Growing up, you lose time.
Quite literally you age, but beyond the passing of one year to the next you also start narrowing your interests down. As a kid, it was soccer practice, then ballet, then art class, then karate, then play rehearsals, right? Volunteering at the animal shelter, then guitar lessons, then practicing frosting designs on a batch of cupcakes for your friends. Swim team. Track. Even reading.
Growing up, you were told you could try anything--become anything. You had the chance to live as passionately as possible, to throw yourself into new ideas and see them through, either to ruin or triumph.
Now, these interests have a way of disappearing when you're so overwhelmed with living. You go to school and work, then come home to a list of errands and practical goals. Somewhere along the way we stopped making decisions based on what we enjoy, but rather "What's safe?" "What's my middle ground?" "What needs to get finished?"
"What can I put on my resume?"
We don't ask ourselves how we can draw everyday, or keep making lyrics like when we were bored in math class. We don't ask ourselves to mash music together like when we first started learning how to play the piano.
We work and we get tired, choosing to watch TV before bed. We are pressed on all sides to make a living then enjoy the fruits of our labor--a fancy car, a flat-screen TV, whatever.
And this isn't always bad. It isn't always the usual "creative-mind-becomes-trapped-by-the-nine-to-five" hellscape scenario. Sometimes that 9-5 lifestyle fits. Sometimes the creative mind finds contentment in their day-job.
But sometimes we feel a dull ache for the type of curiosity, physicality, and creativity we'd had when we were younger. We open our eyes one morning, excited for the change that a recent business merger provides, only to notice that something's slightly off--just a bit hazy, right there by the corners.
This past summer, I showed my friend some Kpop video teasers. (Yeah, you read that right. Stick with me.) The teasers show singers looking high-key aesthetic, gazing dramatically at tilted cameras while some 20-second jam plays in the background. One of the groups to release these teasers has about nine members, and showcased a video for each member. For about a week, my friends and I watched, analyzed, replayed, and went crazy over these videos. We joked about the style, the song possibilities, the EVERYTHING.
This became a tradition with my friend Aly in particular. She and I were both coping with the recent post-grad stress: applying to jobs, thinking of our future, going to work. These videos were just something fun to do before our workouts. In fact, my day pretty much went like this:
Of course, I tried to tailor my interests into my life. Writing mostly. But on the whole, watching those videos with Aly was another brief step in our now adult routine. A momentary respite from responsibilities and five-year-plans.
Then, while watching the last teaser to be released, Aly looked at me.
"I want to do that." She pointed to the music company's fading logo. We were sitting in my room on a burning 80-degree day, and I still hadn't changed from work. I rolled my dress-pants up to my knees and leaned forward. She had paused the video.
"What? Go into the music business?"
"Well, no," she replied. "I already do song covers, but like...I don't know I just think it'd be fun to make videos."
Not sure if I've mentioned this before, but I was a theater kid in high school, the whole nine-yards of cringe included: showtunes sung in crowded hallways, costumes in class to advertise the play, that sort of stuff. So the second Aly mentioned making these videos, my own head swam with ideas.
In about three minutes we put together a list of songs and locations. These included Little Mix's Power, Walk the Moon's Portugal, the Queens Botanical Gardens, the abandoned psychiatric ward in King's Park, and a neon-lit dive bar. Neither of us had had formal dance training (unless you count my two years of ballet), and yet we had already begun looking for sheet-music, compiling staple hip-hop moves taken from Youtube. Then we called a few other friends to get involved, and later that evening, we all sat on another friend's front porch dreaming of the possibilities.
"We'll have an Anthem video for each of us! I want a HAIM song for mine!"
"How about a summer heartbreak video? We can also record a cover."
"Wait wait WAIT! Remix traditional ethnic songs based on our backgrounds?"
This is the part where I tell you we got signed with a record label, right? We made career changes before really even starting our careers in earnest, and hit it big, right?
Well because reality is a thing, we didn't make a single video.
Instead, a few of us have begun hip-hop classes. A couple others started keeping a list of "anthems." I've even begun looking into cameras--photography--again after two years neglecting the hobby. Most recently we've sat in an emptying coffee shop, talking until close.
"You know," Aly had said last week, "I think the videos didn't work out because we were too ambitious."
Then she laughed.
"We gotta start with modeling."
Another friend, Jay, nodded. "Actually, that's not a bad idea." She'd played with the lid of her coffee cup as she spoke. "Do you guys remember those professional photos I got of me done? The dance ones from last year? They weren't for any special reason. I just...wanted to do them. To have fun with different costumes and poses."
(And for the record--those photos HAD been amazing. I remember showing them off to my rock-wall friends, gushing about the way she incorporated paint and scarves into the shots.)
"This might actually work," another friend, Danny, had said.
"We could even make an Instagram," Aly added.
By the time we'd been kicked out of the coffee shop, we planned a date for our debut. ("Debut!" Aly had howled, clutching her sides as her grin grew wider. "I'm done! I'M DONE!") We have a group chat now, and I'm looking through photography technique videos, re-connecting with all that DSLR nonsense.
Yesterday, Aly and I had gone through different thrift shops all across downtown, trying styles and outfits we had always been nervous about "pulling off." The day's schedule started with beer and fried chicken, a trip through four different shops, some specialty dessert at a tapas place, then back to my house for binge watching a romantic-comedy sitcom. Throughout the whole thing, we kept talking about wanting to be our most authentic selves for these photos.
Not like "wow, this store advertised a red-spot reduction cream, and it'll boost my confidence so I'll be as happy as those Neutrogena commercial actors!"
More like "This is who I am. This is all who I ever want to be."
With this talk of modeling and aesthetics, by the way, I don't mean to imply that I know anything about fashion. This project, whatever it is between me and my friends, is not about fashion. It's about literally wearing our hearts on our sleeves. Of looking at a camera and wanting to show who we are. Of taking hobbies we lost between resumes, costume design and acting and photo-manipulation, and putting them back into our lives.
Because maybe, for a lot of us, that dull ache I mentioned earlier isn't a call for some drastic career change--maybe it's a call to remember.
To remember how to laugh, how to not take yourself so seriously. To remember your creativity, your interest in underwater basket weaving or surfing or learning a new language. To remember trying on clothes and pretending you're a model. To remember the way you liked going for walks at five o'clock, just to snap photos of the sun on an old building.
Maybe that dull ache, that fuzzy haze in the corners of your perfect life, is to simply remember yourself.
To remember all the things that built you into who you are now.
So what was it?
What was lost in the resume?
Pedagogy and Reflection
We do not learn from experience. We learn from reflecting on experience