An Artist Finds True Love in P.S. I Love You

“My business is to create.” 

In this post about art-related films, I mentioned that I thought P.S. I Love You was “not a good love story, but a good art story.” After my traditional St. Patrick’s Day viewing of the film (more on that in a moment), I’ve decided that I may have made a hasty judgment, and that art and true love might be more closely related than they seem.

So once upon a time, Josh and I went to Ireland for Spring break and St. Patrick’s day. It was a wild ride and totally exhausting, but absolutely beautiful. It’s something we would love to do again. Spending time in the land of the shamrocks those years ago put me in an inexplicable mood to watch P.S. I Love You–inexplicable because when I last watched this flick as a single and hormonal teenager, I completely hated it. The critic in me thought it was depressing and cheesy as all get-out.

Relax, you swooning and now-irate Gerard Butler fans. Upon watching the film again as an adult in conjunction with Dear Frankie (Butler accent marathon!), I quite surprisingly found it among some of my favorite films of the decade. Not only this, but Josh was quick to second the motion–and it’s a chick flick, guys. Needless to say, it’s now a family favorite.

I’m pretty sure that where I went wrong when I first watched this movie was in watching it as a chick flick–as a cliche story of romantic love, romantic love lost, and romantic love rediscovered.

As a traditional love story, P.S. I Love You is mediocre at best; however, as a story about art, identity, intimacy, and true love it is quite touching and maybe even outstanding.

According to the quirky Holly’s quoting of William Blake in an attempt to impress roguish Irishman Gerry Kennedy, “My business is to create.”

As an art student with no idea what she wants to do with her life, the only thing of which she and (she believes) everyone else on the planet can be sure is that we each need to create something–not because we are obligated to offer something beautiful to the world, but because this something is an inescapable part of who we are, how we are unique, and how we communicate that.

“All I know is, if you don’t figure out this something, you’ll just stay ordinary, and it doesn’t matter if its a work of art or a taco or a pair of socks! Just create something . . . new, and there it is, and it’s you–out in the world, outside of you–and you can look at it, or hear it, or read it, or feel it–and you know a little more about . . . you. A little bit more than anyone else does.” 

What do you know about you?

Not enough? Well, you don’t have to know everything, believe it or not. If you did, what would be the point in looking for yourself through the soul-searching act of pure creation–of pure art?

Which reminds me of another favorite P.S. quote . . .

Holly: “I see people buying bigger apartments and having babies. I get so afraid sometimes our life’s never gonna start.

Gerry: “No, baby. We’re already in our life. It’s already started. This is it. You have to stop waiting.

Man, this scene hits me like a ton of bricks every time.

I know that I and many others like me are constantly guilty of looking to the next milestone of graduation or getting our dream job or buying a house or having kids. We’re too busy looking ahead to inhabit our own lives in the moment.

As far as I’ve been able to figure out in my meager 22 years, life isn’t about scrambling to find out what you’re supposed to do with your life so that you can blissfully do it for the rest of your days ad infinitum.

The scrambling–the journey–the search is your life.

Personally, I believe as Holly does that creating is a big part of that search. It’s a part of the process of knowing and being known–or trying to. It’s reaching deep down inside yourself and and pulling out a piece of what you value or how you see the world, and it says out loud (even if only to you) “This is who I am.” When you appreciate the creations of others, you’re stepping into a bit of who they are and taking a walk around, willing to share that intimacy with them.

This ideology is how I try to approach every moment of each one of my days on this earth. It’s my goal–my mantra–

To know and to make known.

This is love to me. Self-love and love for others all wrapped up in one beautiful life mission. This mantra includes tolerance and acceptance but also challenge and discussion when it comes to really getting to the bottom of what makes a person tick. It sounds so over-simplified, but it’s really not simple. Sometimes what you know about yourself, your God, and your friends/family/etc don’t quite jive, and you have to reconcile that.

But somewhere in the process of constantly pursuing a depth of knowledge of yourself and the world around you, you encounter people who love and understand you for who you really are.

So make something. Make a poem. Make pasta. Make a mess. Make love. Make mistakes.

Every time you let that glimpse of who you really are and who you want to be out into the world, you are leaving yourself vulnerable–open to being known and loved fully, or fully rejected–and you are promising that same love to those who open themselves to you.

Okay, so I know that I waxed a bit philosophical in this post, but I hope that I’ve encouraged lonely people everywhere to let art lead them to every pure form of love.

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Rochester: We Win Some & Lose Some

A message in the playing field at Fairport High School. From the Democrat & Chronicle.

It seems like lately time has been swirling around and through the city I call home. So much has happened to remind us of our humanity and even our mortality.

Perhaps most jarring is the well-known fact that beloved actor and father of three Philip Seymour Hoffman has passed away presumably from a drug overdose. Some of you may not know this, but Hoffman was originally from a beautiful suburb of Rochester, NY called Fairport. It’s a community I visit often. In fact, it’s the community to which Josh and I are hoping to move when we start our family. Even though I never met or came close to meeting Hoffman, it seems that the physical proximity of places he would have known and loved makes his passing seem more haunting. Also, a mere matter of days ago I briefly mentioned him in my blog post about Hollywood directors and their muses, pointing to his relationship with director P.T. Anderson.

I never think about Hoffman . . . and I was talking about him just this week. It feels so strange. Too convenient or something like that.

Relevant magazine posted a wonderful article praising some of his finest roles. I’m happy to link to it here to honor the memory of great actor, but I would also like to direct readers’ thoughts and prayers to the children and ex-partner he has left behind and to the tragic drug addiction and mental illness that contributed to his death.

He will be missed by those closest to him who loved him, by aspiring actors who admired him, by film fans whom he touched, and by Rochester natives whom he made proud. His death is a loss in every sense of the word.

More Losses

Rochester has had some other rough breaks recently in terms of our celebrity denizens making the news. It’s not like anybody knows or particularly cares that Bachelor Juan Pablo Galavis went to college at my alma mater here in the Roc, but I can’t help thinking about it when he says things like his recent public comments about gay people being “more pervert.” As someone who speaks a second language, I’m sympathetic of the fact that he might not have been able to express himself well in English. I hope it was just a slip-up. Let’s face it. A homophobic statement like this during an interview doesn’t help anybody.

Then there was the more recent Bachelor scandal involving what many are calling the show’s first nationally-televised “slut-shaming.” Juan Pablo apparently made some promiscuous sexual decisions with contestant Clare and then proceeded to blame her and make her feel guilty about what he now sees to be a “wrong” action. There’s a whole other post there somewhere, but the beginning and end of the story is that JP is basically the most childish Bachelor to ever walk the earth. Go Roberts!

And such is life. No city always gets into the news for exclusively good reasons.

Just this week I learned that a mother here lost two of her sons to gun violence a mere 19 days apart.

A psychiatrist down the road from one of my husband’s coworkers was found to have a body buried in his yard.

Have you heard of the serial murders of the Alphabet Killer? Guys, that dude was from Rochester.

Wins

Of course, good things happen because of people with ties to Rochester, too.

Rochesterian Renee Fleming brought down the house with her rendition of the national anthem at the Superbowl this past Sunday. I have good friends who go to Eastman School of Music downtown who sing and play in the practice rooms where she would have studied. Perhaps I’m biased, but this matchless contributor to the beautiful Lord of the Rings soundtrack (y’all know how I feel about Lord of the Rings) delivered what I believe to be the best performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” I have ever personally witnessed. What a difference classical training can make! Not that pop covers of the song aren’t great, too. That was just incredibly powerful.

Then there are successful Olympian athletes Ryan Lochte and Jenn Suhr, Travie McCoy and Matt McGinley of Gym Class Heroes, and the incomparable Kristen Wiig.

These are people who have put us on the map for good reasons–just like Phil did. (I know being from the same area where he went to high school doesn’t mean I get to call him Phil. It just felt right.)

Moving On

Weeks like this remind me of the circle of life not just as it pertains to me, but as it pertains to one’s city or one’s sense of place.

Right now, Rochester is the city in New York state most affected by the economic recession. The devastating bankruptcy of Kodak alone is enough to imply that financially our town is not doing well.

By some standards, we are dying.

But then I talk to my friends and I browse my Facebook feed and I see people opening restaurants, teaching photography classes, publishing articles, dancing on stages, building sculptures, meeting to discuss social issues, volunteering in homeless shelters, and sledding down hills–

And I realize that we are also very much alive.

Immortalizing vs. Inhabiting: 2014 Blog Re-Vamp

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Hi all! Welcome back to my little web world.

So I’ve decided that I’m done apologizing for blogging absences. Nobody follows Nine to Phive closely enough that they are devastated or even put out when I go a little while without posting–okay, nobody except maybe my mom and second cousin. Anyway, I’m back! Rejoice with me!

I hinted awhile back that I was thinking of quitting blogging altogether, the reason being that I didn’t like what it had turned me into. I had slowly become more interested in “living life” in hopes of getting a good blog post out of it than just for the sake of living. Sounds scary, I know, but I think many media-makers, especially journalists and other social storytellers, struggle with this same feeling. There’s an ongoing tension between experiencing one’s life and “capturing” it. Weddings are a prime example. We’re all too busy immortalizing the moment via photos and videos to actually inhabit that moment with our minds, bodies, and emotions. I did not like these qualities in myself.

However, I’ve realized since taking a break from the blog that it turned me into something else as well–a writer.

Well, at least it was trying to. The creative discipline required to make constant contributions to a literary publication curated only by oneself is both invigorating and challenging. It is a very healthy way to get into the habit of simply putting aside time to write. Of course, I didn’t always put aside time to write. That’s why towards the start of my most recent hiatus I was posting a lot of photos, videos, podcasts, links to other sites, and Awkward & Awesome Thursdays. So many Awkward & Awesome Thursdays . . .

I want to tell you about two of my many resolutions in this 22nd year of my life (this last Wednesday was my birthday. I accept your congratulations gleefully!) The first is to be more present. I’ve been working on this since taking a break from blogging in the fall and getting a demanding full-time job around the same time. Both of these things have helped me realize how precious my time is and how I don’t want to miss out. The second is to write more quality content. I want to write well, and I want to write often. I no longer care about views, comments, followers and the other mires in which today’s social storytellers can get entrapped.

I care about making good art.

I’ve realized that I need to keep a blog for me. Not to delight the populace of the interwebs. Not even for my family and friends to keep tabs on my life. I need to do it because I am a writer, and doggoneit, writers write! (Shoutout to fellow storyteller Rachel Henderson for reminding me of this, even if you didn’t realize it.)

What This Means:

You can definitely expect some changes from the Nine to Phive norm.

  • Less posts about me and Josh (and our cats), but seriously, it’s hard to be a writer and completely ignore what’s going on in your own life. We’ll still be around.
  • Not quite so many photos. Josh and I still love photography, but I’m thinking that maybe Nine to Phive is no longer the place for that particular passion. Maybe I’ll start a Tumblr!
  • More words. Sorry in advance to your brain, it just has to be this way 😉
  • Diverse content. Some of the same old, but a whole lot of new. Film, gender identity, food, social justice, comics, travel, experimental performance art, folk culture, mental health, fashion, pop culture controversies, commentary on the works of other storytellers . . . heck, I might even take requests!

I’d like to end this post with a challenge to my fellow bloggers. I know many of you who read N2P regularly are already doing this, as you are among the people who have helped inspire me to make this change, but to the rest of you–

Ask yourself why you keep a blog. If the answer reveals something about you that you don’t like, change it. Commit to saying something that people need to hear.

God bless you, your new year, and all of your creative pursuits! Thanks for reading.

How to Live Like a Tourist Everyday – Part 2

This post and its predecessor were written for ROC U’s blog about being a college student in the Rochester, NY area.

In case you missed Part 1, it’s here.

Now that we’ve gotten the terminology down, here are three tips to help you start your illustrious career as a citizen tourist right now.

1. Eat out.
I know what you’re probably thinking: “You acknowledge we’re broke college students, and now you want us to eat out more?”

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The truth is, to know a community is to know how its people live. To know how people live is to know how they eat. Restaurants, cafes, pubs, farmers markets, and locally specialized grocery stores (hello, Wegmans?) can give you this insight.

Stop some people on the street. Ask them where they like to eat. It’s so simple it even rhymes.

Also, if you haven’t already, it’s time to fall in love with Urbanspoon. This amazing website (and now app) sorts restaurants by customer rating, geographic location, price range, and more.

This is the “Cheap Eats” page for Urbanspoon Rochester. Go wild!

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Click here to read on at ROC U’s tumblr.

How to Live Like a Tourist Everyday – Part 1

Today I am blogging over at ROC U blog, a tumblr populated by a group of journalism students at Roberts Wesleyan College. My post is about the best lesson I learned while studying abroad in Europe.

We hear the word “tourist” and immediately think of money-sucking “tourist traps.” We do our best to master prior to our vacations the walk and talk that will make us “not look like tourists.” We brag upon our return that the quaint places we frequented in our travels weren’t the least bit “touristy.”

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But if we turn to our good friends Merriam and Webster, tourism is simply defined as :

noun \ˈtu̇r-ˌi-zəm\ 1. the activity of traveling to a place for pleasure

How nice. Who wouldn’t want to do that? So why should pleasurable travel have such a bad rap?

Well, probably because the very next (and increasingly more common) definition is :

2. the business of providing hotels, restaurants, entertainment, etc., for people who are traveling

The problem with tourism, as with many modern art forms, is that it has been turned into an industry.

Click here to read on at ROC U’s tumblr.

The Good, Bad & Ugly of Cat Parenthood

IMG_0675 This post is written in lieu of an Awkward & Awesome. Because cats.

I definitely haven’t been secretive about Josh’s and my recent pet parenthood . . . except for my initial joke that seemed to hint at a very different kind of parenthood. On the other hand, I haven’t spoken about our new kitties very explicitly at all here on the blog.

Probably because I am freaking exhausted.

Here is a post dedicated entirely to our new little loves in all of their ups and downs.

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IMG_0051Dallas

Good:

  • Beautiful tiger stripes and angelic face
  • Loves to get her belly rubbed. She thinks she is a dog.
  • Hops around on hind legs. She also thinks she is a person.
  • Likes me more than Daddy 😉

Bad:

  • Gets lonely, cries like a fiend, and scratches the door when locked out of any room

Ugly:

  • Obsessed with shiny things like glass and water. Must knock over anything made of or containing these materials. So much wet. Many broken. Wow.

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Good:

  • Beautiful charcoal, rust, and white fur coat
  • So affectionate. I don’t think I’ve ever felt so loved.
  • Likes Daddy more than me so he doesn’t feel left out

Bad:

  • Won’t let you get anything done if she’s in the mood for loving on you. You will be immobilized by her tiny body of cuddlage.

Ugly:

  • Plays in the litter box and flings litter EVERYWHERE
  • “Loves on you” by holding your face down with her paws and licking your nose raw with the world’s scratchiest tongue

Both

Good:

  • Love absolutely everyone. Not skiddish at all. They make everybody feel like a best friend.
  • Cheaper than a baby

Bad:

  • Own anything made of fabric in the whole house. Your sock? Theirs. New leggings? Theirs. Favorite scarf? Theirs. It can be reclaimed in the bottom level of their cat tower, aka “the stash.”

Ugly:

  • Knock over the garbage can and eat gross things like egg shells, boiled kale, and a paper towel that chicken was sitting on–or drag them all around the house to play with.
  • Can’t spend more time with them because of work.

God and Game Shows

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So, as I mentioned in Awkward and Awesome Thursday a little while back, I am a fail daughter and missed church on one of the days my dad was preaching.

He wasn’t hurt by my absence since he knows I’ve heard this story a million times, but I tell you, I get something new from it every time. My dad preached about his experience getting on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? I may not have explicitly stated this previously on the blog. It’s such an understood fact among my family and close friends that I often forget to actually talk about it.

When I found the podcast of the sermon on our church’s website, I sat through the whole thing even though I know the tale by heart. I laughed, cried, and had mini heart attacks all throughout. The Millionaire theme music still gives me anxiety.

Sermons might not be your thing, but this is not a typical sermon. My dad is brilliant, hilarious, and a storyteller, and all of those things shine in this audio clip. If you can hang in there, I know you will be entertained and inspired by this story about my family.

God and Game Shows