Relevant

(throws confetti, once again)

Today is, in fact, my sweet little blog’s
fourthbirthday

Screen shot 2013-09-07 at 10.40.22 PMThat’s right, folks. Four whole years. They grow up so fast!
Anyway, I don’t have anything special planned, but I wanted to recognize this day and thank you all for sticking with me.

The past few months of grad school have been exceedingly difficult, emotionally more than anything else. This isn’t the first time I’ve felt that my writing has suffered because of school. It happens every semester when papers and tests pick up. But this seems to be something different entirely, and I’m trying to sort my way through it.

This space continues to grow and change as I do. So thanks for coming back.
Thanks for not giving up on me.

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Reflection

Wanting

I want a rooftop garden, or a porch with potted petunias, or even a dusty windowsill with tiny succulents to remind me I can keep something alive, to remind me to be thankful for the sun.
I want to make music every day.
I want to feel comfortable with my clumsiness, with my shaky voice.
I want to ask you what you’re thinking instead of guessing.
I want to stop writing about you.
I want to feel like someone worth Saturday mornings, worth sharing secrets, worth sharing silent spaces.
I want to stop pretending.
I want to live with fierce authenticity.
I want to toss away the irony, the apathy, the pretense, the bullshit.
I want to cry every time I hear that Death Cab song and always be terrified of my parents dying.
I want to stay up all night writing terrible poems.
I want to write about you until I understand.
I want to always remember what I love about writing.
I want to never compromise that for a career.
I want to care more but be a little less careful.
I want the questioning and certainty.
I want to settle in the unsettling contradictions.

I love abstractions, I love
to give them a nouny place to live,
a firm seat in the balcony
of ideas, while music plays.
I love them more than hard evidence
and shapely stones, more than money,
which can buy time, but not enough.

Stephen Dunn

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Relevant

Write, Right When You Get There

I’m double posting about this because I think it’s pertinent to both my writing and design spaces. I typically keep the two separate, but I’m making an exception this time, so I apologize if you read both and find this redundant. 

I’m very excited to tell you that I recently completed my very first submission for The Sketchbook Project!

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I’ve been a fan of Art House Co-op for years, and have participated in a number of their art swaps and smaller projects, but just contributed my first sketchbook to the collection.

To participate, you order a sketchbook from Art House Co-op and register the book with a particular tour you want your book to travel before being housed in the Brooklyn Art Library. The theme of the tour I chose is called “Write, Right When You Get There,” bringing together written story and visual artwork, which felt right up my alley. It also seemed like the perfect theme as (many of you already know, of course) I made a huge life transition and moved across the country just two months ago.

A lot of the writing that has appeared here the past few months was written first in my sketchbook and adapted for this little digital space, but if you’re in any of the cities along the tour (Kansas City, Louisville, Columbus, and Pittsburgh) or find yourself in Brooklyn any time soon, you should check out The Sketchbook Project and the Brooklyn Art Library. And if you feel like looking up my book, you can find it by this call number (216.5-7), and I would absolutely love to know if you do. Here are a few photos from my sketchbook.

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Reflection, Relevant, Remembering

To My Favorites

While I was the second of two daughters in my family, most of my closest friends growing up had younger siblings, and because of them I lucked into a number of little sisters. I shared hallways with them for a year of high school, my last and their first, and did what I could to make everything a little lighter. I got to watch them grow in a similar way I imagine my own sister did me: with the desire to protect them, to teach them everything I knew, to keep them young, and provide them with a space to grow up that was even just a little more compassionate than my own.

Of course, they grew up on me and became the most stunning, intelligent, creative, and caring young women I know. Next week they begin college, and with that will come many changes, I’ve learned, just a few years ahead of them in age. In many other ways though, they’re lightyears ahead of me. And now I’m certain that I didn’t just gain a gaggle of little girls to play Mother Hen to, but a number of dear friends.

There are a lot of Guides to Surviving Freshman Year of College written and published this time of year, which contain a number of insightful things like how to get involved with student organizations, the reality of the Freshman 15, how not to fail every class, how to party like a real frat star, and many similar bits of wisdom I don’t care to share with you. Instead, I write this one to my favorite little sisters, with the acknowledgement that I’m not full of wisdom or answers, just a great deal of love.

I still want to protect you, teach you everything I know, keep you young, and create a compassionate world for you to continuing growing.

For my favorite babes as they begin college:

Know this list is full of contradictions and exceptions.
Know that life is full of contradictions and exceptions.

Feel everything, except guilty for feeling. I don’t know a more graceful way to write that succinctly, but I think it’s important. There will be times when someone will dismiss your feelings, will minimize, will trivialize, and—if you’re anything like me—will make you feel embarrassed for caring too much. Or maybe it will be the reverse. Be honest about it. Let yourself feel what you feel, the extremes, the in-betweens, the numbness that may be worst of all. Let yourself miss home, let yourself be confused, let yourself be heartbroken. Feel organically. Sort through it when you can. Write from it, create from it, run with it, be motivated by it, make it valuable in some way if you can. And when it’s too much for you to handle, know how to ask for help. That’s important.

Communicate what matters. When you hurt someone, apologize. When you have big questions, ask them. When you love someone, please tell them, and don’t wait too long. I’ve spent too much of my life rehearsing phone calls before I made them, imagining conversations before they happened, and writing letters too late, letting my over-thinking get in the way of saying things that actually matter. Relationships do dissolve, friends do move away, and people die, which isn’t meant to be a that-escalated-quickly moment, but a serious one. I’m not one of those people who claims to not have any regrets because you can’t change the past or whatever. I regret many things, but most of those moments surround failing to say ‘I love you’ or ‘I’m sorry,’ for fear of shaking pride, or for fear of the response.

Take an Intro to Philosophy class your first year.

Be alone, and even lonely, at least a little. Let it teach you.

Don’t be afraid you’re not doing college correctly. I’m sure you’ve already heard/read/seen more than you would ever want to about The College Experience, so you’ll naturally go in with a number of expectations. For the record, my college idol was Rory Gilmore, who went to Yale, while I went to a giant state school in Texas, if that tells you anything about my misguided ideas about college. Gilmore Girls talk aside, my point is that you can’t possibly get rid of your expectations, but I think you can foster a kind of attitude towards those expectations which allows something meaningful to come from the disappointment when it isn’t everything you’ve ever hoped.

College may be the best four years of your life. It also may not even come close to the best years of your life. Let it be what it is and don’t worry you’re doing it wrong because it doesn’t fit the college mold. Don’t feel guilty if you actually like studying. Join a sorority even if your friends back home think it’s lame. Don’t be afraid of fitting a college kid stereotype, of being a hipster, of dating a guy or gal who writes poetry, of getting a 4.0, or being in student government. Don’t be afraid of being outside every stereotype. Do you, plain and simple.

Talk to people who challenge you and what you think you know. Let them teach you about yourself.

Read for pleasure (alright, over winter break).

Call your folks and your siblings often.

Know that if you choose a liberal arts/humanities major, people will criticize you for it, and there’s not much you can do to stop them. Know why you’re studying dance or studio art or creative writing or philosophy or theatre. Have a good reason, one you believe wholeheartedly. If you know what you’re spending your time studying is valuable, the criticism won’t get to you. Expect people to call it the “easy major” and throw around words like useless, frivolous, and would you like fries with that. It will be hurtful sometimes, and crummy people will base their judgements of you on what you’re studying. Don’t feel like you have to defend your major to the death. You won’t change their minds. Brush it off, and don’t ever read Yahoo! News. Just, don’t. English-major-hater central.

Know what is within your control and what isn’t. You can’t change the time of your 8 a.m. class when you come to your senses and realize 8 a.m. classes are the very worst. You can’t change your bank account balance when it tells you you’ve spent your last seven dollars this month and don’t get a pay check for three days. You can’t change the fact that you lost your phone on a Saturday night you can’t remember. You can’t change the fact that he doesn’t love you.

Know that everything and everyone can teach you something if you let them.

It’s OK to share cigarettes with boys on front porch steps, but always know how many packs you’ve bought in your lifetime. It’ll keep you in check, and keep your lungs from quitting on you when you’re 45.

Stand up for yourself. Identify what makes you valuable. Know those things like the back of your hand, so you never have to question it and never let anyone else.

Love with conviction.

Let yourself change. Recognize the changing as it happens, how it happens, who it happens with. Document along the way if you’re into that kind of thing. Write Future You a letter telling her all about you now. She’ll want to meet you, I promise.

Make balance a constant goal.

Resist apathy. This last one is important. You’ll meet a lot of people who care about very little. Don’t be like that. Care about something. Care about everything. Care too much if you have to, but be alive.

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Relevant

Making Sense of Somewhere New

You’ll drive somewhere just to see if you can find home again on your own, wandering to wander.

You’ll miss hugs, the good ones that last too long and say so much.

You’ll go to the same places over and over again to relish in the familiarity.

You’ll miss the possibility of running into someone you know, an entire town of yearbook photos that have grown a little worn around the edges.

Homesickness will fill the silences if you let it. You’ll step onto an empty balcony at an uncomfortable house party and it will come.

You’ll be surprised by the easy days.

Your new friends won’t notice when you’re gone, when you work through lunch everyday for a week or miss Wednesday night drinks, because you haven’t been a constant in their lives long enough for them to realize you’ve been elsewhere.

You’ll double-take every time you hear a voice or see the back of someone’s head that feels familiar, regardless of how improbable it is. You’ll be disappointed every time it’s not him.

You’ll take yourself out to brunch on a Sunday morning because you want the calm and the quiet and the proving to yourself that you can. Eventually you’ll learn to feel comfortable saying “table for one.”

This comfort might scare you.

You’ll find yourself making categories and placing people in them in true Dr. Seuss fashion: old friends, new friends, home friends, school friends.

Those categories will becomes less defined and new ones will materialize: then and now. This might not be easy to accept.

You’ll challenge the things you feared.

You’ll survive.

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Random

Learning Quickly

I got rid of everything I didn’t think I would need for the next year of my life, fit the rest into the back seat of my car with my bicycle strapped to the trunk, a dear friend in the seat beside me, and watched my hometown become a place far away. I drew a diagonal line across the country, two points labeled “Home” and “Home” and followed them from one to the other.  I saw pretty hills in Tennessee, stretches of highway across Kentucky, a crazy storm along Lake Erie, and read a sign that said “Welcome to New York, the Empire State” as I flew past with my windows down.

My story isn’t particularly unique. I’m a twenty-something who was terrified to move away from the comforts of home, did so, and quickly learned the world isn’t so terrifying.

In just a few weeks I’ve learned that people will surprise you if you let them, that comfort is in the closest mexican restaurant with decent tacos, that connecting with people comes easily with shared experiences, and that missing home is a heartbreakingly warm feeling.

None of this is new. These are all things they told me in between smiles and hugs and “you’re going to have such an amazing time” and “I’m so excited for you.” But like most things, I had to feel it for myself. I had to have a 2 a.m. solo dance party in my bedroom in the middle of an all-nighter of transcribing interviews to remember I can survive this. I had to share drinks across tables in a loud bar with near-strangers that managed to become friends in just days to believe it was possible.

I’m excited to be writing this only a few weeks into this experience, so that looking back I can remember how impossible it all seemed and how easily it came together in reality, which I can’t help but think is pretty damn stellar.

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Reflection

Imaginary

I’ll probably always be one to love a little too much a little too soon. Someone whose feelings don’t subscribe to the time tables set for them.

And I’m not among those who knows she’ll have either peonies or ranunculus at her wedding. I’ve never pictured it. I have heard myself on many occasions saying to close friends, “I hope you get married in the next few years so I can plan your wedding,” demanding complete creative control, of course, despite my intense skepticism for the whole practice. Marriage or even a long-term romantic relationship is not a guarantee for me, or at least I don’t feel that it is.

I bet on my friendships most days, even though they allow for a certain level of unspoken commitment and platonic love and bring their own kind of sadness as they end. I plan for friendships as though they’re guaranteed, but romantic relationships seem to be in the Great Unknown category, something I’m content with most days.

And despite all of this, I still find myself planning an elaborate future, without any certainty of a future with that person at all.

I’m not a fiction writer, but I can’t help but imagine a lifetime with anyone who will let me, a romanticized vision of every possibility.

He and I were to ride bicycles across the Golden Gate Bridge. She and I would share a closet-sized apartment in the city. He and I would have a cafe con leche (his with a little too much sugar) every afternoon in our favorite plaza and he would tell me how he loves music but finds comfort in sharing silence with someone and she would ask to share a cigarette on a back porch when sleep wouldn’t come and she would always forgive me when I get bossy about playing music.

We all would have reconvened for New Year’s Eve or ditched our families to have Friendsgiving in November and he would have read books in the grass and I would take too many pictures of him and we would have opened a flower/letterpress stationary shop, she and I, with soft-colored walls and hand-painted flowers and hand-drawn letters on the windows and he would have traveled the world, but come back for me, or asked me to come along and kiss him on every bridge we would have walked across.

You would have realized you were way too young to get married and I would have learned to write sweet songs on ukulele to sing our kids to sleep or maybe just a sweet pupster that would have found a comfy spot each night at the foot of our bed and I would have written you a hundred more letters and left them on the kitchen counter for you to wake up to and nothing would have felt truer than Whitman’s words when he said: “We were together. I forget the rest.”

And today, I suppose I’m content to indulge in these lovely stories. But really, I hope to spend a lifetime being continually mesmerized and fascinated by how much more wonderful reality is than anything I could scribble into imaginary notebooks in my head.

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