Five(ish) Questions: Victoria McDougal

"I was always a big worrier. My whole life I was always stressed about things. Stressed about going to the dentist and whatever doctor, always worrying about things. But [going into back surgery] was the first time in my life that I was completely fine. Because I knew it was going to help. And I was in so much pain, every day of my life. I was in so much pain. I would take naps all the time because it was just fatigue. It was hard to think. It was a lot. And when I woke up from surgery—obviously I was groggy and out of it and in pain—but I immediately felt better. I could breathe. I never realized that my breathing was impacted, but I woke up and I was like, 'Oh my god, I can breathe.'"

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Five Questions: Mia Schaikewitz

"I still have the journal that I had when I was fifteen. I wrote an entry that was basically, 'I want to die. I can’t imagine being in a wheelchair all my life.' I’m so glad I have that. And my handwriting was even horrible, chicken scratch, that’s how depressed I was. Seeing that is crazy. People have asked me if I can relate to that girl. There’s part of me that’s in there, but then there’s a side of me that sees it as just the circumstance. Even though those were valid feelings, I can see now how life plays out in the sense that there’s a core you that can go through anything and those circumstances will overflow. It’s just like water. You can be on top of the water, under the water, you can be feeling like you’re drowning. Then at the end of the day it’s still you there figuring out that this is a shit storm. Then, wait, there’s land. And you can see the water from a different perspective."

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Five Questions: Yosi Sergant

"Being shaken into consciousness whatever that shake is. The AA slang is your bottom is when you stop digging. For some people it takes a stroke. For some people it’s a broken nail. For some it’s real arrests and real problems. Everyone’s shake-up happens. Not everyone, but a lot of people go through this. You hope it happens in soft and gentle ways, but unfortunately that’s not always the case, sometimes it’s too late and there’s real damage done. Going through it isn’t easy. Once you emerge, perspective becomes real. How you live in love, how you live in gratitude. For me it dramatically shifted.

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Five Questions: Lenne Chai

"When I started out as a photographer—and even until now—I don’t really get any help. I never had a mentor. I tried asking people if I could assist them and they weren’t keen because I was already getting jobs very early on, so it was a conflict of interest. When I wanted to learn how to use studio lights, I had to buy studio equipment and start my own studio and just figure it out from scratch. It was really time-consuming. A constant uphill climb."

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Five Questions: Eve Bridburg

"To me, the thing that struck me the most from the very earliest days at GrubStreet, really from our very first students when I really didn’t know what we were doing, people were so moved and transformed by just being together in a classroom and sharing work, which is a very hard and vulnerable thing to do, that they believed in each other and they believed in those of us teaching in those early classes, and they were always ready to step up and give us advice or feedback or help out so when GrubStreet officially became a non-profit, from the student body came our first board of directors. They helped with filling out the crazy and byzantine 501c3 paperwork and on and on. At every single stage of our development as an organization people have presented themselves showing up with just what we need at that moment. That’s about being as clear as you can be about the values and the vision and the mission.

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Five Questions: Abe Rounds

"The importance of when you’re playing in a band or a musical situation that it’s not about you. You’re trying to make the musicians and people around you as welcomed as possible. That’s with the people listening and watching or dancing, and the people you’re playing with. I call them—the best musicians are like elevators, you play one note with them and you jump in and they take you up, they make you better.

When you play music, listen to everything else that’s going on. Don’t just listen to what you’re doing. Otherwise you lose the big picture."

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Five Questions: Allen Benatar

"But something that’s been a struggle is that I’ve suffered with depression my whole life. I don’t know if I’d want to change it though, because it makes me who I am. It gives me that crazy edge which I think I need musically. And I’ll be honest with you, I haven’t met one musician that’s not absolutely fucking nuts in some way. We all have issues.

Me: What do you do to combat those issues when they come up?

Allen: Therapy. Music. Being around people. Sometimes not being around people. Pets. There’s a lot of stuff to do. I stay away from recreational drugs. I don’t really tap into that because that can make it worse.

I think depression would be the thing that I’d be better off without, but like I said, I don’t think I’d be better. It’s part of who I am."

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Five(ish) Questions: Xu Zhang and Mei Liying

"My way of dealing with anger—and she and I have talked about this before because she’s told me that she has difficulty controlling her emotions—I was telling her about the books that I read. One of them teaches you how to see your anger. We all get mad, but the ultimate thing is that we have to really feel our anger. Not to control it or fight against it, but to feel the anger. “I’m feeling angry, but what is this anger? Do I feel my body temperature get hot? How do I feel?” Once you start to feel how your body physically reacts to your emotions, you’ll realize your emotions calm down because you’re now aware of it. Then you can try to think about why you’re so angry. Because the easier thing is to blame other people, blame things. “This person’s fucked up” or “This thing is fucked up.” But maybe not. Maybe you should dig deeper and ask, “Why am I so angry?” Because no one else is angry, you are angry. So then you can understand what that trick is that makes you so angry. Once you find out, it’s usually that maybe you’re too self-centered or you didn’t see it from someone else’s perspective. Or maybe you’re too rushed or too aggressive or too passive. That’s why these moments of anger go this way. Because of your you. You’re not saying it’s your fault, it’s just that you played a part in it that caused this anger. That made you angry. So just deal with it and let it go."

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Five Questions: Brian McBride (Stars of the Lid)

"I feel like in every relationship that I’ve had that’s dissipated has gone away partly because of that. I’ve been divorced twice. For different reasons, but there are commonalities in all of them. That is something that’s fundamental in all relationships. Everybody wants to feel as if what it is that they’re thinking or what it is that they’re felling is at the very least acknowledged in a way where somebody appreciates what they’re thinking. They may not agree with it. But they can appreciate that you experience it. So yeah, of course.

Even anybody that’s had a job. Anybody that’s been in a huge metropolitan city. You walk around, you’re on the L, you’re surrounded by millions of people and you’re not connected to them in any way.

There’s a movie where this woman is working in a bookstore—it’s an Hal Hartley movie, I can’t remember the name—she’s just standing in the middle near these stairs and she keeps saying, 'Does anyone need any help? Does anyone need any help?' And of course no one even acknowledges her. It’s universal. Disconnection is built into this society. In good ways and bad ways."

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Five Questions: Chad Brokaw

"I went through three years of the choice to be alone. I tell some people that and they’re like, 'No way! Three years??' And I talk to other people and they’re like, 'Yeah, I’ve been single for 16 years. Tell me about it.' Three years was a huge deal for me and it was excruciating at times. But there was—how am I ever going to hear the voice of God if I don’t know what it’s like to be alone? If I’m never alone with Him, I always have noise or something else filling it in. So that was a huge learning time for me. Then I built up enough in myself that I didn’t experience loneliness even though I was alone, and it actually became fitting to add someone to me. I became whole enough that I didn’t need a woman to fill a void."

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Five Questions: Jodi Ettenberg (Legal Nomads)

"Some of the best nights of my life are just sitting with wine or no wine or coffee or tea and just talking and learning from everyone’s experiences on the spectrum of humanity. There are so many variables that allow people to take these meandering paths that are so different that by the time you cross paths with them—even if they’re younger—they have, obviously, a mentality that’s going to be different because they didn’t lead an exact imprint of your life. And if you approach conversation, and you approach connecting with people as—instead of reacting to what feels different, really try to understand and learn, I think you can’t go wrong. That is part of what brings me a lot of joy in my life, is really trying to understand what makes us human in different ways, in different places.

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Five Questions: Laura Lee (Khruangbin)

"I’ve been thinking a lot about love lately. Love for me, in terms of a romantic love, is two people coming from two different worlds and coming together and making a new world that is fit for the both of them. It usually comes with a struggle, but obviously, the romanticism and the beauty that comes from the struggle and from the infatuation you have with each other is this thing. It feels like if you were alone in this world the whole time, all of a sudden it’s like this energy has been with you the whole time, and it makes you feel like any moment that you felt alone, you weren’t, and now you know you have this thing.

I’ve been really struggling in writing about love and trying to figure out how to represent it. And I think that’s what it is. You see it in movies and books and everything, and you see two people coming together and they take a part of each other and start to adapt in their own lives until they’ve created a bubble that works for the two of them."

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Five Questions: Annie Howard and Betsy Lippitt

Annie: "It’s funny because I’ve always viewed myself as a contemporary of women like that. I see myself as inspired by Lena Dunham, but I am just like her. We are colleagues. Which is not realistic because she has Emmy awards and lots of money and she can make anything she wants, but I still see her as my contemporary. I want to sit and discuss themes with her."

Betsy: "Our dogs go to the same doggie day care so I also feel like her contemporary."

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Five(ish) Questions: Duncan Thum

"I had a really wonderful English class in high school. The theme of the class was destiny. The books that we read—one was Joseph Campbell’s Interview with Bill Moyers [The Power of Myth] which was a really pivotal one—and we also read Dante’s Inferno and a few other books. But I remember at the end of the class the professor, in his wisdom, had us write an omniscient perspective—what do you imagine you are going to become in your life and now you have to look back and say what was this whole thing. And experiencing your life from the end of the road when here you are in this precious teenage existence.

So I wrote this essay and it ends up as a massive diary entry of teenage folly and emotions, and it was such an amazing experience to think of yourself in that way. Not in an egotistical way, but just to force yourself to confront yourself and really look at yourself with that perspective is really difficult. And it made me think, 'Wow, I can be more than I thought I could be.'”

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Five Questions: Will Brierly

"You can’t change the world, but you can make aspects of it move in the direction you want to. Through PR you have access to—let’s say if I was a writer for a publication, I’d only be able to write for that publication and my editor would be my boss, but working in PR, I have access to every publication that exists, and can get stories of things that I want in the world out there to shift the whole story. Then I have access to hundreds of millions of people as opposed to the maybe hundreds of thousands that one outlet would have. That’s why you have to be super careful of what you’re putting out there because you don’t want to make something that hurts people."

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Five Questions: Corinne Fisher

"There’s something that terrifies most partners about having a partner who they know if they left me, I’ll be totally fine, and perhaps if I left them, they would not be totally fine. That’s an imbalance of power. I also really expect a lot from people. I expect the best from myself, but I also expect the best from other people. Which is unfair because I shouldn’t really hold people to my own personal standards, but I really can’t. I’ve tried to work on it. I was single for four years and in that time I did a lot of work on myself, but that’s one thing I just can’t get past. If I can’t have someone who’s up to my standards then I could just hang out by myself. I don’t need money, I don’t need someone to constantly be with me, I can find sex when I need that, I don’t want to have kids. So I don't really need anything from anybody else. When I have a mate I just need them to pay attention to me. But that’s pretty much it. Pay attention and be thoughtful. You never have to buy anything for me. That’s never necessary."

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Five(ish) Questions: Elisa Kreisinger

"I love the internet, I came up on the internet, I came up with internet video. Those are my people, that’s where I tried to make the most change initially. I love editing, I don’t like being on set, I don’t like leaving the house, so doing video mash-ups was really a way for me to use the language of pop culture to talk back to popular culture and make these critiques and little video montages. Remixing Sex and the City, remixing Mad Men. These are shows that I really loved and enjoyed, but I also wanted to be a fan and critic of it at the same time. Taking it apart, putting it back together was not only a great way for me to learn how to edit, but how to convey a critical perspective through video in a way, in a language that people already know and understand which is popular culture.

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Five(ish) Questions: John O'Hara

"I had some dark times with drug and alcohol abuse. There were definitely dark moments where I felt outside of the whole experience. I was left isolated. And that was another thing my wife helped with with—she brought me out of that. Not actively, but through my meeting her it evolved me out of that self-destructive state of mind. 

This idea that there’s this source, like a river, and being connected to that, and my biggest fear is being somehow isolated from that or being detached."

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