The Traveler 


I am confused

But maybe it was designed to be that way all along

It’s like an apple in a tree full of lemons
Like David in a valley of giants 
A loud mouthed bully bringing rifles to a food fight 
Like a megaphone trying to disguise itself as a librarian

It’s like 1930 in Stockton
Like 1904 in St. Louis
It’s like 
I’m displaced in the 80s all over again

The only Sharpie in a block full of Crayons
Flip flops in a bin full of Cortezes
A bowl haircut in a barbershop lined up with high top fades and activator juice

They say it’s five o’clock somewhere in the world 
So I’ll just sit here
Waiting for my drink
My numbing agent
My escape from all that is real 
Nibble on some peanuts 
Maybe a banana or two
My mother always said I needed more potassium so better make that three
And since I’m a monkey anyway, you might as well make that four

See…they used to call us monkeys, you know
Little brown ones at that

So…I’d swing from rooftop to rooftop
Jump over walls
And Krylon on alleyways just to fit in
Was the smartest at math but always played ignorant
Secretly wanted to be a stuntman in pursuit of a career in engineering
Or nursing
Or engineering
Or nursing

Because, after all, it’s what we brown monkeys do, right?

But I
Am more than that
I am more than brown skin
Black hair
Brown eyes
With a slight tilt
I am more than rice and fish
Son of immigrant parents
Island born
Mainland raised
I am stranger 
Foreign land dweller

But I belong

We are here

Pioneer
Innovator
Citizen
Tax paying civilian 
Working just as hard as the next person
But this time… 

We will not conform

I will not shuck and jive
For your entertainment 
I will not be him
Or her
Or them
I will simply be…

me

And I will not be Christian for the sake of religion
I will not be Catholic for the sake of family 
I will not put on a show so you can consume yourself into pious debt
Because quite frankly I’d rather simply be defined more by Jesus
than I am doctrine

I’m also frustrated
I am frustrated by you
The place where foreigners
Strangers
Immigrant land dwellers
are supposed to feel at home
The down and out
Addicts
Feminists 
Democrats
Independents
Gender abused students 
The inebriated vagrant 
The scientific scholar

See, I grabbed a book off the shelf yesterday
The jacket sleeve went mysteriously missing
Like my identity every time I go home
So I had no idea what the book was about
But for some reason I could tell that it was strong by its spine
Because it had one

Unlike you
At least, I could read the book for what it is
So when the pages flip me off to the next chapter, I’m more intrigued than I am mad

It’s surprise endings are honest
It’s inciting incident actually points in the direction of hope
And it’s central characters are fodder for genuine growth

But the Tourette’s that you call political correctness is way out of control
You self medicate on a worldview with an agenda to silence my voice
And your idea of free speech was resold at the 99 Cents Store
Even though there was a sticker clearly stating it wasn’t to be used for resell

See…

I am more than a type casted movie character 
I am an IT Technician
Asian American Studies professor
But I am also Muslim
Buddhist
Hindu
Atheist
I am gardener
Day worker
Office assistant
I am police officer
Fire fighter
Postal worker
I am barista
Epic hipster beard and all
I am teacher
I am Senator
I am Entrepreneur 
I am Linecook
I am Homemaker 
I am president 

I am here
I am home
And we 
We are here to stay

Bearing Fruit

This year’s Youth Development Academy, created by Sharefest, is in full swing. We are entering day three of a month long journey to instill values into the next generation toward helping them discover how they can be agents of change in our world and our society. It has been an amazing couple of days thus far and I am truly looking forward to the rest of the summer.

I am back with the team after taking a five month hiatus and it has been exhilarating and rewarding. My involvement, of course, is teaching a creative writing class to middle school students. The goal of the class is to help students discover their voice in the midst of injustice through creative writing tools and leadership development. The process, however, and helping students find their voice isn’t always easy. In fact, you really never know if they are retaining the information and are embracing the journey. 

At times, even, it feels like the students could care less and you never really know if you are bearing fruit.

That’s until, of course, you have a conversation with a high school student who took the class five years ago as a middle school student and it changes your entire perspective

The student, after some friendly banter, wanted to confirm if indeed I was the creative writing teacher who taught the class five years ago. I confirmed said inquiry and she went on to tell me that it was because of the creative writing class that she took as a wee little middle schooler that she was inspired to start writing poetry.

FIVE YEARS!!!

It goes to show that you really never know who you are influencing in the moment. Our inspiration and encouragement goes a very long way. You may not see the fruit tomorrow or next week or next month, but as we plant seeds, we can rest easy knowing that the watering is happening, nutrients are being cultivated and the fruit is growing just waiting to blossom in its time.