Saturday, March 28, 2020

the end of the world as we know it

I turned 20 last week so I guess the name of this blog is officially, officially outdated, along with the venue of BLOGSPOT. But in other ways, the name is more applicable than ever. I don't feel very old. I don't feel like I want to be older anyway. This blog's name was never particularly catchy, but it did sort of capture my character. Not "The Avant Garde" part-- that doesn't fit now and I'm not sure if it ever did --but the "Tweener" part. I know that a tweener is used to refer to someone between the ages of 10 and 13, and that I am no longer a tween. But Urban Dictionary defines tweener as "One who doesn't fall into any category of people," and Merriam Webster defines it as "A player who has some but not all of the necessary characteristics for each of two or more positions." I am not athletic, but both of those definitions feel applicable to me still.

My own definition of the word "Tweener" is "One who is in between." I think I'll always be in between. I started this blog because I was in between wanting to be a part of a group and wanting to be a loner. This is something I still struggle with. I wish I could get rid of the part of myself that's so protective of the things I like, the part of me that's always disappointed by people. But I haven't yet. But I used to think this struggle was really unique to me, and I realized that almost every teenager experiences something similar, I just haven't been lucky enough to grow out of it yet. Anyway, right now, I feel as though I am Peak Tweener. The most in between I will ever be. But who knows. I think we are all in between right now. These are uncertain times, and so much, is in jeopardy on both a personal and universal level.

For the past few years, I've felt so lost and distressed in regards to where my life is and isn't going. Most of the time I felt too paralyzed with anxiety and uncertainty to even do anything about it. For the past two weeks I've been in quarantine because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and being quarantined is depressingly similar to my life prior to this. And I don't mean to make a "poor me" post. I know a lot of people have it much, much worse. It's just strange to think that I basically haven't left the house much for two whole years. It's also weird to see people freaking out over having to stay home, over leading the sort of life I've been leading for years. It's made me feel like kind of a loser, and I wish people could just stay home without talking so much about it, but, of course, this is a worldwide pandemic, and people are allowed to react in whatever way they feel is right. And, obviously, my anxiety has been heightened by all this, and it's not quite the same as my quiet existence at home before.

The worst hasn't happened yet, and we're all just sitting around anticipating it. It's such strange times we live in. The fact my daily life hasn't changed much only adds to it. We're living through historic times, and literally I can't do anything except binge watch New Girl. It's like, if I was paralyzed before, I'm constrained now. This is the year I'm supposed to move out. This is the year I'm supposed to finally do something about all this unrest inside of me, and I'm not sure I can anymore. And even if everything goes back to normal by the time I'm supposed to attend school, this virus has sort of dismantled the structure of our society. My whole life I've been told that I'm "going places," but I'm not sure if I want to go places in a world like this one.

I'm sure I won't be a couch potato forever. I've been trying to stay creatively active, but it's hard to do that without feeling overwhelmed, or without feeling like you're giving into the idea that you have to be productive in times like this, which you absolutely don't have to. But when I'm quiet and contemplative I start to feel defeated. I don't really think this is the end of the world. I think this is just another example of how our society has already deteriorated. I have hope for the future, I do. I know a lot of people my age think our generation is so selfless, so innovative, we're going to save the world, etc, etc. Young people are doing amazing things. Of course I am inspired by Greta Thunberg and the Parkland teens. But I find that the average member of Gen Z is self-righteous but unwilling to make the personal sacrifices needed of them. I think that's really sad and disturbing, and I'm scared. I'm no better! I'm terrified that the future rests in my hands. I'm in between being manically positive and being nihilistic.

But we could surprise me. In the words of Shakespeare "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, some have greatness thrust upon them." My greatest hope is that my generation will have greatness thrust upon them, that when push comes to shove, we will let go of pretension and superiority and do what's right. But when I look at photos of teens on beaches, celebrating spring break in the midst of a pandemic, I can't help but think we are failing the test. Still, I can't imagine any of my friends sitting idle and watching the world burn (unless, like right now, that's the right thing to do). But maybe they are the exception and not the example. I don't think I would just watch as everything when down in flames, but you don't really know how you'll react until you face it right?

I've read a lot of articles that say this virus is here to stay. I know that the racism it exacerbated is here to stay, the late-stage-capitalism-hostility to one's fellow man too. And I'm worried all these feelings of anxiety, anger, and hurt that I have, that many have, are here to stay too. But maybe we won't linger in this in between forever, unsure of what to do with all these emotions, unsure of how to fix something that's been broken for so long. Maybe we will grow up. Maybe we will transform this pain into real change, into a better life. I really hope we can.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

a heart who's love is innocent

Lately I've been thinking about the difference between being alone and being lonely. I actually don't like the label of introvert, especially the way it's used nowadays online. People that I've encountered online who identify as introverts seem to have swell heads and think that wanting to be alone sometimes counts as a personality. Or they're incredibly misanthropic and think hating people will make them popular online. Obviously this is a generalization, and I'm sure there are some wonderful people in online introvert communities, I just never felt comfortable calling myself part of them, especially lately. I've also been questioning the usefulness of labels-- I think pretty much everyone has introverted and extroverted tendencies.

I am a pretty solitary person, though, and I've always been okay with that, until recently. In high school, I was hardly a party animal, but I had friends that I could go get coffee with and study with and make flower crowns with. I actually really do love people, and I love spending time with my friends. I valued my alone time equally as much, though. Another thing about introverts-- everyone expects you to be a worldly scholar who never watches TV and instead reads romantic poetry all day. When I'm alone, I'm probably binge watching New Girl for the umpteenth time. But I'm getting sidetracked.

What I'm getting at is, for most of my life, I've always had people I could be around if I so desired. But after high school, everyone scattered. Very few of my friends bothered to check in with me or keep in touch. I don't blame them, some of it is my fault, most of it is just life. There are a few friends that I had to cut off because they had hurt me deeply and it was detrimental to my mental health to stay in touch with them, but in most cases, my relationships just fell apart organically, without any hard feelings. Regardless, I had never been alone like that before. For the first time in my life, I was lonely.

I realized that I wasn't as comfortable being alone-- or as comfortable with myself-- as I had previously thought. This was a really scary thing to go through, because it attacked my identity and my sense of self. I know I've talked about how I have a strong sense of self on this blog previously, and while that was true even during this time, this loneliness challenged my relationship with the world and the people in it. I didn't like to be alone anymore and I craved human connection, but I also didn't really have the courage to pursue any new friendships or relationships, because I need to take care of myself before trying to make friends with anyone else.

I know that if I were an inspirational blogger here is where I would tell you that I started eating healthier, working out, getting in tune with my spiritual side, started a cool new job and whathaveyou. I did do some of those things, but focusing on yourself doesn't always mean going on a juice cleanse and buying a copy of Eat, Pray, Love. Self-care, if you want to call it that, doesn't have a one size fits all definition. "Focusing on yourself," at least in my case, was a difficult and messy process. It meant struggling through Nicomachean Ethics, eating an entire box of Entenmann's black-and-white cookies, and going to an Esports event without knowing absolutely anything about Esports.

But I feel like I've reestablished who I am in relation to other people and my environment. In about a month it's my birthday, and pretty soon I'll be moving out of the town where I grew up and beginning my adult life. Just a few months earlier, just the thought of that petrified me with fear. I don't really feel like an adult yet, but I'm learning a lot of other adults feel that way too. But after rediscovering my ability to connect with people, I feel refreshed and ready for something new.

Friday, February 7, 2020

lip gloss and cherry pop

Lately I've been thinking a lot about the ways in which my online persona differs from how I act in real life. I think that my demeanor is mostly the same-- I'd like to think that my online friends and my real life friends view me as a kind and intelligent cheese lover. I've met several online acquaintances in real life and they don't seem at all surprised by my mannerisms or anything. But, strangely, I think I'm more open and expressive online. It sounds strange to say "I'm more myself online than I am in real life," because, like most people, my digital life is heavily curated. But I do think that, as someone who suffers from social anxiety, the internet has allowed me to share my thoughts more freely without the intimidation of talking to someone face-to-face.

My (real-life) friend and I are starting a silly podcast-- it's mostly just us talking and we still don't know if we for sure want to make it public or just record conversations for our own self-preservation. Anyway, we got to talking, and she mentioned how people often call her a VSCO girl, and I said people call me an egirl. She said "But your personality isn't like that in real life." It gave me pause, because no one had ever told me that I acted different online than in real life. I can't say I liked what she was implying, but we moved on to another subject and I didn't want to press her about it.

That night, as I looked back at my photos on Instagram and I guess even though I lack the makeup skills most egirls have, and the goth fashion sense, some of my edits could be considered along the lines of what an egirl might post. I found myself coming up with all sorts of justification: "But my photos have more artistic value" and "I'm just practicing my Photoshop skills." But you know what? "Egirl" photos have artistic value and maybe egirls are also practicing their editing skills. I don't know why I was so resistant to the idea. Maybe because it seems like egirls are only cool online, and I wanted to be cool online and in real life.

But maybe I'm not cool in real life (or online for that matter) and maybe most of my life has been lived online and maybe that's okay. I met most of my closest friends online, my first relationship was online, most of my work is online, and I hate to think that I all these people that I know, all these opportunities I have, are the result of a persona I crafted that isn't who I really am. I don't think that's true and I don't want to believe that. I think it's much more truthful, and easier to believe, that the format of the internet allows me to be less inhibited and as a result. Maybe that doesn't have to be pathetic, even though people that spend their lives online have kind of a pathetic reputation.

I live in a small town. And, contrary to public opinion, it's easy to feel lonely in a small town where finding like-minded people is hard. The internet was my saving grace. Truth be told, I only ever go on the internet for connection, not for fame, not even really to learn. I don't actually know very much about internet culture. I don't keep up with YouTube drama, and I don't even have a discord, so I guess that pretty much means I'm not an egirl. I don't say this to exclude myself from other girls, but to explain why it's hard for me to own up to the role the internet has played in my life, because, aside from the perceived patheticism of that, to be honest I still don't feel like I know that much about the internet. I want to though, and I need to for my future career, and I plan to. I think my block was that I wasn't ready to admit how much I rely on the internet emotionally. Now that I've finally admitted that, I'm ready to learn.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

it's a double edged sword...

Recently I was rereading blog posts and I was struck again by how terrible they are ?? I swear, sometimes I can be a good writer and this just isn't showcasing my best stuff. The ideas are jumbled and unclear, different posts contradict each other, and I repeat phrases and sentiments SO OFTEN. Apparently, I have a particular fondness for the phrase "it's a double-edged sword."

But I use this blog as a diary and as a writing exercise now, not a portfolio. And everyone knows diary entries are messy and hypocritical, because you feel different ways at different points in your life, even if that's just day to day. I don't edit anything on this blog once I post it. I feel that it's important to me to have a space that's purely stream-of-consciousness and spontaneous, so I'm trying not to be too hard on myself. The plan was to never even look at the posts again after I publish them, but what can I say? End-of-the-year reflection got the better of me, I guess.

The original title of this post was going to be something about sirens, and I was going to talk about Margaret Atwood's poem Siren Song-- but I realized that I'd already talked about my experiences as a muse, and the isolation I felt because I thought I had to be "not like other girls" blah blah blah which is what I would have said in my analysis of the poem anyway. Self-awareness and self-reflection are important, and I think this post will be more interesting anyway. At the very least, it's something I don't think I've discussed on here yet...?

Even though I know this blog is essentially a collection of my worst writing, I still expected more from my past posts. I was expecting the worst, and I was still disappointed that I wasn't always well-spoken, graceful, or you know, clear. And I realized I also had really unrealistic expectations for myself, surprise surprise! I want to be prolific and knock it out of the park anytime I sit down to write. You can't have both. I choose to make my cringe-y writing public, because I don't want to hide my creative trajectory. I'm a firm believer in the importance of creating prolifically and publicly early on in your career, because a) how can you get better id you don't practice? and b) you can always look back to see how you've grown, and if someone admires your work later on, they can also look at your early stuff, and feel less bad about being an amateur.

Sure, there are people that might make fun of your bad art, but people with attitudes like that will never create anything meaningful, because they're so blinded by superiority to understand the strange beauty that comes from creating anything at all, and who wants them around anyway? I tell my friends this all the time when they're debating whether or not to share something they've made with the world, but I need to start telling it to myself too. I find myself thinking, there's so many people more talented than me who aren't sharing their work with the world, so where do I get off? I don't know, but here I am, posting poorly photoshopped portraits and loving it. To save this post from being too *~inspirational~* I want to close by saying that lately I've been really sick of my writing, the things I say, the same thoughts I have. When I looked back at the posts I made in 2019, despite everything I've said here, I didn't feel like I'd grown at all as a writer or person. And that's not a double edged sword. That feeling just sucks. And that's okay. Because I know someday-- maybe not next year, or the year after that, but someday-- I will look at these posts and see the seeds of something great. 

Friday, November 22, 2019

it gives a lovely light

I think one of the hardest things about going into a creative field is the fact that you're not guaranteed success. Sure, you need to work hard and make connections and be original and insightful etc, but you can do all that and it still might not work out.

I've gotten pretty tired of successful writers, journalists, and creatives talking about how hard you need to work in order to get where they are, without realizing how lucky they are. Going into this industry is scary, and empty encouragement from people who have already made it doesn't bring me much comfort. 

I've decided the trick is to be attached to the craft of writing itself, and not so much the identity, or the idea that it's your occupation. That's what I tell myself. Because, that way, if I have to be an insurance salesman or something, everything will be alright as long as I still have time to write.

I honestly can't picture myself ever not writing, and I'm not just saying that to sound pretentious or super passionate or anything like that. I've been writing and telling stories for as long as I can remember and I don't see that stopping. I'm not always a good writer. As I'm writing this right now, I can feel the embarrassment of my future self. But it's just like a natural response. Sometimes words just have to be said (or written). 

I've been fortunate enough to have had several great mentors throughout my career, and have been given some great advice on how to succeed in journalism, but I think realizing that there are no guarantees has been one of the most beneficial things for me. I create for myself now, and I make things I'm proud of, not things that I think will be impressive to other people.

Writing is subjective. There's no scoreboard. You'll never know if what you wrote was actually bad, or if it was just seen by the wrong people. Or, conversely, if what you wrote was actually good, or if you were just lucky to have caught someone on the right day. You have to trust yourself. You have to be self-reliant. Cliche as it sounds, you have to please yourself first.

Friday, November 15, 2019

that great consciousness of life

When I was younger, I thought I would eventually develop into the type of person that loves adventure, and road trips, and getting out into the world and finding myself or whatever. As it turns out, I'm not going to write the next On The Road. I don't even drive. I'm a homebody through and through. And, most importantly, I had already found myself, so an adventure to do so sounds pointless and tiresome.

But I'm not completely dormant either. I still want to see the world, and meet interesting people, and that's the part of this childhood fantasy that I can't let go of, because it's become a part of myself. I didn't realize this until I was in New York this summer. 

I had never thought of myself as independent or courageous. I was always insular, introspective, quiet, and I thought being independent and courageous were traits reserved for people who were loud and combative and charismatic. But my roommate this summer told me that it was brave to take this job, brave to meet with all the editors I was meeting with, brave to take the subway by myself. She said that my life was something out of Gatsby, which made me laugh.

I'm no Gatsby, but I know what I want and what I need to do to get it. I honestly think that's probably why sailing across the world to find myself just isn't an attractive idea to me (even disregarding the classism present in that statement). I've never been at a loss for what to do.

That's not to say that I haven't switched career paths. I went from wanting to be a novelist to wanting to be a museum curator before finally settling on journalism. And I'm still open to possibilities, and I'm granting myself the freedom to change my mind. But when I wanted to be a novelist, I was going to win the Nobel Prize. And when I wanted to be a curator, I was going to be a curator at the Met. And I still fully plan on one day being an editor for The New York Times.

Does my talent match my ambition? No. But it's important to me to have these far-fetched goals and treat them as though they're within my grasp. That's been what drives me. That's my life-changing road trip. Shoot for the moon, right?

I think some people are the opposite. They are creatively fueled by the not-knowing, the uncertainty. It's not like I think I'm brilliant or too good for that sort of thing. It's just that unpredictability and spontaneity like that gives me anxiety, so I have to have these prestigious goals that I convince myself are concrete. 

I've also always had a strong sense of style and clung to that for comfort. Bonne Chance Collections, who made the beautiful dress I'm wearing in these photos (which was modeled after the dress the main character wears in the film adaptation of Children on Their Birthdays), has been one of my favorite brands for about 6 years which is actually mind-blowing. Anyway, regarding style, I've never had much urge to experiment, because if it ain't broke y'know?

Friday, November 8, 2019

that is my physics, that is my metaphysics

Sometimes people tell me that my work seems a little egotistical and self-indulgent. In some cases, I don't disagree. I really only take offense when it's aimed at my interviews or articles, because I intentionally try to reduce my role in those stories (of course, you can't escape yourself and I show up anyway, but still I make a conscious effort and that should count for something). But when that sort of thing is said about my self portraits, or this blog, I don't think much of it, because what personal blog is not self centered? Isn't that the whole point?

I like to think my photos have more weight than just making myself look good. I've really tried over the past year to create things that are more laden with symbolism. Even though I'm not the most proud of my Photoshop skills, I think I am proud of the intention behind my self portraits. Still, even though they might have more depth than the selfies I post on my Instagram stories, I am literally at the center of them, I am their anchor. I am the focus of myself.

But whenever I am the subject of someone else's work, it is never seen as superficial or self centered, even though they often have a much less nuanced understanding of me, and were likely only interested in how I looked, my style, etc. I have often been used. My image has been exploited to tell other people's stories. They do not understand me, they conceptualize me. I am by no means a model, and I've talked before about how I don't really consider myself pretty, but I guess because I have blunt bangs and listen to The Velvet Underground, I have found myself being called a "muse" by male photographers/artists who are really much more interested in how I make them look rather than who I am.

This is very bothersome. I run for the hills whenever a Male Artist looks at me, starry eyed, and says "You're my muse." Not "You inspire me," or "you have great style" or "I find your presence comforting," but "I'm your muse." It baffles me how anyone could consider that a compliment. It creates an unequal power dynamic, first of all. It implies ownership, the phrase "my muse," as though my sole purpose is to be the centrifugal force in your art, that I must uphold the idea you've created of me because it's my only concern.

But also, it showcases a refusal to take responsibility on part of the artist. You're putting the weight of inspiring you unto me. That's a heavy load. I don't want to be responsible for your poorly-written love ballads, your titillating ink sketches, your "artistic" film photographs. I don't want to be responsible for anyone's bad art except my own, and I think everyone else should want that too.

So how is it that someone arrogantly using me-- warping and bending me to fit the role of muse --as the centrifugal force in their work somehow less egotistical than me using creative outlets as a way of exploring myself and finding myself? I am thankful if I inspire people, but I create mainly for myself these days, and I certainly have no interest in being anyone's muse. Because I'm already taken: I am my own muse.

I remember one time, I was at this boy's house, and he took a photo of me and said, "It's a great one. I think I really captured your essence." He flipped around the camera so I could see. And I didn't see myself, really I didn't. I saw a girl who's black mascara didn't match her brown eyelashes, but she piled it on nonetheless, who was wearing her boyfriend's Kinks shirt, and looking at the camera with doe, bedroom eyes, exactly the sort of girl this boy would want to take photos of. I was not, and am not a photographer, but I though then, at that moment, that in the future I might want to have some photos that really reflected who I was in a deeper sense, and what I mean to myself.