Sunday, July 20, 2014

This Small World

Coming back to my town felt like moving through dimensions.

 


I moved away from home last year to start university, and the thought of coming back for a long weekend in November was devastating to me. In the wake of my Big City Lyfe Experience, it felt like my time at home had all been setting me up to be satisfied with averageness and I had only just started to see the options on the outsides of that world, and coming back would be some kind of relapse. I was dreading the idea of having two not-quite-home bases and having to mentally prime myself before going back and forth to either place so I didn’t lose the perspective I’d felt I’d so painstakingly gained in the “real world”.
     But after a while,  the city didn’t really end up feeling any more like the real world than my town did. In this interview for a body image thing Style Like U is doing, a model called Ashley Smith explains how she travels a lot and her body is the thing that is the constant, the home. I liked it because it made me feel like a portable dollhouse. Like not just my physical body, but I as a whole can always be at home because I am my home.
Anyway, I guess I TOTALLY understand how Dorothy felt when Glinda told her that her way home was inside her all along but didn’t tell her until she had put all this effort into finding outside help. I get why Glinda did it. Trying to understand all the parts of an incomprehensible and new world helped me understand parts of myself. Dorothy wouldn't have wanted a home so badly if she had just popped over to Oz for like five minutes. I didn't think about the idea of home as much as when I felt like I didn't have one. Being confronted with so much I didn't know right after high school graduation, when I'd felt like I knew everything, taught me to learn and gave me freedom to rebuild my home how I wanted. 

I spent high school being afraid of the unknown. I think me associating that fear with high school is what made me so eager to leave, and to leave my fear behind in the process. And indeed, if I learned anything from my first year of university, it’s been that the things we don’t know sustain us just as much as the things we do. There’s so much to learn and so much to do with what we learn and so many things to experience that I can’t believe I was so tired of life at 16. But I think high school is the ultimate drawn-out-anticipation, waiting-for–your-life–to-begin kind of time, as many have noted and captured so well-We Used to Wait, Wasted Hours, Sprawl II, You Are A Tourist, Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Landslide, Buzzcut Season, Fifteen. It has a haziness to it. But I don’t think there’s anything I could have done to lift the fog I didn't know was there, and I don’t think I would have wanted to. Though I might only think that because my anticipation hasn’t been tarnished by disappointment. Anyway, it’s slow, but I feel like the fog of anticipation and boredom lifts a little every day and I can see things a little more clearly.
There’s nothing wrong with living in our minds and perceptions. We all do, really. There’s a freedom to it that makes up for its loneliness. We can do whatever we want with the portable but permanent homes we’re given (bonus props if what you choose to do is help people whose circumstances don’t allow for the opportunity to do what they want). It’s a small world we all make for ourselves within the huge and unknowable one. Nobody can ever know everything, and whether we get scared of that or make friends with it, it’s true. Since the unknown and I have become friends, the back and forth between places, instead of a weird vortex, has started to feel more and more transcendent. I can see me, myself, my perception and my world as my home, so I’m not getting uprooted every time I leave- I’m getting a chance to grow more. Tree metaphors are great. I don’t know that much about trees although I use plant life as easy figurative language a lot. It’s OK. //

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Love Club

Getting... a little too personal up in here


why can't we b friendz 

  I like being fanatically obsessed with things. It's fun and I think it improves my character. Some people are so detached and try though I might, I just can't get down with the aloofness.
   But it's not always easy to be a fan of stuff, especially when you're also a fan of people. I don't know why I'm so interested in the people behind the things I like, but I am. And even though my faith in the faces behind the art I like feels necessary as a part of a Full Fan Experience, it can breed all kinds of weirdness.

Like how I always feel like I know the people I'm a fan of personally, because the people I like the most are usually writers in some capacity and their writing is usually personal. My reasoning for us being likely friends is that if they have feelings that I have too, we must be kindred spirits. I don't know if that's me being too optimistic- I will fantasize about friendships with strangers if they're wearing a shirt for a band I like. But all this is good and probably harmless until the object of my affections does something I can't agree with, at which point my obsession becomes devastating. Not only do I have to reevaluate that person, I feel like I have to reevaluate myself. I've let their work become a part of my life! If they represent their work and their work represents them, and my fan status represents me, then we're all tainted by the memory of the bad thing.
So it's understandable that sometimes people don't want to admit they've invested so much of themselves into something that didn't deserve it, and instead stay absurdly loyal and compromise their own identities for the object of obsession. Obviously, that's the worst danger of feeling personally connected to the makers of the things you like. But it happens so rarely, doesn't it?  I like to believe I have good taste in people, but we all thought that.
The only way I can imagine to completely avoid the pain of a fan-status breakup is to not pay attention to the person behind the art. But that sounds to me like a "you'll never get your heart broken if you don't let anyone know you!" kind of compromise. Like I said, the Full Fan Experience is a fun experience. Plus, I don't think art should ever have to stand alone. Necessitating further context doesn't make a piece of art lazy or bad or un-timeless, it just makes it art. Because art represents the times, man. Timelessness and the capacity to stand alone can end up translating to blandness. That's why I'm not afraid of the day that I'll make fun of my high school outfits. They'll be cultural artifacts! And anyway, even things that hypothetically are fine standing alone are usually made better or more deeply understandable given some context. Like Shakespeare, or David Bowie.

I know that we dehumanize people when we idolize them. I know I probably do this. I don't tend to imagine them as real people, no matter how honest their songs may be. I know it's dumb, but I don't really want to imagine them complexly. I want to imagine them as the personification of the thing they made that I like. And I don't know that that's such a bad thing. The unattainable-ness is inspiring to me.
I'll probably grow out of it, though, as I should, because the side effects of non-complex obsession are kind of weird. One being that I don't ever want to know my idols in real life because then I can't idealize them, which just sounds like a bad thing to think, and another being that me knowing I don't have any of the alien, otherworldly qualities I project onto them might make me not bother trying to create anything of my own. Or, make the only things I create be weird quasi-portraits with my face photoshopped in there…. In time we will all be stars.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Mindy Killing-it


I… just pretend it looks like her ok?

I binge-watched The Mindy Project this week because the first two seasons came onto Netflix and I was instantly smitten. But what started as a pleasant piece of entertainment became a spiritual experience, and, combined with my affinity for Mindy’s book of essays and podcast appearances, has blossomed into a flaming crush.

Mindy is cool in so many ways, but my favourite thing about her is her unapologetic-ness. People are always asking her thinly-veiled-insult questions about her confidence or struggles, and Mindy always calls them on it in really quotable ways. She also comments on some societal weirdnesses through her show, especially through her character, Mindy Lahiri. Mindy is really good at her job and smart and it’s not treated as an anomaly, or accounted for by making her super cold or serious. She’s managed to still be a human even though she’s a female who dared pursue a career.
Mindy’s also really into romcoms and shopping and her own appearance, but these aren’t portrayed as flaws or guilty pleasures. They don’t undermine her doctor cred, as they shouldn’t, because the girliness of those kinds of things DOESN’T MAKE THEM INHERENTLY BAD, PEOPLE. The show doesn’t gloss over the kinds of challenges that would come up for someone like Mindy’s character, but it shows them and their effects in really funny or interesting ways, like whenever Mindy unsuccessfully plays the “woman of colour” card.


Basically I just really want to be friends with Mindy. Both of them. I have little to no faith in this fantasy realizing itself, but you can change that by donating to my Kickstarter.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Reality checks

I can always count on first-of-the-month editor’s letters from Rookie to grease up my mind’s wheels of introspection… though not of eloquence, clearly. The magazine’s theme this month is The Great Unknown, and among other things, the letter talks about getting older and losing the conviction that everything is going to work out for you. It left me imagining the kind of life I’d want things to work out in favor of, but afraid that believing in the possibility of such a life is delusional.

Because I know what kinds of things I want my life and career to revolve around, but I also know I’d feel like an idiot to say it and I’m afraid that I might be an idiot to believe that I could contribute anything worthwhile. Because whenever I think of the people I admire and want to be like, I realize how much more special they seem than me, and realizing brutally honestly that I’m not icon-levels of special is crushing. I mean, I don’t usually condone reality checks. I don’t ever see the point of trying not to get your hopes up about things because anticipation is lots of fun and rose-coloured glasses are great in safe neighborhoods, but relieving yourself of the belief that you harbor unprecedented brilliance is… a relief.

I won’t be disappointed if I can’t make a living off of creative things or if I don’t reach the status of the people I admire, but I will be if what I make is lame. And I think the determination of lameness lies with me.

Thankfully we have the ol Ira Glass quote:

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

Even Sylvia Plath didn’t think lots of her stuff was that good at first. If, while I’m in “the gap”, I have to choose between rejecting myself and feeling kind of lame every now and then, or waiting for other people to reject me and being taken by surprise and spiraling a little or a lot like Esther G, I’ll take the first one. I think I have.
It’s scary to stop believing there’s something in me that’s a little more special than everybody else, especially when people told me there was for a good part of my school/music-studying life. But if I was to believe it, the pressure of living under that delusion would be way worse than the doubts and insecurities I have sometimes, especially since lots of the stuff I make is about my own insecurities.

Anyway I think people that are very cool have a lot of insecurities. I don’t know if I’ll be cool to anyone someday but I definitely won’t if I filter everything I do with like a piece of glass or something so dense nothing makes it past the criticism. I know my blog posts aren’t ~art~, but they feel like a step and I’m trying to let them breathe a little so I can practice just finishing things. Which is different than getting good at endings but I’ll cross that bridge when I’m falling in.


Sunday, June 29, 2014

crises

I’ve come to learn that I’m really bad at relaxing.
I think it started after I graduated from high school, that final nonnegotiable obligation to society, the last step in the clearly mapped Things Expected Of You plan – the idea that this lopsidedly larger ‘half’ of my life is the one where the LIVING GETS DONE and what have you, where you have to start making your own opportunities and taking things seriously- it made every moment relaxing feel like a moment wasted from some ULTIMATE LIFE GOAL.
            Obviously this is kind of an unhealthy way to think, especially when you doubt the very existence of any ultimate life goal, much less its potential discovery.
But I go though this thing all the time where whenever I’ve finished some project, I can’t stay satisfied for more than a couple hours before I start getting all restless. It’s probably a pretty normal quarter-life artiste anxiety, but the fact remains that I only really feel represented in mainstream culture by Sherlock from the BBC series of the same name. Like me, Sherlock is always bored when he’s not working, but he’s also an adrenaline junkie and sociopath. And unlike Sherlock, whose boredom drives him to solve crimes and indulge his life’s purpose, I don’t have a Main Deal to serve as a template for productivity (yet) so I always feel like I’m ignoring something, which leads me to be very un-prolific. There are lots of creative things I like to do, but I guess it’s this weird balance where my hobbies are harder for me to enjoy because I’m like HOW DOES THIS ACTIVITY IMPROVE ME AS AN ARTISTE.

So how do we heal ourselves of this Creative Person side effect without damaging the good part? Is it even possible?

Lucky for you folks, I am a very INTROSPECTIVE INDIVIDUAL and am well versed in the fields of DIY, CBT, and now DIYCBT. That is, do-it-yourself therapy, where one creates for oneself a stash of tools and procedures and mechanisms to cope with whatever is weighing on them- in our case, the Invasive Restlessnessies.


Obviously every person is a different person and I don’t know your life, but if you find yourself panicking on a daily basis that you’re not Doing Enough, maybe my experienced self can help.

First you have to actually want to get rid of the anxiety. This can be hard if you, like most of the populace, believe that true art comes out of suffering. But as you know well, when you’re in a gross mood and it paralyses you, the idea of having to produce something good from it only paralyses you more. It’s for this purpose that I have a set of comforting notions handy:

 Comforting Notions 2 Remember
-The fact that you beat yourself up means you probably evolved properly and will drive yourself to do great things.
           

-You shouldn’t compare yourself to other people of course, but in a pinch it can be nice to be like “Wow I’m preoccupied with some reflective shit right now look at me”. On the flip side, you can also be like “I have the luxury to be preoccupied with this random and not-unbearable shit right now.”

-You Can’t Be All Heavy All The Time: Someone on a podcast or something I’m never going to be able to source properly said their jazz professor liked to listen to Barbra Streisand in his free time, because you can’t be “all heavy all the time”, nor would you want to be, nor would you want to hang out with someone who is.

*NOTE: Do NOT confuse comforting notions with “inspirational” notions. Reminding yourself that life is short, you will never be younger, you only live once etc isn’t going to be helpful here.

Light Activity
This step is the equivalent of light activity following surgery except for your mental state (The comforting notions are the equivalent of bed rest). Do something that doesn’t take a lot of originality but still feels productive- baking or going for a walk or making a mission to go to the store and buy supplies for a particular craft that excites you. This is so the mood that replaces your anxiety is a calm one.

Optional throughout: Journaling, even though by doing so the feelings you’re trying to describe might subside... in which case sneaky you, beating the system. You might drive yourself crazy during the light activity if you’re all I MUST RECORD THIS SUFFERING FOR MY RECORDS so get it out and saved in a journal so you don’t feel so pressured to immortalize your pain in song or poetry.

The ultimate solution is probably to find your artistic calling or something, but to quote an uncannily timely Rookie article’s Rebecca Solnit quote, “…wandering was our real work anyway.” We have to make sure we don’t get so caught up in chasing down our magnum opus that we forget to BE our magnum opus- not always in a Lana Del Rey live-your-life-like-a-work-of-art kind of way, but just the idea that all the scraps and journals and ripped-out-in-frustration hair and playlists and friendships you make and leave behind are more important than whatever single brilliant work you produce, because everything you experience or produce is going to end up finding its way back to you anyway, and these random things are the breadcrumbs it’ll follow.



In other news I drew Ezra for my series. He’s not a woman but he is a goddess.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

i don't know how to feel about bikinis

In which our protagonist comes to realize that you can't judge a feminist by its bathing suit

   I like summer. The freedom to take intervalic naps for days on end, being able to be outside without having my face hurt, the way that the summer makes everything feel more adventurous and movie-filtered, ice cream… all these nourish my soul and defrost my cold, cold heart. Of course, summer is synonymous in the minds of the youth with beach-hosted frolicking, and upgrades the beach's status to that of a Prime Hang. But unfortunately (surprise twist!), my beach anticipation is always short-lived because it makes me think of bathing suits, which reminds me of how conflicted I feel about bikinis.

I mean, it's easy for me to know that I don't like wearing bikinis. I feel better and look better in one-pieces. What I'm not so sure of is, for lack of a more umbrella-y term, the meaning of my one-piece.
I don't know why I prefer a one-piece or if my decision to wear a one-piece aligns sufficiently with my views on feminism and body image. I haven't gone into it because I'm afraid of finding out horrible truths about myself based on my instinctual aversion to bikinis. Such potential and fearful truths behind my choice of one-piece include but are not limited to:
-I am embarrassed by my body
-society has successfully imparted on me this weird fundamentalist-y obsession with female modesty and creepy Lolita innocence
-my views align with those of slut-shamers and rape apologists

Those are obviously the darker byproducts of the culture of modesty. But wearing a bikini wouldn't make me feel like I was STICKING IT TO THE MEN either, because then I'd be meekly enabling a society that objectifies women and facilitating ogling, right?

This all probably sounds overwrought or satirical to you, but it is my actual thought process.
The real problem isn't the impossible conflict between these things, it's that it exists in my mind at all. I mean, I assume some other people feel the way I do, especially people that, like me, are just starting to learn about feminism and develop opinions. We're all trying to be conscious of our decisions and their implications and what they mean for THE WOMEN. Which makes total sense because feminism sort of becomes a lens through which you view some of your world, and that lens is useful in situations where you need to make decisions like signing a petition/ supporting artists and companies/ tweeting that link etc. But why has our choice in bathing suit managed to obtain a place of honour so elevated that it's deemed important enough to require its own turn in the feminism lens?

In other words, why do we, as women, let ourselves be categorized by such trivial and narrow standards, gleefully posting our "what does your hair colour/makeup/manicure Say About You"result to our Facebook walls and, more dangerously, believing it? Maybe we just don't notice. This blog post was just going to be about how complicated I think bathing suits are, and it was only after I couldn't find any good reason that my bathing suit should have to say anything about me that I realized I'd been allowing myself to be categorized.

I mean, it's still a post about how complicated bathing suits are. It's complicated that the very misogyny I'm trying to be conscious about through my choice in bathing suit is responsible for me believing that something as trivial as a bathing suit choice can have any bearing on my feminist status and identity.

Because let's be real- wearing a bikini wouldn't get me kicked out of the feminist club, and neither would wearing a one-piece. It's messed up that Being A Feminist is yet another thing that has to be this precisely crafted persona when feminism is really about the whole multi-dimensional, actual-human-being-ness that women are and are allowed to be.



me existing in the 2nd and 3rd dimensions simultaneously


Friday, June 13, 2014

Rore Model

Lessons learned from Rory Gilmore.

 

I bought the season one box set of Gilmore Girls at a Walmart sale the summer before grade 10. I can't  remember what made me want to watch it since it was 2010 and the show had long since vanished into the internet's realm of nostalgia, but it probably had to do with my desktop computer becoming increasingly unpredictable and my need for constant and convenient distraction. 
     It wasn't long before I'd ordered the complete series from a sketchy, probably-illegal overseas warehouse website (it came in a box that had "Warner Brothers" misspelled) and devoured the episodes at the fastest rate my 15-year-old self's schedule could manage. There was something so comforting in being able to abandon the perceived injustices of my own teenage life to hang out in the idyllic and charming Stars Hollow with the idyllic and charming Lorelai and perceivably-injustice-free Rory. 

I can't say that I related to Rory particularly strongly- she was more of an aspirational figure to me. I didn't fight with my mom, but I also wouldn't comfortably call her dude, and I was way more insecure than Rory. The only thing we really had in common was our unapologetic "smart girl"-ness, which, sidebar, don't take that the wrong way. I don't divide girls into smart and dumb, because we all know that the boys are the dumb ones. I mean that we both did well in school and our peers described us as "smart", and, in my case, kind of left it at that. But I was lucky to find a role model in Rory because she had more value to herself than her academic or social standing. She would go home after attending her super intensive and competitive school and just hang out with her mom, cracking wise and being generally beloved. And even though it might have been easier for Rory because her school wasn't in her town, I was astounded when I realized that I, too, didn't have to bring whatever was weird about school home with me, that my life didn't have to revolve around school's incomprehensible and arbitrary social dynamics. Basically, Rory showed me that it was allowed, nay, cool to do your own thing. And my thing, at the time, was kind of just watching Gilmore Girls and doing my homework, and I liked it.

Another thing Rory taught me was how much I could expect from myself as a teenage girl. I didn't think that I was allowed to talk to adults as if they were my equals and expect them to do the same to me, and I didn't think that I was supposed to say anything to boys that hadn't been rehearsed. I blame Seventeen for the second thing, and the general lack of encouragement for girls to speak up in society for the first one. As I've gotten old enough to find myself on the fringes of adulthood, I've come to realize that being an adult or being older doesn't make you right all the time. Lots of adults are just as stupid or lazy or mean or wrong as the most pitifully ignorant kids at school. So… yeah that's just my tidbit of advice for the youth, if you don't know it already. Anyway, Rory had lots of adult friends, most importantly her mom, none of whom patronized or dismissed her, and she also managed to do just fine with the opposite sex despite her integrity and self-confidence. 

As high school got busier and I found more hobbies, I put aside Gilmore Girls… and I haven't finished it yet. Once Rory went to college I didn't feel so connected to the show, but maybe I was just saving it for a later time when it would be more meaningful to me, i.e. now. Since discovering Vampire Weekend last year, about ten years after everyone else, I've realized that the whole academia-rich people-Connecticut scene that Rory is exposed to isn't a made-up culture but an actual thing, one that is so exotic and exciting to me that I should probably consume all kinds of media that employ it as soon as possible. I even bought a Polo shirt, at Winners. I don't know if that defeats the purpose, or it's poetic and subversive. Maybe neither. Anyway, I'm going to finish the show this summer and will probably become an expert on New England and its youth, but when that doesn't happen, I'll probably learn some more ways to be a person from Rory.