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Artwork by Aldwin Li, staff artist

Every summer, the dust, and bushes reshape into objects I can see much better with my glasses on. So I try teaching myself how to draw the memories that grow dimmer by watching videos. The first thing that the Youtuber says in a video that strikes me as compelling is “Lose the perfectionist mentality.” I drop my Dixon Ticonderoga pencil. I’ve erased three circles because they didn’t look as similar to the Youtuber’s perfect circles as I would like. What makes me feel better is the immense certainty that somewhere in America, somebody has dropped their Dixon Ticonderoga as well for the same thing. I like to think that being a perfectionist slices into the irritating cycle of redoing and revisiting and re-this and re-that so that the fruit of labor comes quicker. That’s the main reason I have drafts on top of drafts sitting in Google Docs. This is also why my Notes app is waiting to be nourished like a baby that’s trying to walk, but keeps falling, so they keep crawling until their strength builds up. As for me, I want to skip the walking part and run.

Yesterday, I stood on Lynch Street surrounded by a history that I’ve only just begun to find myself in.I thought I knew everything about the leaders, the pioneers, the student organizations, the sit-ins, and yet I’ve only learned about the atoms of this molecule. Someone else sees craters in the roads and unkempt grass surrounding the buildings, but I use time travel as a weapon. A mural commemorates the Chambliss Shoe Hospital on the side of where the business once resided, and I see black Jacksonians running in and out of the repair shop on a bustling Saturday morning. A Chevy Corvette honks its horn and I see two black boys in front and two black girls sitting in the back listening to a radio station out of Jackson playing Motown hits. I picture Medgar Evers walking in and out of the Council of Federated Organizations headquarters and wonder if he eventually stopped looking over his shoulders all the time. Did he ever accept the bounty that had been put on his head by men who wore white sheets when the sun went down and tell them to come at him with everything they had? There are ghosts of students from Jackson State walking from campus to join the movement and professors standing in their classroom windows, wishing them godspeed.

I don’t like the word “ghosts” to describe the past, especially if I can vividly remember what once was and what occurred. To me, a million yesterdays have just morphed into today, and we don’t understand how the time flew by so quickly. That’s nostalgia and it’s a pain in the behind. Even when I hear stories that happened before I was even considered, I stretch my imagination so that I can examine the zeitgeist-- the ways of the world, the slang, the fads and trends, the decade-defining artists, and the woes. There have been moments where I wish that someone had defied the laws of physics and created a method of time travel so that I could go back to the time before mine. I want to see all the rambunctious rebels and quirky geeks who are now adults still figuring out what adulthood is. I ask myself if the generation gap is simply a misunderstanding between father and son, mother and daughter when I see movies from the eighties where the older character patronizes the younger character because apparently when they were teens, they had impeccable ambition and attitude. Then, those eighties teens turn around and do the same thing to us that was done to them when actually, all of us just want to remain kids for the rest of our lives.

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