December

7:30 in the morning, her eyes open gently to the warmth of the sun. The morning rays brighten up her room. Z turns over to reach for her phone. She had a message from someone. It was T. He had replied to her message from last night, when out of frustration, Z had finally managed to send him a text. It was a stupid text, covered nonchalantly to sound smart. It was just a way for her to find out what he had been up to. Reading his reply, she started to type, asking a follow up question to continue the conversation. She wanted to know what had happened in that past week that he hadn’t sent her a message. She asks him, “how has your week been so far?”, knowing she will get more details. He responded quickly to “really busy, will be this way until I leave for the holidays”. This reply was an end of a chapter for Z. A calm spread through her mind and body, relieving her of all the anxieties. She was allowed to move on now, even though no one had stopped her before.

Throughout the day, this feeling had stayed with her, she was smiling, focusing on her work. Her distractions had gone away. But it was the next day that she realized how little she had mattered in T’s life. After T had texted her about him leaving for the holidays, Z realized that she was not going to see him for at least two months, which meant never. This was due to the lack of communication that had swept over them in the past three weeks, which had been killing Z. For her, communication was key to any relationship and once that lagged, there was not much that could save it. She had tried to keep in contact but within three weeks she saw a transformation in her “relationship” with T; it had gone from knowing everything that happened each day to not knowing anything for days. Even the enthusiasm in the communication was gone. This frustration had finally ended that Friday morning. But Saturday was when she started wondering, “What is the value of us in someone’s life, do we even matter?” Here she was thinking about T, and how he hadn’t even bothered to reply back to her text about her plans for the holidays. He had asked her about it to be polite, but he really hadn’t cared of what the answer was. This made Z question about her value to him. Was this the end of this? These endless and unanswerable questions were keeping her mind occupied.

Being a philosophical person, she knew that there are people in her life that valued her, and she valued them, but her mind kept wandering to people that she met as acquaintances and for short periods of time. What value did she bring to them? Does she have any significance? Knowing Z, she also knew that she had significance in other people’s life, but it might not be crucial enough to matter, depending on the person. But that wasn’t the answer she was looking for. She wanted to find her value, and how her short-term relationships were related to them. Her history was strengthening these questions, and her curiosity was being a companion.

Sitting on her bed, her lamp shining a light on her face, she kept wondering, hoping the answers would come. But she also knew that this is a tale that is going to last a lifetime, since there are going to be many more people and many more chapters. This quest for value is going to be an endless cycle where some people will value her more and some less but that is what is about, isn’t it?!

 

  • H

August

It is the second day of Aug, where did July go, Z does not know. Clenching a warm tea mug in her hand and keeping it close to her chest, she is trying to breathe. For some reason, since she woke up this morning, she has been feeling uneasy. Knowing the power of the chai on her, she makes it to soothe herself. Sitting on her bed, everything else is quiet except the murmur of the AC.

Still trying to breathe normally, she picks up her latest reading, All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. This book, Z picked up in an interesting way. Last month, she was summoned for Jury Duty and since the court is on Canal St, she would walk home every single day to explore the city she loves most. Walking in her heels, she chooses a different route most days. In her second week of coming home from court, she decides to go shopping for her family since her mom’s birthday was coming and she felt generous to shop for everyone. Not knowing which streets are ahead but knowing only the direction towards home, Z turns on Prince St. from Lafayette St. Reading the word “books”, she crosses the street and goes inside the store. Unknowingly she ends up at a famous bookstore that she has been meaning to visit since a few years back, McNally Jackson in SoHo. This feels like home to her. She goes towards the architecture section, browsing through books by Rem Koolhaus and Renzo Piano, when she finds a photo journal on Seoul. Z wants to travel everywhere but Seoul from South Korea is one of the top cities in her bucket list. She picks up the book and is perusing it when she looks up to the sound of the door and she feels the faint breeze touch her skin.

Z looks up to find a famous Bollywood actor, Aditya Roy Kapur, walk in. Her eyes open a little wider but she quickly gets them back to normal, but in that moment, she and the actor make eye contact. Z has a feeling that he noticed her reaction and he knew that she knows him. Z isn’t a fan girl type of a person, she has her celebrity crushes but she isn’t the one running after them to take selfies. She resumes to act like nothing happened and the actor walks to a different section of books with a friend. Z can hear his voice; his Indian accent is distinguishable to her from across the room.

Immediately texting one of her best friend, D, to let her know that she saw one of her favorite actor; D suggests everything that Z does not want to do: take a selfie with him and tell him she loves his movies.

Ignoring the idea, Z continues to explore the bookstore to find books from countries like Italy, France, Russia, etc. Z was in love. Moving to the basement level, she is drawn towards the psychoanalytic section when the actor comes and stands right next to her and they again have an eye contact but this time for a longer period. Z felt like she should talk to him about something but before she could say anything, his friend calls him and so Z taking back the idea, goes to another area.

Standing on one of the landings of the stairs, Z finds the book, All The Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. There is a golden circle on the cover stating that it was a Pulitzer Prize winning novel; Z’s eyes gleam to that phrase. Wanting to explore different writing styles and read a powerful novel she turns the book around to find out what the book was about. Based in Paris and Germany during the era just before WWII, the story revolves around the lives of two children from different countries and how they meet against all odds after losing so many that they love.

Engrossed just by the description on the back, Z doesn’t even realize when the actor walks up the stairs and walks past her. They share another eye contact before he goes to the café and Z to the checkout counter. She was not planning on spending more that day. Her aim when she opened the first door of the store was to just experience the bookstore.

Without realizing that she bought the book, she walks out to the calming breeze and puts on her headphones. The music takes control and her feet start to move, almost in harmony with the beat. She looks inside the glass window to see the actor one last time, but does not find him. Without feeling regret, Z walks towards home.

  • H

June

The sun touches her arm first, then slowly creeps onto her right side of the body. She flinches, and then curls up in a ball and covers her face with the blanket. In about five minutes, her alarm goes off. She tries to turn it off but realizes that it is of her roommate who is in deep sleep. Not knowing what to do and not being able to see how asleep she is, Z just gets up. Its 7 am. This is new to her, she is always the one who is the last to wake up, but recently she has had some thoughts that have kept her at night.

She knows that no one else is awake right now, so instead of getting up to brush, she checks her Instagram (A really bad habit), and then Snapchat (another bad habit). Its not even like she is engaging in the pictures, she is aimlessly scrolling and touching the red heart. But I guess this is normal with most millennials who can enjoy technology. After running out of social media, she decided to get up. Of course no one is up yet, so Z just goes to the bathroom to freshen up and then make chai. This is her addiction, if you can call it that. It is more of the experience that she has with knowing that chai will soothe her and make her problems go away – even for a minute – than drinking it. But you will find her tell everyone, she comes across, about the joys of drinking it.

Having started her morning right (chai), she sits on the couch thinking what she will do today. Ever since college started, 4 years ago, she has had a job doing anything. This summer, however, she doesn’t have one so far because her internship just ended. This makes her feel uneasy, she is someone who loves to run around hopping from subway to subway in her heels and getting things done. Not having a plan for the day is definitely not her thing. After pondering for a good 30 minutes, she decides to check out a museum. The Brooklyn museum has been on top of her list for a few months now, so that is what she ends up choosing. It is still only 8:30 and going to the museum this early isn’t an option so she goes on her bed and continues to read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

In one of her recent excursions to mend her beating heart, she picked up Jane Eyre. Z loves to read, and one of the activities she indulges herself in, when she needs mending, is to go to a bookstore. This book, although a classic and loved by many hadn’t reached her hands yet, but had always heard about it. So, when the description said, “It lives as one of the great triumphs of storytelling and a moving and unforgettable portrayal of a woman’s quest for self-respect”, self-respect being the key word here, she immediately bought it. She has bought many books this way, to wander her mind to someplace else.

At 9:30, she hears some footsteps outside her door. Knowing immediately which one of her roommates woke up by the sound. The bathroom door bangs. Getting up then would be futile, so she keeps reading for another 15 minutes before going outside to the living room. By this time, Z had a plan for the day even though it was very preliminary. She likes to explore, so she would probably walk around the area of the museum, she thought.

When she goes outside a few minutes later, she hears the subtle clinks of the pans. Someone was already cooking breakfast. It was probably K. She is the one who is very particular about breakfast. All Z’s other roommates just run out of the door. Z goes inside the kitchen, she stands by the fridge and wonders what she is going to eat. She is the worst when it comes to deciding what to eat. Eggs are her go to most of the time, and today was that time.

Chatting and eating concluded in an hour and Z went to get dressed. This for her is one of the most exciting parts of the day. For her, fashion is about outfits; what top works with what pants or skirts or dress, and then accessorizing. She always wears a choker and a necklace. Black heels are also part of her most outfits. It seemed like a breezy day so she wore her light pink velvet pants with a white crop top and denim jacket. The pants revealed just a little of her ankles making her look elongated with her black heals. She is petite, so she has to make sure that her outfits don’t make her look short. Although on many occasions that doesn’t bother her since her heels are there to give her company.

With her make up done and accessories on, Z officially begins her almost unplanned day. Her heels clicking away and music that blends with her thoughts. As soon as she steps outside her apartment, the mind that she was trying to keep quiet the whole morning, starts screaming, making the city a blur in the background.

– HS

 

Asphyxiate

Asphyxiation of my mind.

I slowly became weary, tired of the same.

I’m tired of the sameness.

I have nothing to show, but everything to hide.

I have spiraled, lost all respect.

Just a passerby, taking a glimpse of myself.

 

Asphyxiation of my soul.

It escaped when I lost control.

The burning desire to breathe.

The earthly desire to feel.

But I’m indifferent.

 

Asphyxiation of my body.

Collar bones, beautiful collar bones.

They are so sharp, sharper than my tongue.

If only I could speak my mind, I wouldn’t need these ribs of steel.

Now they are beginning to rust.

 

Asphyxiation of my heart.

The chambers collapse, and I begin to fade.

If only my ribs of steel and my weary mind could protect my heart.

Then maybe I wouldn’t have flatlined.

– AJ

Mental Health Awareness & Suicide Prevention

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

Say Yes

I wouldn’t say 2016 was a bad year, but definitely a tough one. I had some of my worst experiences leading up to 2016, which only made me think it was going to be a bad year, but somehow I also ended up having my best experiences ever. The worst moments of 2016 were when I was feeling tired, stuck, or in denial. I’m an overthinker and for several weeks it got out of hand.  I was constantly awake stressing over every little thing and fighting my body to rest, but I learned to slow down and make calmness a lifestyle choice. At another point I was stuck trying to make sense of why bad things happen to good people. I even read some books on it. I never got all the answers I wanted, but the only way I got through that was by having a positive outlook. Most of the time I was surrounded by the people I care about most, but I was still missing the company I desired. Nonetheless, something good came of every bad situation, some a bit more delayed than others, but I eventually got the relief I was searching for.

I had some of my most amazing experiences because I kept saying yes and I wasn’t afraid of doing something new or crazy. I explored beautiful cities with my best friends, heard a lot of awesome stories from strangers, went on random adventures, and met amazing people along the way. I got to see my favorite artist, Florence + The Machine in concert which left me with so much inspirational and creative energy that I still feel it many months later. I got to see Snakehips and Lion Babe, which was just another musical dose of good energy. I finally turned 21 and had the best 3-day birthday celebration with a lot of laughs and good company. I was fortunate enough to have a lot of great moments with special people, but I also learned to be okay going on adventures alone. This past year, I learned to not be afraid of distance and space. 2016 was a progression of everything that embodies how I think and feel. With that being said, I have simply just grown. I’m not focused on writing a whole new story for myself in 2017.  This is not the end of everything associated with 2016 or a pledge for New Year, New Me. I’m focused on being the best version of myself and saying yes even more times than I did last year. 2017 is about good vibes and positivity and it’s going to be great, I promise.

-AJ

 

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

Storyteller

Architecture is a book that stores all the stories and lets people write their own.

I am a lost soul, I like to sit by myself and think, watch people, and read among many other things. Recently I went to the Architecture and Design Film Festival in New York and watched a film called The Storyteller. After Walter Benjamin. by Nathaniel Knop, I had no expectations what so ever about this film. I did not research, I just went after reading a short description. My initial thought from the title connected me to books, the idea of a narrative and how a story can transform lives. The only emotion I was expecting was to be given a new perspective, and the movie lived up to my expectations and much more, it gave me something to ponder about on the direction of how I want to tell my story.

When I was watching the film, I kept getting memories of when I first started reading for myself, it was during eighth grade and I had recently moved to the U.S., I had no friends initially and so I discovered the public library of my town and started reading random books from the young adult section. They helped me soothe my soul and be ok with what I was experiencing. They gave me solace. They would and still take me on a journey I haven’t been before and I can clearly experience every emotion that the character is experiencing. I am in a different world when I am reading and that is what architecture is for me. It is a new world where there are stories revolving around emoting different feelings. One of the scenes during the movie had the famous architect Peter Eisenman talk about the Holocaust museum that he designed in Germany. He says that when he was designing it, he did not want to tell a story as it was not his job to tell it since he was not part of it and none of his architecture tells a story. I don’t know if I completely agree with it but I do understand his perspective and believe that architecture is supposed to be the canvas for the stories of the people who occupy it. I also believe that architecture is a story of the person who designs it, it is supposed to help people connect to that one story and let the inhabitants interpret it in their own way. Architecture is a book that stores all the stories and lets people write their own.

This sentiment that I have for architecture has made me question what I want to pursue in life. I don’t want to be a traditional architect; I want to go beyond. Beyond just constructing for commercial purposes, I want to understand humans and their neurological side to make spaces that adapt to them to soothe and create stories. I want my architecture to heal, I don’t know how yet but I am in the process of figuring that out. It might take me a long time but I know I will get there eventually. My only goal is to create something that will let people connect to my story and let them write their own through it.

HS

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