How to fuck yourself over

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When Cal was ten days old, I accidentally left her at the pediatrician’s office. Something seemed a little off as I crossed the parking lot, but I felt the weight of my purse in the crook of my arm and I was actively sipping on my Blue Raspberry Slurpee, so, I mean, what thing of importance could I possibly have forgotten?

As I unlocked the car door, I saw the infant carrier base in the back seat. FUCK.

I ran. I’ve only been chased by the police once (that I can immediately recall), and I know this is probably not the right time to brag, but I really impressed myself with the speed and agility I exhibited during my short run through the Las Lomas Apartments community and then again as I sprinted back to the pediatrician’s waiting room. I wish my middle school P.E. teachers could have seen me. Slowpoke my ass, motherfuckers.

Cal was right where I had left her. I had set down the carrier to make another appointment and then walked out sans baby. I kneeled beside the carrier and did an ugly cry, dripping big fat tears of shame all over my kid’s face.

A nurse poked her head through the window and said, “Don’t worry, it happens.”

I forgot to use my proper lady language as I replied, “Man, fuck this shit. I suck at being a mom.”

This is my general reaction every time I make a mistake. Man, fuck this shit. I suck at _______.

This is also my general reaction every time I deem something “too hard.”

I am a serial quitter. I am also a serial restarter. These two tendencies are made worse by what happens in between the restarting and the quitting- I self-sabotage.

Self-sabotage is tricky because it uses that Decepticon bullshit, transforming itself from one form to another. First it looks like procrastination. Then it’s shaped like self-medication or self-injury. It’s fear. Doubt. Isolation. Compulsivity. It’s a spiral of bad choices. I stay up too late. I spend too much time reading about the most efficient yet attractive way to organize my scrapbooking embellishments. I make ridiculous demands of myself. I set unrealistic deadlines.

For more than two years, I’ve been working on a book. I started on a Tuesday. I think I promised my agent I would pull something together by, like, Friday. Monday at the latest. She didn’t LOLOL or anything. I give her props for that.

Holler at me, self-sabotage. Ridiculous demands. Unrealistic deadlines.

Earlier this year, I spent two full days perfecting paper airplanes. My planes still fly like shit, but the sharp creases I make using just my thumbnail are baller status. I should have spent that time on my book.

I’ve made a lot of excuses as to why it’s taken so long. Interspersed between the excuses of I don’t know how and Good God, these pages really suck were real-life happenings that delayed the process even longer. I got sad about babies and I also got mad that I still haven’t figured out how to organize my surprisingly large assortment of brads and eyelets.

I’m calling it quits on fucking myself over. For at least a week.

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image via Sara Eshak for Society6

Jesus is my homeboy

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I grew up going to church. I didn’t even realize attendance wasn’t mandatory until I was almost fifteen years old. This may partly be due to the fact that I’m a slow learner, but I’d also like to think it’s because I was an obedient child. When my mother beckoned me from the garage door to get in the damn car right now don’t make me come back into the house to find you stop putting more Sun-In in your hair it’s church not the beach you dummy, I followed her orders without hassle. Being such a pleasure to parent is probably the reason I gave birth to a good kid myself. I hear God doesn’t play favorites, but just look at how that all worked out. Suspicious, amirite?

After I became an unwed pregnant teenager, I stopped attending regularly because I feared judgment. Not from God, but from the other churchgoers. It wasn’t a sure thing that my situation was going to light up the gossip circuit, but people were still talking about how a certain family had moved from a five-bedroom home into a duplex. I was pretty sure an 18-year-old’s surprise pregnancy was almost as interesting as a real estate step-down. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just being bigheaded.

Not going to church didn’t mean that I no longer believed in God. I still hollered at Him from time to time when I felt especially broken. My prayers became casual conversations. Not like a real-time chat where I would share an issue and He would respond immediately. It was more like a text exchange where I sent off a thought, knowing He would get back to me eventually. Sometimes, it would take weeks or months, but I have other friends who lag like that. I’ve learned to accept them for who they are.

Because I missed the sense of community, I started going to a different church when Cal was a toddler. The new place seemed legit, and I still know people from my brief stint there who I am proud to call my friends.

I stopped attending after the pastor’s wife pulled me aside to express her concern that bringing Cal to church might influence the youth group kids into believing that our church condoned teen parenthood. Just like I have a personal policy about not hitting other people’s kids, I also won’t hit a pastor’s wife. Or a pastor. We all need to set boundaries for ourselves and those are mine. (It may seem like I go around hitting people, but I want you to know that I haven’t gotten into a physical altercation in YEARS. I also don’t hit animals or old people.)

I still believe in God. I’ve never really talked about being religious before, and I was scared to do it today, but just because I don’t talk about something doesn’t make it less true.

I also still believe that not all religious people are narrow-minded or judgmental or that being a pillar of a church community exempts a person from making very human mistakes with their words and actions. I won’t blame that pastor’s wife as the reason I haven’t made an effort to attend church regularly for the past twelve years. It was a choice I made.

For years, I waved to Harv and Cal as they left for Sunday service. In the past few months, I’ve started joining them occasionally. I’m always nervous when I walk through the heavy wooden doors. The sheer amount of swearing I do each week makes me think I’m going to burst into flames. That’s probably not how God works, but I don’t put anything past that guy. Even if He is my homeboy.

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Hustle Hard Interview Project: Carolyn Hampton

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To celebrate my 32nd birthday, I started the Hustle Hard Interview Project. Each month for the next year, I’ll be interviewing one Hustler who embodies a skill or a quality I admire. I hope to uncover some gems that bring me one step closer to being a fully-formed adult.

# 9: REVEALING BEAUTY

Photography

I try to find beauty in all things, but I am most drawn to what resonates with my own personal truths. And because life is never simple, and because there is always a layer of Light and Dark in everything, I deeply admire those who can convey all of the nuances of complex emotions. When I am knee deep in Love or Fear or Loneliness or Joy or Sadness, it sometimes feels like I am the only one who has felt that way and that no one could understand what this is like.

I’m pretty sure I’m never going to say this again because as we all know, I’m perfect, but in this one lone case, I am wrong. And I’m glad about it.

We are never the only one. Someone else has waded in those same trenches.

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Carolyn Hampton amazes me. It is a special gift to be able to translate the remnants of dreams and nightmares and memories and recreate them in a way that others find striking and memorable. It is an even rarer talent to move a moment from being just a deeply personal experience to a shared work that is relatable.

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This one is my personal favorite. I look at it often:

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EJL: I’m currently working the Instagram grind right now and I don’t want to brag or anything, but a lot of my pictures aren’t even blurry. How many more weeks do you think I need to practice before I start taking pictures like you? How long have you been a photographer?

CH: I got my first 35 mm camera when I was ten because my parents were willing to support all of my interests. Since no one else in my family owned a camera, I became the official family photographer. I went to Africa when I was 25 and shot fifty rolls on safari. The light there is so beautiful. After my daughter was born, I took it more seriously. But it wasn’t until 2009 when I was shooting for fun in an abandoned hospital, and I started remembering recurring childhood dreams, that I began focusing on my photography.

EJL: If I’m not immediately good at something, I’m not interested. Of course, every time I discover that I lack a particular skill, I’m shocked. I took up speed skating in my late 20′s and quit three months later. When I started, I thought for sure I was going to be an Olympic contender. Have you always had an eye for photography? If not, what compelled you to stay in the grind?

CH: I stayed with it when I was younger because I liked preserving a moment. I can still remember how I felt or what I was wearing when I took a particular picture. The more successful I am at recreating what’s in my head and the closer I am to that truth, the happier I am. For me, photography is something I enjoy so much. It’s almost therapeutic.

EJL: I’m floored by the way you conceptualize some of these shots. My brain doesn’t even work that way. Where do you get your inspiration?

CH: I can remember far back into childhood, and a lot of my work is based on recurring dreams and memories or fairy tales. Late at night, I think of things and sketch stick figures or make notes in a notebook I keep by the bed. I spend a lot of time planning afterwards, scouting locations, picking the wardrobe, and discussing the concepts with my daughter.

EJL: Your daughter is the focal point of so much of your work. Has she always been down for it?

CH: Definitely not! I’m grateful for that though. She would give me so little time in the beginning that I knew I had to get the shot quickly because there were a million other things she’d rather be doing. I spend a long time planning, but the actual shoot is often less than five minutes. I think the redhead enjoys it more now because it’s been a way for her to understand where I’m coming from and what my childhood was like. It really is a family affair. My husband often carries gear or holds the reflectors and some of these shoots take us to places we normally wouldn’t go. We’ve shot in abandoned hospitals and prisons…which was a perfect scared straight moment for her.

EJL: Prison scares me too. Which is why I try to act right at least some of the time. What’s your best life or work advice?

CH: It’s important to be well liked. People want to be around others they like more than someone who is just brilliant. Also, it’s important to be nice to everyone. Too many people are invisible.

And know what’s most important. Life gets easier when you can make that distinction.

SEE CAROLYN HAMPTON’S WORK IN PERSON:

Solo exhibition (Opening reception and book signing June 7th from 6-8 pm)
June 7-July 13, 2013
Duncan Miller Gallery
2525 Michigan Avenue, Santa Monica, CA 90404
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