Best of 2016…

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2016 was certainly a year of the lowest lows. What a lousy year for the entertainment and arts industries, as we lost Alan Rickman, David Bowie, Harper Lee, Carrie Fisher, Prince, Gene Wilder…I could go on. Rest in peace. And what a shit show in politics, with attacks that extended far beyond implementation of policies or taxes, that aimed bullets at Native Americans, blacks, Hispanics, women, illegal immigrants, prisoners of war, Muslims, the LGBT community, and practically everyone non-white, non-male, and non-Christian. The rhetoric of the 2016 US presidential election was polarizing, damaging, and quite frankly, terrifying. In its wake, we have a country that has set back humanitarian and social justice efforts for years while simultaneously leaving Americans feeling uncertain and questioning the entire system of US government. What a sad tale to tell future generations as we move forward.

But we will move forward. Growth does not occur without crisis. 2016 was a year of revelations and a year of growth as much as it was a year of chaos. Incredible music came out, inspiring books were written, knowledge was gleaned, and life continued to grant us small blessings in its own way. Here are my personal highlights from this whirlwind of a year:

Best Album of 2016: i like it when you sleep for you are so beautiful yet so unaware of it // the 1975

I like to think these songs were made for a lonely heart, a heart in transition. A heart that hasn’t quite figured out what love is, but knows that it isn’t this. That’s the attitude of this album: romantic cynicism. I like to think that 2016 was this kind of year for me. It was a transition year, a growth year, a year that I became a little less naive about love while realizing how damn naive I am about it still. Whenever I felt emotionally dead, lying on my back on the bedroom floor, this was the album on repeat.

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Best Song of 2016: “Up & Up” by Coldplay

The song technically came out in 2015, but I heard it first in 2016, and it’s become a personal favorite. Coldplay songs are always full of this chill/laid-back tone mixed with an underlying emotional depth, and “Up & Up” delivered this feeling perfectly. Especially in 2016 with so much trauma, chaos, and uncertainty, the lyrics really speak to a sense of hope despite the suffering and the pain. Even the music video is magical and surreal, conveying an essence of wonder within the absurdity of life. For me at least, this really was the song of 2016.

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Best Music Video of 2016: “Blood, Sweat, & Tears” by BTS

I could go on and on about K-pop music videos and how aesthetic they are. (In fact, I might do a most aesthetic K-pop videos blog post, because there’s too many, and they keep getting better.) This hit by the mega-popular Bangtan Boys has a flair for the dramatic, with religious allusions and neoclassical statuettes. It plays with light and color, and the mesmerizing scenes and dancing will keep your jaw dropped the entire time you’re watching. The Latin-esque beats of the song and jammy tune will also keep you fangirling for days.

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Best Music Group of 2016: Seventeen

Honestly the best thing that happened to me this year was slipping into the diamond life. I’ve fallen in love with each of these thirteen boys’ charms to an extent that I haven’t felt since my Directioner days. Seriously though, these boys provide an endless stream of energy, cute, and killer visuals – not to mention incredibly young talent. They’re self-producing idols, which means that they basically choreograph, write, sing, rap, and produce their songs by themselves. They’ve come out with some of my favorite songs of the year, including the wonderfully jammy “Mansae” and super-duper catchy-cute “Pretty U.” The love they have for each other as a team and as a family is also endearing in itself.  Carats & Seventeen – fighting!

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Best Book of 2016: milk and honey // rupi kaur

I know this book came out in 2014, but I feel like it’s grown even more popular this year, as Kaur’s poems are plastered all throughout my Tumblr and Pinterest feeds. I finally had the opportunity to sit down and read the book this summer, and I automatically fell in love with it. Since the poems are short, I literally finished it in one or two sittings, and was immediately inspired to start writing my own poetry memoir book in the style of Rupi Kaur. The book was a lot simpler than I expected, but I believe the simplicity is part of its charm:  She takes life’s most turbulent and tumultuous events and transforms them into a few lines of poetry.

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Best Movie of 2016: Zootopia

I know this movie garnered mixed feelings, and it certainly wasn’t the most artistically stunning or well-written movie ever. However, I thought it did a good job of doing what it was supposed to – entertaining its audience in a cute and unique way. Perhaps the animal characters were a bit cliche, but I liked the vibrancy of the animal city. The two main characters were lovable and adorable, especially as partners-in-law. The plot and the twist at the end seemed relatively original, and kept me engaged the entire time. Overall, it was an enjoyable experience: 10/10 would recommend.

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Best TV Episode of 2016: Sherlock’s “The Abominable Bride”

To be fair, I’m a biased critic. Sherlock is and will likely forever be my favorite TV show ever produced. However, this episode really lived up to audience’s high expectations. Each episode has always been good, so it’d be preposterous to think this one would be otherwise. With twists and turns, forays into Sherlock’s mind palace, good British humor, and feminist undertones, the Sherlock cast and crew deliver yet another edge-of-your-seat mystery. This just made me waaaayy more impatient for Series 4 to come out.

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Best Place To Visit in 2016: Kyoto, Japan

I could rave and rave about this place and it still wouldn’t do it justice. The aesthetics are unreal. Every picture, every scene – whether you’re at a temple, in the city, or simply in transit on the subway – it’s all breathtaking. Not only is Kyoto peaceful, clean, safe, and friendly, it emits this lovely Japanese poetry – delicate and savory – from the paper thin auburn maple leaves to the last slurp of ramen noodle soup at a busy uptown restaurant. When I say I’ve never been to a more artistically pleasing place, it’s no joke.

The colors of sunset burst behind the pagoda of Yasaka Shrine in Kyoto, Japan

There were truly some highest of highs in 2016, despite the lows. I auditioned for a watersleeves dance at my university (and made it!! what!!), stood second row at a free BORNS concert, danced to “AJU Nice” by my favorite K-idols, worked hard in school with satisfying payoff, partied with new friends, bonded with old friends, spent some quality time with my Tumblr feed, ate amazing food, listened to incredible music, and read inspiring words. I’m one to be skeptical of the whole “new year, new me” and soon-to-be-broken new year’s resolutions tradition, but I do believe each year keeps getting better. Each year is not guaranteed to have more highs than the last, but each year is designed to make you grow and to make you learn a bit more about yourself. Here’s to 2017, whatever trials and tribulations it may hold – I know I will make beautiful memories and come out a stronger and wiser person on the other side.

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10 Things I’ve Learned from 13 Years of Journaling

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It all started May 25, 2003. My first diary entry ever:

“My favret thing is when we go to libery. My ather faveret thing was to wach mother-goose.”

This profound statement is followed by a stick figure drawing of what appears to be a little girl watching TV.

While I have come a (sorta) long way from preschool, I still keep that drive to write just a little every day. No doubt I have taken breaks in between. Sometimes three-year long hiatuses. But through it all, I eventually kept going, and I have now filled seven journals full of memories throughout elementary, middle, and high school. And it’s something that’s irreplaceable.

Everyone should journal, and since blogging is a lot like journaling, I thought it would be pertinent to share ten things I’ve learned from my 13-year experience in writing down all the trivial details of my life.

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1. Don’t apologize for taking hiatuses in between journal entries. You deserve a break and you can’t write gold if your heart’s not in it.

2. That said, you do need to motivate yourself sometimes. Look for prompts. Introspect. Relive your day in your mind and write down those reflections. Anything.

3. Don’t worry too much about grammar/sentence structure/any part of the snobby writing process. This is a free-write. No rules attached.

4. Write when you’re the most emotional. What I’ve discovered? Pain creates art.

5. Don’t be afraid to experiment. Experiment with letter-writing, lists, different voices, different styles, different subjects. Write entire page-long paragraphs or choppy sentences. Write poetry or prose. Doodle. Be inconsistent. It may seem like a mess, but there’s a method in the madness – it’ll keep journaling fun and interesting; it’ll keep your creativity on its toes.

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6. Buy beautiful notebooks and journals and sketchbooks and notepads. You won’t be able to resist filling them up.

7. There’s always something to write about. Even if you feel like nothing happened to you today. Surely, you did things. And those things happened in a way that won’t repeat itself exactly ever again. That’s got to be something. Or who says you even have to write about your day or yourself? Just pull up a chair, break out your favorite pen, grab one of those cute journals I told you to splurge on, and get movin’ (your hand)! Once you get started, the rest will come easy.

8. If you’re really out of things to say, plagiarize. Assemble lists of favorite quotes, favorite lyrics. Make specific themes – famous last lines or best girl power lyrics. Hopefully, these will inspire you down another writer’s path.

9. Try writing at different times of the day. You’ll get different results. The 9AM you is different from the 6PM you, which is different from the 3AM you.

10. Say everything you would normally never say out loud. It’s not just therapeutic; you’re creating a snapshot, a self-portrait to look back on over the years. You’re writing for you – a worthy audience and one you can trust.

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What’re you waiting for? Break out the pens, paper, and creative mindsets. Hope this helped! xx

P.S. Additional Tip: Try to have better handwriting than me XD

 

A Letter To My Future Daughter (and Young Girls Everywhere)

Dear Princess Warrior,

Life is hard for a human being. Life for a female human being can be even harder. There are 15 things that I wish I had learned earlier that will make your life that much easier. I hope these will come in handy.

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1. There will come a time in your life when you will want to create change on a macro scale. You will wish you had the power to feed the hungry, shelter the homeless, educate the illiterate, empower the oppressed. These big ideas are so so important, but it’s also important to keep in mind that you need to live a good life on a micro scale as well. Be kind to the outcasts at school. Empathize with strangers. Respect your friends and family. So often, I see groups of friends decide to hate or judge a particular person for some small reason, and those kinds of things can send people into depression. It’s a type of bullying. Remember that good people can be bullies without meaning to; bullies can be your friends. It’s up to you to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. Sometimes it’s up to you to make the difficult decision of standing up to your friends.

2. If he isn’t texting you back, if he isn’t making an effort to be with you, forget him. No matter how strong the jawline, no matter how long the lashes, there lies another boy out there who can top him. I promise. Never chase after a boy, because like buses and trains, when one leaves, another will come along to take its place.

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3. The healthier you are, the prettier you will be. Notice that I said “healthier” not “skinnier.” And the most important kind of health for beauty? Take extra good care of your skin, which means water, facial cleanser, toner, moisturizer, acne cream. All water based and oil free. Twice a day. Every day. Don’t forget some water-based sunscreen.

4. Don’t date in middle school. You’ll only regret it. (Dating in high school can be quite a waste of time as well.)

5. Don’t do things just to try to fit in. It will be tempting. Don’t do it. No ad can tell you what to wear, no celebrity can tell you how to do your makeup, no cool crowd at school can tell you how to act, no cute boy can tell you what kind of jokes to make. You decide. And I could tell you to be yourself, but it’s not really that simple, because I doubt at age 11, you know who you are. I’m writing this to you at age 19 and I am far from knowing who I am. But I am closer to figuring that out than I was at 11, that’s for sure. Just don’t do things because of other people; do things for yourself.

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5. Blow dry your hair downwards. It’ll prevent frizz.

6. Do a sport and stick with it. Even if you think you aren’t athletic or even if you think you suck. This is something you won’t regret, especially if you choose the sport yourself.

7. Do one thing that makes you happy or inspires you every day.

8. Here are the ingredients to a good handwritten letter: an inside joke, a unique compliment, something that you’re both looking forward to, a genuine promise, and something vulnerable that you might not say to them in person.

9. Blend your makeup and use primer. More importantly – go easy on the eye makeup as a beginner.

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10. The first time you’re ever cat-called will likely be terrifying. I want you to breathe, stay safe, walk away, and process it for a second. Realize that you live in a patriarchal society where some men feel entitled to your body and your attention. Pity them. Pity them for listening to society’s screwed-up messages rather than the strong women in their lives. And empower yourself by knowing that you are, in fact, an underdog woman warrior who is fighting against this enemy of misogyny and patriarchy.

11. Keep a journal. It doesn’t have to be a diary – I’m sure you can come up with something more creative than that.

12. If a boy ever tells you you “run like a girl” or “fight like a girl,” tell him “good.”

13. There are unspeakable, horrible evils in the world. But hate cannot be fought with hate, and violence cannot be fought with violence. You can’t hurt people and expect to right their wrongs. You can only fight brutality with compassion and love; you can only drive away darkness by turning on the light.

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14. If you ever feel stressed or depressed, talk to someone. Know that insecurity and anxiety is normal.

15. Read. Read everything and anything until you find what you’re passionate about – picture books, Popular Science, fashion magazines, comic books, the daily news, 20th century literature, Shakespeare, literally anything. Then, read some more.

16. Don’t judge other people by what they wear, how they present themselves outwardly, what they listen to, what they eat, what they believe in, what they were born with. This includes that one chick who wears high heels to school every day or that guy who’s autistic. Judge others purely by their morals and values.

17. You’re beautiful and unique. We’re all beautiful and unique. There’s so many beautiful and unique people out there in the world, and you only have a limited time on earth to get to know them.

18. Keep pads/tampons, a hair tie, a pen, and kickass lipstick in your purse at all times.

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19. Even the worst human being is still human. Psychopaths, sociopaths, and criminals didn’t make themselves – society, propaganda, cultural systems, politics, brainwashing, family, the environment, genetics, and so many things that they can’t control made them. That’s why we have to be kind to every human being, and that’s why every human being deserves a second chance. Maybe it’s a naive notion to think that people are good, but I don’t think it’s naive to be good yourself – to practice a bit of empathy. You don’t have to like every individual to understand a little bit of where they’re coming from.

20. Like I said before, I want you to be yourself. If this means disregarding all of the above, then so be it. I don’t care if you’re not the girl who actually carries around a purse or who wears makeup or gives a shit about hair frizz. I don’t care if you’re a girl who does care about all those things, and is actually very passionate about beauty and fashion. I don’t care if you don’t identify as a girl at all. So there, be yourself, unashamedly, unabashedly. And I will always love and support that.

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Sincerely,

Francie xx

A Quick Lesson (and Rant) on Love

My senior year English teacher once stopped class to give a bunch of hopeless teenagers a lesson on love.

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“Get out a piece of paper,” she said sternly, her usual intricate gray bun sitting imperiously atop her head. Her hair – as she told us – reached below her knees when she loosened it out of its bun. She never cut her hair after high school, save for a few trims, as was the Native American tradition her Pawnee grandfather had taught her. Dr. Lara was by far one of the most interesting teachers I ever had in my educational career (which is saying something, since my 50-year-old communication applications teacher once had a screaming fight with her boyfriend in the middle class over the phone). (Also I had an English teacher claim that Julius Caesar was essentially Jesus Christ because they both had the initials “J.C.” But that’s beside the point.)

“Get out a piece of paper,” she commanded, “and write down three things you look for in a romantic partner.”

I blanked for a second. What do I even look for in a person? I realized I never looked for specific traits, I was either attracted to someone or not. I never really thought about why.

…Intelligence, I wrote down. Kindness. I couldn’t think of a third. I could think of a lot of qualities, but none that I considered an Ultimate Character Trait.

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“Next, write down three things that you would never want in a romantic partner. Three deal-breakers.”

Violent/brutal. I paused for a bit. Ignorant. Untrustworthy.

“Now, move your desks in a circle.” And then there was the usual cacophony of chairs scraping against carpet and backpacks shuffled about and pencils rolling off desks.

“Alright, Ms. Shankar,” (She never called us by our first names.) “Tell us what three things you look for in a romantic partner.”

Rayna (aka Ms. Shankar) smiled confidently – always the extrovert and always fiercely unembarrassed by any situation.

“I said, funny, smart, and fine af.”

There was a ripple of small smiles around the room.

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“Most young people – teens and preteens – look for physical beauty in a significant other,” Dr. Bissett spoke carefully, “but in doing so, you can be limiting yourself from several compatible romantic partners. Additionally, as you fall in love with someone, everything associated with them – their appearance, their personality, their passions – these all become beautiful to you. So I wouldn’t worry about physical attraction as a top priority in looking for a relationship.”

“However, I do agree with your first two criteria. It is easy to share your life with someone who won’t bore you, who has the mental capacity to understand your complexities. And it is even easier to share your life with someone who has your sense of humor, who can make you laugh.”

I looked down at my piece of paper. Of course. That would complete my trifecta of Mr. Perfect’s character traits. I wrote down “sense of humor” next to “intelligence” and “kindness.”

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It’s been about a year since that spring day when we were all just struggling through another class period, counting down the days until graduation. I didn’t realize then how keeping in mind a three-point criterion for a date would help my love life. But I think I get the purpose of it now. It’s helped me avoid chasing after the wrong guys or chasing after romantic notions of “this guy isn’t exactly Mr. Right, but I can change him!!” It’s helped me avoid wasting my time on kindling relationships that I know won’t work out. It’s put something concrete and objective to a very abstract, subjective thing – love. And at least for now, the organization helps. Because the rom coms, the chick flicks, and the Romeo/Juliets hardly prepared me for the reality of romance. This did.

I’ve modified my list a bit. It’s now “intelligence,” “humor,” and “compassion,” because not only do I want my S/O to be a nice person, I want him or her to be a person who cares deeply about humanity and the world.

And here’s my two cents of experience. I’ve found guys who are tear-inducingly hilarious. I’ve found guys who are arousingly smart. (Intelligence is the new sexy after all.) But I have yet to find someone truly and genuinely compassionate from the micro level of caring for a baby brother to the macro level of worldwide politics. At least, it doesn’t show itself often.

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So why is this? Why isn’t a passion for kindness something that we promote in our outer personalities, something that shines out of us radiantly? Boys will make stupid jokes to catch a girl’s attention (their version of humor). Boys will show off their sharp wit and acute cleverness by cracking more stupid jokes and occasionally answering a question correctly in class (their version of intelligence). But, from my experience, few boys will go out of their way to perform a random act of kindness or stand up for someone against their friends or rail against the evils of homophobia or even simply offer their jackets when it’s cold to impress a girl. What is it about fiercely, bravely, and confidently being nice that is so scary? What is it about compassion that is so damn hard?

But I suppose it’s unfair to blame it on the male population. Looking at it all on a grander scale, the world isn’t totally short of funny people or smart people. The rarest element of all is compassion. I know my special someone will be special, because he will be compassionate. And if it took one day in a 12th grade English class to learn that, then hey, maybe my entire grade school education wasn’t a waste.

 

 

15 Compliments I’d Rather Receive Besides “You’re Pretty”

Because people are so much more than their mirrors.

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  1. You have this beautiful inner strength.
  2. You’re quiet, but it’s a thoughtful quiet, like you’re writing a novel in your head.
  3. You’re so sensitive to people’s feelings.
  4. You have an inner glow that comes out when you smile.
  5. I love your aesthetic/your style.
  6. You remind me of my favorite song.
  7. I admire how loyal and loving you are to your family and friends.
  8. Please make a CD of you singing so I can fall asleep to it at night.
  9. You’re so smart/creative/original. Your ideas and personality are so different from everyone else’s.
  10. Thanks for being my best friend.
  11. Your sense of humor is on point.
  12. I want to spend time marathoning movies and fangirling over them with you.
  13. You may not know it, but you’re brave. You stand up for what you believe in.
  14. Your tweets are fire.
  15. You’re so much more than pretty.

This One’s For You

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They say you have to know your audience when you write. That’s not a new concept – it’s a cliche writing tip really – and yet when I write I tend to blab on and on and hope someone from the interweb may stumble along and find my rants and possibly deem them worthy of a like. As a new blogger, that’s technically my audience – the people who wind up here by chance.

In large part, I don’t give great thought to my audience when I sit down to make a blog post, because I write for myself. Well, that’s pretty selfish, you might think. But writing is a selfish task. It’s the sum of your background, your experiences, your culture, your heartbreaks, your hometown, the books you read, the people you love, the thoughts you have at 4 AM…your writing is centered around you. Writing is a way of getting to know yourself first, before anyone else. It’s a way to tap into your own mind, creativity, and soul.

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And yet, writers aren’t selfish. They’re brave. They make themselves vulnerable for the world to see; they whisper their secrets to perfect strangers. All the lives that you’ll never know, all the people you’ll never meet, never will be – that’s the world. That’s my audience. I write for myself, yes, but also for the others. I write for the the underdogs, the cynical romantics, the seekers of truth. I write for every girl who’s ever been ignored because she isn’t “pretty enough” and every boy who feels like they can’t cry unless they’re alone. I write for anyone who’s ever let go of bitterness, drowned their sorrows with music, danced in the rain, fallen in love with their flaws. I write for the ones who are quietly brave, who have seen the world’s hatred and ignorance and brokenness and still believe it to be a beautiful place. But most of all I write for you, you as a human being with a heart and soul and piece of hope to share, I write to tell you that you are not alone and that no one is alone.

So now you know. This one’s for you.

10 Unusual Things On My Bucket List

Sure everyone wants to “Visit Rome” or “Swim with the dolphins.” I do, too. But here are 10 things on my bucket list that you might have never even thought about:

1. Take a photo each day for a year.

2. Have a white Christmas tree one year.

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3. Ride a Vespa scooter.

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4. Work at Pixar Studios.

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5. Learn archery.

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6. Be an audience member in a live TV show.

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7. Fill a room with balloons.

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8. Attend Comic Con.

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9. Play a Disney character at a Disney theme park.

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10. Perform on a street corner.

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Hopefully I’ll get a chance to check these off! *None of these pictures are mine*

Thanks for reading xox