The Fear of Being Great is a Thing.

I hate to say it, but my dad was right. I am in fact, without a doubt scared to be great. I can never take a first step , can never complete a first draft, and have a hard time following through with any creative idea I have in general all because of fear. It was hard for me to come to terms with this theory because initially I thought “I’m not scarred of being great, greatness is what I crave, I strive for it daily, actually i’m more scarred of failure if anything.” This is my problem, see the fear of failing and the fear of being great are both the same thing, the only difference is the wording. You cannot be great without failure so my fear of this step happening is preventing me from being everything I want.

This year I am determined to step out of this fear and do EVERYTHING I set my mind to. I have so many creative thoughts and ideas, and for the past few years (although I have made great accomplishments) I have been more of a thinker than a doer. I have started with my personal life and wants. I have always wanted to do something for my birthday and while i’m still breathing , I decided to make that happen. I booked a flight to New York for my 22nd birthday with NO hesitation(Go Me!). I have always wanted to do a creative video shoot for my birthday as well, I contacted a videographer to get that set up( another giant leap for Courtney). Although my birthday trip and video shoot may seem small , these are things I have wanted to do for years. This class is another gateway for me to do whatever I want creatively and the possibilities are endless. I have so much hope for my project that I decided it was best that I didn’t do it, but my new self has hope that this project will be everything I imagined and more. Being scarred about my creative thoughts and the potential they have is such an exhausting process, I have decided that fear is a choice and that failure is a stepping stone rather than defeat.

My project will focus on the journey of athletes specifically the ending and how retirement vs injury is a either a forced ending or an instance in where the ending is up to the discretion of the athlete. Identity crisis, mental health, and the next chapter of life will also be explored throughout my project and I plan to do my project through a documentary type style series. Something similar to E:60 or 30 for 30. I also would like to have small articles of subtopics and ultimately would like Derrick Rose to somehow get involved and or see it. I have faith in my vision and will approach my project as if there is no way I can fail , and that anything can happen.

Senior year aka “the year of lasts”…yet, I’m experiencing a first

I’ve never thought of myself as a creative person. It all goes back to the 3rd grade. Indulge me while I go on this short rant…

It was November 1st (yes, i’m crazy and remember the exact date). We were just starting to learn cursive. The new month meant a new seating chart. For all of September and October I had been hoping to be seated next to Pierce, the “it boy” of Mrs. Larkin’s class. I swore to myself that I loved him, and maybe I did in a weird little kid way, but I soon would learn that the feeling was NOT mutual. It was official, for the month of November he would sit across from me (yassssssss). We pulled out our cursive practice books and began to write. He looked up at me and said, “Are you sure you’re a girl? Because you have the handwriting of a boy.” I began to notice that I had bad handwriting, I was terrible at drawing, the girl next to me in art class always had a better painting than me, etc. To this day, sometimes I still feel like the least artsy/creative person alive.

Well, Pierce was right. I did have terrible handwriting. Still do, actually. But, I was wrong. I was wrong to take this tiny comment and twist it into something that hindered me for so long. I am creative, and writing is my outlet for that creativity.

For the first time in my entire life, I have too many ideas. Normally, I have a bunch of ideas and i’m like “eh” “no” “nah” “maybe” and I end up choosing the one stand out idea that I had. But, this time is different. I love them all. I’m passionate about sexual health, mental health, celebrating love, preventing sexual violence, and speaking my truth. SO, why is this such a predicament? How could having too many passions ever be a bad thing? Well, it is a bad thing right now. I cannot decide which project to pursue as my capstone project.

Giving my pitches to the class might’ve been helpful if I wasn’t in a room full of creative geniuses that offered up ideas and suggestions, making me love each of my ideas even more.

That might’ve come out wrong, so I’ll explain further. Giving my pitches to the class helped me to develop each of my ideas, providing me a launch point to take each one further. However, it did not help me to choose which idea I should move forward with. I think that I’ve narrowed it down to two. Have I really, though? When will T make me decide?

I know it will all work out, but until then I’ll keep writing. I’ll keep writing up little snippets for each idea, hoping one of them will jump off the page at me, screaming, “PICK ME, PICK ME, I’M THE BETTER OPTION!!!!”

Until next time,

Jess

Dangers of A Made Up Mind

To prepare for a class that’s supposed to be all about creativity, I probably did the worst thing I could ever do. I walked into the first day of class with my mind set. Last semester, I had two meetings with T and we had discussed the possibility of me focusing on the Michigan Student Experience for my Capstone project. I attached myself to this idea and shut everything else out, confidently explaining my idea to my classmates on the first day of class. I thought, “this is it. I am so lucky to have settled on an idea early on”. But now, I feel like I’m the last one to decide. 

It all started with our free-write about topics we were interested in. To be honest, I probably would’ve taken this assignment more seriously and tried to be a lot more creative if I hadn’t come in with such a closed mindset. Nonetheless, I was still able to write out some interesting topics that I referred back to when I was creating my 4 pitches for the class. 

I’m thankful for the pitch writing assignment because it forced me to consider a lot of important factors and to flesh out multiple ideas. In the process of creating the pitches, I realized that my idea about the Michigan Experience might be too big of an undertaking and would not have as much grounding in research as I had originally thought. My other ideas started to become a lot more appealing to me as I began to visualize how each route would look like. 

The first and second pitch revolved around my initial Michigan experience idea and were the easiest to write. When I first heard about the assignment, my plan was to write four different methods of executing the Michigan Experience idea. However, after writing two and exhausting the two types of formats I was interested in, I felt like I should consider some alternative ideas. Thus, I began to widen my scope. I thought about things that I was curious about, questions I wanted to answer. My last two pitch ideas were all driven by personal relevance and the topics were both questions I wanted to learn more about. After fleshing out these ideas, it became clear to me that the only part of the project I felt certain about for all of my ideas was the fact that I wanted to interview people. 

As I pitched my ideas in class, I began to notice that I focused a lot on my methodology for the projects, and not the actual topics themselves. I really want to create some type of short documentary or podcast for this project and I am so glad that there are so many resources on campus that can make this aspect of the project a reality. Going into the pitch process, I did not have a “favorite” topic. I really liked all of my ideas and wanted to listen to some of the feedback and ideas my peers had for me. I wanted to choose the topic that I would be able to execute the best. 

I was a little shocked by the fact that all of my commenters focused on my last topic- How to Measure Happiness. As they jumped in with ideas on how to expand this topic to include socioeconomic factors, religion, science and research, capitalism, and even the meaning of happiness, my own brainstorm process restarted as I started to think about how I could execute this project. The very next day I met another student in my Strategy course who was from Copenhagen, which was my inspiration for this topic, and I took this as a sign to pursue this topic for my project. She has already agreed to allow me to interview her for either my documentary or podcast. 

While I am excited to begin and to learn about even more resources on North Campus, I am a little bit nervous and feel daunted by this large assignment. I have no idea how I am going to pull everything together and I feel as if I have such grandeur hopes for the final project that I am afraid to disappoint myself and to not fulfill my vision. I suppose only time can tell. All I know is that moving forward, I will be conscious of my mindset and make sure that I never come to class again with a closed mind.

I’m Nervous

I was really nervous to pitch my ideas to the class. Not because I thought they were inherently bad, but because I was talking about things I’d been thinking about for quite some time, that I really hadn’t spoke out loud.

And that’s strange for me. I’ve always been one to say what’s on my mind, especially when it comes to my ideas and creative endeavors. I want you to hear my ideas, I want to hear your ideas about my ideas. I love this minor because it’s created a space where I feel like my creativity is constantly growing, expanding, due to the sheer amount of beautiful minds adding to your thoughts.

But right now, being creative is actually hard for me to do. The one thing I feel really connected to (writing, obviously), that I’ve always felt came easy to me, has been difficult. I haven’t been able to put things into words, or felt like the words I’m saying hold any meaning. So when I wrote my pitches, I actually found it difficult to even formulate a thought. I hadn’t thought about what I wanted. I don’t feel like I have the same voice in my writing that I did before.

When I pitched my ideas I was nervous. Because I knew people were going to latch on to the idea of me talking about my OCD. Mental health is, as should be, a very complex, compelling, and widespread topic. It’s something we should be talking about. But I’ve started to realize that I’ve let OCD control me for months. Control my creative processes, control my lack of creativity. And when I heard people perk up at the idea of me talking about love and mental illness, I was so exhausted. Not because I was angry about people being drawn to these ideas, but because I’m really, really over talking about myself, and thinking about my mental illness. Part of me wants to be able to represent myself through other mediums, ones that are necessarily a direct representation of my life. While I’m not trying to downplay the importance of my mental state, and how education is a huge part of the process of stigmatizing social issues.

But I want to feel like I’m creating something that is more than myself. And there are ways that I can pull from my life experiences, from others experiences, in something that isn’t directly talking about my life.

So I’ve decided to write that script (okay I say this now and I’ll probably get cold feet in about a week after sitting down with everyone and T again, and we’ll be back to this internal conversation). I want to write about characters that I find compelling, about scenarios that are inherently human and timely. And I want to prove to myself that I can still be creative, beyond who I am on the daily.

Plus I’ve never written a script before, and I think my brain is up for a challenge. And hopefully will help reinvent the creative pathways in my brain that OCD has unfortunately obliterated.

But that isn’t to say that I’m not still nervous. Because this is new, this is not in the repetitive nature that my OCD latches on to. But I have to do something that is going to move my brain away from OCD, and I think the best way to do is to not talk about OCD.

And that makes me nervous. Because I don’t remember what life was like back when I working so hard to control my OCD.

But I have to start trying to be creative again.

How I feel on the daily, constantly thinking about my mental illness

“The only thing that you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.”

This Albert Einstein quote appears on a bookmark that was brought home to me from the British Library this summer. It’s currently tucked inside the last chapter of Jia Tolentino’s new book (which is incredible, by the way). Often, when I tell people I’m studying to be a librarian, they laugh and say they’ve never heard someone say that’s what they want to be. But I do. This career perfectly incapsulates everything that I value. I’ve decided to use my Capstone project to explain why.

I came up with four pitches for the Capstone project, as instructed. They were not thought through as well as they probably should have been. I know myself. Either I formulate half an idea and call it good or I spend hours making elaborate plans for just one idea until I absolutely hate it. My first two ideas drew on previous research I’ve done. Those projects define my undergraduate experience as a fledgling archivist and historian, but I just didn’t see them fitting into the realm of this class after talking them through with my classmates and T.

So the third and fourth pitches came to the front. One of them was about sexual abuse in Opera, and that got the best reaction from the class. I expected that. It is the most timely, so it resonated. My partner is an opera singer, and she’ll be in the chorus this fall for the very show I pitched doing a case study on. The idea came from her, really. The concept is compelling, and as much as I respect the genre and would love to do research about it, this idea just doesn’t feel like mine. Which brings us to pitch number four: the preservation of knowledge, or who bothers to care for books? Something like that. I don’t want to speak too soon. We all know how these things tend to change form over and over again. It happened in Gateway, it’ll certainly happen this semester too.

Speaking of this semester, it’s my last one. I’ll graduate in December, do some more work in archives and the Donald Hall Collection (the film/screenplay library on the sixth floor of North Quad– please consider it as a resource!) for eight months, and then head to graduate school. So I’m thinking a lot about this next phase of my life, and why it’s so important to me that I pursue a career dedicated to preserving and talking about history. For me, right now, a project like this needs to grapple with those questions. As hard as I tried to pitch a project that dealt with a new topic, it always comes back to what I’m passionate about. I know I’m super lucky to already know what that is. I can’t wait to articulate to you all, in a new format, why librarianship means so much to me.

H.A.G.S.: High School, Yearbooks, and Your Mind on Feminist Theory

Okay, I’m just gonna start off here by stating for the record: I didn’t like high school when I was in high school. Like, at all. I was a super messy teenager who fought with her mom all the time and had crazy intense crushes and fell asleep during study hall. Yet, somehow, it’s all I think about now. In the spring of 2018, I found some senior photos I’d buried in my old email account; maybe that planted the seed. Seeing myself all scrawny and dolled up was an intense and endlessly cringy flashback.

The author at seventeen, just doing the absolute most.

I’ve been reading a lot of feminist theory and sociology, a lot of books about fractured communication and relationships between genders, a lot about what it means to be a “woman.” (Many of these resources are from the Second Wave and are therefore pretty trans-exclusionary, so here I’m referring to cis “womanhood”, although I personally respect and celebrate all gender identities.) The one I’m currently on, Reviving Ophelia: Saving the Selves of Adolescent Girls by Mary Pipher, PhD, has forced me to think much more critically about the role of high school in teenage girls’ lives.

High school is both a passive transitionary space between childhood and adulthood and a very well-orchestrated incubator for the implementation of toxic patriarchal norms. Girls are thrust into an environment in which they must learn to perform womanhood, and upon doing so, are pigeonholed into their particular flavor of it: slut, prude, ice queen, wannabe. I remember doing my makeup in the handicap-accessible bathroom before class so no one would have to know I didn’t wake up beautiful. I remember the boys at the bus stop poking at my birthmark and demanding to know whose hickey that was.

Our society treats high school like a sexual laboratory (ever seen Riverdale?), a living meet-cute. I challenge you to name one teen movie or television show set in a high school that focuses on the students actually going to class. That’s not reality; it’s just stupid adults projecting their sexual politics onto a nostalgic, “neutral” framework. But life imitates art, and those imagined high schools we grow up seeing on the page or the screen are acted out on the stage of actual high schools in America. Enter: my interest in yearbooks, which provide an authentic (if idealized) look into the high school experience.

A spread in my sketchbook about a yearbook I found at an antique store.

The yearbooks with which I have interacted (mine, those of my relatives, those of total strangers) compile a hodge-podge of images and real-life testimonials to the realities of high school, both by co-mission (“Thanks for suffering through Spanish with me!”) and omission (everybody mentions parties but nobody talks about what goes down at them). They also create a snapshot of someone through the eyes of others. The first yearbook I bought at an antique store was full of signatures from girls who exclusively used glitter gel pens and hearted every i, so it was easy to assume that this Justin guy was quite the babe magnet.

Oddly enough, I was never actually interested in Justin himself; I found the girls with which he surrounded himself far more complex and substantiative as subjects. That might explain the hesitance I expressed when offered the idea of a research or fiction project regarding the yearbook’s owner. Plus, cornering a now-police officer with “Hey I found your yearbook from 2002 and it looks like you had some really questionable friendships with underage girls” sounds amazing and cathartic, but it doesn’t sound like a job I’d want to take on.

So where does this leave me? It’s tough to say. I have so much emotional investment in the topic of adolescent womanhood (believe it or not, I was one of those!) and how it intersects with our cultural narrative surrounding high school. But god, that’s such an expansive topic! My first step is buying more yearbooks. I’ve already bought five this week, and plan to invest in more in the near future. I’m not sure if these yearbooks with be the centerpiece of my Capstone project, or just one piece of research in a broader discussion of female identity in high school culture.

What a long, strange trip this is going to be…

Yeah… I think I’ll just do them all

This class, like gateway, moves so slow and so fast at the same time. It’s slow because we work on (essentially) one thing for an entire semester. We have almost four months to do a single project, so we have the luxury of spacing things out. But not really. The class moves crazy fast because these projects are pretty massive. When I first came into the class, I had 0 plans. Not even a twinkle of an idea in my brain for what my project could be. And then, as soon as I sat down, class was over and we had five days to come up with not one or two, but FOUR project ideas, one of which would ultimately be what we spend the whole semester working on. That stressed me out.

But coming up with my ideas turned out to not be that hard. As students in college, and as writers, we tend to have a lot floating around in our brains at once, and creating ideas is about going fishing for those ideas to turn them into a tangible plan. I was pretty excited about three out of four of my ideas, which is a decent turn-out. I told them to my mom and to my friends, and felt myself picking a favorite as I explained each one over and over.

Right before I came into class, I told my roommate how it would go down. “I’ll read all my pitches and they’ll all be like ooooh sandcastles and I’ll be like yeah but movement, you guys.” I had made the decision that a website about the power of movement in our minds and bodies would be a really thrilling project for me to create. It could incorporate various styles of writing, extensive research, implementation, and be an exciting challenge. But it wasn’t quite as beautiful as my other two. One, that dealt with mental health on campus as a senior and another that dealt with the impermanence of life expressed as a metaphor about sandcastles. But I didn’t want to do those. I wanted to do movement. I did my best to put this decision in the very very back of my head and be open to hearing what my classmates thought about my pitches.

The reality of the situation was almost exactly like my prediction. The class seemed most intrigued by my senior year and my sandcastles pitches, not as much by my movement one. They even suggested combining the two former ideas in a study of the temporary nature of life and life’s events. I do love these two ideas. I think they’re both important in their own way. I loved hearing people’s ideas, like Amy’s suggestion to include coping methods to practice during senior year and Courtney’s note that a pamphlet about senior year would be really beneficial on social media. I plan on carrying these ideas out.

But not now. Not here. Explaining my pitches one final time to my class made me realize the passion I have for movement and its healing power in our minds and bodies. It really encapsulates a lot of who I am at this point in my life, personally, academically, and professionally. I really can’t beat that. I’m so grateful for this class for providing me with the time to do a project like this because I wouldn’t do it otherwise. This is the perfect time for a movement guide as I depart from my life as an undergraduate student and enter a new future. I hope to make a guide to senior year in my Community Action class this semester. I hope to make a photobook about sandcastles and life after I graduate and live in uncertainty for a few months while I get my life together. I really appreciate my peers for encouraging me to pursue these ideas. Sorry, though, guys. Not gonna happen yet. Stay tuned.

pop tv GIF by Schitt's Creek
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