The forest looks different under cover of darkness. It is only 10 PM, but the thick shadows surrounding our campsite suggest that it is later. The world is quiet; for it is the stars’ time to be admired. Valentina Bianchi and I perch in foldable chairs around a bonfire, wrapped in layers to stave off the cold. We steal glances at the sparkling corner of the universe in wondrous display before us and watch as the fire crackles and spits tiny, glowing embers that shimmer like the stars above before disappearing into the abyss.
How are you today?
I think, over the past few days, I’ve been really considering my feelings towards how I am right now, going [into] junior year especially, and, as of this very moment, I’m just happy. There’s no other way to describe it. It’s not that I’ve been unhappy in my life up until now, but at least the past couple of days, whether it’s going to be this tiny little gap of pure happiness, or if it will span throughout the year, who knows, but [I’m] happy.
If you could relive any moment, which would you choose?
This is so difficult. (Pauses.) I think I’d have to say… This is so cheesy, especially because you’re the one conducting the interview, but meeting you and [another friend] in the summer that one year because I remember it happening, but I can’t remember the actual feelings or the specific emotions correlating with it, and I’d like to go back and see how I feel in comparison to everything I know about how friends work now (laughs) and why we’ve become such good friends.
What is your biggest pet peeve?
When people insert “like” unnecessarily within their diction (laughs), or when people are rude. I just don’t think there is a real excuse for it. I feel a moral obligation, at least on my part, to act cordial towards others unless they give me a reason not to. So [I don’t think] being rude to someone, or anyone really, in your life, is okay.
Do you have a “pump up” song?
It used to be “Dirty Little Secret” by the All-American Rejects, but as of now, it’s “Riot” by Mikky Ekko. It just sounds like I’m a rebel when I’m singing along to it. (Laughs.)
How do you feel about the group-thinking (also known as the mob) mentality?
I think that, in some circumstances, being able to rally behind one opinion or one thought makes it a good resource or option for what you’re doing, but in general, it takes away people’s individuality. I think that people get too caught up in trying to act as if they have that same opinion because, a lot of times, it’s not as if they have that same opinion because they are in consensus with whatever “group thought” we’re talking about as much as they want people to accept them for thinking the same way. And in doing that, we lose ourselves or what it is we stand for.
What’s the biggest lie you’ve ever told?
I don’t lie often because, not that many people are in avid support of it, but I’m really against dishonesty. It seems like it would have had to have been a lie to my parents, but I don’t know. (Pauses.) Oh goodness, okay, I think I have one.
Freshman year… I’m a responsible student to a point, to a certain extent, and in my English class, we had a project due on the day of the final, and I do well on projects, it’s just that procrastination is a horrid issue with me. (Laughs.) Everyone’s going to think that this [is] lame, but either way, I told my teacher, because I hadn’t finished the project yet, that, because the majority of the work was to be completed on Google Docs, [which] obviously is an online platform [that] requires internet, my internet was down and that we’d just switched, or that the repairman had had to come in, and so I wasn’t able to complete the project and I needed at least a day more. (Laughs.) I still cringe about it to this day just because, it seems silly, [but] so many people might not think greatly of it, but because of the beliefs I have as a person, it felt so wrong.
Is there anything you’re embarrassed about being a fan of?
Yeah. I think I used to be, just for a little while, embarrassed of liking 5 Seconds of Summer just because they’re almost directly associated with One Directions since they opened up for them on their tour, and it’s really how they got their name out there. Not that they’re unworthy of it, but without having been on that tour, I don’t think they would have gotten their name out quite as well, and because I used to hate One Direction and I thought fans of One Direction were petty and too “fangirly” and so on, I was a little bit embarrassed to be admitting I liked 5 Seconds of Summer. There’s bound to be other things, but I don’t think they’re worth going into right now. Nor do I remember them. (Laughs.)
On a scale of 1-10, how much do you think you care what others think of you?
It’s all very dependent on [whom] the person is, but if we’re talking about the public as a whole, I’d say 9. (Laughs.) I shouldn’t care half as much as I do, let alone at all, aside from my own evaluation of how I feel and what I think of myself, but we’re being honest, and it’s the truth; I would say a 9.
What is your top priority?
There are so many things I could say [such as] being successful… I do want to have a family and things like that, but if I’m talking about a top priority, it would be making sure that, in the end, I’m ultimately happy with everything that I’ve done and that I’m happy with who I’ve known and how I went about doing whatever I have in my life, so I’d say happiness. If we want to put a title on it, the Pursuit of Happiness just because it really is something I believe in.
Do you have a favorite quote?
“We’re too young to be afraid to fly like burning doves.” [from “Burning Doves” by Mikky Ekko.] And I would say [it is] because just having a fear of what’s going to be in the future or of what I don’t know about so many things in life, or just having fear in general, whether it’s about something abstract or something concrete [and] in front of me, is a big issue, and I don’t know if it’s really that it helps me through as much as it sympathizes with how I feel.
If you were in a band, which instrument would you play?
I’m torn between [electric] bass and drums. Because I love the ripping, low sound that the bass makes, but drums are almost equally as cool for me. I respect electric [rhythm] guitar and lead guitar and so on. When I think about it, [I’d like to play] electric bass and [be] lead singer on some songs, but not the main [singer] in general.
What do you think is the most important trait a person could have?
Not that I don’t value intelligence now, but I think, just to go into a little mini history on it, I used to believe that intelligence was one of the biggest, if not the biggest, determining factor in whether I should be friends with a person or not. I used to judge people a lot on how intelligent they were, at least in comparison to how [intelligent] I thought I was and maybe how they fell on a scale. And I realized how wrong it was [at least in my eyes].
Now, I would say how [people] handle things that are thrown at them. It sounds odd and a little bit obscure, but how you go about dealing with a situation you hadn’t expected or meeting a new person; just everyday situations, the way that they go about it, and in the midst of it, how they treat other people while doing it. I would say thinking outside of yourself because when someone is all about themselves and doesn’t consider anyone else, it’s not something that I find acceptable, at least [based on] my morals.
How do you deal with disappointment?
That’s a tough question. Not well, I would say. Usually, I associate disappointment with that of it being in myself, and generally, that stems from something that I consider a failure on my part. And a lot of times, it might come with my performance in a [sports] game, or did I remember to do this type of problem on a test, or how could I have handled this situation better, or why did I say this in a conversation. I think I end up going over whatever I’m disappointed in again and again in my mind, on replay, and eventually, not that it’s a huge ordeal, it might just be for ten minutes after whatever’s happened or a while later when I actually have time to think about it, I realize that, basically, there’s nothing that I could have done to control the situation. Talking about whether it’s disappointment in someone else or myself, I have to accept that because being able to manipulate occurrences isn’t something in my power, and if I’m disappointed in that, I have to deal with it.
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
There [are] different aspects of things that I see: what do I see emotionally, or what do I feel emotionally when I see myself in the mirror, and what is actually in front of me as a concrete, physical being. I think I see someone who wants to be happy and for the most part, thinks she is, who wants to be everything her parents expect, but at the same time wants to do everything she wishes in her life. I see someone who does her best with all types of relationships, whether we’re talking about platonic or romantic. I think I see someone who should be happier with herself, but isn’t for some reason. Someone who is more than what they think.
What is your greatest fear?
Maybe that I’m too safe. That even though I claim that I like spontaneity and doing things on the spur of the moment, that redundancy will become too comfortable for me, and that I’ll end up being in this safe space and thinking that anything outside of it is only going to harm me when really, anything I experience outside of it can only help me in some way or another, and that by the end of my life, I’ll look back and think, Why didn’t I do that? Why didn’t I talk to this person? That I’m too worried about, not physically staying safe, but feeling comfortable; that I’d have missed out on everything I thought life would be.
Can you offer any profound advice?
(Pauses.) Be open to others and their opinions and what they have to say while maintaining a balance of recognizing that opinion, etc, but staying true to what you believe in. Just because someone might have a strong argument or belief doesn’t negate yours. If you let fear and feeling intimidated by somebody else control your thoughts and beliefs, you’re not really you anymore.
We talked earlier about how much I care about what other people think. I want people not to [care so much about what others think of them]. It’s very trite to say your opinion is the only one that should matter to you, but I think it’s a very true statement. Once you get your [own] approval, [you might] wonder things like, What do my friends think of me? and you have to realize that your friends are there for a reason, that they’ll value your opinion.
As a separate piece of advice, don’t let fear rule everything, ever. It’s not an easy thing to overcome, and maybe you won’t ever really let it go or forget about it, but if you don’t at least try or rebel against it, then you’re not living, and you’re not going to be happy.