To the Kids Who Try Too Hard

(OR:  Please Agree with Me on the Internet so I Feel Like Less of a Freak of Nature, Thanks.)

In highschool, there was a light at the end of the over-achiever tunnel. I thought I would work like crazy for four years, get into the perfect college – rolling in well-deserved scholarship money – and be set for life.

I did everything right. I took five AP tests in one year. I stayed up all night reading the Communist Manifesto when I could have easily made up the answers in my workbook. I agonized over every essay and every assignment.

I didn’t get into that college. Right now, I’m working two jobs while taking 15 credit hours. My first summer during college I had two internships, worked part-time, and took classes online. I pulled my first all-nighter in 9th grade, and now I do it almost once a week. The light is gone and the tunnel has turned so many times, I don’t know if I’m heading in the right direction any more.

People like me try so hard because we want a lot. We want crazy intangible things (like making an impact on society), and maybe frivolous things too (like a collection of Tolkien swords, pleasepleaseplease). We have high standards for everything, mostly ourselves, and that’s okay.

But never forget to be kind to yourself. When you’re only getting three hours of sleep a night, there isn’t anything else you can do.

You do the absolute best you can and – at the end of your day, week, year, and life – you have to be satisfied with the results of your efforts, regardless of the reward. You tried everything possible and, yeah, you probably did deserve better on that stupid gen-ed essay, but you have to disassociate yourself with whatever comes out in the end. You are your art, your effort, and your lovely, over-achieving heart, not the results.

It’s a hard thing to remember. I cried the first time I got a ‘B’ in a class, and it still stresses me out (plenty of ‘B’s’ later). You will never stop working towards your goals. You can’t. But you are whole without them; you have always been whole.

Work hard, kid, but never think less of yourself because you’re still working.

XX. Shelby Jo



I decided to post a short essay that I wrote for class recently. This is the first school related piece that I have enjoyed writing for a long time, so I hope you enjoy it too!


I encountered X Ambassadors in the later days of my transition from pop punk groupie to pretentious folk listener. I struggled to place their organic but still very rock sound, so I stood awkwardly cradling the Love Songs Drug Songs EP for several months, afraid to release the band to the void, but alternately unsure of where they belonged in my musical pantheon. X Ambassadors eventually slipped through the cracks as the number of artists in this middle ground grew, but “Love Songs Drug Songs,” the title song of the 2013 EP, stuck with me because no matter when or where I listened to it, I found myself within the song.

This connection has little to do with the song’s lyrics. They had nothing to do with me and, in fact, at the time I probably had no idea what half of them meant. But if the lyrics are the message, it was the packaging of “Love Songs Drug Songs” that enamored me. The pauses between the dominating drum beats and the raw sound of Sam Harris’s voice saying it is the last time he was going to “put you back together,” deliver a message no lyrics could. The brief, half seconds with no sound, no words or music, pause the moment and allow for reflection. Though the lyrics are angry and dismal, the pauses reveal the true tragedy of the song. The music stops, and the listener’s eyes flutter closed, wondering if this really is the last time. Then the drum pounds and your heart starts again and you are back in the music, away from yourself.

Such a moment of raw introspection allows every listener to connect with the song, regardless their current situation or past experiences. “Love Songs Drug Songs” becomes the universal truth all music promises to be. Because, in these silent moments, the listener puts his or herself into the song and the gritty narrative of the anthem becomes about him or her. In the quiet before the music transitions and Harris sings “I look you in the eyes” for the second time, the listener becomes immersed in his or her own story. We need the keyboard to come in with its quick trill, to pull us away from ourselves and on to whatever comes next in the song that has become the voice of our personal tragedies.

Rather than providing breaths of fresh air, the pauses in “Love Songs Drug Songs” yank the listener’s breath away. They force us to look at the tragedy. As with the split second before the car crash, you cannot turn away from the horror you know will occur. While the music plays we can dance or sing, “jamming,” to gloss over the true meaning, in the same way we live nonstop twenty-first century lives, always connected, always thinking about what comes next, but never focused on the present. But the pauses force us to stop and think, to fixate on what is currently around us. We may fear the tragedies that will come to light, but they illuminate glimpses of brilliant emotions. The silence of the music, in a twisted irony, forces us to open ourselves and feel what no tragedy can take away.

XX. Shelby Jo

Weekly Goal: 3,000

Weekly Count: 138

Total Count: 12,992


On Art School

“Wait, so…you’re going to a design school…to study writing?”

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard some variation of that question. And no response I give is sufficient. When people hear Creative Writing, especially coupled with art school, they automatically put me into a “future-unemployment-going-back-to-college-to-get-a-reasonable-career-to-pay-off-your-masses-of-student-loans-well-why-didn’t-you-do-that-in-the-first-place-you-twit” box in their minds.

Well, let me tell you…

(Or, more accurately, them)

  1. Writing is an art, okay? Whether creative or technical, writing requires a specific skill set that needs to be honed and trained just like any other talent.
  2. By attending a creative college, I am making connections with the future of my industry. I am meeting and forming relationships with the next generation of writers, publishers, film makers, animators, actors, advertisers, illustrators, and so, so many more.
  3. By attending a creative college (especially one as well known as SCAD) I’m also making connections with current industry leaders and E M P L O Y E R S. I’m working with them to learn industry and company standards so that I can, in fact, get a job out of college (because I will actually have masses of student loans).
  4. While it is important I get a job, I also want to have a unique and personal artistic voice. I want this creative basis for my career, and my life. In art school, I’m learning just what my voice is, as well as how to make it commercial and marketable for my future.
  5. There is no “going-back-to-college-to-get-a-reasonable-career” for me. I want to be a writer. No other career will suffice; I am a writer. This is the path I have chosen to my future and it is the path upon which I will succeed.

XX. Shelby Jo

Weekly Goal: 5,000

Weekly Count: 228

Total Count: 4,754

*Yah, I know my word count is pathetic, I’m working on it. As long as I wrote something, it’s still an accomplishment.

Day 7

Literally nothing happened today… >_> … <_< … -_-

I registered for my winter quarter classes this morning and worked a Film Fest shift in the afternoon. And then worked on homework. And, believe it or not, today was one of the first days here (weekend days for sure) that actually went by relatively quickly. I got a lot accomplished, but the day didn’t drag on and I didn’t just want to go to bed all day. Are things getting better or am I just adjusting to it?

Sorry this “blog everyday” thing is turning out to be such a drag. Film Festival didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but, then again, nothing ever does.

Have a great weekend!

  • Shelby Jo

Day 6

I worked another festival shift this morning, which means I have two days and two shifts left to go! I’m ready to go back to semi-normal life (tbh, going to be singing Next to Normal for like a week now). But that probably isn’t going to happen, because once the festival and Halloween are over, everything is going to be geared towards final exams and projects for the quarter.

Speaking of which, tomorrow I’m registering for Winter Quarter classes and I’m pretty nervous about it. Class sequencing is definitely harder than it looks! And at this point, I’m terrified to waste even a single penny. *sigh* Let the starving artist life begin…

Third and final thought for tonight is that I changed my url. It’s probably going to change again, once I find something that will work for both WordPress and Tumblr, but for now it’s Tell your friends! Get it tattooed on your forehead! SPREAD THE WORD!

Buenos noches, mi amor xx. Shelby Jo

Day 5

I just finished my reception shift, and I’m sad to say it wasn’t particularly exciting. I’ve decided that I probably won’t volunteer again, and that I would enjoy the experience more as an attendee. I’m glad I did it this year, of course, and I’ve hopefully somewhat of a positive reputation amongst these folks.

Here are some photos from the week so far! I’m internally weeping because, even though I caught a glimpse of him last night, I haven’t been able to get any pictures of Alfie Allen.

photo 1

Mandatory (but still obnoxious) uniform selfie

photo 2


photo 4

The crowds outside on opening night, waiting to see Suffragette.

photo 3

There were street performers, music, and a lights show to entertain the crowds as they waited for Olivia Wilde.

photo 1 copy

A really long distance picture of Ms. Wilde. (But, really, you can even tell she’s G O R G E O U S from this far away)

photo 2

A zoom-ier picture of her, and Reed Morano, director of Meadowland.

photo 3 copy

Saoirse bein’ sassy and glam.

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Saoirse bein’ eloquent and sassy and glam. She’s the whole package.

Night, baes – Shelby Jo