every day is a new day, a new opportunity to begin again. though the new year's is a construct, it's a deeply helpful construct, one to celebrate and lean into. we have created this list to deepen your moments of reset, whether this weekend in anticipation of a new year (and decade!) or in six months, when life feels stagnant. you got this.
o muchelleb’s youtube channel
m: the ultimate get-your-life-together channel, including 20 small changes for a happier 2020, and resetting for a new year.
o Rowena Tsai’s youtube channel
m: rowena’s videos routinely come up in our love lists, and for good, good reasons. watch for honest, but motivating, videos on productivity, habit-making, routines, and health.
o a reflection practice
m: resolutions can be a bit clunky for me. in this post, i discussed why this is, and included a (long) list of prompts to reflect on 2019, in order to answer the following questions about the next year: what do i want to take with me, what do i want to leave behind, and what do i want to generate? the questions include concepts like, what did i embrace this year? what did i let go of? when did i practice bravery? click through for the full list of prompts.
o the year compass
nadine: a printable booklet with questions and exercises that are fun and easy to answer.
o we’re not really strangers’ questions to ask yourself
m: because you’re worth knowing.
o two new year tarot spreads
m: tarot asks you to articulate what you already know or feel.
o looking ahead: setting intentions in notebooks
m: the second half of my reflections post linked above includes a list of prompts to consider goal and intention setting for the next year. these are actionable, yet freeing questions, such as what topics do i want to explore, what do i hope to achieve professionally/academically, and more. here's the important part: completing the sentence: “here, where do you want to be physically, mentally, spiritually, this time in december 2020?” brainstorm, then map it again in a notebook
o 8 steps to guide your 2020 goals
nadine: scroll down to part two of this much-too-long post, looking forward to 2020: 4 cardinal points. don’t forget to check out the videos linked!
o emotional planning 2020 worksheet
m: creative independent's worksheet to ponder your 2020 mental state. one of my favorites.
o 10 ways to be more conscious in a new decade
m: ”One decade is about to take its final bow + another is on the horizon. Something I'd always like to be able to say is that the decade past was full of personal growth...and the one to come offers so much more to discover + embrace. Time has taught me that choosing to be a lifelong learner is life-affirming. One year...one day at a time...we keep moving forward, and it can be helpful to have some direction.”
I'm an enneagram 4w5, wearing a 6 cape. An INFP. I am quite creative and philosophical and go with the flow, I love to learn and study, but I like structure. I like knowing perimeters, and resent boxes. Rules make me feel safe and capable... like I know how to work well and satisfy both myself and others.... if I agree with them.
The stereotypes go like this: one can be one or the other: The artist is a bohemian who is messy, irresponsible, eccentric, and defies all boxes society attempts to place around them. They're a rebel. And this is me. Those who like rules are probably tidy and strict and inflexible. This is not me, and I'd argue that if this is, you could use some therapy, as we all could. Stereotypes have grains of truth, but we know they aren't whole. I am actually both, a person who resents boxes but loves some perimeters. For example, I believe artists are some of the most rule following folks around, even if they feel free flowing. There's dedication, knowledge, and routine. You can be both. It's healthy.
Perhaps the most asked question of artists just starting out, after "Where do you get ideas" is simply, "How?" Lucky for us, everyone works slightly differently, enabling us to seek out those we most closely resonate with, and most like to talk about it. The result is a healthy stack of books and lists about "rules" folks follow, and how they allow for creative freedom.
Corita Kent's Art Department Rules
If you don't know about Corita Kent, you should. Kent was a nun who made brilliant, bright, thoughtful, poetic, bold art. She played with shape, color, and typeset in a way that in part reflects advertising, and in part embodies poetry. She's glorious.
Following is her ruleset for the Immaculate Heart College Art Department:
Jack Kerouac's 30 Beliefs and Techniques for Writing and Life
Of all people, Kerouac lived out his writing, thus it makes sense that his list applies to both writing and life. I love that. That is how I want to go about things.
1. Scribbled secret notebooks, and wild typewritten pages, for yr own joy
2. Submissive to everything, open, listening
3. Try never get drunk outside yr own house
4. Be in love with yr life
5. Something that you feel will find its own form
6. Be crazy dumbsaint of the mind
7. Blow as deep as you want to blow
8. Write what you want bottomless from bottom of the mind
9. The unspeakable visions of the individual
10. No time for poetry but exactly what is
11. Visionary tics shivering in the chest
12. In tranced fixation dreaming upon object before you
13. Remove literary, grammatical and syntactical inhibition
14. Like Proust be an old teahead of time
15. Telling the true story of the world in interior monolog
16. The jewel center of interest is the eye within the eye
17. Write in recollection and amazement for yourself
18. Work from pithy middle eye out, swimming in language sea
19. Accept loss forever
20. Believe in the holy contour of life
21. Struggle to sketch the flow that already exists intact in mind
22. Dont think of words when you stop but to see picture better
23. Keep track of every day the date emblazoned in yr morning
24. No fear or shame in the dignity of yr experience, language & knowledge
25. Write for the world to read and see yr exact pictures of it
26. Bookmovie is the movie in words, the visual American form
27. In praise of Character in the Bleak inhuman Loneliness
28. Composing wild, undisciplined, pure, coming in from under, crazier the better
29. You’re a Genius all the time
30. Writer-Director of Earthly movies Sponsored & Angeled in Heaven
Kanye's Studio Rules
Set aside whatever you think about Kanye to appreciate the signs he keeps taped up on his studio walls, as described by Rick Ross. I like the idea of creating a space separate from the rest of the world for creating, a place where I don't feel pressured to prove to anyone else that I am creating by speaking or posting about it.
NO HIPSTER HATS
ALL LAPTOPS ON MUTE
JUST SHUT THE FUCK UP SOMETIMES
NO TWEETING PLEASE THANK YOU
NO NEGATIVE BLOG VIEWING
DON’T TELL ANYONE ANYTHING ABOUT ANYTHING WE’RE DOING!
NO RACKING FOCUS WHILE MUSIC IS BEING PLAYED OR MUSIC IS BEING MADE
TOTAL FOCUS ON THIS PROJECT IN ALL STUDIOS
NO ACOUSTIC GUITAR IN THE STUDIO
Austin Kleon's Rules of the Studio
The first artist I turned to for this post was Austin Kleon, patron saint of creativity and creative working. He created this set of rules for himself and his sons, who love to visit the studio. I also recommend his book Keep Going.
Ten Bullets by Tom Sachs
I love visual artist Sachs' emphasis on space.
1. SACRED SPACE: KEEP TOOL KIT AT THE READY SO WHEN INSPIRATION STRIKES THERE IS NO DELAY, EXCUSE OR HINDERANCE BETWEEN YOU, YOUR THOUGHT, AND IT’S REALIZATION
8. RESET. AT THE END OF THE DAY: KNOLL YOUR WORKSPACE, SWEEP + EMPTY TRASH, PRE SET YOUR WORK STATION WITH SOMETHING PLEASURABLE TO COMPLETE. BEGIN YOUR DAY WITH A SENSE OF ACCOMPLISHMENT…
9. PROCRASTINATE. IF AT FIRST YOU DONT SUCCEED GIVE UP IMMEDIATELY, MOVE ON TO SOME OTHER TASK UNTIL THAT BECOMES UNBEARABLE, THEN MOVE ON AGAIN CIRCLING BACK AROUND TO THE FIRST PROBLEM. BY NOW, YOUR SUBCONSCIOUS WILL HAVE WORKED ON IT, SORT OF LIKE SLEEP, ONLY CHEAPER
How to Feel Miserable as an Artist by Keri Smith
Keri Smith's anti-rule list is practical as can be. We love Keri Smith in this house.
Seth Godin's Rules for Working in a Studio
Who better to turn to than a teacher and author? Gobin's list feels both simple and extensive.
Don’t hide your work
Ask for help
Tell the truth
Upgrade your tools
Don’t hide your mistakes
Add energy, don’t subtract it
If you’re not proud of it, don’t ship it
Know the rules of your craft
Break the rules of your craft with intention
Make big promises
Let others run, ever faster
Learn something new
Criticize the work, not the artist
Power isn’t as important as productivity
Honor the schedule
You are not your work, embrace criticism
Sign your work
Obsess about appropriate quality, ignore perfection
A studio isn’t a factory. It’s when peers come together to do creative work, to amplify each other and to make change happen. That can happen in any organization, but it takes commitment.
Two Books of Lists
I get hungry for The Secret, yanno? The one sentence that will change my whole life. I search for it, and following are two books about this exact subject that I highly suggest. You will be inspired. But you will also find that there are no secrets... there is just persistence and listening to yourself and how you work best. You got this. Just trust how you feel and what you've learned. Experiment.
Ways of Being: Advice for Artists by Artists, edited by James Cahill
How do you be an artist? Is art a 'career', or a vocation? Do you need a studio or a dealer, and how do you find one? Are artists too competitive? How do they come up with ideas, and what is the point of the private view? Does financial success—or the lack of it—change an artist? What are the advantages of getting older?
Based upon advice from a huge roster of artists, dealers and curators; and encompassing every stage of an artist's life—from early works, to debut shows and mid and late-career—this book answers all the key questions that every artist has at some point asked themselves.
Daily Rituals: How Artists Work edited by Mason Currey
161 inspired—and inspiring—minds,... novelists, poets, playwrights, painters, philosophers, scientists, and mathematicians, who describe how they subtly maneuver the many (self-inflicted) obstacles and (self-imposed) daily rituals to get done the work they love to do, whether by waking early or staying up late; whether by self-medicating with doughnuts or bathing, drinking vast quantities of coffee, or taking long daily walks.
Here's the thing...
Rules are made to change. Rules are made to develop. Rules are made to give you more freedom and ability. Study others' rules. Be open to the prospect that each project may require a new set of rules. Figure out how your body, mind, and soul work best under different conditions. Map them out. Make your own list of rules... or guidelines, if you will. We're always interested to hear what you think, so feel free to send your list our way.
Go in peace,
There is nothing more humiliating to me than my own desires. Nothing that makes me hate myself more than being burdensome and less than self-sufficient...I had arrived in my thirties believing that to need things from others made you weak. I think this is true for lots of people but I think it is especially true for women. When men desire things they are “passionate.” When they feel they have not received something they need they are “deprived,” or even “emasculated,” and given permission for all sorts of behavior. But when a woman needs she is needy. She is meant to contain within her own self everything necessary to be happy.
To paraphrase, the crane wife stays up all night to pluck out her feathers, to hide that she is a bird, a creature both capable of flight and requiring care. "To keep becoming a woman is so much self erasing work. She never sleeps. She plucks out all her feathers, one by one."
I know I am not the only one to whisper, "Ope," embarrassed for being so recognized. So what do we do with this vulnerability, with this deep want? I see two paths for myself: first to unsurface the origin stories for this sense of shame and responsibility, the stories we collectively share, and the ones that are my own, and to learn to thirst, to learn to articulate desires. First of all though, we gotta realize that this is okay... Contentedness is a means to appreciate, but does not discount desire and drive. That desire is taboo, in the truest sense of the word:
For example, I wrote earlier about Polynesida, and how the word "taboo" comes from "tupua" (or "tapu"), which means menstruation, but the most common translation of "tapu" is actually "sacred."
So there it is. Yeah, we know desire, and expressing desire, can feel taboo- silly and wrong and shameful and unnecessary and too much- but we gotta remember that the word also means sacred. Want is not evil. It can be sacred. Desire can show us a path to who we want to be. Desire can drive us to pleasure and love and gratitude. But how do I get there? It is all unlearning and learning again. Where am I ashamed? Why? Where can I steep myself in materials that give me space to want and articulate such desires?
I am not asking you to delve into manifestation... only to acclimate yourself to who you are, and where you want to go. You usually aren't a danger to yourself. Hear what you want. Dig into it.
Without further ado, following is a list for learning to desire, and to speak.
Resources for Desire
Go in peace x
I've been feeling a bit more alive lately, and I can't tell you exactly why, but I can tell you about small wonders recently:
> The nights and mornings are suddenly much cooler,
> and the owl has returned to their perch outside my window, hooting.
> The Owl and Bone August tarot challenge has stoked both my honesty and vulnerability. I am learning that it is okay to want things... passion = direction!
> The dad happily telling his son how awesome the library is. He just said, "All of this is just stuff and things until you realize how important it all is. So dig in. The library is so awesome." My librarian heart exploded!
> Steve. Harrington.
> This dog made me cry tears.
> The Turkish brew coffee using hot sand. The world is magical.
>And the reason I'm here... poems and poems and poems! Words keep stumbling into my way lately, and snagging my breath. Following are some quite short, but so saturated poems for your every day grief, astonishment, and political disenchantment. Take a sip. Enjoy.
Have a lovely weekend. Stay hydrated and connect with the earth somehow.
If you drag your feet leaving the world of Stranger Things, allow me to cure your ST hangover. Whatever your favorite part of Stranger Things, there's a book here for you. Do you crave something creepy? Nostalgic? Girls fighting monsters? Youth solving mysteries? Here's your next binge list.
Hello, happy July!
I was inspired by Rhiannon McGavin this afternoon to tackle my poetry shelf gone ary, to the tune of Aimee Nezhukumatathil vs. the Garden, on the VS podcast. I loved it. Hearing Aimee's voice made me love her poetry more and more. Such sweetness and generosity flows from this podcast. If you like poetry or words at all, I highly suggest it.
As for my shelf, here's the deal. I work at a library and enjoy minimalism, and thus rarely buy books. However, I do buy 3 types of books: poetry, comics, and books from author events, and I try to write about the occasion on a post it note to keep in the book, as I love getting poetry, zines, or comics on vacation or an occasion. I quite love documenting this, because it equips me to remember stealing a book from the English Department when I turned in my last final ever, and decided I was owed at least one nice thing for free, or a coworker slipping a perfect book into my life midmeeting, or curling up on the floor of a bookstore across the country, overwhelmed with words. I love that. Anyhoo, the poetry section was shelved normally, and there was absolutely no room for any more. And we know I will continue to buy books. That, and the mountainous stack in front of it has been stressing me out.
Inspired further by Rhiannon, I flipped the stack, kept it in alphabetical order, and further sorted what I have and haven't read fully (the stack obscuring some comics are either too long to fit, a few of my issues of Poetry, and just a bit of my to-read stack... oh I have so many, piled all over. Just wait till you see the shelf dedicated to books about poetry. And anthologies. I have yet to tackle my bedside table too. Sigh.) I kept a jar of Los Angeles shells, origami flowers, and vintage typewriter ribbon cases out, but this time, they're not squashed behind a stack of books!
I love seeing people's bookshelves, as well as their book wishlists. What are some books you still just have to buy, and why? My list is based on poetry or fiction that I just have to underline. I'm looking forward to foraging Powell's for On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong, Brute by Emily Skaja, Soft Sciene by Franny Choi, and Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts.
I'd love to see your shel(f/ves), and to buy list. What has you smitten lately?
Enjoy the summer time,
It's no secret or surprise that canon is white, cis, and male, so I'm not even going to delve into this topic. All I'm going to say is that the canon does not have to be this way, because history has not been white, cis, and male, and if you'd like to sink into the diverse, magnificent world through books, it's wonderfully possible, especially armed with the resources below!
Perhaps the most difficult part will be locating the following books, but I suggest requesting your library or local indie book store to purchase such books and writers, and using used bookstores, whether online or in person. Indiebound is also good, if you do not have access to such shops.
feminizing the canon
The Second Shelf, a book shop and magazine, is an invaluable resource for not only rare or collectible books by women, but also discovering that women have been publishing high quality, notable work for a very, very long time. Not only this, but The Second Shelf is a woman owned business, so the purchase of a magazine helps both you and the lit world. While you wait on your magazine, peek into the Second Shelf Instagram.
The Paris Review also has a brilliant series profiling underread women authors, called Feminize Your Canon. It makes my heart flutter.
It's important for me to note that these resources are careful to be intersectional.
creating trans canon
Not all canon to embrace is historic. There are some voices that (as we know it) are only just being equipped to be heard and reached.
RL Goldberg has written a great list for The Paris Review called Toward Creating a Trans Literary Canon.
expanding the canon
Enough of all this all-white canons. I recommend avoiding lists written by white folks, as our view of culture is vastly misrepresentative of reality. This is the whole problem.
The Well Read Black Girl is an absolutely amazing resource for books by people of color, from people of color.
Books by Native Americans is one of the most difficult tasks for me, but this list is a good start.
queering the canon
Move beyond Oscar Wilde with these titles and articles on and for queer theory and canon via Brown University, or this article via Advocate.
This is the most brief, incomplete guide one could possibly make, and I am okay with this. I so encourage you to do more research and collect lists as you read, you expand your view of the literary world, and thus people.
An okay place to start is the list ALA has compiled of book, print, and media awards.
You'll notice the lists contain backlist books, but it's important to remember that we are actively creating a new canon for generations beyond us. The books published today matter, and it matters that we read them. Be loud about the books you love. Tell us- and your friends, your coworkers, the social media void- about what you're reading.
Today marks the solstice, no matter where you live. Perhaps today is the longest day of the year (here it's ultra cloudy and dark, ironically enough), or tonight the the longest night for you (hello, southern hemisphere.) Regardless, congratulations, you've made it through have the year. It's a big deal. Try not to panic at the thought!
That is exactly what I am good at... I keep drawing the oracle card "get out of your own way" and wondering, "What the heck does that even mean? How am I supposed to do that? I am me." But after seeing it over and over, and then coming across the prayer, May I learn to make good out of what I'm given, rather than only make sense of it, I suddenly understood. I am so good at panic, or, at least, concern.
See, I love growth. I want to never be stagnant, preferring a constant process for becoming closer to the person I was created to be. And to do this, I often spend a lot of time reading books or blogs or quotes or psychology studies. I love reading/thinking about theology and politics, and how these things intertwine. I truly am a 6w5 (for those who don't speak enneagram, I mean that I do worry, but exploration of thought and fact appeals to me. Study appeals to me as a way to lay a solid foundation of truth to stand on. I think if I can read enough truth, I can build my own magic road map to success.) who often thinks, "I have to know it all before I begin to practice any of it," and dwell on all the ways I need to "get better."
Questions I think a lot about include "Where do I fall short?" and "Where can I improve?" and "Who am I not that I want to be?"
I can tell you this pretty confidently: it's only partially helpful, and it's anxiety and depression inducing. Our self-help happy society tells us often that we need to confront our darknesses, and go deep. But honestly? I can go deep- and then get lost so easily. I can know all about what I hate about myself and what has hurt me and what is weighing on me and what doesn't measure up to standards. I can do that all day. I can also stay in bed all day and cry in the bathroom.
There comes a point that we have looked back enough, and now, we need to look forward. I can see all my problems, but who do I want to heal into? I can't just eliminate all things I hate about myself... they have to be replaced with something.
That, and hating myself really isn't helpful. It makes life feel worthless.
I'm understanding it now... that getting out of my own way can mean not standing in the middle of the road staring down the parts of myself I hate. Getting out of my own way could be standing aside to allow the good parts of myself to thrive, and to overgrow some of the shit. But how?
With this in mind, here you are, at the solstice. You made it half through the year. Enjoy the sunlight, if you have it. Enjoy life.
But also take a moment to enjoy yourself and how far you have come.
Yes. Look back. Make a list of all you've accomplished. Look back at your resolutions and reevaluate. If you're stuck, I have a list of questions for new year's here, that may be used for the halfway point as well.
This is also a great time to do a solstice or self love tarot card spread to get you thinking. Frame questions and statements positively, like "What opportunities have emerged this spring?" and "What blessings am I receiving?"
Spreads to try might include....
Summer Solstice Spread via Biddy
Winter Solstice Spread via Biddy
Spread for Self Love via Labyrinthos
Now, moving forward, it may help to begin daily routines/rituals to help you not only learn, but also foster and dream. I suggest bullet pointing anything you'd love to do in your dream routine, and pulling from these ideas to build long and short routines, so no matter how much or little time you have, you have an anchor to begin or end your day, to connect to yourself in a positive way. Consider the following,
oracle / tarot
Psychologist Dr. Nicole LePera developed a worksheet for "future self journaling" that I quite reccomend. You can learn more here, and join her email list to obtain the worksheet (for adults and kids!).
I've been thinking about this lately, the practice of imagining who you shall become, in specific terms. Not just, "I want to be healthy surrounded by plants," but specifying what healthy means. What kind of behaviors and thought patterns does this imply? How exactly would that impact my day, life, feelings, and body? Did you know your brain rarely knows the difference between imagining, observing, and doing? By imagining and writing specifics, you can not only rewire your brain to become this, but also imprint the memory and vision you have within your day, so that you can more consciously act and think the way you want to.
I guess my way of getting out of my own way is to step into the way of my future self. To allow myself to envision a good future and a good self, rather than focusing on all the ways I fall short.
The sky is going to start changing light patterns, and so will I, but this is okay, because like nature, we also live within cycles.
This is no end of anything. The sun will come back. We will endlessly create ourselves. With love, hopefully.
i think many of us have these pulls within ourselves, creating tension by yanking us in opposite, or at least very different, directions. we are complex beings, after all.
as far as i'm concerned, the dynamic between apparent "opposites" makes powerful fuel. it drives us to novelty and creativity. that doesn't mean that reconciling these opposites is easy work. i've struggled a lot with being pulled in different directions. i love music, but silence feels so good. i'm not sure what's more brilliant between classical music and pop, and sometimes i wonder if they're so different.
the list goes on. math and writing. the city and the middle of the woods. musicals and murder mysteries. anti-materialism and owning 12 scarves. spotify and going full analogue. fan fiction and nonfiction. masculine and feminine archetypes. the queen of cups and the king of wands. the list goes on.
m and i decided to collaborate on this post. it's about the tendency our closets often have to split themselves in two. m's experience of this phenomenon is quite different from mine, which i find fascinating! we both wove astrology in our parts. i hope you will enjoy this post as much as i enjoyed making it. our tendency to be diverse and ambiguous as humans never ceases to thrill me.
nadine: drama queen and chill grandparent
having my sun and venus in gemini, one thing i am particularly "split" in terms of is aesthetic. the other day, i went thrifting and i told myself i was looking for flashy, colourful, sparkly, dramatic things. indeed, i found an amazing black sequined cardigan. but i also found myself drawn to grey wool knits and mossy green blouses.
as a genderfluid person, i guess it would make more sense for my two preferred aesthetics to be something like masc and fem. and yes, for sure, going through wedding pictures of straight couples and not being sure whose outfit i want more is one of my signature moves. but whatever my gender expression, i find that my looks are still split in the same way: drama queen and chill grandparent.
on one end, we've got the drama queen. here, less is not more. more is more. this side of my closet is full of red and black. these clothes flow and sparkle. they're loaded in passion and anger. if i were to personify the drama queen with a short playlist, it would be this:
primadonna / marina
bennie and the jets / elton john
defying gravity / kristin chenoweth & idina menzel
the king / conan gray
the show must go on / queen
on the other end, we've got the chill grandparent. think forests and milky tea. this side of my closet is full of wool, denim and linen, especially in more natural hues. these clothes are gentle and grounded. the songs the chill grandparent vibes with are like that:
lover of the light / mumford & sons
heart of gold / neil young
like gold / vance joy
rise / eddie vedder
postcards from italy / beirut
my moon is in libra, another air sign, and my ascendant is scorpio, a sign of transformation. basically i'm built on change. it took me a long time to be ok with that: to realize that yesterday's truth is yesterday's truth and today's truth is today's truth. it sounds so simple, and it is, but at the same time, it's not.
i guess the challenge is trusting that change always makes sense, always has a purpose, always brings us closer to where we need to be.
m: soft and wild
hello my fellow confused cancer moon’s! i may be a “grounded” taurus sun, but wow. so many different places to be grounded. (i also read that capricorn’s therapy is suffering, so the combination of cancer moon, taurus sun, capricorn rising really does give way to an…. aesthetically pleasing anxious puddle of a person....)
I met nadine and gray on an art/fashion website, over seven years ago. together, our selves evolved, as did our aesthetics. a year ago, the site shut down, and i hadn’t expected to feel so upset about it, but i am. it was an easy way to experiment with self and appearance, and to discover new looks. to cultivate a sense of being through the art of clothing.
along the way, i learned about sweatshops and environmental impact and minimalism, and while i loved clothes, i felt this anxiety when i dwelled on clothing. without the safe space of inspiration and experimentation of the website, i felt like i was floundering. it sounds dramatic, but it’s true… my favorite fashion magazines have gone online only (rip nylon and teen vogue), my favorite websites and tumblrs have died, and instagram remains quite difficult to navigate…. when i stand in front of my closet, i feel stressed and hurried, and since i work with the public every day, often not confident enough to create a look. sometimes lack of confidence stems from invisibility; working with someone who dressed with their heart gave me so much inspiration and confidence just by proximity. what we see matters. visibility expands possibility.
meanwhile, i’ve also been wrestling with “being soft,” a term that was usually thrown at me in manipulation or as a sign of weakness. through my college years, i genuinely identified with more punky looks, because it’s exactly how i felt: untouchable and unbothered, yet frustrated, and bored-- and it was simply a style i really loved. i still do. then, i graduated and started working full time job at a public library, where I’ve always felt like the baby (just for the record and due to library stigma, this is silly. most of my coworkers are in their 20’s). i still look into the closet and feel confused, and pressured (only by myself.) what makes me look like i’m going to be taken seriously, but feels authentic to me? how many selves can i present without looking like a poser? am i poser? a child playing dress up? i think it’s an issue that runs deeper than clothing, one that i think a lot of twenty-something’s in our first adult jobs can attest to. trying too hard?
here’s the deal i’ve learned. it’s pretty easy to always look like you’re trying too hard, as long as you love everything in your closet, because even the simplest pieces have some level of cool to them. a t shirt looks like more than a t shirt when it’s a vintage shrunken t shirt, or oversized. purchasing items that mean something to you, especially if they’re second hand or from small brands elevate a look instantly. so when you feel like what you’re wearing is nothing, or childish, it is good to remember that the way people view you is often not how you feel. rarely do other people see that as truth or possibility. our feelings are not always the most popular truth, especially if we are feeling towards an article of clothing ultra familiar. sometimes, it’s just a feeling not worth pursuing.... but also… do i shy from this feeling of trying because i don’t want to seem like i care? when did apathy become something i wanted to embody? ah, and you thought this would just be about fashion...
but maybe dressing up is okay. maybe caring and loving is okay. i love when people wear a piece of clothing because it looks like something a beloved character would wear; that sense of joy- and confidence- is something i’d like to adopt and get used to.
recently i was in the basement of an indoor flea market and just got this rush of love for clothes and collection and experimentation. it’s fun. an art form that doesn’t have to be pristine: my favorite outfits combine the madewell jeans that fit me just right and the t shirt i found in a trash can or in the bottom of the bargain bin in venice. it fits me, it’s so soft, and i can wear it over and over and never tire. add the thrifted jacket that has frayed and torn and been patched over, with the six gold rings that i wear every day, and the opal necklace and earrings. i adore this mix of thoroughly lived in/trashed, and everyday accessible luxe.
through the years, i’ve been learning about being both-and: i can be both punky and cool and soft too. i can be girly in a dress one day, and masc the next. i can combine it. that’s what being human is… feeling the range of emotions and honoring many experiences. i don’t have to be a cookie-cutter. give me all the messy selves i am.
often this results in simple both-ands of mixing textures, such as a soft sweater and corduroy jacket and plaid pants and suede or leather vans. mixture. simple interest. comfort. authenticity.
so here it is.
poor southwest art school drop out? sure, yee to the haw.
pastel madewell lamb?
ultra young suburban mom whose blonde 4 year old is running around screaming inscently? *sips wine* yeah, i can do that.
piratess? yes. i can rock that.
lesbian mom teaching children to drill?
i look for things that matter to me. small details that make pieces utterly unique without demanding attention, such as a cut out in a neutral boot, pins on a denim jacket, a hoodie with a sweet message, an unexpected pattern on velvet, or a cute pair of interesting socks peek-a-booing. it’s the little things… because that’s where authenticity arrives… those little things you fall in love with. that’s what makes a person their own. like so with my closet.
so here’s what i want to tell that teenage waiter who stopped me at breakfast one day to tell me he aspired to my ~aesthetic~:
it was a target cardigan with old jeans, boots, and a random t shirt. beauty in the eye of the beholder. i would have said the exact same about you. you are glorious, even when you become too familiar to your own eyes.
my aesthetic isn’t anything special, even if it makes you happy. i thank you for that. but also, your everyday magic is so valuable and personalized and interesting and sweet. the denim that’s worn away in the spot you touch when you’re thinking. fifty cent pins. the ugly t shirt you pulled out of the trash can and bled all over and had to crop to edit out the stains…. it’s a story and it’s yours. that rainbow sweater you bought when some homophobe started trolling... it’s both soft and tough, and it matters. this is your life. it matters. use the thrift shops when you travel. go to the flea market in the basement. be all your weird and wonderful and all your possible selves… clothing is just fabric, both useful and fun. it’s easy to overthink. but the day is going to pass anyway. might as well play.
we are all humans. we might not feel like it sometimes (i rarely do), but really, we are, i promise. i think that lately, it has been difficult for many of us to express love and joy without a lingering sense of guilt. it’s cool on the internet to be emotionless and how can i even think about those things when the arctic is melting and the middle east is unstable and there are school shootings and there are over 70 countries where homosexuality is illegal and some of those it’s punishable by death and the bolsonaro is trying to sell the brazilian rainforests to the highest bidder and--
“As we're bouncing up and down trying to make the floor break
it’s unhealthy to think like this. yes, it’s important to be socially conscious, but, like i said, we are humans. first, we are not super efficient robots who have the ability to solve all the world’s crises, and it’s inhumane to try to put that pressure on ourselves. we really don’t have the ability to process and take on all this suffering, and when we do, we tend to feel a sense of responsibility. second, by denying ourselves true expressions of joy and love, we are denying ourselves intrinsic and crucial parts of the human experience. when was the last time you ended a good day that didn’t have an asterisk attached?
“In those heavy days of June
the month of june is pride month, which i’m sure you all knew, maybe from the inundation of rainbow merch or photos from pride parades or just generally not living under a rock. it’s important that, during pride month, we memorialize the founders of the movement, remember our history, and pay tribute to those we have lost. but just as importantly, we, as lgbt people, should express love and ourselves even when it wanders far from the status quo. in a world that wants to make us ashamed of who we are, we should try our hardest to not be afraid. if we are out, we should do this loudly, so that people know we are here. if we are not yet out, we should respect ourselves and our boundaries and proclaim love softly, so we know we are here. these small acts of self are acts of defiance, and feed the hope of a better world.
To love yourself, you must know yourself. And to know yourself, you must love yourself. Love then is a sublime and universal understanding of self and of others. Love is a discipline of one’s own self-consciousness. Love is beautiful. Love is just. It must endure, it must evolve, it must expand, it must be born-again.
we do these monthly lists not only to share ourselves with you, but to share the things that make us happy, that make everyday life more livable, that we love, and we offer them to you. these small examinations tell us that it really isn’t all bad, it isn’t really all hopeless. the world is a beautiful and weird thing and is somehow there for your taking, so grab all you can fit in two hands. and without further ado, here is the june love list.
→ love yourself/with my whole heart by sufjan stevens
gray: sufjan stevens is out there trudging through mud fighting for our rights this pride month. we love u sufjan.
m: i was going to say this too. u will love it.
→ too bright by perfume genius
gray: i have to include this for pride month!! i so much love how this album seamlessly marries piano ballads with art pop anthems with some more experimental cuts. fave tracks: my body, grid
→ Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, I. Pezzo in Forma di Sonatina
nadine: this month’s classical rec is also well-timed for pride (it is generally accepted nowadays that Tchaikovsky was gay). this man’s story hit me super hard in the last month. to put it shortly, Tchaikovsky married a (female) fan for well-intentioned reasons, but then it turned out to be the Worst Decision Ever, so he ran away. he then wrote that “there is nothing more fruitless than not wanting to be that which I am by nature.” i listened to that story on BBC Radio 3 [https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/p01ydqsj] and i wondered why people like him (...and me lol) ignore their own inner guidance and any glaring red flags in order to orchestrate the biggest self-sabotage possible.
→Tennyson's Beautiful World
m: i rediscover this song every summer, and i'm head over heels. i'm consistently amazed at Tennyson's surprising sounds used as music, such as the rush of a bubble drink being poured. deep pure summer vibes.
→ halsey on stright pride and fear
m: you may have heard the call for a straight pride this month. recently, two women were beaten for being gay. when halsey performed in the town, she gave this speech. by the end, i was definitely in tears, as queer kids yelled, “I am not afraid.”
→ on simplicity and beauty, in a silent, four second video
m: the earth is magic
→ Rocketman (2019) in theatres, for those “new life who dis” vibes
nadine: ugh, this. i almost didn’t put it in because i feel like it detonates and honestly, i have shame around proclaiming my love for it (a can of worms i shall open in my journal). but the truth is i love pop and musicals, i love things that are flashy and sort of camp, i love things that are over-the-top and larger than life, i love going to the cinema, and i love this. it’s exactly the type of thing i want to make, songs and score (the arrangements are sublime) and story. plus it feels so good to go to the cinema and forget straightness exists for a while, you know? this movie is kind of a musical happening in Elton John’s head. it’s very introspective and it’s ultimately about personal growth and support systems. please watch and ponder: what is authenticity? when we create ourselves, do we become more or less authentic?
→On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
m: oh oh oh, you know how it is when ocean vuong writes. it’s exactly what you expect: beautiful and fascinating and saturated and heartbreaking. it’s exactly that. OEWBG is a poetic book about coming of age within a family laden with trauma, so be prepared to feel something. I felt inspired in many ways after i completed this book, including in the way i write, and what i write.
→ “All Other Trans People Are Real, But *I* Am A Terrible Fraud” by Devon Price
“I thought I could live a whole lifetime being mistaken for a woman and just cruising along through it. I figured that if I was really trans, I would have known in childhood, and that I would have asserted it loudly, with defiance. Something. Just. Anything. But I didn’t have that confidence. I lacked that introspection. And for years I’ve held onto that, and taken it for a sign that all my feelings are fake.”
gray: insert *i’m in this photo and i don’t like it* meme. but seriously i think it’s hard to admit self doubt and as someone who feels the same way about my gender identity as this author does, i really admire this piece.
→ “Feminist Trans Men & the Narrative of Internalized Misogyny” by Seth Katz
“The difference between a trans man or nonbinary AFAB person and a cis woman (detransitioned or not) isn’t that we hate women and want to utilize misogyny, it is simply that we aren’t women.”
→ Levi the Poet on “I Used to Think that Positive Self-Talk was BS”
m: it's easy to disregard most self help things, esp if you have depression and anxiety. but i've been learning that so many things i roll my eyes at are, scientifically, true. levi covers one of these.
→ seltzer and only seltzer please someone help me i am kind of addicted….
→ the smores frap is BACK at starbucks and i am HAPPY. marshmallow whipped cream you say? on my way.
→ new york’s next public monument honors two trans activists: Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera. yes. this is the exact tea i want.
→nadine’s 30 day journal/tarot challenge is kicking my butt in a good way.
→ Questions to Assess Negative Views of Self and World
→ m: why haven’t i done the thing ive been mulling over for years now? what holds me back? what did i used to love, and why did i stop doing it?
→ nadine: when i developed my shame and guilt, what part of my personality took the biggest hit? how may i heal this part of my personality? maybe i need to stop asking myself what i “should” do and start asking myself what i want to do.
→gray: love for oneself is far more complicated than love for another. when we are confronted with self love, we are confronted with questions. when asked, “who are they?” about someone else, we can take comfort in the fact that it’s impossible for us to ever really know. but ourselves? aren’t we suppose to know? and since we’re supposed to know, if we realize we don’t, how can we love? or if we do, and we don’t like what we see? this is something that i struggle with. love for my body and love for my mind. these things do not come as naturally as i would wish. the only way i can reckon with this fact is that i am trying.
what about you? what's making life worth living lately?
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the sprout club
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.