Years of competitive hip hop dancing have weathered me to “take a punch” when it comes to creative criticism. But writing and sharing my life through my blog is a whole new beast of its own. I invited the eyes, and criticism, of strangers. And by doing so, one particular critique really got to me. It cut deep, straight to my core, and made sure I only shared work that avoided her judgment. In this way, she managed to reside in my mind as the megaphone to all my existing insecurities.
The trail to her original post has been deleted, but it’s true what they say that words on the Internet live forever. When an attack on your personality is written so eloquently, so meticulously, that you cannot help but read and re-read it until it is permanently etched in your brain, you invite the environment that makes those words keep on keeping on.
Up until I read Austin Kleon’s, Show Your Work, I could not free myself from this troll in my mind. In his book, he quotes his wife saying, “If someone took a dump in your living room, you wouldn’t let it sit there, would you?” Such a simple and profound imagery of scooping up and throwing away the shit pushed the troll in my mind into non-existence.
So here I am today, reclaiming the space in my mind and in my blog, to exist troll-free.
Because yours no longer exists here on Earth. Before it was taken down, I used to grieve when someone tagged you in a status update. I thought it was a cruel joke — how alive you could be in my social media feed, and be the complete opposite of that in reality. Now that your Facebook page is gone, I grieve in a whole different way. I’m sad I spent all that time cringing at your name in my newsfeed, instead of saving all those pictures of us, the conversations, and the jokes we shared.
There’s something that only Facebook can capture that other social media outlets do not — the blueprint of our friendship via the click of that “See Friendship” button. It got all the important things, but even more significantly, all the unimportant things as well. Like those check-in statuses to restaurants, or all those times we …
Fuck. I can’t even remember them, because I knew Facebook would remember for me. Maybe those small moments were insignificant then, but now they are everything I want to hold on to.
It’s stupid to give Facebook so much significance. I know your existence lives beyond this medium. But I guess I want something tangible to revisit when I can’t conjure the memories myself. I’m mad at myself for relying on it more than I could imagine.
It’s silly that I write these words so openly to the public. I often write these things, my internal conversations with you, and scrap it at the end. But by pushing one of these dialogues through to the Internet, I guess I’m hoping that when someone reads it and thinks of you, that the grouped effort in remembering you will reach through to you. And the thought of you smiling because of it, reassures the uneasiness in my heart.
BRIPOSITIVE | Some fan art for Bri
Because you know, I’m (one of your) biggest fans <3
P E N G | this perfectly captures my relationship with dad
Vivian Peng and I recently submitted an infographic for a competition, and while we did not place in any of the winning categories, we feel like this issue deserves more exposure.
Mental health and the criminal justice system are deeply intertwined. The way that society at large dehumanizes inmates is reflected by the prison system’s failure to address mental health. This is further complicated by the fact that mental health is a controversial topic even in the general public. Through this visualization, we aim to raise awareness about the complexity of this issue.
The factors that drive criminal behavior do not simply relate to individual agency. A complex machinery of socioeconomic disparity, incarceration, and dehumanization drives a vicious cycle of mental illness that we can only barely imagine with these statistics.
It is worrying that more than half of inmates in 2005 had a mental health problem. More worrying is the fact that 73% of female state inmates, compared to 55% of males, had a mental health problem.
On top of that, higher prevalence of drug use, parent’s abuse of alcohol and other drugs, and homelessness among inmates with mental health problems paint a broader picture beyond the criminal act.
We do not claim to show causality through our visualization. We simply suggest that the prison population is not homogenous and that incarceration is a result of factors that transcend generational and institutional boundaries.
Ultimately, we believe that a mature dialogue about deservedness, blame, forgiveness, justice, and personal evolution is necessary for us to break away from this simplistic sentiment: ‘once a criminal, always a criminal’.
Time to get back in that endurance game.
I see traces of you everywhere…
Your smile on a stranger’s face
Your sunglasses hanging from a shirt pocket
Your shoes walking down the street.
I want to grasp onto these things…
To kiss the stranger’s face
Try on those sunglasses
Walk in those shoes so that I can remember what it’s like to experience this world with you in it.
If order matters, then I would change it to sweetbitter,
Because it starts out sweet
To remember what it’s like being in your presence.
The bitter comes from the voice in my head that says
Viv you can’t grasp those things
THIS is reality and in this reality those things are not hers
And they’re certainly not yours to touch
So don’t be fooled!
That stranger - is a stranger.
My emotions are shredded from sweetbitterness
I feel empty and doe-eyed
I haven’t taken a step, but it’s like I traveled to the end of time and back
And in those moments I am sober
Sober to this reality.