what is authenticity? when we create ourselves, do we become more or less authentic?
this question has been low-key plaguing me ever since i first heard about authenticity. i was 10. in grade 5, i was one of the oldest kids in my elementary school and i made sure i was a soloist in the school choir. i kind of wanted to be a star.
avril lavigne's debut album, let go, was pretty new and i listened to it on repeat. i thought it was the height of coolness. it resonated so much with me. sometimes i remember myself at 10 years old singing "i might've put up with that when i was 14 and a little more green" with all the conviction in the world and i smile. bless 10-year-olds.
when i was 10, there was this big televised singing competition that everyone really loved to watch in my community because one of the most popular contestants was from a small town nearby. one day, i asked my mother why this contestant was so popular. "people find him authentic," she said. i had never heard or read that term before, so she explained what it meant: "people who are authentic are their real selves. they don't change for others."
i was preoccupied. why did the viewers think this contestant was more authentic than the others? i could understand why his mannerisms on a surface level seemed authentic: he was provincial, rugged and rustic, with a thick accent and manners every bit appropriate to the fisherman he'd been before the competition. but why was this authentic? and why was the other contestants' artistic expression not perceived as authentic?
the thing is, this contestant acted just like every man in my community. i asked myself if authenticity was just playing "the roles we were born to fill" (this is a quote from mona lisa smile, a movie that is about authenticity, if you really think about it). this seemed wrong to me. acting like every girl in my community sure didn't sound like an authentic way for me to be.
now, i look back and i understand that it wasn't really authenticity that seduced viewers, but the embodiment of a stereotype that suited everyone. people from urban centres watched and this stereotype comforted them because it allowed them to pin down the people of my community --- to put us in a box and not have to try to understand our differences.
people from my community watched and this stereotype also comforted them. i think it allowed us to live vicariously through the contestant while not changing anything or confronting anything about ourselves. by staying small and comfortable.
there is this expression in french circles in canada (i have never heard it in the particular community i grew up in, but the sentiment was there): "when we're born for a small loaf of bread..." (quand on est né pour un petit pain) it implies that we are born for small things in this life and that to hope or ask or wish or even work for more is foolish and messing with the natural order of things. in many ways, it's, i guess, a knee-jerk reaction to the "american dream."
i call the pervasive idea that we are born for small things "small loaf syndrome" (i don't think i invented this, but i can't find a source, so maybe i did?). i've always thought that small loaf syndrome was ridiculous and that i didn't catch it.
in my last therapy session, i talked about seeing the movie rocketman several times (don't act surprised). "why do you think you liked it so much?" my therapist asked. "do you think it's because you're an artist?"
i was gobsmacked. how dare she call me an artist? this thought painfully echoed a thought at the core of my self-talk: how dare you call yourself an artist? and a sentiment i perceived from my entourage: how dare you be artistic?
i remember when i was a teenager and dreaming of moving to the big city i live in now seemed like dreaming of a big loaf. how romantic and exciting the city seemed. i had all these fantasies of city life in which i realize now, in hindsight, i was an artist in every way but my occupation, which was always something sensible.
but didn't i want to be an artist when i was 10? yes. indeed. i wanted to be a star, i think were my exact words. later, in middle school, i discovered classical music and i wanted to become a musician. i wrote a few songs, too, and i arranged let it be for a wind quintet, but i didn't think anything of it. then, high school came around and with it a new music teacher, one who seemed to be adamant to sap the very art and fun from all music-making, leaving it dry, drab and technical.
this music teacher had an electronic metronome she would plug into gigantic speakers. she would turn the volume up as loud as she could. then, with the metronome clacking in our ears, she would lean over the first row of chairs clapping her hands with what i perceived to be barely contained violence.
i sat in the first row.
it's like the metronome and the handclaps yanked bits of fun from us students with every clack. as a person who is highly sensitive to sound, emotional atmospheres and heat especially (the music classroom was always hot; it trapped the heat in and then we kids were so stressed we were emanating heat like we were lost in the arctic), i left every rehearsal exhausted and grumpy.
this is kind of what brought me to tears when i first watched rocketman. the entire story is extremely sad, don't get me wrong, but here's what made me cry (i wouldn't consider it spoiler-y):
when elton is about 7 (?), he starts getting into classical music. there is a scene showing him staying up past bedtime reading a score (it looks like an orchestra conductor score but i'm not 100% sure). he imagines himself conducting an orchestra playing rocket man. he imagines the orchestra. the musicians are all looking at him so earnestly. almost lovingly. some of them are even smiling at him. then, elton gets to the piano. this is a piano concerto and he's the star. this scene is so joyful and pure. it shows us that this is what music originally was to elton: a fun, second-nature form of expression.
later in the movie, it's made clear that as addiction and other mental health issues start taking centre stage, fun disappears from music-making. there are all these montages of elton john performing and looking absolutely miserable. when elton hits rock bottom, his 7-year-old self appears again with the melody to rocket man. it's beautiful!
anyway. it just really moved me to see that joy and see it slowly lost. it reflected my experiences in a way i didn't understand right away.
i think that knowing and embracing what brings us joy is a big part of authenticity. maybe that's the way in which the contestant on the televised singing competition was actually authentic. he knew music brought him joy. so, he dared.
i don't want to pretend to have all the answers, and especially not to the question "what is authenticity?" discovering personal authenticity is a long, thrilling journey. i think my 30-day introspection challenge, over a few days ago, really helped me travel along that path.
i want to pursue joy. i want to pursue a large loaf of chocolate-chip bread sprinkled with sugar crystals. i want to pursue myself.
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?
send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
today is day 15 of the 30-day introspection journey i invited you to set on with me, a challenge that ends on the first day of summer. check out the original post; all 30-day challenge posts can also be found here.
i just wanted to check in, since we're halway through our journey, to let you know i'm still doing this challenge and i hope you are too. i didn't post much on this blog through the first half of the 30 days. i figured that, since i did this challenge to rest (yes, i know, ironic), resting should be my priority.
i have been staying with my parents, on the canadian east coast, since day 3 of the journey. i'm going back to my small apartment in the city tonight.
what did i do here? i spent time with my family. i took many walks. i marvelled at the stars. i wrote at the park. i went to the beach. i smelled the woods. i wrote a song. i cried a lot. i read tarot for my aunt. i took pictures. i made pretzels twice. a fox, a bear, a lynx, squirrels and birds came say hi. a lot of it was good.
anyway, here's where this 30-day introspection challenge has been taking me:
- days 3 and 4: how do i want to define stability? what stability have i learned to look for but don't truly crave or require? (answer: honestly, all the stability i need is just: committed relationships, a garden and a retirement fund.)
- day 4: i had a long reflection about how astrology could help symbolize the different flows of life within me.
- day 5: on this day i was crushed by an anvil of apathy. i worked on recognizing apathy as resistance and protection. that both extremes — apathy on one end, and frantically avoiding inactivity on the other — come from me not properly listening to myself.
- day 6: i realized that i didn't just need to mourn the battles i lost; i also had to mourn the battles i won. later, in my journal, i wrote: "i feel sort of abandoned by the life force that used to run within me. [...] that's how i feel: like a wreck, like a burden. well, that's dark. perhaps it's just easier to feel that way [...] than to actually acknowledge what is good and powerful within me. because then i don't have to try."
- day 7: i met a bear and later it came back and whispered in my ear (i'm exaggerating, but only a little). this led me to find a new understanding of my connection to the divine.
- day 8: i got thinking on dabrowski's theory of positive disintegration. i always like going back to this theory when i try to find meaning to my feelings of depression. it makes me feel hopeful to think that there may be something bigger and brighter at play.
- day 9: why am i feeling overwhelmed? (answer: guilt and shame. it's always guilt and shame.)
- days 10 and 11: a lot of going around in circles. i was reminded of a project i once loved; i had an idea on how to revive it.
- day 12: i was reminded of yet another project i'd abandoned. i'd been meaning to write a historical fiction and, shortly before this challenge, i resolved to abandon the idea because it was "wrong for me to focus on details and timelines, and why did i ever think it was a good idea?" on day 12, i remembered why i wanted to write that story in the first place. some voices we need to listen to, and some voices we need to ignore.
- day 13: hello again, guilt! long time no see (not). in my journal, i explored my guilt. i wrote: "i don't want these random skills. i want to be good and wise and benevolent." (fun late morning interlude: i sobbed about the state of critical thinking in the world. like a weirdo.) then, later in the day, i had yet another breakdown about being "a wreck" and "empty of all vivaciousness, lifeless," and how "i successfully put out every hint of a spark within me," and then i listened to dodie sing "i'm too damp for a spark" and i cried. there are days like that.
- day 14: the sea.
besides the classical playlist i made for this challenge, i spent a while listening to khai dreams. i also have a playlist made entirely of the king (conan gray) and cheap queen (king princess).
today, i'm listening to this short playlist:
sober / demi lovato
my mistake / gabrielle aplin
haunted house / florence + the machine
we come together / regina price
burned out / dodie
mostly, i think i've worked on exploring and confronting feelings of guilt and shame. i feel guilty and ashamed because i am convinced i am a frivolous screw-up, a pale copy of whom i once was, the result of a series of unwise decisions. i have unearthed this question that has been at the core of my negative self-talk for decades: how dare you?
because that's what i heard repeatedly from adults (especially teachers!!) when i was growing up: how dare you. how dare you think you can do this. how dare you ask for more. how dare you be yourself.
this may seem like a self-absorbed wound to examine and attempt to heal, but the result of years of berating via how dare you is this: i keep myself small. and no one benefits from that.
the first half of this challenge has been about where we come from, where we are. the second half will be about where we're going.
what about you? what have you been thinking, feeling? whether you've undertaken this 30-day journey with me or not, i'm sure you have things to say.
above all please take care,
in case you've missed the post i made wednesday, i started a 30-day introspection journey, and i've invited you all to join me. every day presents you with a choice of prompts: a question and a classical piece. i made a playlist and everything. today is day two. it's not too late to join!
day two is: what harmful thoughts/actions of mine have brought me here? — to the tune of prokofiev's dance of the knights from his version of romeo & juliet.
i tried to start by journalling instead of drawing a tarot card straight away. in this instance, it proved to be a terrible decision. i started spiralling about every reason i think i am an awful person who makes the worst decisions. then, i decided that not only was i a screwup, i was also much too hard on myself, which only made me a worse person.
i had to close my journal.
i took out my tarot deck. i fully expected to draw a card saying that i was being too hard on myself (like the king of wands reversed) or that i was a failure/idiot (so many options here). to my surprise, i drew the queen of cups. upright.
i resisted the temptation to just go: "whatever, i'll interpret this card as though it were reversed." there was a reason i drew this card upright, and i was determined to find it.
i think it's easy to forget where our shortcomings originated. we aren't like sleeping beauty, random gifts and curses bestowed upon us by fairies. we are a complex, but coherent whole.
yesterday, i had a therapy session during which i said: "i wonder if i'm not asking for the impossible. not from the world, but from myself. i want to keep all the things i love about myself — i want to stay creative, passionate, inspired, dramatic — but then i demand from myself stability, steadiness, temperance and consistency."
do you see what i mean? passion and stability rarely go hand in hand. i am passionate. i have whims and inspirations that consume me for hours, days, weeks. i create, and then i don't, and then i do. i am flighty and changeable. i switch gears often.
the queen of cups is always the queen of cups. she's the queen of cups when she's upright. she's the queen of cups when she's reversed. we're the same. we're ourselves when we achieve wonderful feats, and we're ourselves when we make monumental mistakes.
at the heart of the series of bad decisions that led to me burning out was doing for others. i did that because i am compassionate. compassion has caused my downfall, but it can also save me, should i learn to turn part of it inward.
i think that when it comes to whom we are, there is no good and bad. what heals can harm, and what harms can heal. we are ourselves: humans with characteristics and quirks, none of which are inherently positive or negative, all of which can be used to harm or to heal.
I’ve been working on getting to know myself better these past years, and these past months especially. It hasn’t been easy. I’ve always felt driven by a deep need to help. What do others need me to do? On a less conscious level, this translates to: what do others need me to be?
A slippery slope indeed!
To be what I thought others needed me to be, I’ve tried so hard to be more sensible, reasonable, stable, temperate, normal and easily satisfied. I’ve tried to be less dramatic, weird, sensitive, demanding, flighty and complicated. I’ve tried to ask for less – attention, opportunities, love, help, consideration, resources – and give more.
Spoiler alert: I burnt myself out. Several times.
Now I’m burnt out again. I spent all of Monday afternoon crying. At one point I was so done and exhausted that I lied down on my kitchen floor to sob. And yes, I’m a dramatic person, but sobbing curled up on my kitchen floor? That’s a low point I hadn’t reached in years.
On that jolly note, and in the spirit of getting to pay better attention to my inner voice, I am creating this 30-day challenge! Time to rest, think and listen to beautiful songs.
This challenge starts tomorrow and ends on the first day of summer (or winter, if you’re in the Southern Hemisphere). If you want to join me, we’ll be reflecting and introspecting through different prompts. I have a playlist of one classical piece a day, and I have a list of prompts to go with it. This is a bit of a DIY mix-and-match: whether you want to use the prompts to interpret a tarot or oracle card, to journal, to spark a poem or drawing, or whatever else, is up to you. Do what you want! Ignoring the prompt and only using the song, using the prompt and ignoring the song, using both the prompt and the song, ignoring both the prompt and the song: all options are good. The important thing is just to look inward.
The prompts are inspired by my current needs and meant to somewhat follow the phases of the Moon. I picked the songs to accompany and/or add to these prompts. They are all classical-ish. They’re among my favourites; you’ll notice I’m a big fan of Tchaikovsky, other Romantic composers, and first movements in general. I’m most definitely not sorry.
If you want to use the next 30 days to look inward, too, please tell us about your thoughts!
30-Day Introspection Challenge to Welcome Summer
Day 1: May 23
Prompt: Where am I in my life? (the calm after the storm)
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Fourth Symphony, Second Movement
Further thoughts: When Tchaikovsky wrote this Symphony, he was exceedingly depressed and recovering from a series of bad decisions: decisions that seemed good at the time and were every bit good-intentioned, but that had the major flaw of going against what he truly needed and wanted for himself (BBC). Traditionally, second movements of symphonies can be seen as “the calm after the storm.” Since this “calm after the storm” movement was actually written during the calm after a particularly destructive storm in the composer’s life, I think it’s perfect to kick off this challenge.
Day 2: May 24
Prompt: What harmful thoughts/actions of mine have brought me here?
Song: Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, Dance of the Knights
Day 3: May 25
Prompt: What helpful thoughts/actions of mine have brought me here?
Song: Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, I. Prélude
Day 4: May 26
Prompt: What do I need/want to learn through this challenge?
Song: Beethoven’s Sixth Symphony (Pastorale), First Movement
Day 5: May 27
Prompt: What is leaving me?
Song: Schumann’s Kinderszenen, VII. Traumerei
Day 6: May 28
Prompt: What are the things I haven’t allowed myself to grieve?
Song: Pärt’s Spiegel im Spiegel
Further thoughts: Sometimes there are wounds we don’t allow ourselves to take the time to feel hurt by. We may feel they are too small or insignificant, or that we were lucky in our misfortune, or that we are too privileged to complain. Allowing yourself the courtesy of feeling hurt by whatever hurt you is a big step towards self-compassion.
Day 7: May 29
Prompt: How may I allow myself to grieve?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, II. The Death of Ase
Day 8: May 30
Prompt: What has May taught me?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker, Pas de deux
Day 9: May 31
Prompt: What do I need to leave behind?
Song: Górecki’s Third Symphony, Second Movement
Further thoughts: On Day 5, we reflected on the things that were leaving us of their own accord, or at least, somewhat naturally. Today, we think of those things that may be more difficult to part with.
Day 10: June 1
Prompt: How may I create silence?
Song: Satie’s Gymnopédie No. 3
Further thoughts: I am using the theme of “silence” this New Moon. I still picked songs for every day of “silence,” but feel free to skip them and truly sit in silence if you think it would be beneficial and/or comfortable. This piece is, I think, a great way to ease into silence because it’s so quiet and slow.
Day 11: June 2 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my mind?
Song: Dvořák’s String Quintet in E-Flat Major, III. Larghetto
Day 12: June 3 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my body?
Song: Elgar’s Cello Concerto, First Movement
Further thoughts: Allegedly, this melody came to Elgar when he woke up after an operation to get his tonsils removed, something that was quite dangerous for someone his age at the time (Wikipedia). Imagine you have been anesthetized and are just awaking. Your thoughts are blank. What is your body trying to tell you?
Day 13: June 4 (New Moon)
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my heart?
Song: Vaughan Williams’s The Lark Ascending
Day 14: June 5
Prompt: When there is silence, what do I hear from my soul? (“I believe…”)
Song: Fauré’s Pavane
Further thoughts: You may want to challenge yourself to write nonstop for a while. Every time you feel stuck, rewrite “I believe…”
Day 15: June 6
Prompt: What does my heart long to offer the world?
Song: Chopin’s Nocture No. 2 in E-Flat Major
Further thoughts: Imagine that the world needs absolutely nothing. Imagine that the world doesn’t need you. Still you feel the urge to give. Give what?
Day 16: June 7
Prompt: Why am I here? (“I am here to…” or “I am here because…”)
Song: Elgar’s Cello Concerto, Fourth Movement
Further thoughts: As for Day 14, you may want to challenge yourself to write nonstop for a while. Every time you feel stuck, rewrite “I am here to…” A possible variant, if you want to explore spirituality more than purpose, is “I am here because…”
Day 17: June 8
Prompt: What nourishes me?
Song: Holst’s Planets, Jupiter
Further thoughts: This is not about your basic needs, but rather what fills you up spiritually, emotionally and/or intellectually. Another way to see this is: “What energizes me?”
Day 18: June 9
Prompt: What am I passionate about?
Song: Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons – Summer, I. Allegro non molto – Allegro
Further thoughts: Is there a lot of overlap with yesterday’s answers? Why or why not?
Day 19: June 10
Prompt: How do I feel after dancing?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, III. Anitra’s Dance
Further thoughts: This is the best dancing song in my opinion, but any other one will do. You could also replace dancing with anything you don’t usually do: run to the bus stop, skip down the street, balance on one foot while you floss, turn your head upside down for a minute, yell, “think six impossible things before breakfast,” whatever.
Day 20: June 11
Prompt: What do I actually feel grateful for?
Song: Holst’s Planets, Venus
Further thoughts: Sometimes I think I should feel grateful for some things. The problem is I don’t actually feel grateful. Today, we find those things we do feel, in our hearts, grateful for. Leave out anything you don’t feel. Don’t force yourself to feel grateful. The idea here is not to have a long list, but an honest list.
Day 21: June 12
Prompt: What feelings or states of mind do I want/need to have more of in my life?
Song: Schubert’s Fifth Symphony, First Movement
Day 22: June 13
Prompt: How may I make more space for these feelings or states of mind?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, First Movement
Day 23: June 14
Prompt: What temptations lure me away from these feelings or states of mind?
Song: Dvořák’s Ninth Symphony, First Movement
Further thoughts: From binge-watching tv series to catastrophizing to wanting to help others, anything works.
Day 24: June 15
Prompt: Why do I find these temptations difficult to resist?
Song: Liszt’s Liebestraume, No. 3 Nocturne
Further thoughts: You may want to read up on the enneagram! Reading on the few types you find yourself likely to be could provide you with ideas for answers.
Day 25: June 16 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What am I ready to reap this Full Moon?
Song: Smetana’s Má Vlast, No. 1 Vyšehrad
Day 26: June 17 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What has this 30-day challenge taught me so far?
Song: Mozart’s Concerto for Flute, Harp and Orchestra, Second Movement
Day 27: June 18 (Full Moon)
Prompt: What have I actually harvested this Full Moon?
Song: Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings in C Major, I. Pezzo in forma di Sonatina
Further thoughts: On Day 25, we contemplated what we thought we were ready to reap. What did we really reap? More? Less? Something else entirely?
Day 28: June 19
Prompt: How do I shine?
Song: Grieg’s Peer Gynt, I. Morning Mood
Day 29: June 20
Prompt: How may I shine more?
Song: Dvořák’s Slavonic Dance No. 2
Day 30: June 21 (Summer Solstice)
Prompt: How may I make the best of this summer?
Song: Debussy’s La Mer, I. De l’aube à midi sur la mer
Further thoughts: I hope you listen to the song and feel it send you off on a wonderful adventure. Do the final chords lift you up and fill your soul like they do for me? I hope so. Even if it doesn’t, you’ve made it through. I wish you all the best.
HELLO, FOLKS, IT IS ME, AND I AM TIRED.
tired of a lot of things. such as this country. and worrying that i am void of feelings. this love list felt so daunting to me, as i felt like i hadn't had room in me to love lately... and i think that's when these lists are so important. thanks to gray and nadine who argued when i said perhaps we should skip it this month. they filled this place with love, and in reading it, i was reminded that, indeed, i have loved things too, even in my anger.
so it is my pleasure to introduce you to our may love list. i hope you also find strength in you to lay aside your anger for a moment to make room for love.
→ better oblivion community center by better oblivion community center
gray: a phoebe bridgers/conor oberst collab was not only the best thing for conor oberst’s career in the latter half of the 2010s, but also the best thing for both the part of my heart that is still 16 and angsty about everything and the part that is 22 and tired and constantly feeling weird. fave track: didn’t know what i was in for
→ city sun eater in the river of light by woods
gray: this album just feels like spring. fave track: politics of free
→ Górecki’s II. Lento e Largo - Tranquillissimo from Symphony No. 3, Op. 36. for when everything seems to harsh.
nadine: this month’s classical rec is not technically classical (it was written in 1976). it’s honestly so soft and gentle. it features a soloist, but i’d say that as far as “opera” singing goes, this is extremely approachable. the soloist sings in polish about child-parent separation during World War II.
→ I Like (the idea of) You by Tessa Violet, to pair with raging crushes, ice cream and hot wind in your hair.
nadine: honestly!!!! i have!!! so many feelings about this! Tessa Violet is brilliant (check out her previous two singles, Bad Ideas and Crush) and she did it again.
→ blood moon underworld by misogi
m: i just know this one is going to be so difficult to beat for my favorite album of the year. Misogi isn’t your average lo-fi rap/hip hop soundcloud artist. the 19 year old has built something gritty, smooth, and rich in one album, immersing the listener in a saturated spacey world. i love how diverse, yet cohesive it is- we have our emo rap songs (featuring my fave, nothing,nowhere), our beep-boop spacey instrumentals, and our heavy punk guitar filled songs. i’m in love. artful. fave track, a reverb heavy bedroom dream punk song: bleached
→ nightmare by halsey
m: because i am angry, and so is halsey.
→ i think you should leave with tim robinson
gray: super funny sketch comedy with super short episodes, so binge watching it feels less guilty.
→ “mr. ratburn and the special someone” arthur s.22 ep.01
gray: i already wrote about this on the blog but i have to include it here too. it makes me so happy!
→ angry bill nye via john oliver
m: the bill nye we all knew and loved, but make it 2019 on a literally suffering planet. it's less than a minute, which is to say, you have no excuse not to watch this one.
→ autobiography of red by anne carson
gray: this is easily the best thing i’ve ever read, and i don’t think i have read or will ever read anything quite like it again.
→ i hear the sunspot by yuki fumino
m: my first manga, and i am smitten. the i hear the sunspot series follows two boys: a deaf boy and his note taker. it's simply so well written... we subtly observe the nuances of these boys' lives, including the struggle of school/career, the struggle with self-actualization within a developing disability, a difficult home life, and emerging sexuality... i'll spoil something for you now with a question you'll ponder: are they gay? for each other? and when will we know fore sure? :)
→ pilu of the woods by mai k. nguyen
m: Oh oh oh !!! this comic is so heartfelt and so beautiful and so important ! willow loves nature for its beauty, serenity, and intricacies, so unlike her feelings and school and home. this is the story of willow learning to understand the little monsters in her- feelings, in this case, grief- and how to treat herself and others... a good, extremely pretty, kids comic for learning about emotional literacy, compassion, and self expression, for all ages.
→ smoothies with cold brew, oat milk, chocolate protein powder, and bananas
→ trader joe's organic tumeric and ginger tea
→ nadine: this month has, i think, been trying to tell me that compassion should start with the self. i tend to take it for granted that other people need my compassion more than i need my own compassion. why do i assume this? empathy is a gift, not a curse: it should help me do good rather than guilt-trip me.
→ m: how much is too much? when can i walk away from the news and relinquish my need to be an Extremely Informed Citizenship, if it makes me cry multiple times a day?
and you? what are you loving on lately? we'd love to hear you.
don't forget to consider submitting to our issue number one, or our mini issue, safe places.
remember, whether you just have a bullet point list of things that make you happy, or you've written an epic, we want to read it.
also... art! photos! doodles! show us.
we look forward to hearing from you soon. x
That feeling during the fourth movement of a symphony where the whole orchestra plays, and the sound swells and flows and finally, finally, something out there sounds exactly like how you feel inside, and everything is culminating, and you know, you just know you’re one with the Universe. That feeling. That’s why I love classical music.
How it goes through your chest and fills up your lungs and shines out of you like sunbeams.
And so much more.
I’ll address a few criticisms on classical music and why I think it’s an element of interest anyway.
First: Classical music is the kingdom of cis white men.
That’s true. I cannot argue that classical music isn’t extremely white-washed, as are pretty much all primarily Western things from that time. Although there is some debate around Beethoven’s ethnicity, the fact remains that, in most people’s minds, he lives on as a white man. Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was, however, without a doubt, biracial.
That being said, I do encourage you to smash the gender binary and never assume that anyone is anything. That’s a discussion for another day, though.
When I stream classical music, I make an effort to stream from a variety of contemporary musicians. I encourage you do the same.
But yes. Absolutely. Classical music comes with a history of oppression. So do medicine, literature and sports. I think this history is important to acknowledge and change. Let’s do it together.
Second: Classical music is elitist.
I’m so sorry that you were confronted with people who made you think you were too uneducated to enjoy classical music. I’m sorry you were shushed when you clapped after the first movement of the symphony. I’m sorry your music teacher made you feel bad about yourself. Those things genuinely make me sad because you deserved better than that. No one deserves to be shushed for clapping once the orchestra stops playing. No kid deserves to feel bad at school.
As I’ve just written, classical music comes with a history of oppression. We don’t need to keep that going. We have the power to change that. I’ll try my best.
Third: Classical music is stuffy.
Not to pull a Sebastian-from-La-La-Land, but classical music has caused riots. That’s hardcore. Have you seen Amadeus (1984)? That’s hardcore. Chopin had an affair with an author who went by George Sand. That’s hardcore (though George Sand herself was so much more hardcore than Chopin). Tchaikovsky dealt with widespread and internalized homophobia for decades. That’s hardcore. Have you heard Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and imagined it being played in 1808? That’s hardcore. Vivaldi died in poverty in 1741 and “[m]any of his compositions were written for the all-female music ensemble of […] a home for abandoned children.” (Wikipedia) That’s hardcore.
Classical music is so hardcore!
Fourth: Classical music is too old to still be relevant.
Amazing new songs are being written every day. Yes. I agree. It’s important to support artists who are alive. Yes. I agree. I definitely agree.
Aside from the many, many classical musicians still alive today, I think classical music as an art form is still relevant as a creator of discussion. It’s a reason to think more, talk more, listen more, share more. It’s a reason to ask one another questions. Did you like this? Why or why not? What were you thinking about while you were listening? What did this remind you of? What do you think this piece meant when it premiered, hundreds of years ago? Do you think people hummed the main theme in the streets? Do you think strangers stopped them and said: “Oh, you heard the latest Beethoven too! Wasn’t it amazing?”
Kids learning to play classical? That’s even more important, I think. Playing music in ensembles taught me to listen. It taught me to wait. It taught me the value of hard work. It taught me tolerance. It taught me solidarity. It taught me trust. It taught me the extraordinary hugeness of what we can do when we work together. How are kids supposed to learn those lessons from playing music together when adults don’t value the type of music they play?
Finally, please forgive the hyperbolic comparison, but are mountains too old to still be relevant? Stonehenge, the Moai on Easter Island, the Sphinx of Giza – are they too old to still be relevant? Those monuments of nature and humanity are still relevant because they’re beautiful. Because they’re puzzling. Because we look at them and we’re breathless with the immensity of what we humans can achieve when we put our minds to it as a group. When someone has a wild idea and we listen instead of fearing and chastising.
I want to be one who listens.
(…) Here it is:
some days are difficult for me to live through… not necessarily because they are hard, but sometimes things are so good i don’t know how to hold it. i’ve been reading about overcoming imposter syndrome, and one night i understood some things about my view of myself:
i tend to define myself by what i do, and not who i am. when what i do changes, even only slightly, my sense of self is disturbed.
i also divide myself into selves based on context, though not in that good girl/bad girl way that people think teenagers do… mostly my access to words and self changes based on context. when these selves cross paths, i feel shame, fearing i am less authentic. funny, because the merging of my selves makes me more myself than ever. so i need to remember this: i can be both-and, and all. multi-faceted. deeper.
some days, i simply do not recognize my self.
and on these days, i need to settle into my body, into my self. to question what matters. what is beauty, in my eyes. what makes me feel. what i want to do. my intention in every situation.
sometimes this simply means i put clove and tangerine oils in my diffuser. maybe i eat outside and steep in sunlight. maybe i do a little yoga. do my skincare slowly. and sometimes it means i read nonfiction, or fiction, or poetry.
poetry always does that thing to me, whether i write it or read it. it asks me to see and feel the world, without remaining an apathetic observer. to appreciate something, even if it’s the wording of something hard to swallow.
it’s national poetry month, so i’ve added some poems that i think are worth reading or listening to. i hope you find something that brings the color back to your world, and helps you feel a little more like yourself. let us know if there’s anything we should try. we love to hear from you.
namaste, the light in my recognizes and honors the light in you,
→ still i rise, by maya angelou, performed on so you think you can dance, for survival
→ laugh with god, by madi mae parker, for becoming
→ for the dogs tho barked at me on the sidewalks in connecticut by hanif abdurraqib, for meeting yourself
→ angel of the get through, by andrea gibson, for your best friends
→ the future, by neil hilborn, for your hardest days
→ things that could happen to a girl wearing jeans, by rhiannon mcgavin, when politics gets too much
→ how to be a poet under the new regime by roberto montes, on being
→ self portrait with no flag by safia elhillo, for pledging allegiance
→ joy seekers, by levi the poet, for easter
→ Elgar’s Nimrod (Variation IX) from Enigma Variations. listen when in pain, for the reminder than in every hurt there is longing, and in every longing there is hope.
nadine: this month’s classical love is a staple. apparently, according to the song’s wikipedia, it’s played pretty much all the time (i’m exaggerating, but only a little). this enigma variation was dedicated to Elgar’s closest friend, August Jaeger; it’s the story of how Jaeger encouraged him to push through pain and keep making music. in a letter to Jaeger, Elgar wrote that each variation had been written borrowing the voice of a friend, “if they were asses enough to compose.” to me, the Nimrod variation is a reminder of what a powerful balm sincere encouragements can be. i hope it catches you at the right time.
→ Happy by Julia Michaels (released in Inner Monologue Part 1, jan. 24, 2019). listen if you feel like dancing and feeling sorry for yourself at the same time.
nadine: mmm who doesn’t like a good sad pop anthem?? this one’s been stuck in my head all month. (also worth noting that i think this song needs to be taken with a certain measure of self-deprecating humour; it’s absolutely not necessary or even useful to “kill relationships for art.”)
→ Night Falls over Kortedala by Jens Lekman
gray: a long time favorite album of mine, and my favorite Jens Lekman album. every year, for me, this album seems to usher in the beginning of spring. the dancey instrumentals and silly, lovelorn lyrics will never cease to feel brand new to me, even on the thousandth listen.
→ Mississippi by Kevin Abstract
m: the outro to the brand new ep ghettobaby, this song had me both tearing up and dancing at my desk. it’s homey and homesick at the same time.
→ Guava Island
m: i’m of the opinion that Donald Glover can do no wrong, and i am right again. this time, glover is flanked by Rhianna and Lititia Wright *heart eyes*
→ The Future is Feminist edited by Jessica Valenti
m: a brilliant intro to feminism, spanning much time and differing schools of thought. each essay is different both in subject and mood (yes, some will make you smile.) despite the hot pink and orange text (I couldn’t read the quotes in orange), i love it. i want it. this is intersectional, empowering, accepting feminism, and i feel empowered creatively and mentally.
→ “Why Do I Always Have a Crush on Someone?” by Heather Havrilesky
“The trick is not to stop wanting. The trick is to stop abandoning yourself and your life every time you want something. The trick is not to stop eating. The trick is to stop blaming yourself for your hunger.”
as a chronic crusher, this piece makes me feel validated and made me think a lot about how i exist in relation to and treat my romantic/etc desire.
→ With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
m: Acevedo’s first book, The Poet X, was incredible, and so many thought so. Her second book releases May 15, and let me tell you… it is spicy and sweet and warm and bright. Emoni is a single mama, a girl who adores cooking, and a high school senior. this life is so much pressure, but so full of love. highly recommend, not just for the story, but also for the beautiful writing.
→ Keep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad by Austin Kleon
m: i feel like this book is a guide to life. all you need to know right now is that it’s austin kleon’s new book. perhaps i’ll give it its own blog post.
sipping + eating
→ thai coffee, strong and sweet and spicy. good for chatty dinners over stir fry noodles or productive afternoons.
→ lemonade. it’s already hitting temps of 80F here, so i might as well lean into the summer weather with a classic drink that happens to be a favorite of mine.
→ ginger matcha ice cream with dark chocolate chips. healthy for your heart.
→ nadine: how are the hindering things i do benefitting my fake self? what can i do to stop the negative cycle where my self-sabotage fuels my negative self-beliefs? procrastination, i’m looking straight at you. i will not let you make me angry.
→ nadine: i want peace of mind, but i am constantly looking for ways to make my life more intense, dramatic, exciting. in my journal, i have written: “why am i not that person now? thick fabrics, plants, light. a big garden. who is this person & what has changed within him/her to bring him/her to let go of that need for drama & intensity? why is he/she content with that life? what life is that?”
→ m: what do i feel like i’m not allowed to do, and why? what blocks are in place before my creativity, and what have i forgotten to love as the years pass by? how can i dismantle shame
→ m: do i have a routine? what is my dream routine, and how can i slowly work it into my mornings, days, and nights?
→ m: how can i create space for other people? who have i not forgiven?
→ gray: time is passing whether or not i want it to. i have spent the last several months oblivious to this, stuck in a pattern of being stuck. now it’s april and i find myself trying to figure out what i’ve even been doing. a short break post-grad turned into a time where i have been questioning all my decisions and skills that i believed i had. how do i move forward with my life now that every turn is filled to the brim with uncertainty? and who am i to complain? how do i stop focusing on the path not taken?
what about you? what’s been making you think, lately, “i’m glad i stuck around long enough to discover this?” let us know!
About a month ago, I reached a point where I thought my present circumstances were unbearable, and the only way I found to convince myself to push forward was to daydream about the summer. My ideal summer day went something like this: Wake up at dawn. Make coffee. Have coffee on my balcony with my laptop, write for a few hours, have breakfast too. I’d write for this blog, work on my fiction, write the screenplay for that musical I dream of putting up. Then, once the sun would be too hot, I’d pack lunch and bike downtown, to the library. I’d rent all kinds of books. Philosophy. Physics. Psychology. Once I’d be done, I’d bike to a park, where I’d read and have a picnic. As I’d bike back home at the end of the afternoon, I’d stop at the market to get fresh vegetables. Make something I’ve never had before for dinner. Listen to music. Journal a bit. Go to bed early.
I told my friend about my plans. She looked at me thoughtfully and asked: “Why aren’t you living that life now?”
I had reasons. I’m so busy. My balcony’s buried in snow. The sun rises after 7. Fresh vegetables are rare and expensive at this time of the year. I opened my mouth to voice them. Something stopped me. This quote, that I haven’t been able to find attribution for, popped in my mind: “There's no such thing as being too busy. If you really want something, you'll make time for it.” I could react defensively and list my reasons and play the victim. Or I could open my heart and think.
My friend continued, her voice careful: “Sometimes I think we live like we forget we’re going to die.”
Cue an Existential Crisis, complete with questioning all my life choices, booking appointments with my guidance counsellor and my psychologist, and holding back sobs as I tell my mother on a video call: “What is the rest of my life? 60 years? 50? 5? I don’t know!”
I spoke to some other friends about it. If you’re dealing with stuff, tell your friends about it! Every time I give someone a peek of what’s inside my heart and they don’t go running the other way, I feel a little less lonely. To one of my friends, I wrote:
I don’t want to kill the hunger within me, and idk, I know this all sounds melodramatically existential… I don’t want to live on autopilot. I think living intentionally, mindfully and purposefully all go hand in hand. And the joy that comes from enjoying the small things comes from the same place that the pain of existential questioning comes from: an understanding that life is beautiful, fragile and so so precious.
I’m happy. I derive inordinate amounts of joy from the smallest things. A chord. A patch of blue sky. How broken ice looks. How Freddie Mercury is scatting in Under Pressure and it works. My mother’s gif game. A discussion with a friend. My high-waisted paisley palazzos. Cooking my oats in vanilla oat milk and stirring in almond butter, frozen berries and sunflower and pumpkin seeds (the luxury!!!). The way Julie Andrews sings “when you wake up, wake up!” with all the might in the world. My sister’s reaction when I told her what I said at the student assembly. The house brand ancient grains bread. So many things bring me so much joy, and when I realize that for several years I was seeing life as biding my time, as eating pistachios (you break your teeth trying to open them and they don’t even taste that good), I think I must be the luckiest person alive.
But I can be happy with the small scale and unhappy with the big scale. They’re not mutually exclusive. In fact, like I told my friend, I think they come from the same place. I’m deeply unhappy about the suffering in the world. I’m deeply unhappy about the state of our planet. I’m deeply unhappy about violence and oppression.
I’m also not sure that my life isn’t heading towards a devastating midlife crisis in 15 years.
In one of my university classes, several years ago, we were learning about midlife crises and one of the students – an older one – asked the lecturer: “Is it possible to avoid having a midlife crisis by being reflective and introspective throughout your life?”
I think the idea is interesting. However, I’m sure that whatever I do, I’ll have a midlife crisis. I mean, look at me. I’m a walking-talking existential crisis. I just don’t want my midlife crisis to destroy my life. My quarter-life crisis destroyed my life. Once is enough. Our time here is finite (that we know of for sure). I don’t know how much I have left and I want to make the most of it.
Change is coming.
When is it not?
Next time, I’ll write about classical music, just like I promised in the collective march love list.
Until then, I hope you get the time to ask yourself questions. About anything.
the sprout club
a small collective dedicated to personal, creative, and communal growths.