One Is the Loneliest Number

Starting from childhood, we learn about the importance of the number two. We are born from two parents, we grab with two hands, we’re taught that Noah took two of each animal on his arc, 1+1= 2, we read about Thing 1 and Thing 2, and “first’s the worst, second’s the best” is the rule on the playground.

Perhaps as a consequence of this childhood conditioning, I’ve always thought that there is a dualism to things that seem uniform–a bird needs two wings to fly, a singular heart needs two halves to beat. Really, two is necessary for the survival of one.

And yet, in our adulthood, we fight the number two. We only think about ourselves. We forget to be there for people, and we forget to let people be there for us. We isolate ourselves.

Lord knows, I’m guilty of it. Here’s the reasons why this week:

1) I’m a complete control freak in my Literature class. We’re forced to do a group project and I’m loathing every minute of it. I hate team work. I just want to do everything myself because then it’s in my control.

2) Yesterday, I was so caught up in the hustle and bustle of my own life I forgot to stop and ask my friend how she was doing. I found out she really needed to talk.

3) Last Friday night, I stayed home instead of going to a party because I didn’t want to have to rely on other people for laughter or conversation.

But an exchange with a good friend reminded me today–we’re not meant to be solitary creatures. We need other people, and they need us. Otherwise, the human race would’ve gone extinct long, long ago. So despite your fear, or your pride or your Type A personality, try to believe in the super power of two and all that it can remedy.

Rapunzel Knows Best

Last night, I watched the movie Tangled all by my lonesome. I ain’t ashamed–that movie is an hour and half of sheer adorableness. (Long-haired singing princesses, unrealistically attractive animated men and hilarious animal sidekicks for the win!) But more importantly, it helped me put words to a feeling I’ve been having for a while.

There’s this scene (SPOILER ALERT!) where Flynn Rider and Rapunzel are sitting in a boat waiting to see the lanterns. The movie is all about how Repunzel has been dreaming of this moment her whole life, but as it’s about to happen, she says, “I’m scared.” Perplexed, Flynn asks, “Why?” She replies, “What if it’s not everything I hoped it would be?”

And BOOM! A fictional princess makes one of the most profound insights ever to be uttered in the middle of an animated children’s movie.

We’re all afraid of our lives turning out how we’ve imagined them.

I know I’m afraid, every day. My dream to be a writer scares me, because it is such a hard field to break in to and such a hard way to make a living. And the fact that I just met a ridiculously awesome guy yesterday scares me. My brain fills easily with “what ifs?!”

But it’s important to note that anxiety and excitement feel the same in our bodies. (Darn those identity-confused chemicals.) Therefore, we are the ones who choose how to label our feelings. I choose to be excited. I will become a writer because it’s what I’m meant to be! And I’m excited that I may get to know this great guy better!

Rapunzel is scared too, but she sits on that boat and waits for the lanterns to rise in the sky. She perseveres. And the pay off? Well, she gets to cross that dream off her bucket list and find a new one. Lucky for her, the new dream is a dark-haired, bad-boy, smooth-talking, hottie named Flynn Rider. (Please categorize her previous lantern dream under ‘L’ for ‘LAME.’)

So the moral of this little tale? Follow the example of this fictional princess. Don’t let the unknown cripple you–be brave. You never know what might happen.

My life is a Joni Mitchell Song

1) All I (really, really) Want is for a love to bring out the best in me and in you too! I am looking for the real thing with a partner and in my career, family, friendships. I’m not one to settle and you shouldn’t be either! You’re worth it!

2) They come for Conversation. I listen and I care, sometimes too much. And I am an open book. I will talk someone’s ear off about a problem because it’s the only way I can sort things out in my own mind. Just call me Miss Honest Extrovert.

3) I don’t Know Where I StandLike Joni (and most people, I think) I worry about how other people see me. I spend way too much time thinking about what people think of me. My dad always says, “Who cares what they think? They aren’t paying your bills.” I try to remind myself of that every time I second-guess myself.

4) A Refuge of the Roads is the best kind of refuge. When things get rough all I want is a change of scenery. Even just a walk or a good book can supply the vacation. But I have to get away and give into my wanderlust. In a world like this, escapism is necessary and cleansing!

5) Help Me! I think I’m falling in love again–with people, with music, with writing, with life. I try to fall in love everyday. What I mean is, I try to remember to stay inspired! There’s so much beauty in the world if you look for it.

6) When I go to People’s PartiesI’m that girl who is ” fumbling deaf, dumb, and blind.” This may be partly due to alcohol consumption, but also because I’m awkward (and proud of it!) And I have actually been to a party where someone wore a “lampshade crown.” Cue you being impressed.

7) I have never ridden in a Big Yellow Taxi, but: I don’t know what I’ve got until it’s gone, I am always telling people to put away their DDT and to leave me the birds and the bees, and I’ve watched people I love leave my life. Many times. Not to mention I really want to live in New York, and there are big yellow taxis there. (That’s relevant, right?)

8) The idea of the lonely, ignored musician in For Free always makes me want to cry. Some of the best musicians are unknown! Be that one person watching the singer-songwriter in the rain, you have no idea how much they’ll appreciate it. (Believe me, I’ve been there!)

9) I Dream Flat Tires. I have high expectations for everything and if something doesn’t go how I wished, I’ll have this deflation of elation (internal rhyme, hells yeah!) and my cynicism will kick into overdrive. But I’ve learned that going with the flow puts way less pressure on you and the situation, allowing things to exceed your expectations! (Oh, and five minutes into my last bike ride I ran over a nail. So I literally have a flat tire issue.)

10) My life is a Circle Gamea “carousel of time.” The other day, I ran into a best friend from childhood and it was like nothing had changed.  I love bagels, donuts, pizza and basically any food that’s circular. I often talk in circles when I’m embarrassed and/or tired. I believe that what goes around, comes around. And even though I’m almost 21, I still try to approach every day like a “child who went out to wander.”

Ignore the Poetry Nazis

As a creative writing major I get to study what I love, and take TONS of writing classes. Fun, right? Well, you’d sure think so. But the fun keeps getting sucked out of my current poetry class because of the presence of a certain Poetry Nazi. Okay, so this might be an insensitive name for her, but my goodness, I’ve never met a person so intolerant and close-minded about writing!

On the first day of this class, she told me that my poem, “wasn’t a poem” and that “if I wasn’t going to adhere to official poetic forms–why am I in a poetry class?” And today, she made me feel terrible about a haiku I had written because it wasn’t conventional. Sheesh! I’m not a perfect writer, I know, but her comments are more mean than helpful. What’s worse, is she does this to everyone. So it’s time for me to passive-aggressively blog about it.

I’m not trying to slander this girl for the sake of slander, but rather because I want to say this: create whatever the hell you want to create. Be you. Art was never meant to go in a neatly labeled box but rather, it is designed to challenge arbitrary rules and to make us think beyond them. Sure, tradition is important and necessary when learning your art, but being true to who yourself and to what you have to say is what’s most important. That is what resonates with people and inspires them.

One of the biggest mistakes an artist can commit is making their art inaccessible and elitist. Art is for everyone and if you get wrapped up in “supposed tos” you are going to alienate people. I mean, when you look at a painting, do you count how many brush strokes are used or critique the color palette chosen? No, where’s the fun in that? Most of us consider the feelings the painting evokes, and what it makes us visualize.

So maybe I’m just a liberal-minded, accepting, supportive, hippy artist, but I absolutely ABHOR when people belittle art because it isn’t technically perfect. Being an artist isn’t about becoming one of the master race with perfect technique and flawless adherence to tradition.

So, you, yeah, YOU! Ignore the poetry nazis! Create in a way that represents you and don’t conform to notions of “perfection.” They’re relative anyway.

Who’s that girl….? It’s Jessica!

Today I met and had coffee with Jessica Tholmer, one of the writers for the blog HelloGiggles. The coffee date, appropriately, was chalked full of giggles, girl talk and writing tips.

Besides the fact that I have always loved her snarky-cute EINTKILF column, a few weeks ago I discovered that Jessica and I went to the same high school (Shorecrest–represent!) and university (WWU Vikings! Woo!) These coincidences were too uncanny for me to ignore, so I emailed her (yep, I’m that bold girl that risks looking like a creepy internet stalker) and asked her if she had any writing advice for me. One thing led to another, and tonight I found myself drinking hot chocolate with a blogger whose posts have gotten 10k facebook likes. She has one of my dream jobs, and she rocks at it! I mean, talk about being starstruck!

But I should take her off this pedestal, Jessica is completely down to earth. She’s a fun-seeking, hard-working, coffee-loving, boy-analyzing, horoscope-believing twenty something just like me. She just got lucky when, as a distraction from a bad break-up, she submitted some writing to HelloGiggles. Soon after, the editors told her they loved it and asked her to do a weekly column. She’s been at it for about six months now, and the popularity of her stuff is skyrocketing. Her biggest piece of advice is, “submit, submit, submit, and never stop submitting!” and after seeing what happened to her, I plan on following that advice ASAP!

Besides being an all around lovely person, Jessica’s living proof that by the time I’m 25 I could have my writing posted on a big-time blog; I could have regular readers; I could be a voice for twenty-something women all over. And that, my friends, is incredibly inspiring.

Being an Artist

Being and Artist is all at once stimulating and exhausting. I love my writing and my music but every day I am confronted with situations in which I have to live with my work being judged by other people and compared to other art. That’s the hardest thing for me: being vulnerable.

Tonight I played for a jazz jam at a local club. It was surprisingly uncomfortable for me. It was a club I always play at, filled with people I know, but my bandmates were people I never really played with before. All of these bandmates were extremely talented and gracious, which is great, but it made me turn inward. It made me start to doubt myself. I had the whole compare and despair mentality.

And then of course, afterwards, when I already felt like hiding in the corner with my tail between my legs, many of the musicians who played with me came up to give me advice. They were all well-intended and helpful suggestions, but I was already feeling dejected. I don’t know, I just wasn’t in the mindset to receive criticism, no matter how constructive it was.

Now I’m home, writing this, and panicking about how much I feel like I need to learn. How I need to practice: I need to strengthen my left hand. I need to learn my bebop scales. I need to work on my singing voice. I need to listen to more artists. I need to do so many things.

Tonight was an extremely humbling experience for me and has shown me that we truly never get “there” wherever we consider there to be. You will spend your life working to get better at what you’re doing. You will put in those 10,000+ hours and you still won’t feel like you’ve arrived. But that’s okay, artists have to be hard on themselves like this to become accomplished and successful. I just have to remember to keep a good attitude and keep on keepin’ on.