17 Artists that Fucked Up My Life in 2017 to Introduce You to in the New Year

Ibeyi--do yourself the greatest kindness and go listen to their album Ash right now. A Franco-Cuban solo artist, their two albums are the feeling of a wave washing over you and the undercurrent pulling you harder than is comfortable but you like it.

Kehlani--Musician and dancer. I was lateeee to Kehlani I know. But I heard You Should Be Here in December and mind.blown. Listened to on repeat along with SweetSexySavage for the entire remainder of the year and if I’m being honest, it’s still in my ears.

Lia Kim--Choreographer and dancer. Her dance troupe’s YouTube videos are very popular. She is the reason why.

Ari Fitz--YouTube creator, model, comedian nonbinary baddie, dreamboat. My favorite thing they do is their "Lesbians React" series. Everything else they do is gold too so check out all their ish.

Brie Larson--Actress. I saw the movies Room and Short Term 12 for the first time in 2017. Larson’s acting is incredible and so spot-on. Working in a residential home myself, Short Term 12 especially holds a place in my heart and Larson’s portrayal of being someone traumatized working with people whose trauma reminds you of your own is something I identify hard with.

Heidi Heilig--Author. She wrote two of my favorite reads in 2017! The Girl From Everywhere and The Ship Beyond Time. Her sci-fi YA novels crafted worlds with maps I wanted to fall into and built-out diverse characters I fell in love with. She also has a stellar Twitter.

Trung Nguyen--Illustrator. An incredible print media artist, draws Sailor Moon things that I love, has an upcoming tarot deck that I love the most.

Cristina Carrera--Illustrator. She did all the art for Dirty River by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha. She also has a tarot deck that has my heart.

Ruby Tandoh--Baker. A QWOC  who came out in an excellent Twitter clap-back. I learned about her book Eat Up in 2017 and while finding links for this post, I learned that she has multiple books. Go Ruby!

Asali--Tarot reader, herbalist, blogger. Self described “Black queer femme community healer and earth worker.” She gives tarot readings, practices witchery, and sells handmade spell-imbued tea blends. She also maintains a database of QTPOC tarot decks.

Erinn and Celene--YouTubers. Traveling duo recently married couple that creates content very regularly. I love their life and their relationship and how they allow their audience to be with them on their journey.

Anders V.--Multimedia artist. Profoundly gifted, a very good friend of mine, and long-time supporter of this blog, they launched their latest project last year, a podcast entitled How We Met that explores love and relationships through the lens of colonialism, imperialism, white supremacy, cisheterosexism, and all the other things that are in play when we meet and grow to care about each other. 

Catherynne Valente--Author. She writes the children’s fantasy novel series The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (if you’re sensing a theme here, I should mention that I nearly exclusively read Children/YA fantasy and sci-fi novels in 2017).

Jasika Nicole--Actress, podcaster, seamstress. I knew her from voicing Dana in Welcome to Night Vale and then being the main narrator in Alice Isn’t Dead, both podcasts that I love, but then this past year she starred in the film Suicide Kale and lesbian websites everywhere went wild for it! I actually still haven’t seen the film but I’ve seen the trailer lots and it’s high on my watchlist for this year. Additionally, Jasika is an artists-of-all-trades, she makes all of her own clothing to resist capitalism and build her own intimate relationship to appearance, is there anything she can’t do?

Cacheila Soto--Print and digital media artist. I saw this artist’s work La calma at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico in San Juan last July. I haven’t seen any other of their work but I was so moved by this piece, refinding it again for this post was being stunned into awe all over again.

Lexie Bean--Author, performer, and another friend of mine. I contributed to one of their projects in 2017. It is an anthology (their third!) that trans survivors of domestic and sexual violence wrote to parts of their bodies. The collection is entitled Written on the Body.  Writing my own letter was such an intimate, painful, and releasing process I can’t wait to read the rest. Shameless plug: You can preorder the book here.

New Year, New Resolutions

Okay, I’ve had some time to think. I had some time to spend with friends and not think. I did a couple tarot readings. And here they are. The list has come to me. My resolutions for 2018:

  • Location goal: Move somewhere warm with someone I love. This isn’t a goal so much as it is a plan already in motion, but it is a big bold task that I’m endeavoring in 2018 so it can make the list.

  • Physical health goal: Be able to survive the zombie apocalypse. I have a really tenuous relationship to exercise. Mostly it stresses me out. I danced growing up, but was not athletically inclined and felt (feel) very embarrassed by my body movement and sounds of exertion. For the past few years, since I had PTSD, exercise has not been enjoyable. I also have a chronic thing where when I stand for long or am very stressed I get dizzy and occasionally faint. So, what happens to my body when I exercise feels very similar to what happens to my body when I have panic attacks--sweating, raised heart rate, numb fingers and toes, blurry vision, dizzy, and/or like I’m outside of my own body. Instead of those glorious after-endorphins, workouts leave me feeling fatigued, scared, and on the brink of breaking down. But I want to be stronger and honestly if I want to cut it on the farm I need to build some muscle. I’ve toyed with the idea of faking myself out--exercising but making it seem like it’s not exercise. So I’m bribing myself with the idea of surviving the zombie apocalypse. “I’m not doing these pushups because I’m working out, I’m doing them as practice for when I get thrown down to the ground by a brain-eating monster and have to push myself back up.” The distraction, with a lot of water breaks, I’m hoping can get me through the moments of all-too-familiar panic.

  • Travel goal: go two places I’ve never been before. This should be possible and fairly achievable during my two weeks of vacation in March. It’s looking like I’ll be driving to New York and if I go through Canada I’ll hit Toronto, Montreal, Bar Harbor, and Portland--all of which I’ve never been to before.  

  • The Big 3-6-5 goal: Write something every day. It could be a poem, a diary entry, something for this blog, less than a sentence. There are no restrictions. Only the rule that I need to do it every day. I’ve never successfully done an everyday thing, but 2018 is about proving my doubts wrong and proving myself possible and proud.

  • Honorable Mention: Be more tender with your limits. This was a friend’s goal for me and I’m not totally ready to commit but I do know that I need to grow more comfortable with not being able to do everything all the time. I want to be all the things! But I won’t be any of them if I don’t prioritize my time, listen to my feelings, and work on what is most present. So perhaps there can be newfound tenderness in 2018.

    + that is where I’m at as I write this on my last night in Chicago. I came down here for three days to see friends and ring in the New Year. Filled with the energy of the first and the full moon, everything feels sparkly and attainable. What are you striving for in 2018?

3 Steps to a Good New Year

As you may remember, last year by New Year’s resolution was “moisturize everything to soften all wounds.” Well, I still have severely chapped hands, but I have also been softer with myself this year. Not perfectly so, I struggle with beating myself up especially since I have gone off my medication and am not seeing a therapist, but I have made movement in the realm of holding myself to realistic expectations, giving myself time where I do nothing productive and being okay with that, and forcing my attention to progress instead of being engulfed by past error. As I take note of these shifts in my attitude towards myself, I am thinking of how to approach 2018 and wanted to share my process of shedding this year and what resolutions I’m setting after that midnight countdown.

Take Stock. In the same list that I wrote “moisturize everything,” I also wrote some goals for 2017. As this year ends under two feet of snow, I’m digging out that list and seeing what I did, what I didn’t do, what I could have done differently, and what I need to accept happened just as it should. As I review this, I’m noting my emotional response to my accomplishments (or lack thereof) but not giving them power. This is the neutral stage. Feelings come next.

  • Have three months worth of savings. Not met.

  • Have favorite places in Boston. Met.

  • Have a five year plan. Met.

  • Have a job I love. Met.

  • Remain close to my chosen family. Met.

  • Stick to my blog post schedule. Not met.

  • Feel good about what I eat. Not quite met.

  • Be able to survive a zombie apocalypse. Not met.

Congratulate and forgive yourself. That list makes it seem so simple but even just reading that list my thoughts spiral. What I did and didn't do evoke disappointment, pride, feelings of loss, happiness, and a lot of frustration--at both myself and the world. I beat myself up for being a work in progress instead of being inspired by all I have yet to do. I dwell on how this past year was really, really tough. Not very many things went how I anticipated them going. I made countless compromises--way more than the Karalyn at Oberlin would have settled for. And sometimes I lose sight of what I am doing this for. That’s where my thoughts leave me. I’m proud of myself for the challenges I faced and the ones I overcame. I feel lost in all the ones that I let myself down in. While it's okay for that to be my feelings surrounding the past year, I have to find a way to let forgiveness edge in. If I don't, I'll just grind to a halt. And I need to keep moving.

Look ahead. Because at the end of the day, I’m doing this all for myself. It’s my own life that I’m charged with and living out. The sacrifices, if they can be called that, I make now are so that I can make momentous shifts in the not-too-distant future. I want to be my own boss. I want to grow my own food. I want to live somewhere warm where my fingers don’t freeze as I type blog posts. The living at home, the job, the restrictions, the dissatisfaction, apathy, discomfort, etc. that I experience now, is so that I can save my money, gain the skills, and make the connections that will allow me to live in a fulfilling and satisfied way down the line. Is that worth it? I don’t know. But it’s survival pending revolution, so it’s the strategy for the time being.

This is where 2018 comes it. What needs to continue in the upcoming year? What can I let go of? Where have my reflections brought me? What is shifting underneath my feet and what can I shape between my hands?

I need time to rest my sights on these answers. I’ll let you know what the list is on the first.

 

State of my Bank: December 2017 Financial Report

Doing this last month helped me so much, so I'm making it a regular thing! Here we go:  

Total Income: $ 1,738.13
From my AmeriCorps Position: $828
Environmental Femme: $34
Foster Home (@$10.30/hr): $463

Expenses: $783.00
(before any credit card payments or savings)
Breakdown:
$152.00 Insurance
$153.00 Car Payment
$75.00 Gas
$54.00 Coffee Shops
$68.00 Eating Out and Pizza (I love pizza and I will never apologize.)
$124.00 Groceries
$103.00 Haircut + Personal
$54.00 Movies and PodCon
Remaining: $955.13
$220.00 Credit Cards
$300.00 Savings
Total Expenses:  $1,475.13

Remaining:   $263.00 (to go towards the first two weeks of January)

How I'm feeling: Mostly I'm feeling good. I was able to save over twice my savings goal this month so that's excellent. I put $100 on my Capital One credit card because of when I needed to pay for something and when I got paid, but I set off alarms in my head and I paid it off in full before the due date. It sometimes feels hard to rationalize saving when I have so much debt...like that extra $150 could go to my car loan since it's interest bearing...but at the same time if I do end up moving in nine months I need to have a cushion and in order to have that cushion I need to aggressively save. I do continue to feel exhausted. I work more than I would ideally, and I don't get to distribute my work in a way that feels good. "If it were up to me" I would spend more time writing. Which feels odd to type because, in fact, it is up to me. But it feels as though it's up to my financial responsibilities, not my soul desires. Money feelings are tricky in that way. But I'm calling this month a win. Steady on. 

State of The Bank: Or, er, my bank accounts

Money is just really scary, hard, and difficult. For most of my life, because of necessity, I’ve been really good with money, and made budgeting through college work no problem. But in this first year out of college, I’ve completely tanked financially and I feel a weird amount a shame about it. I don’t believe that money should be a taboo subject, and I think millennials being real about our situations is how change and healing happen. I have also realized that I need to be much more accountable about my spending. And who better to be accountable to than you, dear Internet? So I’m going to put it all completely out there here.

After taxes, I make $1,100/month. One of the jobs I work is hourly and I pick up shifts here and there, so some months, this past month included, that number is a little higher. The conservative bottom line though, is that $1,100 a month. And I’ve been paying down a $3,000 credit debt sum on that salary for the last three months. I also just straight up didn’t work for four months this year. During that time I went to Puerto Rico, traveled between Michigan and Oklahoma multiple times, and moved across the country. Before that I moved across the country the first time, bought a mattress and a desk, and had to buy a new laptop when mine broke. Since the move had drained me financially, all those expenses went straight onto credit cards. The whole time I was doing this, I kept thinking, “It’ll all work out. Somewhere down the line, I’ll balance it out.” But I didn’t, and now I just feel like I’m drowning. I’ve been paying down this debt, but then the next month something comes up and the number climbs back up again. I guess I’m less good at money than I thought?

I recently went to a local non-profit for an unrelated work thing and while I was there I asked the person who did financial counseling if I could come to some classes and he kept saying, “Oh, yeah, we’ll get you all the basic beginner information.” But I don’t need the bare essentials. I have a savings account, I understand how credit cards work. I need advice for how to make it work with very, very little wiggle room. On Gaby Dunn’s Bad With Money podcast (if you haven’t already listened, go do that now), she had a guest, Ashley C. Ford, who talked about this. (If you don’t follow her, go follow her now.) I’m paraphrasing, but in the episode “Don’t Let the Fear Steer,” Ford basically says, “there’s financial literacy and there’s financial stability. You can be good with money and still not have any.” And that’s where I feel like I am and that’s how I feel trapped. The fear is definitely steering me.

Even though I live for free and commute thirty-five minutes each way in order to do so. Even though I work two, unbelievably emotionally taxing jobs, six days a week for a total of fifty hour work weeks before any side hustling. Even though I virtually never socialize in public (I went to a bar two week ago for the first time in four months). Even though I try to pack my lunch every day. Even though I rarely but still occasionally buy nice things like Apple Watches because I deserve them. Even though I make all of these financially-motivated decisions, I still feel out of control of my finances.

What happened to the Karalyn that was really good with money? They were just supposed to go to college and graduate and land a stellar job--how did I go so wrong? Didn’t I try hard in school so I didn’t have to make $15K a year? Where’s my other $20,000 at? No one should be living at this level when everyone I know who does, works really fucking hard. And we still get told that we’re fiscally irresponsible, that doesn’t seem right? Rich people are just greedy and stocks are evil. I just need enough money to go buy a farm. You know, because once you buy the farm you’re good forever and money doesn’t exist anymore.

And that’s a lot of my thinking. But I'm starting to think...maybe I think about this wrong. On “Bad With Money,” Gaby also talks quite a bit about ‘poor’ narratives and ‘rich’ narratives, or the ways that lower-income and middle income+ folks are taught to conceptualize money. She examines how rich people are taught to invest and save, to always have a buffer. Which they can do, but only because most of the time that buffer is simply inherited and not earned. Whereas poor people, because money is never around for long, spend it while they have it. The first time I listened to her explanation, I was like, this is absolute bullshit. Truthfully, I still think most of it is bullshit. In my lived experience, poor people know a lot about money and live in the most fiscally savvy ways of anyone. Just because we can’t get our money into the stock market, doesn’t mean we don’t invest. Shoes, electronics, latest music, status-symbol clothing and other items are all investments in ourselves and lives we want to live.

Plus, how can poor people be blamed for not investing in ‘traditional’ ways when those ways are systematically closed from us--with things like account minimums and employers who keep you part-time who would never give you a 401k match plan. Within this framework, poor people are also often criticized negatively for pooling their means and sharing with one another. But I absolutely believe that people can operate collectively, outside of nuclear households, to make the system work for them. If you can grow tomatoes and share them with your neighbor who can get the kids to school because their Ford is working this month, you should do that. And if that means sometimes paying other people’s rent because you’re gonna be okay and someone will have you next time, then absolutely live that way and you shouldn’t be criticized for making do with what you have.

But this whole ‘poor narratives’ narrative does has me wondering, maybe I don’t know all that I think do. Is there financial literacy that I’ve just been entirely left out of? Sometimes it really does feel like I’m not in on the joke.

I have really big dreams about my financial future and success. I want a retirement fund by the time I’m 24. I want to have non-evil investments to small businesses that help them get a leg up and help me collect at a non-sharky interest rate. I want to do something with the CDs my grandpa gave me as a kid that are currently LOSING value as they mature because inflation outpaces them. I want to open an aggressive online savings account later this year. I wanted to be credit debt free by February of next year...which I’ve had to change to May...which I’ve had to change to probably early 2019.

And that last sentence is the crux of it: there’s a disconnect between how I envision my financial status, how I feel about my money, and the reality of the situation. I don’t even think I’m seeing the situation clearly. But I also don’t know how else I’m supposed to be looking at it.

I really believe in transparency, and this was a super helpful exercise that got me rethinking how I interact with money, so here’s what I made and spent last month:

November 1, 2017 - Dec. 1, 2017

Income:
AmeriCorps: $1,242 (lol. for real. at a job I put in 40+ hours at)Foster Home: $517 (worked back-to-back doubles over Thanksgiving for some double pay)
This blog!: $34 (after Patreon and PayPals cuts)
Total: $1,793

Spending:
Car Insurance: $150
Car Payment: $200 ($50 over my minimum payment)
Coffee Shops: $45
Gas: $35
Rabbit Stuff: $55
Personal/Home Stuff: $25
Groceries: $209 (I really value food and this is part of a larger conversation)
Other Shopping: $355 (consisting of my new coat, some sweaters from VOA, Apple Watch, LUSH haul, and some succulents)
Total spending before credit payments: $1,074
Credit Card Payments: $733
Total spending after credit payments: $1,807
Total added to debt for month: $14, oops
Saved: $0
:(

Okay so even just doing this I realized I don’t pay down my debt as much as I thought I did (and, oh yeah shit I even added to it by fifteen bucks). I didn’t realize this though because I actually paid $1,300 towards credit cards last month. Which felt like so much. But I was still going out and charging on them--to the tune of $650 dollars. So my dent was more like a dug hole, that I filled part-way back in, but still felt the labor of digging this whole time. This helped me see something that has got to change: even though the rewards perks are good, I can’t put any more money on my credit cards. Period. In fact, I’m not leaving the house with them and I’m hiding them when I shop online.

At the same time, I’m cutting myself some slack. September of this year was the first time I made money in four months and mid-October was the first time I started receiving a regular, consistent paycheck. When I was living in Boston earlier this year and the rent was too damn high, I was being American foolish and covering the gap with credit cards. So for the past 11 months, that total debt added each month has been a lot higher than $14. And I’ve still never soared above $3,500 total credit debt. Today that number sits at $2,600, with repayment in sight and feeling possible. So yeah, my finances suck and my shit stinks. But here are some things that I think are positive good steps I’m making to realign my financial dreams with my financial reality:

  • I live at home for free. No rent or utilities for me.

  • Just as of this week, I’ve transferred the rest of my credit debt to a 0% APR card. This means that I am officially paying no interest on my current debt and have 21 months of no interest to become credit debt free

  • I am in the process of putting my student loans into repayment that will cost me $0/month and still count towards my ten year repayment program

  • I have just restructured my budget so starting this month I am putting $200 towards credit debt and $100 towards savings. I will be able to see the bonafide dent in my debt without sacrificing so much that I end up doing a big splurge and backsliding. I know these numbers need to get bigger, but I’m starting somewhere.

  • Starting this month (December) I’m not taking my credit cards out anywhere with me. This way I won’t be adding to my balance while paying off in these massive sums, and still not actually paying down past debt. I let that get away from me for far too long because I enjoyed the temptation of accruing rewards with my credit companies. But suck it, rewards, I want easily understood payment tracking instead.

My bottom line is this: I’m learning. In my core I believe poor people deserve nice things (too), so I’m not going to deprive myself of all life’s luxuries. I also have to balance that with a growing understanding of how stable people make and keep money, which is an approach wholly new to me, but that I believe will get me closer to the life I want to live. Afterall, if I want to work full-time for the revolution, something’s got to be sitting around to pay my bills.

P.S. Does anyone know some really cool queer anti-capitalist financial advisors who would give me services in exchange for tarot readings?