Overthinking so you don't have to.
Life is so confusing when the event of Death comes along, specifically when it’s not for a celebrity – who you’re comfortably removed and detached from – and it’s not someone in your everyday immediate circle – for whom the emotional reactions are immediate and expected. There are a lot of in-betweeners for me, people who I regard highly and watch closely because I like them, but for whatever reason am too chicken to regularly reach out to. In the last month two women passed away, and they’re not related to each other; their deaths don’t indicate any sort of logical pattern. To me, their deaths were “wild” – unpredicted, senseless. Both of the women were really positive for me, even though we weren’t buddy-buddy. If there’s any connection between the two, it’s a memento mori reminder that I really should reach out to everyone for that spontaneous catchup session.
I first learned about Alice Joy’s accident catching up on Lotta’s blog. I’m awful about reading blogs. It’s not ironic. Nowadays, my blog reading is highly targeted and only fits into my days in spurts, so unfortunately friends’ blogs fall by the wayside. If I hadn’t buckled down for that lunchtime reading that one day, I never would have known that Alice died.
We almost became connected again a full year ago when I saw her at Barbara Kelly’s book signing in the Mission. I hadn’t seen her since college, and even then we weren’t very close. Alice was a very thoughtful and nice person to me. She seemed to observe a lot about people, while the most lasting impression I observed about her was usually how ridiculously long her eyelashes were. I think one time she told me she had to trim them so they wouldn’t curl back into her eyelids, and I was just supremely jealous. The disparity between our “natural gifts” aside, she was one of those classmates who I really liked, but didn’t hang out with. Even though we didn’t fall in the same circles socially, I just always enjoyed having her in the same class.
When I saw her at the signing, I thought, “That’s Alice! I should go up and say hi. But she probably doesn’t really remember me. [constant personal fear] Maybe if we conveniently end up standing right next to each other I’ll say something.” I didn’t.
She must have seen me, too, though, and I can only hope she had a similar sort of weak-willed interest in reconnecting. We started following each other on Twitter (despite having not said a peep to each other in person), and we’d even reply to each other once in a while. I didn’t realize how alike our senses of humor were. I got the feeling I was missing out on not getting to know her in person. Still, interaction remained at the public Tweet level. This went on for months.
In the end of 2011, we had to put together a promotional plan for Duran Duran’s Here Right Now project. To pull it off, we teamed up with the Gray Area Foundation for the Arts’ (GAFFTA) PR volunteer Michal to brainstorm and map everything out. By the time I got home from that evening meeting, he had already added me as a friend on Facebook. After some light snooping, I saw that he and Alice were very close, and it was like the second time that Alice re-entered my life. I thought “Hey, Alice is back on my radar. Maybe we’re supposed to reconnect. Wonder if we should all hang out together.” I didn’t bring it up to either of them.
Alice went on a motorcycle ride the Friday before Memorial Day weekend. And now, in the present spring of 2012, Alice’s Facebook profile will forever be a memorial of her life and all the people she put at ease. I had all these chances and we never exchanged a peep. I know Michal misses her intensely. It was their last ride together.
Lotta also brings up a bittersweet point about the increasingly public lives we lead: The last photo in Alice’s Instagram is of the motorcycle she rode, with the caption “What did I get myself into?”
You just never know what your parting message to the world will be, do you?
Best-selling novelist, screenwriter, fashion publicist, and most importantly, inconceivably forward-thinking connector Erica Kennedy passed away on Friday, and my thoughts are just…incredibly stunted. Erica tracked me down in Moxsie’s heyday, when our meteoric growth on Twitter puzzled big-name brands in fashion and commerce. @DieselUSA was becoming buddy-buddy with @moxsie. We even started DMing each other – between @mayka and @ericajk – on interesting social media and fashion news outside of our own brands. We started emailing each other. Eventually it came out that she was a super accomplished writer. Eventually I shared that cultural discourse has always been super intriguing and important to me. I became fascinated by her. I bought her books. I asked her about the relationship between the Raven (Feminista) and Prince. I didn’t understand why she was sharing so much of her online time with me. She even quoted me in one of her Huffington Post pieces. But I had published no books. I had not pursued a more devotedly creative life. I would never get an unheard-of opportunity to interview Prince.
You can’t imagine how flattered, excited, and flabbergasted I was when Erica extended an invitation to me to join a group of women she had brought together through Facebook. Living life up and down the East Coast, she had culled a really remarkable set of ladies heavily involved in editorial, production, and beyond. I (proverbially) stepped into this group before I started defining myself as feminist, but being (virtually) surrounded by their accomplishments, skills, ambitions, and (never-ending) rapier wit clearly prepped me to fully adopt the “feminista” mindset. Through Erica, I met some fascinating people, my favorite personalities to “hear” from on FB, Twitter, and email. (Rather naturally, it was through these women that I learned about Erica’s death.)
I can’t tell you how much they inspire me, or how much I look forward to anything they write popping up in my home feeds. (If anything, they are just so impressively on it that I’ve got a hard time keeping up.) They are my respite.
Erica and I never met in person. I was jealous of her New Yorker acquaintances for that. They could meet in real life! They had actually sat down with Erica. The most I had done with her was phone and Skype about social media/biz dev shop talk. (And then some.) She had ideas that were way ahead of what the digital strategy landscape was ready for, and she always knew she had big things brewing. We’d send each other quick emails, Tweets, whatever fit in our personal R&D sessions when we were observing shifts in the industry. And she kindly corrected me when I’d mix up Amanda and Atlanta de Cadenet, which we decided it was a generational Freudian slip.
I’m not overstating my relationship with her, but I for sure cannot describe the supreme amounts of admiration I have for her. I’d excitedly regale our exchanges with Bill like Erica was the Prom Queen and I was the Drama Nerd and she just asked me what I thought about the pizza in the cafeteria that day. “And Erica did this, and we were talking about this…And can you believe she used to work here?” Unabashed mind crush.
And again, the circle she connected me with – I feel blessed. I rarely ever use that word because I feel like my Agnostic life shouldn’t borrow religious terms, but sometimes it works. Like my friend Navi says, “I put my faith in the people around me.” Her legacy is this group, and I am so grateful to be a part of it.
In a cheesy looking-for-answers moment, I queued up Evita on Spotify. I decided that some moments are appropriate to proactively call upon melodrama, and up until Saturday I still hadn’t shed a tear over Alice or Erica. After streaming a couple of tracks from a soundtrack I know fairly well, I didn’t actually start listening until Che said, “What kind of goddess has lived among us?” It felt like her, it felt like Che was talking about Erica. (And that’s when I started tearing up.) She has touched so many more people so much more deeply. For me, she had given an open door to people leading incredibly full lives. The kind we should aspire to be. Living treasures. If I felt this way after never actually meeting her, imagine how people who actually knew her felt!
I don’t know what serendipity led Erica into my life, but I know I don’t deserve it. I’m taking it as a pay-it-forward thing, that perhaps I hadn’t reached my full potential when Erica and I “met,” so what I’m supposed to do now is be more brazen, be more creative, and put myself on en route to match the richness of Erica’s life.
The last time we spoke was a few of months ago, and she was talking about how she was done with the NY hustle. Someone described her as “the real life Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” and she loved the epithet! She wanted the escape of the life she had in Miami, which was a little more scenic, and a little less scene-y.
Erica was such a connector, and again, such wit!
She will forever be my Lisbeth Salander.
There’s a part of my brain and center of emotion that’s a bit numb and confused. I’m still confused why their deaths affect me so much. I didn’t interact with Alice the way I should have, so I feel guilty, but that’s my own damn fault. Erica and I were, when it comes down to it, Internet friends, so who am I to feel like I lost a real-life friend? There’s a heaviness that loomed over the weekend (I started this post on Friday night, currently it’s Sunday), and I’ve arrived at the theory that my chi is blocked. And I’m probably also paranoid of Big Events happening in threes.
…I’m just looking forward to fully emoting, and hope it happens soon.
Away I go.
Update: I should have connected these dots earlier, but I guess my thinking is still a bit hindered. Erica Kennedy’s “wit, insight and her own story” (Barbara’s words) are quoted throughout Barbara and Shannon Kelley’s book, Undecided. That book is what led me to identifying as feminist, and that book signing is also where I saw Alice for the first time since undergrad.
Not “small world,” but interconnected world.
Another Update: I’m just now remembering how she also fished outta me that a secret dream was to become a screenwriter! I told that to a published author and screenwriter! So embarrassing.