Of Music and Motivation

Raise a hand if you’re a second-semester senior.

Via gyphy.com

Having been accepted to a grad school for the fall term already, FINALLY understanding the treasures and trappings of Netflix, and umm…well, kinda just being burnt out, I’ve been going through some really tough roller coaster rides this semester of high energy studying and frankly, a whole lot of lethargic laziness. A part of me thinks, “I’m in next year, I’ve got a plan. Why does any of this matter anymore?” but my studious, energetic and generally curious side says, “But the things you’re learning are AWESOME! You’ve come to this far and have done SO well!! Don’t give up yet! You’re almost at the finish line!”

With the angel and devil always weighing down your shoulders and yapping at you, how can you ever do your homework?

Image via youtube.com

I think I have found the solution.

I recently came across the theme song to the video game, Dragon Age: Inquisition. Never playing the game before, I heard the main theme serendipitously on Spotify and felt a rush of sheer invincibility. Imagine the energy of the huns flooding over the mountain in Mulan, the pride of explorers crying Land Ho for the first time, a marathon winner breaking the ribbon at the finish line, and the power of a space shuttle blasting successfully into space, and that’s how I felt as I listened to Trevor Morris’ anthem.

Instantly, after the song, I felt like I could do anything, lift anything, achieve anything, ace anything. I decided to go on a quest to seek out more songs that would give me this sort of feeling. Maybe if I tricked my brain into thinking I could focus and DO ANYTHING (including my homework), I might actually be able to DO IT! The name of my playlist would obviously and aptly be titled: You Can Do Anything! That’s right: I believe in the power of words 🙂

And maybe, we should start believing in the power of music. As Christopher Bergland says in Psychology Today, “music and mood are inherently bound.” He says that “you can dial up a mood, mindset or perception on demand by choosing music that elicits a specific emotional response in you,” whether it’s for athletic benefits , studying purposes, for road trip boredom busting, or to create a certain vibe to match your day.

Image via youtube.com

When choosing your own Motivational Music playlist, keep it authentic and from your soul. So what if you have a song that you might be embarrassed if someone knew you were listening to it? A) You never should have to defend or feel bad about why something resonates with you. And B) That’s why Spotify: Private Session was invented.

Though everyone’s playlist will be different due to personal tastes and styles and motivational needs, I’ll share mine as an example. Because my playlist is for studying purposes, I went with an instrumental theme.

Cammie’s YOU CAN DO ANYTHING playlist!

I’m making no promises that these songs will motivate you as they have done to me. All I know is that I have accomplished a lot already thanks to this playlist and the wonderful musicians who have made music to make my heart soar, my typing fingers fly, and my body feel as if I had the strength of 10 Grinches plus 2. Happy playlist-making and cheers to productivity!

* Next time you’re listening to music, put it on shuffle! Did you know that the randomness of not knowing what song is going to play next actually increases the brain’s levels of Dopamine, your feel-good chemical? It’s time to get happy!

The Art of Graduating in 2 Weeks

It’s at this point in my life—second-semester senior, post-thesis, part-time student, burnt out, uber-queer angst land, etc.—where I think it’s appropriate to reflect and teach others the senior-year lifestyle, or as I like to call it, “so you’re graduating and are no longer able to give a f**k.” So yeah:

1. Attend less class this week than days you consecutively visit bars.
And I’m not talking about just skipping class (I am, partly) but  look at your schedule and notice that the sheer number of classes you have is dwindling and that the nostalgia for meeting up with friends, lovers, mentors, and those who can pay for you is at an all time high. In short, I am now friends with all the bartenders at Savas and I’m more than OK with this.

2. When someone asks you what are you doing after graduation, outline EXACTLY what you will be doing everyday:
“well the day after I plan on having an existential breakdown to be met the next day by getting together for brunch at Sava’s with my friends (Brian, Audrey, etc.), and then I’m planning on starting ‘House of Leaves’ the following day but maybe ‘Paradise Lost?’ And when people get bored and ask you, “NO, what are you doing professionally or educationally,” just reply, “well, it really needs to be contextualized within my daily routine all summer long because in isolation everything is meaningless.” Basically just be really sassy and blunt with everyone you come into contact with. It’s not like you’re going to see any of these people again possible ever again.

3. Invite academics to campus and get excited about preparing questions that “destroy” them, either:
i) call them out for being problematic, or ii) interrogate their methodologies and bash their disciplinary location. “So I see you use ‘LGBT’ as the realm of discourse you’re analyzing on a national level, but the evidence you cite blatantly excludes trans* folks, how does their exclusion and your implicit blame onto a highly marginalized community fit into your argument? Don’t you really just mean ‘gay and lesbian’?”

4. Wear every pattern that you own so that people will know and be visually convinced you are graduating.
Look i) hip, ii) hip not in the hipster way or appropriative way but like in the damn cool and stylish way and so so “out there,” iii) a little bit out of your mind eccentric, iv) not to be tested, v) ready to leave. There’s no use in pretending that I’m not COMPLETELY ready to start a “new chapter” (chapter 22) of my life that is not located in Michigan.

5. Get really frustrated when people don’t want to hear about your term paper on Deleuzoguattarian metaphysics in conversation with Woolf’s “The Waves.”
I’m at the point where my schooling is something I’m both frustrated and in love with, similar to other folks in my life, and so I talk about it all the time because it is my life. Those that don’t get that don’t always deserve to take up all my time.

6. Say ‘no’ to everything you can because this is the last chance, at least in my opinion, where you have the privilege to prioritize self-care to the max.
My job lets me say no, my classes let me say no, my friends let me say no. But come a year from now I’ll be in a different community, a different job (that I have to keep in order to live), and a different location. I know that ‘no’ isn’t always an option, especially in the foreseeable future; so say ‘no’ and love the time you can self-create.

7. Be direct, be open. 
After living life for 21 years, I finally realized that I could be direct with people while not being rude. Saying that you don’t want to be friends isn’t rude, it’s honest on both a time and personal level. Telling someone that you need to talk isn’t a passive aggressive move or a manipulative move, it’s letting someone know you need better communication and that you value both parties to find a time that works for both schedules.

8. Fall in love more often and deeper.
Granted, this is EVERYONE’S advice for growing older but seriously. Tell everyone you love them. (Ask before you can do any of the following:) Hold on to everyone’s hand. Hug everyone for minutes not seconds. Kiss everyone you can on the cheek. Start conversations with strangers. In all of the ups and downs that I’ve been on and through for Ann Arbor I love the space and I love many of the people. And I’m so thankful for my life and the lives of others/places/things. I show my gratitude through my love.


There is art and then THERE IS ART.

Notorious for proclaiming every damn thing in my life can be art, I am going to continue to cast my art-golf-umbrella on everyone who reads this: art is everywhere, everything is aesthetic in some manner, and sometimes everything sucks (or is so good) that aesthetics are all I can talk about without wanting to performance art myself into a plane and never come back.

Now 2 days ago I stopped writing my thesis and left the honors program (http://queerumich.com/post/75508370570/the-queer-art-of-quitting) and I’ve never felt better. However, it’s been interesting to see how people react to my news. From “TAYLOR?!? REALLY??!?!” to “I support and think that this decision will make you happy.” I appreciate both sentiments–it’s fun seeing what people do when I throw their world axis off just a smidge, and when I can surprise them. (boom.)

In the wake of all of this, I’ve received so much support and love. I’ve never felt more comfortable with a decision or more proud of myself, and it’s all because my community stepped up and validated, affirmed, and actively supported me. A community that I thought I had a solid grasp of who was in it, but, then again, I myself was surprised.

Come a month ago, while still writing my thesis, the most support I got was from my books, my tears, and “dreams . . . drugs . . . waking nightmares, alcohol and cock and endless balls” (a little Ginsberg goes a long way, no?). I’m not trying to call anyone out but the support I got while in the thesis process was no where near the level of support I have now. This got me thinking.

Support is an art form.

About a year or so ago I got in the habit of saying “I approve” at everything I wanted to affirm. Quickly, I realized that very few people need a white cisgender man to give approval–it’s weird, it’s unaffirming, and it’s just a little much, in my opinion. So I reflected on what I meant by “I approve,” and I came to the conclusion that I meant, “I support.” I support verbally, physically, emotionally, mentally; if I say, “I support _____,” you have my permission to use me and my resources to the fullest extent because I care, I support, and I want to validate and affirm you and your endeavors.

What I’m not so eloquently getting at is: support needs to be known.

Support isn’t some canvas on which I am painted. I need support to be painted on me. Covered in it, filled with it, not born from it. Support can’t be implied or unspoken because all it looks like is somebody somewhere following you or looking at you or sending some good vibes, which, don’t get me wrong, is wonderful, but isn’t really how I use or mean “support.”

Support is an action, a verb–to support. It necessitates motion from bodies and minds and hearts. It is not a watercolor. It is spoken word, it is slam poetry, it moves oceans and causes storms. I need support that will rock me to my foundation.

What stopping the thesis process has taught me is how to really support someone. I’ve learned this from those who’ve pretended and from those who’ve succeeded in supporting me. And today, perhaps, I can call myself an artist supported by fellow artists (friends, family, peers, acquaintances, coworkers, facebook strangers, grindr peeps, and people eluding my words)–with a general mission to support and affirm and validate.