This has been the longest, most painstakingly drawn-out summer of my life. Right now I’m sitting with a mug full of hot tea on a brisk day near the middle of September with two weeks until my first day of classes and not a whole lot to show for it. Actually I take it back. I went a few places. I did a couple of things. I talked to people in those places— when my foot wasn’t in my mouth. There was even a very exciting encounter with a bear, at least I think it was a bear. The point is, I had an arduously fulfilling summer all thanks to friends and family who let me tag along on mini trips to where the bears live (Tahoe), where the sun lives (Los Angeles), and where the Mormons live (guess) and thanks to Shannon. On every trip, and during every dull day between, I was accompanied by Shannon. This post is dedicated to her.
“It’s like a fat lady is sitting on one of your ovaries” my Gynecologist told me a few months ago. So I named the fat lady Shannon because why not. Shannon = my Polycystic Ovary Syndrome and the symptoms that come with it. In a nutshell, Shannon exists to make my life hell by causing me various biological inconveniences through way of hormonal imbalances that I’ll have to holistically supplement and treat for the rest of my life because as of today, there is no cure for PCOS. Dope. So now what?
Shannon’s palette of side effects includes anxiety and depression. Hearing that was a relief. I’ve stopped counting the late mornings, absent conversations, and petrified phone calls I’ve made… let alone the number of times I’ve submitted to destructive feelings of inadequacy.
Now I had someone to blame, it was Shannon’s fault. Not mine. A medical professional said so, even if she used a really shitty analogy to explain it to me.
Understanding the separation between my essence and my emotions has been another subsidiary soundtrack to this summer. Shannon’s presence in my life has made me asses my emotions like I’ve never had to before. Shannon sometimes makes my mood unpredictable, so to help prepare family and friends for what’s coming on any given day, I came up with a morning mood rating system which goes as follows:
– Puddle of emotion, vacuum of inspiration, tired, doubtful of my own abilities, 100% emotionally paralyzed
– Anxious, mind is like a hamster running in a wheel, doubts, worries, pressures, fears all circulate, 75% emotionally paralyzed
– Pacing, somewhat anxious but feeling more helpful and trying to wake the hell up 50% emotionally paralyzed
– My mind has slowed significantly, good night’s rest, still on my toes but excited and only 25% emotionally paralyzed
– THIS VIDEO ENOUGH SAID.
It’s Shannon who is my biggest handicap and Shannon who’s given me what no one else could. She’s taught me to grant myself allowance on the 1 star days and how to really get hyped on the 5 star days as rare as they are.
In the middle of a 300+ member family reunion in Utah my anxiety levels were so high I literally felt like I was drowning. It had nothing to do with the toddlers and grandparents in matching reunion t-shirts around me but I felt grounded by guilt at the thought of leaving the festivities. It was Shannon who made the switch from fight mode to flight mode, and without realizing it, I had called a local friend and asked her to pick me up. It seems like a lot of over thinking for such a small thing but if that hadn’t happened I would have missed out on one of the best nights of the summer. We cruised through Sandy, windows down and in a comfortable silence, against the backdrop of the purple mountains down for hours and hours and I’ve never felt more free in my life.
Shannon taught me that there is a severely under appreciated art to accepting offers of services from others. It took having a panic attack on the side of the road to realize that I had a small handful of genuine friends who had all stated previously, “Call me anytime if you need to talk”, whose offers I had never taken up. One friend picked up, (you know who you are), and I can never pay back that person for talking me through the process of driving myself home that night. They never asked to be paid back. That’s what friends do.
Sometimes when others aren’t there to listen or offer assistance, Shannon taught me that sometimes you’re all you need. Honestly ask yourself, “what do you need in this moment, right now?” If it’s a drive, get in the car. If it’s chocolate, go to the grocery store. If you don’t know, take a moment to lock the door, and breathe. Sometimes it’s the little rules we invent along the way that get in the way. Screw those. You’re allowed to get up in the middle of the night and eat something if you’re hungry and you can’t sleep. You’re allowed to walk away from social situations where you feel uncomfortable. It’s okay to not reply if you don’t know what to say. Venting isn’t pretentious or privileged.
If you need someone to tell you that you are allowed to feel what you feel, I’ll be your girl because you are.
So that’s all I’ve got so far. We’ll see what the upcoming year brings besides another season of Stranger Things and a new President. Looking very much to one and not the other. Please be kind to yourselves and know that I’m here to talk if you or someone you know deserves a home makeover is struggling, my email can be found in the “Welcome Mat” tab on the left. Lastly, thank you as always for lending me your time dear reader.
After I graduated High School I started to question why anything was really important at all.
Any of these things may have included:
Celebrities in the Media. Why do people play into the hands of big-name celebs who are obviously stipulating for attention? e.g. Miley Cyrus, Donald Trump . I still don’t get it.
Employment nowadays. I’m sitting in traffic on the way home from work and I look around me and wonder, why do we participate in the rat races that make up the job market economy? Whatever happened to individuality and self-reliance?
College. More specifically 4-year college and questioning the glamour that comes with it (parties, greek life etc). How important is it all? Really? Cause if say you were allergic to alcohol then it seems like you wouldn’t have much to do.
Getting dressed in the morning. This is another one I’ve thought about which is probably typical of a quarter-system student with an 11-week long summer coming out of high school. That’s a long summer, and for the majority of it where I wasn’t working I spent the day in pajamas slipping in and out of a Netflix coma.
Cue Ty Oakley’s most relatable tweet ever:
After days drinking nothing but decaf Earl Grey and finishing Once Upon a Time I realized that some part of me was missing because I had let it go.
My confidence, my health… some of the key components to my own happiness had vanished because I was spending too much time on the internet providing my appreciation of scenes that were a part of other’s lives by double tapping, and neglecting to appreciate the life I had been given.
how can these lovely pictures
have the power
to make you hate yourself?
Simple. Because wishful thinking can be draining.
The days where I decided not to get dressed in the morning were the same days I let all the internet confabulation and rapid scrolling down news feeds define what I thought of myself… no makeup, hair in a bun, reblogging or favoriting pictures of waterfalls and berry smoothies. It seems innocent enough, until one realizes that the internet is a deadly weapon of comparison.
This is what all my time spent online had led up to and I was tired of staying in my pajamas. I realized that the key was to find beautiful content in the world around me.
Next week I’m giving a talk at church about charity. In doing research I watched this clip from the LDS Prophet, President Thomas S. Monson and it turned my world around.
(If you want to cut to the chase skip down to the underlined section)
My favorite quote is around 11 min when he says,
” A woman by the name of Mary Bartels had a home directly across the street from the entrance to a hospital clinic. Her family lived on the main floor and rented the upstairs rooms to outpatients at the clinic.
One evening a truly awful-looking old man came to the door asking if there was room for him to stay the night. He was stooped and shriveled, and his face was lopsided from swelling—red and raw. He said he’d been hunting for a room since noon but with no success. “I guess it’s my face,” he said. “I know it looks terrible, but my doctor says it could possibly improve after more treatments.” He indicated he’d be happy to sleep in the rocking chair on the porch. As she talked with him, Mary realized this little old man had an oversized heart crowded into that tiny body. Although her rooms were filled, she told him to wait in the chair and she’d find him a place to sleep.
At bedtime Mary’s husband set up a camp cot for the man. When she checked in the morning, the bed linens were neatly folded and he was out on the porch. He refused breakfast, but just before he left for his bus, he asked if he could return the next time he had a treatment. “I won’t put you out a bit,” he promised. “I can sleep fine in a chair.” Mary assured him he was welcome to come again.
In the several years he went for treatments and stayed in Mary’s home, the old man, who was a fisherman by trade, always had gifts of seafood or vegetables from his garden. Other times he sent packages in the mail.
When Mary received these thoughtful gifts, she often thought of a comment her next-door neighbor made after the disfigured, stooped old man had left Mary’s home that first morning. “Did you keep that awful-looking man last night? I turned him away. You can lose customers by putting up such people.”
Mary knew that maybe they had lost customers once or twice, but she thought, “Oh, if only they could have known him, perhaps their illnesses would have been easier to bear.”
After the man passed away, Mary was visiting with a friend who had a greenhouse. As she looked at her friend’s flowers, she noticed a beautiful golden chrysanthemum but was puzzled that it was growing in a dented, old, rusty bucket. Her friend explained, “I ran short of pots, and knowing how beautiful this one would be, I thought it wouldn’t mind starting in this old pail. It’s just for a little while, until I can put it out in the garden.”
Mary smiled as she imagined just such a scene in heaven. “Here’s an especially beautiful one,” God might have said when He came to the soul of the little old man. “He won’t mind starting in this small, misshapen body.” But that was long ago, and in God’s garden how tall this lovely soul must stand! “
I cried at that part. Today I watched it again and I almost cried a second time, but then I caught myself and wondered why. It’s a lovely story that would make a great film, but there was another reason. It was the same kind of bubbled over emotion I felt when my mom sat me down one day and asked me why I seemed sad.
I described to her how ugly I felt, inside and out. I felt like a hideous burden with legs. She just stared into my eyes and said so matter-of-factly,
“Sweetie you’re beautiful.”
I bubbled over then like I bubbled over at Monson’s story. Both reminded me that because God created us, he loves us and because of that we are innately beautiful and worth saving. Sometimes he sends people to love us and remind us of that. Sometimes those same people are the ones who help us get out of bed in the morning. In case you didn’t already get that, I’m trying to say thanks Mom.
The laws of superficiality seem to dominate how many of us view ourselves, and not just when we’re looking at god-bodied models posing magazines. The erosive effects caused by living in an appearance-driven world can break us down in subtle ways, eventually leading us to doubt our worth measured by social position, financial standing, and material growth.
When we can find the moral momentum to pull ourselves into a larger perspective, we can see that these laws of comparison are trivial.
No matter what your situation looks like, remember that you’re the chrysanthemum in the tin bucket. Regardless of disabilities, physical appearance, or social standing, remember that you’re a freaking chrysanthemum and don’t forget that life is better when you love yourself.
A few weeks ago I sat down with my college counselor for about the fourth time and something weird happened. She looked me in the eye, and without hesitation or a shadow of doubt, said that she had a good idea about what she wanted me to do in college. As in major and minor. As in future. As in career. As in something nobody had ever had the want, need, or inclination to tell me. But she did. She and her decades (but she absolutley doesn’t look it) of experience in the service of young people and more specifically their academic preparedness for college. I trust her. And that’s why what she said blew my mind, because I believed her. Whereas before I had never believed that someone would sit me down and tell me what to do with my life. Not that it matters, but I’ll tell you because it’s cool.
“Film… with an undergrad in business just to be safe”
Film. Well that part wasn’t a shock, but at the same time it was. I love it, and the people I know and love know that I love it. But even many of them wouldn’t volunteer the idea to me, for reasons I can’t really guess because it’s my blind dream we’re talking about. But I can get a feel for people, and what they usually tell me without words is “Oof that’s gonna be rough” or “Aw cute, until she decides she doesn’t want to be poor”. But again, my blind dream. And my counselor’s more than just my counselor, she’s my guru. (Yes, that good) And so she knows that when a teenager has fostered a love for something, by paying attention in that class or taught themselves a skill and has just simply made that time to love that time with that thing, whatever it may be, it’s important to not just to encourage it but to support it. So shoutout to my college counselor. And shoutout again when I’m receiving that Oscar.
It’s taken me months to get the energy to post again. It’s draining, this writing thing. Thoughts to fingertips to keys. You wouldn’t think so, but it’s a tough hobby to keep consistent with. It can only really be done when it’s from your being, because math says you can only give what you have and much as I hate to admit it, math is usually right. Math won’t allow me to write about things I haven’t fostered a care for, because the words won’t be there. So giving more of what I have is probably what I’m going to work on, and finding what those things are too. It’s easier with pictures. Anyone with my snapchat or following my instagram could tell you that. Sydneyjoto is kind of a mess there.
WHICH leads me to my next trick topic.
Film camp. More specifically, Feminist Film Camp. It has a better and more official name, which I’m not sure if I can share so we’ll just call it the former. I found out about it several weeks too late and then there was nothing short of a miracle; somehow they let me in. They turned out to be fabulous people who were incredibly talented at each of their varying jobs within the film industry. We met and skyped with movie directors, editors, PR people and went through what must be the process of making a movie because we did. We made a movie and aired it at a real premiere in a theatre. It’s two weeks later and I’m still feeling butterflies from that one. In teams of five, we wrote, directed, acted, edited, and finally produced a piece all while learning from the professionals about ways to do the best visual, audio, and story work possible. Oh and storyboarding. Almost forgot that.
Here are some notes from lunchtime speakers I took in my nerdy film journal
• It takes both brains & luck
• Have people back you up with a common goal, but never give up creative control, even if that means you have to turn down an offer from Disney. (They have a thing about that)
• The documentarian women making “Code” always just wanted to make a film.
• On choosing a topic for a documentary, “It has to be something really important and topical.”
• Show before you tell, or just show and hope that tells enough.
• Honestly, you have no idea how an audience will take a movie. You’re just feeding your home made food to the kids and hope they like it.
• A director is the one who carries the production with his or her drive alone. The director needs to be the most passionate, the story is their baby and they want to see it succeed.
• You need a team that fills the many gaps of what you can’t do, and in the end work to create something a thousand times better than what you could’ve come up with. Notice how as movies have improved over time, the credits roll longer and longer?
• Editors push the scene layer upon layer, they have artistic license and mad organization skills
• Both creative and technical people are necessary to making movies. You just have to learn how to speak the two different languages.
• Actresses with cool roles really are the role models for young girls. Thanks to CSI, the number of women entering college since 2000 under Crime Investigation or Criminal Justice has dramatically increased
• As women, we tend to doubt ourselves. More women will walk into a job interview thinking that they’re hardly qualified, whereas men typically think “it’s all good I got this”. Know that you have got this as much as the boys do.
• Code, the language of computer code will be more and more invaluable to you in the future. Learn it, and you will almost be guaranteed to use it someday and get paid for it.
• Light is everything. In animation it makes the world seem like a place you can actually go to and visit. It converts kids to Disneyisms and in live-action can make adults cry and laugh or scream sometimes more effectively than just acting.
• A documentary is a hell of a lot of work. But so is a live-action film. And animation. All need smart and creative people and all are necessary to help tell the stories that need to be told.
• When trying to sell your movie, smile. Give gifts. I have seen grown men in suits almost get in a fist fight over a ballpoint pen that said “Sundance”. Also, the best parties don’t serve caviar they serve hot dogs. People are hungry!
And lastly, favorite quotes:
“Smile. Love the process, and if you don’t, go be a dental hygienist.”
“If you love it, you’ll find a way to do it.”
let me repeat that for the haters
If you love it, you’ll find a way to do it.
You’re darn straight.
Something else I really love, is finding flaws in society and coming up with my own dumb solutions to fixing them. So I found a way to do that at this camp, with my production team. My problem, my solution. Please pay no attention to the lead actress she’s no Jlaw, but I think the message is something to think about. If you know a teenager or anyone with a picture-posting problem, or anyone really, please feel free to share.
You can only give what you have right? Subtraction and addition? Well here’s a story I wrote about a girl with an Instagram problem, and how I think kids should start viewing the way they view the world, which is not on a phone screen.
You’d think second semester Junior Year would be a little more arduous, and maybe it is and we’re just numb to it. But the last few months have seemed the opposite and I know that’s a blessing, or maybe just the pleasant calm before the storm that is finals. Whatever the last month or so has been as far as the weight of the universe, it’s been a great story waiting to be told. Finally getting around to it, thanks for being patient dear reader <3
1. Angels… or Los Angeles.
The kids in my class in the Media Arts Program at our school were given the amazing chance to head south where the hub of our collective hobby lays, Hollywoodland and Welcome to Heaven where You’ll Meet Los Angeles. We rose a bus, somewhat set up a charging system with the one plug and all our respective chargers, and hit the i of 5 for about three years. I’ll toss a stone across the most interesting parts, as I suppose will go for this whole post. I know you want to get to the pictures anyway :)
Some things: Studio Tours including Pixar and the one with the rainbow and they shot Breaking Bad. Eh, forgot. UCLA and film school (counted how many kids were snoozing with books over their eyes in the library… 25 or something) , La Brea Tar pits (Imagine the smell of burning cabbage soaked in Soy Sauce), Comedy Sportz (Was funnier than your funniest Uncle times four is that a challenge yes. Yes it is. NATE.), Griffith Observatory (The holy conversion site of all Socal hipsters), Santa Monica Pier (They’ve got really nice staff working at Pizza hut), and a How I Met Your Mother Q&A at Paley Fest (Where Neil Patrick Harris wasn’t even present but stole the show anyway as was already expected). Dream to go to school here just kicked up three levels of motivation.
2. Cello… or Monticello. And no you’re probably pronouncing it wrong. Stop saying Ch-ello say Ss-ello. Montissssssselloooo. Good job you, I’m proud. Cause das where I was born buddy-o! Double chest pound kiss the fist kind of love. Mhm.
Mi padre and history teacher does this little crazy trip every other year to get the kids “wizened up in the world” by going to the most remote corner of Utah possible. It’s incredible and you should visit sometime if you ever find yourself out in the four corners area. While there, our group of 20 or so teens and chaperones had the chance to hike and jeep and bike and hike and hike and instagram incessantly whist whining about sunburns but most of us had no desire to leave by the end of the week. Reasons being, small towns are beautiful and small town people are even more so. Common background is closer, mentalities are lifted and having good, fun experiences are first priory. I was called “cute” multiple times for putting on a seatbelt.
We were adopted a little, and our group took back with us bits and pieces of that mentality. In the academic vortex we live in in this part of California, it felt healthy to visit another high school with simply different mental focuses. A refreshing inspiration set against those bad boys below.
Utah’s like another planet.
3. Corsages… or Prom and stuff
Most recently and for once, these are in order. Hair by Lisa, Makeup Bare Minerals, Dress Light in the Box, Super Chill date was M. and I just wanna thank him again for a great night. M is pretty dang rad. We did the snazzy little picture thing at a friends house surrounded by the parent possey wielding Canons and, as a certain grandma of mine likes to put it, we were off like a heard of turtles! The last sketchy picture is a little tough to make out but it’s of this little indoor creek I loved at prom itself.
Tiny dance floor, great people, good solid night of fun.
All in all, April you’ve been very kind. Thanks boo
March is my fave month. And this march started off with the Oscars where right off the bat, we fell in love with this couple:
…But especially fell in love with her
And after doing some googling…
found that Lupita Nyong’o is a truly remarkable human being who is now my new hero.
Then JoTo won a photo contest with this photo depicting “Education Today”.
But the day she found out she had won, she then received news of the opposite kind. News that nobody ever wants to hear or have to deal with the repercussions of.
…am I gonna go there? Let it flow…
Sad news that will change his daughters lives because he is no longer in them, and yet he always will be a part of.
This one’s dedicated to you Uncle Mike.
Were it not for that camera, I wouldn’t have been able to capture this beautiful memory of his oldest daughter and my cousin dancing in his honor.
His youngest daughter, and one of my best friends, sang to the tune of her dad’s legacy. If you’re reading this, I love you T and R. Never stop making your art.
There’s a book that I’m reading to L right now called “Each Little Bird that Sings” and in it there’s a quote– something like “People die, so we can live on”. I love the perspective there, because with a grey thing like death, it’s hard to keep from looking at it from a downwards angle– like a grave in the ground. But if you look at it like a white thing thats high, higher than the beautiful blue ceiling of atmosphere overhead, it’s easier to turn around and walk on and make something incredible of yourself. I promise you, those memories and lessons will stay so much closer when you can dance and sing about them, always living on. That’s what they would have wanted, and you know it.
This post was something I started the other night just to catch up with my readers and at first I thought it would just be a blurb on all the happy notes March has kicked off with. It was going to be something to get my mind off this. But then it grew into what I guess I’d call my closure, and I just want to thank you dear reader for reading it. If any of you are struggling with loss, I truly hope this helps.
Happy dance, throw down a Tebow, and then meme tears of joy… HOMECOMING IS OVER WITH BABY!
After much stress, tears, and blood, the finished product came out looking like the average Sophomore work. (eh-okay)
But hey, it’s over! Who cares what place we get, we participated, got a little united and artsy, and had fun. Que slideshow.
Not as bad as I made it sound huh? We were Sherlock in case you didn’t guess, and it was definitley a challenge.
• Osh always has caution tape
• Osh doesn’t always have refrigerator boxes
• Sherlock lived on Baker St., and no, there were no double decker buses back then
• Things get much better when you’re an upperclassman
• You SO cannot do this type of thing alone, it’s important to divvy out the workload to everyone willing to help, and then thrust paintbrushes in the hands of those who aren’t
My own mother has that last one perfected and she too did a “Happy dance, throw down a Tebow, and then meme tears of joy” when my brother’s school fundraiser was over. She was the boss-lady, and she too had her share of paintbrushes to thrust in order to but this baby on. Que Slideshow.
Mom, you did a fantastic job. I was a balloon of pride and I still am. I just hope that one day, I can be as awesome of a boss-lady as you. Hey, so I might just try Homecoming again next year as a funky junior! Help me will ya mother?
Sally had done exactly what Suicide Awareness Week was established to prevent. She had succumbed to teen depression, and made a choice that would cause permanent results not just for her, but for her family and for her friends, and for her teachers, and any of those who knew her name.
This week a grey blanket lay over my school where she once laughed with her friends in the halls. It was sad at first, awfully sad. And then it changed to a solemn sense of remembering. Remembering her life, remembering if there was anyone else at school who had shown the same symptoms as Sally, or who had shown them that day. In my circle of friends, we found a few and checked in on them. We cried together as a school, and it was cold and dark. Not yet rainy. We cried together at lunch as friends and in classes with teachers. We held each other, and were always asking,
Are you okay?
My spanish teacher put her desk where she had sat in the back of the room facing the class, holding cards and flowers. The desk seemed sad. A table was set up by a wall where a poster read her name and people wrote messages to her. Unsaid thoughts written in Crayola marker on the poster and on the table sat flowers, several bouquets, just as beautiful as her life had been. A friend brought candles, and we lit them reverently.
I haven’t been the same. Nobody has. It’s hard to put any effort into anything, like studying or Volleyball. All drive to do things seems to be gone because there’s a hole in our school and sadness in every corner. But there’s always hope. I’m looking back up at the candle as I type… fire is hope and sorrow. It’s okay to be sad, but that sadness must spark a change. I’m still sad, but I also went to church today. Oh thank heaven for church. It’s thanks to my religion that I know where Sally rests. I do. Again, that’s faith.
All will be okay. It will be better than okay because there is still good, good life in this world. I believe that Sally is not lost, and she did not live her life here on earth in vain, because it was beautiful. And it was something to learn from. Something big enough to wake up a whole school and city. And I believe that I will see Sally again later, and we’ll all run up to hug her. We will all remember how to laugh again soon. Together. That’s what Sally would have wanted. And may she rest in Paradise.