Metamorphosis, Writing

Trusting my Path, or what three years of blogging has really taught me

There are days where I wake up feeling inherently dissatisfied with myself. It’s difficult to pinpoint the exact emotion–it’s a sadness, an anger, an anxiousness that’s so pervasive I feel like I’m drowning in it. It’s like waking up with a spiritual headache, a gaping wound in the soul. It’s impossible to say exactly why these days happen, what triggers them, and part of the anger is the frustration of knowing I should have a better handle on my emotions. –and that’s the very thought that reels it all back in: I am not a robot. Neither is anyone else living and feeling on this crazy little planet called Earth. We all have permission to feel and emote, regardless of how much sense those emotions really make sometimes.

cicadas Brood II

Before I even bought a domain, when I was still writing on LiveJournal and toying with the idea of starting a proper blog, I played with a few different themes–book reviews, food writing, recipes, makeup tutorials all spun through my head as I envisioned layouts, upkeep, coding, and producing content. When I finally bought this domain in 2010, my initial plan was to document the changes I wanted to see in myself, my personal transformation into the individual I wanted to be. I was going to face fears and take chances to become one of the bold and daring Internet Mavens I had followed on and off for years. There really wasn’t much of that, and the whole thing sort of de-railed and became a generic cosmetics blog full of lifeless product reviews and half-hearted looks. But in a way, I accomplished the original goal completely behind the scenes: I took chances and struck up conversations I wouldn’t have otherwise, I tried on roles I was too shy to originally assume, and I pursued jobs I might have been too insecure to apply for. It wasn’t that I was becoming someone else–I had been that person all along, and simply found the courage to realize it.

self portrait, April 2013

self portrait, April 2013

I have come a very long way in the last three years, but of course, I’m not fully satisfied with where I am just yet. I’m a driven individual and I don’t settle for “good enough,” but I’m learning to accept the steps along the way. I need to enjoy each level as I climb, to take in every detail necessary so I don’t have to head back down for something I missed. Trusting the path I’m on has been one of my biggest challenges. There are days I tell myself that I wasted my time in culinary school because I could have been finishing my degree in art, or I should never have gotten my cosmetology license because I should have been studying creative writing or journalism. What a waste of energy! It’s so tempting to think of what could  have been or what I should  have done, but the truth is that everything I’ve done and everything that’s happened to me has shaped who I am. I would not be standing at the point I am today without every decision I’ve made along the way. And it’s tempting to think that I’m no where, that I’ve accomplished nothing that makes this point notable–but compared to the point I stood at three years ago, it’s a remarkable change. 

photo by Made U Look

photo by Made U Look

Three years ago, I was adrift in a sea of comparisons. There were so many people I envied, so many people I wished I could be. But comparisons are unhealthy and destructive. You are your own person on your own path, and while other people may influence you to explore one direction or another, you cannot follow them or replace them. In the age of social media, it’s hard to ignore someone that annoys you, or makes you deviate from your path. Just remember that people act out for attention because they’re hurting–they desperately seek approval or put others down because they need to feel important. Their anger and sadness can be contagious, and it’s easier to disengage than to fall prey and remedy yourself. The next time you think about spewing venom at or about someone, think about why you feel the way you do. Consider what they’ve done to upset you and where that came from within them. Then let it go. It can be hard, but in the end, it’s better to let the negativity dissipate than to release it into the universe.

photo-82

Any time I wonder if I’m heading in the right direction, or feel like I’ve gone down the wrong road in life, I take a moment to look around me. If I look hard enough, there are signs everywhere–a flower, an insect, a bird, a song on the radio, all confirming for me what I all ready know deep down inside: that I am exactly where I need to be right now.

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Writing

Transformation, Rebirth, and Brood II

I believe in the power of Names. In their primary function of identifiers, they’re not only used to give commands but also offer insight into the thing being named. When I tell people the name of my blog (or my email address, or Twitter handle, or Instagram), they inevitably ask, “Why cicadas?” The answer is usually more than they bargained for because as much as I believe in names, I also believe in symbols–and the cicada is a powerful symbol.

FX Photo Studio_image-10

When I registered my domain, QueenCicada was simply the screen name I had been using at that point. My blog was originally titled “Metamorphosis,” tying in with my transformative theme and insect infatuation. When I decided to rebrand, I wasn’t sure anyone would understand the tie or that it would turn off potential readers–but the truth is, the cicada is a symbol of beauty and creativity too. Cicadas turn up in a fascinating myth mentioned by Plato in “Phaedrus.” According to the heartbreakingly beautiful story, cicadas were originally human beings devoted to the Muses, classic Greek personifications of the arts. They sang their love for so long and with such depth of emotion that they couldn’t stop to eat or drink, never even realizing they had died. The Muses rewarded them by transforming them into creatures that neither eat, nor drink, nor sleep, able to sing and dance from the moment they are born until the moment they die. Humans enchanted by their music clearly recognize beauty in life, more susceptible to the call of the Muses than those than continue on with their lives, ignoring the insects’ song. But that’s not entirely where my cicada inspiration came from.

FX Photo Studio_image-11

When I’m in need of guidance, I often seek out a model or ideal. I’ve never been one to look to heroes or idols like celebrities as role models, so while some people aspire to the beauty of Marilyn Monroe or the charm of Audrey Hepburn, I’ve found my inspiration in more primal sources. As a child, I saw the cheetah as a guide to reconcile playfulness with grace, while I later looked to the turtle to develop a strong sense of home while learning to reach out and explore the world before me. I turned to certain animals at certain times based on what I knew of their nature and life cycle, trying to incorporate their ancient wisdom into my daily life. But the cicada came to me in a very different manner.

FX Photo Studio_image-12

Years ago, the tea shop I worked in got a ceramic tea pot in from China. It was a delicate basket-weave design, topped with a perfectly sculpted cicada on the lid. I was positively taken with it. Each day I worked, I thought about the insect on top, why it would be chosen to adorn something people would put on their table and drink tea from–in our Western society, insects are usually considered unclean and just generally icky. What little I knew about cicadas didn’t seem to clarify anything: I knew they were periodic, and shed their skins to transform their shape much like butterflies from their cocoons. What I learned was that they’ve been powerful symbols of immortality and life after death in the East. Their lifespans are remarkably long for an insect, and the shedding of their nymph skins is symbolic of a triumph over death, of life beginning again as one stage ends. It’s an incredibly powerful idea, and the more I thought about it, the more it moved me. My life, like so many others’, has been cyclical.When things seem to be incredibly difficult and impossible to move past, I’m often too frustrated and exhausted to recognize the valuable experiences that I ultimately take away.  It’s only looking back that I realize what an important period of growth I had completed and can experience the amazing rebirth as a result. I firmly believe the universe has a way of wiping the record clean when we absolutely need it: we can be reborn into new cycles.

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This week has been incredibly emotional for me: my area is beginning to see the first wave of Brood II. Just days ago, I watched as dozens of cicada nymphs emerged from the ground, perching on trees, plants, decks, walls, tables, or street signs to shed their skins and take to the air. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that this event coincides what I’m sure is going to be a summer of self-discovery for me, one of my greatest periods of rebirth yet. Each one of those tiny nymphs represents a hope or dream I have for my future: some will tear through their skins and emerge mature and complete, while others will be trampled before they have chance, experience snags, or form improperly. My heart breaks as I see mangled wings, missing legs, blinded eyes, but I know that nature isn’t always kind and trust that it’s part of the universal plan. As long as some of those live on to give new life, to inspire future hopes and dreams, they’ve succeeded. It’s a standard I also aspire to.

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Luna

Sharing my Constants

My life has always had two constants: words and pictures. From the moment I could hold a pencil, I drew pictures and I wrote stories. It’s a bit of a chicken/egg situation because the stories and the pictures were always intertwined, one filling gaps in the other. I can still find old pieces of computer paper cut and stapled into illustrated books created at recess in grade school or earlier.

2007

Years before I registered a domain of any kind and hosted my words on LiveJournal instead of WordPress, I wrote a lot of fiction. The art always complimented the project of the time: portraits of characters, important scenes, dream sequences that might never have happened on paper. Sometimes, the words spilled onto the art as well, crowding into sketches and crushing characters with a weight of their own. This blog actually started as a sort of overflow parking for those words–a place to write about things that didn’t have a place of their own in my work, but ended up taking on a life of their own. That fact is probably why I burned out doing the swatches and look posts I did for a while–the words had no place.

I struggled for a long time with professionalism and personality. It felt like one voided out the other, and always wary of the Internet Oversharers, I kept myself out of this blog for a long time. I would show you what I was wearing, what products I was using, but not a lot more. You might see my cat, my lizard, my dining room table, but rarely anything that didn’t directly pertain to cosmetics or style. But style is more than what you’re wearing or how your makeup is done. Style surrounds everything we do. I often say that life is an art of its own–the way we live can reflect our tastes and aesthetics as much as our clothing or our lipstick. We are our own greatest work. This is how I can reconcile the new direction I’ve been taking here and the personal details I’ve begun to share.

2008

In the effort of sharing more of the Girl Behind the Blog, I’m going to be taking part once again in May Monster Madness, a blog hop for horror lovers. Last year, I struggled with my participation–what place does a beauty blog really have in the horror world? I’ve always found beauty in the strange, but readers looking for product reviews or makeup tips probably wouldn’t appreciate the sudden shift in content. Now that I’m allowing myself some freedom, I want to share love affair with the bizarre and the monstrous: my goal is to make a post each day during the week of May 11th to share some of my favourite strange and beautiful things along with a whole list of others around the ‘Net. Want to join in? I’ve included the link signup below–you can add the banner graphic to your sidebar and invite your readers to do the same!
MMM2013



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