Journey

A year ago, around this time, I was contemplating about the direction of my life and what my journey is supposed to be. I was in San Francisco then, peeping into the other world of architecture that I wasn’t familiar with. I felt a sense of freedom knowing that a lot of students my age, studying architecture, were as lost as I was. I couldn’t put a finger on what was holding me back from letting go, letting go of the shy girl who was afraid to be herself, who wanted to be free from her insecurities.

I have come a long way from there, I have begun a journey to find my path. It might sound spiritual, and it certainly is a way to put it that way, but I have taken a leap to understand and love myself.

The journey started with traveling to San Francisco, for the first time without my family. It gave me a sense of independence knowing that I was there on the other side of the country with a friend exploring my unknown. This gave me a chance to leave behind my troubles, my insecurities and just focus on the beauty and the culture of the city. It felt empowering.

With that experience in hand, and to gain more knowledge from a professor I admire, I decided to study abroad. I went to Portugal and Spain. I spent 6 weeks walking through the cities of Porto, Lisbon, Cordoba, Granada, and Barcelona. This was me leaving behind my comfort and indulging in new cultures, analyzing architecture, and meeting new people. My most cherished memories from the 6 weeks were just walking alone aimlessly, sketching the spaces and the activities that I came across. I learned a lot through that decision of travelling. I learned to be with myself, I learned to appreciate architecture and analyze it to understand the role of it in a space, I learned to be opinionated while listening to others, and I learned to absorb knowledge from any source available. This was an important moment for me to define what my passions are and to start letting show my true side.

The decision to study abroad during the summer had consequences on the flip side as well. While I figured out a lot about myself through that journey, I went on another journey with my emotions back in New York when I was away from my best friends and Design. I was not taking Design for the Fall semester since I took that class during summer, when I was abroad, and that created distance between my best friends and I. This class was a way for us to share experiences of curiosities, frustrations, enlightenments, and happiness, and I was not part of it this time while the other three of my best friends were experiencing this together and so this made me feel left out. This is a powerful feeling that can make you question a lot of things like does your presence matter, do you have anything to add to a relationship, how much do your friends care for you and your feelings. These were the questions that kept running through my mind. I don’t have answers to any of these questions yet and I don’t know if I will ever get answers to them but I must make peace with myself and let myself be ok with having just me when there is a hard time since not everyone is going to be available when there comes a hurdle, I will have to be enough to jump through them.

These experiences have made me stronger, and I do believe that every experience makes you stronger even if you realize it or not, to be my own best friend before anyone else. This I realized through, believe it or not, another travelling expedition to Boston. Boston became for me a canvas on which I explored, I felt, and I realized. I started this year with travelling, and I ended this year with travelling and this is what this year is for me; it is a year of travel adventures and a year where I started to understand and love myself. So 2016, you will always be in my memory as a year of independence.

HS

Ignorance Vs. Ignorance

In the wake of the election and the Presidential Elect that half the country thinks is a misogynist, a rapist, a racist, and a homophobic; there is a bigger question lurking above us: is it the ignorance of the consequences that has us living today as a reality?

From what I have come to understand is that there are two types of ignorance. One that everyone connotes to is when the ignorant are indifferent to facts and logic, and stubborn about their devotion to information, as defined by Stuart Firestein in his book Ignorance, How it Drives Science. The other type of Ignorant are associated with knowledge in a sense that they run after the unknown to answer unanswered questions in a land filled of curiosities. They don’t run after answers, instead they run after questions.

From the situation we are in right now, I am assuming that a lot of Americans identify with ignorance where they did not consider the logic of our Presidential Elect and elected him to the oval office just because they were devoted to their idea of ‘Once Great America’. They overlooked the fact that he could actually win the election. None of them is worse than the other and because of our ignorance we are in a position of uncertainty and fear especially for all the minorities who make our country great.

On the day of the election, I was so excited! This was my first time voting and it was also the first time there was a woman who was so close to winning the presidential election. I had so many conversations that day with friends and acquaintances about voting and the future of this country. This was a big deal for me and a lot of other people who went and voted. I remember being glued to YouTube watching the news around 10 pm-ish. I was terrified. I felt weak both physically and mentally. The votes were being tallied up and Donald J. Trump was winning. It was horrifying. I and my roommates were praying for Hillary to magically win, and since we all belong in the minority it was and still is more of the uncertainty that made us fear of what will happen that can take away our rights and change our lives.

I am sure a lot of people felt similar emotions about the election which has led to the protests in cities around the country and pop up social projects for healing like SubwayTherapy. Both ways, I feel are great to express our feelings without violence, but at the same time there should be a better way to prevent something this major which can alter our country in drastic ways. I am not preaching anything here but in my mind, I feel that Ignorance that leads to knowledge is something that can help everyone. It will help us question better and hopefully help us find answers to questions like, what is true? Why does it matter? How can we move our society forward? These are critical questions that everything should be based upon, not many people utilize this thought process but imagine a world where manipulation was fought with questions.

It would be a world where Donald Trump wouldn’t be a president in.

It is us who must choose what kind of ignorance we run after, the one that can improve our society or the one that can destroy it.

HS

Captivity

I think about the density of New York City: the hundreds of people I walk past each day, the close strangers I sit next to on the subway, the friendly eye contact I make with people. I wonder if that same friendliness is exchanged? With a quick glance, people make assumptions and within minutes, I become a piece of commentary. Recently I have witnessed the ignorance that has been held captive in the minds of the people around us. I say captive because there is a whole social psychology that makes people feel like they are a part of something, whether they are public or private about their opinions. The truth of the matter is: we are afraid of opposition and we strive to express ourselves.

When do we share? When do we finally speak up?

We share when our life or our dignity is at stake.

We share to potentially change someone’s opinion.

We share to make ourselves feel better.

Most of the time, we share when someone else shares first.

As a young adult in this society, I feel the sense of acceptance and openness for new ideas and change among my peers, but recently, I’ve received a reality check that leaves me with the question: how many steps we have taken aimlessly? Whether our steps are quick or slow, these steps don’t mean anything without the right direction. Without the right mindset or goal, we will continue to be held captive. Always stuck in the past or living for an idea of the future, when the present is in turmoil. With no direction, progress will just be another intangible thing and we will continue to be conformists in a world filled with ignorance.

I believe our mind is our most powerful force. It can break us down despite our physical strength, then give us all the encouragement we need to be okay again. Humans are not static creatures: our bodies and our minds are never quite at rest. Even in our sleep we are formulating thoughts and images. Our brains are albums that capture moments of joy and darkness in our lives and that is a beautiful thing, but we live in a world that is not at peace. Our defenses must always remain up because all ideas and personal expressions are not nurtured. It’s hard to feel safe when we don’t know what is on the minds of others. We live in a world where harm is not only physical and where we have to worry about captivity: in any shape, way or form.

-AJ

Vulnerability: The Art of Rising Strong

Your mindset and emotions are on the same wavelength as your personality and behavior. In my pursuit to live fully present, I’ve learned that recognizing emotion is a primary aspect. I can easily put my emotions aside and be objective, but you can just as easily call that “taking the easy way out”. So, I had to challenge myself and more importantly challenge my emotions. I believe that everyone is sensitive, but things don’t affect people in the same ways. Everyone has the ability to be vulnerable, but once again, things don’t affect people in the same ways. What’s the most difficult emotion you’ve experienced? Some may say it’s pain, but others may say its joy. People are afraid of feeling pain and rejection, so they just avoid it altogether. We can try to escape loss, failure and confusion, but these things are embedded into our lives.

We can try to protect our hearts and feelings, but if we tiptoe around every situation in our lives, we’ll never learn to adapt to change. Any relief will only be temporary. I want to have stories and countless adventures and more importantly, I want to cultivate my wisdom. In order to be courageous and allow myself to flourish, I had to get out of my comfort zone. I needed to be vulnerable. Whether it was by traveling to new cities with friends, going to a concert alone or by taking on leadership positions, I challenged myself. I said yes a lot. Someone who inspires me is social scientist and theory researcher, Brené Brown. She mentions that many people move through life attempting to disown difficult stories so they appear more acceptable.

Vulnerability isn’t good or bad: It’s not what we call a dark emotion, nor is it always a light, positive experience. Vulnerability is the core of all emotions and feelings. To feel is to be vulnerable. To believe vulnerability is a weakness is to believe that feeling is weakness…”

– Daring Greatly

Someone asks us how we are doing and we say, “I’m fine” and leave no substance. We want be accepted and understood, but we answer simple questions with dry words. It has become socially acceptable to hide our true selves. You can call it self-protection, but the facets of our personalities and our minds aren’t always sharp edges. Being present means letting everything in, letting people get close to you, saying yes to things you’ve always said no to. Being vulnerable is about letting the surface crack and being okay with it. It’s not the end of the world if something breaks, vulnerability does not mean we are defenseless.

-AJ

 

 

Perfection Perception

Perfection is bittersweet. It can help us set high standards for our work or leave us grasping to reach impractical goals. With the constant need to overachieve and always second guessing yourself, the finish line can seem impossible. Perfectionist ideals can help us create an impeccable image of what our creative process should be, but perfectionist tendencies often leave us feeling inadequate.

I often feel uninspired to paint or sketch because I think it should look a certain way. Perfect lines and smooth transitions.

Tonal value and depth.

A play on darkness and light.

It has to look real, have dimensional quality.

Nothing abstract.

Anything less and it’s not good enough.

Anything less and it’s not perfect.

The focus here is perfection and its relation to the creative process because it may be doing more damage than you think. Those who have perfectionist tendencies often look to please everyone else, but the fear of disappointment can take away all of the enjoyment.  Perfectionism is not the same thing as striving to be your best. If you really think about it, you are trying to achieve something that is unattainable. So allow yourself some compassion and flexibility and learn to accept imperfection.

I wouldn’t sketch or paint for months, because I was stuck in the mindset of perfection perception. Instead of allowing myself to be encompassed in the process, I was rigid about the outcome. It’s funny to think about it now because I call myself a creative. Don’t get me wrong, the desire to create something based on your standards is completely valid, but understand that criticism is powerful. Don’t take it so personally because it is not about being invincible, it’s about being resilient.

When something goes wrong, we have all probably thought to ourselves that we weren’t perfect enough, or rather simply not good enough. We begin to compartmentalize and if done the wrong way, it can emotionally conflict us. Then, on top of that we use perfection to categorize excuses for why we failed. You didn’t fail because you weren’t good enough. You failed because that tactic didn’t work. You failed because you made a wrong decision. Maybe you failed because it just wasn’t the right way. And no, I’m not calling you a failure right now, but understand it’s all part of the process. The point is to acknowledge what didn’t work in your situation, not waste time deciphering the logic of perfectionism.

So I started to art journal. Even though I already knew that art is not just still life, landscapes and portraits, I learned to practice this idea with intent. I allowed myself to experience the abstract because the goal was simply expression. With that in mind, I created some of my most meaningful work.

The bitter side of perfectionism can truly paralyze your creativity. If you find yourself struggling to finish a piece because it has to be perfect, give yourself a deadline or get some feedback from another creative or just a fresh set of eyes. Don’t stop and tell yourself you’ll do it later because the same issues will just follow. Something has to change: a new outlook or a different approach. Maybe try out the artistic style that scares you a bit or try a new genre of music or literature. Don’t waste your energy on fighting something that simply doesn’t work. Rather, use that energy on something new. You can begin by not striving for perfection itself, but by striving for something tangible, like your realistic goals.

-AJ

 

Threshold through Life

We are so stuck up in our own world; we have no time to pay attention to anything else or anyone else. We live our lives on autopilot. We read some newsfeed on Facebook and look at some pictures on Instagram that we forget in the next five minutes. We become oblivious to everything but us. I recently realized that I was the same. I was self-centered without wanting to be. I thought I gave a damn about the world but I didn’t. That changed, when I travelled to Spain and Portugal.

I am not going to preach about how great it is to travel. That even if I try is not going to communicate the message until you experience it, but I am going to share my experience about the knowledge that I received and how that broadened my horizons on issues that I would have cared less before.

The moment I arrived in Portugal, I was faced with an ardent task of carrying my 45 lbs. suitcase up the hill to my apartment that I was renting; mind you I am a 95 lbs. girl. It was a 10 minute walk which felt like an hour.  That is when I realized that I am in a completely new country with a topography that I am not used to. I walked up that hill while stopping multiple times to catch a breath and when I finally reached, I saw a view that completely mesmerized me! I knew at that moment that I would not experience this anywhere else. While walking through the hilly streets of Porto, I experienced architecture that was completely different than the United States. It was more culturally driven with an attempt at modernization. The environment was cozy with people always smiling and drinking and always ready to help. Although the help stopped at the few Portuguese men who tried selling fake weed to me.  Porto was my threshold to the new world.

Next was Lisbon, which was marvelous, more because of the people and the hostel that I was living in. The whole city was celebrating their Independence Day at the time I was there and the excitement in the people was making me excited. The streets would be filled with music and food and people would be out on the streets drinking at 3 am. Also there were an abundant amount of tourists. The first person I talked to was from the hostel I was staying in; he was this guy who was sitting on a long dining table with a bunch of people from different countries laughing about something that I had no idea about. I made my way to the table with a drink I do not remember the name of but that tasted really good. I sat down in an attempt to meet new people and really awkwardly introduced myself. He sheepishly laughed at my attempt and then I got more comfortable and reintroduced myself. He was from New Zealand. I had never met someone from New Zealand before and this was exciting for me. We started talking and he told me that he was on a holiday just before his new job started and I told him that I was on a study abroad trip, studying architecture. It was a long, really fun conversation and weirdly it touched the subject of cricket. He knew the cricket teams I was talking about and that made me really happy since not many people I usually talk to know about it. Throughout the 4 days I stayed there, I met a lot more people from different countries and I found out so much about those people that I will remember for a long time coming.

Spain was the next stop and in particularly the city of Granada. It is a small city with the main attraction being the Alhambra. Everything seems to be surrounded by the majestic presence of the castle, if not literally then symbolically. The streets are filled with shops that are named the Alhambra. There are influences from the Mediterranean region through food, spices, and sometimes even clothes since the Alhambra was built by Mediterranean people. I had expected to be blown away by the architecture of the palace, but I was left disappointed. One of the main reasons was due to all the tourists being there taking pictures which also increased a lot of security blockages. I wanted to observe some peace and sketch in the once magnificent castle but was very restricted. Although I did end up drawing some spaces when the security wasn’t looking and the tourist weren’t bothering. Overall Granada wasn’t one of my favorite cities but it did give me a lot of knowledge on the history of Spain and the influence of the Mediterranean on it.

The last city that I visited on my one-month travel was the famous Olympic city, Barcelona. The first feeling that I felt when I reached the city was that it felt a lot like New York City, and unlike any other places I recently visited from Portugal or Spain. The streets were crowded, lots of people selling things. Public transportation was abundant and the buildings were a mix of contemporary and historic but the modern element was really prevalent. I stayed there for 21 days and most of those 21 days I was functioning as a college student. I would go the university from 9 am till 7 pm. When I would get some free time I would explore the city. The city in general is very open with a lot of history to it. The residents are welcoming to the tourist and there are a lot of places and events based on them. Two things that I would take away from the city was the beach, and my project that I designed. The former is one of the reasons people come to the city for and I can totally understand why. The beach is marvelous even if it is man made. The latter is dearer to my heart since it is my design. When I was functioning as a college student, I designed an archaeological museum in the Gothic district of Barcelona. It is supposed to showcase the Roman and the 18th century ruins that are underneath the site and through the amount of time I spent on the site and designing it, I fell in love with my project. I can envision the people visiting the museum and using the space outside. It, I think, is the best take away from Barcelona I can get, since even through imagination I have my own building there and whenever I visit again I am going to remember that.

Throughout the month, I spent so much time thinking about life, the priorities I have in it and what matters most to me. I was so confused whether architecture was the right major for me but this trip gave me a new direction to think of in terms of what I want to do and how I can do that. This was one of the best decisions I ever made.

-HS

The Power of Habit

Think about this: are the things you do each day habits or are you actively making decisions? Are you making specific choices or are you following cues?

Ever wonder why change is so difficult? Oftentimes it’s because our habits get in the way. Our brains are trying to be as efficient as possible. When we start to do the same things over and over again, these actions and/or behaviors become something we do subconsciously or without second-guessing. Unfortunately, our brain doesn’t differentiate between what’s a good habit and what’s a bad one. All things considered, habits help us feel safe. So how do we get over the bad in our efforts to change and furthermore, create new and improved habits?

We can start with these simple tips:

  1.     Acknowledge they exist.
  2.     Understand the cues.
  3.     It’s not just about breaking routines, but creating better ones.
  4.     Build momentum with small wins.
  5.     Don’t forget to reward yourself.
  6.     Take your time, it won’t happen in a day.

New York Times reporter and author, Charles Duhigg states that every habit functions essentially the same way. It begins with a cue: something that triggers a certain behavior, which leads to a certain routine. These triggers can be a place, an emotion, or even a time of day. Once you figure out what the cue is, you can start to break down the routine and ultimately the habit to create better and new ones. One example would be getting motivated to exercise in the morning. If you set your workout clothes near your alarm or right next to your bed the night before, it will be the first thing you see and prompt your brain that a certain action needs to occur. This cue: seeing and having your workout gear close by, will trigger the behavior: getting up and going to workout. That’s a simple way to improve your routine and be a little healthier in the process.

As you are making these improvements in your routine and creating new habits, don’t forget to reward yourself. Make small changes at first, so you’re not overwhelmed. If you love shopping, buy some new workout gear to motivate you. If you love sweets like me, reward yourself with some cake – just one piece though, we’re not trying to reverse your hard work. Your brain will release endorphins with the excitement you feel from getting a reward. Over time you won’t need to have the cake, because your brain will recognize this new habit and prompt the neurotransmitters that create a euphoric feeling after you exercise.

Last but not least, remember to be patient. The goal here is not just to eradicate your bad habits in one full swing (although that would be great), but also to understand the process. By acknowledging the cues in your life, you can understand the role they play on a daily basis. Albert Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our problems with the same level of thinking that created them.” Habits aren’t random nor are they resolute.  As a matter of fact, many of our habits are formed from previous habits, whether good or bad. If we keep repeating the same things each day, these habits essentially form who we are, how we act, and everything we believe. It’s always good to keep your habits in check.

-AJ

Based on Charles Duhigg’s New York Times Bestseller, The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business.

 

New Beginnings

A year has ended and spring has arrived and so a new chapter in life has begun. Everyone has a different take on life; some think, even if it sounds totally clichéd, that a new year means a new beginning (which is totally me) but at the same time I believe that a new year means that we can forget about our past failures and aim to improve ourselves and learn and grow to be a better improved version of ourselves. Every year we get a chance to think of life as a fresh chapter that we can edit if we don’t like our story.

Personally speaking, I have been shedding my past ever since I started college. I started my school in New York City and coming from my background of close minded Indian culture, this was all I had been waiting for since I could think for myself.

The new found freedom was refreshing and challenging at the same time. I could live my life without having someone look over my shoulder every time I went out of my threshold; however, the whole experience of changing and growing has been scary as well since I had to break out of my shell and mold into the person that I want to be. There are always two sides of a coin and every side has its pros and cons but if I had let the fear of living in the city alone or doing something out of my comfort zone stopped me, I wouldn’t have learned and grown so much.

I have learned a lot of things since my two and a half years of living alone and I am going to learn a lot more things but for now these important messages keep me grounded and keep me moving.

I have learned that…

I have to accept my body as it is – coming out of high school I was really insecure of how tiny I was, still am at times. I thought that no guys or anyone else will take me seriously like they do to the more average body types. I was wrong in thinking that and it took me a year since high school to believe that. I had to come out of my comfort zone and meet new people and read a lot of motivational articles to understand that. This year I am going to take that further by joining the gym to get more fit.

I am going to get jealous from certain people and that’s completely ok – in college, there are so many people and you will find a lot of them having a lot of strengths that you think you don’t have. I struggled with that, and I still do but I have accepted the fact that I am not going to keep comparing my life with other people (at least try not to) since everyone is different and everyone is leading a different life even if they are in the same major as you.

I have to rely solely on myself to achieve the goals that I want to achieve – A hard lesson I learnt last semester was that at times even the person who you think is supposed to guide you and help you through something won’t do their job and you will be left alone in a hole that you will need to come out of yourself. I had a professor, who I thought was going to help me come to terms with my queries and understanding of architecture, completely bailed on me and laughed at me. That hurt me a lot. It was something I thought a professor would never do, but he did and that made me insecure and lost. It took me a while to understand my self-worth again and believe that I wasn’t wrong in the way of my thinking, I just had to rely more on myself than on others to work through school projects and projects of life because in the time of need the only person you can rely on is yourself.

These are just a few of the lessons that life has taught me so far. I wouldn’t have learned these three lessons if I had been inside my shell and not embraced the present. Each year is different and it brings so much more to life, all you can do is think of it in a positive light and begin again for a new journey.

-HS