I don’t think this will surprise anyone, but I’m still not completely sure what it means to be Annalise.
Nevertheless, I can still break down the things I’ve learned from writing this column, and in the process, break down the things I’ve learned about myself.
First, it’s all about me.
Just kidding. Kind of. Not really.
What I really mean is I’ve learned that writing about myself is about focusing in on the uniqueness of my own experiences. When I was able to recount, in detail, times in my life that I thought were really niche just to me, the more people were able to relate.
People don’t respond to actual individual incidents in the writing. It’s not about being able to relate only to people that, say, have dated awful hipster soft boys. It’s about tapping into the existential dread — and subsequent euphoria — that comes with breaking up with an awful hipster soft boy. If effectively evoked through the written word, we can all rejoice in a little existential dread or euphoria, all from the sweet comfort of our homes.
Writing about myself has led to a lot of soul-searching, and isn’t that what art is about? It’s also about being broke, being insatiably curious, being a little narcissistic and being able to muster creativity — even when you’re hungover and your brain feels like a Ritz cracker. It’s about experiencing all those things — through life and art, art and life — in hopes that we understand a little more of ourselves before we inevitably kick the bucket.
Second, parents exist to confuse us.
Someone pushes you from their loins, takes care of you, wreaks havoc in your life, then give you the tools to learn how to be an adult.
At least that’s what my parents did.
I’m not the first to be angry with their parents, nor will I be the last. I was angry that my dad was Japanese and never taught me how to speak with his family. I was angry with my mom for being a neurotic interior designer, obsessive trend-diet follower and Orange County carbon copy. I was even angrier when I found myself blonde, wearing large sunglasses that highlighted the nose I inherited from her — realizing that I couldn’t hide from the idiosyncrasies she passed down to me.
As I wrote, I realized that this anger came from an inability to answer all the questions my parents had left for me to have to answer without their help. How do I define myself as an Asian American woman? What’s the line between a passion and an obsession? Do I actually have a gluten allergy? And do I really look that good as a blonde?
Next, I learned to trust myself. And my editor.
If she weren’t sitting with me in that Daily Californian cubicle every Wednesday night this summer, whipping my writing into shape, these columns would be stories and pictures I drew in crayons on the backs of receipts.
Also, shout out to my amygdala for not letting anything go. Usually, you keep me up at night thinking about how maybe I shouldn’t have worn a sweatshirt with a weed reference on it to office hours. But just this once, you rocked.
Finally, there’s one last thing I learned — or rather, one more thank-you I need to give. Here’s something I didn’t think I’d say after graduation, but —
Thank you to my art school education.
I said it.
It was a painful road. Literally, I got hemorrhoids from sitting in my car, making the half-hour commute every day, there and back, to get myself a creative writing education. I met a lot of wacky kids. I met a lot of inspirational teachers. I learned a lot about the meaning self-expression and being a person who can critique Dada-era art over a cup of craft coffee. That’s a gift only an art school education can bestow upon an individual.
But within that gift is also the ability to see the world through hundreds of lenses. The exposure to such a vast amount of creative work has played a really crucial part in this Quest to Understand Myself™. It’s led me to be a more critical thinker, a more empathetic person and — at times — a more pretentious asshat. All these things take more energy than I ever expected them to.
So what I can deduce from these summer weeks of churning out columns is that I am Annalise. I am a daughter, a sister, a girlfriend, an ex-girlfriend and an art lover — among many other things. I may not be the artist I once thought I was, but at so many points in my life, I have found art to be at the base of it all — which is comforting, in its own, unique way.
I am a hodgepodge of all the different artistic identities that make up an Annalise — and I’m pretty cool with that.
Annalise Kamegawa writes the Thursday arts & entertainment column on a life of shifting artistic identities. Contact her at [email protected].