America, my country.

The Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of America. She is a symbol of freedom and welcome. And if you go to Liberty Island and see the statue, you can read the New Colossus, a poem written by Emma Lazarus, and which, I think, captures what America should be.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

Yes, I know, America belonged to the indigenous people before Europeans came to this land and stole it from them and hurt these people. I know America has a tumultuous history and we’ve done good and bad things in the world. But we are a country who claims to value freedom above all else. We also value equality, or so we said in our Declaration of Independence when we took the first steps of becoming an independent nation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

America has never exactly been overwhelmingly kind to immigrants and refugees, but it’s part of our history that everyone, I think, from both sides of politics, take as an example of why America is great. We are a place that people dream about. We are a country people risk everything to get to, because they are seeking a better life. We are the “land of opportunity.”

And right now… it’s like Lady Liberty is in a cage. No one is free while even one of us is enslaved. Closing America’s borders to certain nations and people? What is happening to my country?

It’s hard for me to really believe that we are looked at as a land of opportunity, because I wish I could emigrate to a better country, a country that already upholds my personal values and principles. (Such as Sweden, perhaps.) But I know I’m not alone in America. I’m not the only American who believes that we should accept immigrants and refugees and provide more opportunities for the most vulnerable people. I’m not the only American who thinks we need to change a lot of things to improve the lives of our citizens, and believes in our responsibility to make things better for our planet.

I pledge allegiance to the flag for which it stands, one Nation, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all.

We are so divided, though. Half of us is terrified of the other half. Republicans, Democrats, when did the divide between us become so great?

I am proud of our First Amendment to the Constitution. It protects our freedom of speech, of the press, of our right to assemble.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

We can use our voice, our right to assemble peacefully, our freedom of speech. We can speak out. We can protest.

I am sad and I am afraid for my country, and for the world. I know, on a logical level, that the world is getting better. Overall, things are getting better. But it’s hard to look at the big picture in a moment like this.

Let’s make America compassionate again. Please.

Scars and Violins.

I love to learn. All kinds of things- about programming languages (Python, lately), and about video games, and new languages (Spanish and Hawaiian right now), and anthropology and history and the names of trees (most recently learned about monkeypod and rainbow shower trees)… And everything in between.

I want to learn yoga and surfing and scuba diving. I want to learn how to dance and sing and I want to conquer mountains.

And right now, I’m embarking on the adventure of learning the violin. Really learning the violin. I love music. I love, love, love music. And I want to learn how to play music!

This video shows a little bit of the things that go through my head when I’m playing. Especially if other people can hear me.

This isn’t even the worst of it. I struggle. I have PTSD (although I always say “I’m fantastical! whenever anyone asks how I am, no matter how I actually am). And I struggle with a lot of things. Anxiety and panic and flashbacks and nightmares and… I hate it. I don’t want to be that person that’s so haunted by all this negativity.

And low self-esteem, feeling worthless, hating myself. That’s something I am fighting to overcome.

It isn’t just with violin, but with anything I do or try, or when I’m around other people. I’m always struggling. In my mind I’m thinking:

I’m worthless. Why am I playing? I sound awful. Why would I post a picture or a video of myself? I’m ugly. I’m fat. I’m disgusting.

I’m worthless.

I look awful, and I sound terrible. I should give up. I should just quit. I’m worthless.

I can’t play the violin.

And I can’t yet. That’s what learning is all about. No one begins as an expert. Make mistakes, play horribly, sound terrible, and have fun!

But it isn’t just with violin. When I’m around other people, coworkers or friends, or anyone really.

And I have to fight that every day. When people ask me, “How are you?” I give them a bright happy smile and exclaim, “I’m fantastical!!!”

I try to fight the bad things with positive energy. I want to be fantastical. And I am a happy person most of the time. And instead of focusing on what other people think of me, I can focus on being a positive force in the world.

So whenever my brain is like:

I’m worthless. Everyone hates me. I don’t deserve to even breathe the same air as these people. I don’t deserve to be alive.

I just try to chase those thoughts away. And it’s hard for me to think positively about myself, so instead I think:

How can I treat everyone with compassion? How can I bring joy to the people around me?

Because it doesn’t matter if I’m worthless. If I’m letting that negative thought have power over me, and letting the bad things from my past define me, then I’m channeling that negativity into the world. And I refuse to let the bad things win.

So instead, I focus on positivity! And being fantastical! And having compassion. And trying my best to bring joy and happiness and cheer to everyone around me.

Everyone has scars. And you can let those scars define you, or you can fight the sadness or fear with positivity and compassion. Be a positive force in this world! And if you can’t be positive for yourself, be positive to help other people. Making the world a happier and more compassionate place is all of our responsibility. (Or, our kuleana, the Hawaiian word for responsibility.)

Have a fantastical day!