Isolation Thoughts

I was very lucky to be able to be home schooled from the time that I would normally have started school until I started going to BYU. It was a great experience for me, because I had the chance to learn at my own speed and adjust my curriculum or learning method whenever necessary.

I never thought I’d be forced back into home schooling because of a global pandemic.

To be fair, this online school thing that’s happening now is not at all the same thing as home school was for me growing up. When I was a kid, my parents basically gave me some books and a list of things to study, and my siblings and I were on our own, unless we needed help. That method certainly wouldn’t work for everyone and every subject, but it worked pretty well for us. Our schoolwork usually only took two or three hours, and the rest of the day we were free to do whatever we wanted to (except TV and video games). We spent a lot of time building Legos, playing with toys, and playing in our yard.

Now, I’m back in my childhood home in Idaho homeschooling again(sort of). And although it’s different, I do feel very lucky for my homeschooling upbringing now more than ever, and for a different reason than normal. Usually, I’m just grateful for the flexibility and freedom that home school gave me, but now I’m grateful for another aspect of it: I’m used to being at home all day.

Yes, I did go to church growing up, and I had other activities like dance classes, and later seminary and dual enrollment electives at the local high school. But I was still at home far more than most of my peers throughout my childhood. So I’m actually pretty used to this whole “quarantine” thing.

The transition was still super hard though. Over the past few years, I had gotten really comfortable with being really busy. During the semester, I would take a full class load and be working, and during the summers, I would work as close to 40 hours a week as I could. I’d gotten really comfortable with having a strict schedule that ruled my life and mandated when I had to be productive. So going from that kind of schedule into basically no schedule was hard. But now that it’s been a few weeks, it actually feels kind of similar to the way I grew up. Except I still have responsibilities and due dates.

It’s still hard though. I miss my friends and classmates, coworkers, and professors. I miss going to Taste in downtown Provo by myself every Saturday. I miss studying on campus, and meeting up with friends for lunch. But I am also very aware of how lucky I am. I’m living with my parents, so I don’t have to pay for rent or food. I still have my job. I and my family are all still healthy, and none of us work essential jobs that put us at high risk of infection.

I may be struggling, but I am so very lucky in so many ways, and I’m trying to keep that in mind as we do what we can to slow the spread of this disease.

Stay safe, folks.

Rapid Goodbyes

Last Thursday everything changed.

Okay, maybe that’s a little bit dramatic, but it’s also kind of true.

I had just finished competing in a dance competition with my brother as a part of our Latin ballroom dance class. I was already aware of COVID-19, and some of the threats it posed to society. I had heard of other universities closing down and switching to online classes, but I hadn’t given it too much thought in terms of BYU closing down. However, right as I was leaving the competition, I opened my email on my phone and saw it. BYU was cancelling school for the next three days, and then switching to online classes. And they encouraged students to return home to finish the semester.

I was shaken. But I was 35 minutes late for a class, so I speed-walked there, and for the next 25 minutes, I was at least a little bit distracted from what this announcement meant for me and my friends in Provo. Then, I went to my prep class for my Jordan study abroad that is supposed to happen this fall. And there, I couldn’t distract myself anymore. Every other question was about COVID-19, online instruction, and contingency plans in case the study abroad is no longer possible.

All this talk made me very anxious, and what didn’t help was that my family group chat was going crazy with my parents and siblings asking what our plans were. I was panicking. All my friends were in Provo, my job was in Provo. I didn’t know how to deal with this. And I didn’t have time to think about it. My parents offered to come pick me and my brother up that same weekend. Two days. That’s how much time I had. To figure out whether I was staying or going, and whether or not I could even go home since my job was on campus. Right after my class, I ran into my brother, Jacob, on campus and we talked briefly about our plans. Jacob is married, so he and his wife planned to stay in Provo. When I left him, I called my dad, and we talked about the situation.

On the bus on the way home from campus, I talked with a couple of my roommates about it more, and then at my Arabic house dinner, we all talked about it again. Every time I talked about it, I got more and more sad. Everything was so uncertain and scary. That night, I watched Strictly Ballroom to take my mind off the craziness.

The next morning I woke up and checked my email. My boss had emailed saying that I could work remotely. I called my parents and told them I was coming home. The rest of the day I spent packing, and hanging out with my roommates and friends, trying to get the most out of the last 24 hours that we would be in the same city.

I had a ton of fun with my friends. We went and got Indian food and joked and laughed. But every time we had any quiet moments, tears would well up in my eyes. I always knew I would have to say goodbye to these people, but I thought I had five more weeks. I was not prepared to say goodbye to them in under 48 hours.

It was really hard to say goodbye to these people. They have become some of my closest friends in the world. We’ve been through so much good, so much bad, and so much ridiculousness. I love my family, and it’s nice to be home in so many ways, but I miss my friends so much. They were my support when I was struggling, they were my study buddies, my meme suppliers, and my second family.

COVID-19 has wreaked so much havoc on all of our lives. My situation is far from the worst I’ve heard of. In fact, it’s one of the best ones. But it still sucks. So bad. No one wants to deal with this. My only hope is that we will all take this seriously so that life can go back to normal as soon as possible.

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Stay at least six feet away from each other. Avoid large gatherings. And try to stay hopeful and grateful for what we do have.

The Beauty in the Mundane

One of my favorite quotes is

Mediocre People do exceptional things all the time

What to Do by OK Go

I love it so much, I’ve had it on my wall for years. It might seem like a little bit of a sad song lyric. And maybe it is, but I love it, because I truly believe it.

I wouldn’t describe myself as extraordinary. But that doesn’t mean I can do extraordinary things. I think as a culture we often put too much importance of being special. We want to be different than everyone else, we want to be smarter than everyone else, we want to be more popular, more successful, happier, more exciting, more artistic, whatever it is. But I really believe that when we focus on this, we’re setting ourselves up for failure.

Everyone, no matter how seemingly ordinary they are, has so much to offer. It’s just a matter of looking for it.

Last year, I read Oh The Glory of it All by Sean Wilsey, a memoir telling Wilsey’s adventures growing up in a wealthy and prominent San Francisco family. The book was really interesting, not only becase Wilsey’s life was so different than mine, but also because of how shockingly ordinary it was in some ways. He grew up with very wealthy parents, but he still went through many of the phases that an average child or teenager does. I was particularly struck by the title, which I originally heard in the song Light Years by The National:

Oh the Glory of it All

What a beautiful way to look at the world. The glory of it All. Not just the glamorous parts, but all of it. I’m not saying that every little part of life should be happy and joyous, or even that we should try to enjoy it. But I think that there is really a special kind of beauty in the mundane, ordinary parts of life.

Another book that brings this joy of the ordinary to mind is Anne Tyler’s Earthly Possessions and the other novels that I’ve read by her. Tyler writes about people with ordinary lives, and yet her novels are so beautiful and captivating. I have read two of her novels now and I’m partway through a third. Every time I start one of her books, I am not sure if I’ll like it. The characters seem to normal, there doesn’t seem like there’s much of a plot, but I get drawn in, and then I see the beauty of it. Anne Tyler writes about people just like me and you. At first glance, they seem uninteresting, but if you stick around for a while, and really try, you’ll see that everyone, and I mean everyone is unique.

This doesn’t mean we have to find everyone equally interesting, but I think often we dismiss certain people as being “basic” or “boring”, but I think that many times, if we give them a chance, we might find something we like about them, or at least come to understand a little bit more about them.

It’s so important to notice the beauty in the mundane. We get so used to looking for only the most beautiful things, but even the ugliest buildings and the most boring people have more to them than meets the eye.

If I spend my whole life waiting for something extraordinary to happen to me, I will just watch my life pass me by.

Life isn’t a movie where everything happens exactly how we want it to. Life is real and raw and often boring. But there is beauty even in those boring moments. Many of my favorite memories are of everyday, mundane things. But those memories are now treasures to me.

So I want to live my life with that in mind. I want to intentionally live every moment. I don’t even want to skip the boring parts. Not even the repetitive things, like work, or class, or saying hi to my roommates, or seeing a friend. Because at some point in the not-too-distant future, those moments will all be gone, and I’ll find myself wishing for them again.

So I’m going to listen to people, I’m going to find their stories. I’m going to love the ugly buildings. I’m going to cherish every moment I can, as much as I can. I don’t want to let the beauty in my every day life pass me by.

Memories

A semi-random collection of childhood memories

I remember from the time I was only four or five years old, my dad would sing to me before I went to sleep. He’d sing the LDS primary song, “I Know My Heavenly Father Loves Me,” or as I liked to call it, “Rushes By”. I loved it when he’d sing this song because at the end of it, when he sang, “Yes, I know Heavenly Father loves me”, he’d always add”… and Du Lady”. Du Lady has been my nickname for as long as I can remember. But I always loved it when my dad would sing that to me. It always made me feel, well, loved.

I must have been a strange child. When me dad sang to me, he’d also sometimes tell me stories. My favorite? The story of the Teton Dam breaking in 1976. I’d ask him to tell me that story all the time. He’d start. “I was 4 years old, living in Idaho Falls…” and he’d tell me the rest of the story. How the dam had been made of mud instead of concrete, and that’s why it had broken. How it had flooded all of Rexburg and there was so much water that the flood carried away herds of cattle, even houses. I don’t know why a four-year-old girl wanted to hear this story, but I did. And I loved it.

My favorite hymn has always been #30 in the LDS hymnbook, “Come, Come, Ye Saints”. When I was a kid, I just liked it for no reason, but my favorite verse was verse 4, “And if we die / before this journey’s through / happy day, all is well”. Seems a little dark for a young girl. But I always liked that it said “All is well” at the beginning as well as in the chorus at the end, where is says “all is well / all is well”. I wonder now if there was a little part of me, even then, that understood what this hymn was about: That God loves us and even if things are hard, or even if we die, all will be well.

I became vegetarian when I was 6 or 7 years old. To this day, I am not sure what exactly my motivation was. I do, however, know the event that caused it. When my family moved to Idaho in 2004, we suddenly had two and a half acres of land, and my parents decided to get chickens, so we could have some experience raising animals and also so we could eat their eggs. So in the spring of 2005(I think. I’m not sure exactly when we got the chickens) we got 10 or so chickens. We tried to only get hens, but it’s quite difficult to tell hens and roosters apart when they’re chicks. So we ended up with two roosters. And these roosters were mean. So mean that my parents decided they needed to kill them. So my dad slaughtered the two roosters in our backyard. As you may imagine, this was pretty scarring for a 5 or 6-year old girl. So my older brother and I decided to stop eating meat. And, with a few brief exceptions, I haven’t eaten meat.

For my fourth birthday, my grandma gave me the greatest gift a four-year-old could dream of: Polly Pockets and a huge stuffed bear! I loved Polly Pockets, even though I always lost the shoes. And I loved that bear. I remember when she gave it to me, it had a pretty striped ribbon tied around it’s neck, and it just looked so soft and cozy. I don’t remember if I named it right then, or if the naming happened later, but I named the bear Elaine, after my great-grandmother who died when my grandma was fairly young. I never met Elaine, but I feel a connection with her anyway. Elaine was an artist, and I have inherited some of her art supplies, so whenever I use them, I think of her, and how I wish I could have known her.

When my family decided to move to Europe in 2012, I was really upset. I didn’t want my whole life to be uprooted right before I became a teenager and started having friends. But my chagrin wasn’t enough to keep my family from going. And overall, I’m so glad for the experience now. But I remember one day while we were living in Prague in February or March of 2013, my family went on a walk through a park in Prague. It was a beautiful day, but for some reason I was really mad. I refused to enjoy the walk, or the park, or the time spent with my family. There’s a picture on my mom’s blog, of my whole family, everyone smiling, except me. I’m standing to the side, crossing my arms and frowning. I remember my older brother trying really hard to cheer me up, but I was so stubborn I wouldn’t let him.

Later, when my family was living in Bulgaria, my mom would sometimes send a couple of us kids to the grocery store, and to motivate us, she’d let us buy ourselves a treat for the walk back. One time, my brother Phin and I had to go all the way to the big grocery store at the other end of town. I don’t remember exactly how long of a walk it was, but it was far enough away that it seemed like forever for a thirteen-year-old and a fifteen-year-old. So we went to the store, Kaufland, and bought the things my mom had sent us for. As our treat, we got these little bagel crisps that were pizza flavored and an orange fanta. On the way home, we sat in a little park and ate them and talked. I don’t remember what we talked about, but that memory is burned in my mind. It’s like a little snapshot of those happy days.

Once, quite a few years ago, my friend Marissa and I did a dance workshop in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, about a 45-minute drive away from my house. My mom and her mom alternated driving us over each of the five or six days of the workshop, and I remember one of the days, my mom was driving, and we passed this dead deer on the side of the road. Definitely not very out of the ordinary for Idaho/Wyoming, except the deer had no head, and the rest of it was in perfect condition. It didn’t look like it had been run over at all. And when we went back to Idaho at the end of the day, the deer was completely gone. Another time during the same workshop, I got there early, and our instructors were dancing to a Radiohead song, and then later a Yeasayer song. To this day, I don’t remember which songs, but I was so excited to hear non-pop music out in the normal world, even when I was younger.

The first time I remember hearing ABBA was when I was probably between the ages of 4 and 6. My parents friends came to visit us in Idaho, and they brought a karaoke machine, so we were all doing karaoke. But it got really late, so my dad was holding me, and I was sucking my thumb like I did until I was seven or eight. Dancing Queen came on, and my dad was slowly dancing to it, while I dozed off sucking my thumb in his arms.

Once, my family went to Montana. We went to Bozeman and Billings. It was significant to me because it was the first vacation I remember that we didn’t visit family. I can’t remember which city it was, but in one of them, we drove up to some cliffs above the city and looked at the view. It was really beautiful, but now every time I think about it, I associate it with the story from the book “Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark” called The Hook. In it, a couple went up to a cliff on a date, and parked their car, but there was a hook-handed serial killer on the loose, so they were both a little bit on edge, and they kept hearing scratching noises, so they eventually left. And when they got home and got out of the car, they saw a hook stuck in the door. I have no idea what made me make that association, but it’s there.


I hope that I never forget these memories. Though they seem pretty insignificant, they are really important to me, and I think these little things are the things that make life worth living. It’s not necessarily the big moments in life, although those are also important. The things that really change us are the small moments. The random memories that don’t make complete sense anymore. These are our most valuable possesions.

Thoughts on Worth

I listen to a lot of music that people might consider “feminist”. I love Lizzo, the Regrettes, and Kate Nash. I listen to their songs when I need to feel empowered and happy. But there’s a trend in this type of “feminist” music that just doesn’t sit very well with me. These women singing and performing are clearly very powerful and independent women. And I love that, and it’s a main reason that I love listening to their music so much. However, at least in their music, they sometimes tie their worth as a powerful woman to being able to control men. Essentially, it seems like they’re saying that a woman can’t truly be powerful and independent unless they could be with a man, but choose not to be.

My therapist has been working with me for the last few weeks on acknowledging my inherent worth. The fact is that most of my anxiety comes from the fact that I often feel like I have less worth than other people. In our session this morning, I brought up these artists who sing about feminism and independence, and how it’s sometimes problematic to me that they tie a woman’s power to being able to control men. I brought it up because this is another thing, of many, that affects the way that I see my own worth. I’ll explain why.

I believe myself to be a strong, beautiful, intelligent, and largely independent woman. However, I also don’t seem to have much sway over men. And this isn’t some pity party where I’m saying that I’m not pretty enough, or not worth anything because men don’t seem to fall for me like they do for other girls and women around me. That would go directly contrary to what I am trying to learn with my therapist. My point is just that I’ve spent my whole life wondering why, if I am such an amazing person, men don’t fall for me. And this is something that I have to work through on my own. But based on the messages of these feminist musicians that I listen to, the fact that men aren’t all over me means I’m not as strong as I otherwise would be.

I’ll illustrate what I mean by this. The song I’ve been thinking about particularly while I write this blog post is Like A Girl by Lizzo. I love this song and it’s one of my favorites to listen to when I need to get pumped up for something, but there is one line that just irk me a little bit, for the reasons I mentioned above. “I work my femininity / I make these boys get on their knees”(Lizzo). I love the whole song, except this line. To me, it implies that in order to be really feminine and strong in one’s femininity, a woman has to have all these men essentially at her disposal.

Another example from Lizzo is in her song Juice. This is another one I love to listen to. It’s a powerful song about embracing your body and loving yourself, but there’s another part that implies the necessity of people finding you attractive to be really strong. “Somebody come get this man / I think he got lost in my DM’s, what?” Again, this line implies that it’s not our inherent worth as human beings that should give us confidence, but rather the adoration of men, who we may choose to ignore.

There are probably other examples from Lizzo, but let’s look at the other artists I mentioned at the beginning of my post: The Regrettes and Kate Nash. Let’s take an example from the song How it Should Be by the Regrettes. This one starts of fine, with “Lots and lots of girls, they feel so worthless / they depend on him, to make them feel again”. From this line, I just hope that there will be something legitimately empowering afterward, but no. Instead, we get: “I don’t want you, cause I don’t need you”. Again, basing strength on the fact that she could have him if she wanted, but chose not to. which, granted, can be empowering, but when that’s the only message you hear, it’s problematic.

Let’s look at one more example. Kate Nash’s song Merry Happy. Again, a great song, with the same problem. In it, she sings: “you make me merry, make me very very happy / But you obviously, you didn’t want to stick around / so I learnt from you” this one is subtler, but again, I get the impression that in order to be a truly strong woman, I have to have these option and say no.

I’d really love to think that I am one of these women who men always fall for. But I’m not. I’ve never been asked out on a date, and very few guys have ever expressed interest in me in any way other than as friends. And it seems like society would have me believe that this makes me weaker and worth less than other women who do have that. And maybe this trend in society is a result of women being told for hundreds of years that they’re literally only worth something if they’re married, so these women over-compensate and try to prove their worth by showing that even though they have that option, they don’t need a man to be happy.

But nothing I can do will prove my worth. No matter how perfect my life is, no matter how funny and charming and beautiful I am, there will still be people who don’t like me. Hopefully there will also be people who do like me, but it’s okay if they don’t. Because how other people see or treat me has nothing to do with my worth. My worth as a human being is inherent and unchangeable. Being adored by my peers, male or female, won’t change that. Getting perfect grades won’t change that. having lots of friends won’t change that. Being an amazing artist, or musician, or writer, or mathematician, or literally anything else will. not. change. my. worth.

As I write this, I’m not sure I believe it. Understanding and accepting my inherent worth is going to be a process. I’m sure I will be working on this to some extent for the rest of my life. But I’m getting closer. And I hope that everyone can realize their inherent worth. Because once I do, I know it will be so freeing. I can already feel the freedom. I want to believe it. Because once I do, I can let go of other people’s expectations and live life entirely for myself. I won’t be trying to impress anyone anymore. And I won’t feel worthless because I don’t “make these boys get on their knees” as it were. I applaud women who can, but I don’t have to be one of them to be a truly powerful and independent woman.

My Top Ten Albums of 2019

This is a little late, since we’re over halfway through January, but I thought it might be interesting to some people(and mostly for my own personal records) to record my top 10 favorite albums released in 2019.

  • I Am Easy to Find by The National

This album was my #1 listened to album of the year, because of how much I loved it. It’s a little long — it has 16 tracks, and not every one of them is amazing, but the majority of the album is beautiful, and innovative for The National. I love The National, and this album did not let me down. I also got to see them live in September while they were on tour for this album, so I think it will always have a little bit of a special place in my heart.

  • IGOR by Tyler, The Creator

I haven’t always listened to much Tyler, but when I saw the internet hype around this album, I had to hear what everyone was talking about. And I was not let down. I love the feeling of this entire album. There isn’t a single song on here that I don’t love.

  • Anima by Thom Yorke

I love Radiohead(Like any good music lover does), but for some reason it took me a really long time to get around to listening to this album. I think I actually watched the accompanying short film with the same title before I listened to the whole album. But once I listened, I fell in love. This album is an entire experience. Thom Yorke’s voice is so calming to me, and his music is such an amazing background to his beautiful lyrics and voice.

  • Erotic Reruns by Yeasayer

If you ask me, Yeasayer has never put out a bad album. But their albums also require a period of listening without much enjoyment before I am able to appreciate them. This album was no exception. I liked the singles they released prior to the album, but I thought they were nothing compared to Yeasayer’s previous albums. And when the album came out, I was honestly a little disappointed. But the more I listened, the more I loved the album. It’s short, sweet, and weird.

  • There Existed an Addiction to Blood by clipping.

This is the first album I listened to by clipping. My brother had showed me a few of their songs, but I had never gotten that into it before this album. There Existed an Addiction to Blood is an eerie album that came out just in time for Halloween. The lyrics on this album are chilling and the beats are gripping. Every song impressed me all over again every time.

  • The Center Won’t Hold by Sleater-Kinney

I probably never would have listened to this album if not for the fact that I saw Sleater-Kinney in concert in October. But I’m so glad I did. It’s not most people’s favorite Sleater-Kinney album, but I think it’s fun and a little poppy without losing the girl rock feel of their older music. It was an amazing album to hear live, and I love it more every time I listen to it.

  • Metronomy Forever by Metronomy

Metronomy is a very hit-and -miss band. But their hits are HITS. And this album has enough hits that they easily make up for the misses. Salted Caramel Ice Cream and Wedding Bells are two of my favorites from the album, and they’re both just fun, bouncy, goofy songs, which is always what I’m looking for when I listen to Metronomy.

  • How Do You Love? by The Regrettes

I just recently discovered The Regrettes, but I love them. They are just the kind of slightly angry girl rock I need in my life some days. How Do You Love? is a great album, although a little long, enjoyable and relatable all the way through.

  • i,i by Bon Iver

I feel a little guilty putting this on my list, because I didn’t actually listen to it until 2020, but here it is. This album is probably my favorite Bon Iver. It’s got his classic melancholy, but it’s not overpowering like it is in For Emma, Forever Ago. And while I love 22 a Million, I think i,i brings something old to that more electronic sound and really fleshes it out.

  • Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend

I actually don’t love this album as a whole, but it made it onto the list because it has so many good songs on it. The album itself drags beyond belief, but I love some of the highlights, like Harmony Hall; This Life; Unbearable White; Stranger; and Jerusalem, New York, Berlin.


This list is not really in a particular order, and it’s based purely on opinion, so if anyone reads this and disagrees, don’t take it personally.

Here’s a list of my top 10 albums I listened to in 2019, according to last.fm:

  1. I Am Easy To Find by The National
  2. Am I a Girl? by Poppy
  3. The Midnight Organ Fight by Frightened Rabbit
  4. Trouble Will Find Me by The National
  5. Father of the Bride by Vampire Weekend
  6. Pedestrian Verse by Frightened Rabbit
  7. Feel Your Feelings Fool! by The Regrettes
  8. Boxer by The National
  9. Sleep Well Beast by The National
  10. IGOR by Tyler, The Creator

Overall, I think 2019 was a really great year for music, and I’m just hoping for more amazing music in 2020.