We make determinations

A scene from the documentary Miss Americana: Taylor Swift where she says, "Like, you can run from fascism."

Disregarding her privileges as a white, thin, blond, and beautiful woman with a net worth of almost 400 million dollars, there was a very specific — OK, several — scene(s) in Miss Americana where I could definitely relate to Taylor Swift. The whole growth from being accustomed to being known as the ‘nice girl’ who smiles and waves and stays out of trouble, all the way to acquiring the social and political awareness — thus leading us to deconstruct our entire belief systems, especially after we found out how our ideological stance would not only affect our individual ways of lives, but also others’. The whole bouncing back from an incident where we nearly lost ourselves, and reinventing in ways that scream “I deserve to be here and you don’t get to tell me otherwise!”. That one revealing scene where despite all the hurdles she faced, she is thankful that, “I’m only here because I work hard and I’m nice to people. That work ethic, thank god I had that work ethic.” The documentary concludes with Swift announcing, in all her reclamation of her multifacetedness, “I want to still have a sharp pen, a thin skin, and an open heart.”

I’ve been procrastinating from finishing something which I know I am hella capable of, but I could not quite pinpoint why I had been dragging myself to work on it. So I decided to approach the Assessment of Why I Procrastinate like a researcher — in which I wrote down all the possible theories of why I procrastinate (I don’t believe that one procrastinates because they’re lazy) and a set of questions to possible ask some friends. At the end of today, I managed to pinpoint two reasons — two major and two minor — of why I had been holding back on this task. It all seemed clearer now, and all I needed to do was to figure out ways to navigate around these challenges.

I couldn’t stop thinking of this story told by poet Saeed Jones on new year resolutions, of which his mother called instead, determinations. “We don’t make resolutions in this house; we make determinations.” Unlike resolutions, determinations, in Mama Jones’ format, contained the word will — “As in, “I will overcome my health challenges. I will travel abroad this year with my son.” She didn’t live long enough to do all of these with Jones, but her consistency to summon these determinations like a clockwork every year, her resilience to make things work, this form of speaking into existence, stuck with Jones forever. And it would be with me too.

What’s open in my tabs for the past few days:

STATUS BOARD

  • Reading: Re-reading Marwa Al-Sabouni’s The Battle for Home, in which she explores how architecture played a crucial role in the slow unraveling of Syrian cities’ social fabric.
  • Listening: An episode from Call Your Girlfriend on bad bosses, and how hard it can be to tell whether your supervisor is holding you to a high standard, or whether they’re just being a bully. “When I’m in a challenging situation or a relationship, ask yourself: Is this hard in a constructive way or hard in a destructive way? Am I growing as a person, or am I losing myself?” and a lot of other useful questions to ask yourself. (Update: When women are bad bosses, weigh the stereotype against powerful women, and your own expectations of bad bosses. And consider also the power dynamics.)
  • Viewing: Very important and very timely, post-Amber Heard / Johnny Depp abuse case. And of course, Miss Americana.
  • Food & Drink: Does everyone have a phase where you practically eat the same thing out of choice for a few days straight because you like the food so much? I have been binging on Vietnamese spring rolls for like, four days in a row now. So, so good.

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