in a big country i found home

Recently, I was listening to Tavi Gevinson’s playlist ‘In a Big Country’ when I heard a lyric from Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come” that made me stop: “It’s been too hard living, but I’m afraid to die”. It was a lyric that I felt too perfectly described the limbo state I found myself in—the feeling that life was too disappointing, too exhausting but that death was too much to commit to, that to accept death was to give up too easily. This playlist is one of my favourite playlists ever but I’ve never really taken the opportunity to listen to it from beginning to end. It felt even more opportune to be listening to it at work, especially when I’ve been feeling dissatisfied with my work for some time and uncertain what I could do to change my satisfaction. Gevinson first shared the playlist in her Editor’s Letter for Rookie’s August 2017 issue, ‘Desire’. In that newsletter she talks about the desire for love and how people seek out fame as a way to fulfill their desire for love. And the way we chase these things constantly because we are always at risk of losing them. That made me think of being a teenager and hearing Scarlett Johansson in Vicky Cristina Barcelona say that she was chronically dissatisfied and recognizing that feeling in myself. And although I knew that it was meant to be a despicable feeling, I couldn’t help romanticizing it; I couldn’t help feeling that it made me more human, more real. In Mark Greif’s essay “The Concept of Experience (The Meaning of Life Part 1)” he talks about how we seek experience as a way of challenging our mortality; we are so desperately aware of the “only-onceness” of our lives that we chase experience in order to live many lives in the one life we have: “Your own experiences open a door into the inside feeling of somebody else’s life”. Plato suggests that the reason love that is about desire is always wanting of something and therefore, will never be satisfied. He seems to frown up this endless chasing. We want our futures to mean something. We chase an idea of perfection and beauty and success in the hopes that life is not just the ordinary but that we can somehow tap into a sort of paradise, even amongst challenges. We want to say at the end of the day, that despite the challenges we’ve faced, what we have now makes all that suffering worth it; we negate our suffering through our accumulation of experience, success and material things. And it’s still not enough. Back to that Sam Cooke lyric. It’s easy to feel like the hardships we face are endless, but just moments after he sings this HEARTBREAKING AND KIND OF LIFE CHANGING line, he gives himself hope when he cries: “I know a change is gonna come”. Desire makes it easier for us to feel like we’re escaping our hardships but none of this is forever. Life is hard but it won’t be forever. Maybe, for now, we can just rest.

Last week, in what caused my Explore page to gasp in a collective, WTF??, TMZ reported that Jordyn Woods, longtime friend of the KarJenner clan, was allegedly having an affair with Tristan Thompson, who happens to be father of Khloe Kardashian’s daughter and the same man who cheated on her while she was pregnant. All week, rumors were thrown back and forth, with much of the Kardashian clan keeping silent on the matter with the exception of some not so subtle InstaStories by Khloe. It all culminated in Jordyn Woods going on Jada Pinkett Smith’s Facebook Watch show, Red Table Talk, and Khloe Kardashian angrily tweeting that Jordyn Woods was a lying, unapologetic homewrecker. It was a mess. In a new video this week, YouTube queen Jackie Aina discussed the issue, focusing less on the drama, and more on what we all could learn from Jordyn. One particular claim that Jackie made that stood out was how the Kardashians have a habit of keeping black people around them as a way to validate their appropriation of black culture. Because these people around them don’t criticize them for their privileged actions—Kim’s ‘Bo Derek’ braids; Kim, Khloe, and Kylie’s blackfishing—they could be secure in feeling that their actions were acceptable; they could go on doing the same thing despite multiple criticisms. Jackie argued that when these black people stopped validating the Kardashians behaviour or made a misstep—as Jordyn did—they were quickly disposed of, despite earlier claims of their closeness to the family. For me, I found that this was one of the clearest criticisms of the Kardashians that had come out of this whole mess. The Kardashians definitely dodge criticisms when they make missteps by finding ways to make themselves victims—re: Kendall’s Pepsi ad—and therefore, have failed to learn how to do better. Of course, most people don’t mind because they’re so sold into the cult of personality, but I think this event has demonstrated who and what the Kardashians care about the most—themselves and their business. Jackie also makes a series of other good points in the video, and if that doesn’t interest you, the makeup look she does is gorgeous (although simple).

In better, more fulfilling news, Solange released her latest album, When I Get Home last week, as well as an (Apple Music exclusive) film in which she uses Western (as in cowboy) motifs in reference to her childhood in Houston. The film also plays with a psychedelic New-Wave-esque aesthetic that feels like it would fit well in an episode Maniac. The heavy jazz sound that weaves its way through the album helps maintain this vision. Both the sound and the visuals of this album straddle the past and the future as if it is possible for them to exist side by side, simultaneously. If Seat at the Table gave us a Solange that had returned from a genesis, wise yet still uncertain of who exactly she was going to be or how she would express herself, When I Get Home demonstrates a Solange who isn’t worrying too much about how she comes off; instead she’s going to play and try new things and have fun. On “My Skin My Logo” her voice is playful and teasing, as she sings “I didn’t want a soccer, she had Gucci on her cleats”. I’m not sure (yet) what this lyric means but the energy it gives off seems more important. This a booty-popping, dancing on tables Solange and I love it. It makes me feel like we can all be so free. Favourite tracks include “Way to the Show” and “Down with the Clique”.

INFLUENCE: TAVI GEVINSON

I, like most people, first heard of Tavi Gevinson from reading her profile in the New Yorker. At the time, I was 12 years old and was intrigued by this person that I could have gone to school with, but who was so different from me that I definitely wouldn't have spoken to if we did. But a few months later I found myself scrolling Style Rookie, her now infamous blog, almost daily and not really understanding why. My family had recently moved from our small town in Southwest Virginia to an even smaller town on the island of Trinidad, and I was going through a major identity crisis. Away from my friends and the sticky politics of middle school friendships, it didn't really matter if anyone knew that I was into listening to musicals or Jimi Hendrix. I started to create a world for myself--one that protected and comforted me in a way nothing else did. Tavi and Style Rookie were a big part of that. 

Because of Tavi's work and presence, I discovered beauty in a lot of unexpected things and began to tell stories based on combined visual elements. I learnt about designers, music, art and films that I'd never heard of, and learnt to explore and love art without embarrassment. And when she started Rookie things were even better. She was able to create a community that has been long lasting and that I connected to so many people through. 

I think it's easy to be jealous of Tavi, or compare myself to her, especially being in her age group. But when I think about it, I'm so appreciative of the path that she's carved for young creatives, the spaces she's made possible. As she's grown in the spotlight, she's continued to be honest and open, and I still love learning about new things because of something she shares on Instagram or in her extremely insightful Editor Letters for Rookie. Sure, it's easy to be jealous of her, but it feels so much better to be inspired by her. 

January Favourites

READING

Naomi Shimada is one of the most inspiring people I follow on Instagram and I was even more inspired after reading  this feature on Refinery29 UK , where she talks about her favourite books and her relationship with learning 

Naomi Shimada is one of the most inspiring people I follow on Instagram and I was even more inspired after reading this feature on Refinery29 UK, where she talks about her favourite books and her relationship with learning 

Each time I pull my turtleneck’s tight tube of fabric over my head, I’m reminded of its essential appeal: its ability to protect, both metaphorically and materially.
— Kelsey Mckinney

Kelsey Mckinney wrote about the history of turtlenecks, their association with power and creativity, and their comfort as security

Durga Chew Bose wrote beautifully and elegantly about Call Me By Your Name and I read the whole thing with a stupid grin on my face

I've always been a big fan of Nora Ephron, but after watching Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally for the first time this holiday season, my adoration grew. Her interview in 2012 with Believer just proves why her influence is everlasting. 

RookieMag's Editor's Letter: Utopia. IF YOU READ ANYTHING THIS WEEK, THIS MONTH, THIS YEAR, LET IT BE THIS. 

WATCHING

Mindhunter on Netflix. I'm not really a big fan of murder crime mystery kind of things, but I watched this (relatively) new show in about a week. It provides an intriguing look into how the FBI came to understand serial killers as we know them now, and profiles a few (dare I say) iconic serial killers of our time. Jonathan Groff is amazing in it and I can't wait for the second season.

grown-ish. I never did watch black-ish but I love Yara Shahidi and her Instagram always gives me a laugh, so I thought I would check grown-ish out. I love it. I anticipate every episode, which is the perfect blend of hilarious and relatable. Also there are SO MANY attractive men. Like so many. 

LISTENING

The New Yorker Radio Hour: “Deportation in America”. It's disappointing that immigrants constantly have to prove that they are worthy of living in the countries they immigrate to. Unfortunately that's the world we live in. This episode of TNYRH was a really powerful listen and demonstrates the resilience, the bravery and the power of the people that are often dehumanized. 

This is: Angel Olsen. I definitely associate Angel Olsen with being creative and so I've been playing her a lot, especially when I'm writing in my journal in the mornings.

WEARING: Le Labo’s Vanille 44

Vanille.jpg

I got this as a birthday gift when I was in Paris and I've worn it everyday since. The smell is the perfect blend of sweet vanilla and crushed black pepper, and it always reminds me of Paris.