I am a dancer. One of the greatest gifts that dance has given me that I apply to my everyday life is awareness of my physical body. Dance has given me the time and space to be fully aware of all of the possibilities my body holds. It has given me an understanding of what I can only corporeally know, creating space for me to listen to my body. For me, there is no separation between life and dance because we are constantly in motion even when we are still. There is choreography in our everyday life, whether we are continuing patterns or creating new ones. Therefore I find that listening to our bodies and being aware of our physical bodies should become a daily practice, especially in the difficult circumstances of the present time.
Our bodies are hyper-intelligent vessels that have the ability to hold and absorb an incredible amount of information. The body often understands things that are happening to us before we are consciously able to understand them. For example, as infants we enter into stages of crawling and walking through the intelligence of our bodies. Most of us can’t remember when we first started crawling or walking, but our bodies remember even when our memories forget. Before we learn how to speak or read, we first understand the world through our physical bodies. The intelligence of our bodies is limitless and when we allow our bodies to take over and find time to listen to our bodies, I believe we will be surprised by how much our bodies have to say.
So how do we go about listening to our bodies? Connecting to our bodies can happen in multiple ways. For me, I find time to connect through my daily practice in dance. However, I believe that listening to the body can happen whenever we consciously choose to do so. Physical activity might be a gateway to understanding how to listen to our bodies because we are constantly sending signals between our brain and body when we are moving. However, this connection can be lost if we are not conscious of how we move. Being distracted while moving is a significant problem of our generation. Treadmills and ellipticals in gyms have TV’s, we text and walk, or check our emails while commuting. These distractions, while engaging in any type of movement, make us skim through the process of listening to the body. Therefore, it’s important to understand that even in stillness, we have the ability to tune in to our bodies. A quick body scan at the beginning or end of the day can make a huge difference in our wellbeing. Try asking yourself the following questions:
A little while back, I went viral on TikTok. At the time of writing this (October 2020), I have thirty-one thousand followers and over half a million likes collectively on my posts. While this isn’t necessarily equivalent to the amount of recognition creators, influencers, and the like have gotten on TikTok, but it’s certainly more recognition than I ever expected to see on the app.
Since quarantine started, I have been creating short, seven-second to one-minute long videos and posting them on TikTok. Most of them involve me playing trombone in some sort of creative way, whether that is playing along to a popular song, “duetting” someone else’s popular video, or just finding different shenanigans to engage in with my primary instrument. I found a variety of topics on the app, such as musical humor, anime discussion, or other interests of mine, and used those to creatively approach the way I made content. Soon, I found a community of people with similar interests. I connected with jazz musicians across America, who studied at reputable music schools that I knew of. They were all on TikTok for the same reason as me: we had nothing better to do in quarantine.
Over the first few months of COVID-19 lockdown, I had a few successful videos. At first, the bland videos would average around 500 views, while the more popular ones would score a few thousand. The response wasn’t massive, but it was entertaining for me to see which videos gained more of a response than others. I then started a consistent posting schedule which set me up to gain traction. I started one video off by saying “Alright here’s Day 1 of me Rick Rolling your feed until I go viral,” and proceeded to play Rick Astley’s “Never Gonna Give You Up.” For those of you unfamiliar with “Rick Rolling,” it is a prank that was popular around ten years ago, where one person would send a YouTube link to someone else, saying it was a link to something interesting. For example, one might have sent the link over a text accompanied by an explanation, “Hey, check out this video I worked hard on making!” The twist comes when the recipient opens the link and is sent to the music video for Rick Astley’s hit song “Never Gonna Give You Up”. After I played day one, I played a harmony to the first track and synced it up, so it sounded like I was playing a duet with myself. The audio at the beginning sounded, “Alright here’s Day 2 of me Rick Rolling your feed until I go viral.” This harmonization process went on for a little over a month, and each video netted me more and more views. I broke 500 followers, which at the time felt like a big achievement.
I kept making videos and nothing of note happened for a couple months, aside from a couple hits that broke thirty thousand views. Then I got an idea: “I need to practice, but I don’t have a practice room available because of COVID restrictions. Because I make too much noise in my apartment, I need to go to a parking structure to get some privacy and not disturb anyone. Maybe I’ll film myself in that resonant, echoey space and see what happens on TikTok.” Within the first five videos of me playing in a high-reverb parking garage, I jumped fifteen thousand followers over the course of two days. The culprit was a video of me playing the force theme from Star Wars (or “Binary Sunset” by it’s official name). That video currently is close to hitting one million views, with almost a quarter million likes.
Like most young people, I have a lot of ambitions and a lack of funds to make them come true. Such is the life of a broke (or more accurately, on-a-budget) college student. But while there are plenty of resources on the Internet on how to sustain an affordable lifestyle from self-described food, beauty, and wellness gurus, we don’t talk nearly as much about how hard it is to dress well on a budget.
Sure, Target has a clothing section. And sure, most of us can still fit into some of the stuff we wore 5 years ago. But if you’re like me, you care just as much about dressing well as you do about getting dressed at all. Many of us have personal styles that brands such has Target do not always cater to, and most of us have tastes that have evolved as we have gotten older. Not to mention that going to USC — or going to school in L.A., period — can make us more self-conscious of the way we dress, as well as make it harder to look the way we want when every purchase feels like a sucker punch to our bank accounts. Most of us want to look good but just haven’t found an affordable, easy way to do it.
But in my experience, this ambition of ours doesn’t have to be fruitless. Clothing shouldn’t have to take up a huge portion of your budget, and there are plenty of ways to achieve the style you want while also staying fiscally conscious. While I’m personally still trying to perfect my system of doing this, I thought I’d share a couple of tips I have found useful along the way.
1. Avoid fast fashion (as much as possible)
Obviously, fast fashion is popular for a reason: it’s cheap. While avoiding cheap clothing may seem counter-intuitive to our mission of saving money, it can actually save you a lot in the long term. I learned the hard way that while clothes from brands like Forever 21 and H&M can seem like hidden gems — cute, cheap, and trendy — they’re usually made of cheap materials that shrink or show wear after just a couple of uses. This forces us to repeatedly restock our closet, but because we keep restocking it with cheap clothing, we fall into an endless, expensive cycle of buying clothes that don’t look that good after three or four wears, anyway.
I encourage you to look into brands that produce clothing from quality materials that will last you a long time. Some of my favorites at the moment are Levi’s and ASOS, but you can do research on which brands best suit your taste. While buying from these brands means you will have to be more careful where you spend your money, it will also help assure you that it was money well-spent.
2. Go thrifting
L.A. is a thrift-store hub, but most towns and cities will have some form of a second-hand clothing store. These stores can be great for finding both trendy clothing at a cheaper price as well as vintage items that you wouldn’t find elsewhere. And if you’re a sucker for oversized dad-sweaters like me, you’re pretty likely to strike gold.
Because there are now online thrift stores, you can even thrift without having to risk in-person shopping during quarantine. I personally use Poshmark when I want to thrift online, but thredUP and Depop are also popular options.
While thrifting can be rewarding and even fun, this method of shopping isn’t for everybody. Finding good clothes in a thrift store can sometimes take hours, and obviously not everyone’s schedule will allow this. Still, I encourage you to try thrifting at least once and figure out if it could fit into your lifestyle.
3. Scour other people’s closets
While this option might seem weird, it’s a great way to rediscover pieces that other people in your life may no longer have any use for. I personally do the occasional raid of my mom, dad, and sister’s closets, especially around when they’re planning to donate some of their older clothing. If you’re looking for very trendy or new-looking clothing, this might not be the best option. That being said, because 80s and 90s fashion are currently having a comeback, you might be able to find some pretty unique peices.
4. Upcycle what you have
If you’re creative and want to make the most of what you already have, I encourage you to try upcycling some of your clothing. Upcycling simply means taking old pieces and making them more applicable to your current tastes. This can be as simple as cropping an old tee shirt or taking in the waist on loose jeans. If you’re looking to take more creative risks, you could try embroidering a breast pocket, painting your white sneakers, or even whipping out a sewing machine and changing the purpose of a clothing item altogether. Recently, upcycling has become quite popular on Youtube and there are many videos out there explaining how to epicycle your closet from home. I recommend checking out Bestdressed on Youtube. I personally think she’s the current queen of upcycling.
That’s all the wisdom I have to offer on this subject. Hopefully these alternate ways of finding clothing that fit your taste will help you upgrade your closet just as I’ve used them to upgrade mine. Just remember that looking good doesn’t have to be expensive, even if this is what luxury brands may want you to believe. All a good fashion taste takes is a little bit of patience, cash, and the right amount of creativity. Oh, and I would recommend checking out Bestdressed on Youtube. Seriously.
Samhitha is an undergraduate student studying English with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She is Indian-American but lived most of her life in New Jersey before recently making the transition to the west coast to attend USC. As an avid writer, she loves exploring different creative outlets through film, literature, and comedy. Aside from writing, she also loves exploring L.A., trying new boba places, and being around nature, whether that means hiking or simply visiting the beach with friends. Samhitha has basic understandings of Telugu and Spanish but is open to meeting with anyone who wants to improve their English. She is happy to help you in any way she can–whether that means going over essays, preparing for interviews, or simply practicing your conversation skills!
Academic and Professional English Language Instruction