Love Affair with Lincoln Center

To go hide in a crowded city, the easiest spot is a place that is always filled. You will find those spaces every couple of blocks, but the ones that bring people in are the ones that people can change. A lot of spaces cannot be adaptable; they are designed to be controlled. On the other hand, there are some public architecture that are designed to be modified by the people who use it. They could be changed through activities or just occupancy. New York City has gems of Public spaces that are hiding between buildings that can be modified, but my heart belongs to the ever morphing Lincoln Center. I could probably list a thousand reasons why I love it so much but I think a few will suffice.

Ever since I started school, I had been in search of a place where I could go to find refuge. Maybe it’s the romantic in me who was looking for it or it could have been my need to get away from all the craziness without actually leaving. I tried hard to find a place that belonged to me for almost a year without having any luck. My first choice was the Riverside Park by 125th St., it has its charm with its pier and the rocks that give you privacy when you just want to ponder without disturbance, but the feeling wasn’t there. Second I thought, why not Central Park, it’s one of biggest public space that New York has and I can get lost there without anyone knowing. I would go there after class and sit on one of the higher rocks and read or sketch. It still wasn’t right. I could get the views but the feeling of loneliness was overpowering, even though that is what I was searching for. I felt pretentious just being there.

I kept looking; finally, one night, around midnight, when one of my best friends and I were tired of working on our projects decided to go for a walk in the freezing cold and ended up walking to Lincoln Center. There was no one there and it was pitch dark with one security guard standing under the awning. We giggled and kept walking towards the now turned off fountain. We climbed on the platform by it and just laid down and watched the stars. The feeling of cold went away and I felt at peace. This started my love affair with Lincoln Center.  The place has a welcoming feeling; it is like you are being called. It has abilities to transform in the morning and during different seasons. During the summer it’s at its happiest, the fountain pours out warm water and people are huddled against it watching as the water dances. The three different but coherent buildings that surround it look marvelous with their creamish white limestone which perform as enclosure and structure. The buildings serve as different performing halls functionally but as one they behave as a safety barrier that will protect you come rain or shine, literally. During Fall, this attitude is still prevalent with the colors changing to the brownish hues and the rustling of leaves, but it starts to die down as it gets colder. Which hasn’t stopped me from going there to rethink life.

I have had days when I am super happy and I just need a space to get that excitement out and I would go there, and I have had days when I just couldn’t talk to anyone I know and so I would go there. My best friend knows me and if she even suspects that I need to get away for some time, she would know to find me at Lincoln Center. There was an incident last fall when my best friend, A, needed to talk to me about something and it was super urgent but she had a class in 10 minutes. We still ended up going to Lincoln Center and sat by the fountain in the chilly breeze to decipher the situation and make some sense of it. We have had lots of moments like these but at this particular moment a stranger took a picture of us since we became silhouettes to his lens with the Space being the central element. It was a beautiful moment.

Lots of people have an attachment to Lincoln center as well. When I am just sitting there, people watching, (It is not a weird thing to do I promise, it’s actually a fun activity that can give insight to so many ideas and inspiration) I find so many ways people use Lincoln center and transform the space from just a designed object to a place with emotions. I have seen the fountain area being used as a tourist space, a lover’s nest, a resting place, and even a dancing studio. I have seen music videos being shot there. It is truly magical to see all the activity going on. At the same time when I sit there in the midst of all the noise, I am still at peace.

This feeling is a base for all the other emotions felt when in Lincoln Center. There is a backyard to the arena as well. At first look, it is a beautiful space with a canopy of trees surrounded by a brutalist performance hall on the right and an infinity pool on the left. Once you step inside the enclave, the feeling of motion sets in. Maybe it’s just me but I feel like I am travelling to a place where I can observe everything that everyone else is doing but I am not seen by anyone; it’s the feeling of invisibility in the most serene way. This whole area is mostly a quiet zone and I have seen people come here to chat with a friend, eat lunch, read a book, and study mostly, which are all activities that I have done there, but for me it’s a place to ponder. I have my craziest, quirkiest imaginations while sitting on the curved wire chair under the shade of the trees overlooking the pool or the linear concrete and glass building.

Throughout the two years that I have been going to Lincoln Center for solace, I fall in love with it more each time. My love affair with this place is for life and if you want to find me, you know where to look.

 

HS

 

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

New Beginnings

We often feel like we’re disconnected from the world. We have our routines, we are productive, we do everything we’re supposed to do and even when we do it well, we somehow still feel disconnected.

Part of the new beginning is connection. Connect with others, but also don’t forget to connect with yourself. You always hear the cliché, You can’t love anyone else if you don’t love yourself first. And if you’re like me, you are tired of hearing it. But what’s truly important is knowing yourself and knowing exactly what you want. We follow these maps as if life is fair, as if time has discretion, and as if distance gives us space.

I’ve always been a goal-oriented person and I am determined to get where I want to be in life, but I often get stuck on letting things go. I don’t get attached easily, but once I do, letting go seems impossible. It’s my defense mechanism to put up walls. I’m passive, I taught myself to block things out. New beginnings have given me strength to move on and to give time a chance.

I’m starting a new beginning. Not because it’s 2016 and I need a resolution, not because its Spring and Spring itself is about new beginnings, but because I need emotional relief. Because it’s perfectly okay to decide to set a new goal in the middle of night and because everything I feel is valid. ­­ Landscapes change and maps aren’t these stationary things anymore.

Why do we give ourselves so many restrictions? And why do I feel the need to suppress? People come and go along with opportunities, and changing to respond to all of those things is irrational. I am not a person that fits into a box or single category, nor am I a conformist. I am stubborn and complex with more room to grow. With this new beginning comes confidence and it is one thing that will stay.

-AJ