There's a set of grainy VHS tapes that are collecting dust somewhere in the closet at my parents' house. Each video holds random snippets and recordings of me as a child, being very much — well, an energetic kid. I can't honestly call them memories as I don't truly remember them. I rewatched them in their entirety a few years ago, and as you can imagine, it conjured up all sorts of feelings.
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Here's a description of one of my favorite segments from these precious analog recordings:
Little Emerline is standing in front of my family's old flower-patterned couch. I have my eyes locked on one of the bottom cushions and am holding a long gaze. My dad, from behind the camera, asks me: "What are you doing?" I reply, "I'm thinking about what I want to make with the dough." Of course, there's nothing visible, and there is no dough. It's make-believe.
As if I've finally made an important decision, I take a deep breath and roll up the sleeves of my small sweater. I interlock my fingers and then stretch them, palms facing out. Then, I go through the motions of pretending to knead the dough — rubbing it, flipping it. It doesn't matter that there's nothing there — little me is determined to put in the work, keep at it, and shape something out of nothing.
Towards the end of the recording, I stop what I'm doing and put my hands on my hips. There's satisfaction written all over my face. My dad asks me, "Are you done making bread?" I cross my arms defiantly and say, "No, it's not bread. It's me. I made something that looks like me."
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A few months ago, I woke up feeling undeniably deflated. Similar to most everyone this year, I was struggling to muster up enough energy each day to do the things I felt like I needed to get done.
Instead of beating myself up about it, I committed to an deliberate period of rest and did as little as possible. During these weeks, I took the time to contemplate and reflect on the ingredients making up my current life. Reassess. Realign. You know, check-in with myself.
Without forcing myself, I started to dip my toes into different hobbies and activities that felt natural. I took long walks near the water, people watching. I spent hours listening to live DJ music streams. I signed up to be a poll worker. I donated what I could to artists and causes. I rebuilt my website from the ground up. I outlined what I wanted in my newsletter and collaborated with talented friends. I called my grandmother and had long, hilarious conversations with her.
The more actions I took that "felt like me," the better I began to feel over the months. Even in non-pandemic times, when you're in the business of making and creating things for other people, it's easy to forget to make things for yourself and to center leisure. I realized I'd fallen out of touch with myself and the things that made me feel good.
What do you do or make that looks and feels like you?