Monday, July 11, 2016

do you like where you've been

I decided to take a break from blogging last fall in part because I didn't know what I wanted to post about here anymore. For a while (and by "a while" I mean literally since I started this blog three years ago) I struggled with deciding on what kind of content I want to blog about, and over the months I've slowly transformed this space into one that's a lot more personal than what I was trying out when I first started as "seattleite fashionista." My priority is to write what matters to me, and usually that means documenting whatever I want to talk about at the moment: a song, a book, a film, a place, a person. I've never been comfortable with blogging for any niche audience (to the horror of every other blog that recommends doing in order to build a follower base) and I'm starting to make peace with myself over that. 

In classical poetics class this spring, Professor Ferrari introduced his lecture on "the Beautiful" (in aesthetics) with Immanuel Kant's Critique of Judgment by saying that beauty–along with the sublime–are "subjective universal" experiences, a paradox that suggests while someone judging something to be beautiful can be agreed upon by many, not everyone will judge the same thing to be beautiful, and even if they do, they don't necessarily judge beauty in the same way. This subjective universal paradox is the reason why "Plato can find the grand unifying theory [to what makes an object beautiful] but then he'll tell you why that's not enough: you have to love [the object] instead of just trying to understand it." At the end of the day, I don't have the authority to tell you why you should love the things I love; all I can do is try to help you understand me through my writing about what I find beautiful and hope that it means something to you too. 

I realized that the thing I always end up looking for in all my favorite fashion, film, book, and music reviews online is not so much why a collection/movie/book/song is good (or bad, or somewhere in between) for some universal reason or set of reasons that everyone is supposed to be able to relate to; I want to know what the means to the person writing the review, what personal experiences the thing they're reviewing evoked, and why the piece matters to them in particular. I'm interested in creating a record of what things have mattered to me in part because I know how quickly and imperceptibly people can change; I feel responsible for representing myself because if I don't write me, who will?

I talk a lot about Lana Del Rey songs on this blog because she's the artist I listen to on repeat the most, and one of my favorites from her latest album, Honeymoon, is "Swan Song." It's a hypnotic, velvety affair about the end of an era and a promise to never sing again, so c'mon, put your white tennis shoes on and follow me. The lyrics to "Swan Song" are the kind of words you whisper into your lover's ear trying to coax him to run away with you, pulling him away from the security of the life and the world you knew to follow you into the dark. In the bridge, Lana hits the highest notes of the song with the question "do you like where you've been and where you're going to?" and in the weeks after the album was released last fall I couldn't stop thinking about whether I like who I was and who I will be or not. 

Over the course of the last six years that I've spent writing about my life on various corners of the internet, I've created an unadulterated record of who I was with every time I hit "publish," and every few months I go back through my archives to remind myself of who I used to be. As much as I cringe at some of the things I've said and opinions I've held, I've also grown to respect my past in ways that I probably wouldn't have if I never started writing in the first place. 

I have Mr. Nickerson, my 9th grade English teacher, to thank for inspiring me to seriously start writing my freshman year of high school; I'm sad to say that I found out that he passed away from cancer last week. His class was my first period of my first year at Kamiak, and he was notorious for being the harshest essay grader in the entire English department. Although I was generally a pretty average student first quarter, I worked hard on my first essay to write something that not only challenged the expectations of the prompt (what kind of person writes about buying designer sunglasses as a "personal odyssey"? Your girl, apparently) but also challenged me to find my voice and own it. I wanted to prove to myself that I could write well if I put my mind to it, and after I aced that essay, I spent the rest of the school year trying to ace the class. Mr. Nickerson taught literature in a way that made me feel like I earned my knowledge and his class was a formative moment in my academic career. 

One of the shorter units I had toward the end of the first semester was on song lyric analysis. We were given the lyrics to Elton John's "Candle in the Wind" and The Eagles' "Hotel California" and told to compare them to the poems we studied the week before, and then come back the next day with a song of our choosing to discuss the lyrics of. I don't remember what song I ended up choosing for that assignment (I distinctly remember taking to Facebook to ask for recommendations because I was clueless about that kind of stuff), but I do remember learning to listen beyond the melodies for narrative construction in verses and choruses. Six years later, I'm thinking and writing about the songs I listen to all the time, partly because it's something to do on my walk to the bus stop, and partly because it already felt instinctual. 
Rest in peace, Mr. Nickerson, and thank you for everything.

xoxo, vivian

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