My name is JoAnna–with a capital A: An Honest Poem

I am JoAnna
Artwork by JoAnna Schindler

Hi. My name is JoAnna—with a capital A.

I was born on September 29th

Six weeks before my due date.

My parents tell me that I can be a bit impatient.


I grew up in a pocket of suburbia in the San Fernando Valley

Where nothing happened.

I didn’t know what to say to college admissions

When they asked for my life’s story.

I’ve been trying to write significance into my narrative

Ever since I was twelve years old

And found my voice in a spiral notebook.


The first time I got my heart broken,

I told myself that I’d at least have something to write about.


I like coffee. A lot.

I have a weakness for journals, usually leather,

Even though I prefer to type.

My mind runs faster than my fingers,

Sometimes too fast for me.

I’ve been called a worry wart, more than once.


I am half-Japanese. That is a fact.

But when I tell people this, I feel like I am lying,

Because I still don’t have the language to prove it.

I don’t look Asian – or so I’ve been told

My roots have grown into tall, winding branches that I can’t seem to reach.


My straight hair sprung into curls in sixth grade,

And for the longest time, I thought that my body had betrayed me.

Boys weren’t into curly hair—my brother called me “unconventional.”

My mother has me straighten it for special occasions.

Maybe that’s why I have a weird fascination with wigs—

Trying on a prettiness that I don’t seem to have.


And yet, I take picture after picture of myself.

I spend a lot of time posting snapshots of my life on Instagram,

Moments that I don’t really experience.

Everything has a filter, including me.

Too often I swallow words that might hurt others

Even if they burn, fizzle, and itch in my stomach.


You see, I am very self-aware,

But sometimes, I need to be more present.


I have a tendency to poke holes in good things,

Like new sweaters and relationships

To hurt myself and not be hurt by others

(People say to avoid passive voice)

And I’ve been trying to avoid the passivity

That others read into my cuteness, my sweetness—

People like to pinch my cheeks and poke my nose;

They say that I look like a doll, or a hamster,

Helpless and waiting to be saved.


I don’t need to be saved.


I am a grown woman.

I am a beautiful woman.

I am an intelligent, strong, and talented woman, and

I am significant.


Before I knew this, I identified as a hopeless romantic,

As if love was something that I could only hope for,

Something that others had to give me.

I am beginning to learn that love is something

That I have to give to myself, everyday.


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