Tuesday, May 26, 2015

A Poem for Today

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting -
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things

An experiment: please write to me at helenfromthelistserve[AT]gmail.com if this poem matters to you in some way.

Palo Alto, CA

Monday, May 25, 2015

little lies I tell myself until I start believing them

Yesterday, I did the math. I tallied up the hours spent in a cramped room with a laptop surrounded by people doing the same. If my job’s based on 160-hour months, then so far this year I’ve worked through June. It was 8 pm. I almost fell asleep in the elevator. This is leading to something. I'm counting all this time spent 26 floors up as time spent with my head scraping the sky. I have to.

My last cigarette ever was in the Mojave desert, bathing in moonlight halfway up the Kelso Dunes with a Mag-Lite and a bottle of scotch. I felt small, quiet, so I promised to myself that I’d reach the summit someday when I’m not off an overnight Vegas bender, with proper gear and a lung cleaner of tar. That was New Year's.

I could never see myself living in New York. I’ve got so many ghosts in New York. Hell, everyone’s got ghosts in New York. Chicago’s a smaller, cleaner take on that city, brutally cold but with humble Midwestern charm. The spring may thaw, but this winter softened me. I like falling asleep to the gradients of purple and white the sky paints on my windows.

Years ago at a cafĂ© called Antidote, I sat in stilted silence and felt heartbeats trickle through the floorboards. On the table next to me was a small wooden box. It’s there right now, it’s gotta be. In it was a scrap of paper with a Khalil Gibran quote that's still sticky in the back of my memory: “…Ever has it been known that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”

I’m a copywriter. I was even featured on Modern Copywriter, but a year or so removed now I wonder how much of that was a crock. I write a lot for social media. I goad myself into calling what I do “commercial art”, that the kind of writing I'm burning out on is poetry. The distillation of a single idea to its barest bones. But I’m not a poet, not like that, not anymore.

Mental illness has me convinced I'm living a massive prank. Whenever I have too much red wine or more often, when I don’t, I live as a wound spring. Teetering, waiting until my ears start ringing. Waiting to wrestle with my darker corners. But I'm better than them. I can love until loving grows ragged. Until rain tears down sewers, until the front door goes creaky. I can care.

The odd, misshapen hollowness pulling at me will fill. I’m someone who hurts weary, listless. I’m typing this sitting on my couch in my underwear with soapy fingertips. If only I were a praying man.


Some letters I’ll dedicate this email to: J for introducing me to The Listserve, A for pushing me to keep creating, V for being my art director and somehow tolerating this nonsense.

Still can't believe I won the Listserve. Considering I also beat the odds of the H1-B visa lottery (look it up and tell me it's not massively fucked) a few weeks ago, maybe I should buy some scratch-offs.

I’m @ananter on most social media. Look me up and say hello, that’d be really nice. If you like my writing, there's more at arbitrarynumbers (dot) com. Thanks for reading.

Chicago, IL

Sunday, May 24, 2015

On living a queer werido life.

I spent most of my life believing that if you were gay, you must have known it from a young age. Most of the coming-out stories I had heard involved always feeling different and just knowing that you were, most definitely, not straight. I believed this until about three years ago.

Three years ago, I found myself in a social group of mostly gay women and whenever I was asked if I was gay, I said no. This was not a lie. I have self identified as straight my whole life…I’ve had crushes on boys since I was in elementary school and I’ve had many dates, boyfriends, lovers, etc. Maybe it didn’t always work out and maybe I didn’t find ‘the one’, but I loved men and I never had a crush on a girl…so I was straight, obviously. Right? Well, no, not exactly.

When I first met her, I just couldn’t stop staring. Soon we started talking and I felt compelled to always be near her. Anytime we were in a group of friends, I had to stand near her. It felt almost subconscious, this desire to be around her. I couldn’t form thoughts or words to explain it. Then one day she took my hand and that was pretty much it. It was unlike anything else I had ever felt. We’ve been together since that day.

In between the sighs and swoons of those first few months, I kept thinking ‘how did i not know that i was gay? how do you get to 32 and not know? am i so clueless about who i am???’. It was a real struggle to figure out how I wanted to identify. It was a crisis of self way after I thought those things were over. I didn’t feel gay or straight or bi or anything really. I read that bisexual women have a higher rate of anxiety and depression than straight or gay women and I can completely understand why.

Why am I telling all of you this? Because it’s hard to not fit. It’s hard to not feel like you are like everyone else. Your struggle isn’t exactly like mine and mine isn’t like yours, but we’ve all got one. Everyones’ struggle is real.

I don’t wonder quite so much about what i want to call myself these days. I really just feel like a queer person. Most specifically a queer weirdo and I feel good about that one.

I would love to hear from anyone that feels like a queer weirdo! Let’s talk/type at each other and then maybe send some postcards or other real-life mail. Bonus if you’d like to talk about Uhh Yeah Dude, immunohematology, Ru Paul’s Drag Race, Bob Dylan, button-making, Mix-tapes, or Twin Peaks.



Saturday, May 23, 2015

Take a minute and think of everything good in your life.

Hi Listserve!!!!!!!

Do me a favor. Take a minute and think of everything good in your life. You are blessed beyond measure when you count the simple things.

1. (A little about me)
I was born and raised in Northwest Indiana. I recently graduated from Purdue with a full scholarship, a Bachelor’s of Science in Business Management, excessive experience and a dream of being a CEO since I knew what one was. I want this because I want to change the world for the better and impact a multitude of lives.

2. (Something that I’m passionate about)
I have a deep fascination and love for solar technology. I hope to one day create a thermostat-like device that measures the solar footprint of a house/building and allocates energy from solar panels my company has installed in effective locations. My company would then buy the excess output and allocate it to those that need greater amounts of energy. I would also like to target the automotive industry. Electric cars are not reasonable to many because they cannot go long distances. My dream is to install a solar grid on all highways that transports captured energy to the car via some sort of “power grid.” Something also needs to be done with those grass patches in and around highways! Do I have all the answers? No. Do I dream about a world existing without the dependence of fossil fuels? Constantly. Our planet has given us so much and it is time for those who think outside the boxes and lines established by our forefathers to go out and change the world.

3. (Something you should definitely check out)
1. Some look up to celebrities or athletes. I look up to Elizabeth Holmes, CEO and founder of Theranos an incredible company that will likely revolutionize the way blood testing is done and the healthcare industry functions.

2. Spencer Antle founded the Island Company. It encompasses the idea of turning a passion into a career. I would move to the ends of the Earth to work for this company.

4. (Something you should read if you don’t read anything else)
I hope someone told you hello, asked how your day was, and smiled at you. Seriously, happiness cultivates happiness. If you can’t be anything else, manifest what makes you happy and add more of it to your life.
Google the article, “Why I gave up a 95k job to move to an island and scoop ice cream”

Do you live in and around Chicago? Do you have recommendations or advice for a girl whose ready for a full-time job and wants to be a CEO one day?
Do you love education, reading, the Art Institute, monograms, summer, the color blue, or traveling? Do you just want to chat?

Please email me! I would be honored to hear from you and feel so blessed to have had the opportunity to share my take on this crazy, beautiful life with you.

Shoutouts to:
My parents, Thank you for all of the love and support in the world.
George, Thanks for being my travel buddy and the first person I call.
Dodo, I miss and love you immeasurably.
My brothers (Peter & Michael), I love you beyond measure. I am a proud sister.
Kenny Chesney, Your music is the soundtrack to my life. Love, Wild Child.
BFF Mary Kolodzej, You inspire me every single day.
Eias Jweied, I have all of the love in the world for you.

Paige Patricia Alaynna Opinker
Munster, IN

Friday, May 22, 2015

A rock, a hard place and a Diamond ring

I have a secret. A secret marriage. A year ago my husband and I just popped down to the Chicago courthouse and said our “I Do’s.” But was that’s it, we didn’t share it with everyone else, I didn’t tell my coworkers or friends or family. We don’t pick out colors, menus or spend $60,000 on a wedding. We don’t wear rings, but at home he’s my husband. It’s our marriage. And it’s turned out quite nice. But it did not start that way.

See my boyfriend is an immigrate, which has left our lives limited in many ways. We were backed into a corner by the government, if we wanted to continue date we needed to get married or he would have to leave the country. So many people face situations like this in their lives. A shit or get off the pot moment. This was mine. We had been dating and living together and knew that marriage would be down the road but we did not feel ready to “be married.” So we filed our marriage license and deepened our commitment to each other.

It’s been a stressful year, dealing with the immigration processes and as an American citizen, it’s been an eye opening experience. The process is HARD, complicated and a lot of work! I’ve spent hundreds of hours of my life filling out paperwork and submitting forms, just to have them rejected and doing it all again. For anyone else that is going through this process, I would recommend hiring a lawyer. I was very anti-lawyer in the beginning. I wanted us to complete everything together because I felt it was really important for him to take an active role in his journey towards becoming a US citizen. We had a wonderful sense of pride and accomplishment finishing the paper ourselves. But with that being said it’s worth the money to have a knowledgeable legal professional there for you.

We took the leap. It was not perfect and it was never how I expected my life to be but they were the cards in fount of me. And I played my hand. Our relationship has only gotten better and I’m hopeful for our future. We fill our lives with love and supportiveness. And in our own time and on our own terms we are going to have that wedding with all of our friends and family there to cheer us on (the government will not be invited).

Write me if you have a secret you would like to share with me.

Thank you to my dear friend Watson for introducing me to Listserve, she’s a wonderful beautiful women who has manager to channel her strength in the last two years and take her own leaps of faith. I miss you. And congrats on the new house.

I love to read, if you have not checked out Goodreads, I would highly recommend it.

And you should add these books to your list.

-Apocalypticon by Clayton Smith – Local Chicago author

-The MaddAddam Series by Margaret Atwood

-The Never Born (Locus Origin Series) by my Icelandic friend Christian Matari.


Chicago, IL

Thursday, May 21, 2015

In the Suburbs I learned to drive

I can't believe I won this; I haven't been to Thailand yet.

I find myself pretty jaded and cynical about the listserv emails. The advice and life's lessons that get bandied about are often naive, under-informed, or one-sided. You can't really start your life until you've backpacked across Tanzania on a kangaroo's back. How did that kangaroo get to Tanzania? It swam. Obviously.

TV likes to talk about midlife crises a lot. Or at least it did in the 80s and 90s, when we didn't have amazing prestige television. I'm almost 37, which is ancient to many of you, young to a few. For me, it's definitely not a midlife crisis, it's more of a midlife malaise. I'm solidly living the American middle class dream, such as it is. But I still really don't know what to do with my life. I'm clearly in no place to give you life advice. The things I know I should do, but probably won't: Exercise more. Drink less. Be more patient with my kids. Stop procrastinating.

If you're looking to procrastinate, however, I'm going to suggest some animated shows. Most of the TV my kids watch is garbage, but occasionally they come across some gems. My favorites are Phineas and Ferb, Gravity Falls, and Adventure Time. They're funny and clever, and actually have some depth to them.

That's all I got. Seems like a wasted opportunity to address a semi-captive audience, but so be it.

Grand Rapids, MI, USA, Earth, ZZ9 Plural Z Alpha

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Your thoughts

When I got the email that I won the lottery, I spoke to a few people and asked them what they would write.

My dad said something in particular that sparked the “aha” moment in me. He said, “What is it that you think about before you fall asleep?”

A little about me. I’m 23, born + raised in Vancouver, Canada. I spent about 3 years in Montreal, Quebec - living, working, learning French. A year after I graduated high school, 2011, my parents bought me a ticket to Montreal to visit a friend, who was studying @ McGill. I instantly fell in love with the city (middle of February in Eastern Canada, mind you). I expressed an interest in revisiting the city to my mother and brother. On my way to the airport, with 4% battery life on my phone, my brother calls me up and tells me: “If you like it over there so much, why don’t you stay? I’ll throw you $250 tonight if you don’t board your flight. I’ll even pay for your first months rent. Then you’re on you’re own.” I didn’t even have enough money to pay for the cab. I didn't even have enough time to think it through. I skipped my flight anyway.

The best years of my life, thus far, were spent in Montreal. And I’m not talking about fun times, camaraderie and drunken bullshit (although that played a part). I’m talking consistent challenge. Always on your toes. Work at your most efficient. Challenge others. Learning another language is difficult, especially in a city where lack of knowledge of said language is a burden before you can even recognize it to be so. Humility plays a huge part in it all. So does perseverance. And pride, unfortunately.

Side note - I feel my entire life, I’ve flip flopped between the need to chase the American Dream and living a solitary life, making an honest living without much care for where I stand in social circles. Across the board I can tell you that I feel the need to contribute in some substantial way to current culture.

I’d like to ask you all: what you think about before you fall asleep?

I shoot 35mm film - you can find my pictures at thegofg dot tumblr dot com

My ex boyfriend is plenty more talented. His name is Stan Troitsky - you can google him, or his website Mook Life, for some very real life photography…

Feel free to send me photos you have taken that you are particulate proud of! Feel free to send me whatever the hell you want to share, really.

"...whether the stuff of creation may be shaped to man's will or whether his own heart is not another kind of clay." - cormac mccarthy

Jane Voytcheff
Vancouver, BC, Canada