Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Words Hurt As Much As Sticks and Stones

“Bruises heal. Cruel words can make us cry for years”- Unknown

In comparison to other boys, I’ve always seen myself as different. I liked reading and being indoors. I enjoyed the arts: singing, dancing, drawing and acting. I preferred the company of girls because I felt more understood. I would often be seen at recess or lunch time, playing ‘Miss Universe’ or braiding someone’s hair. I saw no problem with any of this. I was simply unique. Then, I went to Secondary School and it all changed.

From the very first day, I was considered ‘gay’, and called every gay related term; admittedly, some were more creative than others. There were the usual, derogatory terms thrown my way, like faggot, panty-man, buller-man and girly-boy. Sometimes, the bullies used their imagination, coming up with stylised names, like Garvgina or Garvina.

When they were bored with the name-calling, they asked hurtful, mocking questions, referencing all my mannerisms and interests that made me less of a boy, in their eyes. They pinpointed my walk and shake, my high voice and use of Standard English, my pop culture references to Britney Spears and knowledge of pageants, my love of books and singing, and my hand gestures.

The torture was never-ending; morning and evening, from the first bell to the last. Usually, I’m an optimistic, charismatic and creative person, but the constant barrage of insults had taken all life from me. I was miserable and wanted to be invisible. I tried my hardest to achieve the latter. I would sit quietly, never answering questions. I would walk the corridors with my head bowed and my hands in my pockets, hoping that I would make it back to my classroom, unnoticed. I would try to dissimulate by walking with a ‘bounce’, deepening my voice, and talking about ‘boy stuff’, like the Premier League. The consequences were disastrous, to put it mildly.

I went in search of ‘comfort zones’; those are, places I could be my optimistic, charismatic, creative self. It was important for my sanity. The library was my go-to place during free periods. Silence was golden and talking was frowned upon, so although I got the looks, no one said anything. I quickly became friends with the library staff, too. I joined the school’s choir, where my creativity flourished. I met other individuals who shared my passions. Sure, the hecklers were in attendance when we performed at school, but for a few minutes, I was happy. Making friends- adults and students alike- instilled in me self confidence.

I made the valiant decision to stand up for myself by using snappy retorts. I told my bullies about ‘how their mothers made them’, ‘what I did with their mother the night before’ and ‘to make way for their new step-father’. I took it a step further, too. I noted their shortcomings, limitations and insecurities, and used it against them. Nothing was off limits; everything from their academic performance to their living situation became a weapon with which I could hurt them. Pretty soon, I was not only gay, but a smart ass, a meanie and a bitch with a ‘hot mouth’. I was unstoppable.

For a short time, it made me feel better. Then, it came to a screeching halt when I made a boy cry in the choir room. I hadn’t realised that, in fighting fire with fire, I had become a bully myself. I had projected all my hurt on not only the bullies, but others who reminded me of myself, like the snivelling boy in the seat next to me. What had I become? On the outside, it was all bravado, but the truth of the matter was that I was hurt, sad, angry and confused. In short, I was a mess on the inside. I cried that night, alone in my room, asking God, “Why?” This cycle would replay itself for four years.

I started to take a few steps in the right direction, after a school trip to Venezuela. During the trip, I overheard my roommates complaining that they didn’t want to sleep in the same room as ‘the faggot’. I was left reeling; until that point, I was having fun, making friends and being accepted/ respected, or so I thought. It was a rude awakening. With tears streaming down my face, I cursed the boys and stormed out of the room.

A few minutes later, I was seated in the lobby, waiting for a room change. I was going over the ordeal again and silently sobbing when a teacher sat next to me. Instead of cuddling me, she told me as it is. I was different from most boys my age, and there was nothing wrong with that. It was unfair that my uniqueness made me a target, but I needed to develop a thicker skin. I had to stop feeling sorry for myself. School was a preparation for life, and in life, there would always be persons or groups who would try to tear you down. She explained that only I had the power to decide how I allowed it to affect me.

I pondered her words on the remaining leg of the trip. Initially, I thought that she was stupid. She didn’t know what I went through every day. Her words had no bearing and heeding them would not have made anything better. I had another breakdown two days later, where I screamed at a cashier in a restaurant. I felt justified in my behaviour, until I registered the looks I got from other patrons, students and teachers. I was reminded of the crying boy in the choir room, and felt ashamed.  I had to regain control of my emotions and manage my anger. I needed a complete overhaul in perspective.

I began by muttering self affirmations. I am different. I am intelligent. I am confident. I am going to be someone one day. This stage of my life is not forever. God made me in his image and likeness. Eventually, I accepted and revelled in my circumstances. When I went to the library or attended choir practice, I did so because I loved it, not because I was trying to hide from everyone. I became more open-minded and accepting. I no longer felt the need to degrade others, and discovered that I had a killer sense of humour that was dark, self deprecating and sarcastic.

Most importantly, I didn’t allow the words to affect me. This was the hardest part because the name-calling did continue, and along with it came the desire to retaliate or cry. When I offered to help one of my bullies with his SBA, I was quite proud of myself. It would have been quite easy for me to turn him away and chastise him for being too dumb, but I didn’t give in. I was on the mend. I spent the next three years of my Secondary School career happier than I had ever been.

To this day, I remember the teacher’s words, and I use my affirmations. I surround myself with people who love and accept me just the way I am. The truth is- and I say this without any reservations of sounding cliché- circumstances really make you who you are. For, if I hadn’t gone through all of those things, I wouldn’t have been as contented and confident as I am today. No one is perfect, but I am proud of the man that I have become and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

I Dislike Miley Cyrus, But...

... She can teach me a thing or two.

Nine out of ten times, I’m an optimist. I usually try to put a positive spin on things by, for example, finding the one redeeming quality in a person and focusing on that, rather than being a hater. Sadly, there are those “one” moments when I can become a real pessimistic, self righteous, sarcastic, judgmental, hasty, hater-bitch. I can get REALLY mean and nasty; oft times, I just delete people from Facebook. Shado from Arrow had a point when she explained to Oliver that we all have two sides, light and dark, a yin and a yang.

Today’s post puts this balance to use. I’m going to attempt to write something good and positive about Miley Cyrus. I’m sure that my optimistic side can find something if I were to try really hard. Of course, before that can happen, my bad side needs to rant a bit, like for three paragraphs. Enjoy reading what they both have to write.


Guess what? Part of me detests the New Miley Cyrus. Everything she does lately seems to be over the top. It’s like she tries TOO hard to be sexy and/or ratchet in her valiant, albeit slutty, attempt to separate herself from her squeaky clean “Hannah Montana, Disney Child Star” past. So, she walks around and dances onstage half-naked, licks hammers in videos, and acts like she’s THAT bitch *snaps fingers*. To me, it comes off as contrived and desperate and disgusting, and it gets old quickly. 

As a result, her antics have become particularly annoying with a capital A. First, there’s the incessant twerking; from onstage at that guy’s concert to her now, infamous performance at the VMAs. Then again, I don’t even know if what she does can be considered as twerking, especially after seeing Rihanna’s tasteless video for “Pour It Up”. She made Miley look like a country bumpkin with no ass who simply bends over, wiggles her backbone, and thinks that she’s twerking. Although I thought that this phase in her development would end when her hair eventually grew back, she seems to have had enough, for now.

Then, there was the whole “tongue out of her mouth” thing. For the life of me, I couldn’t (still can’t) fathom why someone would think that sticking their tongue out all the time is flattering, especially when that tongue is all white and dirty looking. In a recent interview on the Ellen Show, she explained that she feels awkward when posing, (sic) like a normal celebrity, so she chooses to stick her tongue out. That totally makes sense, Miley, and Garvin’s World thanks you for that illuminating piece of information. Check out an interesting take on Miley's tongue here.

Still very disgusting... (Source)
So, what of the good? Let me think... hmm... I got a pocket; got a pocketful of sunshine... ahm, focus... Miley can actually sing? Yep, that’s it! I’ve listened to her live performances, and most times, she does a good job. Plus, most of her songs are good. For example, I like the message behind "Wrecking Ball", but the general nekkidness on display is a turn off. I also like that her voice is very distinctive, and polarising; you either love it or hate it, which brings me to my next point.

There are those who absolutely adore this girl and think that there’s nothing wrong with what she’s doing. Then, there are others who are offended and/or disgusted by her showboating. And what does Miley do in the face of all the criticism and open letters? She continues being herself, which I think is somewhat admirable. (Sidebar: her making fun of people with mental illness is not!) Personally, I can be more thick-skinned and not let what people say/think affect me, while being respectful, at the same time. Like, she says: “Only God can judge ya, forget the haters, cause somebody loves ya”.

After watching her “documentary” on MTV, I’ve realised that Miley knows EXACTLY what she’s doing, and it seems to be working well for her. So, you go girl! Maybe, I should put as much energy as she does into realising my dreams? Nah, I’m doing just fine!

Until the next post!

Thursday, 17 October 2013

Exploring T&T: My Zip-Lining Adventure

Zip-Lining: Terrifying, Exhilarating, Liberating, Amazing

I’ve wanted to go to the Zip-Lining facility at Macqueripe, Chaguaramas, since its inception. I figured that it would be a new and interesting experience, and provide me with a chance to conquer my fear of heights. Thus, when I learned that the Rotaract Club of Sangre Grande Central had planned a trip to the facility, I knew that I had to be involved. Basically, I did go, and it was everything I expected and more. This post details how it all went down.

It was a sunny, Sunday afternoon, and I was seated in the Zip-ITT Office at Macqueripe Bay, reading a waiver and giggling. The source of my giggle was a sentence that outlined a number of risks associated with zip lining that the company was not liable for, namely scrapes, scratches, bruises, debilitating injuries and death (yes, they appeared in that order). Although reading those words rattled my nerves even more and made me question the necessity of the day’s activities, there was something dark about them that I found hilarious.

Once the waivers were signed, we were ushered over to an area where we were suited up. We were given two harnesses; one went on like a diaper, the other, like a vest. Both came with several clips and other gear used by mountain climbers, I assumed. Then, we were given a hairnet and helmet, and a pair of smelly, heavy duty, construction gloves. The overall look not only exacerbated the size of my stomach, but left my nether regions residing in close quarters. 

But, why she watching me cut-eye, though?
Next, we were given a crash course in “How to Zip-Line without Dying 101”. I really wanted to return to Sangre Grande that evening, so I shushed my cousin and gave the two instructors my undivided attention. There was a lot of information to process, but the instructors interspersed it with a few jokes, which helped to make me less nervous. I'm not going to go into all the details, but the instructions basically revolved around how to position your hands when zipping, how to slow down, and the proper way to approach the platform as you're coming in. With all the bases covered, the moment of truth had arrived.

To reach the first platform, we had to climb four flights of stairs. We did so in single file, and I expertly placed myself at the back of the line as my stomach did somersaults. The fact that a quasi thunderstorm came out of nowhere as the third person from our group zipped into the trees beyond did nothing to alleviate my trepidation. I started to think about my science classes in Secondary School, where I learned about conduction and looked to the skies for any sign of lightning.

Before I knew it, it was my turn. My legs felt like jelly as the guy hooked me to the zip line. My heart thumped wildly in my chest as I was ordered into the sitting position. My armpits started scratching as I said a silent prayer. I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and let go. As soon as I did, I opened my eyes, looked around and started screaming at the top of my lungs. The line seemed to hum as I zipped at the speed of light to the second platform. The screaming didn’t stop, but my fear was replaced by exhilaration and joy. I felt so liberated, and as I slammed into the padding around the tree trunk, I started laughing hysterically. The platform monitor looked at me, like I was crazy, but the adrenaline left me laughing as I moved on to the next part of the course. 

Part of the zip lining experience involves crossing these canopy walks. I remembered the term “canopy” from Form Two Geography, and was therefore, not surprised to see that the “walk” would take us from one tree to another, and involved crossing a net bridge with a plank down the middle. I HATED every moment of it! The breeze and the movement of my body caused the bridge to sway from side to side. To keep my mind of it, I looked straight ahead, and slowly made my way across as I hummed, “Royals”.

Le Canopy Walk. Scary!
There were five more platforms and four canopy walks to complete before I got to the last zip line. Nothing much happened except the fact that I slammed into the padding of two more trees at high velocity. Apparently, I didn’t see the guy on the platform signalling for me to slow down. In fact, I slammed into the second tree so hard that my legs straddled the tree trunk, which prompted one member of staff to ask if my "jewels" were fine. Oh, I also missed one platform and ended up stuck and panicking over the forests of Macqueripe. I had to turn around and pull myself to the platform. That was hilarious!

On the second to last platform, the instructions got a bit complicated. We were to zip slowly to the tree marked with the red flag, and then, go faster. As soon as I let go, I knew that I was going to be in trouble. I forgot how to go slow, and instead, went faster and faster and faster. Then, I also forgot to extend my legs, so when I crashed into the padding, my left ankle hit the edge of the platform. It hurt so much that I yelled out, thinking that it was sprained.

While I was having my ankle examined and stretched, I was told that my crash was so resounding that it shook the platform and caused the rain droplets to fall off the leaves of the tree. It was so loud that several patrons looked up in alarm, wondering what went wrong. Of course, the adrenaline was still coursing through my veins, so it wasn’t until I got home two hours later that I started to feel the after effects of being George of the Jungle for an hour. 

Overall, it was an exciting adventure. My only gripe would be that it should been longer, but I definitely recommend you all to try it out. If I can do it, anyone can.

Until the next post!

Friday, 11 October 2013

Yep, I'm Getting Older!

“Happy birthday to you too,” I smiled. “How does it feel to be eighteen?”
“Pretty much exactly the same as seventeen,” Rhys laughed. “Do you feel any older?”
“No, not really,” I admitted.
“Oh, come on,” Matt said. “You’ve matured so much in the past six months. I can hardly even recognize you anymore.”

- Ascend, The Trylle Trilogy- Book Three by Amanda Hocking.

Hey, folks! As you may or may not know, I celebrated my 24th birthday a week ago. Mostly, it was a day of reflection that focused on my growing up and what it all means. For some reason, although the physical signs are mostly there, I don’t feel any older. In reflecting, I realised several things, for examples: 
  1. I have more responsibilities that don’t revolve around doing chores and homework.
  2. More so, I am responsible for my actions and the consequences of those actions.
  3. I find myself thinking about my future, and ensuring that the decisions I make today facilitate it.
  4. I have to work; gone are the days of Mummy and Daddy providing my every need. I mean, I have to buy my own deodorant.
  5. On those rare occasions that I go out, I no longer have to/ feel obligated to tell my family where I’m going. I do so because I want to.
  6. Life is happening to the people around me; from past classmates getting married and/or pregnant (not exactly in that order) to baby cousins writing CAPE and entering UWI. It makes me realise that life is happening to me too, although I don’t see it.
  7. For me, the fact that I’m trusted to look after people’s children speaks volumes to my level of maturity.
  8. Speaking of which, I feel like I have matured. When I think back on Secondary School Garvin, and even, UWI Garvin, the change in attitude and perspective is astounding.
  9. My family, friends and acquaintances have commented on my more mature look.
  10. I find myself annoyed by and complaining about the antics of today’s youth. This is usually followed by a story or two about how things were when I was younger.
  11. Oftentimes, I ponder my own mortality. 
  12. I now use sayings and/ or phrases that I used to associate with older, more experienced people. For example, “All skin teeth eh grin”, “If is not one thing is the next”, “Do so doh like so”, “Tomorrow, please God”, “Look how big you get!” (I used to hate when people told me this), and “We went to school together”. 
So, all signs seem to point to the fact that I am growing older. In arriving at that conclusion, I’ve decided to embrace adulthood in this, the 24th year of my life. I’m still not sure what there is to embrace, but I’ll start with the responsibility, maturity, wisdom and independence that come with age. Meanwhile, I’ll figure out the rest as I go along. Wish me luck!

Until the next post!