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

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

 

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.