Five Years Out

Last weekend I unexpectedly visited my undergrad alma mater, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) with two of my favorite people on the planet, who I happened to attend said school with.

While I’ve been back there before, and was even on an alumni panel for my major one year, I hadn’t gone back since another chapter of my life closed. Immediately following TCNJ, I began grad school at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC. In my program at SVA, you could either finish it in 2 years full time or over 4 years part time. I did a mix of both, but the point was, once those 4 years were up, you’d have to start the program all over again.

While I was happy for the new graduates out of TCNJ this May, I was a bit bittersweet towards the SVA ones. This would have been the year I graduated from SVA, if I hadn’t dropped out.

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When You Know Your Writing But People Don’t Believe You

A few weeks ago, I was very proud of myself for a very simple thing. I showed somebody some in-progress writing that I was working on–a script, more specifically–that I was planning on shooting soon. I’m the type of person who managed to go six years in art classes and rarely show any of my work. I’d go out of my way to game the system, to wait until the end of class or show something else or show something intentionally bad, like stick-figure thumbnails of what the final product would look like in order to avoid it. It was, is, and, fucking hell help me, the biggest issue that I deal with as a creator. There’s a whole memoir in me about my art anxiety, imposter syndrome, mental handicaps, simple fear, and just oddly and inexplicably low self-esteem I have about the creative side of myself, to the point that I still can’t even call myself an “artist” or “writer” or “creator” without feeling like an asshole. For fuck’s sake, my very first post on this site in 2014 directly addresses this issue: this blog is meant to be a direct, opposing force to said feelings.

This person didn’t know this about me, but did know that I don’t show things often, I don’t talk about things often. If I’ve done so with you, congrats! I love you and we can unceremoniously boil you down to being a safe space for me in trying to find my own self-love. The friend I was with is the type who likes to link everything back to parental issues; things like how you dress or eat, whether you wear makeup, things that seem asinine at times. But I know there is truth to some of this. I’ve read enough Malcolm Gladwell books to not ignore the nature/nurture argument just because it presents things I don’t like. I do think that this particular friend places too much emphasis on it though. It’s sort of like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep’s character schools Anne Hathaway’s over a blue sweater and the illusion of choice.While not a perfect or full picture, the scene serves as a reminder that many of the things we do, the ‘choices’ we make in our daily lives are not necessarily our own, or we aren’t fully conscious of them or their origins. But at the same time, Anne Hathaway’s character, for whatever reasons, did make the choice to buy that sweater, not knowing the context that Streep’s later presented. But I understand that this was more about the options available to a person.

When I showed my friend the script, I was proud of myself, and my work. But my friend immediately picked it apart, which in and of itself is not the problem. Despite aforementioned issues, I am not immune to criticism and it’s benefits, as well as the divorcing of the actual criticism from the person who is delivering it (in terms of your personal relationship with them vs. their input as a critic). My friends biggest issue wasn’t so much the content itself so much as the fact that I was even showing it to them. To them, this proved that it was not ready–that I was not ready–if I needed reassurance from someone else. That if I needed a second opinion, it invalidated my confidence in the piece. They then went on to argue that the writing was trying to be something it was not, completely neglecting any potential context or reason why I would write something in a different–in this case, more formal and academic voice–than my usual casual blog post or my usual way of speaking.

So I defended myself. I took his criticisms about the tone and voice of the piece to heart and did make some changes that bettered it. But I also explained that I was happy with it, and just happy that I was finally making again and wanted to share with someone I thought would be happy and supportive. I thought they specifically would appreciate the piece as it was about a topic they enjoy. I explained that the educational nature of the piece prompted me to avoid my usual f-bombs, anecdotes, and brazen casualness.

To them, I got defensive. That this reaction was a reflection of how I feel about myself. Which it totally was. But not in the way that they were assuming.

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30 Before 30 and other Life Goals

Today marks the 7th anniversary of this blog, despite only having started consistently blogging on it in 2014/2015. I recently detailed these woes in a post called “How To Succeed in Posting Without Really Trying, Starring Daniel Radcliffe,” so I won’t go back into the details. But I’ve always struggled with being a non-starter, with having amazing ideas and talking myself out of them. I manage to convince myself that I’m not qualified to even have the ideas that I have–that “someone like me” can’t possibly do X, Y, or Z. WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN? she asks yet again. Because of that, my creativity has noticeably declined. Because of this though, there are a lot of ideas and projects I’ve had gestating for a long time. It will be interesting to revisit them as the totally different person I am compared to when they were first conceived. I wish I could see some of the earlier posts that I deleted. I think this also highlights an important blog question, and that is when should I actually celebrate by blog’s anniversary? 😛

That all being said, I wanted to acknowledge something on this site: I made these a while ago, and quietly published two pages to my site with little fanfare. But a couple of friends mentioned them to me, telling me that it made them think about replicating the 30-item list, so I thought I’d actually post in the blog for posterity’s sake, and also give a  shoutout to my cousin, who is probably mad at me because I forgot to text her back. Again. This is nothing new if you’re my friend, unfortunately.1

My cousin has a blog called Planes, Trains, and Running Shoes. She’s had it for years, and when she first started blogging, it was called 25Before25, as it was her way of documenting 25 things she wanted to do before she turned 25. They ranged from the simple pleasures, like making a sand castle, to learning new things like cooking through a cookbook, to more ambitious things like visiting every major league baseball park. One of them was even starting and maintaining her blog, and seven years out she’s still going strong, which, in a really basic way, sums up what I admire about her.

Since then, her list has evolved into a 30 Before 30 list, and while 1) I don’t think it’s important to achieve all of the things on one such a list2, and 2) I don’t think it matters at what age, I couldn’t help but find the appeal in it. The itemized list does give you a chance to step back and assess what you want right now for the future, and offers many a chance to reprise this and hold you accountable. And the age, well, the age lights a fire under your ass, doesn’t it? When my cousin first made her list, she was….like 23 I guess…giving her a limited amount of time than say a 23 year old with a 30 Before 30. It’s not about those details, it’s about the ~*JoUrNEy*~ and I mean that as fucking corny as it is to say and type out like a 14 year old on myspace.3 And guess what? Journeys change man. I mean, even Journey has changed their lead vocalist like three times!4

But in all seriousness, I just wanted to think about some of the things I’ve either been putting off or want to learn, and put them concretely (for now at least, because again 2) out in the world, all The Secret-style and whatnot. My 30 Before 30 list is a mishmash of things. A number of them focus on the oft-neglected and barely tolerable NYC. A place I love, hate, and love to love-hate. (Or is it hate-love?) So if I move any time between now and 2019 I’m gonna already have to swap dem bad boys out. They are much more internalized and directly tied to immediate goals that I have, as I hinted at when I mentioned my mind-mapping in my Passion Planner, as well as my bullet journal.5 There are also more than 30 in there, and I’m not just talking about the Medieval Times, so much as #25, which is a laundry list of eateries in NYC I want to visit, and one of 5 NYC-centric posts which means a minimum of 5 NYC trips, but definitely more because you can’t do all this in 5 days.6

These are all multi-step goals that require further breakdowns and skills to build up to them, some planning, etc. etc.

Then there are my general goals. I didn’t want to call them “life” goals nor did I want to call it a bucket list because I just think those sound dumb. Even calling them goals is dumb and adds an unnecessary weight/pressure to achieve them or else I failed, when these are just meant to be things I wanted to do on my own anyway. I guess that’s that whole argument about whether or not you should even tell people about your goals or plans or just do them. I said before that in some way this was accountability, but it’s for myself.

The goals are further down the line. While, yes, the 30 Before 30 crowd require previous skills and steps, most of the Goals require prior achievements  (either skill-based or other) to accomplish them. Many would be the result of succeeding at the earlier goals.

All of that being said, I think I’ve gone meta enough with the blog posts about the blog itself. That’s no fun. It’s like when half of a YouTubers videos are about their channel and updates and strategies for it. Unless it’s general information about blogging that could help someone–that’s a different story than just general housekeeping. Like, it’s interesting, but not if it detracts from the other stuff. Granted, this site doesn’t really have any particular theme other than it being about my life, and me figuring out my digital footprint is definitely a big part of that.


Footnotes:
1. “I am the worst.” -Jen Hurler
2. “Fuck your dreams” -Hank Green
3. Only 80s kids will remember
4. Fuck you, that joke was too good to not make.
5. Will def have to blog about those in the future.
6. Or can you…? Challenge, accepted, Past!Jen.

Follow-Up to My March Declutter Challenge

So at the start of last month, I spontaneously decided to impose a 31-Day Declutter Challenge that had me tackling a different physical (or digital) space in my life.

In no particular order, here’s my take on things:

1.) It’s much harder to motivate yourself when it’s cold out (and your bedroom has an insanely comfy couch), but moving about quickly warms up the room.

2.) I was definitely overly ambitious with some of these things, and grouped certain things oddly. While I wanted to break this into smaller, more digestible items, many were interconnected, and I needed to solve one along with the other. I tried to list them chronologically in a way that tried to address that from the get-go, but what can you do?

3.) The biggest thing from this all was that as I de-cluttered, I had piles of things to trash, donate, or move, but no where to store them. Getting rid of junk or donations is easy, but I have a number of things that I wanted to bring back to my parents’ house that, when I lived in a full apartment I had room for, but since downsizing to only a bedroom 1: didn’t have room for or 2: my bf had better of. Early on in the month, I amassed this large pile and it had to sit in the middle of my bedroom until I could finally drive back to my parents’ house…today, a month later. That definitely didn’t make me feel great about things, having that constant visual eyesore when I was trying to build momentum.

4.) I purposely did the opposite of the KonMari method, because I wanted to restructure a bit before I switched gears and tried to pare down quantity. And speaking to point #3 I’m glad I did that because I would not be able to get super involved in that with the space that I have, how much (or little) time I had, and the way that I use my room for multiple purposes.

5.) It was unrealistic, and I knew that (and that was kind of the point, to be honest), but it was made so especially due to how busy that particular month was for me work-wise.

6.) It got me off my ass which was the point. I’m a pretty average person with clutter. It builds up, I clean it, some weeks I maintain it better than others. Frankly, it really depends on other factors–it’s getting warmer out and my workload looks like it might be lightening up a little now. It makes a difference for me.

7.) Living near my parents is both a clutter gift and trap. Because I live so close to my parents’ house, I have the luxury of being able to drive down there whenever I want. I don’t go often, to be honest, but when I do I usually try to bring some things home…and inevitably end up also bringing a bunch of stuff (usually books) back. I have to be realistic about a lot of my ‘wishful thinking’ stuff. A lot of what I am bringing home this time are books, comics, DVDs, and video games that I’m just not going to get to any time soon, especially since I left a bunch behind that I do want to get to.

8.) My room looks the same. I am still very much trying to have a full apartment experience in a bedroom and it is comically stupid. And because of that, there’s still furniture from wall-to-wall with things on them. There’s still a bunch of stuff in the closets. There’s just less now. It would be different if I lived further away for sure, so I’m going to enjoy this madness as long as I can.

How To Succeed in Posting Without Really Trying, Starring Daniel Radcliffe

I currently have 114 posts in my drafts for this blog. If I went through them and sorted them, I know many would be either obsolete or better suited for my new animation site, Animation Complex.1  The earliest post in there is from March 25th, 2011.

2011.

Dramatic lone statement. For emphasis.

I didn’t post an actual post on here until May 4th, 2014, in a post appropriately titled “Overdue.” In this terse first post, I lay it all out:

For almost six years, I have longed to become a much more proficient writer. Similarly, it is one of my goals to become what many would consider a valid, valuable, and respected voice in the field of animation and computer graphics.
Day after day, year after year, I talked myself out of doing something as simple as starting a blog, not feeling secure with putting myself out into the Internet, nor confident that my opinions would ever carry any weight in the future.

It makes me uncomfortable, and that’s why I need to try.

Again, “For almost six years…”. Six, man. In 2008, I graduated from high school and was starting college. I wanted to start a blog, start a YouTube channel, but felt silly. Who would care? And to be honest, I still feel that way. In some ways, I dodged a bullet being born when I did: early enough to have a tech-free childhood, bar a weekly typing computer class where you had to manually launch the Windows OS from the DOS screen, but late enough where I’ve been able to enjoy this boon at an age where I could quickly and easily adopt it as a nearly-digital native. I dodged cyber-bullying as a kid, baby photos on FaceBook, and potentially saying some really dumb shit, as kids do.

That first blog post from 2011 was about going to see Daniel Radcliffe on Broadway2 with some college friends in our junior year. I know that I started typing it out and probably felt as though that wasn’t a “proper” first post. That I needed an introductory post or something with more of a hook. Or just that I’d be adding a droplet to an ocean. Always some reason.

So without further ado, on the anniversary of that original blog post’s intended publishing date, I give you the contents of that draft:

This past Tuesday, I was treated to a wonderful experience. Through my college, I was able to see Daniel Radcliffe (of Harry Potter fame) sing, dance, and speak with an American accent for only $36. This included the price of the ticket as well as the bus ride to and back from my school.

Something interesting to note about the story is…well…the story itself. The main character, Finch, specifically. He doesn’t ever have a downfall in this musical. He maneuvers his way into the higher ranks of a company, messes up, finagles out of it again, and at the end gets the big bucks and the girl. Doesn’t learn any lesson, doesn’t have a sharp change of character, nothing.

I know that from here, I would have attempted to delve into the idea of the “perfect character” trope, and how I’d lump him in with characters like James Bond and Mary Poppins–these perfect characters that don’t really have an arc, whom we love regardless. I’d have tried to delve into the unbalance I felt towards ‘Mary Sue’ characters vs. the male equivalent, ‘Marty Stus,’ not in calling them out, because, CALL AWAY, but rather the excuses that tend to be provided for the male characters.

It would be especially interesting to delve into sexism with How to Succeed due to the time period it takes place and, thus, dated attitudes that were then quaint but now casual sexism or just blatant sexual harassment in the workplace3. This would still make for an interesting post, but this is not that post. I think I hesitated to write that all out back then because I didn’t think I had the right to make these assessments–that I was still just a student, and though I was learning this type of thing, felt that I still just didn’t know enough. And in hindsight that’s absolutely true. But I was also denying myself many, many opportunities to learn by doing.

This post is a reminder that I have so, so many failed attempts, and somewhere along the line I let this culture trick me into seeing them as negatives in my life rather than opportunities. But changing your mindset is very, very hard. This post is also a reminder that I need to clear those drafts away, one way or another, and I hope most can be salvaged and I type them up with reckless abandon like I did this one. This is a pretty short post, but I’ll take that over not having posted anything about this. Lastly and most importantly, this post is a reminder that DanRad is super, super short.4

 


Footnotes:
1) Gotta get that self-promo, yo.
2) You’re welcome.
3) There is literally a song in this called “A Secretary is Not a Toy” among other gems, that problematic and antiquated though they may be, are a conflicting delight to see acted out.
4) You’re welcome.