26 September, 2016

Praying in the Street


Apart from the abrupt cold weather, a tell-tale sign of autumn arriving in San Diego is the fact that I can't hear cars at night anymore.  When the summer arrives, I open my windows, and they stay open for four months.  When it gets chilly, my windows are shut, and it becomes quieter.  The sound of autumn is complete silence.

I walk into my creative writing course with sweaty palms and shaky knees, and I sort of slam my body down into an empty chair.  I pull out a post-it, and I'm trying to write down BOTH RIVER PHOENIX AND PATTI SMITH HAD LAZY LEFT EYES, but my vision isn't cooperating.  My body feels very hot.  I'm shivering.

I was almost visited by a panic attack while driving.

On September twelfth, I open my socks drawer for the first time in five months.


Before, I suggested that guarding your true emotions isn't a good idea, and being open about your intentions is the way to go.  But I'm going to rephrase:  guarding my emotions is a bad idea for me and being open about my intentions is something I need to do.

Sometimes you grow up in an environment where neither you nor the person taking care of you knows how to help your brain think normal human being things through.  It's a chain, you know?  The person taking care of your parents didn't take good care of their brain, so your parent's brain doesn't take good care of yours, etc.

I've noticed that my brain didn't expand on a lot of things that it needed to expand on as a child.  For example, I don't know how to ask for forgiveness.  I equate asking for forgiveness with shame.  My brain thinks that asking for forgiveness means that I lost, and not asking for forgiveness leaves a lot of room for interpretation (meaning, maybe at some point, the other person will think it was their fault all along).

Another example is, I assume that every action I make around another person has the potential to annoy them, and is actually annoying them at that very second.  I grew up not knowing how people felt about my actions.  Like, I'd do things that I thought were good!  Good things!  But the people taking care of me had bodies that didn't know how to work through their negative emotions, so they would explode a lot when I was around.  Since they didn't ask for forgiveness, I would assume it was my fault.

You begin to collect all these mixed signals, and you just don't know what people's actions mean.

"Hey, are you mad at me?"
"Jess, why in the world would you think I'm mad at you?"

And it's probably because they stomped up the stairs a little too hard, or slammed their bag on the table on accident, or maybe they're just quieter; whatever it is, I think it's because of me.

I don't want people to be confused about how I feel.  I don't want to be confused about how people feel about me.  I do reiterate that it is all about trial-and-error, though.  I hope that my transparency encourages people to be transparent with me.  I hope that I never make people feel guilty about how I feel, I hope that I'm not a person that is hard to be around: I just want to be honest, and I want people to be honest back.  I don't want to not know.  

"I have always found it odd that people who think passive aggressively ignoring a person is making a point to them. The only point it makes to anyone is your inability to articulate your point of view because deep down you know you can’t win. It’s better to assert yourself and tell the person you are moving on without them and why, rather than leave a lasting impression of cowardness on your part in a person’s mind by avoiding them."
Shannon Alder


I know what is happening when I begin to get a strange sense of tunnel vision while driving.  It has happened before, panicking while driving, but there's always been someone in the passenger seat with me.  This time, I'm alone, stuck in traffic going north, in the lane farthest to the left.

John Mayer's Continuum always calms me down: I know all the lyrics in that album, and singing out loud brings me down from my whirlwind of panic.  I jab my fingers at my stereo.  Every action that I take is making my heart beat faster.

The existentialist thoughts arrive in a chariot of fire.  They park right in front of my car.  I can't see ahead.  My vision is getting alarmingly blurry.  My brain is trying to figure out which tactics to use to avoid freaking out; at the same time, the existentialist thoughts that burrowed into my head are growing larger in size.  I look at my hands, gripping the steering wheel, and I ask myself whether I'm real.  Whether I'm driving a car.  Whether the planet is real, whether the people driving their cars is real.

John Mayer begins to croon from the speaker and I feel like a child, trying to mimic his singing style.  Instead of sounding bluesy, I find that I'm shouting the lyrics.  ME AND ALL MY FRIENDS!  WE'RE ALL MISUNDERSTOOD!  THEY SAY WE STAND FOR NOTHING, AND!  THERE'S NO WAY WE EVER COULD!

santa barbara
santa barbara
santa barbara
santa barbara

19 September, 2016

Rio Jude



One of my biggest insecurities is being useless in my relationships.  I want to be useful in every situation.  This isn't healthy, or right: this insecurity of mine leads me to be disingenuous in a lot of the things that I do.  In my head, I think I'm doing something kind to be kind; however, a large part of the "kind" things I do is to be loved more, or to keep being loved.

During the month of August, I became unhealthily obsessed with River Phoenix.  Thinking about him makes my body jolt.  I feel like my connection to him is haunted: I don't feel calm when I think about River Phoenix.  I first acknowledged him when I was in high school, and had a crush on Joaquin Phoenix, and a google search revealed that he had a brother who was also famous, but was dead.  When I saw his birthday was August twenty-third, I felt a kinship with him, but I didn't think about him much after this, not even when I saw Stand by Me for the first time.

I read what people said about River Phoenix after he died, and that's what made me feel even more attached to the idea of him.  An incredible article was written by Tad Friend for Esquire in 1994, which I definitely recommend.  It was published five months after River passed away.  The journalist narrates River's funeral, and plugs in a lot of flashbacks and commentary on Rio's life.  It's very honest: he doesn't erase what happened to him.  But!  Oh man, there's something so addicting about the testimonials people have on River Phoenix.

It's unsettling... but I want to have a similar effect on people.  I want to be timeless.

"Run to the rescue with love, and peace will follow."
River Phoenix

baja california, mexico
baja california, mexico

That's the larger problem, too, and I recognize it: my gross need to be immortal.

I was lying on my bed as a tiny nine-year-old one day.  I was thinking about death as seriously as a nine-year-old can.  Earlier that week, I had expressed to my dad that I was afraid of dying.  My father, a no-nonsense, get-it-together-young-lady sort of man, said, "Sweetie, you don't have to be afraid, because when you die, you're going to go to heaven!"  I believed him immediately, and then I was not afraid of death.

I began to think about heaven instead.  The Bible says that in heaven, the streets will be paved with gold; my dad told me that in heaven, "you won't be sad, and you will never cry."  I began to think about this, when suddenly, I sat upright, and my body began to get very hot, and my breath quickened, because I began to think about eternity as a concept.  In my head, I saw images of me playing ping pong with Jesus and Abraham and Esther... forever.  My vision began to blur as I thought about how there would probably not be night time in heaven, would I even eat in heaven, where is the line drawn, where does human behavior end in heaven--

I don't like thinking about eternity and I don't like thinking about my death and I don't like thinking about my existence... but goshdarnit, I want to exist forever.

I read once that you die twice: your body’s physical death, and the last time anyone utters your name. I’d like to stretch these two events as far apart as I can. William Shakespeare has been dead for exactly 400 years, and everyone knows who he is. He can never die. The idea of him transcends chronology. I want my existence to have not been in vain: I want to be admired. I want my colossal ego to be laid to rest peacefully, with the knowledge that there was something honorable about me.

les étoiles et palmiers
the moon, my girlfriend

I'm re-reading the first part of this post, and I'm thinking about how it begins with, "One of my biggest insecurities is..."  And I'm thinking about how a lot of people are very afraid of being vulnerable.  Jack Kerouac wrote in his journals:  "Don’t tell them too much about your soul.  They’re waiting for just that."  And I'm wondering... what is so special about our souls that has to be kept private?

Who's waiting?

I've been cynical for an uncomfortably long time, so maybe I'm being extremely naïve on purpose, but are we all intentionally out to get people?  And even if those people are out there, aren't we smart enough to decide who to tell what?

Whenever I'm having bouts of panic in public, I tell my friend I trust.  They will pause with me until I feel better (which usually happens after I've communicated how I feel), and then the problem is gone: they are back to thinking about themselves (not a bad thing) so I don't have to be embarrassed, and I also don't feel panicked anymore.

When Sabrina asks me how I feel, I'll say "I feel sad" if it's true.  She'll ask me why.  I'll frown, raise an eyebrow, and say: "I have no idea!" After saying this out loud, I immediately feel like I don't have to act out my pain for her to notice it, and we won't have any miscommunication.  I also know that Sabrina doesn't like to dwell on any negativity, so me sharing that I feel sad won't affect her day.

This obviously requires trial-and-error.  I used to bare my soul to everyone who would listen, which was very damaging for me, because I'd feel incredibly hurt if people didn't react the way I wanted them to.  Also, you can be careful about what you share with whom, and how: perhaps don't one-up someone else's pain, and also, don't make others feel anxious about how you feel.   Don't make it their responsibility to make you feel better.

I'm wondering whether it's true that people are attracted to the ugliness in others.  The imperfections that you can relate to.  Can you feel like you can comfortably be you around someone who appears non-relatable?

"A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved."
Kurt Vonnegut, The Sirens of Titan


12 September, 2016

Shrinking Before Expanding

autorretrato 1


Usually, I’ve stopped writing for one of a couple of reasons. The most likely is: something very large and detail-specific took place in my life, and recording every aspect of it is going to require of me an hour or two of silence, attention, and a strong memory. As a perfectionist, I’d rather not begin something that will barely meet my personal standards of “good work”, so I don’t write this event down until the time is perfect. However, I can’t bring myself to continue journaling my day-to-day life until that event is taken care of. So I don't write at all.  It’s a very long cycle of evading.

Until one day I’ve had enough! And I can’t bear it any longer and I must, I must write! Except not for any heroic reason: more, like… writing is the only place I built any real identity, other than my self-pity. And I gotta reconnect every once in a while.

That’s something I deeply resent about myself, by the way. Pessimism turned into a defense mechanism when it suddenly became uncool to be enthusiastic and high-pitched. Through the years I began to believe it. The voice in my head? That said, “Well, actually, have you considered…” every time I thought a nice thought. It’s so uncool!... but it’s so easy! How does one stop believing this?

I'm looking forward to the day where what I write doesn't sound so sad.

a walk with dani

Dani and I take a hike through the highlands by her home. I haven’t seen her since I pointedly secluded myself in my home months ago. She is very lively, shiny and bronze. Her long, wavy hair is beautifully caught in a tangled ponytail, woven through a baseball cap. She has a lot of things to tell me about herself, which I love: I am very submissive, and prefer any one else other than myself to be in control of a conversation, or any interaction in general. Not to mention that she’s a fantastic verbal communicator, a gift I’m, unfortunately, jealous of.

Romance is one of my favorite topics to meditate over: I love trying to prove it, trying to disprove it, trying to figure out at which moments it exists. Talking about it with Dani is very fun: She tells me that a large part of her enjoys the attention she receives from guys, and that’s enough for her. I tell her I support her doing anything she wants for attention. She laughs and thanks me. “Most people would judge me,” she says, and I know that she’s right. I wonder whether she has found herself feeling worn out by a man’s detachment in the past, a position many women find themselves in regularly. I wonder how anyone could possibly blame her for wanting attention.

I take pictures of Dani as we walk and talk, and she calls me her little photographer, which makes me beam. We reach a fork in the road. “We can hike up the rest of the mountain; it’s very steep, but it’ll take us directly back home. Or! We can go down this slope. I’ve never been down there, but I’ve heard this trail circles around the mountain.” Not one to pass up a chance at a significant event to occur in my life, I say, “I don’t know that I’m feeling up for hiking a steep mountain right now,” and she grins and says, “Thank God, neither do I!”

The further we are from civilization, the more afraid I get. I begin to see images of scary men hidden in the trees, wild coyotes, a stray rattlesnake. Worse, I wonder whether we’ll be lost out here.

I wonder, can it be understood that I am aware and I am grateful for the things that I have, most of them which I don’t deserve, and I am still unhappy?


I’m sitting on my bed, right next to my window. The sun is setting to my left. I re-arranged my room last October for this very reason: to be able to watch the sunset every single night.

I’m writing and Paolo Nutini is crooning from the other corner of the room, the sound escaping from a tiny speaker. He’s singing about his girl making him want to be a better man. Can I just say? That Paolo Nutini makes me feel something on the surface of my skin? I’ve been trying lately to avoid using clichés, whether I’m speaking or writing, so I don’t know how to put across the idea that Paolo Nutini is very important to me without using a tired phrase, and also, my love for Paolo Nutini isn’t important at all, but one of the main characteristics of my personality is record-keeping: I have to remember that Paolo Nutini was very important to me August of 2016.

Speaking of August of 2016, I celebrated my twenty-first birthday on the twenty-fourth of August. For my birthday, I got a piñata (shaped like a colorful donkey) filled with Hershey bars, and a gold necklace with a pendant in the shape of California. It was the happiest birthday I had ever had in my entire life. The reasons for it are somewhere in my journal.

Paolo Nutini just finished crooning about being a Better Man and two helicopters just flew above my home. More than three families on my street are moving out. I feel like something is stirring outside my universe, and every one else knows but me.

After thinking about it for some time, maybe I don’t know how to describe how I love Paolo Nutini because I’m not interested in explaining myself. Which I understand sounds harsh, but as someone who considers herself one of the biggest people-pleasers she has ever met, this is very good news.

My first day of my senior year of college began this week, after taking a semester off. This is the first year I attend college back home, in Southern California, after having studied in New York City. The school I attend now is in the city also, which gives me a false sense of being back in Manhattan. And that’s enough to keep me going.

I’ve had a rough start, though: my courses begin at 9 am, and I have four classes back-to-back. The night before my first day of classes, I was so nervous that I wouldn’t sleep enough. I was so nervous, in fact, that it kept me awake all night. I didn’t sleep not even ten minutes. It was a trip driving to school; however, I was forced to ask my parents to pick me up from school when I figured I could probably die if I attempted to drive back home. I’ve never been drunk in my life, but I wonder if the feeling was similar.