Memoir piece 4

[this continued from previous parts of memoir]

“Are you gonna be able to graduate!?”

“I don’t know!!”

Jillian who I met in undergrad knew more about all the white male philosophers than I did, because as far as I know it’s all she would read. Almost all she would read. That is probably a good hook in a synopsis of this person. I’ve noticed that writing by people who are well — people like Durga Chew-Bose, whose first book of essays Too Much and Not the Mood was something we both enjoyed and shared in; Durga must know via the internet that I am obsessed with her writing, for its.. narrative?? wait.. for, helping people, ss-s–low down **reee ree malfunction from the computer-girl** and it helpins them-people value the right things [and it’s also good writing] (and in this passage I am keeping a shell up, tortoise-like in this Hobbesian brawl to the death ../ watch her go), which could be awkward or could be something surprising when we finally meet, if I should say since you never know anything at all; it could be awkward what is actual versus, what’s just been perceived — might be what sick people are drawn to, whereas people who aren’t might be drawn to the stuff by minds on the verge of going mad. I can’t really speak to that; to being drawn to art by people who are well as the diagnosed-crazy one. It’s just a hypothesis I have, and hypotheses are distinct from theories in that they’re much less absolute.

It still should be concerning, probably, that Jillian and I were both sick in the head in the years we spent most of our time together: double trouble.

I’ve blamed her for being the bad influence then caused me to break down at the same age most people who struggle with serious mental illness do (around or before age 25), and I might feel differently about the past if self-belief had been all it took to carry me to victory; occasionally that does happen for people in America including great artists. One thing I’m grateful to have learned from staying in New York and in a prestigious setting, a setup that was hard to swing, is that humbly [and not cunningly] accepting the role of patron instead of trying to be a star when you can’t carry the show is commendable, in a way that’s almost objectively apparent — like if you’re all in a room together. I am speaking for myself, it’s better to be the one who knows she looks terrible than the one trying to cover it up; otherwise, honestly in dreams and other places, you just project your ugly insecurities onto people and in real-life it doesn’t make life better. When Jillian called me “Lola” and souped my confidence up, I think honestly I was replaying dynamics with my mother growing up; how she pushed my self-belief to a higher level. (I don’t think that was a bad thing — my mother also was a realist, about how the world is hard.) It just wasn’t the same quite with Jillian, whose own mother sounded even more hardcore than mine with the pressure to succeed, not crack, to succeed, and there are two variations on the short synopsis of my friendship with Jillian: one is that those were some of the wildest years of my life, that I was lucky for them, and the other is that I met someone insane, and it threw me, that one girl — Morgan from your high school with all the accolades — completely off.

I do not think it’s the case that my audience, readers of this book, will appreciate the number of times I use the word ugly in it; but I also don’t have an audience, and if what is written down comes across as shameless then it’s because it is harder to pick up on what people would say, and how what I say might matter to someone or reveal too much about my dark side including how I see most of real life or how I’m able to relate to women, deeply to some more-like-me which might explain why I want people to be more-like-me, when that’s dangerous. Writing this, there just aren’t people there to prevent its being written. One of the quotes about me that I’ve flushed out until I wrote it down on my own terms could indeed be, that I’m ugly — which would sort of disempower all the earlier passages in which I played the victim on that one: why are hotter women calling me ugly and making it clear? What I think now, trying to be objective, is that maybe those people who mentioned it were in some warped way where we weren’t communicating online and instead as friends, trying to be nice. It’s hard to get in some places. (Take the in, particularly if there’s room there for you to still be a good person. Take the in.) I’ll never know what happened in the time I’ve demarcated as my fall from grace because to me this time is a blur; I’d be lucky to know what it took for someone actually great to have “it” and I think the point is that it can be subjective what people are drawn to. It can be subjective until you are actually working around people somewhere like film or fashion. And perhaps I did once stand a chance as someone who plural people were drawn to, before I became so obscenely mentally ill, for some time, years really.

So I fell, people are not drawn to me and there’s a fine line between becoming mentally ill from grandiosity and from abjection. I don’t think it matters that much what happened: what matters is that I write as not a star or genius, and not as someone defending my dignity, but as someone aware of how my insanity might have given me insight now into what’s-become-socially-acceptable that is actually (not exaggerating) a form of sickness — as defined by professionals who have studied countless similar cases.

I don’t think I am trying to save the world, or declare what better art is. That would be grandiose and it would also undermine the methods of various brilliant genius people trying to do that, sometimes rationalizing their actions with an end justifies the means argument.

No, I am not up to that but what I keep track of could be helpful to someone else not just to me; so they too could stay out of it. Even if it is everywhere, seemingly.

I am extremely close gal friends with a girl whose mother was a principal dancer [“the prima”] for years for the New York City Ballet, which doesn’t mean much for our friendship but it does mean that her parents known I’m insane, and I’m embarrassed because they’re legit, and once I heard Alex requote her parents saying that they’d seen all the girls come and go through the ballet: the ones who didn’t make it, their struggle, and how I think it must have informed Alex’s family’s decisions not only related to that career before she stopped which wasn’t quite right when Alex was born. (So it must have affected Alex.)

My variation of that spiel from my own parents would be, recounting television advertisements from their day for The Olympics which would say “The Thrill of Victory, The Agony of Defeat”; or hearing them recall slogans from The 12 Step Program to me, since addiction unfortunately runs in the family. Since recovering I’ve heard recovery podcasts about how some people in America just from birth don’t really stand a chance, of not becoming addicts and I wonder if I can say I’m one of them. I think I’m luckyish. My dad comes from a family of alcoholics — who might just be guys doing their thing; from their points of view — but it must be why I don’t drink these days, ever! As a strange girl in a process of coming to terms with a future that’s not the same as what I’d always dreamed. (Alexis Wilcock my sister is the one who got saved completely and may have a somewhat normal life.) [Sometimes I look around and think this in my mind, “normal people,” but then I remember that it’s kind of dangerous internet slang to think of oneself as not a quote “normie.” And I try to change my thinking.] It’s crossed my mind a number of times, more recently, that I fall into the “Agony” category of the Real not Par Olympic ads as someone who used to be sure I’d find victory as a writer, only to find repeated instances of failure pool up around my feet, like pee; no just kidding like dream a so bad that I peed the bed, like passing out in paradise, to wake up to a beach littered with muck and trash. Morning glory.

Oliver Sacks the neurologist whose brilliance involved his ability to connect his work-with-patients to literature, in his own well-written books that reached a lot of people, apparently had a brother who said to the family that “he went insane so that you all could stay sane.” I wonder if that’s what I did, for my sister; or maybe that’s how it currently seems as I do at least try to pick up the trash pieces all over the beach I’m stuck on. As much as I feasibly can. Alexandra Warrick and I have been through a lot and each time I work on this, I feel guilty because I think I used to keep track of my life in a way that was almost petty — I’m almost sure she knows I’ve been writing on a dark twisted island alone; this project like “admitting” in the 12 Steps, is the first step out of the dark with it — but I always knew I’d want to write memoirs and some of what we-she-and-I went through, or what it felt like I was going through, was just too remarkable and distinctly fucked up; in a way that I couldn’t pretend didn’t happen. If I didn’t know what the fuck was even going on, back at the time, then maybe I could reflect on it later: Oliver Sacks used to take so many hallucinogens that they say his slogan was “every dose an overdose,” and some of those experiences made the pages of books by him, but it’s true (to the extent that he didn’t) he could have lost his mind. While I doubt it was entirely premeditated that he’d have all those experiences to draw from, sometimes in order to help other people [honestly as far as what motivated that kind of drug abuse never as a social thing you could say: he was just a weird guy] — he turned out fine [and lucky] by the end when his whole legacy was said, done, and kept track of by friends who lucky-for-him knew how to write.

The last time I mentioned Oliver Sacks I was quoting one of his friends, talking about Mount Carmel; the person I quoted was Lawrence Weschler a staff writer for The New Yorker, and Oliver Sacks — probably not exactly who I intend to end up like because of all my own unique obstacles — was good friends with a number of great Jewish intellectuals from his time as well as writers who weren’t Jewish like the poet Thom Gunn. While this memoir by me is probably more like cleaning up trash on that figurative beach I keep mentioning, and/or reckoning with embarrassing memories so I can not overvalue them and can move forward (no matter how life-rendering they felt at the precise moment I went through them) [I won’t assume that real life is anything like the film Castaway and that some piece of literal trash will be what gets me off this island], it is true that it’s also a means of clearing space for some dreams, the feasible ones, recovering some from the overwhelming wreck of them: so I should mention that it would be nice in adulthood to have writer-friends who I could talk to and write about, without feeling as though I am betraying them by asking them to be intimate in a recording or something. It seems like a habit that I can’t help, to keep track of minutia about humans I’ve met and grown fond of. I feel as though it’s something I see happening more easily among older people: being described accurately (basically). If I have to wait until I’m older to achieve that, then, I guess I have to get older not just die or something.

There was a moment that I think was probably one of the most important periods of my life, if not the most pleasant at all, when I was in touch with a guy from college who I wondered briefly if I’d marry (I feel like it must have crossed his mind too) [if not then fine..]; I would discuss with him openly how he’d arrived just in the knick of time thank god thank god because I had been thinking about becoming, comma as I pause for this, “a dyke.” I guess that says what kind of guy he was, too — not just me, saying that word in my writing; I’d discuss it openly — or maybe it doesn’t say a thing. I think that word is derogatory. I would spend most of my time in my room back in Minneapolis, in a house owned by my dad, convalescing from the one time I went to a psych ward. It really was striking how the only things in life that seemed to matter, were the things that probably matter to everyone: just like, having a good life and hopefully meaningful relationships and being good at your work. What struck me I guess was how many people don’t get to have that. I was excited to have that look very likely for me. Of course I was thinking about whether I’d still be able to do films but I didn’t care quite as much as I did from age 17 when I went to Columbia for the film program, to 25 when I cracked: my dad wouldn’t care either way what-I-did, my mom who’s always been my biggest fan would say “sure you can.. later, someday.” It suddenly was an “NBD” kind of thing. It wasn’t like, do it while you still even can because.. that biological clock, gurl. Is tickin’. I wasn’t sure, and I still am not sure the future holds — I’ve heard older people say, no one can be sure — but I think the idea is that the films I did, if I did them would unlike-before be for other people. I also don’t mean for like one friend.

Not for me; not with me as the unlikely, underdog success story behind it, which viewers cared about more than the 90-or-so-minute film. I think that’s one of the dreams I could stand to let go of, a film kind of about me. There’s always a worse underdog. Harvey Weinstein used to describe himself as one, and he said that perspective informed the movies he produced.

In any case, it might be a good moment to introduce Alex Warrick a bit more: she’s actually a very private person, just talkative which is different. This is probably why keeping track of texts or times we met might have felt like hedging boundaries. (“To hedge” actually means to protect.) The first time I showed her a draft of some of this was just under two years ago in 2020 when I’d begun fulfilling prerequisites for medical school by online-only classes, and Alex who’s back in school herself to get an M.A. had started dating a bit — this is to remind us each, that some of our lives have changed since then and so I’ll try to account for the catch-up I’ve had to play from the recent past to present. Don’t worry I lost most of our texts but I have some screenshots and they’re usually interesting, sometimes, in a good way.

I don’t know how many dreams it took in which I embarrassed myself, tripping when I intended to do something funny, or unknowingly harassed someone causing them to sit back and give me the more-sensitive dream equivalent of a jaw drop — nothing slapstick about it — for me to decide resolutely that I’m not a comedian.

It’s true that the extent to which I used to really be one, forced me to reflect on it: how it’s indeed, a survival-of-the-fittest thing for girls who don’t quite fit in; say in environments that are cutthroat in a unique way like on a women’s Varsity team. I became the resident “Freak,” and became very good at it. I just found at some point it didn’t land the same, and I’m surprised I still haven’t gotten it out of my system. We’d do fucked up stuff like go to paintball as a women’s team, and everyone would be joking around and I’d be in like a full military get-up that I found in our costume box. Like “hi guys.” Like I didn’t get the normal dress code: just something normal like pants. “Hey, it’s your bodies.”

However now that I’ve said that I can clarify that, I wouldn’t be the first to identify a changing landscape for humor in the past couple decades: kind of, especially since the Internet. Around the time I was convalescing in a room in my dad’s house, Alexandra gifted me a book for my 26th: Planet Funny by a man Ken Jennings who’s won Jeopardy! more times than anyone in history. He also writes books. I read the book which closed

**Genealogy mental

My mentor at Lincoln Center, director and former head of the New York Film Festival Kent Jones, said to me that I didn’t strike me as “the funny-type,” just from talking to him; and he’d be the type to give honest feedback. So I don’t know, really, what to do besides actually sort of wonder what the fuck I’ve said in the past five years that seemed funny to me but was probably vaguely awful. My boss at the time Gavin Smith saw a Jenny Slate film and abhorred everything about it; I actually kind of was on the same page, but then, I showed him Dark Lady Blues, a film in which I played a fat girl. I never got out of character. Furthermore I never went back to the office after some morning I handed some notes out with the URL, not even once; actually wait, I did go back once the night Chantal Akerman died. That was a big deal, it wasn’t that big of a deal that they didn’t watch the film I’d handed out some days before I went back for the release of No Home Movie. The best feedback I got on this student film was from my intern friend there, the accomplished critic Max Nelson, hopefully still a friend, who said the tagline, “a period film,” was a really good tagline for the film.

*In insipid white girl voice* PS. Since I can say this kind of thing now. I always sort of had a crush on his best friend David who helped co-found that film magazine, still technically active at Columbia, Double Exposure. That was our Cahiers, and my friend of maybe a year worked for them named Maya Rosmarin, whose friend Christine is an incredible.. violinist I think; she was also friends with an aspiring director Nick Lieberman who (sorry Nick) I once emailed in an ego trip when I was having a psychotic break because, it’s hard to explain but if we meet again I can explain — ..someone I’d consult about film score stuff. Remember when we were hanging out in our first week at school and saw someone die outside Lerner Hall near the entrance to WKCR? Like a car crash, and remember when in our first week in John Jay a girl jumped out and killed herself. I swear that these times are the wildest.

HBA

Comments are closed.