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LOVERSE V1: What is healing? Evolution of “Restoration”

After making a whole project around healing, I’ve realized just non-linear things are which emphasizes how unique everyone’s journey is. I’ve had so many cycles of realizations to count but for me, I finally feel free or closer to it since committing to my own journey. I’ve spoken about it before, but when I wrote my short ‘Restoration,’ I was reflecting on grief, this new feeling I wasn’t familiar with, and lots of questions/imaginations I had. Before filming, I wrote a foreword with some background on the film, our backers, and universe building. I didn’t realize I wanted to build and already was in the process of building out my own cinematic universe when writing this. The NFT collection in progress for the film was not only born out of my desire to center storytelling at the forefront of my artist toolbox and lean into the interconnected possibilities that exist across art forms, but also as an experiment. It was an experiment with a road of possibilities that eventually came into the clearest of perspectives.

Restoration (2020) coming soon written, directed , co-produced by Lauren Washington.
Restoration (2020) coming soon written, directed , co-produced by Lauren Washington.

Consequently, my own relationship with the film even shifted as well. The film follows Tisch after the passing of her grandfather as she is forced to seek treatment at ‘The Restoration’ facility where VR therapy aims to erase her grief permanently. I’m sure I’m not the only one that’s been in cycles of change since 2020. I started writing this excerpt months ago in early February and even now, these realizations don’t feel like mine anymore. I’m going to lean into that as an excuse for the length of this chapter. Anyway, I wrote ‘Restoration’ during quarantine and reflected on the idea when I was so angry, confused, numb, and anxious amidst this period of transition, change, and false outrage which is wild to look back on now.

As I alluded to in my last Mirror post, I’m going to be writing more. I love to write, but somewhere along the way, I wasn’t writing for myself. The same thing with being an artist. I lost the journey of self-discovery as an artist and what it means to me outside of trying to ‘make it,’ so I could be “free” with more agency and power to do things my own way plus put on others. Maybe I never was ready to commit to the self-discovery previously, but I certainly have now and it’s only growing. I’ll expand on this further, but it’s a short preview of what this issue is about. Welcome to LOVERSE V1. I’ve been having a flood of realizations coming full circle since January and recently, I decided to start this ongoing series that ties into the universe I am building. Future posts will be shorter but this is not one of those times. The symbolism of LOVERSE will be explained later in this post but as “Restoration” has been in post-production, I have learned a lot about what the film taught me or what I was trying to uncover. I like leaving room for people to have intentional interpretations or grow from my work so it’s not like an essential truth I’m trying to project, but I’ve been able to answer questions I wanted to explore with this film both consciously and unconsciously. I’ve also been able to recognize recurring symbolism in my writing and it’s invigorating. It’s interesting how art can shift meaning or reveal itself more to the artist since the inception of the idea, during creation, and post-creation. That’s where I’m at with my art, it feels like fluid evolving dreamscapes and experiments of alchemy. I like uncovering myself through art, really growing into myself, and knowing who I am. Keep who you are as an artist, it’s sacred and rare. I’ve realized it’s really no joke when I say ‘web3’ has changed my life or having ‘web2 trauma,’ and it’s been so apparent just how much so already in 2022.

At this moment re-reading my words, I’m realizing maybe it’s not even web2 vs web3, but really the impact of the ‘‘white supremacist imperialist capitalist and cis-hetero-patriarchy” on these creative industries and within society that bell hooks frequently spoke about that traumatized me so, much like everyone else in this world.

A new portal for change has awakened for many and the deprogramming has been immense. I’ve been able to re-identify why I’m making art, the path I want to be on as an artist in this time of my life, and heal my own relationship with this film. I have finally recognized what healing looks like for me in every aspect of my life at this moment of time, and I find it to be poetic that my first short film immortalizes that journey of self that I was on. With that, the idea of LOVERSE came to fruition after a period of reflection about all that I imagined if I could simply be an artist.

“Who are you when you’re facing you?” — @artbyjah

I’m not sure if I would’ve had this awareness without the level of work I’ve been committed to on myself, including decolonization and renewal in web3. I alluded to a lot of my journey in my last re-introduction post, but at the start of 2022, a lot of the work I’d been doing in 2021 clicked. There aren’t enough infrastructures of care, largely from my American POV, and without communities and ecosystems that prioritize life, people, and growth at the core, then we have a society full of people with immense trauma that largely goes unexpressed. Likewise, there isn’t time, space, or encouragement to feel it all or feel period on top of all of the inequities that purposefully divide society among race, class, gender, etc.

I think a lot of the ways therapy has been perceived as weak, embarrassing, and only applicable for certain situations, while simultaneously being inaccessible to so many. Now, of course, therapy can only do so much in an anti-black, ‘white supremacist imperialist capitalist cis-hetero-patriarchal world,’ but it’s a dual ripple effect of the aforementioned in how mental health is not equipped to exist in how society functions and the large toll generations feel differently. One of my favorite shows from years ago was Skins UK, as it’s deeply authentic, refreshing, and dark. Anyway, Cassie was right in how often ‘we as people consume what we can and then leave.’ I think there are so many cycles of pain and trauma that more often than not are rooted in being disposable instead of community-centric. This idea of connection, community, and love are themes I’m exploring heavily in this next set of scripts and I implore everyone to ‘decolonize their survival instinct and realize it’s a shared burden’. It’s ok to need help, to be in co-healing spaces, to have boundaries and expectations purely for your own needs, and lean on your community. As hooks said,

“Rarely if ever, are any of us healed in isolation. Healing is an act of communion.”

It’s so conditioned within the psyche that most of us don’t dream of anything different. Therefore, it’s a privilege to be able to do so like what’s happening with lots of us in web3 right now, deeply connected by certain common goals to create new ecosystems of freedom. I joked to a friend that Ali in Euphoria is a better representation of better care practices than the entire infrastructures of health both physically and mentally in the U.S. That’s how therapy felt for me, especially having a Black woman, but it can be even better. Having someone who connects with you via wanting to help and care by giving space to listen without shame or judgment are tools that should be universally accessible. Sometimes you may need more help or none at points in your life, but the point is, it’s an aspect of health that can be fluidly available.

Anyway, with unforeseen change, uncomfortably painful re-directions, and physical + mental exhaustion from the film, it was time I actually centered mental wellness as a core focus. I think writing the film was a step in that direction too. At some point, the idea of slowing down or truly feeling was nonexistent in my life and that manifested further disconnection from my body. We can only discover some things ourselves and there’s no telling when that’ll be revealed. This is a theme of some current writing I’m outlining under my universe, but there are lots of periods of life where people need time to reflect, be still, explore, or experiment, but as one example, academia as it now functions can limit that. Quarantine uprooted me a lot and after shooting the film in the spring of ’21, I was reaching new highs with my goals through the summer and new pathways awakening, but personally, I was processing so much hurt I didn’t know the cause of and heartbreak I wasn’t prepared for. Amidst everything going on in 2021, it was simultaneously filled with new highs and turning points but also the toughest experiences. Not to quote TV or the new Gossip Girl, because the OG has my heart, but Julien Calloway served when she said she ‘had someone who finally saw her or at least she thought and maybe she needed to walk away to see that she could stand on her own.’ Anyway, therapy helped me with healing inner wounds, insecurities, desirability, the weight of intersectionality, internalized projections, pain, feeling, and detachment. As I grew deeper into discussions with my therapist, I made deeper connections to spirituality free of western influence. Everyone’s got their fair share of depths to confront but for myself, I realized I was living how I thought I had to.

It’s hard to detach from identities that weren’t yours, to begin with, and reckon with who you were underneath all of that.

Coupled with being a young person there’s just a lot of self-discovery. It’s been a huge theme of everything for me while on this journey of life the past 3–4 years in uni coupled with the gaslighting of this entire global pandemic. With the bubble of a predominantly white high school and all of the new experiences I embarked on in college getting me closer to knowing myself, there came a tipping point where it was too much to process on my own anymore.

It’s wild how you can be going through life without really feeling. I think I always found solace in escapism by binging TV shows, writing, or playing sports. Imagination was always a comfort, and it never made sense to me when people would tell me to ‘listen to my heart or body’ because I was usually so in my head instead of my body. After all, I am a mercurial dominant being. I found a bit of solace getting closer to mindfulness before high school after reading ‘The Power of Now,’ but it still didn’t make sense to me what ‘being’ was and the value of presence in all areas of my life. That’s why sports was and is so fun to me, it was me loving ‘storytelling’ before even knowing how storytelling would be a guiding principle of my life. I love narratives, games, adventures, and quests. Sports is a pretty good example of that and it gave me room to approach life like ‘play’. Everything else just felt so confined while sports was the one place where it felt like presence, the importance of being in community, and not a race towards productivity so that life can be great one day. So I learned the skill of coping but not feeling, and over time, that disassociation isn’t a viable solution. The way society functions exacerbates wounds everyone has and it is evident that many are driven by repressed traumas and colonization. The phrase from bell hooks replacing intersectionality is felt every waking moment of my existence. Imagine the transformative shift from punishment to care in all facets of life. For me, finally learning to really feel and allowing myself to not be ok rewired my relationship to emotions + my body. Once you allow the pain, it’s a different type of discipline and the catalyst I needed to learn detachment, but not in the way that I thought it to negatively be. I’m definitely forever changed in this transitional world we live in amongst the old world and future worlds possible.

The experience of pain for me has been like an open wound that’s inaccessible to close that only escalates or eases at random times. A rollercoaster of being on the operating table until one day you’re not in so much pain and patched up slightly by realizations, growth, new experiences, new people, and time. Perhaps not even patched up but reborn into who you were always meant to be or transformed by the circumstances.

I’m not a fan of generalized statements because it’s quite boring and limiting to think of things as the only way which is so often the case with discussions around healing, self-esteem, forgiveness, detachment, etc. All of the aforementioned things are skills that can grow slowly, but all that’s shouted towards people are blanket, condescending, judgy statements and buzz words that don’t give instructions on how to heal or love yourself or forgive someone. Even if well-intentioned, sometimes telling someone what you believe they need to do when it comes to mental health isn’t ready to be received yet. I think it’s a journey only one can personally understand and reveals itself over time in divine fashion if you fall deeper into yourself.

The tunnel is vast and we’re not in a society that provides support for an empty void so a lot of stuff gets bottled up. I’ve been going through all different stages and am shocked at the timing plus interconnectedness of understanding where I’m at. Reconnecting with my body, my senses, and intuition has been a gift to further unlock only the things I can really know for myself and release. Empty buzzwords do nothing to help guide someone to heal. Sometimes all that’s needed is the infrastructure to support the space for healing/being, so how are you supposed to know how to heal, how to feel, what forgiveness is, how to detach, or if any of these things are things you even want for yourself in the 1st place without support?

It’s helped me feel the strength I have by not being strong just for strength’s sake but honoring the waves of emotions that I needed to keep cycling through.

In that, it was like mini doors were opened for me to navigate my wants, desires, tough truths, and detach from identities + indoctrination I didn’t identify with anymore. ‘You never know how strong you are until strong is the only choice you have’. Everyone’s path is so distinct and I think once you truly go into the depths of your soul, the light of your higher self keeps ascending. This intense cycle of healing I’ve been finally confronting has been so pivotal because I’ve had the space to feel, dream, re-evaluate, be angry, be sad, and talk freely to decipher my way forward. I absolutely love learning but finishing my last quarter of school was one of the toughest things amidst not being ok. However, in order to finish to be free, like many aspects of society, there wasn’t room for my mental health and learning to fully coexist. So like most people I know in college, you charge it to the game and somehow persevere. It’s a symptom of the myriad of institutions and systems that encroach on our ability to live every day when it could be so much more for the majority of us that experience this. These symptoms are going to be explored in my next few scripts toying with re-imagining education and defying conventions in your youth.

What is being an artist?

Something my brother Brandon and I made our motto for Project FILO is ‘by artists, for artists,’ and it’s really that simple, as with most things is to let people be. Months ago around the time I thought to write this, I asked a question to the TL asking ‘if people could just be an artist, what would that look like for them?’ It’s nice to bring imagination into your life and create your own reality.

For me in my universe, I’m shaping new worlds and I realized so much of what we can want as an artist or in other areas of our lives are heavily influenced by “industry” and other societal ills. A lot of the accustomed things I observe and used to partake in myself don’t appeal to me. I don’t think there are right ways to do something as an artist, but what people often mean is how to make it as the ‘accepted and most profitable artist’ that’ll return their investment. It is a game of hyper-financialization and control, but that’s not the essence of creation or how to tap into the spirit.

Back when I started writing this in early February I heard Latashá in a Spaces for the ‘HEADWRAPS’ auction. It was like a catalyst for my own check-in and awakening of who I am as an artist. I went back to the very beginning. It moved me to hear Latashá talk about the importance of protecting who you are as an artist. I got a little emotional thinking about the industry and how it’s a common tragedy for some of the biggest stars to lose who they wanna be as an artist, how common it has been for Black women writers to be lonely & depressed, and how discouraging it can be to not even get entry or permission to be “real artists,” quantified by the industry yet again. This thought about “being” set the tone for me to dig deep to understand LOVERSE and just so much. My own newfound sense of self, detachment, and decolonizing work has made me feel more in alignment with being an artist than I ever have. I’ve been restoring my soul, learning to let go, and unapologetically living, which has affirmed who I’m writing for, what I’m writing about, and the things I’m trying to bring to light. All you can control is within and that actually is a huge amount of power that’ll affect change in so many areas. Trust is huge so strengthen yourself first and your values. I think when you’re a kid, you get a glimpse of your highest self and when you grow, you can either protect that + be the person you always deserved or dreamed about or you can ignore your inner wounds. Kids always are the future, let curiosity remain. I think not having your own set of codes, standards, or knowing yourself is really dangerous territory and this entire reflection is basically a manifestation of that. It’s like Rue from Euphoria who doesn’t even know herself or know what she wants to keep living after all of her grief. That’s really scary and even scarier for me is living for someone else and someone else’s ideologies so that you don’t even know what yours are. I think back to before ‘Restoration’ when I planned to make this short sophomore year about anxiety which probably was a culmination of academics, burnout, and things I didn’t know I needed to work through. In that, I was inspired by a convo Rick Rubin had with Kevin abstract where he talks about this too. I often really enjoy interviews with other artists and spaces where people can express their truths.

I feel such a deep love for Toni Morrison, Octavia Butler, and Black women writers who have managed to stand firm in their pen, free of the POV of whiteness and instead firmly bound to their souls. I can’t imagine the pains of artists back then and feel such a connection to Nina Simone as she battled the industry and the world. Sometimes it feels very physically moving to listen to legendary genius and renaissance level artists because their words resonate heavier now. It’s a reminder to remain true to my evolving purpose and imagination and desires. It is pivotal to being an artist. I must honor all of my fantasies, my dreams, my wants, live to the fullest of my curiosities, and detach from the norm of what’s projected onto me in order to be the artist that I want to be. I aim to honor my journey of self-discovery + healing and remain playful, youthful, and different so I can be an artist. Art grounds me, teaches me, connects me, mystifies me, unlocks me, guides me and it is everything that makes life a dream so I must honor living first. I must honor the journey. I must honor patience. I must never lose myself as an artist because if that happens, I will have lost myself. The deathly weight of interlocking systems and the immense ease of creation from living in a violently broken world and exploring the curiosities of the universe. Thanks to all who hold space for who I’m becoming and give me space to feel on this ever journey of self. It pains me to see the many artists lost at the hands of the industry and losing themselves. It’s so cruel to lose your highest, most authentic free self or to never discover it. I made “Restoration” at a time that I was so angry, so sad, and so lost with 2020 and had such a feeling of helplessness, anxiety, angst, and anger at the ways in which pain physically haunts our DNA as Black people worldwide unlike that for any other group. It really affected me summer of 2020, more so than it normally does, as it did when I first learned of Trayvon Martin. There is a twisted intersectional burden that makes reality hard to live through without deprogramming everything you’ve ever known. I witnessed how quickly our pain became co-opted for movements. I witnessed orgs “for us, by us” receive millions in funding, yet those making real communal efforts and progress were always buried to the side or completely eradicated. Somehow I landed on this script reflecting on grief at a time when I was unnecessarily hard on myself to try to find my “writing voice,” and it’s been a gateway for me to think on new ecosystems for healing, living, guiding me back to myself, and guiding me here. I’m excited to talk about this further when the film drops and keep an everlasting convo going with the community of LOVERSE both IRL and online. We’re going to be World building alongside my scripts. I love the clarity I feel as an artist right now and it makes me reflect on something Toni Morrison answered in an interview question about outside influence and criticism. It’s something that’s stuck with me because I only welcome conversation and see it from those who have done this work, truly see me, and know the culture I’m speaking about first off.

My work is always for me and is a plus when it can reach who it is meant to. It takes a lot as an artist to get to a place of thinking to transmute our creations so we need safe spaces and intentional nuance plus meaningful engagement with the work. Not saying people can’t have opinions of artists’ creations but I’m building a community of opinions that have value, as for anything else that’s cool that you have that interpretation. For me and where I’m headed as an artist, I’m detaching from the systems and building new ecosystems. I like the word ecosystem better. I’m loving the process of figuring out new languages to describe the life I envision which requires new ecosystems.

The Power of Being — My Universe

Nearly a year ago now today, before life felt solely dark and monotonous, it is wild to physically feel the change since then in all areas of being. Healing became more than just a saying people say they’re doing and I actually understood all the layers where I needed to heal, so in a way, it doesn’t consume me anymore or my identity. It’s just a part of life that I now welcome and am navigating in this new reality we live in. I think there are wounds we have to heal and more often than not the list gets longer and longer, but something shifts when you decide to face all parts of yourself. For me, I feel in a place of stillness and radical rebirth. There’s only so much you can do but survival should be a shared burden in this ‘white supremacist imperialist capitalist cis-hetero-patriarchy’ (hooks). I never expected while in pre-prod for ‘Restoration,’ it’d unconsciously begin the process of my real healing journey spurred by my intro to web3 simultaneously with so many of my peers I’m now in community with. Web3 has felt like the room to breathe and to reconnect deeper with me for the 1st time. In doing so, I’ve achieved such a clear deeper perspective of the ills of the systems we have in place that are so-called permanent and logical since it’s been accustomed. It feels tangible for survival to eventually not be the focal point of living, but instead just existence being the priority. The equalizing of the ability to live and thrive. Taking risks with my friends this entire year all connected by our art has helped me get here. My family has helped me get here. For someone who has had such a clear vision and path, trusting in myself and having free time to dedicate to me as an artist has been a spiritual cleanse. My vision is now refined and more expansive than ever, but now it’s purely for me, on my own time, and is so deeply connected to who I am as an artist and being.

Web3 (big asterisk because not talking about all of y’all IYKYK) has become one of the best places I’ve felt such shared synchronicity of why someone is doing something​​ free of industry influence and a place wh​​ere we can collectively survive tog​​ether, make change brick by brick, just be, and thrive authentically. Being in this space and committed to self in a way completely new to me has become a series of unlearning + awakenings that I can dream of new ways to collaborate, live, work, organize, and more. It has been a healing process for my body to act in more ways of being fully alive and freely autonomous. It’s fire to step into the woman I have always dreamed of being, but navigating my nervous system after allowing myself to feel and work through a lot for the 1st time has been such a different feeling. I’m easily reminded by my body of the impact of trauma, so it’s just always a work in progress to let things pass but it’s such a trip navigating this world where so much is rooted in whiteness. I could go on and on but this would end up being a dissertation. I’m deeply grateful to have detached from who I used to be and leaned into who I’m divinely becoming. I’m otherworldly, I’m not the standard, I’m not conventional but I am always on the mood board. This outpouring of vulnerability was something necessary for me to fully transcend and it led me to develop my own universe. For my FWB Fellows project, it is a special launch point for this cosmic planet which will encompass varying media and experiences related to the scripts I am developing under this universe. I collaborated on a 3D piece with none other than the god, @peenpoontweets, to represent my expanding cinematic and physical universe.

The unparalleled time to build fully in web3 as both an artist & founder has led me on a transformative journey both as an artist and human. I have reclaimed my artist journey, de-centering Hollywood and creative industries as the main center. Through this, I had the most incredible surge of creativity and an epiphany that the scripts I am writing and films in post-prod currently are interconnected in that they not only represent my cinematic universe, but reflect the world I want to see, explore, question, or move away from. I am creating a community for myself centered around my creations that are all about using storytelling for a better world, absurdities, and my curiosities. Around my films, I now can create other aspects that continue on the story through blogging, sponsorships, my podcast coming soon, comics/mangas, video game development, photo books, music, fashion, events, and so much more. These stories will all be interconnected in the universe but will exist in their own worlds that’ll be full of experiences to cultivate around. Detaching from the standard and the industry has led me to the desire to create my own literal universe or multiverse, and this is the inception with the roster of upcoming projects I have to build it out. The NFT, ‘LOVERSE’ will serve as the physical representation of my “genesis” script portfolio including 2 pilot scripts, my feature script, and a sophomore short film script in collaboration with @moyosorebriggs & @bad_oats. With this, it is serving as the representation of my film universe that I’m crafting & not waiting for Hollywood to greenlight. These themes in the scripts represent my journey, my experiences, my observations, and my visions + questions to reflect on towards a better world + as we navigate through the new/old world and systems. This universe is controlled by no one but me and all who want to co-create and dream with me to become better. This is my album but for film and in this season of life, these are the stories I’ve wanted to tell.

For so long artists have been robbed of authentic connections, community building, all facets of who they are, and intentional artistry. I look around at the village of artists and visionaries I’ve been drawn to like a new renaissance. It’s an insane timeline to be living in. This is rewiring at the root. Transcending ourselves to higher energies. Artists having freedom. “Restoration” was an outcry for that when I didn’t even know it. Learning how I can show freedom and embody it. It used to feel like such an intense struggle of being a Black woman and discovering myself.

Now I don’t feel like I have to humanize myself. I am just being me in a world that doesn’t grant me humanity.

I went through a lot making this film and it made me minimize the work that was done to create it, but I feel very proud of it. I’m grateful I’ve found newfound joy and freedom again to build around this film. I don’t feel pressure anymore to be held to anyone’s standard. I’m experimenting and living in my truth. There were a lot of things that uncovered my intrigue to get to web3 and “Restoration” was one of them. I’m not sure what to make of the universe at this moment, but I’m at ease knowing I’m on my own spiritual journey and am not letting the ‘white supremacist imperialist capitalist cis-hetero-patriarchy’ control my existence.

Living and now writing it all has been a spiritual cleanse and mode of transformation for me. Onto the newness now, but this is what healing has been for me and what it continues to look like. I hope my work can reach those who align with the vision and freeing portal of LOVERSE. Writing is so so beautiful, I’m shaping my universe with all of the complexities of good, bad, curiosities, questions, and balance.

“Every story I create, creates me. I write to create myself” (Octavia E. Butler).

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