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Sep. 2023: Busy and budding
Music and writing successes and a part-time job
I’m posting this September update on the first day of October because some things got in the way. It’s been a busy and chaotic month for me, a lot of it my fault for not providing myself enough space for rest! Initially when I started the mental health IOP last month, I had planned on delaying my seeking a part-time job until after the IOP so I could focus more on my health. But because I did not want to be so financially dependent on my parents, I ended up getting a job, first at a CVS as a store associate. After only a week and a half, I decided to quit because the job was a lot of sensory overload and just did not feel suitable or sustainable for me. Then I found a job as a Digital Literacy Clerk in the computer lab of a public library.
It’s been interesting in the computer lab, as several of the patrons who frequent it are older adults who need support with computer skills. Sometimes I tutor them one-on-one on topics such as Microsoft Word and Powerpoint or even the very basics of computer operation. Some patrons are very amiable, some try my patience, and some manage to be both friendly and trying at once. The job feels meaningful however, and it is helping me to practice managing tricky situations and communicate with people who have varying backgrounds and needs.
But this job, combined with the IOP and my maths tutoring, has meant that I’ve been feeling frequently exhausted the past few weeks. Really not the ideal situation when I am supposed to be focusing on healing. And some struggles I’ve been having with my psych meds (which I shared in a Substack post earlier this month, linked below) have strongly affected my moods. I have a lot of great news to share in this newsletter, but I won’t pretend that everything’s going splendidly. My mental health journey is still a long, winding road before me, and I don’t really know how things are going to progress in the next few months or years. Often I feel both mad-crazy and mad-angry in many, many ways, sometimes angry and crazy at myself or at the very constructs of mental illness or madness or whatever. But I’m not alone. Just in the past couple of months, I’ve met multiple people in unexpected places who’ve shared with me their own mental health struggles and diagnoses, often overlapping with mine. It feels like meeting kin, and it feeds my soul.
It’s important to me to celebrate my successes, big and small, to remind myself that I am resilient and strong. Last weekend, while Tropical Storm Ophelia drenched the Mid-Atlantic, I ran my workshop, What Does Lemon Sound Like?, twice at Philly Children’s Theatre’s Daydream festival (part of the Philly Fringe Festival). The first run, on Saturday, did not go as expected, as only one family attended, and their kids were very young and shy and did not respond to my prompts, so I just played with them, allowing them to try all the musical toys I brought and even juggling lemons and oranges to entertain them. The second run, on Sunday, went quite well, even though again only one family attended. Their two kids were somewhat older and easy to engage, and I led them in sensory exploration that concluded in their creating a three-dimensional, multi-sensory music score using the objects I brought, which we all then performed as a group.
Initially I felt upset about the first workshop and felt like it (or I) was a failure, but now I think both instances were great successes. I was able to adapt to the needs of the kids and engage them in musical fun. (Also, just the fact that I did a Fringe Festival event, going through the processes for organizing this event with the Fringe and with Philly Children’s Theatre, is a success as well. The next time I do something with the Fringe, it will feel a little less daunting.) I hope to run this workshop again at other places such as local libraries.
I have just started as the Collaborative Pianist for the avocational choir Coroallegro based in Wilmington, DE. I did a lot of choral accompanying when I was in high school, and I am so happy to be doing this again. A lot of the work has so far been helping the vocalists learn their parts for a cappella pieces, but that is in itself a fun challenge, especially when I have to read four vocal staves at once. For the concerts, I’ll be joining the choir in the a cappella pieces as an alto (mostly because there was greater need for altos than sopranos).
I am excited to announce that I am a bespoken fellow for the 2023-2024 season! bespoken is a mentorship organization for women and non-binary classical, contemporary, and jazz musicians. Throughout the next eight months, I will be working with my mentor Eunbi Kim to build my skills in project development, networking, marketing, and other professional skillsets important to a musical career. There will also be group workshops with the other 19 fellows in my cohort, where we’ll have the opportunity to learn from one another as well as from guest presenters.
My refrigerator magnet poem, “underwater breathing,” was published in the fifth wheel press web anthology dreamland. It will also appear in fifth wheel press’s 2023 print anthology of writing and visual art by queer creators. Check out the web anthology here.
This Wednesday, October 4th, I will be participating in the virtual Campus Mental Health Convening. The convening, funded by the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) and led by the Campus Mental Health Coalition, is a gathering of current and recent students, researchers, university admin, and policy and legal experts, where we will discuss research priorities and policy recommendations relating to college student mental health. I will be giving a brief presentation about my own experiences as a college student and how they have informed my perspective on the issues.
On Wednesday, October 11th, I will be performing my poem “pride” at the opening reception for the exhibition LGBT Synergy at the Islip Arts Council Gallery in Bay Shore, NY. The poem will be displayed in the exhibition along with other visual art and poetry by LGBTQ+ people. If you happen to be near Long Island between Oct. 10-31, I encourage you to check out the exhibition! My poem “pride” was previously published on the fifth wheel press blog.
In case you missed it…
…here’s a round-up of my Substack posts this month! Due to how hectic and chaotic this month was for me, I missed one weekly post and delayed last week’s to earlier this week. But I managed to publish three essays on a more spread-out but still fairly regular schedule, and I feel proud. The first two are personal reflections, the third is more of an analytical essay. I’ll continue to aim for 3 or 4 essays per month.
This month’s featured creator is Jaden Bleier!
Jaden Bleier is an emerging multidisciplinary artist and writer with a current creative focus on print, photo, text, and textile-based works. She enjoys bookmaking, assemblage, and installation as methods of combining these interests, using visual and literary arts to navigate the everyday – the overlaps (legible, illegible, and somewhere between) of common and profound themes. The consideration of time is deeply ingrained in Jaden’s practice, and she often finds inspiration in shifting bodies of water, trees, memories, dreams, and skies. She specifically appreciates water as a powerful tool for healing and calming anxiety, and believes strongly in working to create access to clean waterways.
Jaden is based in Providence, Rhode Island and has recently been working with a small group of friends to collaboratively create the Art Book Collective, Providence (ABC PVD). She has worked with them to collectively publish a collaborative artist’s book/zine called “Soups & Sandwiches,” and in partnership with another member on commission to transform a poet’s work into a zine called “Something of Mine.”
Jaden received her BA from Brown University and has begun working there as a Teaching Assistant and Roberta Joslin Fellow. Apart from all this, she enjoys listening to the lap of the river, sitting in the sunlight, napping with her sweet cat Cora, and remaining chronically less hydrated than the majority of her houseplants.
A Contemplative Offering
These offerings are inspired by ideas and practices from my IOP.
What success can you celebrate today?
Is there a part of you, that is not wholly you, that feels present for you today? What does that part need?