Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Rate Your Pain

   "Rate your pain on a scale from 1-10."

   I have been asked this question a million times this week. As some of you know, I have been in the hospital since Monday. I was supposed to be here for radioactive iodine treatment, but I ended up with shingles instead. Even before this week though, I asked myself that question every morning. The question was prompted by a still from Breaking Bad that got stuck in my head, along with a line from a twenty one pilots song, "Before You Start Your Day."

   Doctors and nurses always ask me to rate my pain. I have done this so many times. When I have a headache, I rate it. I rate all my physical pain. But I had never considered my emotional pain. At least, not until this last week. 

   I'm not sure how much of this will make sense. But my sister has a motto she shared with me, that she learned from a teacher in school. "If it's mentionable, it's manageable." It's the philosophy that says if you can find the strength in you to mention the pain, you are strong enough to deal with it. It means all you need is that initial strength to speak, then you can be free. You can get through it.

   "Look in the mirror and ask your soul if you're alright." That's the line from the twenty one pilots song. Some odd combination of all these things made me think about the way I view pain and how I label it. Recently I have been in pain and every morning I decided I would ask myself if I was okay. I have started every morning and ask myself to rate my pain. 1-10. Some days I would wake up and be a 2. Maybe a 5. Some terrible mornings it was a 10. But it varied. I could have a 10 every day for a few days but then it would go back down to a 1. It wouldn't stay the same. I sort of came up with my own philosophy that allows me to acknowledge how much pain I'm in on any given day. To put a number to it. I'm honest with myself about where I am. I can say "Yes, this is a 10." And that simple thing, it carries me. It lets me feel everything and to be upset. I'm not scared to cry or to admit that today is a bad day. I think that helps me appreciate the good days even more. It also helps me to see that pain is temporary. That things will change and how I'm feeling one minute might not be how I'm feeling the next. But I think it's important to allow yourself to feel pain and acknowledge it. That's what I've been doing.

   So I'm writing this from my hospital bed where my physical pain is a 1 and my emotion pain is a only a 3.

   But I don't want to write about my being sick. I wanted to write about art and how this has been what makes my pain level decrease significantly. I've been creating art like my life depends on it, because in so many ways, it does. My survival has hinged on my ability to write incredibly over dramatic poetry. I take photos like it's the last time I'll ever get to hold a camera. Much like Alexander Hamilton, I've been writing like I'm running out of time. It was so bad that the day after I won NaNoWriMo (just barely dragging myself across the finish line at 50,022 words.) I started the fourth draft of Forlorn Hope. There is just this need in my bones to make something. I have almost drawn through an entire sketchbook that, prior to this summer, I hadn't touched since 2014. My body has been waking me up at ungodly hours of the night to write poetry. I mean, I will jolt awake at 3am and impulsively grab my phone, and jot out an entire poem while I'm half asleep. In the morning when I read them, I actually love them. I feel like if I stop creating even for just one second, my heart will collapse. Art has been the one thing that has brought me relief.

   I think, for the first time, I'm starting to consider myself an artist. Because things inspire me and there are things I want to say with these pieces. I have a perspective that is unique to me and art to me is different than art to other people. But I am so thankful for all the people that have inspired me in these ways. Really, I'm thankful for my heartache, because it's when my heart is the most broken that I create the most beautiful works. But someone said something to me that has stuck with me. "I hope happiness makes you write. Not just your suffering."

   (Enjoy some of the art I have made in my pain. And soon I'll post the art I make in my joy.)

   (Also I blame to incoherence of this post on the pain killers.)

   "The Pain In The Heart."
The pain in my heart 
Feels like the pain in my head 
And the pain in my knees 
And the twisted feeling inside my stomach 
And the trembling of my hands
And the weakness in my legs
The pain in my soul
Burns like the hot tears 
Streaming down my feverish skin
And the bile coming up my throat 
And the acid reflux in my lungs 
The pain killers only touch The symptoms
But they can't touch the core
The pain killers do nothing 
But this pain is killing me 
Some days it's a 5 but others it's a 10 
Some days it's moderate 
But somedays it is the worst possible pain
My body lashes out against the tightness in my chest 
The pain in my heart 
Becomes the pain in my head 
And this sickness is controlling 
It's taking my life
But the physical problems are easier to manage
Because Tramadol takes the edge off of the throbbing
And ice eases the aches in my muscles 
But my heart is alone 
To deal with its pain 
The pain in my heart
And the pain in my head








Sunday, November 20, 2016

Empty (Psalm 34:1)

   Today has been the hardest day I've had in a very long time. This month has been hard. The past several weeks have been draining and I've been struggling and not feeling like myself. And today...well today took the cake. Today was brutal. The details are personal, but I am in a lot of pain. I cried all day. I wept, is actually a better word. I wish I had words adequate enough to express what I'm feeling. I'm not sure I have ever hurt so much. Today wrecked me.

   When everything first happened, I ran and called my sister, and after sufficiently swearing her ear off, I played Ever Be by Bethel and I sobbed. I listened to worship music the rest of the day because it was the only thing keeping me from losing my mind entirely.

   I remembered my favorite quote from a monologue by Joanne Tucker.

"And I started thinking that maybe the state of having nothing and feeling just so used up, well maybe that's sort of the state God wants me in. You know, not so full of all my ideas about myself and how much of a rebel I am. But just sort of ready to listen."

   Today I screamed and swore and cried and worshiped and fell on my knees and threw up and thought I was going to have a heart attack. Even now as I write this I am in denial, I am afraid, I am aching, I am suffering. 

   I am empty.


   I realize that I have been pushing God away for far too long. I have done things the past couple months I know I should not have done. I have made huge mistakes. I have given my tiny heart away and now it's broken. I know a part of that is my fault. I wanted my own way and I didn't want to wait. I rejected a lot of boundaries that people in my life warned me about and of course, it's now I see how much those choices hurt me. How they are hurting me. 

   And I have nothing left to cling to. 

   There is so much aching in me and so much pain. 

   I know I had to come to a decision. I could either succumb to this pain and let it kill me. I could never get out of bed again. I could cry and not eat until I died. Or I could let this pain make me stronger.

   I'm not saying this to be poetic or cute. I'm saying that today as I was on my third hour of nonstop crying, I decided I didn't want to live this way. Because there has got to be a reason all this has happened. I did not go through all those terrible things in my past just so I could relive them. I was not made to be in this much pain.

   Really, its times like this where you can really see where your trust is in. 

   This time, I'm ready to put my trust in God.

   I think I'm finally ready to listen.

   There's one thing I haven't been able to get out of my head all day. It's that God is teaching me to be soft. I swear, that has come up so many times. My heart doesn't want to be open anymore. I don't want to love people anymore. I am not sure my body can take any more pain. I have been through too much. But God wants me to be soft. God wants me to be kind. To love. Love without fear. 

   At this point, I am too broken to object.

   And this is where God wants me. Humbled. Rid of myself and all the stupid notions and ideas that I have about how great of a person I am. Two months ago I had it all together and I didn't need God and I didn't need anyone and now I don't want to get out of bed and I can't lie to anyone and tell them I'm okay because I'm not okay. 

   But I will be.

   I will not become bitter. I will become soft. My pain will not distort my vision so I see a cruel world. Today I saw people and I loved them for the first time. Today I realized how empty I am. Today I craved church, I craved fellowship, I craved honest worship time. I wanted church to be every day because my soul is such a wreck I know that's the only thing that can give me rest. 

   "Your praise will ever be on my lips."

   I keep coming back to that lyric. I'm remembering all those things I learned in 2014 about needing God and having faith. I keep reminding myself that God is good no matter what. Whether or not I ever feel better. Even if my heart breaks a million and one more times. Blessed be the name of the Lord.

   I guess this is where God can finally use me. When I'm not so full of myself and can actually admit that I'm a mess. 

   I don't know what's going to happen. I probably won't feel okay for a very long time. I'll probably hurt more. I know I'm not strong enough to face this, but I don't have to face this alone and that makes is better. I think God is trying to teach me to trust in Him even when I'm in pain. His grace is sufficient. 

   I re-read the epilogue to the NaNoWriMo I wrote in 2014, the book that changed my life, and it spoke to me. 

   "On days like today I thank God, through clenched fists, for my suffering. Because all that pain made me soft."

   All this pain made me soft.

   I wrote those words like 8 months ago, before I knew what those words really meant. 

   What I'm trying to say is that pain is inevitable. But when we're in pain we have two choices: let it break us or let it grow us. And I think the misconception about that is what we think it looks like to let pain grow us. We think it looks like smiles and being Okay all the time and not letting our suffering effect us. I don't think it looks that way at all. I think it looks like screaming and sometimes cussing and admitting you feel like you're dying; but holding on to Christ all the more during that process. It's being willing to be vulnerable and let Him mold you. 

   "I will extol the Lord at all times. His praise will ever be on my lips."-Psalm 34:1





Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Making A Monster

   This is an essay I wrote for a Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest at my school. I won an honorable mention for it. It isn't my best piece, but I did want to share it with you. I have been thinking about this topic a lot and I realized it was not something I speak about often. However, I do hope you find this essay thought provoking. I've been very caught up this week in a mass amount of homework + NaNoWriMo so writing new content will not happen this week, so I leave you with this essay about diversity and representation instead.


   Growing up as a white, middle class, mostly privileged girl, I was never made
aware of the challenges that people of other races face in regards to diversity. I walked through
life mostly ignorant of their struggle. I didn’t know what it was like to not be able to identify
with people in movies or characters in video games when all the protagonists were a carbon copy
of me. They had the same blonde hair and light skin. I didn’t appreciate the features I had that
would, by the world’s warped standards, consider me beautiful.

   “It's that if you want to make a human being into a monster, deny them, at the cultural
level, any reflection of themselves.” Junot Diaz said this quote in a speech and it opened my eyes
to a reality beyond my own experience. See, in my life, all I ever saw was my reflection. Girls of
color struggled without a voice and without representation. They were isolated from seeing
themselves. If they were without a mirror, than I was the opposite; I was locked inside a room
full of them. I was forced, day in and day out to stare at this reflection of myself until I despised
what I saw.

   Everywhere I turned there was a reflection of me. There was another movie about a white
girl and white girl problems. There were advertisements catering to me. There were books about
me. There were products and clothes all designed with me in mind. It’s suffocating. It’s
exhausting. Seeing so much of myself leaves me sick in the stomach. Nothing is ever different or
new. I am stripped of my individuality as our culture continues to send messages that tell me I
am merely one voice in a sea of others. I am nothing.

   There is nothing interesting about one blonde girl in a crowd full of them. People looked
just like me. The characters in the novels I read were so much like me I was forced to deal with
the fact that I may not be as great as I like to think I am. Self hatred is always rooted in pride.
Self hatred comes when the illusion of who we thought we were gets shattered by reality.
Not only that, but the complete whitewashing of our society leaves me ignorant and in
some cases, naive. I lack the ability to connect with people of color because I am so obsessed
with the image of myself. We have created a system that thrives off of our lack of knowledge.
We know nothing of the struggles that other people face because we are so hyperfocused on us.
We live to please ourselves. We work to take care of ourselves. How many times in our day do
we take to think about someone else? Do we even know what it’s like to consider a point of view
that isn’t our own?

   That’s the worst part though. I can claim to hate myself and be sick of the obsession with
white people, but I do not know who I would be without it. I would not be able to live in a world
where I was not constantly romanticized. People like me have been privileged for so long it’s
embedded into who we are. If people like me were not on the pedestal of the American dream, I
would be utterly lost. When I stop to think about this idea, it occurs to me that this is what people
of color feel like every day of their lives. They live without any indication in our society that
they are here.

   Yet I will go about my day and feel pity for myself and the so called struggles I go
through of being just like everyone else. I will pretend that I know what it’s like to feel
misrepresented in media or culture. Even after I come to understand that there are other people in
the world who have it worse than me, I will continue to feel sorry for myself. Maybe I’ll shed a
tear as I stare at the TV full of commercials with thin, white, females. I’ll read another young
adult novel about a white girl and her dramatic love life. In any sense, I will forget about the
world around me once again and feed into the notion that I am the only person that matters.
You can make a monster of a person by denying them a reflection. You can leave them
worthless and feeling alone. You can refuse to give them the basic human right of
acknowledging their existence. The second way to create a monster is by making them believe
they are nothing special. We are all the same.



Monday, October 31, 2016

How NaNoWriMo Changed My Life

   It's Halloween. Or as I like to call it, my last day of sanity before writing takes over my life. When I had planned to do NaNoWriMo this year, I was expecting my summer job to end a month prior and to use October as a full on prep month. However, my job ended yesterday, leaving me but a day to prepare for the storm. Needless to say, it's going to be one crazy month.

   With November always comes a flood of blog posts about the pros and cons of NaNoWriMo. (For those of you who have never heard of it, this is a writing challenge; seeing how many people can write a 50k word novel in the span of one month. Just for kicks.) This will be my 4th year participating, and having won the past 3 years, I would consider myself fairly knowledgeable on the whole thing.

   I joined in 2013, when I finally had enough of my friend pestering me to join. I'm not entirely sure what convinced me, but I'm so glad it finally clicked. (Thanks Nikki.) Since then I haven't looked back. Not even when I started college or was in a play last November. I won't quit now with this hard semester I'm in, even though I'm still pretty exhausted from work. So why do I keep at it even though it literally almost kills me every time?

   NaNoWriMo has taught me so much about myself; about who I am as a writer, as an artist, and simply as an individual.


   My first novel was personal to me at the time. My main character struggled with self image and it really focused on her friendship with her sister; which were things I was discovering for myself at the time. Allison had wanted to balance her struggles out just enough to help other people, but she and I both found that you can't. You can't help someone while consciously and purposefully going against that advice. Sometimes you need to get help for yourself.

   In 2014, I wrote what I consider to be my most important work. It was a novel called Forlorn Hope, which was derived from a military term I found. It's a band of soldiers that are chosen for a mission that has a high risk of casualties. That story focused on spiritual warfare and a group of teenagers that it affected. I re-wrote that story twice more since then, and I learned more from it each time. I have spent over 2 years working on it and I have changed so much, and I watched the characters change too. I watched as the plot took on heavier elements. I saw my lead lady, Azlyn, transform and grow. That novel is so deeply personal to me that I feel exposed when people read it. It's like bearing my soul to someone else and letting them peak around. That story was born at one of the hardest times in my life. I actually never even wrote an end scene until the third draft; because I wasn't sure how her story would close. I took all my frustrations out on that book. It contains all my questions, all my insecurities, all my anger, and all my doubts. I wrestled a lot with pain and anger at the church and at myself. I wondered about God and His purpose and His goodness. I was heavily inspired by the book of Job, and essentially it's modeled off of that. (And throw in a hint of The Catcher In The Rye.)

   Ernest Hemingway said "Write hard and clear about what hurts." No piece of advice has had such an impact on my writing than that one did. Most of my life, I struggled with talking about exactly what hurt me. I could be vague; briefly mentioning my "fear issues." But I would never dare say what that meant or what triggered it. But I heard that quote sometime in that year and following that small tip transformed the way I wrote. Whenever I got scared, I would write. When I was struggling, I would write. When I was burdened with questions, I would write. I would address all those things about myself and the world that I hated. I stopped shying away from ugly details and just got down to it. I wrote all my problems and through that, I was able to come to solutions.


   Last year in 2015 I wrote a story about a girl who runs away from her abusive father. She runs off with a boy she barely knows (long story.) and as he falls for her more, he realizes she has no idea what it means to be loved; she only knows how it feels to be used. That story was important because it was my first novel idea. I got it when I was 11, which is crazy deep for a middle schooler and it still shocks me by how that came to me. Over time the story progressed; my character Megan went from being merely physically abused to sexually as well. That change impacted the entire message of my story. I was learning more and more about the scary reality of rape and sexual assault and just how it had affected people close to me. I got to explore exactly what love is and isn't. I was able to push myself to write about really hard topics and really grow as a writer. I chose to write about deeper issues despite how people who knew me would react.

   Now we have this year. The year I wasn't sure I would have a novel idea. The year I swore this book would have nothing to do with my personal life at all because all I wanted was to have a funny novel about an improv group in a zombie apocalypse with no deep, insightful meaning at all. Clearly that was too much to ask. I can't ever just be funny. But alas, this year I am delving into the genre I swore never to step a toe into. Freaking dystopian. My sworn enemy. But when the idea for this plot came to me, I couldn't resist. Actually, I first tried to convince my sister to write it, because I figured she would do it better. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized this story was mine. Here I am going to solidify what I learned in 2014 by writing even clearer about what hurts. I'm going to write about all the scary things in the world. I want to talk about things that give me anxiety and keep me up at night. I want to talk about politics, the environment, diversity and race, sexuality, mental illness and everything in between. I want to write a book for my generation and for myself. I want it to be funny and stupid; there's going to be language and they're going to talk about sex and its not going to be something everyone wants to hear. I'm going to follow very heathenish characters around and record their stories. This year I'm taking an approach similar to that of the book of Esther. God is heavily implied but never explicitly stated. Maybe that turns most of my readers off to my idea, but its what I have felt is best.

   Already I have seen this story shaping me, and how my experiences are shaping it. My circumstances have helped flesh out this idea immensely and I can't wait to grow alongside it.

   I sort of got way off track with this post. I didn't want to make some bullet point version about how NaNoWriMo has helped me. I wanted to explain it fully, in detail. The truth of the matter is no one may ever read these stories I pour my heart into. They probably won't ever get published. They might never mean anything to anyone but me. But that's perfectly okay. I might sound super existentialist when I say that life is so circular and meaningless, but we can assign meaning to our art and our work. As I like to say, nothing matters but everything matters. Learning to press on and create was something I struggled with for a long time. It just seemed so futile and so stupid. I hated talking about my writing or my photography as if I was something special or different. And honestly it's not. But that doesn't mean its unimportant.

   If you're doing NaNoWriMo, I applaud you for being able to find the extraordinary in the ordinary. I applaud you for your courage. I also sincerely hope you find something in your endeavors. I hope it changes you. I hope that amidst the sleep deprivation and stomach aches and the carpal tunnel syndrome that you would discover purpose. So go overcome your fears. Slay your demons. Live through your worst nightmares. That's what I'll be doing this month, alongside my favorite zombie fighting comedians.

   (Hey if you're participating, I would love to hear a story synopsis from you! What have you learned from your noveling experience? Got any tips? Cool story ideas? Also, if you were in a zombieland improv troupe, what would your troupe name be?? I'm asking for me a friend.)




Thursday, October 20, 2016

I'm Not Sorry Anymore

   For a while I was planning to write this post and it was going to be called "I'm Sorry (Again.)" because it was essentially a re-writing of my post "I'm Sorry". I've been coming to this realization time and time again. It's almost like clockwork, how often I think those things that were in that post. Lately I've been feeling like I screwed up and that I've fallen short of those expectations that others have for me. I had wanted to publicly apologize again for not meeting "the standard." (Whatever that even is.) I even started writing it out too. I showed all the ways I have fallen short over the past few months. I was going to go on about the fact that I drifted from church, from some of my friends, that I've gotten disconnected from a lot of things; that saying "God" felt foreign rolling off my tongue, that my bible has collected a considerable amount of dust. I was going to tell you all that I am a failure and that I'm, once again, not the hero you wanted me to be.

   I'm not the perfect Christian the adults in my church want me to be. I'm not the best sister to my siblings. I'm not the best daughter. I'm not the best friend or the best ministry leader or the best jr high leader or heck, I'm not even the best blogger. I have fallen short of all these expectations; the ones I have from other people and even the ones I have for myself. I'm not always the person I want to be.

 
   And I'm learning to deal with that. 

   I'm not where I want to be but thank God I'm not where I was. That's how that saying goes, doesn't it? There's another one I've been seeing a lot. "I've been learning to let the place between where I am and where I want to be inspire me and not terrify me."

   I'm learning to let my doubts strengthen my faith instead of weaken it. I've been allowing myself time to acknowledge my shortcomings. I'm starting to see I don't need to be a fake person. 

   I walked into church two weeks ago for the first Sunday in like a month. I was scared the night before; I was worried it wasn't going to feel like home and I wouldn't be able to connect with the people anymore because I had been away for so long. I had thought, once again, that God was waiting for me; crossing His arms, shaking His head. Maybe I thought the people were going to be like that too. But I got there and I cried the entire sermon and through most of the music. It made me feel like myself again. For the millionth time I realized that no matter how far away I get, God will always want me back. I realized that I am exactly the hero He needs me to be. In my sin, dirtiness, flaws; all of it. This is where I can really be of use. It's actually in that mess where I'm best suited for the job. This is where I am humbled enough to let go of my pride and stop pretending I'm so great and have it All Together.

   I don't think my church or my school or the world need one more individual who pretends to be okay. 

   The truth is, I'm scared to mess up because people are watching me. I have siblings that look up to me, I'm a jr high leader, there are girls at my church I want to help. It's not just myself I have to look out for and that terrifies me. But I thought about how I want to be the person I needed when I was younger. Younger Faith didn't need someone to sugar coat stuff for her; little me needed someone who was strong and not afraid to admit when she was wrong. She needed someone who was brave enough to be themselves, unapologetically; flaws and all. I needed someone who didn't use that as a free pass to keep messing up, but used it as a way to move on. 

   That's what I want to be.


  I'm done apologizing to you for not meeting your expectations. I am not like my brother or my best friend or my mom; I'm not going to be the next church success story or whatever. I'm going to be me. I'm the girl with a mouth. (even though she's working on it.) I go on feminist rants, my music swears sometimes, I have my belly button pierced, I'll probably get more tattoos, I have my issues and doubts about Christianity as an organized religion, I love arguing, (so please don't tempt me I'm trying to stop.) I create art that deals with taboo things like sex, sometimes my clothes aren't perfectly modest, I have a hard time setting boundaries for anything, sometimes I blatantly ignore advice from the bible and from friends, and you know what? I am loved and accepted by God anyway. Yes, I screw up and sometimes most of the time I know better. But hating myself will get me nowhere. Constantly apologizing will get me nowhere. Instead, I'm adopting a new philosophy that says I am allowed to make mistakes and I can have grace for myself. I am trying to get better. It's two steps forward, one step back. And I am learning to love myself as much in the backward steps as I do in the forward ones. 

   Every day I realize more and more the meaning of the phrase "take me as I am."

   So if you're like me, I want you to know that you're not alone. Seriously. I know so many people share this same fear as I do; that's why I wanted to address it. I wish we could have serious dialogue about the things we're going through. You do not have to be perfect to be accepted. Honest people are the best kind of people; and that's what I've always striven to be.

   It's for this reason I've given up on apologizing to everyone for every little thing I do. As twenty one pilots says, "We're broken, we're broken people."

   I think I'm finally okay with that.





Monday, September 26, 2016

20

   Today I turned 20. That's so weird to me because sometimes I still swear I'm 16. This year I'm not really doing anything on my actual birthday and I'm content with that I think. Maybe that's what happens when you become an adult. You become content to just go to school and work and drink coffee. Honestly, my life has been so hectic and full, in the best sense of those words, so just having a day with minimal obligations is quite freeing.

   Yesterday was my last game day at Wrigley, which went by in a very bittersweet way. This summer has been the best one of my life; no exaggerations. I've found myself saying that a lot. Each thing I do is the best thing I've ever done, but so is everything else. I love that even though I cry a lot, my heart is filled with joy. My life hasn't changed in the sense that my circumstances are any different, but my perspective has shifted dramatically. I still get triggered, but I handle it. I still get anxious, but I try to look past the moment. I still cry, but I know I won't cry forever. Bad things still happen, but they don't have an effect on the good things.

   I have learned to live, and I think that's really important.

   I have had so many beautiful moments the past few months and I wish I could record every single one of them to remember them forever, but I couldn't possibly keep up. I am so excited that I have found a life I am in love with. A life so beautiful I forget to take pictures and I forget to journal about it. I have fallen in love with art again and seen so much of it lately and felt it in my chest again. I forgot how much I love those little things. I am sketching for the first time since middle school. I'm taking photos. I'm writing and creating worlds in my mind again. I have been stepping out of my comfort zone lately; acting more like who I want to be and less like who I used to be. I am actively moving forward.


   I loved getting to go downtown and take pictures of my brother propose to his girlfriend. I loved seeing an art expedition with my best guy friend. I love all the great music I've been listening to. I love watching the Cubs play and actually do well. I love watching movies and reading books and spending time with people I care about. I love buying cute mugs and watching sunsets. So far, I love being 20. I'm not sure if you understand what its like to constantly live in fear, but I do, and now I'm free from that. It's incredible. So much has changed for me and I couldn't be happier.

   It gets better you guys. I promise.









Songs I currently adore:
How Do I Tell A Girl I Want To Kiss Her - Brendan Lukens
Fine, Great - Modern Baseball
Is There Somewhere? - Halsey
If I Tremble - Front Porch Steps
Peach - The Front Bottoms
Obstacle 2 - Interpol
Sixteen - Real Friends
Stolen Dance - Milky Chance
Undercover Martyn - Two Door Cinema Club
Walking On A Dream - Empire Of The Sun


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Why Everyone Needs To See Mad Max

   I have been trying to write this review type thing for the longest time. I should have written it right after I saw it but alas, I was lazy. So hopefully this all makes sense and I remember all the points I wanted to make along the way. This movie blew my mind so I hope I can do it some justice. *Warning: very minor spoilers throughout*

   To start off, when Mad Max: Fury Road first hit the theaters, my brother saw it with his best friend. When he came back he told me I needed to see it because I would love it. He gave me the whole premise of the movie and I got hooked. Unfortunately, I got lazy (Again. Surprise, surprise.) and didn't watch it. However, after the movie won a crap ton of Oscars, I decided to make it a priority. Then even after the Oscars I didn't watch it until my friend from work gave it to me to watch while I recovered from surgery.

   And let me tell you about this movie, guys.

   It takes place in a post apocalyptic desert world. The people are held in check by Immortan Joe, the tyrannical warlord. Everything goes as normal until Imperator Furiosa takes a War Rig in what was supposed to be a gas and ammunition run, and turns it into an escape attempt; taking Immortan Joe's 5 wives with her.

   Before I get into story and character, I want to talk briefly about the movie and its cinematography and design and overall aesthetic. The film brought in Oscars for costume design, film editing, makeup and hairstyling, production design, sound editing, and sound mixing. And let me tell you, it deserved all of them. The whole design of the movie is stunning. Despite it taking place in the desert, the colors are so vivid and wild. Everything has this larger than life quality to it. The way it's filmed is super interesting too. The very first scene seems to be sped up, giving it a high intensity feel. Another thing to mention is that the soundtrack is just perfection. The music was gorgeous and fitting. Truthfully, you could appreciate the movie for just these reasons alone. You could just watch it and be fascinated by the artistic nature of the whole thing.

   World building is something I was very impressed with as well. The people in the Citadel live in a completely different society than we do. I mean, everything is different. They have their own slang, their own religious beliefs, their own systems. The writers went all out with this one. Their world is so believable. Yet, even though nothing is explicitly explained, you manage to understand what's going on. Their systems are different but comprehendable. You get the sense of honor and duty and thirst for adventure from the War Boys. You understand the different towns. You see how their society runs. All those tedious details really worked together well.

   However, I mostly wanted to talk story and characters here. But I couldn't ignore how remarkable those details were.

   What made Mad Max so beautiful to me was the plot. When I first started seeing trailers I wasn't impressed. It seemed to me like one of those movies that only existed to blow things up and have high action car chases. I wasn't expecting a movie with actual depth. But I couldn't have been more wrong.

   At the very beginning, when Immortan Joe realizes Furiosa isn't just going to Gas Town, he runs back to his room, which is kept locked by a vault door. To his dismay, he notices that Furiosa has taken his wives, and left him messages on his floor and walls. I swear I got chills during this scene. The first message he arrives to says "Our babies will not be warlords." And the second he uncovers a moment later. "We are not things."


   Allow me to repeat that.

   We are not things.

   Immortan Joe was using these woman and keeping them as his possession. He was raping them and taking their children to be raised as monsters and war fighters. Then the woman had had enough and Furiosa chose to be their savior.

   Throughout Mad Max you see so many messed up things and hear so many things that make you cringe. And I'm not talking about the blood and gore, although there's plenty of that. I'm talking about the extreme poverty of the people in the Citadel and how they can only drink water when Immortan Joe lets the water out. I'm talking about rivalry among the War Boys that makes them fight each other. I'm talking about the way woman are treated by literally every male in the movie except for Max. It made me angry, but then it made me feel empowered.

   Because Furiosa steps in and makes a difference. She sees a need and she answers it; despite fear, despite doubt, and despite the fact that she is literally disabled and missing an arm. None of these things stop her. You can see that she cares for these woman. She aches for them in their pain. She helps them.

   Never have I seen feminism displayed in such a way in a movie before. If you want to understand what feminism is, watch Mad Max. And even if you don't, watch it anyway. This movie is so important. It takes a very real issue and blows it up to this giant size but in the end, its just like today and what woman are going through right now. I love Furiosa because she is fierce and strong, but she is soft. The wives are gentle, but they are not helpless. They are all feminine, but they are not weak. They refuse to be objects for Immortan Joe. I admire them so much for that.

   Now, normally when there are feminist qualities in something, it falsely shows hate for men. It's completely misunderstand that those two things go hand in hand. Mad Max doesn't make this mistake. While the woman are on the run, Max ends up joining them. They are wary of him at first for obvious reasons, but you grow to see them accept him and learn to trust him. Towards the middle of the film, they are accompanied by another man as well. In one scene, someone asks who the men are, and Furiosa responds, "They're reliable. They helped us get here." That line is so beautiful to me. Could they have gotten there without the men? Yes. Did accepting their help make them weak? No. Because both the two men and the five woman had mutual respect for each other because they were all humans trying to reach the same goal. They never put each other down or thing one is more capable than the other. There's no gender war. It's just a rig full of people trying to make their way together. I think that's beautiful.

   Now, you're probably wondering what I have to say about Max; the guy in the title of the movie. Well, I hope this makes sense to you. You get very little on his backstory, and even though I would have loved to know more and, you know, actually seen a movie that was about him, I can't complain. In a weird way, I think Max would have approved of Furiosa stealing his movie. At the beginning, I think Max has a very narrow view of the world. I think he's simply trying to take care of himself and maybe stop seeing flashbacks of dead people. But on this journey, you can start to see his eyes become more open. He starts to see that maybe the world doesn't revolve around him, even though he thinks it does. You can see that in the way he looks at Furiosa and the women. You can see it in how he is willing to give his life for them. You can see it in how he protects them. I think he realizes that there are people worth fighting for. I love his relationship to Furiosa because it's love, but its not romantic. He cares for her, he would die for her, but he is not in love with her. In a world full of disgusting men, Max can actually see these woman as people. I love him for that.

   Besides extreme feminism, there's one more important element to Mad Max that I wanted to talk about. And that's the theme of redemption. *Warning: This is where minor spoilers turn into major spoilers*

   Furiosa claims to be seeking redemption when they start their journey. She seeks her old home, what she calls The Green Place. However, when she gets there, she finds it has been gone for a long time. Only crows remain there. She is devastated. She tells her crew that they should ride on for as long as they can, it's Max that chimes in with a different plan.

   He proposes they go back to the Citadel. After everything they went through, he says to go back. Furiosa doesn't take too well to this idea. But he insists it's the only way. He tells her the only thing that's ahead is wasteland. Going back is there only hope. "We might be able to, together." he says, "come across some kind of redemption."

   To me, the symbolism in that is incredible. That the only way to find redemption is to go back to the very thing they had escaped. They had to stop running and face it. We do that a lot, as humans, We try to outrun our pain and then we are left with nothing in this wasteland that we thought would be a paradise. We think that forgetting our problems is the way to get better. But, as Max says, "You have to fix what's broken, or else you'll go insane."

   So they take the Citadel. They take back their lives. They get their redemption. They fight. They run no more and they find what they are looking for in the same place they experienced the most pain. To me, that is one profoundly powerful message.

   Mad Max is a story of redemption, of hope, and of feminism. There's action and explosions and all those things that make a movie epic, but there is meaning and depth as well. I would go so far as to say it might be one of my favorite movies now. So do yourself a favor and go see this masterpiece of a movie.


(Images taken from Google. Sorry I'm bad at crediting images)