Updated: Aug 19, 2022
Here we are, back at Ground Zero, and all of us are standing in the rubble. 2020 is basically a garbage fire; ash rains more than rain in California; we lost Ruth Bader Ginsburg and George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and a million souls to COVID19 and police gangs and Whiteness. I say this upfront because, despite the rough start and worse middle, I need you to believe that this story is worth reading till the end.
For my generation, Ground Zero is synonymous with 9/11. However, it is also the baseline of a clinical trial, the comparison point of an experiment, the place from where we are forced to restart after any natural (or not so natural) disaster. It was Martin Luther King Jr. and JFK and Apollo 11 for my parents, Hiroshima and Nagasaki for my Grandparents, and perhaps the Great Depression before that. You can see glimpses of inherited scarcity in the way we still hang paper towels out to dry on the kitchen counter and in the malaria dreams my brother and I get about losing our teeth.
Ideas develop their own gravity and when I hear Ground Zero, I find myself dragged back to the blacktop at Adobe Bluffs Elementary School in 2001 where I called a boy a liar. He said people were jumping from the towers to escape the flames. It was unfathomable; I thought he was trying to upset me because I had never contemplated suicide.
Later that day while my mom was in the soccer club managers' meeting, Molly Grabill asked, "if there is a God, why do bad things happen?" Molly was a center-midfielder and I always played defense.
I told her what my dad told me:
"In order for there to be Free Will, people have to be able to make choices. Bad things happen in the world because folks have to be able to choose Hate in order for Love to be a real, true choice, not just a programmed response or animal instinct. Who we are is decided in the split-second choices, on the margins, when we pause, take a breath, and decide to be our Better Self. My father, Grandpa C.C., used to tell me about the story of two wolves. One is Love and one is Fear and they are wrestling for eternity. We decide who wins by which wolf we choose to feed. Fear may never fully disappear, but it should not steer our lives."
September 11th, 2001 was nine days before my ninth birthday, my big brother had recently gotten in a bad accident that set his car on fire, knocking out the power to a thousand houses in our neighborhood, and I was at a new school. Wild how small reminders can hold such big memories.
In the next few years, wildfires forced our evacuation several times to the point where inventing techniques to escape fires became a recurring theme in my nightmares. The Authorization for the Use of Military Force passed and launched an endless war on terror that is still being waged all around us. My nightly practice of lucid dreaming evolved from using Peter Pan fairy dust or saying "accio broom" into electromagnetic engineering, aeronautics of flight, magicking large trampolines, and snatching those who are falling out of thin air.
When I was a kid, my worst fears were the flying monkeys from Wizard of Oz. As an adult, my biggest fear was suicide because for a good part of my twenties I was not sure I would survive past 27. Too many good people were dying young.
Yesterday was my 28th birthday and while I was drafting this letter, a notebook from the Museo Casa de la Memoria in Medellín Colombia fell off my desk and opened to the front page. The Museum is a center for the community to remember, grieve, and process of the deeds long Colombian Civil War and Narco terrorism. It read:
Nuestra razón de ser
La memoria, un puente hacia el futuro
Our reason for being
Memory is a bridge to the future
Our Reason for Being...
On the next page, I drew 4 overlapping circles under the words IKIGAI - the Japanese reason for existing. The circles represent What We Love, What the World Needs, What We are Good At, What Can Be Compensated. Inside, the center is shaded with blue pen, representing "Ikigai" – one's purpose in life.
I was thinking about it and came to the conclusion that if I could identify as anything, I would want to be something abstract, like a mosaic. That is how I settled on my purpose.
Have you ever heard of Kintsugi? Translated as "Golden Repair," "kintsugi" is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery by filling the cracks with gold. Just Media is me wanting to lacquer my own broken pieces together, and all of ours in turn, with impenetrable glitter. After all... if everything beautiful ends and becomes something else, how come we can't be unicorns?
After years of voiceless rage, this is my platform to make art and music and connections to heal communities like my community healed me. By valuing my conflict resolution and anti-oppression skills, I can take direct action towards collective liberation while still feeding myself. I don't need to grind myself to dust for an 1800s American Dream version of success.
Just Media LLC is the Living Dream that I created out of a long, terrifying night.
Everything is rubble and ash is still raining but the worst is over and this is a place for beginnings. It is okay to be afraid – fear is nature telling us to take care – but make your decisions knowing that this story has a happy ending. Rest now, because resting is when imagination has space to envision your own joyful homecoming.