What’s in a Name?

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According to the infinitely vast files of information provided by the world’s best and most efficient search engines to date, the name Wanéa‌ does not exist.

In fact, the internet is far more certain that such a word can only be the product of a misspelling – a slip of the finger, if you will – and is courteous enough to offer endless results for hundreds of similar sounding, but much more sensible names. 

No Google. I did not mean Wane, Wanna, or Wanda. But I’m sure you tried your best.

As far as anyone who has ever lived or is living on planet Earth can tell, there has only been one Wanéa‌ in the entire galaxy.

So allow me to introduce myself.

It’s pronounced ‘Wuh-NAY-yuh’, but I’m not strict about it. Five letters derived from the Hawaiian alphabet, and one accent from the French language. 

The name Wanéa‌ is the birth-child of my mother’s pregnancy brain. 

After Dad ‘Lindry’ claimed older sister ‘Liana’, it was only fair for mom’s second-born to have a moniker that matched her ‘Wanda’. 

I’m not sure of all the options that were considered, or even of all the finalists, but I know how the choice was made: a ‘d’ for a fancy ‘é’. Thus Wanéa‌ was born. 

 So, no Google search*. No keychains, magnets, or namesake strangers. No accent in official documents, (almost) no accurate first-time guesses, and no meaning at all.  

Just Wanéa‌ (*and one song in an African language I can’t understand).

But, after years of being the world’s only Wanéa‌, I’ve come to realize that there isn’t a single name that better describes me. 

Like my name, I’m short and sweet. I like to think I leave people wanting more, (sometimes in height), but always in conversation.

Like my name, I’m sure to grab your attention. People aren’t quite sure what to make of me at first, but they’re always (pleasantly) surprised. 

Like my name, I’m undefinable. I’m a million things at once – silly, serious, sarcastic, sensitive- sometimes none at all, but always interesting.

And like my name, I am one of a kind. 

So whether you’re an Emily Smith, or a Qwerty Lmnop, the one and only Wanéa‌ invites you to embrace your name, because there’s nothing on Earth that better suits you.

(Take that Spellcheck!)

National Poetry Month: Pen and Page

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April marks the beginning of National Poetry Month. Though I don’t consider myself much of a poet, I’ve decided to honor the month by sharing yet another one of my writing assignments. Here’s an original Shakespearan Sonnet written for my World Literature Class last semester. Entitled “Pen and Page”, the poem is inspired by my own bittersweet relationship with writing. How would you characterize your relationship with writing?

“Pen and Page”

The pen moves not over the milky sheet

The page is blank and glistens white as snow,

A novel thought has yet the page to meet

Or marks of ink to dress its naked glow.

The pen has labored long throughout the night

Yet all its works lay crumpled in the waste,

For words that once were sweet do not seem right,

And bitterness now overpow’rs their taste.

Still pen and page recall those days of bliss,

When jot and tittle easily would flow,

But times of simple joys are long remiss

And pen and page their separate ways did go.

For now, both pen and page dream of amends,

For in the morning all will start again.

A Letter to My Future Self

Dear Wanéa,

Forgive me for never writing to you. I’ll admit it, I don’t think about you enough, and you’ll probably scold me about that later, but it’s only because I’m really not sure what to say to you.

I have no idea who you are. I have no idea what you do or who your friends are or what you’ve accomplished. You could be reading this letter from 1,000 miles away, from down the street, from your job, or from the tiny pink room that we’re sitting in now. Either way, you’re a mystery to me, and it kind of scares me.

Right now, we’re in our young adult years and almost always confused. We still like pink, chocolate, and remember all the Disney Princess lyrics from when we were younger, but we’re a little less inexperienced, a lot less naiive, and we’ve got a few notches on the belt of life. Still, we have a hard time figuring out what we want and making decisions , and it seems like adulthood is always demanding both from us (as you already know).

People say it’s ok not to have all the answers, so I won’t ask you any questions because something tells me you won’t all of have them either. I won’t give you any deadlines or strict goals to accomplish, because who even knows if you’ll still want those things.

What I will say is that no matter where you are reading this letter from, no matter who you are, what you have or haven’t accomplished, and no matter what you’re new favorite color is, know that I’m proud of you. I’m proud of you for making it this far, and I’m proud of whatever path you choose to take, even though I don’t know what path that is. Don’t ever worry about disappointing me or not living up to what we thought we would be, because at the end of the day, you’re me, and I’ll always stand by you.

Anyways, I don’t want to hold you too long, so I’ll let you get back to whatever life you’re living. You probably have lots of advice and life lessons to tell me so write to me when you can, cause I’d really love to hear it. I can’t wait meet to you, or err- be you. See you soon.

Love, Wanéa.

Eye in the Sky

– by Storm Elvin Thorgerson, from https://blog.mozaico.com/art-artists/.
This week my professor gave us the task of writing a quick creative exercept based on this captivating image. With themes of my earlier post in mind, I drafted this short poem in less than a minute with a slightly darker twist.
Still, maybe it speaks to you differently than it does to me.
What comes to your mind when you look at this picture?

Eye in the sky

Staring down at me

Through me

In my mind

What do you see?

A thing unholy

An unclothed thing dressed in a lie.

Can you see my eye

Staring back at you

Through you

In your mind?

I will not crouch behind

Your eye.

See my unclothed skin in your eye

See your reflection in my eye

And do not lie

And say you cannot see

The resemblance of you in me.

Shame, Shame, Shame. (Super Fake Love Song, By David Yoon)

From Penguinteen.com

“All human life seemed driven by shame – the fear of being an incorrect self. Wear the right clothes, talk the right way, like the right things, buy the right fancy toys. As if shame were an evoluntary necessary evil designed to keep the tribes of society simultaneously together and apart. If there were no shame, would we be freer? Or just descend into chaos?”

-David Yoon, Super Fake Love Song.

When I was 14, months after graduating eighth grade, I was asked to sing a solo in front of my entire high school. Normally, a request like this would make the average teenager barf, and it did- five months earlier when I was asked to perform at the beginning year assembly. Having had a great performance then, I agreed to sing again, thinking with enough practice like before the whole thing would be a success.

It was not.

Unlike my earlier performance, I didn’t have the extra two months to expertly master my song . With the pianist confirmed only a few days before, my religious ‘song-perfection’ ritual had to be shortened: that meant no ironing out every inflection, no strategically placed ‘riffs’, and no flips or tricks – just me, a mic, and my imperfect voice.

The nervousness alone sent me shivering off the stage and into my seat before the last note. As the pity applause sprinkled through the audience, I decided then and there that I would never expose myself like that again, or else risk complete and utter embarrassment.

Looking back, my reaction might have been a tad bit dramatic, but for anyone who’s been under the impossible blanket of shame, you get the feeling.

In my current read, Super Fake Love Song by David Yoon, main character Sunny Dae confronts his own shame as he attempts to get the girl of his dreams by pretending to be his rock star older brother and not the fantasy-loving nerd he actually is. The book is a quirky rom-com with its fair share of charm, but the story’s real grabbers are it’s hard-hitting one-liners that make you rethink what it means to ‘be yourself’ and how hard that actually is.

Like Sunny, I think we’ve all been terrified of showing our true selves at one point or another. Maybe some of us have been so terrified for so long, that we ourselves have grown to hate who we really are under all that pretending.

When I walked on the stage, I was scared that the sound of my stripped voice would cause an embarrassing performance. Now, years into learning to be comfortable with myself, I’ve realized that it was the fear and shame of being myself in front of others that ruined me before I even started.

This quote reminds me that while shame is powerful and can inspire us to only put our best foot forward, it shouldn’t defines us. Like Sunny and other characters in Super Fake Love Song, we’ve all got to come to terms with our true, imperfect selves. Sure it can be terrifying, and sure, sometimes the blanket of fear can be a little too comfy. But at the end of the day (as the rock anthem [and John Keats] says) , there is nothing more perfect or ‘beautiful’ than being ‘true’ to ourselves.

(PS. If you’re a fan of cute rom-coms with heart, I recommend Super-Fake Love Song for your next read!)

Women’s History Month

There are a lot of reasons why I consider to be March the best month of the year: 1) It marks the beginning of Spring, (who doesn’t like flowers and warm weather?), 2) It’s my birthday month (an obvious bias but still important ), and 3) it’s the only month entirely dedicated to women’s history.

While the first two may not exactly ‘entice’ you, the celebration of history’s most influential women should inspire everyone to break out the virtual streamers. As my own tribute to Women’s History Month, I’ve decided to highlight one of history’s most unsung heroes and a personal favorite of mine: Ida B. Wells.

Miss Ida Barnett Wells was a prolific journalist, teacher, writer, researcher, and activist of the late 1800s to the early 1900s. I first discovered Wells a few years ago after examining a series of pictures of prominent black history figures on a church bulletin. Noticing the face looked familiar, I handed the picture to my sister, asking her who the woman reminded her of. My sister took the bulletin, looked up, and immediately laughed; “Wanéa, she looks like you!” I, of course, didn’t see it, but every subsequent trip to the National Museum of African American History meant every passerby had to take a picture of me with Miss Ida B. Wells.

This past month, I was assigned a presentation on a historical figure of my choice. When it came to the deadline, all I could think of was one name: Ida. And though I was a little reluctant to be in her shadow once again, researching Wells opened my eyes to her immense impact and the many more uncanny things her and I share in common.

To say that Wells did a lot for the feminist and early civil rights movements is an almost embarrassing understatement. In 1884, 80 years before Rosa Parks’ sit-in, Wells was one of the first people to refuse to give up her seat on a segregated train car, and even bit the hand of the officer who tried remove her. Wells was also one of the first to publicly expose the horrors of lynching in the South through her globally successful pamphlets. As the founder of countless political organizations, Wells established the nation’s first black orchestra, the first black kindergarden, and the first black women’s suffrage group. In 1909, Wells was one of two black women to sign the founding document of the NAACP and a personal favorite fact, Wells forcefully revoluntionized the feminist movement when she pushed her way to the front of the 1913 Women’s Suffrage march despite strict instructions that front positions were for ‘white women’ only.

Wells, who was an opinionated young black girl (like me), who had a strong passion for writing (like me), and who stood well under five feet (like me!), accomplished all this and more for what she believed in. Without her work, women (and men) of all colors, shades, and hues wouldn’t be able to enjoy half of the freedoms and privileges we have today. For this reason, I’m proud to look like and celebrate Miss Ida B. Wells. She, and so many other amazing women, continue to defy the odds and prove that anyone, even someone like me, can make a difference in the world.



8 Movies and Shows that Got Me Through the Pandemic

Well, ladies and gents, we did it: an entire year of quarantine. While some of us are still trying to process the last 365 days, others (like me) have spent most months finding new and creative ways to pass the time. Whether you picked up a new instrument, dusted off an old cookbook, or exercised yourself into oblivion, there’s one option that comforted almost all of us through quarantine: streaming. Here-in no particular order- are just a handful of the movies and shows I discovered, rewatched, or absolutely obsessed over during my time indoors. Some of the names might look familiar, and others completely new. Either way, if you’re looking for a good watch (rewatch), check out these titles below!

  1. The Crown

A well-known Netflix masterpiece. This series has everything you want out of a historical drama: amazing actors, award-winning cinematography, and the juicest scandals of the Royal Family! Not betraying my mom and sister and binging Season 4 in one night was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, no lie.

2. Good Girls

The NBC orginial might not be the most ethical show, but it sure packs the heat! I discovered the dramedy almost 3 years ago during its intial airing and have been hooked ever since. The writing is both hilarious and suspenseful, the acting flows naturally, and the tension between Beth and Rio? Whew! Let’s just say the season 4 premiere is the best birthday gift I could ask for!

3. To All Boys: Trilogy

If you’re a sucker for rom-coms like me, the To All Boys movie trilogy has been your go-to ‘feel good’ movie. Lara Jean has been somewhat of a cathartic character for me and her adorable style and her dreamy spirit make the hopeless romantic in me scream! While the 2nd and 3rd movies didn’t quite possess the same light-hearted charm as the original, the pure chemistry between Lana Candor’s LJ and Noah Centineo’s Peter Kavinsky will always have me crawling back for more. (Shout out to my friends Aja and Olivia, who know and share my obsession all too well!)

4. Young Justice

It is a (personal) fact that ‘kid shows’ have some of the best-developed characters and group dynamics of all time. That’s what I learned from my first time watching Young Justice, a DC animated superhero series that originally aired over 10 years ago. While I consider myself more of a Marvel fan, this show definitely had me hooked with its gritty themes, loveable characters, and mind-bending plot twists. Still healing from season 2’s ending (you know what I’m talking about), but I’m excited to finally binge season 3.

5. Bridgerton

Does this show even need an introduction? I wasn’t initially sure of what to expect from the no #1 Netflix series, but boy was I pleasantly surprised! With its diverse cast, masterful wardrobe, GORGEOUS actors, and modern-day tinge, Bridgerton isn’t your average historical drama and sure doesn’t boast of any old-fashioned values. My sister and I accidentally made the decision of watching the show with our mom, which resulted in a lot of eye-shielding and fast-forwarding. Still, the well-crafted story is definitely worth a rewatch (with the exception of a few scenes).

6. Avatar: The Last Airbender

I’ve said it a million times before and I’ll say it a million times again: best animated show of all time. I could spend an eternity ranting about the narrative masterpiece that is Avatar but judging by the series continual popularity on Netflix, you probably already know. If there was ever a show you wish you could completely forget just so you could watch again for the first time, it’s Avatar. And with last week’s announcement of the new Avatar Studios, something tells me the world (and myself) will keep talking about this series for a long time.

7. The Promised Neverland

If you’re not an avid anime-watcher like me, chances are you’ve never heard of “The Promised Neverland”. Well now that you’ve heard it, watch it. Now you’re probably thinking: “But Wanea! I don’t really like anime like that!” Now you’re probably wondering how I got in your head. Well, reader, I too was skeptical of the action-suspense anime, but after months of recommendations from countless friends, I finally cut my losses and binged it. One of the best ‘watching’ decisions I have ever made. If you’re interested in watching the series I suggest you go in blind, like I did. You’ll thank me – and probably hate me – later.

8. WandaVision

The world’s most recent series obsession. I’m a pretty big Marvel fan, like I mentioned before, and WandaVision completely flips everything you think you know about the Marvel Cinematic Universe in the best way possible. The constantly shifting tones are exciting, the over-arching narrative is addicting, and the veiled sense of mystery forces viewers to fall down a rabbit-hole of online theories the minute credits start rolling. The world (myself included) is excited to see how it all comes together in the season finale, which ironically premieres today!

Again, these are just some of my favorite shows and movies of the pandemic, but I’m always looking for something new! What were your top series and movies from quarantine?

“Mango Candy” Moments

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It’s a Sabbath afternoon in 2005, and the last ‘amens’ have just rung through the sanctuary in our small church in New York.

My sister and I brace ourselves, knowing what’s about to happen.

Every Sabbath after service, the nice, older church member would hunt us down, kindly reach into his suit pocket, and hand me and my sister two hard, artificially flavored mango candies.

Oh, how we hated those candies.

The exchange was almost always wordless. Mom and Dad would nudge us for our manners, we’d mumble our ‘thank yous’, hop into the car, and reluctantly pop those sickly sweet candies into our mouths, only to feel carsick 3 minutes later.

The torture went on for years; candy, “thank you”, carsick. We’d dream of throwing those bitter rocks into the garbage, but the older man always offered them with the most sincere smile, happy to brighten the day of two ‘sweet’ little girls. So we sucked it up, literally. To this day my sister and I can’t stand the taste of artificial mango.

I was thinking about these moments earlier this week – and though the nauseating taste of fake mango started to ghost my tongue- I surprisingly found myself looking at the situation a little differently:

I realized my sister and I were probably the only little kids in church that received candy every Sabbath like clockwork. The man would bring just two treats every week and go out of his way to give them to us without saying more than two words. He could’ve eaten the whole pack, or simply decide it was too much work for an old man to flag down two little girls, but he did it anyway.

It also occurred to me that I never knew the old man’s name. Not even my parents can recall. We attended that church for a good many years and no one in the family can remember his name. I think I’ll always remember his face though: bright and clear like my Papi’s, with a genuine smile and gentle voice as he handed his last two candies to my sister and me.

There are a lot of moments in life, little ‘mango candy moments’, that seem bitter at first but get sweeter with time. Maybe it’s a heartbreak that you eventually grow from, maybe it’s losing an okay-paying gig for a better one, or maybe it’s finally learning to appreciate the hard ‘mango candies’ you’re given.

Take the time to remember, relive, and rethink your ‘mango candy moments’. Chances are you won’t like that initial negative sensation, but if you look hard enough, you just might find the sugar of perspective to sweeten even the sourest of times.

So, thank you Mango Candy Man, from the bottom of this little church girl’s heart. Even though the smell of artificial mango makes me gag (sorry), it’ll always remind me of your sweet, sweet heart.

Doodle Day (2/16/2021)

If you know me, you know that I’m a doodler. I’m always littering pages with sketches of flowers, characters, or inanimate blobs. Sometimes doodles help me make sense of complicated feelings, and sometimes, they just save me from a very boring lecture (sorry!). Either way, I figured I should put my doodles to good use. Every Wednesday, I’ll upload a doodle of mine (new or old) and let you in on the inner workings of my mind. Today, as a welcome present, you get the first doodle a lit bit early ;).

I doodled this in my journal almost a year ago. Around this time I was feeling overwhelmed everything going on , including school, family, and what I felt was my dwindling social life. I’m not exactly sure what every element in this drawing means or why I put it there, but I know I felt a lot better after putting my emotions on paper, and maybe someone else will too. How do you relieve stress when you feel overwhelmed?