Dear Diary

November 3rd 2011
Dear Diary.

I’ve always wished to be lighter, prettier and skinnier. I don’t see anyone that looks like me in the media. I use skin lightening creams, I stay out of the sun and I starve myself to achieve what I perceive to be beautiful. I feel elated when people tell me I’ve lost weight: I know I must be doing something right. I try my best at school yet still feel I am a failure. I am not good enough. I turn to self harm to punish myself and I cry a lot. I am in a vicious cycle and I can’t escape my emotions. I don’t know how to handle how I feel. I think of ending it all.

 

May 12th 2012

Things are more or less the same except now I’m three months clean. My friends helped me get to where I am now. I might have been six feet underground if not for you. I feel like maybe I’m not so alone and I can face my fears with you. One day I’ll feel on top of the world but the next day I can barely breathe. Is this what living is supposed to be?

 

February 15th 2013

I’ve slipped up more times than I can count. I keep falling off the wagon, getting back into dirty habits. The scars never run deep. I don’t feel like I deserve empathy. I feel guilt for letting you down so I must hurt myself. When I hurt myself I hurt you and I feel that guilt again; it eats away at me until I feel like I will explode. Life feels like it’s falling apart and I don’t know what to do. I can’t see the future because I know I won’t make it.

 

July 19th 2014

My first year at uni surpassed my expectations beyond belief. Sure, there were tears and stress and friendship dramas, but there were also genuine laughs, growth and happiness. I was facing obstacles without falling into old habits. I was clean, I was trying to be healthy in a safe way and I was able to enjoy food once again. Things weren’t perfect and they never would be but I learned that that’s okay. I was coping and that’s all I could do at that stage.

 

January 4th 2015

It seems when you overcome old problems, new ones are bound to appear. I struggled with truths about myself that I did not want to face. I was scared of people’s reactions and worried what would change. I didn’t want to admit what I already knew deep down. The thought alone made my throat close: I couldn’t face it. Why is it so hard? I didn’t know this would become my biggest struggle yet.

 

August 18th 2018

I am glad to be alive. Everything leading up to this moment has shaped who I am today, and I would not change anything because it has all taught me so much. I believe we are constantly shifting as humans; that change is inevitable. I have learned to embrace change, to accept it and to live fully through it. Everything I went through made me stronger and I’ve learned to appreciate the beauty in pain. The thought of feeling pain used to drive me into hiding but now it means something different to me. It means I cared enough or loved something so much that when it went wrong, it hurt me. I have learned to love and take care of myself and truly appreciate those nearest and dearest to me. I am continuously growing in this world and I hope I never stop. I am where I need to be because of everything I’ve experienced — all of it has brought me here and I couldn’t be more grateful.

Where am I now in the grand scheme of life?

I am content. I am happy. I am growing. I am healthy. I am trying. I am learning. I am me.

About the author
Bianca D'Souza
Where Am I Right Now?

 

I live on a planet huffing and puffing its last breath;
It cries every day, wailing and begging for help and love in loud and obvious ways;
Its cries are heard by all.
Some scream to save it, crying alongside a force more powerful than all mankind;
Some do nothing at all and watch it burn around them as they look with pity;
Some claim the planet isn’t crying in pain but that it’s always been this way.
***It’s important to note that whether it is to console themselves or to live in denial, those mentioned second are far more dangerous to this planet than the others
— They see but lack empathy.

I live as part of a civilisation, a being that fights within its people based on the colour of their skin and who they choose to love — to name a few;
This society celebrates the good, the bad and the ugly in some and believes itself to thrive off the conformity in any that are seemingly feminine in nature.
Some love and fight alongside the weakest of us;
Some turn a blind eye and allow for these injustices to take place;
Some fight for their hatred, the kindest of these for their misunderstanding.
***It’s important to note that here it is harder to distinguish which of the latter two causes more pain and suffering to its own
— One slaps the face and the other lets it happen.

I live as part of a community that provides for their kids in the way they know best, in a country very different to their own;
They bring with them a need for a better future, values of diligence and a culture close to their heart.
Some use this culture in combination with the one they live in, giving their children a chance at freedom, identity and self-acceptance;
Some wade cautiously in this mix of cultures, never allowing the two to combine;
Some create a wall — they separate either themselves from culture, or culture from their understanding.
***It’s important to note here the last of all, at best, manages to preserve their own idea of their culture — never fully acknowledging the cost at which this comes for future generations.

I now break off to talk about me as an individual.

I am finally still.

I live in a physical being that in all her beauty never loved herself;
one inch taller, a cup size bigger, or a couple less.
So close yet so far every time — nothing was ever good enough.

I live in a mental space that has been turbulent for so many years;
anxious, lonely and confused.
Should I get help? Should I run away? Or should I make this end once and for all?

I live in a social sphere surrounded by those who came temporarily;
they walked all over the doormat I allowed myself to be and then left abruptly.
They helped shape part of who I am today.

I was left asking myself: Who do I want to be and where am I going?

They say that the day your life changes, it will be like a switch has turned on, and everything the light touches will be clearer.
I guarantee you, life is no epiphany.
I cannot tell you when things changed or what I did to get here, but I can confirm that things are a little different every day and you never realise until you look back.

I am finally still.

I have allowed myself to simply exist and nothing more. It’s not a life-hack. I am just floating around my life, and letting myself be;
no more worrying or working towards a future — whether it’s with someone or for my career.
I’ve allowed myself to be.

And so now…

I live in a physical being that looks in the mirror and does not hate what she sees;
I do not love her, but I respect her.
I am slowly seeing myself for who I am.

I live in a mental space that is not devoid of the negative;
But I do not let my mind hate myself for it.
No more running away from reality.

I live in a social sphere where I fill my heart with love for those who surround me, and in turn they fill mine with pride due to the people they are or have become.
The doormat now has spikes making people hesitant to come in.
That too is fine.

Some will understand my still form;
Some will pity it, as in their eyes it lacks movement and growth.
Some will say I am wasting my life.
***It is important to note here that I could not care less;
I am existing;
I am doing me;

I am still.

About the author
Rushika Bhatnagar
Bedroom Artists

creating spaces
through
drive and passion

ever changing faces
establishing new places

aural / disposition
ocular / composition

paving an imminent isle of conception

bedroom artists.

To me, the term “bedroom artists” means creatively expressing what is important to you in your own space. This video explores five Auckland creatives doing cool stuff in their rooms and delves into their processes and experiences. It highlights the value in collaboration, as well as celebrates and showcases their work as it was at that time; a time capsule. Ranging from high quality music production to spoken word as a form of addressing social issues, bedroom artists use different mediums and styles to portray their ideas. The term ‘bedroom artist’, stemming from one of my own zines, is a celebration of people who are doing it for themselves.

About the author
Casey is interested in utilising multimedia techniques. She is less interested in producing what is known as ‘good’ design and more focussed on creating individually stylistic, bold and unique works that seize one’s attention - whatever form that may be. Casey thrives on collaboration and has recently gained an interest in amalgamating visual and audio to create an overall eccentric and individualistic experience. In her spare time, Casey loves a good boogie on the dance floor and eating copious amounts of chocolate things (where her real talents lie).
You Cannot Wear My Skin

I try very hard to be a tactful person. I pull reassurances out of my ass and put on my least aggressive face. I try to soften all of the edges when I make a point, so that my words don’t prick you on the outside, even when they cut me up on the inside. I hold myself back. Like a werewolf in a teenage drama, like the goddess Kali breathing fire, like a gun triggering the safety lock. I hold myself back, so that I don’t shatter the comfortable atmosphere. I tiptoe around the aggressor as though walking on eggshells. I say men but “not all men”; white people but “not all white people”; “you’re part of the problem, but here’s a chance to excuse yourself from all the acknowledgement and critique.”

I hold myself back. But God, I wish I didn’t have to.

Sometimes I imagine myself, claws sharp, teeth bared. I imagine myself standing in front of the girls who appropriate my culture, telling me how embarrassing it is to see an aunty wearing a sari while shopping at Countdown, while they wear bindis to Coachella and mehndi at sleepovers. I imagine myself, face hot, eyes seeing red, blood boiling loud enough under my skin for them to hear. This time, I don’t soften my edges. This time I don’t hold myself back.

What infuriates me the most about white girls wearing henna and accessorising with bindis and getting Om tattoos is that they don’t have any respect for the cultures they are taking from. They don’t understand that these aren’t just pretty things to enhance your beauty or show off your status as a spiritually connected individual. They don’t understand what these things mean to us.

These items are a marker of our culture. They’re flashing red signs on our foreheads that don’t come off at the end of the day. They are symbols that have been pressed into our bodies before we could even walk or talk. They are reminders that we come from somewhere else, signifiers of the fact that we are foreign here. They are traces of an identity we have to fight to keep with us.

These items are all we have left of the identities that were taken from us. Ripped away by the people who made us feel like it was stupid and embarrassing to have mehndi on your hands after your cousin’s wedding. The people who joked about drawing red dots on your forehead at school. The people who pointed lasers at their friends’ foreheads saying “HEY I HAVE A RED DOT HEY I HAVE A RED DOT.” The people who pointed their fingers at our religion, who compared our gods and goddesses to the movie Avatar because our deities seemed alien to them. The people who pulled at our necklaces made of black thread and protective sigils and snidely asked why we wore ‘the number 30’ around our necks. The people who laughed at the girls who wore thick braids to school and had coconut oil on their skin. The people who called us curry munchers, who asked if that Punjabi boy’s turban was dirty, who told us in so many words and actions that being Indian was shameful. That being Indian was a joke to them. That being Indian was humiliating. This time I don’t hold back. I look them right in the eyes. I tell them. Product of the great multicultural New Zealand, I tell them.

What angers me is that I believed it. What angers me is that I stopped begging my mum to buy me mehndi cones and Ramayana comics. That I stopped celebrating Diwali and started picking at the beads on my salwar kameez. That I lamented the sight of myself in the mirror for those nine days every Navratri, rubbing the chandhan tika off my forehead for fear that everyone who saw me would laugh. What angers me is that I wore jeans and an ‘ethnic’ printed shirt to school on “International day” because the only way I could represent my culture without feeling ashamed was by doing it the way a white person would.

What angers me is that I, a fucking Indian, cannot be openly appreciative of any aspect of my culture without feeling like an embarrassed 12 year old waiting for my white friend to tell me how lame I am. What angers me is that I never had any Indian friends growing up, because they could sense the shame radiating off a girl who doesn’t even pronounce her own name correctly when introducing herself. What angers me is that I am uncomfortable when a Bollywood song comes up on my iPod when I’m in public, even when I’m wearing headphones. What angers me is that I still rub the chandhan off my forehead before even setting foot outside the temple.

What angers me is that I am so afraid to have on the skin that you are wearing. What angers me is that you can take it off, and I can’t. But what angers me the most is that some tiny part of me still wishes I could.

 

This time I don’t hold back.

This time, you can see the blood and tears gushing from my body.

This time I tell them.

I look them right in the eyes

And I tell them

There is no respectful way to steal my culture:

You can’t wear my skin without ripping it off of me first.

 

This poem previously appeared in Signals, 2016.

 

About the author
Radhika Lodhia is a queer, Gujarati dreamcat who enjoys long walks through her endless god damn poems and crying on the dl when on public transport. You might catch her occasionally in Signals literary journal, UoA's Kate Magazine, Blackmail Press, and Pif Magazine. She hopes to be social media famous and eventually make a whole ass book one day. Find Radhika on Facebook