I recently discovered Daniel Johnston, and in case you haven’t heard of him before either, I thought I’d share this song. Daniel Johnston is a manic depressive, maybe that’s why I felt so taken aback when I first listened to his music.

This song in particular is most likely relatable to everyone on some level, since everyone probably deals with existential boredom at some point. Maybe that’s what it means to reach adulthood; realizing that life is often boring and youthfulness is ephemeral.

Manic depressives might find themselves exceptionally resonating with this song because it almost seems impossible to ever accept those aspects of life. Must I bored all the time? Can’t I be high all the time?

Boredom is homeostasis. Boredom is the fine line between frenetic chaos and catatonic chaos. To be bored is to be on the cusp of complacency. Maybe it’s only true for me (although I doubt it is), but boredom and complacency are insufferable. I find myself scheming for an exit strategy. Cocaine? Sex? Another runaway trip? Except, adulthood shows a person that there is truly no escape. I am rendered helpless in my suffering, and am too aware of the futility of my own escapism to try anything at all. Mania is intoxicating. It gives zest to my life. It brings me thrill. Euphoria. Bliss. Desire. Ecstasy. I want it always, but I know better than to try pinning the tail on the donkey, because the donkey has kicked me in the face more than once. At the end of manic happy trails therein lies a tomb of anxiety and psychosis. At the end of that, a catastrophic mess to clean up.

Daniel sings “Maybe if we were in the movies we wouldn’t be so bored” towards the end of the song, and I think that we all just want to live in a movie. Movies are evocative, otherwise we wouldn’t watch them. But we are not in the movies, and sometimes life is bland.

In another song called “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Your Grievances,” Daniel sings, “Do yourself a favor and be your own savior.” He is a creative 52-year-old manic depressive that’s still alive, and let’s be honest; that’s an impressive feat considering 25-50% of manic depressives have or will attempt suicide. He is inspirational to me, as he has learned how to manage his own illness and wrote a plethora of music so people like me could relate to it and find solace.

Mixed Media

paper pyramids


I made this in a Moleskine watercolor notebook, using mostly paper from Newsweek Magazine. Thanks Newsweek Magazine.

Essays, Prose, Writing

False Abstractions on the Meaning of Identity


Who am I? Long buried, this question has escaped from my consciousness for some time, but only recently have I begun to wonder if it never really left. The anxiety and uncertainty about my identity has manifested itself in various forms under an array of names. Will I be a failure in life? Do I have any meaning? Am I a creative individual? Am I ethical in my actions? Am I Bipolar? Can I be disciplined in my daily life? Am I a night owl or will I ever be able to wake up early in the mornings to sip my latte and watch the sun rise as I ponder the beauty of existence?

The anxiety has not disappeared with the simple quandary of wondering who “I” am, but rather, it has catapulted that question, shot it in midair, and shattered it into a thousand different sub-anxieties that permeate my thoughts at every second.

I am a student. Being a student has been my identity en vogue, and I have worked vigorously to pursue and a place on which I can attach myself. I am a student. I must be a perfect student in order to see the value in my existence. I am not a perfect student, therefore I do not see the value in my existence. I skip class more than I find acceptable, and I do not know everything. Sometimes, my handwriting is sloppy. Sometimes, I mispronounce a word. Sometimes, I haven’t read the material before class or outlined and memorized its contents.

But what makes me feel incredibly miserable is how I am not surrounded by perfect students. Being a person who is uncertain about my own identity means I am looking for organism with which I can play “host.” An imperfect environment, imperfect friends, and imperfect abilities means that I am not perfect. Since I feel that I cannot be perfect like I expect of myself, the next place to exert pressure would be outwardly. How can I find value in my existence if everyone around me is flawed? How can I know everything if I do not have classmates that know much at all? How can I be a perfect pupil when my professor in not Einstein?  I can’t. This is logical, but what’s missing in my desperate logic, is that perfection is unobtainable. Impossible. It will never happen. Ouch.

I am an artist. When one identity proves itself to be defective, my strategy is to try a new one. I am an artist. I feel, think, and eat creatively, and every moment I experience incredibly ingenious revelations. The clouds move in a way that incites passion in my chest. Noticing a subtle sincerity in an exchange between two strangers makes me teary-eyed and reminds me of poetry. Gazing off into empty space while feeling melancholic gives me insight to how Van Gogh must have felt. I am an artist, this is my identity. Except, I am too crippled by my own impossible expectations to ever try to express myself with real intention. I love to write, but all of my words oxidize too quickly, and they grow stale and lifeless far before I can really appreciate them. I cannot edit my writings because I usually feel like nothing is worth the lifting of a hand.

In essence, there is a profound humiliation that my artistic endeavors evoke in me, and almost no one would experience humiliation freely. That seedy feeling of inadequacy stifles my potential before it ever has a chance to be realized, and this is why I it is seldom that I work up the courage to write.

Since I cannot express myself creatively, I look to those around me to have creative temperaments, so that I can, associatively, find fulfillment as a creative person. This is a predicament, because I cannot find Van Gogh, or Vincent Gallo, or Virginia Woolf, and they were/are creative individuals. All others force me to face the bleak, sparse reality of my own life.  I am not perfect, and I am not creative.

I am a bitter person. I cannot find happiness, and this makes me petulant. I throw tantrums (and sometimes objects) and I scowl. Life did not give me what I wanted, and now I am rebelling. I do not want to submit to societal expectations, and I enjoy walking around with my hair unbrushed. I feel betrayal when I laugh at a joke, and I must be restrained in my expression. I masochistically apply asceticism to my life, or to the other extreme, I overindulge in all that is gluttonous. I am not happy. I am not pleased with things.

Except, sometimes I am happy, and sometimes I am pleased with things, which completely annihilates my identity as a bitter person. My perspective changes and my mood changes, as well. Life isn’t always miserable, and this is why I am not a bitter person.

I am not. I am not everyone around me. Everyone else is their own person. My worth is not contingent upon their worth. They do not have any obligation to make my identity of merit. I am not perfect. I am not Van Gogh, or Virginia Woolf, because no one is. They aren’t alive any more, except in some abstract bubble of existence. I am not always creative. I am not always a brilliant student. I am not always bitter.

I am. I am breathing, I am Brittany. I am alive in the 21st century, and I am in my twenties. I have ideas, and I can be illogical. I am funny, and also not funny. I cry during the most unobviously delicate moments, and I am sometimes unwisely obstinate. I like sun, and the sea, and the stars, and on some days, I like when it’s overcast. I am ceaselessly willing to make someone happy when I think they are being genuine, but I am hateful and incredulous when I think someone is not. I like really obscure music and also AC/DC or Cyndi Lauper. I wish life was a reflection of nearly any John Hughes movie. Sometimes I am an incredibly diligent student, but other times I slack off more than I should. I am infinitely fascinated by my dream life and going to sleep at night is only enjoyable because I wonder what kind of bizarre experience I will have when I’m unconscious. I like to learn the origin of a word just because I find it amazing how time can change everything. I like colors, and I think they enrich our existence as humans.

This is who I am, and any of these things can change at any moment. I am transient and formless, and in fact, forms make me feel confined. I can be a different person on most days, and probably not any single person on all days. For this, it will suffice to say that I am. I simply am, and maybe that means that I have no identity at all. Maybe no one does, and “identity” is an illusive concept that doesn’t really define anything at all.