Monday, February 20, 2017

"I'll never do that"

(Reposted from my website.)

I'm not good at taking advice that's said over me. I'm sure I'm not the only one, though. When I was around the age of 17 or 18, my best friend's mother told me that I should "never say never." This was in context to me talking about dating a boy - you can imagine I was on the opposing end. When she said "never say never," I remember recoiling. If someone used to talk to me in that manner (even well-intentioned and polite as she was), I was 50 times more likely to do exactly what I said just in spite of the situation.

I'm starting to realize that I need to stop talking about the future as if I understand it at all.

If you blacked out almost three or four months ago, and just came to, I hope you're doing better! But you might have also missed me talking about NaNoWriMo here. I started writing my first novel. It's my first because it's the first project that's meant this much.

I remember when I was much, much younger I had an idea for a fantasy book. I maybe got all of three chapters in before I forgot about it, but I do remember the exhilaration I felt as I wrote. I discovered my desire for journalism when I was a sophomore in high school. My focus then quickly turned to understanding AP style, succinct writing and getting a pat on the back from my fellow student-editor. As I moved into college, my want to write a fantasy book fell even further by the waste side (as did the fuel I had received from JRR Tolkien on the matter). I started focusing on design, writing articles even more with purpose, and dreaming of working with Rolling Stone Magazine. (If any editors from RS are reading, what's up? Give me a call.)
Actual photo, already edited this way, found in the pits of an old Photobucket. I was totally cool in high school, shut up.

The more comfortable I became in this new role with writing, and how quickly I fell in love with creative nonfiction essays, I would often say "I'm not a novelist". It didn't even matter if it was true or not back then, I had determined that I knew my limits, and they fell into the article and short-essay range. I never looked down on novelists. Obviously I love to read, but I had made myself believe I could never do it, and I'm not entirely sure why.

Perhaps my attention span was low, and I didn't use my Matilda-inspired brain powers for wanting to focus on anything for longer than 10 graphs at a time. Perhaps I was just completely uninspired in that particular area. Point is, I shouldn't have tried to tell the future.

Hey, hi. It's me, Jennifer. I'm about to tell you something so utterly fascinating and mind-blowing that you may not recover. Are you ready? Okay.

Young you is stupid and probably always going to be wrong about something. Because you're stupid. And young. Which aren't mutually exclusive, but for this particular situation they totally are. Hi past me, how ya' doing? 

Yeah, take a second to take that in. "I'll never do that," is the dumbest phrase I could have ever uttered in writing.

We have a propensity for pompousness when we're English majors in college. It's something that's bred in those departments, despite the best efforts of professors who will try to whip it out of you. It isn't until we often leave those hallowed halls - which I miss dearly, don't misunderstand me - that we realize that we were quick to box ourselves in or assume anything about ourselves, the world or our writing for both. We forget that our schooling isn't meant to define our paths, but define our stances and understandings of how we can use what we know. Our paths can split off at any point, and as much as the skill set I've acquired and honed from my degree has helped me in my current job, I wouldn't exactly say I saw this as a possible career path. But I'm glad I'm here.

I know some students who never face that fear of limitation or misunderstanding their purpose. They go into college with already some unique understanding of who they are - as if they lived 20 years longer than you - and their writing and their posture are built on much stronger ground. I was just thinking today that as I am here, I have a million ideas for long essays and off-shoot feature profiles and articles, and I never felt like I had the freedom to explore the topics in school. My professors tried to tell me, but I let myself try to fit into a space that was never meant for me.

Twelve year old me was much wiser in some ways. I was willing to try anything, even if I was too afraid to show it off to the world, I still tried. Occasionally some of those efforts were posted on - then found later as a 20-year-old and gawked at like a monkey in a zoo - but for that girl who was sitting at her Windows XP desktop computer I owe her a great deal, because those memories are what I look back on as I sit at the computer today with a document open typing away as if I'm her.

Look at that melodramatic, middle school action shot. Ooh yeah. 

Last year, right after visiting family in Georgia for a funeral, I wrote half a chapter while sitting on an air mattress, with very finnicky WiFi, by the way. I did this thinking that the idea I had would be easy to communicate, but maybe not always easy to write. I forgot about that half a chapter - sorta - until I was reading Talking As Fast As I Can by Lauren Graham tonight. In the book, she writes a lot about writing her other book, this book and future books. She writes about the opportunities she didn't expect, the opportunities she wanted and didn't get, and the opportunities she took a risk on that ended up being more fruitful than she anticipated. I've always loved Lauren Graham, but now I think I respect even more as a writer, as someone who gets it.

Nothing I'm doing now in my professional life or in my writing is familiar or like what I thought it was going to be, and I couldn't be more thrilled. This year I have two novels I want to finish and hopefully one day have published. But instead of trying to predict what's going to happen, I'm going to take my own advice and just say, "Tonight I have two documents open, one for each novel I'm working on. That's so cool."
“I still find that, in general, having a plan is, well, a good plan. But when my carefully laid plan laughed at me, rather than clutch at it too tightly I just made a new one, even if it was one that didn’t immediately make sense. In blindly trying a different path, I accidentally found one that worked better. So don’t let your plan have the last laugh, but laugh last when your plan laughs, and when your plan has the last laugh, laugh back, laughing!” ― Lauren Graham, Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Monthly Reads 2017: January & February

HAHAHAH remember when these posts were a thing for a whole two posts before I totally slacked on reading consistently or posting about it? I'm back. I set my Goodreads reading challenge goal very low for 2017 because I have a bad habit of not meeting what I can meet. Last year, I could have hit my goal, but I didn't. So I'm aiming a little lower: 20.

I have a stack of books I want to finish within the next few weeks. So here's what I'm reading right now:

  1. Talking As Fast As I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham 
  2. Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain 
  3. Marvel's Venom collection, namely credited to Rick Remender 
  4. The Walking Dead: Compendium One by Robert Kirkman 
What are you reading? 

I try to remember to update my Goodreads. You can check out my somewhat inaccurate shelf here:

Jennifer's currently-reading book montage

Bright Dead Things
The Black Poets
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
Stephen Hawking's Universe
The Walking Dead, Compendium 1
Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking

Jennifer's favorite books »

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Taylor Swift, We Need You To Give a Fuck

I had different plans for this post. I wanted it to be part of my Brunch Colloquy series. This one is going to be a doozy. I just needed to get these thoughts out.

Unpopular opinion upfront: I am not a fan of Taylor Swift. 

When I was younger, this was simply because I couldn't get behind her music. I found it annoying and whiny at best. But I understood her appeal to people my/her age. When we were - what? - 14-17 years old, she sang about the same superficiality that we were dealing with in high school. When I was this age, I was highly pretentious. I think we all can be, but as strengthening as it can be to ensure a child understands her own competence and intelligence, that heightened awareness can make said child unbearable at times. And boy was I unbearable. I had a rant for everything. When it came to Taylor Swift, the rants ranged from her "mediocre voice" to her "surface level lyrics." (I'm putting these things in air quotes because they don't matter much to the point I'm about to make. And while in some ways I may believe that about fetus-Taylor, and sometimes now-Taylor, who really cares what my opinion is on her music? She's having fun, right? Let her.) ...


Today I went to a brunch with the ladies I work with, and we all sat around talking about anything and everything: how ridiculous our bosses are, how tiring the past week was, TV shows we're in love with, podcasts about murder, the inauguration and we ended on the Women's March on Washington.

I do believe that it's important not to live inside a bubble - to expose yourself and debate - but it's so nice to get 9 women, from the ages of 24 to 35, together and have like-minded conversation and togetherness on a week where it's needed most.

I have never been more uplifted by a group of women in my life. Those women are amazing, all of my friends who marched in DC are amazing (or elsewhere if they were able to in a nearer city/town), and even just reflecting on everything that Michelle Obama has given me.

(But let's be real, she's given women of color so much more, and I'm so happy to see my friends of color benefit from that example and presence.)

I was going to do a post that's overdue about what books I'm reading, but I couldn't not talk about this. I was at work on Saturday, so I didn't march, but I wore red lipstick and a shirt of  😻 made out of a skull. I was living in as much solidarity as I could. And I really really want to set all other obligation aside and march next time it happens. 

I told you all that I've been posting weekly inspirational reflections on my Instagram. You'll find that below:


Week 3. #2017positivity

I’ve wanted to actually sit down and pre-write this week’s positive note several times. Make it something existential, something sound, something profound. I never gave myself that chance, and now I’m wishing I had. There is so much I could say about this week that I worry this post might end up all over the place.

To mitigate that, I’m going to do a list of things I have thought about today. Perhaps some other day or night I’ll expound on them all. (But I should be asleep right now - work tomorrow.)
  1. I watched pieces of the Inauguration day of events, but I unintentionally missed the actual swearing in. I can’t remember if I wasn’t awake then or if I was too groggy. I saw things like the luncheon and setting up for the parade. I saw the protests, and the marginal riots. I was pleased that the police reports were so fair despite the attacks being thrown at them, and I only saw one headline that generalized the protests as all rioters. First time I can recall that happening in awhile. I am zen. I am not happy, but I am zen. But that doesn’t mean I will be silent or let my words never take action.
  2. I have my biannual performance review coming up at work. I took at peak at the one from 6 months ago. I checked what I thought my goals would be, or what I wanted. I was happy to see that I was there or way beyond it. I went for things and did things that gave me a sense of wholeness professionally. That doesn’t mean it was without its stress or frustrations, but like my political zen, I have a professional peace with things. I’m taking it day-by-day, finding experience in unlikely spaces, and constantly learning from my mistakes. And it feels good. But also, hook a sister up with some more writing and editing gigs. I’m in the ZONE.
  3. I have more friends than I thought who made it to DC in order to march tomorrow (Saturday) in the Women’s March. And I’m so jealous I’m not there, matching with them, among friends and empowering types. But it makes me that more fired up to do it next time. Plus I’ve never been to DC, sooooo…
  4. I don’t know if I said it here, but despite the actual occasional crap food (like a few times a month), I am now pescetarian-ish. I decided to cut out junk food and meat from my diet, not because of some moralistic dillema, but because I was feeling exhausted and horrible. I also got back into running.
  5. I love my friends and family, and despite being very introverted and closed off sometimes, I hope they know how much I love them. 
  6. I feel more secure in who I am, where I’ve been and where I’m going than I ever have.
  7. I realized today that as an actual adult, Obama was my first president. I am very sad to not see the family werking every day, but I know they’ll never truly stop. I hope that if you’re sad to be losing Michelle and Barack that you remember that we couldn’t have been more lucky, than to grow up in a time with them. With an administration building towards a future for us, rather than for a generation that will be gone long before us. They did their best in tough times and always set themselves higher, as an example. I can’t say “thank you” enough to them.
  8. This is my last one: I love you. If I haven’t truly said it… I. Fucking. Love. You. To my friends of color, minorities abound, I love you so damn much. All I want is to be there for you. And I hope you can feel that when we talk. And I hope you’ll always hold me accountable. I want to be your ally and your family. 💕

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Monthly Music 2017: January

This past month, I've been getting some really good funk vibes from Childish Gambino's latest album, "Awaken, My Love!" For that, I created a playlist that has been doing God's work for me:
  • "Have Some Love" by Childish Gambino
  • "FourFiveSeconds" by Rihanna, Kanye West, Paul McCartney 
  • "Bad Blood" by NAO
  • "It's A Man's, Man's, Man's World" by James Brown 
  • "Riot" by Childish Gambino 
  • "Good As Hell" by Lizzo 
  • "Redbone" by Childish Gambino 
  • "Never" by The Roots, Patty Crash 
  • "If Anybody Gets Funked Up (It's Gonna Be You)" by George Clinton, Erick Sermon, MC Breed 
  • "Back Pocket" by Vulfpeck 
  • "Bother Me" by Lizzo 
  • "Me and Your Mama" by Childish Gambino
  •  "Fever" by the Black Keys 
  • "California' Dreamin'" by Eddie Hazel 
  • "Boogieman" by Childish Gambino