Perception is reality

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By: Chelsea Montes de Oca

I remain always in my head

Growing up it’s where I fled

Reveling in the possibilities ahead

Breeding thoughts to drown realities dread

Close your eyes

And misplaced rage is erased

Close your eyes

Your world is a blank slate

When my home couldn’t be a safe place

My head provided that escape

Resulting in a mind so fast paced

But the captain of its own rat race

Close your eyes

With them you can’t win

Close your eyes

Fuel yourself from within

I often feel my heart might burst

If my head doesn’t first

You see my comforting mind is cursed

I’ve trained it to see beauty in the worst

When I find a reality to quench its thirst

I swear I’ll submerse myself head first

Without consideration or thought

Because it’s what never could be bought

That prevented internal rot

Imagined opportunities self-taught

Turned self-made realities for which I’ve fought

Tooth and nail, weary and sore

And I remain hungry for more

With passion fueling my core

And a myriad of doors left to explore

Close your eyes

But start making plans

Open your eyes

Your worlds in your hands

Maybe the hardest dreams

Are the ones life’s gifted to me.

Paths from which either way gleam

And where infinite possibilities team

So loudly I could burst at the seams

At least that’s how I see

And this perception is my reality

Codependency is a hell of a drug

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By: Chelsea Montes de Oca

Codependency is a hell of a drug

It’s the imaginary bugs that you dug

From under your skin in panic

It’s the mobile itch that makes you manic

It’s these words you write

Blind in the unknown night

It’s the biting cold

When you can’t stand to be alone

It’s the excuses and ties

Used to piece together the lies

Its warped love that you can’t stand

But the fix your soul demands

So fuck it, I’m out

I’m choosing another route

Ignoring your texts and calls

Please know you did nothing at all

Because whoever is by my side

Is the voice that resides

In my head telling me I’m worth it

The voice that tells me I’m important

That voice needs to be mine

And it’s in no way defined

Enough to hold my world’s weight

To carry my heavy fate

Your words paint a lovely view

But one I can’t run to

Insignificance consumes me indefinitely

And my soul that can’t live this way irrevocably

Your words won’t be here forever

So these ties I must severe

Stunted growth may exist without pain

But self-inflicted shackles are less than humane

Everyone I assign a place

Time will write in then erase

Not everyone is a lifeline

Either a reason, season or lifetime

You can’t be all three

Codependency will be the death of me

Because I always hold on for far too long

To a reason or season already gone

So let me become my own voice

Sharpen my tools to make noise

Let me live truly independent

To stop from being so love dependent

Make room for what you deserve

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I feel like this is better when it’s read aloud but still posting it.

I’m convinced

This world is in a perpetual state of loneliness

Since about the age of three

Disney movies have been telling me

Without a man, I’m nothing

My observations have allowed me to see

That an influential man didn’t help birth me

So let’s see what the dating world brings

A lack of results and sheer colored panic

Lovely

Thusly disappointment after disappointment

Reveal this skewed perception shown

It’s all too well known

You see, either you settle or you are alone

But these desperate undertones

Shake and rattle my bones

Fake moans and un-atoned sins

And again it begins

I can’t seem to win

Feel like a snake in this skin

Sick of sleeping on pins

And needles waiting to feel

Dreamed reality from the movie reels become surreal

And these layers are toxic deals

These layers whose ever-changing colors appeal

To everyone except me

But I don’t know any other way to be

Dysfunctional loyalties rooted so deeply

It’s like I’ve been sleeping

If a tree entrenched in its ways

Finally uproots and walks away

And nobody is there with attention to pay

Does it make a sound?

Does it shake the ground?

Call attention to lonely souls around?

Cause I could really use a rebound

But wait

Fuck that predetermined fate

Fuck this perpetual weight

Have some faith

There’s a reason it’s called a clean slate

Those sound waves will translate

To the language of my soul mates

I’m not sorry if I struck a nerve

Or for feelings I didn’t conserve

Cause I’m running on reserves

There’s no time to waste

I’m comfortably close to what doesn’t serve

and miles away from what I deserve

My beautiful niece

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My beautiful niece

Photo by: Chelsea Montes de Oca

We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.

My three year old niece Kinsley and I went to the zoo one day. In her bag, I had all the necessary equipment. Juice in case she got thirsty. Crackers in case she became hungry. Even a jacket for if the reliable Florida heat decided to take a day off. Spoiler alert: no such luck. It was a lovely 90 degrees with humidity that day and a perfect day to run around in the elaborate sprinkler playground. After a day of observing exotic animals and being guilt tripped into buying more stuffed animals than I could afford, the clock chimed cool off o’clock. It was around this time I discovered that Kinsley’s bathing suit was nowhere to be found. In that instant, I watched her turn from a glowing child to a sprinkler system herself. She began exclaiming, “I want to go!” several times. This became the response originating from the mere discovery of her lack of bathing suit. I had yet to even mention that she could not run freely in spite of this fact. Admittedly, this thought crossed my mind. I could not send a soaking wet child home to her mom and expect to be considered a responsible adult. However, I watched my niece cry and saw how pointless her tears were. I carried her sobbing self out to the playground and ran around with her in my arms. Despite the strange looks from the parents, we stayed soaking our only clothes and laughing without a care in the world. After both our short attention spans had enough, we walked back to my car with our saturated footprints becoming fainter on every step.

I discovered two things from this event. First, those stares were meant not for Kinsley but for me. I could almost see the speech bubbles that exhumed from their heads. They were judging me. The theory of me being considered a full grown adult could be debated by my loved ones but the widely accepted fact is that I am over 18 years of age. Therefore, whether I like it or not, I am an adult. A grown adult does not run around in a playground of plastic animals spraying water. When we were babies, shame didn’t exist. We cried when we were in pain. We laughed when something was funny. We screamed when we were excited. Nobody stopped us. There was no reason. However, the older we got the more the world seemed to want to regulate our emotions. You only cry in privacy or laugh at the right time. Excited reactions instinctually became uncomfortable for others around you and warranted apologies. Eventually, making others comfortable became more important than our own comfort. Then that warped sense of discomfort became our norm. The second thing I discovered is that my niece had begun her inevitable track down this path. Obviously she was still in the stage where crying in public was no care. However, something inside her said without a bathing suit, she could not get wet. At this point in her life, she had begun to self-regulate. If she was a baby, she would have run straight towards those sprinklers without a thought. As adults, we may have casually laughed or we may have scolded her. Maybe it is these reactions that shape our children’s perceptions of the world and who they should be in it.

This is not me saying that we should wander around not caring about how our actions affect people. Howard Thurman said, “I want to be me without making it difficult for you to be you”. If the world lived by this motto, we may see the common problems that plague humanity decrease. My point though, is why the fuck do we care so much about what other people think? Who decided that in order to live amongst each other we had to act a certain way and cater to only one perception of reality? It is a known fact that humans spend one third of their lives sleeping. No scientist has done a study on how much of our lives we spend caring about what other people think. I tend to believe that if they did, it would be far too much. Life is too short to create diseases within ourselves trying to be someone that common society “accepts”. Life is too serious to not have fun when the opportunity arises. So follow your passion, even if it won’t make you money. Dance, even when people are watching. Run around in the rain, even if you don’t have the proper attire. Because the only way that any of us are truly “fine” is if we are living in a way that is compatible to whom we are. Otherwise, we spend our lives entrenched in an existence fueled by fabricated insecurities.

The Biggest Risk You’ve Ever Taken

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The Biggest Risk You’ve Ever Taken

It was supposed to be another Friday City Year meeting. I dragged myself into the conference room with my coffee in hand and greeted my fellow social media team members. To warm up, each person was asked to share the biggest risk they had ever taken. I began to think about what mine would be. Was it falling in love? No. Was it swimming with sharks? No. Was it running that police grade obstacle course that one time without stretching first? Well…maybe. Then I thought back to before I started City Year and the trail of events that got me all the way to this meeting. I remembered how excited I was to get my acceptance call. I remembered how heartbroken I was to leave all my friends and family. I remembered how petrified I was to pack only what would fit in my car and drive cross country from Florida to Colorado. Most of all, I remembered how lonely I initially felt upon arriving to Denver. Joining City Year, that was my biggest risk.

It was a risk because I had never had a job like this before. In fact, my past experience was in food service and photography. I certainly had never worked in a 6th grade English class. I felt my inexperience with children would be a downfall. However, my inexperience has never been seen as that by them. It translated into genuineness. My students are learning many things as they go and I am learning right there alongside them. They know I care and as a result, I have become a fast confidant for them. The relationships I have built provide essential daily victories. One day, as a part of a compliment activity I received a note exclaiming “You are fun and outgoing. I admire you”. Recently, my most notoriously withdrawn student raised his hand to almost every question asked in class. One of my focus list students not only wants to do good work but always seeks me out to show me how well he did. Every day, I encounter a moment that makes me appreciate the risk I took. With the end of the first half of the year coming to a close, there is still so much more to be done. But I am confident the foundation I have built will lead me to a successful second half of the year.

The second part to this warm up was for everyone to state the happiest they have ever been. Thoughts circulated in my head as I pondered what it meant for me to be truly happy. As my turn approached, I found my answer: the present. The happiest I have ever been was realizing that the biggest risk I’ve ever taken was also the best decision I’ve ever made.