Posts Tagged 'Boulder'

On Resolutions, Goals, and Playing Cards

“We must imagine the possibility of a more just world before the world may become more just. That’s something that poets do well.”

– Martin Espada

In the progressive artsy sector of the internet, it seems pretty well-accepted that New Year’s Resolutions are over-simplifying things, at the very least. Even Oprah thinks that keeping a journal is a better method for self-improvement than making some spastic once-a-year goals (and I agree). I also like Stephanie’s (aka Biffybeans’) guidelines for making manifestations instead of resolutions.

There’s something about Boulder the United States the Holidays that leaves me exhausted. And maybe that’s why people find the idea of New Year’s Resolutions so refreshing, like a deep cleansing meditation after a bad hangover. But the general sentiment from friends and fellow bloggers is that a feeling of “stuck-ness” is more than a matter of internal motivation. Unfortunately, there really are external factors that affect your success – a shitty economy, for one. A highly motivated, optimistic, and qualified individual is not guaranteed a job, at least at the moment. In fact just such a friend of mine is currently on food stamps.

One of my big-picture goals has always been to bring these larger systems up in conversations, especially with people who believe that the individual is 100% responsible for his or her fate. Having tried to live as a low-income person in a high-income city for the past few months, I can tell you that positive attitudes and initiative can only take you so far. Chance has a lot to do with it, and so does the willingness of luckier people to reach out to you. There isn’t a lot of outreach here in Boulder, and there aren’t a lot of opportunities for poor folks to mingle with the rich folks. Let alone different racial groups.

In 1994, the KKK held a rally in Boulder. When Boulder residents vehemently protested, a KKK leader gave a speech in which he identified Boulder as a model city for the KKK because (contrary to the image of being one of the most progressive cities in the nation) “it is impossible for a lower middle class family with multiple childeren to live here.” In fact, he congratulated Boulder on achieving 90% white demographics. It took a member of the KKK to give the city a wake-up call about privilege, to show them that no amount of Buddhist meditation groups and African dance lessons will create real diversity.

Having said that, I’m no fatalist when it comes to success and happiness, and I don’t think The Man can keep you down forever. Re-examine the cards you’ve been dealt: the privileges and the opportunities, the options and the limitations. There are a lot of people who don’t have the opportunity to save or invest money, and will never have the financial padding to move to a different city or switch professions. So heck, I feel real good about being able to miserably pinch pennies in order to move across the country (yet again). Miserable, sure, but lucky as hell.

I propose we think of the new year as reshuffling your deck. See if new patterns emerge, or if you’ve been trying to play the wrong hand for too long. (Is this metaphor still making sense?)

My Hand This Year

  1. Do whatever it takes to avoid being overwhelmed by job-searching. Take a day off to rest my brain, and ask for help if I need it. Indulge in self pity if necessary, but don’t be crippled by it.
  2. Fake the enthusiasm that I don’t always have. I know that my tendency is to curl up alone and read or paint, but that certainly isn’t going to make me friends or get a job.
  3. Spend money in ways that enhance my life. I will not feel guilty about going out to a restaurant if it helps me get closer to a new friend. And I will not feel guilty about ordering lunch, if it helps me bond with my co-workers. Sometimes not spending money can isolate you and prevent you from connecting with your workplace or hometown.
  4. Be strategic with the Great Flow of Information. Because damn, it’s easy to get lost in the internet. Instead of zoning out on forums and looking at infinite other artists, use that time to read tutorials on job-searching, or better yet – to actually paint something myself.
  5. Seriously consider whether graduate school will make me happier or more marketable. And if the answer is yes, get going on that.

Update on the Boulder Wildfire

I don’t know whether you’d call this a “technical update,” exactly…

On Monday morning, I walked out of my apartment to a sky that looked like this:

…which turned out to be a wildfire in Fourmile Canyon, which is– well, really close to where I live.

The Fourmile Canyon fire has since become Colorado’s most destructive fire in state history: it has destroyed about 7,000 acres, including 170(ish) homes, and it has displayed 3500 people. And even after four days, they only have about 20% of the fire contained.

We’re all a little frazzled here in Boulder, but I’m also reminded how lucky we are to be an affluent, tech-savvy community at a time like this. Unlike New Orleans or Haiti, affluent communities like Boulder (which often means affluent white communities) are far more prepared for natural disasters: the vast majority of Boulder residents have wealth in the form of investments (not to mention, all kinds of insurance), which means they are financially resilient in case they do lose their homes in the fire.

Still, they just announced this afternoon that my neighborhood should prepare to evacuate. So, I’m now sitting with my emergency bag packed and I thought I’d take a few minutes to check in here.

The Second Thing About Boulder Is

Everybody is distressingly attractive. I mean, attractive according to mainstream beauty standards (but which I will hereafter refer to as just “attractive”).

The writerly side of me has been a little bit fascinated, and the adolescent side of me has been pretty self-conscious for a month and a half. Meanwhile, the sociological side of me has been pondering: how exactly does this happen to a city? Do communities of attractive people tend to gravitate towards each other, unconsciously excluding less-beautiful people? Or does the population here simply live a certain type of lifestyle (outdoorsy, physically active) that creates a fitter, tanner populace?

Chautauqua Park - Image via Wikipedia

I was keeping this observation under wraps, not wanting to seem judgmental, until I browsed through the Boulder Craigslist job listings the other day and found that 75% of the “gigs” are in fact “modeling gigs.” Coincidence? I think not.

Then, I was at the farmers market buying some delicious Noosa yogurt, when I overheard the woman next to me asking whether it was low-fat.  (….No, lady, it’s um, actually yogurt. You’re not shoppin’ at Whole Foods here)

A friend of mine who was born and raised here talks about her parents generation having all moved out here in the 70’s and 80’s, looking for a healthier life and healthier community. Fair enough– that explains the homogeneity of the populace. It also explains why there are no old people here…

In Which She Gets A Bit Critical

But the crucial thing to realize about a population of attractive people is that it is directly related to how wealthy that population is. Where I’m from (the area somewhere between the South and Appalachia), people are not mainstream attractive, because they can’t afford to be. They don’t have access to healthy diets, so obesity is rampant; the unavailability of health care means that it’s not unusual to see people with missing teeth, bad teeth, deformities and skin cancer… the list goes on.

In academic discussions, we refer to this as “marking” bodies with poverty: it’s the way that a person’s economic status becomes literally visible in his or her appearance. Structures in our society, like health care or welfare, contribute to this visible distinction between poor and rich by preventing poor people from achieving standards of beauty (which, from healthy food to well-tailored clothing to teeth whitening, require money).

Don’t get me wrong– I’m not saying that any person or institution is doing this on purpose. But keeping these economic distinctions visible does benefit those in power, because it discourages interaction between different economic classes. Think about it– when was the last time that you had small talk with a person that clearly looked below your economic status? And as a result, there is a serious lack of empathy (and activism) in general for the experience of poverty… and therefore little change.

Two years ago, I almost titled this blog “Blogging for Dialogue” because I wanted to write about the importance of healthy dialogue across differences– especially in the hearing, and the telling, of stories. Clearly I went for a vaguer theme (um, fruit), but this sort of thing is still on my mind.

The First Thing About Boulder Is

Everybody has gardens. The terraces of all the apartment buildings are covered in potted plants, hanging herb gardens, and prayer flags (don’t get me started on that last one). And the adorable downtown houses are practically drowning in flower-tangles.

But alright, here’s what’s been nagging at the back of my brain, ever since I got here: where is all the water coming from?

In Virginia, we’re supposed to be a lush, humid, water- and flower-soaked region. And it’s sad (even a little heartbreaking, to me) that more Southerners and Appalachians don’t have the free time or resources to have their own gardens. But here in Boulder, this is land of forest-fires, droughts and flash floods. I don’t want to feel guilty every time I turn on the faucet– but I also don’t want to be building a life that is unnatural to the landscape. That would be counterproductive to everything that is healthy, for my own life and for the land where I’m settling in. Not to mention, counterproductive to this blog

So. It turns out, we’re in the Boulder Creek watershed, which was irrigated by early settlers during the Gold Rush. Given that the city mostly evolved out of the ultimate capitalist-cutthroat phenomenon of the American West, it makes sense that water rights have had a tumultuous history in this city. I particularly like (ahem) the early motto, “you can fool around with my wife, but not with my water rights.” A little problematic, you know.

But here’s the cool thing: Boulder receives about 40% of its water supply from Arapaho Glacier. This is one privilege that I get here– no need to worry about water quality. That tap water comes straight from the snowcaps, dude!

Apparently, you can also hike up a certain mountain here and pay a quarter to fill up a jug from the ice-cold source itself. I’ll let you know when I accomplish that feat (It may be a while).

Details on a Move

I like to make homes wherever I go. I wish I could fulfill the romanticized notion of a wandering poet, a Kerouac-type artist on the road– but the truth is, I don’t always believe in that. And today, in a globalized world, it’s easier to find wanderers than it is to find roots.

(Not to mention, mobility is a privilege of the wealthy. This move across the country has put me in a hard place financially– I even had to leave my art portfolio at home because it was over $100 to ship!)

In any case, I find it easier to be outgoing and adventurous when I also have my safe space: apartment, studio, dorm room, whatever. I worry sometimes that this means that I’m too attached to my things, but don’t think it’s a materialist instinct. My belongings are exactly that: tools to help me belong. The vast majority of the things I packed were cookware, books, and art supplies.

…and, you know, underwear and stuff.

Art adventures, literary hangovers, rural politics and other songs worth sharing.

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