In 2015, my dad and I got phoenix tattoos for my birthday. His is this bright green color and has a flowing shape. Mine is a black outline and symmetrical. We had them designed to match our personalities. My dad had chosen a phoenix for us each to get because he related to it’s mystical powers and thought it would be appropriate for us as we’ve molded into different versions of ourselves throughout the years.
But at the year anniversary of getting my tattoo, I found myself heartbroken. I had thought that upon having my skin soak up the ink, my life would immediately become more gratifying. There were all these changes I expected to happen. There was this ideal version of myself that I had hoped to become, but in the summer of 2016, I found myself in therapy, not writing, and felt victimized for how life’s game had played out for me. This wasn’t how it was supposed to be. I was supposed to get the tattoo and life was going to get magically better. As I was voicing these thoughts to my partner, he reminded me that I was forgetting the most important trait the phoenix represents: rebirth. A phoenix must burn and rise from the ashes to become a new version of it.
2016 was definitely a year of burning for many of us. Beginning primarily with the election and all the celebrity deaths we felt so connected to; we were also witness to so many terrors that made us feel that our world was in fact coming to an end. I know I’m not alone in feeling that 2017 does represent a year of rebirth, now that we’ve finally closed the chapter on 2016. But we need to keep in mind that there are greater challenges facing us as we find our way in this new world. I for one am continuing to find my role in society as a woman, a white privileged woman, who wants to use her voice to help better our society.
The day after the election was one of the roughest days of the year. I remember putting on my makeup like I was preparing for battle; unsure of the world I was walking into. I questioned my idea of feminism and wondered if I was part of the “white feminist movement” ignoring others around me, drinking the “male tears” Kool-Aid and complaining about everything wrong with society instead of doing something about it. I was depressed for a long time. I tried writing about it, but couldn’t put the feeling into words. I attempted to push forward and put the call to action for politicians, and found hope among friends doing the same.
The greatest struggle I had towards the end of 2016 was the balance of staying up to date with all the news but not letting it weigh me down. I wanted to be informed, but found myself having a nightmare of Steve Bannon transforming himself into a shark and feasting on a Muslim family in front my eyes. It is an image I will never be able to get rid of. So I found myself wondering how to care about everything, but not too much so it didn’t cause sleep deprivation. I wish I could tell you that I found an answer to achieving this balance, but it continues to be something to work on. It continues to be a part of this person I have created in my mind, this ideal version of myself I want to be.
After Carrie Fisher’s death last month, I was journaling and wrote down the following: “She is a woman I am continuing to admire and want to live my life a little more like her: with zest and sass, not taking every damn thing so seriously, and tearing down a fascist.” That is what I strive to be more of in 2017. I’m tired of sitting on the sidelines, saying how unfair life can be. I’m tired of not believing in magic and the good in people. I’ve decided I’m going into this year with strength and hope.
Yes, there is this version of me I want to live up to, this version of this woman with the phoenix tattoo I’ve been scared of for far too long. And there is nothing more limiting than doubt. So I pledge right here, right now, to live up to the person I’m meant to be. And I ask that you do the same. Instead of making resolutions this year, let’s make a pact to live up to our full potential. Let’s stand united instead of against each other, and open up the dialogue instead of shutting it down. A new chapter has opened for us and the pages are blank. We have the power to make it anything we want. So let’s not burn the pages of 2017, but hold it up as a symbol for all that we can and will be.
It was midnight when I left her apartment. A tin box of keys under one arm, and a thirty-six pack of ramen noodles under the other. I couldn’t help but feel like Diane Lane from Under the Tuscan Sun in that moment. Not in the sense that I’m a forty something divorcee who bought a house in Tuscany on a whim; but I did move across the country into a studio apartment, and as life would have it, I became the manager of the building (hence why I was bestowed a giant box of keys… I can’t really explain the ramen). The building is located somewhere in Hollywood, which is truly nothing like Tuscany. There is a homeless man that hangs out across the street, and a couple that lives by our building with their dog. I hear the helicopters fly overhead almost every hour, and my fridge makes gurgling noises which wakes me up in the middle of the night. Sometimes I can hear the sound of crickets though, if my windows are open and the sirens aren’t drowning them out.
At the end of that visit which left me in my Diane Lane state of mind, I walked down the hall, back to my own apartment after bidding the owner sweet dreams. The door shut behind me, and I stared at the boxes piled on top of each other. Several of my books were scattered across the floor, along with tote bags, hats, paint supplies, and camera equipment. The blank walls stared back at me and I felt anxious. I needed to hurry up and hang some art and photos around the place before I lost my mind.
The box of keys and ramen remained attached to me. I couldn’t wrap my head around everything that had taken place over the past few weeks. I had moved to Los Angeles at the beginning of October, when my dad and I drove down from Northern California in hopes of securing an apartment for myself. After several days, nothing had turned up. My dad had to return home, and I (without a home) ended up crashing at my friend's apartment, where I stayed for the remainder of the month. During that time I had already begun my new job, and the commute to and from the office would sometimes take a couple hours. I was able to find joy in that back to back traffic though. It allowed me time to listen to all the NPR I wanted, or to rock out to some Pat Benatar if I was so inclined.
Solitude has actually became a large aspect of my life upon moving to Los Angeles. It became increasingly apparent to me when I settled into my own place, away from my friends and the life that I had started to lead. Prior to moving, I even deactivated my Facebook account, as a way to allow more time to acclimate to all the changes and not be distracted by external factors. My focus drifted internally, and I centered my life around simple things that would bring genuine happiness into my life. I felt this to be necessary since everything outside of my shell was more chaotic than I had originally anticipated.
During the first couple months, I have practiced yoga on the beach, wandered around farmer’s markets and flea markets, spent evenings editing photos and videos, made some delicious meals with a stove that doesn’t even have the pilot lit (and without even owning a microwave), signed up for an organic food distribution program offered at work, enjoyed IPA fests and movie nights, had dinner parties with friends, and even began writing a novel (shout out to NaNoWriMo). I was able to drive up north, spend a weekend with my parents, and take in the I-5 scenery. I took time to read books I had been aiming to read for years (and sought out to buy some new ones). I drafted a few new plays, started a couple screen plays, and laughed at episodes of Parks and Recreation. Then, being the grown woman that I am, I slept with the lights on because I was fearful there was a ghost in my apartment (still am, to be completely honest) - so I burned a lot of sage.
Living by yourself can be scary sometimes, even without the thought of a ghost being in your midst. It can be lonely without two dogs or a cat to greet you upon your arrive. It can be nerve-wracking when you're unsure if those gurgling noises are coming from the bathroom or under your bed. Despite that, and despite those occasional twelve hour work days, it's a nice feeling to come home to an apartment, that's only half furnished, where I can turn on The Temptations and dance around like nobody’s watching (except for my neighbors, who can in fact see me across the alley). I don't mind. There's something so freeing about this independence and starting a new life. It's the idea that anything is possible and that there's an exorbitant amount of new things to try- even though some of them might make you want to poop your pants. They're still worth trying.
Well, this definitely has ended on a less poetic note than I originally set out for when I began writing this piece. I'm sure Diane Lane's character (Frances Mayes, who wrote the original book, by the way) wasn't always eloquent at times either. But I sure don't remember her talking about poop. What I do remember (from when I would watch this film in high school) is Sandra Oh's character asking "Can you star-69 Italy?" and the woman in the large hat that would quote all the Fellini films. That character was always pretty awesome to me, and the type of woman I would love to embody someday. Until that point comes though, when I'm able to walk around Italy with a large cone full of gelato in my hand (instead of a pack of ramen under my arm), I'm beyond happy to be where I am today: nestled in my own part of the world, living the life I've only begun to imagine.
“You have to live spherically - in many directions. Never lose your childish enthusiasm- and things will come your way.” - Federico Fellini