I looked at a trash can strewn and crooked and swore it was art. Saw shadows from fanning lights and searched for the source. Thought things like how can this be? and how am I here? and I’m glad everything just is. But I kept these things to myself until I realized, in steady sobriety, that this was reality. That this was the nighttime. That this was the glittering town spread beneath our legs as strands of my hair swirled around free and one star peered down at us stories up above the ground. Sometimes I still don’t really believe it.
You’ll never need people who bring you down. Who relentlessly judge, pry or criticize you. People who are unkind, then kind, then unkind. People who don’t respect you. People who are unsupportive. People who are jealous. People who superimpose their world beliefs onto you and judge you accordingly. People who are untrustworthy, people with big mouths, people who are manipulative, people who just want something from you.
There are a handful of people who, granted, may care for you, love you, might even be good to you, but are not good for you.
And there will be–are, present-tense–those who’ll bring you up. Who support you, are there for you, are genuinely understanding. They’re reliable. You’re there for each other when times are shitty; you’re there for each other when times are good. There’s mutual trust. Mutual respect. No drama, no petty shit-shows, just honest-to-God communication and understanding. There are people who give and take–no, not take, but accept. Each other. They meet you halfway. Initiative splits 50/50. Every conversation or hangout ends in happiness because that’s what good people are supposed bring to your life: happiness and support and positivity. I know, this is cheesy as fuck. But let me be cheesy here.
There’s no need to go on some sort of giant relationship purge. But it doesn’t hurt to take stock of the relationships in life to get a general idea of whether they bring you up or drag you down. Sometimes it’s both; it’s not always one way or another. Make wiggle room for growth and forgiveness–we’re all shitty hurting people at some point in time. But negative trends and toxicity are no-go’s. So…let go.
A string of thoughts, in no particular order:
- The mind is the strangest thing. One of my favorite books reminds me that we’re all stuck in our heads, projecting our own distorted notions of reality onto the screen of our minds. It’s all constructed, pieced together by attention, a weird believable 3D fabrication that we call reality. Like Rorshach blots. We see what we choose to see. And the things I see make me panicky. But then I’ll become aware of this, that we’re all making this shit up, and feel calmer at the thought.
- Thoughts are what brought me here: October, February, July–have you ever felt so listless you wanted to die? Moments like that. Sprawled on some surface by a window pouring sunlight and periodic existential crises. Then I’ll just want to watch comedy shows at hotel lobbies in Florida, where I can moan about how much I hate traveling, god, just take me home.
- Even so, I miss New York so much. I couldn’t tell you why. Everyone gets so excited when they visit New York, inundate their social media feeds in it–look, the Empire State of motherfucking dreams. For a moment I thought New York became less sparkly–it’d lost its glitz and glam, become drizzly and cold (stuffed in a cab full of chatty ambitious strangers). Evidently it hasn’t. I miss the wide streets, the energy, the movement, the noise. It’s overwhelming, but remove the source for a while and I start to miss it.
- A stranger in the city with a giant bouquet flowers once told me that we’re all looking for somebody to listen, that strangers just want to be listened to. I believe her. Half a year later I emailed her saying hello, and she said that she sometimes looked for me in the city. Isn’t that odd? To be looked for, even if only briefly? I became so accustomed to searching in the sea of moving faces that it never occurred to me that somebody would ever look for mine.
Doesn’t the notion of “you’re beautiful just the way you are” only reinforce the importance of beauty for girls? Even when the purpose of the phrase is to undermine society’s concept of beauty? i.e you may not look the way photoshopped magazine models do, but never fear, you’re still beautiful–
On the surface, it’s a positive concept. You’re beautiful, and beauty’s a good thing. Forget what society deems beautiful–you, alone, in all your imperfections, are beautiful.
But then I wonder what the male equivalent of this sentiment is–you’re strong just the way you are? You’re buff just the way you are? You’re loud just the way you are? That’s not true–might be a pervasive gender trope, but being a man doesn’t mean you’re strong or buff or loud just the way you are. And in the face of that reality, of falling short of social expectations, what are men told? They’re beautiful just the way they are? Not quite. There just isn’t–not that I can think of ATM–a male equivalent.
Although “you’re beautiful” and spreading this message of “listen here, girls, we are all beautiful!” Is uplifting in a sense, it just ends up reinforcing the importance of beauty. That, as a female, you can’t sidestep the significance of beauty. That whether it’s constructed by some amorphous blob called “society” or by your friends or yourself, beauty is still paramount, still inextricably tied to worth, and that you must be beautiful because–because beauty is something we all have and must have. It’s cyclical.
At the same time, I’m not necessarily saying that appearance doesn’t matter. Or that beauty doesn’t wield a certain sort of overt and covert social power. I’m more critical of how “you’re beautiful just the way you are” only seems to ground the importance of beauty in a way that skews female far more than it does male…when the entire purpose is to step away from social constructions of beauty. By repeating the message, you’re only inadvertently overemphasizing the significance of beauty for girls and women.
My memories keep me warm until I remember they’re just memories.
I wrote that in the summer. First I was defiant, then tired, then reminiscent, but mostly I was sad. Fall came. November passed. It’s winter now.
And so it goes.
Sometimes I wonder what the sheer durability of emotion says about humanity. And whether this durability is useful at all. I wonder whether it’s a reflection of openness or brokenness or maybe just some inability to fit into social narratives. It all just seems so–so strange sometimes, I guess.
I don’t really get it. I don’t get a lot of things, but then, on the other hand, sometimes I do. I guess I don’t get things like this the way I did when I was nine and wrote about it in all my diaries. Talked about it like I was an expert, god, I was drowning in it all. I didn’t believe there were people like adult-me who couldn’t comprehend this, and I eyed those people skeptically. Now I know there are rah-rah identity politic groups that champion these experiences, and while it’s relieving, I can’t tell if it’s just another label to cozy up to. Is it identity, brokenness, problematic or necessary?
It’s hard to imagine that I used to stay up late for the sake of it. I’d stay up late to talk to people, stay up late to listen to them. Stay up late to scour the Internet for articles I’d reread not once or twice but maybe eight dozen times. At night I’ll want explanations, revelations, soul-baring-heart-revealing confessions. When I revisit certain late-night memories in my mind, there’s an odd buttery hazy glow that envelops them, and maybe that’s what I would get lost in during the summertime.
Lately I’ve been obsessed with the Wacom drawing tablets at the library and darting into the media room any chance I get. I’m just about to go draw on one, actually, once my meeting’s over and I’ve returned my camera.
Yesterday I hauled my camera around everywhere I went, from my interview with a cafe owner to a protest and a downtown party. At midnight I felt strange and dizzied having occupied so many different spaces within the same physical space.
All because of a camera. I started off using cameras to just document my life, from the most mundane to most hilarious. Now it serves as my segway into certain sociocultural spaces. The camera’s my bridge, my excuse to be present and empathize; it’s my invitation to momentarily inhabit areas I normally wouldn’t. It gives me a glimpse into lives and lifestyles I ordinarily wouldn’t peer into because I just don’t live or feel or experience life the way many others do. But the camera gives me a second to listen, to maybe understand. 1’s and 0’s of digital data, but I see binaries, social constructions, a tizzy of bodies. And as I looked at my photos last night I thought: here’s privilege and oppression embodied. How peculiar it is to visually document both abstractions-realities in a day.
Thursday was a long day. It’s been a long week. I’ve only felt okay enough to peer at recent photos, but otherwise they’ve been left untouched. There’s a lot of emotion, I think, in them, in the people whose anger and blitheness and fear I’ll photograph. I want to do something ‘artistic’ with them, display them in some particular way so it’s cohesive. But that’s something that’s been lacking recently, a sense of real cohesion. I mean, I don’t know. I might just post them on here because this is, like, my little bubble of art-meets-text-meets-photographs. Here, I’d like to capture a snapshot of personal expression while erasing my external identity. Nameless, faceless, just a digital body of expression. Sometimes I wonder if I can operate, to some degree, as anonymous here. That’s something else, though, something unrelated. But perhaps not.
For the most part, I’m just hoping to get lost in art today. Art as solace, art as escapism, art as a way to get very lost in my head. With art, I’m so focused I lose track of time, forget where I am. Flow.
These girls, they drift in and out bleating some language I don’t understand. Eight year old me understood. Twelve year old me understood. Years later, I still don’t understand.
— — — —
It feels like the weekend although the weekend hasn’t started. It’s because I feel slow, slow and relaxed and languid, like maybe a sloth or maybe a koala. I see flashes of Tampa, Florida in my mind as I consider my slothiness. I see flashes of blue and sea as we’re on the highway. I’m trying to get the sun positioned right behind my hair. No, not like this. Like that. From that angle. I see a tiger sweatshirt and wild cats that’ll never be free. In the pictures my hair’s even more untamed than the felines prowling the space.
— — — —
I have an art crush. This is my art crush, @elesq. I wormhole through art blogs on tumblr every so often and stumble upon styles/artists I really like and this is one. Simple poignant stuff. I’d emulate it, but I feel like my style is kind of heavy–I go and try to fill in every space possible. When I attempt minimalism I’m inclined to fill in the spaces. But you’re supposed to let the space speak for itself. Like silences used for effect in plays. In conversations. In speeches where you think people have dropped off from listening so when you’re quiet they’re jarred back to attention: why aren’t you droning on anymore?
— — — —
A few days ago I wrote for the student newspaper about Sara Bareilles performing in the dorm lounge on campus. And two weeks ago I saw Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine speak. Apparently the Clintons and Obamas will be here next week. Exciting, exciting. Since coming to college I’ve seen and photographed so many famous people–famous singers, authors, journalists, editors, celebrities, political figures. It’s really cool. For a moment while I listened to Sara Bareilles belt out Love Song I felt goosebumps on my arms. I paused from recording and really looked at her, focused on the piano, let myself bathe in the moment. Remembered the glee of being ten or eleven and going to my best friend’s house, all the while listening to Sara Bareilles. It might have been September. We crimped out hair and Photo-boothed it after. I’d gone from listening to Sara Bareilles in my room with the heart-painted-on bookcase to watching her perform in our dorm lounge.
— — — —
This is the first thing I wrote. But then I cut it up into pieces and scattered it across the screen.
Class got cancelled unexpectedly; on the walk back, I wandered into the piano lobby. There’s a song I’ve been listening to, Vanilla Twilight, that has a really beautiful melody. It’s by Owl City, an outdated band I haven’t really listened to since I was twelve and meditating on fields and spouting things about sunsets. But the song’s stuck with me for years because it’s sad and pretty and meaningful.
So I played that by ear, and it was surprisingly easier than I thought it’d be. The song sounds rife with minor notes and I’m rustier with minor black keys (couldn’t tell you if it were sharp or flat, just that it’s some sort of minor). It was mostly major notes. Simple melody. And the chord progression was predictable, too. In retrospect, maybe that’s why I find the song beautiful over a period of time, because it adheres to the magical unsaid rules of predictable melody.
A boy named Bryan stood behind me for a few minutes while I was talking with my friend at the piano. I turned to him, figured he wanted to play. He said that he just wanted to tell me that the piano-playing was beautiful. I thanked him, and then he swiped back into the building. It was kind of him to say and made me really happy.
Things I might be certain of:
We’re swimming in norms no one person decided. Maybe the sky is blue. This may or may not be a dream. I like writing incoherent text posts at one in the morning. I deeply suspect that a part of me secretly enjoys–thrives on–the stress of procrastinating and the last-minute headaches of: oh God, oh God, I have an essay due tomorrow and I’ve no idea what the prompt is; I didn’t pay attention any of the times my professor touched upon the paper so now I have to ask around for the prompt and I really should have done this sooner.
Oh. I did fine on the last paper, the one I wrote the afternoon before. The fictionalized one. I don’t write fiction, I haven’t written fiction, not since it got squashed out of me in HS. But when I was eight I liked writing fiction, fiction about girls with blonde and blue hair (all those Mary Kate and Ashley books getting to my head) I never wrote about aliens or dystopias but I guess I’ve been thinking about that a lot (all this data mining getting to my head) so I wrote a paper about it. My TA said he’d have liked me to elaborate more on the story, which I don’t think was even included… Was there a story? Mostly it was like an excruciatingly drawn-out description. I did this my first semester, too. I came up with some drawn-out fictionalized character reading from a book I hadn’t read and then–then what? I did fine.
This is a cycle. I procrastinate, do fine, grow lax in my ability to churn out last-minute papers, then get headaches the day before. I think it’s part laziness, part perfectionism, part I-just-want-to-do-it-because-I-can. I mean, I don’t know.
I keep wishing it’s Christmas. Yesterday I went downtown. Twice, actually. First to wander around the city, second to celebrate my roommate’s birthday. On the car drive back we passed by bars and clubs and concert-cafes and it was so odd catching glimpses into people’s lives–like the city equivalent of peering into brightly-lit homes in suburbia. To see some of the things/hear some of the sounds/feel some of the vibes these other people are experiencing, it’s like witnessing something that isn’t yours to witness or feeling nostalgic for lives you have not lived. God, it’s so unnerving, so mundane at the same time. I can’t explain it. Something to do with seeing. Living, if just for a moment, vicariously through so many people you might never see again. Maybe it’s like the concept of scopophilia we learned about in my queer politics class, just the sheer pleasure of looking, of seeing. Maybe.
Also, ah. Like the happy drunk who cries oh I love you, you know that, right? Totally. I feel exhausted-quiet-grateful for the people who’ve been in my life for years. Raises glass. No, but really. I think sometimes I have the tendency to drift like driftwood, tumble like tumbleweed, forget incessantly to respond and get back to people. (By sometimes I mean always) People come and go. So do roses, foxes, and Little Princes. But in the past few years, a handful haven’t left. And so Oct 17th 2016 1:14 AM I’m going to be grateful for that. Yes, yes, this is my puddle of gratitude.
Inspired by The Journal of Disposable Thoughts, as well as alum who railed on about the importance of having passion projects…Some personal projects and ideas I’ve been toying around with:
1. A video project I’ve been meaning to do since June or July. I’d like to compile the video footage I took of life and strangers in China. Was inspired by WANDER IN VIETNAM, which I found on Vimeo last summer:
2. 100 Strangers Project. Haven’t updated in eons–I still talk to strangers and keep note of their stories, but I never get around to posting them. I’ve also felt averse to photography for the past few months and so that probably has something to do with it. When I have time, though, I’ll update the project…And, ideally, reach 60 strangers by the end of the year.
3. Last spring I thought of painting a series relating to It; this summer I thought about compiling a space where I could throw up everything about It. Like, oh, a digital timeline, the shortest one you could imagine. Just a chronology of songs and art and quotes and notes-
But I only painted a rose and stopped there. The whole thing seemed, uh, unhealthy. And indulgent. But I guess that’s one excuse you can make for art and shitty feelings. Latter fuels the former….(Reminds me of a piece in Brain Pickings on artist Marina Abramovic’s Turning Trauma Into Power.)
How could I complete it? Well, I could paint Ophelia. And, oh, what else? Nail-biting-brainstorming. Most likely I’ll focus on filling up two more canvases and then just have a 3-piece series on the topic of It, which I’ll have to also give a better name later.
4. This, uh, photography project idea I’m contemplating doing. Won’t divulge details, it’s a little unnerving, and I wouldn’t know how to explain it to people who don’t understand (?) Still. There’s an odd allure to it. And there’s something inside of me that really wants to do this. Guess it amplifies/draws into question the relationship between the photographer, the camera, the subject… the nature of observing and capturing ‘moments’, huh.
5. Something to do with music, something to do with instruments. I could learn a piano duet piece to play with my friend. Usually he watches piano videos to learn songs, and I’ll play them by ear. But I think it’d be fun to learn new songs and to practice sheet-reading, something I haven’t done in months… and I miss the flow of making music. God, you know that moment when consuming music isn’t enough–you just have to produce it, too? Otherwise you might explode? It’s been a while since I’ve felt that towards any one song. But I can’t sit around waiting for musical muses. I’ll find one.
6. Sketch and paint the people in my life. Give people in my life said sketches. Last week I gave VS a painting of The Little Prince; on Friday, I gave my TA a comic-ified version of a poem. All summer I kept wondering: what do I do with my art, what do I do with my art? Well, I could give it to other people (…If they wanted it)
In the spring my professor told us to write about something meaningful to us. So I waited until it was two, ’til I was sleepy and sad in rambly honesty, and wrote about how somebody had said hi to me that day. Mumbled it, mostly, but uttered it anyways. And it sounds so lame when I put it into words– there’s a million other things (or maybe just a solid few) that could be Meaningful, capital M–but on that day I chose a half-assed hi. It reminds me of Burroughs in his memoir, Running With Scissors, where he goes–
“I used to feel so alone in the city. All those gazillions of people and then me, on the outside. And then I realized, you just say, “Hi.” They may ignore you. Or you may marry them. And that possibility is worth that one word.”
-Running With Scissors, Augusten Burroughs
(So hello to you too.)
I miss my guitar. And I know this because when I listen to music, I’ll see it splitting, see the melodies and harmonies fracturing into individual segments, watch the notes to see where they go, one step higher, one octave lower. I’m following each instrument like a different train of thought and then feeling them all culminate and dance with each other.
When I’m playing by ear, it’s the same process: I’m closing my eyes and opening my ears and sensing where these notes are going. And then I play and play until it feels right. I could curl up in other’s musicality, content myself with just listening, but I’m like a cat watching a ball of yarn ball of music; eventually I’ll want to tug at it and unravel it, the music. When I listen to music, it is like watching it unravel. And then I want to put it all together again.
Like Jesus’s face on the painting in the kitchen, like the bird’s beak as he climb up the wires. Like the piece that falls in the stove splintered open and my face is chalky caked with make up and even though my camera’s hanging from my neck I haven’t touched her in eons. Continue reading
10: like a sleepy warm embrace 9: the sound of hisses pots pans before dinner “o I just throw things together” 8: organized disarray groaning under its own weight 7: driving down winding empty roads
6: (tethered) 5: dancing, singing, stepping on my own toes 4: cardboard sign that reads FREE HUGS 3: cracking tilting falling apart but it’s not about the SHELL it’s about the PEANUT 2: happy slow light
1: and warm. very very warm
(Earlier I was reading Michael Mira’s (@journalofdisposablethoughts) post on how we all have to have a “home as a reference point….It could be at a railway station in Nairobi or in your wife’s loving arms.” Just something that keeps us 6: tethered–“we all need a single point in the universe to attach our roots.”)