Public Notes

This is where I keep some of my ideas, thoughts, and scribbles. Feel free to use them as a bouncing off point for your own work (please credit or link back here if you do!).

Stars of Glass
January 05, 2024

Sometimes, I wonder whether one of the obstacles to feeling like I can effect change comes down to the fact of being a brown woman, brought up culturally and by force of my gender to make everyone else feel at home in rooms at the cost of my own comfort. When you have been taught to look for the gaps in others’ needs and step in to fill them, when all you have been taught to is abide by the rules, to honour and perpuate tradition, to be sensitive to a 'no' being said in the absence of that very word, it becomes more and more difficult to find your own voice, push your own agenda. And god, is it tiring to be a wave hitting a cliff face repeatedly.

Easier instead, to quash your own self in order to propagate systems that have kept your people in check for centuries - never mind that waves wear down stones over time, it will not be in your lifetime, maybe not even the next. And how difficult is it to trudge onwards with no respite, no end in sight?

Imposter syndrome at its best; sponsor #1: your culture, sponsor #2: your gender.

I wonder whether this kind of systemic oppression is why brown women are slow to surface in boardrooms, in STEM, in political decision-making. I wonder too if it is the reason that they make such waves when they do, because drawing outside the lines requires such force of conviction that you cannot but let the overwhelming power of that surge within you and guide you through whatever it is you do. But to connect with that surge is to also live with a constant undercurrent of unsettledness, a bristling under your skin for all the injustices you see that could be righted if there were a veering away from the hard-poled houses of tradition. To connect with that surge is to forever be tainted an ‘angry woman’, unless you delicately don the sheepskin of being acceptable while expressing your lupine beliefs.

As an on-and-off angry woman / lurker in sheepskin, I have taught myself to, in large part, push to one side the comfort of others for the pursuit of justice. But I wonder whether in the rare moments when I am not flagrant, I am allowing myself to somehow get in my own way. I know that when I loosen myself from the grip of the surge a little, I start to deny myself opportunities. I convince myself that I am not good enough for jobs or that my ideas are not yet fully formed enough, or that the people who have been running the show for so long know its ins and outs better than I ever will and therefore any questions I raise hold no sway. In situations where the doubts raised by these guardians of old galaxies seem unsurmountable, simply because no new way has been tried, I convince myself that it is not my job alone to change the system, and that it is instead better to protect myself from the predictable peltering of arrows. But if people like me who have been raised to see the gaps do not ask the questions, then who will?

I wonder whether other strong women are hit by these questions too. Questions about self-worth and doubts on whether we belong in the boardroom, at the table, in the cartographers’ chamber, pointing out holes in the way things have always been done instead of patching over them as we have been trained to. Questions about whether it is really our work to bring more people in to the fold, to share the power with those who have been neglected, and whether it is not in fact a bit presumptuous of us to think that we have any stake in that power in the first place, in where it goes too. I wonder about the frequency with which other women think about whether it is ok to take up space in rooms where we have been told to sit quiet for too long, pushing ideas for which there is no evidence because they have never been tried.

They say there is a glass ceiling and that we should reach for the stars anyway, but what if the stars themselves are not starstuff, just distractions made of glass?

la mujer salvaje: notes on a film
November 20, 2023

in the foliage in a city greened by centuries of decay, salt and sweat heavy in the air, a woman rustles through the leaves, blood on her left shoulder, cast on her left forearm, gingerly lifting the aluminium cover to a cave. a man - her husband, a client? - inserts himself in her with a certain violence, heaving and thrusting with those most cliched of spanish words till the point is made. she is not a willing party to this act, not as she has been the night before to the drummer, his mouth hungry, his eyes wanting, his beats increasing in velocity to her perreo. the next time she sees him, there will be a stump where his hand is currently balances a lowball glass, and she will free herself from his black and blue body as it lies in a hospital, but not before slobbering all over his lips and telling him she loves him.

who is this woman and why does everyone hate her?, we are asked as she sprints through lanes collapsing upon themselves in old havana to escape a figure that has been following her. he is another man in the series of men she is trying to unshackle herself from in this movie, a cop, or hired muscle perhaps. someone sent to keep her in check as she bliztes through a city in search of something.

around her, people are falling like flies to a pandemic brought in from overseas. a radio broadcast proclaims the numbers, blithely now, after so many days of this enduring: san cristobal, 29, havana, 654. she is masked, then unmasked as she follows her sister to a church where an assembly line of Sisters are packaging meals as they sing the gospel. but being in the house of the Lord is not enough to save her from the wrath of the women who beat her too, swear and claw at her for spewing gossip, being party to the bloody scene on her bed.

‘are you the woman from the video?’, a ladyman of the night will later ask her, nails fluorescent, falsies fluttering as he motions towards her with a cigarette.

‘have I seen you before?’, a lascivious redhead will ask her too, as he leans in to the taxi and presses up close to her. her body not her own, even in a pandemic. ‘I am an actress’, she will respond. we all are.

and she is. she is the woman from the video on the run from the police. in search of her son. in search of a life free from their shackles. trying to make do.

the movie ends with a fadeout into the glimmering lights of havana. no sign of beginning. no sign of end. just a woman in the domesticated degeneracy of the wild.

What I Think About Style
October 03, 2023

I think style is the way your carry yourself, the way you learn what cuts are right for you and also how you allow yourself to morph into other thematic expressions over time. Style is picking out the things you like, that have a little attitude, and seeing the potential to grow into each other with love. It is less a formula or externally-dictated trend, more of allowing the many voices that run within you to express themselves in the details - a folded up sleeve, an untucked corner, the non-conforming sweater that you choose because it is comfortable and makes you feel good.

Style is what makes you feel equal amounts powerful and beautiful, what reminds you that you can hold yourself tall and tenderly at the same time, be sure in your step and still be open to the wonders of the world.

I think style can change with the seasons of your life, even if the shift is ever so slight, but also that it doesn’t have to. I think you can gravitate towards certain colour palettes like you do towards people or ideological trains of thought, sometimes for days, sometimes for months, sometimes just till the leaves turn and the sky steels or unfurls itself. I think I will never wear certain colours, or never again wear others, but choices are made to be challenged and never say never.

I think clothes with history are always more enjoyable for me to wander the world in - it feels like carrying the stories of its wearers with me on my way - my mother’s turtleneck which hangs a little loose on me, the cream luxe brand pants from the lady at the market, who let them go with the wistful gaze of someone who knows they will never fit into those clothes, into that life again. Both of these, I make my own, stylise with dainty chains and sturdy Reebok Classic Club Cs.

Style is yours and what you make it. Style is loving what you have and really using it until you can’t or don’t feel like it is a second skin anymore and then perhaps sharing it with someone else who will love it more. Style is also being a little like you don’t care, what you are wearing is yours and yours alone, and what does anyone else get to have a say in that?

Style is what you are wearing enabling you to belong to yourself a little bit more.

Gen Z and Gender Fluidity
June 07, 2023

You can tell the TikTokkers at the station; layered necklaces, slightly flared pants, middle part curtain bangs pushed back, lips glossy. They could be in the early 2000s, save for the matching structured cross-body bags and perhaps more importantly, the fact that these fashions are not strictly bi-gendered - pearl necklaces, nails painted, hoop earrings, sparkly things on everyone, a viable redefinition of what gen x (or us millenials for that matter) grew up with calling 'masculinity'.

I'm here for it. I'm so here for it. Everyone should be free to express themselves in the ways they want to, to challenge who has the right to dress or behave in ways that erode the circuits hardcoded into society over centuries. And even if that way comes from a TikTok cutout, it offers a template that can be co-opted by anyone to fluently place on the outside what's on the inside.

All outfits, curated or not, are a representation of the values of wearer, an advance warning of what they hold important or not to signal to the world. And so, a male-presenting person arriving with painted nails and pearl necklace announces to the world that they are challenging the long-held social notion of who is considered to be a wearer of pearl necklaces. With that, they likely also push against other traditional notions of who gets to feel or display emotions, who gets to embody which familiar cushion of gender in a relationship, and other arbitrary social constructs.

I love the non-binariness of gen z looks because, above everything, this demands of the viewer as much as of the wearer: Who are we at the end of the day, our inner thoughts or our outer casings? And if we are all beings on our own journeys (fleeting as though they may be), shouldn't we be allowed to live them in the truest representations of our inner selves?

Go Your Own Way
October 18, 2021

Thing I learnt today: Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks wrote and recorded Go Your Own Way and Silver Springs about each other in the embers of their dying decade-long relationship. Silver Springs wasn’t put on the album because it was too slow, and the iconic Go Your Own Way was only on the B-side. But they both did have to sing about themselves as members of the same band.

Later, Stevie and Mick Fleetwood, after whom the band was named, hooked up in New Zealand. She broke it off immediately because he was still married and a father to two. A year later, Mick left his wife for Stevie’s best friend.

Retiring Poets
October 09, 2021

There is something powerful about being in a room full of poets, shoulders hunched over as they read their work out loud one by one off a rustic wood stool in front of a brick wall. Sometimes they rush through the words, sometimes they are speak so softly no mic can catch them. More often than not, they are shy to fan the entirety of their splendiferous wings, no matter how many times they've done this before.

The necessity of silence for vulnerability is understood. Boots tread lightly, devoid of iron heels, across the floor, beer bottles sweat from waiting to be popped between readings, jangly jackets are removed with an artistic archery of the arms. Candles flicker gently across a rickety table you are afraid to rock in the middle of a poem about birth. A cup too filled with mezcal is offered to you "on the house, because you'll be reading" and a liquid blessing from the gods is in order.

You put your name down on the list for the open mic before you can back out of it, and once you're up there, you're in the safest place you've ever been naked. A sea of people here for it, here for you. From beyond the open glass, trucks go past, horns pattle, and the babbling of strangers drifts in in many languages from an outside world, unaware of the spell held in place in this room. The thread of your attention remains unbroken, this is what you're here for. Monstera and brick and wood and hearts of polymer creating quiet rupture and rapture, missives of an underworld you are not yet ready to leave.

Ten to thunder
August 5, 2021

We sleep at ten, which is early for you, but you have not slept well in a week. Two hours later, as the clocks break into a new day, the thunder rolls in, and the puppy breaks his way into the closet, tumbling backpacks and paperwork and yoga bands in an effort to escape whatever torments the rain brings. 

Who knows what he is thinking when he hears the thunder? Is it an animal in the background, a smashing of light that's coming for him, the end of the world in a cloud?

Whatever it is, he wanders around the room, searching for shelter, warmth, something to tell him it's going to be ok. Refusing it at the same time too. He whimpers, he scrapes, he scatters a few hard things loud enough to wake us both up. You lift him into a cuddle on the bed, and he takes it for as long as he can before slipping out. Hugs are not his thing, really.

But you are awake, just two hours after you finally went to bed. A week of not sleeping, and then from ten to thunder. 

Sometimes, it is a lumbering beast: Living with social anxiety
June 25, 2021

Here's what it feels like to live with my particular brand of social anxiety.

Sometimes my anxiety is a lumbering beast that wants me to stay in bed so that I don't have to trudge through another day of pallid existence. Sometimes it is an unsolicited hummingbird in my heart that has made a deal with my breath to only travel on Track 1, where no deep breathing or meditation can fix it. Sometimes it is a swirling of the world as I lie alone in bed at night, ribbons in my stomach swimming in great currents against the tide of sleep.

This is what it boils down to: the fear that I am unloved and completely alone in the world. That I was born this way and will die this way - unknown, undiscovered, uncared for. An urge to split a channel down from my sternum to my stomach with a blade till I see blood and discover that oh, my existence never really mattered anyway. A life of hearts drawn on the windshield, and for what, for something peripheral that never made a dent in anyone else's life anywhere.

In my mind, I will always need to make other people comfortable and feel hurt when that is not reciprocated. Why would it be reciprocated? Few people are at the same time as warm and gracious and loving and kind, and also as intelligent, funny and charming as the family I grew up in. I have drifted out of worlds with people like this - or I did not value them enough in the past to know how rare a thing it was. Either way, here I am, forever feeling like I am stuck on an island with no one else on it. Floating Alaska, party of one.

Being left out, being talked about when I am not there, being taken advantage of and then discarded. Not having control over how I present my image and carry it forth. Living only in the minds of people and their unique parochial understandings of me through the singular angles I give them to understand me. I give everyone shards and edges, only I know the entire bubble of the picture - the confidence and charm on the outside, the tact to piece together two fives and make them a twenty in almost any language. Only I know the bubbling lava I learn to live with each day on the inside too, the constant coming up short, the deadweight of the black decaying fungus log of past lives, little flowers sprouting through rotting wood.

Is it worth carrying that log around?

So this is my anxiety. This is the cold oatmeal I stand in, sticky toes, heart pacing, afraid to step into iterations of the same old situations. Colonialism everywhere, jaded and rusted. Shit in a toilet bowl. Being left alone, being left behind, being laughed at from where they think I can't see it. Being anything short of loved to the max, unconditionally. Sitting in calcium water instead of being polished to steel tip. And me avoiding it all for just a while longer.

Avoidance is supposed to be harmful, but the fact that I have control over one tiny damn thing in my life is a balm for the eternal scraping of my soul.

Thoughts on Languishing
May 27, 2021

Languishing is something only people with privilege can afford to do: white people, rich people, people who were born with or have earned their way to a place in their lives where they are ‘comfortable’.

The privileged don’t have a fire under their butts that refuses to ever let them sit down, sink into an armchair, or get too comfortable with whatever they have. They are not incessantly pushed forward in the never-ending pursuit of improving something (their lot, inequality as a whole, problems, wicked or simple).

Those who can call this endless churning forward a result of capitalism are also usually inherently privileged. Able to give up and relinquish to the hinterland to take care of horses in the wild.

Capitalism is colonialist, definitely, but it leaves behind this fire in the bums and bellies, a fire that is imposed, subjected, created to serve, so that those without power will forever try to catch up to those in power and in the process continue to serve them in an endless circle of disenfranchisement.

In a pasture
May 10, 2021

Today, I am floating in the garden of eight senses, using arrows and black mirrors to navigate a world that was intended to be tactile. I am building a garden out of shapes you have made out of ones and ohs, and that I can do this surprises and fascinates me. I lost hope in the Dora-ness of this exploration long ago, but playing in a box of squares with you, I am learning that it was only lying dormant, waiting for a sprinkle of late summer rain to sprout again. 

It makes sense that it is called 'sprout' then, a running bulletin board of notes we have sown and grown together. We are here, getting to know each other and having fun while we do it, smashing ice virtually, turning water into grape juice, you at nighttime in a country I have spent half my life wanting to go to, a country at the edge of the earth so far from my very own where the sun is, as always, rising. My brain was waking up before I got here, and drinking tea in a little circle with you is the best kind of hope to start the week with.

We meet in a pasture where I am sure we will find each other again. You with your colours and toys, me with my numbers and cows. Opening the gate to a garden of dreams set in magnetic sand. 

What I really think when people in tech say they write publicly as a "forcing function"
April 05, 2021

(See title first) Maybe it's worth considering that however advanced your coding skills may be, your self-worth is still determined by capitalism and the opinions of others around you. Maybe that's easy for me to say because the only approval I really care for is my own (intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation), but isn't life a long learning of how to trust our own selves, of figuring out how to listen to and be guided by our own inner voices? Maybe the thing you're trying to build isn't really in the outside world, but closer home instead.

Hipsters make the best coffee
March 29, 2021

Hipsters have a lot of flaws, but I trust their coffee. When it comes to shokuninism around coffee, hipsters have it down, because 1) they both care too much about the small things and 2) have a palate for discerning the smallest differences (or so they say), but also because 3) they're usually shiny rich hippies and thus more likely to experiment with things like plant-based milks and 48-hour brew times (they also have the time and money to experiment with this).

So, in a way, these people with either highly refined palates or with the means and time - or both - can serve as vehicles for the rest of us to experience coffees and coffee preparations (like flat whites, hipsterest of hipster coffees) from plantations across the world, smooth velvety oat milk in our coffees, and in a city like Mexico City, an overall 10/10 coffee experience for a not so high price.

I don't trust hipsters when it comes to their overpriced art, but I do trust their endless searching for 'the best' when it comes to coffee.

Pressure cooker art
March 18, 2021

Creation is different for everybody. What looks like a workflow for one person may flow more organically for another. The firm bind of a structure that helps one person write or create may feel like a noose for another person. 

It’s ok to do things your own way. It’s ok to be in the moment and absorb it, put your camera away, put your publishing mind away. It’s healing to rest, to be, without the pressure to create. 

If the safety of a rope helps you, good for you, but if it wears you out to constantly running towards something in a bid to honour your public fiction of being a creator, let it go. No one needs to be turned on all the time, creating all the time. 

That’s capitalism. Not art.

Bodies and the mind's eye
March 17, 2021

When you think about the body, what are your references? Greek statues, magazine covers, your mother, a Botero painting? Are they men or women, people of colour, people in bodies that don't feel right for them? Are they human, flora, fauna? Do they have a say in how you see their bodies?

Guided meditation and bumper bowling
March 14, 2021

Guided meditation is like bumper bowling - it’s not bowling per se, it's a different sport, though both are fun. Being good at bumper bowling maybe doesn’t help you exactly in the same way with bowling, (or guided meditation with being in the quiet with your breath) but it gets you in the lane.

The space between your thoughts
Feb 22, 2021

You are not your thoughts, you are the space between your thoughts.
(Monk Haemin Sunim, Ten Percent Happier podcast)

When you think of that empty space, do you shrink away? Or do you hold your face up to the light with love, letting a glimpse at the ultimate core of being burn your retinae? One is capitalism, that teaches us to fear the empty spaces and blank pages. The other is meditation, that shows us how to look at things from a place of curiosity and love. Which one do you choose today?

Plotlines, lifetimes
Jan 30, 2021

If we were to wonder about the plot of our lives, what would be our obstacles? How would we overcome them? Would all the ends tie up? In the stories of our lives, each chapter is a series of overlapping plotlines. Where are you now in (each of) yours?