The Art of Involvement #2

The Art of Involvement: The Unfortunate Need to Rest

“Time is a wall we all share” and there are so few doors. I am unsatisfied. I am always unsatisfied.  

I write this with a pounding headache, while eating half of a chocolate chip cookie for dinner. It’s that time of the year: burnout central. Most would call it midterms. I know I am most definitely not alone in my exhaustion this week. Being a student is demanding, not to mention someone who chases passion and community around as much as I do while having to drive 30 minutes there and back, and work, and meet with friends, and… Well, you get the idea. 

Art is wonderful, and art is something that feeds me and drains me all at once. I definitely think it’s something worth the extra effort to support. I am always swept away by how much I love being around people that value art as much as I do, but as much as I loathe to admit it, I can’t experience it all. 

Even now, as I dedicate this small amount of time to expressing myself, I know I could be relaxing. Soaking in the tub or annoying my cat with unwarranted kisses sounds wonderful. I also know that I regret it when I don’t force myself to sit down and write. I find myself too often taking a passive role in my own life, scrolling endlessly through mind-numbing content rather than reflect, engage, and create on my own terms. 

I avoid life because work and school are already quite enough, thank you very much, but then I feel less myself… It’s a dilemma I’ve always struggled with. 

My current solution is attending the events painstakingly put together by the people around me. I overcommit, of course. Not only am I a chronic people pleaser, but being busy tends to make me feel happier until I hit the wall. 

Hello again, wall. 

Part of the wall right now is due to my own spent energy in coordinating other things, such as the literary magazine, Lyceum. My baby. My creative outlet since Freshman year that I have struggle to let go of now that I’ve helped it hobble along for almost 4 whole years. Now we are getting over 50 people each semester to submit their work and its going great! Right before I have to leave. 

Graduation looms, and it’s exciting and terrifying all at once. And there’s another reason: I need to do everything I want to now, before I leave student life behind. A college campus is such a brief, wonderfully compact time and place to connect, explore, and grow. My time here feels like it’s been so brief (and partially it was, due to the shutdown that left me adrift in Zoom purgatory). I found my places and my interests, and it was only through me throwing my all into things and being open. I’d say my frantic attempts to avoid regret might end up rather successful. 

Here I am, tired and setting up for another full day tomorrow,  knowing I am not going to sleep enough tonight–head swimming with plays, drag shows, and open mics and I feel happy. I’m glad for the reminder of my personal limits as well… maybe it will click this time? It usually does, at least for a small stretch. Then I throw my alone time to the wind once more, only to be violently reminded that I am, in fact, an introvert. That I am, in fact, just human. 

For the record, this is not the post I wanted to write for this week, but it is the one that won’t leave me alone until I push it out of my system. And here I am, forcing you to be a witness. Isn’t that the nature of art? Maybe you relate, or roll your eyes, or award me with a brief nose-exhale. Maybe you don’t read this at all, but it’s still here for you.

And hey, my headache feels better.

Of course the sun stretches itself so wide, to touch all that it can
I want to scatter too, selfishly. Afraid to lose touch. 
Do not compel me, put the focusing lens away I will wash 
All in fragile warmth / Sustaining.

italicized entries from my journal, 4/1/23

The Art of Involvement #1

The Art of Involvement: Crafts with Pride

There is no feeling quite so humbling as being defeated by a beginner’s origami guide. What makes this humbling rather than humiliating is, ironically, the people that watch me amused while I flounder. I can glance at their creased brows, creased paper, and open books and see that we are lost together. It turns out that mutual confusion is a great way to bond, and crafts can be the perfect facilitator.

Of course, getting people together at the same time and place is essential. I was one of around 40 people that came to the Valentine’s Social event hosted by Pride last Thursday. The LGBTQ+ student organization wanted to create a social event that would give people an opportunity to gather and celebrate all kinds of love with some more non-traditional Valentine’s crafts; namely, rock painting and the paper folding art of origami. 

This event took place in the University of Michigan-Dearborn’s Pride Space, affectionately referred to as “the Closet” (small, enclosed, a place where gay people are). The Closet is a room where rogue stickers overtake the tabletop and worm-on-a-strings hang on the wall in rainbow order. It’s perfect, comfortable chaos. 

By the time I got to the Pride Space, the quaint room has been overtaken by an additional table and still people had spilled out into the Wolverine Commons to work on their crafts. Rock painting was particularly popular. When asked about the idea behind painting rocks, Pride Treasurer Meg remarked, “canvases can make people nervous, but rocks are just rocks.” Rocks, despite being only rocks, ended up being beautifully transformed. The other craft at hand, origami, was conceptualized as paper flowers and then broadened into the more general art of paper folding. One Eboard member in particular, Katie, spent studying how to make paper cranes prior to the event so that she could help others.

Katie is the secretary of Pride and the primary planner of the Social. She said the event’s main purpose was to further Pride’s goal of “creating a safe and accepting social space for the students of UM-D”. The Social was open to anyone and their partners, both in the spirit of the holiday and as a part of Pride’s wish to be an open safe space for all kinds of people. In short, this event was a great way to catch up with old friends and make new ones.

Crafts were a must to make to take the pressure off of meeting new people. Plus, as Katie said, it gave everyone an opportunity to “learn something new and take home a souvenir.” 

Due to coming in the last half an hour, I was regulated to the crescent booth where neat squares of patterned paper lie in wait. Fun fact about me– I know how to make exactly one thing out of folded paper: a beak or boat or hat, depending on your imagination, which my dad taught me. I very much fell into the crowd of learning something new.

I began with a quick Google search: “origami beginner’s guide”. I attempted a simple cat face and folded things backwards and forwards until I corrected myself. I successfully folded a blue fox (perhaps not one that others recognize on first glance). I was happy to be making anything and turn my mind away from assignments and work. The sounds of several conversations filled in any gaps in my brain that weren’t occupied with paper folding, and I jumped in and out of those conversations as I pleased.

Each time I looked up, I could see someone new doing something different. Next to me, my friend was making a second crane so that the two of them could kiss. On my other side, a person I had never met before shared my confusion at the diagrams we looked at and failed to replicate.

After my next attempt at creation ended in paper too thick to fold properly and incomprehensible shapes, I couldn’t help but throw my hands up in defeat and laugh. The floral patterned paper I so meticulously folded collapsed onto the table. “That was a mouse,” I explained. My fellow origami amateurs tilted their heads, trying to see any resemblance. Huh.

I smoothed out the paper and gave another try more often than not. In the end, all of the defeats never erased the one beautiful fox I managed to make with my own hands, and none of the confusion overwhelmed my joy in being enveloped in friendly, unexpected conversations.

As I tuck in laughter, crease paper with conversation, / I have to accept that my clumsy fingers won’t always make things right. / But I can always start again.

Looking Forward: MUSIC Matters

Happy Friday, arts, ink!

I hope you’ve been getting through the week alright – we’re practically on break already! Today I wanted to talk to you guys a little bit about MUSIC Matters, a student organization on campus that I am fortunate enough to be co-president for this year. 

MUSIC Matters’ mission is to utilize the unifying power of music to drive social impact in the community. This is usually achieved through a variety of events each year, including local talent showcases, battle of the band competitions, and our capstone April event, SpringFest, which features live music, food trucks, student organizations, corporate activations, and more. In addition to these events, MUSIC Matters spearheads three of their own social ventures: the CoMMunity Partnership grant program, the Michigan Overnight Experience for Detroit-area highschoolers and the Big Thinkers Scholarship.

In response to the context of the past few months, MUSIC Matters has adjusted much of its programming. Over the summer, we made donations to the Henry Ford Hospital and to a campaign through another student organization, Heal Move Shift, to help first responders during the COVID Pandemic. In support of the protests against police- and government-sanctioned violence against BIPOC, they arranged a benefit concert and donated the proceeds to the Detroit Justice Center. They have also pivoted our local talent events to be virtual, utilizing Instagram Live to stream these performances. As for SpringFest, the MUSIC Matters team is working extremely hard to make it the best it can be while prioritizing the health and safety of everyone involved. Stay tuned for updates by following our Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts. 

If you want to get involved in MUSIC Matters, you can still join! Go to our website, then under the “About Us” title go to the “Get Involved” tab. Here, you can find the application for 2020-2021, as well as check out more information on each of the committees and initiatives. 

That’s all for this week! Hope you all have a lovely Thanksgiving week (even though it may look a little bit different this year) and find some time to reset. 


Stay well + stay safe!


Detroit’s Arenas

Detroit has been a hub of activity in the state of Michigan since the state was formed.  Like all big cities in the US, there are a lot of events that are constantly going on in Detroit.  Everyday there is some form of sporting event, conference, and concert. Detroit has an abundance of concert venues from The Detroit Opera House to the Fox Theatre.  The newest venue is the Little Caesars Arena that is the hockey stadium for the Red Wings and also doubles as an event center. Little Caesars has replaced the Joe Louis Arena for the home of the Red Wings and for a concert venue.

The Joe Louis Arena was built in 1979 and replaced the Detroit Olympia.  The Joe Louis Arena was the 2nd oldest hockey arena in the U.S. with only Madison Square Garden being older.  The Arena hosted many other things besides just hockey games. They hosted figure skating competitions, basketball games and tournaments, and concerts. In 1980, the Palace of Auburn was built and had taken over a lot of the concerts that the Joe Louis Arena used to hold.  

The Little Caesars Arena opened in September 2017.  It succeeded both the Joe Louis Arena and the Palace of Auburn Hills as the home of the Detroit Red Wings and the home of the Detroit Pistons.  Like both the Palace and the Joe Louis Arena, the Little Caesars arena is also a concert venue, and it is now the only of the three venues that hosts concerts as well.  The Arena has a capacity of 22,000 for concerts, 20,000 for basketball games, and 19,000 for hockey games. This is bigger than the Joe Louis Arena by about 1,000 seats.

As Detroit grows and the sports teams become more popular, the stadiums and arenas increase in size.  The transition from the Joe Louis Arena to the Little Caesars arena is a perfect example of this because not only is the Little Caesars Arena bigger than the Joe Louis Arena, it also has newer amenities and a newer look.

No Better Way To Spend My Thursday Night

Tonight, for the fourth year in a row, I’ll be sitting in a theatre watching an installment of The Hunger Games. After three years, it’s time to say goodbye. I still remember the first time that I went, seeing the first movie with my two best friends from high school. It was an amazing night, and happened to be one of my friends’ birthday, and we were all ecstatic – we’d all read the books, and this adaptation looked amazing.

Midnight movies have a special place in my heart. I think my first midnight movie was The Dark Knight, when I was 13 or 14 years old. My aunt took me and my cousin on a whim, and I ended up struggling to stay awake, since I had been up all day. But it was an exciting night – when Lieutenant Gordon came out of the back of the van, proving that he was alive, not dead, the entire theatre erupted in applause. A couple of years later, I saw both Twilight and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows at midnight (I refused to choose between them – both guilty pleasures in my opinion) – theatres filled with hundreds of teen girls, all buzzing thirty minutes or an hour before the show, and I soaked it all in.

Now, I’m a bit older, and see more sophisticated things, read: Rocky Horror Picture Show, I still remember what it was like to be in high school, to be up at midnight, and to be part of a community that cares about something.

The tragedy of today, though, is that nothing really happens at midnight. Perhaps the midnight movie was more of a resurgence rather than just something I didn’t know about till I was older, but for movie executives, these nights are a way to make oodles of money. Which is kind of sad, because when I see Mockingjay at 11:15 tonight, I know, deep down, I shouldn’t be seeing it until midnight, and that the theatre I’m at has been showing Mockingjay since 7:30 earlier tonight. That hardly seems fair – the movie’s release date isn’t until 12:01 tonight, officially.

However, I will say that the extra movie times allow thousands of people to see the movie, when a lot of them would have been turned away had the theatre limited the release to only 12:01.

No matter what, midnight movies are something I love, and will always love. It’s one of the most unique ways you can see a movie, when going to a theatre is at an all time low.

So I challenge you, even if it’s not tonight with The Hunger Games, or in a month with Star Wars: The Force Awakens, to go see a midnight movie with your friends. Go to the State, go to Rave, go anywhere.

I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to spend my Thursday night. Can you?

To NaNoWriMo or Not To NaNoWriMo

The season of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is almost upon us. What is NaNoWriMo? It’s a non-profit organization that sets up an annual challenge where starting November 1, participants begin working towards the goal of writing a 50,000-word novel by 11:59 PM on November 30. And sadly, I will not be throwing my gauntlet into the ring.

I took part last year and looked forward to it every night – to get back to the story that was coming to life, film-like, on the computer screen in front of me. I explored the life of three children, growing up in post-Hiroshima Japan, one of the most realist stories I’ve written in quite a while. I found myself caring about these characters more and more, found myself wanting to hear their voices, their fears, to take part in their adventures rather then venture out into the greater world of Ann Arbor and classes and homework.

As senior year in the English and Creative Writing departments draws its cloak over me, I find myself writing so much already that I couldn’t possibly work on a 50,000-word novel right now. I admire all college-age Nano-ers who can find the balance between classes and this writing challenge. But, if Nano-ing is not in your near future, do not fret. It can often be a very brave thing to know your limits and know when to say ‘no.’ The good thing about Nano is that it’s like an annual holiday. It comes every year. If you’re not participating this year, then next year perhaps! No one even has to know if you participate or not. It’s like a secret with yourself. (Though, there is an incredible online community of Nano-ers who are available for support, for ideas, for writing gatherings, etc, for those who enjoy that kind of groupie-ness.)

There has been recent backlash from ignoramuses who think that NaNoWriMo is meant for people to write 50,000 word first-drafts and send it to agents on Dec. 1. This is by no means the purpose of NaNoWriMo. It’s a challenge, a chance to push yourself to write the story that has been cooped in your head, no matter how bad or hyperbolic or boring or flouncy or cheesy or cliche or wonderful the writing. It’s a chance for you to get in touch with your creativity stores, to think through your own beliefs and opinions about society, and project them onto characters who are forced to make decisions and heck, maybe even fight a few ninjas or two. I can’t imagine criticizing anything that encourages storytelling. No matter if you have written a Pulitzer or if you write car manuals, everyone deserves the chance to participate in this challenge.

If you’re lucky, you’ll walk away from NaNo with a “The End” as your words numbered 49,999 and 50,000. But, don’t think of this as “your end.” This is just a draft. The real writing, the revision, hasn’t even begun. And if you want, it doesn’t have to begin. You can write it and on December 1, come out from your writing cave and return to normal life. But, if you believe in your novel, you can make it stronger and keep working on it. To quote Da Vinci, “art is never finished, only abandoned.” But, something abandoned, doesn’t have to stay abandoned. Nor does it only have to be worked on during the month of November. That means that my story, about the three Japanese children, need not fear! I plan to pick it up again and continue the adventuring…just maybe after college settles down.

From one Nano-er to the next, I give this bit of advice to all of you brave writers who I will be living vicariously through this November:

Don’t delete anything. Even if you can’t stand to look at it, just highlight it in black and keep writing. (It creates this cool “blackout poetry” feel to your piece.)

If possible, log in the words while you have the time.  Try and get ahead in the first few days, which will give you flexibility as life and reality catches up to you later on in November.

-Make sure to give yourself breaks. Get up, take a walk, go to a museum, do yoga, paint your toenails, learn how to do headstands. Shake up your brainwaves so the ideas have room to breathe.

-Back up your work. Press Save a lot, become best friends with flash drives. Also, you can save to that whimsical of all things, the all-hailed Cloud.

Take risks. No one else has to see this writing if you don’t want them to. Be daring. Be silly. Add a dragon or two. Write scandalously. Mix the two and include the most scandalous of dragons.

Let yourself be surprised. 

To all my friends who are Nano-ing this year, I wave flags of encouragement and wish you happy writing and delicious snacks that don’t sticky up your fingers so much that prevent you from typing and I hope that you find yourself on the other side of the month, pleasantly surprised with the strength and courage and productivity that you achieved in just 30 autumnal days.

Write on, folks, write on!