the autobiography project

It might seem silly when I tell you to “write your autobiography.” You’re not famous, you don’t feel worthy, you don’t think anyone would care, or just plain simply, you don’t think you need to or even want to for yourself. But you should! One day your memories won’t be so sharp. They’re already starting to fade. As it is, we make up so much of our memories anyway. It’s better to get the ones you remember out now rather than keep them inside until they shape-shift, warp, and disappear.

I keep a diary, but I’m not always “good” at it. It’s not organized. It’s not about my day or even about significant life events. There are redundant entries and lists and notes about lectures or events on reading and writing. Just a place really for me to dump my thoughts. But a few years back, when I had some free time on my hands after college, I decided to write it all out, chronologically, by age/grade, starting with birth.  I want to remember my life, both the agony and the ecstasy.  What started out as a few bullet points per year now has all of my memories racing at me at once. i can barely write down the outline before the next bullet is hitting, and as i write each sentence from the bullet point, things get clearer and clearer, until i am facing the past and moving forward wth my future at the same time. handwriting it is making it more personal, and now it will be in my diary forever. I also now have the opportunity to see patterns, and learn from the past, as well as see the direction I am heading in the future.

I never want anyone to read my diaries. They showcase the good, the bad, and especially the ugly. They are all mine, but they are sacred to me, no matter how messy or muted my life is, I have a place to explore it, and I want to put it to good use. In addition, I freewrite, use journal prompts… etc. I spend hours exploring the internet looking at diaries and bullet journals and art journals and planners, and I will probably never share more than a page or two once every few years of mine. But that’s okay. I like my journal the way she is. Unpredictable, like me.

something i wrote a year ago today…

Being yourself is one of the most courageous ways to live. If you think it’s hard being yourself and there is no way you can do it, think about how much pressure you put on yourself every time you pretend to be something you’re not.

On the TVLand show Younger, Liza is a forty year old woman pretending to be twenty six so she can have her dream job, her dream boyfriend, and a “second chance” at life. Yet even though she now has the job, the man, and the life she dreamed of, she feels like a fraud. Not only does she have to lie every day to the outside world, but now she has friends and a lover she can only be so real with.

It is so hard to feel like a fraud. To feel like you are nothing, you’re ugly, you’re stupid, you’re just pretending to be something you’re not. For so many of us, myself included a lot of the time, looking in the mirror is a chore. Depression, anxiety, and Impostor Syndrome are real things. You don’t feel connected to yourself or the world around you. And even if you remember that the times you’ve been the happiest were the times you let go, accepted yourself, and lived harmoniously, you just can’t shake off the insecurities.

I think the first step is opening your eyes to realizing that everyone can be captured by these feelings and thoughts even if just for a moment. Even the most confident, gorgeous person in the world, someone who literally glows from within, can wake up and feel ugly sometimes. It’s so easy to throw yourself under the bus. It’s like when you see the same friend every day, and maybe their quirks become irksome – you inhabit your own body and mind 24/7 and you can irk yourself. But it’s important to remember:

No one else can ever be you. You are loved. You have something to offer this world. You can do this. You are beautiful, and smart, and kind, and most importantly, you are unique. A fingerprint that cannot be replicated.

Don’t let yourself get too down.

White Teeth; Zadie Smith

I just finished reading White Teeth for my class on Narrative Structure. Goodreads is full of mixed reviews. There are those who find it brilliant, and those who find it boring. I am the former. I underlined and circled and notated so much. I was reading four books at the time, (White Teeth, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, and Bird by Bird) but kept coming back to this one.

Here is my favorite passage:

“A neutral place. The chances of finding one these days are slim… The sheer quantity of shit that must be wiped off the slate if we are to start again as new. Race. Land. Ownership. Faith. Theft. Blood. And more blood. And more. And not only must the place be neutral, but the messenger who takes you to the place, and the messenger who sends the messenger. There are no people or places left like that in North London” (378).

I know that this place might be impossible to find. I know that might even be the point of this passage – that such neutrality is beyond our grasp. But I like to work towards the future I envision. I don’t know what I’m trying to say except for this book spoke to me, and made me think, and comforted me, and hurt me, and I know I am late to the Zadie Smith show, but I’m glad I tuned in.

As detailed in my last post, I have so much writing planned, and I am very particular. I want everything to flow a certain way and I have so much to say, but I am feeling self-conscious. I have people I want to write about, at least where their story overlaps my own; I’m feeling vulnerable. In the first essay collection, One Dark Thing, I detail times in my life of deep pain. There are pieces about friendship gone awry, my body, and even a piece about someone who got away. I have to dig deep and go to a really emotional place and let go of inhibition, but I am scared. What if it’s draining? What if people hate me after they read these pieces? (Everyone – not even necessarily the people who I’m writing about). Okay, well it’s one thing for strangers and acquaintances to hate me, but what if my close friends, my partner, my family judge me?

How do writers write without feeling insecure? How do they push through it? How do they write with such vulnerability knowing their mother is going to read the piece. How do I tell my family I might not even want them to read my work?

On a different note, I submitted a piece to a literary magazine in November and it is MAYBE getting published. They are still culling through the submissions, making sure the collection is cohesive, et cetera. It was a big step for me to finish the piece, and then edit it without prompting. It was a big step for me to submit it. I really, truly, definitely want this piece included in the collection but if it isn’t, I’m still proud of my work, and I will make it better and submit it elsewhere. The older I get the less time I have for my own bullshit. I want to be a writer. So while it’s lovely that I have all of these ideas, it’s even lovelier that I am sitting down and actually writing them and making plans to publish them. I am ready.

Core.

The past week has been a blur, a fog, an endless night. But not a lovely starry night. A dark stain on the fabric of humanity. My heart is broken. But the show must go on. I vow to keep fighting, and keep fighting the only way I know how. I will continue to read. I have been reading more and more diversely, and vow to keep going in that direction. I will support writers of color, all genders, and races. I will read more women than men. I will give an ear to marginalized voices. I will write diversely, and educatedly, as well. I never have felt comfortable writing male characters. I will learn how to do that, but I will also hone my skills as a writer who writes about women. I will focus now more than ever on my dreams and goals because when us women individually achieve our goals, in the end we will all be closer to achieving our global goals. I will write even when it feels like no one is reading. I will submit my writing even when it doesn’t feel like the solicitation is for me. I will write in my journal and on my blog and in my virtual classroom. And I will wow the fuck out of myself and others, both longtime fans and those who have never met me. And I will champion you. My friend the filmmaker/yogi/barista. My friend who is looking forward to a career in social work. My friend who is going for her law degree. Women all around the world I don’t know, but who are doing extraordinary and great things.

I have been MIA from this blog because of work and school. But I cannot be MIA from my own life anymore. This blog is important to me because it gives me a voice. I will be posting more book reviews, as this is primarily a book blog. But I will also be posting essays, opinions, my voice. I will be using this as my platform to speak my mind. The middle of my journey towards getting my Masters degree has been rough. I have a lot of pressure on my shoulders from my job, my government, my family, my school, myself. I have been more about pleasing others, but it is time to please myself. So I have been putting school first, because I want to finish and walk away with my head held high and a new degree on my shoulders. I prioritized my job second because it gives me the means to eat food and pay rent, even when I hate the work and don’t have money left over to pay other necessary bills, let alone fun. I try to give enough time to my family and friends, to prove that I am “good,” a “good daughter,” a “good friend,” a “good sister,” a “good daughter-in-law.” But in prioritizing all of these things that make up a facet of myself, I left out my love of writing, and my love of French, and my love of independence.

My path has changed many times, but whenever I get back on track I always have the same thoughts in mind. It is no mistake that the best grade I got in one of my classes this semester was on an essay on Music and Literature informing each other. This is something I love to write about, and will write about here on this blog. It is no mistake that a story that has been floating around in my head but was never good enough to sit down and write is finally coming together, with France as the glue, after I recently vowed to myself to get a Teaching English as a Foreign Language Certificate so that I could teach English in France.

We all have a core, and while many things about us change and grow over time, our core is always our essence, always guiding us. Listen to your core and let it guide you.

Thank you for reading.

Simon Vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Becky Albertalli’s debut novel, Simon Vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, gave me “all of the feels.” I had been mildly interested in reading this book (as I am mildly interested in reading most YA books, and actually most books!), but it was the August selection for Forever Young Adult Bookclub. I read this book in one night, one sitting. Just a few hours of my time for a delightful, emotional non-cliched story about Simon, a mysterious penpal, and Simon’s real-life non-internet friends.

What I really liked about this book was Albertalli’s pacing and her ability to switch between light and serious matter non-abruptly. This novel revolves so much around the ups and downs of friendships in your teens. And yes, the novel is about being true to yourself. But Simon doesn’t try to be anyone he’s not. The hurdle is telling his friends he is gay, but he doesn’t have to break any hearts to do so. And when he finds out who he’s truly been conversing with online, there is the best meet-cute ever, followed by Albertalli describing Simon and Blue’s relationship as I imagine she would write about a straight relationship. Nothing seemed forced or over-compensated for.

I would definitely read this book again.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng Sparkles Celestially ;)

Everything I Never Told You is a novel by woman of color, writer of color, Celeste Ng, that discusses the limitations of race and gender in the 70’s, but is sadly still relevant today. Although the character whom this book is centered around dies in the beginning (not a spoiler), it is evident that Lydia wants to do everything her mother ever told her… but what about everything Marilyn never told her, and vice versa?

Marilyn has had to make a painful choice between “right” and “wrong,” career (passion) and family (duty). Men often get to choose if they want to be fathers, but women still don’t get to choose whether they want to be mothers. Marilyn and James have three children – Lydia, Nath, and Hannah. Lydia is blue-eyed and light skinned, making her the favorite. She’s the one who is expected to go far, and make something of herself that her mother never could. Nath is an aspiring astronaut, but his parents often neglect his feelings and thoughts to set their attention on Lydia – who desperately does not want the attention. Poor Hanna is lost in the shuffle, but will she be found?

 

There are mother-daughter, mother-son, father-son, father-daughter, and mother-father/husband-wife, motifs to explore and more, not to mention the relationships between siblings.

 

Ng writes evocatively and completely understands show, don’t tell. She doesn’t say people are/were racist. She doesn’t say why Marilyn and James are constantly fighting the urge to let their kids grow, and try to change them and mold them. The reader has all of the context clues. I was born in 1990, long after the events of this novel take place, but through Ng’s writing I was able to acutely understand the culture and timeframe. My mother is a white woman, married to my stepfather who is a Chinese man. Together, they have my youngest sister. The subtle and not so subtle racism in this novel was on point. Towards the end of the story, I was a puddle. I cannot explain enough how perfectly Ng gets the family dynamic, the racial dynamic, and the time period, let alone how wonderful the pacing of the novel was. it never got boring, or too much too soon. I will definitely be picking up another Celeste Ng novel in my future.

 

Enjoy some quotes:

 

P137

 

“If her mother ever came home and told her to finish her milk, she thought, the page wavering to a blur, she would finish her milk. She would brush her teeth without being asked and stop crying when the doctor gave her shots. She would go to sleep the second her mother turned out the light. She would never get sick again. She would do everything her mother ever told her. Everything her mother wanted”

 

p 143

 

“As the young woman closed the gash with neat black stitches, Marilyn’s hands began to ache. She clenched her teeth, but the ache spread into her wrists, up to her shoulders, down her spine. It wasn’t the surgery. It was the disappointment: tha lie everyone else, she heard doctor and still thought – would forever think – man. The rims of her eyes started to burn… Marilyn blurted out, “I think I’m pregnant,” and burst into tears.