culture

dear friend

by annie kate jones

this is a story about how it feels to uncover truths about yourself while sharing your thoughts, and is formatted as a letter to a friend. "we have a lot more gold inside of us than we're aware of".

Dear friend,

I do apologize for the lateness of my reply. I’ve been thinking about your letter for the entirety of this month. Which, I’m glad that I have. Sometimes I procrastinate willingly and on purpose. But instead of using the word “procrastination” here, we’ll use “marinate”. Your questions, or any questions that prompt me to truly reflect, really, throw me off a bit in the best way. So, cheers to you for being a facilitator of depth. I’ve caught onto your ability to do such, simply by following you on social media for a bit. Your eye is really captivating.

It seems like our seasons of transparency are somewhat mirroring one another. I also feel like I can do anything in this season. Not only in the sense of uninhibitedness, but also not giving a shit what people think about me or my artwork or my voice. I want it to be weird and uncomfortable and abstract. I want my art to help people analyze their lives from a point of view that begs for more attention, gentleness, slowness. But also I want my art to provoke a response in others that makes them a little wider in the eyes. Like, “oh, shoot, maybe I should pay attention more, because what I’ve thought was important seems pretty arbitrary now.”

I am often anxiety-filled when I think about how surface-level most lives are. I can’t quite comprehend living in response to fear, or health insurance, or finding a perfect spouse, or whatever the kids are living for these days. I am so unabashedly in love with the life I’m creating. One that seems rather foolish and childlike. I’m becoming more and more convinced that a life of personal bliss is achievable. Therefore, I can’t stop at anything. I must keep writing and uncovering and toying with the inconsistencies of “what identity really means” — untethered to the part of my ego that screams, “PLEASE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, JUST CHOOSE ONE THING AND STICK WITH IT.” I want to do everything. Make films, teach kindergarten, plant gardens, sing in a choir. To some, this scatteredness may look like irresponsibility. But from my research and reading and clumsiness and finding, I’ve discovered that to live in many directions, satisfying all of my cravings, is to be in deep touch with the heart of humanity. Nothing is linear. Everything is agricultural and growing as we plant it. I don’t want to interact with my existence like a white hospital room. I want to be well-rounded and well-versed in many languages and if that means radical unpredictability for the rest of my existence for the sake of true joy, then so be it.

I think that’s how I’ve learned my voice. How I want to speak. Because I’m not afraid to say anything or to witness any part of myself that might be hidden or lurking in the shadows. I once heard a poet say something along the lines of, “Once you write something, a poem, you can’t go back. That is why many choose to not write; because they are afraid that they will meet themselves truly, seeing their truest face. Then, they are confronted with responsibly and many questions. Is this who I want to be? Or am I being prompted to shift with the winds of change?” So, when I heard that theory, I started making it a point to encounter myself on a daily basis. I don’t have time to lose myself or conjure up fake realities. I want it to be real and messy and to-the-point. That scares some people. I often make people feel uncomfortable because I like to ask questions that beg reflectiveness. Perhaps that is the reason behind the fact that it has been hard for me to make and keep friends. But now, right now it’s easier. Because the people who like that part about me have started sticking around. It’s difficult when you’re in the business of helping people see who they truly are. Like, some people are funhouse mirrors: they distort the way you see yourself and it’s painful to look. But then there are people like you and me who reflect some prime vision of truth. Truth being raw madness. No one wants to meet their madness. Not initially, at least. But when they do, their world changes. And the madness is no longer to be feared. It is a friend and it can be shifted and altered and painted. Just, the initiality of it frightens people — like, “oh god, is that really me in the mirror?”

I feel like maybe I answered your questions without trying to. They aren’t very concrete answers. But, they are to-the-heart-of-it nonetheless. I suppose I can dive into more structured telling of who I am and what I want now. I am a learner. Though I did not attend more than one semester of college, I crave reading, learning, theorizing, researching; all on my own. It feels like I’m the boss and I like that. Sometimes I am ashamed of the fact that I didn’t attend school. But then I remember that I haven’t been denied a single good experience or learning opportunity because I “didn’t have a degree”. I’ve built tiny schools in my kitchen and hosted workshops all around my city and sweat and cried with complete strangers over stories they wrote. I want to do more of that. I conceptualize films in my head. I want to make films, friend, and write screenplays. I’ve tried every art form. Pottery, singing, dancing, piano, organic filmmaking, painting, photography, you name it. And I mean I actually have delved into every single one. Years of my life. Years of healing all thanks to the many disciplines of art. Each one tethered to a different emotional muscle. I’m convinced that, somehow, I’ll always be a teacher, a coordinator, a visionary, a leader and a mentor; because I’ve grappled with all of what art can offer us and how it affects the brain in motion. I want to usher people towards art and healing. And, no, I don’t think I want to be an art therapist. Or, maybe I do. But I think mostly I want to facilitate conversations with anyone and everyone regarding “their inner magic” and what could potentially come forth if they were to, for example, start journaling everyday, make tiny films, etc. etc. etc. — even if he or she never does anything with their work — my question is, “what would happen to humanity if we all engaged with art and healing on a daily basis?”

That question trickles into everything; all of my silly and scattered projects. Learning to not be so anxious about everything looking or feeling pretty and organized. Everything always in flux instead. I gotta let it be. I like it better that way, anyway. I gotta let myself flow with what feels right. And for the first time, it all feels right. I’m damn proud of myself for doing what I’m doing, my friends are great. I dunno, maybe it’s the stars aligning — maybe it’s the fruits of my positivity and labor. Regardless, it’s only up from here. I want everyone to know that whatever bliss they are daydreaming about, it’s damn possible to achieve. It just takes some ambition and imagination.

I need good people around, like you, because you ask good questions. I need good people like you begging me to look deeper, otherwise it is fog above a white sea. It is so much more than paying bills and looking cute. It’s poetry. It’s Krista Tippett’s voice on a Sunday morning. It’s banana-flavored-things. It’s remembering that you are far more grand than you ever thought. Maybe it all means nothing, maybe it means something. I want to treat every day as an opportunity to order a bit of the swirling chaos. I believe art can do that. Thank you for asking me these questions. I feel really strongly about my answers. In fact, I feel like I know myself better. Now, it’s your turn. Go ahead. Tell me anything.

Love, Annie 

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Author + Graphics, Annie Kate Jones

Annie Kate is a magical realism writer, memory-preservation poet, and visual artist currently residing in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She is fond of reminding others of their inherent lightness through her triad of traits. You can find her hiking very small "mountains" in Tulsa, riding her bike around town with her beloved partner, inventing a questionable new recipe in her kitchen, or taking a catnap in a patch of sunlight. 

Instagram: @annniekate

Website: annniekate.co

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