Burning

Flourish Vol. 39

We’re in the thick of it now; the slow burn of a dying summer, whack-a-mole fires and heat waves roiling the West Coast. I thought maybe I’d migrated far enough north to outrun it, but the smoke found me here, too, choking the horizon, turning this valley into a dust bowl and tinging the sun an eerie martian red I’ve only ever seen in California.

The days lately feel more indicative of the apocalypse than before, a thousand concurrent crises bombarding our senses incessantly. On weekends I find myself withdrawing from social media — and certainly the news —almost entirely, coddling myself in a willful, blissful ignorance for a too-brief window of mental oblivion. I feel my coping mechanisms failing, and falling short, as we approach the six-month marker of this alternate reality, since a time before any of this was normal. I find myself missing the same stupid, insipid things I did in the beginning, but now they are feelings, rather than thoughts, they are yearnings rather than words I say out loud. The parts that make this human experience worthwhile at all. Communal meals and crashing on couches, live music and tightly-packed bars, the energy pulsing like an electrical current through your feet. Sneaking kisses and glances and uncontrollable giggles emboldened by a slight buzz, stopping to see friends and family unannounced, trying on life in countries outside this one. Something like nostalgia for the way life used to be, for things we didn’t know we’d ever have to miss.

So I’ll take the wins where I can get them; a good day at work, a much-needed call with a friend, my music and animals and freshly-dyed hair and the dew in the night air. Currently, I’m riding high off a wine-fueled Bath and Body Works haul of candles with names like “Flannel” and “Cider Lane”, heralding the arrival of my favorite time of the year. Next weekend, we’ll drape the porch with autumnal garland and pumpkins, and the nights will turn colder, and then I’ll turn 27. Growing older is always a little bittersweet, but of course it’s hard not to feel like this was a lost year; for our country, for our world, and selfishly, for me, for my 26, whatever it might’ve been.

This has been a hard year, of growing pains and broken bones, of stark realizations, abrupt endings, death in the family, the bottom of everything falling out. I am constantly warring between gratitude and pity, between realizing that I am one of the lucky ones, and yet this is no way to live. But the flames are to the ceiling, and I have reached the point of feeling that maybe everything needs to burn down to nothing, to just the foundation of who I know myself to be. In a couple more weeks, I’ll have my second surgery of the year, one that has been many more years in the making. Something I thought would remain just slightly out of reach forever, always impossible had my life not fallen apart in the exact right way. And so I am taking the wins where I can, and tilting into the unknown with as much faith as I can muster.


Reads and recommendations:

Despite my usual avoidance of anything politics or news-adjacent during my off hours, I finally spent a night watching Knock Down The House, which had been sitting in my Netflix queue forever. It’s primarily about Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s first run for Congress, but also profiles the campaigns of other new progressive candidates, and is just as relevant as ever. It was fascinating to watch her campaign from beginning (she was nominated by her brother for an organization that scouts new progressive candidates) to end (beating an incumbent Democratic who hadn’t had a challenger in 19 years, becoming the youngest women to ever serve in Congress, etc.) If you aren’t already in awe of her story, go ahead and give this a watch.

This story by Jesmyn Ward, about sudden personal loss colliding with collective heartache, is just such a sobering dispatch from a year of relentless grief:

“Witness Black people, Indigenous people, so many poor brown people, lying on beds in frigid hospitals, gasping our last breaths with COVID-riddled lungs, rendered flat by undiagnosed underlying conditions, triggered by years of food deserts, stress, and poverty, lives spent snatching sweets so we could eat one delicious morsel, savor some sugar on the tongue, oh Lord, because the flavor of our lives is so often bitter.” -On Witness and Respair: A Personal Tragedy Followed by a Pandemic


This week’s Why Won’t You Date Me is worth a listen — or two // "Driving around town, it looks like Portland always does, with a super fun Covid twist. But that in itself is an inherently Portland trait: we are a city of surface-level peace, of surface-level liberalism, of surface-level safety. But you don't have to dig that hard to expose the under-layer: this is a state founded on white supremacy, and it shows.” // College is everywhere now // “The social industry doesn’t just eat our time with endless stimulus and algorithmic scrolling; it eats our time by creating and promoting people who exist only to be explained to, people to whom the world has been created anew every morning, people for whom every settled sociological, scientific, and political argument of modernity must be rehashed, rewritten, and re-accounted, this time with their participation.” WOWZA. //


Outside my window the wind is whipping through the clay-colored dusk and our lights have flickered a few times, so I’ve lit a candle and queued up the musician I associate most with the end of the world: Father John Misty. I’m glad he’s returned with a couple more ballads to croon for us as this Titanic sinks.

‘I had a dream and you were in it’ / Was all you had to say

Stay safe, keep dreaming.

-Olivia

Uproot

Flourish Vol. 38

Listen, I didn’t intend to go this long between newsletters, but life has a way of getting in the way. Between a nearly 1,000-mile move, covering back-to-back political conventions, and some unforeseen circumstances with my family, coming home hasn’t been the immediate reprieve from stress I was hoping for. But it has been wonderful, in a lot of quiet and beautiful ways, and so this newsletter will mostly be a ramble about what these past few weeks have looked like for me, experiencing life again in the place where I grew up.

Is it just me, or is August vanishing like ice cream left to melt in the sun? I love autumn, but I’m acutely aware that each passing day is bringing us closer to a fall and winter that feel ominous in an unfamiliar way. Since leaving California, I’m having to remind not to take the sun for granted, as it sets earlier and earlier each night. The last time I saw rain in California — my beloved state now vanquished with fire — was in the early days of the pandemic, but in the past week we’ve had a few storms here, turning the sky a steel gray and the pavement black, and already I’ve noticed the trees turning colors, from verdant greens to soft coppers and golds.

I’ve always loved Oregon summers, and in the warm air there’s a familiarity that envelopes me like a security blanket and sets me so quickly at ease, overwhelmed by a sense of peace in the stillness. The breeze that sounds like the ocean through the towering trees, the fiery sunsets like watercolors streaking into the night, the sprawling golden fields and diamond-studded nights skies in which the dippers are always visible; all things I took for granted as a kid, and devoured hungrily whenever I could steal away to them as an adult. Though there is little of the glamor omnipresent in my Los Angeles life, there is room to breathe and space to clear my head. There is the chance to get reacquainted with myself, to lean into the person I’ve always wanted to be.

Here, there are endless golden hours, old haunts, familiar faces, and of course, a flock of adorable creatures to keep me company. I feel less like I’ve uprooted and more like I’ve returned to my roots, that life has come full circle in a way I couldn’t have anticipated but probably was always fated to experience.

I’m not sure the finality of leaving LA has hit me quite yet, but when it does I’ll be happy to have the photos I took before leaving my apartment, which had become such a special part of my life in that city and my oasis from the world so many years (and, of course, fostered my transition into a plant lady.)

But I firmly believe that not all endings are sad ones; closing that door for the last time I knew in my bones that then was the right time to leave, I felt at peace with the life I’d lived there, and ready to embrace whatever comes next.

As we took these pictures, my friend told me she felt like she was taking my author photo, and you know what: that is the exact energy I’m trying to manifest the hell out of right now! Good things are coming.


Recommendations:

The irony that I’ve finally given into watching Selling Sunset after leaving LA is not lost on me, but it’s the perfect distraction from real life, and offers just the right amount of drama without feeling totally contrived. First off, team Chrishell all the way: she’s smart, sweet, and stands her ground — a woman after my own heart! But I will say, the way in which Christine is absolutely, unapologetically herself (yes, to a fault) is lowkey inspirational, too. I contain multitudes!

I may have teared up at Joe Biden’s closing speech at the DNC last night, and the convention’s virtual roll call was a god damn delight. And of course, Michelle Obama and Maggie Rogers and Jennifer Hudson were among the many highlights of the whole thing.

I am currently in mail-forwarding purgatory and terrified that Trump’s war on the USPS will only make things worse — and actually affect people who rely on the mail for medications and things they need to, ya know, live!! // As colleges move classes online, families rebel against the cost // Why the cost of camping gear can be a barrier to entry for diversity in the outdoors // On the nightmare that is dropshipping (related: I recently stumbled upon a show about people who buy mystery boxes of goods that get returned to Amazon in order to resell the items and it’s an entire sub-industry I was completely unaware of.) //

I am sending so many thoughts to California right now:

And a portrait of me, most days since March:

My music tastes have been sort of all over the board lately, but these are two songs that have made me particularly happy.

I was feeling a little down in the dumps this week and really struggling to write, but desperately willing myself to stay positive. Then, out of the blue, I got this message from a friend I hadn’t spoken to in a while, and it meant so much to me to hear, to realize that my perception of myself is not always the reality, and reminded me that I am so fortunate to have so many caring and compassionate people in my orbit in this life.

(For the record, they are getting along! A small miracle.)

Right now, I feel like I’m existing, absolutely reverberating, on the cusp of something, some precipice, whatever it may be. And I’m choosing to have faith in the future, though I have no idea what the rest of my life — or for that matter tomorrow, or the next hour — holds. And for the first time, I’m learning to be okay with it. Because from uncertainty there comes the opportunity — the necessity — to make choices, and I am so ready to make the decisions that will transform my reality into something my past self couldn’t have even imagined. It’s that hope that sustains me, and I hope you believe in the good things waiting just around the corner, too.

-Olivia

Where I was from

Flourish Vol. 37

Oregon last summer, but also my mood board for listening to folklore


If you’d told me 6 months ago that this summer I’d be moving back in with my parents, in my little ol’ nothing hometown, just a couple months shy of turning 27, I probably would’ve berated you for your stupidity, or died of embarrassment. Or both! Probably both.

It was something my mom had suggested long before the pandemic started, way back in the fall when I expressed that I was probably, definitely done with LA. But I’d dismissed it outright then. And again in the spring, when it became clear that this pandemic wasn’t going anywhere, and likely to only get worse.

It made sense; I’d been looking for an out from Los Angeles, my office wasn’t due to open for months, there was nothing tying me here, and a major financial gain if I left. But my ego resisted. What would people think? Perhaps, most likely, that I was just another one of the millions of people to lose their jobs during this pandemic. But, alternatively, maybe that I’d been fired in some horribly dramatic way, or had run out of money, or just couldn’t hack it here. Besides, when I was at my lowest, I always took comfort in the idea of living in Los Angeles, in my dream apartment. At least I had that.

Even though an estimated 2.9 million adults moved in with family in the first three month so the pandemic, the idea of moving home threatened to be too much of a blow to my ego, and I know I’m not alone in feeling that way.

“I was very resistant to that, just because of the idea that’s been ingrained in so many young Millennials that moving home with your parents is a step back,” she told me. “It’s the ideal to be self-sufficient and live on your own, have your own place, have a successful job.”

-The New Boomerang Kids Could Change American Views of Living at Home

When all I was sure of was leaving LA, I’d scouted a few options for my next hometown, and fell into an instant, easy kind of love with Denver. But as I stared down the months of uncertainty ahead, I realized that what I wanted even more than a change of scenery was comfort and security, and all of that was waiting for me at the home I grew up in. This is certainly not what I’d imagined for myself at 26, but then the truth is that when I left my childhood home I couldn’t even conceive of being 26.

I have my reservations, of course, but mostly I'm excited to go back to my roots, to have the emotional and physical safety net I've missed for so many years away from my family. To leave, for a while, the constant panic about what to do should I get sick or hurt, who to call for a ride from the airport, or when I need to move.

I had shied away from dependence on my family my entire life. My constant need for freedom and autonomy is what made my teen years hell, my fights with my mother near-constant. But now, nearly 10 years after I left home for the last time, the whole world is different. I have experienced milestones, joy, heartache, and loss (not to mention years of therapy) that have reframed my view of the world. I have achieved so much of what I could only dream of from my childhood bedroom; being the first in my family to graduate from college, getting a great job, falling in love, meeting lifelong friends, finding financial independence, traveling the world. I am not failing, or falling backwards. There are no far-flung places to traverse right now. There are no dreams I need to be chasing a million miles from everyone I know. And I've realized dependence on people who are not family comes with its own pitfalls, too.

I’m fortunate enough to still have my job; I could stay in Los Angeles. I could ride this thing out indefinitely. But I fell out of love with this city a while ago, and the toll that isolation has taken on my mental health is undeniable. I refuse to burn through my life’s savings to stay somewhere that is no longer growing with me, or enabling me to grow. Most of all though, my soul has been aching for my family, and a house with a yard, with room to walk and breathe and lay on the front lawn after a few gummies and contemplate the stars in the night sky and the vastness of the universe. I want a small town with a main street, most of the people I would’ve gone out of my way to avoid long since gone, a vineyard down the road, summer rainstorms. I want seasons, the birch trees in our yard changing colors in the fall, warm meals, my parents' dogs, afternoons with my grandparents. Making up for all the years I can't get back.

The idea of moving home once filled me with shame, convinced it would be one interminable "FOMO" experience; all of my friends having fun and the entire world moving on without me, 26 and single, sleeping in my childhood bedroom. But the world isn't going anywhere, especially not now. And now is the time to re-draw the blueprints of the world we thought we knew. I want to deconstruct and pivot and save for a life after this, beyond this, whatever that might be. But now is a time for comfort and safety, for walking the sidewalks in my childhood suburb, for rediscovering who I was before the world swallowed me whole. For finding solid ground beneath my feet. For reclaiming my hometown and my home state, where I was from, as Joan Didion once said of California. For plotting where I'm heading next, for the life that comes after getting everything you ever wanted. Because what I want now is radically different than the life I wanted at 23, or 19, but perhaps not so different from what I wanted and believed so deeply at 16, my head filled with the golden dreams that brought me to California in the first place.


I never could have guessed that 2020 would yield a Taylor Swift album produced by a member of The National, or that this would be the exact emotional landscape I was yearning for at this point in time, but the lyrics and melodies have been running through my head for days. My Tears Ricochet wasn’t even written by Aaron Dessner, but my god “I didn’t have it in myself to go with grace” is a National lyric if I’ve ever heard one. My other favorites are Mirrorball (that bridge is transcendent,) Invisible String (which makes even my jaded heart soften to the idea of being in love again,) and Seven, which already has me dreaming of buying an antique piano when I get home, staring longingly out the window as I play.

I’ve been getting unexpectedly emotional about a lot of things lately; Parks and Rec reruns, donating my old college clothes, and most recently, this past week’s episode of This American Life, “How To Be Alone.” It made me infinitely grateful to have the opportunity to go home to my mom, and both of my grandparents, when so many don’t have that option. Writer Danielle Evans talks about losing her mom, who she says would’ve personally come and collected her from New York, where she’s spent the entire pandemic alone out of fear of getting her dad sick.

"What I've been feeling acutely is the particular absence of the only person in the world who would've refused to leave me alone, even when I absolutely wanted to be."

She touches upon the life choices that led her to being alone during the pandemic, forgoing a family of her own for a life of travel and involvement in her community, of being resolute in one’s decisions while also being reminded that life doesn’t let you take every fork in the road: “It is possible to feel stuck with your choices even without wishing you made any differently. "

Speaking of This American Life, I will now never be able to listen to it without picturing the first episode of this season of High Maintenance. It’s on par with Insecure in its ability to absolutely wreck me emotionally, making me laugh out loud and then cry hard, ugly tears within a matter of scenes.

Also emotional: all of the things I’ve been feeling lately about my current and future professional life, so perfectly encapsulated in this piece by Maris Kreizman.

“In the present moment, in a time when the pandemic has caused so much uncertainty about the future of so many industries, professional ambition begins to feel like misplaced energy, as helpful to achieving success as chronic anxiety.

…Among the enormous changes that must be made, my dreams are, rightly, trivial. And yet they are still my dreams.”

-Where Did My Ambition Go?

I will definitely be “randonauting” when I get back to my hometown (pray for me please.) // The conspiracy singularity has arrived (pray for us all.) // “Almost every aspect of our lives has come grinding and screeching to a halt in lockdown, leaving many of us questioning who we are, what we’re doing, and what kind of world we want to be doing it in.” - Psychedelic Suburbia: why people are taking magic mushrooms during the lockdown // How does it feel to make a cop show in 2020? and “Andy Samberg is happy to be the butt of the joke,” as a shot and chaser here (also how Andy Samberg 41? And the Palm Springs in Palm Springs was actually LA??) //

Anyway, that’s it for now. Wish me luck as I attempt to pack the rest of my life into boxes, and part with the life I’m leaving here. Onto the next.

-Olivia

Growing season

Flourish Vol. 36

When I chose to begin this newsletter almost exactly one year ago, it felt deeply silly. Self-indulgent. Embarrassingly earnest — something I’d rarely, if ever, allowed myself to be, and certainly not publicly. All I knew was that it felt urgent, and compulsory, to create this outlet. To allow my thoughts and feelings and interests somewhere to live outside of my own head, to stop depriving my inner life of oxygen for fear that I had nothing of value to say. As I look back at all that’s happened in the past year, I realize this was the first rumbling of a seismic shift in how I saw myself, and how I wanted the world to see me, too.

The truth was, I’d spent so much of my life striving for perfection, scared to death of failure and risk and vulnerability, that I’d backed myself into a corner of my own making. One where security carried more weight than happiness, where all creative pursuits and risky wagers and scenarios outside my own comfort zone were headed off at the pass. Because what if I tried something and was just horrendously, miserably awful at it; what if I looked stupid, what if I failed, had to crawl back with my tail between my legs? After all, is there anything more deeply mortifying than wanting something so sincerely and not getting it?

Of course, I realize now, the most deeply regrettable thing I could ever do was to not try at all. God, how embarrassing — to shrink and sanitize and censor yourself so as to never feel the discomfort of change, the growing pains of being alive, of finding yourself so unmistakably that it feels like finally coming home — whether that happens at 25 or 55. How tragic, to look back and realize with some quiet grief that you were never too old to learn guitar, or too “fat” to wear a bikini, or too inexperienced to try a new career — you were simply afraid. And fear is the most insidious thing; a mold and a cancer, a quiet manipulator, a thief that robs you of faith in everything you deserve to be.

That fear, or rather fear of that fear, is partly what motivated me to start this newsletter. It’d been festering under the surface for a while, the nagging realization that I was not living the life I wanted, at least not here. But I was an expert at finding distractions. In February, I’d booked a dream excursion with one of my best friends to Morocco, was given the green-light for a work trip to New York, and had unexpectedly found someone pretty special who — as my luck would have it — lived on the other side of the country. I painstakingly built that little house of cards for a while, willing it not to fall apart. And then the universe laughed.

Between the pandemic and an injury that limited my mobility for months on end, it’s hard not to feel as though this has been a lost year; a total wash in my personal and professional growth. And I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling the omnipresence of my own mortality, the existential weight of growing older with each shapeless day. But then, this year has been as much about dismantling old ways of life as it’s been about building something new. And everything that’s gone miserably wrong has been a blinking neon sign that it’s time to cut the bullshit, cut out the things that aren’t working, and actively, hungrily, relentlessly seek the life I want.

So cheers to a year that has asked me as many questions as stars in the sky, and happy birthday to this little newsletter and all of the answers it’s brought me.


I suppose this is all to say that in a few weeks I’ll be leaving California after eight ridiculously, heartachingly beautiful years. I’ve spent my entire adult life in this state; my current apartment is the longest I’ve lived anywhere since I left my childhood home. California is not so much a place as a character in my life, and I could — and probably will — write about it forever. My decision to leave has been a long time coming, and something I will probably extol about more once I’m on the other side of it. But for now, I’ll direct you to a newly discovered gem, Haley Nahman’s newsletter “Maybe Baby” (is this newsletter-ception?) which perfectly encapsulates my long-simmering feelings about Los Angeles and all the things it could no longer give me (although her words were written about her sister’s decision to leave New York.)

“At a certain point you have to construct a more grounded proposition for living here—one that accounts for the material conditions of your life. And if quarantine has finally given you the space and time to do that, and your conclusion is that it doesn’t amount to a life well-lived, I can both respect that and understand it has nothing to do with my decision to stay. Even if it breaks my heart a little. I suppose this process can apply to anything in life, whether it’s a city or a religion or a relationship. At some point your idea of a thing has to make way for reality, and avoidance can only get you as far as you can distract yourself.”

She continues on with this line, which sort of took my breath away: “This is the comedy of ‘wanting’ to love anything; you risk becoming an inadvertent salesperson, more committed to the pitch than your lived experience.”  

California was better to me than I ever deserved, but change is a natural — and necessary — part of life, and to deny yourself that, whether out of fear of the unknown, or unrequited devotion to the familiar, is the greatest disservice you could possibly do. Onward.


Reading and recommendations:

I didn’t expect Straight Up, an incredibly stylized little indie on Netflix, to make me feel as much as it did. Sure, its dialogue and aesthetic are stylized within an inch of its life, and I do think there were certain conversations about sexuality that could’ve delved deeper (I thought this review was fair — spoilers ahead!), but it was also incredibly funny and sharp and insightful about the ways in which sometimes there’s no winning in love, as much as you want it to work. When it was over, I found myself bawling and I wasn’t even sure why. Also, Kate Findlay is impressive as hell. Also also, the soundtrack. // The podcast I Said No Gifts, specifically the episode with Caroline Goldfarb, which made a very long, very hot drive back from Mammoth Lakes much more tolerable and felt like actually being able to go to parties with fun, funny people again // For black women in media, the ‘dream job’ is a myth // This tour-de-force profile of Michaela Cole // “Walking Home To You,” and the whole album LEMONS, by Nick Leng.

And this song, which has been running through my head like a favorite poem lately.

I’m not quite sure how to wrap this all up other than to say a thank you to my past self for making this space, and to current you for being here.

-Olivia

The life that is waiting for you

Flourish Vol. 35

I haven’t felt much like writing lately. Like so many people right now, I’ve spent the past few weeks watching, learning, listening, soul-searching. June was a hell of a ride on just about every front; socially, professionally, mentally, physically. This was initially going to be the month I pulled the trigger on some major changes in my life, but it felt like the earth was quite literally shifting beneath my feet. And so I waited it out; for the pieces to fall into place, for the fog to lift. And the future is coming into focus, little by little, day by day.

I had the opportunity to leave LA for a bit recently, and my god it felt good to travel again, even with everything being weird as hell. Everyone’s comfort level is different and incredibly personal, and everything carries some risk, but planes and hotels (or AirBnbs) have generally been assessed as safer than bars or restaurants — which are open here in LA — so weighing the precautions and potential risks, I felt comfortable traveling after receiving a negative COVID-19 test. I’m lucky, as someone who lives alone, to be able to make personal choices based on my own comfort level, with the reassurance from my test results that I’m not asymptomatic and unknowingly spreading the disease to others. Additionally, Delta is one of the few airlines actually attempting to social distance passengers at this point, hand sanitizer was readily available everywhere I went, and I wore a mask on the plane and whenever I was in public. Except, of course, when I was able to escape to Rocky Mountain National Park (which is open with reservations) and leave behind other people/society as a whole for a blissful few hours. Man, that altitude is no joke, though!

Getting to spend the summer solstice, the longest day of the year, out in the Colorado mountains and the snow-capped tundra was something pretty special. Not only because it was the longest I’d been away from home in months, but because lately, I’ve felt what I can only describe as spiritually malnourished. Exacerbated no doubt by all the cracks in our society becoming more visible than ever before; by the question of what comes after getting everything you thought you wanted — or by playing the game of life and getting nothing at all. I’ve been trying to find meaning in life bottoming out, in this spiritual crisis, this dark night of the soul, however you choose to define it — and I’ve been studying a lot of different definitions. I’ve never resonated with organized religion, but I’ve found myself using this time to delve deeper into spirituality and philosophy, psychology and neuroscience (I’ve been reading a lot of Jung and Nietzsche, as well as Beau Lotto’s book Deviate, which is about the science of perceiving life differently and offers lots of mind-bending explanations about how we are completely unable to ever truly see reality.)

Your heights are your own mountain, which belongs to you and you alone. There you are individual and live your very own life.

If you live your own life, you do not live the common life, which is always continuing and never-ending, the life of history and the inalienable and ever-present burdens and products of the human race.

There you live the endlessness of being, but not the becoming. Becoming belongs to the heights and is full of torment.

How can you become if you never are?

Therefore you need your bottommost, since there you are. But therefore you also need your heights, since there you become.

-Carl Jung

Through all of the ups and downs of recent months, nothing has been more apparent than the fragility of life, the way in which we attempt to build everlasting empires on shifting sands. Fragility not only in the most extreme sense — the countless lives robbed from us by a virus, and police brutality — but also the way in which even the best laid plans make fools of us all. That you can play the game, following all the rules to a tee, and still wind up empty handed. I’ve seen extraordinary colleagues, both at my own organization and across the media industry as a whole, unceremoniously discarded when the going gets tough, despite being incredibly talented what they do, despite having gone to the universities and moved to the cities and jumped through all of the hoops they were told would bring them success.

In society as we knew it, before the wheels came off, it was so easy to give all of our problems and traumas and neuroses and fears a fresh coat of paint, to shove them in the back of some small, dark closet and hope they never came tumbling out. But I’ve never been less interested in looking away from the hard truths, in ignoring what is unfixable, unforgivable, untenable.

“The only way we can really approach this is to realise that when we have received the full conditioning of our society and have attained physical maturity that perhaps we will be able to pause for a moment and try to find out a little more about ourselves. Usually however, this moment of pause only comes when physical or emotional reverses break down the structure of the so-called physical-material-industrial plan for living. Nearly always a crisis: a great disappointment, a heartache, a desperate illness. These are the kinds of pressures that perhaps have been placed here to remind us that we have an individual existence and that this existence must be given expression or the life we are living will remain incomplete.”

― Manly Hall

Sometimes I feel that the longer I spend working on myself, the deeper depths I plumb, the harder things get. Like attempting to renovate a house only to find that its entire structure is rotting, and it must be destroyed and built again. Sometimes ignorance about the implications of my own existence sounds like bliss. Sometimes anything feels easier than this, even buying into happiness as an unattainable afterthought I might find when I retire decades from now, that #hustling is the meaning of life, that self-care only runs as deep as hollow, corporate bullshit.

But then, there is no job, no amount of money, no partner or vacation or distraction big enough to ever save you from having to reckon with yourself, and your purpose, your values, your reason for existing. Wherever you go, there you are — and there is no time like the present moment to remind you of this.

But in the emptiness and loneliness and the sadness there is some kind of truth and radical honesty and maybe some salvation. There are the roadblocks and failures and redirections that are the universe, or God, or your deity of choice that tells you, unequivocally, you’re not going this way. Try, try again. Accept that the things you thought mattered might matter less than you could’ve expected, that you may have outgrown the person you thought you were, and surrender to the possibility of what might yet be.

“You must give up the life you planned in order to have the life that is waiting for you.”

―Joseph Campbell


On a far more superficial note and complete 180 from ruminating on my higher calling in this life, I got my first haircut in nine months after frying the ever-living-hell out of my hair with bleach, and it definitely warrants a quick flex here because I will definitely never feel this cool again.

Last week was the debut of my longtime fave Phoebe Bridgers’ sophomore album and…I like it! My initial impression is that the singles were the strongest tracks, but I’m partial to a lot of components of the different songs, especially one of the more apt descriptors of LA’s east side I’ve ever encountered on “Punisher”.

I go to the store for nothing
And walk right by
The house where you lived with Snow White
I wonder if she ever thought
The storybook tiles on the roof were too much
But from the window, it's not a bad show
If your favorite thing's Dianetics or stucco

The drugstores are open all night
The only real reason I moved to the east side
I love a good place to hide in plain sight

My music consumption lately has mostly consisted of wearing out this song by TOLEDO, because it feels like summer:

And just about every track from Small Forward’s new album. They’re an LA band I’ve loved for a long time now, and I really hope this self-titled record is the start of them going big places.

My apologies (but not really) that this newsletter is tonally all over the place, but the same can be said for life as a whole right now. And I’m a firm believer that the existential can go hand-in-hand with the more frivolous aspects of life. It’s all about balance, baby!

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.” – Henry David Thoreau

Til next time.

-Olivia

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