See Ya Soon – May 18, 2006

I am feeling antisocial. This is not news — it’s like hearing someone say, “I am angry,” after they’ve spent days throwing food and upending furniture. It’s like, for lack of a better term, “duh.”

But nonetheless, I feel that I should post, to update and say that no, I am not on hiatus, and yes, I will be back, and no, I don’t know why I’m not feeling like being online or posting, and yes, everything seems fine and work is good, and no, I will not go on like this forever with the yes-and-no thing even though it would be a cheap and easy way to seem like a Clever Writer.

Instead I will just say:

See ya soon.

Otherworldly – April 4, 2006

Iceland seems far away already. When I think about it, I think of the Blue Lagoon, where my friend and I went on a weekday evening. It was dusk when we walked along the path between stone hills that led to the lagoon. By the time we changed into bathing suits and made our way from the locker room to the water, it was night. Most people had gone home for the evening. The lagoon wasn’t crowded, the water was warm and pale sky blue, and it was amazing, though not quite what I expected.

Here’s what tourist brochures don’t always tell you about the Blue Lagoon: It was created as a result of an industrial waste problem. Seriously. The Icelanders built a geothermal power plant — one of the main sources of energy there, thanks to volcanic activity and hot springs beneath the surface of the ground — and quickly discovered it was producing a lovely sky-blue runoff. The water was clean — all water in Iceland is clean — so instead of roping off the area or trying to drain it, some brilliant Icelander had a brilliant brainstorm: Let’s turn it into a spa! We will advertise it as a layover destination to people flying to Europe, since it’s near the airport!

Which is exactly what they did. They arranged rocks artfully, created a faux waterfall and a series of pools, placed boxes of therapeutic silica scrub at strategic locations around the giant lagoon, and installed most excellent lighting. They started selling body scrubs for approximately $40 per tube. They added massages to the menu. They made it a destination.

It really was magical the night we visited. The steam rising off the sky-blue water — which, yes, briefly made me wonder what was in the water before I tamped down the thought by assuring myself there was no way the environmentally conscious Icelanders would allow tourists to wade happily through toxic waste, let alone swim there themselves, which they do in droves — obscured objects more than about 10 feet away, except for the lights, which glowed like will-o-the-wisps. I wandered through the mostly silent water, losing sight of shore, letting the currents and levels of heat dictate my movements (yes, it is possible for a spa to be too hot, as evidenced by the scary little warning signs in parts of the lagoon). I felt disconnected from myself, peaceful, and curious about how big this lagoon was, after all. (It was huge.)

After this exploration, my friend and I met up with the two guys who’d driven us to the lagoon and we got some food and drinks from the waterside bar.

As it turns out, very little is as decadent as eating ice cream while soaking in a spa in Iceland.

Just ignore the power-plant lights to your left.

To Hear Your Thoughts – March 5, 2006

There is a blog in my head. That blog is unfiltered, caught from second to second expressing thoughts that would get me excommunicated in a moment, by friends, by religions, by Middle America, by those who think I am a well-rounded building block with no sharp edges, a perfect cog in the machine of 21st-century professional civilization.

It is the most interesting blog in the history of the universe.

That blog is not this blog.

It upsets me, sometimes. I would like nothing more than to share it all, spew thoughts across the pages red as the side columns and let the world decide. But it wouldn’t work. Our society doesn’t work that way. If you want to hold a job, belong to a community, have love from the vast majority of human beings who walk this Earth, you will toe the line. You will shut up. You will respect boundaries.

I see the usefulness. I talked with a friend recently about what it would be like, a world in which boundaries had disappeared. What if everyone could hear everyone else’s thoughts? It seems simplistic, but it isn’t. I think chaos would reign. It would overthrow everything we know about how we are supposed to behave around each other. Unacceptable standards of behavior would be redefined. With advance notice of planned crimes, actual crime would all but vanish. On the other hand, we all would be thought criminals. Who among us hasn’t imagined for a moment stepping off a building or stealing a car or trying heroin or telling the boss to fuck off or kicking someone black and blue, just in idle thought?

Anger would be a constant presence in our lives, trickling out whenever someone cut in line or thought an un-compliment at us or simply decided we weren’t worth their time. Politics would be honest. Military strategy would cease to have meaning as it currently exists. Sex would go from mind games to direct, honest exchange. Businesses would have to abandon the pretense that their employees might aspire to nothing more than an existence fulfilling a job description laid out in two paragraphs. Ambition would be far more openly accepted. Deviance would be the norm. We would have to face the truth that we are, often, ugly creatures. Truth would reign. Love would win probably far more often than it had before.

And our dreams — if we could hear them, perhaps we would finally realize the full dimension of what it means to be human, colorful and violent and peaceful and sad and full of love and anger and joy and curiosity and laughter and hatefulness. We all know it already on some level, but it’s a sad, locked-in level that makes me hope there really is an afterlife where we step out of ourselves and see it as a whole. It just would be cool to know. Cool is really a misnomer here, but I can’t think of a better word to describe it. There is no word.

On this plane, it’s too much, though. Other people would be a cacophony around us. More people probably would live alone, with sound-proofed walls to create a silent refuge for overwhelmed minds. Cities might call for earplugs, if they’d even work. We would have to learn politeness in the face of constant insults, despite resentment that would be impossible to hide. We would become expert in ignoring each other, finally understanding why autistic children go silent. Too much feedback. Too much input. Beautiful, but too much.

So I keep my blog inside my head, and I let little trickles out, when the mood strikes me, when it feels right, when I know I won’t be hurting anyone. And it works. I think.

Turning Thirty – February 2006

I am 29 right now. In another hour or so, I will be 30. I’m honestly happy, with none of that oh-my-god-ness that supposedly accompanies the turning of this age. I can’t wait to be a woman in her thirties.

I am comfortable with myself. I feel like I have faced all of my darker sides, made peace with them and made them part of me, a kaleidoscope where light wins out but both are required for balance. I have learned to live with uncertainty, to work hard, to take chances, to make mistakes and realize they are not the end of the world. I don’t suppose I’m entirely happy yet, but then again I don’t think there is any such thing.

I suppose I’ve become too complex along the way to explain myself completely to anyone, but I think most human beings are. I like them complex, to be honest, like giant puzzles that become clearer over time but always can be interpreted in several different ways. Looked at from a purely unemotional perspective, this could be my brain’s way of amusing itself. But, from a more emotional (and therefore more REAL, in theVelveteen Rabbit sense) perspective, I suppose I prefer people who are more likely to understand me. When I meet people who seem not to have had much life experience and who therefore seem fairly straightforward, shiny, and new, I am bored. That’s not fair to them — they could be amazing on the inside — but I don’t see those universes, and if I’m not given a glimpse, how can I guess it? All of my favorite people have given me a glimpse, multiple glimpses, at one time or another, and, if I must admit it, are full of grey areas.

One of the best things ever about getting older is that I’ve now known several friends for 10+ years and a few for more than 20. There is really no substitute for having substantial history with people. I imagine this is one of the great rewards of life, and I also imagine that I am only really beginning to understand that and still have a long way farther to go.

So what do I expect from today? Not much. It will probably be a day like any other. I had my celebration last night, and now I’m working on a freelance project, punctuated by phone calls and e-mails and e-cards, which make me far happier than I’d care to admit. I hate making a big deal of it in advance, but my birthday really is important to me nonetheless. Hurray for 30!

I know what 29 looks like.

Thirty? Who knows!

Fighting Easy – December 11, 2005

If someone had told me, two years ago, about everything that would happen in my life in the next two years, I would have listened, asked a few questions, then gone home to my studio overlooking a park in L.A. and made different choices. They would have been easier choices, or at least the unknown, with the possibility of easier choices.

Because that’s who I was. I chose easy things. Faced with two (or more) choices, I would pick the one most likely to lead to success, the one most likely to require the least effort. This was how I structured my life. Things had always been easy for me, and I wanted them to continue that way. I expected it.

This sounds awful. I know it. It was awful in a lot of ways. But it worked for a long time. I majored in something that was easy for me. I took jobs that were convenient rather than looking seriously for the best job regardless of geography. I never organized gatherings of friends, preferring to let others do the legwork so I could simply show up at the appointed place and time. Heck, I couldn’t even return phone calls.

Life realized I needed a kick in the ass, evidently. And the kidneys. And the ribs. Really, I think life went a bit overboard. But I did get the message. My work ethic needed work. My ethics ethic needed work. My patience, self-esteem, and assertiveness needed major work. They still do. I’m a work in progress. Fortunately, every other human being is in the same boat.

And now I’m making progress. I chose a challenging career. I moved away from the easy choices. I’m not guaranteed success, or recognition, or love or friendship or any of those things. If I want A’s, I need to do the work and make them happen. Skipping class because it’s cold and I don’t feel like going to school is right out. If I want to make good friends, I have to go at least half the distance and possibly more. If I am committed to growth, that means I am committed to discomfort. Which is a really bad selling proposition, when you think about it. But it is what life is all about, literally, from birth to death. It’s one long series of discomforts that make us feel more grateful for the interludes in between.

That’s why I’m glad I couldn’t see what was coming two years ago — because I certainly would have tried to avoid it. I don’t want to know what’s around the next bend, either, for the same reason. But I look at how strong I am now, compared with the weak, flickering thing of two years ago, and I wouldn’t give up that progress for an easier outcome. So I guess I have learned whatever major life lesson was on the table. On to the next one, I suppose. Right now, at this very moment, I’m having kind of a nice interlude.

I Miss Job-Searching – November 29, 2005

Tonight I thought about writing a paean to my love of tea.

That’s right. My love of tea.

Then I decided I could make my love of tea interesting. You know I could. There is no doubt.

But I decided not to do that. Perhaps another time.

Instead, I chose to write about something I miss, desperately and unexpectedly.

I miss looking for a job.

I know it sounds weird. The job-search process is almost universally reviled, it seems, and my love of it may seem inexplicable. But to me, it’s clear as day.

I love searching for a job because it means I have choices.

It’s not that I’m intending to take a job at all. I may be perfectly happy in my current circumstances, my current location, my current everything. I may have a zero percent chance of moving to Boston to take a job at a small alt-weekly or trekking Canada as a tour guide. But that doesn’t dilute my joy in reading the job posting, or in momentarily considering the leap.

It’s like a game for my mind. In the span of a couple of minutes, I create an alternate reality, complete with apartment, job, and nightlife. I weigh it briefly, assess its merits, then let it go. I almost never take action based on my flight of job fancy, unless I’m seriously dissatisfied with my real life in some way. If anything, this exercise serves to illustrate to my easily bored brain that I am, in fact, content with my present situation.

But now, I am not a job applicant. I am a student. I’m applying for internships, but I already know I’ll be accepting one of those, so it’s not a flirtation. It’s not an idle way to pass the time, nor an exercise in possibilities. It’s a high-pressure search, and it’s not fun. It’s work. It’s business.

That’s okay, and I know that’s how the job-search process is for most folks all the time. I’m still content with my present situation, and I don’t really need to consider applying for a job at Google to prove it. But I just wanted to say that I miss the freedom of knowing that I could. I think I’ll value it more when I regain it.

Paper Zines vs. Google – November 2, 2005

A friend asked me today why I’d like to bring back paper zines from the ’80s. I thought about it for .5 nanoseconds and then answered:

I think they were awesome — a way better window into the writer/editor’s creativity, through design that wasn’t constrained by the limits of HTML or a flat screen. Plus, you could say whatever the fuck you wanted, without fearing it would be broadcast to the Internet at large. Your audience had to seek you out, which meant they also were likely not to be, say, your future employer. And you could vanish into history when you were done.

There’s really something to be said for that. Vanishing into history. Vamoose. Kapoof. Gone.

You can’t do that if you’re writing on the Internet, where every snippet of your thoughts will be archived and spewed forth from various search engines for the next X years or even decades.

That’s not to say I’m anti-weblog. Weblogs are good. I dove into my first weblog with my real name and photo plastered front and center without a second thought, knowing I had nothing to fear from being authentically myself.

That was 2002. I guess I was innocent. Because people found me. People I did not intend to reach. Not the strangers or friends whom I gladly counted among my audience, but those people in between. Exes. Distant relatives. Coworkers. I remember my chagrin when a coworker proudly announced he had donated $X to my charity blogging effort. I remember thinking about how the owners of the company likely had read my bloggy thoughts. I remember being distinctly unthrilled.

And now, this pseudo-anonymity. My name is not now attached to my thoughts, and I feel a little safer posting at 3 a.m. with a haze of sleep still in my head, but it would not take much effort to expose this little blog. And I know that. Every time I post, I know that. I ask myself, if only in a deep dark corner of my mind that I don’t like to acknowledge: What would an employer think if they read this? If I ever ran for office, would this blog surface? Would I mind? I don’t think so, but really, who am I to say how I’ll feel five years from now?

These little things, they chip away at what you say, until you’re left with nothing left.

Paper zines were different. They were, in many ways, a temporary creation. They didn’t echo down through the years like a painting of their authors’ thoughts, available to anyone with an Internet connection. There were limited copies. They were perishable. You had to find them. They tended to get lost or thrown in the garbage or recycled. And they were far more honest.

I wonder how much of that kind of writing is to be had much of anywhere, anymore, on the Internet. And where it is, I wonder how much longer it will last. Employers seem increasingly intolerant of employees who show any signs of having a personality outside the office. Words you write today can come back to haunt you 10 years from now. These words could. I know that. So I think before I write, where I used to spew before I thought. If what I write seems less alive, I know it. I hate it. But it still is.

I’ve thought about locking up my thoughts, getting a LiveJournal where I could limit readers to those people I expressly choose. But, aside from being a pain in the ass and forcing people to sign up for yet another online service, that seems to defeat the entire purpose of writing one of these things. Weblogs are open forums, where I can meet other people who intrigue me and hopefully intrigue others on occasion, where I can let off steam and tell jokes and fill out silly surveys and reflect on memories and express new hopes and put to rest old baggage. They’re snapshots of a moment in life, like a photo album in words. I like that. I like sharing that. So I try to strike a balance.

I’m glad Google wasn’t around when I was growing up. I’m glad the diaries I attempted to keep, the stories scribbled out on notebook paper with friends, the school newspaper created on primitive Macs and archived on floppy disks that surely are long dead, the fantasy novel I began writing in a spiral-bound notebook in eighth grade and never finished, are safe from its long reach. They will never be archived. They are mine. They are not the world’s. And that’s just fine with me.

Not My Clothes – October 23, 2005

I had forgotten something about October, about the gray skies that sometimes come with it. It never happened in L.A., because the weather was nice and the sky was blue all year round. But it’s been cloudy now for about five days, and I remember. October is my favorite month, but it is also, often, the month of my discontent. I am a pessimist in October. I worry about unlikely outcomes and future directions. I never feel that I have done the right thing.

I’m gonna need to go down to Home Depot and get me one of those UV lights.

Okay. That’s doable. Fine.

Now, though, I’m awake at 3:30 a.m. I’m wearing silver stars on wires around my wrists, my ankles, and in my hair. I have a black skirt with sequins and a see-through blue-silver shirt over a strappy black camisole. It was a fabulous outfit.

I feel like I’m wearing someone else’s clothes.

They’re my clothes. They’re the clothes that made me feel exhilarated several years ago, that made me want to run through the streets laughing and stand by the water feeling wind whip through me. They still make me feel happy, when I put them on. But every time I come home like this, I sit awake at 3 in the morning. It’s like I’m trying to hold on to something that’s already slipped through my fingers.

Earlier today, I was reflecting on the fact that I would never, now, climb up a fire escape into a stranger’s apartment. I would never go alone to a bad neighborhood to see a show and wait on the train platform in the early a.m., hoping no one would walk past and see me up there. I would never board a bus to another state to spend a weekend with someone I’d never met, without telling anyone where they might find me.

In other words, I would never be stupid today. I’m not actually wishing I would still do those things. But I’m missing the spark that led me to do them, the feeling that nothing bad would happen, that there was nothing I could do that was uncorrectable, that all I had to do was follow my impulses and they would lead me to the right outcome. I would worry later about what to tell other people, not obsess in advance about negative outcomes that might never materialize.

I jumped without parachutes. And it’s that I miss.

Yet I don’t miss this, the sitting in my chair at 34 a.m., feeling unhappy with life. I often forget that this came with the territory. That while I might board a bus with no thought of what lay ahead, I also might loathe myself on the way home, or lie to my parents about my life, or take crappy jobs that would haunt me and my salary history for years.

At this point, I have planned outcomes. At this point, I have thought through my choices rather than stumbling into them. At this point, those choices require me to take responsibility and make commitments in ways I’ve never had to do before. All I can do from this point forward is do the right thing as much as I can, and trust that growing up brings some reward.

Because I think it does. I’m not unhappy with life. Quite the contrary. I’ve grown in so many ways, and I’ve found a path that stokes my intellectual curiosity, and when I’m actively pursuing that goal I feel busy, and ambitious, and curious about what comes next.

My mistake was in taking leisure time, a full day of rest and relaxation away from everyone else, and gorging on junk food. In October. When it hadn’t been sunny for several days.

Oh well. New classes start Monday, and I won’t have time to think too much, and I’ll just replace “watch DVDs and eat chocolate” with “get your ass out and explore the city” the next time I have free time. This isn’t the end of the road. It’s just a speed bump. With glitter.

X The Refuge of Cowards – December 12, 2004

Anonymity is the refuge of cowards. That’s what I used to think. I had a blog with my real name on it. I wrote whatever I felt, pressed Publish, and didn’t think too much about it. If someone didn’t like it, that was their problem.

It was great for six months or so. Then I heard from people. Members of my family. Exes. Employers. Nobody threatened me, or fired me, or told me not to talk about such-and-such. But I couldn’t forget about them. The site became less about what-the-fuck than about what-the-hell-are-they-going-to-think. Then it died, because I didn’t want to write a what-the-hell-are-they-going-to-think weblog. I wanted to write a what-the-fuck weblog, and I couldn’t anymore.

So. Been there, done that. And now that I’m thinking about leaving L.A., and applying to grad school while employed by companies that don’t know I’m applying to grad school, and figuring out what to keep in my life and what to jettison, I need some walls to protect myself. I don’t want anyone who can Google me reading my inner thoughts. I’m insecure right now. I’m not at my best. I laugh and smile and then go home and lie down in the shower and cry because I feel like I have no one to talk to. Is it weird to admit that? I don’t know. All I know is it is a time of change, and growth, and hurt and pain and joy and life and anger and laughing and figuring-out and learning and wanting and thinking and saying, Who do I want to be? From this point forward.

While I’m figuring it out, I want a place. To vent, rant, whine, scream, argue, dream, reflect, and put myself out there. To talk about what’s going on in my head. Only in my head — I’ll not talk in-depth about friends, or dates, or employers, or colleagues here. Just me. But I am a writer. This is who I am. I fought so hard to open up that I can’t go back in the bottle.

I am afraid. I am afraid that you will judge me if you already know me, that you will read these words and find someone who is not as cool as she was last year, who is indecisive and neurotic and too sensitive and unrealistic, who reads The New York Times in one window and her horoscope in the next, who goes to an art museum and then to see Team America and loves both, who is learning a programming language and tai chi, who needs to be liked but has a deep need to speak her mind, who seems to change every week, who is a contradiction in terms, who knows exactly who she is but can’t communicate it very well at all.

This is my attempt to communicate. If you want to listen in, feel free.

Are my blogging circumstances different this time around? Sure. Thus the X. Forgive the pseudonym, and let’s get on with it.

My Detour as a Model – April 28, 2005

Something happens to you when you live in L.A. Without even noticing it, you get swept up in the image culture. And then you start thinking dangerous thoughts, like: Hey, maybe I could do that.

For me, it started with some compliments on my eyes. I know they are my defining feature. I’d just never thought of doing anything to make money off of that. But one day, someone mentioned that I should look into being a parts model.

Now, I’m no model. I’m short, I’ll never be a stick figure, and I like frappuccinos. I have zits. I have blemishes. I’m a real girl, thank you very much. But my head still started spinning.

I could stay home all day and write. I could go to the coffee shop in the middle of the morning and stay there until noon. I could take classes during the day, instead of at night, so I wouldn’t be tired all the time. I could travel at will.

Yep. I had entered the realm of dreams, which I suspect must exist in the mind of every person who’s ever even contemplated moving to L.A. I did a Google search for “body parts models,” and I called the number of an agency I found, and I sent photos to them via email. I told myself I was just being curious and wanted to see how things would turn out.

A few weeks later, I found myself creeping through the back gate of a house on a canyon road in the hills. I wasn’t breaking and entering; I was an expected guest on my way to an in-person evaluation — which just happened to be poolside in the backyard of a million-dollar house.

I was slightly freaked out, but everything appeared legit. There was a little office in a guest house, staffed by several women taking phone calls. The owner of the agency (and the house) handed me a sheet of paper on a clipboard and told me to fill it out.

As I sat at a glass table, shaded by an umbrella, I realized I felt like a complete impostor. I was already applying to grad schools — I wanted to use my brain. So why was I sitting here trying to use my body?

The owner of the agency came out of the house and sat with me to review my photos. She had me stand in the sunlight and in the shade, then declared that she wanted to sign me but wanted me to have more photos taken first. She handed me a sheet of paper with a list of several photographers. She recommended one who lived in Italy.

“He will be in L.A. in a couple of months. There’s no hurry, so why don’t you call him and set up an appointment?”

I nodded and told her I would do that.

“Is there anything else you think we might use you for, besides eyes?” she added. “There’s not much call for just eyes, really, so we’d like to be able to use you for as many body parts as possible.”

I felt like a piece of meat. “Well, I have pretty nice abs,” I ventured. Why not? I was already here.

She had me lift my shirt and show her my stomach.

“Very nice, but a little soft. We have a lot of demand for really hard, workout abs right now, but if I ever get a call for anything a little softer, I’d use you,” she said. And then:

“How’s your butt?”

“Um…”

a pause…

for thought…

that lasted…

an eternity.

“…it’s okay.”

That was where I drew the line. If I said anything positive about my ass, she was going to make me take off my pants and turn around by the pool, and I was going to be more degraded than I ever had been in my life. No way was I going to let this woman rate my ass. If she thought my abs were soft, she wasn’t going to like my butt, either. Even if she did, what would I later say to people who asked me what I did for a living?

“Well, I’m an ass model.”

No thanks. I might have been flattered that someone wanted to photograph me, intrigued by the idea, but I was not going to be an anonymous ass.

I chose to walk out of the backyard, dignity intact. When the photographer from Italy arrived in L.A. and I called the agency owner to confirm her interest, she told me she no longer needed “just” eye models. And I was okay with that. I think I’m best as me, all together, less-than-perfect parts included.