About the Experiment

Friday, May 27, 2016

Out of the Wild - Part 1

I’m about to turn 30 years old, and I’ve been thinking a lot about Chris McCandless. 
The story of Chris McCandless and Into the Wild (the book and the film) have woven through my life for many years. 

In 1990, Chris graduated from Emory University.  He was born in California and raised in Virginia.  After graduating, Chris gave his savings to charity and started backpacking and hitchhiking around the US.  In April 1992 he hitchhiked to Alaska and backpacked into the Alaskan bush to try to live off the land.  In August 1992 he starved to death in the Magic Bus he was living in (toxic plants he ate may have contributed to his death).  He was 24 years old.

In 1996, Jon Krakauer wrote Into the Wild about Chris’s journey, and it became a national bestseller.  In 2007 the film Into the Wild was released, written and directed by Sean Penn, starring Emile Hirsch. 

In 2007, I took a year off from college and spent six months backpacking around Europe solo, sometimes staying with and traveling with friends.  I saw the film Into the Wild for the first time around 2008, and Chris McCandless reminded me a bit of myself, but more of my high school boyfriend.  I’d caught his attention because I’d read Jack Kerouac, he caught my attention because he was reading Sartre for fun.  He was an outdoorsman and (along with the tumult of young love) tapped into my sense of adventure.  We traveled to Alaska together one year for spring break, stayed in a hostel, slept in a park one night, and Alaska is still the only place I’ve hitchhiked.  We were long broken up by 2008, but I pined for years.  Seeing a character that reminded me of him dying alone in a bus in the Alaskan bush made me cry buckets.  

The second time I saw the film was in 2010, a lot had changed in just a few years.  I went to film school and graduated, and was in the midst of what I now call my Vagabond Years as I bounced around the country and worked on farms.  My ex was married and having kids.  I watched the movie on a laptop in the yurt I lived in, in a field with two llamas, part of an Intentional Community at an abandoned lumber mill that was often described as post-apocalyptic.  I realized that now I was the Chris McCandless of this story, and that was exciting and terrifying.  I had sought adventure and found it, but Chris’s story was a cautionary tale for me.  Dying alone in a bus in Alaska was not on my To Do list.  I did date two different guys who lived in busses (different busses, in different states!) around that time, but that’s a story for another time. 

In 2011 I was living in rural Montana as part of AmeriCorps, building a garden at a middle school in a town of 500 people.  I picked up a copy of Krakauer’s Into the Wild and read it as I meandered back to California, stopping in Yellowstone, camping an Intentional Community, and Couchsurfing.  I was 25, and in Part 2 of a 2-Part Quarter-Life Crisis.  While in Montana I realized that I needed to move back to LA and really give my career as a filmmaker a shot.  I’d been vagabonding around the country for three years following graduation, and it was bittersweet to know that chapter was coming to an end. 

As I read Into the Wild it stood out to me that as McCandless is dying in the bus, after working so hard to escape society, he realizes that connection with other people is what matters in life.  In a copy of Doctor Zhivago found with him in the bus he had written, “HAPPINESS ONLY REAL WHEN SHARED.”  I vowed to not be as stubborn as Chris McCandless, for it to not take starving in a bus in Alaska to teach me that connection with other people helps bring meaning to our lives.  For three years my challenge had been to push out of my comfort zone, to see how minimal my life could be.  My new challenge was to learn to stay in one place and let people into my life, to share my adventures. 

(Continued in Part 2

Out of the Wild - Part 2

(Continued from Part 1

In 2012 I moved into my own apartment in Los Angeles.  After subletting and staying in other people’s homes for years, I finally had a space I could make a home.  I got the keys to apartment 206 on my 26th birthday, and it felt like I was in the right place at the right time.  It took a while for me to really unpack my things, and I still kept my camping gear in my car for a while.  Whenever I saw coyotes on my street it felt comforting, like I wasn’t the only wild animal in the city. 

Next week I'll turn 30 and will have lived in the same apartment for four years, the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I was in elementary school.  I made a list of 30 things I wanted to do before I turned 30 and a few weeks ago I crossed off “Visit the Salton Sea/Salvation Mountain/Slab City.”  The Salton Sea is a man-made lake south-east of Los Angeles (near Coachella), Salvation Mountain is a surreal monument to Universal Love and Jesus made by a man named Leonard Knight.  Slab City is a makeshift community of snowbirds, hippies and squatters nicknamed “The Last Free Place.”  Salvation Mountain and Slab City are featured in the film Into the Wild, Chris really spent time there and met Leonard Knight.

I’d been trying to get to Slab City for years and thought I would really like it there, perhaps even feel at home.  I didn’t realize how strange it might seem that I expected to feel at home in a post-apocalyptic wasteland until I was there with a friend who well…didn’t know about that part of my life.  Slab City is like Burning Man (yes, I’ve been) all year round, except no one was friendly.  And I expected to feel at home there…?  We explored a sculpture garden in East Jesus (an artist community within Slab City) and dug the art, but after that we were pretty glad to leave.  We drove to Joshua Tree and thankfully found a spot to camp.

I tried to explain to my friend why I expected to feel a connection to Slab City, the Chris McCandless story and my post-apocalyptic past, but was struggling to understand all of it myself.  I had grown, I had changed.  I stayed in one place for four years, I’ve lived in a city for four years.  I am no longer that wild animal, I’ve been domesticated.  I’d often joked about my domestication, but now it was staring me in the face and I wasn’t laughing.  I love my apartment, I'm glad I've been able to stay in one place, but it’s strange to be able to see a chapter closing in your life.  I felt it at 25 in Montana, as I knew my Vagabond Years were coming to a close.  But now, turning 30 felt like turning a corner and I felt a bit afraid that I don’t know what is around that corner. 

When I got home I got out my copy of Into the Wild and was surprised the things that jumped out at me.  How many people cared about Chris, wanted to help him with money/gear/transportation/emotional support, how strongly he rejected all of it and how much that hurt the people who wanted to help.  The fact that I’m sort of sad I never hopped freight trains like Chris did (and Kerouac, and many others) but also that I’m probably very glad I never did.  And that after two months in the wild, Chris had decided to return to society but was unable to cross the Teklanika River and went back to the Magic Bus.  I realized that if Chris had been about to walk out of the wild at 24, at 29 he might have felt a lot of the same things I’m feeling now. 

I've sometimes worried that the adventures of my 20's made me less date-able.  Guys often say they want someone to go on adventures with, but they aren't necessarily excited about a woman who has had a many adventures of her own.  There's a long history of men vagabonding/adventuring to find themselves, far fewer stories of women doing the same (which is part of why I loved the movie Wild, about Cheryl Strayed's trek on the Pacific Crest Trail).  But especially as I'm getting into my 30's, I'm trying to own my stories.  If someone is going to take issue with adventures from my past, they're probably not someone I want in my future.  

During my Vagabond Years when I needed strength I would say to myself, I’m ten feet tall and made of steel, and would repeat it until I found the strength/calm/nerve I needed.  In 2010 I took a solo road trip around the Southern US, starting in Austin, TX where I was living at the time.  I was 24, my life had just imploded, and I was trying to figure out what direction to go in.  I spent a lot of that trip crying, driving through the tears, and chanting to myself: I’m ten feet tall and made of steel, I’m ten feet tall and made of steel. Some say that young people feel invincible, I don’t think I innately felt invincible but was trying to convince myself that I was.  Walking toward 30, I am no longer trying to be ten feet tall and made of steel.  I am human, imperfect, vulnerable, and wonderfully so. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

To Ghost or Not To Ghost (A Millennial Question)

I’m fascinated by language and how it evolves, especially when we feel the need to create a new word. Sometimes I see clear connections between events and the words they create: cameras on cell phones became the norm, making it easier to take/share self-portraits, and self-portraits became “selfies.” Self-portraits are nothing new, but when we started talking about them more frequently, we created a new (shorter) word.  But there are other additions to our language that are more puzzling to me. Was there an increase in older women dating younger men that prompted us to create the term “cougar”?  How did “Netflix and chill” become code for “Let’s hook up”?

And why did “ghosting” become a thing? If you’re not familiar with the term, “ghosting” is when someone suddenly disappears from a relationship. One day you’re dating/involved with someone, and the next they don’t respond to texts, phone calls, etc.  This isn't a new phenomenon, but I think in the past it was just called “rude.”  However, when I recently posted on Facebook about how I think ghosting is rude, I was surprised to find many people were pro-ghosting.

I get why people want to ghost.  To start 2016 off with a Clean Slate I had to have several breakup conversations and we all hate those conversations, right?  Also, there are so many gray areas of dating, and it can be tough to tell what level involvement requires what level of breakup conversation.  But being the person who is ghosted on can range from awkward to heartbreaking.  If it's someone you went on a mediocre first date with, meh.  But if you've been exclusively dating for months, WTF.  

I tried to ghost a guy I met on New Years Eve this year, and couldn't do it.  He was texting me and I felt bad not responding at all, so I texted him something along the lines of "Let's just leave it at New Years" and he was cool about it.  And honestly, I felt so much better being upfront about it.

Part of what's so strange about ghosting is that it can be hard to tell if the person is ghosting or not.  If someone doesn't respond to one text, is that ghosting?  Or if you make vague plans but never solid plans?  And I realized that ghosting leaves a lot of room to assume the worst, either about the other person ("He/she never meant anything they said") or yourself ("*insert insecurity* is totally why he/she isn't texting me").  To anyone who ghosts, if you need incentive not to ghost, just assume that if you ghost the other person will think you're an asshole.  If you want them to think you're an asshole, then ghost away I suppose.

I'm currently in one of those "Is he ghosting...?" situations, which I don't have much patience for.  Part of what's been strange to me is that I worked with this guy a while back (not Boyfriend, he's history) so we actually know each other as people/have mutual friends/might have to work together again at some point, so ghosting seems extra awkward.  Also, he gave me his number (without me asking) and said, "Hit me up."  Why would someone do that if they don't actually want the person to contact them?  *reaction* 

The more I've dated, the more I value honesty and clarity.  Really, the more I've lived and interacted with human beings, the more I value honesty and clarity.  I like people who mean what they say and say what they mean.  I know this is easier said than done, I struggle with it myself.  I'm not dishonest but I have a hard time expressing what I want, especially in relationships.  But I'm working on it!  

Real talk: there are 2 exes that I don't respond to calls/texts from because they were abusive/are mentally unstable, and I stand by the decision to cut them out of my life.  I didn't ghost them, I had conversations to end the relationships.  If someone is threatening, abusive, or anything like that, abso-fucking-lutely tell them never to contact you again and cut them off.  But if you're not feeling the chemistry, or are too busy to do anything other than work and sleep, or whatever reason there may be, in my opinion be a grownup and just let the person know.  Don't be an asshole but don't be a ghost, or you know who I'm gonna call??

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Flirting and Other Fine Arts - Part 1

I used to think I didn't know how to flirt (not that I'd say I'm an expert now) but I had an "A-Ha!" moment a few years ago:

I was at my hometown bar with friends and I was chatting with The Hot Bartender.  We were friendly and would chat whenever I came in.  I walked back to my friends and one said, "Wow, you were doing really well with him!  He's totally flirting with you!" and I was like, "What???  We were just talking!!"  That was when I realized, flirting is really just talking.  I'd thought I needed a line or a move, but flirting is just... talking.  With intention.  And a casual arm touch doesn't hurt.  

I've been thinking a lot about flirting lately.  What makes flirting flirting?  I've been working on set and in the film industry a lot of people flirt but it doesn't really mean anything.  I call it Work Flirting, like working in the service industry, you have to interact with a lot of people and it's a fuzzy line between being friendly and flirty.  One guy freely admitted that it was just a way to pass the time and if I called his bluff he would back down.  Honestly, Work Flirting that I know is Work Flirting is fine by me, it can be a fun break in long stressful days.

But how do you tell if someone is Work Flirting or Real Flirting?  Unfortunately, it's easier for me to Work Flirt (with guys I'm not actually interested in) than Real Flirt (with guys I'm actually interested in).  There was a guy on this job my friends started calling my Boyfriend, who I actually genuinely like, and I would get SO NERVOUS talking to him.  It felt like being a teenager again, we would find any stupid reason to talk to each other (we had basically no work reason to talk) and while we're talking in my head I'd be shouting at myself "SAY SOMETHING INTERESTING!!" but sometimes we'd just stand there smiling at each other like idiots.

Why are there some guys that I can't help but flirt with (either Work Flirting or Real Flirting) and other guys that I'm so nervous around that I'm nearly incapacitated?  I couldn't be friends with Sugar Ray Guy and B#9 was because we kept flirting with each other, even when we were trying to just be friends.  With both of them I found conversation pretty easy from the beginning, but there was alcohol involved and that can definitely help.  There was also more pressure at work, I only had a few instances each day to talk to him (our paths didn't cross often) whereas with SRG or B#9 we were hanging out one-on-one.  If I got to know Boyfriend (sorry/not sorry, the nickname stuck) better, would I be less nervous around him?

(Continued in Part 2)

Flirting and Other Fine Arts - Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

The intense nervousness is sort of adorable, but also frustrating.  At the start of his last day Boyfriend told me that he was leaving and why.  My friend had been pointing out for weeks how he was telling me personal information that he wasn't telling other people (you don't discuss anything meaningful/personal in Work Flirting, in my book).  On my 30 Before 30 List is "Ask a guy out on a date," and it seemed like a good opportunity.  At the end of our conversation, as we're walking away from each other (but were still facing each other, I don't remember why) I said, "We should get drinks!"  He gave me an inscrutable eyebrow raise, and I kept walking away because the only thing in my brain was, "OMG OMG OMG."  We were both very busy that day, and though he held direct eye contact with me whenever we would see each other, we didn't talk again until the end of the night.  He gave me a hug, said it was great to meet me and he'd see me on the next one.  I probably said something like, "Yeah, you too," but I don't remember because my thoughts = "WHAT?????"

I've had a few days off and spent an embarrassing amount of time trying to understand what had happened.  Was he just Work Flirting with me?  But then why did he tell me so much personal stuff?  And why did he seek me out so often?  Work Flirting is casual, usually with people you have to interact with often for work, but he and I didn't have to interact for our jobs.  But if he was Real Flirting with me, then why didn't he say something about getting drinks??  And unfortunately, my brain's normal response is that I messed it up somehow so I was replaying everything trying to figure out what I did wrong.  Ugh.  My friends said everything from, "He probably didn't mean to be flirting with you," to "Maybe he's out of practice dating, you should text him!"  I tried to stop thinking about it by throwing myself into work and then drinking.  My therapist said I needed to deal with it (not just try to work or drink my way out of my feelings).  Yeah.  So I journaled, painted, and gave myself time to think.

And then he texted me today.  Out of the blue, seemingly just to say hi.  It made me excited and happy, but also really really really really nervous.  Again.

Why am I sharing this?  I would love to hear that other people also get super nervous around people they like, and if anyone has ways that they deal with it (other than running away).  Also, I think it's funny when weird/awkward things happen to me, and sharing it makes me feel better.  In movies/tv/etc. we see guys getting very nervous around women but less often women getting very nervous around men (or those women are written as socially inept in general).  If anyone thinks that only guys get nervous around people they like, *ahem* women sometimes do too!

I'm also sharing because turned on myself like a Mean Girl, and it's something I'm working on.  I see it in how I write/talk about it, the amount of times I use words like "dumb" and "idiot."  I like to stay cool, calm and collected, and when there's someone I can't keep my cool around, I freak out even more.  People have always told me I'm hard on myself, I used to think it was a compliment, but I'm trying to be kinder to myself.  To the other perfectionists/overthinkers out there, I get you.  Give yourself a break.

There's a lyric from "Spiralling" by Keane: "When we fall in love/ We're just falling/ In love with ourselves."  I think the song as a whole is about how love can be narcissistic, but that lyric has always fascinated me.  When I fall in love, I'm not falling in love with myself, I'm looking for whatever parts of myself I need to hide or kill off in order for the person to like me.  I'm trying to hide the skeletons in my closet and/or choreographing their entrances. I think this is common to some extent, but recently it's concerned me. I'm looking for a way that falling in love can be falling in love with myself too, instead of tearing myself to pieces.  I know that it can be attractive when people are authentically themselves, but as Brene Brown says, "Vulnerability is the last thing I want you to see in me, but the first thing I look for in you."   Change isn't easy, but I think it's worth it.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Clean Slate 2016

Over the past year, people have talked to me about “making space.”  Was I making space for someone new?  Was my friendship with Bachelor #9 allowing space for the relationship I’m looking for?  Though I hoped I was making/allowing space, but how do you know? 
The New Year provided some inspiration and perspective.  I decided I wanted to start 2016 with a clean slate, which translated to initiating 3 different breakup conversations in December.  One was with the guy I mentioned in Five Things I Learned in 2015, who I had a “What Are We” conversation with that was interrupted by a Sugar Ray song.  He'd said he just wanted to be friends, but it was confusing because we flirted with each other a lot and kind of acted like we were in a relationship.  At the end of our “I Can’t Do This Anymore” conversation, in which he had been saying that he didn’t mean to be flirting with me, he said “I love you.”  
Though it was a frustrating situation and at times made me feel CRAZY, it helped in the long run because I could clearly see that he was saying one thing but doing another.  And my friends pointed out that that's exactly what Bachelor #9 had also been doing, and why I had a tough time being friends with him.  In Five Things I Learned in 2015 I wrote that I wasn't waiting for B#9 to get in contact with me and was all:

But I realized that wasn't entirely true.  I was trying to move on and date, but I was also trying to keep myself emotionally prepared so whenever he did reappear I wouldn't be completely destroyed.  It was like walking around every day waiting for someone to pop out and shout BOO! and punch you in the heart.  I felt powerless.  A major topic in our last conversation (in July) had been, "How can we be in each other's lives and not drive each other crazy?" and it seemed like his answer was for us to not be in each other's lives.  But he still had the option to pop into my life and I didn't have the option to pop into his, and that seemed unfair to me.  I would've liked to have a conversation about it, but I didn't think that was an option.  He had 5 months of space.  It's awful to be in love with someone who isn't going to pick you, but it won't get better the longer you wait.  
On New Year's Eve I realized that I didn't want to drag that mess into 2016 with me.  I was trying to start off with a clean slate, and having the situation with B#9 unresolved was interfering.  Looking back I guess I could've tried to have more of a conversation with him about it, but after 5 months of him being MIA I figured the only option was to text him.  I sent him a long text that started off, "It's been 5 months and I'm tired of waiting for you to break my heart again when your schedule permits."  ^^This is what happens when you break a writer's heart.  He replied with a short text that said he never meant to hurt me, but it felt sort of cold.  It didn't make me feel better about all that had happened.  The year we'd spent trying to figure out how to be in each other's lives.  The 5 months I'd been waiting for him to reappear.  All the times I told myself that he would never disappear, because he'd said he never would.  Maybe he didn't mean to hurt me, but at some point I think he had to know that he was hurting me and it hurt even more that he couldn't take responsibility for his actions.  I listened to the Tame Impala's album Currents a LOT in 2015, and there's a line in the song "Eventually" that seemed fitting: "I know I always said that I could never hurt you/ Well this is the very, very last time I'm ever going to.I also got rid of the things in my apartment that were connected to the exes of 2015: notes I'd written of things I wanted to talk to B#9 about, a necklace from the night I met Sugar Ray guy, records that another ex gave me.  I still miss B#9 and Sugar Ray guy, but I'm trying to give it time.  I've been working a lot, and that helps in some ways, but also doesn't leave time for dating.  As I'm clearing space I'm also aware that my tendency is to fill that space in my life with whoever comes along, and I'm trying hold that space for someone who will be a healthy part of my life, whose words and actions line up, who is able to offer what I'm looking for (and vice versa).  Recently I was missing Sugar Ray guy and looked through old texts to remind myself of how confusing that situation was, so I wouldn't get myself back into it.  I saw a text about that night when we had the What Are We conversation in the bar, and he'd really wanted to put a song on the jukebox.  I'd later asked about what song it was and he sent me the video:

It's a cover of an 80's song, and the chorus is: "I'm sorry, but I'm just thinking of the right words to say/ I know they don't sound the way I planned them to be/ But if you wait around a while, I'll make you fall for me, I promise, I promise you I will..."
And I remembered how confusing it was.  So I didn't text him.  Thanks, Sugar Ray guy.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Five Things I Learned in 2015 (Part 1)

Dear blog,
I’ve missed you!  Sorry I’ve been away for so long, I’ve wanted to write for a while and didn’t know what to say.  A lot has happened since May, so to catch up I made a list of Five Things I Learned in 2015:

1. My heart moves at its own speed
When a friend was advocating for me to break up with Bachelor #9 in November 2014 she said, “That way you’ll be ready for a sexy New Year’s date!”  Instead I spent New Year’s as a 7th wheel (the only single person with three couples), and after several tequila shots I met a guy who happened to have the same name and be the same age as Bachelor #9 and made out with him.  (Cue reaction.) Not my idea of a sexy New Years date, and I clearly wasn’t over B#9. 

I spent most of the year trying to get over him, and I think how long it took frustrated many of my friends.  B#9 and I tried to remain friends, but our friendship became more affectionate over time and I felt like he was sending mixed signals.  After one of many “what are we doing/what do you want” talks in July he said he needed space.  I pined, wallowed, eventually dated (a guy I dated actually sent me that gif, but more on that later).  By November I realized that my heartache was increasing instead of subsiding, so I reached out to B#9.  He said he still needs space, and I haven’t heard from him since.  I assume at some point he’ll resurface, but I’m not waiting.  As a friend recently wrote, “You can only break someone's heart so many times before you begin to kill the part of them that loved you in the first place.”  He's broken my heart too many times, and I realized that I don’t want to be with someone who is so avoidant.  But I had to figure that out for myself, as we all have to figure out things in our own time.  Friends and family can tell us but our hearts and minds only really listen when we’re ready, and when people tried to beat me over the head with it I only felt worse.  I appreciate those who showed understanding and compassion, as it helped me to accept the speed at which my heart goes.  And I advocate for acceptance of the unique dances that each of our hearts do, to have more compassion for your heart and others!

2. Change is MUCH easier said than done: 
I’ve talked to a lot of people this year about Order Muppets and Chaos Muppets, it usually gets a laugh out of people and it’s an interesting way to get to know someone.  It’s especially useful in a dating context, because it allows people to tell you upfront where they are on the Chaos Muppet/Order Muppet continuum.  After dating B#9 I realized that though I usually dated Chaos Muppets, I was better off with someone who was more of an Order Muppet (though maybe not as much of an OrderMuppet as B#9 is).

And then I dated the most chaotic Chaos Muppet I’ve ever dated.  *Facepalm*

A few weeks after B#9 said he needed space, I decided to test the waters on dating.  I’d taken a dating hiatus for much of the year because dating seemed like a chore, but (perhaps not taking the above advice about the speed of my heart) I started swiping on Tinder.  OkCupid requires a lot of time and felt overwhelming, but Tinder seemed manageable and appropriate for dipping my toe in the dating pool.  I hoped to go on a few dates and see how I felt, but instead I met one guy and ended up in a relationship that was overwhelming and scary.  On our first date he said that it was really important to him that I felt safe with him, but in the week (yes, week) we dated and the following week in which we tried to be friends, he hurt me physically and emotionally.  I cut all contact with him and thankfully haven’t seen him since, but it shook me to my core.  And I was so mad at myself, I felt like I knew better or at least I should’ve known better.  But it’s hard to change who you’re drawn to, even when you “know better.”  I haven’t gotten back on Tinder since, and have at times been frustrated by the Chaos Muppet parade that has been my love life can be but know that recognizing the problem is the first step to change.  And I focus on what I am looking for in a partner: kind, easy-going, overall positive and supportive, all of which are the opposite of the guys I usually date!  

Five Things I Learned in 2015 (Part 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

3. Introvert’s Guide to Meeting People: saying ANYTHING is better than nothing.  
I’ve always struggled with initiating conversations with strangers.  Once a conversation is going I have no problem talking to new people, but I felt like I missed the class on How To Start Conversations With Strangers.  But since I’ve eschewed online dating lately, I forced myself to be more proactive in talking to cute guys I saw at a party/bar/on set.  My main obstacle was that I felt like I needed to have a clever opening line.  People would say, “You can just walk up and say hi!” but I didn’t really believe it until I tried it.  I saw a cute guy at a party and couldn’t think of a clever opener, so I just sat down next to him and introduced myself.  AND IT WORKED!  It may seem small, but was a big breakthrough for me.

I’m not saying you can always start a conversation with anyone, but in my experience there are:
a) people that want to talk to you and they will engage in a conversation with you even if you start it with something dumb, and
b) some people who don’t really want to talk to you and the conversation will go nowhere even if you start it with something brilliant.
Even when I’ve tried to talk to someone who wasn’t interested, I’ve been glad that I tried and found out instead of wondering “What If”!

4. Ask for what you want/need (first, learn what you want/need): 
Maybe this comes naturally for some people, but I am not one of those people.  I’ve been working on it this whole year and it’s still difficult for me to ask someone directly for what I want/need.  I hate feeling needy, and part of my brain tells me that having any needs at all is being needy.  (Ugh.)  This year I’ve tried to be a student of myself, to figure out what I want/need to be happy and healthy.  We can get stuck in molding our lives after others’, trying to adopt the workout schedule of your favorite actor or the writing schedule of your favorite writer.  If that works as a jumping off point for you, great!  But often it leaves us feeling like, “This works for that person, why doesn’t it work for me?”  Because you’re you and there’s nothing wrong with that, you beautiful unique snowflake

This was most pronounced for me when I went from working from home on my own schedule (i.e. I had lots of control over my environment) to working 12 hour or more days on set (i.e. I had very little control over my environment).  I had to work hard to make sure I was eating enough and sleeping enough (well, enough to function), before I could even start on needs for purpose, connection, etc.  But it’s been an exciting challenge, to understand what I really need and how to take care of those needs regardless of what is going on. 

5. Embrace Absurdity
Recently I was having a heavy “What are we” conversation with a guy in a bar (not my choice of venue, but an overdue conversation) and Sugar Ray’s song “Every Morning” came on the jukebox.  If you aren’t familiar with the song, it was played to death in the late 1990’s and is sugary pop awfulness.  I didn’t really notice the song, but the guy in question said that he couldn’t have a serious conversation while this song was playing.  This annoyed me at first, who cares what song is playing?  And how dare Sugar Ray interrupt this important conversation??  But then we laughed, and I realized that Sugar Ray had actually done me a favor.  It gave us a little break in a tough conversation, and we laughed at the ridiculousness of the song and trying to have a meaningful conversation while that song was playing. 

I can sometimes get very stuck in heavy conversations or stuck in my own head, and I am so grateful for little things that can pull me out of the heaviness, even for a moment, and remind me that not everything has to be THAT serious.  These little moments often end up being the ones we remember, they can be far more important or memorable than the serious thing it interrupted.  So now I keep an eye out for things that can help me pull myself out of bad moods, cute animal videos, songs that make me dance, Bitmojis, and friends who make me laugh.  And I appreciate the things that surprise me, even if it is a Sugar Ray song!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

My 30 Before 30 List

My 29th birthday is at the end of the month (May 31st, I'm a Gemini and yes that explains some things).  My anxiety about turning 30 started when I turned 28, so my approaching 29th birthday only increased it.  I decided I needed to find a way to get excited about my birthday, so I decided to make a 30 Before 30 List: 30 things I want to do before I turn 30.

I started making the list a few weeks ago and have already crossed a few things off, I'll post now and then about my progress on the list.  My rules for what can be on the list are that they have to all be things that I could likely do before May 2016, and they have to be "cross-off-able" so not like "Accept myself just as I am," because though I am working on that it's not something I can say, "Ok that's done and I can cross it off the list."  And I'm trying to keep it balanced so I'm not setting an unreasonable expectation for myself in the next year!

I'm sharing my 30 Before 30 List for a few reasons:

  1. I hope that it will be interesting and entertaining for others, and perhaps inspire others to do things they've been meaning to do but have put off.  
  2. I'm currently on a dating hiatus.*
  3. I'm a workaholic, and my 30 Before 30 List will help encourage me to do things other than work! 
  4. I'm aware that much of my anxiety about turning 30 is part of our culture's narrative about women and aging: basically women should try not to age or show age or talk about age.  We're taught to worship at the altar of youth and beauty, and it's all downhill from here.  It's a narrative of fear and scarcity: worries about fewer viable partners, being able to have kids, being less desirable, and time is the enemy (cue Garfunkel and Oates: 29/31).  This is my effort to call out and combat this weird bullshit.  Not that all women feel this way about turning 30, but that many share the same anxiety about aging in general.  And my tendency is to take awkward things that people generally don't talk about and put them front and center (e.g. The Average Girl's Guide to Suicide), I don't even quite know why.  Chalk it up to being a Gemini?
*Explanation of the Dating Hiatus: recently I've encountered some health issues that I realized were making dating very stressful for me, so I've decided to take a break from dating while dealing with these health issues.  I may explain it further in the blog in the future, and I haven't figured out exactly how long the hiatus will last (will somewhat depend on my health!) but figured it was worth noting in the blog.  

So here's my 30 Before 30 List:

(well, the 21 things I have on the list so far, and I'm glad that I have room to add!)

Career Goals
1. Get full financing for my film The Average Girl's Guide to Suicide.
2. Start Production on my film The Average Girl's Guide to Suicide.

Around LAlaland
3. Go to Chateau Marmont.
4. Go to a Cinefamily Screening.
5. Go to the Watts Towers.
6. Plan a beach day with friends.
7. See a movie I've been meaning to see for ages.
8. Go to Renaissance Faire.
9. Volunteer for at least one day (at a soup kitchen or animal shelter, etc.).

Get out of Town
10. Go to Salvation Mountain/The Salton Sea/Slab City/Cabazon Dinosaurs
11. Go to at least one state I haven’t been to yet (Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Ohio, Minnesota, Nebraska, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, or Maine)
12. Go camping in Joshua Tree.

13. Clean out my closet, donate or sell clothes I don’t wear.
14. Go through & get rid of at least one box from my parents’ garage.
15. Do the Master/Master Teacher Reiki course.
16. Take a day off and do something fun!
17. Ask someone out on a date.
18. Get something nice for my apartment, like a framed piece of art. 
19. Get a massage. 

NSFM (Not Safe For Mom) - may be revealed at a later date, but for now I'll keep these secret
20. NSFM Goal #1
21. NSFM Goal #2 

So far I've crossed 3 things off the list:
4. Go to a Cinefamily Screening.
5. Go to the Watts Towers.
8. Go to Renaissance Faire.
And I'll write about them some time in the near future!

If you have suggestions for things to add to the list, leave a comment below!
xoxo Jean

Monday, April 20, 2015

On Being Bossy, Unbreakable, and Daring Greatly

I wrote a guest post on Bitchflicks about crowdfunding on Seed&Spark for my film The Average Girl's Guide to Suicide, called "Being Bossy, Unbreakable, and Daring Greatly" about some of the challenges we all face with gender roles and "rules," the type of characters I'm trying to create and how those characters inspire me.  Since I've often written about gender roles in this blog, I wanted to re-post the blog here.

Shameless Plug: Our crowdfunding campaign ends this Wednesday 4/22 at 1:11pm Pacific, and we have to hit 80% of our goal to get the contributed funds.  Please help us hit this goal, even $5 helps get us closer!  This film can help people and save lives, and it's (obviously) very dear to my heart.  The first scene of the movie, information about our cast & crew and so much more is here: http://www.seedandspark.com/studio/average-girls-guide-suicide.

Quick Dating Update: Still not dating.  I've been focusing on work, and the most recent guy from OkCupid who seemed interesting still hasn't asked me out on a date after a month of emailing back and forth.  Notice the past tense on "seemed interesting."  I don't have time for that ish!

Alright, now for "Being Bossy, Unbreakable, and Daring Greatly":

Occasionally recently I’ve wondered, “Am I being bossy?”  I’m a writer/director/producer, currently crowdfunding for my first feature film The Average Girl’s Guide to Suicide, and the sole manager of the LLC for our film.  So, I am a boss.  (Not like this, but a bit like a #bosswitch) But as Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign states, “When a little boy asserts himself, he's called a ‘leader.’ Yet when a little girl does the same, she risks being branded ‘bossy.’” As a 28-year-old, I can vouch that it’s not just little girls that are affected by “bossy.” I’m trying to Ban Bossy in my own brain (or accept that I am a boss and it’s ok if I’m “bossy”) and it got me thinking about our society’s gender expectations and how they can hold all of us back.

In Brené Brown’s book Daring Greatly, she writes that according to society’s rules women have to “be willing to stay as small, sweet, and quiet as possible, and use our time and talent to look pretty.”  This made me laugh out loud, because A) I have often felt pressure to be as small, sweet, and quiet as possible, and use my time and talents to look pretty, and B) as a director you generally should not try to be as small, sweet, and quiet as possible or use your time or talents to look pretty.  It’s not bad to be small/sweet/quiet/pretty if that’s your nature, but forcing yourself to be as small or quiet as possible is rarely conducive to getting a movie made.  Personally I’m not small, not often quiet, I try to be kind (but not saccharin sweet), and I’m no beauty queen.  As we’ve been expanding our team, talking to more people about the film, and crowdfunding, I’m constantly running into the societal expectations embedded in my brain.  Self-promotion is not small, sweet, or quiet.  Making a dark comedy about suicide is not small, sweet, or quiet.  Asking people for money is not small, sweet or quiet. 

(Behind the scenes of making the teaser video for The Average Girl’s Guide to Suicide.)

Luckily I’m not alone in this struggle.  Brené Brown writes: “…every successful woman whom I’ve interviewed has talked to be about the sometimes daily struggle to push past ‘the rules’ so she can assert herself, advocate for her ideas, and feel comfortable with her power and gifts.”  If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you can relate also.  Think about how incongruous it is for female CEOs, doctors, or fighter pilots to be concerned with being small/sweet/quiet/pretty.  I hope you just laughed.  Perhaps the next time you feel pressure in your own life to be small/sweet/quiet/pretty, remind yourself of that laugh you just had. 

Women aren't the only ones who are hampered by society’s expectations; “the rules” for men can be just as suffocating as “the rules” for women.  According to Brown these expectations for men can be summed up as: don’t be wrong, don’t be weak, and don’t show fear.  If men step outside those lines, they are often shamed.  The more I've leaned into leadership roles, the more I've felt these expectations too and they aren't fun.  Recently I felt so scared about whether we would hit our crowdfunding campaign goal, and felt like I needed to keep a brave face for everyone else and not show my fear.  Then I realized the trap I was falling into.  I’m lucky to have friends and family who are there for me, and even several friends who have told me that the middle of a crowdfunding is a terrifying desert.  Getting support from friends and family and remembering that I’m not alone help me get out of shame spirals. 

(The ever-inspiring Brené Brown.)

There have been several articles recently critiquing the concept of “Strong Female Characters.”  The problem isn’t with realistic female characters who show resilience, but instead to women who are…basically dudes.  From one such article: “A female character simply having typically masculine traits doesn’t necessarily strengthen her; it only promotes the view that men are the strong ones in the world, and that to be strong means to emulate them.”  I would also argue that in real life, to be strong women we don’t need to try to be strong men.  I’ve been that girl: trying to be stronger, tougher, and more foul-mouthed than the guys, and it’s exhausting.  Because though I can be strong, tough, and sometimes rather foul-mouthed, I am also very empathetic, caring and sensitive.  Trying to be as strong and tough as possible doesn’t leave room for empathetic and sensitive, and I believe it’s better to embrace your true nature rather than fake another.  A friend has a poster that to me has good examples of how letting go of gender norms can ease the burden on both genders.  I look forward to a world where we can accept and celebrate men and women equally for their sensitivity as well as their strength. 

Recently there’s a new strong feminine heroine: the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.  She encourages others to pursue their dreams, and determinedly pursues her own.  She likes helping people, she’s good at it, and she also takes care of herself.  She’s strong because when she gets knocked down, she gets back up.  Kimmy Schmidt shows that being kind, optimistic, and supportive can be part of being strong. 
(A little rain won’t stop The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt!)

As a woman and a writer, it’s encouraging to see strong and empathetic characters.  My film is about a young woman’s journey to accept herself and create a life she wants to live, and it took several years of working on the script (and “doing the work” in my life) to really understand what self-acceptance feels likeIt’s easier to write about a character accepting herself than to accept myself, and it’s still something I work on every day.  I love how fictional characters can help teach us in our real lives, and my characters continue to teach me.  They push me and challenge me to be as brave as they are, and I hope they can inspire you too.