December

December 1, 2017 at 5:01 am (Uncategorized)

In some ways it’s hard to believe we’re in the final month of the year. In many others this year has been a lifetime. Certainly 2017 has been a year of upheaval for me. Finishing graduate school, a new relationship, a new job almost 3500 miles away from nearly everyone I know and love…it’s a lot!

I woke up this morning at 5:30, which is early for me. Just a bit of the predawn light lit up my window. I couldn’t roll over because the cat was curled up next to me. I realized it was December 1st, and I couldn’t help but think of one of my favorite songs, “December” by Sara Bareilles from her album The Blessed Unrest. My favorite line from the song is good advice any time, but I think it feels especially timely as we begin to see one year rolling into another:

To get yourself a new life you have to give the other one away…I’m starting to believe in the power of a name/Because it can’t be a mistake if I just call it change

 

2017 isn’t done. I still have plenty of work to do. I’m visiting Sarah and Guatemala in just a few weeks! I’m auditioning for the first time in six years tomorrow. Life is interesting, at times lonely, and full of uncertainty. Our political situation at the national level is a huge clusterfuck. I feel plenty of disappointment, but I can’t let go of hope, either. Our collective work, our flourishing, our liberation – these are the things I want to see. In ways big and small, we can contribute to the world we want to see. Another day is another opportunity to do better, to be better.

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Emotional Motion Sickness

November 19, 2017 at 7:15 am (Uncategorized)

Emotional Motion Sickness

I was informed by social media today that it has now been five years since I left Moscow. Five years! It feels rather abstract, if I’m being honest. What does five years mean? By my count, those five years include:

  • Six residences in four cities
  • Six countries visited
  • Two tattoos
  • One graduate degree
  • Five jobs

It’s so many new friends – like, so many, from all over the world. I joined a book club (still going!). Five years ago, I didn’t know what Selah was or that The Weekend could be capitalized. It’s been five years of triumphs and heartbreak. My parents split up. I’ve been to a whole bunch of weddings. My friends have started having kids! I dated a lot of folks who turned out to be the wrong person, and started dating the right one. I went from feeling 22 to not being able to come to the phone right now, because I’m dead*. I’ve driven a LOT of miles to just about every corner of the PNW and parts beyond. I’ve done a few things pretty well and made many more mistakes.

*In retrospect, this may have been Taylor Swift. It’s hard to tell.

If you had given me a crystal ball on that last morning in Moscow and given me a glimpse five years ahead, I’m not sure I would have believed you. I never would have imagined myself living alone in a tiny studio apartment (with a cat!) in New Hampshire*. I might have been less surprised if you told me I was doing policy analysis work at a university. I’m looking around at my apartment for things that would have existed with me back then, and there aren’t many. A couple bracelets, some blue pajama pants, maybe a couple fridge magnets. Not much. I think that’s OK. I can pretty unequivocally say that I’m a better person than I was five years ago. Better than I was two years ago. Better than a year ago! I have a long way to go – there’s so much to learn and unlearn. I feel like that’s possible, though. It’s easy to pay lip service to the idea that the journey is the destination – I know it’s something I’ve said for a long time. More and more, though, I think I’m starting to really believe it.

*Technically I don’t live alone, but with Sarah in Guatemala it’s a rather subtle distinction until April.

 

I’ve been in New Hampshire almost three months now. Sometimes people say “I can’t believe it’s been that long” but for once I actually feel like time is moving at a “normal” pace. Three months feels about right. Enough time to start settling in, but not quite enough time to have made many friends or be totally comfortable outside the normal bubble of routine I usually occupy. Work is fabulous, and I love what I do. I get to do interesting research, and I’m working on a couple of projects that I think are really meaningful. I float between confidence in my abilities and being terrified that everyone will find out that I don’t know what I’m doing. I tell myself that’s normal. My life outside work is still under construction, I would say. There is a fair amount of loneliness. I’m thousands of miles and several time zones away from almost everyone I know and who knows me. Fortunately the internet makes it easy to connect…but it is a different dynamic, no question. The space feels tangible. I now know firsthand the thousands of miles of hills and corn and open sky that separate us. There’s a lot of joy, though – the knowledge that I’m out here chasing a dream, that I’m working toward my goals. That I’ve come so far in the last five years and in another five years I’ll still only be 32. There’s time.

 

 

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With You

June 14, 2017 at 10:26 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Today I’d like to talk about toxic masculinity. If you’re not familiar, toxic masculinity is a term that describes a whole range of what Wikipedia describes as “socially destructive behavior[s] among men”. In general, toxic masculinity is the idea that the way that we conceptualize masculinity in the U.S. is problematic at best.  It’s harmful to the men who perpetuate these ideas, the women who are treated as less than, and society as a whole.

Stu and I wrote a song about it!

For as long as I can remember, being called a girl was an insult, or at least teasing. Feminine qualities were not desirable, this much was clear. Unfortunately for me, at least as it relates to this conception, is that for as long as I can remember I have had plenty of stereotypical feminine qualities. When I was younger I did my best to suppress things like feeling emotional, crying, and any nurturing instincts I might have. I built walls. When I cried after we lost in the first round of Washington’s football state playoffs my senior year of high school, it was the first time I could remember crying since another kid broke my glasses in third grade. I’m sure I must have teared up at points in the interim, but going nearly a decade without a significant cry doesn’t seem healthy. I did my best to bottle up my emotional side.

I’m so thankful that one thing I did hang on to was my participation in the arts. Theatre is all about tearing down our walls. One of the reasons I wasn’t a better actor was probably because I didn’t do the real work of identifying where my trouble spots were. However, it gave me a line into and contact with people who were putting in the work of self-realization. Music has also helped keep me grounded in a more emotionally inclusive space, because it’s hard not to get emotional when you’re singing – or at least, it’s not hard for me. I’ve always been a person who feels things strongly and deeply. I’ve been fortunate to have things that have connected me to my emotions, even when I pushed back against my feelings.

Over the last several years I came to realize that not crying was the manifestation of some part of me buying into these toxic masculine notions – that crying was somehow a revelation of weakness. That notion is, of course, a bunch of bullshit. So I started practicing crying. At first, nothing happened. I would feel emotional, but I literally could not cry. I would be alone watching a movie, something sad or heartfelt would happen, tears would form behind my eyes, but nothing. It’s like when your sphincter clenches involuntarily. So I would practice letting go. Not holding it all in. Breathing into my emotions, into my feelings, into not hanging on my feelings but letting them come up naturally. Now I cry at everything, and I still kind of get embarrassed! When I say everything, I kind of mean it. I teared up during this trailer for Ferdinand the Bull. I mean, come on, he just wants to be himself. *sniff*

This is a mild example, but these things run deep. Toxic masculinity is correlated with increased rates of depression, stress, and substance abuse. It perpetuates misogyny and homophobia. It says that men have to be one way, when the reality is that men can be anything they want to be. We don’t have to trap ourselves in boxes and expectations.

This brings me to With You. It’s about the lack of intimate relationships that men often have with other men. It’s difficult to be close with someone if you can’t ever reveal your emotions. We have to work to be better, every day, to talk with our friends. Tell them we love them. Not pass on these kinds of toxic worldviews to our children. We have a long way to go, but I know where I can start.

 

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To Be Human

June 9, 2017 at 9:30 am (Uncategorized) (, , , , )

Hi world! It’s been a minute since I’ve written anything, as is often the case. To be more clear, it’s been a minute since I’ve written anything for this blog – there’s been a LOT of writing elsewhere in my life, and it’s the reason I’m going to be graduating with my master’s degree in a week! Anyway.

I saw a tweet the other day that I’ve been sitting with. For those of who you who don’t want to open the thread there, the gist is that there’s a lot of popularity to be gained by nihilism and saying the world’s about to end when it really isn’t. Is awful stuff going to happen/happening? Definitely. Are we living in the most peaceful period in human history? Yeah. Making vague, nihilistic sentiments ignores the fact that there is a lot of work – hard work – to be done. The road ahead is long, filled with triumphs and setbacks, both for us individually, our country (if you’re from the US), and the world. So I’ve been thinking about that for the last couple days.

Then I watched both the Comey testimony and Wonder Woman on the same day.

If you haven’t seen Wonder Woman, this post may contain light spoilers. I’m going to mainly focus on general themes, but read at your own risk. If you haven’t watched the Comey testimony, I highly recommend you do so now, or at your earliest convenience. Both are excellent, in their own ways.

My take on the Comey hearing was that despite various ideologies and goals, a bipartisan group of senators was working towards the truth. Sarah and I turned it on, expecting to probably fast forward a bunch or stop watching and move to the highlights.  We did neither – it was compelling political theater and showed (to me) that our system of checks and balances, as clunky as they may be, is functioning. I was impressed and moved by Comey’s testimony, and I am convinced even further that Donald Trump is unfit to be our chief executive. Others may disagree, but I’m not sure how you can watch that testimony and not feel that something is deeply rotten in the White House right now. Trump is a terrible human, and he’s brought that with him to the Oval Office.

Wonder Woman, on the other hand, moved me to tears on several occasions (something that has been discussed at length by those more eloquent than I), and struck the main chord that leads to my writing today. Something that I hold very close, and which never fails to move me, is the idea of redemption. The idea that humanity holds infinite light – what Buddhists might call “Buddha nature” within each of us, is compelling to me. We always have a choice. It doesn’t matter what you’ve done before (OK, this is obviously wrong – your actions and choices are important, but hear me out), you always have the choice to do something different. We are constrained by the choices we’ve made in the past, but, as Stephen Schwartz writes so eloquently in the musical Children of Eden: “Our hands can choose to drop the knife…our hearts can choose to stop the hating.” We can be better. Better, if only we work towards the common good of humanity. Better, if we choose to seek it within ourselves every day. I am compelled by the idea of free will and redemption because it says to me that each of us can aspire to something a little higher than we can see right now.

This doesn’t mean, of course, that everything in our lives is our own choice. Our lives are shaped by various systems – many of which are toxic. Patriarchy, systemic racism and white supremacy, over-consumption, and other structures are pervasive. I do not believe, however, that these structures are stronger than we are. I firmly believe, in the core of my being, that we each have the ability to do what is right. People need education, of course, and there are people who have hate in their hearts, but we can appeal to our better angels. We can discover for ourselves that each human on this earth has dignity and worth. We can hold these ideals to be true, and then we can make the choice to work towards making those ideals our reality. We each do it in our own way. Sometimes our acts of kindness and joy are small. I look to a life of service because I enjoy the public sector, I like the messiness and minutia of policy work. Other people will be called to serve as teachers, firefighters, police, baristas, corporate workers, or dentists. We each do things our own way. We can choose, though, in ways big and small, to make the differences we feel we can make.

The world is a big messy place. Our country sometimes feels like it’s ripping up at the seams. The world is not ending, though. Especially for us millenials – life is just beginning. We can all take steps to build the world we want to live in. It’s hard work. It’s work that will find us losing before we win. It’s also the most important work we can do – letting the radiant light within us shine forth and set an example that we will not give up. We’re capable of more.

 

 

 

To Be Human. 

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Death with Dignity

July 21, 2016 at 8:57 am (Uncategorized)

It’s my birthday. That makes the juxtaposition of the call I received this morning that much more striking – a call that the person I have been matched with for a bone marrow donation has passed away. I celebrate another trip around the sun, somehow my 26th, this man has ceased to be. It’s a tough feeling to know that you were just a few weeks away from maybe being able to save someone, but knowing that you’ve come up just short. Time and sickness don’t always wait for us. My heart goes out to this man’s family, his friends, his loved ones. My feelings of helplessness undoubtedly pale in comparison to theirs.

I’d like to say a big thank you to Be the Match, who tirelessly work to help people with chronic bone-related cancers. I imagine how terrified someone must be, finding out that their immediate family isn’t a match and knowing how low the chances are that someone out in the general population is compatible. I can taste the fear and the hope that someone feels in that situation. Imagine being the cause of relief for a human person, for a family, for someone’s children or parents when they find out that they have found someone.

I didn’t get there in time for this particular individual. But it’s possible that you could. I implore everyone reading this to go to Be The Match (bethematch.org) and to register online. It’s SO easy. They send you a kit in the mail, you swab your mouth, and mail it back. It’s prepaid. They pay for all your expenses. They’re helping save lives. I was unable to help this man, but you might be able to help someone. Please sign up. Do it today – it takes all of 5 minutes, and 5 more minutes to swab your mouth later.

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Tony’s 2016

June 12, 2016 at 11:18 pm (Uncategorized)

I met someone for the first time recently, and in the course of talking to them I was asked “so what do you like? What are you into?”

This is, of course, an incredibly standard sort of question you might be asked when meeting a person, and my typical response that I really like musical theatre and football left me feeling like I should have something better to say, or at least more to say. In the moment I struggled to come up with anything else. With that in mind, I thought I might brainstorm a list of things I love:

  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Musical Theatre
  • Football
  • Politics
  • Public Policy
  • Puns
  • Late Night Meandering Conversations
  • Listening to Other People Talk About Their Passions
  • Looking at the Stars
  • When I’m Having a Bad Day and My Friends Randomly Text Me Out of the Blue
  • Hugs
  • Laughing Until I Cry
  • Being Dry While It Rains Around Me
  • Randomly Singing With Friends
  • Karaoke
  • Pizza
  • Deep Conversations About BIG Things, About Ideas and Truth and truth and Who We Want to Be
  • Burritos
  • Seeing My Friends Do Amazing Things
  • Volleyball
  • Key Changes
  • Books by David James Duncan
  • Buddhism
  • Pugs
  • The Kind of Thoughtful Silence Where Friends Sit Together and Are Content
  • Poems
  • Scrabble

It’s an incomplete list, but it’s a start.

In the wake of Orlando, and in the wake of so many mass shootings and tragedies I wonder sometimes what the hell am doing to make things any better. What can I do right now? I can contact officials, sign petitions, work to raise awareness or volunteer or donate funds, I can finish this degree and hopefully be in a position to create the kind of world we want to live in. I can engage and talk with people more. I can stand up for what I believe in, do my best to live in a way that aligns with my values and ideals. It’s not easy, and sometimes you just feel so helpless. We have to keep working, though.

To all my LGBTQ* friends, I support you. I stand with you. I will make every effort to be a better ally tomorrow than I am today, to not only speak in platitudes but to have my actions reflect my words as well. To my Muslim friends, know that I stand with you as well – the actions of a few do not represent the hearts of many. To all, I hope that we can stand up with love in the face of hate. To harness that love and turn it into action.

I had a thought while watching some of the Tony Awards this evening. It’s been over 4 years since my last show (shouts to A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum) and I found myself wondering how I let life get in the way of something that brings me so much joy. I’m going to try to be better going forward. One step at a time.

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April 24

April 24, 2016 at 9:45 pm (Uncategorized)

In kind of a strange mood this evening. I’ve had the itch to write for a while now, but it’s hard to find the time to sit down and make it happen. The feeling has been really sitting with me all day today, though, so I’m carving out some time to do it anyway. The last time I wrote here was the first day of 2016, so to say that I’m doing a poor job of writing consistently would be a generous characterization.

As far as graduate school goes, I’ve been able to more or less settle into a routine (albeit a busy one) that keeps me on track while keeping me from getting too stressed out most of the time. It’s a balance, but one I’ve been working to strike intentionally. I often feel flustered taking in so much new information about so many things. There is so much nuance in policy, in research, in data, in outputs, in philosophies, etc. I’m being kicked dragging and screaming into post-positivism, I suppose. I would like to classify myself as a modernist, but I just don’t know. If I keep on adding post-post-post- to my self labels, will I eventually reach some kind of truth? I want to believe that there are some underlying structures to the world. In any case, graduate school both excites my sense of curiosity while simultaneously dumping an Olympic sized pool on me when all I asked for was a glass of water. Luckily for me I’ve always been pretty good at treading water.

Here is a (non-comprehensive) list of things that have happened in my life since January 1st:

  • I ran a half marathon, and subsequently injured my foot. First time I’ve ever needed crutches and some of the worst pain I’ve ever experienced.
  • I traveled to California with a bunch of other folks from around the world, and it was amazing. That deserves its own (lengthy) post, but I have no idea when I’m going to write it.
  • I traveled to Lake County, Oregon, and really kicked of my MPP Essay (Thesis) project.
  • I attended several birthdays
  • I got sick, and then got better
  • Won trivia on a couple occasions (and probably SHOULD have won a time or two more)
  • Did a lot of writing, more reading, and quite a bit of data analysis

It’s also hard to believe that it’s been a year since I got back from Asia. Time really flies.

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Two Zero One Five

January 1, 2016 at 11:59 am (Uncategorized)

You want a resolution? I want a revelation. Barring one of those…resolutions will have to do. First I’d like to do a little reflecting on the year that was, though.

2015 was a pretty cool year for me. I finished up working at Portland YouthBuilders, spent six weeks in Asia, turned 25 (weird, even still), ran my first Hood to Coast, started (and finished!) my first term of grad school at Oregon State, and a bunch of smaller adventures besides. I went to my first pride parade. I got caught in a lightning storm in woods. I built a beeramid. I saw a whole bunch of my favorite artists live. I did what some might consider an “unreasonable” amount of karaoke. I got not one, but TWO Size 10-reShoeunions after 3 years without any.

And that’s just me! Maybe even cooler than my own things are getting to see what my friends are achieving. People are getting married, having kids, launching careers, buying houses, doing their own traveling, and generally being the wonderful people I know them to be. I celebrate their successes as much as my own. It’s really been a pleasure to witness that, whether afar from social media or getting to be right there next to them.

After a couple more difficult years, 2015 really came through. Here’s to upward trends! How are we going to keep the party rolling, you ask?

Well, I’ve got some resolutions:

  • Run. Every Day. It might not be very far, but this is a goal that I think will help keep me healthier and happier. It also will help with achieving my second 2015 goal, which is…
  • Run a <2:00 half marathon before I turn 26. Right now my goal is the Vancouver Half Marathon, which is June 19th. Just over 6 months to get there!
  • Treat unexpected things that happen like I wanted them to be that way, and relax regarding the things I either can or can’t control. Stressed out about a paper? Uncertain about something that hasn’t been explained? I’m not going to worry about it. This is how it is, how I want it to be. Super gross, hailing sideways? Looks like I am going to fight the elements on today’s run! Positivity is a choice, and in 2016 I am going to make that choice.
  • Tell the people that I care about that I care about them.
  • Sing more – the only thing better than singing is MORE singing.
  • Embrace the moment. This is the last time I’m going to be in school, so why not enjoy it? Every day has something to offer, even the ones that are me slogging away on a paper, or trying to decipher economics. Where else would I rather be than right where I am?

 

By the time 2017 rolls around, I will be nearly done with grad school. My life could look just about the same as it does right now, or everything could have changed. There are going to be a bunch of downs, I’m sure, but presumably even more ups in the year to come. The new year isn’t a magic bullet that’s going to change me, or fix me. It presents an opportunity to check in with where I’ve been and where I want to go. Small efforts every day will result in the reward; will BE the reward. I’m not ever going to get anything except whatever present moment I’m living in, so hopefully I can build this series of moments into a life worth living.

 

 

 

I will take revelations if you’ve got ’em, though.

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Best of 2015 (A Personal List)

December 30, 2015 at 6:22 pm (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

One of my favorite recurring posts that I do is a top 10 list of my favorite albums from 2015. I effed it up last year and didn’t do a list (spoiler: the top album was Taylor Swift’s 1989), but I won’t be repeating that mistake again!

Here are my personal rules for this list: 2015 needed to be the first time I heard the album–I couldn’t have heard more than a single off of any of the albums released prior to this year and they had to be albums by a single artist/group, no compilations.

If you’re curious, here are my top 10 lists from 2012 and 2013. A lot of really wonderful music showed up for me in 2015, and top to bottom this might be my favorite group of tunes yet, though had I done one for 2014 the combo of Yes!/1989/Lights Out probably would have given this one a run for it’s money. Actually, that’s a lie, but it’s mostly because of the album that takes the top spot on this list. If you know me, you already know what it is, but are you willing to wait for it?

10. Chasing Rubies (EP); Hudson Taylor (2013)

The #10 album on my list is actually an EP, consisting of 4 songs from the Irish folk duo Hudson Taylor. I love acoustic guitars and sweet harmonies; this album has both in spades. What it lacks in length it makes up for in quality, and the fact that I’ve listened to it about a thousand times lets this album sneak onto the list. Though all 4 tracks are wonderful, my favorite is “Butterflies.”

9. The Silent War; The Silent War (2015)

I discovered the Silent War quite by accident when they opened for The Weepies at a show in Portland this summer. I was immediately impressed enough to get this album (or rather have my friend Rebecca buy me their self titled album, since she insisted on paying me back for the Weepies ticket. Great idea, Rebecca!). This album, coincidentally, also features an acoustically oriented duo in Garrison Starr and Adrian Gonzalez (who you might know from The Rescues). My favorite track off this album is “Some Kind of Soldiers,” which features one of my favorite lines in ANY song from 2015 – this is the silent war/this is what we’re fighting for/reclaiming victories that we’ve already won. I can also award myself some serious hipster points for this entry, since their album is not yet out in digital format. You’ve got to have a physical CD. I assume that will change shortly, but for now…super underground. Where’s the line to renew my Portland card?

8. Days Are Gone; HAIM (2013)

If you had asked me 4 months into 2015 “Jordan, what’s your best album of 2015? I would have given you the #2 entry on this list. However, I would have quickly added that it barely grasped that spot, because this album is GREAT. How it took me 2 years to get on the HAIM train I’ll never know. Eventually, though, I did get on, and I LOVE this album. “Jordan,” you say, “what the hell is it doing all the way back here at #8 then?” Sadly, there was a lot of fantastic music this year, and I honestly think it’s mostly recency bias that pushes Days Are Gone to the back of a logjam at the midsection of this list. I could have put 5-8 in any order and I would have felt good about myself. For better or worse, though, it ends up here. My favorite track off this album is “The Wire.” It rhymes with fire, which is what this album is.

7. Safe Travels; Jukebox the Ghost (2012)

In what I feel is most appropriately described as a musical blend of Billy Joel and A Great Big World, Jukebox the Ghost is an outfit I first heard this year opening up for Ingrid Michaelson at Edgefield. While they have a more recent album as well, it paled in comparison to 2012’s Safe Travels. This album is both excellent AND takes the listener on an emotional roller coaster. You can be rocking out one moment and listening to what is almost an introspective lullaby the next. I really enjoy these guys. My favorite track on the album is “Don’t Let Me Fall Behind.”

6. So There; Ben Folds & Ymusic (2015)

Ben Folds is one of 4 artists gracing this list that have appeared here before (I guess I know what I like), but So There might be one of the more interesting selections I’ve ever put on a favorite albums list simply because the last 3 tracks of the album are 3 movements of a concerto. I am not usually big into instrumental music, but I really enjoy what he’s done blending something of a pop sound with the classical music genre. My favorite track on the album, however, is “I’m Not The Man,” which…woof. Feelings.

5. How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful; Florence + The Machine (2015)

Florence + the Machine is a longstanding favorite of mine, and she did it again with How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Chock full of jams and ballads (and jammin’ ballads), this album is big and beautiful. It feels more purple than blue to me, though, for whatever that’s worth. It also contains what might just be my favorite song of 2015, “Which Witch.” Not only is it fantastic wordplay, it’s definitely the song I belted in the car most in 2015. It’s definitely the reason this album moved to the front of a crowd of really solid albums I talked about in the Days Are Gone section.

4. Sirens; The Weepies (2015)

We’re out of the logjam section now! The final 4 albums on this list are just SO. DAMN. GOOD. There’s a clear winner, sure, but this is where we ascend to the next musical tier in my mind. The Weepies make another appearance on an end of year list for me, and add an extra layer of awesomeness by introducing me to the #9 album. The Weepies are absolutely one of my favorite bands, and Sirens, recorded while Deb Tannen was going through cancer treatment, is a beautiful piece of work. Not much I can say about the Weepies that I haven’t said before, but from the first haunting chords of “River from the Sky” I was hooked on this record. It’s incredibly hard for me to pick a favorite off this album; every track is a win. However, if pressured, I would pick “Crooked Smile.”

3. What’s Inside: Songs from Waitress; Sara Bareilles (2015)

The first musical on this list (oh no…have I said too much?) isn’t exactly a musical at all, but rather a collection of songs from the new Broadway musical Waitress. In fact, if you didn’t know better you might assume this is just a Sara Bareilles album. It’s quintessentially her, and reminds me a lot of Kaleidoscope Heart. The fact that she brings in Jason Mraz to do the duets with her doesn’t hurt, either. Fun fact about Waitress: it’s the first Broadway show with an all female creative team! It’s the kind of progressiveness you might expect from one of the premier artists of our time. I love Sara Bareilles, and I love this album. My favorite track is “I Didn’t Plan It,” which is both musically awesome and exceptionally appropriate for people in the midst of transitions.

2. Carrie & Lowell; Sufjan Stevens (2015)

Sufjan Stevens…another longtime favorite, another artist with an album on this list. I got the chance to see him perform last summer, and my god it was worth every penny. The man is brilliant. This album is brilliant. A sort of love letter to his late mother, this album drips with emotion. I will also always love it because I listened to it a ton in Asia, and that association will always stick with me…falling asleep on the other side of the planet, listening to the strum of a guitar. The opening track, “Death with Dignity,” remains my favorite.

1. Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording); 2015

How does a bastard orphan son of a whore and a Scotsman dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence impoverished in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar? Listen to the musical Hamilton and you’ll find out! I could talk until I’m blue in the face about how wonderful this music is, how important it is (on a number of different levels), about all the cool musical and historical things that happen in this show…but honestly, if you’re reading this you probably know me and therefore are painfully aware of my love for Hamilton. I love this show for a number of reasons, but I might most love it because my first term of grad school was really hard in a lot of ways, and Hamilton was there for it. There were days when literally the only thing getting me through was this show – days where I was stressed and upset and wanted to give up. But Hamilton didn’t, and neither did I. In the darker moments this show was there for me, in whatever ways, and I will always be grateful for that. #1 in my heart and #1 on this list for 2015. My favorite track? So hard to pick…but either “The Room Where it Happens” or “Hurricane.” You could probably convince me in 5 minutes to change my mind to any song in the show, though.

 

Honorable Mention: Forest Fires (EP); Axel Flovent (2015)

 

I’m always looking for new tunes, so if I egregiously whiffed on something in 2015, let me know! Maybe it’ll make it onto next year’s list 🙂

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Lo! How A Rose

December 1, 2015 at 8:14 pm (Uncategorized)

It’s December 1st, so obviously I’m listening to Christmas music. It’s a rare break from Hamilton, but I’ve already listened to a bunch of that today, so we can call it good. The rain is falling outside, which is nice. Makes things feel a bit more normal. I’ve only got a few more papers and one more final before I reach the end of my first term of grad school! This quarter system is kind of crazy. Not sure I see the appeal over semesters, but regardless it goes by incredibly fast. I just finished my final presentation today in my sociology class – I think it went OK, but I also know that I’m my own harshest critic, so it probably turned out decently.

Lo! How A Rose ‘Er Blooming is one of my favorite Christmas songs. Not my FAVORITE Christmas song – that title has been held for quite some time by O Come O Come Emmanuel, but it’s still pretty great. I’m fairly sure that the song has some kind of allegorical significance of its own, but when I think about the song I like to think of myself as the rose, springing from tender stem. I think a lot about the process of becoming, of being. Who am I? Who do I want to be? This public policy program is helping me discover some of those things. To borrow from a completely different song for a moment (from the musical Waitress – you’ve GOT to listen to Sara Bareilles’ album version of a bunch of songs from the show) there’s a line in particular that relates and that always gets me. It goes “What if I never see/myself ever be/anything more than what I’ve already become?” Woof. How do I reconcile this notion that I am enough, just me, right now, with the person I want to become? How does a person exist in the moment while still moving onward and upward? I need a bad idea. Just one.

Anyway, the rose! I like the image of a flower – growing, sprouting. I like the idea that beautiful things can spring from unlikely places. I enjoy the idea that in the darkest moments something can blossom and remind you that there are things in this world worth cherishing. I suppose if I was more the religious type I would tie this into miracles, or god giving people signs, or Jesus swooping in during our darkest hour – when the night was half spent, as it were. However, that’s not me, so I would rather think about taking the time to notice. Notice the beautiful things that are blooming around us all the time that we may not always be mindful of (this, of course, isn’t mutually exclusive with all the Jesus-y stuff if that’s more your style).

Grad school can be challenging. I often have doubts – not about my chosen course of study or my dreams and goals, but about myself. I try to remind myself that I have the capacity to chase my dreams; that I have the capacity to lift others up. I can be better. When I’m not doing well, I can choose to try again the next day. I am surrounded by every opportunity, and a whole bunch of excellent human beings every day. We can all raise each other up. It’s pretty cool, really. That’s how life should be.

In less fun news, I messed up my back a little doing deadlifts yesterday. Nothing super serious, but I am hobbling around a bit when I’m not taking ibuprofen. A good reminded not to be sloppy with form when you’re lifting ~50 pounds more than you weigh, for sure. I have no doubt I’ll be back in commission soon enough. I gave myself an early Christmas present, too, signing up for the Vancouver USA half marathon (it’s in June). One of my goals is to run a sub 2:00 half marathon before I turn 26, so this is my chance! That probably means I need to start running again.

Speaking of starting again, I’ve probably spent enough time procrastinating and writing. As far as bad ideas go, though, writing is a pretty good bad idea.

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