Ernest Hemingway (1) once said his life was over the day he couldn't write anymore. as someone who’s been writing since I was a kid to escape the mundanities of Truman-esque suburban life, this sentiment is especially relatable of all the mediums I’ve been fortunate to explore thus far, writing is perhaps the most direct, unapologetic even. it’s a one to one confrontation by which the only thing between you and your thoughts are your thoughts.

Ta-Nehisi Coates (2) once said it’s an act of courage — almost a physical one. a battle with the minotaur of conscience Nietzsche (3) speaks of with only a writing device and paper, weapons which in a battle or a war are not particularly effective. Hemingway ended up committing suicide, like David Foster Wallace (4) and many other writers, artists, creatives.

I’m not writing this to start a pity party or to share the obvious implication about how death is tragic or to supplant the starving artist stereotype. that’s not the point nor will it ever be now that I’ve existed twenty eight rotations around the sun. but I do find it insane how something with no tangible form like a word can create legislatures, bills, laws, blueprints, scientific papers, stand-ups, plays, performances, etc etc. or how easily we can fall by a misprint as Mark Twain (5) mentions.

a notion presents itself here I think, the idea that once something is — for lack of a better way of putting it — etched into stone, it’s difficult to remove. I’m learning in real time about this in the form of a tattoo removal. it’s a tiny "N" with a dot at the tip of the letter on my right forearm. from your perspective it spells “IN”. from mine it looks like a backwards “Z”.

this was the first tattoo I got about the concept of identity, a reference to the Myers Briggs personality test (6). with a phantom friend and former sister from another mister who was scared to death about getting her first big piece on her ribcage. so we went to a random shop on Saint Marks Place (7) to ease gut-wrenching anxieties. she was there when I got my first tattoo: the chemical formula of serotonin made up of dashed lines because life was not about happiness but the pursuit of it. a Ralph Waldo Emerson (8) type beat.

it’s funny to look back on those memories and how quickly it happened even though I’d thought about it for at least a year. back then I didn't realize what it meant to communicate such a perspective, as cheesy as it sounds now that his words have been popularized. that an unquenchable hunger to learn everything and anything about the world in an effort would also leave behind a trail of unfinished stories, half-baked theories. as noble of a quest as this seems, if I’m completely honest there was a self-centered reason behind it too. I’m learning that being this way is ok sometimes as long as it doesn’t spill over to selfishness or narcissism. that while we are not the center of the universe, we are the center of our existence. because nobody can really tell our stories except for us. and nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission, as Eleanor Roosevelt (9) puts it.

recently, I got a second tattoo about identity. an illustration of simplified Haku from Spirited Away (10) wrapped around a tiger jugg with the essence of the Shishigami in Princess Mononoke (11). I wonder how many versions of Haku have been created at this point and how many more will be recreated. I wonder who was the first person to draw it. I wonder what they really saw. or why that random psychic we went to said we had lived dozens and dozens of lifetimes as sisters. or why so many of my people think I’m Japanese or Korean. we’ll never know, but that’s the fun of it…right?

whether you end up in front of the barrel of a gun or buried in a ditch or plagued by the next accidental bioweapon, I would bet my life that someone will come across you again in some form and wonder. we just have to find it. there’s a reason why most things are at most 99% effective in consideration of human error. there’s a reason why Aries is always #1 in everything and why GOAT is now an acronym for the Greatest Of All Time and why a cancer diagnosis is the scariest metaphor for a death knock and why Libras are the only sign symbolized by scales — the ultimate judge of objectivity. there’s a reason why no matter how personable an automated bot sounds, it isn’t.

if you didn’t catch that all the signs I just described above are cardinal signs, now you do. we’re the jump starters and the go-getters who are unafraid to make a move when no one has any idea of what to do.

there’s a reason why Nike’s iconic slogan are three simple words (12). because absolutely nothing can replace the human experience or replicate the act of achieving something remarkable. so the next time you’re unsure of whether something is a good idea, we’ll be the butt of your joke. because honestly, why not?

//

Footnotes

(1) Ernest Hemingway : American novelist, short story writer and journalist and recipient of the Nobel Literature Prize in 1954. Best known for an economical, understated style that significantly influenced later 20th-century writers, he is often romanticized for his adventurous lifestyle, and outspoken and blunt public image.

(2) Fredrich Nietzsche : philosopher who became the youngest person to hold the Chair of Classical Philology at the University of Basel in 1869. His work spans philosophical polemics, poetry, cultural criticism and fiction while displaying a fondness for aphorism and irony. Prominent elements of his philosophy include his radical critique of truth in favor of perspectivism which postulates that there is no essential, universal truth because all truth comes from one's interpretation.

(3) Ta-Nehisi Coates : activist and journalist who gained a wide readership during his time as national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he wrote about cultural, social and political issues, particularly regarding African Americans and white supremacy.

(4) David Foster Wallace : novelist, short story writer, essayist and university professor of English and creative writing. Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 and considered “one of the most influential and innovative writers of the last twenty years” by the Los Angeles Times.

(5) Mark Twain : writer, humorist and essayist praised as the “greatest humorist the United States has produced” notable for The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and it’s sequel Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with the latter often called the “Great American Novel”.

(6) Myers Briggs personality test : a self-report inventory designed to identify a person’s personality type, strengths and preferences. The questionnaire was developed by Isabel Myers and her mother Katherine Briggs based on their work with Carl Jung’s theory of personality types.

(7) Saint Marks Place : arguably the East Village’s most notable street and a place bursting with culture via its retail shops, street vendors, restaurants and nightlife. located on Eighth Street in Manhattan between Third Avenue and Avenue A.

(8) Ralph Waldo Emerson : essayist, lecturer, philosopher, abolitionist and poet who led the Transcendentalist movement of the mid-19th century. Seen as champion of individualism and critical thinking, as well as a prescient critic of the countervailing pressures of society and conformity.

(9) Eleanor Roosevelt : political figure, diplomat and activist who was the first lady of the United States from 1933 to 1945 during her husband President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s four terms in office, making her the longest-serving first lady. Traveled extensively around the nation visiting relief projects, surveying working and living conditions and then reporting her observations to the President.

(10) Haku from Spirited Away : a dragon thought to be the God of the Swift Amber River and Spirit of the Kohaku River. Featured in the animated film by animator, filmmaker and manga artist Hayao Miyazaki. Spirited Away became the most successful film in Japanese history, grossing over $347 million worldwide and won the award for Best Animated Feature at the 75th Academy Awards, making it the first hand-drawn and non-English language animated film to do so.

(11) Shishigami : also known as the Deer God or Night-Walker. It is neither good nor evil but a personification of the forest and supporting character in Princess Mononoke, an animated historical fantasy film written animated by Studio Ghibli.

(12) Nike’s iconic slogan : Just Do It.