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change | by maggie mae fish

change | by maggie mae fish


In early November I was packing up boxes,
getting ready to move into a new apartment, when I got the news that my grandma passed
away. My partner painted walls in LA while I buried
my grandmother in Michigan. I felt bad being away them, but I was happy to be with my mom.
Her and my grandma had been very close and one day it’ll be me, helping my mom at the
end of her life. I spent most of my time at home going through
old photos. Picking out ones of my grandma for the funeral. My childhood bedroom had long been converted
into an office for my mother’s online clothes-flipping business, so I lie awake on the couch until
3am because of the time change and jet lag. To help my partner feel less alone or maybe
to make me feel less alone I sent them grubhub every night at the new apartment while they
lost it to the paint fumes and spackle. But anyways I was eager to get back and settle
into the new place. Spirited Away is one of my comfort movies.
The color palette of blacks and greys and peach pinks and golds are just beautiful.
And I’ve always loved Chihiro. I have a pet peeve for children characters that are
written unrealistically, but Chiro reminds me of the little girls I used to babysit,
or the one I used to be. Loud about her feelings, loud in general. “I’m not leaving until
you give me a job!” Scared but brave, and sometimes feeling an overwhelming sense of
being alone. Chiro begins the film angry at her parents
because the family is moving. Sad she has to leave her old school, her friends, her
old life. And when Chiro steps into the spirit world,
everything changes. She’s thrust into a new unknown world that echoes her anxieties
from the beginning of the film. The theme park changes into a bathhouse. Her parents
change into Pigs. Even her name is changed, and we learn that in this world, it’s even
possible to lose your name completely, as if it’s possible to lose your entire sense
of self. The fear of the dark corners of this new world is that fear of change. Chiro, with
all her abilities, weaknesses, curiosities, and strengths, does her best to deal with
one of the scariest types of change: Change that comes from outside forces. Change from
beyond our control. And? I’m in love with how Chiro handles
it all. She’s brave in the face of monsters. “Just a minute, sir.” She is persistent.
“Please, can’t you give me a job!” “Don’t start that again!!” And brave and kind,
and even makes new friends while surviving in a strange, hostile world. She doesn’t
mask her feelings of sadness or loneliness like many unfeeling too-perfect fantasy characters.
If anything, she leads with her emotions. She misses her parents. She messes up. And
through her struggle she finds that she is stronger, braver, and more adaptable than
she ever knew. Chiro is someone who was thrown into the abyss
and instead of losing herself, became more herself because of it. She became deeper and
bigger and stronger, and I feel like that’s the best-case scenario when our parents change
into pigs. I have always been fascinated with change.
When I was young I would change outfits 3 to 4 times a day, depending on my mood, trashing
my room in the process. Probably because I grew up in a sleepy town that I couldn’t
wait to escape, when things become too stagnant I start to feel claustrophobic. I need things
to be moving, to be happening, Sometimes I’ll abandon projects before I should, just to
get the ball rolling on something else. But change, to me, has always meant possibility.
It’s always been exciting, and without it I feel like I’m drowning. Some types of change do scare me, though,
like people leaving me, or losing friends, makes me sweat. Maybe I love career changes
because it means progress but personal change scares me because I love the people in my
life? I dunno, that’s for my therapist to figure out. All to say, whether we like it
or not change is something we’re always surrounded by. One thing I can’t stand is being forced
to hold still for too long. Ah, Jean-Luc Picard. My favorite Jean-Luc.
My least favorite, obviously, being Jean-Luc Godard. Not because I don’t think he’s
great but because his films do exactly what he wants them to do, which is alienate me,
and I hate it. I remember sitting in film class watching Weekend and just feeling my
skin crawl. Whenever the actors looked directly into the camera I wanted to riot. It’s my
gut reaction. I want to be sucked into the fictional world of a film, and the fact that
he actively denies me that experience, it feels personal Godard! One of the most infuriating scenes, that I
actually think is genius and beautiful, is the long take of the car crash. It is one
long tracking shot where Godard shows a traffic jam, and it’s a car, after car, after car,
after car… A few minutes into this scene I remember whispering to my friend that if
this goes on one second more I’m going to throw up, and then it went on for 6 minutes
longer. I don’t know why Godard films give me such
a visceral reaction, but this scene I think unsettles me for the exact reason Godard created
this unsettling sequence: you can’t escape. We are used to being sutured into a film’s
narrative, we’re used to continuous cuts in movies, the rhythms of shot reverse shot
that are so comforting. It’s the language of mainstream film we all understand, sometime
without even realizing we understand it, because it’s a language we’re surrounded by since
the first time we locked eyes on a screen as a young child. But this shot. It’s unchanging. I feel trapped,
forever watching this unending carnage and the camera, as an extension me the viewer,
can’t pull away. Godard won’t let me pull away from the actors staring right at me from
the moving image. I guess I could have left the theatre except oh wait I can’t because
it was for class and we were supposed to take notes. I couldn’t rip my eyes away from
his art piece like I could in a museum, running from exhibit to exhibit to try and fit in
as many Monet’s as I can until it’s time to grab an okay lunch at the overpriced cafe.
And this shot clearly recalls news footage from Vietnam, when the public was able to
see the unending horror and scope of the war on the nightly news. If you didn’t want
to see those images, you could just change the channel. But we couldn’t change this
shot. We can’t cut to something else. We can’t intervene. The sameness in that shot brings me back to
my fear of stagnation. This eight-minute long scene is a perfect horror movie made specifically
for me. And it brings up all the feelings I get when I’m on my seventh day back in
Michigan and I feel like I’m going to drown in the wonderful tourist trap that is Silver
Beach. My grandma said any time she was visited by
a cardinal, it was someone from the past coming to visit, to say hello. Since grams passed
away, my mom is doing her best to deal with that monumental external change. And as much
as losing my grandma hurt, it meant that i got to be there for my mom in one of the hardest
times of her life. For the first time ever, instead of my mom taking care of me, I got
to take care of my mom. Through all the painting and the laundry and
the moving and the funeral, I’ve been watching a lot of Hoarders. What struck me about Hoarders
was that in each episode, a person is faced with the reality that if they do not change
their entire habits, outlook, and worldview, they could die. Which, sounds easy to some
I’m sure? Oh I’m gonna die? LITERALLY anything to avoid that. But… that’s just not the case. Hoarders
really shows how hard it is for some people to change. Whereas Godard was playing with
withholding change, and Chihiro is dealing with change from external forces, in Hoarders,
it’s the individuals who needs to change. It’s all on that one person. Which is…
a really really, really hard thing to do, no matter how many family members show up,
or how many extra crew members the show hires to clean out the house. They need to confront whatever emotional trauma
has triggered this behavior. “I tried to clean it but it won’t let me.” Some of the people on Hoarders are able to
break through their disorder and change on a dime. And some end up chasing out the camera
crew, shutting out their families who care for them, and the disorder wins. Each individual
and circumstance is so different. Most of them seem to hoard after experiencing extreme
trauma, so I am not here to judge those who are able to overcome hoarding or not– only
to point out that this is one of the most tangible examples I’ve seen of the difficulty
of dealing with that ever-present change, even when your life is on the line. On the show, they say that the average person
does the same things that all hoarders do when faced with trauma, but it’s usually
in our heads. We block people out, put up defenses so we don’t have to deal. People
who hoard just physically manifest these walls in reality, shielding them from whatever it
is they are afraid of, whatever they want to forget, or deny. But the thing is–as much as some of these
hoarders are able to convince themselves that they’re preventing change, or that they’re
in control of their home as it fills with books or trash or moldy clothes or other potentially
hazardous waste–they aren’t stopping change. At best, they’re just slowing down change,
and at worst, they’re just protecting themselves from witnessing the outside world change.
Hoarding doesn’t stop change, it just lets the hoarder effect the type of change their
life is undergoing. Their relationships disintegrate, fade away, or end in explosive confrontations
with family members, while their home environment slowly decays, slowly changes into a death
trap. They see these piles of trash as precious things that they’re preserving, as treasured
memories that they won’t admit are disintegrating right before their very eyes. No matter how
much a hoarder convinces themselves that they’ve managed to freeze time in place, that everything
they care about is here, and that everything they care about will always be here, safely
hidden away within the walls, change continues. My mom and I are like two chihiros, dealing
with something out of our control, but at least we’ve got each other. And when someone
passes away, there’s absolutely nothing you can do to bring them back. That’s a change
that you just have to learn to deal with, it’s something you can’t turn away from, no
matter how unsettling or uncomfortable it makes you. Maybe it’s tempting to put up emotional
walls or real walls, to deny that some things are out of our control. Maybe it’s tempting
to go so far into denial, to abstract your feelings so completely, that you end up arguing
that we need to build literal walls around our country. But we can’t stop change, and
I don’t want to stop change, I want to work with change to make things better. Change
is literally what our entire universe is predicated on, from the constantly changing biology and
chemistry in every cell of our bodies, to birth and death, to politics and culture,
to evolution. And at least for me, yeah it can be scary, but change can also mean hope. Thank you so much for watching. Don’t forget
to like the video, subscribe to the channel, and ring the notification bell so you don’t
miss the next video. And thanks to my patrons who make these videos possible. Especially
for supporting me when I do something a little different like this one. If you’d like to
support head over to patreon dot com slash maggie mae fish. And until next time, save
Martha.

100 comments on “change | by maggie mae fish

  1. When my mother passed away recently, I happened to start playing the game What Remains of Edith Finch. In it you walk through the remnants of an abandoned family home. You explore each member's room to get to get a feel for the person before living through their tragic death told in a fantastical way. There aren't any choices to make, no other paths, only forward. The only way is forward, and forward only holds more tragedy. The only agency I had was how I chose to view these people before they went. I felt just like that traffic scene, trapped by their inescapable demise. Forced to confront the fact tragedy is inevitable, but there can be so much beauty in between.

  2. I thought the same thing when you said whos your least favorite jean-luc. his movies are terribly exasperating and anxiety-inducing, and also very good and thoughful but fcking hard to sit through. that is kind of how I still view film school, in my final year, and how I generally feel about my life. when anxiety and fear strikes, I become angry at my inability to cope, to adapt, to change with the circumstances. this stagnates me, making me feel like im back at square one, leaving me a future reminder of my deficiencies. but I know that change is inevitable. I know ill have to change, because the other option is too scary to think about. and I like to believe, whether its true or not, that I did change from who I used to be.
    so thank you, maggie mae fish, for helping somebody face the changes with you. alone, it feels so much more difficult

  3. My grandma loved cardinals too. She'd always call them "redbirds" though. I lost her last April, and nothing's really gone right for me since then, health issues compounding on financials and friendships. But I saw a cardinal today.

  4. Excellent work with the pacing of the editing and writing. I like personal, anecdotal, video essays, but occasionally they can drag or get a bit repetitive. You did a fantastic job organizing your examples and thoughts here. Well done indeed, but sorry for your loss. I lost my grandpa late last year and had a similar time with my father. Change moves the world, but it can occasionally stop you dead in your tracks.

  5. "I've tried to clean it but it won't let me." That quote from Hoarders made me sob (this whole video has me sobbing, it's very cathartic actually, so thank you for showing that reality). My addiction is to substances, not hoarding, but that quote is me. It's so, so, so hard… because there is trauma behind any form of wall-building. Also, "Spirited Away" is my comfort movie too, and has been since I was a little kid when it first came out! Thank you for voicing your own experiences and sharing this…

  6. This was extremely powerful. Thank you for sharing this bit of yourself with all of us! It really resonated with me and helped me look at how I deal with change myself.

  7. The traffic jam scene in Weekend is brilliant… but I watched it at a terrible time in my life. The sounds especially just brought me to the edge of a panic attack. 🙃

  8. Excellent work as always, very thought-provoking.

    As an aside, hearing just your narration made me realise your delivery reminds me of Alison Brie.

  9. I love you, Maggie. And I'm proud that I got to take your likes on this video from 499 to 500. Thank you for sharing your brain and feelings with us.

  10. You probably know that Godard’s once partner and lead actress, Anna Karina had recently passed away. Our local Cinemateque had screened a few movies in her honor. So I saw Vivre sa vie. Something about it stays fresh and relevant today. Not only conceptually but visually. It made me think that some things don’t change… thanks for your video!

  11. I just got told I have to make a huge decision about my tiny companion tomorrow. He is 16 years old, (half my lifetime) and the best friend and little brother (and also older brother in his current grandad years) I could have possibly ever asked for. This video couldn't have come at a better or more needed time than this right now. Thank you Universe. Thank you Maggie <3

  12. It sounded like you had fun on GAM. Thanks for this video. I have PTSD and honestly I don't really know how to tear down my walls. I'm trying but it feels like they're permanent fixtures. It's something I think about a lot.

  13. Losing my grandmother was one of the worst things that ever happen to me and I carry it with me every single day

    This really hit close to home 🖤

  14. This really hit me (as I'm sure a lot of people did)
    My uncle passed away last fall and he was a hoarder. I was confused as to why my day spent hours and hours over so many weekends cleaning out the house rather than pay someone to clean it out, but then I realized that it was a way of going through the grieving process. I think it helped him better understand his brother and what he'd been going through.

  15. I love this piece. Really well shot and heartfelt in tone. I like that you made it gentle, because for a lot of people change can be ultimately terrifying, even the potentially good change. I like that the video is reminding us that it's ok. It's life. Even when it's hard. Thanks for that ,Maggie.

  16. This is sad and beautiful and perfect. It made me feel so vulnerable and so human I had to stop making dinner and just cry for a few minutes.

  17. My dad died a year ago today (he also really liked cardinals funnily enough). Experiencing, understanding, and trying in some way to direct the changes I can and accept the ones I can't defined 2019 for me and I want to say how sorry I am for your loss, and Thank You for how very seen this video made me feel

  18. It's interesting and beautiful to take such a heartfelt empathetic tone to Hoarders. I've mostly only ever been encouraged to externalize them as laughable social errors, but I think that's the grand movement these days to stop doing that. Stop externalizing people as an avoidance of our own tendencies. Stop pretending the problem or action is in some vague corner of the wrong and unify our experiences by internalizing language. Maybe it's not so new, but it's certainly a better angle. Thank you.

  19. “All that you touch. You Change. All that you Change Changes you. The only lasting truth is Change. God is Change.” Octavia E. Butler

  20. My response to my brothers sudden death was to get into minimalism. Death can make you realize stuff. Like how much useless stuff you have and how it stresses you out. My brother didn't have much because he didn't have much money, but it was interesting to see what he valued. It also shifts your mentality. The future looks different now. Like my parents will die someday and my brother won't be by my side to help me through it. How his daughters will have grow up without knowing him. Change. Nothing you can do about it sometimes.

  21. I wish I could go back in time and show myself this video before I spent almost 20 years putting up emotional walls to avoid addressing the fact my dad left.

  22. This was incredibly beautiful. I've been struggling to cope with the loss of my grandmother for over three years now, compounded by the loss of my grandfather. I wrote a game called Tribute to help, and it did, but I feel like this video was the final piece. Thank you!!

  23. Been having a hard time acknowledging that my teenage years are over and I have to move forward, especially since it coincided with the deaths of my grandmother and my uncle. It's nice to hear you articulate the things I've been trying to tell myself in a more effective way. I've got a better idea of what I'm dealing with now.

  24. This was a really touching video, Maggie. Please feel free to let your emotions guide another journey like this one again in the future.

  25. thank you for writing this, filming this, and publishing this. I can't imagine how hard this video would have been to create and share, the balance between being open and reflective while still being critical and objective is a tightrope I would undoubtedly fall off of. I can almost feel the pressure of "just one more edit"
    But maybe that's just me, and you did this spur of the moment in a weekend. I don't know your workflow. But that wouldn't make it any less impressive.

  26. Hey, that video essay was great and meant a lot to me. At the end of last year I quit a career job I'd had for almost ten years for my own mental health and to sort out some life stuff. It was an excruciating decision that took me more than a year to finally do. And of course, as soon as I had reached the other side of that decision, I was like, "Why didn't I do that sooner?" Not that everything is sunshine and roses now, but at least I have the space to be deliberate with my life. I've got only one life to live, and embracing change, no matter now hard, is how I get anywhere.

  27. The brief part where you talked about cardinals being “a person coming back to say hello” really hit me. I’ve always had a strange connection to cardinals; they make me happy and give me hope when I need it most.

  28. Hey thank you for this. I think I needed something like this, to have someone word it in a comforting way. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  29. Growing up in a household of both parents being hoarders and visiting my own dying grandmother in Michigan, this one really resonates with me.

  30. my grandpa passed away exactly a week ago and its been really hard on my dad. and me too, realising I dont have any grandparents anymore Ive been having a lot of the same ruminations but this is much kinder and holistic than mine. this was really sweet and I really appreciate it
    edit: also im so glad i didnt watch this at work when i got the notification cuz hoo boy

  31. if this video doesn't make you weep a little– reading peoples reactions in the comments will.

    lovely, thoughtful piece

  32. Seeing those hoarders was heartbreaking. I have nothing but compassion for them. It's so easy to judge, but all of us have immense clutter, I think — some inside, some outside. Our culture, even for those of us with privileges, is varying degrees of traumatizing.

    For me I've always thought that one's inner and outer space echo each other — that my disorganized stuff is correlated and interconnected with my disorganized brain. The more I sort through my things and confront the things they represent, the more I can sort them in my mind. The more I can let things go in real life, the more I can let things go in my mind. All that, and vice versa.

    Beautiful, thoughtful video on a subject very important to me!

  33. I love you, Maggie Mae Fish, for a lot of reasons. Your ability to help me process feelings I wasn't aware I was carting around is the current why.

  34. I loved this video. It encapsulates how I felt about my own recent move for a new job. Suddenly my family went from a 5 minute drive to a world away (I moved to the U.K). Change is hard, and often more personal than people expect.

  35. I can't properly put into words how I feel about this video. I have so many feelings going at once. I am on the verge of tears, yet I'm smiling. It fills me up and I have no idea how to get it out, whatever IT is. I love it, but I hate it. It's making me confront things I don't want to

  36. I remember as a child wishing hard that the world would freeze in time, all the time being very aware that it would not, that my relatively carefree childhood would not last, that my parents, my grandparents, would get older… unlike what is commonly thought kids want, I didn't wish to get older, to become an adult. This video reminded me of that feeling of being "nostalgic" for the present I was living in.

  37. One of your absolute best videos. As fun as dunking on the Evangelical Industrial complex has been in the last few videos, the direction & heart of this video resonated so much more. We won't win by fighting what we hate, but by saving what we love.

  38. This was a really personal and human video, it might be my faveourite you've done. It helped me look back on a more tumoltuous moment in my life were i wasnt able to deal with change around me and in my life

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