Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I'm not a minimalist. Far from it, in fact: I really like things. Like most people my age, I am trying to create my identity based on stuff. Material goods serve as manifestations of my interests, and without them, I am (or at least, I thought that I would be) an un-person. My idea of self is justified by objects: I like tea, I have a collection of tea cups. I like running, I have racing numbers taped to the wall of my bedroom. I like drawing, and I have excessive art supplies scattered across my desk. In the beginning, this seemed reasonable, but as time progresses (and I hopefully, to some extent, matured), I came to realize that some, if not most, of my things were extraneous. And, even though I could objectively identify how unnecessary so many of my possessions were, I could not begin to get rid of them. 
A slow panic is setting in as I prepare to leave home. Going to college is forcing me to prioritize and declutter. I ask myself the question: do I really need this? Increasingly, I find myself answering in the negative. In the past weekend, I pulled sixty books off the shelves of my bedroom and boxed them to donate. Over the past several months, I've been doing the same process with my clothing. These have not been easy tasks for me. I find my bookshelf is hugely indicative of my character, and by removing pieces from my shelves I feel that I am releasing parts of myself. I parted with several book series this weekend that I had adored when I was growing into pre-pre-pubescence. What part of my childhood was I choosing to relinquish as I packed the box and dragged it into the hallway? 
Sorting clothing is no easier. Now that I have finished growing, I have started to grow an extensive wardrobe of miscellaneous garments: shirts, pants, skirts, button-downs, sweaters, jackets. My penchant for thrifting has caused the contents of my closet to expand exponentially with each season. The slow accumulation of garments surprises me, as I can never truly conceptualize the amount of clothing that I actually possess until it is time to box it up and store it for the next year. Embarrassingly, I have run out of space to store my shoes. I threw away four pairs, among them several worn down pairs of running shoes, and the pair of ballet flats that everyday in the 8th grade- the same pair I wore when I had my first kiss. I'm sentimental. Absurdly so. I pulled two trash bags full of clothing out of my room to donate, and haven't regretted it. 
Cleaning my desk and school shelves has been completely overwhelming. My older brother never got rid of his textbooks, at the urging of my mother, in the event that I would need them when I went through the classes later. When I followed him through school three years later, I took many of the same classes with many of the same teachers. However, none of the books were the same. Editions change over the years, and the textbooks that I already had were essentially worthless. So, when I graduated in June, I was left with a tall pile of defunct textbooks, most in duplicate. Required readings for eight collective years of English classes, and an inordinate amount of SAT prep books given to me by my brother and cousins and family friends. 
If you couldn't already tell, I feel the need to be over-prepared for things. I have saved my binders from almost every class that I took in high school, in the event that I would need to reference my notes later on. When I cleared out my shelves, my binders were the first to go. I went through them meticulously, pulling a few tests and essays that I wanted to keep, and recycling the rest. In a few subjects, such as French, I did decide to keep my notes. Even though I held onto some things, I was able to narrow down ten binders and countless two pocket folders overflowing with handouts, worksheets, and miscellany, into three concise binders. I recycled nearly 50 pounds of paper. (And yes, I am going to take a moment to repeat that: 50 pounds of paper. What was I thinking that made me think I needed to keep 50 pounds of paper? I routinely babysit children who weigh less than that.) From the shelves of required readings,I decided which I wanted to keep, and which I would box to donate. I brought the books to my room, and put them into my own personal library. In total, I took my desk and school readings from two shelving units into a single shelf.
As difficult as it was to do my first sweep, each successive purge has become easier for me. My room in still insulated with books, and I still have a large amount of clothing. But now, it has become easier for me to look at these items and judge their worth. I have a book here that I've never read or wanted to read, but it was a gift from X. I pull it from the shelves and put it in a stack to donate. I never liked the way this shirt fit me, but it had only cost this much money. I'll probably never wear it, but maybe somebody else will. It doesn't matter how much, or how little, something cost, if it serves no practical purpose. At times when I am cleaning out, I find it important to remind myself that I have what I need. I want what I want. I don't always need what I want.

Monday, June 4, 2012

sandman and the evolution of the graphic novel

In the year of my birth, issues of Sandman, a graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman, were serialized by Vertigo books in what would become the penultimate volume of the Sandman series. The Kindly Ones, as this 9th collection would be named, consisted of issues 57-69, and was published in whole in 1996. I was two years old at the time, and only clever enough to tie my own shoes. Although I did not realize it then, Neil Gaiman’s series represented a landmark in the history of the graphic novel; Sandman became one of the most popular graphic novels of the 1990s and changed many of the preconceived notions about the graphic novel as a literary genre. The evolution of the graphic novel has been an ongoing process since its inception, and I have been fortunate enough to be able to witness many of the defining moments in its chronology in my own lifetime.
Sandman was written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by a constantly rotating group of artists. The series tells the story of the seven Endless, most closely narrating the life of the titular character Dream. Gaiman describes the Endless in a variety of ways, perhaps best through the words of Destruction in volume eight, Brief Lives:
The Endless are merely patterns. The Endless are ideas. The Endless are wave functions. The Endless are repeating motifs. The Endless are echoes of darkness, and nothing more... And even our existences are brief and bounded. None of us will last longer than this version of the Universe.
The Endless exist as the manifestations of universal experiences. Each of the seven Endless (Dream, Death, Desire, Destruction, Destiny, Despair, and Delirium, formerly Delight) personifies an aspect of the human condition. Gaiman’s ability to create such beautifully tangible manifestations of these experiences resulted in its popularity and transformative effects on the graphic novel.
The entirety of the graphic novel genre has the same wave function as the Endless; throughout history varying forms of sequential art have been used to convey narratives. Although only dubbed with the term graphic novel in recent history, examples of illustration portraying stories and legends exist throughout every culture and every time period. The Bayeux tapestry- portraying the Norman conquest of England, and the Egyptian papyrus scrolls- depicting the entry into the afterlife, are two examples of marriages between narratives and art. In the absence of written language, or in the absence of literate audience, pictorial cues have always aided the description of the greatest epics of our time. Building on this time honored tradition, the modern graphic novel has evolved and specialized around the world. From the bande dessinée of France, to the manga of Japan, graphic novels are a celebrated cultural phenomenon.
Today, graphic novels are capable of relaying entire stories in less time and often with less ambiguity than their non-illustrated counterparts. While both written language and literate audiences exist today, the driving force of instant gratification has caused a former measure of necessity to become a measure of convenience. However, a successful graphic novel does not sacrifice its story for its art; both aspects  are strongly linked and benefit the other, and neither can exist alone. The power of the graphic novel lies in its ability to show and tell the reader what its characters are thinking and feeling. When we see sadness, we react to sadness. Likewise, when we read about happiness, we react to happiness. The duality of the graphic novel doubly increases our understanding of the material that we are reading.
Today, in our own little ways, I think that we are each living graphic novels. We want our moments to be captured and captioned. Evolving forms of communication have undoubtedly aided us in our attempts to be read. We create chronologies of our lives across facebook, twitter, and blogs, making a complex lexicon of who we are at any given point in time. These digitalized versions of ourselves are preserved like chapters in a book, each with a convoluted story line and unlikable main character. Our desire to be read and remarked upon (or perhaps, rather, our desires to be remarkable) is truly an example of life imitating art. So we write another blog post, tweet another status, and upload another profile picture. Maybe it will gain us the literary criticisms of “lol!” or “babby gurl u look fine”, and maybe they won’t. But we’ll write another page regardless, sometimes because we love ourselves more than dynamic lettering and dramatic inking could ever hope to convey. And sometimes we write another page simply because (as Neil Gaiman wrote in Sandman, Volume 5: A Game of You) “everyone has a secret world inside of them. All of the people in the world, I mean everybody—no matter how dull and boring they are on the outside, inside them they’ve all got unimaginable, magnificent, wonderful, stupid, amazing worlds. Not just one world… hundreds of them. Thousands, maybe.”

Saturday, June 2, 2012

on moving forwards by moving backwards

I'm eighteen, I'm graduating, and I'm going to college.

I'm thankful for all of the people who have gotten me to this point in my life. I don't have words to say how much their support means to me. I hope that I can continue to live up to their expectations. I aspire to be as wonderful as they have been, and I look forward to someday having the opportunity to tell them all how grateful I am for everything they have done.

I've been cleaning and trying to minimize the amount of stuff that I've accumulated- and it hasn't been easy. I'm sentimental, and I tend to collect things. I have a shelf full of half used spiral notebooks beside my bed, and I add to the collection regularly. It's a stack that has been growing since the sixth grade, when I first began to write. Flipping through one of these notebooks last weekend, I belatedly discovered a note intended for my eighteen year old self, written on the day before my fourteenth birthday.

“If it wouldn’t cause the world to explode, it would be cool to meet you. But, since there is currently no way for me to travel forward in time, I’m doing the next best thing: I’m making my own time capsule.

Why? Because I want you to be me. (That probably won’t make sense to me/you/us in four years, so let me explain.) I don’t want to lose what I believe in. I don’t want things that are meaningful now to lose their meaning. But, if it does happen that I change, I want to at least be able to remember why things were important. And maybe, that way, they will gain value again.

… Live life passionately. Have passion in everything you do: drawing, writing, and art in general. I want art to be a big part of your life. And love. Love people who love you.

These are the last words I’m writing as a 13 year old. Goodnight!”

It's always good to know that somewhere in the back of my head, or in the bookshelves in my room, there has been this awkward and gangly version of myself hiding and waiting for me to remember her. She's been my biggest fan. I hope that I've made her proud.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

embroidery floss, meet frankenstein.

you studied so blind
the poignant misery
I never saw
bound up to dissipate.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


I love ugly sweaters. Really, I do. Knit atrocities pull on my heartstrings with a pathos usually reserved for commercials about shelter pets and third world orphans. I can’t help it. Whenever I see something particularly hideous, I feel compelled to pick it up and bring it home. I prowl thrift stores, lurk in consignment shops, and pillage attics mercilessly.

My closet is immaculately organized. I have a section for dresses, for my Chinese cheongsams, and for shoes. Finally I have sweaters- subcategories upon subcategories of sweaters. Dress sweaters, casual sweaters, seasonal sweaters, and even the occasional cardigan. Sweaters are the comfort food of the clothing world, and cables are the strongest armor that I have. I’ve asked myself why I need to welcome the tacky, the purled, and the hobnob masses yearning to be free. Maybe it’s 90’s nostalgia, or because I was never allowed pets of my own. Though I doubt I’ll ever have an answer, and although I may never be remotely well dressed, at the very least, I’m delightfully warm.

Thursday, February 23, 2012


I am a collector. Of what, I’m not exactly certain. I have a stack of embroidered handkerchiefs on my desk that I haggled for at a flea market in Paris. I have a tall jar of colorful buttons from a bankrupt button factory arranged in a gradient on top of my dresser. I have no less than three typewriters scattered throughout my house. I have gathered a dozen glass bottles in the surf of a bay, and now proudly display them on the shelf next to my bedroom window where the light hits them best.

I suppose, if I had to put a name to it, I would be a collector of memories and atypical mementos. In my own words, I am a mudlarking magpie. I am fascinated by the slightly peculiar, and I revel in the quirks of found objects. I preserve my important moments with tiny trinkets, like autumn leaves between pages of library books, in hopes that they are someday found by a complete stranger.

My memories are preserved it objects of no great worth. Five fond years of summer camp have boiled down to a finger sized piece of barnacle encrusted driftwood. Four years of varsity running has only supplied a handful of dull pyramidal spike pins that I wore in my very first race. These tiny collections, although they are not glamorous by any means, are things that have defined my experiences and created a complex three dimensional scrapbook of my life. I hope that someday, should some handsome archeologist discover these tiny knickknacks, he or she will realize that they have all been much loved.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

hello again, again.

It is February and I have missed you.
I have tried to keep myself occupied, and I have managed to keep myself busy and tired.
I have writing to share with you sometime, should you want it.