Introspection is Exhausting + Why I Love ABBA

I’ve seen over a dozen movies in theater this year, and over a dozen times I have almost happy-cried when they played the Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again trailer. I was so unexpectedly moved by this 2-minute blip of a movie franchise I had only ever thought of as My Big Fat Greek Wedding but with singing and dancing. I didn’t understand the plot of this movie, but when they set those nostalgic flashbacks of the characters then vs. now to Dancing Queen, I was on board. I had to see this movie. 

I won’t go into detail about the movie, because I feel like everyone has already seen it, but ugh, it was so perfect and fun. I was so charmed by Meryl Streep, the three dads, everything. Then I started listening to ABBA, urged on by a friend who’s a super-fan, and I’ve listened to nothing else in the past 10 days.  I love the ridiculous costumes, the fanfare, the relentless optimism that pervades so much of their music. I’ve been listening to them while at work and I feel like they’re making me a couple notches too excited for the workplace. It’s almost embarrassing to be at this level of energy while editing spreadsheets and sending emails. How did I miss out on this cultural phenomenon?

I wouldn’t consider myself musically adventurous. Music is an area that I’ve never felt comfortable speaking to, since I’ve listened to much of the same music over and over again for years. I don’t know the difference between a soprano and a contralto or what exactly timbre is. I have never meaningfully contributed to the music round of any trivia event. I don’t know who half the people on the radio are anymore, and it comes less from a weird anti-establishment hipster pride and more from the fact that I will listen to the same 2006-2012 pop and alt-rock trash every single day of my life.  I couldn’t intellectualize music or write true criticism if I tried. It’s one of those things I will assume is magic and call it a day.

And music is also just intensely personal to me. I can’t disentangle a song from the circumstances in which I first listened to it. And while I repeat these songs because I obviously love them, it’s like being taken on the same ride all over again. I don’t always want to be reliving the emotions I felt as a teenager, stuck in a recursive loop of introspecting, reflecting, and soul-searching. Wishing I was here, wishing I was there. This can’t just be a “me” thing, so I’m also posting this as a way to shout into the void and see if anyone returns my call.

I’ve spent so much time in my head, especially in these last few months, that it has been refreshing to listen to music without emotional baggage or built-in opportunities to re-litigate my life. Eventually, I’ll get tired of ABBA, or maybe it’ll become part of my regular rotation of like 6 artists, as their music comes to represent this moment in life. I’ll hear “Waterloo” or “The Day Before You Came” a year later or 20 years later in a grocery store and think about who I was then, reminiscing about the person I am now.

But I’m glad that now, while my life is in the upswing, I can listen to ABBA’s inspirational, poppy ballads and relish in this new ability to look forward instead of backward. This weekend, I’m planning on watching ABBA: The Movie and possibly a couple documentaries, because my obsession knows no boundaries. Maybe I’ll get one of those sparkly jumpsuits too. Who can really say?

Sunday Update #3 | New Job + Thoughts from Being Unemployed

It’s me again! I’m writing in on yet another rainy day in Chicago. Whoever told me that there were “seasons” in Chicago was lying to me. There is only too cold and too hot. And in between those extremes is this month where the temperature seems okay on its face, but it’s undermined by the constant rainfall and bone-chilling wind that I never seem to dress right for.

Don’t move to Illinois. Move to California.

 


 

I have some personal news: I got a new job! I start tomorrow and am very excited and nervous.

You may have heard me allude to being unemployed on this blog. I’ve been not-working since February. I left my previous company to give myself the space to find a role that was a better fit, and I think I’ve finally found it.

This is a relief, because after a month in, I ran out of things to do.  I have been reading books, taking long walks, going to author events, the like. My family’s visited a couple times, and I’ve been back to Orlando as well. But I also miss doing things, you know?

It’s interesting how closely work becomes tied to your self-worth. In conversations at happy hours, on Uber rides, with movers and building managers  and neighbors, eventually the question of “What do you do?” comes up, and I have internally braced myself each time. It’s hard not to answer that question defensively or feel like you’re on the back foot of any situation. I didn’t realize how much security I felt from having a job until I didn’t have one.

Sometimes I skipped going to events entirely out of fear that the question would come up (and it always does). I thought, what if they think I’m a flake, someone who couldn’t hack it in a real job? Maybe her parents pay her rent and support her, because who else would callously quit their job with no backup plan?

I am happy to count myself back in the professional world, but I will still continue to examine these feelings that my stint of unemployment has blown the dust off. I know that I am not my job and that my self-worth goes beyond how I feel and perform at work, but it is difficult to remember when you don’t have anything else going on.

I made this post’s featured photo one of me at an Ad Club event. I spent most of college doing these kinds of professional development events and thinking about where I’d end up after graduation. I was very green then. I was convinced that work would be my life’s ultimate passion and that it would give me endless fulfillment. So after I came out of my first job finding out that maybe this wasn’t the case, I realized how important it was to find value and passion in all areas of life.

This is my segue into saying that hobbies are important! I have benefited immensely from writing regularly and pursuing interests outside of my industry. It feels invigorating to work on something that is completely mine. It feels reassuring to know that if something were to happen to this next job or any subsequent one, I will still have dreams and wants that exist outside of a 9-to-5.

This has gone longer than I originally intended, so in the most natural transition yet, here are things online that I’ve been enjoying lately:

 

Don’t Do Homework with Your Life

Yesterday I came across an interesting sentiment in this Gizmodo piece about the director Guillermo del Toro, who made Pan’s Labryinth and The Shape of Water.

The last question of the night was about videogames. Del Toro, a dedicated gamer — his children serve as his “wingmen” when he plays Left 4 Dead — is moving into making games, stating matter-of-factly that they’re as legitimate of a medium as film and literature. “I expect and hope to create what I would like to see in a videogame,” he says, after rattling off some of his favorite videogames at near-incomprehensible speed, just as he did when someone asked him his favorite authors: Shadow of the ColossusIcoGadget: Invention, Travel, & AdventureMarathonHaloGears of WarCall of DutyKatamariLeft 4 DeadRed Dead RedemptionPrototypeBioshockUncharted 2. He plays a ton of games, though he doesn’t finish anything he doesn’t like — and this holds true for books, film, whatever. “If it doesn’t engage me, I leave it,” he said. “I do not do homework with my life.”

And this really struck me. How many times have I plowed through books I didn’t enjoy just to be able to say I finished them? How many times have I made myself watch to the end of movies I wasn’t interested in just so I could get my “money’s worth”?

For me, part of this is the sunk-cost fallacy of “I invested in this, so I shouldn’t abandon this,” but another component is feeling like I need to do or enjoy certain things because it’s in the zeitgeist. And in the past few years, I have learned that keeping up is exhausting. Having to learn and care about everything in pop culture is a full-time job in itself and is also just impossible. You can’t win here.

This isn’t an argument against challenging yourself or trying new things or seeing difficult things through, but rather, permission to do more of what you enjoy and do less of the things that feel like an obligation. If it’s purely for your enjoyment, then why put these rules and expectations on yourself?

In the spirit of transparency, here’s a non-exhaustive list of things I have toiled through long after the point of enjoyment:

  • Pretending to enjoy professional football
  • Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder
  • Online coding courses
  • “Alibis: Essays on Elsewhere” by André Aciman (sorry, dude, but it’s been three months since I started your book, and if I have to hear about you strolling through one more piazza, I will die)
  • Pod Save America and all of its associated podcasts (Of “Lovett or Leave It,” I chose Leave It)
  • Top 40 radio stations
  • Wearing cheap, sweat-inducing polyester business casual clothing
  • Any news articles, explainers, and thinkpieces about Lena Dunham, Amy Schumer, the Kardashians, and Kanye West
  • The Hunger Games, movies and books
  • Western movies and most rom-coms
  • Hate-watching Tomi Lahren (I have muted her name on Twitter forever)
  • Royal Family and Royal Wedding content
  • Eating pineapple, even though I never slice it correctly and the core cuts my mouth
  • Caring about Pokemon in any capacity
  • Top hats (lol)
  • American Idol
  • Forums about Myers-Briggs personality types (summary: INTJs are the best)
  • Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
  • Thinking about what Hogwarts house is best for me
  • The Sherlock fanbase
  • Star Wars vs. Star Trek debate (my answer: neither)
  • Westworld (perhaps it’s early to say since season 2 just started, but does this show ever get fun?)
  • SNL skits and late-night TV segments about the Trump administration
  • Blogs exclusively about paleo, Whole30, gluten-free, vegan, and keto lifestyles
  • Beauty vloggers so wealthy that they seem untethered from reality
  • New York media scandals and spats that play out on Twitter
  • Starbucks Frappuccinos
  • Muse (your poster has been on my wall for 8 years, but I like to pretend that you stopped releasing music after Black Holes and Revelations)