What makes a writer a writer? Does it matter if they are published? Is it possible to call yourself a writer if you aren’t? Are you a writer if you simply write everyday? Is there a requirement that one must write everyday to be a writer?
Sometimes I think artists of any craft are the hardest on themselves. Perhaps it is the way our brains are wired.
These are thoughts I have been pondering lately as I make a bolder mark on the world with my voice as a writer.
Whenever I feel lost in my determination, I think back to this particular quote by a writer named Adam Gnade, “Everyone’s a “writer” between the ages of 16 and 22 because everyone at that age is a romantic. This is okay. The key is to keep doing it after the rest of them quit.”
That quote comes from one of his short essay books entitled Do It Yourself Guide to Fighting the Big F**king Sad.
Part of me believes if you consider yourself a writer – then you are in fact a writer. Similarly to most things in life, don’t let other people try to label what you are.
If we learned anything from experiencing a pandemic it is that we were almost forced to get to know ourselves and what we want out of life. Or you just felt stuck with yourself and it was a really frightening experience. I’d like to note…one that we are all frankly still experiencing despite the overwhelming return back to a “new normal”.
What I found within myself during that time was a re-exploration of the writer in me. For years I called myself an aspiring writer, too shy to claim the sole title of writer itself. I recreated a website focusing on the things I love the most (MUSIC, MOVIES, TV, ALL THINGS GAY) and donned myself a writer.
There are still many times when I feel lost and I need to recenter myself. I either go for a walk and listen to Jim Croce or I return back to that Adam Gnade quote.
Whatever you decide your calling in life is, if you are already doing or creating – you are already on your way.
Let me know below in a comment what are some of the things that help you to recenter yourself.
Summer had a greater meaning to my life when I was younger
-Spending all day at the beach -My birthday season (yes I am a Leo sun) -The opening of our backyard pool (yes, that meant pool parties) -Family BBQ’s in the backyard with corn that we would shuck from Legates -Endless bike rides to the bay just to coast down the big hill -Wishing oh so badly that my Dad believed in air conditioning -My hometown going from complete ghost town to overcrowded tourist central -Nights at the Wildwood Boardwalk
Living in a couple of different cities for almost ten years I can say one thing, summer does not have the same feeling or meaning for me. Give me any of the other three seasons, please – because summertime in the city is not ideal compared to having the privilege of living near the beach in the summer.
This summer more than ever I find myself trying to rediscover music I used to listen to that reminds me of having my windows down in my Jeep driving all over town.
I tried so hard to get out of that small town, and now I would give anything to travel back in time to live another summer day in Cape May.
Here’s a taste of music that pulls me right back in to those summertime memories:
Diamonds and Coal – Incubus
There was a whole summer in my late teens where I would only listen to Incubus. I had a deep infatuation with Brandon Boyd. So, for me when I think of summer time music I think back to Incubus and the times my best friend and I went to see them in concert.
Bad Fish – Sublime
Yes, I had a very long phase of deeply loving Sublime. I had almost every album and a poster up on my bedroom door. There was a time in high school when my friend and I were on the bus coming home from an away lacrosse game singing this song obnoxiously loud (the rest of the team was not thrilled). When I think of the summer and driving around in my old forest green jeep grand cherokee sport – I think of blaring Sublime driving to see the sunset at the bay with my windows down.
Blue Sky – Allman Brothers Band
I’ve always self proclaimed myself to be an old soul. The music I mainly loved growing up was from the 60s and 70s. By the time I was a teenager I had a fascination with jam bands and hippie culture. The Allman Brothers were very high on my list of songs I loved to listen to on a cool summer day.
Sweet Honey – Slightly Stoopid
When you grow up living by the beach I think it is almost mandatory to have a love for “beach music”. Slightly Stoopid has the same kind of musical vibe as bands like Sublime, Pepper, and G. Love. Light hearted music that makes you wish you were spending days upon days just soaking in the sun on the beach.
The Wheel – Grateful Dead
My love for the Grateful Dead is intense. I’ve seen Bob, Phil, and the Dead in concert many many times – but sadly never Jerry. Those concerts really are unlike anything you would ever experience at another musical event. A community of Dead Heads come together to enjoy music and just dance. My favorite part was always the before when people just hang out before the concert – you meet some great folks at these events. I heard them perform this song and it has always stuck in my memory as one of the most memorable performances I had seen of theirs.
Jamming – Bob Marley
The love and appreciation I have for Bob Marley and his sons is one I could probably never find the exact words for. I admire his music and his story – I had many of his albums. As I grew older though, I started to appreciate the music his sons were creating more so. There is poetry to his music and you can hear how he sings from his soul in almost all of his songs.
The Traffic Jam – Stephen and Damian Marley
The song this album is off of by Stephen Marley is one of my favorite albums. This is not the acoustic version, but I highly recommend listening to the entire acoustic version of this album. I had it on repeat growing up. Fun fact – I was lucky enough to see these two perform on South Street when I was a senior in high school. At the time it felt so surreal to see the two of them in person, and it was a spectacular performance.
Your Love – Dirty Heads feat Ky-mani Marley
This is the ultimate – drink in hand, sand beneath your feet, and nothing but ocean for miles in front of you kind of song. A reminder of late nights with friends and sun burns I would much rather forget.
Baby’s Got Sauce – G Love and the Special Sauce
G Love’s music reminds me of high school summer nights and an age I don’t want to go back to – but I’d relive the carefree-ness of it all if I could. This song is a little playful, and is really meant to be listened to in times of joyous celebration. Fun fact – G Love is actually an alum to a school in Philly that I used to work at, and I didn’t know that until after I moved on to work at a another school.
Try (Just a Little Bit Harder) Janis Joplin
The time to listen to Janis is in any season, but I used to prefer to listen to her music in the summertime. Her voice is out of this world incredible and there’s no one else like her (and I cringe at the Amy Winehouse comparisons, so don’t even try).
Zebra – John Butler Trio
John Butler trio is definitely one of those laid back, beach vibes kind of tunes to listen to. This is one of my favorite songs, but “Ocean” the live version is worth a listen to. Every setting in life has a soundtrack if you think about it and music just like this is what goes along with summers at the beach.
Touch of Grey – Grateful Dead
One of the more high energy Grateful Dead songs that is highly ranked for me. This song was definitely one I had blaring out of my Jeep many many times. When my first nephew was born I used to sing this to him often and it would always get him to smile. He is about to turn six in a couple of weeks and that makes me feel older than I realize. It also makes me realize how fast time can go in a blink of an eye. Somehow though, it still feels like just yesterday I was riding around listening the Grateful Dead either planning a night with friends, headed to the beach, headed to a show, or going to work a double at work. Good ol’ summer days in Cape May.
To me, pop culture is: everything relating to television, movies, celebrities, music, and the history of it all…rather broad, but you get the picture, right?
There are few things I love more than television.
Too many underrated television characters, particularly Queer, that don’t get enough recognition for how memorable they are. So often the same LGBTQ shows get highlighted along with the same characters over and over again.
I have taken it upon myself to share with you all the gems of the Queer TV character icons that I adore.
At first Elektra was not my favorite character on this show, not even close. Then I re watched season one and recognized her for the true icon of a character she is. The latest and final season really gave us a glimpse into the depths of Elektra (which was also probably my favorite episode of this latest season). Let me be honest though, Elektra wouldn’t be Elektra if it wasn’t the fabulous Dominique Jackson playing her.
Jake Rodriguez (Tales of the City 2019)
I love the majority of the characters in the most recent adaptation of Tales of the City (based off of the series of books by Armistead Maupin) and the actors who play them. For me though, it is the depth of Jake’s character and his journey throughout the miniseries that made him stand out for me. The actor who plays Jake in Tales of the City, Garcia, really has a way of making you fall in love with their character…or maybe that was just me.
Alice (The L Word)
Everyone may think of Shane or Bette or Tina or Bette and Tina when they think of the L Word…but without Alice, would there even be an L word? There is so much to love about Alice with her humor and quirks. She loves hard, really hard and there is something relatable about that. Leisha Hailey is a gem, and she continues to portray Alice in the L Word Generation Q where she is still just as lovable as ever.
Noah (Noah’s Arc)
Noah’s Arc was actually a quarantine binge last year from my partner and I. Neither of us had ever seen the show before, but got instantly hooked and then instantly sad because there are only two seasons (and you can no longer get the movie that follows it up). All of the characters within the show are likeable, but Noah is a stand out in my eyes. Darryl Stephens portrays Noah in a way that you are always hoping things work out for him in the end.
Too often the Canadian show about ALL the teen issues to ever happen and I mean ALL of them goes forgotten. Unless of course you remember where Drake really started from or you watched his latest “I’m Upset” video where fans of Degrassi got the brief reunion we all desperately, secretly, yearn for. I don’t think it would be possible for me to write a list of TV Queer icons without mentioning Marco. He was my introduction to a younger gay person learning to discover, accept themselves, and be proud of who they are.
Alice (Good Trouble)
Yes, another Alice. This may be just because I love Sherry Cola (the actor who portrays Alice), but ultimately she is one of the greatest current Queer characters on TV right now. Alice is charming, funny, and quirky (there must be something in the character name). For me, when a character feels like you wish they were your best friend in real life – you know the writing & actor portraying the character have done their jobs.
Kay (Banana ep 6 ..also featured in Cucumber eps 7 & 8)
This is really just because I love T’Nia and everything she ever acts in (Also see her in two of my personal favorites – Years & Years and Bly Manor). There’s this Queer butterfly flutter that happens when you watch an actor in a Queer role and then also discover they themselves are Queer…that definitely happened for me after watching the episodes with Kay in them.
Emmett (Queer as Folk US)
Queer as Folk may be outdated in many many things, but there is no denying how lovable Emmett is. After I finally sat down to watch the series a couple of years back, each episode always left me wishing Emmett was my best friend. Once again, when this happens in a show you know the job was done right. Plus, the actor who portrays Emmett also created one of my favorite shows The Fosters which also brought us Good Trouble (remember Alice from earlier in the list?)…see everything comes full circle.
Micah (L Word Generation Q)
One of my graduation gifts from grad school last year was a cameo from Leo Sheng who potrays Micah in the L Word Generation Q…because my partner knows how he is my favorite new character in the reboot series. I geeked out to say the least. The character of Micah brings so much joy to the new series – between his friendship relations and his romantic relations …he really is the most likeable, relatable new character in Generation Q.
Titus (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt)
Last but certainly not least..because there was no order to this list. The comedy, the broadway-esque spontaneity, the radiance…he really is a stand out character throughout the entire series. Not to mention a loyal friend to Kimmy through and through. Without Tituss Burgess the character of Titus Andromedon would not be as flawlessly spectacular as he is.
Who are some of your favorite Queer TV Characters? I would love to hear, let me know below in the comments!
There are many times I try to find ways to center myself through meditation or just listening to music. This week I learned a 4-7-8 breathing technique from my therapist that I found helpful in the moment.
First you inhale through your nose for 4 seconds, hold that breath in for 7 seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for 8 seconds. I repeated this about four times – and felt my anxiety sort of melt away. This isn’t a guaranteed fix and I am no expert – but when I learn things that I find helpful for me, I think it is important to share just in case it may help someone else along the way.
Watching sunsets or sunrises used to be my favorite calming activity that left me feeling a sense of relief and hope. I often miss seeing those sights in my old South Philly apartment and definitely miss the beauty of a Cape May sunset in my hometown.
Which is why I take so many sunset/sunrise photos and the reason behind the photo wall in my apartment. Looking back over those photographs gives me a sense of comfort, almost like I feel at home when looking at them.
Here are a few of my favorite sunset/sunrise photos I have captured with my commentary attached:
This photograph was taken the last time I went to see my Mom Mom before she got too sick. Looking back on this photo always gives me chills because it is one of my favorites for how exquisite the sky appears – but knowing what I know now it also feels like a reminder message to appreciate. This photo brings to mind a quote my Mom Mom used to say to me often, “Ya know those bumper stickers that say life’s a beach? Well they lied. Life’s a bitch, not a beach.”
Without a doubt, this right here is one of my favorite photographs I have ever taken during my time living in Philly. I used to walk all around this city and I captured this on my walk home from a restaurant shift. As a person that grew up in a beach town, I consider myself able to say this… Philadelphia has some of the best sunsets I have ever laid my eyes on. With that being said, most things Philly remind me of Grouplove – and at the point in my life when I took this photo I used to play this band so much it got on a lot of peoples nerves.
I really loved this apartment because of the sunset and sunrise views I got. After living in the same house for 23 years of my life, knowing I could never return because it was sold – I never knew if I would feel the same sense of home again. I felt that deeply when living in this city and viewing this skyline everyday. It gave me a lot of hope and reminds me of this quote by Mary Oliver, “Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.“
My spontaneous 25th “treat yo self” birthday present …one of the best decisions I ever made. A city I often dreamed about moving to since I was 13 or 15. Andrea Gibson one of my favorite poets has said, “Commit to loving yourself completely. It’s the most radical thing you will do in your lifetime.” That is what that trip and that fiery sunset photograph remind me of – to love oneself.
I wasn’t kidding when I said this view delivered sunsets and sunrises to photograph nonstop. In my early to mid twenties living in Philly, I did feel lost and unsure of what the future held – but seeing those bursts of color in the sky made everything seem okay. Sometimes I’d ask myself in Talking Heads fashion though, “How did I get here?”
Oh to have a private outside space in the city! And with sunset views that look like a painting? My Dad used to send me this song (Fall in Philadelphia by Hall and Oates) all the time when I lived in Philly, so naturally it is bound to jog my memory when looking at these glorious Philly photographs.
First trip to Portland, ME was a solo trip and I fell in love with this town. So much so that I made sure that one of the first trips my partner and I went on was to come back to Portland. This sunrise was a resetting of sorts, and beginnings were right around the corner that I didn’t know were coming yet. Whenever I need a bit of hope, I often will play some Rilo Kiley – that resonates deeply with this photo. A sunrise bringing on many new horizons.
The first Christmas I spent with my partner in NYC and it was absolutely magical. There really is a sunset for every special moment in life. After this view we went to dinner and then spent the majority of Christmas Eve in Cubbyhole when Whitney Houston’s “I Wanna Dance With Somebody” came on. That song tends to follow us around, and when I look at this photo I think of my partner and our moments with that song.
I grew up in Cape May, but my partner grew up going to Ocean City Maryland (which as someone from NJ that is not the Ocean City I knew). The sunrises we could see from the balcony were breathtaking. I remember during this time having lived in DC for about a year – really needing something to bring me back to myself. I didn’t appreciate sunrises or waking up early until I got a bit older. Truthfully I only ever get up early because of sunrises.
No, this isn’t a painting…although it definitely looks like one. I remember rolling out of bed this morning and seeing how exquisite the sunrise was. I sat there trying to capture the vibrant colors. Hands down my favorite sunrise photo I ever captured living in this apartment. The song that started to play in my mind when looking back at this photo was “New Slang” by The Shins…no clue why, but it seemed right.
Every now and again I would walk from South Philly up to the waterfront right around the time the sun would be setting. Growing up by the ocean I often feel compelled to seek out bodies of water as a sense of comfort or reminder that things flowing along in life as they should be. This sunset was one that brought me reassurance. In the words of Mary Oliver, “I don’t ask for the sights in front of me to change, only the depth of my seeing.”Although plot twist, the sights did change because I ended up in DC the following year.
Last, but not least and with a classic old Instagram frame added to it as well. This was taken during my first trip back visiting my hometown after my childhood home sold and I moved to Philly. I longboarded down to the beach front from my old work place where I was visiting some old friends just to capture this sunset. My love for sunsets all stem from where I was born and raised – it is often how I hold on to that piece of me as I exist in other places in the world. You’re welcome in advance for this old Al Alberts classic…I guess I love my lil ol’ hometown in NJ more than I like to admit sometimes.
*please contact me for permission to use any photographs or if you would like a print*
I think that is something we have all felt before or something that we constantly feel. All in all, it may be easy to agree that even in a world where we were given “more time” at home …it still never feels like enough.
In a year (more like well over a year) of added stress due to a global pandemic and a metaphorical world on fire around us… we should all just keep acting accordingly…right?
No, no absolutely not.
We all need space and time to breathe….AND be forgiving to ourselves & the people around us.
I’ve tried to set a routine for myself a countless amount of times during this past year. Nothing has truly stuck. A few things I always find myself falling back on for centering though are meditation (shout out to the app Insight) and music.
Here’s a list of songs to soothe your soul & mind:
Time in a Bottle – Jim Croce
Have I mentioned how much I adore Jim Croce? I’m pretty sure I have, but I can’t gush about this man enough. His music is my favorite to listen to on vinyl. This song particularly gets me lost in his voice…wait wait, who am I kidding? Almost every song he sings I get lost in that gorgeously comforting soft as silk voice of his. In fact when I was trying to think of songs that made me feel calm or centered, I found myself humming this song instantly. Oh the magical power of a Jim Croce song…
Still Sound (instrumental) – Toro y Moi
Full disclosure, my introduction to Toro y Moi was the instrumental album. Which I quickly realized was actually just a re-release of the original lyrical album that was dropped a decade ago entitled The Difference. I stumbled upon Toro y Moi when I was looking for music that was going to soothe the anxiety I was feeling and somehow in my rabbit hole for searching for that perfect album….The Difference instrumental version was what I found. I fully intend to go back and listen to the lyrical version of the album, I just wanted the experience of listening to the instrumental first. For me, I was instantly blown away and of course Toro y Moi has been around for awhile – so I am a bit behind the times. If you are a fan and haven’t listened to the instrumental version of the album, I highly recommend checking it out in its entirety. This was a favorite, but it was pretty hard to pick just one track.
You Were Meant for Me – Jewel
I once worked with a guy that loved Jewel…other fun facts about him: he also loved dinosaurs and had a vintage motorcycle. Part of me never really understood his deep appreciation for her music, but I think how much he would talk about it randomly every day made me understand the beauty in her songs a bit more. That friend of mine recently passed away a year or so back and I hadn’t spoken to him since we had worked together. Jewel’s songs have a calming spirit to them, but they not have an added meaning for me. In the chaos of life, when a Jewel song comes on – I get to think of my friend and I think that is part of the many facets of beauty that music holds.
Simple as This – Jake Bugg
I forget how much I love this song, until I rediscover it buried in one of my many playlists I have created. This is a song that is simply (no jokes intended there) joyful. Part of it is the sound of it makes it seem as if it is from the 60s or 70s when it actually was released in 2012. A real comforting tune for an old soul like myself.
Place to Be – Nick Drake
Nick Drake for me has a voice that defies odds …because it is seemingly raspy yet soft all at the same time….which is truthfully an exquisite combination. Anyway, Nick is another artist I often find myself reverting back to when I just need to get work done or to calm my spirit. Place to Be is a favorite of mine because it is a song I can put on and get lost within without even realizing until the song has ended. I say all of that, because that is exactly what just happened when I had it playing.
California – Joni Mitchell
Something about this song that no matter the weather outside or the mood I am in – I am instantly elevated for three minutes and fifty seconds. Joni has a way of transporting the listener to a dream-like-state with this song. There is a powerful pull within the lyrics of the song and Joni’s captivating voice that can make a person believe there is sun on the horizon and everything will be okay in the end. Sure a cynic would say that it is just a song about California, but I’ve never been a fan of cynicism.
Maybe these songs pulled you in and excited you enough to add them to a playlist. Maybe they encouraged you to revisit music that grounds you and makes you feel centered.
In a world full of chaos, I wish you all to find whatever outlet will bring you comfort.