Closer to My Dreams

  Day 10 está aquí! While the time is certainly flying by, it seems like we’ve been in blissful exploration for months. What was this life prior full of laundry machines, closets and iced coffee? 

We’re finally getting the hang of this lifestyle where our possessions are rollable and squeezable and transportable on our backs (#trapeziusqueen). We’ve started cooking our own meals, hand washing our clothes and even bargaining with locals for free tent-pitched-night’s sleeps behind hostels and hotels. 

Despite the Western luxuries from another life, I have been reminded in just this week and a half the humbling treasures of traveling. 

I am back to being surrounded by the new, the unfamiliar. I am forced to be alert and present. I am living life wide-eyed, soaking in every new word, custom and person.  

  

I think that this awareness is what draws humans to travel again and again. It is the complete immersion into a new world that reminds us how minuscule our personal problems and lives are in the grander scheme. It is the feeling of ego-deflation, the resetting of perspective and the stripped-down rawness of self, eyes wide and arms open, ready to embrace modestly and gratefully all that the world has to offer. 

This presence, awareness and alertness is what I was craving when I last mentioned feeling stuck; the feeling right before the acceleration. I’m starting to figure that people can only stay comfortably “stuck” for so long, lest the fear of change keep them from breaking habit. Perhaps it is different for everyone- once I started to feel that stagnation, I knew my truth was calling me to something more. 

There is no fearlessness without having fears; the courage comes in facing them. 

When I answered my truth’s calling, magical things happened. Not only did I have the courage to face my fears, I had the drive to go out searching for them myself. It was this newfound understanding of my capabilities and my strength that guided me. I wrote in my journal, “I’m feeling so fearless these days; so fully grasping my life by the horns and just living the way I want to live!” 

With that exciting, fulfilling understanding and appreciation about making my life my very own in all the ways I wanted to, I found the power to face down these fears. I found the key to fearlessness (“they don’t want you to live”🔑🔑🔑). I followed my truth and my calling and I dove right in. And I learned there is no fear of death or failure, so long as you’re living your life the way that you love to live it. There is nothing to regret, no “should have, would have, could have” and no unfinished business. 

Because you know that you listened, self-reflected, sought out and tried. You challenged yourself to be the best you, and only you, could be. And with the fulfillment of doing what you love for your truth and purpose comes no greater reward and unlimited possibilities. 

I am diving, head first into this passionate, truthful life of mine. I’m not stopping, giving in, and I’m never turning back. 

  For those of you who can’t decipher the typically my-eyes-only chicken scratch, it reads: “I jumped off the bridge. Who do I think I am! Who is this girl, fearless in her evolution and plight in discovering and striving toward and grasping her truth, smiling all the while?”

It is me. And it has always been me. Just how it is you, and has always been you. 

 

  The Puente San Francisco in Baños, Ecuador- 100 meters high.

For those of you who read this post thinking the truth and presence vernacular was more looney than transparent, I would love to share and reference two life-changing books that helped me understand: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho and A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle. Happy reading, and happy living. 🙂

How To Be Simple, Not Basic

There is a new female identity emerging in American pop culture. She attends all the local Zumba™ classes, drinks Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks, and lives vicariously through “Sex and the City” reruns, all while wearing her leggings as pants. She shares all unoriginal interests and characteristics of her best friends. She is, according to mainstream society, the “basic b**ch.”

Urban Dictionary, the online cultural dictionary, defines basic as, “… someone devoid of defining characteristics that might make a person interesting, extraordinary, or just simply worth devoting time or attention to.”

A simple Google search will equip one fully with, well, the basics. Blogs define the term, BuzzFeed entices readers with quizzes to implore their own basic qualities, and Cosmopolitan encourages full identity conformity with articles addressing, “The Best Things About Basic B**ches.” Accompanied with the humor and slight truths common to all stereotypes, the Basic B**ch identity’s sweeping coverage proves difficult to escape. The following are a few simple alternatives to being a basic that aim to relieve the pressure on females today. Isn’t it time to stop being basic and start being individuals free of inhibitions? It’s as simple as that.

Basic: Dressing as a sexy             for Halloween
A primary showcasing of basic b**ches undeniably occurs at the end of October. As early as high school, basics all around sip their Pumpkin Spice Lattes and brainstorm their Halloween costumes- the more sex appeal, the better. Around this time of the year, one sees the irony of unoriginal creativity that underlies all of the artificial hair and facial products. Sexy nurse, sexy police officer, sexy… lobster?

Simple:
It may seem difficult to escape the conundrum. The matter at hand becomes whether to partake in spooky festivities the way the society expects, or feeling confident meeting a new partner in a non-sexualized costume. The simple female’s solution: dressing however one wants, regardless of sexual appeal. There are many resources to finding alternative, non-sexualized costumes.

Sure, a silent film actress may not be loud enough to capture the attention of the male in the SWAT Team gear, but sparing oneself wasted time with a partner whose primary interest is superficial physicality has its rewards- more airtime for a non-basic partner. Plus, one has more opportunity and accessibility to tear up the dance floor without tearing the little fabric covering the body. Of course, if a sexy lobster is one’s true spirit animal Halloween costume, that’s allowed too.


Basic:
Selfie Taking
Paralleling the basic b**ch identity, the masses have undertaken the selfie as their primary means of self-definition. Social media platforms of all kinds are teeming with kissy faces and staged bathroom pictures alike.

Simple:
This alternative is a little less posed and a lot more generous. Instead of taking a selfie, the simple girl’s alternative is to take pictures of others. Whether it’s of friends, family or strangers, everyone benefits. Focusing the lens to the outside world allows for the capture of genuine moments rather than staged ideals. The photo blog, Humans of New York, is a predominant example. Ironically, if everyone is taking pictures of others instead, one is still bound to get a great new Facebook default picture. Perhaps this alternative’s most appealing aspect- the new default picture will get even more “likes” because someone caught in their natural, unsuspecting existence is much more beautiful than posing in the bathroom mirror with a kissy face.

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Basic: Excessive use of artificial beauty products
Too often, women and girls are forgetting to leave the house without an overdose of makeup, hair spray and artificially bronzed skin. The beauty industry is booming, and girls are beginning to partake in it at increasingly younger ages. Women spend over $426 billion a year on beauty products and the average woman spends nearly an hour daily primping herself- time that amounts to 2 weeks per year, according to surveys conducted by The Huffington Post and NBC, respectively. Besides the alarmingly high costs of the beauty industry, the obsession over appearance can lead to mental health problems like depression, anxiety and eating disorders- what’s so simple about that?

Simple:
A simpler approach: ditching the foundation and applying a smile and a confident aura. These accessories match one’s natural pigmentation unfailingly and always make the eyes pop. This simple alternative may not be the easiest lifestyle change, but it outweighs the opportunity costs of participating in an industry that profits off one’s low self-worth. BuzzFeed staff writer, Erin La Rosa, shares her experience in an article about not wearing makeup for a week. Though she admits discomfort at first, she discovered she was more approachable, accepting of her flaws and respectful of the courageous women who renounce the artificial products every day.


Basic:
Living vicariously through reality TV, or other drama-inducing programs
One notable quality of a basic is their zeal for reality TV and dramatized programs as a whole. Including, but not limited to: “Keeping Up With the Kardashians”, “Real Housewives of [various locations]”, “Real Divas of [various locations]”, “Glee”, Lifetime movies, Oxygen Network movies, “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette”, it is a miracle these individuals make it out of the house into actual reality to express their newly acquired TV-based characteristics.

Simple:
Acknowledge the difference between reality TV and reality. According to a 2013 study published in the Psychology of Popular Media Culture, exposure to reality TV negatively affects viewers’ perceptions of the world, including increased acceptance of catty behavior and backstabbing. A survey by The Today Show says reality TV viewers are more neurotic and claim to have a lower self-esteem. Simply put, reality TV and other drama-inducing programs offer more drawbacks than benefits. Going out and living one’s own life is much more simple than the time and energy it takes to mirror a star- a star who is only “acting” like their real self to begin with.


Basic:
Calling other females basic
Lastly, one of the most degrading characteristics of the basic identity is in fact, labeling other females as basic. Perhaps it does feel good to dress up and apply some mascara every once in a while, and it’s possible that a hot, pumpkin flavored beverage is the perfect accomplice on a chilly autumn day. Can an individual be simply and accurately defined by their comparability to culturally determined standards- or by anything for that matter?

Simple:
The paradoxical solution may be that the only way to accurately comprehend an individual is in realizing the absurdity of attempting to do so. Isn’t this, after all, humanity’s defining challenge? Accepting that there is no universal way to define a person is one of the simplest challenges there is.

The female’s ultimate challenge to the basic identity is uniting under the practice of individuality, not a homogenous cultural category. Instead of embracing the trending interests, partake in a declaration that will never go out of style- being one’s true self. Conserve time, money and energy and live simply. Embrace the innate, uncanny qualities within and encourage others to do the same. The first step may just be taking a minute to appreciate the inspirational quotes that flood Pinterest. As nonconformist icon Maya Angelou stated simply,

“If you are always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”


The original article was written by Olivia Morrissey in October 2014 and has since been revised. She loves pumpkin-flavored-anything and leggings as much as the next individual.

Continue reading “How To Be Simple, Not Basic”

A Break in the Gray

If I were to openly express a stereotype I’m working to overcome (in all of its unrighteousness), I would do it here for the purpose of this blog post and it would be about Mondays, in that they are typically and destined to be long, dull and gray. Thus was the case this week.

As expected of an all-inclusive Monday, a few things had gone not-so-ideally and I was fighting a case of the grumps by the time 5:30 p.m. had rolled around.

I had finally finished classes for the day and was met with a striking red traffic light, thwarting my timely trek to the library. I joined the crowd of other students waiting to cross the road, making extended (almost to the point of being awkward) eye contact with a fellow trekker before returning to the screen of my cell phone to address the gray-day’s remaining emails.

I was relieved to find this task consumed but few minutes, and I gratefully put my phone away to give my mind a break for the remainder of my stroll. At this point, I had managed to hit yet another red light and I realized I was still walking in sync with the man-bun student I had made eye contact with two lights ago.

“How’s your Monday going?” I asked. It was yet another one of those moments where I was reminded just how much faster my mouth works than my brain.

Unsurprised by a stranger’s grade-C conversation starter, my walking partner responded by telling me that as of this morning, Monday was his new favorite day. Delighted at this response, I inquired why- somewhat desperately- and allowed my mind and ears to unfold, ready to receive the beautiful insight that so often stems from serendipity.

He told me that he had learned the prefix, mon- in Monday, is the French word meaning ‘my’. Monday, to my new friend Nick, now meant ‘my‘ day, and was synonymous with the glorious carpe diem: seize the day.

Did the gray clouds really break at the sharing of this enchanting idea? I don’t know. But I thought about how accomplished I feel after I have a productive Monday, and how it sets the tone for the rest of my week. I thought about past Mondays and how they aren’t really all dull and gray, not when you have the right mindset. I thought about how grateful I was to have met my new friend Nick, and had a mentality-shifting 2-minute conversation with a stranger. But more than anything, I thought about how I can’t wait to make Monday mine next week.

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Duties vs. Dreams: When Life Gets In the Way

Alas! As if it were a test from the universe, I have become so caught up in “obligations” a month and a half into good & grateful that I’ve forgotten to make time for the very passions that brought this space into fruition: writing, encouraging others and replenishing altruistic energy into this world, among the many. It’s as if identifying and vocalizing my passions wasn’t enough.

It’s easy to preach to others and to pass words without backing them up, hence the phrase, “easier said than done.” For me, writing to spread positivity comes as innate enjoyment- a fun and natural way to pass the time. But what about those instances when life just seems to get in the way? When we lose ourselves in that which mainstream society deems valuable- grades, meetings, work, money, expectations, to-do’s- that we forget to make time for the things that we find intimately worthy? It seems to be one of modern humanity’s defining battles, not to mention a great source of the unhappiness that exists today. Lately, I found myself wondering, how can I inspire others and restore truth and goodness if I allow my own passions and dreams to be swept aside by society’s demands?

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For a few weeks now, I’ve been taunted by an unshakable feeling. My courses picked up right after spring break, mandating my best-attempted nosedive into a whirlpool of responsibilities. As a senior in my final semester of college, I’m finally getting that “real world experience” we all think we’ve been craving. Trying to balance 6 courses, 4 clients, an internship, a part-time job and a (rapidly diminishing) social life, I am the busiest I’ve ever been. While I’m beyond appreciative of these opportunities, the long-awaited moments when my head hit the pillow in darkness were met with unsettlement: something felt wrong.

It was the feeling that I was straying from my true purpose, and spending my time and energy in ways that didn’t serve my soul.”

Though I have come so far in discovering my true self, passions and dreams, I’m realizing that it is an on-going journey, and one that requires discipline, direction and dedication. I was so busy and caught up in the hours and minutes of each day that I had no time to enjoy the present moment, never mind engage in something that fulfilled me. I was stressed, frustrated and overworked. I knew something wasn’t right but I didn’t know what to do about it; I needed a sign and a push in the right direction.

Today, amidst my speed-walk to class after a flustering client meeting, a flier caught my eye. It read “Dream Job Revolution,” noting a seminar by life coach, inspirational speaker and best-selling author, Mitch Matthews, that was to occur later that night. It was just what I was looking for, but disheartened, I told myself I didn’t have a whole 2 hours to spare on leisurely activities.

Later that evening when I parked to go to the library, I looked at the flier one last time. It suddenly hit me that I was being ridiculous, that I wanted to go to this presentation more than anything and that this was the nudge I needed and had been asking for to get back on the path of my dreams. So I followed the signs of the universe, and was rewarded.

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The event was incredible. Anonymously, each participant described one of their “BIG dreams” on a bright green dream sheet and hung it on the wall to be commented on and encouraged by others. Surrounding myself with other passionate individuals was the return to consciousness that I needed! Mitch Matthews’ presentation inspired me to get back on track with my passions, despite the pressing obligations that were distracting me from doing so.

I’m beginning to see that there will always be a “reason” to set your dreams aside. If you’re looking for an excuse, you’ll find it. Duties, expectations and obstacles are going to get in your way. Life is going to get in the way. Following your dreams isn’t a simple feat, but the most rewarding journeys aren’t. There will always be things that need to get done and things people need from you, and there will never be enough time to do it all. But sometimes you need to take a moment to say yes to the things that serve your truth and pass on those which do not. As Mr. Matthews said beautifully tonight: “crazy things happen when we allow ourselves to dream.”

Become familiar with the sound of your own truth- how whole you feel when you’re doing something you innately love- so you know when you have wandered from your path and you know how to get back on it.

Take a minute to reflect. Where are your time and energy being spent? Are they going toward that which fulfills you most, your passions and dreams? If the answer is no, think about why are you distracted by these other obligations. Who are you doing them for if not for yourself?

So yes, I do still have a 20-page paper to finish by the morning, and I still have to balance all of my responsibilities for the remainder of the semester. But tonight, I made a point to make time for myself and my passions, despite all of these distractions… and dang, my soul feels good & grateful for it.

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Me, Myself & I: mind, body & soul

Ironically enough, the final semester of my undergraduate experience has been leaving me feeling unfulfilled. I’ve fallen into a routine: a combination of draining schoolwork I don’t entirely love, and weekends attending the same campus bars we’ve all been attending since we were at least 18.

This isn’t about my dull day routine or meaningless nights at bars, however. Feeling empty from both, I decided Saturday was a great opportunity to take a personal night. I say personal night with a few connotations in mind. First, as in taking a personal day off from the robotic work that constitutes my passing weeks, and second, personal as in concerning the intimate needs of my mind, body and soul.

My roommate and I had already slept in, feng shui-ed our kitchen (by washing dishes) and rid ourselves of some toxins at the sauna earlier that day, so I was feeling wonderful about a night to myself.

Light on toxins, I decided to make some chocolate chip banana bread for dinner. Yes, you read correctly. We had four bad bananas and I was in the mood to test my creativity and face my domestic fears, so I went all in. And by all in, I mean substituting nearly everything that this recipe called for with other items- like avocado for butter- and the result was something SUPERB.

Boom! Another kitchen experience down. It felt great to challenge myself in something that lies beyond my comfort zone. It seems silly to feel insecure about following a recipe (there are high cooking standards in my family- it’s deliciously overwhelming) but it’s a fear of mine that I’m tackling bit(e) by bit(e).

But by identifying and confronting a fear of mine, I exercised my mind and my soul.

Just like the body and the brain, the soul needs exercise to stay fresh, healthy and ever-growing, too. When you acknowledge and address the things that make you uncomfortable, you keep your mind and soul flexible and in progression. If you don’t “practice,” the body, mind and soul all get stuck in their ways and become incapable of growth. So practice I did.

Part two of my personal night actually involved my cell phone, which I had turned off earlier as part of my me time. I had discovered a meditation app called, Stop, Breathe & Think, last week and it’s actually very lovely. The app asks you to assess your mental, physical and emotional well-being and then offers you various applicable podcast meditations. I don’t believe technology can ever supersede true meditation or mindfulness, but I do think this is an example of technology used in a beautiful way. You all should give it a try!

I spent the rest of my night in the company of a good friend, who showed me this wonderful site, Soul Pancake. It’s right up my alley, I’m surprised I had never explored it before. Anyway, another friend of mine, e.r., had actually sent me this video from the site over the winter and it’s a perfect fit for good & grateful 🙂

Whether it was an overdose of banana bread and soulpancakes or just the night’s happy energy, I remembered my positive affirmation cards for the first time in a while. (Lousie Hay, the creator, calls them power thought cards. They are fabulous).

A dear friend of mine introduced them to me a few years ago, and I loved them so much that she gave me her deck. I’ve been trying to pay her kindness forward since then, sharing my cards with others and letting them have one or two that they resonate most with.

All in all, it was just the night I needed. I had to take a break from that which was leaving me unfulfilled and spend my time doing the things that filled me up and made my life feel meaningful.

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The takeaway: do that which nourishes your individual soul. Do what feels good, what has value, what makes you feel like you have a purpose.

These days, it’s all too easy to get lost in the things that need to be done, the things we should do or have to do. What about the things that serve no purpose other than making you feel good?

Check in with yourself every once in a while. Part of being grateful and appreciative is being aware: aware of your own feelings and well-being; aware of other’s emotions and health, and aware of the environment and surroundings that encompass us all.

We all suffer from FOMO to an extent, and sometimes I feel that applies to me more than anyone. But I’m learning that taking care of myself and doing the things that are most fulfilling to my mind, body and soul is essential to any rewarding experience I can share with another person.