Or more accurately about this Frank Ocean cover by Yuna.
It’s beautiful. I am posting it here as a sort of post-script to that last 8tracks mix.
Or more accurately about this Frank Ocean cover by Yuna.
It’s beautiful. I am posting it here as a sort of post-script to that last 8tracks mix.
Music and I have a very interesting relationship. When I was growing up, I just listened to whatever my parents listened to, which meant a lot of Eagles, Beatles, 70s music, and my dad told me he invented Buddy Holly. I was never really interested in exploring music for myself. I was interested in school, and swimming, and winning, and being Good. I guess these priorities just pushed music somewhere down the list around food and math. But like food, music eventually became more important to me. (Math never did.)
As I got older, I realized the only thing I required from music was that it was danceable. Besides that, I cared more about the people making the music, than the music. This is when I was about 14. So, you know, the Backstreet Boys were sooooo cute. And the Spice Girls were made of awesome (still true). After that, I was about 17, so obviously all the music I listened to had to be depressing and express the true darkness of my soul. I discovered The Cure and was pretty much set until I was 21.
At this time, I’m downloading all my music from Napster. I don’t buy a single CD for a decade. I refused to pay for music. At the time, I thought this was completely reasonable, and also I was a broke university student, so sue me. (No, don’t. Ah! Were you ever scared of that? That the government would find your massive ILLEGAL music collection and come after you? I was, so I always tried to hide it. Ha!) I had a large collection of music because I would download discographies (especially after Napster died and torrents rose up) and then never really listened to any of it, or forget about music I’d downloaded. The music I had was eclectic in terms of genre. I would listen to anything, didn’t really matter.
For a very long time, I never listened to any music. Like, I drove in silence. Thinking back on it, it’s really weird. But for about two years I didn’t listen to music. When Matt was in the car we listened to his favourite music (Pearl Jam and Bruce Springsteen). I was fine with that. When I was working, or editing photos, I put music on but never really registered it and if it stopped, I didn’t notice for a sometimes frighteningly long time.
Now, in this musical odyssey, I am what? 25? And I meet people who know a lot about music and I want to impress them, so I start listening to music. Music starts being to me what it has always been for so many other people; a personal soundtrack that links events and feelings of my life. I imbue songs with my own personal feelings and when I listen to certain songs now, it’s nostalgia times a billion. I listen to everything, downloading GBs of mixtapes in order to find stuff I like. Between Matt and I, we have no space left on our computer. We have to buy external hard drives for our music collections. I eventually throw out all my old CDs. And somewhere along the line, I start buying music. Once iTunes makes buying music easier than trying to find it with a google search, I start buying music. (Also after reading this open letter to Emily White at NPR about the music industry from David Lowery.) I like buying music, it makes me feel all righteous like ha! Look at me being all “for the artists” or some shit. I don’t know, I think I’m just lazy and now have a disposable income; where spending $9.99 on an album that syncs to all my devices automatically seems like a pretty fucking good deal, also–The Future!
The only problem I have is that now I buy music to see if I like it. I go through iTunes and just click on random things, in any genre. I listen to the excerpt iTunes posts and if it grabs me, I buy it. I might want to work on that.
I still like music that is danceable, and listen to music that suits my mood. And right now, my mood is hot and sweaty. How does that sound? Like this:
Yo. For the last few days/weeks/months I’ve been all fucked up. Sometimes it’s easy to forget who you are and what you do when most of the people you interact with don’t understand it, or respect it, or approve of it. But I thought I could change their minds once they realize I’m a really good teacher! I can be really good at this!
But ultimately, type my name in to google image search and this is what you get:
That is me naked. The cover of my first book. A photoshopped image I made of myself getting fucked by Patrick Stewart. Pictures I took. Pictures other people have taken of me. And a particularly amazing photo of me dreaming of Kirk/Spock. All quality images. And when I look at this, my automatic reaction is “who are those other people? and why aren’t they me?”
I don’t want to not do this. I don’t want to not have people find me when they google my name. I don’t want a future employer to not see my naked body if they happen to google me. Because fuck, this is what I do.
And you noticed that. I’ve been getting emails and messages from people expressing their sadness at my decision to “self-edit.” I didn’t realize I had made that decision until you started recognizing it in my complete lack of doing anything at all.
If I stop posting online about sex and body-positivity and backing it all up with my own naked body then who’s benefiting? I thought I would. I thought people would stop talking about me at my workplace. I thought that I would be taken more seriously and would be seen as more professional and more capable. BUT THAT IS SO BACKWARDS. Fuck all that. That’s not benefiting anyone. It’s hurting people; it’s hurting that young girl who would like to see one more woman who tells her it’s okay to enjoy sex. It’s hurting that guy who never really thought about how making an offhand comment about how much his sister eats affects her. It’s hurting my mom who needs to be reminded she is beautiful and strong. It’s hurting every single person who sees what I do and the zero amount of fucks I give and thinks yeah, sure, I can do that too. I’m maybe giving myself too much credit, but it seems in this situation better to give myself too much than too little.
I was freaking out the other day wondering what the fuck I was doing and why I was doing it and applying for volunteer positions and knowing that if they google me, chances are I won’t get called. And Matt said, “Fuck them.” And I said, “Yeah?” And he said, “Yeah. There will be someone else, somewhere, who will google you and either not care, or want you more.”
And I knew that. I know this. But it’s easy to forget. It’s so easy to forget how awesome we are. Sometimes it’s hard to believe ourselves when so many things happening in our lives are pointing to a conclusion that is completely opposite to everything we’ve worked so hard to believe. We have the odds stacked against us: ad agencies trying to define our ideals for us, movie producers trying to tell us what love looks like, fashion designers trying to convince us what beautiful is, total strangers trying to shame us for our bodies, our choices, and our desires. Working within this framework, it’s hard to remember we are amazing. It is hard for everyone, and it takes work and sometimes we get tired. We forget that we have a perfect GPA. Or we forget that we can knit sweaters, or draw comics, or bake cakes, or run a marathon, or qualify as sharpshooters, or program like a motherfucker. We get worn down and exhausted and we start to think that life might be easier if we lost 30 pounds, or dyed our hair back to a natural colour, or covered up our tattoos, or took out our piercings, or stopped telling people about our girlfriend, or if we stopped wearing sheer shirts, or if we got a regular job, or if we weren’t poor or black or women, or if we just tried to be normal. Fuck the people who make us feel that way. Fuck them.
I’m embarrassed that I gave people the right to make me feel that way. For the moments I have sat at home the last few months, paralyzed by my indecision and uncertainty based on the opinions of a few people, or the realities of the expectations of an industry, or the pervasive attitude of an entire culture, I feel embarrassed.
But it’s understandable and forgivable.
So I think I’ll just continue to get naked and be inappropriate, thanks.
I have to make a portfolio. A big, massive portfolio to show whoever needs to see it that I am a worthy teacher and know what I’m talking about. This task is a little daunting to me. Mostly because I’m a little unsure of my worth as a teacher. I mean, I know my students like me, and I think I’m pretty good at it, but I feel like I need so much more than that. I already did the first part, which was to write my teaching philosophy, and now I’m on to the second bit–creating a list of goals I’d like to achieve.
I’ve kind of already done this, with my 30 Before 30, but I suppose I should come up with a few more teacher-specific goals. So, if you don’t mind, I’m just going to use this space here to think out loud for a minute.
Trying to figure out what you want to do with your life is hard. Really hard. I have changed career paths and life goals so many times I can’t hardly remember them all. The main problem I’ve always had is that I’ve never really loved and believed in any of the things I have done. I do love teaching, but it’s a constant struggle of reconciling that love with my tendency to tell everyone, fuck you, I won’t do what you tell me. Though because I’m so damn stubborn, I’m starting to think there could be a place for that in education, if done right. But part of me still longs for the day when I give myself the permission to fail on an extremely large scale and I write something. Really write something. I know to be a writer you need to write, and I blog, but I don’t really write anymore and it’s really depressing. So I’ve wanted to be a writer since I first learned my ABCs, but I’m too concerned with just being shit at it. And photography came easier so I did that. But I don’t even do that anymore! I am just failing as an artist, basically, so maybe I should just give that up. I write that and as I write it I know I never will, so at least there’s that.
Teaching feels like the most competitive field I’ve ever worked in. Maybe it’s because I’m a contract faculty and every four months I have to worry about whether or not I still have a job, but I continually feel the pressure to learn more and read more and push myself further and try to make myself stand out. Mind you, now that everyone at my college has seen me naked, maybe that will help! Ha! I’ve always been reluctant to throw myself in to a job in this way because I felt it meant I was giving up on my art. And it still feels that way, but maybe I can come to terms with the fact that I won’t ever be a working artist, but that doesn’t mean I can’t make art.
So where does that leave me with teaching? I know I want to get my masters, but ah, another dilemma. Do I want to get my masters in education, or literature? In a perfect world, I would do both. Because my life consists of both. But that’s an unrealistic goal I think, especially since both Matt and I are going to go back to school. I’m not sure it matters which one I get either, in terms of career advancement, I think I just need to have that piece of paper that says I did it, I have a masters. I’m even leaning toward believing that a masters in literature may serve me better in the long run because it may allow me to teach in a field more to my liking. (Not knocking on the school of business, but it’s not my first choice, you understand.)
I also want to be a really good teacher. That probably goes without saying, but I want my students to LOVE my class. I want them to enjoy coming every week and I want them to feel like they’re learning something, even if all we’re doing is grammar and punctuation. I don’t want any student to feel I’m not addressing their concerns, or that I’m not sympathetic to their circumstances. I want my students to want to give me their best work. I want to do whatever it takes to get to this dream-like level of perfect teacherness! I think a lot of it comes with experience, and as I’ve only been teaching for three years, I know I still have a lot (mostly everything) to learn.
[Sidenote: You know what would be a great thing in colleges? A mentor program. I know that because of all the competition between contract faculty and the nearly-non-existence of full-time positions that it would be a difficult program to implement, at least at my college, but I owe so much to the few teachers who took the time out of their busy schedules to help me, a 26 year old who had never taught before in her life. But then again, there is basically no communication between colleagues at my school, and I think it is due to the immense competition for full-time positions. But that's a whole other can of worms.]
Oh! That is a good goal–get hired somewhere full-time. With benefits. Oh, that sounds so beautiful. Full-time with benefits. Oh, yeah. That’s a huge goal.
Okay, let’s recap what I’ve got so far.
I think I could also add:
I’d also like to change education in some way. But I believe I’m a ways off from that yet.
Can I just say that sometimes working within a field that has such traditional standards and high expectations kind of makes me feel like I’ve let some former version of myself down. I’m sitting in my house on a Saturday night writing about my education goals. Dude. DUDE.
Image by Ryan Powell for designer Bella Ajoi
I really love hip hop. In fact, it’s probably the main genre of music I listen to. There’s all different types of hip hop though, right? The mainstream stuff that they play on the radio that is mainly crap. And then there’s everything else.
What I want most from hip hop is for it to surprise me. I don’t want to hear some basic beats, with some basic rhymes about you beating the pussy up (that is the worst hook in the history of ever)–I want something different. I want that first song, Fitta Happier by Quakers. Did you listen to that? That is a brass band with a snare drum just rolling in swag. Danny Brown is surprising on his own without music–born in Detroit with a weirdly eccentric sense of style and missing front teeth. Cadence Weapon is from Edmonton, of all places, and his new album is something new; drawing on old-old school rap and putting heavy rock outbursts in the middle of his tracks. That Trackademicks song is basically about Sperrys, which is hilarious. This is the sort of thing I like in hip hop.
I’ll tell you a not-so-secret secret, my favourite hip hop group of all time is Wu-Tang Clan and the reason why is because they were (still are?) full of surprises. It was their lyrics mainly that blew my mind (with references to Socrates, Egyptian gods, and scientific discoveries listening to a Wu-Tang track can be like reading an academic poet), but even just their concept was unique and refreshing. A bunch of dudes from Staten Island getting together and thinking, “Hey, I got a great idea! Let’s make a rap group based on old kung fu movies and let’s maintain that theme throughout five studio albums and maybe anything else we do too.” Who does that? It’s why Wu-Tang is forever. And as if that wasn’t surprising enough for me, GZA goes and makes an album with Neil Degrasse Tyson. About space. Obviously.
But sometimes I just look for hip hop that I want to like. For instance, recently I’m on a whole Detroit hip hop ride. (Hence the Guilty Simpson, Danny Brown, Black Milk, and Royce da 5’9″ business in this mix.) I love Detroit and I know it’s always had a healthy music scene so I’ve been looking into it. I like that all these dudes are coming up out of Detroit and continually reminding people that that’s where they’re from. But it’s also a strange mentality because in their music they’re rapping about how shitty Detroit is. I don’t blame them; it may be my favourite city but it’s well shitty. I was watching a Danny Brown documentary today and the first thing he’s asked as he sits between his parents on a couch in their Linwood home, “what are the positive aspects of the neighbourhood that keep you here?” and all three of them sit there in silence until they start laughing uncontrollably. Detroit just isn’t a place many people want to be. But people identify with where they’re from and where their family is from–that’s something no one can take from you and something you can always fall back on. Detroit isn’t easy, but it’s a place you stay because it’s a place that’s yours. The rappers coming out of the city exemplify the hustling attitude of the place–you have to work at something continually if you ever want it to work. Who knew rappers could be so inspiring?
Why more people haven’t promoted rappers as role models more often isn’t that confusing to me; I guess the explicit language and mature themes aren’t the best things to give to kids? But like, they’re not rapping about guns and drugs and poverty because they sit around watching Downton Abbey and drinking white wine. Even that is something that is worth looking at, though. Rappers and their work ethic and never-ending hustling astounds me, and I know a bunch of kids who could definitely benefit from learning some of the characteristics that cities like Detroit breed in people. This might sound racist? Does it sound racist? And a bit classist? Kinda. “Oh, if only all you privileged white kids could get some of the work ethic of your underserviced friends of colour!” That brings up a whole other issue I have with listening to hip hop though. These songs are not for me, and I can’t relate to any of them.
So where does my enjoyment come from? A more accurate question may be where does my entitlement to enjoyment come from? School me on this, please.
I like the music. I like the attitude of hip hop. I like the cockiness of so much of it. I like the talent. Have you ever tried to rap? I have and it’s really hard and I’m absolutely terrible at it. I’m not a rap scholar or anything and haven’t looked into it any more than just enjoying it, but I’m sure the research is out there that looks at the reflective nature of hip hop for generations of people growing up with no other voice available to them. But I often am like, ugh…why do so many rappers have to have a hate-on for women? Where are all the feminist rappers at? Why can’t a rapper be critical AND have swag? Do you know of any rappers who can do this? Are they currently making music? Is it surprising? Let me know!
EDIT: Thanks to reader Nobby, I was pointed in the direction of El Guante, and I think this video says a lot about how I feel (and strangely, or not, echoes a lot of what I say when people tell me that because I’m a skinny, white, cisgendered woman there doesn’t need to be more pictures of me naked on the internet.)
I posted this before on my Tumblr awhile back, but I’ve edited it a bit and am now posting it here.
I’ve made a list of 30 things I want to accomplish before I turn 30. I turn 30 in 1 year 12 weeks and 5 days. All of these goals are measurable, achievable, specific, and realistic. They also all have breakdowns of the ways in which I hope to accomplish them. I think it’s totally doable, right?!
1. Learn Korean
2. Go to England
3. Meet Patrick Stewart
4. Get in shape enough to join a masters synchro team
5. Get my masters in something
6. Have Scarlett learn my name as soon as possible
7. Make a video that’s longer than 7 minutes
8. See Big Bang
9. Finish writing a story
10. Do the splits
11. Get more tattoos Done!
12. Dye my hair a fun colour Done!
13. Paint a series of paintings
14. Publish an article with a publication I respect
15. Start a magazine/make a clothing line (even if only for myself)
16. Have a real world art show
17. Record a song about my cats
18. Go to New Orleans
19. Do 60 lengths in 60 minutes
20. Frame all art
21. Do the Lakeshore trail
22. Go to three MLB ballparks I’ve never been to before
23. Take a photo at every subway station
24. Learn to french braid properly
25. Build a coffee table
26. Go to a Lions game
27. Memorize a poem
28. Create an awesome choreographed dance routine and perform it with people I like
30. Cosplay as a Star Trek character at a convention of some kind
It doesn’t look like I’ve achieved much so far, but I’ve put a lot of plans in action in order to accomplish many of these goals. For example I will be meeting Patrick Stewart at FanExpo in Toronto at the end of August. Big Bang is coming to New Jersey in November and my brother and I are going. Matt and I are planning an MLB ballpark tour and a trip to New Orleans. My first tattoo appointment is August 11. I’m starting my masters application now. I’ll be taking my first Korean language lessons in the fall. So plans are in motion to complete all these goals. The ones I’m having the most difficulty with are the fitness ones, numbers 4, 10, and 19. I’ll get it though. Hopefully!
Except I’m now going to eat some chips and watch some Star Trek. Uh…
Don’t judge me.
I recently watched a video interview over at The Atlantic with Ileana Jimenez, an English teacher in Manhattan, talking about why she makes her students keep blogs. She said she views writing as a public act and encourages her students to think about it in a similar way. She mentioned an incident where one of her students wrote about a prominent, professional writer and then received a comment from that writer. Suddenly, the student didn’t care about the marks anymore, realizing that her writing and her ideas could have meaning beyond the classroom.
Earlier tonight I replied to one of my favourite educational Twitters, Nicholas Provenzano aka @thenerdyteacher, because he had written a wonderful article about Sir Ken Robinson, Lex Luthor, and education. He replied back AND started following me. I got excited and suddenly felt this new pressure to produce higher quality tweets that better expressed my personal ideas and beliefs.
As a result of these two separate, yet similar, circumstances I thought: “Oh hey! How can I create this feeling of accountability and excitement for my students?” How do I create assessment and evaluation methods that encourage my students to look beyond the grade and focus on the actual knowledge they’re gaining? What sort of risks do I need to take so that my students can take risks that result in outcomes that are personally rewarding not just academically necessary?
I think this entire experience was a testament to how much I need to be able to do something to really understand it because I’ve been reading a lot lately about creating new assessment methods that allow students to become personally invested in their learning beyond the tangible letter grading system, but the whole incident with @thenerdyteacher tonight really brought it home for me. And then I think back on the only class I received an A+ in at university and it was a practicum editing class where I worked for Black Moss Press, a small Ontario publishing house. I didn’t care about my mark in the class, I cared about creating the best manuscript, book design, press package, and book launch for our author, Mary Ann Mulhern.
How do I create that feeling for a bunch of office admin students learning about grammar? I’ll get back to you on that one…
Since April I’ve been taking classes to complete my Teacher and Trainer of Adults graduate certificate. I am taking the very last class right now and I’m excited for it to be finished.
This isn’t to say I haven’t enjoyed it, on the contrary, I’ve enjoyed it much more than I ever thought I would. But it’s been A LOT of work.
It’s funny because when I was in high school and university, I never really had to try very hard to get good grades. I also didn’t really care much about whether I got a B+ or an A+. I would do the readings and take notes and never really study much, or apply too much effort and usually come out okay. I had this thing where I would go into an exam and just let knowledge “come to me” and hoped for the best. I would like to say that I was channeling a bit of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s “flow” learning theory, but I don’t think I was quite that into my game.
But now when I take classes, I’m obsessed with getting an A+. If I get anything less, I get angry and frustrated and feel like the world is about to end. However, I am happy to report that in every single one of my classes for this program so far, I’ve received an A+ (that’s 7 A+s if you’re counting). But I work for them. I want to be the best student in all my classes, which can be difficult because my best friend Shannon is taking every class with me and she’s one of the smartest people in the world. But that just means I have to try harder. (We’re not competitive at all! /sarcasm font) I am reading or watching videos or listening to podcasts about education almost ALL THE TIME.
My house is covered in books and articles about learning theories. The amount of blogs I follow about education now outnumber my usual blogroll. My “teacher twitter,” as I like to call it, is the one I check most often and the one I actually click through to read the mentioned articles.
What all this means is that I haven’t had time for much of anything else lately. I haven’t taken any pictures, made any art, or written any sort of fiction. (I have written some amazing papers, though.) It also means I’ve been spending less time looking at Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and Tumblr. I mention Tumblr twice because it occupies twice as much time as any other social media I use. Because of the absence of these sites in my life, I’ve noticed a distinct change.
I feel more creative.
This seems to work against everything I thought I knew about how inspiration and motivation work. I thought I spend time looking at people creating art and making beautiful, challenging, magical, stunning things and that pushes me to get my butt in gear to make my own things. But that never really happened for me. I would actually get really discouraged, wondering why I wasn’t making anything like that. Or why couldn’t I take a picture like this. Or write a story like that. It resulted in me celebrating in all these other people’s success and never feeling the motivation to create my own success. I begun thinking things like, well, I could make something and it might be terrible and I’m sure someone else had already made it perfectly, so why bother? I could try to do something and fail, miserably, so why bother? I figured it had already been done, I couldn’t do it any better, so why bother? Thinking all these things, while fully knowing that’s not why we make art.
Being away from the internet, or at least the internet I had created for myself over the last decade felt nice. It felt like there wasn’t any pressure on me to create anything. I had no audience (and I lost about 100 followers on Tumblr), nothing to compare myself to, and I liked it. Everything slowed down. I started reading books again. I don’t think I’d finished a single book yet this year. How crazy is that? But I’m getting to this place where I’m starting to feel like I want to create art because I want to create art. It’s a good place to be.
I’m not saying that I’m blaming Tumblr and all the amazing, successful people around me for being an excellent time waster and intimidating me out of making anything, respectively. Not at all. But for me, I needed to disengage from the extremely fast pace of the internet and give myself permission to fail. This permission to fail is a big thing for me right now, and an idea that I think more people need to embrace. It’s also an idea that is inherent to the creative process, while at the same time being the complete opposite of the prevalent ways in which education operates.
I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about education and the way it’s structured and how we learn and what higher education, in particular, values within its pedagogy and I’ve been comparing it to my own reality. I am amazed I create art at all. I never took an art class, my experience with academia has been to follow traditional routes to get a job, I took keyboarding instead of painting, science instead of woodworking. According to studies and research, my potential for creativity is about 2%. And yet I keep trying. I cannot draw, or paint, or play an instrument, or sing, or act, or dance, or design anything but I want to learn. I want to learn how to think and behave creatively. And by extension, I want to teach creatively so my students can learn creatively. I believe this mindset is the only way the vision for our future becomes a hopeful one. That sounds pretty dramatic, but I do believe it.
Learning creativity is a big undertaking. Fostering and encouraging students (and myself) to think and act creatively is a challenge as it runs counter to how I was brought up by both educational institutions, legislative policies, and even my parents! But noticing what helps ignite the creative process, and what doesn’t, is a good start. I’ve recently learned that spending hours browsing Tumblr doesn’t work for me. It doesn’t inspire me or motivate me to create anything. It bums me out and drags me down. I think this can also be attributed to just the sheer amount of time I spend scrolling through Tumblr. So I know that for me, I need to limit the time I spend there. And online in general.
This whole thing can lead into a discussion about technology in the classroom and how to use it in a way that supplements the creative learning process and doesn’t act as a detriment to the goals of a teacher, but that’s an entirely different issue. One I won’t get into today.
But for now, I have to write a paper for my class, and then I think I’ll go sit outside and work on those notes I’ve been writing about this lesbian detective story I’ve been wanting to get out.
Further reading/viewing on creativity in education:
This was the first year I’ve been available to go to graduation at my school. I was really stressed about what I was going to wear, knowing I would be meeting my students’ parents and all. But then my friend Patti reminded me that we would have black gowns covering whatever we were wearing anyway! So I wore this:
That shirt is one of my favourites, though this is the first time I’ve ever worn something under it. My fashion mantra of the summer has been “Wearing clothes only because I can’t be naked.” Meaning it needs to be see-through, or short, or tiny, or whatever comes close to fulfilling the almost no clothes requirement. Luckily it’s been so hot lately that I can live up to these expectations I’ve so graciously placed on myself.
It’s such a nice feeling to give yourself permission to be scandalous. You can see my bra through my shirt? Oh, really? I’m not wearing a bra? *gasp* You can see my underwear coming out from the bottom of my short shorts? Damn right.
I love it. I want to be scandalous forever. It’s such a unique feeling to walk down the street and own the hypersexual fashion choices I’ve made. Sometimes I wonder if I need to question these sorts of choices–I think we should probably question everything we do, so let me answer this. I do it first, because I like it. Second, because it’s really hot out and the less clothes the better. Third, because I look amazing. And fourth, I want to be a little pushy with my body and my sexuality. I think all women should be.
I’ve been on the internet doing my thing for a very long time now. And the number one rule I always gave myself for interacting online was “thou shalt not front.” Basically. I always wanted to be honest and forthcoming with who I was and what I was about. So I did everything under my real name, and never tried to hide what I did. This worked really well for me for over ten years. I made a great many excellent friends and had a lot of real, meaningful conversations with people who lived on the other side of the planet. Eventually I met many of these people in real life and they were always even more lovely in person than they were online. They opened their homes and their hearts to me and I continue to be grateful to each and every one of them. Being true to myself on the internet has paid off for me, is what I’m saying.
I’ve been posting vulnerable, exposed, naked pictures of myself online for the last ten years. I have never felt my safety was threatened. I’ve never had a stalker, or creepy people flooding my inboxes or expecting things from me I wasn’t prepared to give. I’ve never felt that I didn’t know how to react when someone brought up the fact they had seen me naked on the internet. I’ve always known that people could see me–I put it on the internet! I DID. It can’t surprise me when people tell me they’ve seen the pictures. They’re there to be seen. Ever since I started being naked on the internet, I knew it was a choice that I would always have to live with and I accepted that. I knew that if at any point in my life there was a conflict between, say a job, and my photography, well, I would find a new job. Or if a person had a problem with my photography, well, I wouldn’t hang out with that person. I didn’t feel I should ever have to compromise the choices I made for myself that only affect me and that have always felt like the right choices. No one else should make me question those choices, when no one else can possibly know what is best for me better than me. Maybe life would be easier in some ways had I not made the choices I made, but it wouldn’t be as fun, as rewarding, as badass, and as complete had I worried about what others would make of my choices. I have always been confident that I would never regret the choices I have made with my art–and I don’t. And never plan to.
However, sometimes bullshit goes down and things happen that I can’t control but that negatively impact my life in more ways than I thought possible.
Recently I lost out on a job opportunity because of my art. That was the reason that was given to me. That had never happened before. It was a job I’d done twice in the past and really enjoyed, in fact, I loved it! I was good at it, and I made the job better. The person in charge acknowledged this, yet still cited “the vulnerability of minors” and the potential problems some might have with the “intimacy” of my art.
Yeah, I can’t even get in to the flaws with that right now. But I will. In a later post.
But what that experience showed me is that I need to create a disconnect in how people can find me online. I obviously will not be going away, or pretending I’m someone I’m not. I won’t be writing or creating art under a different name, I’ll just be putting up more space, [by way of a new blog, a new URL, and a bit of a new direction] between The Real Katie West, who apparently isn’t suitable to be employed to work with the students she works best with, and the actual Katie West who is morally accountable and suitable for all sorts of work?
The ridiculousness of this plan is not lost on me. But I’ve been trying to reconcile my feelings of feeling isolated and judged based on my art with needing to stay true and honest to that art and this is the best plan I can come up with at the moment.
I have not spent so much time preaching the not giving of fucks for it all to blow up in my face. I will continue to not give a fuck, and I will strive to change the minds of the people around me who think that showing my naked body somehow means I am no longer qualified for the jobs I am best suited for. I am taking the events of the last three months and attempting to turn them into something useful. If I am not able to directly affect the outcome of my situation, then at least I may be able to affect the way people handle this issue if it ever comes up if the future.
I need to make art. I need to teach. I need to do whatever it takes so that I can do BOTH these things to the best of my ability.
“A dame that knows the ropes isn’t likely to get tied up.”
― Mae West