This Happiness is My Own

Tonight. We sat across the lake to live music. The sun set to rock classics. I dangled my toes over the brick wall, occasionally dipping them in cold lake water. Look! I’d exclaim. And I leaned back, prickly grass against my elbows. Rock and roll!

Can you bring me a beer? He did. I finished the IPA he brought me. By the end of it, I was tipsy dipsy. Still sturdy. But loopy. I wiggled my way over the brick wall.

The band played classics from the 80’s. And it all just felt so summer quintessential. Light and muggy. Grass on your thighs, and you’re swatting at bugs, filled with heavy heady happiness. That presentness feels like what the movies look like. Being here, in the now, swaddled in music, oldie tunes, beer, cool breeze of summer.

Has summer always been so beautiful? My memories of summer are scorching hot. Beads of sweat within seconds. It was “fry an egg on the sidewalk” type heat, where I wouldn’t step foot outside unless I had to. Has summer changed? Or have I? Have I discovered, for the first time in my life, the blissful coolness of post 8 PM summers?

This happiness is my own. There were moments I found myself lost in the music. I watched each wave. Patterns of white reflection blinded me. As the sun lowered, the neon signs by the lake glittered louder than ever.

Longwinded 35mm

I fell in love with film during an Economics lecture while sitting in the front row. It was 2015. The photographer was Japanese, Tsu-something, and I found his Flickr somewhere. He had beautiful friends in beautiful places. Film became a weird aesthetic obsession. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I remembered, somewhere inside me, that this was something I loved.

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For a few weeks, I hunted around for film alternatives: apps, edits, programs. In the end, I discovered that something I’d shunned as a kid, kicked around with friends, brought to the zoo, no less–disposables–would be the closest thing. So I ordered disposable cameras and shot them during the remainder of the school year. I brought them to work during my internship, where my co-worker chuckled–wait! I said, let me get my camera. I sent them to Wal-Mart to get developed because it was the only place I could. The 2 hour places were gone, Costco had recently stopped, and Wal Greens prices were expensive.

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I did this with a disposable every year. A disposable camera album for 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. In 2015, I tanked a Biology test, dropped the class, and took a film one instead. I loved it. I learned how to pick out the film. Place it on the reel. Add the chemicals. And dry the film. And dropping the Science class wasn’t for naught–I was still able to shave off a semester of college, and end up rediscovering my love for Psychology. (-Oh! How funny in retrospect. Things would have been different if I hadn’t taken Psychology in lieu of that Bio class. After that, I opted for a Psychology elective my Senior Year…which led me to my current graduate program in Psychology. Wow. Weird. It all came full-circle.)

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A few years ago, while cleaning out the house, I stumbled upon my parents’ old camera, a Canon Snappy LX. They’d used it when they were young. And hip. And looking like cool flower hippies from the 60’s, with my mom in long skirts and my dad in shorts. The camera still worked. I bought film, but barely shot anything: I knew it’d be overly expensive to develop the film. Film itself is expensive, as any 20-something with a friend with Polaroids will know. And developing it is also expensive. Aside from Wal-Mart, most places charge about a quarter or two per photo.

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But come last summer, I finally bit the bullet and bought my own chemicals. I bought my own tanks. I did some online research and scrapped their time-consuming, overly expensive tips. Instead of professional chemical bottles, I used old vinegar jugs. Instead of a hot water bath, I threw those in the microwave. It worked. And my boyfriend, seeing how much I struggled to convert the negatives to images, hearing how much I babbled about film, surprised me with a Epson 5500 scanner.

Since then, I’ve scanned about 8 rolls of film–about twice as many as I have over the past 5 years. I’ve been lightly sharing some of the 35mm on WordPress, but not as much as I’d like to. Now that I have so much more time, I plan to post batches of previous film that I’ve developed. Because why not? I love film. And my oh my, was this a longwinded love letter to it.

A Guided Meditation

 

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relax. in this moment.
breathe in
breathe out

let your thoughts drift
they'll come
let them go

milk honey
book lies
oil order

let them go

listen to the chirp of birds
and feel the present engulf you
here here
always here

don't be swept away by the
media
by the internet
by things
you can't
see

focus only
on the here
and now

the way your toes
tingle
the way the trees
sway

relax your mind
relax your mind
relax your mind

right now, there is only the present
the way the air swells
faint buzz of cicadas

in this moment
you are at peace with where
you are 

the present is all that here
truly is
everything else
is in
the mind

listen to the sound of the
leaves
watch them
sway--
they don't contemplate the past
they don't worry about the future

be not consumed by yesterday
or tomorrow

--the maybe's
the what if's--

bask in the right now
and just
relax

Dive Back Into Photography

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I feel happy making a “DSLR” album on my computer again. I used to make these all the time, but it petered out around 2017. It’s been years since I’ve been enmeshed in photography. It used to be the type of thing I’d wear around my face as a social identity: the girl with the lens. And it frustrated me, because I wanted to wear other things on my face. But the camera slung around my neck always said otherwise.

I’m wary about connecting my social media to my blog, because this has always been a sort of disconnected outlet. So here are a few old favorites, mostly from 2014-2015 when I got my first 50mm and really got into photography.

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to see the pope
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Something tells me I won’t reach the same fervor I once was at, but it’s still nice to rediscover my interest in digital photography. I still love film, of course, and share my old photos avidly. I’ll just be bringing along one more camera when I’m on trips or outings.

Rose

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“It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important.”
Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, The Little Prince

Accidental Date

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In the evening, we visited the bar x bookstore x coffeeshop with the fat bright bulbs in the back and edgy writer Meetups behind us. This was an accidental-date. Hours earlier in the grocery line, I had remarked that I was officially tired of dates, having gone to a fancy French restaurant three days ago. Despite it, here we were.

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He grabbed an overpriced bear. I spent a good 20 minutes taking photos on my 3 cameras. He dreamt about the cross-country road trip he would one day take. I eavesdropped on the writers behind me. He mused about sailing through cities, passing by mountains, and seeing grand lakes. I told him to plan it.

Tipsy on coffee-flavored beer, we ducked out onto the streets where people swam the streets and danced to live jazz and strays eyed us lazily, warily.

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We walked from one side of the street to the other, weighing out the available food options, and after I, indecisive, chose 2 twice (“Choose a number between 1 and 3.” “There is only one number between 1 and 3.”) we went to the burger joint. The chipotle sauce dripped down my chin and I used up 8 wads of napkins.

After the burgers, we got a scoop of cookies and cream ice cream on a waffle cone and sat outside on the swing set. We had come in the summer and spring before. We swung back and forth on the rocking chair and people-watched, taking turns to finish the waffle cone.

Peanuts

Our souls are like peanuts, our bodies, the shells. I remember thinking this the night we came home from burning incense. We burned paper money. I think we bowed. Me, in my gangly western body, oversized and overstretched. Metal lockers. Ashes. Peanuts.

Light enthusiasm for existence has been coupled with a headachey down-to-earth boredom. While driving, I waver between extremities of thought. I think about the person driving behind me. I think about god. I think about cruise control. I think about the cycle of life. There’s no in between. Then I pull up to the parking lot.

I read and I read. It started from a halloween movie. It turned out to be half real. I know travel can expand the mind and whatnot. But here I am, afraid of flights, strangers, disease and the unknown. Fear, fear, fear. To be honest, I’m okay with it.

And I trust the tidbits of knowledge and insight that occasionally sprout from the hazy morning of wake. Like: your soul lets go when it’s ready to let go!

I read about the differentiation between emotional learning and intellectual learning. It resonates. Only those specific experiences could have taught me the things they taught me. Only through rumination and crumbling brick-overflowing-vats could I have taken away something. Some things you can easily digest. But other lessons, lessons of the heart, are tailored through relationships, formed and broken.

I don’t really know what else to do with this, though. I do, but I don’t. How do we translate abstractions of the heart to tangible actions? And how do we, issue-riddled humans, overcome the countless things we might never overcome?

I have no idea.

Silly Musings

I accidentally broke my 50mm camera lens last Fall while setting my tripod on bricks. Two mini-shoots later, I decided to buy another one, but not the Canon one for $120. Despite the price, it’s still the cheapest of the Canon family, and I end up breaking one every 3 years from overuse or clumsiness. So I got this one for $50, a knock-off brand made of, seemingly, the exact same parts, and so far, it’s performed beautifully. We’ll see how long it lasts. To be honest, I rarely pick up my digital cameras. But after last weekend’s shoot, I’m itching to get back into it.

At the moment, I feel weirdly paralyzed by all the creative outlets I have but can’t choose between. I am most indecisive about the things that matter least, and at the moment, I cannot decide among film photography, digital photography, archiving photography, or sketchbooking. But it makes no sense. I am simultaneously bored, weeks ahead on grad school assignments because I am bored, and also paralyzed between these creative options. Technically, I could divert my boredom onto one of these, but I can’t. These are the silly musings of a silly girl.

Speaking of creative projects, I’ve been continuing my Project 365, polaroid style. I’m posting one post with 6 images every 6 days and plastering it onto my Stories. It’s an easy way to manage and share my project without overloading myself with tasks and reminders. When I first attempted a Project 365 about 10 years ago, there were no iPhones and apps and what-have-you’s. We had our digital cameras, yes, but also our USB cords and digital time stamps we right-clicked to check. It was a lot harder to keep track of photos, especially when I took them on 3 different cameras at once, and there were no filters to beautify the lazy ones. I appreciate the photo-technology we have nowadays.

Also, I ended up getting rid of Adobe Photoshop and Lightroom because somehow my little brain forgot that I was paying over $10 a month for those–$120 a year. Not worth it. They are purely recreational. But for a few days I felt weird without them, even though I barely use them. I felt as though I could do nothing at all anymore, when in reality, I could do plenty with VSCO. I don’t know: I need to figure out my editing workflow. I can do it with free technology.

So that’s what’s been on my mind, aside from some menial grad school tasks and homework assignments. I heard back from an old student this morning and it warmed my heart. I said a few goodbyes to students last week. I feel particularly fond of some students, because we just jibe. I said, “how are you feeling now?” And they said they were sad. We wouldn’t see each other any more. Isn’t that sweet?

Paradoxical

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It’s weird. It’s almost 2020, but 2010 feels like yesterday. And why do I look the exact same? I look as old as I was in 2010.

I thought about making a video with snippets from the past decade, but it’d just be filled with people who aren’t in my life anymore. And it’d be kind of weird to make a video filled with people who fluttered in and out of my life. Fluttered is too light of a word. Many of these people were good friends, best friends. Most of these relationships ended quietly. But these relationships were too close, too intense, at times, to have truly faded away. The memories were good, but a 2020 video wouldn’t be right.

The most lasting people in my life thus far have been my best friend and my boyfriend. The longest consistent friend has been my best friend, since 2014. My boyfriend and I have wavered in our closeness over the years. I think only one or two people from 2010 have stuck around until now, in the sense that we’ve had a consistent relationship in the past decade. Those types of friendships are usually medium-level, where there isn’t a huge amount of personal, mutual sharing. Most of the time, I feel like an incredibly hard nut to crack, even for myself, because I can’t even crack myself open when I want to. And those one or two friends are people I seldom truly crack open for, but whose company I still enjoy. There’s not much intensity, which can be a good thing.

I mean, I don’t know. I want to pay homage to the past decade in some way, but I’m not entirely sure how. I think I’ll finally get around to that 2010-2020 photo album I started back in the summer. I don’t know why I’m so drawn to archiving these minute details of my life. Project 365s. Videos. Little DVDs. Photo albums. Photo books. Silly, silly. And yet they mean so much to me.

On the car ride home, I realized how paradoxical it was, to feel as though this life was so paramount, so fixed, and yet to realize that it is, in the grand scheme of things, just another dust speck. One life in the sea of many. But it’s all part of a bigger picture, isn’t it? Just one piece of the puzzle. But it’s insane: we carry this puzzle piece as though it means the world, because to us, it does. Oh, but these 10 years of my life have been nothing. And yet they have been something. I’m still reflecting on it.

Like smoke

Loneliness in a room. I can’t find the right description online as I google different phrases. I’m looking for a description of sensing other people’s loneliness in a room. Lingering loneliness. Not current, but a compilation of hours, weeks of the feeling. The energy of loneliness that pervades a room. Sticks, like smoke, to the walls, sheets, furniture.

I recognized an odd, familiar, lingering energy. It had been a long time since I’ve felt that in another person’s space: it was more common in college, when I’d walk into a friend’s room, and it’d hit me: they were deeply lonely. Despite the laid back demeanor and welcome smiles, the strange empty, and yet entirely filling, energy–distinct, heavy, separate- would be in the room. It would permeate it. It felt like if grey cement were air. I could feel it. I would then feel sympathy, but also a desire to leave. Once I did, I no longer felt it.

That’s what I’m looking for online. Is this common? Yes, I’ll feel energies, and that’s normal. We all know the peppy Patty who’s reverberating on a much wilder frequency. And we all know the malevolent Mallory who is off-putting in her unsaid energy. But loneliness is just the strangest thing to sense in a space. In a space surrounded by people, warmth, lights and music, it lingered there. Like cigarette smoke! You could mask it with mint, but only so much.

For a moment, I paused. This was such an odd, and yet familiar, energy. Was it real? Or was it just the smell of wood, or maybe the lighting? I told myself I was imagining things and shrugged it off, but a part of me remained curious. The energy of loneliness, a distinct air I’ve felt in people’s homes–was this commonly experienced?

Moldy Peaches || 35mm

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here is the church, and here is the steeple / we sure are cute for two ugly people

Remember that one song in Juno, the movie where teen Paige-Something ended up pregnant? We grew up to that one movie and that one song by the Moldy Peaches. Can’t see what anyone can see in anyone else but you. Folk indie. When my friends and I bumbled around to banjo music.

WordPress, I’ve begun my slow organization and upload of my film here.

The 35mm film was processed and developed at home (mini color lab, which is mostly made up of chemicals in 1L old vinegar containers) and scanned with a V550. Le beau had bought me one a few weeks ago to surprise me because he saw how obsessed I was with film.

Images were taken on an old Canon Snappy LX that I found buried in one of my family’s drawers, and on Fujifilm Superia 400 film.

Solitude

img162.jpgI’ve been too busy this past week to go through WordPress and read my favorite blogs.  Likewise, Instagram has gone unscrolled, FB unscrolled, SC is a eh-unscrolled, IG stories untapped. I’ve just been busy lately, and social media just isn’t as much of a fix as it used to be.

The past week, I’ve been around lots of people. Understandably. Graduate school is, after all, filled with people, and the field of Psychology has to do with people.

I was thinking today of how ironic it was to be introverted and continually drawn to people-centric fields. I hide away in corners, yet happily work with students. I isolate myself, yet am fascinated by psychology, the study of human behavior. I’m notorious for not responding to my phone, yet opted for communication classes. I say I prefer close friends and close friends only, but seek out class and work friends.

But maybe I’m a lot less misanthropic than high school me would have been led to believe. I wouldn’t be surprised: it wasn’t until I was 15 that I realized how much I enjoyed being alone. Personality is relatively stable throughout one’s lifetime, so I’m sure the first 15 years of people-loving are still flowing in my veins. Even so, that hasn’t prevented me from shutting the entire world out today. Today is my day to be utterly, entirely, deliciously alone. In cold and solitude are where I recharge.

Middle

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The cool kids glowed. I remember pulling out of the school parking lot, turning to see the light they cast onto the muddy field. The girls, the boys, so irresistibly cool. Makeup, lemonade, drugs, minds oh-so-so precocious. You smart aleck; you soon-to-be teen mom. How could we have known? Youth gripped us hard. How could you emanate light at 13?

There was M. When I remember her, I see her doing a shoe dance where her toes turn in, then out, then back in. She slides around on the concrete floors, bangs curled with a straightener. Her wrists seem lithe in my memory, nails short, hair wavy. An easy Frenchy thing about her. Indie without even trying. We were all stumbling over ourselves, backs breaking into puberty, while she snatched up the prettiest boy in the grade, no fucking sweat.

Fujifilm 35mm

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Every year, I get like this–obsessed with disposable cameras and film. My eyes drink up the beauty of film: the broken colors, the candied smiles, the light grain. I’m frugal, and every photo’s 66 cents, at least, compared to the freedom of shooting digital. So I cringe when a photo turns out dark or overexposed. Despite it, film has a small piece of my heart, a recurring piece, and I return to admiring it year after year. Here are some snapshots.

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Full bloom in angst. Taken Spring 2017. The flowers were bursting with vitality, I with fury. Black leather jacket and jeans, the small dark Mazda. I forget if I’d gotten anything to drink before we zipped off in the car.

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A repost, no doubt, from something about about cities and skyscrapers. The view from the rooftop spanned several neighborhoods. I’d sometimes meander from one side to another. Then I’d return to slouching on the soft stained couch, cyan blue laptop propped against my knees.

Sometimes I miss the city; most of the time, I don’t. I remember that people looked colder there, and I wondered if it was me. Later, on the sunny bay of California, I realized that no, that wasn’t it–it’s cultural, area-specific. We get that way when we’re constantly surrounded by humans, and it’s so, so cold.

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Old school cool. I forget when this was taken, but I remember the sentiment: oh, it’s so sunny, and there’s just something about gas stations that seems so nostalgic and old.

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A day in the arts district. I’d stopped in the middle of the street to get a better shot of the man perched on the pole. It reminds me of a statue I saw in Austin, Texas–a small man at the top of a steely pole, staring down at the cafe-goers.