I feel like my mind is all over the place, like I'm chasing too many different threads of interests. I frequently feel like Esther Greenwood in The Bell Jar looking at life like a branching fig tree, and once you choose certain branches there are other ones you just can't get to, and I find that i n c r e d i b l y stressful. This also fuels some weird feeling that I'm never "doing enough"—my partner chides me for this weird puritanical drive but really it's not moral but I think fueled by anxiety.
At the same time, I know I feel better, make more interesting work, when I just take time to absorb the world. A sort of stewing process that can't be expedited. I was lucky to see Esperanza Spalding talk/perform once and she sort of touched on this, told us to "don't just do something, sit there!" With all this in mind I made this page, which I encourage you to try before reading more. See whatever spontaneous feelings you find.
So I wanted to play at the idea of finding a release for the need to make. Crocheting sometimes falls under this for me in that I can feel I'm "doing something" but it's a system that doesn't stress me out with a need to be original (whereas sometimes I get too bent up to even sketch). So it's something like a prayer wheel in that it's a meditative controlled manual movement but also you can't create even if you wanted to. Maybe a little bit Catholic confession—you can type your fears into the ether and be given advice. The cutoff needs some help still but I'm content having gotten the idea out of my system. (Pema Chödrön is a Buddhist monk in the Tibetan tradition. Buddhism is a large complex thing and while these excerpts run the risk of feeling like trite simplifications they have been helpful to me and maybe will be for you. if you are interested I encourage you to check out Buddhist Peace Fellowship's work.)
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I started this post over a week ago (oops), and between now and then I've been presented with a very real branching of future figs: what grad school to go to. One is an East Asian Languages & Cultures program, which feels very much like the stewing, the precursor to other work. For that reason maybe it feels a little indulgent to spend two years improving my Chinese and accumulating knowledge—there's no obvious future (I don't think I want to stay in Chinese lit, I want to use it for bridging), it's not terribly socially engaged. But I remember the first time I understood Zhuangzi in the original, because hanzi are the oldest writing system still in use, and holy shit!! I think that must be somewhere in me right? Also if I was studying French Lit no one would bat an eye—it's understandable to question white folks studying "Asia," but as the (re)iteraters of Orientalist discourse it seems equally important to both do the work of countering that as well as integrating non-European intellectual histories into our approach in all fields. The other program is Media, Culture, & Communication + an MLIS, which feels like action, there's analysis and library internships and something there and communities I care about. In an ideal world I'd like to take multilingual abilities, a mish mash of cultural knowledge, and apply it to media/culture studies, but that feels like a very daunting long term plan. I know I have the rest of my life, but I also need to pay rent and find a kind of peace now. I like the solid feeling of language learning—it's a tangible thing, I can help lost tourists etc, vs theory around media & spectacle & whatever I feel like I never know enough, am never quite right, am just making things up. Which sure aren't we all, but I am of a sensitive constitution that is good for picking apart discourses but also myself. I also don't know where my art practice sits in all of this! MCC seems wise for connections & community, but Chinese seems different enough that it can inform my art but the two can be helpful breaks from each other.
But I have to decide by Friday so some sort of end to this hell-limbo is inevitable, and just in time for the final push before our showcase!! (which I will talk process about in a post to come)