Monday, April 21, 2014


Whilst growing up, "Categories" was always one of my favorite games to play.

Books, movies, cars, cereal brands, clothing brand names, cities, gum flavors--it's always easy to categorize things.

We also love pointing out labels--Gucci. Fendi. Prada. Jason Wu. Abercrombie. American Eagle. J. Crew. Hurley. Billabong. 

Does anyone ever notice as much as I do though that we tend to do the exact same thing with people, too?

Bitch. Slut. Manwhore. Christian. Jewish. Hispanic. Canadian. French. Scottish. Irish. Catholic. Geek. Pretty. Popular. Cool. Sweet.

People--you know, not inanimate objects.

Living, breathing, thinking, complex souls. We try to categorize people all the freaking time. In high school it was that you were popular, a partier, or a nerd, or an athlete, or a stoner, or a whore, or a weird kid.  We factioned ourselves into these cliques because we were basically told by social stigma and by other people that these were the classmates that we were supposed to get along with, because outwardly we seemed similar.

Key word: seemed.

In high school, I was at such a small school that cliques did exist, but there weren't really so many categories to fit into. I was well into my awkward phase by my sophomore year (braces, poorly shaped eyebrows and absolutely no self confidence will do that to a girl), so I was definitely not clumped with the party crowd. I wasn't even really among the ranks of the "other" group in my grade that seemed to like to do their own thing more yet still all hung out with each other. I may have not been one of the overachievers of my class, but I definitely was still involved. I was super quiet when I first started at my new school, so I think people were super surprised when two weeks in, I ran for SGA secretary…and somehow won? I wasn't exactly sporty, but I worked my ass off in lacrosse and turned out to be a pretty decent player by the time I graduated. I wasn't a brainiac, but I wrote a lot and basically almost had an out-of-body experience the first time my AP English teacher complimented one of my papers and gave me an "A." I most definitely was not a partier at first……which is why people were so shocked I guess when I threw a huge house party that got way too out of control my junior year, and would show up at parties sometimes after that.

I just was kind of a wanderer, a person that really didn't belong in one particular place, one particular group.

I used to have such a hard time accepting this. All I wanted was a place to belong in middle and high school, a social ranking, a way to simplify my existence so that people could understand me and stop calling me "weird" or "awkward" or "odd" or "different" or even just stop asking the simple yet somehow still paralyzing, "Who's Alexia?"

After all…..who the hell was I? Who the hell am I? 

It was because of this sense of not belonging and feeling like I was constantly forging an unmarked path alone that it would get to the point where I was constantly always trying to categorize and label myself, making changes and molding myself invariably to cater to the needs of other people that incessantly label to understand their peers, yours truly included. It seemed easier to do that. It made people feel less intimidated and more comfortable around me, or just less perplexed in general. However…I actually really started hating what people were labeling me as soon as I did feel a need to change.

To this day, I still get all the time from people that they "can't ever seem to figure me out." That I "intrigue" them with my mysteriousness. It's what keeps people drawn in, others tell me. I still get so confused by this. I don't like being told it to an extent because it feels as though you are treating me like a puzzle that needs to be solved, a novel that needs to be broken down into themes and reasoning for writing it in the first place. However…..I'm a human. I'm not a novel, or a puzzle, or anything else other than a lost, complicated damn soul, just like the rest of you. I'm not meant to be "solved." Neither are you. Authors don't always need an excuse to write something, puzzle makers don't need a reason to make a puzzle as freaking complicated as it is, just like you shouldn't need to justify being yourself or have a reason for doing so. You just….are you. I am me. That's it.
I know for a fact you can't fully figure me out or break me down. I'm essentially a living contradiction.

I'm a writer, yet oftentimes I find myself at a loss for words.

I love sundresses and beautiful shoes and vintage clothes and J. Crew, but a huge part of my wardrobe is also Urban Outfitters and off-kilter skate and surf brands. I find myself wearing a lot more black than the bright colors that my normally peppy wardrobe would suggest.

Looks-wise I'm pretty straight-edged to the point where you wouldn't know I'm planning on getting two tattoos done within the next couple of months.

I'm a Christian, but often I do things that show I am nothing but a sinner. I still go out, I still go to a lot of parties, and a lot of things I have done would make any normal person question my relationship with Christ.

I seem like I have a one-track mind and am pretty simple to some and that I'm pretty much only motivated by pizza and/or whiskey, but I read a lot, I over think more than many of you realize, and so many of the books that I have read over the years have put too many ideas in my head. So many to the point where I have a very difficult time verbally expressing them to others.

I was raised Republican but am socially liberal.

Everyone spent so many years telling me I'd be great as a fashion writer or PR magnate or teacher or school psychologist.Guess what? I love kids, I love fashion, I love working with people. I switched my major around a bunch between these things while I was very lost and confused with what I wanted to do with my life, and I hated all these majors for the most part.

Maybe some perceive me as too air-headed and dumb to go to law school, but I was never one who was okay with getting told I can't do something. If I told people my average practice LSAT score, I think they'd be pretty shocked.

I'm a girl, I'm white, yet I do not have a yoga instructor "that has changed my life", I don't have yoga pants that state "kiss me" on the back, I've grown to hate Marilyn Monroe quotes because they're actually cliche as f***, and I hate tequila.

I seem easy going to many at first, but I'm probably one of the most competitive people you will ever meet.

I'm a Political Science and English double major, yet….I still love my philosophy classes. I loved my biology class. Astronomy always fascinated me as a child and still does. And you know what? Some of my English classes make me feel like ripping my hair out. Sometimes I don't feel like writing. Sometimes I don't feel like discussing the polarization of Congress and arguing over Scalia's opinion on a recent Supreme Court ruling. Sometimes I want to sit back, enjoy a beer, and read up on where we we are in the sciences, why climate change is an issue,  how black holes grow and how we are going to continue to explore the vast empty spaces of our never-ending universe.

Sometimes I say "fuck" way too much. Yeah, I go to Bible study pretty regularly too.

I'm a pretty bubbly and happy person, but I have battled with depression.

I'm half Cuban, but I get told all the time I don't look or act Hispanic…however a Hispanic person is supposed to act or look like.

Normally I'm sweet, but those who know me well also know I have a beyond fiery temper. If I don't like you… will know it. Those who have been at the forefront of it know that it is a very odd place that is borderline frightening and they do not want to go back there, ever.

Sometimes I get scared and act like an asshole because of it.

I have a very hard time caring or getting attached, I always need to be constantly moving around because I hate staying in one place….but there have been a few times when it's been difficult to let go.

I can go one minute from listening to John Mayer and Jack Johnson, to Jack White and Foo Fighters, to Nirvana and then completely change my mood around and start listening to Purity Ring, Cults, The xx, Muse, The Doors, Fleetwood Mac, Ke$ha, or a country song. My love for music knows no boundaries, and neither does my love for learning or exploring.

Like I said, a living contradiction. Hey, it's okay, I bet you have sides of you that are this hard to explain as well, and you don't really have a summary to give others--nor should you ever feel like you need to give an explanation. I spent so many years trying to shorten these sentences and descriptions of myself to make myself more simple, more manageable, more….understandable. Now though I've realized that I was never meant to be that simple. No one is, whether they are showing you all their sides or not. Most people have some pretty far off corners of their mind that take a lot of time to get to know, but are so worth it once you do.

Don't limit someones abilities of how they are able to change this world, impact your life, touch your soul, by the constraints of categories or labels. Sometimes people will surprise you, and most of the time  it's a good thing. I think one of the things that truly holds us back is our inability to understand how complicated all of us are. We think it's all as simple as defining a person by using ten adjectives and then that's that, when it never is. Perfect people are never as perfect as they seem. Sometimes Christians sin. We're not robots, we're not supposed to be simplified and predictable.

No matter how complicated or different or whatever you may be, just know that every part of you is enough. Not just the parts that people have chosen to label, or the categories they have decided to stick you in. You are enough, including the surprising sides of you people don't normally get to know. Despite what others may put to label on you, do yourself the favor of not listening to whatever they think and defining yourself, even if being yourself doesn't carry an exact definition. No one knows you better than you, after all.

You are who you are and what you are is enough.

No categorization needed.

Monday, April 7, 2014


A couple nights ago, I was scrolling down my Facebook feed, as per usual, when I saw a girl I had met a few times post a statement that I had known true to my heart since the first day that I moved to this city:

"Sometimes I feel like I'm in a relationship with Pittsburgh."

Sometimes I look outside and want to hate this city so much because it's too damn cold, or windy, or rainy, and forgodssakewhereisthesundoesitevercomeoutdoesitevenexisthereomgomgomg ok. (I'm done. sorry.)

Sometimes I look at the shamble ridden infrastructures of South Oakland and feel disgusted that half of these places, many of which are falling apart in their own ways, are still deemed livable to college students and the occasional older couple.

There are many days that I have woken up, wanting to give up, feeling not an ounce of motivation boiling in my blood, feeling myself surrender to the grey weather and coldness around me.

Oftentimes I get really frustrated that I can't pick up my surf board and drive out to the beach, or sit on the lifeguard stand at Hobe Sound Beach and write, or think, or simply cry when I couldn't put words to paper over what I have felt.

There have been many times where I have forgotten what warmth feels like, what it felt like to have the warmth of the sun lick its rays against my shoulders as they continuously brown into a deep tan.

There are days when the PAT buses are running so slowly (I'm looking at you, Sunday schedule) and all I want to do is dig the heel of my boots into the ground until my utter frustration simply vanishes, although it never quite seems to until I finally arrive at my final destination and exit the bus.

This is the city that has destroyed me in so many ways. It stripped me bare and broke me. It's made me lash out, act crazy, be a bitch, be selfish and a bad person.

Yet, that doesn't make up for the amount of times that Pittsburgh has actually saved me. For every bite of destruction it gave me, for every awful incident that has been thrown my way, Pittsburgh and it's daunting skyline have blessed me more than I could ever hope in the three years that I've been here, amidst all the frustrations and anger I shed towards it sometimes.

Pittsburgh gave me an amazing group of girlfriends my freshman year. Pittsburgh gave me a few wonderful guys who came in and out to teach me how to guard my light, how to protect myself, but also how to let myself love others. Pittsburgh gave me Kenny, and Alex, and Megan, and Josh, and Noelle and Nikki and Katherine and so many other beautiful people that I am continuously thankful for. You know, sometimes you hate to acknowledge how much love surrounds you, and maybe that's how it needs to be, because we'd actually destroy ourselves from feeling the exuberant amounts of love that we show towards others and that others show towards us. It's why we need to feel numb, indifferent sometimes. Yet while our hearts may be numb to feeling, we should never let our minds stop ourselves from remembering the amazing things the loved ones in our lives have done for us. This city has torn me away from so many wonderful people, yet in return has also given me an abundance of beautiful souls that seem to love me amidst my brokenness despite the fact that I'm really awful and irresponsible and have a super fiery temper and make stupid decisions sometimes.

Pittsburgh gave me a level of strength that I never recognized I had within myself, where I have located some of my darkest shadows, where they have followed me around and tried with every fiber of their existence to engulf me in whatever dark places they wanted to take me to and keep me there. Pittsburgh has let me explore myself, to re-create myself from the extremely shy-girl shell I had put myself in high school because I was so scared of letting people get to really know me. It's broken me, sure, and there are so many days when I don't think I'm smart or strong or pretty enough to do certain things. I discovered I can be that crazy emotional person, and I was at a couple of low points. But in a way, there are more days when I feel like Charlie does in that scene from The Perks of Being a Wallflower where him, Sam, and Patrick are driving through the Fort Pitt Tunnel and he is in the back of Patrick's pickup truck, holding on for dear life while Patrick is driving through the tunnel, yet completely lets go and simply lets himself soak in Pittsburgh and it's skyline once he lays eyes on it. He is strong, he feels beautiful, he feels invincible as they are flying across the bridge to downtown. Pittsburgh and the people that come along with it gave him an energy that made him believe in himself in that moment, as I have found people that have helped me many a time believe in myself.

Whenever I feel frustrated at this city, whenever I am at my wit's end with this place, I always find myself putting on my Asics and running. I run despite the chilliness, despite the rain, despite the heat when it does actually feel like summertime. I run regardless of how depressed I may feel or frustrated or angry. I run to the top of Flagstaff Hill in Schenley Park every time. It has become my new lifeguard post from Hobe Sound Beach, my thinking spot. For those of you who have been there, you know. For those who have not, I encourage you to walk up on a clear night, sit, maybe take a good book, and gape at the almost idyllic painting that's drawn right before you, especially at sunset. I reach the top, turn around, sit, and then I'm reminded of who my first love ever was, why I fell in love with her, and why I will always love her despite my moods, my quips about the awful weather and so many parts of her existence. I think the reason why I love this city so much is because she's almost, if not more, broken than I am. Down to the crumbling buildings, to the broken souls I pass on the streets of Oakland every day, to every homeless man and woman that has wandered through Oakland begging for a way of support to keep them alive, to the drunkards stumbling out of the bars at 2 am on East Carson Street, to the Lululemon-clad, small dog-wielding women in Shadyside who always seem to have a yoga mat on them and be on some new juicing diet. Everything about this city is broken or borderline questionable it's it own ways, factioned sometimes even by it's many neighborhoods, but amidst it's brokenness I find only pure beauty and hope in the most strange situations sometimes. I see a city that has fallen down and rebuilt itself so many times, from our sports teams to our public transportation system to our nightlife.

We break, we heal, and we rise again.

This is Pittsburgh. This is our city. This is my home.