Behind the scenes with Isabel; part-time barista, full-time student, and aspiring journalist who believes in using media to fight injustice.
What does an average day look like for you? What would your perfect day look like?
An average day looks like me oversleeping until 11 or 12, going to work from 2-9:30, then heading home and watching tv with my dad until he falls asleep. After that, I will eat and stay up way too late.
A perfect day would be me going into my newsroom for the school newspaper early–around nine–and bringing some Starbucks. I’d edit three or four articles, hold a meeting, assign a lot of articles, go to class, overeat at home, and fall asleep promptly at 11. Some days are like that and those are the good days when I feel alive…when I feel like my life is going someplace.
So how do you think others perceive your life?
How busy I am is romanticized, but I feel like I haven’t been myself because I haven’t been doing things for myself. I haven’t finished reading a book in a year. I’ll start a bunch of books and never finish them and it feels so empty, as if by leaving books unfinished I’m losing parts of my life. I just don’t have time to get to endings. When I get home from work or school I’m exhausted and I want to do something really numbing so I don’t have to think because I don’t have the energy to.
The grind never ends.
If you’re always so stressed, how do you unwind when you’re completely alone?
Porn helps. Everyone is absorbed by it in some way; you open the internet or watch a movie and it’s there so why pretend like we’re scandalized by it? Cigarettes help too. Standing outside by myself for six minutes a day every few hours is the highlight of my life. It’s not fun when somebody walks by and I know I deserve that look they’re giving me, but on campus, it’s an easy way to start talking to people.
Is that different than when you’re with other people?
I don’t smoke around people. My need to smoke comes on when I’m alone and alone with my thoughts. I laugh way more when I’m with people. I laugh when I’m alone, too, but then I start getting looks from people again.
I can’t remember who but someone once said we have three faces. We have the face that we show in public, the face that we show to our family and the face that we only show to ourselves. You’re never the same you are alone than you are with other people. We like to convince ourselves that we’re different because we always want to be something else.
Where do you think your actions are going to lead?
I will constantly be distancing myself from my family and in twenty years I’ll be regretful for that because times sweetens memories, but right now it’s what I need. I feel the responsibility to take care of them, even though I’m the youngest and trying the best to build something for myself. Memories are like sugary wine–they taste so sweet that you become drunk on remembering but it’s an illusion.
I’ll either have a career in what I want, and I’ll probably be constantly disappointed with where I am so I’ll be always striving to do more and climb higher. Or I’ll be dead. But hopefully, I don’t die.
Do you mean that?
Well, no. I don’t really mean hopefully. That’s part of the mask. The only reason I’m still alive is because of the act I’m putting on for everybody. My backstage behavior wants me to die but my front stage behavior realizes that it’s not healthy.
The reason Sylvia Plath called her book the bell jar is because bell jars put out candles and she felt like she was stifled by her life. She couldn’t breathe under it. A lot of problems Plath had stemmed from her femininity and the pressures of 1950’s society on her as a woman. It was incredibly constricting.
So you’re not happy?
No. I’m not as great as I want to be, I haven’t been reading, putting in enough work in the newspaper, and I’ve been putting too much time in a fruitless part-time job. The thing I’m putting most of my energy into just for money is a dead end.
If this isn’t the life you want, how do you see yourself getting to it?
I don’t like the ritual in my life, it feels very monotonous. The past six months have been the longest stretch of my life. I turned 19 a week ago but I feel like that week has lasted four months already, you know what I mean? Usually, I’m surprised by time.
I would love to go to Brooklyn for a summer and work with Vice. Also, go full time to school and do all of my homework because that’s the only thing that’s really preventing me from getting spotless grades. If I had a good GPA I could get a good internship, then that experience could lead to a good job and put my foot in the door. It would be full circle.
The problem with being a journalist who wants to uncover the shitty aspects of the world is that going overseas would be really hard because of how women are treated around the world. Especially in places where they really need people, they’re not as safe for women as they are for men, which limits my options.
In a lot of ways, society is an outlet for me to express myself but it’s mostly a cage because society tells me I can only do these things in certain ways. It’s confining. There are limits and rules for being a girl, for being feminine, for being bisexual, for being biracial and for creating. The best journalists need to go anywhere and uncover any story out there but under these rules I can’t go where I need to be.
I’ve been placed under labels for what I am and there’s pressure to conform to them. But I’m trying to overcome them every day and I hope one day I will.