Common Discourse is a project designed to help others (and ourselves) think through creativity, focus, and intentional work—from Alex Tan & Alice Otieno.
Every Tuesday we share words from a journal, a few ideas, a quote from somebody else, and links worth sharing. On Fridays we invite a guest to share images from their camera roll and a sound that resonates with them.
My first 6 months living in Los Angeles could be described the same exact way I’d explain my first semester in college: “I do not particularly enjoy this person’s company but I will continue to spend time with them anyway because I do not know what else to do."
Activities included: Awkwardly grabbing drinks with colleagues after work, going to the Venice boardwalk for fun (???), being talked into going to clubs that I had no interest in, and sitting in my room feeling sad when it felt like the prior options were my only choice.
I have faint memories of specific bars on the east side that I have only been to once but cannot remember who I was there with or what their names were. And not because I was drunk, but because I was lonely and did not want to be there. Every time we drive by Johnny’s in Highland Park, I almost get in a wreck at the stoplight trying to rack my brain about why I was there and with who. It draws blank every time.
One of the more difficult and honest conversations I had with myself was questioning how much I choose to participate in my own suffering. It was the sudden realization that I don’t have to do any of the things that make me unhappy:
I don’t have to spend time with people I don’t want to spend time with. I don’t have to go to a bar with strangers and stand in the corner. I don’t have to wallow in my sadness because like-minded people aren’t knocking on my door.
It goes for anything: Jobs, friendships, relationships, where you live, what you study, etc. We sometimes choose unhappiness in those things because we feel undeserving of something better or find it easier to choose the ease of comfort over the complexity of uncovering joy.
On the topic of friendships, it became apparent to me that you either find people you care about or you find yourself stuck with people you don’t—either way, life demands our commitment. 5 years later, I’ve found ways to be more direct and honest with myself and others, allowing me to realize the difference between choosing people versus people being chosen for me. It’s the main reason for the shift in hating Southern California to thinking about how sad it would be if we ever had to leave.
During my enlightening of understanding the difference between “friendship because convenience” versus “friendship because of intention,” many people who I’ve developed relationships in prior parts of my life started to relocate to Los Angeles. I love the thrill of feeling like you’ve successfully recruited your friends to come participate in your day-to-day life.
My sales pitch is: I have nothing to offer you but myself and I hope that’s enough.
Mackenzie always jokes that everyone I know followed me to LA, which is far from true but can feel like that when there’s 8 of us from Ohio standing in a circle talking about how much we miss Skyline Chili.
At dinner last week we celebrated an old friend’s birthday who had only been living in LA since February. After a few bottles of wine, we always try to go around the table and say one thing we love about the person we’re celebrating.
“It feels like I’ve known you for so much longer than I’ve physically known some people my entire life.”
It feels like an intentional way to make it clear to that person that they’re loved, and also a moment to reflect on why you choose to create space for this person in your life. Both of which are things that we always assume but can be left unsaid if we don’t create environments for those expressions to take place.
In the middle of dinner, she took a moment to say that she knows the celebrations of birthday’s can feel silly, but how it really means a lot to her that she has a small group of real friends that would carve out time and space to celebrate her. It’s in those moments where you realize that the generation of trust and intimacy at all levels of relationship are not nice-to-haves, but more so necessary in order to grasp security & liberation—all of which enables us to be better friends, lovers, workers, and everything in between.
I used to think trust and intimacy were reserved only for romantic relationships. But it was in dissatisfaction of empty-handed friendships that I found both things to be necessary for us to thrive as relational human beings.
I love the way Geneen Roth puts it,
“Intimacy is not something that just happens between two people; it is a way of being alive. At every moment, we are choosing either to reveal ourselves or to protect ourselves, to value ourselves or to diminish ourselves, to tell the truth or to hide. To dive into life or to avoid it. Intimacy is making the choice to be connected to, rather than isolated from, our deepest truth at that moment.”
The best way for me to think about my early months in LA is formative. It’s not a time I would choose to go back to, but at the same time, a time I can’t afford to forget. The difference between who I was in late 2017 versus who I am now is night and day. I have more confidence, less anxiety, and feel liberated to be myself. I feel safe with the people I spend time with. I can laugh freely, dance freely, and speak freely. And I so badly want others to feel that same way.
If I could be certain of one thing in adulthood, it’s that you go much farther and faster once you start surrounding yourself with people who find ways to both physically make themselves available to you and create space to verbally express gratitude for your friendship.
A few ideas
Creative work is most impactful when it comes from a place of belief.
If you want them to see it, make it bright and flashy. If you want them to feel it, make it with conviction.
There is satisfaction in both realizing that perhaps nothing in this world is missing, and that you have the unique ability to give shape and form to that which is unrecognizable to most other people.
Resources are luxuries but not always necessities.
III. STANDING OUT
We opened a position for a studio intern two weeks ago and received over 100 applications. It’s anticipated that most applicants will blend in with one another as opposed to stand out. But for the few that do catch our attention with entry level positions, the through-line is always the same:
A uniquely positioned way of showing their curiosity and potential, not for this specific moment in time, but on an ongoing basis.
There are more ways to stand out than having a load of experience.
You haven’t run marathons in the past, but can show you’ve been running every day for the last 6 months.
You haven’t written award-winning books, but you’ve consistently published on a growing newsletter for the last year.
You might not have had the chance to rebrand a large company, but you’ve got a whole lot of research and writing to show where you’d take it if you had the opportunity.
A quote from somebody else
“You must collect and pursue all your passions; let your desires lead you to foreign territories. Your path might look scattered for now, like you have no direction or clear aim, but one day, all those ideas and spread-out skills will combine and create a creation of impact, a combine masterpiece of everything you found to love, and that will be your legacy.”
— Charlotte Eriksson, Everything Changed When I Forgave Myself
Links worth sharing
🌌 Are.na Collage is a website design by Cassette Cowboy that lets you input in a channel and outputs a moodboard. Here’s one for Stream of Consciousness.
🌀 God is Change by Naomi Shimada meditates on moving and surrendering to the unknown.
⌨️ 10 mind-blowing AI websites you probably didn't know existed
⛰ Incorporations by Renee Rhodes
📜 The Age of Algorithmic Anxiety by Kyle Chayka explores what it means to interact online today, with devices and systems designed to constantly feed us recommendations.
🐚 Using an interactive and immersive experience, Volume 3 of Emergence Magazine examines the theme of Living with the Unknown and what living in an unfolding apocalyptic reality looks like.
Thanks for consuming!
ℹ️ Read more about Common Discourse here.
📬 If you like this newsletter, please consider sharing with others who might enjoy it as well.
🗂 Here is every Common Discourse weekly briefing to date.
🐤 We have a Twitter feed where we populate things that resonate.
⭐ We use Are.na as a tool to archive specific aspects of this project.
🗣️ This project is more fun when there is dialogue amongst those who are reading. Use the comment feature at the bottom of this article to start a conversation, we’ll use your ideas for future briefings and food for thought.
I just launched my art newsletter 2 weeks ago and have been searching for other newsletter's that interest me, and this is really the jackpot. Been loving everything that I am reading and relate to many of the modes of creativity that you write about. I also moved to LA 2 months ago so this one is particularly fitting!
Loved this one Alex 💙