Perfection is a Disease of a Nation

If you haven’t watched this video, please take 7 minutes out of your day. The emotions felt when she was in the water were so raw; so real. Maybe I will write more on this topic later, but for now I can’t bring myself to do it.



I haven’t made a post in awhile, and if you were hoping to read an update on my time in Chicago, this isn’t going to exactly satisfy that. While commuting into the city this morning I felt the desire to make a post all about me; who I am, what I like, etc. Narcissistic as it may be, I felt like I needed a permanent record of it in my life. I change my opinions all the time, and I need a reminder of who I am, for myself mainly. Also, I write like I talk, and talking things out helps me better understand them. Right now, I do not understand myself. I need that clarity, because I honestly don’t know what the next step in my life is going to be. I want to move forward, but so often I feel as though I am taking steps back. So this is me, just writing and rambling, sorting my thoughts and figuring out life.

I love cities. I have no explanation as to why I love cities, I just do. When I was younger I made my mom take me on tours of Kansas City. I get a thrill when we go into the “bad” neighborhoods and I am fascinated by the communities that live there. I desire to help and understand them, except I feel as though they do not desire my help or understanding. (Current fixation is Detroit). But as for cities, they fill my soul. Like when you fill a glass of water all the way up to the top and you have to focus every ounce of attention on that glass in front of you so it doesn’t spill everywhere. The water is my excitement, and it takes incredible restraint to contain it. I love the architecture, the people, the styles, the noises, the traffic, the views. Everything. Except the pigeons. Fuck the pigeons.

Something deep in me has always wanted to be an artist. Whether it be photography, printmaking, drawing, designing, anything. I want to learn it all and I want to learn it now. It frustrates me that I do not already know how to do all of these things and that I do not have the innate talent to do many of these things. Which leads me to my late Aunt Katie who I miss dearly. She was the most patient teacher. I didn’t have to hurriedly finish projects with her to make deadlines and often I didn’t even finish them any how. When I was 18 I got my first tattoo, a dragonfly on my ankle. This was almost a year after she died of an unexpected brain aneurysm. The closer I get to art, the more I miss her, but I know she is with me every day.

I wouldn’t be alive if it weren’t for music. My parents would have never met in a record store, my name wouldn’t be Marlee, my family wouldn’t have moved to Kansas City and then Nashville. I would cease to exist. I believe my hearing is the one sense I fear losing the most. Sure, losing my eyesight would be absolutely devastating, but music expresses everything we see. I could live vicariously through others songs and words. Music dictates my every emotion. I am forever in awe at the talent of others. I desire that talent, but again become frustrated that I was not innately born with the ability. Sure, I can sing and play piano decently, but nothing compared to so many of my favorite artists. That being said, I also have a strong desire to learn how to produce music. If anyone wants to teach me a thing or two, I will gladly accept the knowledge. Oh, and I am currently listening to the Purity Ring radio station on Spotify. In case anyone cared to know.

Fashion, fashion, fashion. I believe that is a talent in itself. It takes a lot of creativity and guts to be fashionable, but to also be yourself. I owe a great deal of my sense of fashion to Marlena Smith, my roommate from freshman year of college ( Before her I was preppy little punk (Literally. I would switch between “preppy” and “punk” every other day. It was ridiculous). Marlee (ironic, yes, we know) has such guts when it comes to fashion, though! She would look at our closets and pull out a thin plaid button down from mine and a brown leather and fur vest from hers. Apart, I would never think they would look good together, but then she would put them on and work her magic and wallah! I also have to dedicate my love of patterned pants to her. Thanks for inspiring me, doll, and good luck with all your endeavors in Denver!

There are so many things I want to say about what I am interested in. I could go on for quite awhile, but I feel that this is long enough as is. Incase anyone who doesn’t know me reads this, I hope you get a glimpse into who I am. As for those who do know me, you all know about my passions and desires. I’m filled with them and they are ever-changing, but I do want to say something to you. Don’t expect anything great from me. Stop telling me when I come home at breaks that I am going to do amazing things and you love keeping up with the things I do. I don’t want compliments on grades or encouragement on extracurriculars. While your intentions are well, you’ve put me on a pedestal that I want off of. Its rocky up here and I fear falling, but if you give me the ladder to get down, I will be able to pursue my dreams without fear. As I said earlier, my dreams and desires are ever changing. I might say I want to be astronaut one day and a zoo keeper the next. That’s just who I am and I no longer want to fear letting you all down when I change my mind. So expect change. Let it happen. Let me down this ladder, please, so that I do not fall.

Day 28 | In that moment

Have you ever been in a moment and realized you would remember it forever as the day you fell in love with life?

We were standing in a living room, sipping at our drinks and laughing with strangers. The walls were white and decorated with unique drawings and friendly sayings. Exposed beams dotted the ceiling with a metallic air vent crossing their paths. Lofted bedrooms opened up to the bright space right above our heads. The home was beautiful and the moment magical.

I had dragged my friends Cam and Zac with me to the Chicago Art District’s 2nd Fridays event, excited but nervous to be outside of my comfort zone. It isn’t located in one of the safest neighborhoods, but I wasn’t going to let fear hold me back from experiencing life. When we pulled up I smiled like an excited child. The street was lined with old brick buildings, their black and gray trim peeling, exposing the deteriorated wood beneath their finish. Each of the insides was architecturally unique, modern, and artsy. Old wooden ladders led to lofted studios while abstract paintings glimmered under bright lights. Outside, in the back, they were all connected by a balcony overlooking a dense, green garden of overgrown vines and hundred year old trees. Ivy creeped up the exposed brick and plaster, taking back its rightful grounds. It was life a fairytale.

As we walked down the street we came across a studio that was for sale. We looked in the window to see leaves scattered across the floor and trees cut to fit perfectly from ground to ceiling. It was mesmerizing, as if the artist wanted to say, “no one can own the space anyways, the Earth owns it.”

The top of this studio, however, was owned. A door was propped open and a set of stairs led up to what we perceived to be another studio. This was no studio, though. This was someones house. The second I reached the top of the stairs my cheeks turned bright red, I was so embarrassed! I had just walked into someones apartment and intruded upon their personal party! I immediately began to turn around when a couple stopped me and welcomed me. I was so confused, I didn’t know anyone there. The man explained to me that the party is an open house, as in they open their house every month during 2nd Fridays for people to wander in, socialize, eat, drink, and have a grand time. Originally it happened by accident, but quickly it became a brilliant way for visitors to interact.

What a beautiful idea. To open your home up to complete strangers and place your trust in their hands. I met artists, scientists, photographers, writers, and lawyers. Every second of it was surreal. I’ve never felt so exposed yet connected. Thats what leaving your comfort zone does to you. Its terrifyingly raw and exhilarating. It’s interesting how much you learn about yourself when you are put in such a vulnerable and exposed state. I believe it’s only then you realize the person you want to be. I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety for the past three years. In this moment, surrounded by artists, thinkers, dreamers, and believers it all melted. I’m not scared of the real me anymore. I don’t need to make good money or grades or live the status quo life. I need to be me. “There was a time when my world was filled with darkness. Then I stopped dreaming, now I’m supposed to fill it up with something.” I have so much time to fill my life up with “something” and I know that that something will be beautiful, creative, adventurous, passionate, and courageous.

Hours later we left the art district and drove toward the bright lights of the city, and in that moment I knew, I fell in love with life.


art studio

art studio 2

tree studio

Day 24 | Pixelated Reality


I believe that we have focused so hard on perfecting our vision, that we have lost sight. We have lost sight of who we are, what it is we truly want, and what it means to be human. I try to make mental notes of those around me and things I find interesting. I was doing this the other day on the train home from work. To be honest, this is not a new insight. During my time in Chicago I have noticed the juxtaposition between proximity and interaction. You would think that being crammed into a rail car would force people to notice one another and do something so basic as to speak to one another, but it doesn’t happen. Everybody plays games on their phones with headphones practically embedded into their skull. We do not see one another.

I spoke yesterday of my curiosity, but what I failed to mention is that I lack courage. My mind fills with questions and thoughts, left never to be spoken or answered. People pass through each fleeting moment and I let them, never making connections or acquaintanceships. We have lost our ability to speak. We cannot express ourselves using our own voice. We need feedback before asking someone on a date or a card to say we’re sorry. We hide ourselves behind the veil of pixelated screens, hoping that some how people will get to know the real us from the clicks of a keyboard.

Do we even know ourselves? We spend so much time tuned out to reality that how will we ever know? I desire a life with communication. Beautiful, truthful communication. I don’t want to leave this world with my words unspoken and my dreams unseen. I do not want to live this finite time in fear of myself, my thoughts, people, places, emotions, or experiences. I want to live it all and see it all, do it all and feel it all.

What day is it again? | Creative Cues

Hello hello, my friends! Long time no post. For those of you who actually read this, I’m terribly sorry I haven’t updated you on my day-to-day life. Truth is, my days turned monotonous within the first week of starting work. My cubicle filled office is a buzz kill and I’m learning bureaucracy isn’t my cup of tea. I need more creativity in my life, where I can see a project from start to finish and watch it be implemented. My Roosevelt team met with a really awesome company called the Delta Institute recently. Their Rebuilding Exchange is probably one of the coolest projects I have seen first hand in awhile. And, it combines a few of my favorite things: Old houses, Detroit, Chicago, and repurposing. For those of you who know me well, you know I love refinishing old furniture and repurposing it. The Rebuilding Exchange is a creative, sustainable builder’s dream! I will go into it more on a later date after I visit the actual warehouse, but for those of you who cannot wait for my stellar photos and first hand experience, here’s the link!

Back to creativity, though. As you can see I have included multiple songs throughout this post. (I not so secretly wish I knew how to produce music, but that’s another story). I don’t think I would have half the motivation, innovation, creativity, or life that I have without music. The capabilities of altering moods and setting ambiance is truly magical. Just think about it! Think about how music has changed over the centuries, how our technological advances are present in the popular music of the times, how we have major and minor songs because songs are ultimately emotions put to paper and vibrations. vibrations. How incredible?! If I ever lost my hearing, I think I would lose my will to live. Music can paint images, even when you can’t see. It can evoke emotions, even when you can’t feel. Behind all the music, though, is people utilizing their creativity. I commend them, for expressing creativity when society depreciates it. You are amazing. Its worth noting that my nostalgia towards music may be due to my recent misplacement of my headphones. Also, if you’re ever looking for a good playlist, check out my Spotify one called “Right Here; Right Now”.

As for what I’ve been up to, I’ve been keeping busy. Work consumes most of my time, along with festivals, train rides, hot yoga, and eating. I’ve learned that one of my favorite things to do in the city is just walk. I stare at the architecture and people, wondering who lives in that apartment and what they do for a living or how that man ended up homeless and if he has a favorite book. I have the curiosity of a 6 year old in this city. In fact, I have a short list of notes in my phone of things to write about. I haven’t developed stories, but heres my list: Old is a smell; A city of confidence; Visit Casa Jesus and Pippins Tavern; “No where to be, but everywhere I want to be”; Things you shouldn’t say to a person named Toby: “That’s my dead cat’s name!”; Talk to the old man who sits outside Barnes and Noble with a sailor hat. With that, I leave you. I hope to write more frequently. It has been hard without wifi, but that is still no excuse. Until next time.

Day 5, 6, & 7 | Everyday Chicagoan

In the movie Definitely Maybe, Ryan Reynold’s character expresses the great feeling you get when you find the perfect track to go with the day. He proceeds to play Everyday People by Sly & The Family Stone, which resonates perfectly with my first day at work with Chicago’s Department of Public Health. I spent the weekend learning more about the Roosevelt Institute and how to turn a value I hold into the change I want to see in the world through policy. It is only the start of many more learning sessions to come, which are in addition to the lessons I will learn everyday at the DPH.

Everyday People relates so perfectly to my day because I learned that I am just as much a member of this community as the person sitting next to me. I want to fit in, feel safe, be loved, breathe easy, enjoy myself, and live adventurously. Each of these things are possible because there are people working behind the scenes to ensure my entire experience is safe and memorable. Everyone in this city is different, but they do have one thing in common: they’re Chicagoans. From the diligent mayor, to the posh business woman, to the homeless man on the street. And another thing, they’re all people, with feelings and desires, hopes and dreams, memories and futures. On my first day at work I learned how hard the department is working to make Chicago a better place to live. It is astounding how far they have come and how far they have to go, but the passion is there and the drive is present. I may not be able to change Chicago, you may not be able to change Chicago, but together we can make a difference; together we can make a change.

So remember, “I am no better and neither are you. We are the same, whatever we do. You love me, you hate me, you know me and then you can’t figure out the bag I’m in. I am everyday people.”


Day 3 & 4 | Smells Like Old Spirit

afterlight The past two days haven’t been as adventurous as I would have hoped. It seems that locking myself in my room to watch all of the second season of “Orange is the New Black” has taken priority. In between binge watching Netflix and sleeping, however, I did get to explore my neighborhood a little bit. Edgewater is just south of Rogers Park and within Blocks of the University of Loyola. While I haven’t been able to explore all the cultural happenings of the neighborhood, I did get to meander my way around the near blocks which include a handful of antique and vintages stores, a meat market, a natural grocery store, and a McDonalds (obviously). I enjoyed myself far too much in the antique stores. They had some classic pieces of furniture and all I wanted to do was dress up like Brigitte Bardot and play house 1960’s version. I think I could host one bitchin’ cocktail party. Sometimes I swear I was born in the wrong time period. Being practically an only child raised by parents born in ’49 and ’58 had nothing to do with this, clearly. While in the store I discovered a new band that does a good job of sounding old. They’re called the Scissor Sisters. I’ve included the song above, take a listen! Those who know me won’t be surprised to know I spent around 3 hours in the store and left my house keys there..classic. This weekend I have my orientation with the Roosevelt Institute! It will be filled with new people, ideas, dreams, and more. I can’t wait to learn more about the institution and what I myself can bring to it as well as the Universityof Kansas. I will probably wait till the end of the weekend for a new post, so wish me luck! afterlight-3 afterlight-2 afterlight-4