Caught My Eye: Articles from 2011

Friday, December 30, 2011

Yesterday, I wrote up my retrospective of 2011, so today I offer you some further great reading to reflect on for the year - pieces I've loved and wanted to follow up with. Here's to a new year and new material to come!

Guest posts
I've been submitting several pieces into the larger internet world this year, including one I didn't know was published on The Rumpus: Last Book I Loved - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. This year I was writing for Refuse the Silence, a blog about women of color on college campuses. I blogged with HellaBus and the Barnard Zine Library blog, including a feature on the event I read at, Meet Me At the Race Riot. My interview responses were posted on the Brooklyn Zine Fest blog and I got a mention on Brown Pundits. All great work that I hope to continue in the coming year!

Life Lessons
I've been learning a lot about the power of living in the moment, having positive body image, and being mindful of break-taking. I've also really enjoyed learning about living life like it's an experiment, writing well, following your dreams, blogging, keeping balance, gratitude and habit formation.

Political/Identity pieces
I talked a lot about my South Asian identity this year. I wrote about Muslim women, becoming an activist, and embracing single sex education. It was quite an amazing year for self-exploration!

On Location
As I mentioned yesterday, I attended a lot of events this year: everything from Slutwalk NYC to Seattle Pride. I attended Occupy Wall Street, a vigil for Troy Davis, and several writing events at the Nuyorican and The Moth. I attended the Stand Up for Women's Health Rally, Take Back the Night, and the blogging event Ain't I A Woman? Such a sweet year for being out there in the world.

I did a lot of series this year. There was Caught My Eye, Project x Project (and its follow-up Creative Every Day), and DIY Interlude where I explored my own creative process. I also experimented with making a zine video tutorial and another video on progress. So, on top of everything, I feel that this year was also great for experiments.

And that marks the airing of all my 2011 pieces of note. Now that the closets are cleared, let's welcome in the new year!

The Cowation Retrospective of 2011

2011 has been a fast-paced emotional and creative rollercoaster for me: I moved from having my sophomore meltdown to being a fairly stable junior in college, I met my family for the first time, I made great strides in focusing on self-love and getting away from hurtful relationships; I cut off all my hair, created some of my greatest art pieces, and went to a bunch of amazing activist-y events to show my support. This year's been a big one.

Throughout, this blog has been a part of that experience - documenting my follies, triumphs, and experiments in between. It was only really this year that I started blogging again in earnest, and it's already time to reflect back on what a momentous year it's been. Tomorrow I'll be listing some of my favorite articles and pieces from 2011, but today is the retrospective of what got me here. So let's put on our traveling caps and take a momentary time shift through 2011!

The Value of "I Don't Know": Cultivating Curiosity

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

I was disappointed with my recent visit to the Museum of Natural History. I hadn't been there in quite a while, but walking into the Asian animals room immediately brought back memories of how the museum gives me some serious creeps. I started looking at the museum map, which indicated rooms for "Asian Peoples" and "African Peoples," which also made me feel odd. It had the clear purpose of taxonomizing "them" as a racialized other. Beyond that, when we entered the exhibits, the plaques read as if each of these "peoples" were in a vacuum - this is what happens in Hindu marriages and this is what jihad means for ever and always. The curators were very sure of their ideas, but the words seemed just about as accurate and nuanced as the taxidermy animals seemed alive.

In fact, the only exhibit that I was particularly impressed with was the floor dedicated to dinosaurs - on that floor there were signs that said some absolutely magical things. "Little is known." "Probably." "Potentially." And, my favorite, "it is yet to be discovered..."

It might not be abundantly clear why this is so fabulous. Shouldn't I prefer definitive plaques over wishy washy ones? But these words got me excited. It was a small admission by the curators of the museum (in whatever convoluted language they desired) that they didn't know.

And that phrase, "I don't know" is the first crack in the ornamental vase from which curiosity can flow.

All I Want for Xmas...

Monday, December 26, 2011

As you may (or may not) know, I do not celebrate Christmas. Although I could celebrate it in a secular way, the holiday has never really held that much appeal for me. However, I do know that it is a day of great joy and festiveness for a lot of people, thus there's a general good vibe on that day that I like to take part in. I hence resort to other forms of celebrating life as we know it on that day - such as doing ridiculous things or otherwise soaking up the good energy.

This year, I made hummus and pita from scratch in our kitchen and ran out of chickpeas for the mixture just when my hands were good and covered in sticky dough. I was listening to Lupe Fiasco and - after pausing said brilliance - had to flee the apartment in a flour-covered hoodie and barrel down 6 blocks to buy another can of chickpeas and finish the ever-so-important hummus recipe. When the clock struck midnight, I was checking the dough in the refrigerator for the last time before morning and going to bed.

My Christmas present was my father waking me at 8am to say that he'd arrived at my apartment and we spent the morning again covering our hands in sticky dough and trying to figure out the best possible method of making our pita into something that resembled the Middle Eastern variety - because, being Bengali, any bread we try to fry instantly becomes a paratha.

In the end, we walked all over the city, particularly through the barren trees of Central Park and marveled at the quietness. In my apartment, on the streets, in the park... all was hushed. We ate ice cream in the cold. We spent time in whatever way we pleased.

It is in these moments that I feel that living in the moment really takes on meaning. Oftentimes we go about our day on autopilot, moving from one spot to the next with some sort of envisioned end result. But destination mentality distracts us from the small moments that make life a fun and exciting batch of choices. Every moment, we have the ability to look at our situation and recognize its sanctity. Though it may sound obscure when our mornings are filled with pressing meetings and our afternoons are bound by schedules and our nights are too short to catch even a wink of sleep, when the holidays roll around, it's all we think about. I have said it before in many different ways, but here again:

We must invest in ourselves the good energy that comes on holidays everyday. We must bring out joy in the small moments. And we must allow ourselves the capacity to feel all emotions, not just the easy ones, and move through them in our regular lives.

Enjoy your post-holiday relaxation, everyone!

Wise Words from Tami Winfrey Harris

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Every unaccepted pronouncement isn’t hidden wisdom. And every speaker of provocative things isn’t a genius. Saying someone has the courage to say the unsayable is meaningless without analysis of what exactly is said."
- Tami Winfrey Harris, "'He had the courage to say unpopular things': No praise for courting controversy" (via Racialicious)

An Introspective on Taking Breaks

Friday, December 23, 2011

Apropos of my Tuesday post on the college environment (and to kick off the start of this academic break), I wanted to talk about the extended break I took from creative endeavors for the past few weeks. You might be wondering: "Why talk about taking breaks? It's cool, we all take them." But for me, a break has long indicated some much more troubling factors than just simple lack of interest.

For many years, taking a break for me was a sign of failure. It was a sign that I was giving in to apathy, which is highly related to my bouts with depression over the years. I was excessively busy in high school for just this reason - to stop moving was to stop ignoring my emotions and have to actually deal with them. To stop moving at that point in my life felt like a small step towards death.

It may seem extreme now, but I think young people have the hardest time dealing with their emotions. They haven't been trained to sit with them (as is done in certain therapy techniques) and it often is not encouraged by our culture to cultivate the wide range of emotions we can feel at any given moment. As we grow older, we can internalize these patterns and fall somewhere along a spectrum - the extremes of never acknowledging deep emotions or drowning in them, or perhaps the healthier middle range with a skew towards one side. But when we are young, those patterns are still being felt out and we try to justify our actions with them as best we can. There are many theories on this, but I will keep to my own personal story.

In Transition: An Exploratory Art Project

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

As I hinted about on my blog a while ago, I will not be entirely ineffective this winter break. Rather, I will be "doing it big," as we once would say at my high school - I am going to embark on a multi-level creative project that involves joining the very disparate elements of my creative life and synthesizing them to the best of my ability. Which begs the question: what does that look like? Below is a preliminary recording of me trying to figure that out.

Transitions. The broadest theme imaginable, but one that has fascinated me more and more as I have looked through my old work and started new projects as well. I hope that this art project will summarize a lot of the transitions I've been making personally and that others have gone through in their lives as well because, often, we don't know what a transition is until we've passed through it! Why not highlight them in medias res*?

Stress, College Life, and Self-Worth

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

I've written before about balancing academics and creativity. Now that we are coming upon the end of finals and yet another dramatic spike in personal free time (a.k.a. winter break), I feel that it must be brought up once more, but in a slightly different light. This time I want to address stress.

On Where I've Been Lately: Finals, Blogging, and Time

Sunday, December 18, 2011

These past few weeks have marked the end of my first semester as a college junior. I have completed 1/3 of my final exams and am gearing up for the final push to the end of semester. I fell into burnout mode more readily than I wanted to - the need for rest was like a literal boulder on my chest and I honestly couldn't have put out a word of inspirational writing even if I had wanted to. I even had to cut short correspondences to my friends because they all came out the same: "How are you?" "Good. Tired." End quote.

This week, as we approach the last bit of finals and the start of a long sojourn from our studies, I have been mulling about in my own head. I have a lot of creative energy that wants to put itself out there, but little motivation to do anything but sleep till noon and perhaps watch some James Bond movies. It's not as bad as it sounds - I have been brainstorming ways to re-purpose our suite's zillion plastic and paper grocery bags and have been genuinely enjoying myself. But I have been missing the blogosphere and its regular kick-in-the-butt way of getting me to write my daily piece. Thus, this week I am returning to my regular blog schedule and will hopefully be beefing it up as I enter a period of almost complete and total autonomy over my actions.

If I had a sign to put on my door this break, it would read: Expect greatness to come.

I Feel Like...

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

...something big is coming.

I'm not sure what yet, but my pent-up creative feelings are ready to explode into something magnanimous and awesome. Stay tuned for more, lovely readers, stay tuned for more.