Monday, September 7, 2015

When is the revolution?

Are split ends a First World problem?
The mess in my room is a First World problem.
A result of excess, available through the acquisition of necessities no longer essential
To my ability to thrive.
My stockpile of half-empty
Makeup containers
Awaiting the day they'll be used
Is a First World problem,
Along with my inability to decide
Which sweater isn't worth saving--for now I'll keep them all in a bag
Until the seasons change, when the assumption of "need" is returned.
Finding broken hangers is a First World problem.
Perfume so old and unused its scent is no longer worth the price is a First World problem.

The problem with the First World is that they define all hiccups as problems.
I, in fact, was once told my hiccups were a problem.
An inconvenience due to the unobtrusive, minuscule sound
That popped from my body, hushed, muted, muffled in undertones;
But still my abnormality of normality
Was a nuisance and a problem
Of which I should be aware.

Fix what's wrong here first, they say,
Let's cure the disease at home first,
As they dedicate their time sorting endless rooms full of objects
And picking at and breaking split ends.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Invention vs Discovery

"This is a great idea for a book," I thought, lying in bed in the dark. I ran the characters through my mind again and could see the book on shelves in elementary schools everywhere. It would be the next big thing for kids my age, a rite of passage like the Magic Tree House series or the ever-fading Boxcar Children. It was fourth grade, and I was going to write this book. And I was going to be famous.

I waited and waited for a fiction writing assignment to come up in class, and when it did I would write the novel and turn it in and the student teacher would be so blown away that she'd sweep me and my novel off to get published.

I never wrote the novel, though I narrated it (and three additional books in the series) to myself in bed at night or on road trips to distant family gatherings in the far-off city of Ogden. But it never left my head.


I knew I had a good singing voice, though it wasn't as fabulous as my friend's. I knew one day I'd walk into an audition and shock the casting table with my hidden talent.

"Who is this girl and where did she get that voice?!" They'd say and cast me on the spot.

I waited until my junior high musical production class, in which we did a musical review of sorts, to reveal my secret singing ability in my first on-stage solo. My friend had a duet with another girl in the same production. We put up the show. I sang. She sang. My parents came up to me afterwards and told me how amazing and professional she sounded.

I decided musical theatre would never be my forte.


When I'd started taking piano lessons I realized I was naturally relatively decent at it. This skill surpassed any my mother or grandmother had in the area, and exceeded that of my non-lesson taking friends. Satisfied in my ability, I stopped practicing. This nudge toward talent would suit me well enough.


The friend with the incredible singing voice has been in my life for years. She's very driven, very motivated, very confident. She always said she would do everything she could to be as good at theatre as she possibly could--knowing if she became as proficient as possible, she would, in comparison, exceed the ability of her peers in the field by miles. She believed being her personal best would equate to her being the overall best. And she was determined to reach that goal.

Meanwhile, I constantly resigned myself to not being in the same league as these people who shared my interests, or that I was so substantially better that I didn't need to constantly tune and tone my skills. Where I was was where I was meant to be.

And then I started doing improv.

For the first time in my life I had that desire to try, to actively work on this inkling of talent crumbled up with lint in my pocket, and to build it into a castle I could inhabit and from which reign and rule. I wanted to learn and grow and excel and become more advanced like the more seasoned players in the troupe.

For the first time in my life I wanted to work for something.


There's a quote the internet attributes to John Lennon which has started to rub me wrong: "Life is what happens when you're busy making other plans."

I understand why it is continually super-imposed onto images of sunsets and forest glades. I understand that the world takes it to mean that "Life happens when you least expect it," or "You can't control a lot of things that creep up in life," or, the every popular, "You'll find the right guy when you stop looking." I get that.

But I disagree.

To me this implies a passive, almost existential quality to life: that life is a river and we're in a little boat with no oars or paddles and we just...float. If you hit a rock, hey. You were meant to hit that rock. If you drift down the left fork when you'd hoped for the right, hey. You needed that tributary more.

I've lived my life that way, relying on fate and happenstance and circumstance and serendipity, I've lived with that mentality of life just happening to you--I've shelved my dreams of novel writing from a young age because it was not required for me to attempt it for a grade. I've given up on learning musical theatre because my voice, as an adolescent, was not naturally Broadway ready. I've quit musical instruments because it would take effort to become the kind of person who could sit down and play anything. It was enough to be able to play something, however basic that something be.

I wanted life to happen to me. As perfectly imperfect as I was naturally. I expected it would. I expected people would notice me in a quiet solitude and sense my potential and ability. They would find me out and bring my skill to light and life would be a landslide of good-fortune and fame and prestige.

And then I started doing improv.

There's a principle in improvisational theatre referred to as "invention vs discovery." The essence of this is that a good, strong scene is one that develops naturally between the actors and their relationship with each other through their characters. If each player focuses on the realities of their character and their relationship to the other players upon the stage, humor and a thematic direction for the scene will naturally crop up into being out of that action--discovery.

Invention, on the other hand, kills a scene. Invention is an actor running into a scene with an arsenal of jokes in his pocket he is determined to deliver, regardless of the dynamic of the relationship with his partner. Invention is best summarized by the "Michael Scarn" construct, which (for anyone who has scene a few seasons of The Office) is the improv actor who pulls out a gun in every scene when he runs out of ideas--because the actor focusing on invention focuses on ideas and what he can do to be a humorous aspect, what he can do to impact the scene for his own end, rather than supporting and building up his teammates even if that means taking a "fall" and setting others up for jokes and possibly not getting to deliver your own. Pulling a "gun" out in a scene is invention. It kills the relationship between characters and leaves the scene in shambles but, hey, at least they got a couple short-lived laughs and a smidge more attention.

Invention comes from being self-focused. How can I be funny to the audience? How can I get a huge laugh/applause? How can I make an impact?

Discovery is about participation. That's it. Discovery is about actively working with your fellow actors and doing something to build them and, in turn, the scene.

A life well lived is a life lived in discovery, a life in which you work everyday to build others and their situations to a higher point than where you found them, where you actively strive to contribute something that doesn't reflect directly back to you. A life of invention is a life of pompous pride, a life of knowing you're as good--the scene is as good-- as you/it will ever be, and you just have to stand there and spew things out and it will work to your advantage.


If there's anything I've learned in the last two years, it's that there is no pearl without the oyster. There is no glory without work. Pearls don't roll around the ocean floor waiting to be scooped up in droves. They have to be pried from a sealed shell--there has to be pressure and work and time.

I want a castle full of pearls. I want a life that I've built and worked for. I want to be recognized as someone who did her best, not as someone who was the best. I don't want to go back to a life spent leaving doors closed because my key didn't open the lock on the first try. I want a life I've actively participated in, a life of discovery and creation where my input builds the outcome, rather than a life on a cardboard throne spent expressing lamentations that no one has noticed how great I am at sitting yet.

Life happens when you make it happen, and I think that's what Lennon intended if/when he said that. I want to act and not be acted upon. I want a life of beauty and fulfillment, a life of discovery.

I want pearls.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

In Secret

A Facebook friend posted this today.


Erring on the side of caution, should the technologies of the internet deem the photo unfit to display, it says the following: "A non-writing writer is a monster courting insanity." -Franz Kafka

I've been feeling very off lately. And it should be no shock to me that the majority of this feeling stems from the fact I haven't sat down and jotting something casually for the sake of merely jotting in a long time. Last night I desperately wanted to write in a journal, but I knew the task would cut more out of my sleep schedule than I was able to allow.

But I miss it. I miss this. And it's occurring to me that though I set out for this blog to be everything but a "here's how my life's going yolo" kind of media, it can still have aspects of that.

Theatre school has made me stop watching movies to watch movies, and I mean that in the sense that the things I've learned have effected my view, not that my professors have some sort of iron fist over my personal entertainment options. I watch movies and pay attention to the costumes, watching for inconsistencies or themes. I look for metaphor in basic on screen conversations, taking apart the dialogue as though it were a play on the page before me and I'm equipped with a series of colored pencils. I watch character choice and subtleties that speak to an internal monologue or objective.

I watched a Tom Felton movie the other night because, as Boy Aaron said, girls are prone to obsess over celebrities. His portrayal of the character was so compelling, even though he played a sickly, naive, exuberant 1800's chap. I couldn't get over the performance. So I watched it again. To be honest, in both sittings we never quite finished the movie, but the second time around, aware of where the stroyline would take us, I caught blow after blow of metaphor and foreshadowing that were so subtle I honestly hadn't caught them the night before. I started taking note of which characters referenced water the most, how often death became a casually passing topic, and it was amazing.

I don't know where I'm going with this, but I'm in need of one of those therapeutic writing sessions so this is what you get, internet and Sydney.

I just like the idea of people being intellectual in their creativity, of there being more behind the beauty besides a natural gift at depicting it. I like knowing I can take a spade and push the topsoil away, and that there will be soil beneath rather than overturned, hollow crates.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Now is the winter of our dis...content

I haven't done a lot of writing. And I don't just mean on this blog. It has slipped to the sidelines of interest, it seems, which is sad because words still remain my favorite.

I've been feeling....ick for the past few days, in a spiritual/psychological sense, not the sort of ick that accompaccompanies a burning forehead or a doubled-over-on-the-couch stomach agony.

I don't know, it just seems to me that when you're frustrated with the things that make you happiest, something's wrong. And I used to purge this feeling with words. So here we are.


I'm sorry I've been bitter or brutal, biting, bland.
I'm sorry if I've portrayed the friend then withdrew my hand.
I'm sorry I don't feel the way I did when I was lost
And you looked like forever holding me for naught.
I'm sorry you frustrate me so much I can't articulate it
And that my perception of the universe isn't what you'd make of it.
I'm sorry I just rhymed a word with itself
And that I set it up to slant rhyme with this.^
I won't do it.


Now is an appropriate time to remind the reader I blog because it's cathartic for me to know my words are out there, being read, and thus it's not always the immaculate nature of the words that I am seeking. So...Deal. If you want perfection try finding a post titled an actual title. Cuz this one will probably be "another untitled."

*Because. I'm trying to stop this bad grammar thing.

I'm noticing I get unhappy when I need change. Maybe that's for humanity in general, I wouldn't know, I only presume to know through the power of the pen and the stage. I've been frustrated with improv, feeling like, while I'm getting better, I somehow missed the migration to this different island and everyone is over there doing their thing and I'm on my island doing mine, and it's not bad for the island but I'm missing nuances that everyone else has from the New island and am just standing over there going What?

(Cassie and I decided my Amy Poehler-esque memoir would be titled Life Is One Run-On Sentence. Copyright is pending. I only mention it so in the likelihood this year is my last and someone wants to publish my genius, it would be on record what I would have it called.)

And I say this with the trepidation that those closely associated with me might read it, but my friends are very frustrating to me. It's not anything they're doing, it's me, it's all me, but for whatever reason my tolerance for these people I adore is skewed in such a way that I fear I've been very curt to some of them unintentionally, for which I apologize. It's just...it's getting that way again. This seeping unhappiness and dissatisfaction for life, but this time there's nothing to blame it on. There's no non-reciprocating love interest, no No-I'm-actually-over-this non-reciprocating love interest. There's no People-were-getting-famous-with-their-genius-skills-at-my-age, no Why-can't-this-just-be-reciprocated? non-reciprocating love interest. There's non of that. There's almost an apathy for that, for all of it, but the apathy isn't the problem. There isn't a problem. I'm not happy.

And it's not the weather because I was more on edge at the dessert December than I was at the bite of winter's chill so hold off on the belittling weather remarks.

And I'm not posting this for you to comment and fix me. I'm posting because the posting does the fixing. It's voicing all these stupid apparently-hyphenated remarks and musings and stumblings so I can wake up tomorrow and say It's because you don't have a sleep schedule anymore, doofus.

And maybe that's it. This will be a good year. I'm not bad at everything I'm good at. Even if that sentence is a trick to make sense of. Try turning it off then back on again. January 1st is the restart for your system. Do not shut down or unplug until updates are installed, just take a moment, take a breath, take a nap.

Who knows, maybe the best hasn't happened yet.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Think Twice on Me

I think my biggest issue is I place too much importance on people.

I'm going to acknowledge the fact that this is not just a curse and actually lends to the key factors about my personality and that I would not be who I claim to be without it, but every virtue has its vice.

The trouble is that I don't know exactly where this stigma stems from. At first it always seemed to be a genuine love for people, but as the years have gone on I've started to notice it comes more and more from a narcissistic place that I seldom draw attention to and try to mask with genuine love for people, because I know I had that once.

I was just scrolling through my Facebook feed and saw a post written by the mother of a missionary friend of mine using the missionary's account, obviously. The status closed with this: "Everyone who truly knows her knows she has such a sensitive heart and deeply cares for others. Relationships matter to her..."

I thought back to how I met this girl and the friendship we had. I sat by her in a mission prep class on campus. She was still undecided, like myself, and taking the class to see if it was something she should be considering doing, like me. She told me several weeks later when she'd decided, and left me with a bit of information that stuck with me throughout the process of making my own decisions, both about missions and nearly everything else: deciding was the hardest part. She said once she made a choice everything was so much easier.

I read this post and thought, for a nano-second, about her coming home in a few short weeks and us talking like we did in that class. Over 18 months ago.

And it brought this question to mind, this issue about the importance I place on people that cross my way in my life. She'll probably never think twice on me, honestly, unless one day I comment on her page or she sees some photo from a major life event. Most likely it'll be that moment of scrolling through friends' names and thinking "Wait, who is this person?"

My computer wants to restart so I'll be quick.

I like to think I matter to people, and this is where the narcissistic part comes into play, because people matter to me. I do scroll through my news feed and ponder on people from the past, I do think about those I help at the bank and how things are going for them. I'm just too lazy half the time to bridge any gap to find out. But it makes me wonder if it's a strange anomaly in myself or part of the existence of mankind. I wonder if I project my own images of self-worth onto the blank slate that are acquaintances as a way of fostering my own belief that I am excellent and others feel the same, or if it's a matter of truly caring about people, not the potential they have to care about me.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

No Man Is An Island

I never wanted to be fake, to be a poser, to put on different masks for different crowds. I never said I loved the Back Street Boys because I only had one album and hadn't ever mailed in to join the fan club. Months after having listened to Jason Mraz religiously I still didn't claim he was my favorite artist. To me, to declare something/someone as your favorite would negate knowing more about them/it than the average person on the street. I found a poster for sale on Mraz's website and wanted it. But I stopped my 7th grade self from running to dad asking him to order it for me. 

I didn't know enough about him yet. I wasn't really a fan of Jason Mraz. Not yet.

And that's why I look like an uber fan, being able to tell you where he's from, how he got into the music business, what this song was written about, his brother's name, etc. Because according to the unspoken rule I'd always lived by, I couldn't truthfully declare myself a fan until I knew as much as possible. So while my improv troupe pokes fun at my "obsession," I reside with the knowledge that I'm a true, sincere fan.

Which is why mourning posts on Facebook bother me. I understand the reasoning behind it; Robin Williams was indeed an excellent man, bringing characters to life in the greatest way possible. But I have a hard time believing the 18 year old on my newsfeed with keep true to her declaration that he will "always be one of [her] favorite actors." It's easy to forget, especially in this modern world of high speed internet and smart phones. Remember all the hub-bub about Michael Jackson's death? Remember how the world was shaken, how an incredible artist was gone too soon, how everyone started listening to his music and covering his songs and releasing full magazines containing every article they'd ever published of him.

Remember when his five year death anniversary happened?

You don't?

I didn't either. Until I was in line at the Walmart and noticed a reprint of the MJ-only People's Magazine.

And then I thought "That's right. It's June. That's right, he's been gone a few years now."

I took art classes in junior high, convinced I'd become the world's best artist. Newsflash, I'm not. But on several instances in those classes we would study world renowned artists, and in most occasions we'd watch a docudrama about their lives, the moral of every story being sometimes though the work you produce is incredible, people won't realize it until you're gone.

This of course being time passes after their death and someone realizes the quality of the work and exposes it to the world and then they become a classic that is lauded for their innovation and creativity and studied in art classes through the ages. 

Technology is doing the opposite now.

Robin Williams was found dead, and Facebook, like it did five years ago, exploded with well-wishing mourning statements from people touched by his work. I'm not being cynical, I assure you. Just two weeks ago I watched Jumanji and was struck with the reminder of how much I appreciated Robin Williams and his role in that movie, among others. But what I am saying is our attention spans are fleeting. I struggle to sit down with a book nowadays because I'm so used to the quick, easy read of mindless internet articles. I've grown accustomed to my two second attention span. And I think the rest of us have as well. 

Which is why the most fitting way to remember someone is post about it, maybe share a video it took us a minute to find on YouTube, and forget. 

And five years from now you'll be at a Walmart, and Robin Williams will be on the cover of a magazine near the bottom of the rack, pushed to the bottom by the latest Kardashian scandal, and you'll think "Oh yes. I remember when he died. It's been a while, I guess."


So I'm not declaring this death has wrecked me to my core, I'm sad, definitely. How could you not be? Will I buy all of his movies and think about him every day? No. I'll probably invest in Dead Poets Society because I frankly haven't seen that yet, and if his death is similar in anyway to Michael Jackson's it'll yeild a surplus of his movies suddenly stocking shelves so it shouldn't be hard to find. Robin Williams won't live on as the man who changed my life, who brought me comedy and taught me to laugh. But I'll be struck with appreciation each time I flick through TV channels and pause as Hook comes back from commercial break, I'll smile as my kids watch Aladdin in the other room, and I'll remember him -like I always have- when there's a surplus of mosquitoes or a news story about stampedes. I'll admire his opportunities and the fact that he was able and willing to share them with us; that he had a leg up on the artists of yore in that his legacy was in circulation before he was ever gone. 

But I'm not going to say I'm his biggest fan. 

It's not about me. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Discography

Sometimes I wonder if I'm a product of my music interest, or if my music interest is just a side effect to who I am.

Let me explain.

Young Erica listened to a cassette tape of Kenny Loggins singing children's songs and lullabies. I don't mean this in a The Wiggles kind of way. They were calm, peaceful, almost folk songs.
It's where I met Pooh Corner, unicorns, comets, horses, and the existence of other cultures (as exhibited in To-Ra-Loo-Ra). They gave me this calmness, this widening of the mind. I started making music videos in my head to this music, before knowing music videos were really a thing, that video had ever killed the radio star, before knowing an artist could record songs they hadn't written. I learned the words painted the pictures I would see in my head. And I liked it.

Young Erica found another album in her mother's collection. She'd stolen Kenny Loggins, and returned for more. It's this album that I believe did it, this album that made my above mentioned speculation evident.
I think about this album a lot, especially lately. Because it made me think. And that's the key. Kenny Loggins drove my mind across the sky with St. Judy's comet and through forest glades with the last unicorn, but Sixpence None the Richer made me think. I didn't know what it meant. And it was frustrating. I didn't know what inconsistent angel things were, how a womb could be artistic, who "she" was in 'Sister, Mother.' I didn't get it. I was left to figure it out, and when I learned to read I read through the lyrics printed in the cover. But I still didn't know. This album is heavy on imagery, metaphor; it's poetry. It's an album of poems, and the answers are hidden in subtext and verbiage and unique to the listener. It's words painting pictures.

I have an odd reverence for words. You've probably gleaned as much if you've read this blog before. My favorite thing about Kenny Loggins wasn't his voice or the beautiful album art. It was the words, the story. I was devastated when I read who'd written the songs and saw Leigh Nash was only responsible for one of them; I felt cheated her lips were speaking someone else's words. The thing I loved most, and what still remains the deciding factor, about Jason Mraz was his words.

It had to come to this. He released an album Tuesday. Why else would we be here?
In the past couple of years I've let go of my tight grip on lyrics to hear the themes in the music itself. It started with Jason Mraz. I'd heard his songs so much the words were already ingrained in my subconscious, so I started feeling the beat, started noticing the way the rifts changed, started hearing the layers. Music has become a new journey for me; I've realized it's not just the words, but the way they play with the music. Hearing Mraz for those first months was incredible because each time I heard a song again I'd get new insight into what words he was using, what he was truly saying. When that went away I started having epiphanies about the melodies.

And now back to my musing at the first: am I a product of my music, or do I have this taste because of who I am?

Where's the causation? Is there any?

I've often attributed my prose style to Sixpence None the Richer, claiming the album introduced me to words that masked what they meant, thus giving me the natural knack I have for spewing imagery. I'd been raised on it. But as the last few months have gone on, I've found myself slipping back into my old tastes as far as music goes. I've ventured off to Indie and Alternative Pop, but I'm tucking myself back into acoustic folk pop. I turn a happier ear to the music reminiscent of that first album, the mystique and metaphor on which I was raised. And I'm aware now that it's more than the words I appreciate; I've noticed a distinct similarity between the two. I've always said I like the music I like because the words are usually more akin to what I'm interested in. Which is mostly true. But there's been many a song I've enjoyed for lyrics and felt so-so as far as music goes. (A certain duet between Eminem and Rihanna comes to mind.) And a couple albums with instrumental tracks have taught me that music can speak without words. Willis showed me a Japanese artist whose songs hit me very deeply, but I don't speak Japanese.

Then Wednesday happened. Yes! came in the mail a day late, and after I enjoyed my new t-shirt, notebook, and poster, I popped in the album and leaned back on my bed to let Jason Mraz's latest work envelop me for the first time.

It's a meadow. It's soft clouds lilted by the pink hues of a setting sun breathing through branches accompanied by a faint breeze. It's sand flaking out to sea as the waves roll over it lightly. It's nature. It's peace. It's beauty. I hesitate to say it's my favorite album only because it's so new, and of course his newest endeavor is my favorite. I said this of his last installment, Love is a Four Letter Word.

But it's the difference of this album to every other that makes it hit me in such a unique way. I'm well versed in his music, and I recall lying there, listening to this album for the first time thinking how I love how he has changed. This sound is something I couldn't place in his past. But I could place it in mine.

If I'm a product of my music interest, Yes! is my current Sixpence None the Richer, an album for another decade of life. If my music interest is a side effect of who I am, this is another album I'll be yapping about for months. Because it is me. It is everything my heart wants. It's like coming home. And I try not to say this in the cheesiest ways, and hope I've made a fragment of sense this entire post. I just wonder if this album would speak to me in the way it does if I'd grown up with a different introduction to the realm of music. I wonder if I'd be who I am if it weren't for that first album, and for the albums that have followed. In the way I wonder if I'd be fundamentally the same if I hadn't been raised in the Church, I wonder if music has made me what I've become. Music is a gospel, after all. As Matt Nathanson sings, "I found religion at the record store." I lost myself in the melody and found myself in the words.