honest and positive

I started writing this sometime in 2016 but I’m finishing writing this in early 2017

“If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it.”

“I’m not afraid to tell the truth. I tell it like it is.”

In these sayings there is implied a dichotomy between being nice and being honest, where being “too nice” means being too accommodating to the point of being a pushover.

In middle school, I argued that there is no such thing as “too nice.” The stepfather in a book I read in my sixth grade Language A class was seen by the protagonist as “too nice,” because he didn’t stand up to children who were being, well, mean. My sixth grade self would have argued that not standing up for yourself or other people is actually mean–it’s not being nice to the person being insulted or attacked.

Nowadays, I think my confidence in some senses has decreased while in other senses expanded, and when I think about trying to be nice I think of shrinking back, of decreasing the size and space I take up, of making my voice smaller and less important, of saying well you know well maybe you’re right more. Of trying to seem more agreeable, of compromising more, so I can get along. I don’t know, maybe it’s because trying to say what I thought and be who I wanted to be got me into trouble, and got me accused of not being agreeable and friendly in the past. Maybe because some people are just that good at getting their way and making me doubt and question what I really think. Maybe because I’ve had my confidence stripped from me, maybe because I’ve let that happen. Maybe because if you hear something enough you start to believe it.

Something I thought in ninth grade: What if you look so that the truth is good?

I was thinking, what if you look so that the truth is the good, the truth is nice? And telling it like it is means to build each other up in this world of falling down, of finding the true goodness that exists in all the dirt, of finding that which shimmers and gleams in the middle of a pile of trash, of not letting the lies of the world get to you.

So life is crazy, life is always crazy. Things tend toward disorder. This is how my time and schedule and everything goes. But there are things to say, there are things…I am so busy because there are problems, there are things to see and notice and imagine and think and say. Because there is more to the story than the same old same old, there is more to do than acquiescing to the everyday currents of life.

Since the presidential election and since I learned about the resistance at Standing Rock in November, I’ve been thinking a little more about letting a bit more of how the darkness in the world is just as valid as the light in the world settle in. Both exist. You can’t let the hope get overwritten by the negativity, but you also can’t ignore the pain and suffering which is real, the less than nice things people do every day, the ways people have their words and stories overwritten or their value and/or values ignored.

I used to think that being a good person meant being happy all the time, like having a smile plastered on my face the way some of the popular outgoing girls in middle school did–the way some girls are expected to, the way if you don’t it’s called a RBF when really it’s just a neutral face, the way females can look mean without doing anything but males can look neutral. But I’ve been learning more and more (and I still know so little) of the inequality and problems that haven’t been solved–that can and do but shouldn’t go unnoticed and unacknowledged–and I don’t think you need to gloss over the bad in order to keep your positivity. In some ways things are just bad and aren’t going to be solved easily or quickly, and things are just going bad, but in other ways honest and positive are not mutually exclusive. (And maybe telling it like it is isn’t so bad after all, if it doesn’t mean resorting to insults and ear plugging and going lalala, because like I thought in middle school, not standing up for people is mean–sometimes shutting up can be mean, other times you need to shut up and listen.) I like what Rob Morris from Love146 said in a video I am currently unable to find, something about how you need to stare into the darkness to do good. Keep your skin thin, let the problems of the world sink in.

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new clothes

March 4, 2017

A story of the relationship of me and clothes and age and appearance at different points in my life

I.

When I was younger I thought I should have a piece of clothing in every color. That helped me make decisions when buying clothing–I would choose the item that offered a unique color to my wardrobe. I remember having one of those shirts where there’s the attached longsleeves under the t-shirt, and mine was purple with pink sleeves and embroidery across the front. It was one of my favorite shirts in the upper elementary grades. I remember getting a tie-dyed circle shirt and sequin-trimmed capri leggings from Justice in middle school, ruffled mini skorts and mini leggings to go underneath, I remember wearing all sorts of color combinations in my clothing and in the barrettes in my hair. In tenth grade I stopped wearing five barrettes in my hair at the same time. I opted instead for a single black bobby pin instead to keep the troublesome side of the wisps down, perhaps after reading an article on how French women don’t wear crazy hair accessories, perhaps after realizing that rainbow barrette combinations make me look like a middle schooler.

II.

At the beginning of tenth grade I made a resolution to stop buying clothes if I didn’t know where they came from, unless they were secondhand. For a long time afterwards I didn’t add new clothes to my wardrobe because I couldn’t find “ethical” options that fit. My rationale was that the negative environmental impact, perpetuation of murky supply chains, unsafe working conditions, and destructive cycle of fast fashion were not worth new clothing. I did not want to ask my parents to put their money into such irresponsibility. I also tried working towards a capsule wardrobe in an effort to have minimalist consumption habits and to work towards the sophisticated outfits I wanted but was always feeling like my clothes just weren’t that great.

III.

I gave up on my capsule wardrobe a while ago because I didn’t actually have enough clothes. I didn’t realize before reading the blog post on Anushka’s blog (called Into Mind at the time) about whether you should make a capsule wardrobe that you can’t have a capsule wardrobe if you don’t have enough clothes. I didn’t realize that could be a problem. What I had read was about people having too many clothes and not wanting to be too strict with limiting the number of clothing items.

IV.

Material possessions aren’t supposed to take up your life. Supposedly material possessions can’t bring you happiness. Supposedly material possessions are supposed to make you happy.

V.

Through much of high school, I was wearing the same clothes that I liked four years ago, wearing the kind of clothes I wore in middle school every day. Nobody cares what I wear–until I start taking up space and making statements with my clothing, until I start speaking loud and clear through what I wear–but I care.

VI.

There goes my dreams of having the perfectly ethical wardrobe with a heavy me-made section, I thought. I went to NYC with my parents, I bought some clothes. At a business with a reputation for being not ethical. Not ethical at all. And with fibers that aren’t sustainable. A few months later I went to NYC again and did the same thing. The t-shirts I bought were 100% cotton but not organic cotton, the shorts I bought had blended fibers so that they can’t be recycled or composted with currently available technology.

VII.

I stopped the whole don’t buy clothes unless it’s ethical and don’t buy new thing because there are certain realities that need to be accounted for. Like how I’m not in middle school anymore. Like how I can’t keep wearing my middle school clothes which still fit and make me feel like a sticky baby if I want to feel okay about myself. Like how people keep mistaking me for younger than I am. Like how I was 15 and was asked if I was 12, like how I was 17 and was told that I looked 15. Like how I was offered a children’s menu (for people 12 and under) at the age of 16. Like how I was told that I can’t really know what I think because I’m just a kid. Like how I feel younger and younger, relative to my chronological age, the more time goes on. Like how I’m 18 and so different from when I turned 17, so different from when I turned 16, 15, 14…Like how I dress impacts how I feel. Like how I feel impacts how I act.

VIII.

I used to think it was superficial to care what I look like, but clothing impacts how a person is perceived. I needed to grow up in other peoples eyes. I was already growing up but felt weirdly out of place with respect to my age. I wanted to look the part so I could start feeling it. Now, I still am on too many days wearing the same clothes, not looking quite sophisticated or edgy or unique or any of the other things I want to be. For a month after I turned 17, I nearly forgot that I was 17 and I felt at once old and young, mostly too young to be good enough at pretending to know what I’m doing.

IX.

I haven’t been told that I look younger than I am for a while now, I think. One of my teachers said that I look young at the end of last year. I wonder if it’s my body or if it’s my clothes or if it’s my behavior or if it’s societal expectations for what it means to be a certain age. I think about the people I know who supposedly look younger than they are. Today there was a girl who said she gets told she looks 12 all the time even though she’s a high school senior. There is a girl in my school who I would think looks her age or even older, and she said she gets mistaken for both an 8th grader and a teacher. I haven’t been meeting a lot of new people much, and maybe people have gotten used to me and figured out that I’m not as young as they think I am.

X.

It’s a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. The you hate me, I become hateable type thing? But instead it’s you think I’m young, I act young thing. This is how I felt, like vomit, like a messy savage in rag clothes.

XI.

Occasionally I put together outfits intentionally, in an experimentation of sorts, violating all sorts of fashion rules, I bet, but becoming something that I mean to make. And who decides fashion? Who decides what is acceptable? On what grounds? (And who decides what is “age appropriate”?)

XII.

It’s a bit weird. Now that I’m 18 and a legal adult, and I’m almost entering my 20s. For a few years now I have liked 20-30 year olds’ clothing better than the teenager store stuff, but didn’t necessarily have the money or resources to buy all the clothing at once or even find it all in my size. So now I’ve missed my opportunity to show off my sophisticated years ahead of my age styling skills that maybe I don’t have. I have been afraid that I will grow out of this, that my style will change so much so fast, or that I would go on a year abroad trip and come back wearing completely different clothing–the styles that I haven’t liked now. That I would go to become all layery again or be a minimalist or maximalist in style. And I have long since figured out that there is no perfectly ethical clothing, that it’s all complicated and confusing like life, that nobody really knows what they are doing in some way, that a lot of people are just good at acting the part, that really the best I can try to do is be a minimalist in consumption habits, because I do not and should not have the right to just use up whatever I want on this planet.

30 things i want to learn

  1. how to sleep well
  2. how to take my artistic abilities seriously
  3. how to take my ideas seriously
  4. how to cook
  5. how to avoid late night group work stress scenarios
  6. how to be appropriately open, honest, vulnerable, and friendly with everyone
  7. how to be independent but know when to accept help from others without being a burden
  8. how to be religious
  9. how to be politically engaged
  10. how to stand up for what i believe in
  11. how to ask the right questions
  12. how to introduce myself
  13. how to shut up and listen
  14. why i’m here
  15. how to make friends
  16. how to be a friend
  17. what i’m doing as a writer
  18. how to bounce back from rough starts
  19. how to pray
  20. how to be kind
  21. how to love
  22. how to be patient
  23. how to be grateful
  24. how to rejoice
  25. how to have hope and keep it
  26. how to let go of my ideas of people so that i can see people for who they are
  27. how to let go of people
  28. how to be unattached to material possessions
  29. how to trust myself
  30. how to let go of my idea of myself so that i can be who i need to be