Bailando, Bailando

I am 100% a proponent of getting out of one’s comfort zone. I believe in the truth that is humbling oneself, and growing pains and expressing oneself and taking actions in ways that may be unfamiliar, but honorable to the higher self that is calling.

That being said, I have not always been the first in a group to do something outlandish, and I am, in my most natural state, a creature of comfort.

 

Malécon of Lima, Peru

 

The magic and at times, exhaust of traveling is that it pushes you endlessly further outside of your circle of “known.”

And on this continent of South America where I speak little of the official language(s) and dance even less of the local movements, there have been times where I’ve found myself feeling a bit out of place!

To counter these feelings of discomfort (paired with the mysterious, nearly constant feelings of light nausea- from brushing my teeth with faucet water?), I decided it was time to do something that really made me feel like me again. For any of you who have read this past post, you shan’t be surprised… I set my eye and heart on checking out the botanical gardens on my handy city map of Lima, Peru.

I grabbed my journal and a cold botella de agua and headed to my park, only to find that with my limited Spanish speaking skills, I could not confirm with the man at the information desk whether or not the gardens were still open and if they were indeed worth the 20-minute taxi ride.

Alas, my next move was simple: set up in Kennedy Square, a park full of bright scarlet sages and orange zinnias and- to my pleasure- stray cats and kittens!

Cats in Kennedy Square in the Miraflores District, Lima

 

Upon approaching the park I found a circle of people and some Latin music sounding. I was hoping to stumble upon a live concert, only to see pairs of elderly couples dancing salsa and meringue in a small rounded pit surrounded by the crowd! Feeling warmth in my heart, I decided to watch a few songs.

 

At the start of the third song, I was startled by a Spanish offer.

Granted, Spanish-speakers communicate ridiculously fast and my comprehension skills are below the average first grader’s, I could only assume that this man was asking me to willingly volunteer myself as token gringa in this dance party of wiser, older, more coordinated Latino hip-swingers.

While my own dear gringo man and world-adventure partner has been so kindly coaching me in meringue movements whenever we’re out (he’s a much better dancer than I am; I told him once and he’ll never let me forget it), I was by no means feeling confident enough to showcase my skills amongst these naturals.

“No, no, no,” I said in my best Spanish accent, shaking my head and gesturing at my full hands.

But whether it was my already existing cultural discomfort (what more do I have to lose!), the young Peruvian man’s incessant requests, the middle-aged woman grabbing the water bottle and journal out of my hands and waving me to go, or a combination of the three, what finally came out of my mouth was an exhaled, “Ok… Vamos!”

Into the pit I went, where I discovered the song required Cubana dance skills (which I also didn’t have) and I giggled half-nervously, half-without-inhibition for the next three and a half minutes, making smiley eye contact with other dancers and older folk who were sitting on the surrounding stairs.

Whether they thought I was crossing barriers of age, skin tone or dancing skills, or imposing on cultural traditions or merely a Sunday evening routine, we were all laughing.

Because, when honest with yourself, it is impossible to see someone throwing themselves humbly outside their comfort zone without it affecting you as well.

The good-natured heart in us all knows deep down the courage and strength that vulnerability takes, and the beauty of that alone is infectious.

I found that that song alone was enough to fuel me in my pursuit of comfort, which was really after all a need to feel the greatness that I have, and have had in me all along.

In doing something that felt a lot less of me, I felt a lot more of me, because I was feeding the parts of expansion, the parts of myself I didn’t yet know were there.

I thanked my partner and the kind woman who guarded my belongings and I walked across the park. I sat myself beside a bed of scarlet sages and cats, opened up my journal, and I smiled. Because I realized that no matter where I am in the world, I can find a little bit of me, and I can fall a little bit more in love with it every day.

Parque del Amor, Lima

 

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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