Heavy, Like Wet Roses

I just finished the book Moranthology, by Caitlin Moran, and it is brilliant. The woman can do no wrong, in my opinion. Her book How to be a Woman was life changing for me, no exaggeration. Everyone who owns lady bits should read it.

Towards the end of it, Moranthology includes two absolutely beautiful obituaries — one for Amy Winehouse, and one for Elizabeth Taylor. The one for Taylor is exceptional, and one bit has been stuck in my head the past two days.

Image

On my wall, I have a shot of Taylor in her late forties. She is with David Bowie — outdoors in LA, at a guess. Bowie is emaciated — at the height of his cocaine addiction, but still, clearly, both powerful and beautiful. He has his arms around Taylor’s waist — a thicker, rounder waist than her corseted days in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; she is heavy, like wet roses. She looks like a banquet. As she puts a cigarette to Bowie’s mouth, her face is both lascivious and maternal — her lips are half-open; you can practically hear her coo, “Here you go, baby.” In that one shot, she makes David Bowie – David Bowie — look like a helpless teenage boy.

{Swoon.}

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To My Imaginary Daughter: Part 1

I lost my mother at a young age. Not tragically young, but definitely young enough to matter.

I was 20. I was still living at home, had dropped out of school for a semester, and was working a temp administrative job for the 2000 Census — alongside her, actually. I was an adult, but I hadn’t left the nest. We were impossibly close; she called me her shadow. And while I learned many things from watching her, the fact that I needed to pay attention and learn hadn’t hit me. I wouldn’t realize that until after she had gone and my family support had vanished.

As a result, I floundered. A lot. I’m almost embarrassed to look back on those times. I was mourning the loss of her while struggling to find a job and fix my car and pay rent and bills on my own for the first time in my life. I’ve often described myself in that era as having no skin. Just a walking, talking bundle of raw and exposed nerves that spilled onto everyone that happened to cross my path. Not exactly the perfect picture of poise and presence. I’m kind of shocked my friends are still around.

I found my old journal from those days recently, and cringed at some of the entries and “poetry” that I was scribbling down. It was articulate, it was heartbreaking, and I’m very glad I have it all these years later, but it suddenly dawned on me how happy I am that the Twittersphere wasn’t around yet. I’m glad Myspace and Facebook had yet to grace us with their presence, and I thank my lucky stars I hadn’t discovered LiveJournal. Because GOOD GOD ALMIGHTY those raw and tortured thoughts belong nowhere but on the crinkled pages of a journal buried in storage.

I have some younger friends on Facebook. Nieces and nephews and friends’ little brothers and sisters, and I see this very thing being splashed around on the Internet so freely. Random tortured lines of poetry, dramatic song lyrics, supposedly anonymous messages sent out into the universe in the “I love it when you underestimate me… it only makes me stronger” vein. And again I cringe, because what goes online these days isn’t something you can hide in your sock drawer when you’re embarrassed by it later.

There were a lot of things my mother taught me about being an adult, but many, many more I wish she’d been around to teach that I had to learn on my own. And I was thinking the other day, as I approach my 32nd birthday — if I never have children, who will learn from the trial and error of my own life?

So, just for the hell of it, I’m composing a list of things I would have LOVED to have known before I struck it out on my own, and what I would tell my own daughter, were she in existence. Maybe no one will read them, maybe someone will stumble upon them. Who knows. In the mean time, I’ll probably keep adding to it.

1. Dismiss what insults your own soul. Whitman said that. It’s been my mantra the last several years. There are many things I grew up around that seemed fundamentally wrong to me but I was told otherwise. It wasn’t until I struck out on my own, and gravitated towards the people I wanted to, that I realized I was right all along. Don’t bury that little voice in the back of your head that tells you something feels weird. If you’re living in contradiction to your innate beliefs, you cannot be happy.

2. Don’t assume anyone has your best interest in mind. Many people have parents and family who’ll look out for them no matter what. Many others don’t have anything like that. But even if you’re among the lucky who do, they’re not going to be beside you at every twist and turn in your life. There’s a funny switch that happens after high school that many of us aren’t prepared for. When you’re living at home, there are people whose jobs–whose missions–are to protect you. Your parents, your teachers, your coaches–they all have a vested interest in your success, and you take this for granted. So once you’re on your own, it’s hard to wrap your head around the fact that people aren’t thinking about you first. Your bank is gonna rack up tiny little fees when you’re not looking, hoping you won’t notice; Your boss is going to promise a promotion and not deliver if it protects his bottom line; Your coworker/friend/friend’s parent won’t tell you the whole story when they try to sell you that old car; People are going to try to mess with your credit report because they think you’ll never check it; Your cable company is gonna switch up your plan and charge you more unless you call them out on it; Your health insurance won’t pay for your treatment if they can get away with it; Your doctor might even prescribe something you don’t really need because it makes him more money. People you think you should trust still look out for themselves first — everyone has to in order to make it. You’ll have to learn this too.

3. Despite all of this, don’t lose your sense of empathy. Ah, the golden rule; it’s the worst kind of contradiction. People aren’t going to look out for you, but that doesn’t mean you get to be an asshole in return. Practice the art of empathy: the act of thinking, “you know, I wonder how I’d want this person to treat me if our roles were reversed?” Such a simple concept, yet one so lacking in much of society. Try it. You’ll be shocked at what it will do to your worldview as well as your interactions to other humanoids.

4. Look it up for yourself. You know those email forwards you get from your aunt or your grandmother, the ones with “Fw: fw: fw: fw: fw:” in the subject line and the colorful Comic Sans type in the body? In case you haven’t figured it out yet, those are pretty clear clues that you need to be skeptical of whatever is being sent to you. Nine times out of ten a simple Google search of the first line of the email will turn up a plethora of “HOAX!” entries. It’s amazing that more people don’t check out what they blindly forward to their friends and family–and that’s true of so much more than emails. It’s doubly true of anything involving religion or politics. If you hear something outrageous–hell, if you hear something boring, but that is being passed on as “truth”–LOOK IT UP. Don’t blindly pass along. Read. A lot. Get your news from more than one source. Get your rules from more than one book.

5.  Keep your skin on. What you share/write online now will follow you for a long time. The vague threats of a jilted friend or lover never make said jilted person seems strong or above it all. Saying you’re rattling cages in your own mind only makes you sound mentally unstable. Proclaiming to the world that you hate drama makes you look like you feed off of it. And melancholy “When will someone love me?” posts don’t sound soulful, they sound needy. Unless you have a recording contract, those thoughts are best kept between you, your journal and your therapist. Or perhaps a very, very patient friend.

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Roll the dice my way

Absolutely in love with this chick and this song, and the beautifully shot video.

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Embracing my inner French girl.

The French’s girl’s notion of time is that of a flaneur–a stroller, one who does not go places with a particular objective or precise schedule but allows the ambling course of general intentions to guide her into unplanned encounters and special unexpected pleasures. In her world, time is not money. Time is life. As Wharton once described it, real life is deep an complex and slowly developed, and has its roots in fundamental things. And you cannot experience those fundamental things, or true pleasure in life, without taking your time.

…when it comes to the essential things in life–the personally relevant, the inimately clear–she does not rush. She does not force today what can get done tomorrow. Time is relative: life is short, memories are long. To all things a season, quite literally.

– Debra Ollivier, Entre Nous

Suddenly my long-standing aversion to wrist watches may make a little more sense.

Viva la France!

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Life Lessons, or a Rambling Piece of Introspection. You’ve been warned.

Have you ever had an opportunity to separate yourself from what you once thought was your destiny or even your home, only to find out it was in fact a very unhealthy place to be?

Hindsight’s 20/20, no?

That’s the realization I’ve come to lately. Life has done a 180 in the last five months, and though it was surreal at first, now I can’t imagine being where I was back in December.

I’ve mentioned my previous job in passing over the last several years on this blog. Nothing too specific, usually only alluding to the people I worked with. People I absolutely loved. People I do still adore. The thing is, my feelings for those people kept me in a scenario that was unnatural for me in many, many ways. And I stayed much too long.

I ended up in corporate America. Somehow the girl with inclinations toward music, toward art, toward literature and theater and film and journalistic, free-minded pursuits, ended up in a corporate setting. (Truth be told the setting was the most un-corporate “corporate America” could be to the outside, so you could understand my confusion at first.)

I was having a time in school. Back when my time there was being bankrolled  by a Hope Grant, I flitted about from one major to the next for two years trying to find out what was really “me.” That plan was derailed, I had to take some time off, and when I got my stuff together and got back into school my focus became find a stable income, STAT and my efforts of soul searching were, rightly, forsaken. I headed toward journalism and was steered into public relations, something I have to admit I never found to be horribly alluring. Even while in school I had fears that one day I’d bail out of the field and head towards something more creatively suited to me. But I stuck with it. I led student organizations. I networked my ass off. I graduated and landed myself a kick ass internship at a company I LOVED. Life was good.

I loved that company and the people in it so much I barely noticed what happened to my own role there. But it didn’t matter. I got to go to work in an adorable office in the cutest town with people who made me laugh every single day. How could I find fault in that? Then the PR internship I’d landed, which was supposed to last for three months, went past its end mark with no one saying a word. I inquired about it, and was told to be patient. And I was. Why would I want to leave the funnest office there ever was? Brick Store Pub was like our second conference room, for god’s sake. I was kept at intern status for another four months.

I was having so much fun I barely noticed when my career path was rerouted from public relations to marketing. Same people, right? Same clients. So I got out of the office less, worked with spreadsheets more. Boring, sure, but look at how lucky I was! Then I was placed into a role of account management, dealing one on one with a handful of regular, sometimes soul-draining difficult clients. Some whose roles were blurred by their close relationships to our firm, and whose at-times unprofessional and hurtful behavior I had no recourse for.

I began feeling out of control, and I was starting to feel unhappy where I was. These people, my coworkers and superiors that I so loved, didn’t come to my aid when I needed it. Suddenly I started to feel like their dedication to me was nowhere near mine to theirs. And I wasn’t happy with what I was doing. I felt in over my head. I was good at my job, but was constantly second-guessed, something brought on by those client relationships mentioned above. This led to my being insecure in my position, which led to my seeking counsel for many things I normally wouldn’t, which then led to my being criticized for not taking the lead on my own projects.

A few years into my time there, during drinks with a client, she pulled my boyfriend aside and told him she thought we needed to work on our relationship, and that she hoped he knew that I needed a lot of validation in my daily life.

This angered me beyond words. One, because she felt the right to assume a “friend” role and meddle in my relationship. Two, because she was in essence describing the monster she had in part created. And three, because I had begun to have a sneaking suspicion that she was right.

I never wanted this type of job. I never wanted to be in marketing, to sit behind a desk, to be expected to climb the corporate ladder, so to speak. I was content, until that time, to keep my head down and work hard–naively thinking that alone would reap the benefits I deserved. After a few years, though, I realized that wasn’t enough.

My natural demeanor is one of a people pleaser. When I turned something in, good as it was, my first inclination was to ask if I could have done anything better, or could I do anything else? If a coworker was swamped, I was the first to jump in and help. When someone was tired, I was the first to offer to go get them coffee. That’s my personality, and I won’t apologize for it. It’s not one that thrives in a corporate setting, however. In my office, I’m coming to realize, I was viewed as a doormat.

I was supposed to champion my own work. I was supposed to compete against my coworkers. What I once thought was a family setting turned out to be the opposite, and when I didn’t scramble to get ahead of my colleagues, I was left in the dust. And the work I did–excellent in my eyes and in those around me–was credited to my superiors.

It was around this time I started daydreaming about different careers. Different lines of work where I wouldn’t have to pretend to be someone else in order to be considered strong or competent. I went to interviews for massage therapy school. I sent in applications for flight attendant positions. Suddenly being in a role close to servitude seemed lightyears ahead of the corporate culture I was steeped in, one that I used to love.

Unfortunately, my own damn loyalty kept me down. I couldn’t bare to think of quitting. I loved my colleagues and my bosses too much. I was learning more and more that it was a one-sided relationship, and yet I stayed. I was passed over for reviews. My position changed again and again. And yet I still loved them. I had a stable job, after all. I made a steady paycheck. Most people who saw my job from the outside were envious. How could I leave?

After five years, the final decision was taken away from me, and I can say now that I’m so thrilled that it was. I wasn’t healthy there. I wasn’t happy. But I wouldn’t have left on my own. Now five months out, I cannot imagine being back there. I miss them dearly — I really do. I run into my coworkers around town and am always glad to. But I’m in such a better place now it’s unbelievable. Forgive the dramatic air, but I’ve come back to myself again.

I feel healthier, stronger, more confident. Thanks to the boy, who has been unbelievably supportive through everything, I’ve been given the luxury of time to stay still for a while and figure out what I want. And the answer is unequivocally to begin a new creative direction with him. Said new direction, hereby to be known as Baskervillain, will focus on design, film editing, writing, photography, and other creative pursuits to come. I’m so excited about this next step and hope to share our progress here.

I don’t think of myself as someone who has a lot of regrets. And I’ll certainly never regret working where I did. I learned so much, I made fantastic memories, I’ll treasure relationships I made there for the rest of my life. Who knows where I’d be now if that place hadn’t been a part of me for so long. I just know now that in the larger scheme of things, I really didn’t fit.

For the first time in five years I feel in control of my own destiny. And I couldn’t be happier.

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In Deep Smit

I’ve become quite interested in video editing lately, and started dabbling in After Effects. I found it much more engaging than I thought it would be, and had a lot of fun putting this together {partly because of the subject matter–one of the most influential films of my teenage years. :)} . Brainstorming a few other projects now…

So without further ado…

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Anthem

Presented without commentary. Except… wow.

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