I’ve listened to a lot of Cody Ko’s vlogs (Orange is the New County, Insanely Chill) and really enjoy them because they make me laugh out loud in the most inappropriate places and they evoke this nostalgic Californian aesthetic that’s almost like this virtual high. They’ made me think a lot about where I want to go in my life, and I’d like to process them, so here goes.
I like that Cody talks about what’s going on in his life in all its ups and downs. It’s so neat to see how things work: how auditions work, how people fall in love (like the makings of Taco Tuesday girl), how shitty travelling can be, how he met his friends. I find it very realistic, and I really need that because I tend to romanticize everything and have found Instagram to be so frustrating because I take everything at face value even though so many websites and people have warned me that these are edited highlight reels. So in essence, Cody keeps me from falling into a deep depression, because he reminds me that things are not what they seem, that they aren’t always glamorous, and that having a life that seems as amusing as his is attainable. And that I should laugh at myself a little bit more, I should love my friends a little bit more, that I should take a break and breathe. And complain loudly to myself in my room sometimes. That helps.
Also, his instagram aesthetic is amazing (good quality photos, fun, and don’t take themselves seriously) and if I had instagram, I would strive for an aesthetic like that. It’s like a feel-good aesthetic… I find sometimes I find certain accounts/photos too unattainable and it makes me sad even though I shouldn’t be trying to live up to that expectation. And it was actually his girlfriend Kelsey’s instagram (along with @c_bergs) that inspired me to buy my first pair of hoop earrings, and things have only gone uphill from there every since i started wearing them. Like they literally transform you outfit, hair, and face. 10/10 would highly recommend gold hoops earrings.
Also, I have loooved learning about Cody’s friends. They have such a genuine true friendship, and they’re so funny (especially Devon, Marcus, and Sam) and have great chemistry with each other -I’ve never had many close guy friends and I think by seeing how amazing their friendship and dynamic is, it’s helped me see what type of friendship I want to build with my friends. And it’s also made me rethink how I feel about frats… imagine that!
I’ve long battled this need to feel/be good enough… for myself, for other people. And although I may have started out watching Cody’s vines and much later on, his YouTube videos, out of pure amusement, I think watching his videos has actually helped me feel more comfortable about being who I am and helped me put aside this voice that tells me that I constantly have to compare myself to others, that I have to strive to be better, that I have to be someone I’m not, and to silence this nagging voice that everybody else has figured this whole “thing” out and that I’m the only one who hasn’t. Because now I see that so many people haven’t, that everybody’s just wading through the “next”, through the “future”, without much foresight and are just as clueless as I am about what life has in store for them next. But what I have realized is that you have to take risks in order to get somewhere you want to be, and it’s okay to have a little fun with that, to make mistakes as you go along. That people are here to support you, that you don’t have to do this alone, that your worth is not measured by your social media presence and contents, and that in order to be happy, I need to focus on myself and stop focusing on comparing myself to others.
I also recently visited Charleston, and typically during trips that I embark alone, I engage in lots of self-discovery and reflection. And oddly, I found that I didn’t have time for lots of self-reflection or perhaps I was unwilling to engage in it when I travelled to Charleston. So I wanted to write in an attempt to pair some coherence to a lot of thoughts that are swimming in my head, so that maybe I can breathe better, to sigh and feel some relief or something, to feel refreshed, to find closure. Here goes.
I find that I can’t relax, that I’ve been on this mission forward, to not dwell on the past and to think about progress forward exclusively, ever since Everything That Happened around February 2016. While ETH wasn’t a remarkable event, it has shaped me and my trajectory over the past two years, I will reluctantly admit. It inspired me to run, to get healthy, to have side projects outside of work, to think about where I wanted to go with my life: forward. I had to figure out what forward looked for myself, and how I would get there. In some ways, ETH made me a better person in that I was more productive, more ambitious, less bothered by a boy who had hurt me. These metrics, I must point out, are rather limiting, and I wouldn’t say they are metrics that I would want to define me or that I would take as true indicators or parameters of my success. Back to the trip: my trip was marked by the need to Go Places, to See Things, to Eat Things, to Drink Things. It was all about these things that I had to do. I never just sat and did nothing. I would do that at night, I suppose. But it’s different. I felt this urgency during the day to not waste time, but the whole purpose of my trip was to unwind, to relax, to relearn how to breathe. I never got to muse, I was constantly on a bike weary of ruining my brand new sneakers. I never really got to muse, to take inventory of my life, to check up on myself to make sure I was okay.
I feel rather alone. I think part of it was going to Charleston where the demographics are so different from the place I call home. I think part of it was travelling by myself. I think part of it was wondering what holds for me in the future. It’s scary. I think being put in a position where you are fending for yourself puts you in survival mode, and there is little ease that’s required to open the door to self-enlightenment, getting lost in your own thoughts. I mean… I certainly realized some things about myself: I am a city person at heart, I want to get to a place in my life where I am sitting in first-class, I liked the South as much as I had suspected, I am Not One of Them and I am OK and also Not Okay with that.
I sat at Husk (because I was told that it was a hot restaurant) and maybe it was fate, but I saw next to a mother-daughter pair having dinner. The girl was a year younger than me, and she was telling her mother about the boy she was seeing, and getting frustrated that although her mother didn’t explicitly disapprove of the boy, she was judging him (asking what his family background was, what his goals were, how much she liked him from a scale of 1 to 10). I kept thinking about how my mother and I don’t have this relationship: that we would never go to dinner alone, and even if we did, we would not have such a candid discussion about something so personal. And maybe it’s a cultural thing. I have never sought for a relationship like that because that is not something I’ve ever known. But if I ever had a daughter, I hope that I will have these discussion with her. To tell her stories about my life and for her to trust me enough to tell me about the things that scare her, about her own life, about the boys she has fallen in love with, about how I could help her. Her mother was telling her about how her life had changed after she had met her father, how she had pressed pause on her corporate career to raise a family. And I remember silently thinking that I didn’t agree with that… to halt your career ambitions to raise a family. But what do I know? And I tried Madeira for the first time, and I think I preferred it more than wine.
When I sat next to the mother and daughter, I kept thinking about how they ended up here, about what their life was, what their relationship was like, where the father was, if the mother and father were still together, and how the mother had continued to build trust with her daughter so that they would end up there, seated on the Husk balcony eating dinner, talking about life and love. And I wondered where I would be in 10 years. Would I be in Charleston, all idyllic but narrow-minded, all manners but no backbone? Who knows? The city is so flawed, but I suppose I could live with some resignation in that idea because I don’t condone it. But to what degree do I become complicit in letting things slide? After all, what annoyed me the most about Charleston (but not to the point of rage) was that it simultaneously acknowledges and downplays the role of slavery in its origins. This is a slave port, this is a slave city, the aristocrats of this city made their money directly and indirectly to the slave trade, and what the city touts to its tourists is its history that has been heavily edited and white-washed. That left me very conflicted.
After a short run, I sat across from someone at the Black Tap Coffee communal table who told me that the city’s buildings aren’t allowed to be repainted in colors other than their original ones and even graffiti that’s over 75 years old must be repainted back on buildings. And there it is: this selective conservation of history. That the city is so insistent on preserving its history through its architecture, but not in other ways. That it will flaunt its buildings, but not the stories of the bones that built it. That it is undergoing a renaissance in the form of a white bourgeoisie gentrification, evident in the closing of music shops and grungy dive bars, in favor of instagrammable food shops and boutiques, but the alarming issue of affordable housing is completely absent from public discourse. That this is America in its purest form, this is capitalism waving high above the epistle, that this is quintessentially the South, and how I love this Southern charm and its food and its weather and its beautiful, beautiful colonial homes and single houses, but its politics and narrow American Dream leave me conflicted. And it’s so true: gentrification has its highs and lows, and it is so conflicting. It is so, so, so conflicting. Just like love, just like all the boys whom I’ve loved before and all the men that I’ve come to admire who are not perfect: where do you draw the line? How far do you let things pass before you are on the verge of ending your balancing act and can no longer stand your ground?