Photo by Tim Walker.

Photo by Tim Walker.

Hey Rooks!

Hopefully last month got you all inspired/motivated/pumped for 2014. For February, we’ll take a step back from 24/7 go-getting to explore the theme ESCAPE. Imagination, fiction, travel, adventure, losing yourself in order to find yourself. Finding ways to escape your situation even when you can’t physically leave (hi, school). Escaping obligations, standards, and stereotypes. Escaping arbitrary expectations as bestowed upon us by society. Escaping danger and damaging situations, and understanding the radical act of self-care.

Think storybooks, fairytales, postcards, and Maurice Sendak, but do not mistake Escape for something precious. We still want you all to take over the universe! This month’s theme is about living outside convention, and defining happiness and success for yourself. Consider this quotation from Beyoncé (who is always relevant):

There is room on this earth for many queens. I have an authentic, God-given talent, drive, and longevity that will always separate me from everyone else. I’ve been fortunate to accomplish things that the younger generation of queens dream of accomplishing. I have no desire for anyone else’s throne. I am very comfortable in the throne I’ve been building for the past 15 years.

So, although this month will pay its respects to daydreaming, I’m not suggesting we all cut ourselves off from the rest of the world. Personally, I’d like to build my own world within the one outside. I have no desire for anyone else’s throne; I am proud that I started Rookie, I am lucky that we are independent and that I’ve gotten to do it my way. But I want us all to examine and change the rest of our culture, too. I want to make sure the earth’s many queens get the opportunities to assume their rightful places.

A year ago, after feeling overworked and overwhelmed by how many eyes were on Rookie and on me, I thought the only way to escape the pressures that come with a conventional idea of success was to disappear completely. I seriously contemplated calling it a day, moving to the woods, and “nobly” becoming some reclusive artiste. The problem with that mindset is that I was still giving in to the voice of conventional success that I’d been denouncing. I was considering giving up my aspirations because I was scared of failing. I nearly convinced myself that the only way to feel free and confident in my work was to dismiss everyone else entirely.

Yesterday, while working all this out, I wrote in my diary:

What do I care about?

  • Being the CEO of my own life (copyright Jamia). Climbing to the top of my own ladder. Building my own throne.
  • Changing who gets to speak and why. Finding opportunities for Rookies, changing the journo game. Understanding the power of my platform, and sharing it. Lifting up people who deserve a greater audience.
  • Giving thought to the projects I choose. Not doing anything I will feel silly about promoting. Having dignity, integrity, good taste: “Build a good name…. Eventually, that name will be its own currency.” —William S. Burroughs
  • Expressing myself effectively. Giving artistic endeavors my all. Being honest but not attention-seeking, compliment-fishing, or pitiful.
  • Treating my readers with respect for their intelligence. Showing my genuine gratitude without being cheesy or excessive. Knowing that they do not owe me anything, and vice versa.
  • Accounting for praise and criticism alike with a grain of salt. Letting myself get excited about fun opportunities and sincere appreciation for my work, but remembering not to let it define me or become a priority.
  • Having good friends with whom I can share mutual support, trust, understanding, and love. Sticking by the people I can talk to about anything. Knowing the value of a good sleepover. Being there for my loved ones.
  • Keeping in touch with myself. Remembering who I am. Creating work just for me.
  • Reading books, watching movies and TV, and listening to music that inspire and teach me. Connecting with humanity through art. Finding myself in others’ creations.
  • Showing appreciation for the good things and good people in my life at all times. Not taking anything for granted. Focusing on what I do have, not what I don’t.
  • Taking care of myself, feeling embodied and healthy.
  • Making memories.
  • Being present.

I know it’s super self-help-y, but it can be hard to put things plainly without walking into clichés! My point is that it’s nice to keep in touch with yourself while going after what you want so that you can make sure you’re focused on what matters to you. I don’t want to be a woodsy recluse or one of those douchey musicians who act unhappy to be performing; I want my work to feel like something people can interact with and respond to. But I don’t want to spend my time chasing approval either; I want to make things I care about and see praise as an added bonus.

So. Send us your work, for this month or the next, and continue to slay in all of life’s arenas. (That was a typo, I meant to say “areas,” but ARENAS IT IS.)