I was going to not post something for July because I hadn’t created anything this month, surprise surprise. But then I really didn’t want to, so I thought of sharing stuff I’ve created in the past, so here is a series of photos, some I took and some I didn’t, that inspired me to create color pallets in InDesign. If I was still a university student I would go back in and edit them a little bit to make them look better but I’m no longer a university student ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
I made these to mess around in InDesign but also because I liked the distinct colors and shades in each photo. Some have many different striking colors and many are gradients. As a person who has never, ever, never taken art classes or knows anything about color theory, I thought they looked nice and it was cool to mess around with the idea of what a color pallet is and what complementary colors look like in gradients and in difference.
I can’t believe I am so spoiled by TV and the new, amazingly creative stories that are being told. They’re so funny, devastating, cruel, compassionate, and, ultimately, relatable; all in one show, often one episode. How?! There are 2 TV shows I watched in June I can’t shut up about: Fleabag and Ramy. While I was going to write a review, and am going to back down from that because there is just so much to any one episode of both of these shows it was too intimidating to write a review. I knew I’d miss something, and as with TV shows, the best reviews are in the details. However, I do want to write a little bit about how it makes me wonder how we are, how society is, how I am, being deeply influenced by the new (imo, better) stories that are being told.
(Caveat to this whole blog post: all statements I am making are my own (lol) and from the perspective of a person who is 100% not an actor/anyone in any sort of TV/movie business. A simple consumer, like yourself (maybe).)
In an interview Phoebe Waller-Bridge said that Fleabag inspires her to be bolder. At first I thought, wow, because Waller-Bridge is such a great actor and Fleabag is such a well-developed character it’s easy for me to forget that Waller-Bridge is acting when she plays Fleabag. Fleabag’s impulsive, reckless, daring, audacity, and forthrightness is, of course, part of her character not synonymous with Waller-Bridge herself as a person.
Anyway, I write all of that because I’m curious how these characters, these complex, complicated, messy, almost hyper-realistic characters with layers of contemporary traumas and issues, are affecting their consumers, even including their writers. Living in a golden age of TV in terms of volume, access, and platforms for more of these incredibly well-written, complex, creative, genre-bending stories that increase representation not only in identity of writers and actors but also what kinds of stories are told. Having access to these different, bolder, less white stories, and heroines that feel more relatable and realistic than others before gives me permission to be bolder myself. To ask for more, to settle for less. As our new heroines are being written to stop accepting men’s shitty behavior that would have been written as a joke a few years ago, I am more confident in not accepting shitty behavior in my own life.
Watching Fleabag gives me confidence that there are women who act like her and that women can act like her. Not just that women can have scathingly dry wit, but that women don’t have to bite their tongue and say their incisive and biting remarks under their breath. Women can be (justifiably) angry and express it rather than stifling it. Women can steal things and piss other people off without caring. Women can be mischievous, loving, careless, grieving deeply, and so fucking funny all at once. Fleabag is so exciting to me because Waller-Bridge has SO well written and executed a character, plot, and relationships that really display an amazing amount of complexity not only in Fleabag, but also her sister and her father. You can see Fleabag inhabit all these aspects of herself, containing a multitude of feelings, desires, happiness, unhappiness, grief, trauma, and love, all without the show itself being too maudlin, over-the-top, or explicit. Fleabag feels so real to me and I think it’s half because I feel like her and half because I want to be her. I want to be more mischievous and care less. I want to be bold and brave and more forward.
The relatability of these shows bring their messages of trauma and healing, desire and exoticism, intensity of emptiness and loss, impulsive self-destruction and a deep compassion, the trickiness of bridging two cultures, two lands, and two life philosophies and without getting lost in it all, to a new level of salience. Both Ramy and Fleabag make me think about how these complications, contradictions, and tensions have played out in my life and added layers to my own humanity. The narratives I watch make patterns in my own life a little clearer.
So the question I have is now seeing these women on TV, how is that impacting me and a larger audience who is watching her? How am I/are we going to be bolder and more forward for watching this kind of TV, seeing these new stories? How am I going to care less and take more? I’m excited and mostly grateful for these new shows, for showing me possibilities I always knew I had, but never knew what it would look like to be. These shows and stories are so important to me because these new narratives show me what it might look like to boldly push the boundaries of patriarchy, to push the definition of “womanhood,” to push the boundaries of whiteness, particularly as a woman of color. I am reminded that to be more reckless, more careless, more loud, more honest, more woman, more non-white, more myself is really an act of breaking the power whiteness and patriarchy wants me to think it has over me, my mind, and my body.
I’ve decided not to write about Ramy in this blog post as deeply because there are just too many things this show brings up that I want to talk about, and I’m not a good enough writer, yet, to string all of those things together in a coherent and non-rambly way. This blog is rambly enough. However, I will bullet point just SOME of the things I love, love, loved from the show.
- The way it really religion and tradition with such respect, and really shows the tensions between this and millennial peer expectations and general young person desires.
- It is also so fucking funny.
- The way it also writes such full and complicated women!!!!! It dedicates a whole two episodes focusing solely on the sister, Dena, and the mom, Maysa.
- The double standards Dena must deal with as a woman are so clear and frustrating. The show does a great job of developing an emotional arc so when she meets a cute guy and goes over to his house, it is so hard to watch when he (unsurprisingly but still disappointingly) starts saying exotifying, racializing, and Islamophobic things towards her and excuses himself by saying he would kill to be anything but a boring white guy (that’s not the reason why you’re boring). This episode is so squirm-in-your-seat-real for all WOC out there.
- The Maysa episode was also AMAZING. It shows how Maysa feels, and is, overlooked, under-appreciated, and forgotten which I can’t imagine is an uncommon feeling for immigrant moms. It shows her desire for interaction and hurt getting mocked and ignored by other Americans. It also shows her desire for companionship and to be seen, and desired in general. It shows moms having feelings and sexuality which is amazing and never shown.
- Lastly, I love the end of the show and how it shows Ramy going back to Egypt to find himself and being so disappointed. Going back to a culture or country where everyone says you belong to, but not finding the magic, cultural key to solve your problems or find enlightenment is so REAL. Being a third-culture kid and feeling lost is so real and this show really nails that feeling throughout. I love it so much.
After reading “The Making of a Millennial Woman” by Rebecca Liu in Another Gaze, I have more thoughts than I could coherently write down but I chose a few excerpts from her essay that I think are so true, especially as I focused a lot on the relatability and exciting aspects of Fleabag to me. Liu points out that if we look deeper, push past the carefully crafted unlikeability-likeability of Fleabag, she’s not as thrilling as I first thought.
“Relatability as a critical tool leads only to dead ends, endlessly wielding a ‘we’ without asking who ‘we’ really are, or why ‘we’ are drawn to some stories more than others. What does it tell us that ‘we’ are meant to be drawn to women who live in elite social worlds, whose lifestyles many cannot afford, and whose rebellions against the world are always a little doomed and not that unconventional, even if we’re meant to think otherwise? Why are we so eager to graft relatability onto them? The irony of the ‘unlikeable woman’ is that their ‘abjection’ is likeable, even admirable, to us: they are sharper, wittier, and more beautiful than anyone we know, ideals taken to be ‘real’-life characters. Does celebrating relatability involve engaging with the lives of others, or taking flight from one’s own?
For all of the chatter about how revolutionary, powerful and important these fictional lives are, the Millennial Woman par excellence is a deeply disempowered human being. Fleabag has no friends, cannot talk about her trauma, and admits to relying on sex as a way to sustain her rapidly deteriorating sense of self-worth. …These women are not so much avatars for the emancipatory possibilities of womanhood as they are signs of a colossal social failure to provide substantive avenues of flourishing, care, and communal generosity.”
Procrastination is one of those ugly traits I’ve adopted into the creases of my personality and interwoven into my laundry of life so tightly that I’ve spent many a night agonizing over projects I should have finished earlier. Ironically, that includes this one as well. In contrast to many of my other childhood faux pas that I was encouraged to curb (tactlessness, the thrill of the fight, being unenthusiastic and cold in the face of opposition) procrastination was never one of them. Conversations with friends became peppered with fights over who had procrastinated the longest on an assignment – in essence, a dick measuring contest of mental concentration and fortitude. In a world where we have sublimated our ancestral desire for violent competition in the name of ‘propriety’ this is the arena we fought our battles in. And the most significant level of destruction was that of the self.
If ever there was a low-scoring power combination of personality traits it would be anxiety and procrastination. This is the professional calling card I’ve come to bear.
I’m learning to love it.
For my entire college career as my anxiety spiraled and my health declined, that one constant in my life became the crutch I needed to push aside my glaringly unresolved issues with validation through success and excuse my own detrimental behavior. I’d wrap my insecurities and guilt in platitudes like “you’ve done your best given the circumstances” even though I knew I had done far from that. Lying to myself became the best con I’d ever pulled. However, it wasn’t something I could sustain and make a life out of. Somehow, I had to pull myself out of the gutter.
So I did.
I would love to be able to tell you that I had a rock-bottom. That I failed a course or was fired from a job or lost a friendship over my unhealthy behavior. Truth is – I never did. It was entirely insignificant. I woke up one morning (having labored over months of knowing I was wallowing in a cesspool of my own insecurities and not knowing how to stay afloat) and decided I needed to do better.
Simply put, instead of fighting against the anxiety and fear fueling my insecurities about self-worth amid my peer’s successes, I took that little anxiety bitch and gave it a kiss and said “we’re gonna do this whether you like it or not, so buckle the fuck up.”
And we did.
I stopped waiting for someone to give me permission to do better, and I stopped beating myself up over having fucked it up this far.
I started exercising every day to help with my anxiety and better my health. I cut out most of the sugary shit I had been eating just to feel satisfied. I applied to graduate school. I took it upon myself to stop saying “tomorrow” to projects I wanted to do, and to say yes to more things.
Basically, I’m living a life entrenched in that awful feeling people who lean on procrastination intimately know – being in the middle of things. I’m slowly coming to terms with the idea that life is a process that you never reach the ending of, and you can either live it entirely hoping for the grand finale or you can embrace living in medias res.
The moral of the story – at some point I said to myself that I deserve it to myself to do better and to be better. You can too.
I started this hoop in late January and it’s taken me until now. Which is maybe good because it’s taken me about that long to process everything that’s happened. Earlier that month my roommate had a completely unexpected and unforeseen brain bleed that led to severe brain damage that has really changed the course of his life and his loved ones so drastically.
I met him in college where he was a pretty popular and friendly guy. I always wished we were closer friends, but then he graduated and I was like, welp, I’ll never see him again, and didn’t think of him for two years until I graduated and ended up in Philly. I posted on Facebook that I was in Philly because I moved here for a job and had no network in the area. He was one of the first people to reply to my post saying that he was also in Philly and that we should hang out. It was so unexpected, but completely him. Of course he would reach out to a distant college acquaintance in need of support and friendship.
A few months later I was looking for a place to live and so I asked him about a neighborhood and he replied, why don’t we look at this four person house? To which my immediate reaction was, what? But only in my mind. I didn’t know he would be willing to live with me. By great fortune of timing and placement we moved in together last November. My life post-grad was starting to be an actual life with new friends and reconnections to boot!
By December we were hosting parties, with an arts and crafts area no less, eating brunch in our nook, and collectively trying new recipes to feed one another. We began planning even more events, like an elaborate Spirited Away themed party where me and another roommate would recreate the famous train scene with Chihiro and No-Face in a classic Philly trolley. We were a house that loved to cook; breakfast for dinner, fried okra, mac & cheese, you name it. There was no shortage of homey feelings and enjoying each other’s presence in our new house.
I went home for the winter holidays feeling good about my situation, especially after having such a long and rocky transition into permanent housing and arriving in a completely new city, lonely and lost after graduating. I was so happy I even wrote a letter to him expressing my gratefulness at his welcoming enthusiasm and warmth since I moved to Philly. I expressed that he just made me feel so at ease, at ease in our home, at ease in a new city, and at ease in a rekindled friendship. I don’t take ease for granted. It is a blessing. I didn’t give end up giving the letter to him though. I thought it was too sappy.
I was so excited for what the new year could hold in terms of building upon what was great foundation in November and December. I was excited for my new life in Philly, building upon our friendship, and hopefully stealing his friends because that’s how adults make friends right?
January was like a massive, massive punch in the face. The brain injury that was sustained put him in a coma and information trickled out slowly. My two other housemates and I oscillated between disbelief, hopefulness, and despair. As the weeks crawled by we settled more and more into our new normal, recognizing that he wasn’t coming home anytime soon, which honestly still feels like a new normal to adjust to. There wasn’t as much whistling, arts and crafts, or ease in our house anymore.
I started this hoop when I was reminded of a quote my friend sent to me after my dad passed a few years ago.
“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.” ― Gail Caldwell
This quote and this experience has made me reflect again on the role of loss in all of our lives. Each loss is a unique individual experience, but everyone loses someone eventually, so in some ways, it’s also the most universal experience. For the way loss alters all of our lives, we still do so poorly in culturally reckoning with it.
My housemate is not dead, but it certainly is a huge fucking loss.
We lost a great housemate and we lost what we could have created together. We lost awesome parties and great food. We lost a friendship, we lost what was probably going to be a great half a year at least (our lease was up over the summer). We lost what could have been right now.
But honestly, it’s such a little fragment of his life compared to the bright life he also shared with his friends and family. His parents lost a particular future with their thriving only son. His girlfriend lost a connection with her partner with whom she shared a past, present, and future life in addition to a great deal of affection and care. His friends lost a certain confidant, someone with only his particular brand of humor, someone with only his perspectives and thoughts. Relationships were drastically and abruptly altered. Everyone who knew him lost a certain expected future with him. One they thought they could count on.
Anyone who knows loss knows that it doesn’t go away. It just sticks with you and you just have to deal with it. I will never get back a 2019 where we lived together and developed a cool friendship. Loss is forever. Ever ever. You had something and now you don’t. Every loss I sustain takes something from me.
Loss is also in the details. In the particulars. Which is why every loss is so uniquely damaging. Each loss takes something different from us. You lose the particular role they played in your life. You lose their smile, you lose their voice, you lose their touch. You lose snacking habits and TV shows together. You lose conversational quirks and idiosyncrasies you would make fun of them for. You lose the emotional space they held for you and you for them. The hole someone you love leaves in your life is both unfillable and unending.
We absorb loss because we sustain damage when something is taken from us, usually by force. We absorb the loss’ impact and it changes us. I am different because of my dad’s death and I am different having lost (a version of) my housemate (and friend). We never get over our losses. It certainly changes how we feel about them, how we hold them, how we make space for them in our lives, but we’re never over them.
Loss teaches you so much and I think there are certainly ways my life has been positively impacted after loss, but there is no silver lining. Losses are excruciating and exacting and overall, really horrible. And yet, for all the pain losses bring, the price you pay for caring about someone, I remain so grateful to have had my father and my housemate in my life for whatever period of time I did.
A work colleague had a close family friend’s daughter passed away this weekend. With every loss I encounter, tangentially or very personally, I come back to the question, What is life after loss? How do you reconstruct your world without that person in both big and little ways? We are constantly re-creating our worlds after loss and I don’t have an answer as to how the impossible happens, but it always happens. Life after loss is always different because loss always changes us.
OKAY, let’s try this again.
Megan and I thought of the idea for this blog in December. We decided to have this blog to hold us accountable for creating and publishing ONE blog post PER MONTH in 2019. It is now…May…and we have a total of 1 blog post from December explaining the premise of the blog. As a blog dedicated to working through failure and trying imperfectly, what a hilarious way to start off our imperfect blog. If you want more explanation click here: https://wearetrying.blog/about-this-blog/
We are trying (again) starting with my next post.
In true millennial fashion, Guilu and I are here to explore the most uncomfortable of tasks – becoming comfortable with failing. Join us as we try out new projects, spill our frustrations with the world around us, and always come back to the same conclusion that any output is good output! Here we are hoping to inspire ourselves in 2019 to create without inhibition and to hold each other accountable when either of us falls prey to inaction. Hopefully you’ll join us along the way.