October

October is one of my favorite months. Between some of the best weather of the year, warm fall drinks, and the incredible joy I take from every aspect of Halloween, it’s a cozy and wonderful time. So far in October I’ve visited a lot of family, but the rest of the month is devoted to… well, to a lot of work, of course.

My “blog every day in September” project was relatively successful, based on the goals I had for the month. I published a post, on average, about every other day in September. While this is far from “every day,” I knew from the beginning that was an unlikely goal. I was challenging myself with that extreme number after hardly writing at all for most of 2017 in order to kick myself into gear, and I’m happy with what I managed to produce. I also wrote about a lot more topics than I would usually cover, from discussions of art I had consumed, to commentary on news events, to musings about popular sayings. I’ll continue to write about these kinds of topics here on a roughly weekly basis (for now).

The September writing push also led to some more opportunities for me. Going forward I’m going to be a copywriter for the Internet Creators Guild—if you get their newsletter, you’ll soon be receiving my work in your inbox.

In October, I’m focusing more on video production. In the next week I’ll be publishing the first full video of my study abroad series, as well as the premiere of my revamped “In Defense of Disney” series. Both are more heavily scripted and edited than a lot of my previous videos, so I’m working hard to make sure they’re the quality I want them to be.

This month I’m also determined to caption all of my YouTube videos. It’s frankly inexcusable that they’ve gone un-captioned for so long, and this month I’m holding myself accountable for it.

Other stuff going on October (besides SPOOKY TIME) includes: preparing for a (modified) NaNoWriMo, research for a new podcast (oooh), preparing for the new season of Corner of the Sky, and hopefully making progress on the big question of What The Heck To Do After Graduation. Ah, knowledge of what one is doing and/or where one is living after May, that’s what dreams are made of.

#BEDS

Summer was fun, but it's time to get back to life, and back to work. I'm continuing production of Mixed Feelings and Corner of the Sky, bringing back Solidly Mediocre, and developing some new shows for release in the spring. Videos are coming back this week, with some series that I'm excited about.

Finally, I'm planning some big changes right here. I'm pushing my blog to be less personal and more oriented towards political and cultural commentary. I'll probably also release personal essays, but they will not be my main focus. This is a new thing for me, so it might not work out at all, but we'll see! To kick this off, I'm doing a "blog every day in September" project, or "BEDS" (an acronym I was delighted to discover).

Also, this blog has a twitter account now, so that's fun.

Summer Podcasting

I uploaded Mixed Feelings episode 38 yesterday, which means that I've officially finished every summer episode of my podcasts in 2017.

I recorded shows at 2am to match with my cohost's schedule. I drove to my friend's mom and my mom's friend's house to get good enough internet to record panel shows. I recorded shows even when I was sick (if you thought my voice was a little strange on the Relay FM bonus episode, that's because I was ill and recorded it laying down on the floor).

I edited shows in Maine, California, Montreal, London, Bath, and Edinburgh; I edited on buses, trains, and planes. I uploaded them in dorm rooms, AirBnBs, and hostels. I uploaded one at Google in Mountain View.

Some episodes were late. Some episodes weren't very good. But the only episodes I missed were when my laptop was broken. I'm proud of my work this summer, and I'm excited to keep making bigger and better things this year.

2016 Life Lessons

20 Things I Learned in 2016, in Honor of the Year I Turned 20

  1. Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out exactly what makes you happy, especially when you’ve hit a bit of “blah” spot. When you are sure what makes you happy and fulfilled, do it as much you can for as long as it continues to enrich your life. That feeling is unbelievably valuable.

  2. You always have to do the work. Success is often a consequence of luck and coincidence, but that luck won’t ever come if you haven’t done the work first.

  3. It’s okay to not be okay with yourself. The self-love movement is powerful and important, but it can have the unintended effect of making people feel bad about themselves… because they feel bad about themselves. I promise you that if you feel uncomfortable in your own skin, you’re not the only one. There’s nothing wrong with you. Everyone learns to love themselves at their own pace, and your journey is valid even if it takes longer than the person next to you.

  4. Being queer is really fun. I haven’t been quite able to find the words to describe this feeling yet, but the combination of discovering and/or accepting a part of yourself and joining a community at the same time brings a new kind of joy and love. Plus, there is an incredible amount of hilarious queer humor out there.

  5. Don’t keep people in your life who can’t keep up with you. At this point I am mostly uninterested in having people tell me that they can’t believe how much work I do, or how passionate I am about what I’m doing. I want to know what you’re working on and see how excited you are about it too.

  6. I’d learned to accept my body before, but now I am reaching to truly understand that it doesn’t need to be any slimmer, fitter, or smaller than it already is. My body is beautiful and deserves to be decorated and adored no matter what it looks like.

  7. When people are scared of failing, you can tell them “you won’t fail” but you should consider saying “it’s okay if you fail” instead. Most of the time, that’s what I’d prefer to hear--I don’t know if I’m going to fail or not, but I want assurance that the world will go on even if (or inevitably, when) I fail.

  8. Alcohol is tricky. It can genuinely be really fun and enhance your party experience, but it can’t be used as a crutch--it’ll amplify whatever you’re feeling, so if you’re sad you’ll just be really sad. Figure out how to balance it, and you’ll be golden. Also, enjoy it while you’re in college and you don’t have to pay for it.

  9. The best nights can be the ones that you spend with new friends who you’re suddenly spending a lot of time with, When you play “Never Have I Ever” with these people, everyone gets very personal very quickly. It’s the best way to get to know someone in a particular kind of way.

  10. When you’re recording podcasts long distance, your microphone will pick up sound from the headphones and it’s really annoying. No one told me this. You need to use more sound-secure headphones.

  11. People who get mad at you for getting mad at them when they screw up are not good people. You’re allowed to be upset when someone wrongs you.

  12. Quit things more often. You’re not proving anything by sticking out something that’s not worth the time and pain you’re pouring into it.

  13. Instead, double down on what you are truly committed to. Focus and devote yourself entirely to whatever you find.

  14. Sometimes it takes you almost 20 years to put together that IHOP stands for International House of Pancakes, because there weren’t any near you growing up, and your brain just don’t question things like restaurant names, and then you wonder how that happened and feel dumb about it for awhile. Remember that next time someone around you says something really silly.

  15. Maintaining good health is hard, even for someone who is extremely lucky and healthy in most ways. You can’t ever know someone else’s health or grasp how difficult it for someone living with illness or chronic pain, so don’t make assumptions about them.

  16. You’re a crier. You cry kind of all the time. It’s just your physiological response to strong emotions, it doesn’t mean you can’t be smart and capable and reasonable, and it’s certainly not a bad thing. Don’t spend time with people who make you feel like it is.

  17. Representation and role models are more important than you ever realized before you started getting them in places you didn’t anticipate. Seek them out and be one for others.

  18. A lot of the time when someone criticizes you, if you respond with kindness and openness, they’re nice about it and you learn something.

  19. Grab opportunities with everything you have--you never know when you’ll get one again.

  20. The good guys don’t always win. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be one anyway.

Young

I’ve had several friends tell me that they don’t want people to know how old they are. Well, more accurately, they don’t want people to know how young they are.

It’s not that I can fault their logic-- sometimes, it can be difficult to be taken seriously as a young adult. We’re “millennials,” after all, and not even the kind with steady jobs yet. Am I even a millennial? I think I might be too young for that. I have another year or two before my generation becomes the one everyone likes to yell at.

However, I don’t see my age as a barrier to overcome. I may have fewer experiences than older people, but I have different experiences, and difference is valuable. For example, I literally do not remember a time when the internet was not easily accessible at home and at school. I got a Facebook when I was 12 years old (I wanted to get a Facebook desperately. Oh, how times have changed). I’m still young enough that signing up for for a form of social media is not a sign of the end of that medium (says the person who mostly just uses Twitter and Instagram. You whippersnapper, you).

You can make jokes about young people being addicted to their phones-- which people do, all the freaking time-- but we’re the ones who know these interfaces intuitively and can predict the success of technology with great success. If we don’t like it, it’s not going to work.

While I can make arguments that my age gives me a unique perspective, and that perspective is valuable, I actually don’t have to argue at all. The most important thing is this: my age does not devalue my work. My age does not devalue my work. Am I more likely to be worse at things because I’m inexperienced? Yes. Does that take away from when I make good things? No. If you can’t judge my work based on its quality and not the fact that I’m still a teenager, then I’m not the one with the problem here.

I might have this attitude because I’ve always worked with people older than me. I’m young for my grade in school and often befriended people in years above me, so I consistently had a friend group a year or two older than me (which is a big difference when you’re ten). In high school, I started competing in a club that was primarily populated by seniors when I was a sophomore. I’ve worked closely as the only teenager/student on groups of adults for years.

I also have always been salty about people looking down on me for my age. I have a distinct memory of watching a movie when I was twelve years old, and one of the characters said “how should I know? I’m twelve!” I was indignant. How could this movie insinuate that a twelve-year-old be so immature and ignorant?

For the record, here is a picture of me at twelve. So mature.

I’ve never had someone flat out tell me I couldn’t do something because I was too young, but I’ve had innumerable instances of people criticizing my youth in all sorts of uncreative ways. I say like too much, I upspeak, I don’t know any better, I spend too much time on my phone, I’ll understand when I’m older.

I am nineteen years old. If you devalue my work because of my age, it’s your problem, not mine. I’m just going to prove you wrong.

XOXO

One week ago, I left for my first, and possibly last, XOXO festival. If you’re not familiar with XOXO, you can read about it here, but I think it’s hard to really understand what it’s all about without attending. It’s defined on the website as an “experimental festival,” which I suppose is true. Every year, XOXO founders Andy Baio and Andy McMillan (who will be referred to as “the Andys” from here on in) make changes to the structure and content of the festival based on the previous year. I don’t know of any other conference that includes free drinks (including creative non-alcoholic cocktails, thank you so much, sincerely, an underage college student), dedicates larges amounts of time and space to socializing with other attendees, and curates an incredible lineup of not just speakers but games (both of the video and tabletop variety), films, and live shows.

The main focus on this blog post is going to be the talks and social experience of XOXO, but I need to take a moment for the food, because oh my god. I’m used to going to conventions where no matter how great the programming is, the food is terrible and overpriced. XOXO had a rotating lineup of specially curated food trucks that all served delicious, interesting, and reasonably priced food. Although it was all phenomenal, I have to give a special shout-out to Perierra Creparie from which I had three crepes in three days, and to Pip’s Doughnuts that were so delicious I am dreaming about them still.

Anyway! The conference started in the most XOXO way possible, which was a friend from Twitter picking me up from the airport and driving me to Revolution Hall. Shout out to Kathy Campbell for saving me the cost of a taxi and also not axe-murdering me and/or stealing all of my possessions.

From that moment until the very end, XOXO was spectacular. The talks were honestly more than I ever imagined. Listening to genuine, heartfelt talks until 5:00pm left me feeling emotionally drained at the end of each day in a way I hadn’t expected. I could write pages upon pages about each talk, but I wanted to focus on the main theme I noticed running through most of them: valuing yourself.

Several talks this year focused explicitly on making money as an independent creator. Gaby Dunn spoke about reading contracts and getting good deals as an artist, without giving away your work or ideas. David Rees broke down all the money he’s made in the past fifteen years and where it all came from. Lucy Bellwood, in one of my favorite talks of the weekend, confessed that amid all her fantastic creative success, her biggest achievement of the year was getting off food stamps.

Even more than the dollar amounts, however, these talks were about valuing yourself as a person and as a creator. What does it mean to be successful as an artist? Does it mean supporting yourself entirely from independent work? Does it mean getting rich off of your art? Does it mean being a “starving artist” and never “selling out?”

No speaker offered clear answers or solutions. Instead, they left me with the sense that it was okay to not know. It's okay to struggle or to make money, it's okay to accept money for art that you make, it's okay to need help. Independence is lonely. We can all help each other.

While the talks alone were excellent, what really made XOXO stand out above and beyond were the social components. The Andys maintain a Slack channel year-round with all past and present XOXO attendees who wish to take part. What this channel meant was that before I even arrived in Portland, there were people I wanted to connect with and meetups I wanted to attend. Over the course of XOXO, I met so many interesting people who, somehow, were all incredibly kind.

I also got to chance to properly talk to a lot of people whose work I followed for a long time. For example, take Myke Hurley. Over the course of XOXO, Myke went from someone I knew on Twitter whose work I admired to the person who I KNEW was the goddamn werewolf but noooo they chose to kill me instead so we all lost instead come ON

Ahem. Anyway.

How can I sum up what XOXO was? It was about independent creators. It was about financial, emotional, and mental insecurity. It was community and connections. It was recognizing how much our fears are alike. It was missing the entire film and animation lineup because I was too busy laughing my ass off, playing card games with new friends. It was feeling so emotional after the talks that I took a mile walk with a friend and only stopped when we found an amazing hill to roll down. It was being inspired and encouraged not in the typical “just follow your dreams!” way, but in the “I’m just a person. You’re just a person. We can do this and do it together” way.

XOXO isn't coming back next year. It might not come back at all. I know that whatever the Andys do in their lives, it'll be unique and wonderful, but I also can't help but to wish that XOXO will return someday.

Even if it never does, I’ll never forget the fundamental lesson of XOXO, the one that the Andys left us with on Sunday: we are not alone.

Empathy

    I’m an empathetic person.

    I’m not trying to claim this as a virtuous trait and compliment myself. I’m saying that I act unconsciously as a kind of mirror, or sponge, for the feelings of people around me. It verges on ridiculously easy to cheer me up simply by directing cheerfulness towards me. By the same token, I am near useless at cheering other people up without concerted effort, as I pick up their melancholy as if it were my own.

    Somehow, I soak up more than just emotion. Sometimes I feel like I am made entirely out of other people’s thoughts and opinions, pasted together into a semi-functional human whose most prominent views are whichever ones I was exposed to most recently. I listen to impassioned speeches and are driven to their causes. I watch beautiful videos and mimic their production styles. I read excellent prose and my thoughts transform into others’ voices, pushing me to write as viscerally as others, even though I feel like a fool for trying.

    This may also be the reason I have so much trouble reading accounts of tragedy in the world. On one hand, people can shut down their empathy. We can read news headlines with blank faces, shake our head at the world, and move on. But when I stop for a moment to think about the people that were harmed, whether it was a terrorist attack or natural disaster or murder or rape or any other atrocity humans routinely commit on other humans, I can’t help but remember their humanity. I think about how I am a mess of emotions and contradictions and memories and I’m so full of dreams and goals and plans I’m fit to burst. I know that I’m not any more alive or important than any other human, which means that everyone else is full of life and love and I can’t stand knowing what crimes have been committed to their bodies, their hopes, their lives. I try not to think about that when I read the news, because I just don’t want to accept pain that is not necessary for me to bear.

    But is this pain necessary? Do we have to feel for other people in order for the world to get better?

Honestly, I think that we do. We have to recognize the essential humanity of other people. There are so many problems in this world that are caused by not thinking about and treating other people as complete human beings.

    This leads me to more questions, personal questions about my own life. Making things makes me happy. In my life the only things that consistently fill me with genuine fulfillment and happiness are creating nice things and spending time with people I love. However, I don’t know if I could live with myself if I didn’t spend a large part of my life helping others. There is so much in this world that needs help, how can I not? How can I not choose a career that allows me to devote as much time as possible to bettering the world?

    I don’t know. Maybe none of us know. Can we figure it out together?

Low-Information Diet

I was inspired to write this blog post by a video from Derek of Veritasium, which you can watch here. In it he talks about constantly consuming news on his phone, and discusses several different ideas like the distraction economy and a low-information diet.

I have a similar problem to Derek: if I spend too much time in a day looking at social media and articles online, I feel weighed down. It’s very similar to how I feel if I eat too much greasy food or go too long without exercising. I feel bad in a visceral way, and the only way to heal it is to get my head out of that digital space-- to work on a project, read a book, or even go for a walk outside.

I do think that being informed is important, and with the 2016 election quickly approaching I think it’s more important than ever. However, there’s a difference between staying informed on important issues and world events and over-saturating yourself with information. For me, the main problem is social media. I am constantly checking different social media apps on my phone. Right now my primary problem is Twitter, because it’s the most interesting and updates the fastest. I use social media and YouTube both as a procrastination tool (when I should be doing something productive) and a distraction tool (when I’m waiting for something).

I’m tired of it. I’m tired of reflexively checking twitter every time I have a spare 30 seconds. I’m tired of being plugged into everything that’s going on in the world. I’m tired of this election (isn’t everyone…?). And so I’m going to follow Derek’s lead and go on a low-information diet… sort of.

I’m not going to cut everything out. Because, to be quite honest, I don’t want to. But I am going to cut back, by recognizing that my time and attention is valuable-- it’s the most valuable thing I have to give. I shouldn’t be giving it to Facebook and Tumblr and random YouTube videos. I should be giving it to the projects I’m working on and the books I want to read.

From now on instead of checking in small bites throughout the day, I will only check social media, videos, and news in three chunks: in the morning, after work/class for the day, and before I go to bed. That may sound like a lot but it’s actually a big cut-down for me… When I’m bored or waiting for something, I will either just let my mind wander, like Derek advised, or practice Chinese on the app I literally have on my phone and is fun but I never do it because I’m always checking Twitter instead.

I like to make things. That’s pretty much my whole deal here. I want to create content that is worthy of other people’s time and attention. To help me do that, I’m going to focus on the content that I decide is worthy of my own.

I Cry A Lot

Actual reasons that I have cried:

  • I was told I couldn’t eat peanut butter
  • I wanted to see fireworks
  • I listened to Les Miserables
  • I told someone about something sweet I read about (this actually happens all the time, I don’t feel emotional at all reading it and then I describe it to someone else and bam!)
  • I listened to Hamilton
  • I realized someone had spilled some of the soil from my aloe plant
  • I felt sad for no discernible reason
  • I felt angry for no discernible reason
  • I saw a cute commercial
  • I listened to Rent
  • I thought about Rent
  • I thought about Jonathan Larson

Those times were just mostly when I was tired, stressed, and crying for silly reasons, but I also cry a lot from legitimately upsetting emotions-- just at a lot more frequent rate than the average person. Crying is my body’s natural response to whenever I have a lot of virtually any emotion, whether that be sadness, anger, frustration, or fear. And oh boy am I emotional. When I’m tired the smallest little thing will set me off, and even when I’m fully rested it’s not that difficult to really get to me. As soon as I’m affected by anything, the pressure wells up behind my eyes and they start to water.

I've gotten pretty good at holding them back, but if whatever’s upsetting me continues, it’s no use-- those tears are going to leak out of my face no matter what I do. I would guess that I cry (defined as at least one tear leaking out) on average once a week, more if I’m very busy and stressed.

I have strong feelings about crying (surprise, surprise). I always hated it growing up. I seriously ugly cry, it makes me all red and snotty and worn out. But mostly, I hated it because of other people’s reactions. I did not, repeat, hard stop, did not want attention for crying. Crying as much as I did meant you were a serious drama queen who was just being over-sensitive. Yes, I was being over-sensitive, but believe me, I don’t want to be any more than you want me to be.
People get weird when you cry. Mostly, they feel like they have to do something. Crying is an international sign for “I need help,” so people always feel like they need to comfort you and make you stop crying.

It took me a long time to realize this, but most of the time when I cry, I don’t want people to make me stop-- I want them to leave me alone so I can get through it. Sometimes it’s nothing and I just need a minute to pull myself together. Sometimes I am genuinely upset and need a little while to get over it. But, to my surprise, I realized that I don’t actually dislike crying. When I’m really upset, I would much rather curl up in bed for twenty minutes and cry it out, and then read a book or watch tv until I cheer up. It’s the fact that everyone think I’m in a crisis and need help all the time that bothers me so much. I’m a capable, intelligent, independent person-- the fact that water leaks out of my face at an above-average rate does not change that. If I need help, I promise I’ll ask for it-- until then, I’ll watch some Buffy the Vampire Slayer until I remember I don’t need to be crying in the first place

Love What You Love

Question: Is this entire blog going to be a series of posts about how much I love nerdy people?

Answer: Yep!

I already wrote a blog post called “Weird People are My Favorite.” Because, you know, they’re the best. But today I want to talk about a specific aspect of nerdiness.

I love it when people love something so much that when you ask them about it, their faces light up instantly. When they hear or see something related to their esoteric geekery and they’re so excited they can’t contain themselves and must go speak to whoever brought it up. There’s a John Green quote about this: “nerds like us are allowed to be unironically enthusiastic about stuff.” Here’s the thing: everyone’s a nerd about something. Even if that thing isn’t something you would think as stereotypically nerdy, everyone has something that they love more than the average person and feel passionate about it. One of my best friends is an unaggressively non-geeky person (in regards to gaming, comics, sci-if, etc.) but she’s obsessed with Taylor Swift and Grey’s Anatomy. I would absolutely call her a Taylor Swift geek because she texts me every single time Taylor Swift does anything that makes news (which is about every other day).

However, in my personal interpretation of this John Green quote, he’s talking about “nerds like us.” Nerds who not only love something, but are unafraid to act like huge dorks about it. I once had a friend who was not only nerdy, he was extremely passionate about what he loved, and would speak effusively about it to me. But when he was in public, or on social media, he felt the need to be “cool.” He had to act chill, unfazed, apathetic to other people, so they wouldn’t “judge” him or whatever he was worried about. When I thought about it, it honestly made me concerned. Why does he feel the need to stifle his authentic self for other people?

Although maybe I should spend less time feeling bad for an old friend and more time looking at how I act. Am I perfectly authentic all the time, regardless of circumstance?

*laughter in distance*

Certainly not. I’m awkward, I’m quiet, I try to blend in a crowd. I’m introverted and not naturally outgoing. I do, however, sing showtunes in CVS and dance down the street and rant enthusiastically about everything and fangirl over the people I love because being a fan is FUN. Loving stuff is FUN.

The way that I find to unlock my fangirl-ness is my friends. I like making friends with very outgoing and enthusiastic people. I joined a show choir that only performs musical theater, for goodness sakes. If there is a nerdier thing to do I have yet to discover it.

This is my one big piece of advice: love what you love. Shout about what you love. Sing what you love, learn what you love, create what you love. If you have trouble feeling comfortable with that, find people who love the same things you do, and talk to them about it. Find people who make you braver about sharing the most enthusiastic parts of you. I promise you, there’s nothing more beautiful than someone being excited about their passions.