Honey Buns—as I refer to my backside—are proportionate to the rest of my body. I may not go to the gym, but I’ve been dancing for as long as I can remember. Not to mention if I do decide to hit the gym one day, it would be for the sake of increasing my lifespan and maintaining stamina. So why am I stressing out over other people’s standards? The way I see it, you can’t win for losing, so as long as you are content with your body and you’re living a healthy lifestyle, then be proud of the skin that you’re in. After all, you are the one who has to live in it until your last day on this earth.

 

Of course, it’s no secret that I am gay. It’s who I’ve always been, it’s how I’ve always lived, and I’m not ashamed about it. However, I was not always as strong-willed about my sexual orientation as I currently am today. By the grace of God, I’ve never been physically harmed by the likes of homophobic people. I have, on the other hand, experienced a great deal of homophobic slander like most to all of my peers in the LGBT community.

I’ve been called almost every name in the book from ‘faggot’ to ‘batty boy’ (a homophobic patois term), and as much as I thought that they were just words, in reality they’ve cut deeper than any punch or kick that I can imagine. There have been times where I would break down and cry because I couldn’t understand how someone could hate me for just being myself. In my eyes, I didn’t see–and still don’t see–what was so different about me other than the fact that I just so happen to love the same gender. I would walk down the street minding my own business only for a complete stranger to blatantly defame my being. I’ve had family members talk behind my back and didn’t want others to “be around a bunch of faggots.” At one point, I had pennies thrown at me in high school when I walked into the lunch room or down the hall. Yet somehow in some fashion, I continued living my life and slowly trained my heart to become sturdy and strong…or so I thought.

Yesterday, a friend of mine reposted a video on Facebook called “Love Is All You Need?” This short film depicted a world where being straight was the taboo and homosexuality was the norm. Now of course, it’s not necessarily a new concept, however seeing the shoe put on the other side and ultimately the end result had opened up a wound that I thought had healed. To put it in black and white, there are people out in the world ridiculed for living “differently,” and in the end take their own lives because they feel they have no one else to turn to. Despite the film being a fictitious account of what really happens in our society, it still hurts my heart to know that there are people out there who lost the will to live because another–who in most cases aren’t righteous themselves–looked down upon them and belittled them.

I cried. I cried because in all honesty, if I didn’t have the support of my mother and the friends that I have in my life, that could have been me. I cried because I felt the pain and the agony of those who are still out there struggling with who they are. I cried because I felt the heartache of those families who, despite disagreeing with a life they most certainly don’t understand, lost a child due to the cruelty of the world. Personally, the wounds are still fresh. I haven’t been called out my name in awhile, but knowing there are still people who may look at me as if I don’t belong subconsciously hurts. Nevertheless, I constantly remind myself that I do belong. I was brought into this world for a reason just like the next person, and I refuse to believe any differently.

To those who may stumble upon this, you are not alone. There will be days where it gets rougher for some more than others, but at the end of the day we are not by ourselves in this thing we call life. It took awhile for me to realize it, but it’s something worth knowing as you wake up each morning and go to sleep each night.