There Is No Mastery by Sophie Johnson

I had really been looking forward to my contracted trip to Washington, DC. I had been hired to present a workshop on working with students who have emotional differences (my preferred term for what the rest of the world calls “disturbances,” “disabilities,” and “difficulties”). I'd spent a lot of time preparing the workshop, and I was excited to spend the extra time I had to romp around DC, finding new libraries and eating at vegan restaurants alone. Maybe I would even go to a MUSEUM. No sarcasm here: heaven for me is a day at an unfamiliar library or museum all by myself. Because apparently I’m 65 years old.

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Imaginary Friends For Grownups by Sophie Johnson

I only ever had one imaginary friend, but she was awesome. Full disclosure: I didn't get my imaginary friend until I was way too old for it to be socially acceptable. Granted, there's no real age where it's socially acceptable to have an imaginary friend, but I was WAY too old. I was 14 and about to start high school. "Lizzie Maguire" was on television (I was too old to be watching that, too, and yet); I liked how she had a little cartoon who thought things out for her and gave her advice. Also, I thought it would adorably quirky to have an imaginary friend. I thought that telling people I had an imaginary friend would make them think I was cute. I'm very lucky that, of all the people I told, no one acted on what must have been a very visceral impulse to call some kind of authority.

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Let's Try Some Cosmo Sex Tips IRL! (NSFW) by Sophie Johnson

I read this piece in Cosmo a few months ago called, "18 Surprising Sex Tips From Men." (The title alone should have given this one away, but I am ever a slave to the clickhole.) It's the oldest news in the world that Cosmo's sex tips are consistently beyond-sexist (local slam poets Desiree Dallagiacoma and Kaycee Filson did a great piece about this which was posted on YouTube the exact same week as this "article" went up on Cosmo.com). 

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Ten Years by Sophie Johnson

I’ve turned into one of those insufferable people who gets painfully nostalgic about high school. You know my type. Give me a drink and a copy of the ’04 Wilson High School yearbook and I’ll be happy for days. 

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My Only New Years' Resolution for 2015 by Sophie Johnson

The first new years’ resolution I can remember giving myself was pretty by-the-books. I was eight, and I read about new years’ resolutions in an issue of “Girls’ Life” magazine. I was immediately intrigued: having a new years’ resolution sounded very long-game to me, which was right up my alley. (I am a big fan of anything that requires commitment over skill. I have always considered myself very tortoise-like in competitions: you think I’m not a threat because where even am I? I’m like 30 miles behind you! You might as well take a leisurely nap, you idiot. BUT THEN SUDDENLY LOOK WHO IS WINNING THE RACE AND ACCEPTING ACCOLADES WHILE YOU ARE NAPPING, BITCHES.) My first-ever resolution was to eat less cookies. It went fine. I was never a huge cookie-eater to begin with. I had wanted to choose something achievable, and I achieved it.

After that, I was hooked on new years’ resolutions. By the time I was in my 20s, I had started planning my new years’ resolutions (yes, resolutions plural) in late October. A few years ago I started publishing a comprehensive list of my resolutions online. Here’s the list from last year. In 2014, I wanted to stop calling myself crazy (I stopped doing that out loud, so I guess that was sort of a success); eat breakfast (I look back at this and wonder if there was ever a time I didn’t eat breakfast. I can’t remember being a breakfast-skipper at any point in my entire life. I think maybe I just wanted OTHER people to eat breakfast WITH me?); say hi to people in the grocery store (sure, let’s say I accomplished that); stop gossiping (oops); and do a pull-up (WHO WAS I KIDDING WITH THIS PULL-UP GOAL!? THIS WAS A STUPID GOAL. SHAME ON ME). 

There is something very satisfying about acknowledging one’s faults and making some commitment to changing. America in particular is obsessed with goal-setting and goal-tracking — being a teacher for the greater part of a decade has elucidated that much for me beyond a doubt. We are just as good at forgetting our goals, or making excuses about them, or changing them quietly as soon as they seem unrealistic. The goal-setting, after all, is the easy part. Everyone knows what’s wrong. Whether individual, societal, institutional, or emotional; anyone reading this sentence could stop at the end of it and make a list of hundreds of things that are wrong with the way things are. If you are somehow an exception to the rule, you’re an infant baby, and congratulations on being able to read at such a young age.

Personally, this business of naming everything terrible is one of my favorite activities. For example: I’m too fat; I care too much about how fat I am; I eat too much shitty food; I’m too precious about what I put in my body. Also: I’m clingy; I’m flaky; I don’t make my friends realize how much I love them; I think too lovingly about my ex-boyfriends. Furthermore: the education system is broken; I am not participating enough in fixing the education system; I am egomaniacal for thinking that I COULD do anything to fix the education system; I basically AM the problem just by going to work every day and participating in the education system. And of course, I’m crazy for even MAKING lists like this; and selfish; and don’t I notice how much I just used the word “I” in this paragraph? Oops. I didn’t mean to say that I’m crazy. (See: New Years’ Resolutions, 2014.) I meant to say that I’m a bad person. Everyone’s a bad person. People are inherently bad, but especially me. 

Now, ordinarily, I would take this occasion of “the new year” to carefully comb over this list, select the most egregious imperfections, and manicure them into upbeat, achievable, action-oriented solutions. But it’s the end of 2014, and the thing is, I feel tired.

I feel tired of adding new rules and regulations to my life to make it better. I feel tired of believing that my life as it is is somehow not good enough. There isn’t space in my life right now for any new new years’ resolutions. So this year I have just one: not to have any. 

Look. I know I am not the first genius to decide not to have a new years’ resolution. I have balked at those people in the past, accusing them of being curmudgeonly and shunning tradition. Why wouldn’t a person take the opportunity to improve herself? I have historically not-so-quietly judged the non-resolution-havers. In hindsight, that should have been my first tip-off that the enjoyment I took from setting new year goals for myself wasn't entirely healthy. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that whenever I find myself judging other people -- even if it’s just in my own private musings -- I’m probably not taking care of myself very well.

So if you decide to make a resolution this year, more power to you. You do you. But also ask yourself: what would it mean to love your life just as it is? What if, on the days where you spend six hours watching “Wonder Years” reruns and eating nachos because you’re in a crummy mood, you don’t beat yourself up for it, but say instead, “Hey, everyone has days like this sometimes?” What if, rather than trying to fix everything all time, you tried to forgive yourself for just being exactly as you are? And then maybe you might even be delighted by that person.

Also, I know that resolving to not have a resolution — particularly after I’ve basically just said that I’m addicted to new years’ resolutions — is in and of itself a resolution, and therefore paradoxically breaks its own rule. Whatever. In the immortal words of Rust Cohle from “True Detective,” “Human consciousness is a tragic misstep in evolution.” There’s really nothing I can do about that.

Pigeon by Sophie Johnson

There’s this part in “Harold and Maude” where they’re sitting out on a pier after what might be described as the best date of all time, and a flock of seagulls crosses the sky. Maude says, “Dreyfus once wrote from Devil’s Island that he would see the most glorious birds. Many years later in Brittany he realized they had only been seagulls. For me they will always be glorious birds.” Maude is such a baller. Who even knows who Dreyfus is? None of us do. (OK, actually, a quick Google search reveals that she was probably referencing Alfred Dreyfus, a Jewish officer in the French army who was wrongly convicted of treason in 1894. But that’s not the point. Most of us go on thinking Maude is a lovely, genius eccentric.) I have always associated that quote — one of my favorites in a movie simply TEEMING with great quotes — with pigeons.

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Make Something: NOCAZ Edition by Sophie Johnson

Right before Halloween, my roommate Hannah had her friend Adele over to make costumes in the living room. Hannah was going to go as an eggplant plant (not redundant because of the inclusion of flowers). Adele was going as Weetzie Bat. WEETZIE BAT! DO YOU REMEMBER WEETZIE BAT?! FROM THE FRANCESCA LIA BLOCK SERIES, “DANGEROUS ANGELS”? DO YOU REMEMBER THIS!? Clearly, I remember it. Weetzie Bat was a pretty big part of my childhood. That’s an understatement on par with, “Recipes are a pretty big part of a cookbook;” or, “Religious stuff is a pretty big part of the Bible."

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Death Is A Living Thing by Sophie Johnson

There are plenty of classroom archetypes that you come to recognize more readily the longer you teach. There’s that kid who’s never really doing anything wrong but laughs at EVERYTHING and it drives everyone else crazy; there are girls who insult each other quietly and in code so their fights arrive with all the warning of an earthquake in the middle of the night; there’s the kid who’s secretly crazy-smart but doesn’t want anyone to know it; there’s that kid who’s loudly smart and NEEDS everyone to know it. But my least favorite of the bunch, I have to say, are the sensitive kids. Sensitive kids cry ALL THE TIME. About everything. They cry every day. They cry openly. When they are not crying, they are brooding. They sit on benches during recess and watch the other kids play and they frown. You ask a sensitive kid what’s wrong one time and she will say, distantly, “Nothing.” Ask a sensitive kid what’s wrong again, and you’ll get a dissertation.

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Sit On Your Doorstep by Sophie Johnson

I spent three days last week peeing at the Ashe Cultural Arts Center in New Orleans. I mean, that's not all I was doing: I was at a workshop about how to lead a workshop (pretty meta, I know). But the peeing is significant because the Ashe Cultural Arts Center only has one bathroom, and it has a sign on the door I grew to really like as I sat there peeing (and feeling bad for boys, who don't get to sit to pee and read good door signs). It was a long poster titled, "How To Build Community." It offered a bunch of practical ways that your Common Joe could contribute to a real life community. I ate it up.

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I Spilled Coffee All Over My Computer by Sophie Johnson

There are people out there that don't drink coffee. When I was ten years old I was like that too: walking around like life was fine without it. But when I was ten, I also thought that women should never pay for a date, and that "Lord of the Rings" was a shitty trilogy. Ten-year-old me, in other words, was pretty dumb. Let me clarify: it's not so much that I think people who don't drink coffee are DUMB, per se; it's just that I think they're ill-informed about what is important in life. Coffee is important in life. If everyone just drank coffee, there probably wouldn't be war.

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Actually Talking by Sophie Johnson

Hannah is one of the best friends I have ever had, which is amazing considering how we met. It was the first day of Teach for America institute (I’m not proud, but those are the facts). I was in the airport getting ready to go to Tempe, Arizona. Hannah was in the airport getting ready to go to Tempe, Arizona. I am not sure who approached whom, but I remember Hannah was wearing something kind of orange, and she looked way out of my friend-league. She looked like the sort-of-hippie-ish-but-clean girls who’d rejected me in college. In the airport, Hannah was warm and kind. She asked where I was from; she asked what I was going to be teaching; she asked how I felt about Tempe, Arizona. It was a nice conversation. I knew, of course, that this was too good to last. Hannah would notice that I was wearing a tank top from Forever 21 and reject me immediately because Forever 21 is all slave labor and synthetic fabrics. Best not to get your hopes up around a girl like Hannah. The Hannahs of the world only bring heartache and loneliness.

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Bicycle by Sophie Johnson

The purple Raleigh is the fifth bicycle I've owned in New Orleans. It almost feels unfair to say that I own it, actually: my sister bought it when she moved here two years ago (it was the second bicycle she owned in New Orleans -- the first got stolen off her front porch in the middle of the day because she didn't lock it up). The purple Raleigh once belonged to a "wild hippie chick" named Mary, according to the owner of City Cycle Works, where my sister bought the bike. The owner's name is Neil. Neil is not a far cry from a "wild hippie chick" himself. He's got the "wild" and the "hippie" parts down, at least. 

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Lies I Still Tell by Sophie Johnson

My first BFF (not to be mistaken with my first best friend -- a BFF is a very particular kind of friend; it requires the vocal or written acknowledgement of the Forever-ness of a friendship, usually in the form of the exchange of plastic broken heart friendship rings from Claire's Accessories) was a pretty upstanding person. She never ate too many slices of pizza, because her mom told her that too much pizza could make her sick, and without ANY SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE she just BELIEVED that. She always took turns while playing "Photograph The Dinosaurs at The Science Museum" (that wasn't the actual name of the game, but that was what you were supposed to do in the game), and never put up a fuss when she had to let someone else on the computer. Also, she didn't lie. I know this, because she told me over and over again that she didn't lie. She reiterated to me again and again that lying was wrong, and she wouldn't be able to live with herself if she told a lie.

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One Thing That Scares You by Sophie Johnson

Powell's Books in Portland has something for everyone. There are two totally separate multi-bookshelf-wide spaces that are just for Star Wars paraphernalia. (One is for kids who are into Star Wars -- baby stuff, like that Star Wars origami book that came out recently, and all the needless collaborative projects between Star Wars and Lego; the other is for grown-ups who intrinsically value the fanfic world of Star Wars. The latter section is for people who have tattoos of R2D2, and no one else.) There's a room of maps for every occasion: road trip, mountain trip, bike adventure, long walk, flying in a low plane, you name it. It can be fascinating to stand around in one of the niche spaces in Powell's and build a stereotype about the type of person who lingers there. Travelers, for example, love waterproof pants. Star Wars readers, alternately, invariably have stuff ON their pants (like mustard, or model monster paint).

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TOUR Day 20 - New York and People Who Love Other People by Sophie Johnson

In high school, I liked to take the MAX Train to the airport when I had an open afternoon. My favorite thing to do was to sit in the arrivals area, watching people see other people they haven’t seen in a very long time. I love watching people hug. Social norms are largely ignored in the airport arrivals section. People just make out with each other like they’re in an R-rated movie. I liked the awkwardness of that; I appreciated the inherent absurdity of all these strangers making out near other strangers making out. But I guess more than that I liked that people were willing to be affectionate in public. Let’s ignore that watching people make out for my own private enjoyment in a public airport is super-creepy. If I had been wearing a trench coat, I could have been logically arrested.

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TOUR Day 19 - Washington, DC and Race Stuff by Sophie Johnson

This is really the first time that we have woken up in the same city that we are performing in. I sat in a van for a total of 20 minutes today, on the way from our hotel to the venue. We’re at a Residence Inn in Alexandria, Virginia, which is probably my favorite kind of hotel to stay in, because they decorate it like it’s a real house, with a full-size fridge and EVERYTHING. They put the garbage can under the “kitchen” “sink.” It feels like staying at a very clean, malnourished friend’s apartment.

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TOUR Day 18 - Pittsburgh and Nothing by Sophie Johnson

I’m in the back of the van again, a little sick to my stomach, feeling totally shocked that there are only four shows left on the tour. It’s been a bit of a blur. There hasn’t been a great deal of stopping to wander around foreign cities this time around. Lots of late nights in the car, wondering what murky-black body of water is just in the distance.

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