Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A brand new invention? One year is a long time...



I've never been that good at titles, so borrowing from Vanilla Ice is just...expected at this point, right? Anyway, I'm not sure who I'm talking to, as I've more or less let this blog gather dust in the corner. But I'm here now, wanting to give it another spin, and start writing...things. Things that aren't necessarily related or news or about anything specific. To extend the hell out of a metaphor if I want, and to cut to the bone blunt if I want as well. I think I need to get my own space back.

Today I was thinking about my Chicagoistversary. One year ago today, as I was coming out of a friend's funeral, I got an email that my very first article for Chicagoist was posted. My first byline! It made a day full of sadness, uncomfortable conversation, and uncertainty so much brighter. I felt like it might be the start of something entirely new and very good for me.

I find it so funny, in reflection on this, that the title of the piece was "Come On, See Happy." It was a time I was trying to make sense of someone being so unhappy that they felt there was nothing else for them, which is something a lot of people have been talking about lately. It was also a time when I wasn't that happy. I was trying to heal and figure out my life after a sad series of events that left me vacant one significant, person shaped space in my heart, and I was mostly hiding instead of healing. Home every night, weeks of tornado shows, half-assed attempts to be with people when I wasn't feeling like putting things out there, really. I wasn't really happy. But I was trying. I took a kayaking trip like one I'd missed out on due to injury a few years back with new friends, and it was amazing. I was doing things I always wanted to do instead of just *saying* "I've always wanted to do something like that" and getting so much out of it.

I participated in GISHWHES, which had a huge impact on my confidence, my sense of adventure, and my willingness to let myself be rejected. I pretty much credit GISHWHES with me even being at Chicagoist, since it was that newly found confidence that led me to respond to the tweet asking for A&E writers instead of talking myself out of it with well thought out points about how I didn't have the right qualifications.

But here I am, a year later. I have interviewed a member of the Deftones, who I listened to obsessively in high school, met and interviewed the creators of the Thrilling Adventure Hour, which both me and my boyfriend adore and led to meeting quite a few other people, and interviewed one of my all time favorite comedians. I've explored Chicago's museums and gotten to see concerts I otherwise wouldn't have, and had the opportunity to treat my friends and boyfriend to these things from time to time.

It's quite a different place I'm in than the one that I was in a year ago. The afore mentioned boyfriend makes the word seem inadequate to describe the relationship. It's a partnership unlike anything I've experienced, and he's got the most amazing heart. I honestly think I could not love anyone more than I love him, and for the first time, I feel like I have that, too. It's not without its problems, but it is standing the test of time, and I feel like I'm growing and learning, and finding that I only want to keep doing those things, and keep getting closer.

I'm busier than I have been in a long time. And while the things I'm doing are AWESOME, there are times I wish I didn't have such a packed schedule. Oftentimes I'm trying to squeeze an article in after the day job and before sleep, or on lunch, and rushing to cover a story after work and start the cycle again. In regards to the day job, I'm a forever contractor in a department that's not going to expand ever again. I would love to keep working there, but for what I make, and now planning for what I want the future to be like, it may not be practical to stay, and the reality is there may not be anything I can do but start over.

Sometimes I feel like I've been a bit of a bad friend, not keeping in touch as much as I want to, and not having the energy to do the things I used to. Between stories and relationships, my calendar is more full than it ever has been, so a night like tonight that's my second one in a row at home feels decadent, necessary and comes with a side of guilt.

There's ups and downs. Lately, the stress of finances, figuring out what my next step on the day-job level will be, family and friend obligations and some growing pains in the relationship have made me feel a little bit more down than usual. A little more frenzied.

It was a good time, then, to look back a year. It reminds me to see happy. It reminds me of the great things I've seen and done since then. It reminds me of a time when all I did was take care of myself, even to my own detriment, and helps me try and find a better balance now.  So I think I'll start writing here more regularly, and if anyone is reading this, poke me if I don't, eh? And I think I'll make sure my nails are a new shade a week instead of shards of orange glitter that are a month old, because that makes me feel pampered and pretty and like I care about how I look.  I think I'll start yoga again, because it made my body feel better, more toned, and it was relaxing. And it might seem too ambitious, and like too much change at once, but one year later, I know I'm capable. Time to let the rubber meet the road.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Who lies? Depression or me?

This is going to be the last refuge of someone who doesn't feel much like she has one tonight.  Everything I did, everything that happened tonight seems to have been at my own hand. I was the one who took the wheel of the ship and steered that thing straight into the most obvious, giant iceberg there ever was.

So what's my problem? I get an unsinkable, and I feel like I have to be the one to sink it? Or was the whole thing full of holes in the first place?

I feel like when I looked in the mirror, I thought I maybe looked kinda ok, but in reality, I've got the reverse problem of most people.  Most people look in the mirror and they see things that they wished they didn't see, and how they're fat here, or their nose is stupid or their acne is all acting up again. And I see "hey, I like this on me" and feel good. Then I see a picture or something, of me in that favorite outfit, and suddenly "oh yeah, my nose IS stupid." Or worse.

Simultaneously, maybe the picture of myself I see, or saw, as someone who cared, and someone who could be an adult about things, and who could rationalize, observe and find a solution is wrong. I have to consider that the person I am now isn't who I ever aimed to be and the problem is me, right?

I keep running away from the whole problem being me, but maybe that's the whole problem in the first place. And I feel helpless because I don't know how to stop feeling what I'm feeling, and I don't know how to change myself to be the "right" version I wanted me to be.

Instead i make things worse and worse until there's no one on earth who would want to deal with me.

And maybe none of this is true, and it's a really sad, really angry, really stupid, really emotional idiot writing this.  But it feels really true right now. And I have no other place to put this. And I wish i did.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Running Off At The Mouth: A Rant







This can’t wait.  So I’m posting mid-day, trapped in the lovely Polar Vortex, wrapped up in blankets in my cube.  Forewarning: This is a rant. It will be long.  And it will discuss and use profanity.  Deal with it or don’t, your choice.

It seems to me that polite discourse is a thing of the past.   The term certainly is, but I’m serious.   And I’m angry about it.
Because a lot of the horrible, jack-assy statements are coming from groups of people that I identify with, people who, by the definition of the word they label themselves with (nerd) should know a thing or two about people making them feel inferior, or feel like shit.

Of course, it’s not just nerds. It’s reality tv stars and football players and plenty of other people.
People have lots of opinions these days but they can’t stand if someone has another one.  And they can’t stand if what they say has consequences.  Yes, you can believe that being gay is an abomination.   But that doesn’t mean you’re free of consequences when the network you work for feels like that’s not a message they want to promote.  Hell, you can believe that gravity is an unproven theory, but that doesn’t mean that if you jump off the roof you won’t bash your skull in on the pavement.    And that’s a flawed analogy. I know that.  But the point is, what you say DOES have an impact. 

We’ve all heard “agree to disagree agreeably” but does anyone practice that anymore?

I think the breaking point for me was listening to an episode of a podcast that I really enjoy, The Indoor Kids.  It’s a video-game podcast by definition, but topics vary to include movies, music, books and pretty much anything else. I like it because the hosts are charming, funny, and interesting.   The topics that they’ve brought up have made me think differently about games, and introduced me to games I might want to play, alone or with my favorite player one in the universe.   They talk about the community, about what a “real gamer” is and isn’t and why people have to label it, about good stories and bad corners of the game world.   And it’s fun and interesting. 

There was recently an episode that touched on religion.  I usually peruse the comments but I don’t often say anything.  There was some hate towards what they were saying. Then in the most recent episode, it got worse.  People are throwing around “Fuck you” and “go die” about things like how many people do jobs working with their hands anymore. 

I guess it’s just too much lately. So I’m saying something.
What.the.hell?

Why are people like this?  Why do you come in, upset about a statistic, and instead of being a reasonable person, you attack someone personally? I’m seeing a lot more of this writing for Chicagoist too.

One of my personal favorites was a comment I got on a story I did regarding an artist project in the Bridgeport neighborhood.  To distill it all down, it’s a big giant camera they plan to put in the middle of the neighborhood.  The person whose picture is taken gets little prints, and meanwhile the back of the camera displays the picture to the whole neighborhood.  The idea is to introduce people to their neighbors in a fun, interactive way.  

You wouldn’t think that’d be controversial in any way.  But here comes the Internet, folks.   Because one of the first comments that I got on that article was all “Fuck you, I’m from Bridgeport and you little pigs say it’s not friendly and you’re pretentious and blah blah blah” (paraphrased, but she managed to call myself and the artist pigs right off the bat). 

Yeah lady, I’m feeling the love.   Definitely a friendly neighborhood. Totally want to go now.

Do people stop and think that they’re representing something larger than themselves?  For example, the Bridgeport neighborhood, gamers, nerds or the Internet?

And people love those things. Dearly.  But do you want the stereotypes to be true? Because when you go lowest common denominator and unintelligently respond to something you disagree with with name-calling, insults, threats and personal attacks…you’re detrimental to the things you love.  If you’re going to be the 13 year old screaming “FAGGOT!” in a headset, then you’re the one who’s making less people play that game you love to do that in.   You’re part of the problem that keeps potential players away.   And if there’s enough of that, maybe that whole thing just goes away.  And guess what? That thing you love so much, you destroyed.

If you’re the one screaming about how friendly Bridgeport is, you filthy horrible pigs, then you’re the one who’s making people go
“oo. Yeah, I don’t really feel like going there.”

What if, just a theory, we decided to disagree agreeably?

What if instead of telling someone to go die because they don’t like Super Mario 3D World, you say something like “what didn’t you like about it?” or if you don’t really want to know, you just say some of the reasons why you did like it (super awesome cat suit, amazing music, tons of challenging levels, fun co-op….cool integration of Wii U features…but I digress.)

I just wish people would think about things.   Yeah, TARDIS stands for Time and Relative Dimension in Space, not Time and Relational Dimension in Space, but what exactly do you accomplish if you bully someone for not knowing that?   Are you helping the show by being a jerk to someone just getting into it who didn’t know that? 

For that matter, what if you really really like something and someone else doesn’t?  Does it make someone stupid to like America’s Next Top Model because the show is corny/cheesy/stupid?   Or maybe, does that person really like the photographs, and sometimes like to zone out on the equivalent of reality junk food?  So maybe we’re not learning anything amazing.  Maybe there’s no compelling story line. Maybe you hate it.  Maybe I like it.  (And I do.  So shoot me.)  That’s not all of who I am.  That’s one thing I enjoy sometimes. 
I love good story, and I love learning, and I love intelligent shows.  It just so happens I also like that. 

There’s a world of guilty pleasures out there, and everyone’s got a few.   To judge someone based solely on that is just ignorance. 
So let’s try stopping it, y’know?

IF we’re nerds, let’s be intelligent in our responses, because we love to learn, and we love to know every little detail about things, but let’s not be exclusionary and belittle people for not knowing as much as we know.   If we’re “internet folk” let’s be open and friendly, because all of our friends are in this box, and we can connect with them no matter how far away they actually are, and we love that about the internet, instead of trolly and hateful and exclusive.  If we’re gamers, let’s be fun and work together and figure out puzzles and escape from all the crap we deal with in our everyday lives, instead of putting more crap out there and being negative.

That’s what I’d love to see.

Just sayin’. 

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Let The Right One In


“To invent your own life’s meaning is not easy, but it’s still allowed, and I think you’ll be happier for the trouble.”- Bill Watterson


Randomly, when watching a show my best friend and I both love and that I lovingly call "my stories," this quote popped up.  The show (Criminal Minds...yes, my stories are about serial killers...don't judge!) had me thinking about a lot of things already, but when I heard that, I felt like I had to write something.

Incidentally, part of what this has to do with is writing. The tail end of 2013 changed a lot of things for me, making me a little bolder in the process.  A little bit. But there's still things that are hard for me to get.  

As it happens, one of the things I'm grasping to get is that I'm a writer. That I can call myself that.  To tell the absolute truth, every once in a while when I say I'm a musician I think I'm a pretender to the throne, though I've been playing for 21 years now, and though if you put an instrument in my hands, it just feels like an extension of my body at this point. 

So it was August, and this GISHWHES thing inspired the boldness, and I tried to get in to Chicagoist. And I succeeded. And I started to write. And it was published.  And I do it twice a week now.  Arts and Entertainment.  Press passes and photo pits.  Hell, I got to interview a musician from a band I'd loved since I was 16 this year.  My photos along with it sometimes.  

And I've had a journal since I was 5, no lie. I still have that journal.  I've got all subsequent ones, and years of online journals of all security levels. I could go back in time and tell you what happened on this date. I have *always* written.  My twitter handle was something I'd used before, my own way of mocking the fact that I loved to write poetry. But with all this "evidence" I still hesitate to say "I'm a writer." 

Why is that? 

One of the hardest things for me of late is to accept the good things. I wonder where that comes from. I know I'm probably not alone in it, though.  One of my friends has made similar comments recently, even.

But what is that? Why can't I look at myself and say "Yes. I'm a writer." Why didn't I always say that? I was, whether one word got beyond this page or any other page, because it was *always* something that I did, from the time I could on.  Looking through some old papers the other night I realized that.  

And I'm loved. And weirdly, that sentence is hard for me too.  And this time, I'm not talking about the "your mother loves you" or "your friends love you." 
I'm talking I.am.loved.

I look back at some of my past relationships and I wonder, would I have even accepted an I love you back then? I said I wanted that, but would I have been able to handle it?  And why not, if I couldn't, you know? Why was I good enough with being of mild amusement to someone I was with.  Or pretty okay to them, you know?  What held me back from the things I wanted, and what still holds me back?

I wanted to be remembered, thought of, held.  I wanted to to feel safe, and know without saying anything else.  I wanted to be brave enough to keep my eyes open. 

Why is that hard, when it happens? I mean, don't get me wrong, it's wonderful. But why can't I say what I am? I'm a writer. I'm a musician, and when I love I love like you wouldn't believe. And *I* am loved.  All of that is real, and I'm allowed.

I'm allowed.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Instead of Sheep



It's that time of year. And I won't be unique in posting things I'm grateful for, but sometimes being unique is overrated in the first damn place. 

Thing is, this year started out hard. I was not in a fun place, and I remained in a not-fun place for a long time. Now looking back at it though, once I stopped feeling sorry for myself and curling up on the couch in my pajamas to watch all the tornado shows ever made (yes, really.) I started to figure out what I wanted and what I needed to do. 

I think the basic goal was to start doing the things I "always wanted to do" but never did. 
If that show looked interesting, then I'd watch it. If I felt like a day in the city, I didn't need to wait around until someone else was interested too, I just went and did it.  If I wanted to participate in the Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen...well...I would, and I did.  And it really, really took me places. 

It took me away from this blog a bit, and I'm hoping to start writing here again more often.  But it got me a writing gig at Chicagoist where I'm covering Arts and Entertainment- which I am still crazy about.  If you'd have told me that as a result of a scavenger hunt I'd have gotten a writing job I'd have slapped you silly.  Or at least threatened to. And the thing is?  I'm getting to do even more amazing things as a result. Even though my pay has gone way down due to a layoff, I'm out at all kinds of events that I'd always wanted to go to but didn't have a chance/money/time to.  I'm at Symphony Center, the historic Pullman site, seeing Josh Groban, interviewing Sergio Vega from the Deftones (There's one I thought would never happen. I was SO nervous) and basically what I have to do is write about it.  You bet your ass I'd have done that anyway,  y'know? My pictures have been used as well, and even though I still need to get my main camera fixed...man...it's all the things I love rolled into one.  Music and art, writing and photography. I get to combine all that into something I do. 

Then, a little more recently...I finally got a car again.  I have always been and will always be a driver. Road trips are part of what makes life worthwhile to me.  The very beginning of this blog was about the biggest road trip I've taken to date, and I'd do that again in a heartbeat if I could.  For a while there though, I had to ask people for a ride to go get shampoo. I felt like my wings were clipped.  Sure, there's trains and buses and things...but I missed my sanctuary. My music and my rolled-down windows and too-cold air and late night cruises to nowhere.  That's part of me I got back. I think people thought I'd gripe having my first ever car payment.  Maybe once in a while I'll wish I had more money, but whenever I pay towards my car, I know what I'm getting out of it. 

Even more recently...I got the chance to bring something- someone, really...back into my life. I wasn't sure about it at first, but now that it's happening...I'm so happy about it. It's got a new shine on it, and I'm crazy happy about it.  I'm able to be free about it too- I can openly honestly care.  I get to enjoy someone else on a new level.  The main thing is...all the time I spend there brings so much happiness. I laugh til my sides hurt half the time.  There's good, serious conversation. There's absolute peace and quiet that makes me feel completely at rest. Those are the things that this has brought, and I'm immensely grateful for them. 

I guess this year, ups and downs both, have shown me the people in my life who are always there. The ones who rescued me from my couch and my tornado shows, and the ones who got to know me better, and the ones who came back. 

I'm just grateful. 

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Pine and Sap




I'm alone, and it's quiet. It's dark and I should be in bed. And the corners of my mouth are curled into a smile. The kind of smile that you can't actually produce if there's not something genuinely making you happy.

I've been talking with a friend about feeling things at Level 11.  And how it's inconvenient and how sometimes, you get carried away with everything going on in your head. Sometimes it causes problems. Sometimes it makes you crazy (and the people in your life, too, go figure.)

But sometimes, it's nice.

I can picture better scenarios than this couch alone.  This couch not alone, this blanket and nowhere to go, maybe.

But I'm ok with it.

My phone buzzed and it said "I miss you."
Out of the blue.

We all know (whoever "we" are) that the image in my head is the stoplight with all red lights, and the sign on the door is "People always leave."

It's from this silly tv show I used to watch.  The character who painted it was actually someone I related to in a lot of ways, even though it was nothing more than a silly soap opera of a thing I got hooked into due to my sister.  Someone in that character's life showed her otherwise at one point, and then there was a new picture. The lights were all green and it said "Sometimes they come back."

Maybe I don't really believe the second part very easily.  I'm a doubter. I'm stuck at yellow lights sometimes. Sometimes I don't feel like more than a footnote in people's stories.  But you don't miss footnotes. Maybe people are always looking for big declarations of love. The three little words everyone wants to hear are always "I love you." And I'm not going to say I'm an exception. I've got a whole big handful or two of people I love dearly, and I never get tired of hearing that I am loved.  But y'know...maybe something heals a little every time someone says that they miss me.  It's a sigh of relief. It reminds me that I'm being thought of when I'm not there with someone.  It's having a place in someone's life that makes you important even when you're not there in front of them, and it's special to me.

And maybe I was a whirlwind of different emotions tonight, not the least of which was fear.
And that made the difference. And that's why I'm smiling.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Placeholder



For posterity and my own good, I'm going to put this here. 
Just because you don't think something's going to happen, doesn't mean it won't. For better or worse, we can't control life.  Things will be lost and things will be found. Sometimes that all takes place in a small space in time.  

I'm trying to remind myself right now that there are people out there who can be believed and trusted. I'm trying to let my heart remember the good and move on from the bad.  I'm trying to make sure that my head doesn't completely get out of the picture but that it also doesn't get in there and cast doubts. 

Because when it boils down to it...
I heard some words that I've been wanting to hear for a long time.  Maybe some words that I've not ever heard.  I've felt some things, too, that I haven't felt. 
I like that feeling.  I like plural nouns.  I like laughter in hospital rooms and new growth after a fire.

Maybe the simplest thing I like is meeting eyes with someone and smiling when smiling doesn't make sense, and when no one else knows exactly what you mean.

Sometimes I think I have a harder time with the good things in life than the bad.  I can logic myself out of hard times, I can out-think it.  But that same strategy doesn't work for the good things.  Overthink it and you've missed the whole point. So maybe it's time to enjoy it a step at a time and find a new way. Maybe it's time for more doors and less lonesome roads.

Here's to going places.