Can you start by telling the readers a little about yourself?
I don't know if I have an answer for this. I guess I’m still figuring myself out. I don't think that will ever stop though. I’ve learned to be okay with the uneasiness and the uncertainty. I think when I stopped trying to control everything, and when I realized you can't actually do that, I started to enjoy life a little more.
You are a poet. Did you know growing up that this was what you wanted to do? If not what were some of your aspirations and what drew you towards becoming a poet?
I was given Shel Silverstein's book when I was 6. I fell in love instantly. I started writing my own horrible rhymes then, but you grow up. People tell you it's not a paying job. Society tells you to pursue a more productive pursuit. I listened to other people when I was younger. I fell into a lot of unfulfilling work just to pay the bills. I wish I had someone to tell me to not give up on the things I naturally gravitated towards. That maybe— be more realistic, but keep the dreamer in you too. I sometimes look back and think about all that time I wasted trying to not be who I am, how much more I could have learned and lived if I had just accepted the things I loved and not care about money or what people thought. After college, I let myself go in a bad way. I thought I just had to do it. Get away from everyone I know and just 'find myself,' if that were even a thing. I was depressed and I didn't want the people I loved to see me that way. So I moved to New York and consciously decided to say ‘yes’ to all the things that you would normally hide from daylight. It was there I picked up writing again. It was horrible at first. The writing after 10 years of not writing can be an awful thing to read. But that’s when I decided I’m never giving up writing again; I’m going to do it and I’m going to keep doing it and not waste any more time.
Your poems are usually short and always feel deeply personal, where do you draw your inspiration?
I try to get to the point. Straight bullet to the heart with how I feel. I think it's because it's so hard for me to actually say what I want when I want to say it, and it’s even more difficult to find the right words. I’m always processing, thinking of what someone is feeling or what I’m feeling. And because of this, I often lose the chance to say what I really feel in the exact moment I am feeling it. And I don’t think anything is sadder than when you lose a moment where you could've been braver, or more articulate, or just simply honest. So, I guess I draw my inspiration from my failures, from my heartbreaks and from my feelings. I want to be more open. I am open in my writing, but in real life, I’m just a coward.
What is something you've learned from being a poet/writer?
You have to write for yourself. Everyone will have an opinion, but if you write for you and your truth, no one else's opinion matters. Keep working for yourself. Strive to get better for yourself. And be honest. People will see straight through you when you're not being honest. And you, yourself— you want to be seen. You want to exist as your own person, standing in your own truth no matter how ugly the truth can be.
We are never really done growing up. What do you hope to do in the future?
My hope is to find myself in a place where I can encourage education and arts for every child that exists. My hope is that I would one day have enough influence to make this possible. I want every child to know that his and her life is meaningful and that there is always something that could be done. That just one thought to make the world better is already making the world better. I simply want every child to know that they are loved as they are and that magic is real and that absolutely anything is possible. I don’t really know how I will achieve this, but I do believe in making little steps towards your dreams until they can do nothing else but come true. And right now, I start with myself— with how I treat people and how I keep myself open. And I hope all this writing will one day help me make this all come true.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
Hope. Hope for something more and that this is not meaningless.
Do you have advice for girls growing up today?
It is easy to think that there is an image and that you’re supposed to try to fit it. I just want you to know that that image is someone else’s perception and when you try to fill someone else’s expectation of something, you will never be enough. You will never be enough because you were not made to walk this Earth to fill someone else’s warped expectation of something. You were made to live your own life in your own way and don’t let anyone ever take that freedom away from you. There is no set way to live a life. The rules are imaginary. The formula is a fake. The only rules that ever existed are be free and be kind. And, I don’t want you to think it’s going to be easy. Sometimes, you won't know yourself or you’ll feel like nothing you do is ever right. I just want to remind you you’re not supposed to have all the answers or live a perfect life. Just do the best you can and start again. It is never too late to start over and you can start over as many times as you like.
Do you have any female figures that you look up to?
My mom is my greatest hero, but there are so many incredible women who inspire me both living and past. Oprah. Frida Kahlo. Maya Angelou. Malala Yousafzai. Meryl Streep. India Arie. Ellen Degeneres. Barbara Walters. Diane Sawyer. Janet Mock. Zainab Salbi. Fiona Apple. The list goes on and on. There is no shortage of excellent women and I am so grateful for that everyday.
Why do you think it is important to tell our stories?
I think it's human to love stories. I think that has been ingrained in us before we were even born. It is how we learn what happens when you get too close to the sun or if you eat the poisoned apple. But, I think when you get older you need more stories. Stories you relate with. Something that helps you make sense of the world and is not always some sort of lesson. We need stories that reflect all of our stories to let everyone know that their story is valid. That there is not a quantified set of ways to live a life. And for many under represented stories out there, we need them especially because some of us are still afraid to live in our truth, and we need to know we're not alone.
What is something in life that you are most proud of?
I don't really know if I’ve found something I am most proud of yet. I still feel like I have so much more work to do and that I am nowhere near where I want to be. I am constantly working to keep improving. I am constantly working to learn the truth.
A few favorites:
Currently reading: No one Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July, Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin, and Portrait of the Alcoholic by Kaveh Akbar.
Currently listening to: Angel Olsen's Woman album and Sampha's Process album.