They are changing because they are preparing — soaking up as much sunlight as they can, so that they may store its energy and survive the winter.
Why are we dissatisfied? Everyone I know seems to feel cripplingly inadequate. We compare ourselves to each other, and to what we perceive as greatness.
Why am I not a published writer? Why don’t I work at a production company? Why don’t I have a robust online following of adoring teen fans? When will I get invited to Fashion Week?
I know I am not the only one with seemingly ridiculous dreams and aspirations, coupled with a serious tendency to disparage myself and my achievements.
I cannot deny within myself a desire to change‒to be satisfied here. With all my heart, I wish that I could relish the present and take joy in working hard, right here where I am. It seems, at times, the scope of my dreams is crippling‒the fear of not achieving them, even more so.
Will I be able to make myself even a fraction of the person I want to be?
Great women are my biggest inspiration. Recently, I’ve been inspired by the girls in the up and coming pop band MUNA. They’re three confident, queer women whose lyrics offer raw honesty and empowerment.
While observing the success of young women, I often find myself caught between two opposing feelings. I compare myself to them, feeling jealous of their achievements that contrast with my mountains of confusion and perceived failure. At the same time, there is nothing more exciting to me than seeing women being empowered and celebrated for their abilities.
In MUNA’s song “I Know A Place,” the lead singer Katie sings, “I can tell / When you get nervous / You think being yourself / Means being unworthy / And it’s hard to love / With a heart that’s hurting / But if you want to go out dancing / I know a place / I know a place we can go / Where everyone gonna lay down their weapon.” I recently saw the band play at Brighton Music Hall and those simple lyrics struck me. Why do we constantly fall into a cycle of focusing on our own unworthiness‒whether it’s at work, at school, or in romantic relationships?
The band wrote the song for the post-Trump era to empower the LGBTQ community, as a source of liberation and celebration in the face of so much pain and even violence. In addition to physical weapons, the weapons of hate and political oppression have also been used against queer people for far too long, and the lack of relief is staggering. The lyrics speak to that as well as to broader issues of shame and self-loathing within and outside the community.
Greatness is not objective. There is no peak of achievement I need to reach in order to be happy. No accolades, fame, or financial success will make me love myself.
After seeing MUNA’s Lay Down Your Weapons tour, I feel the need to lay down the weapons I use against myself: comparison, discouragement, shame. I want to use my inexhaustible dreams, not to attack myself, but to motivate myself to work harder and create more. I’m tired of letting my hopes and dreams become a shadow hanging over my head. I want them to become goals I am motivated towards, rather than reasons to beat myself to a pulp whenever I think I fall short.
Text by Abigail Baldwin
The blazing reds and neon yellows of the restaurant and store signs radiated off the gray and brown bricks of the Chinatown buildings. They looked like dozens of individual flames from where we stood, stories above the sidewalk. People scurried between them, buzzing and rushing, their words torn apart by the wind. The rooftop was a glowing turquoise-blue, almost as dazzling as the view of the city’s skyline. It rested on top of an eight-story building, and, standing there, we seemed to tower over Boston and all of the lives, information, and urgency contained in its limits.
It had been a journey to get there — consisting of a scavenger hunt through the streets of Chinatown, a ride in a cramped elevator, a sprint up a flight of stairs, a scaling of a chain-link fence, and a precarious crawl over a ledge. There was no denying that we were searching for something — something we couldn’t find during our daily routines— that resided high above reality. We seemed to be pushing up and out toward something fresh and new. Surrounding us were only windows, rooftops, and horizontal light.
It was author Paulo Coelho who said, “The adrenaline and stress of an adventure are better than a thousand peaceful days.” There’s something about a little power shooting through our veins that gives the feeling of being truly alive. According to science-and-technology journalist Jeff Wise, “When we find ourselves under intense pressure, fear unleashes reserves of energy that normally remain inaccessible. We become, in effect, superhuman.” This natural superpower causes not only “hysterical strength”—as in cases of emergency that allow an approximately average person to lift up a car and save someone trapped underneath—but also acute awareness and a heightened state of mental ability. This heightened sense of living can “help you achieve and overcome whatever adversity you’re facing in that moment,” as noted by the fear-seeking and world-record-holding big-wave surfer Chris Bertish.
It seems to be no coincidence that we found ourselves 80 feet above the ground at the beginning of this new year. With the constant bombardments of breaking news in the form of politics, trends, and disappointments, as well as the numbness that seemed to accompany 2016, there was an intense need for a new sense of being. In this case, it came in the form of literal heightened living. It pushed us into both a new crispness, a sharp unknown, as well as a quiet outlook, worthy of tranquil reflection.
It’s too easy to say we were searching for perspective; instead, we were searching for a little adrenaline to help us overcome this ever-present adversity. It was like a burst of life that had the ability to unlock our stored energy, hidden away for moments of emergency. Now is the time to unleash those reserves of energy, that superhuman ability. There is something important in the feeling of your heart beating in your ears and your stomach dropping to your knees. This is what we found, standing over the world.
Text by Hannah McKennett
Photos by Goldmon Fong
Photography by Tom McLaughlin
Photography by Mia Schaumburg
Models: Serena Koo and Jacqueline Donahue
Over the summer during my stay in Lebanon, I decided to collaborate with an artist, Serene Ghandrour, where we created several collages combining photography and art.
Gifs by Darren Samuels