Tuesday, July 29, 2014

There have been so many periods in my life that have been so important to me. Periods no one else would understand unless they were there. Things no one else would understand. High school, college, Utah, Israel. We always think about the individuals who have shaped us. The people we've loved, the people who didn't love us enough. I am someone guilty of forgetting how significant community can be. Those periods. High school. College. Utah. Israel. Those communities that no one other than those present would understand. How often we give more weight to the individuals who have affected us over the communities that have shaped us. No one else knows my high school experience except for the high school friends I get to see twice a year. My college girls. The only four friends I ever made during those awkward 2.5 years at CU Denver. How only they can truly know what certain losses mean to me. No one else knows my community in Utah, how the 40 of us would spend every holiday together. No one else knows my Israel experience. No one else in my life can stand next to that experience without judgement except the 50 other people on that bus with me for those ten days that felt like 10 years. I am grateful for the communities that have shaped me, even as I stray from them.

When I was 18, I was in love with an alcoholic. He was 27. He was my boss. I looked him up the other day and found his instagram and chose not to follow it. I have always loved men who throw me away when the next best thing comes along. I have always loved men who treat me like garbage. I have no reason for being this way. I was raised better than this. I loved a man for 12 years who was always running away. I let these men and the men who came before them and the men who came after, I let them shape me. I never let the women in my life shape me. I never let my communities shape me. They shape me, to be sure, but not because I let them.

I am in love with a man I will not let myself love. I am in love with a woman I will not let myself love. 

Tonight I spent the night in the company of four people with whom I spent ten days in a controversial country on the other side of the world. We never knew each other before and haven't seen each other since. Tonight we aired our gossip, our secrets. Tonight I realized just how vulnerable I am to being shaped by anyone at all. And how strong I stand in spite of change. How capable I am of remaining myself while changing everything about my life. 

On the way home, I let the iPod do its duty with the car's media player that I still don't quite understand how to work. I wrote this in my head much more articulately while driving the darkness of highway 93 home than I'm writing it here. You'll just have to take my word for it. 

Tonight I let the iPod start at the beginning of the alphabet and play through the five or so "A" songs it took me to get home, the route that's guided my journey since I was 16.

When I was 16  I was in love with an 18 year old boy who broke my heart over and over for the next ten years. When I was 25 years old I went to Israel and re-met that 27 year old alcoholic boss, that 16 year old boy I fell in love with when I was too young to know any better. But I also met the women who would hold a mirror up to my face and say, "no," and say, "is this really what you want," and say, "why?" 

Tonight on my way home, windows down, heat on, hair in a braid that slowly came apart in the midnight wind, I started with "About Today" on The National's live album, The Virginia Ep. Followed by "Above and Below" by The Bravery, then "Above You," by The Whitest Boy Alive, then "Abraham" by Sufjan Stevens, then "The Absence of God" by Rilo Kiley, then "Absolute Beginners" by the one and only David Bowie, then "Absolutely Nothing" by Lily Allen. That's as far as I got, the song fading out as I pulled into the garage of my childhood home, my parents asleep upstairs. 

When I was 22 or 23, I was in the midst of a break up and I went to a Ben Fold's concert. Afterward, I idled my Honda C-RV outside the house of the boy who broke up with me and I wrote a blog entry about Ben Folds and high school and love, and when we got back together, that boy told me it was tactless for me to refer to him as "the boy I'm in love with" in such a public manner. I was going to spend the rest of my life with that boy, once.

I've never been one for tact. I've never been one to tell stories for the sake of anyone but myself. There's no other reason I'd play this shitty Bravery song on repeat. Except it makes me tell my story. Sometimes my friends say, aren't you embarrassed to write this stuff on the internet? Aren't you embarrassed to expose yourself like this?

Do you know that you people click on my blog links ten times more often when I mention the word "love" in my little facebook/twitter link pitch than when I don't? When I mention art, my school life, my boring adventures, I'll get a few hits. But when I suggest a turbulent love life, romance, pain, almost everyone I never talk to follows a link to my blog. I get it. I do the same thing. I just want you to take a step back from your judgement for a second, from the validation other peoples' turbulence gives to your lives--or takes from it--and think about why you clicked on this link or why you read this blog.

What I realized tonight is: my life is so much bigger than me. Everything around me is so much bigger than I am. I have known this before, but is is so easy to forget. What I realized tonight is that I am grateful for every single person who has shaped me, whether they've known it or not, whether I've known it or not. I am grateful for the people, most of all, who have been good to me. Who have tried to teach me to want more, who have tried to teach me that I deserve better, not because I sit idly by, but because I do the opposite. Or try to, at least.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

This #11

It's been like six months since I did a This post. You don't care. That's fine. I care. Anyway...

1. CodeAcademy
Code Academy is wonderful. It's a website where you can learn how to program for free. It has actual exercises and you do the coding right on their website. It's responsive and gives you feedback when you do something incorrectly and you can learn a variety of languages and practice them doing various projects and activities. So far I've done the HTML/CSS course and I'm now doing the JavaScript course. I also did a few activities that only require knowledge of HTML & CSS. The website is incredibly well designed and easy to navigate, the courses are even funny sometimes, and though I won't become a professional doing these courses, they're giving me a solid foundation that I can build upon in my Media Arts + Practice classes at USC and on my own.
I applied for some summer funds from school so I could take time off and not have a summer job and just commit myself to learning programming basics and they kindly obliged, so every day this month, I'm doing CodeAcademy. Some days I don't actually do an activity on the site and instead I just try and frame everything I've learned in my mind for myself in a way that will help me remember it. But once I know the basics, I'm pretty sure it's going to be all about practice and reiteration, just like anything. 

2. Duolingo
I'm a pretty firm believer that if you're going to learn a second language, you need to be doing so in the place where that language is spoken so that you can immerse yourself in it. I've had at least seven years of often pretty bad Spanish classes throughout high school in college, but I also lived in Buenos Aires for small bits of time here and there and I live in a neighborhood where Spanish is the primary language spoken, but when I'm out of LA and in my Colorado suburbs, I don't get to practice at all. Not to mention there are a ton of words I'm lacking in my Spanish vocabulary simply because I never have to use them. But I have a translation exam coming up soon for my PhD program and I need to be able to translate three pages of Spanish literary theory text into English. So I've been practicing with Duolingo, which I read about in GOOD Magazine, which is another This, but one I'm too lazy to write about right now.
Duolingo's actually pretty fun to use. More fun than Rosetta Stone, which I've also tried, but the best part is, it's free. In the piece I read in GOOD on the project's creator, Luis von Ahn [who also created reCAPTCHA, another This I'm too lazy to write about], he talks about how we want people to learn multiple languages for jobs, school, etc, but often times access to that knowledge can cost a lot of money. Lower income people trying to boost their resume by listing a second language usually don't have access to something like Rosetta Stone or language classes, which can cost thousands of dollars. And just as awesome is the reason why Duolingo is capable of providing this free language learning service: "Learning languages in Duolingo is completely free – now and forever – with no ads or hidden fees. Wondering how that can be? It’s because you create value by translating real-world documents while you’re learning. Here’s how it works: Somebody who needs a webpage translated uploads it to Duolingo. That document then gets presented to Duolingo students who can translate it in order to practice the language they are learning. When the document is fully translated, Duolingo returns it to the original content owner who, depending on the type of document they uploaded, pays for the translation." One of the websites that pays for this service is Buzzfeed. So you're learning a language and doing actual work. Fucking. Epic.

3. Blood of an Author Box
A few months ago, Amaranth Borsuk stopped me at AWP and asked if I'd write a word on a microscope slide. She explained that a woman named Eleanor Antin created something called Blood of a Poet Box back in 1965. She collected blood samples from 100 poets. Amaranth asked her students what the blood of the author is in the 21st century, and they answered language, so she and others were having writers write one word each on glass slides. The full list of contributors can be found here.
This photo is from the project's facebook page.
My word is listed in the box above. I bet you can guess what it is...

4. This video of an abandoned Los Angeles, which makes me feel so many things, for instance: confusion, also awe, also breathing. It makes me feel breathing.


5. The photographs of Nicolas Bruno.
All of the above are his photos, more of which can be found at his website. I love everything about them. I love their subject matter. I love their composition. I love, more than anything, their color. I'm about to bite the bullet and buy a really nice camera with my birthday money, and I've been diving into the endless abyss that is photog websites and I have never been more in love with any photos than I am with these. I want my wedding photos to look like this. I want my dress to be lit on fire. I want to be naked in the Salton Sea with antlers on my head. I want a dance floor of guests covered in smoke under tea lights in the dark.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Los Angeles is a place that tears me in half because in Los Angeles I am whole and my Colorado blood doesn't know what to make of that. Colorado is the place I was born and I hated it most of my life until I left, which is usually how things go with me. Except that I never had to leave LA to love it. I loved it in the before, I love it in the during, and it's going to take a force of nature to pull me away permanently. But Colorado is a force of nature. 

The ridiculous thing about all this is I don't have an actual decision to make. I am obligated to spend at least the next three years in LA finishing my PhD. And since only a handful of people have ever finished my program in five years, I've probably got at least four more years left there. But even in three years, if I finish that soon, I'll be 28. Things might be so different then just like they're so different now because three years ago I was 23 and living in Salt Lake City and hating it even though I now miss it and I was in a relationship I thought was forever and I sort of figured that relationship would dictate my future living situation, which clearly demonstrates why that relationship wasn't a permanent one.

When I drive around Los Angeles, I feel like I'm driving around a place I've always lived. And when I drive around Colorado, I feel like that too, because I have always lived here, relatively speaking. Some days I wake up certain that I will spend the rest of my life here, raise my kids here just like I was raised here, and witness the same views I've always witnessed, huge sky, mountain range like waves crashing on the shore of the plains, Denver shooting up tentatively in the distance. I even started looking for houses to buy in the Highlands and Five Points a few weeks ago. [Un]Fortunately, pretty much everything is selling for above asking price right now so a Colorado house is not in my immediate future. A Los Angeles house would actually be more likely since I know I'll continue to live there and since I'm spending so much money on rent when I could potentially be investing that money in a home. 

The point is, I've always known I've been torn between two places that feel equally like home in drastically different ways, but this tug of war is pulling at me harder now than it ever has before for reasons I can't really seem to figure out. I am a fiercely loyal person. It's why I have a hard time ending relationships that are bad for me and a hard time transitioning to brands or stores or mentors or friends that might better suit my needs. And it is impossible to feel equally loyal to two places at once. But never have I felt more loyal to Colorado than I do now. And maybe because of that, because I feel like I'm leaning too far in one direction, I have also never felt more loyal to the place I might lose because of Colorado. 

How do you live in two places at once? I guess I'm technically doing it right now, but it doesn't feel like enough. I think the reason I have to stay committed to academia and my career is because otherwise my brain and heart shred themselves into bits looking for answers to questions I don't even need to be asking. Let's just say I also haven't felt this strong of an urge to run away alone to the desert since the summer two years ago when I was transitioning between CO and CA, between love and not love, between commitment and freedom. I made all the wrong decisions then. Maybe this time I'll figure out a way to make the right ones. 

Anyway, enough crisis talk. Here's Colorado:

Pano of the place where I was born
Click to make it larger

Sky

Poetry Reading, Counterpath [inside & outside]

Play spaces

Mixed Taste [Polish Poetry & BBQ] 

Denver

Ken Caryl Valley 

4th of July

Red Rocks

Wedding!

Golden