On Rigorous Routines

The alliteration titles started as a coincidence, but I think I’m going to keep it up until the end of the week. It’s fun ūüôā

Somebody wake up Green Day! Hah. Get it? Wake me up when September ends? Are Green Day relevant anymore? Well, whatever. I wanted to talk today about rigorous routines and whether or not they’re a good idea to have. I’m talking about the “wake up at the same time every day and¬†do sit ups, meditate, take a shower, have a cup of tea, and then face the day” sort of routine. The sort of routine that is rigorous in how good it is for you. It seems intense but it’s calming. You don’t want to start but feel better once it’s done.

I used to be vehemently against those kinds of routines. I loved rolling out of bed 15 minutes before class, shrugging on a bra and tee shirt and trying to stay awake. I loved sleeping til the afternoon and not leaving my bed until three. I loved staying up until two or three or four when I had to be up at seven, I felt like nothing could be better.

Now I’m one of those people I used to roll my eyes at. I get up at least an hour before I have to. I get dressed, eat a nice breakfast, and actually do my makeup and hair. I make sure I have all my things, maybe do a little stretching, and then begin my day. At night, I have a little work out regimen I end with a few moments of meditation.

I feel great! No, really. I used to think solid sleep schedules were a myth, but they really do help you. I feel awake, alert, and ready. I feel good about myself and my appearance. I feel healthier and happier, and I never feel guilty of how much of my life I’m wasting in my bed.

Schedules are the closest thing to a ritual I have, and I firmly believe that rituals are something humans need.¬†We like rules and order, we like repetition. It’s like music, it’s like dancing. We’re dancing our days, singing our mornings.

Good Morning! Let’s kick October’s ass.

My Feelings on Fashion

As an introvert, I don’t tend to wear clothes that will draw too much attention to me. Even still, I like looking my best and try to dress in a way that is stylish without being over the top.

I recently had a professional-dress job, and realized my wardrobe–while pretty–wasn’t very professional. So, I went out and bought some dress pants, some nicer shirts, some well-made shoes. After the initial shock I found I felt much better about myself, and was surprised at how the rest of my clothes had affected me. In my new clothes I felt smarter, older, and it seemed like people¬†respected me more as a colleague, even though as an intern I was at the bottom rung.

I like watching fashion shows now and then. I like seeing how trends float down the social ladder and change as they go, transforming into clothes actual people might wear. I like shopping, but I don’t like spending money so¬†I¬†go to thrift stores and outlet malls. I still make out pretty well.

I do think, as had been said before, there is a difference between fashion and style. I’m not somehow “above” fashion, no one really is, but style is far more important. Style is how you express yourself within the broad topic of fashion. Right now, as far as I can tell with my limited knowledge, Earth tones are coming in. This is great, I love Earth tones. Deep burgundy, olive green, mustard yellow, rich brown…all in fashion, but its style that shows where and when I use the trend.

The best part about style is that it doesn’t always have to follow current trends. I still wear scarves even though those aren’t in vogue anymore, and I have a drawer full of flannels and cardigans for layers. I’m glad I don’t only follow strict fashion rules, it allows me to be creative.

As Meryl Streep said in The Devil Wears Prada, we are all affected by fashion. Every bit of clothing we wear is a redesign of a redesign of a high-end designer, and whether we know it or not we are affected by the clothes we wear. Professional clothes make me feel more professional, and sweatpants make me feel lazy.

Some advice with this falls in with the ever-famous “fake it ’til you make it.” If you feel lazy, hating the fact that it’s only Tuesday, put on some nice clothes. A tie, a skirt, nice shoes. Comb your hair. It will make you feel better. Dress for success, as they say.

Just don’t wear navy blue with black…that will never make anyone feel better.

The Magic of Music

How strange is music? I love music, but it is strange. We fill the air in our rooms and cars with sound we find pleasing, punctuated with words we memorize and smile to. Movies are boring without music, as are parties. It makes everything better. There are very few things that are made worse with music.

I go through phases of how much I listen to music. Moving¬†to the city hinders my music amount, since I don’t have a car radio to listen to. Without a car, I don’t listen to the radio, and without a radio music becomes somewhat of an effort to enjoy. I have to own the song or find it online, choose it, play it, and when it’s over choose another. The surprise is gone, the joy, the ease. So I end up not listening to it as much–not to mention the voice in my head telling me I could be doing something more important than chilling¬†out, listening to music.

But someday, like today, I wake up and feel a hole in my heart and realize I might just need some music to fill it. Music, I feel, is one of the most human things we have. It’s a healing ritual, a celebration, a necessary part of human life. It’s a part of my soul, and my body.

So I put on some music, and then buy some music, and then play some music, and then write some music, and I feel much happier. I feel connected, even though I’m alone in my room. I feel happy, even though nothing about my situation has changed. It’s something I can do privately while feeding my introversion but can also share¬†with friends. It’s something that gives me chills and makes me warm all at once.

My cousin is four years old. I see him dancing, singing, memorizing lyrics, and I know he’s going to be a fantastic little musician one day.

The Concept of Concerts

Check out this picture!

Screen Shot 2015-09-26 at 9.32.57 AM

I went to an Ed Sheeran concert last night. All the fuzzy white specks are from people shining their smartphone flashlights, like how people used to do with lighters.

Whenever these lights came on, I found myself looking more at the lights than at Ed himself. They were beautiful, like a colony of fireflies, like a swirling, breathing galaxy.

As you can probably tell from the picture, I was up in the cheap seats, and the stage was pretty far away. There was a pretty bad echo, Ed Sheeran looked like a grain of rice and, thanks to Gillette Stadium’s awesome design, it was cold and windy. Don’t worry though, it was still a lot of fun:)

Anyway, from my vantage point up in the sky, I saw the big picture. Ed Sheeran, this tiny little grain of rice, was singing, with one guitar, to 53,000 people. One person, singing to 53,000, that’s insane. He kept mentioning how it’s the largest show he’s played in the states, and the opening acts seemed surprised at the grandeur as well.

That got me thinking. There were probably thousands of concerts going on last night. Attended by millions of people. All singing and jumping and shining their phones.

What a beautiful thing to share music with other people. To hear strangers sing the songs you know by heart with the person who wrote the words to begin with.

I so rarely feel connected to my planet. I always feel like there is the worldwide community of other people, and then there’s me, in my me-shaped space in the universe. This concert was the latest in a¬†long string of reminders that I am not alone. I am in a sea of people who feel things I feel, who love things I love, who want to recreate the concerts of their parents and make the stadium glow like the sky it’s under.

If you’ve been reading my blog for the past week or so you’ll know I’ve been feeling pretty terrible lately. This concert really helped me out. I’m not a huge fan of Ed Sheeran–my sister had an extra ticket and, hey, it was only $20–but something about his one guitar, his honest amazement at the size of the stadium, and being surrounded by other, honest-to-God humans made me feel more connected to life than I have in a long while.

Maybe it just goes to show that being surrounded by people isn’t always a bad thing.

I’m in Love with Paper

Mmmm…I love smelling new books almost as much as I love smelling old books. Ink and paper, binding glue…it’s relaxing. I love feeling the paper in my fingers, the thickness of the paper, the color of the page from bright white to aged yellow, orange, gold. The font, the size, the page numbers. Water damage. Ripped and dog-eared pages. Coffee stains, forgotten bookmarks, underlined phrases and paperback covers that stick up in the air like a half pipe.

I love new chapters, tables of contents, logues of the pro- and epi- variety. I even love author dedications, bios, praises from prestigious magazines.

I also love notebooks. The width of margins, the color blue and red outlining where to write, the thickness of the page. And pens, how gracefully they slide, how rich their color, how thick their lines, how deeply they seep into the page, how firm they feel in your hand.

I love typing, but it will never feel as good as writing, as reading. It’s not tangible. I can’t press a wet thumb to my computer screen and make the ink bleed. I can’t dog ear a Kindle. I’m not a purist, I’m just in love with paper.

I’ve been feeling really sad lately, but these are the things that are making me feel better.

On Traveling

I have mixed feelings about traveling. People who travel say it’s the most important experience¬†to have in life, it’s mind-opening, it’s enriching, it’s indescribable. People who don’t travel…mostly agree. Most everyone wants to be the kind of person who travels all over. Most people want to hit every continent, see the Eiffel Tower and the pyramids, walk the Great Wall, go on a safari.

Everyone asks why I haven’t applied for study abroad. With my boyfriend and best friend both leaving the country for a semester this year, you’d think I’d give it more thought.

I’m in the small group of college students who don’t want to be in college. I don’t like the atmosphere or anything about it, and want to start my life. The only reason why I don’t change colleges in hopes of finding a better school is because I’m in a very good school and it wouldn’t be a good idea to leave it.

That said, why is everyone trying to get me to leave it?¬†Up until very recently, not many people got to travel at all, never mind it being something “everyone should do.”

People romanticize traveling. They forget airlines, jetlag, language barriers and food poisoning. Long distance calls, getting lost, missing trains, being alone.

Traveling is not what people pretend it is. It’s finding out the Eiffel Tower isn’t as tall as you thought it was, or that there aren’t as many handprints at the Chinese Theatre as the movies make it out to be. It’s getting shoved in line, it’s having locals roll their eyes at your cameras and heavy accents. It’s lisping tour guides, backpacks and sore feet.

I wasn’t blessed as a child. I didn’t get to travel as much as my friends, and at the time it was all I ever wanted. Now, it’s not. I wish it was. I wish traveling mattered to me still.

Frankly, not much matters to me anymore. I want to want to see the world. But I barely want to get out of bed today.

On Being Overwhelmed, Part 2

Deep in the third week of class, my excitement has tapered down to a beige drone. I’m no longer ready to learn, I’m mostly just ready to go to sleep.

The to-do lists are piling up at the same rate as my homework assignments. I’m drowning in paper.

One of my teachers spends all of class yelling about how the environment is dying and we need to treat animals as equals. What class is this, you ask? Multicultural Literature. I wake up for her 8 am class and listen to her rant about the food industry, the pain and suffering in the world…all while drinking imported coffee.

Then there’s British Literature. We’re focusing on poetry, which to me might as well be written in Martian. We switch to prose in two weeks…just gotta hang on until then.

History of Islam is interesting, but the reading is a bore and I find myself drowsing during lectures.

Study of Behavior is alright, another lecture-heavy class. We’re on anatomy now, learning about neurons and how mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell.

Finally, my saving grace, my four hour Intermediate Creative Writing: Fiction class, which I love with my heart and soul and yet only happens once a week.

A lot of college feels like a waste of time. Trying to motivate myself to do my homework never works, because I’m not doing it because I’m being paid to, or to help someone, or for fun. I’m doing it for myself. Sometimes I feel like I just don’t love my future self enough to put my present self through such misery.

It’s like how you work out so you don’t break down in old age. Sure, it’s good for you, but it’s a lot of pain and suffering to save yourself…pain. And suffering. It’s, do I pay the toll now or later?

With education, I barely have a choice. I have to pay the toll now. I have to get educated. I have to hold my breath and clench my fists and listen to the lectures and read the books and manage a way to tie a crazy cat lady’s rant to Toni Morrison’s Beloved. For future me.

I better appreciate it.

Pros and Cons of Being Undeclared

When I started at Emerson College, everyone knew their major. We actually introduced ourselves as Name, Where I’m From, and My Major. At Emerson, there are only a few major “groups,” such as Writing, Literature, and Publishing (WLP) and Video Media Arts. Each of these groups cover dozens of concentrations, like animation, poetry, stuff like that.

No one at Emerson is undeclared. I’m surrounded by people who have never wanted anything¬†but what their major is. The actors were born actors, the writers were born writers. And this is good, in part.

We all know what we want. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 7, or even younger. It’s just that I’ve never really got a chance to fall in love with anything else.

I spent and continue to spend a lot of my life reading and writing. I never put as much energy into anything else. I can’t help but wonder…if I had electives, open blocks like undeclared people do, would I fall in love with meteorology, or fashion design, or something else I’d never thought about trying?

Of course, the pros are hard to ignore. I have years of practice behind my work, I don’t have to worry about what to do with my life (as much) and I can feel like I’m not wasting time in college. I just hope I don’t regret it.

They say you change careers a lot in life. How can that be, with non-undeclareds? I’ve wanted one thing for so long…and I’m going to change my mind? I can’t imagine.

That’s how it goes. I wish I could skip ahead. I feel ready. I know what I want…but I still have to learn it. Supposedly.

The Worst of Times

This weekend has been a crazy string of one bad event after another. I went home for the weekend because my long-distance boyfriend was also going home for the weekend. We had planned on going to a festival coming to town, our little homecoming. It started out fine, until I had to cart my sister around, made my boyfriend’s family miss their reservation because of it, got an iffy haircut, and broke my phone irreparably, losing all photos and information from the past three months and being phoneless for about a week. Not to mention several smaller grievances, such as wasting a bag of minute rice trying to heal my phone before realizing that only worked for water damage, or burning myself when trying to cook lunch.

There are a lot of topics I could focus on from this terrible weekend. I could talk about how privileged I am to call a weekend where I got to go home from college to attend a festival “the worst of times,” or about how sad it is that I’m going to have a genuine problem with both school and work until I can get a new phone, or about how even though seeing my boyfriend was the only good thing about the weekend one person should not be the source of all your happiness. I was between “how it feels to go home after being at college for extended time” and “an introvert’s guide to when you made everyone miss their dinner reservations” but I think I’m going to go with “why do bad things happen one after another?”

(Don’t worry, I’ll do the other topics a different time.)

Our brains are very good at noticing patterns. It’s in fact one of the things they do best. This means, basically, that if it notices something happening twice, it will notice it happening more times, and be on the lookout for that thing.

If you notice one bad thing happen, then another bad thing happens, you’ll be more likely to notice more, as your brain is looking for the pattern. Unfortunately, much like with the placebo effect, even if you know that’s what’s happening, you can’t stop it.

When I went to sleep last night, I counted the bad things that happened. Now, looking back, I realize that a lot of those bad things only seemed so bad because the other things had happened previously. Like right after my phone broke, my poster fell off my wall. This is what sent me crying, the fact that my room seemed to be kicking me while I was down. On a normal day, the poster falling would be a non-issue. Yesterday, it brought me to tears.

Beyond my brain noticing patterns, it also likes to exaggerate, and think bigger than it would normally. While I was listing the bad things that happened that day, I added onto it, thinking about the bigger-picture bad things, such as the fact that my relationship is long distance, and that I’ll never be fit enough to hike the Appalachian trail, and on and on until I was distressed over the flaws of capitalism.

Then, in the morning, I woke up and ate breakfast.

Breakdowns are healthy in small doses. If you can live in this world blissfully and not get sad, there’s something wrong. Ultimately, in the end, we all have to wake up and eat breakfast, no matter what. It’s never as bleak in the morning.

Fingernails versus Music

Good morning! Did yesterday’s Pulp Fiction and Kurt Vonnegut fangirl come as out-of-nowhere as it felt like it did to me? Movie/book/television program fangirling will likely appear from time to time. Can’t help it, I go to art school and spend a lot of time reading and watching things. Artsy introvert, what can I say?

Nonetheless, artsy introvert I am, I sometimes take a break from consuming and change gears into creative mode. Writing is my most common endeavor, but I sometimes like to draw, and sometimes (less commonly recently, sadly) I play music.

I play cello and ukulele, but since a cello is too bulky to bring to college I mostly just play my little uke, nicknamed Luna. I’m not great, but I can mess around and play chords I look up online. It’s a lot of fun, and relaxing as well.

I don’t often have the time to play music, and often go weeks without. That means when I do pick up Luna, my fingernails have grown out.

I like long fingernails, I think they’re quite pretty and, frankly, useful. Try peeling an orange without fingernails, I dare you. Or washing your hair–gosh, fingernails help so much with shampoo.

Anyway, my nails grow out, and when I try to play ukulele, my fingernails are too long and get in the way of playing. This is when I have to choose between my fingernails or playing music: or, more broadly, between beauty or creativity.

The Greeks prized beauty, and you can see it in their sculptures. The Romans favored realism. The most prominent example I have seen is the difference between how they sculpted their wine god, Dionysus/Bacchus. The Greeks made him look beautiful, high and mighty, staring at grapes intensely. The Romans made him look drunk, a far more accurate (probably) representation.

Neither is better or worse, in my opinion. I like art, and they’re both well-sculpted¬†works. One prized beauty, and one prized realism, and here we are. My question is, did beauty limit the Greek artists? If you are expected to make something beautiful, and limited by that, it hinders creativity.

Let’s look at more examples. Picasso’s a good place to start. If he painted “beautifully” he’d be a footnote rather than a household name.

When Disney animators were drawing sketches of Elsa and Anna, the two sisters in Frozen, they commented on how hard it is to make two pretty women look different. Why couldn’t one be a smidge average? Why are we limited to pretty things?

Creativity is wild, untamed, ugly and raw. And I rip my fingernails off every time I play, because I’ll be damned if Somewhere Over the Rainbow is ruined by pretty nails.