Why I Haven’t Been Writing, or Another Really Personal Blog Post Because Maybe You Deal With This, Too.

A lot of progress came undone through February and March, and I have been ashamed to admit this because I really did feel I was sort of starting to “get it together.”

I forget to remind myself that these things are still practice, almost trial run after trial run of being remotely right. And that ounce of correctness is enough to put you on a cloud of possibility because that is the closest you get to resilience. It isn’t enough.

The funny thing about being the youngest person in your workplace is not necessarily the mythical free-pass for your mistakes, but the quiet, constant reminder that mistakes are expected of your generation. I have spent too much time trying to negate this fact. I made myself jumps through hoops of fire disguised as profit analysis or increased responsibility with accounts, all carried with the naive hope that I would not burn. This is the best evidence I can provide for my haphazard understanding of strategy and execution. Think of Hyperbole and a Half shouting triumphantly, “ DO ALL THE THINGS!” That is still me.

It’s a perfectly normal desire to want to succeed in every endeavor we accept. It really is the ultimate proof that we are competent and confident. The one criticism I receive both professionally and personally is to be more confident. I wouldn’t say I’m not confident, but my anxiety and paranoia gets the best of me and suddenly I second-guess everything, and everyone around me questions why I do this to myself on a regular basis. It is exhausting.

What is even more exhausting is to immerse yourself in work because that becomes how you measure your personal self-worth. There’s the qualified self, the quantified self, and the Self That You Really Don’t Know Why You Created. I would work, leave my office and work more, and then try to come in early and work again. I distanced myself from writing and reading because obviously, it is not the work that I should have focused on (re: the worst thing I have done to myself).

It’s a cycle and everyone goes through this. If anything, it is commitment; however, things that were out of my control could and did go wrong. I would suddenly (and then regularly, almost daily) find myself in a empty offices being my own Clarissa Dalloway and having a panic attack before regaining some semblance of normalcy and returning to my desk. This is literally the least healthiest thing you could do to yourself. I do not recommend it. Please don’t do it. If you do, please talk to me and/or someone. I talked to my Queen, Dr. Scanlon*.

The stupid thing is that I would confess how stupid this all was on a daily basis. I’d wake up from nightmares about something going wrong at work and then break down in my kitchen because my chai didn’t taste good enough. This feeling of inadequacy and defeat is how I started my day and simply bled into anything else in my life. If someone was nice to me, I’d be suspicious why; if someone told me I did a good job, I would apologize to them because I figured their perception was skewed. That is literally how ridiculous my behavior has been as of late.

Behaving this way and bringing this home really messed up my family dynamic. My brother and sister would both just look at me and ask, “What is wrong? Why are you feeling this way?” And I know my parents took this painful discomfort personally and would angrily ask what they did wrong. I’m also pretty sure that I scared my colleagues because I stopped talking about poetry and replaced it with musings on financial uncertainty and professional insecurities. I really did for awhile abandon my passions, which in turn hurt any talent I had and damaged my determination and energy I had previously exhibited in the workplace.

One of my muses, Amy Poehler, told me* that “ambivalence is the key to success.” I need to invest my time in how I do and how I feel about doing it, but not how good others think I am or the result. I forgot the most basic elementary principle of success where you simply have to do your best. It’s times like these where I remember how silly I am for ignoring Anne Lammott’s insight on perfection being a messy frozen ground, which is also fitting for this elongated winter we have been through. I kept caging myself to fit this single skeletal understanding of success when there are so many other measures. I really did unrealistically strive for perfection*.

My parents, in both their worry and well-wishes, just asked me to go back to writing and reading regularly. They had to ask me to do the thing I have loved the most. In writing this, I figured I’d somehow reach the core of what conditioned me to feel this way and how I let so many external factors just take over me….but I haven’t yet.

I just want to make sure my friends and family don’t let their personal self-worth be defined by their professional decisions alone. There is a holistic multifaceted self that I let go of for awhile when I needed it most in this ongoing transition to Real Adult Personhood.

So now what? I am still working, and I am going to care about my work, but not about the result. I am going to make sure I feel okay. I’m working on being a better family member, and more open about my difficulties and my performance at work in a more constructive manner. That, and I’m returning to making time for reading and writing. Starting with Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and regularly griping about the racial climate in this country.

Oh, and donuts. I will also be writing about donuts on a regular basis now. Either way, I’m back for good. I’m going to be better. And I can only go up from here.

Note (as if this isn’t made clear already): Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not express the views or opinions of my employer.

Additional Notes:

  • Dr. Scanlon is a wonderful human being, role model, and professor in the department of English, Linguistics, and Communication at the University of Mary Washington. Not to be confused with Beyonce.
  • I am not Beyonce, therefore I will never be perfect.
  • Amy Poehler did not tell me this personally. There is a whole section on your career in her memoir, Yes Please!

Millennial Post-Grad Crisis: A Year Later in Motion

These days, I wake up around 6 a.m. without an alarm, even on weekends. My weekend mornings have become something else, something peaceful: making a cup of tea for myself, reading a book (a physical book, not an article online), underlining the passages I love the most. Even most of today has been spent cutting washing and cutting vegetables for my mother.

Maybe I look forward to these weekends because my days are far from slow. I am defensive of my professional decisions as of late. I drive to an office every day where we dart projects in every direction. We are in an industry that demands we assign value to not only what others do, but what we do. We work on the “hows” behind it, translating interests into actual strategy. It is overwhelming and rewarding, but what I really do appreciate the most is boomeranging back to be with my family in the evenings.

A year ago, I was living at home out of desperation after graduating from college, clinging to friends who were still in college. Begrudgingly applying to so many jobsso many far away from herefor the somewhat selfish and sole reason of leaving home and “discover and challenge myself.” It’s what Didion did when she first left California, it’s what Tina Fey did. Hell, even Mindy Kaling did it. Why not me?

My dread and frustration consumed me. I would stupidly and understandably call friends generous enough to take a few moments from their papers to hear me sob. My parents would cope with the wailing, but remind me that things take time. Good things take more time. I resented them for telling me to stay. I resented my friends for being back in school, for questioning my decisions, for so many stupid, stupid things.

I was sad. Plain and stupid sad.

We all go through these bouts, between crippling self-doubt and uncertainty, hoping that we’ll reach some an “Eat Pray Love” zen center where the Universe has everything fall into place. We all know deep down that life does not work that way.

We try, we keep trying, we move forward, we procrastinate a little in between, and we breathe. I wish I could tell you that I had some crystal clear moment where I took control of whatever I was going through and steered clear of it, got a job, and had my world change, but no. I am still impatient and still irritable, but I guess I turned my focus towards not fussing and not taking everything that happens to me professionally personally. This is still a working goal, and I think this is something a lot of twentysomethings, or really, anyone, must learn over time.

A year ago was where I was so obsessed with “place”: I wanted to leave, not be home, not be with the same people. A year later, I realize that I don’t have to be in a steady place, but in motion to survive. Amy Hempel, albeit in the context of language, describes it so well in her Paris Review Art of Fiction interview, but I love it because it rings so true.

Amy Hempel Upma Kapoor

I do this thing where I write meandering posts because, surprise, I still don’t know how to write, but I feel like a year later, I’m still conveniently figuring it out with the cushion of a job, being able to have a home, and gain a weird semblance of self in which I am not who I thought I was. I am actually, surprisingly, very boring; I still read poems and struggle to write them; but I like mystery. I am okay and there is no actual vagueness to the future because I know the future is possible. It is controlled.

My heart sometimes sinks because I want that profound coming-of-age where I travel, leave home, maybe go away and not do the whole Bad Girl Boss Business Babe I have going for me (which yes, is basically going to make me the new Creative Director for PUMA so I can work with Rihaana and Solange), but I’m still moving.

Being a twentysomething does not have to suck the life out of you. It’s forward thinking done sideways, which is unusual and not everyone, but I’m appreciating it. I can reckon with these moments, these memories, and try to make sense of them, value them deeply and make whatever else real. 

2014 and a Blog: an amalgam of inadequate thoughts and feelings

There are three things I have re-learned in 2014:

  1. Writing is hard.
  2. Writing is really, really hard.
  3. Writing a few meaningful words is the hardest.

In the essay, “How Good to Hear You Singing,” Mary Kinzie ponders brevity and its exhausting impossibility with poetry. The essay really reflects on the tireless process of reviewing poetry objectively, but her fittingly brief assertion on brevity is something I’ve carried with me very simply: “Brevity is a vice when behind it lies brevity of engagement.”

It is hard to stay anecdotal without being deeply associative, risking, maybe revealing too much; it is near impossible to manage being original and quirky without being like Every Other Blog in the World. It is even more exhausting, emotionally and mentally, to offer fresh perspective on issues at risk of rendering something else that is unoriginal, fragmented, and so undeniably formulaic.

It is taxing, and almost funny, for me to think that learning to write, working to write, and writing for work was a neat little Venn diagram of circles overlapping singularly in the center with “Writing” to hold it together. These challenges parallel each other and I am still hilariously so confused as to what I can write about next.

I say this all indirectly, having this confusion of thoughts and feelings because I have a blog to dissect them. I have a blog to tell you about the omnibus job I was offered after hyping about a jungle-gym career, approaching this year with such certain circularities and ending the year just the same (anxiety-ridden with inexhaustible enthusiasm, a strange balance). I think of H.D. with concentric circles and the presence and absence of this blog, my writing on it, and an amalgam of inadequate thoughts and feelings trying to wax poetic all the same.

“Perfectionism is a mean, frozen form of idealism, while messes are the artist’s true friend. What people somehow (inadvertently, I’m sure) forgot to mention when we were children was that we need to make messes in order to find out who we are and why we are here — and, by extension, what we’re supposed to be writing.”

Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. 

DeathtoStock_SlowDown7

I asked myself, “What would Ron Swanson like to see on my blog?” And then I picked this.

I admit I take too much time to figure out what to write and then not enough time to actually write. I think this shamefully echoes in a lot of things I do.

It’s okay, because I’m not letting the Universe whistle through this one. Not yet. Maybe not writing for awhile allowed me to have my personal experiences without thrusting some feigned intellectual self-awareness into it. I don’t know exactly, but I am still learning.

So I’ll keep this self-subjectivity a little narrow and a little more repetitive just a little longer: I am overwhelmed with gratitude for my unconditionally loving, absolutely funny family. Like all families, we have varying degrees of dysfunction, but I appreciate that I have parents who will blast Drake in the morning just because.

I don’t know how to measure progress in fewer than five hundred words yet, but I just want to say thank you, and I’m lucky. I don’t have any metaphors or whatever for that, no novel blog post to articulate my appreciation, but know that I have it.

Just, if Time is a magnifier of difference, then know that I feel old and different. I may not write differently yet, but I feel different. And I think that’s good. Maybe not shining optimism, but I feel hopeful for 2015. And in the vicinity of what’s meaningful and perfect, that is a good thing.

I just hope it’s the same for you, too. I also hope none of us jinx it. Maybe that un-jinxed it.

First blog post of 2015: The Science of Jinxes.

Ramblings on Ferguson, Inadequacy, Humanity, etc.

Ferguson. I am so out of it and have been so frustrated, so quiet with myself because I figured I would have more to say after having time to think.

I couldn’t. I can’t.

I can’t because I’ve written about Michael Brown before and mentioned the intersections of publishing and race with friends that eventually backfired and made it onto the blog, and here I am, again, at a loss, because there is a blind spot when we talk about race in this country and I still don’t know how to talk about it. I don’t know how to host a constructive conversation about this because of these uncontrollable feelings of confusion and astonishment, and then leads me to a desperation of saying something, or in this case, anything.

When Robert McCullouch, the prosecuting attorney, addressed the public late Monday evening, he kept repeating two things: that the verdict was reached after physical evidence, and that the evidence was a way to separate fact and fiction.

Fact: What happened in Ferguson is not the first time we pretended as a nation that there was a chasm between what we think is post-race America and what is the reality of it: the biases and inequities are real and harder to bridge. Beyond Michael Brown, beyond the fate of Darren Wilson, I want to have a conversation about race and can’t. I’m dismissed because I hurt someone’s feelings, I insult their being, or they say nothing except, “You’re just angry.” Mind-numbing, meaningless anger.

Talking about this case inevitably leads me to discuss race, and those conversations, like this post, end in hopelessness and inadequacy towards humanity. It is very easy to ramble about this because after last year, we hypothesized justice to look different. Maybe I ramble because I don’t know how else to make sense of this. We are defensive and defenseless all at once.

This post is dwelling in tenseness and confusion without talking about anything. It rambles because, like me, it is not ready to accept the reality that we participate in a system where justice looks the same as it did last year and the year before. We have an obligation to have these conversations and feelings outside of the internet, away from all the think pieces in the world.

If we want to trail back to fact and fiction, then we should remember that the core of both narrative and news alike is not the fact, but the story itself. There is pain in this story. There is pain and sadness and bias and more unfairness that is as redundant in this sentence as it is outside the internet.

I am not ready to accept the reality that our system of justice has provided us. If you are reading this, or have even been listening to the news, you understand we have an obligation to have these difficult discussions. To ignore these discussions is to pretend that Trayvon Martin never happened, that Michael Brown was not shot twelve times; to ignore these discussions erases history, ensures that nothing important happened. That is the gross injustice in itself.

“Justice” is not as heavy a word as we need it to be; “pain” is an understatement. I can repeatedly share articles, important quotes, or poems that may support my feelings, but  I don’t know what “new” rationale I can offer. I just need you to know that we should talk about this, or you need to talk about it with someone.

“Trayvon Martin is neither the first nor the last young black man who will be murdered because of the color of his skin. If there is such a thing as justice for a young man whose life was taken too soon, I hope justice comes from all of us learning what happened. I hope we can rise to the occasion of greatness, where greatness is nothing more than trying to overcome our lesser selves by seeing a young man like Trayvon Martin for what he is: a young man, a boy without a cape, one who couldn’t even walk home from the store unharmed, let alone fly.” Roxane Gay, “Holding Out for a Hero”

“genesissy” by Danez Smith

& on the eighth day, god said let there be fierce & that’s the story about the first snap, the hand’s humble attempt at thunder, a small sky troubled by attitude // & on the ninth day, God said Bitch, werk & Adam learned to duck walk, dip, pose, death drop, Eve became the fruit herself, stared lion’s in the eye & dared to bite // & on the tenth day, God wore a blood red sequin body suit, dropped it low, named it Sunset // & on the eleventh day God said guuuurrrrrl & trees leaned in for gossip, water went wild for the tea, & the airtight with shade // & on the twelfth day, Jesus wept at the mirror, mourning the day his sons would shame his sons for walking a daughter’s stride, for the way his children would learn to hate the kids // & on the thirteenth day, God barely moved, he laid around dreaming of glitter; pleased with the shine, sad so many of his children would come home covered in it, parades canceled due to rain of fist & insults & rope & bullets // & on the fourteenth day God just didn’t know what to do with himself

Three Things My Dad Did That Require Me To Return to Blogging

1. Dad has woken all of us up around 7:45 a.m. these past two days to Drake’s “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” I never introduced him to Drake, and before I wonder if that makes me a bad daughter, reality comes back to me and I realize that Dad is listening to Drake. There is nothing really wrong with this image, but I don’t know how right it is. I should probably stop questioning it.

2. After waking up at 7:45 a.m. on a Saturday morning, Mom scurries over to my room and yells, “You need to go to Bloom! We need Sweet ‘n Low and Sprite!” I am no longer in college, so such requests seem a little nonsensical and out of the blue. They seem this way because they are. It’s early and I can’t articulate anything, but she continues, “It’s for dyeing our hair!” Of course, completely normal. My parents are pretty young for having a twenty-two year old daughter and they like coloring their hair. I get that. It can be a bit of a hassle for a few reasons, notably that my father is balding and he is allergic to hair dye.

She continues, “It helps people who are allergic to color!”

“Who told you this?” She could have named any online source (WebMD, Pinterest, Sulekha, Google) and I would have comfortably followed through. That’s what daughters are supposed to do. Wake up before 8 A.M. and run to Bloom to purchase normal grocery items like sugar packets and soda.

“Online! I read it online!” I don’t have a few seconds to explain my skepticism. Dad just hands me the keys while I’m still under the covers and goes, “You should write a blog about my wife trying to keep me young.”

Even better is when the cashier sees me and goes, “Rough night?” No, I went trick-or-treating and went to bed at 10 p.m. while re-watching 30 Rock. This is just for my parents. But you know, no judgement.

In case you’re interested, the Internet lied to Mom. It barely worked. Our youth is fleeting.

3. It is 9 a.m. and Dad is hungry. Instead of making some more chai or grabbing cereal, he’s taking out all the cheeses he can find in our fridge and white bread. Apparently he likes grilled cheeses. This is something that never came up in conversation in my twenty-two years of being his daughter (of all things to never come up, in restaurants and in our home), and he is not ashamed. In fact, he is excited. He tells me that he wanted to eat a grilled cheese because he was hungry and felt young.

I love that.

These are the moments when I know we are definitely related. These are also the moments that remind me that I have a blog.