“I Would Write, But…”

There’s something about the blank page that always scares me a little. It’s different on a computer than it is in a notebook, with a pen. Like somehow this glowing window expects me to spill out deep insights, fully formed. But some part of me knows better. Some part of me remembers that writing isn’t about recording your most perfect thoughts, and therefore dependent on already having said thoughts in your brain. Some part of me remembers that writing and thinking are not so far from each other — the pen lets you spin out your thoughts so you can see what’s there. Beliefs you forgot you had, revelations you didn’t know you were capable of. And so often it yields gems you couldn’t have dreamt of if you’d tried.

And that magic, that game of chance, that’s what makes writing so scary. You have to let go. For this part of the process to work, you can’t be fully in control. And sometimes things come up that you don’t want to see, ranging from plain embarrassing to painfully self-revelatory. Face to face with my flaws, any notion of invincibility vanishes. Then I panic, before remembering some of my favorite words by Audre Lorde:

“I was going to die, if not sooner then later, whether or not I had ever spoken myself. My silences had not protected me. Your silence will not protect you.”

So I keep writing. And even if most of the things that come out never reach anyone’s eyes but my own, I swear this act keeps me alive. Pen to paper, I feel so close to the pulse of human interconnectedness, so aware of forces so much bigger than me. Every once in a while, that loss of control no longer feels scary. It feels freeing.

Somebody asked me once what my greatest fear is. I think I probably answered “spiders.” (Which is not untrue...) But I know the real answer is that I’m afraid I will die never having spoken myself, afraid of giving the world proof of my imperfection. Afraid of what will happen when I open myself to the world, to judgment, to pain, to being taken advantage of. But we do not live to be bulletproof.

“Here,” I want to have said. “Here is me, changing and dynamic and often wrong.” But never silent, for silence is just another way to deny our transience.


Hey, you. Yeah, you. I wanna tell you a secret.

I’m gay.

(Well, actually, I told my family I was bi in the 8th grade because I didn’t have the right words then and I went through high school holding a whole lot of denial in my insides and it took the magic of community with women like me before I could reclaim the word queer — as in, I fall in love with people, not genders — and with it, reclaim myself.) (Also, this is 100% not a secret, I bet none of y’all are surprised.)

This is something I knew to be true before I could give myself permission to say it, as much a part of me as my love of music or the way my eyes squish up when I smile. But I don’t want to talk about how I figured it out, or what it felt like to hide this piece of my identity from people in high school, or what a miracle it was to find other queer people who understood.

I do want to talk about how the queer community — specifically, the “mainstream,” mostly white, mostly middle class queer community — and straight allies can do better. When the Supreme Court decision came out last Friday, it was hard for me to feel the joy of that particular victory with Black churches burning across the South and the wound of Charleston (and Baltimore and Ferguson and…) still fresh in our national psyche. Don’t get me wrong — I’m grateful we made it this far, and the speed with which people’s attitudes changed for the better gives me a great deal of optimism for the future.

But our liberation is not true if it comes at the continued cost of others’ lives and livelihoods. In the wake of this promising step forward, I urge you not to forget the 40% of homeless youth who identify as LGBTQ, our immigrant trans sisters fighting deportation and human rights violations, the trans women of color who risk their lives just by existing every day. I urge you to remember that your freedom is tied to that of everyone around you.

No part of our identity invalidates any other, and we are responsible for working towards a world that supports every exquisite layer of ourselves. So, to my fellow queers and allies, please educate yourselves and others. Uplift the history of our movement. Remember that Stonewall was a trans-woman-of-color-led riot against police brutality. Use whatever means you can to resist structures of racial violence. Share resources. Expand your community.

This is how we get free.

(this video is one place to start — content warning for graphic descriptions of racist and homophobic violence)

As much as I love getting my thoughts and feelings on paper, there’s something about the school year that makes me not want to write any more than I have to. (Funny how that happens, eh?) There’s also something about the sheer volume of content on the internet that makes me not want to be louder or take up more space (digitally or otherwise) than I have to. But look — it’s summer, and I’m embarking on something pretty exciting (for me, at least)! So while the sun is shining and the air smells like fresh basil, I’m gonna set those hesitations aside and get back to sharing some content with y’all:

  • I’ve made a few multimedia zines in the past, and I’m planning a few more. I find this format helps me boil down the most important takeaways from classes, research projects, and goings-on in the world. It’s also conducive to presenting important information visually — which makes even the most daunting topics more accessible! You can check them out here: http://issuu.com/meredithwade 
  • This semester, I started putting some initial work into a project that I think will stick around for a while: a collection of educational strategies meant to empower youth to create a better world. Education presents a powerful lever for engaging and empowering marginalized groups, while simultaneously helping youth who have access to significant social/cultural/financial capital become more critically aware of inequality. I’ve talked before about the confluence of social justice and sustainability, and this project is an extension of that philosophy, applied in the educational space to optimize its potential power. I aim to release some writing and initial findings about this project later this week, so stay tuned!

Take care, and enjoy the sunshine!

Last night, I performed in a story slam about identity. I wasn’t sure what to talk about at first, but I’ve been thinking a lot lately about allyship, solidarity, and what my role is in conversations about issues that don’t directly affect me. I used to think that, as a white person, I wasn’t allowed to talk about race. But if the past year has taught me anything, it’s that being white gives me a vital responsibility to talk about race. 

The first time I had a real conversation with my friends about racism at Wellesley, I was so nervous I thought I might pass out. I remember thinking, I shouldn’t be here. What if I say something stupid? I feel so white.

But I knew my absence would speak louder than words. I could hear the voices of Malcolm X, Assata Shakur,Yuri Kochiyama, Gloria Anzaldua —

We will consider your silence to be consent.

The night after the non-indictment of Darren Wilson was announced, I attended a rally that turned into an act of nonviolent civil disobedience. We marched through the streets of Boston chanting, and stopped beside the South Bay Correctional Facility, where we could see inmates, mostly black, flashing their lights and cheering us on. One man spelled out “MIKE BROWN” in scraps of paper on his window. We raised our eyes and hands to them, shouting “We see you!”

Never before had I made such a visceral connection between problems which to me are so abstract — like the prison industrial complex — and the lived realities of people of color, particularly black people, in this country. I felt my fellow protestors’ words so deeply: the whole damn system is guilty as hell.

We will consider your silence to be consent.

Carried by this current of connection, of seeing and being seen, we pressed on. Before I knew it, we were marching toward the connector to the Mass Pike. And we weren’t alone: a band of blue-clad Boston cops stood awash in the glow of headlights, riot shields raised. The police blocked our way with their motorcycles, helmets, and calculated silence, punctuated only by the command to “Hold line!” And the sea of protesters behind me was not about to turn back.

As the mass of people behind us shifted and pulsed, I found myself face to face with the angriest old white cop I’ve ever seen. I was marching next to a guy who couldn’t have been much older than me, and I was glad I didn’t have to stare down this seething, masked face alone. We held our ground for a while, chanting “No justice, no peace!” But out of nowhere, this cop started pushing back, throwing the man next to me to the ground and yanking him up by the shirt. I swear my heart was audible above our shouts. My lungs felt like two universes collapsing in on themselves. I was sure that any moment could be the one where fist turned to baton turned to gun.

I was choosing to put my body on the line that night. But not everyone is so lucky to have that choice.

We will take your silence to be consent.

White folks, we like to think that if we’re “nice” enough, we get off the hook for thinking seriously about America’s violent racial history and the legacies that are so painfully visible today. We like to think it’s more polite to “not see race,” and act like everyone’s on equal footing in this country. Whatever else we do, we’re not supposed to talk about this. After all, we don’t own slaves, right? So this mess isn’t our fault.

But I can no longer avail myself of that responsibility. When a white professor teaches a history that excludes people of color, or a white student says something ignorant, I can no longer leave it to a student of color to correct them. When toxic social dynamics begin developing in a space, I can no longer wait for one of my friends gets hurt before I speak up.

My inaction is as much a part of this violence as that white cop.

And I want the system to know — it no longer has my consent.

This piece originated as a journal entry on February 6. As my school community gathers to remember our classmate, An, this evening, I wanted to reflect on how this tragedy has impacted my worldview and relationships even in the two weeks since it unfolded. 

Yesterday, Wellesley’s community lost one of our own. She was a sophomore — my age. I never met her, but I knew of her. I knew enough to know that she meant so much to so many. To know how deeply her loss will be felt.

When I got the email announcing her death, I thought there must have been some kind of mistake. People like us aren’t supposed to die. People like us are supposed to take chances and love too fiercely. People like us are supposed to fill our lungs with authenticity and breathe life into these crumbling halls. We’re meant to carry an imprint of these years on our palms.

But I read the message again, and there she was: reduced to a single sentence about her major, her hometown, her campus involvement. All her complexities, all the starlight and suffering she carried, all her personhood pressed flat.

I’m shaken by the visceral reminder that our youth does not make us invincible. But even more, I’m disappointed that this institution did not do better by our classmate and dear friend. Wellesley as a college doesn’t have the best track record for acting with the best interests of students in mind — even its best intentions often feel moored in protocol and financial obligations. Wellesley as a community, though, reverberates with passion and compassion. The incredible people who’ve come to this place demonstrate remarkable tenacity in the face of struggle.

We are at our best when we create and connect genuinely in spite of sometimes-crushing expectations. When we let our authentic selves be seen, like light seeping through the cracks in these old stone walls. Even when it scares us.

And the best we can do for An is to take those chances more, rather than less. The best we can do for An is to love one another fiercely.

When I told my favorite history professor that I was considering a major in Environmental Studies, she stifled a laugh. “Really? I thought that was for the backpacking hippie white kids.” She specializes in 20th century America, and at the time, I was in her class on the Modern Black Freedom Struggle. We’d talked a lot already about my interest in making the world a better place, whatever that means — and while she cares about climate change as much as the next person, I think she was having trouble imagining me “wasting time” saving the whales when I could be dismantling the white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

But here’s the thing: it was her class that made me realize how bound up environmental issues are with race, gender, and economic justice.

Last spring, Friday afternoons were kinda heavy for me:

1:30 PM — Gender, Health, and the Environment.

2:50 PM — The Modern Black Freedom Struggle.

4:00 — Lament the state of the universe.

Rinse and repeat.

One Friday, though, it hit me that all these seemingly distinct problems are not so separate after all.

In Gender/Health, we covered the geography of asthma: who gets it, where, and why. We talked about demographic distribution near industrial pollutant sources. We talked about infrastructural gaps that weaken communities by depriving them of resources. We talked about Laura Pulido’s “Rethinking Environmental Racism.” We talked about intervention strategies. Then I rushed off to history in a steady downpour.

Midway through class, my professor got us talking about redlining, the widespread loan discrimination that landed many black Americans in rundown neighborhoods.

At that moment, something clicked: the geography of the US didn’t come from nowhere. The fact that certain communities are deemed at-risk and are often the first to be affected by fossil-fuel extraction or toxic waste disposal isn’t random.

The environment as we experience it has been constructed over centuries by social and economic forces that categorically devalue whole swaths of human life…the same forces driving us to deplete finite resources despite predicted disaster, despite visible impact now.

In that moment, I knew: justice without sustainability is reckless, but sustainability without justice is virtually impossible.

So This Is Weird.

It’s been way more than a year since I’ve published anything here, let alone read any of my old stuff. I mostly know why, but I’ve come to really miss sharing my writing (and having some accountability for writing in the first place). So I decided to come back and clean up a little: new year, new thoughts, new platform. If you’ve known me for a while, you know that this blog — and my writing style — have gone through their fair share of transformations. This time around, though, I feel much more at ease with the constancy of change, and much more comfortable with its visibility. Whatever. It’s just the human condition.

Since my last post, a lot of stuff has happened, including:

  • moving into a sustainable living cooperative and learning how to make anything in a rice cooker
  • cutting my hair! and then cutting it again
  • making a children’s book about music and the modern black freedom struggle (digital form coming soon!)

but mostly:

  • thinking a lot of thoughts that got buried in desk drawers (metaphorically and literally)

At some point in my first semester of college, I decided that people didn’t need to see my messy parts, to watch me stumbling over the flood of new information, ideas, and emotions that was crashing over my head. And to some extent, that’s true — there are ideas and feelings I need to grapple with on my own, or with close friends and mentors, before I go adding my voice to the towering wall of noise that is the internet (and the universe in general, sometimes).

But also, it got to the point where I was devaluing my own learning process enough that I didn’t even embrace it alone. I spent a lot of time over the past eighteen months feeling like I was halfway through a sentence that I would never know how to end, and telling myself to pipe down before I’d even really opened my mouth. And that’s a problem, y’all.

Beyond the ramifications it had within myself and the limitations it placed on my personal relationships, it kept me from creating and writing as much as I needed to. Sometimes it led me to hand in first drafts to professors I really respect because I had spent so much time worrying about producing sucky work instead of actually doing the work.

I was forgetting that the first step to creating something good is creating something at all. I was forgetting that even if there are hardly any truly new ideas out there, there are always new ways of framing and conveying ideas that hold weight for a huge range of unique individuals. I was forgetting that even though I have a drive to build a better future for everyone, my individual growth and experiences within that framework still matter.

Also, I was really afraid of what everyone thought of me.

And I realize now that those are never particularly helpful pillars to build your life and work (especially creative work) around, but god, it’s tempting, right?

I really truly believe that the only thing we can ever offer the world is ourselves. And that there is a little corner of infinity in everyone. And that we are not all interchangable little boxes, even if our identities, occupations, and interests are similar. So like, take the risk. Share yourself. Respect your brain. You’re all you’ve got.