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The Art of Independence

August 25, 2016

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Cienne overalls
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After three years of being a New Yorker, there’s one thing that I’ve learned. Being independent is an important quality to have in this city. In a city that seems to continuously be going in all directions and with new faces crossing our paths on the daily, it can be easy to be overwhelmed. I’ve thought about this a lot since I moved to NYC three years ago. And I know for a fact that my first few months here I would not have survived so easily if it wasn’t for my sister already being here, and instantly becoming my closest friend here. She still is. She was the person who calmed me down when I got lost on the subway and felt so frustrated at life. She was the person who listened to me vent when my boss at work pissed me off so hard I wanted to cry and kick and quit on the spot. She was the one who gave me a shoulder to lean on when I needed a place to escape from an evil roommate situation. And she was an open door when I needed to get out of my place and just shut things out for a little bit. The world outside one’s doorstep in this city can be a hurricane, with the looks of a bully that cannot seem to ever be conquered alone. Which is why I understand why the idea of seeking refuge with people who are friends or acquaintances, at all times, is a form of protection in this city that is a sea of ever-changing experiences and characters that can sometimes hurt us or knock us down. And the idea of facing it all alone . . . well that’s quite scary right?

I once wrote a blog post mentioning how NYC can feel to some, like the loneliest city in the world, despite all the bodies and all the action and the endless amount of things to do. That’s the thing about NYC, there is so much going on at once, time feels almost useless because there is never enough time for it all. Never enough. And well that sort of passing of time, of having what seems like the world at our fingertips, but not enough time to grasp at it, that can be a pretty lonely feeling. And yes, I’ve had that feeling many a times. And in times like these, I always try to change things for the better.

Instead of feeling swept away by time, I made the decision to use every second of my time. And I started by looking at the idea of loneliness and how I could change it with different sorts of perspective into something that I shouldn’t be fearful of, but something that I would want to embrace and embody. Loneliness vs. Being Alone. It’s a sometimes confusing concept, but there really is a major difference between the two. And the concept, for me, heavily relied on my sense of independence. How strong am I on me own two feet? How often do I rely on others for supplying the answers? How much do I motivate myself, without the approval by others? How confident am I in situations where I won’t have someone there to back me up? These are all questions I asked myself, and they all involved qualities that I knew were things that would help me survive the city that I live in in a positive and self-empowering way. So, I worked on strengthening these qualities, little by little every single day, during the times when I had a little more time on my hand to be alone with my own thoughts. Little old me, myself and I. NYC really is the perfect sort of city to be independent in. You can get lost in it an amazing way. A way that is much different from feeling lost in a lonely sort of way. Take away the crutches and find ways to utilize your time independently. You can’t always rely on a friend or a family member or a co-worker to be there for every sort of situation you find yourself in. So being prepared to have your own back is key. And you yourself should always be the first person you confide in before anyone else. You’ll find that by doing things alone . . . getting a slice of pizza, checking out an art exhibit, going to a movie you really want to see, taking a walk to the park, people watching, introducing yourself to someone new who seems interesting, etc. . . . are in ways the baby steps to becoming your own best friend. You might be surprised at how far from lonely you will feel after seeing how far you can get by just relying on your own two feet. Having your friends and family around the other times, well those are just extra perks.

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11 comments

Allow Your Story To Be Told

August 10, 2016

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525 America sweater top
Citizens of Humanity overalls
Converse sneakers
Vintage neck scarf
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“In the end, people don’t view their life as merely the average of all its moments – which, after all, is mostly nothing much plus some sleep. For human beings, life is meaningful because it is a story. A story has a sense of a whole, and its arc is determined by the significant moments, the ones where something happens. Measurements of people’s minute-by-minute levels of pleasure and pain miss this fundamental aspect of human existence. A seemingly happy life may be empty. A seemingly difficult life may be devoted to a great cause. We have purposes larger than ourselves.”

– Atul Gawande, Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End

My friend recently showed me this quote because she said it made her think of me. This made me giggle a little bit, especially since I know she is so on point with this. We are always being told . . . don’t be too stuck in the past. Or don’t focus too much on the future because no matter what it will always be unknown until it is the present. The present moment is supposed to be the key to happiness. It’s true that not every present moment is going to be a perfect picture, but that doesn’t mean they have to be forgotten. And it doesn’t mean that the past needs to be brushed away to make way for the new. The importance of life is more about the story, and how every single part of our lives connects in someway. Hopefully they will go beyond even our own existence eventually. Make an impact. Like the quote says . . . a purpose larger than ourselves. What an interesting thing to think about.

We can’t just define our lives by the number of happy moments and the number of those moments that are the complete opposite and see which outweigh the other. If we did that, then we are basically doomed in life, and the idea of complete happiness (whatever that really means) flies out the window. Or counting only the happy moments, and forgetting completely all the other parts. That’s not telling a story, that’s just a one-sided chunk of it. It’s okay for our stories to have some some conflict and some climaxes (negative and positive ones, highs and lows) . . . no good story was ever an easy one to tell. This quote talks about our lives as a story. A string of all the moments, all the torments, all the tears, all the heartache, all the laughs, all the accomplishments, all the failures, all the bright lights that touched us . . . those of the past, those of the present and those that maybe will or will not come to us in the future. The twists and turns of moments that develop into something greater than what is just the moment. A story that goes beyond our physical being for it is connected to everything we touch, and even those events and people we didn’t even notice. A bigger picture. The moments that seem insignificant, or negative or harsh or just simply random and small, they are all pieces of the puzzle, too, and that are meant to be cherished. Because no good, worthwhile moment can be as good or worthwhile without having a component to balance it out with. It’s the bigger picture and the bigger perspective. Great things don’t just come from happy moments, it comes from the understanding that the linking of all our moments in our lives creates something unique and purposeful. In this way, life isn’t being measured exactly, but it is being felt. From the beginning to end. No pieces left out. Each one existing directly because of the one before it and the one that may be soon to come.

Right now, I’m allowing my story to be told. In a way, we all can be the artistic directors of our own lives. We make decisions that affect our futures, and we make decisions based on what has happened to us in the past. But most of the time, it’s better to let things go where they were meant to go naturally, and sort of out of our manipulative hands. Without too much contemplation. I never forget my past. In fact, I love to remember things that have happened in the past, even the bad things. The mean words said to me by others that have made me cry. Someone who was a friend but no longer provided a shoulder for me to lean on. The projects that were swept from under my feet that made me feel unsuccessful. The fights with my sister that of course happen sometimes and make me feel very alone (even just for a few minutes). Even things from the near past, like the boy that I am seeing currently who is away for a while and that hard feeling of being apart for an unknown amount of time. And then there is that thing . . . the unknown. And of course I think a lot about that. I do contemplate what my future could be . . .  the good things and the bad things that could happen. I look at my future as both a dreamer and as a realist, but I don’t let myself get too ahead of myself with it. I like the free feeling of letting whatever happens happen. And even if it feels so out of our control that way, I like to think of it as a roller coaster with a purpose. And that purpose is to live life to the fullest, and to live it freely, and to share it open-mindedly. One can never truly control the future, so no point to get worked up about whether things will work out or not before it even happens. The thing to accept the most with the great unknown is how exciting the unexpected is to our personal story lines. The unexpected things, for me lately, have been the most beautiful and most delightful. Maybe a little scary because you never know what can be taken away from you, but walking on the edge can be a very liberating and poetic thing.

Shop more Citizens of Humanity overalls that I love:

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26 comments

Finding Peace With Where I’m At

July 7, 2016

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Innika Choo smocked blouse
Siwy jeans
Vintage belt
DRESSHIRT silk neck scarf
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I love being a New Yorker, but there are a few things that make it quite a rough task. It’s that feeling of never ever fully winning. That a job is never done unless it’s perfect. When we know deep down inside that perfect doesn’t really exist even though we want it to so dearly. At least with things in respect to ourselves. Why is it so hard for us to say out loud that we deserve a pat on the back? Or deserve a break? Even if it’s just for 5 minutes. Why do we beat ourselves up so hard about things? And why do we judge others just as hard or harder than we judge ourselves? To make us feel better about ourselves? It goes for so many aspects of our city centric lives. Our careers. Our dating lives. Those we bring into our social circles. And those we make sure to keep out. How we view ourselves in the mirror. How we overanalyze situations to the point that they crumble. How we compare ourselves to this person and that person and those people. These feelings, they can be fleeting, but they are a part of a cycle that repeats over and over again. A strive for perfection that seems manageable but in reality is more than unreasonable a lot of the times. Add the subway at rush hour, highly egotistical people in our faces for 85% of the day, rent, the annoying dude at your subway stop that keeps purposefully breaking the subway card machine and making you an extra 10 minutes late every single time, transportation delays, loud tourists, overpriced fruit at the bodega, and a whole lot more things that go along with big city living. Well these things can keep us high strung, and in no mood to find peace with ourselves, nor anything around us. It’s not a healthy relationship.

How did I find a way to break the mold of the typical go, go, go, one track minded New Yorker that is endlessly looking for the next best thing?

Well, I stopped looking for the next best thing all the damn time. I made a commitment to slow things down by telling myself that is what I had to do to keep from getting jaded. I took notice when my stress levels went up, or when my mood was more aggressive or the world seemed much more near the end over the tiniest of things (all feelings that are so unnecessary), and it was these days that I tried to find new ways to take a few steps back as everyone and everything seemed to rush, rush, rush. I stopped comparing myself so much to other people (even though I catch myself sometimes still doing so, and I quickly snap myself out of that funk). I stopped being impatient (I even tried smiling when the people in front of me were too slow). Instead of swearing at the heat and crowdedness of the subway, I embraced the extra time I got to listen to my music and turned it up, up, up. I started to look at the sky more, and the details of the buildings, and the faces of interesting looking people. Soon, I felt like I began to enjoy things so much more and in a much better way. I always got my job done, but in this new way the process felt sweeter and more long-lived. Just because I live in NYC, doesn’t mean I always have to keep up at it’s pace. This decision was also what saved me my sanity. And in NYC, that is a lot to say. It was all baby steps, don’t get me wrong. And there are still days when I want to kick and punch something because this city gets me so annoyed sometimes, but I know I wouldn’t and couldn’t be anywhere else right now. And that’s because I’m doing the city on my own terms. It can be done. Just take a second, look around you and find the things you love and that inspire you to love. And then take a few more seconds, or minutes or hours contemplating these things. It’s the best way to make time slow down in this city, and it won’t drive you as mad, I promise. There are more gems than pieces of junk, although it seems the opposite a lot of times. But our minds can have a good way of turning things all around to the way we want them to be when we really need it. And thank goodness for that. If you ever find yourself falling into a rut, feeling low or just straight up fed up, you can also just imagine yourself running in a field of flowers. It’s a magical remedy.

For me, right now, the greatest feeling is one of content, but still with a calm and steady eagerness to grow and create. How about yours?

*** Images shot in Squamish, British Columbia

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36 comments

Bonnaroo | The Immortal Love of Sun and Music

June 23, 2016

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There were many things I took away from our trip to Tennessee for Bonnaroo. But there were two that really stuck out to me. The fact that everyone looks good with sunshine on their faces. And the second fact that everyone looks good with music glistening onto their souls. Sunshine and music. They are two things that will love of us unconditionally forever, as we over time will come to love them in the exact same way. Two things we find all around us in the summertime, but that we can sometimes overlook unless we take a second or two to really stop and notice. To feel it being caressed onto our skin and massaged into our brains, signaling things that science can only really explain in the deepest of detail but that our hearts need only a few faster than normal fluttering beats to express. The heat and the vibrations. The way they make us feel the moment they hit us. They way they soak into us and wash over us in a way that is always reliable and always constant. No matter how many times we’ve felt it. No matter how many times we’ve heard it. No matter how many times we’ve danced under the same song and under the same old hot as heck sun, we take comfort in the good feeling they give us and the dreams they instill in us. The way they make us feel better and stronger in the first few seconds. How they give us confidence as if we’ve had years of practice in self-worth. They give us so many good things and we don’t even really need to understand why. We don’t need to understand all the characters all our favorite songs make us want to be. We don’t need to understand the chemical reaction that happen between the moment the sun hits the skin and the first bead of sweat is created to cool us down. We just need to let it be and to enjoy it. When you are feeling lacking in something, know that the sun and the music is always there to make you feel like the strongest beaming light. The music and the sun will bring you back to life again. It is an immortal love that we humans will never have to lose trust in. Together they make something that it is our best friend. Something to share with our best friends. And for those two things that summer brings a plethora of, I am grateful. And because I am grateful, I will dance. Nashville, you had a whole lot of both, and for that I think you are really, really fab. Even with all the cheesy country music and cowboy boots and fried this and fried that. I find peace in the chaos of what makes you come alive. It’s as simple as appreciating all that. But first we must appreciate the sun and the music. And hopefully, all the other things come swinging on in just as easily.

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