your poetry's bad and you blame the news

The other day I wrote in my journal about how I get insecure about being the person who gets their book recommendations and style inspiration from Instagram instead of discovering things for myself through active search. This got me thinking a lot about sharing the things that I consume, culturally, online. That is a large basis of this blog, and I have Highlights on Instagram dedicated to it. I’ve been thinking a lot about the curated nature of it all, and how each time I experience a book that is considered culturally acceptable or I have seen a “critically acclaimed” film I feel like I must share it with whatever digital audience will observe me. The problem is not the sharing—though it might be—but of what I share. I don’t give the same platform to the Liane Moriarty book I tore through that I give to the Zadie Smith novel I didn’t much care for. And I’m not sure if I’ll change and stop posting Instagram posts of the books and movies that I’m into but I still want to think about why I feel the need to post any of it at all.  I’m reading Jia Tolentino’s Trick Mirror right now, and if there’s one thing I’ve got from it is that we should always question why we engage in the things we do—posting on Instagram, going to barre classes, eating kale caesar salads with pride—rather than just accepting the “order” of things. So, that’s the big question of the day: why do I feel so validated by the idea that people on the internet know I read a George Eliot novel this summer? Why was I desperate to let people know that I too am reading the hottest essay collection of the year? I haven’t figured it out yet. Stay tuned.

In other news, I’m back at university, and the first few days I felt so disconnected and purposeless. But today was a good day and I’m excited for the semester. I’ve begun to notice the way my brain automatically begins to panic when profs discuss assignments. Without a pause, I become convinced that I won’t be able to do what their asking and that I’ll fail. I give up before I’ve even tried. It’s a feeling that I’ve had since the first year of university, and even now, with three years of relative success behind me, I have not gotten better at tamping it down. I’m often annoyed by the people in my classes that raise their hands with confidence and say empty things with a tone of great importance. But I’m also envious of their ability to push past their self-consciousness and just say what’s on their mind. I want to strike somewhere in between being overly bold and overly cautious.

I’m really hoping to stay consistent on here as the semester goes on—even though I’m not very consistent now anyway—so if anyone is out there reading this and has articles/books/podcasts (especially audiobooks and podcasts) that you think I should check out and think about, let me know. And maybe I’ll talk about some of the stuff I’m learning in class as well.

consumption report (lmao)

“As everything around us heats up (from the summer sun to the climate at large), we are drawn to impracticality and sensuality, and ultimately, back to our own bodies.” (ssense)

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino (duh!). The “Pure Heroines” essay was a dream to read. All the books are on my list now.

All About Love: New Visions by bell hooks. My first bell hooks and I don’t love it yet, but the chapter on love and greed is fantastic. And she quotes Marianne Williamson.

NORMAN FUCKING ROCKWELL!!!!!! I listen at least twice a day.

“Blocking a Million Bad Men” (The Cut on Tuesdays). You will gasp.

a minor but perilous triumph

I started reading Joan Didion’s Slouching Towards Bethlehem, which has been on my Amazon wishlist for years. Being a person who likes books and liking Joan Didion feels like the most unoriginal thing ever, but there’s a reason everyone loves her. There’s a reason she’s a legend. The book is filled with essays that Didion wrote for various publications in the the late 60s. Essays about John Wayne and and “Life Styles in the Golden Land” and self-respect. I just finished Part One this morning in which the essays are primarily reporting. What makes her reporting so good is that it’s thoughtful and poetic and moving. Concluding an essay about Michael Laski, the man who founded the Communist Party U.S.A, Marxist-Leninist, Didion says: “You see what the world of Michael Laski is: a minor but perilous triumph of being over nothingness”. Ugh, talk about magic!

I saw The Farewell with my roommates and found myself stunned with emotion for hours after. It’s about a young woman, Billi, “whose family returns to China under the guise of a fake wedding to stealthily say goodbye to their beloved matriarch -- the only person that doesn't know she only has a few weeks to live”. Awkwafina plays Billi whose close relationship with her grandmother makes it even harder to maintain the lie. She’s fantastic. The film itself is an amazing depiction of family life, especially immigrant family life. It depicts the tensions created when people move away; it perfectly captures the ways we hide from our families but never very well; and it gets the way in which culture defines family and the way in which the family unit is tied into the traditions and practices of a culture at large.

This week was filled with sweet moments and interactions with people that gave me lots of joy. To leave any interaction with a shit eating grin on your face makes you optimistic. Unfortunately, I capped the week off with a not so great moment. I made a mistake that was inconsiderate of other people around me and of course upset those people. It was a small mistake and it wasn’t too serious but I still found myself spending the entire day hating myself for it and believing that my friendship with the people I affected was irreparably damaged. But the experience was a good reminder that making mistakes doesn’t make me a bad person. And that people aren’t going to hate me or cut me off because I make stupid mistakes. It’s sometimes nice to believe that you’re going through the world and not causing any ripples. That as long as you can sit still enough and not be too messy and not do anything noticeably bad that you’re safe and that people will never have a reason to dislike you. And that’s just not the case. I know it and yet everytime I falter I spend ridiculous amounts of time beating myself up. I know it and I’m still thinking about it as I type this. But I’m learning. As everyone’s favourite yogi, Adriene, says: “We all fall, we all fart, and we all cry into the pillow sometimes. But, listen, We also all have the tools”.

consumption report

  • I’ve been watching a lot of reality tv this week, specifically Love Island (which is one FIVE nights a week) and MTV’s Are You the One? Watching reality shows in which people form emotional connections based on sheer proximity is always fun for me because as silly as I think it is, I always get overly invested as if it was happening to me.

  • Reading Rebecca Traister’s Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger. More thoughts on that to come.

  • I finally listened to “Brown Skin Girl” and almost cried. Can’t wait for Blue Ivy’s solo album