Books, bitch! (v. 2014)

After spending the majority of 2013 at Hogwarts you’ll be happy to know that I stuck to books for people my own age in 2014. Here’s a list of the books I read over the course of the year and how they made me feel on the inside.

A Dance With Dragons – George R.R. Martin
4/5

Y’all know the deal. Swords, dragons, betrayals, very detailed descriptions of every meal and beverage. I’m not going to spoil anything here, except to say that Arya Stark is the queen of my heart.

Aleph – Paulo Coelho
2.5/5

I dunno, guys. I think I need to read this one again. I read it very early on in the year (important note: I have the memory of whatever creature on earth has the least amount of memory) but I do remember that while I was a little taken aback by the plot, I found many little nuggets of wisdom that led to brief moments of introspection.

Zeitoun – Dave Eggers
4/5

An incredibly sad (and infuriating) true story about a man’s wrongful arrest during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the affect it had on him and his family. Dave Eggers does a masterful job telling the story, weaving his journalistic abilities in perfectly with his knack for creating such compelling narratives. A warning: if you are interested in reading this book and don’t know anything about the story, just go pick up a copy and read it and then Google things about it. Afterwards. AFTERWARDS, okay guys?

Room – Emma Donoghue
4/5

Stories that are told from a ~unique~ perspective are always a welcome thing in my world. The narrator in “Room” is little 5-year-old Jack, who has been locked up in a room with his “Ma” by some psycho for his entire life. This perspective was perfect for conveying the heartbreakingly subtle details of the protective bubble that Jack’s mother has created around him, but I will admit the baby talk got tedious at times. Overall an easy and entertaining read. I blew through it in about two days.

You Shall Know Our Velocity! – Dave Eggers
3.5/5

Me starting this book: Yay! Dave Eggers! Me a quarter of the way through this book: Oohhh you silly Dave Eggers, this is why I read you! Me halfway through this book: DAVE, WHY? Me finished this book: ¯\_()_/¯

Democracy – Joan Didion
4.5/5

Joan Didion DA GAWD. Three years ago, I bought this book for $3 at a used bookstore, got about 12 pages into it, and then abandoned it. Sometimes you’re just meant to read a book at a different time. Thankfully I picked this one back up in 2014, because the structure of this story is mind-blowing. It’s as complex as it is elegant. It demands a second, third, fourth read, which I will be happy to oblige.

The God of Small Things – Arundhati Roy
5/5

Second time reading this gem. Breaks my heart in different ways, every time.

The Tale of the Duelling Neurosurgeons – Sam Kean
4/5

This was a cool non-fiction read about BRAIN STUFF. It’s a really entertaining combination of storytelling and science, which makes sense considering I was introduced to Sam Kean via multiple episodes of Radiolab. If you’re fascinated by how the brain works, this is a really accessible book to satiate those curiosities. SCIENCE, Y’ALL.

The Chairs Are Where the People Sit – Misha Glouberman with Sheila Heti
2.5/5

This is a cute little book of ramblings (I mean that in a good way) from Misha Glouberman, a speaker/charades teacher/community activist/dude, and captured by his friend Sheila Heti who was responsible for one of my favourite 2013 reads, “How Should a Person Be?” Some of these little ramblings are great, others are tiring and mundane.

Bluets – Maggie Nelson
5/5 

FIVE BLUE STARS OUT OF FIVE BLUE STARS. This is a memoir, this is poetry, it’s part philosophy, part love letter, part confession, part therapy… but wholly, unequivocally one of the most beautiful things I’ve read in a long time.

Am I A Redundant Human Being? – Mela Hartwig
3/5

I admittedly chose to read this book 100% based on the title alone. It turned out to be a trip down a Modernist lane of self-analysis that I wasn’t necessarily prepared to go down but went along with anyways.

The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
4.5/5

Oh, a dystopian novel about women’s rights? YES PLEASE. This book was written the year I was born, but it could have came out last week. It’s that relevant, that harrowing and that poignant.

The Circle – Dave Eggers
3/5

I had no idea that I read three books by Dave Eggers this year. Totally unintentional. Anyways, this book is about a girl named Mae who starts a job at a company that is basically Facebook, if it bought Google and Twitter and expanded to engulf an entire Silicon Valley city. Which… y’know, is scary because it could totally happen. Much like any Dave Eggers book, there are things I loved about it (in this case: the idea, the philosophy, the ending) and things I didn’t enjoy (the pace, the character development). Spoiler alert: it will make you want to delete all of your social media accounts.

The Secret History – Donna Tartt
4/5

This book was recommended to me by a lovely lady who owns a bookstore near me. I forget her name, but she looks like a Susan so we’ll just roll with that. Donna Tartt’s most recent book “Goldfish” won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2014 but before committing to that hardcover behemoth, Susan suggested I start with one of her previous books. This book has a lot of things I enjoy: arrogant academics, classical references, murder, mystery and strong characters. Solid.

The Four Agreements – Don Miguel Ruiz
(I’m not rating this one because being judgemental is bad, namaste)

SOMETIMES WE JUST NEED TO BETTER OURSELVES, OKAY?

Leaf Storm – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
(I can’t rate this one because Gabo Bias)

When I got the news that my beloved Gabo died in April, I was in a gourmet burger lounge with my boyfriend and I immediately started crying. In public. Over an author. It took me until the end of the year to be able to pick up a book of his again, but I will forever need his magic in my life.

Sway: The Irresistible Pull of Irrational Behaviour – Ori Brafman & Rom Brafman
3.5/5

Another easy (and interesting) non-fiction book about why humans sometimes defy all logic and do stupid shit. Worth it.

Love Me Back – Merritt Tierce
5/5

The last book I read in 2014, and undoubtedly my favourite. This book doesn’t care if you like it. This book is so viscerally raw, it stings you deep down on some secret level where you thought books couldn’t reach. Read it if you’ve ever worked in a restaurant, read it if you’ve ever used sex to feel better about yourself, read it if sex has ever made you feel worse about yourself. This book will sink its teeth into you, and it doesn’t care how you feel about it.

BONUS! So far in 2015, I’ve read “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz (4.5/5), “Bad Feminist” by Roxanne Gay (3.5/5) and have just started “Living to Tell the Tale” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Later, bookworms. Feel free to leave any recommendations in the comments!

S.

On Titles

The titles that I’ve amassed in my life thus far sometimes feel like cold metal keys of all shapes and sizes, strung together on the same key ring and shoved awkwardly into my pocket. I can hear them making noise when I walk, sending me audible reminders of their presence: daughtersisterfriend, significant other, womanadultwriterlazy imposter, etc.

Some of these keys I made myself, others were bestowed upon me. Each one is a portal to its own set of nuanced expectations, obligations, opportunities, privileges, double standards, limitations, and possibilities. For example, my woman key still won’t get me into a world where we are primarily seen as people instead of objects, and lately my writer key seems to only work on doors requiring “focus” or some productive bullshit like that. Sometimes I try to open a door with the wrong key, abruptly forcing myself into something I’m not ready for or, equally as often, something not ready for me.

I acquired a shiny new key a few weeks ago that says 30 on it, which, to my (expected) dismay, offered no sudden sense of confidence and no magical alchemy for navigating adulthood. As this milestone approached, I oscillated between anxiously viewing it as a monumental deadline for responsible domestication and as a frivolous façade, erected by the imaginary forces that try to define our worth by dictating the appropriate schedule for our life paths.

And then the day came, and my friends did nice things like take airplanes across the country to come see me, and we drank and laughed and I felt more loved than I secretly thought I deserved to feel.

Now I hold this key, not entirely sure what to do with it but thankful of the door it closes behind me. My 20s were everything I needed them to be: a mosaic of mistakes and experiments that helped me define the type of person I want to be – and be with – through the process of (somewhat regrettable) elimination.

Enter the first lesson borne of my 30s: it’s the ring holding these keys together that deserves all the attention, that requires constant work and upkeep. That stabilizing core, that continuous loop of self, is both a separate entity from its ever-changing roster of titles and the omnipresent base from which they dangle. Stripped away of all its keys it would still exist, it would still have meaning.

So there’s my personal New Year/New Decade resolution: to give my titles an increasingly solid ring to hang from, to worry less about the imperceptible noise I make when I walk and more about which door I’m going to open next.

S.

When in America

I don’t vomit often but every time I do,  it seems to be in America.

Maybe it’s the free-pouring of liquor, in contrast to our responsible and regulated 1oz shots, carefully measured out one after another. Maybe travelling is hard on my stomach. Maybe it’s the $2.50 beer specials. Maybe it’s the cloak of justification that I place upon my shoulders every time I cross the boarder, or the voice of Lady Liberty in my ear whispering: “Yes…indulge! Eat and drink and be free… this is America! This is FREEDOM.” Either way, you could trace the path of my proverbial vomit-comet all the way from Boston to NYC, down to Miami, over to Oakland and you’ll end up, most recently, in Seattle.

I’m not proud of this; vomiting is a disgusting facet of life and something that should only happen to you after the age of 25 because of severe illness or pregnancy. But a few weekends ago, in Seattle, I found myself crouched over the hotel toilet at 2am barfing as if it was my high school graduation and praying to a God I didn’t know I believed in, when my boyfriend walked in. He looked at me, silently, and I shooed him away with a mortified wave of my hand. Two minutes later, he walked in again. I begged him to leave. This back-and-forth happened two more times, until he finally pointed at the toilet and it dawned on me that he was indicating a need to use it. Terrified that he was about to expel the same demons that had been haunting me, I got up and moved to the sink. Moments later, I glanced over to see him peeing, as if nothing out of the ordinary had been happening.

Mildly confused as to why my significant other had made eye contact with me while vomiting, ignored my pleas for privacy and kicked me out of the bathroom without uttering a single word the entire time, I finally fell asleep. The next morning, I woke up still feeling like an involuntary vessel for all things evil. “Oh no,” he said innocently, as if just learning about my pain for the first time, “do you think you need to throw up?”

“I literally threw up six times last night. You WATCHED me.”

“What?!”

“You watched me, and then you pointed at the toilet and made me move, so you could pee.”

He’d been sleepwalking. A wave of relief washed over me. He hadn’t seen me heaving violently over the toilet, sweaty hair matted to my forehead, bloodshot eyes pleading with him to look away! HE HADN’T SEEN IT.

The thing is, he never sleepwalks. This was completely, utterly, abnormal behaviour. Suddenly we both had strange, international behaviours to account for… but really, isn’t that what love is? Cradling the weirdest parts of you in your palms and offering them to someone else in the hopes that they’ll accept them like the precious stones they are? That they’ll offer you back a few palmfuls of their own? That’s one of my favourite things about this big love of mine, the way it is continuously revealing itself, piece by piece, over time. The most joyous moments being those when you find a piece that matches one of your own in its weirdness. Because then you start to put these pieces together and they create this serene, unique, and brilliantly fucked up landscape that only the two of you get to live in. A map of America covered in vomit and sleepwalking through life together.

S.

 

Accurate Greeting Cards

Congratulations…

– on wearing the same shirt twice in one week without anyone noticing
– on making the right colour choice for your manicure even though you were really, really torn between two
– on having a kid by mistake but making it look like it was on purpose
– on getting through the last season of Dexter and still being willing to watch TV

Thank you…

– for not needing to hear from me every day to know that we are still friends
– for pretending to be my boyfriend in the club
– for not judging me when I cry watching people get surprised
– for not using ringtones anymore

Condolences…

– on your 6th shattered iPhone screen
– on deciding to do a juice cleanse
– on the malignant tumor you self-diagnosed yourself with after browsing the internet for 20 minutes
– on not liking your new bangs

Love always,
S.

 

 

Accurate Wish Lists

Not knowing what to buy for people is the worst. I’ve inflicted this horror on too many people, for too long, in the name of modesty and humility…

Oh me?
Don’t worry about me!
I don’t even know what I want!
I have everything I need!
Any gift is a good gift if it comes from the heart!
Just make a donation to a charity in my name! 

All of these things are true; I generally don’t know what I want in life, I really do have everything I NEED, I appreciate any and all gifts (even gift cards, which are the pumpkin spice latte of gifts) and donating to charity is a really great way to deflect all of this materialistic attention and allow people to feel good, get a little tax break, AND knock your name off their list.

But not this year, bitches.

This year, I channeled all my early-90s-childhood-energy into curating a Christmas and/or birthday wish list (I was born 3 weeks after Christmas, just TRY giving me a 2-in-1 gift, I dare you) and sent it to my friends and family. I even used Amazon Wish List, which is basically like making a wedding registry for people who have no reason to be making a wedding registry. I left a few things off, though; abstract or absurd items that don’t exist (but should), requests that reveal the true nature of my sad little humanity, and so on.

But you get all of me, internet. Here are the secret, unfulfilled desires of my heart:

– A yoga mat that smells like pizza.
– A full-length feature documentary of Solange’s wedding.
– A no-consequence, no-judgement, no-questions-asked “raincheck” coupon for any social event or gathering in 2015 of my choosing.
– Two kittens who are best friends.
– A book of poetry from Jaden and Willow Smith.
– A wind machine.
– 500 doughnuts for my “The Simpsons: Tapped Out” account so I can buy premium items.
– The power to make Amber Rose and Wiz Khalifa get back together.
– A tour of all the real life Harry Potter landmarks in England.

And last but not least, this picture of Lisa Simpson on a customized iPhone 5c case:

lisa_simpson_rebelde-1502

S.

Everything’s fine.

Daria, duh

I’ve given myself the directive (the word “goal” is way too positive) of writing something – in some form, somewhere – every day until January 14th when I turn 30 years old and inevitably morph into a rotting pumpkin of disappointment.

This should be an easy task. I currently “work” from home and have no major social or financial obligations, so the ever-elusive asset of TIME is fully available to me (in all its condescending glory). No alarm clock, no meetings, no office, no distractions.

There’s just been this one problem: everything’s fine.

For the past five months I’ve woken up when I wanted to, decided what pattern of tights I was most in the mood to wear, opened up my drawer of bras just to laugh in their faces, and then sat down in front of the computer with a cup of coffee, ready to face a new day of… whatever. My days are plagued with questions such as:

What podcast should I listen to while I spend 45 minutes doing my makeup for no reason?
Should I go back to school?
What would I even take in school?
Are 30 year olds allowed in schools?

This self-imposed sabbatical was designed to provide me with this exact scenario: a fresh field of boundless opportunity and months on end to plough through it. I could write a few new poems, I thought! I could try and get an essay or two published on my favourite blogs! Begin dabbling in fiction or scriptwriting!

I’ve written nothing. Not a single thing, besides text messages to my boyfriend about what I’ve been reading on the internet that day and a few emails to friends about my new home on the west coast, complete with ambiguous (albeit creative) answers to the omnipresent question: “so what are you going to do for work?”

I’ve written nothing because everything’s fine right now. I’m totally happy and when I’m happy, I’ve always felt like I’m just so, so boring. Unless someone is commanding me to write something very specific, anything I’ve ever tried to write on my own accord while happy has been tediously uninspiring and not even remotely interesting. PRIVILEGED HAPPY PEOPLE PROBLEMS.

For as long as I can remember, this has been an immovable roadblock between myself and writing, as I know it is for many “creative” types. Rather than some noir affliction of a tortured artist, however, it’s just one of my many excuses for a horrendous lack of self-discipline. Maybe it’s the Wisdom of 30 sneaking up on me, but I’ve realized now that I’ve been a one-trick pony, fuelling self-destructive behaviour patterns in order to remain ~iNsPiReD~ because I haven’t quite learned how to feel alive without hurting myself or those around me and I’ve simply been too lazy to push myself into writing about things other than my own self-made problems.

Some cycles are meant to be broken, and I realize that this one will furiously spin me into a ball of 30-something-year-old-resentment-and-predictability if I don’t smash (or write) my way out of it.

I’m happy and I still have lots of cool things to say. Let’s get to it.

S.

The Top 10 Lessons I Learned Backpacking Across Europe

#1. Don’t actually backpack. A suitcase will work just fine. And keep the skin on your shoulders intact.

#2. Go to the bathroom everywhere you can, even when you don’t have to. You do NOT want to be stuck somewhere contemplating the repercussions of actually peeing your pants on this train. And don’t be scared to poop. It’s going to happen.

#3. We all need next to nothing, most of the time. So remember than when you pack.

#4. Be okay on your own. You really can take care of yourself, especially when it counts.

#5. It’s okay to get homesick. Just keep it in check and think about how much you’ll regret wishing you were home when you get home.

#6. You’re not a paid photographer (unless you are), so don’t spend your trip sussing out Instagram or profile pics. BE on your trip, in the moment(s). Take photos of the things you genuinely want to remember if it happens to work out.

#7. Then print them. I’m just such a big fan of keeping up actual hard copy photo albums, I think everybody else should, too.

#8. Acidophilus. Buy it. Take it daily. Refer to #2 on this list if you need more information.

#9. Take care of yourself. In that, don’t get sick. Wash your hands, get some sleep at some point, and try to find a vegetable or two. The only thing worse than being sick is being sick anywhere that’s not home. Or being sick AND hungover anywhere that’s not home. Trust me.

#10. You may come back exactly the same as you left, and that’s fine. Don’t expect this to be some life changing holiday on which you find the meaning of life. That kind of pressure will just ruin things. If you do decide to view things a little differently during or after your trip, rad; if not, rad.

-K.