I want to write again. Today, I had to write about planning for people (not cars) for a proposal, and it reminded me of this blog, which I haven’t revisited since graduate school. I have spent the last seven years working at a civil engineering firm. I prepare its proposals and design communications documents. I occasionally do some planning work, updating Parks and Recreation Plans for smaller communities.

I’m sitting here trying to sum up seven years of change, and it’s silly. When I read my writing, I mourn my passion from that time. I cringe at my naivety. But I’m also aware of all the things that happened in these years and it makes sense that I’m this way now.

And the kinds of changes I was championing here from 2009-2012 … they’re happening now. There’s an entire blog dedicated to what I am passionate about. My role in all this isn’t what I expected, but I’m also not done yet.

In 2011, I had a disastrous internship interview with the City of Detroit, and they asked that cliche “describe yourself with one word” question. I couldn’t think of one word. I finally landed on “motivated,” and all I was really thinking about at the time were my school projects and advocacy with classmates. Now I would say “empathy.” The thing with empathy is that it works for and against me. I can easily identify with other peoples’ suffering, but that’s not going to necessarily lead me to productive action. Seeing so much suffering in these years, and feeling so helpless about it, has made empathy into a curse.

The shame of not being able to fix things (an unreasonable expectation to have of myself) and of possibly bringing sorrow to other people made me build some very thick walls around myself. No more sharing; no more writing.

So, my new goal is compassion, which is a more intentional trait. Empathy is a feeling that takes hold of me and makes my insides hurt sometimes. Compassion, on the other hand, is the choice to use that hurt to focus on the suffering person, and to accept that suffering is a part of life. Vulnerability is a part of life. I’m grateful to those who make themselves vulnerable and I want to return it with compassion. And I want to make myself more vulnerable again, too, just more carefully.

Is it worth it to stick out your neck and write? Is it even smart for someone like me, who constantly questions herself, to set out thoughts for people to critique? Something I hate about writing is the temptation to leave out the ugly and muddy ideas and pretend I’m a put-together person, so I won’t try to do that. As someone with seemingly no ground to stand on, I guess I have nothing to lose.

The Flow of Life

The topic of Flow of Life started in my head as a thesis idea for my Urban Design Theory paper, but I realized how personally relevant it is, and I also missed writing on this blog. So here: BLOG POST!

I was writing a paper for Film Theory class about the importance of setting in film, and Arnheim writes about the “flow of life” that the street represents in film. Cinema is when film seems to capture humanity. Streets are a rich resource for cinema, as you’ll notice in many films including It’s a Wonderful Life and Cleo from 5 to 7.  It is the character’s public space, a stage for interaction with the rest of the world, just as the home is the stage for interaction with the nuclear family.


I remember at certain points in my childhood, on beautiful Saturday afternoons, when it felt like I was cut off from the rest of the world, like the town was empty because everyone was at the football game (kind of like U of M yesterday). There was plenty to do at my house, I’m certain. But nothing could be satisfying, because I felt isolated. My nuclear world wasn’t enough; I was needing mental stimulation. I remember wishing to be where everyone was.

This is a standard feeling of isolation. I still get it often. It feels like staying home alone on a Friday night, which is never desirable unless you’d had a long and stressful week and you need a moment’s peace. The film Pulse kind of captures this feeling. It’s a horror movie where pretty much everyone starts dying. (From seeing a ghost I think. It was J-horror.)

I’m starting to think we built a nation that structurally does not support a happy life. Extreme. But to think streets used to be a source of stimulation, social gathering, chance meetings, etc. when they are now a source of boredom-tears from being stuck in traffic jams, or a source of road rage towards other drivers who didn’t use a turn signal. We go to work (which has varying degrees of awfulness for everyone), then we drive home (which we have control over, and we decorate to our liking, and we maintain our closest relationships). Work and Family. Running into friends is not probable, and must be planned.

For me, this is a comforting pattern most of the time, as I have social anxiety. Boy, is it easier to drive, to stay home, to stay away from the downtown and the crowds of pedestrians.  To have control over who I see and when. But I pay for it in these feelings of isolation, in my lack of face-time with friends. I am not afraid to call new people to share a cup of coffee. I am afraid of having that actual cup of coffee with the new friend. It’s a new relationship and those have unknown paths. They may not work out. They are unpredictable. Just like the street. I want to burrow beneath my covers when I’m feeling anxious about this.

Facebook has become a complete replacement for the street as a source of the flow of life. Slowly, as we know, Facebook morphed from a stalker-ish profile collection for college students to a constantly-running feed of updates, photos, and links from people you know (and from businesses, musical artists, nonprofits, political figures, etc.). When we need stimulation, to catch up with friends, to feel a little less disconnected from the world, to talk about something from the news, we go to Facebook.  We can control this flow of life and which aspects of it we want to subscribe to. We can do it in our pajamas and type things we’d never say and stay safe. You can’t get hit by a car in your house. Usually.

I know this argument gets made, in some form, almost daily. That Facebook can’t replace face-to-face interaction and blah blah blah. It’s bigger than that. Facebook is a symptom of the major problem. That we don’t know how to be communities anymore, and that we have no daily connection to each other. That we literally don’t have the physical structure for this. That we need each other, collectively, publicly, anonymously; we need that place where anyone can show up, anything can happen, a flow of possibilities, opportunities to celebrate life quietly (or loudly) as a species.  We were robbed of this, and we should claim it back.

Just another blogger in your life

o maybe I seemed a little angry in my last post or maybe tons of people disagree with me. I have to be okay with that. I am a very impressionable person so having opinions is weird for me. Also, I am glad to discover that my plan worked since I got a lot of views today. I was sick of no one looking at my site because I post a lot about sidewalks and bike lanes and music no one else listens to. Some of my friends are just realizing I have a blog, and I’ve had it for a year!  Coming up on my 3000th view, in fact.

To my 9 Google Reader subscribers, thank you! And thanks to the other faithful readers and thoughtful commenters. I don’t know why I have this blog. Most of the time I am crocheting or painting or doing yoga or working. I’d probably be better off only doing my creative writing after seeing the instant success of Gray’s blog (who knew that furries would incite so much traffic?).

I just feel I have become mean and I don’t want to be. My post about women in films, my conservatives post, my Ugly America post…they’re all so angry at all of you but really I just want to be heard. I’m not mad at anyone. After posting yesterday, I thought long and hard about all the problems of America and how to solve them and my brain hurt. I resorted to focusing on my life again. Small as it is. I constantly waver between the idea that nothing matters and that everything does matter and is so beautiful and broken. I think that waver motion can be translated into a healthy balance of being connected to the world around me while realizing what I believe about it.

With 2009 wrapping up I want to end with some momentum of interesting posts. What will it be? One about dating a guy with Aspbergers? My top 10 movies? Watercolor paintings of penguins? I can do ’em all!

Dreams are made on

y first graduate school application was due today. With my night job of cleaning and my internship and Catholic initiation stuff I have been sort of busy, but that’s no excuse for not posting as often.

I kind of lost sight of what my blog means to me. I had seven blogs at one point this summer, and they were all separated and stood for different things. I was treating the internet like my numerous notebooks that I have. One is for poems, one is for songs, one is for journaling, one is for lists, one is for phone numbers. Walt Whitman wrote his first Leaves of Grass poem in the same notebook he was keeping for names and notes of his general life. Why separate all of these elements? Why was I hiding parts of myself from this blog? It was all urban planning all the time and that’s not what I focus on all the time. Because if I did, I would either be smashing cars with a baseball bat or bashing my own head in. It’s a frustrating subject. It’s stuck with me forever, it is what I’m made to do, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t frustrate me. So I imported my Pretty Darn Pretty blog into this one.

And I started to doubt the whole “little life” thing. I was worried that it was a reaction to depression, that if I were a happier person I would be more courageous and willing to live bigger and dream bigger. But I’m going to graduate school for the thing I most want to do. I don’t think I’m holding back for anything. Small and large are relative concepts, I guess. The biggest problems of the world are massively generalized. Hunger. Can you think of a bigger beast? We can wrack our brains and beat ourselves out of guilt,  just ignore it, or give food to the hungry people in our neighborhood. People have got to stop resorting to the “starving people in Africa” thing to make themselves grateful. It’s unfair to everyone.

Once we admit that we are small, our lives are small, are abilities are tiny, once we accept our ordinary-ness, we can do a lot. I find that once I break my weeks, days, hours up into moments and live in them, I am enjoying myself more.

A specific way I’ve been doing that is small art projects. I love creating things. I’m writing a novel right now, bit by bit, but in my time gaps between work and sleep and internship, I like make things that are beautiful to me. I’m really surprised at how happy it’s made me.

Joseph Gordon Levitt’s site, Hitrecord.org, is giving him a lot of joy. It’s apparent in his face every time he talks about it. He’s not trying to make loads of money or save the entire world, but his project has gone pretty far (Hitrecord is going to Sundance next year) and it’s genuine.

Adam Lambert is trying to be too big. He’s using controversy as a device to get fame and nothing about his AMA performance seemed genuine. I don’t think very many people respect him. He’s trying to make a big splash by being true to himself, but that’s the wrong formula completely.

The difference between making a big impact by living your true life, making your life small out of fear, and trying to make yourself bigger than you are, is in the core of you, in the daily choice to do what’s right.

I gotta make dinner now. BYE.

A Time to Worry, a Time to Stress

Confession time!

I obsess over time. I already used the word twice. Wow. I spend my days scheduling out when I’ll do what, then get caught up on the internet, waste two hours, and beat myself up. I also have the mindset that I must always be doing something productive. My leg is constantly shaking as if I smoke cigarettes.  I’m counting my calories, I have my daily rituals, I freak out if I can’t do something that’s totally unimportant and can be put off until the next day.

I need to calm down! Duh.

How? I guilt myself into this lifestyle, I think, because I’m still unemployed three months after college. I have a great internship, but I need a job. The first week after graduation, all I did was look for jobs. Nothing. I’ve been applying steadily since then, but still nothing. Not even an interview. What am I doing wrong?  Or is it really just the economy?

I bet I’d still be worrying even if we had the economy we had in 1998. It’s my nature. But this is serious! College grads are in a bad spot. Overqualified people are taking their entry-level jobs. Does my bachelor’s mean nothing? Of course it does, why do I even ask. I dream of working at Subway. With my Bachelor’s degree and two internships.

I’m sorry, I just wanted to voice how ridiculous this all is. I think for my own sanity, I’m going to chill out a bit and start blaming the economy more for my woes.

Why do anything?

Sometimes I forget that I’m improving peoples’ lives immensely when I get poked at the plasma center. I think of how long it’s going to take, if it’s going to hurt a lot this time, how far I’ll get in my book, if I drank enough water. But not about the people it’s going to.

I know if I get a good job, I’ll likely stop giving it. It is about the money! I think though, in this economy, there are enough candidates to sell plasma that I’d be okay not doing it. I’d probably give someone else the chance to make extra gas money.

Speaking of gas money, I feel like a huge freaking hypocrite lately. I’m all about Complete Streets on the other blog, yet I drive 100 miles a week. I visit my boyfriend in another city twice a week. I could feasibly take a train, but schedule-wise that doesn’t work. I keep preaching about community, but I can barely say hi to people on the street. I’m scared of people!

These dichotomies are starting to get to me. I’m only doing what I can. There are ways to save water and energy that I haven’t even thought of.  But why save water!? I’m in Michigan!  Why do anything, for that matter? I’ve accepted a pointless existence for myself, this is all just fun and games.  This needs to change. That’s all I know right now.

Two best friends left me this morning. For Montana. I saw a double rainbow at a rodeo during a sunny hailstorm there once. But they’re gone. I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve failed over and over as a friend. I lost two more of the few people I can be myself around. And I was zoning out the entire night with them last night, no, I was zoning out for the past year. Don’t know why.

In my novel, the main character will shaken awake by an agent of reality. I’ve always wanted that to happen to me. I haven’t written that part yet. I’m waiting for something to happen to me, but it’s likely I’ll have to escape this myself.

(Just like my dream last night, where I was a hostage of the government and women were hired to keep me and a bunch of people in this warehouse with an open screen door. The women guards had no job other than to keep us in and no reason to do so. I tried to escape and one grabbed my wrist and told me no. I pulled her outside with me and ran so far that she couldn’t go back. At that point she didn’t want to. I said to other escapees, “wouldn’t that job just totally suck? It’s so illogical!”)

A person with a home

I am very suddenly today needing to be done with college. It is killing my spirit. I am so extreme. There’s nowhere for me to be. I have no place in the world. I’m just a college student. I need to not be one anymore! I have about five more BS projects to BS before I get out of here. I want to be a person with a home so badly. It seems so far away. Pray for me I guess!

Motivated but Exhausted

I wish there were a comfortable way to sleep and do homework at the same time. I really do want to produce good works for these classes, even though what I refuse to name or complain about (senioritus) should be taking over my life. See how much easier blognonfiction is for me than research papers?

I got an amazing response to my “Poet’s poet” poem today at the senior reading. I’m glad. Gosh. I wish I could bottle up a day like today and open it in six months. This is the unreal joy and accomplishment I expected to feel throughout college. Instead, it was one big fog that is just clearing up now. And I’m at the lake. I’m just lucky lucky lucky right now.
You must dazzle yourself with the light of every moment of your life. I say this paraphrased Whitman quote to myself often and wonder how it’s possible. Then it’s done for me.
Maybe it’s just the weather. But it’s rarely just the weather, isn’t it.