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  • Writer's pictureAnanya

Club Penguin Existential Crisis

A quick note from Hailo

Now you all are going to meet Ananya. I was honestly done with the process of picking writers, but she reached out via Instagram and I took one look at her account and her writing and set up an interview. She has this extremely intentional honesty and intensity that makes her feel immediately likeable and real. She wasn't afraid to show initiative and she's beautifully spiritual and self aware. And she has unique takes on LA, among many other things...

My consciousness, for better or for worse, has always been intimately connected to the hands of the collective. How could it not be? I’m a daughter of the digital age through and through. I grew up on Club Penguin and Google+ posts, through subtweet warfare and secret Instagram identities. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the moment I can pinpoint as my conscious awakening is the first time I felt seen by the Other (stay with me, I promise it makes sense). 

It happened in 2013. Miley Cyrus had just released the Wrecking Ball music video and I was sitting in Ms. B’s sixth grade class, doing my best to stop thinking about it and pay attention to a lesson about literary devices. Ms. B was going on and on about the use of “like” in similes, but she must have changed topics because all of a sudden she pointed one finger in my direction and said, in front of the whole class, “Like Ananya. Ananya could write her college essay right now and get in.” Wakefulness. I was seen. 

I had always been a voracious reader (foreshadowing?); writer was a newly bestowed identity which I decided to embrace, fully. I would go home and write down my thoughts in a journal,  and within a month I was toting it to class, its pages ripe with intimate reflections, salacious takes on who liked who and rankings of which kid was the fastest in class. Eventually, I found myself leaving it purposefully unattended for the prying pre-adolescent eyes of the class to consume. In doing so, I began playing a strange game that has never really ended.

I’m almost out of college now and still doing the same thing, in a way. I’ve taken breaks but I don’t think I’ve ever stopped — because it’s fun. At 17, I shared my consciousness through Instagram reposts and Twitter thinkpieces. I was so angry to be awake. I walked around with rage in my stomach and my soul and spit sparks at anyone who questioned it.

In college, tired and hopped up on a desperate need for self-mythology, I boldly (and perhaps foolishly) shifted to writing SATC-esque explorations of hookup culture based on real partners and posted them on my story, daring ex-hookups to swipe up and protest their characterizations. (I don’t do THAT anymore. Mostly due to ethics and professionalism but also because I’m older now and know how to write those stories while cloaking them in high level metaphors and similes and the other literary devices that Ms. B loved so much in sixth grade.)

What I was chasing, and have been since sixth grade I think, is the need to see and be seen. My drive for visibility along with an algorithm-induced blessing and several synchronicities are what swept me up and led me here. I didn’t know what I was getting into when I ready Hailey’s call for a “we, you… us” in December, I didn’t know when I answered the questions on the Google Form, I didn’t know when I fell victim to my TikTok tarot reader’s manifesto and scribbled “to be a Hot Literati writer” during a full moon and still didn’t have a real clue when I DM’d the account asking about interviews and statuses and confirmations. Truly, not an idea. 

But I think I started to understand last Friday, when I met two other writers and Hailey for the first time and we sat and talked about writing but also not writing and tattoos and bookmaking and creative spirits and dreaming. It hit me about halfway through the call. I was shifting around in my crescent-shaped orange seat, listening (really listening, not Zoom-call reacting) to one of the girls speak, when I looked down and realized that I hadn’t touched my drink and that my palms were damp. I was beyond nervous — I was electric. Creating has always been my way of sharing my consciousness, but it’s been lonely. Today, it feels different. And when I think back to how we talked about the future and our hopes for our words and presence in the digital space, I’m reminded of that moment in sixth grade. Very awake. Very ready. And starting to feel seen again. 

I’m so glad that my path has led me here, to Hot Literati, to the other writers and of course to all of you hot, cool, well-read people. The most fun I’ve had in the world has been creating and solving the mysteries of the Universe together. I can’t wait to do that here with you.


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