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

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

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