Saturday, January 31, 2015

living against the blur

i don't want to be jobhunting with you. i don't want to discard our creative impulses in exchange for the empty promises of security and routine, material comfort and health insurance. our eyes are burning from reading about job descriptions, qualifications, and salary ranges commensurate with experience. let's turn off our screens. from now on, we'll refuse to be precarious. let's think bigger and never, ever sarcastically scoff about "just livin' the dream." because we truly will be. let's live our lives in a way that doesn't make it seem like the years are passing us by in a blur. let's start today.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

on (not) keeping it cool

at the end of this past month, i went "home" for the holidays. waking up early on christmas eve, i drove my sister's car to a small deli in the town where we grew up to get a few items for breakfast.

hey punk!

at first, i couldn't tell if this voice was directed at me as i walked to the end of the narrow grocery aisle. 

yeah, i'm talking to you, it continued.

i looked up to see a friendly, familiar face--the guitarist/vocalist of my favorite local band when i was 14 years old. there we stood, almost two decades later catching up. he self-deprecatingly announced that he has stuck around all these years, "living the dream." i told him how i've been in philly for a while now and he asked if i was still playing music. to which i responded that every new year i hope to start a band again...but never do. maybe this will be the year?

he's been recording stuff in his basement and he unenthusiastically promised to send me a link to his bandcamp page. as i was driving back to my sister's house i thought about how great his band was back in the day. and later on i listened to their discography as i wrapped presents; fond memories of that diy community of my youth rushing back to me. 

but i also wondered, why couldn't i tell him that? why did i mostly just feel sadness for his current situation, past glories collecting dust as he ages further into obscurity? perhaps if we shared these sentiments with each other more often it wouldn't be this way. 

how come our culture pressures us to keep it so cool? why are we discouraged from honestly sharing how much we respect and appreciate the people that have touched our lives? 

a couple weeks later, i found myself working at the radical bookstore in philly. the phone rang and the man on the end was looking to speak to someone who took care of ordering. i asked if he was looking to place an order and he responded, "i do a zine called cometbus and i was wondering if you all needed more copies of the back issues?"

and i kept it cool.

on the phone with aaron cometbus, one of the most legendary zine writers of the underground punk world, i remained calm and professional, despite becoming slightly friendlier as i counted the number of back issues on our shelf. 

after i hung up the phone i wondered, why did i keep it so cool? even though i demonstrated that i was familiar with his zine, why did i not feel comfortable saying how much i appreciated his work over the decades? maybe it's because i just assumed he knows and didn't want to hear it. he probably gets that all the time, right?

but what about my friend from my home town? and what about people from the past that are no longer with us? those that we now recognize as creative geniuses, but who--in their time--either toiled in obscurity themselves or struggled with mental health issues that prevented them from realizing their own greatness. 

as my friend ak thompson recently wrote about radical feminist icon shulamith firestone after she quietly passed away in 2012:

No mention is ever made of our collective failure, of the gulf between our willingness to concede Firestone's brilliance and our incapacity to realize a single one of her goals. Under venal conditions such as these, who in their right mind wouldn't retreat?

so, i think it's time for us to stop keeping it cool. let's remember to tell the people in our lives that we love and appreciate them. and let's stop being afraid to tell those whose creative and political work has inspired us that they should never give up and that what they do truly matters to us. 

we all deserve much more. 

Monday, January 05, 2015

new year/full moon

a lot people have anxiety about new year's; the intense social expectations to have fun and make meaningful resolutions for the year ahead.

i love new year's. i love celebrating with the most important people in my life. i love creating a more mindful space to reflect on where i have been and to consciously dream about where i would like to go. i love new beginnings. and i love a good party.

but this year was a little different. my current life in philadelphia feels plagued by stagnation so i decided i wanted to celebrate new year's elsewhere. but then after spending holiday time with family i came back to drop my luggage off and soon realized that i couldn't afford to leave.

so i just made the best of it. i entertained a few party possibilities where friends might be. and then, the night before, reality came crushing down on me reminding me how much i'm ready to move on, more forward, and challenge myself once again. i needed a new year's of solitude to think it all through.

so i made soup. i read and played my guitar. and i reorganized the desk in my bedroom--the one where i finally finished writing my master's thesis this past year. listening to the new throwback hip hop station on my radio, as the night went on, i separated a massive pile of recycled paper from year-old christmas cards and other personal items to save.

and then at midnight i turned off my lights and enjoyed the new year fireworks from my third-floor bedroom window. the impressive show exploded in front of the ben franklin bridge for several minutes. and i was alone, but it felt just right.

* * *

a few days later the first full moon of the new year arrived. yesterday also saw unseasonably warm weather in philly which combined for an extra weird day.

in the late morning, before i biked through light rain to my job, one of the active collective members of the bookstore where i volunteer announced over the listserve that she was leaving the collective. her message simply listed all of the responsibilities that other people would now need to take on in her absence.

less than an hour later, i arrived at the coffeeshop where i work to pay the bills. i was immediately informed that the newest worker (who started in the fall) had been fired that morning.

i stared at the new 2015 calendar as i washed dishes in the back and saw that, sure enough, it was a full moon: upheaval. endings. transitions. but also, new beginnings. new possibilities abound right now.

exhausted after a long shift, i went to bed early last night. in the middle of the night i woke up to the clearing sky giving way to the bright, raging moon pouring into my room. and i couldn't fall back asleep for more than an hour.

i was awoken again a few hours later by a brilliant sunrise through another window. a new day has begun. and i'm ready.