The Kind of Life That Gives Her Butterflies

June 15, 2016

I am both a mess and a beautiful disaster, a woman finally taking time to soak up the kind of life that gives her butterflies.

I want to write this before the endorphins run away. I want to write this before the pool of sweat sitting on my chest dries and before I peel off the sports bra that’s stuck to my back. I want to write this now so that I don’t ever forget this feeling, this high, this new memory of my current metamorphosis.

Yesterday marks the first workout class I’ve gone to since 2012, which was not-so-coincidentally the same year that I started Twenties Unscripted. Because in 2013 I wrote four days a week. And in 2014 I drove myself up and down walls trying to build a brand. And in 2015 I wrote a book. Year after year, I folded excuses into paper airplanes, sprinkled a balanced version of myself on top of them, and sent them off to outer space. I’d like to think regret is too strong of a word when I look back on that time, but maybe negligence is more fitting. It would be a misnomer to say I ever lost myself during those hustle years; you can’t lose a version of yourself you never had. But you damn sure can arrest the person you’re meant to be if you hold on to the handcuffs of your past.

There comes a time when the whir of the treadmill beneath your feet stops sounding like a song you’d like to keep running to; that happened to me right as the leaves started to fall in 2015. It doesn’t mean I would undo all of the work or uncry any of the tears. I wouldn’t strip my dream of the sacrifice because I don’t believe there would have been any other way to push this boulder uphill. But, now, I have come up for air and there are other dimensions of my life ripe with opportunity. Anaïs Nin would tell you there are other layers. Other constellations. Other stars.

There are other perfect storms inside of me whose winds I am ready to let rip and roar.

If you were to sum up present day in Drake lyrics it would go something like “And, really, I think I like who I’m becoming.” If you wanted to bottle it up according to Nayyirah Waheed it would be: “i am mine. before i am ever anyone else’s.” If you asked Zora Neale Hurston, she would tell you there are years that ask questions and years that answer them; she might even remark that I spent way too many of the early years digging for answers instead of letting life reveal them. And if you wanted to steal the mantra from Shonda Rhimes’, 2016 would be my year of yes. But, if you were to simply ask me, I would tell you that I am both a mess and a beautiful disaster, a woman finally taking time to soak up the kind of life that gives her butterflies.

Xoxo,
Tyece

On Writing: Living Beyond The Page

June 8, 2016

A writer's life is about color in the sin and beauty in the cracks.

When they ask me about Book 2, I tell them that it’s writing itself as we speak. The words aren’t any good unless the life is lived well. The words don’t spring off the page and tug at someone else’s heartstrings unless the life behind them has been experienced to its fullest extent.

Book 1 is the splash, the confetti, the milestone. Book 1 is the sound of the gun firing off to start the writer’s race. It’s sort of like album 1. You garner accolades just by virtue of getting the damn thing done, because getting the damn thing done is its own waypost that no one can deny. There is something uniquely beautiful about the first of anything.

But, the sophomore product incites a heightened sense of expectation–from the person on the other end, but even more so for the person creating it. Take J. Cole’s Born Sinner or Kanye’s Late Registration. Those are the ones you want to listen to straight through, on repeat, no questions asked. Those are the albums that represent a more evolved style, a greater sense of one’s voice, a consistent thread of confidence an artist earns after gaining one’s stride.

Sometimes you have to let life catch up to the art. Sometimes you have to live before you can even find the words.

I didn’t always know this or breathe this or live by this. It’s a fairly new addition to my writer’s creed, and arguably one that isn’t as easy to embody or embrace as say, “dig deep and dive under” or “get brave and grow wings.” (Nebulous as those may be). Vulnerability and courage are pieces to this writing puzzle I inherited from the Universe–hard to explain and nearly impossible to teach. But the ability to breathe, to let life take shape, to say yes far more than I say no–those are things I’m only just now learning.

It’s a special kind of crime to spend more time documenting life than actually living it.

Because a writer’s life is not simply about what’s left on the page. In fact, by the time life has hit the page, it has been experienced, recalled, and felt twice over. By the time life has hit the page, we surrender it to the next heart, trusting that whoever sits down with the words for awhile will leave with more than we ever thought we could give.

I am at my desk far less this year than I’ve ever been. There have been nights when I intended to write, but found myself laughing with friends and flirting with men instead. This sudden shift worried me at first; it sucker punched me and made me believe that I abandoned my first love for things that ultimately didn’t matter. But, living this life I’ve been given as well as I can and stretching my fingertips to every big and small possibility–those are the greatest things I could ever give my writing. It is the only way Book 2 will ever be born.

A writer’s life is not about staying locked in the office or remaining chained to the desk. A writer’s life is about color in the sin and beauty in the cracks. A writer’s life is about two-hour conversations, maybe over coffee at 10 a.m. or through slurred words at 4 a.m. A writer’s life is about arms outstretched and eyes wide open. A writer’s life is about believing in the magic and madness of the time we’ve been granted. A writer’s life is about putting life before the page, and trusting that the art will follow.

 

Xoxo,
Tyece

Trust Your Process.

June 1, 2016

See, some days the only things I seem to know are holding patterns and praying hands, but I'll get there some way. Some how.

My heart is beating somewhere in the back of my chest. I listen to cars whip up and down Duke Street, interrupted by an occasional ambulance siren. The cacophony outside my window can’t seem to compete with the drumbeat from this heart of mine. Badump. Badump. Badump. I permit 1,000 inane and forever unanswered questions to buzz through me and gnaw away just a little bit. One of those questions becomes “When is it my turn?”

I say it aloud, but quietly, so as not to dare any more tears to drop. I’m not in the mood for bottled up emotions spilling everywhere and making a mess tonight. But, soon I feel my face crinkle and then fold into a frown. I am no less than two-thirds pathetic in this very moment, but sometimes we owe ourselves space to disarm and let the guards drop. At least that’s what I tell myself.

This is what Andra Day might call The Ache. But, this Ache rises and falls in a different way, manifesting itself as a beast at the bottom of my belly that I can’t always tame. This Ache is seasonal. She comes and goes. But, she never fails to appear when I have some uncommitted mindshare, some freedom from the creative cyclone in which I usually live. This Ache is not new, even though every time she appears, she sucker punches me and throws me off balance. This is the Ache brought on by life’s question marks, the greatest of which more and more seems to be love.

Because I want to skip past the pretense and pretty things. I want to skip past the laugh where I cock my head back carefully or the dinners where I squint my eyes just enough to appear both coy and confident. I want to fast forward beyond dates two and three, the ones where I decide I like you enough to keep two stepping to this lover’s rock, but still have the luxury of keeping you at bay. The early days of romance are often times more strategy than soul as we gingerly perform Act I of showing our best selves.

But, I am not wired to move these bits of my heart around like chess pieces. I am too tired and far too undone to play any more of those games. I want it all and I want it now, with my head resting in the pocket between your neck and shoulder, knowing it’s the safest place to call home.

These are the thoughts that sometimes fester and have their way with me. These are the fixations that dance in my mind and pitch tents in between my ears. As of late, this love thing sometimes handcuffs my fingertips and arrests me from even getting words on to the page.

But, then I pull myself up and force my feet to stand back on solid ground. Because the only true choice when it comes to any matter of the heart is to trust one’s process, messy and precarious as that process may be. See, some days the only things I seem to know are holding patterns and praying hands, but I’ll get there some way. Some how. Even with jagged edges and my doors broken off of too many of the hinges, I owe it to myself to believe the Universe is brewing exceptional love in my favor. I owe it to myself to trust my process, as much as that very process sometimes rocks my world and summons me to my knees. I still owe myself that much.

Because we all get there some way. Some how.

Xoxo,
Tyece

 

 

Dana Sukontarak Revives Dating/Relationships Writing With Debut Collection “Men”

May 24, 2016

mencover

“Though I take full responsibility for my life, the men I’ve shared parts of it with have had a huge impact on the way I think, the way I love, and especially the way I write.” –Dana Sukontarak

It is difficult, if not impossible, to find fresh and nuanced writing about dating, relationships, and love. There are writers like La of Liquor, Loans, and Love who inhabit quiet corners of the Internet and do the genre justice. However, for the most part, the dating and relationships writing niche is dull at best and dead at worst, relegated to half-baked listicles and essays that reek of more righteousness than reality.

But, then, there’s Dana Sukontarak.

In her debut collection of essays entitled Men, Dana chronicles her coming-of-age love stories, filled with jagged edges, uncut footage, and the kind of candor that’s too quickly becoming extinct. Her voice is equal parts enchanting and irreverent as she writes her way through both the splendor and stupor of true human connection. In a new age that sums up love through filtered Instagram photos and #relationshipgoals hashtags, Dana challenges the notion that such an emotion is so clear-cut and candy-coated. Instead, her narrative reflects that of most twenty-something women I know, self included. In short, sometimes we dig for love in all of the wrong places, but end up with answers about ourselves to questions we never even thought to ask.

Meet Dana and get a glimpse into her world of Men.

TU: What is one thing you believed about human connection in your early twenties that has since changed?

Dana: I used to think that the end of a connection was the end of the world. In a way, it is the end of a certain world you’ve built with somebody, but it’s never really gone. Life happens in cycles, and a lot of it is repetitive. The people you have actual meaningful connections with will never go anywhere.

TU: In the intro of the book, you write something I’m sure many other writers can identify with: “I often feel as though I have no choice as a writer other than to selflessly divulge every detail of my personal life.” Despite how forthright you are in the collection, is there anything you left on the cutting room floor? If so, why?

Dana: Sure, there are details I left out for different reasons. I wanted to tell my story without coming too close to trying to hijack someone else’s story. It’s hard, because the stories do intersect, but to a certain extent I tried to be mindful of other people’s privacy. I am a really open book, but I understand everyone else isn’t that way. I didn’t want anyone I wrote about to feel embarrassed when they read their chapter, unless they should feel embarrassed. Then it doesn’t really matter.

I also published this book at a time when I’d been dating someone new for only a few months. I wanted to write so much about him and our connection, but I also wanted to preserve the sanctity of our blossoming relationship, and not interfere too much with my probing, writerly ways. So, I wrote about him, but certainly not to the extent that I really wanted to or could have. That story is still developing, so it would have felt wrong to try to capture it prematurely. Or maybe he’ll be the one person I never really write too much about. I’m not sure.

TU: One of my favorite pieces in the book is the first essay, “February Seventeenth,” in which you depict the push and pull of falling both in and out of love, simultaneously. How do you believe this piece potentially challenges a reader’s assumptions about infidelity?

Dana: I’ve read that piece over and over, trying to imagine how someone might perceive me after that story, if they didn’t know me very well, or at all. There are a lot of different answers. I think it’s apparent that I am a smart person who doesn’t always do smart things. People tend to look at infidelity in such a black and white way. It’s usually either “fuck it, cheat” or “fuck all cheaters.” There is a story behind each seemingly heinous love crime, and this was mine. I feel bad about how things happened, but I’m happy for even the slight chance of someone reading this and realizing either that they’re unhappy where they are and need to make moves, or that they should quit fucking around before they fuck up a good thing.

My intention wasn’t to fuel the inane debate over whether men or women are bigger cheaters. Everyone is imperfect in their own ways. Some of the most loyal lovers are as boring as boulders. Some promiscuous people really are kindhearted and well-intentioned. Most people will cheat or be cheated on at least once. Even Beyoncé.

danaTU: In “February Seventeenth” you also address love as an artist, referencing the “idea of a whirlwind creative passionate romance that would propel me leaps and bounds as a human and a lover and a writer.” Why do you believe artists are drawn to this kind of romance, and is it ever sustainable for us?

Dana: It’s tricky, for sure. We’re drawn to that kind of love because we see ourselves in it, and people really are narcissistic creatures like that. I’ve been in relationships where the guy just wasn’t interested in what I do. It’s not a deal breaker to me. Everything isn’t for everybody. You find other things to share and bond over. But it’s so much more beautiful when you can share your passion completely, and have someone genuinely excited and interested in your art.

Artists are crazy, though, so the question of sustainability really just depends. I think it’s possible to find a likeminded creative individual that is willing to love and adore and commit to you. But most likely, they’ll be weird and panic when they start to feel like you’re stifling their art. You’re never really stifling their art, though. Artists are just weird like that. You’ll always be sort of secondary to their craft.

 TU: In your essay “Too Much Magic” you write, “I must partake of you in moderation because you fuck with my head, my heart, and my soul.” Why do you believe it’s in our nature to gravitate toward dysfunction and chaos?

Dana: I’ve found that a lot of people would rather feel something than nothing at all. So, that means that many people may accept sadness and drama and turmoil because it is exciting. That includes me, too. We welcome problematic situations when we don’t know, or don’t try to know any better. Not many people are protective of their peace. It’s a hard road of acceptance. Even when I look back at that chapter, I wonder how I let somebody dictate my emotions and actions in that way. I was a willing participant, the aggressor even. It’s weird to think about.

TU: What are three things you would you tell 22-year-old Dana Sukontarak about men?

Dana: The first thing is that not all men are worth all of you, so ration yourself accordingly. The second thing is that men are usually threatened by outspoken or otherwise bold women. They might not say so, but they’ll show you so. The third thing is that men cannot be forced to change. Whatever change you think you’re enforcing is only temporary, a load-bearing band-aid over a deep, deep crack.

TU: The book alternates between personal narrative and pieces that are more poetic and conceptual. How did balancing writing styles help you better tell your story?

Dana: I think the different writing styles not only kept it interesting, but were also indicative of a real-time shift in my identity as a writer. I’m big on variety. So, if I experimented with poetry, or maybe writing in a more nebulous than specific way, it was just based on how I felt at the time. I think it’s all worth sharing, and the diversity of styles shows the reader that I’m unfinished. I’m still growing as a writer. There are lots of different ways to tell a story, and for a book like ‘Men’ that’s really like an early mixtape in my rap career, I think it’d be unfair to just showcase one.

TU: Define love.

Dana: Love is farting really loud, unflinchingly, in front of each other. We do it every morning. No, really, love is acceptance. Love is a willingness to please someone through and through, because their mere existence pleases you.

Dana Sukontarak is a 27-year-old Washington, D.C.-based writer, editor and author. She likes snail mail, Moleskine notebooks, Murakami novels and fresh produce. ‘Men’ is her first book available for purchase here. Follow her on Twitter @peachesjordan and connect with her further at www.danasukontarak.com

Want to win a free copy of Men? Sign up for the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

How We Mold The Memories

May 18, 2016

photo1-13I let my third set of tears drop somewhere in the neighborhood of 5:30 a.m. Commonwealth Avenue is quiet at that hour aside from another occasional car whizzing by. In the backseat of an Uber, I pass by Agganis Arena, a place that included a beautiful mess of families and friends standing outside of it only 12 hours before, needling their graduates to pose for photos. I half smile thinking about my own memories from those hours prior. I feel my face begin burn with emotion. The tear drops one minute before the driver asks me if I would prefer him to take a different route. I tell him no, this is perfectly fine. I want to soak up the city of Boston this way for what will probably be the last time in a long time. I want to remember this place with these new rose-colored recollections and a soundtrack of laughter playing behind them. I want to just sit and cry some happy tears for awhile. 

My face has burned with many emotions over the year–dim shame, unbridled anger, and blue-gray sadness. But, this feeling was something entirely different, and I couldn’t quite label it so definitively. This emotion was a special brew of pride and happiness and love. Somewhere underneath those tears, I felt my insides swell with joy because someone I treasure ripped the red tape off of a seemingly unreachable finish line.

This life is filled with days that all blend together with demands and relentlessness. This life is filled with the things we don’t always want to do and the people we don’t always want to see. But, every now and again, this life offers us something rare and platinum, a memory that we forever etch in the sands of time. If we are even the least bit lucky, this life surrounds us with just a few solid people who make our breaths count.

And, if there’s anything I’ve learned in these tender 26 years, it is that you have to show up for those people. You have to get on the plane or jump in the car or ride on the train. Show your face. You have to be there, for the birthdays and the babies, the tunnels and the trenches. If you don’t ever do anything else, you simply have to be present with your hand raised high. This life is about showing up for the people who matter in the ways that mold their memories. There are wrinkles in time that a text message or Twitter mention will never do justice.

Boston is a place filled with my emotional land mines. But, this past weekend took a place I’ve never remembered fondly and finally gave me some blindingly beautiful memories to bring home. This past weekend reminded me that by showing up for the people who matter, they too show up for us in ways we didn’t even know we needed.

Xoxo,
Tyece