trois choses: ‘cat person’ again, the secrets of Joe Biden, and bullet journaling

Another piece of conventional wisdom is that what other people think about us is none of our business.


When Kristen Roupenian’s short story “Cat Person” first went viral, I avoided reading the story for a long time, certain that all the things that I had heard about would cloud any judgement I would have about it. For a few weeks, takes on the story dominated my timeline to the point that I thought if I heard about “Cat Person” again I would burst. I’d mostly forgotten about that moment of 2018 until last week when I saw that Roupenian had written a new piece for the New Yorker—nonfiction this timeabout what it was like to experience her story going viral. In What It Felt Like When “Cat Person” Went Viral Roupenian discusses the moment she found out her story was getting published, the ways in which the reactions to it overwhelmed the proud moment, and attempting to deal with people’s conflation of the story and her real life. The article was interesting to read because it was a reminder of the real people who are often at the center of viral moments like this and are deeply affected by it, even if the discussion itself doesn’t have much to do with these people themselves. And as a writer, I also related to what it’s like to even think about people reading your work, never mind seeing so many different reactions to it at one time. That’s what made me save this one at the end—at the end of the day, as creators, we do our best to create the best thing we can and be respectful while doing so, but making people happy with what we make is not something we can control. Accepting that seems like the only way to deal with the firestorm.

Although I’ve paid more attention to Joe Biden than other vice presidents, I have to admit that I don’t know too much about him. I’ve always been charmed by his cool yet wise grandfather aura, and am the biggest fangirl of his friendship with Obama. So I was unpleasantly surprised to read an article on The Intelligencer that discussed the challenges that Biden would face if he was to run for president. According to the article, despite the great appeal of Biden, his long political history and the choices he made—including laws he helped write and backed—could really challenge his success once that is further aired. The article goes into better detail and can explain it a lot better than I can, but the unpleasantness came from finding out about some of the (very damaging) laws he was part of bringing into fruition and how, to some extent, he still holds the same perspective that caused him to support those laws. For me, it just goes to show how important it is to have all the information in all situations, but especially in political ones. I don’t live in America and so I have less of a stake in what happens with the 2020 elections. But in a world as intertwined as ours, it’s important to know the facts. And more importantly, in every situation, it’s important to know as much as possible about the people we support, good or bad, so that we can properly defend our beliefs.

If I’m completely honest keeping a proper bullet journal seems like an absolute nightmare. Most of the videos I watch make me want to just grab my journal and rip out every page in messy handwriting frustration. The only person whose bujo videos actually inspire me is Rachel Nguyen of That’s Chic, who recently did a third video on her bullet journal (watch above), where she walked through her process for using the bullet journal to get the most out of her time. Rachel keeps her bullet journal pretty simple which is perfect for me because I don’t’ really like to spend more than 30 minutes working on it. I’ve been more inspired to remain consistent with mine, no matter the lack of things I have to get done. If 2019 is your year of getting into the productivity game I recommend giving all her videos and watch and then planning your week like the boss that you are.

TROIS CHOSES: Dick Cheney, Book Goals, and Joni Mitchell

Have you ever spent much time thinking about Dick Cheney and what he did while he was vice president? If you’re anything like me (and I hope you are), you probably haven’t. Cheney has never really felt like a main character in the American political saga; more like the supporting character that’s a bit of a joke. But Adam McKay’s Vice changes all of that. The movie follows the former Vice President from his college days to his time as vice president to George W. Bush. It documents his early days as a drunken no-good bum, his eagerness to sink his teeth into the political game, and the lengths to which he was willing to go to gain power. Mixing in real footage and narration, the movie is bigger than Dick Cheney’s singular story. It’s a story about America; it’s a story about power; and it’s a story about what we accept in times of fear. What’s exciting about Vice, and what makes it one of the most important movies of 2018, is that although it’s a story about the past, it ties that past to our current moment, suggesting that America’s past is always relevant to its future. It references a variety of political players, young and less known at the time, who grew to gain access to large amounts of power, including former Supreme Court Justice Anthony Scalia and current Vice President Mike Pence. In doing so, the film reminds its viewers that although Cheney may be a player from the past, the things he did, the actions he took are all precedent for what is going on in America right now. And the amount of power that Cheney was able to yield, despite the assumed boundaries of his position, act as a warning to what happens when we underestimate dangerous men. It reminds us that the attitudes and behaviors that made it possible for the American government to convince the American people to go to war with Iraq are the same that made Trump’s presidency possible. But as much as it is a dark warning, Vice is also expectionally enjoyable. It’s funny, hit you across the face type of watch, and the educational aspects aren’t all too bad. Plus the narrator is Landry from Friday Night Lights.

Sometime in 2018, I decided to embark on a Goodreads Reading Challenge and challenged myself to read 25 books by the end of the year. By December 31st, I had only read 23 books, two of those being for school and two were re-reads. Instead of feeling satisfied that I had read anything at all, I felt  disappointed. I started a new book on December 31st and for a moment I felt a pressure to finish it that very day, just to add one more book to the list. Which was completely silly. And to be quite  honest, up until earlier that week, I had completely forgotten that I had set myself that challenge. What was nice about it was that despite the constant reminder that I should be reading, I still found myself reading more this year than I have in recent years. However, I found myself taking more time with books and being more selective about my choices, which was important to me. Once upon a time, I used to force myself to read books that I wasn’t interested in, just to say I had read them. It made the task of reading less enjoyable and I felt motivated to do it less. That’s why I really enjoyed this recent article from The Cut, “Should I Stop Counting How Many Books I Read?” in which writer, Katie Heaney shares the same premonitions as me about setting reading goal. She discusses how the pressure to meet a goal can outweigh your reasons reason for setting a goal in the first place: finding time to do something you love. In the end, it’s not about ditching goals altogether or setting lower goals. She decides that setting a goal can be a good thing but it’s not the worst thing to not meet one either.

While I’ve loved Joni Mitchell’s Blue for many years, I can’t say that I’m familiar with a lot of her discography. I pretty much love every song of hers I’ve ever heard, so recently I decided I would start listening to more of her other albums. “The Fiddle and The Drum” was a surprise—a song that I had never heard before but was immediately enraptured by. It came on shuffle when I was walking home one night and suddenly the humming street began to sparkle with movie magic. The track is completely stripped down, letting Joni’s deep and rich voice sink right into your bones. It’s the song that plays at the end of a movie that doesn’t have a happy ending; it’s the moment when the car is driving away; the moment when we see all the characters for the last time just going about their daily activities. It’s the perfect song for any winter soundtrack—a little romantic and a little weary.

Trois Choses: Getting into a Groove

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Robin Givhan is renewing my fashion obsession

There was a time in my life when fashion felt like my whole life. I used to obsessively flipped through the same issues of Vogue, tried to learn as much fashion vocabulary as I could and wrote the most amateur-ish of fashion show reviews. Over time, that passionate obsession faded into a vague liking and these days, I doubt that I could call myself a fashion fanatic. But in recent weeks, there has been a strong light in the very dim tunnel: Robin Givhan’s reviews for The Washington Post. Givhan is a respected fashion critic, who’s books on historical moments in fashion—fashion’s battle at Versailles, Michelle Obama’s fashion choices as a first lady—are groundbreaking and provoking. Her fashion reviews feel equally the same; her perspective always feels fresh and she seems less concerned with the sensationalism that often surrounds things and instead focuses on the collections at hand, the precedent the sent and what that means for the future of fashion. The more I read, the more I am reminded of why I loved fashion in the first place: for its possibilities, for its expansiveness, and its ability to bring beauty into the world while saying something worthwhile.

The new Blood Orange music video

Dev Hynes aka Blood Orange, just released the music video for “Chewing Gum” from his album Negro Swan and after just one watch I was overwhelmingly impressed. I’m constantly awed by Hynes’ unique brand of artistry and the layers of his work, and this was no different. Like the other videos from the album, the “Chewing Gum” video isn’t overly complicated—it’s Dev Hynes and A$AP Rocky driving ATVs in hazy, sunset dripped desert, looking fierce and free. Apart from its visual beauty, what struck me most about the video was the fresh perspective it gave me on the song and what it means. When Hynes looks straight into the camera and sings “Tell me what you want from me,” it has a fierce demand that feels unexpected from the soft tone of his singing voice. A big theme of Negro Swan is the freedom of being fully yourself, of doing the most, and the power that you get from being surrounded by the right people, the people who let you be free. In this video, both Hynes and A$AP are not just demanding their right to that freedom and power, but taking it. As their scarves dance around them and the drive on seemingly endless strips of road, they become more free and you as the viewer, feel it too.

On Being Podcast: Alain Botton

Lately, I’ve been feeling like maybe I’m interested in pursuing and entering a romantic relationship and if so, why. Despite this desire, I’m also hesitant and a little afraid of what that would actually mean. I love listening to and reading radical perspectives on love and relationships, and so was especially excited to listen to Alain Botton’s episode of On Being with Krista Tippett. Love is Botton’s subject—he’s been writing about love since he was 23—and his perspective on it feels valuable and increasingly so the more I think about it. He said three things that stuck with me, the first being that the scariest part of entering into relationships is that we have to make ourselves “weak,” to not con. The other two things: relationships aren’t just the lovey-dovey parts, but also involve everyday responsibilities; and we shouldn’t be fear imperfections in ourselves and our partners but be open to them. It’s such a good listen and I’ll be talking about it with everyone I meet for the next little while.

TROIS CHOSES: n**ga I'm feeling myself

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"Charcoal Baby" and "Jewelry" by Blood Orange

I've loved Dev Hynes for many years, and am constantly inspired the work he’s done but this summer I’ve gone deep. What’s so impressive about Dev, and the work he does as Blood Orange, is the thoughtful and intelligent art he produces without being pretentious. This is the man who is inspired by Phillip Glass and also loves a bit of an 80s synth sound. It feels really rare to have an artist who brings all these references into their music and yet comes out with a sound that’s wholly their own. When I saw the album cover for Negro Swan (out Aug. 24th!) I felt this indescribable wave of emotion and connection. Immediately I thought of beauty, blackness, art. I thought of Mercutio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet   and about who gets to be angels/swans. When the videos for “Charcoal Baby” and “Jewelry” came out, I sat in front of my TV enthralled by the beauty and the history that was threaded through both works. Every time I listen to “Jewelry” I shut down all the thoughts in my head just to focus on Janet Mock talk about turning all the way up and not lessening yourself so as to make others comfortable in certain spaces. I clearly imagine the celebratory black bodies fully expressing joy and excitement in the video. And when Dev sings “Do what you need to get by” I feel like I’ve been touched by my patron saint. If these songs are anything to go by, the album is going to be unbelievable.

Good Girls (Netflix) 

Halfway through the first episode of Good Girls I started bawling. I was surprised because it was the last reaction I expected to have. In fact, I spent several weeks avoiding it even though I was sick of sitting through episodes of Jessica Jones and according to Netflix’s (shaky) algorithm, it was a 98% match. But I was not disappointed! I immediately fell in love with the show and was watching it any time I had 20 minutes to spare. What makes Good Girls  so good is that it has the right mix of elements—a little bit buddy comedy, with a hefty dash of female empowerment and family drama without relying too much on clichés. I found myself rooting constantly rooting for the characters, even some of the worst ones,  which for me is a marker of good TV. Don Draper anyone?  An additional bonus: falling in love with Retta whose performance as Ruby, a black mother with a sick child trying to deal with an unforgiving healthcare system, is absolutely phenomenal.

Anxiety, Stress and Self-care 

The past few weeks have been pretty exhausting for me; I’ve been working, interning and getting ready to move, which means I have a few things keeping me up at night. I’ve also been feeling more anxious than usual and in the past couple of weeks I’ve had a few mild panic attacks at work that have wrecked my day. So this past weekend, after I had two panic attacks within the span of a few hours I decided that I needed to take a moment and just turn myself off. Tossing my to-do list—something that’s hard to do without guilt—I declared my evening Self-Care Saturday. I know that self-care is something that’s often scoffed at, but I think there’s something valid in taking a moment to take care of yourself without punishment, whether that’s making yourself a luxe meal, taking a bath or marathoning your favourite movies. In my case, I watched the third Harry Potter  movie which made me laugh and cry, and ultimately left me feeeling ready to take on my to-do list when the time came. 

  Honorable mention: The continued brilliance of Harry Potter.  

TROIS CHOSES: I Like a Red Rouge

Trois Choses is an evolving thing (sometimes monthly, sometimes weekly) that spotlights things I can't stop thinking about. It might be a movie, TV show, podcast or just a feeling. 

You’ve Got Lipstick on your Chin (Newsletter)  

I’ve been an admirer of Arabella Sicardi for years now, and their work has always encouraged to think bigger, to develop my ideas in ways that were unexpected. Generally, they're just brilliant. I've been a subscriber to their newsletter for a while and am super excited that they've chosen to reboot it. The first email was so good, I was inspired to write this post and share it with everyone. In the newsletter, they recommended an interview with Andrea Long Chu from the latest episode of the I'd Rather Be Reading podcast, "Bad Desires", which I listened to immediately and found particularly thought provoking. I'm currently in this place where I am really excited to learn, especially about things that I never would have thought to think about initially, and the interview, as well as Arabelle's newsletter are all a big part of that. 

The Art of The Essay: Hilton Als (The Paris Review)

I never felt there was a separation between the art I loved and myself

Another person whose work often pushes me to look deeper and consider how and what I consume is Hilton Als, which is why I loved this interview with him in the latest issue of The Paris Review. The interview feels very special--it manages to capture his voice, literally and as a writer. Many times, it feels less like an interview and more like one of Als' spectacular essays--questioning, profound, and celebratory of the people that have been influential in his life. He talks about his family and the ways in which they have been un/able to preserve their history, how he "became" a writer, and the continued search for voice. This interview is one that is meant to be read again and again, not just because it's inspiring but, like many things I associate with Als, you discover something new and magical with every read. 

Luke Cage (Netflix)

Embarrassingly enough, I watched all the episodes of Luke Cage in about a week which is A. unsurprising and B. a testament of how good it is. Whenever I watch anything with superheroes, it's usually background noise and feels excruciatingly long. Luke Cage was different. First of all, watching a show that has a primarily main cast and that is able to cover the complexities of black life, while still celebrating it is so refreshing and, in some ways, life-changing that it's harder for me to watch other stuff that doesn't have that. Even better, Luke Cage is well written and fantastically made--there are clear motifs, the aesthetics are amazing, and the characters so multi-layered that it's hard to find someone to fully root against. I definitely want to spend more time digging into it, especially the role of art (the paintings in Harlem's Paradise, the importance of the musical acts in the club) and how it plays into the ways in which black people build their lives. And I'm going to be honest, even though Black Panther exists and I love Sebastian Stan, Luke Cage is hands down the best thing from Marvel I've ever seen. 

 

TROIS CHOSES: I'll Be By the Batphone

TROIS CHOSES is a monthly roundup of three things (books, music, movies, etc.) that I particularly enjoyed or that stood out to me. Read April's here.

UN: The Gentlewoman (Spring&Summer 2018) 

The Gentlewoman is one of the magazines that has reinvigorated me both as a writer and as a consumer of culture. My sister and I happened to come upon their Spring&Summer 2018 issue in our local bookstore (which just started selling it) and, in our excitement, had to snatch it up. I didn't have plans for reading it through but that's what I ended up doing. What makes The Gentlewoman stand out is its predilection for following its curiosities and interests. Sure they cover "relevant" topics and individuals, but it's never in a way that feels like just another part of someone's press tour. I loved every interview in this issue, even if I had never heard of the person before, and was so inspired (& motivated) by their "Modern Details" that I've been writing itsy-bitsy devotionals to everything from apple pie to Weleda Skin Food. 

Deux: "Depression Takes My Body Away", Arabelle Sicardi for Racked

Being chronically ill taught me a while ago that bodies are full of surprises, that they are unreliable narrators of our dreams, and that something can be a failing, but it doesn’t mean you are.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how our bodies speak for us in ways that we can’t control. How they give away a lot--like how the freshman 15 is tells a story of both immaturity and excessive indulgence. In this piece, Arabelle Sicardi talks about not feeling like they had much control over much--their body, their life, their feelings and impulses--but being able to push against that through fashion or, more specifically, personal style. I remember when I was the biggest Arabelle Sicardi fan so many years ago and how they would talk about fashion as armour. And that always resonated with me, but does so even more today. I’ve never felt less in control than I have in the past few months and despite my various attempts at organization and control--colour coded calendars, to-do lists, daily journal entries--I rarely feel in control. Clothes have not only made me feel more in control, but they have been a way to build a fortress around myself. One that allows me to move in the world and feel protected. This article helped me realize that in a way that all that other stuff--the podcasts, the online guides, the self-help books--didn't. 

Trois: Yoga with Adriene

Last summer, in an effort to lose the Freshman 30+, I chose to complete a 60 day detox--no gluten, no dairy, no alcohol--and started Kayla Itsines BBG program. When I first started, I just wanted to lose some weight. I didn't want to become consumed with being a toned, slim Instagram model; I just wanted to fit in my new clothes. Unfortunately, I was soon saving pictures of toned and tight bellies on Instagram and taking daily images of my changing body. I'd convinced myself that I was in a healthy state of mind, but in some ways I was obsessive, and at times punishing. I relished in those days when I felt hungry but stopped myself from eating outside of the allotted amounts of food I had determined. And after the 60 days where over, very few of the habits I had developed stuck--I went back to my usual bread eating, chocolate enjoying self. When this summer came around, I wasn't interested in getting into the gym or going on another restrictive diet (although I did muse over Whole30 until I found out you couldn't eat rice). But I did want to be active and commit to something, so I turned to yoga. I chose Yoga with Adriene because I had seen Estée Lalonde doing the videos on her Instagram, and the fact that the videos were (on avergae) only 25 minutes. I’ve had *experiences* with yoga before--I still have a yoga pass that I never finished using--but it’s never made me feel as good as doing Yoga with Adriene has. I’m currently doing “True: 30 Day Yoga Challenge” and it’s definitely changed things for me. I try and do a video every morning, and it really sets the tone for my day. Adriene is all about throwing away the idea of doing yoga to become trimmed and toned (she says it will happen), and instead focusing on certain themes + non-physical goals. Themes like SURRENDER and SELF-LOVE allow me to use the time on the mat to mediate, or just take a moment to breath. Since I've started, I've noticed how completing a practice every morning makes me feel productive and accomplished. Adriene herself is a little kooky--she makes the most random jokes--but her kookiness is what makes doing her practice so comfortable. There is no pressure to be a perfect yogi, or the most fit person ever. She reminds me that I can just have fun. Maybe at the end of it all I'll have more toned arms, but that's not the goal. 

TROIS CHOSES: APRIL

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Trois Choses is a monthly series highlighting three things I consumed each month that excited me or had an impact. 

UN: Jane the Virgin

I started watching Jane the Virgin after my friend, Sara, recommended it to me because we were talking about how I felt so stuck as a writer and that I was currently looking for a mentor and felt like I had little to offer. And Jane is a writer too. I had already been recommended the show a few times but never felt inclined to actually give it a try. At that point, everything felt really dull, my senses felt non-existent and I really needed to watch something that was fun and light-hearted, especially since the last thing I watched was  the very cold, very dark Fargo. SO I started watching and I fell in love. It’s almost embarrassing to admit this but I watched all four seasons this whole entire month. I fell in love with (almost) all the characters and was so invested. And it was also encouraging to me as a writer. I wouldn’t say it inspired me but it’s depiction of the writer’s journey and the ups and downs was very comforting in that I was reminded that there is no straight or easy way to being a writer. And one reminder that Jane always got was to BE BRAVE, which has accidentally become on of my affirmations for the rest of the year. An added bonus: Tyler Posey is in the 4th season and I literally grinned through every episode.

Deux: Startup, Season 2

I’ll basically read or watch (or listen to!) anything about starting a business, but often times the material can be more discouraging than encouraging. It focuses on mostly the positives and the ways in which the people who start businesses were built for it, whether they were selling lemonade at 6 or working at Subway and knowing that wasn't their path. Even their challenges felt overly positive and I found it hard to relate to that. That’s what makes Startup so special. Their goal is to give a direct look into the creation of business, the ups and downs, as they're happening. Sometimes it's cringey and uncomfortable, but ultimately it's really encouraging to see people have worries and concerns that I get because it makes me feel less alone, less of an anomaly. Even if starting a business is the last thing on your mind, it’s still a really good listen for anyone that has to work with other people. Season 2 is especially good because compared to Season 1, the drama and the struggle that come with starting a business with other people was off the charts. Season 2 followed Dating Ring, a matchmaking/dating service founded by Lauren Kay and Emma Tessler. It follows the duo through a positive start, losing a teammate and major fights. My favourite episode was the one where they go to visit the CEO Whisperer, which was such an enlightening thing to listen to. At the time of listening I was definitely feeling conflict in my working life, and this season gave me a lot of perspective on what I was dealing with.

Trois: "Every Goodbye Ain't Gone" by James Baldwin

"You drag your past with you everywhere, or it drags you."

This is one of those essays that I ended up reading by accident, but turned out to be exactly perfect for the moment. I feel like this whole month was full of happy accidents. So far 2018 has been pretty tumultuous for me and when I thought I was getting pretty settled in April, everything went topsy-turvy again. And this essay felt like such a comfort. A good essay for me has always been about finding a connection, not feeling alone in the world. And this essay was that and also explored that feeling. That moment when you can recognize that you're not alone, that you can explore and break away from you've known and still find your way back, or find the way to where you're supposed to be.