Coffee & Flowers: Make It Better

Nostalgic trike ride through Tropical Avenue in the village where I went to high school.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the concept of family a lot—and how everything that we do is ultimately influenced by what happens to us when we’re young. In that respect, I think that Freud was most definitely correct. While it is true that we continue to develop throughout our lives, I feel like the core of our lives are determined very early on: the way we think, our knee-jerk reactions, the way we feel about most things and about ourselves. I have a lot of friends who go lots of different ways with regard to self-esteem: some who are very confident despite not necessarily possessing “conventional” beauty attributes, some who are extremely beautiful in the most “objective” sense but have absolutely no confidence in their ability to be attractive and some who are in-between and in most instances I find that these things have a lot to do with the way that they were brought up or their experiences as young children.

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Coffee & Flowers: Open Letters & Instax Photos

This year I made the resolution not to keep a journal because I’d kept a journal for every year of my life since 1998 and it just seemed like too much: too many memories stacking themselves higher, growing more voluminous than yourself. It’s weird. But at the same time, I can’t quite accept the non-existence of some sort of documentation of what’s going on. It is important to remember, I think: it’s important to keep track—to know where you’re going, when you’re going, how.

As a result, I’ve decided that I’m going to begin taking photos and maybe writing things down again: writing open letters, maybe. Some of it will be kept here, other things will be kept on a notebook. With this month’s pay, I’m going to buy Instax film because for the past few months my camera has just been sitting at home, hanging out with my piggy bank (which is actually a jar). I can’t help but feel bad about these past few months which I’ve missed out on documenting through something concrete, something offline, something I can keep—although the point of not journal keeping was that exactly: to lessen the boxes I go through when I am feeling sentimental.

In high school, when YM and LiveJournal were the best ways to go (none of that fancy Facebook shiznit, harhar) I used to write a lot of open letters. This had to do with the fact that ye ole internet life was way more private in those days (seriously, back then the thought of sharing your blog was preposterous—like why would you upload your own scandal?) in as much as it had to do with my angst-filled 19-year-old brain. (2009 was 5 years ago—again, dafuqqq!). At the same time, though I feel like they were a really good way to be able to deal with stuff, regardless of whether or not they are seen by the person who sees them.

So. Here are some open letters:

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Head First, Fearless Day 1: Vulnerability & An Introduction

Last night, my friend Raine messaged me asking for a favor—she said that she was going to embark on a quest to get out of her comfort zone: that is, for a hundred days she was going to do at least one thing a day that frightened her in an attempt to grow as a person. She asked if I would be there to remind her to do these things, once a day—and I said yes, of course. I also said yes to joining her on this quest to be fearless. Just because I love the T. Swift song, I am going to name this Head First, Fearless to go with the whole shiz-named-after-songs-thang e.g. Coffee & Flowers.

While I can’t and shan’t speak for Raine, who is an infinitely more private person than myself, I suppose I can tell you what she told me that made me agree to this whole lotta cray in the first place. She said that there was that whole 100 Happy Days thing floating around but that the problem with that is happiness is so fleeting—we shouldn’t base our growth around happiness. We should base it around fear—and conquering it because that way, we get stronger and really, truly progress as human beings (whatever that means). And I agree. So, as I vowed not to keep a journal this year in an attempt to avoid my tendency to live wayyy out of the moment, I will instead post it up here so that a) people who are maybe a lot like me and scared of everything can find some semblance of good juju here and b) I am able to process my thoughts and introspect without completely cutting myself off from the rest of the world.

So, onto today’s entry: vulnerability.

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This is a very odd emotion, for me—one of the trickiest, in my opinion: how do you express fondness without coming off like an idiot or like you are more than fond of someone or like you’re being insincere? I know it seems odd for fondness to come off as insincere but it has been my experience that this happens more than you would think. Personally, I feel like every time someone tries to compliment me or to say something sweet to me “out of the blue” a part of me is asking are you being sarcastic? As if having to articulate how fond you are of someone wasn’t bad enough, having to reiterate it just feels like too much torture for one person to handle all in one sitting: I’m always tempted to go the other way and be like haha, gotcha or something just to spite them. Sadly, it isn’t the person on the receiving end of this expression of feeling who is dying from frustration at being unable to say something almost taboo: to say, I like being around you but do not necessarily want to have your babies.

When I think of fondness, I am reminded of dipping my foot into the pool when I was a kid—there was the opportunity to go swimming but I didn’t have a swimsuit. I am not equipped to jump in, but I like sitting here, sipping juice; I like being just kind-of immersed. I like this state of just being appreciative of this water and this juice and the afternoon and wanting to sleep and not fully doing neither.

But how is this expressed in everyday? How is this expressed directly? How do you say these things? You could say I kind of think you’re cool which wouldn’t be completely true; you could say I want to be your friend but that wouldn’t be completely true, either. You could maybe say I’m fond of you but again, see if that works.

I’ve figured it out: again, the painful answer is that you don’t. There is nothing you can say to someone about fondness that will ring as true as laughing at a joke or giving them some of your lunch or making a joke or not saying anything when they fart. A lot of the time there is nothing to do except to do. I forgot who it was who sang it—a musician, somewhere who I used to listen to (my memory fails me at the moment)—that he/she/it/they is/was all about words and words are absolutely useless.

They are. At least there’s this. I figure the everyday things will just have to carry through: being fully in the moment with people you’re fond of, whenever you can. This way the restraint almost feels like tenderness.

As Time Goes By

Here’s looking at you, kid–and all the other things we’re nostalgic about that we haven’t witnessed.

It’s 2014. 2007 was seven years ago, what the f—that’s still so weird to me. I can imagine that this might also be the case for a lot of people—especially those who are older.

However, I am also inclined to feel like perhaps this kind of nostalgia-shock is even more prevalent in younger people because it’s still so new to feel this old. Does that make sense? In a few years I’ll get used to looking back at 2009 and being like yeah, that was ages ago but for now, this kind of feeling freaks me out. It’s one thing to be nostalgic about 1995 but 2007 is something else. I was going to save this post for #throwbackthursdays or something but let’s face it: I don’t have the patience.

This is the first year since I was 10 that I haven’t kept a journal. I thought that it would be harder to accomplish (or to not accomplish?) because well, what would I do with my spare time? More pressingly, what would I do with all those photos and cinema tickets?

With the free time, there turns out to be a lot more things to do: like write, read, watch films, go out, work out, work, experiment with make up, think up different recipes for things, spend time with people, hear stories, tell stories, go get some coffee. As for the stuff—I’m definitely not “free” enough to thrown any of that shit away so it’s been living in my drawers. Instax photos, movie tickets, colorful scotchtape. I don’t think it’s bad to keep these things and I guess I’ll eventually get around to putting them in some order: whatever that is.

My conviction not to keep a journal this year stemmed from the desire to live life and look back incidentally as opposed to trying to foresee the process of looking back (which leaves you mentally cross-eyed) and creating an experience for myself via notes and reminders and captioned photos. For now, I’m kind of done leaving my future self tidbits to find. She can go figure that out for herself. All graffiti is some kind of letter, anyway.

A few years ago, in 2011, in an attempt to leave a particular person alone—my goodness, you have no idea how difficult that can be; it’s like being five and being told not to pick a scab ‘cause it’ll scar but it’s there, so you do and it does—I wrote a bunch of letters detailing the things I wanted to say, then. And I thought hey, I’ll give these to him when we’re on better terms.

Well, that didn’t happen. And to a certain extent, I’m okay with that. Life is unpredictable: you think things will go one way or another but the truth is that no matter what kind of analysis we put ourselves through, it’s impossible to have all the cards—there are always things that catch you off-guard, there is always randomness (luck, chance, that tiny margin for surprise): that thing that doesn’t open itself up for your consideration.

I still have those letters, sitting in pink envelopes in a box on one of the shelves in my room along with other notebooks full of things I can’t remember properly anymore. Life takes you away— time flies but that’s fine. That’s how it’s supposed to be, I think. I don’t want to live life documenting it. Or at least, not just documenting it. I want to be there.

I suppose this is an odd subject for a blog entry: after all, isn’t that what we’re doing?

Yes, but only incidentally. In the future, we might look back and see how we dressed, what we did and laugh at it but what matters is that at the time, we were really into it: we weren’t doing these things just so our future selves would have something to laugh at. We wrote because we felt a certain way or we took photos of ourselves because we really liked what we looked like that day. We write to express, to inform, to tell stories. (In retrospect, maybe this becomes even more relevant in the blog setting because like journal-keeping, this also has potential for a kind of pre-emptive nostalgia.)

My dilemma continued up until recently, with regard to those letters: I didn’t know what to do with them. I am extremely averse to throwing these kinds of things out because isn’t growing as a person a matter of integrating the new into the old? Isn’t real growth a kind of alteration of who you were and not “reinventing” yourself into someone else?

I have an ex-boyfriend who I feel went through this “make over” process—in fact, he was quite obsessed with it even when we were together—and every time he and I are put in the same event or party, I feel like I can see the version of him that I dated for two years crouching within his buff, “confident” shell, kind of peeking out through the eyes and pulling a lever so that the outer shell moves an arm to say hi: like that tiny alien in M.I.B. controlling a bigger body. It feels like this “new” self and “old” self are completely disparate.

Although this might be unfair to say (who knows, maybe he has integrated this with himself), I suppose I am just averse to that “hey, look at me now” way of expression; people don’t leave or you don’t hurt people because of the way you portrayed yourself or because of how you looked: these things happen because of you are (or were at the time).

With regard to personal development, the only kind of metaphor or model I can identify with is the onion theory which says that people grow like (you guessed it) onions: with the thickest, toughest layers near the inside—formed when you were younger—and the other layers on the outside. These outermost layers are thinner and surround the innermost layers and multiply over time.

You don’t grow out of yourself, you grow around yourself. Alterations are made over the things which are. You can only change based on what is already there—you can’t inhabit someone new. But also these alterations also change who you are: they change how you look, how you act, and the choices you make.

These outer layers make the difference between young onions and grown ones.

Initially, this is what kept me holding onto these letters: a kind of penance. This is who you were, this is still a part of who you are. And this is true. Those weaknesses are still here: I just know how to deal with them better. So even if I look different, do different things, act different some days I get the feeling that if I were to see this person again, I would still need those letters to be able to say what I had to say: mostly sorry, partly I hope you’re happy. I would still need to deal with the now irrelevant sediments of sentiment, no matter how long a time it will have been, if/when.

But also, do I need the letters to remember how I felt and what I had to say? Do I really need these pieces of paper sitting on a shelf, taking up space and coming around to haunt me every so often? I doubt it. It’s already on the inner fold: the thing so much of me is built around—if you trust something to remain, you can let it go.

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