The Theory of Everything and Life In Between

How were your three-day weekends, everyone?

Too short, probably.

Has anyone petitioned the White House to make Monday an extension of the weekend yet? ‘Cause that’s the unifying kind of cause our nation needs right now and I am down to champion this.

As I mentioned earlier, I went to see The Theory of Everything on Sunday.

Several of the people I found myself at the movies with didn’t have any context for what we were going to see and only showed up because my friend Katie is excellent at getting people excited for participating in things they don’t know very much about; It’s one of her superpowers.

For those of you who are similarly unfamiliar with this film’s plot, The Theory of Everything tells the life story of highly acclaimed theoretical physicist and cosmologist, Professor Stephen Hawking, who was diagnosed with Lou Gehrig’s disease (the same disease millions of people dumped ice buckets on their head to raise awareness for) at the age of 21.

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Sidenote: Stephen Hawking is a guy I’ve committed to learn more about considering the embarrassment that I still get him and Stephen King confused sometimes. Now that would be something, wouldn’t it? A celebrated horror genre author AND cosmologist? That’s the kind of guy you could get stuck at a dinner party next to is all I’m sayin’.

He may not have inspired the horror movies that kept us up at night as children, but Stephen Hawking’s story is still pretty damn remarkable. If you’ve had no interest in seeing this movie up to this point, I’m about to change your mind.

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Being a long-time fan of FOCUS Features (the production company responsible for making The Theory of Everything happen), I knew that I was in for a treat beyond the bucket of popcorn I’d just settled into my seat with. FOCUS has produced several cinematic gems over the years such as Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (my favorite movie of all time, if you’re takin’ notes), Vanity Fair, Brick, The Motorcycle Diaries, and Atonement. As a company, they invest their resources towards original story-telling ventures and create films that challenge the imagination and celebrate the depths of the human spirit which I am tooootally about.

If you’re patient with the European sensibility this movie was inspired by, you’ll be rewarded by the beautifully unfolding story-telling of director James Marsh who captures the rich chemistry present among the cast members and makes the minutiae of daily life look pretty dreamy. In telling a story as grand as Hawking’s, I appreciate that Marsh captured the many little details that played a part in making it so.

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I won’t talk much about said details because I’m not giving away any spoilers here but I must mention how impressed I was that this movie (surrounding such a charming plot-line, a young couple falling in love in 1960’s London?? *heart eyes) refused to romanticize the reality of living with a degenerative disease, or being the caretaker of someone who is. Jane Hawking, Stephen’s wife, is given a depth of character that I found refreshing and honestly did not expect being that Stephen is the film’s protagonist. Her husband is the one diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) but it is very clear that this diagnosis was on Jane and Stephan’s relationship as well, despite their best efforts to live as though this was not so. Jane commits to being strong on Stephen’s behalf over and over and ultimately, this movie explores how we manage upon reaching the end of ourselves in the face of challenge.

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I dare to wonder what obstacles, both physical and emotional, Stephen would not have been able to overcome without this support. The film poignantly acknowledges the lives surrounding Stephen’s unique one as lives that still had every right to be lived, and fully so – both with his blessing and in spite of it which Stephen’s character in the movie acknowledges.

I would say that this was one of qualities I appreciated the most about it.

The Theory of Everything is self-aware enough to acknowledge that brilliance does not go unmarred by the nuances of human complexity or life’s burdens. It is a beautiful film, celebrating a series of lives lived among trial. You get the sense that Stephen Hawking’s own sentiment is imbued throughout it, urging you to realize that while there is life, there is still hope. And that’s always worth cheering for, wouldn’t you say?

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Sometimes Life Is A Full-On Monet

Did you make New Year’s resolutions? Approximately 45% of Americans usually do.

I’ve been part of this 45% in the past but I didn’t write any down this year (which is what I usually do to make resolutions into real goals and not just nebulous improvement projects I suddenly remember as I’m falling asleep). A friend and I sat on a wraparound porch in Florida while I was still home for the holidays instead, reflecting on the kind of women we wanted to become and what the ladies we had in mind would accomplish by 2016. I preferred this method, especially since it included snacks and wine which I now realize is a sign of a good time all the time.

Although most of what we discussed remained in the abstract and not-yet-seen, a few things were clear – In 2015, one of us would have completed facilitating a three-month English teaching course in South Africa, the other would have begun writing again and successfully transitioned into a new career. Although we couldn’t make out the details surrounding most of our ambitions for the year, the picture we painted throughout our conversation was still pretty grand.

In 2015, I’m excited about curating a life that not only looks good on Instagram but feels good at 4:00 PM on a Wednesday afternoon. Project numero uno towards this end is aligning my career with an innovation-minded media company whose culture and set of values I can embrace as my own.  Prioritizing the interests and relationships that encourage me to create, celebrate, and breath life in a little more deeply when I least feel like it is top, too.

I can articulate all of this right now while it’s present of mind, but there’s something about monotonous daily routines (and HGTV marathons, ahem) that makes goals, written or unwritten, rather forgettable. I’m still figuring out how to avoid allowing that to happen but I think the first step is speaking the things we want to accomplish out loud, where we are then made accountable to the work it will take to achieve them.

That being said, we’re two weeks into 2015. We have 8,431 hours left this year.

How are your resolutions going?

Currently Cultured: A Win for The Virgin and The Marginalized | The Golden Globes 2015

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Did you guys watch the Golden Globes on Sunday?

A few friends and I sat around the TV with snacks and wine, cheering on our favorite contenders and wishing Amy and Tina could steal all of the airtime they were so compliantly sharing.

Earlier this year, I dove headfirst into the subject of pop culture, following the Internet’s commentary of it all which made watching the Golden Globes this year infinitely more fun. For better or worse (and it does get worse), pop culture is an integral cog in the engine of our social atmosphere. It’s influences creates narratives for the stories we internalize. I’ve grown more aware at how uniquely important these messages in shaping our experiences and ultimately, what kind of lives we believe are possible for ourselves.

My favorite winner at the Golden Globes this year was 30-year-old Chicagoan, Gina Rodriguez, who recognizes both her responsibility to these messages and the privilege she has in being a part of their craftsmanship. I enjoy the divinely original plot line of the tv show she stars in, CW’s Jane The Virgin, and the relationships that unfold among her Latino TV family are often reminiscent of my own. This familiarity is a unique thing to experience while watching American television.

Rodriguez’s award acceptance speech brought an added level of kinship as she acknowledged a community of Latino actors often stereotyped into maids, lawn care specialists, and trophy wives, as ones who deserve to be cast as the heroes of their own stories.

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In her role as Jane the Virgin, Gina Rodriguez has pioneered the story of a young woman who is thrust into a life-altering situation and consistently succeeds in her own way beyond it. She’s feisty, endearing and above all, vulnerable with the full experience that her character would journey – Making Jane the Virgin not only a delight to watch but also, an intensely personal character. Which one of us hasn’t had a dream diverged in our twenties? Maybe not due to being accidentally artificially inseminated (….) but a dissatisfying job, or health concern, or cross-country move. Jane the Virgin suggests that one can navigate life’s uncertainties with honesty and a steadfast commitment to one’s own dreams, even if those dreams change along the way. This is a message worth carrying into homes across the country and a character worth watching which leads me to the point that, whether they are familiar to my own experience or not, trailblazers in television matter.

There is no clearer example of this than in that of Nichelle Nichols’ breakthrough role as Lieutenant Uhura, the communications officer on the original 60’s Star Trek television series.

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Nichelle Nichols was one of the first African-American women to be cast in a role beyond the stereotypes available to women of color at the time. She considered leaving Star Trek after one season and changed her mind upon meeting Martin Luther King Jr. who praised her character and urged her not to “abdicate her position.” Nichols remembers King pointing out to her that she was, “changing the minds of people across the world, because for the first time, through you, we see ourselves and what can be.” Rodriguez shared a similar sentiment with Buzzfeed news decades later when she said, “If you start to see yourself in the worlds of television and film and on billboards and in magazines — everything we’re driven by as a culture and a society — you start to think, ‘Why not me?’” And this adage remains true.

Nichols continued her role on Star Trek and in 1968, shared what is remembered in history as the first inter-racial kiss on national television, merely ten years after Richard and Mildred Loving were arrested for violating Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman to travel in space, praised Nichols as one of her role models and said it was Nichols’ representation of her likeness on on Star Trek that she lead her to believe she too could orbit space someday.

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I would be amiss not to mention Laverne Cox, an American actress and pop culture favorite best known for her portrayal of Sophia Burset on the Netflix original Orange is the New Black, for which she became the first openly transgender person to be nominated for an Emmy in an acting category. This milestone occurred merely four months prior to 15-year-old Leelah Alcorn’s suicide – Which Leelah explained in her last blog post that she was driven to by the pain of growing up in a community lacking acceptance towards transgender individuals. Laverne Cox has spoken openly about Leelah’s untimely passing, acknowledging the power that representation has for young adults in relieving the burden of their differences.

It is my hope to live in a world where media reflects the myriad of opportunities available to the diverse. What would we learn about one another in watching the experiences of people different from ourselves play out on screens in front of us – That they are human? That they are exceptionally talented? That our capacities for loss and for love are not unique to one race, orientation, or gender? The spectrum of representation I am imagining may not happen anytime soon, but if the Golden Globes (which brought attention to the issues explored in Transparent, Selma, and The Normal Heart) is any indicator of trend, I’ll keep watching until it does.

#SUNDAYSOUNDS: It’s Gonna Be You and Me

In an interview with Barbara Walters, Hillary Clinton once said the following about her marriage to Bill, “Even after all these years, he’s still the most interesting, energizing and fully alive person I have ever met. Bill Clinton started a conversation in the spring of 1971, and more than 30 years later we’re still talking.” I’ve had this quote in my mind for a few years now and instinctively think about it whenever I consider a new attraction to somebody. Will we have things to speak about in 30 years? Interests in common, similar dreams on the horizon? Each Sunday, I’ll be sharing a song I love. Today’s #SUNDAYSOUNDS is shared with a young Hillary and Bill in mind. I wonder if they would’ve gotten down to Flume.

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Source unknown (presumably The Clintons); You and Me by Disclosure (Flume Remix)

Not All New Years Are Happy

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The beginning of this year has felt a lot like an afternoon sky pregnant with the promise of a rainstorm.

Stay with me.

You know... those overcast afternoons when clouds are rolling in quicker than usual, when you can feel the threat of rain clouds suspended above you, anxious over how long the downpour will last once it has begun and whether you’re loved ones will make it home safe.

I experienced an unusually tumultuous few days into the beginning of the new year while I was still home visiting over the holidays, and upon returning to New York, I’ve learned that a few close friends are dealing with heavy times, too.

Through this collective experience of undoing, the month of January has forced me to be more vulnerable, to prioritize what I want life to look like through the good and the bad, and challenged me to just seize these things already. If there’s anything to be said about periods of unrest in one’s life, it’s that they allow no permission for apathy or the illusion of detachment from responsibility.

I’m being very vague, mostly to protect both my own privacy and that of my friends. I think I just needed to write this to acknowledge that this year is here, and to be a voice amongst the many “THIS IS YOUR YEAR!” platitudes to say it’s okay if it’s not panning out to be all that you expected.

Anyway, a new calendar year simply brings another day. Sometimes this means an opportunity. Other days, it’s just rain needing to pass.

Take Two; Reconciling The Old to The New

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A little over a year ago, I was in the exact same position I find myself in this Tuesday afternoon.

I was launching a blog that I shared widely with my friends and extended network, which lead me to produce content multiple times a week and enjoy a daily routine intertwined with my long-standing love for writing.

I began a new job in March that demanded a different set of skills, a considerable amount of energy and writing fell to the wayside. Along with it, my vision for my old blog and it’s readers.

So the story goes.

I’m here once again for the same reason that I imagine others return again and again to the sea.

Writing, in it’s unique ability to wash away the debris of the non-creative life, allows me to reestablish what matters most. It helps me redeem things I don’t understand in this unsteady world and gives way to stillness when the clamor of living proves deafening. I can depend on the ocean returning to kiss the shore no matter how many times a day it is sent away, just as I return to words again and again in my exploration of beauty and the human spirit.

Whether anyone visits does not matter. After all this time, it’s still the sea and me.