The Mad Ones
I watched a documentary about Mister Rogers recently, and I can't stop thinking about his message to people, particularly children: that he liked them just the way they are. I've thought a lot about authenticity, and I think most people can feel, instinctively, when someone or something is not genuine.
I often think of this quote from Jack Kerouac's On The Road: "the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes “Awww!"
"The only people for me are the mad ones..." has become a sort of guiding philosophy in my life. I spent so many of my formative years feeling embarrassed for the things I enjoyed. I was made to feel less than for being soft spoken, for not liking dresses, for cutting my hair too short. I can't pinpoint the exact moment in my life when I decided to embrace my interests—even if they were considered "out there" or silly and trivial by others—but I do know that my life has been exponentially richer for it.
I enjoyed touring South of the Border more than Machu Picchu; my dream vacation is a trip to Chernobyl, not to an Instagram-worthy beach town; I don't particularly enjoy superhero movies or Beyoncé; I would rather watch Sophie's Choice than the latest Star Wars and I'll probably never watch Game of Thrones; I've read 20 books this year and I've run zero miles and that has to be OK. When I completed my reading challenge last year, the most common question that people asked me was "how did you read so much?" and the only answer I could come up with was, "I just wanted to."
I think a lot about why I write this blog and share my stories, and ultimately I want to be a positive force in people's lives—to encourage them to embrace their interests, whatever they may be. You won't be successful or happy doing something that doesn't interest you—and why would you want to be, anyway? I want people to notice the whimsy in the mundane, to appreciate the mad ones, to notice that there are things that "burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars" everywhere you look. To use another of my favorite quotes (from Death Becomes Her, natch) "these are the moments that make life worth living."
Of course, it's hard not to compare yourself to others, and everything looks better through the Gaussian blur of social media. I'm at the age where everyone I know is either engaged, married, having kids or buying a house and I am doing ... none of those things. I once thought I wanted children, but I realize now that what I wanted was an outlet to make people feel special—I wanted to write lunchbox notes and throw birthday parties and have a tangible excuse to go through corn mazes in the fall. But the farther away I get from that childhood dream of a big family, the more I realize that I can fulfill that need in other ways—I can carve pumpkins and go to storybook parks and buy lamps shaped like dinosaurs, without sacrificing my autonomy.
There is enough negativity and deceit in the world—comprising hatred and jealousy and fear—that I want to seek out the people and places that breed authentic joy. I want this blog to be a gathering place for, and an ode to "the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time."
These photos were taken last month at Bergdorf Goodman. These window displays were celebrating Iris Apfel—a fabulous yellow roman candle of a person—and her new book.