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I Love this World, But I Don’t Want to Live in it

On my very first day of pre-school, nearly 3,000 innocent people were killed.

I remember the car being turned around.  I remember frantic phone calls.  I remember seeing fire on TV and wondering what it was from.

I’d just turned four less than a month ago, and already my life was being turned upside down by forces outside of my control.  September 11th, 2001, changed the very thought process of millions of Americans.  It changed the very structure of airports.  It changed security everywhere.  It changed the perception we have of all peoples from the Middle East.  It changed our lives.

And I didn’t realize it as I was growing up.  After all, I experienced it as it came, as sort of a natural progression.   I grew up in a pretty green backyard while thousands of American troops were deployed and sacrificed their lives so that I could feel safe.  I grew up while terrorists’ faces littered the television screen.  I grew up in a world ravaged by hate, revenge, sacrifice, suspicion, racism, and paranoia.

Thankfully I was in a position where I was shielded from all of it.  What I worried about most was school and when I could see the newest Harry Potter movie.  I cheered when I heard Bin Laden had finally been killed, then went about my day, not bothering to think about what that actually meant for the world.

But now I’m 19 going on 20 and I’ve had the opportunity to dip my toes in the real world, just a little bit.  I’ve had time to reminisce.  In fact, I’ve been reminiscing a lot recently.  After all, when times get hard and the world gets scary, the easiest (though perhaps not best) defense is to find a dark place and think about what it would be like to be 7 years old again.

Because I feel like I haven’t woken up in the past year and not seen breaking news about another stabbing, another shooting, another bombing, another terrorist attack.

Orlando.  London.  San Bernardino.  Manchester.  Nice.  Brussels.

(Let’s not even get into Syria and Iran and Iraq, who are ravaged by terrorists almost daily.  Terrorists they want nothing to do with.)

But I have no political message in this blog post.  Or at least one that I’m going to outright type.  It would serve me no purpose.  We all know there are problems in the world.  We all know that things need to change.  The majority of the people that read this blog know my political views.  The last thing I want to do is start more fights.

I just wanted to say that I am tired.  Tired and scared and tired of being scared about everything.

For example, in planning to go to Pittsburgh’s Pride activities this weekend, my first thought was “what if something happens?”

My friend texted me and told me that he thought about how he would be one of the first ones to die if someone decided to bomb his place of work, because he works near the front in an office, just before the security gates.

I’m traveling over the holidays this summer and it absolutely freaks me the fuck out. 

The worst part of all this is that I don’t know what to do about any of it.  I’m not supposed to give in to fear, yet at this point, how can you not be afraid?  I refuse to look the other way and live in ignorance, pretending that everything is fine.  Because it’s not.  I refuse to ignore the hate, the sacrifice, the suspicion,  the racism, and the paranoia.  If that means I am terrified, then so be it.

I will give into the fear. I will not give into anything else.  I will not pass undue judgements.  I will not justify (more) hate.  I will not let this fear destroy anyone’s rights.

Why?

I love this world.  I want to see it grow green and prosper.

But I’m so tired of living in it.

 

 

 

 

How to Fall in Love with a Stranger

I fell in love with a stranger today.

And I do not know why.

It’s not a regular occurrence for me.  I’m not a romantic.  I don’t dream of a life with a partner – getting married, buying a house, growing old together in a living room with sagging couches.  I don’t think about love much at all, really.  For myself at least.  It’s not something I am typically drawn to.  As a full-time college student with multiple jobs, a filmmaker, a very independent woman, and a cat lady (everyone in my life knows they come second to my cat), a companion of the non-platonic nature isn’t something I  feel that I need or want in my life.  And let’s not even get started on the fact that I am very much not in the emotional state to handle a relationship right now.

But for some reason, on peculiar occasions that happen only slightly more often than the second coming of Christ, I fall in love with someone I don’t even know.

It’s been with people sitting across from me on a crowded city bus, someone meandering with a stack of books tucked under their arm at Barnes and Noble, or, in this most recent case, a boy with a flashy red motorcycle helmet in my hometown Starbucks.

What I despise (see: love) about these certain people is that I am drawn to them so strongly.  It’s more than just a “oh, you’re cute” kind of feeling and more of a “I genuinely want to know you as a person” deal.

I never talk to them of course.  I’m too shy to be able to do that.  But I indulge myself and take down the walls surrounding my own mindscape, even if it’s just for a few moments while they wait in line for their coffee.  I ponder what it would actually be like to fall in love.  To actually build a life with someone.  To actually grow old on saggy couches.

Then I study their face as discreetly as I can when they turn, committing it to memory.   They grab their coffee.  They walk out the door.  They never know.

And they don’t need to.  Maybe they have a girlfriend.  Or a boyfriend.  Or maybe they’re just like me, and are comfortable being alone.  The two of us are a missed connection; two fish swimming in parallel currents – ever near, within reach, but impossible to obtain and not meant to be.

This doesn’t make me sad though.  If anything it makes me even more curious about the human condition: our wants and our needs, our fantasies and realities, our emotions and logic.  I like to pretend I’m impervious to all of these things even though in my gut I know I’m not.

Encounters with strangers like these remind me that I am, at my core, human.  They provide a flicker of warmth to an otherwise monotonous day and give me a reason to smile.  I hold on to the feeling they give me for as long as I can.  Sometimes it’s just the rest of the day.  Sometimes it’s weeks after I’ve seen them, and their face pops into my head, and the corners of my lips twitch upwards into a small smile. 

In a way, I owe them.

 

 

 

Where We Are

We are here.  We’ve made it.  We’ve crossed the line.

April 29th, 2017.  Today I watched many of my residents move out.  I watched friends walk across the graduation stage, grins eating up their entire faces as they took a leather-bound piece of paper into their hands; a piece of paper they’ve been waiting 4 years for.  I watched strangers cry and hug each other before getting into their cars and driving away.

April 29th, 2016, and I, too, cried as my mom drove me away from school for the final time.  I dreaded the lonely summer awaiting me.

My freshman year at college had been, at that point, the best year of my life.  And I still think that title stands.

I didn’t think I would be emotional at the end of my sophomore year.  I’m not really going anywhere.  I’m working on campus with my best friends this summer, so I’m not leaving them.  I’m not being totally disconnected from the world and people I spent nine months buried in.

Sure, I may not be leaving, but a lot of other people are.

Yet here I am.  I’m cleaning out my room in the freshmen dorms and getting ready to make the move across the street to my apartment later in May.  I’m taking down the decorations I put up for my floor.  Taking down my last bulletin board, my posters, the nametags left behind.

And I’m just thinking.

I don’t know if I’m sad or I’m happy or what I’m feeling.  I just know I’m thinking.  About everything that’s happened in the past nine months.

I became an RE after two weeks of extensive training.  I met some of my favorite people in the entire world and got to call them my staff.  Together, I felt like we could conquer anything.  But I let my residents down.  Then I went to the ends of the earth for a few.  I made shitty films and I made some good ones.  I got to go places I’ve never been before.  I isolated myself a lot.  I let my mental illnesses get the best of me.  I kicked myself for being full of self-pity.  I made mistakes.  I got lucky a lot.  I experienced grief and bereavement in their purest, most painful forms.  My faith was shaken to its very core. I turned in assignments I BSed in thirty minutes and felt genuinely embarrassed to show my professors.  I slaved for weeks over film projects.  I questioned who I was – both as a professional and as a person.  I let go of large parts of myself that I never anticipated letting go of.  Sometimes it felt great.  Sometimes it felt…not so great.  I gained.  I lost.  I grew in all sorts of directions.

I fell in and out of love with people and ideas and I learned that there are two sides to the world, and that it is important to try and see both in order to grow.

And while I will never be an optimist (I’m missing the gene completely for that one), I like to think there are parts of me in there somewhere that believe everything can’t be that bad.  If anything, we’ve got to make something out of the pain we go through so that it’s not all in vain.

The pain is there.  It always will be.  Whether it’s stems from heartbreak, loss, change, emptiness, or something else, sometimes it just doesn’t leave.  Is that okay?  I want to say yes, but the truth is, I don’t know.  The biggest thing that I learned about myself this year is that I am constantly guilty about everything I feel.  I’m guilty if I’m happy, sad, or indifferent; whatever emotion I’m feeling is wrong and I should not be feeling it.  Or at least that’s what my brain tells me.  But I am working on it, and there are people out there helping me.

My sophomore year of college, from Fall 2016 to Spring 2017, existed as it was.  There is no going back to change it now.  The good happened, the bad happened, and the ugly happened.

Here’s to summer, which will be full of work and play alike, and to my junior year.

Let’s see what happens.

(more…)

The Physicality of Mental Illness

While the constant lack of knowledge surrounding mental illness in today’s society never ceases to surprise me, what really gets to me is how almost no one understands the PHYSICAL effects of them on the body.

I am pretty open with my close friends about my anxiety and depression.  If I’m having a bad day they can usually read it on me.  Or I’ll straight up tell them.  But for those in my life that I don’t quite feel like spilling all the beans to, I imagine sometimes my behaviors and complaints can seem unwarranted or whiny.

When I’m going through a rough streak with my depression (especially in the winter) my entire body aches constantly.  I feel like I’m 80 years old.  Standing for long periods of time is utterly exhausting and hurts my legs.  My joints protest when I move too quickly or bend down.  I go through periods of binge eating everything in sight, or eating one cereal bar for an entire day.  I get headaches in the back of my head 3-4 times a week.  And whenever I get out of bed in the morning afternoon and place my feet on the ground, I can physically feel the weight of the world pressing down on me through the soles of my feet.  Whether I set my alarm to wake me up at an appropriate time after 8 hours of sleep, fall into a coma for 12 hours, or hardly sleep at all during the night, I am tired.

I am always

tired.

But it’s beyond the point of just being tired like you had a late night doing homework.  I can barely function without coffee as is, but if I don’t get some into my system within the hour, I’ll be falling asleep the next moment my butt hits a chair or I lean up against something.

It’s a kind of alien exhaustion that I feel threading through my veins like a slow-working, liquid poison.

Now depending on the day, this is not all that happens to my body.  When anxiety strikes, it strikes hard.  And if depression is ice, freezing me in place and slowing my movements, anxiety is fire and my entire body is kindling.  My chest hurts because my heart wants to escape my ribcage.  My hands and fingers shake.  My brain thinks it’s trying to win the next Daytona 500.  I get nauseous.  And there go my fingernails.  Again.

Of course these are not the only effects of these mental illnesses on the body.  They are simply the ones I am familiar with.  Others deal heavily with weight loss/gain, heart disease, a weakened immune system, etc. There is so much to these diseases and I will not pretend to be an expert and minimize others experiences.

When I make open-hearted posts like these on a tiny little blog that I post in about two times a year, I am not trying to cry out for attention.  I am not trying to get the few people that read this to pity me (I’d hate nothing more, actually).  I’m just trying to raise awareness.  The more time I spend in college and the more people I talk to, I realize that the grasp of mental illness has a tight hold on many of my peers.  It’s an epidemic, really.  One that does not have the proper education or medication to make any real efforts against combatting it respectable.

Here are some links on how depression and anxiety affect the body, if you would like to further educate yourself.

http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/effects-on-body

http://www.health.harvard.edu/press_releases/depression_and_heart_disease

http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/anxiety_and_physical_illness

http://www.webmd.com/depression/how-depression-affects-your-body#1

 

 

The Gross Details of My Breathing

Sometimes I try and squish all the poem ideas I have into one clusterfuck of a piece and I end up with something like this:

 

I chewed my bottom lip apart today
in an effort to keep from falling apart
in the middle of the classroom.
I took my teeth to the soft flesh there
and marred it until the taste of blood
was just the taste of my own mouth.

I thought that if I could slowly take myself
apart
piece by piece by piece
(instead of leaving the job to someone else)
things could get easier

Because if I can focus on the blood
and the little pieces of skin
between my teeth,
if I can focus on that,
then the sadness and compression
in my chest gets buried just a little bit.
And I’m able to exist beyond the guilt
of simply doing so
and pick myself up,
because falling apart is just too painful
(for now)

 

I have really gross habits of biting my lips and picking at my fingers a lot and I’ve always wondered why it was such a thing for anxious people. I think it might have something to do with the fact that we’re so tired of being ourselves but we know that we’re the ones that will  ultimately be our own destruction.

Officially a part of Confessions of a Serial Human Being.

What Film Has Taught Me

Throughout the course of our lives we have many teachers, and they come in many shapes and sizes.  Some of them are people – children, professors, parents, friends, even strangers.  Some are situations.  Some are concepts or ideas.

This past year of my life, film has been my greatest teacher.  It has taught me more than I could have ever imagined in my first year as a film student.  As an 18 year old, I have gone through alot in my life already.  Adventurous and a bit cocky in my own experiences sometimes, I didn’t think there was that much for me to learn about movies (or making them) outside of the technical aspects that I was going to school for.  But I was happily proven very, very wrong.  Filmmaking is one of the most psychologically, socially, and physically involving tasks that anyone can hope to conquer.  Here is what I have been taught so far:

Be comfortable with yourself

Filmmaking is not a craft for those who are not comfortable in their own skin.  I realized this within the first few months of school.  Having struggled with anxiety pretty much my entire life (and to this day), this was something that was hard for me to push through and accept.  I am an introvert and not a naturally outgoing person.

I cannot tell you how many times I have been pushed out of my comfort zone so far.  Whether it’s just talking with people, collaborating on an artistic vision, getting a group of rowdy 20-somethings in line on set as an AD, giving criticism, or even expressing my ideas, I have had to swallow back a lot of doubts, a lot of “can I really do this?  Is this who I am?” thoughts and just do it.  I have found that when I trust myself, that the words coming out of my mouth can actually express what I want them to express.

Be patient, be kind

You will get nowhere in the film industry if you are not an approachable, friendly human being.  No one wants to work with a DP that sulks around on set.  No one wants to work with the grip that has a major attitude problem.  No one wants to work with a director that thinks they’re better than the rest of the crew simply because they get to say “action”.

Filmmaking is a collaborative process and everyone involved needs to be respectful and diligent of each other’s work, emotions, and lives.  On the few small sets that I have been on, a crew is like a family.  It can be dysfunctional at times, but ultimately, everyone has everyone else’s back.

Alternatively, take no shit

Putting aside all of the sappy aspects like “teamwork” and “creativity”, filmmaking is just one big fat competition.  It starts from the very beginning – from getting into film school, to making the best student film, to battling for money and support for your little indie project, to proving that your script is better than the thousands of others that land on Hollywood’s doorstep each day.  It never stops.

This is your art, yes, but this is also your living.  In film you have to be tough.  Do not let yourself be pushed aside.  Take no shit.  Don’t accept less than what you are owed.  Fight.  Make your mark.

Chase your dreams

Movies are the very marrow in my bones – what each and every one of my cells is made up of.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit too try-hard poetic, but it’s true.  I do not want to imagine my life without movies.  It has become my dream, my great grand goal to make them.  It’s my calling.  And God help me, I will chase that calling to the ends of the earth.

A lot of people seem to think I’ll be furiously typing up countless “FADE IN:”s at 3:30 in the morning because, during the day, I’ll have no time due to my 2-3 jobs I’m working  at coffee shops, restaurants, and retail stores, 7 days a week, in order to scrape by on rent.

If that’s the way it’ll end up, then so be it.  But I will not give up.  Being a filmmaker requires the perfect mix of hard work and sheer luck.  You’ve got to work hard, never let go of those grandiose visions in your head, and… also happen to be at just the right place at the right time so you can bump into that person: the one that’ll give you your break.

So chase down your dreams.  Chase them down like they’re the last rabbit on this earth, and you are a starving hunter with the will to live.

Go the extra mile

Be the hard worker.  Be the one that stands out for staying late and helping get work done.  Be the PA that gets to set early, even if you feel completely irrelevant and think that no one will notice.

Because someone will notice.  Somewhere down the line, someone will see the fire in your eyes – that burning passion that drives you into making the step to the front line.

Do not be average.  Do not do the amount of work thousands of other young filmmakers can do.  Even if it’s a small task, complete it like it’s the most important thing you’ve ever done in your life.

Someone will notice.

Communication

I have been on sets that have run smoothly.

I have been on sets that have not run smoothly.

I  have found that the difference between two such sets has been only one factor:

communication.

On a set where everyone is talking to each other, the AD is doing their job and keeping everyone coordinated, the director is letting the rest of the crew know what they want, the talent is focused, and the DP keeps the grips and gaffers and ACs busy, shots are fired off one after the other.  Wrap is on time.  Everyone is in a pleasant mood.

But on a set where the AD is lazing about, the grips and gaffers have no idea how the DP wants the camera and lighting set up, the director can’t direct actors because they’re either missing or confused or simply not talking about what they need/want, then things go downhill really, really fast.  The crew and cast are fueling bitter fires of resentment towards one another, wrap time is 2 hours late, and everyone thinks about quitting on the drive home.

Communication is key, and MUST be a two way street.  Simply talking at someone rather than with them will prove no more productive than attempting to nail jello to a tree.