The Importance of Being Earnest

Linked below you shall find the entirety hit Chinese soap opera 最特别的爱 (The Most Special Love). Linked in the description of that video are the individual episodes, the first two of which are subtitled. Maybe by the time you’re reading this the last episode will be subtitled too. Maybe not.

Just kidding it’s a web series I made for class. But you should watch it anyway, whether or not you speak Mandarin. Heaven knows I don’t.

What’s important to note is that this was nothing close to what was required for class. The standard for this project was a slideshow with a voice-over, maybe a filmed conversation if you were feeling fancy, and usually, it was clear in those projects that people were reading off of a script.

But when the first term of my sophomore year of university rolled around, and I cracked open that Fresh Textbook for my Chinese 104 class, I saw that “Relationships & Breakups” was one of the units we’d be covering. I joked to my classmate that we should make a soap opera in Chinese for our final project. She said she was all in.

From then on, my course was set, no turning back.

There would be no reading of lines from a script while photos of my summer vacation slid across the screen- no, we were going to do this and we were going to do it right.

Go big, or go home.

Script memorization, makeup, lights, microphones, and a two camera setup, and that was just the first episode. By the second episode we completely re-arranged my living room to vaguely resemble a hospital room, and by the third we had a cast of over half a dozen people, plus several crew members.

There was no reason for this. In fact, it was a lot of work, on top of an already over-full schedule. Not to mention the fact that it pissed off my classmates by raising the bar. (But my professor loved it, so who cares.)

But I had an idea. An idea that I thought was, if not particularly good, at least funny. I wanted to do it. And we have precious few opportunities to do the things we want to do in this life; it seemed wrong to pass it up.

So I did it. I put my all into it. I blocked out my weekends, stayed up late syncing audio, stood outside in nearly a hundred degree heat in a black shirt, long pants, and two sports bras because it was the only way I could make myself look convincingly masculine.

Why? Because anything worth doing is worth doing right. If I was going to do this, however stupid it may be, I wasn’t going to half-ass it. I said soap opera, and I meant it. So what if it didn’t help my grade? So what if it took ages? So what if it was utterly ridiculous? I did that. I set my mind to something and I did it, and I made it fun. That feat alone is something to be proud of.

If you’re going to do something, don’t just do it for the grade or because someone asked you. If you don’t care about it you may as well not even bother. But even if it’s something that’s basically pointless, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t give it your best shot. At least then you might learn something, and won’t be asking “what if I’d tried harder, what if I’d done better” etc.

I took a boring project and made it into something that I could be passionate about so that I could do it in earnest and with pride instead of out of obligation. I try to do this with everything in my life, but honestly nothing is as special as “The Most Special Love”.

Queer Eye For the Queers

What’s the point of Queer Eye? Ostensibly one would say it’s for entertainment, but with media being as saturated as it is, every piece starts to beg the question why. Why this, why here, and why now?

The original show, Queer Eye for the Straight Guy, came about in the early 2000s. The fear of contracting AIDS by breathing next to a gay man was subsiding, and America was in need of something to humanize us gays as something beyond ~fabulous~ drag queens and gay best friends.

But now it’s 2018, and things are better than ever for American gays. (I mean, they certainly aren’t ideal, when our humanity is still being questioned, we’re still being accused of being pedophiles, berated for being who we are, told we’re going to hell, and  being killed in the streets, not to mention lawmakers are constantly attacking our rights and allowing for discrimination in the workplace, but things are still better. At least now homosexuality isn’t a legally punishable crime, so hooray! Big win for us there. If you aren’t catching the sarcasm by now I’m legally allowed to smack you.) So why bring back the show now?

The answer I’ve arrived at is simple: it’s not for “the straight guy” anymore. It’s for us. Us being the LGBTQ+ community.

We’re not trying to prove our humanity anymore, or show how well we can get along with straight people. All we want is to know that we can make it in the world, that we can have successful careers and happy relationships without concealing who we are. That’s what the Fab Five does for the community. They are five distinguished men who have risen to the tops of their respective fields, started families, and been able to be open about who they are.

Yes, the Fab Five makeover their (usually straight male) clients, and while they tease the people they work with about the habits of straight men and joke about how homos do it better, they also tell stories about how they got to where they are. And for a lot of LGBTQ+ youth who are wondering if they’ll ever be able to make it in the world, that’s exactly what they need to hear. They inspire young queer people just by existing as they are. We don’t necessarily need to know how to make guacamole or tidy a space, we just want to know that there are people just like us who actually made it.

The Fab Five don’t just affect the lives of their clients, but their viewers, and in ways much more profound than a new wardrobe or a haircut. (Although those are both very profound and life-changing experiences, Tan and Jonathan- you’re doing great sweeties. Bobby, Antoni, and Karamo, you too. Keep it up.)


The Value Of Traumatizing Children

WAIT WAIT WAIT I know it sounds bad, but bear with me a moment. I don’t mean PHYSICALLY traumatizing your children, I only mean psychologically traumatize them! Alright so that’s not better. But seriously, bear with me on this.

Lately I’ve been trading childhood stories with some friends of mine. You know, buddies. Pals. Amigos. I have some of those. Anyway, more and more I’ve been realizing that mine and my sister’s upbringing may have been… unorthodox, to say the least. That’s a long story, but there’s one aspect in particular that I want to focus on, and that aspect happens to be stories themselves.

Every child that’s raised in a semi-decent home gets told stories. Usually, the stories parents choose are tailored specifically for children. But not my parents, no no. They decided that any story could be a children’s story simply by virtue of being told to a child. Case in point: Greek mythology. Most everyone knows that most every Greek myth ends in horror or tragedy or cruel irony and are perhaps the farthest thing from Disney movies as you can get.

Let’s sidebar for a moment so I can really impress this upon you. Since I brought up Disney, we’ll stick with it for a moment. Disney’s Hercules follows the son of Zeus and Hera, who gets tricked by Hades, as he falls in love with a human named Meg and battles the Titans. It ends with him saving the world and getting the girl and learning what it means to truly ~be a hero~ and so on and so forth. The true story of Hercules is such: Zeus (per usual) slept with a mortal woman who bore a child. Zeus knew that Hera, his freakin’ wife, wouldn’t be happy, so he had the baby named Herakles to honor her. But Hera was not pleased. She plagued his youth with multiple attempts on his life, then finally, when he was married with three children, she sent a madness upon him that drove him to murder his wife and children. All his adventures? Penance for his crimes. His life ended when his second wife, tricked by a centaur, gave him a poisoned tunic that burned him so badly that he leapt into a fire.

Take a guess as to which story my parents read to us.

All our books of myths were the real deal, no kiddie stuff. Atalanta? Turned into a lion after her wedding for failing to pay homage to Aphrodite. Narcissus? Wasted away staring at himself. Niobe? Watched all fourteen of her children murdered in front of her because she slighted Leto. Phaeton? That boy was blasted out of the sky because his stupidity was going to destroy the world.

Thing is, little baby me didn’t register this as being strange. This was just how stories were, in my mind. It wasn’t until recently that I found out that this isn’t what one would generally call normal. Most kids get told stories where the endings are happy and the villains don’t matter.

So what? What’s the difference? Well, I think, at least, that this has affected my development. I skipped the disillusionment of finding out that Santa’s not real and not every story has a happy ending because I never lived under either of those illusions. (In our house, Santa was ~part of the spirit of Christmas~ not an actual person.) I don’t think I’m jaded or pessimistic because of it; in fact I think it’s the opposite. Instead of going through the ups and downs of believing in something then losing that faith, I’m able to start on a clean slate and work my way up, so to speak. If I start with the assumption that things will end badly, then there’s nowhere to go but up, right? Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s more important for kids to grow up happy and believing in happy endings. There’s always time for them to learn later, right? But I would’t say I was an unhappy child. You couldn’t even pin my current mental issues on this part of my upbringing, because my sister grew up the same way and she’s pretty functional. So what if she ate the storybooks? (That’s right, it’s call out time.)

Anyway, I’m not going to pretend that I know the best way to raise a child. I’m still half a child myself. But I think there’s something to be said about not lying to your children. Kids are smarter than they often get credit for, and they can handle more than you’d think. Just look at how dark some kids movies are! They can take it! And there’s no loss of childhood wonder, just a redirection of it. Maybe I’m just a little nuts for looking at a tree and thinking about how it might be a nymph in disguise. But I think we ought to give kids more credit than they’re getting. They’re not stupid, and I don’t think they’re done any favors by hiding reality from them. Bad things happen, they’re gonna learn sometime or other. May as well give them as much time as possible to figure out how to deal with it, and how to make your own happy ending.

PS: The only people who ever got happy endings in the myths were people who acted selflessly and without pride, putting others first and working hard. Frankly, if you ask me, that’s a much better lesson than just “be nice”.

PPS: Case in point, Admetus and Alcestis got a happy ending because they were literally willing to die for each other. Well, that and Herakles wrestled the physical embodiment of Death himself so they could live. See, it’s not all bad. Just punch Death in the face and everything will be fine. (Terms and Conditions may apply.)14107627_1060618800696283_3442762360669744485_o

You’ve Heard of Beat Your Face, Now Get Ready For…

BEAT YOUR BRAIN. Beat it like the Russian team in an American sports film.

It’s no secret that I don’t have a great brain. Anyone who spends more than a few minutes with me can figure that out. Yet I’m out here living my life, going to school (most of the time), getting gigs, chillin’ with friends, etc. How? I fight my brain.

Maybe it’s not a fistfight, but it is a fight. Being mentally ill really takes the phrase “your greatest enemy is yourself” to the next level, because accomplishing even the smallest of tasks becomes a battle. The best way I’ve found to get around that is by removing as many obstacles as possible between where I am and where I need to be.

Brain: you can’t get up

Me: alright well my clothes are on the floor by my bed, so I can just get dressed under my covers and see how I feel.

This is one of the earliest tricks I came up with. Sometimes just the notion of getting out of bed feels just as plausible as climbing Kilimanjaro, so I removed some of the difficulty. If my clothes for the day are in arm’s reach, as I almost always leave them the night before, I don’t need to get out of bed to get changed. Then once I’m dressed, I usually feel better, and I can get up. Or at the very least, all the moving around made me need to pee so I need to get up anyway. Then once I’m up, I can tell myself that I can just wash my face and make some tea and go back to bed if I truly feel so awful. Usually, after all that, I’ve convinced myself that going to class isn’t all that bad anymore.

Brain: you can’t make a sandwich

Me: fine then I’ll just stand in front of the fridge and eat pieces of cheese, deli meat, and lettuce until I’m full because it’s basically the same thing.

Where most people gain that “Freshman 15” in college, I actually lost a lot of weight from simple lack of eating. On bad days I just have no desire to eat and no energy to make myself anything. But sometimes you don’t have to make yourself something, and I’m not talking about ramen. Having things that I can eat with my hands, and not have to worry about doing the dishes later, has been a huge help. And it’s nothing fancy, either. Usually it’s just something like cheese, bread or crackers, and some kind of non-messy vegetable or fruit. Non-messy is key for me, since (like with the dishes) sometimes feeling like I’ll have a mess to clean puts a damper on my plan. So a lot of times it’s just eating an entire, un-cut cucumber, or pulling off leaves from a head of lettuce, or handfuls of spinach from a salad mix. Does it look ridiculous? Absolutely. But does it keep me alive? Yeah, so I don’t care how many times my roommates walk in on me with handfuls of greens.

But it’s not always as simple as that. On my worst days, no amount of exercising, healthy eating, or showering can make me feel better. These tricks aren’t some kind of cure-all; I still have the same chemical imbalances in my brain and I still spend many a day locked up in my room, unable to face the world. But I have a whole lot less of those days when I can trick myself into just one more task, and then one more task, and so on until I’m dressed with a full face of makeup, my bag packed, and a nice breakfast in front of me.

Am I wrong? Maybe. But, as pictured, even a broken clock is right twice a day. So it ain’t much, but it’s all I’ve got, and you have similar issues then I hope this could help you, even a little bit.


Am I Motivational Yet?

Me again, the Moussetis with the least amount of serotonin. Fun fact about me: I am, always have been, and always will be, that horse girl. You know the type. My childhood bedroom is absolutely plastered with horse posters, and I rode every week for over a decade. So like, I’m legit. I’m even going back to volunteer at my old barn soon in the hopes of riding at least once before school sets in.

So there’s this rule in horseback riding that I always really struggled with. Conceptually, it was simple, but in practice, I could never really get it down. The rule is as such:

Look where you want to go, not where you’re afraid to go.

I know it sounds like something you’d see written in brush script over a sunset on a poster in a high school counselors office. But it’s actually crucial to safe riding. Horses, you see, are clever beasts, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. Above all they are empathetic to a fault, which means if you’re scared, they know, and since you’re the one meant to be in charge, it makes them scared.

Something else to consider is that horses generally can feel where you’re looking. On the one hand, this is great for sport. Proper jumping technique states that you should start looking at your next obstacle the moment your horse leaves the ground in front of your current one. That way you know where you’re going, and so does your horse.

But it’s a two-way street. If there’s a commotion, for example, that catches your attention and distracts you from what you’re doing, it will carry over to your horse. And horses, bless their hearts, are prey animals, and evolved to really favor flight over fight in stressful situations. (Which, as someone who has had to fight horses on multiple occasions, I am actually extremely grateful for.) So now both you and your horse are distracted, and your horse is likely to spook.

Now let’s play this out. If you’ve never had the distinct pleasure of riding a spooked horse, it goes a little something like this. First the horse startles, and sometimes that’s the end of it. You both take a moment to calm down and then you carry on. But other times, it gets worse, and your horse can take off. At this point your own fight or flight response kicks in, and that’s where our look-where-you-want-to-be concept becomes of the utmost importance. Because now it’s on you. Your horse is out of control, and you and everyone in your vicinity is in danger. What are you going to do? Look at the group of little girls learning how to lead a pony? Or at the stern woman cooling down a warmblood that looks like he costs more than most cars? Because if you’re looking at them, you can bet that your horse is too, and that’s the direction you’ll end up going.

So you look for where you need to go. You look for an empty space to let your horse run out or you look for a wall to stop them. ‘Cause wherever you look, that’s where you’re gonna end up. The same goes for looking down, if not more so, because looking down is the biggest no-no of them all in equine sports.

Alright, time to apply this to reality. You are the rider, your horse is your life, and everything else is… everything else. If you want your life to head in the right direction, you gotta look in the right direction, right? If you look at the problem, or the disaster, you’ll focus on it, get distracted by it, and end up running right into it. Instead, be aware of it, but only in your peripheral. Your focus needs to stay on where you want to go, so you can guide yourself there. And it doesn’t always work; sometimes that horse is gonna run wherever that horse is gonna run, and there’s nothing you can do about it. The only thing you can predict about life is that it’s unpredictable.

But even if something does go wrong, (you know, like tumbling off your horse and into the dirt) it’s better to fail knowing that you did everything you could rather than wondering if just maybe, if I’d done just this one little thing, it could have worked out. (In this metaphor, the ground is just a metaphor for just failing at something, not dying or anything. That’s a whole other matter.)

And that’s the principle. You look where you want to go, not where you’re scared to go, and that’s how you can guide your life in the right direction. Does it always work? No. But is it better than the alternative? So I’ve heard. Like I said, I’ve struggled with this concept, both in the literal and the metaphorical sense. I’ve hit the dirt my fair share, but that’s a risk we knowingly take when we set out on any endeavor worthwhile.

Major throwback pic here