16/ 02/ 2016
The world is split into two categories of people: those who think New Yorkers are the shit, and those who think we’re the most rude, arrogant people on earth. And I was never more aware of this fact than when I moved to other cities and met people who ALL had opinions about us. Hell, we even have conflicting opinions about ourselves!
I just got home from a fairly long day of work, then meeting up with an old friend (who just got engaged! yay!) during which I may have cussed someone out. But: I don’t do that every day, in fact I rarely do. And I ALSO had friendly conversation with a few strangers, held the elevator for someone, and had someone hold the elevator for me. Conclusion? There are mean New Yorkers. New Yorkers CAN be mean. Are New Yorkers mean by definition? No.
I believe that, in place of tradition and politeness in New York, we have a culture of genuine empathy. There is an unspoken understanding among everyone standing on a crowded subway platform that everyone is unhappy about being squeezed onto the subway. It is assumed that everyone is in a hurry, so you don’t come to blows with everyone who squeezes past you, or brushes against you, though you might roll your eyes. And if you’re going to make someone take time of their day to, say, give you directions, you should apologize and thank them. And lastly, it is an unspoken truth that people should do their jobs competently–in New York, you are incompetent at your peril–but they do NOT get paid enough to call you sweetie and treat you like you’re their best friend. That is a privilege, not a right.
That doesn’t make New Yorkers rude, it makes us pragmatic by necessity. New York is crowded, and it’s an expensive city to live in, with congestion and long commutes. To survive, thrive and be competitive in this city you have to be quick, you have to be sharp, and you have to hustle. There is something to be said for growing up in a place where people are highly competitive in everything, from basketball or handball at the park to dressing up for work, getting a job, or even making friends. We are trained from an early age that nothing is a given, and we have to work for it, or someone else will take it from us. So we stay sharp, and we respect that aggression, cynicism, and quick wit that is so common among here and so rare in most other places–those qualities that other people see as arrogance.
Sometimes, you’ll meet a special exception to all of this, who can manage to be all of the above, and still be extra nice. Just know that there is a 50/50 chance that person wants a tip, or your phone number. (Kidding. Yea, we got jokes, too.)
The truth is, when someone is really struggling, a real New Yorker will probably stop and help them carry a stroller down the stairs, or give an elderly person their seat. Not all of us, but many of us would. Those of us who didn’t stop/get up probably just had a bad week, or came from a country even more crowded and cutthroat than the 7 train.
Not to mention, there are MANY people in this city who came from somewhere “nice,” and who’ve interpreted the relative anonymity of New York as license to be hardened assholes. These people go around the world giving us a bad name, telling people that New York “made” them that way. They are sorely mistaken. This essay by a self-proclaimed New Yorker is a case in point–she says being a New Yorker makes it ok to be mean to her barista at Starbucks and to airport security guards, but in reality she is just a horrible, rude person who thinks she can get away with showing her true colors because she’s in New York. Most of us know what it’s like to serve people like her–kids who spent weekends in mid-town marveling at the concrete and what they THINK the city is all about: pushiness and uncompromising aggression. And we would never wish that type of treatment unto others. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen New Yorkers stand up for each other against rude assholes like that. We may not smile at you, but we have principles after all.
Like in the rest of the world, there are people in New York who are inconsiderate, incompetent, and rude. Most are just trying to get through their day, so stop complaining that other people are inconsiderate of YOUR feelings and start thinking about how you are sharing their space and they have more important things to worry about than a complete stranger.
03/ 02/ 2016
Tamara Woods, an author I follow on Youtube, put out a video today on a super fascinating topic: the issue of diversity in books.
She offers a thoughtful counter-opinion to the idea that the more diverse a book is, the better, saying it can be super awkward when authors drop random minorities into their storylines for the sake of diversity, only to play into popular stereotypes.
First of all–shout out to Tamara, or @penpaperpad on Twitter. I really like her videos centered around her life as a writer, despite the fact that I have never considered writing anything as ambitious as a novel. I like getting a little peek into the world of an author through her channel, y’all should check it out.
I pretty much agree with her assessment. Do I think writers should never write about things other than what they know? Absolutely not–some of the best works of literature and journalism made commentary on aspects of society that were from the outside looking in. But I do think that A) writers who do want to write about people and lifestyles they’re unfamiliar with should resist all temptation to base characters off of what they assume they know, including extensive research on whichever community it is they have chosen to write about, and B) even after any writer thinks they have a demographic figured out, they should poll at least a few different people within that demographic to give an honest opinion of how they are being portrayed. Ultimately, it will boil down to whether or not the “minority” characters are humanized, and not caricatures of stereotypes, but still true to whatever identity the author is trying to portray.
It’s a lot of work. But I’d argue that any author worth their salt would do the same level of research about any town they set their story in, or if they’re writing something science-related, they would extensively research and vet their story to be sure that what they’re saying is at least plausible (giving very liberal leeway of course, to imagination). If an author were to write a historical fiction story, set during the great depression, it would behoove that author to research living conditions, clothing, and other characteristics of the time, no?
Having other people read it is key, because there are some things that certain people take for granted that others don’t. That’s what leads to those jarring moments–not just in books, but in movies, TV shows, etc.–when you can see a writer was trying to achieve something, but fell flat because they didn’t realize they were coming from such a narrow point of view. To give the example I left for Tamara on her video, I just finished reading a GREAT book, Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. Without giving everything away to those of you who haven’t read it, I will say the book was thoroughly enjoyable. But (and obviously, I could be wrong about Cline’s intentions) there is a part of the story that builds up to a big reveal about one of the characters, designed to shock (and perhaps delight) the reader by turning any assumption of that character’s appearance, demographic, etc. on its head.
I, however, was dismayed, not delighted, perhaps because I was coming from my own very narrow experiences. Up to that point, I’d been imagining a colorful, futuristic world painted by Cline in which there were people of all identities. But that strange and jarring buildup revealed that I was very far off base, because Cline’s world was actually a homogenous one, in which the only non-white characters up to that moment were the two Japanese guys who lived by samurai code. To be blunt, it was a let down.
Was it wrong for Cline to include this character? I don’t think so. But it could have been unwrapped a bit better, not like a cheap “SURPRISE! Gotcha didn’t I, I bet you didn’t expect this person to not only be THIS, but also THIS, and THIS. Bam.” It gave me even more of a jolt because of its sharp contrast with the voice of the story was overwhelmingly white, male and Generation X–something I’d say actually made the book better overall, because it really got you inside the protagonist’s head. (Did I mention, I loved the book?)
Personally, I think the key to #weneeddiversebooks is more diverse authors. It isn’t fair, or smart, to expect white writers to write diversity into their books. We need platforms for more diverse writers to have the opportunity to write, and act, and perform, from their point of view. And we need for the many great authors (and filmmakers, and comics, etc. etc.) of color to get the funding they need to tell REAL stories, not stories that feed into the stereotypes of their demographic which sell better–because there is no better way to humanize a “minority” character than to have that character come from the imagination of a minority.
03/ 02/ 2016
A LOT of things happened last year. Mostly for good.
Let me rewind a bit and start from the “beginning.” I have been self-publishing on various platforms since the Xanga/LiveJournal days, which other old school folks may also remember fondly. Those were great times–many of my friends caught the writing bug, and we spent hours every day reading and commenting on each others’ posts. I got to know some Internet strangers (back when that sort of thing was still an exciting/weird idea). It was all very interactive because Facebook, MySpace, Snapchat, etc. did not exist yet.
But while I enjoyed the writing and the discussion, I never had a clear idea for what my purpose was in the so-called “blogosphere.” I moved from writing on to photos and video, and I touched on anything and everything that caught my interest from fashion to rants on social issues. I was too busy getting started with my career and living my young adulthood to worry about what was, essentially, a hobby.
Well…2015 was the year everything changed. I realized that life was about more than my day job, especially if I wanted to make a difference. And I needed to turn my extracurricular self-publishing into a serious learning experience that would eventually be something I could be proud of.
Believe me when I say it was SUCH a struggle to do this, mostly because my interests were so wide-ranging that I didn’t know which to focus on. Video had become my favorite medium of expression though, and since some of my favorite Youtubers were style bloggers, I thought that might be my passion. I tried it out, and the truth is I didn’t feel motivated. I didn’t lay awake at night thinking of what my next great fashion video would be. Instead, I recorded rants about relationships, which I thought were way more fun. And I still had no idea where I was going with it all.
Then a whole bunch of things happened around the same time. My personal life got turned upside down (more on that here), and I had to move from Brazil back to New York. I decided to start a new, general topic channel, vlogged (almost) every day in April to document the entire move, and grew more determined than ever to stay with creating videos. But even as I settled in to a new home and a new position, I still wasn’t sure what I was all about as a multimedia creator, and it wasn’t until I took a day off of work and bought a ticket to StreamCon last fall that it became clear to me that I needed to figure it out.
By some measures StreamCon, the first creator conference I’ve ever attended, was a total bust. I showed up, attended a few seminars, shyly chatted with some other creators and publicists, and mostly just hid in the corner watching people clamor for the attention of famous Youtubers (whom I mostly recognized) and famous teenaged Viners (whom I did not recognize at all). I exchanged business cards with some cool people, and realized that it was really hard to carry a conversation on with a new person when A) I could’t tell them about my day job, a.k.a. where I spent the vast majority of my time, and B) I couldn’t really sum up what my identity was as a creator because I didn’t really have one. By that time, I’d made a few dozen videos, but only a handful I was proud of. It was precisely the humbling, forced self-analysis that I needed to get my ass in gear.
That is my very long way to tell the story of how I ended up spending the last few months digging deep within myself and ultimately deciding on a multimedia strategy, and on a brand. I am retiring the Hoops & High Heels style and fashion channel and focusing my other channel, itsme Lori, on what I feel I’m best at: provoking discussion around topics that matter to people. Since New Year, my videos have covered everything from travel to the Powerball and relationships. It’s only February, but I’m averaging more than one video a week so far. Not bad!
The beautiful thing about having purpose is that the content becomes more about the content, and less about things like how many people are watching. What I’ve always loved about the itsme Lori channel is interacting with subscribers (and new friends!), whereas Hoops & High Heels mostly attracted one-time viewers who’d stop by and compliment me on my appearance or my stuff. I still have fewer subscribers and fewer views on itsme Lori videos, but the ones I do get are more meaningful to me–people are watching longer and giving me more feedback.
As part of the whole effort I also launched The itsme Podcast, a monthly series in which I interview an inspiring person with a great story that would be useful to all of us who are about that hustle. The interviews, which will be posted as videos with highlights and in full audio on Soundcloud, will feature people like athletes, entrepreneurs, artists, activists and more. My first guest was ultrarunner Sky Canaves, who told the story of how she went from not running at all to completing some of the most hard core races, and competing for Team USA. Check her out even if you’re not into running. She is awe-inspiring and, as she explains in the segment, making it through a 24-hour race is more about mental strength than anything else (like most things in life)!
I am glad to say that now that I AM losing sleep over my channel. I lay awake at night brainstorming ideas, and I wake up brimming with more. This is all, obviously, very exhausting, but it’s a good exhaustion because I am inspired, motivated, and excited! And if you’re out there reading this, I really hope you are too, and will come check it out. 🙂
18/ 01/ 2016
I sat down for a coffee with a top ultra runner to talk about mental perseverance, how to overcome discouragement, recovering from injury and the fascinating world of 24+ hour races! Really inspiring stuff for anyone who’s ever tried to do something that seemed impossible.
My plan this year is take you guys to meet more inspiring people like Sky, in hopes that I can share some of their amazing stories and maybe apply a little of their wisdom and experience to our own endeavors. Don’t forget to comment, subscribe and give the video a thumbs up if you’re into that!
13/ 01/ 2016