January

It was not until the next day that she realizes that she had come to a city that she could be lost in. Completely unknown to her, and without a companion to guide her, she had to unveil this history herself.

She saw him leaning on the wall outside of the Apple store. It was 10 pm. She had just walked back to Plaza del Sol, the chill air breathing in on her. As she walked towards him, passing the statue of Madrid, she could see him more clearly. Dressed in a maroon sweater, blue jeans, and a warm scarf, he looks up as he hears the clicks of her shoes.

As they are a foot away, she watches as his mouth curves up into a smile as he greets her.

This was already her third week in Spain. Days were passing in such a hurry that she couldn’t do anything to stop them. Arriving to Madrid from Barcelona in an arduous train ride, Z was somehow still awake. Reaching Atoche station at 9:30 pm, she had decided to take the metro to her hostel, not knowing that there would be no escalators or elevators to help her bring her huge suitcase to the street of Gran Vie. She managed after several tries to only see the bright lights shining in on her from the mid height Renaissance buildings surrounding her.

It was not until the next day that she realizes that she had come to a city that she could be lost in. Completely unknown to her, and without a companion to guide her, she had to unveil this history herself.

Just before coming to Madrid, L had made a list of places that Z could see. Being a local, he knew all the must see’s, especially where the architecture mattered. She had gotten her first two days planned. Going along with the schedule, she went to the Prado, the Botanical garden, and the Caixa Forum on the first day. Although on the second day, she wandered off. Ending up in an alley with barely any light, except of a small bookstore, she enters in. Pushing the door, she hears a creek of the hinge. There were two women talking in English. This was new. Looking around, she finds a brown wrapper circling each of the books that were displayed. Picking up a Spanish phrase book, the brown wrapper on it read, “Now you can Tinder in Spanish!”. Z smiled to this statement. This was too relatable to not be appreciated.

At the checkout counter, as she is paying, Z comments that this was the first English language bookstore that she had encountered so far in Madrid. This starts a conversation that leads to her being invited to a Chinese chess and whiskey night the following day. This was the first real connection that she had in the city so far. Leaving with a Spanish phrase book and an invite, Z was happy. She was feeling the city take over and all she could do was keep living.

Sunday morning, L was waiting for her at the Plaza del Sol. For some reason, everyone she had encountered so far, wanted to meet up there. When Z found out the story behind it, it made sense why it was special to the people living there. The plaza was at the center of the city, and the city had grown outward from there throughout history. Also, it was radially connected to the Spanish roads, starting from 0.

He was standing by the statue of Madrid. As he sees her, he walks towards her and kisses her on both cheeks. This tradition was still unfamiliar to her.

Wanting coffee, Z askes if they can get breakfast somewhere and so they start walking towards what would be a day filled with endless talks about life, politics, culture, and history of the city. By the end of it, sitting in a café that was originally part of a slaughterhouse, they were still talking about differences in the social and political culture of Spain and United States. But Z felt like there was something unsaid in their talks about the world.

That night, after being dropped off at the Metro station, Z left to meet M. Walking back to Plaza del Sol, he was leaning on the wall by the Apple store. Waiting for her to reach him, he suggests a Jazz bar as soon as they finish up with the pleasantries.

For some reason, all the fear and nervousness that she had kept inside her before, she had let go. She was not afraid of meeting new people, which was only aiding her to experience the culture of the city and to blend in within it.

While walking, they talk about their backgrounds. Getting to know each other for the first time, the conversation starts slow. But once inside the bar, their nerves ease up and they are able to talk freely even with M having to Google translate a few words from Spanish to English.

The whole situation felt normal.

They end up going to his apartment to continue their conversation, and that is where Z realizes the kindness and warmth that was filled within M. It was unfathomable. She had never been on the receiving end of it until now, and it made her feel valued.

Not wanting to let go of the city just yet, Z texts M on her last day there. They meet up at another bar close to her hostel.

For some reason, this moment felt completely natural. It seemed like she had known him for a much longer time and the ease of the conversation was what she would miss the most.

What followed was a simple gesture, that would be unimaginable in Manhattan. He offered to help her bring her suitcase to his apartment, so she could leave from there directly in the morning. Not wanting to burden him, Z asked him a thousand times if that was ok with him and his roommates. Not wanting to hear more of it, they get her giant suitcase back to his apartment while he made fun of her Spanish phrase book.

Waking up at 7:30 in the morning, Z felt like she was in an unreal situation. Dreading to leave, she sat on the bed for a few extra minutes before getting up.

As he dropped her at an intersection towards Avenue of the Americas, all Z could think of was the city and how M had made it a little more special for her.

In years to come, she will cherish these moments of letting go. Letting go of her fears and conquering them one step at a time.

  • H

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

 

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