Tavi Gevinson is proof that wisdom doesn't necessarily come with age – although life experience must have something to do with it. The 19 year old was the founder of now defunct blog Style Rookie, is the editor of the life-affirming teen mag Rookie, just starred in a Broadway show, has covered The New York Times, and is the source of countless inspiring thoughts and words. Apropos of nothing, here are a few of my favourite Tavi-isms.
I’m young, and there is a lot that I still want to create, so my first impulse is to shut up and get to work…
In the next few years, I have goals that are kind of ambitious, but the most important one is making sure that I have time for myself. Maybe it’s uncool to call people out, but I feel like Bret Easton Ellis wrote books and screenplays, but then he started writing awful, edgy think pieces. Elizabeth Wurtzel wrote Prozac Nation, and it was a huge success that was made into a movie. But now she just publishes weird rants that no one edits because she’s a name writer, and people think, “Oh, we can put up anything she says because it’ll get hits no matter what.” I don’t want to be someone who is too busy to make sure I’m connected with what I’m saying and that what I’m saying is connected to the outside world.
I wrote a list of 2014 goals in my planner. Some of them are really boring, like, “Get that weird mole checked out,” but on the last page, in all capital letters, I wrote: “NO MATTER WHAT, EASE UP ON WORKLOAD; READ BOOKS; GROW YOUR BRAIN; BUILD FOUNDATION SO YOU DON’T BECOME A HACK WHO TAKES UP SPACE; YOU ARE GOING TO GO TO COLLEGE; YOU CAN’T FAKE EDUCATION; THERE ARE NO SHORTCUTS IN GAINING A WEALTH OF KNOWLEDGE.”
I've never really felt like a journalist. I've felt like a writer and a diarist. I have made myself vulnerable in my writing, and I think that vulnerability makes people strong.
Women are complicated. Not because women are crazy, but because people are crazy, and women happen to be people.
It's such a summer-camp cliché, but my best shows [in the Broadway play 'This Is Our Youth'] truly are when I'm having fun. I know now that the best thing for me isn't necessarily to sit in my dressing room and get myself there. It's more to play Mario Kart with the guys backstage, and then they do their scene and I get dressed and I go out there and join them. And we're just playing.
Anyone who thinks it's somehow dirty or wrong or a moral compromise to be ambitious is, first of all, living in the bad '90s and, second of all, not a good friend, or not being empathetic or open-minded. I've had to shed a lot of that attitude myself because I was such a snob about that stuff when I was younger. And then things become a little more realistic, and you're like, "Why would I want to hold myself back or be precious?"
I don’t feel like I have to think too much about how sincere I’m allowed to be, or my brand, or the image I’m projecting, or how to stay relevant. It just seems like an empty pursuit. I think it’s good to remember how impermanent a lot of success is when it has to do with being public too. I hope I can kind of just say what I want and approach each individual project with as much sincerity as possible.
I want very badly to be good, kind, “myself” with other people. I worry that “myself” sucks, so I think about everything I’m about to say very hard, and then usually end up not saying anything at all. I get glimpses of what it’s like to respond to the world honestly, instead of trying to show people someone I think they will find likable.
I believe it comes down to trusting yourself—that you won’t ruin everything—and trusting the world—that it can be good; that this day won’t be painful; that this social interaction won’t be the worst. And I don’t think you can do a ton of mental maze-running to get there, because that’s what draws you out of interacting with what’s in front of you; you just pay attention as closely as possible to everything happening outside of your head, and then your head will follow and become occupied with the things that make life worth living: the wonderfulness of the friend you’re talking to, the fascination they have with what they’re telling you about, how much more there is to learn about the thing they’re discussing. Or, if the interaction is genuinely bleak, maybe it’s amusing, or something you can write down later or entertain a friend with, or maybe it’s just the kind of encounter you accept if you want to be a person in the world. There are worse things than a bleak social interaction, and being a person in the world is too good in too many other ways for uncomfortable social interactions to dictate how you exist. I don’t mean to sound reductive, because depression is a lot harder than that, but I hope that my FOMO on life can outweigh my fear of life.
Lately, I have felt like a crucial part of my job... is to spend time every day working on just my CONFIDENCE. Believing in myself, being able to trust my instincts, not letting my work suffer due to girlish tendencies to recoil or to get myself down.
Fear is something that holds me back a lot. The pendulum just kind of swings side to side so after I have periods of depression where I do hit rock bottom and feel extremely fearful, then I just know how horrible it is and eventually feel bored enough of the feeling that I feel extra motivated. And then it’s more like the fear of missing out on something totally outweighs the fear of what could happen if I take a risk. Fear is a motivator for me in that it makes me so sad to imagine looking back and just wishing that I’d gone for something more or trusted myself.
The best cure for procrastination is to have so much on your plate that procrastination is no longer an option.
My goofiest-sounding secret is that I also believe in magic. Sometimes I call it God and sometimes I call it light, and I believe in it because every now and then I read a really good book or hear a really good song or have a really good conversation with a friend and they seem to have some kind of shine to them. The list I keep of these moments in the back of my journal is comprised less of times when I was laughing or smiling and more of times when I felt like I could feel the colors in my eyes deepening from the display before me. Times in which I felt I was witnessing an all-encompassing representation of life driven by an understanding that, coincidence or not, our existence is a peculiar thing, and perhaps the greatest way to honor it is to just be human. To be happy AND sad, and everything else. And yeah, living is a pain, and I say I hate everyone and everything, and I don’t exude much enthusiasm when sandwiched between fluorescent lighting and vinyl flooring for seven hours straight, and I will probably mumble a bunch about how much I wish I could sleep forever the next time I have to wake up at 6 AM. But make no mistake about it: I really do like living. I really, truly do.