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Dispatch from a tough, unfinished year
And the life changing magic of unclenching your jaw
When I was a kid, I wore braces with head gear for seven years. At sixteen, when the orthodontist pried off the wires wrapped around my neck and teeth, I hadn’t realized how much the taste of metal had become my new normal. For the next few months, I reveled in the psychedelic tang of a lemon. I still have jaw problems–yep, TMJ– and yesterday, I got Botox zapped into my cheeks which was weird and expensive as hell. (So was seven years of braces and head gear, sorry mom and dad.) Insurance doesn’t cover Botox for TMJ since it’s not FDA approved, but damn, it’s the only thing that has brought relief to my body’s epicenter of stress.
I’ve clenched my jaw a lot this year. Time has been moving apace. Job changes, project setbacks, renegotiations, rejections, money lost, wisdom found, new friends, artificial life, and just last month, I saw my younger sis for the first time since 2019. Turns out, if you’re lucky enough to survive through a pandemic and the ongoing fragility of democracy, there’s a lot to clean up, clean out, reorganize, and renegotiate in life. I’m glad I reunited with my family this year. That meant everything.
And I’m glad to be back here with you all. With so much change and reconnecting to do, writing has been difficult. But we can’t write without experiencing life, in all of its fullness and complexity. There’s a lot of reflection, questioning, and imagining I’ll be writing about soon, especially in this year of grief and Hunger Games layoff emails for the tech industry.
But for now, I write to you from a place of renaissance. On September 22-24, I’ll be moderating and interviewing an incredible lineup of speakers at UNFINISHED, a festival in Bucharest, Romania that surpasses the thresholds of classic event structures and bridges gaps—both geographical and cognitive—between people, generations, practices. Attendees pay with their time, not money, and the festival reflects a core belief that making the world a more conscious place is a continuous work in progress. That we should never stop growing and questioning ourselves. That we should be willing to take risks and learn from failure.
I look forward to interviewing speakers like Daniel Jones, editor of Modern Love, the New York Times weekly column, book, podcast, and television show, and the impact of technology on love, Dario Calmese, founder of The Institute of Black Imagination, who also made history in 2020 as the first ever Black photographer to shoot a cover for Vanity Fair, featuring Viola Davis, João Paulo Barbosa, Brazilian photographer and historian who captures the influence of the Anthropocene on the cold zones of the world, Roni Levit, information designer who examines the limits of objective and subjective facts, and friend and creative director at Wieden + Kennedy, Ramona Todoca. Videos of the festival will be shared online after.
I’ll leave you with a brief video of an interview I conducted with Romanian-based artist and Artistic Director of UNFINISHED, Capucine Gros. In this interview, we explore how media impacts our view of death and life, bias in maps, supporting living artists and writers in the age of AI, and the work-in-progress of it all.
Less struggle, more celebration. The psychedelic tang of making lemonade.