Although the release of ZAYN’s sophomore album, Icarus Falls, was mostly a disappointment—there are only 13 tracks I find enjoyable/tolerable out of the 27 the album offers—his latest music video from the album has been much more satisfying. The video for “Satisfaction” is the fourth from the album and arguably the best. While his lyrics often get trapped in some version of ‘I was drunk and I was high’, ZAYN’s music videos are typically more artful and nuanced, showcasing a unique and educated perspective that his music may not immediately display. In “Satisfaction”, the story focuses on the love affair between a young man and woman, whose relationship is destined to end from the beginning. The video flashes between the loved up days of the romance and the young man’s experience of losing the young woman. The song itself is mournful, and attempts to come to an understanding of loss, and the video does complete justice to that journey. As much as it is a love song, it is also a tale of coming-of-age and rebirth. ZAYN himself is only present in the video for about five seconds (a PR choice perhaps?) but the lack of his presence only serves to strengthen the strong narrative of the video.
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 time—about 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.
In the year of 2019, our society is obsessed with the concept of fame more than ever. And as more and more people get famous from transforming themselves into businesses, fame as a concept is sticky and constantly changing. One thing that isn’t changing is our confusion over fame—who gets it, who keeps it, and what damage does it do, both to the famous and those who follow their every move? It’s the latter question that Brady Corbet’s latest film, Vox Lux concerns itself with. Starring Natalie Portman and Jude Law, the film tells the story of Celeste, a young girl from Staten Island who suffers a spinal injury due to a school shooting, writes a song about it, and becomes instantly famous. The film is divided into four parts, with the first half following Celeste as a quiet but confident teen, who quickly falls in love with the adventure that is fame. The second half follows Celeste, now 31 years old, still confident but increasingly anxious and prone to explosive behaviour. As much as its concerned with the pitfalls of fame, it is more concerned with the ways in which we escape our pain—individually and collectively—and the ways in which pasting glitter over gaping wounds is both healing and damaging.
The film attempts to say this in various ways but in doing so, fails to fully realize any one message. Moments are often spat at out at the audience—sometimes in blurred and sped-up time lapses—and the narration, done by Willem Dafoe, is used to fill in the gaps the audience isn’t given time to fill. Personally, I would have been happier if they’d skipped the narration and sustained some of the most crucial moments. Yet, the film’s quick-paced energy perfectly reflected the anxious energy of Portman’s Celeste, and caused the viewer to feel that same anxiety. It was an anxiety that was all too common in 2018, the kind that came with news of one terrible thing after another.
Despite my qualms, I can’t deny that I enjoyed Vox Lux immensely. It was a puzzle that had to be figured out, and Natalie Portman’s performance was absolutely fantastic. I do wish that some of the amazing soundtrack they created could have gotten more play, but not every movie is A Star is Born. And I’m completely okay with that.
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.
HAPPY 21ST BIRTHDAY TO ME!
I’ve been thinking a lot in the past couple of weeks about what turning 21 would mean for me. When I turned 20, I felt wise, I felt powerful; I felt like I had the whole world for the taking. But then the the year didn’t feel like that I at all. In fact, instead of being the year I handled shit like a grown ass woman, 20 was the year of starting over. Of having to reevaluate my 4 year plan, and choose to start a new life, one that I didn’t exactly what it would look like. So as 21 slowly approached, I was hesitant to say it would be the year of anything because I knew how quickly those ideas could fall apart. Not feeling like 21 was going to be any major catalyst, celebrating seemed unnecessary and I was ready for the day to pass like any other.
BUT now, on the morning of the actual day, I feel an energy that I want to keep riding. An energy that I want to infuse every moment of the next 364 days because in this crazy world, every day you wake up should be celebrated. And every year you get is a treasure.
For the past few years, I have been living a mostly quiet life. I’ve become more introverted than I used to be. I spend more time alone. I’m more tired. I feel old so much of the time. But I want to feel young. I want to do stupid things. I want my heart to break.
That said, I’m not going to make too many plans for the next year. There are things that I want to do more of; things that I want to achieve; habits I would like to lose. But I’m not going to put too much pressure on myself. I’m going to see where the year takes me.
This year I’m going to take care of myself more. Listen to more Cardi B. Watch more movies. Have more solo dance parties. Learn more about my heritage. Embrace my blackness. Learn. Grow.
My sister kept asking me if I was excited to turn 21 and I couldn’t say yes because I wasn’t feeling it. This morning, I’m feeling it. Because, good or bad, I’m ready for whatever this year has to give me.
The most appealing factor about Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited was that there was a film version starring Matthew Goode. For me, that’s as good a reason as any to pick up a hefty-ish tome about England in the interwar period.
I didn’t know what to expect of the novel—I knew it was a classic, and I knew that there was an important male relationship between the central protagonist and narrator, Charles Ryder and Sebastian Flyte, a seductive yet elusive character. The novel is told from the perspective of Charles, who at the time of writing is serving in the British Army during World War II. On one morning, he and his troop arrive at Brideshead, the former home of the Flyte family; a site that holds many memories. The story moves through Charles’ life, from his years at Oxford and meeting Sebastian, to leaving England for Paris and becoming an artist. Throughout, the narrative pulls back to present-day Charles as he attempts to arrange and understand the events that led him to the current moment. Because of the retrospectiveness of the narration, memory plays an important role in the novel. At the beginning of Book Three, titled “A Twitch upon the Thread” Charles says of the stories he’s told and will tell: “These memories, which are my life—for we possess nothing certainly except the past—were always with me”. In some ways, keeping these memories alive is a consuming task, yet to let go of them is to erase a large part of his life. In holding on to them, the past—and its dreams—never have to fade away.
The desire to hold onto the past is one that Ryder shares with interwar England at large. In the novel’s foreword, Waugh expresses his unhappiness with the novel and the language and speech of its characters. But he also sees it as extremely demonstrative of the types of attitudes that existed in England and therefore necessary in understanding the resistance of the older class. And while Waugh is critical of these attitudes—English traditionalism and its resistance to anything new—there is a certain sense of adoration for that period and those people that lived, hopelessly and happily, in it. The tension of being critical of something and loving it at the same time extends into the world of the novel as well. While the Flytes are devoted Catholics in various degrees, Charles often expresses his distaste for Catholicism, even getting into drawn out disagreements over the ridiculousness of it. And yet, throughout the novel he cannot help but be intrigued by the devotion of the Flytes. More poignantly, in one of the final moments of the novel, Charles finds himself giving over to the power of the religion, begging it to give him reason to believe. It’s a moment that is both surprising and beautiful.
Brideshead Revisited is not an easy novel to dive into. In fact, it took me 250 pages and 2 weeks to get interested and even longer to connect with the characters. However, it’s the complexities, the constant tension and the surprisingly revealing and delicate moments that make the slow burn worth it.
I listened to Wet’s music for the first time about two years ago. At the time, I easily connected to it, despite my lack of experience in romantic relationships. Because of that I couldn’t understand or describe what resonated with me so much. All I knew was that there was something that had me coming back day after day. Although their first album Don’t You, was super melancholic, it never made me feel sad. Instead I was comforted by the vulnerability, and listening to tracks like “Island” and “Small and Silver” felt like moments of catharsis. Although I had yet to have a great romantic adventure, the joy and pain that was involved in one was real to me. In an old interview, Kelly Zutaru, the band’s frontwoman described their music as being like underwater, a full immersion. It’s the moment when you’re fully underwater and everything goes silent and all the chaos becomes muffled. It’s less like drowning and more like a moment of clarity.
The band’s latest album, There’s A Reason, is quite different from their first. Although the subject matter still deals with heartbreak and loss, the sound is less melancholic and, in many moments Zutaru’s voice is bold and demanding. Favourites on the album include “Softens” and “11 Hours”. “Softens” was first released as a single and despite its beauty, it took me some time to fall in love with it. The issue was that I was listening to it on speakers, asking it to fill the space. But it’s the type of song that requires intimacy, whether that’s lying in your bed in pajamas with your phone pressed up to your ear or taking a long walk with your headphones in. Either way, the song’s brilliance can’t be lost in such intimate spaces. Zutaru’s soft voice cradles lyrics like “You don't know your place/The sun hits the table/At a beautiful angle”—lyrics that make me want to lie on the kitchen floor and weep. In “11 Hours” Zutaru’s voice is bolder. She sings about being powerless to one that she loves. She recognizes that the love she had hurt her more than it helped her. While the relationship may have made her powerless, in the song she demands her former partner to take responsibility: she no longer wishes to feel well because of them. With each drawn out “you”, she reclaims the power she once had.
Although Wet’s music lies within a certain realm of indie-pop, it’s the duality found in There’s A Reason—both lyrically and musically—that makes them stand out. It’s what keeps me listening time and time again, no matter the experiences (or lack thereof) I have in my own life.
In 2018 I:
Visited Paris for the first time
Faced the challenge that is apartment hunting in Toronto
Made new friends
Found a beautiful home with the sweetest roommates (with the help of new friends)
Got a new job
the power of the podcast (and Oprah)
why I had so much academic anxiety
how to be ok with sitting still
Toronto transit system
that faltering does not mean quitting
that growth isn’t something that stops and begins—it’s always happening
I listened to:
lots of Travis Scott and Ariana Grande
lots of podcasts including Girlboss Radio and Thirst Aid Kit
I watched (and loved):
To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before (I’ve now seen it 8 times)
Frances Ha (rewatched because it will forever be a favourite)
Bob’s Burgers (again and again)
That’s Chic YouTube videos
I read (and loved):
Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney
A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Sula by Toni Morrison
The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
Killing and Dying by Adrian Tomine
** complete 2018 read list
What I’m looking forward to in 2019:
reading more books
Greta Gerwig’s Little Women
making more friends
growing more confident in my abilities
trying new things
finding balance in all things
Spotify did pretty well with my Top 100 songs this year, but there are just some things that an algorithm can’t perfectly put together. So here are my personal selects—some overlap with Spotify’s choices, others were missed or released too late to make it, and all are—in my honest opinion—motherfucking jams.
the tulips that grew in the garden
were a reminder of
when my father lived his life
with soil underneath his fingernails and
sweat dripped from his lashes
sometimes he did cry
over the majesty of his garden
the garden he had built
after the world
made him a ghost
the only way he was able to hold on
was by reaching deep into the Earth
scooping out its hot core
letting it warm his cracked
in his weakest moments, he made
to the sky
begs for his Father’s judgement
begs for his light to shine on him
begs for one more day
in the mornings
i look out at the garden
think of all the
and all the
that are planted there
faintly, my father’s heart
bends with the wind
faintly, my father’s heart
bats its wings
always in constant flight
yet rooted in the ground
I’ve been wearing makeup to cover up the variety of blemishes that cohabitate on my face since I was twelve years old so it feels pretty fantastic to be in a moment when I wear a full face of makeup only once a week, and that’s only because I want to make money. While I’ve always wished I was Glossier-esque and could get away with only brow gel and a glittery lip balm, the dark spots that scatter my face like a confetti gun went off and the deep, DEEP dark circles under my eyes tell a different story. Despite all my skincare routines and rituals, I’ve always depended on makeup. Recently, however, I’ve taken a renewed approach to skincare that makes me feel less like I need makeup and lets me enjoy it. It’s meant being less concerned with following the routines of people I admire or wanting to try the latest thing even if it doesn’t make sense for my skin, and using products that work for my skin and using them consistently. My skin is healthier, I’m busting out fresh & glittery eye looks. Here are the products that are helping me out:
Summer Fridays Jet Lag Mask
Surprisingly and unsurprisingly: I love, love this mask. I was pretty hesitant about purchasing it despite its rave reviews because Instagram endorsed products have a hard time living up to their name and this mask is a bit pricey than the clay ones I slather on my face with abandon. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it, no matter the arguments I made against it and so as soon as the Sephora VIB sale hit, I made the leap. I have yet to regret it. The Jet Lag Mask is all about nutrients that make my skin look plump and filter glowy after immediate use, and since it requires you to remove it using a small towel, there’s the added benefit of exfoliation. This mask is perfect for those mornings where not even a buttload of Vitamin C Serum or eye cream could save me. And because you only need a little bit to make it effective, that $59 price tag seems small in the long run.
Paula’s Choice BHA Skin Perfecting Liquid
Liquid exfoliants are a very terrifying thing that I’m still weary and cautious despite the fact that I sing praises for this baby from Paula’s Choice every time I use it, which is every single night. After the first few uses, I could see my skin peeling off which was both kinda scary and uber cool, and after just a week my notoriously oily and large pored face started looking smooth and glowy. Do we sense a theme yet? Now my skin is feeling pretty balanced, and using it every night has been helpful when any wayward blemishes rear their ugly heads.
Paula’s Choice Balancing Cleanser
Accepting that I had oily skin also meant accepting that I couldn’t just use any cleanser like I was a cool and effortless vlogger who could use Dove bar soap and still look fantastic. I picked up a balancing cleanser at the recommendation of Into the Gloss and have been enjoying its benefits since. No more mornings of waking up with a thin layer of grease on my face or having my makeup separated as my skin got more and more oily throughout the day. The best part of this one from Paula’s Choice? It deep cleanses like nobody’s business meaning makeup removal happens in a snatch.
Laneige Water Bank Hydrating Gel
After a short period of using Weleda Skin Food and JASON’s Vitamin E cream turned my face into a rashy, blemish-y mess, I was looking for a face moisturizer that was so light that it melted into my skin on contact. Laniege’s Hydrating Gel is the lightest cream that I’ve ever used and is still extremely effective. It gives my skin just the right boost it needs and makes me feel a little bit like a glistening cyborg. And it’s hydrating enough that I despite the intense dehydration I experience overnight, my skin still feels moisturized when I wake up. It’s like magic.
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.
Since my sister and I had a conversation about it last week, the idea of coming of age has been persistent on my mind. I always thought the time between 12 and 15 when I realized that I was a little bit weirder than I’d even imagined and that wanted to be an artist surrounded by creative people was THE moment of my coming of age. Everything after that was just life/adulthood. But recently, as I navigate the biggest transition of my life I’m starting to think that my coming of age isn’t over yet. I don’t know if it’s a new phase or a continuance of the first moment from my teens but I do know that music played a really big role in it.
In the name of nostalgia, here are some of the songs that got me started on my journey and that still are significant in my life.
One of my personal beefs with music videos of late is how random they feel. I understand the desire not to create something fairly obvious but I wish some videos would align, if only briefly, with the song or at least the vibe of the song. That's why I love Lorde's video for her song "Perfect Places" (from her album Melodrama).
"Perfect Places" is a magnificent song about attempting to turn our reality into the very clear fantasy that exists in our head, and the various ways--drugs, partying, kissing boys--we try to do that. The song speaks to this escapist quality that I think comes with just living in a very tumultuous and painful world, but especially with feeling young and out of place. The video perfectly visualizes this by placing Lorde, alone, at a random house on the beach. Dressed in an array of decadent gowns, she runs along the beach and drinks whisky while swimming in a waterfall, like the angsty heroine of a Kate Bush song. The video is perfectly indulgent, Lorde is perfectly indulgent in it (with her one woman tea parties) and is so escapist I feel like I've taken a vacation. This song/video combo reminds me that although our realities rarely live up to our fantasies, sometimes we need to escape into a world of our own and let ourselves indulge. Nobody really needs to know.
A few months ago I made a decision that would completely change my life, and in ways I hadn't yet comprehended. A few days ago, I got on a plane with my older sister and moved to Toronto to start a whole new life. It hasn't completely sunk in yet that I have a new home--it still feels like I'm on vacation--and that for the first time in my life, I'm on my own. That's something that I know is going to take a while to sink in.
Choosing to move away was something I did in an act of desperation--although it had been weeks since I got home from my birthday trip, I was still feeling antsy and unsettled. At first I thought that I was still feeling the aftereffects of the major burnout I had experienced months before, but as more time passed, it felt like it was more than that. In my attempts to feel better, I listened to a lot of podcasts, including Oprah's Super Soul Conversations, that were all recommended for their life-changing advice. After listening to about a million episodes, I recognized a common thread in all the advice. The only person that can make you happy is you. Trust yourself. If you're not happy with your life, change it. The idea that I was the only with the ability and power to improve my situation and change the way I felt was something that really struck me.
And so, determined to feel better, I took some time with my journal (as recommended) and wrote about what was causing me to feel so down. One of the things that I identified was my dissatisfaction with school, and feeling like I was just moving through the motions without any motivation. I was completely disinterested in most of my classes, and despite having friends who were really great, I often felt detached from everything. The feeling to get away from school just got stronger and stronger. But dropping out didn't feel like an option for me, and more than anything, I just wanted to get away from the sleepy city with 7 month winters. So I looked to the next option: transferring schools. I'd always wanted to live in Toronto, even though I'd never been there, and so I looked into applying to schools in the city. I landed on Ryerson University, filled out an application and then begun the waiting game.
From the moment I submitted my application, I felt relief. Sure, I felt anxiety about what was to come, but there was something that made me feel so good about taking an active role in my life. Making this choice and acting on it helped me come to the realization that for some time--I don't know how long--I had stopped taking an active interest in my life, going through motions and hoping I would land where I wanted to. In the process, I had indirectly let other people dictate my life, and choosing to move was something I had to do without thinking about other people's reactions to it.
Although I was super excited to move, I still spent the months leading up to my departure nervous that I was making the wrong decision. Was I running away from something I could solve? Was the old adage, wherever you go there you are, applicable in this situation? There were a million moments where I thought I would just give it all up and just continue living my life as it was.
Despite my fear and nervousness about leaving, I’m glad I did it. I don’t regret any time that I lived in Edmonton--it’s shaped me in ways that I don’t even know I fully understand yet. Of course I’m scared to take this new adventure. Of course I’m going to miss the people I love, and the comfort of knowing somewhere really really well. But as I’ve been reminding myself all year, fear is never a good excuse for anything. And I’d rather give the world my heart to break than feel nothing at all.
There are a select list of movies that I have, and will, watch more than twice. Most of these movies I’ve fallen in love with at first watch, and watch them when I’m in need of comfort. Very rarely do I watch these movies back to back. So why have I watched To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before four times since it was released?
When I first saw the trailer for Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before I could barely contain my excitement. I'm a sucker for a good YA rom-com and it was made even better by it being the first YA rom-com with an Asian protagonist. As soon as it was released I was gunning to watch it, and so last Saturday night I stayed up way too late to have my first watch. Then I watched it every day after that. And somehow, it got better with every viewing.
If you haven’t seen it (why???), TATBILB is about Lara Jean Covey, a 16 year old Korean-American girl who is in love with love. She obsessively reads “bodice-ripper” romance novels and writes love letters to her most intense of crushes. When these letters find their way to their recipients, Lara Jean must leave her fantasy world of love and dating, and face the very real and difficult world of love and dating head on.
Lara Jean is pretty much a typical YA protagonist. She's not super popular, she's shy and her style is "quirky". But she is also has a bold and bright personality that exists outside of her love story. At one point in the film, when she's having a feel-good moment with her dad he mentions that she's always been open and fun with her family, making it clear that it's not her finding love that makes her who she is; instead the romantic love in her life allows her to open up and show more people her wonderful and hilarious personality.
Furthermore, Lara Jean has a clear understanding of what she wants and, if she's feeling bold enough, has the words to articulate it. Though she’s new to the dating scene, she has a clear understanding of her own boundaries and is open about it. When she muses about why she writes love letters she doesn't send, she mentions how it helps her understand her feelings and deal with the intensity of them. It feels really new and groundbreaking to have a young female character who doesn't invalidate the intensity of her own feelings, instead embraces them.
The complex and multi-faceted Lara Jean is played by Lana Condor who was amazing in the role. I honestly don’t believe I’ve ever seen such an expressive face! One of the hard parts of transforming novels into films is that without the assistance of lengthy narration, we often miss out on a lot of the protagonist’s inner dialogue. While this film had its fair share of narration, there was so much story in Lara Jean's face alone. In one scene, she's concerned that she might have pushed Peter (love interest extraordinaire) away, you see her go through a whole set of emotions before sending him a silly text to test the waters. The slight shoulder shrugs, judgey pursing of the lips, eye twitches are all part of Lara Jean's personality and ways for her to express herself when she isn't feeling bold enough to say things out loud. Lana Condor's ability to add that extra dimension to a character is just insane.
And then there's the love story! One of the first things I thought about was that Peter Kavinsky is the healthy rom-com crush we’ve needed for so long. Peter isn’t perfect, but he is kind, he is courageous and most of all, he genuinely cares for Lara Jean from the beginning, even when he's trying to reject her love letter. In most love stories like theirs, it takes a long time before our male romantic lead stops acting like an asshole and loves the female romantic lead for who she is. From the very beginning Peter never sees Lara Jean as not being worthy of their (fake) relationship because she’s not as popular as he is. In fact he’s the one who sees dating her as a benefit, and never once acts as if he is ashamed of her. It shouldn't be a big deal to have this kind of male romantic lead, but in a world where we still think detached and uncaring guys could love, it's almost revolutionary.
I obviously have quite a lot of feelings about this movie but I'm running late and honestly, just watch it for yourself. Even if you don't feel as passionately about it as I do, it will make you feel super good.
"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.
Vintage sweater, A.P.C. skirt, Nike Cortez sneakers
Up until recently I was really obsessed with defining what my personal style was and whether my outfits were interesting enough. But I've found that, like many things, obsessing over it usually just means being restricting, leaving many "effortless" outfits feeling especially forced. Accepting that my outfits my not be complex feats of style has made it easier to get dressed in the morning, although there are still days I have to fight the urge to wear leggings and a t-shirt; I haven't accepted that as stylish just yet.
Now that I'm not going through an identity crisis every time I attempt to get dressed it makes things a whole lot easier. I envisioned this outfit one night before bed, and I eagerly awaited for a cool summer day that would let me get away with wearing a turtleneck. I was still a little steamy but it totally worked. And I love this skirt so much--it was one of those things that was 1/2 impulse buy and 1/2 planned, which I think is always the best. I wear it four days out of seven so I'm definitely getting my money's worth. And while my style is still pretty simple now, I can't wait to start getting more adventurous. Maybe it's time to try boots that look like a dropped pair of jeans.
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.
A large part of why certain films are my favourite and I’ve watched them again and again is due to their soundtrack. For me, a film soundtrack isn’t just a perfect compliment to aesthetically stunning scenes; it’s also a way of making the narrative more tangible. I love soundtracks that utilize headphones and radios to further embed the audience into the story; it's as if you're sharing the moment with the characters. Like that world is yours also. Soundtracks allow me to continue living in the fictional world even after the credits are rolled and my tongue has started to itch from the saltiness of movie theatre popcorn. How can I ever listen to “Mystery of Love” and not think of Elio and Oliver running around the Italian countryside? Or associate the rush of Bowie’s “Modern Love” with the abruptness of falling? Below I share my three favourite film soundtracks.
Call Me By Your Name
I don't think there's anyone who watched CMBYN and didn't fall in love with the soundtrack. It's filled with a perfect mix of tunes that work for every mood. From Sufjan's Stevens heart wrenching ballads "Visions of Gideon" and "Mystery of Love" to the Psychedelic Fur's hit "Love My Way", I relive every beautiful moment every time I hear any of the songs. The film's musical director also utilizes the songs super well, whether filtered from the car radio to further pull the audience in or softly playing as the credits roll and the audience is struck by the expressive artistry that is Timothée Chalamet's face.
Favourite track: J'adore Venise//Loredana Bertè
I spent the summer of 2015 waking up at four in the morning, catching the all night bus to go work at Starbucks until my legs went numb. Each morning, I experienced the sort of nighttime magic that every song, poem and film filtered photographs talk about—feeling like you’re the only person alive in the whole entire world, bonding with the people who seem to crawl along the edges of the crush--and the Frances Ha soundtrack played a large role in amplifying that feeling. This soundtrack makes “Everyone’s a Winner” by Hot Chocolate the most romantic song in the world, perfect for tripping along empty streets and peering into store windows as if they were lost memories. In someways the Frances Ha soundtrack acts like a map, a way to connect the different points of discovery in Frances journey, physical and otherwise.
Favourite Track: Modern Love//David Bowie
The only solo Alex Turner album I've ever going to need, Submarine's soundtrack is only five songs which are perfectly used throughout the film. Submarine itself is a magnificent film that doesn't try to hard to be profound or quirky--it just is. And it's soundtrack perfectly aligns with that. It's the perfect thing for floating paper boats in deep rain puddles and watching fireworks on cool summer nights.
Favourite track: Hiding Tonight
Honorable mentions: An Education, The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Collected), Scott Pilgrim vs. The World