Slumpin’

It’s only mid-March and I can already feel myself inching precariously toward a reading slump. It may be because I’ve been so busy I can’t think straight, it may be because it’s tax season and for self-employed (and admittedly unorganized) people that’s the worst time of year. It may be because I just got over a flu and feel lethargic and lazy all at once. Maybe I’m not getting enough nutrients, since cooking takes time I don’t have.

But this slump feels bigger, more existential, than even all those tiny reasons compounded into one big reason. It feels aimless, like I’m searching every book for some truth I can’t bring to life, like I’m not really sure if reading (and everything that comes along with it) is really what I want to do with my life. Isn’t living what I really want to do? “I’ve lived a thousand lives, because I read,” and all that—but is one of those my own?

Reading has always been something I’ve loved. And so had writing. But writing is something that has always loomed large over my life, early on it fueled me. Now it just makes me feel as if I’m being watched. Writing has started to fill me with this vibrating tension—panic—the sensation of a rubber band poised to snap over a wrist. For a short while, when I was young, I was able to write as if the words were liquid spilling over my hands and onto paper. Even in high school, in writing classes, my stories were organic and easy to voice. And then I grew up, grew busier and busier, and the ease turned to force, and then it turned to extraction, like pulling a tooth. Because all of these identities and feelings and lives inside me, lives that were never my own, were screaming to be released and understood. Writing is, for me, not so much about self-expression as it is exploration of the other hundred thousand worlds in my head. And try as I might to catch them, they appear like a glimpse of a shadow in your peripheral vision; look at them straight and they’re gone in a wisp.

Still more like pulling a tooth is the fact that not writing, not extracting, makes me feel diseased, like there’s some pent up pain that can’t be released any other way. Like I’m disappointing my past and my future selves all at once. Still, the act of writing doesn’t fix it anymore.

I think it’s a fear of failure, a fear of never amounting to who I at one time believed I could, or should, be. A fear of pivoting; telling everyone, “Okay, I lied. I’m not a writer. I was only pretending.” Because writers write, don’t they? Anymore, the thought of writing makes me need to drink some calming tea (or preferably scream). My heart starts to speed up at the idea that my time on Earth is ticking away (yes, I’m young, but I could get hit by a bus or something) and I may never leave a smidgeon of myself behind. Is it vanity, then? Writers write, and I can’t even think about writing without breaking out in a cold sweat in the shadow of my own mortality.

Maybe I need to be face-to-face with that truth—my own insignificance, my own brevity—to write or do anything of note. Or maybe I’m just making up more excuses. Maybe I’ll eventually put something down on paper and publish it. Maybe I’ll never be a published author—perhaps not an author at all, published or otherwise. Perhaps being a reader, or a thinker or a dreamer or just me, as uninspiring as I am, is enough. The worlds and adventures humming around inside me don’t need to be put on paper to be real, though for someone to acknowledge them or connect with them would be gratifying.

 

 

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Doodle time: Kid Cudi / Scott Mescudi

I’ve been listening to Kid Cudi since 10th grade (that’s 6 years, which is insane). I’ve also been picked on relentlessly by my ex-boyfriend, current boyfriend (to a lesser degree because he’s not a jerk), my parents, etc. for liking his music, probably because I’m a lame, nerdy white girl from Amish country listening to a guy from Cleveland talk about doing psychedelic drugs and stuff.

But Kid Cudi’s music isn’t just about doing drugs and partying, though his songs about that are fun and upbeat. Cudi’s music has always had this underlying current of “otherness”, of not belonging anywhere and feeling let down by people. In my depression-era (we shall not go there), I identified with this heavily. Now, not so much. But listening to his music still gives me that deep feeling of connection, and makes me feel understood.

As of this writing, Cudi yesterday posted on Facebook that he checked himself into rehab for depression and suicidal urges. In the post, he apologized profusely, saying he was “ashamed” and “sad” to tell his fans, and that he’s been “living a lie”. Reading the post took my breath away, firstly because I’m so unused to honestly and forthrightness from celebrities (especially male rappers!!), and second because it was so obvious and I had never even considered it.

Listening to his music, like I said, can either be a fun or trippy experience (for instance, “Up, Up, and Away”, “Ashin’ Kusher”, “Enter Galactic”), or more somber and introspective (“Soundtrack 2 My Life”, “The Prayer”, “Down & Out”). Thinking back, in the thoughtless bliss of 10th grade, I was obsessed with his happier tracks. And into 11th and 12th grade, when my mental health was at its lowest ever, I found solace in my room or car playing track after track of his deeper stuff.

If I identified with it, and I was depressed, how could I not recognize that in someone else?

I think cultural norms have a huge, huge amount to do with it. I didn’t expect it because he was a black male rapper. It almost screams Strong. Resilient.

I’m stupid, basically.

Anyway, I didn’t open up WordPress to write the article everyone else on the internet is writing right now, about race, masculinity, and mental health visibility. Because I’m not good at that crap. I just wanted to post this drawing I did today of Cudi (while listening to his music for like 2+ hours) but instead I just haaaad to spill my discombobulated thoughts.

So yeah. Here’s my drawing. Drawn/scribbled with a regular ballpoint pen, highlighted with sharpie, then scanned and the paint splatter effect added using Affinity Photo. kid cudi.png

 

It’s not “just” fantasy

I need to watch my mouth. Specifically when I talk about literature.

This is a big problem, because I work part time at an inn frequented primarily by older people, and I suck at talking. Unfortunately, older people love to talk; and by talk, I mean “ask me questions so they can insert their own thoughts/opinions/suggestions to aid me on my life’s journey.” They ask me what I do, what my hobbies are, where I’m going to school—are you a student? a teacher? what was your major? why? And they proceed to give me unwarranted advice on every aspect of my life.

Now, I’m okay with getting people’s two cents on just about anything, even though it’s almost always unasked for. You want to give me advice on investing in the housing market? Be my guest. Please, help me get rich. But perhaps the worst question, when I’m stuck on a hot, sticky plastic chair for three hours selling tickets and my only solace is the book in my hands, is “What are you reading?”

When anybody else asks me this question, I get pumped. I want to talk about books 24/7, and writing, and language, and movie adaptations, and everything else dorky and pure about fiction.

But now, every time an older person (really—it’s only them!) asks me what I’m reading, I get a weird, heavy feeling in my chest. I don’t want to tell them, because I know what their answer is—I’ve seen it a million times, and  (so far, in the 3 years I’ve documented this) never once have I been wrong in my assumption.

So I tell them, “It’s just a fantasy.”

And they reply, “Oh.”

Oh.

Or they go, “Hm. I don’t like fantasy.” (Funny, I don’t recall asking you.)

They say, “Well, as long as you like it, eh?” (Why else would I be reading it? Bye, bitch!)

They squint their eyes, they screw up their mouth, they ask me—again—if I’m a student, because educated people don’t read fantasy, they read literature. They read histories, textbooks, and Oprah’s book club picks.

I’m not exaggerating about this at all. I go through this every Friday, multiple times per night; I shrug, I smile, I force a laugh where necessary—usually at my own expense—and every Friday I leave a little more irritated, a little more dejected, and a whole lot sicker of crustaceous old snobs.

You know the ones I’m talking about: the people who see you reading on your Kindle and say, “I’ll let you get back to playing your games/Facebook/texting/etc.,” or, if you’re laden down with a paperback: “It’s good to see a kid your age reading an actual book instead of pressing some buttons.”

Listen, bub, the only one pressing any buttons is you. It’s not a game just because it’s on a screen. Whether I read it in a newspaper or via Twitter, it’s still the same news; I’m just saving trees while you cling to your traditions. It’s still the same book whether I buy it via Kindle or paperback, and the Kindle version is often more accessible, cheaper, and instantaneous. I get to start reading right away! I don’t have to leave my house, for chrissake! And either way, it’s not mindless scrolling just because it’s Facebook, it’s not texting just because I’m on my phone (and so what if it is?), and perhaps most importantly, it’s not “just” fantasy.

I can see it in their squinted eyes when I say the word—they’re thinking wizards and dwarves and dragons, silly magic or good versus evil or trolls asking riddles. But fantasy is more than this; it always has been. Fantasy is what happens when you free yourself of the rules of the physical world and allow your imagination to take over. It’s what happens when you can unleash some of your biggest questions and wonders on a universe unaffected by history as we know it, and come up with your own in the process. Fantasy isn’t escapism, but absolute involvement in some of the biggest issues in our lives: War. Hate. Fear. Love. Discovery of self. Good and bad and the colors between.

Fantasy isn’t lazy, rehashed plots and forgettable, black and white characters (although there’s a smattering of that, to be sure). Fantasy is the complete antithesis of lazy writing. It’s a vow to take the unshaped lump of a made up world in the palm of your hands and breathe life into it; to whisper histories and cultures and languages and desperate, broken characters into the cracks between your fingers and hold it, warm and pulsing, until it grows strong enough to take flight.

So the next time some snobby, crusty ol’ geezer comes up to me and asks what I’m reading with their preconceived notions of what constitutes fine literature, I’m going to watch my mouth. I’m going to meet their eye, smile. I’m going to tell them honestly, shamelessly, passionately:

“Fantasy.”

 

Get to work

I’m going to be honest.

I don’t really know what I’m doing. I’m sitting down to write this at the kitchen table in my parents’ house, a house I told myself I would not be living in past the age of eighteen. “Once I’m of age, I’m out,” I’d tell myself. Not because I dislike my parents, or even because I was eager to be on my own, but because I’ve always been a very self-sufficient person. From the time I had my first job at sixteen, I was buying my own clothes, my own car, paying my way through community college without loans, buying all my own food when my family went out to eat, etc. I felt shame accepting anything from anyone, especially when that something had cost money. I was raised to appreciate the value of money, and the hard work that goes into making just one dollar, and it’s a lesson I’ve never been able to shake.

Long story short, I’m now twenty-two. I work two jobs; one is a business I created by myself, without a college degree. The other is a part time housekeeping job to fill in the income gaps. My life isn’t perfect, but that’s okay. I don’t want to pretend to be perfect. I’m tired of having a “persona” online who is not me. I’m tired of pretending I never curse, for the sake of “professionalism”. I’m tired of trying to be a cutesy writer on Twitter who acts all encouraging and “you go, lady!”. (For the record, I’ve never actually said that and never will.)

That’s not who I am, and it’s not the person I want to be, either. I want to be me. Sarcastic, cynical, resting bitch-face me, who is unafraid of being the black sheep in Twitter’s writer-verse. Who doesn’t care about the number of followers or retweets or likes I get. Because writing—art in general—isn’t the profession for you if you need to be coddled. And that’s my angsty, cynical opinion.

This all got me thinking about the crowd of writers on the internet. I’m not saying it’s all bad, but it’s not a group that I find myself a part of. And believe me, I’ve tried. I’ve tried talking to these writers, commenting on their posts, discussing things with them—it’s not my bag.

So I’ve decided: I’m starting a lifestyle blog.

To this revelation, my brother replied, “But you don’t have a lifestyle.”

Thank you, Evan.

But I realized something funny when he said that. Lifestyle blogs aren’t just for people who have luxurious, expensive homes and cook three meals a day for their impeccably dressed children. (And manage to somehow teach themselves elaborate calligraphy—seriously, can I have some of what they’re having?!) Lifestyle blogs can be about writing, and art, and nature, and nerding out over fantasy books. Lifestyle blogging should be for everyone, by everyone. And hey, that includes me! Yippee!

My lifestyle isn’t luxurious by any stretch of the word. I don’t exercise enough. I procrastinate like hell. I don’t do yoga at sunrise or sip coffee in bed wearing knee socks. I don’t have any fancy makeup routines, and almost all of my clothes are from Forever 21, because I’m broke.

[Side note: I’m writing this after making an enormous batch of pasta where I forgot to warm up the sauce, forgot the noodles were boiling, and got burnt by splashing hot water on my hip. (At which point I flailed around, flapping my shirt, screaming, “Fuck! Ow!”)]

I’m not a homemaker. I can’t develop recipes, although I’d like to try. I can’t knit, I can barely make crafts the right way, and I can’t even make pasta without nearly causing a cataclysm.

But I’m twenty-two years old, and I’m passionate about art and books and photography and travel and fashion and so much more, and I want to share those thoughts and keep sharing them for as long as I can, even if not one person comes along to read them. I want to learn to paint, to do graphic design, to draw better, to make comics, to read more books and watch more movies, to do calligraphy, to make some shoddy pottery or dinky crafts and sell them on Etsy, or whatever the hell kids are doing these days.

I want to do it all, and I want to write. I don’t want to just be an editor/writer for the rest of my life. I want to be everything I can be. And I’m twenty-two; I’ve only got, at best, eighty years or so to make it happen.

So… I’d better get to work.