Letter 56

February 11, 2021

On starting over

I just moved into a new apartment a little over a week ago, which is always a weird and exciting and stressful experience. I’m in a new neighborhood, living on my own for the first time in my life, moving all the furniture around to see what feels right. Starting over is fun, but it’s also a little bit scary—so I find comfort in the things in my life that have not changed. Things like blankets and plants and cups of pens that I brought over from my last place. Things like video games that I feel like I could play forever (I just started playing Fire Emblem: Three Houses again). Things like TV shows and movies that I’ve already seen a billion times and love to rewatch. That’s a different kind of starting over, one that never changes and keeps me feeling steady.


I have a lot of unfinished notebooks. Some of them are for specific uses: a notebook to practice my Arabic in, a notebook to write recipes in, a notebook for my work-to-dos. I have a poetry notebook, an essays notebook that’s sometimes a poetry notebook but also sometimes a personal to-do list, a notebook to write about the books I read—on & on & on. I want to just finish them so I can buy another & start fresh. I love the possibilities of a new notebook but treat them far too preciously. I struggle with clean-slates, with starting over; this manifests so minorly in my Animal Crossing House, my rooms haphazardly built throughout the months with furniture I had at the time & struggle to switch out, building instead of shaping. I want to! I want my brain to be clean, smooth, to build itself back up.


We recommend

🔗 The Limits of the Lunchbox Moment by Jaya Saxena

Food writing is one of my favorite genres, but there’s often been a disconnect for me when I read the stories other children if immigrants write—specifically, the focus on the “lunchbox moment” in which a child of color is mocked for bringing their traditional food to school. There are an overwhelming number of factors that contribute to this being unrelatable to me, but I often felt frustrated by the lack of alternative stories in how food, especially at a young age, factors into racism and marginalization (as well as ignoring broader issues such as access and colonialism). This piece unpacks the “lunchbox moment” so, so well, featuring an array of conversations with people of color talking about their relationship to the “moment,” food, and what their experiences genuinely looked like. The writer does something remarkable, as well, and talks about a piece she’d written in the past, examining where her claims had come from; did she simply forget something she had written about, or were the events manufactured, based on broader pressures in the industry? It’s a great piece of food writing, but also so productive for the more institutional ramifications of shallow identity politics.


🔗 Hobonichi planner

I’ve never been good at using planners, but this one was an impulse buy last year when I started working from home and I’ve loved it ever since. I don’t know if it makes me more productive or more organized than before, but I really enjoy taking the time to fill out my schedule every week, and I do think it’s helpful to keep open in front of me while I work so I can jot down notes to myself and things I need to do. JetPens has a helpful guide to the Hobonichi lineup that can help you choose one that suits your needs—I like the A5 Cousin because of the big daily pages, personally.


🎙️ Lolita Podcast

I’ve recommended Jamie Loftus’s work a few times on this newsletter—she is simply my favorite comedian—but this podcast is a little different; in it, she explores the cultural legacy of Nabokov’s Lolita through the (awful) film adaptations, the fashion culture, the way references appear (poorly) in the zeitgeist, in music; it’s an impeccable piece of scholarship and journalism. In my years as an English Major™, I don’t think I ever encountered a research question approached with such thorough care. I learned SO MUCH, leaving the series equal levels grateful & horrified. BIG MAJOR TRIGGER WARNINGS for discussions of child sexual assault, pedophilia, and rape. I had to listen to each episode in pieces, so make sure you take your time. Find it wherever you listen to podcasts!


💡 Shower eucalyptus

One of the first things I did when I moved into my new apartment (before I even finished fully unpacking) was get a bundle of eucalyptus from a bodega down the street and tie it to my showerhead. Eucalyptus is great! It looks nice and smells nice and putting it in your shower is a really simple thing you can do to make the whole bathroom feel a little nicer. Look for it at your local bodega, grocery store, or flower shop.