Pop Culture

Video games are the latest source of original storytelling

To be honest, I never really considered myself to be much of a ‘gamer’.

Growing up, I didn’t share the fascination my brother had with games and consoles. I stuck to books and movies, preferring more traditional forms of storytelling. As I grew older, I started to experiment with the Internet and online games. It was incredibly fun to play around with controls and see what my character could do. As games got better, it became possible to mess around with the outcome of the story, and I became more invested in the game world, and in video game stories.

When cinema first arose, people were fascinated with what technology could do. Cinema had a potential for being ‘spectacular’, for focusing on tricks with the camera and delighting the audience with a new medium. Of course, focusing on cinematic tricks gets old, and cinema began to shift from focusing on pure spectacle to focusing on narrative. The goal was to create compelling stories that would make people want to watch it over and over, to create prolonged interest.  

Video games are the only medium that comes up in the post-modern world. 

We can see the same effect taking place in video games, too. Early video games are pretty simple, plot-wise. There’s an emphasis on what you can do and how you can interact with the game-world. Game technology got better and better – you could do more, experiment with the game world, and try new things.

Recently, there has been a shift to focusing on narratives in games, on a new way to tell stories, to create ‘video game stories’ of sorts. It’s a way for people to play the game over and over, to try and get different outcomes with each ‘re-telling’. It’s a shift from spectacle to narrative, and it’s fascinating to see that with a new medium. 

Of course, there are some that prefer video games to stick to what they’re good at – interacting with the audience. Stories in these games can’t be too structured, because of how interactive games are. It can be difficult to articulate certain stories, and nuances can get sacrificed for interactiveness. The way we define stories changes with video games. Stories aren’t linear, or dictated by the author – the reader has an active voice in the way the story is told. 

Recently, there has been a shift to focusing on narratives in games.

Others celebrate this narrative turn, pointing out that games are a goldmine for fresh stories, because the medium challenges the way stories are normally told. Video games also work in terms of their sequels. I can’t count the number of movies and TV shows that have gotten spoiled because the creators didn’t know when to end the journey. Sequels have become notorious in ruining a good story, but not in video games. Thanks to their interactiveness, video game sequels are a great way to return to a beloved story while exploring new forms of gameplay. 

One of the video games that I played – and particularly enjoyed – was Detroit Become Human. The gameplay is relatively simple, but the story was compelling. Set in a futuristic world where androids serve humankind, we play the game from a few androids’ perspectives. We see the signs of struggle and turmoil, as androids rise up and fight for freedom. Depending on the choices you make, the game ends differently – with different fates in store for the androids. It’s a fun game to revisit because you can track various story paths, and its gameplay was easy to manage, so I never felt confused or overwhelmed. 

It’s fascinating to see traditional stories being reworked into something new. 

The Last of Us seems like a fairly basic zombie-hunting game, which works in a linear fashion. You move from place to place, kill zombies, and survive. What makes this game incredibly popular is its stunning story. Revolving around the relationship between a man and a young girl he needs to keep alive, we see the two bloom, and this narrative arc adds so much depth to the story’s mechanics. 

Another popular game that shows how a good story can supersede graphics is Undertale. The story revolves around a young child falling into a mountain and must interact with the inhabitants of the mountain to make their way out. Depending on the player’s approach, the outcome changes, and the game’s gained a large following despite its simple controls. 

Video games have become a new form of storytelling, and they’ve always been a source of comfort. It’s fascinating to see traditional stories being reworked into something new and exciting. Stories are a part of the human condition, and it’s amazing to see us adapt beloved tales to a new medium altogether. Stories in video games make them memorable, compelling, exciting to play. You become invested in the game, and it leaves a mark. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to fall in love with yet another video game character.

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Life Stories Life

Being creative doesn’t need to be performative or productive

My hesitance with being creative started with a set of simple words on my screen: “Now is the perfect time to write your book!” I encountered variations of these words on Twitter, against the scenic backdrop of a forest in an inspiration post on Instagram. They seemed to follow me everywhere I clicked. These words became a trickling of an inner voice in my head that demanded one thing: write a book. Write the book. 

At the time, we were all in our first few weeks of the world-wide lockdown. There was a wave of posts that encouraged people to look at the bright side of staying home. After all, we had the many privileges that came with being able to have our own spaces during this time. We didn’t have to share a common eating space with colleagues and we could work in our pajamas. It wasn’t all bad, right?

Not to mention, while we self-isolated and stayed inside, our schedules had significantly cleared up. These reminders and gentle pushes served as an incentive for us to sit down and do the things we said we’d do if we had more time. My current circumstance, if I would have let it, could have been inspirational. This was the time I had been waiting for, so why wasn’t I typing away? 

I imagined myself as an artist who was finally in their own element with nothing but time and energy to create. Cocooned away in blankets, frantically typing away at her next screenplay, she uses the time she would have spent commuting to work to instead perfect her craft. Or perhaps I’d relate more to a woman whose hands dance in the warm light streaming through the window. There are paint streaks on her cheeks and the coffee in her mug has gone cold.

Then, there is also the image of a struggling artist who perseveres against all odds. Their hand is shaking, but resolute, as they photograph minute details of their surrounding, working with what they have. This artist scrapes the barrel for their inspiration, regardless of the clamor outside. Fair. But we need to remind ourselves these are heavily romanticized ways of approaching creativity. 

Reading the pandemic was the perfect time to ‘write my book‘ made me feel discouraged. I felt bogged down. I was in mourning for the perfect end to my senior year that now would never be. Trapped in my room, I felt the need to escape. Writing allows me to delve deep into myself – something I could not have been bothered with before the pandemic hit. However, as any writer can tell you, it is an incredible feeling to share your work, but writing can be a terribly lonely and internal process.  

I wasn’t partaking in much leisure creativity in those early days. Even writing my college senior project, a creative fictional piece, felt like a chore. All my energy went into listening to the voices that streamed out of my laptop during the last of my online courses.

All I wanted to do was scoop out my mind and leave it in a warm tub to rest. I watched movies, listened to music, and chatted with my roommates, using up the energy I had left on reserve. I didn’t feel inspired to produce some great masterpiece. But I had all the time in the world to do it. Since I wasn’t going anywhere, why wasn’t I writing my book?

Weren’t the arts meant to be those places where we could escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?

Over time, I felt myself spiraling. I didn’t have an idea of what I would write. I just felt like I had to make something productive out of my time. I genuinely felt I was going to disappoint myself either way, whether I chose to pick up my pen or not.

This is all sounding gloomy, but actually, there were times when I wanted to be creative. When I felt that sudden urge to set off and start working on a new piece of writing or pick up painting as a hobby. I knew when I started working I would feel good about it, but the benchmark had been set so high that I felt discouraged.

When I was packing up to move back home, I stumbled upon a product of my literary past. I had written up a small outline of a short story sometime in January. Immediately, I wanted to drop everything, move aside the boxes from my desk, and bring the story to life.

I had an epiphany- this mindset of creating perfect art was (and is) toxic. Creativity doesn’t have to be productive. Weren’t the arts meant to be an escape from capitalist expectations of labor and product?

I am not wasting my time even if nothing comes of the writing– I am perfecting a craft.

Art didn’t need to be performative either. It didn’t have to wear the fancy label of a ‘novel’ or perform for an audience. I didn’t need to parade around and place a glossy cover over the pages. Instead, I needed to give myself permission to not even have to finish whatever project was in my drafts. Ultimately, I must accept no creative pursuit is ever wasted. I am not wasting my time if nothing comes of the writing. Rather, I am perfecting a craft. As for talent, there is no wasting that unless I don’t use it. 

The sooner I realized I could follow my creative instincts without oppressive expectations, the sooner I felt creatively liberated. Whether it be through sporadically writing a scene of a story or picking up (and putting down) a paintbrush when I feel inclined, I shouldn’t have felt pressured to fully pursue my creative urges if I didn’t want to. I should be allowed to surrender to that flurry of excitement and passion to simply express myself. Then, when the passion was over, to let it go. Truly, I didn’t even have to show my creative work to anyone or look at it ever again. 

I am teaching myself creativity isn’t meant to always be translated into something productive. The funny thing is I often did return to those pieces and paintings and continued to work on them. But that was only possible when I didn’t feel the heavy benchmark of producing a bestseller or a museum-worthy mural on my shoulders.

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How absurdism taught me to embrace the chaos in my life

“A little boy in a cowboy suit, writing in a puddle with a stick, a dog approaching. Deaf or dumb, the boy is, like anyone, a little timid, partly stupid, ashamed, afraid, like us, like you. He is there. Picture the boy. See his eyes. Sympathize with his little closes. Now, break his arm. Picture violin section. The violins are on fire. (The following is said almost without anger as if it’s just another request) Now go fuck yourselves.”
Thom Pain (Based on Nothing), Will Eno.

That’s a little absurdism for you there. The next few lines go into the character trying to sound like he’s fine, but he really isn’t. He is spiraling while trying to understand the colloquial term ‘whatever’ because he thinks it will describe how he wants to feel. Did you get that? I hope so. Because underneath the strangeness is a deep vulnerability– and joy in being alive. 

It doesn’t want to have a purpose, it embraces being purposeless.

At its core, absurdism is rooted in social activism and rebellion against the norm. At a time when everyone was taking art very seriously and enforcing standards on artist’s practices, absurdists challenged the system. They said, what if we make an art form that defies expectations by being intentionally bizarre? When everything around us is so devoid of reason, embracing irrationality and strangeness may be the next best thing. 

With the current pandemic, there is little that we can control. At first, I felt so powerless against it all. That’s when I turned to absurdism. It doesn’t want to have a purpose, it embraces being purposeless. The Dadaist slogan of “art for art’s sake” and absurdism’s love of nonsense is exactly the type of energy we need to be bringing into our lifestyles. 

Absurdism taught me to embrace chaos and life not making sense (most of the time). I spent most of my life, as I expect a majority of you did, trying to assign value to myself by the things that I achieved and the decisions I made. Wanting my life to mean something, I quickly grew desperate when things did not turn out as I imagined.

Absurdism taught me to embrace chaos and life not making sense (most of the time).

Take, for instance, applying to jobs or sharing creative work. There is a powerlessness that I feel every single time. I can’t help but think that I am putting myself out there to be judged– which I am, to a certain extent. Recently, after being ghosted by a couple of jobs I had applied to, I was starting to fear that the rest of the year would be the same. All my efforts seemed to be in vain. Keen to maintain a certain image I had of my life, I started reaching out to places that I had no interest in. But I soon became so thankful that things turned out the way they did when a professor reached out to me, excited to have me on board to work on her screenplay– something I deeply enjoyed doing.

Like that last line by Will Eno, I often forgot that life was full of surprises. I learned to be okay with it. More than that, to be happy.

By reading absurdist writers, I embraced the joy of being surprised. I found humor in unexpected things. There was a strength in accepting chaos that I did not find anywhere else. When it seems like the year is going entirely on its own path, I cling to these teachings more than ever. We can’t be stubborn and try to force the year to go in the direction we want it to. We are doing more damage by pulling on the leash and digging our feet into the ground then if we let loose a little and see where the year is headed. 

All in all, when things don’t work out, whether it is with your school, career, or relationship prospects, remind yourself that having ‘nothing’ going on shouldn’t be terrible. Just take Daniil Kharm’s The Red-Haired Man, where at the end he admits that he is writing nonsense and gives up entirely. This poem has gotten me out of all types of ruts, both creative and personal.

We can all take a note from absurdism. If we embrace chaos in this way, we can enhance our own sense of wellbeing.

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Book Club Books Pop Culture

Navigating queerness & tradition in YA fiction with Adiba Jaigirdar, author of “The Henna Wars”

Adiba Jaigirdar is an Irish-Bangladeshi writer, poet, and teacher with an MA in Postcolonial Studies. Her latest book, The Henna Wars, is a poignant story about two Muslim girls falling in love.

Be sure to check out our live Instagram event featuring Adiba and our own editor, Shaima. We’re also doing a giveaway of her book, enter now!


Adiba Jaigirdar’s debut novel The Henna Wars stems from a genuine desire to inspire joy. She was drawn to “write a story that made [her] happy and that was funny to read and fun to write.” She settled on the idea of a romantic comedy with two teen girls with rival henna businesses while “attempting (and failing) to teach [herself] henna”.

Looking to up the stakes of the girls’ rivalry, Adiba imagined what it would be like “if the two girls were also romantically attracted to each other, and grappling with what that might mean.” From there, everything else came together to make this wonderful tale of love, longing, and growing up. 

The Henna Wars revolves around themes of queerness, first love, culture, and family. Adiba interjects stories with themes that are relevant to herself and her life, and exploring them in the medium of storytelling.

Her influences range from The Princess Diaries, Hayley Kiyoko and Janelle Monáe to Bollywood film like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai which she cites as part of her introduction to romance.

She recalls the first time she encountered a person of color writing about people of color in Malorie Blackman’s Noughts and Crosses (which we love!). Reading her stories made Adiba realize that it was possible to write about people like herself.

As a queer woman of color, she acknowledges that she has a responsibility to represent her culture, gender, and sexuality in her work. “There’s a lot of pressure, especially because there aren’t a lot of novels out there about Bangladeshi teens, and even fewer about queer Bangladeshi Muslim teens,” Adiba said. “Even though realistically I know that it’s impossible to represent everything as you write a single story, I still felt the pressure of that.” 

To her, storytelling cannot be separated from politics. “Especially as a queer Muslim South Asian, there’s no way that what I write is not going to be political. My very existence is political.” 

As she writes in the contemporary era, I was curious to see what she finds unique to the time that we are currently living in. To her, this time is a time of “rising up against oppression and attempting to enact change.” Yet, she believes this has been the case for a while, as “marginalized people have been fighting for our rights for a long time. We’ve come a long way, but we still have a long way to go.” 

If this story were set in the future, she would love to say that the “characters like Nishat and Flávia wouldn’t have to worry about their sexuality, race, and culture making it more difficult for them to fit in.” However, she has her doubts. “I’m not particularly hopeful of that happening anytime in the near future.” 

For the writers out there or those interested in what happens behind the scenes, Adiba admits that her writing process is “honestly a little chaotic.” When she first begins writing, she “usually have a very basic idea of the story I want to tell. I figure out the important bits that I need to be able to write the story—the beginning, the end, and bits and pieces in the middle. Then, I begin to write and it’s a process of stringing everything together. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. Once it’s out there on the page, it’s time for me to begin revisions and shape it into something that really works.”

[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
[Image Description: Book cover of The Henna Wars, two girls with henna reaching their hands out to each other.] Via Twitter
The scenes that she enjoyed writing the most were the Bengali wedding scenes at the beginning of the book. “Bangladeshi people are obsessed with weddings, and our weddings are a whole event. So it was nice to explore that aspect of my life through the lens of a character like Nishat, who is surrounded by the familiarity of a Bangladeshi wedding, while also stumbling across her childhood crush.” 

As for how it feels to see her work being shared around the world, Adiba admits that “it still feels a little surreal.” Her dreams of being a writer when she was younger seemed to rely on her writing about straight white characters with whom she shared few experiences. Those were some of the only stories that she saw published or have mainstream success. “It was hard for me to imagine a world where someone like me could be writing stories about people like me.” 

In the future, she hopes that The Henna Wars can allow queer brown girls to see a reflection of themselves in its pages, and that it can open doors for more queer brown people to write and publish more of their own stories. 

For those that have enjoyed the latest book-to-movie adaptations like To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before or Crazy Rich Asians, Adiba shares that she would love to see The Henna Wars adapted for the big screen in the future. Especially if the potential adaptation stays true to the ethnicities of the characters.

As of now, Adiba is revising her second novel, which will be out from Page Street in spring 2021. It’s another YA romantic comedy which follows two girls—one Bangladeshi Bengali and one Indian Bengali—who have to start a fake relationship in order to achieve what they want. 

Have you entered our Instagram giveaway yet? And if you absolutely cannot wait, get The Henna Wars on Amazon or on The Tempest’s own virtual bookshop supporting local bookstores.
Family Life

An ode to my grandparents – people straight out of a storybook

When I was little I would start fights with my sister, and when she started to fight back I’d immediately run to the landline and dial my grandparent’s number. That was one of the only phone numbers I knew, and they’d always pick up. At the time I thought they also always took my side. In hindsight, they probably just listened to me babble for as long as I wanted to.

As you get older, you start to formulate a sense of who your family members are as individuals, not just in their roles in your life. When I think of my grandparents, there are two stories that perfectly encapsulate the people I witnessed them to be.

For my grandmother, it’s a story about food. This is fitting because food was something she was known for. She could make cakes and puddings as well as she could make full-blown meals. She was responsible for a lot of our more popular lunch boxes. When she couldn’t really walk that well anymore she had to stop cooking. It must have upset her but she never seemed to dwell on it too much. She’d ask us if we remembered the cakes she used to make and of course we did, she taught us how to make them. 

When she was really sick in the hospital she had to wear an oxygen mask but she would regularly take it off to talk to people. Never for time-sensitive emergencies, just for chats. One of the things she lifted her oxygen mask off to say in her last few days was a reminder to put sugar in her tea. 

She was a diabetic and regularly got yelled at her for her poor management of the illness. But she’d been told she could have sugar in her tea and she wasn’t going to let that slide. She would never let her circumstances get to her. The smallest things were all she needed to make her happy, just sugar in her tea. Everyone thought she didn’t realize how sick she really was. If she did know, then she’s a lot braver than I thought possible. Truly nothing could get her down. Not sickness, not a hospital visit, not even having trouble breathing.

While my grandmother carried the scent of freshly baked cake and the sunny disposition of someone who loved all the world and knew the value of a good meal, my grandfather was the clacking of typewriter keys, shuffling of slippers, and Lacto Calamine lotion.

Once he was in his eighties, my grandfather, for all intents and purposes, was bald. The top of his head was no-hairs-land, aside from a few stragglers. After I started university, I’d see them every couple of months on holidays when I came back home, and each time there seemed to be more hair on his head. 

At first, I put it down to me misremembering what his head looked like between trips. But after a while it was undeniable, he had a full head of white hair. More than, or equal to the amount he had when I was younger. It blew my mind but no one else, who saw him more often, seemed to have noticed. 

To make things even more mysterious, every time I questioned him about it he’d just smile secretly to himself and deny doing anything to prompt it. He was over 85 at this point and there he was, full head of hair and not revealing how it got there. The rest of the family took it casually, the hair had grown gradually, right before their very eyes so it wasn’t as dramatic as it was to me. I was completely distracted by it, I would talk about it constantly to anyone who would listen and finally, he told me. 

“I massage baby oil into my head every day.”

That was the big reveal, and that was my grandfather. He could reverse balding. I wouldn’t have been surprised if he made it happen with the sheer force of his own will. 

My grandparents left us last year. I went to university and it felt like they had both just disappeared when I came back. They’ve left us with a lot of memories and a vacuum where their endless pride, blind faith, and love went for over twenty years. 

During the few key events that have happened without my grandparents, there’s always a – “they would’ve been so proud to see that, it would have made them so happy” moment. But honestly, while I do agree that it would make them proud and happy, that was their constant state of being when it came to us. There is no way I can imagine my grandparents being proud-er or happier with their grandkids. It was as if they reached the zenith of pride and happiness when we were born and never came down from there.

That’s my theory anyway, I can’t think of any other explanation for it. There was really no plausible reason for them to think so highly of us. 

These two stories capture who they were as people to me. As grandparents, they were straight out of a book, and I will always aspire to be half as great as they already believed I was from day one.

Career Coronavirus Now + Beyond

Zoom bombers reminded me why I cherish teaching

Like many teachers in the age of COVID-19, I’ve switched to virtual classrooms (Zoom) as of late. It’s been two months since I last stood in a classroom, since I last had a thriving discussion about Poe’s work or Bradbury’s prose

It’s a peculiar experience, this feeling of teaching literature – a form that so heavily relies on a connection between pen and paper, person and prose, real life discussion – through a screen. But we’ve been steadily moving, finding ways to decipher this new reality. 

Last week, I came across some articles about zoom bombers: someone crashing your Zoom and disrupting it, much like photobombing. I skimmed through them, not thinking too much about it. People had also been sending me a lot of videos with jokes being played on teachers à la zoom bombers, but I just brushed them off. It wasn’t until a few days after, when it happened to me, that I realized how deeply disturbing and disrespectful it could be. I was teaching a class, one that I’d spent the entire previous afternoon preparing when it was disrupted – I quickly removed the intruder and carried on. 

Because as a teacher, that’s what you do. You pick yourself up and keep moving. I’ve always been really impatient as a person, but teaching is the one thing that’s made me learn some patience. You can’t do it without any.

Teaching isn’t pretty.

And then came the next set of zoom bombers. This one was worse. The crasher came in, abusing, cursing, just totally taking away from the entire environment I had crafted for the day. It made me think about how the teenage mind works, how they believe that they’re invincible, and that repercussions and accountability don’t exist for them. Sometimes, respect isn’t given at all, only taken and honestly, it shocks me. I barely remember that feeling, the one where fear didn’t exist in my heart, and actions were the first means of communication before words. 

The class progressively got worse. Another crasher came in and played a recording of sex noises. I was disturbed, yes. But more than that, I was afraid. Afraid for the future of children who think like that, for those who are constantly on the mode of attack for the simple sake of humor. And humor to what extent? No one knows. 

My mind can’t fathom what makes someone act this way – but that’s alright. And the irony of the situation is that it says a lot more about them than it does about me.

This is why I teach.

I confronted my students, reported the incident, and carried on. But what I didn’t expect is how the students (the ones that come here to learn, to grow, to expand their thinking) reacted. My email flooded with apologies and appreciation and I was reminded – this is why I teach.

Classroom management in a virtual world is new to us and we’re all still learning. There will be bumps and bruises along the way but teaching isn’t meant to be pretty. It accepts the flaws that come with it and works on tackling them in the best way possible.

That one moment where the students sit quietly in awe of the way a story comes together – or a character has her moment of absolution – or a poet evokes some form of greater understanding – that’s everything. And that’s why there’s never a dull day in this line of work.

Zoom is an average substitute, and the virtual classroom is the only thing we can cling to right now – but we, as teachers, and educators know that human connection, the passing down of knowledge, the exchange of ideas – that’s where the real learning comes from. 

Tech Now + Beyond

Has technology ever betrayed you at the worst time and caused nightmares?

What’s the worst thing technology has ever done to you? Last year in the middle of my advanced public speaking class, my computer decided to update, which is annoying but not completely unusual. Computers always seem to have an update at the most inconvenient times.

This time, however, it took five hours to update, and then I received a “disk error” message.

war games explosion GIF by MANGOTEETH
[Image description: a series of computers explode]
Long story short, my computer never turned on again and my hard drive was completely erased. I was poor and couldn’t afford a new computer or to get my files extracted. So my roommate and I spent hours on the internet trying to build a new hard drive on her computer and download it onto my broken one.

It didn’t go so well.

I lost my school work, some of my articles for The Tempest, and every important file I’d ever saved on my computer, moreover, I was left laptopless for a month. I’m still feeling the effects today. I couldn’t access some of my older tax returns that I needed for financial aid this year. It’s like this nightmare won’t end.

Technology is great – don’t get me wrong, and is helpful in an infinite amount of ways, but sometimes it can hurt us more than help us. Even if it doesn’t hurt us, sometimes it can just be downright creepy, like Siri screaming random messages into the night, or seeing ads for a product you merely thought of that day.

It may be a dystopian ideal, but sometimes I can’t help but feel that our technology is out to get us or at least watching us very closely.

suspicious thats so raven GIF
[image description: woman chews gum and rapidly looks left and right in fear.]
So let us know if technology has every betrayed you or caused you nightmares in this anonymous survey, and you might be featured in a future Tempest fam article!

TV Shows Movies Pop Culture

My depression makes it impossible for me to watch dystopian sci-fi shows like Black Mirror and here’s why

I need to issue an apology to my best friend for that one time we watched an episode of Black Mirror.

She had already seen all available episodes of the show whereas I had avoided it. However this evening, we were having a grand old time showing each other videos and episodes of tv shows the other hadn’t seen yet and so when she suggested Black Mirror, I said yes. I had heard positive feedback, even if part of that feedback focused on how desolate the show was.

We watched just one episode and it wasn’t even that tragic relative to the others, but after this episode, I spiraled into a brief depressive crisis. Oh my goodness, I thought, there’s no hope for humanity, we’re all awful, we’re all doomed, what’s the point of even trying?

A birds-eye view of a black, white, and gray spiral.
Via [Image description: A birds-eye view of a black, white, and gray spiral.]
A good time was had by none.

I tend to respond very strongly to what I watch. Some might call it being overly empathetic to fictional characters. I am a sympathetic crier in response to those I see on the screen, and I get disproportionately mad on behalf of characters when it comes to injustice. So when a dystopian show like Black Mirror comes along, I take it perhaps a little too seriously. Balance that with walking the tightrope of depression and anxiety, and it turns out a show like Black Mirror and a girl like me do not make a healthy fit.

There are a lot of dystopian shows and movies out there of this vein, that in some ways act as a warning for humanity. A great degree of popular series tend to focus on the destruction of humanity. Maybe humans are needing to be shot into space because we have neglected this earth. Maybe a zombie apocalypse has broken out because we have neglected one another. Maybe robots have have finally taken over because we have neglected our own decision making skills. The message is consistent: we are destroying ourselves and our world and hurtling towards a doom of our own making.

The stories we tell are shaped by us as we are by them. The stories that resonate with us say something about us. If there is an uptick in the popularity of apocalyptic tales, maybe we really are more fearful of our own demise than ever before, and these shows act as a warning or a wakeup call.

Entertainment and art serve different purposes for different people. For some, these dystopian shows are a call to action. “Wake up!” they shout, “and do something to prevent this.” Or maybe they show the inevitable, and instead say “this is your future, deal with it.” Or perhaps people don’t see these shows as indicative of what’s to come at all, but just a way to be entertained.

When I take in fictional media about how we have doomed ourselves, I tend to walk away feeling dejected. The world is horrible, people are horrible, everything is horrible. These sentiments fuel my depression (as if it wasn’t already self-sustaining), and leave me feeling hopeless and empty. When this is the case, instead of taking these warnings as cues, I curl into a ball and wonder what the point is anyways. Maybe this is a sign of a weak mind or a weak will, but it’s where I’m at right now.

This rabbit hole is at the very least unproductive. Even if there is a part of me that feels like I need to do something to make the world better, it drowns in despair. As such, I tend to stay away from these dystopian stories of desolation. Until recently, I tended to beat myself up over this. Does this mean I can’t handle hard truths? There is a performance to everything, and perhaps the performance of being an intellectual and someone who cares about pain in the world means taking in inconvenient truths.

But what is performance without productivity? What is useful about the performance is it takes away from our ability to actually be useful?

Right now, for me, it comes down to productivity. If I am at a point right now where I need to fuel myself with hopeful stories instead of tragic ones, than that’s what I need to do. There is difference between what is performative and what is productive. It is imperative we understand the difference for each of us.

Books Pop Culture

I’m a plain old adult who still reads young adult novels and I don’t feel bad about it

In a world and time where it feels everything is constantly changing, it is nice to know that the place I feel most at peace continues to be in any space surrounded by books. When I am anxious or overwhelmed, I have the routine that lets me breathe again, even if it’s just briefly. I head over to my local library or bookstore, head straight to the young adult fiction section, and judge books by their covers and titles in order to find an escapist gem. However, recently something has changed. Seemingly all of a sudden I have reached my mid-twenties and change has come to find me here too, where I least expected.

David Bowie sings "Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes."
Via [Image description: A man, David Bowie, sings “Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes.”]
I have read young adult novels since before I was a young adult. It started with fantasy. I was always drawn to fractured fairy tales as a child and, as I hit middle school, this evolved into reading books on the same topics but with heroines slightly older than me. I remember realizing I had read everything that interested me in the my neighborhood library’s children’s section and first venturing over the the teen fiction section. It felt like a thrilling transgression (clearly, I was a very tame child). And there I would stay and explore for so many years, eventually dipping into books about young women in high school who had to save their families, go to war, work at their aunt’s beauty salons, and, often, get the guy.

There is a misconception that young adult novels are all poorly written soapy nonsense and that people who read them are intellectually lax, and there are a few issues I take with this sentiment. Firstly, some books are definitely poorly written soapy nonsense and sometimes that is what I like to read because it is fun and there is nothing actually wrong with that. Secondly, a good book is a good book. Some young adult novels are bad just as plenty of fully fledged adult novels are bad, and some are likewise incredibly beautiful. Genre does not equal quality. 

Third, and perhaps most significant, is the fact that young adult novels often feature some sort of transformation. Young adult novels and coming-of-age novels are not necessarily synonymous, but many of the YA novels I have read happen to be both. Growing into a person of increased consciousness, or becoming self-actualized, are themes that I hope I am always interested in. Humans’ capacity for growth is one of the most interesting parts of us, and it just so happens that, because many YA novels take place during the time of people’s lives where they are growing into lightly older adults, they feature plenty of growth.

A lovely red flower grows out of a pot and then retreats into itself.
Via [Image description: A red flower grows out of a pot and then retreats back into itself.]
I used to witness this growth as instructive. As someone who has always had a difficult time with self-actualization, being able to read about and feel like a part of someone else discovering themselves felt like getting the opportunity to feel less alone, and like there might be hope that I too could get there, to a point of growth and acceptance.

Now, however, I find myself in my mid-twenties never having experienced the great loves or quests of these stories that would change me for the better. I graduated high school, and eventually college, without discovering my passion or the love of my life. I read about teens having these experiences and wonder “what’s wrong with me?” Why am I not living my life more dynamically, or taking more risks? Why am I stagnant when these characters grow in front of me?

The answer, of course, draws another question: Why am I comparing my life to those of primarily white fictional teenagers? Or anyone, for that matter?

I still read young adult novels. I still like reading books that I find fun and still enjoy finding characters I connect with. I am still interested in this time of life where so much can change, and I, admittedly, still find safety in the familiarity of some of these stories and tropes. Change has happened whether I like it or not, though, and hopefully for the better. There is more diversity in the stories YA authors are writing and this is truly a blessing. I tried seeking out any YA novels I could featuring South Asian American protagonists and with each passing year, more of these characters are borne and that is exciting. I hope to keep bearing witness to the stories, now, of brown and black women growing and changing.

I have also started drifting into the “fiction” section of my local library as I once did the “teen fiction” section, and making a new home there. It is a slow shift, but I have found friends in these shelves as well. And some of them are growing and changing, too, just as I continue to.

Love The World

Survivors of sexual abuse blew up the Internet by sharing their stories with #MeToo

Following the Weinstein scandal earlier this week, a few daring women in Hollywood took to social media to confess their stories of sexual abuse. And soon after, the hashtag #metoo took the internet by storm, encouraging women from all walks of life to come forward with their stories.

The Me Too campaign has actually been around for a long time. Long before hashtags were a popular thing, in 2007, Tarana Burke started the Me Too campaign as a way to connect with survivors of sexual abuse from unprivileged communities.

The purpose of this incarnation of Me Too, #metoo, was to demonstrate just how prevalent sexual harassment and assault are. As social media became flooded with #metoo, it became clear that almost every woman, if not literally every woman, has experienced some sort of sexual abuse.

Telling the world about sexual abuse can feel humiliating and super vulnerable, so coming forward isn’t as easy as it looks. Hopefully the #metoo campaign will normalize discussion of sexual abuse, help people see that this is more common than we think, and help victims of abuse get the relief and support they need.

But this is just the beginning of the revolution that will put the perpetrator in their rightful place.

The Tempest gathered some of the most impactful #metoo tweets, and this is what we learned.

1. Choosing to tell your story is empowering, not shameful. Let’s get that straight.

2. The more we embrace that this happens all the time, the higher are the chances of reducing such encounters.

3. It doesn’t happen just to women. That’s a common misconception.

4. It’s starting important conversations.

5. Victims of sexual violence are getting the support they need.

6. It’s time we stop blaming the victim for “instigating” the perp.

7. It’s so easy to think that it’s all in your head.

8. Deciding not to share your story doesn’t make you weak. It’s your choice.

9. No means no. Not maybe, not later, not ever.

10. Some might choose to ignore the movement, but at least the suppressed have a platform now.

11. Give your loved ones the support they need.

12. What’s surprising is that this is overdue for several decades now.

13. Don’t brush it off just because you haven’t experienced it.

14. It’s time we accepted that this is more common than we think.

15. Knowing that the encounter was of sexual nature begins with the right education.

16. Sexual assault isn’t just rape culture. It’s an unwanted act that makes the victim feel vulnerable and exposed.

17. It happens in the workplace too.

18. For some, these experiences have made them stronger than ever.

19. Don’t let this experience define you. Take this and show them that you’re undeterred.

20. Don’t apologise for being the victim.

BRB Gone Viral Pop Culture

I stopped reading Cosmo because I have enough patriarchal nonsense in my life

I used to read Cosmo often as a teen but once I entered college, I left it behind. That was largely due to the fact that in college, I did not have the luxury of finding spare time to read magazines.

If I did have a free moment, I spent it napping.

I really didn’t give Cosmo another thought until it popped up on Snapchat with its own story.  Cosmo, like various other media companies and news outlets, has its own story on Snapchat under the “Featured” section so users don’t have to buy the magazine or even visit the website.

Many of the quick articles Cosmo posts are interesting and helpful: for instance, there are pieces about beauty hacks, budget management, and STD information.

However, the one obnoxious trend that prevents me from opening up Cosmo’s Snapchat stories is Cosmo’s tendency to insert narratives or lists describing what cis men desire from or find attractive in women.  These range from men’s favorite sex positions to what type of personality traits men want in girlfriends. I find these articles tedious and degrading.  Men already insert themselves in conversations where they are not needed or wanted too often.

I, and most women, get unsolicited opinions and advice from men on an almost daily basis.

I don’t want to go on Snapchat and be confronted about what kind of sex they want from me or how they want me to have ambition, but not stress over small things.

Their comments are irrelevant.

If Cosmo was founded for women, then why are readers getting advice from men they never asked for?

The ridiculous lists about “what guys secretly want in bed” are the unsolicited dick pics of journalism.  Why should women care about what men want during sex, especially while reading a publication that is supposed to empower and inspire women?  How about publishing detailed diagrams of the clitoris, so men can actually find the damn thing and get us off for once?

If a woman wants to know what her fuck buddy, boyfriend, or husband wants, she will most likely ask him and they will hopefully discuss what works for both individuals.

Women don’t need Cosmo to bring in a small army of twenty-something fuckboys to project their own insecurities or bitch that women who aren’t chill and laid-back are no fun to be around.  Cosmo seems to need women to believe that men’s assumptions about sex and relationships carry some type of significance.


This is a classic example of straight, cis men being in spaces they don’t belong.  As a reader, I don’t want to find out what guys “really think” about blowjobs, orgasms, the ideal date, women’s personalities, or marriage.

I want to read articles that have positive supportive rhetoric surrounding women’s bodies, sexuality, and lifestyles.  By giving men a platform to voice their (often dense) opinions of women, Cosmo simply sets women up to be objects of desire and gratification for men.

I’ve avoided Cosmo for the most part because I am not interested in seeing “surprising quirks” that turn men on.  My friends and I often lament about the absurdity of men sexualizing women in women’s magazines. 

 I don’t want men speculating about my body, my clothes, or my life goals, whether it be in person or in print.

Love + Sex Love Life Stories

I was ghosted by my soulmate – after he promised we’d be together forever

The moment he told me the news – that he was to be transferred to another state, I was crushed. It was far away from where we both lived, on the other side of the country. We were both unhappy about it and in a second, everything just turned gloomy.

I was hoping for him to stay when he said he was going to refuse the job transfer. But the hope was broken as his employer’s decision was final. With great reluctance, he had to agree. It was either that or find another job. We couldn’t let that happened just for the sake of our unwillingness, so sacrifice had to be made.

For his own good, I had let him go.

The first two months were tough, living far away from each other while still trying to keep in touch. We couldn’t live without hearing each other’s voices every day and we had video chats every week. At first, we were talking about adjusting to our new long-distance relationship. We shared stories about what happening to us every day. Sometimes we stayed on the phone, without talking but just doing our own thing.

It felt as if we were next to each other. It was nice to feel his presence, just not as much as before.

But it was better than nothing.

On the third month, he started to get busier. He gave excuses for working overtime or being sick. We stopped video chatting, and then our phone calls got less and less until we finally stopped talking completely. The only thing we did was texting, but it wasn’t as much as the first two months.

That’s all we did for the whole third month. On the fourth month, we barely texted. There was no longer good morning or good night texts like he used to do. It took him hours to finally reply to my messages, sometimes he ignored it. But I was the one to text him first the whole time. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t hear anything from him at all.

At first, I thought it was nothing. I believed him when he said he was getting busier. But it had been two months and I could feel that something was wrong. As if he tried to avoid from talking to me. Or that he found someone new. I convinced myself that it wasn’t true and he wasn’t a cheater. But I couldn’t shake the feeling.

I started to have a fear of losing him.

Until one day, he blocked me.

He completely blocked me in everything. My number and all my social media. He made sure that I could never reach him.

I couldn’t describe the intense the shock, the pain, and the heartbreak. It was so overwhelming. I tried everything to find him but to no avail. He really wanted to completely cut me out of his life.

Broken-hearted, I waited for him. For weeks I sat on my bed, staring at my phone and waiting for his name to pop up on the screen. I locked myself in my bedroom. I spent my time in tears as I hopelessly waited for him to contact me. At the same time, there were a lot of questions on my mind.

What is happening? Did something happen to him? How could he do this to me? What have I done wrong? Does he not love me anymore?

After what seemed like an eternity, I came into a realization – I’d been ghosted.

He was just gone. He left me confused and powerless. It was torture – living in ambiguity after what he did. I still kept hoping he’d contact me, but I knew the chance was nil. To say my life was miserable was an understatement.

Ghosting is the worst way to break up with someone and it was selfish for him to do that, leaving without saying anything. Our relationship ended without closure. He didn’t let me have a say in it. I questioned my self-worth because I felt disrespected. Was I not even worthy enough to merit a breakup?

To me, this was absolute emotional cruelty.

But in the end, I realized that I wasn’t at fault in this. Being ghosted says nothing about my worthiness or my value. There was nothing wrong with me. If anything, it was he who didn’t have the courage to deal.

It took me forever to completely get over being ghosted. The only thing I could do was to let go and focus on the things that make me happy. And that’s good enough closure for me.

It has to be.