Lists: 19x19 Birthday Lessons & Loves

Sunday, October 24, 2010

(click to see a larger version)

Today is my 19th birthday. It was a fairly low key affair spent with gourmet pizza, vegan desserts (Pala Pizza and Babycakes are both delicious!), and my dear roommate Liberty. For the workaholic in me, there was also a gift: I mandated that I could do no work today for any class, enforced by said roommate. And so, as I lounged around on subways and reflected on this year in my life, I thought I would do something rather silly and awesome. Make a list.
But unlike regular lists of to-dos and goals for the future, this list is one that looks back on my life lessons and loves in my first 19 years. The collage above and the anecdotes below are representatives of some of my best-loved words of wisdom and material possessions nowadays. The items are in no particular order. So, without further ado, here is my 19 by 19 list.*

19. Big dreams, little steps
I have always been a big dreamer. When I was in kindergarten, I announced proudly that I wanted to be a writer, and that hasn't much changed in all my years of life. I have molded it to fit in with a practical lifestyle, but it persists in my mind as one of my most important goals. Becoming a writer, as defined by me, has come in a series of steps. Step one: write a lot. Step two: write badly. Step three: ameliorate said bad writing. Step four: repeat for years and years until finally you can look back on your writing and say 'hey, maybe that wasn't such a bad idea.' That's the stage I am at now. By this time, I have written three novels (unpublished as of yet), a running set of blogs, a set of short stories and poems, and several zines and personal essays. And I'm still going at it by forcing myself to write and finding the diamonds in the rough.

18. Artichokes, mushrooms, and olives [my favorite veggies ever!]

17. Trying new things
I am a terrible beginner. I get frustrated if it doesn't come easily. When I was in my angst-riddled teen years, I used to throw things (knitting needles, video game controllers, dumbbells...) across the room. But, at my now great age and wisdom, I have learned to combat it. I will always get frustrated when I don't understand or feel completely uncoordinated at something (*cough* roller derby *cough*), but my desire to try new things will generally prevail. I tell myself: "You love to do these things. Why would you give up now?" And usually that's all I need.

16. Zines, podcasts and blogs [independent media rocks my socks off]
Some suggestions:
PODCASTS: Stuff Mom Never Told You, Stuff You Should Know, Body Love Wellness podcast, The Moth podcast, This American Life, and (for those of you ok with raunchy sometimes sexist humor) The Mens Room podcast
BLOGS: Already Pretty, Body Love Wellness, Weightless, New York Times Wellness blog, Sepia Mutiny, FunkyBrownChick, Racialicious, Feministing, Salon Broadsheet, How Stuff Works, GalaDarling, Refuse the Silence, and Well Woman (those are the ones I read daily or write for... I am an information nerd)
ZINES: Too many to count - check out the Barnard Zine Library if you're in NYC or ZAPP in Richard Hugo House if you're in the Seattle area! (my zines are featured in both these locations)

15. Body acceptance
This has been something I've struggled with since I was in my early teenage years. I learned that I didn't "look right" as compared to my white, thin, more developed peers, and my depressive years made that stick with me. But, since coming to college, there's been a profound change in this outlook. Culminating with my daily outfit photo project, I have become more used to the way my body looks and how I want it to look. The two have reconciled, which makes me feel much more safe in my own skin.

14. Handmade items & photographs

13. Long-distance relationships
I didn't know Josh and I were headed towards this until we got here. We were dating in high school and now... now it's bee 1 1/2 years, half of it when I was away at college. The internet makes it easier, but this type of relationship is inherently hard. I feel like we've proven our mettle as a couple just by attempting it, which makes me feel like - dare I say it? - we might stay together for a long time.

12. Letters/notebooks/paper [the tools of the trade]

11. Self-love
Yoga, sleep, reading, writing, taking long baths, crafting, moving my body, eating delicious things... these are some of my methods of self-love. What are yours?

10. Clothing from the thrift store [e.g. the majority of my wardrobe]

9. Passions & self-study
School is only (or even less than) half of all the learning you do in your young life. College has opened my horizons on a lot of things that I was interested beforehand, but never got the chance to see in depth. But I think that having a passion outside of school really enriches your life. I have many - from DIY to derby - but it's ok if you just have one or two. Josh has guitar and an encyclopedic knowledge of diseases. How about you?

8. Books [please, become as addicted to bookstores, manga and fiction as I am]
7. Small adventures in NYC [which you could argue are actually huge, but frequent]
6. Headphones & Sansa Fuze

5. Living with others
I can't imagine not living with other people. I was afraid to sleep alone at a friend's house for many years, and still feel some discomfort in empty rooms. I think it's a valuable experience to learn independence and how to set up boundaries, even if you decide you want to live alone later on.

4. Roller skates

3. Creating
Creating anything from a knitted scarf to a collage to a piece of writing is always an awesome feeling. It's something that is fundamentally yours and so personal.

2. Good food [and the occasional Top Ramen fix]

1. Growing
I have been wrong a lot in my life. Although, even now, I get a bit miffed if I am wrong about a subway train or a random fact, I also believe that being wrong is a source of growth. Of healing. I don't have to be correct all the time in order to be wanted or capable of something. I think that growing up enough to know that is perhaps one of the greatest lessons I've come to know.

*The idea for this list was inspired by Marissa Falco's mini-zine 39, which can be found on the shelves in the Barnard Zine Library (and I had to read it for work!)

If you enjoy this list, check out the plethora of lists I make on a regular basis.

Personal Healing: Contact

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I am theoretically happy.
I say theoretically because it sometimes feels like I am in a vacuum, all light and sound collapsing around me. I am holding in all the feelings that I've made myself too busy to feel, and sometimes things implode without me noticing it.
I have had mild depressive episodes since I was a teenager and most of them were related to loneliness and apathy. I solved them then by finding more faith in God and religion or by busying myself to the point that I could ignore the feelings until they went away. I started to restructure my life to be more accepting of myself - my body, my likes and dislikes - and the depression began to fade away. It would come as blips in the radar, anomalies that could be explained away as they came up.
But moving to NYC has been hard on everything. Though I would reward myself for my independence, I would also feel like I was slipping away from something. I was losing contact. I am a social person by nature, but my sociability didn't make me happier. It didn't make me feel like I was doing any good. I was drowning in shallow water, and I didn't know anyone who could help me out.
Contact. The all-important necessity that a lot of New Yorkers don't get. The manufactured contact between my long distance boyfriend and myself was great, but it was still something that neither of us could touch. I had contact with a few friends, but most of the ones I could communicate deeply with were far away. And casual contact here means attending the same events and then parting ways, no follow-up date or growing partnership.
And sometimes I blame myself for this - why didn't I call her again or send more messages? Meanwhile, rather than proactively seeking ties and friendships, I slipped into more of my delusions; working and academics were what I was here for mainly, right? I was dunking my head in without even realizing it.
Is this what it feels like to be an adult? Perhaps that is the cold reality that I need to swallow, the water that I'm drowning in, this transition between youth and adult. But I still hold on to the hope that human contact is not so hard to achieve, that it is still lurking out there somewhere.
I don't think that this is my constant reality, this depression that dogs at me sometimes. But, on the rare occasion when I am yearning for something more than a club meeting or a casual conversation before class, it is sometimes hard to put that in perspective. I think of all the lonely things: how my boyfriend is 3000 miles away, how I won't get to hang out in Washington till summer, how I wish I had a pet to hold or something. It's a frustrating thing to have little motivation because it turns into a cycle of negative thoughts and actions. You're not helping yourself during this.
Recently, life in the city has been hard for this reason. I have to break my own cycles and get some help, but it's an exercise in positivity when I don't feel I have any. It's a weird charade. But I have to keep trying.

*This post was not meant to bother anybody or invite them to worry about my mental state. I think that most people get sad sometimes, and this is just my method of expressing it rather than holding it in. If you would like to chat with me about it, please send me an email or a private message on Facebook. Thanks for your consideration.

Nerd Girl Inc: My Favorite Sport

Monday, October 11, 2010

Roller derby is my football.
I attended my first bout last weekend on Saturday - two NYC teams (Manhattan Mayhem and Brooklyn Bombers) against two outsiders (Suburbia and Providence Pigeons). New York cleaned it up with some amazing wins - Brooklyn creamed the Pigeons and Manhattan pulled a close win in the second period against Suburbia.
But, other than the winning and the NY pride, I just felt giddy and pumped up to be there. Strong women on skates knocking each other over and scoringh points? Male cheerleaders in boat costumes? "Bout-fits?" Sign me up!
Although the sport I played in high school was tennis, I neer really watched many matches on TV or outside of the team. It was inaccessible to me - high prices, no talking or cheering during points, and tiny white skirts were all I saw in televised tennis (until, of course, the Williams sisters walked out). My only involvement in that game was actually playing it.
But derby invokes some hidden sports fan in me. I cheer loudly and watch intently. I buy the team drink cozy (pictured above) and develop girl crushes on players like Raggedy Animal. It excites me a different way than any other sport.
My intimacy with derby started - funnily enough - after listening to a Stuff Mom Never Told You podcast and ballooned into a full-blown lust. I bought some expensive skates during the summer and... immediately got frustrated with how hard it was to relearn those skills from childhood. But going to that bout cemented my desire to play. Maybe not now, maybe in a few years time, but eventually I'll be out on the track with those ladies I admire, ready to beat up some other team.

Want to learn about roller derby beyond my furious love for it? Here is a site that explains the rules and the history of the game: How Roller Derby Works. If you’re interested in watching a match – which are called “bouts” in derby lingo – you can head over to Derby News Network. And, if you’re interested in getting involved with an NYC team, Gotham Girls is the collection of NYC teams that have positions available for trying out, training, volunteering or refereeing. Check them out at the Gotham Girls website.

P.S. I'm trying out subject sections for this blog so I can keep track of what I'm posting/have interesting things to say. Hope it's not too awkward...

Read more Nerd Girl Inc. posts and check out the related series, Caught My Eye.

Another Month, Another List

Sunday, October 3, 2010

I have a love/hate relationship with lists.

At the beginning of every month, I get out my well-worn planner and write two lists down in red pen: Accomplishments and Goals. The notes can range from personal things (like, see more of the city) to academic things (make sure to get homework done in advance) to just practical things (make sure to buy groceries every week). I have completed this "tradition" since the end of last school year - and, so far, it has been pretty profitable.
It seems like just another to-do list, of which I make many over the course of just one day, but this one is slightly different. I rarely look back at these goals over the course of the month. I forget most of them in a few days. But, for some reason, I find myself at the end of the month having completed most - if not all - of the goals and then some. Somewhere in my subconscious, those goals are lurking around, predicating what I do with my time.

So, that's the good part about making lists. They can really program your brain to think linearly, to make things happen, to finish things off. But there are some things about making lists that also make me feel insane.
Have you ever made a list and felt that it was controlling your life? That it was going to judge you for not finishing it? These ideas sound absurd, but when you become a chronic list-maker like I am, it's hard to get away.

On the weekends, I will still make lists of what I need to do. Deviation from this list feels like breaking out from a padded cell - I spend some time lazing around on Low steps or walking through the city, and I feel both reckless and nervous. What if I don't get everything done on time? What if I don't finish the list?
I feel like I'm drowning in work and even my own free time activities feel like another burden to be ticked off. On top of that, it reduces my personal spontaneity and creativity.

So, what is there to do? Shall I be chained to my to-do list, never getting time to sleep in or wander the city without guilt? The predictable answer is 'no.'
I'm still learning as I go, but refraining from obsessive list making is the first step. Making a list only for specific things (homework, say, but not free time activities). And I have to make sure that I find a new down-time past time - yes, I make lists every time I am bored, even if they are repeats. Lists can never fully disappear from my life, but they don't need to take it over either.