Life in Spain, What’s it like?

Hello readers and writers,

I’ve decided that this post will be a little different, I wanted to share some of the things that I have noticed and seen to be quite curious about living in Spain. I have had the privilege of moving around a wonderful lot, but haven’t really taken the time to write about some of the good and not so good differences I find myself adjusting to. I hope this list helps anyone with possibly moving to Spain, and or just to satisfy the curiosity of what life in Spain is really like. I strive to be as honest as possible when it comes to what I experience in every place I live or travel to, so enjoy the good, the bad, and the odd of living in the Mediterranean coast of Spain.

Life Is Very Slow Here

I think this is the most important difference I have noticed. In all aspects, life is much slower here than in other European countries, and also just in the world in general. I often forget it’s 2017 in Spain. I live in a particularly interesting city (Valencia) and although it isn’t as large and bustling as Madrid or Barcelona, it is somewhere in the middle between the two. It’s still a city, but it feels more like a big small town. In general however, Spain is much slower. Slower bank lines, slower post service, slower traffic, slow walkers who stand in the middle like no one else exists, you know? Just kind of slower. If you want to increase the spiritual fruit of patience in your life this may be the place to come do it, or to get an ulcer whatever works better for you.

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A photo taken by me a few weeks ago near the city of arts and sciences. Love that I live a walk away.

Spain Loves Vacation Time

If there’s anything I could say about Spain and most especially Valencia, it is that there are a lot, and I mean a lot of holidays. To make it more clear the one month I can think of where you honestly have no holidays and feel awful for most of it is September, September is called the “Monday” of the year here in Spain and it is honestly very true. Just to give you a round-up of the holidays here: December is a month of great festivities. Sure, you have Christmas and all that, but you also have special Saints which are celebrated by the Catholic church and so almost every week of December leading up to Christmas Eve has a “dia feriado” or festive day. In Spain they celebrate Three Kings Day as well and it is much bigger than Christmas alone, and so until around January 8th we are also celebrating that. The rest of January can be a bit bland but trust me you’re going to need the blandness to get you through the middle of February going on into March. February starts off slow, but nearing around the 20th or so, here in Valencia you start seeing the signs of Fallas, a giant holiday only celebrated in this quirky Mediterranean city. Once March arrives Fallas is in full gear and students get a week sometimes a week and a half off of school. Tons of shops are closed, you hear explosives 24 hours a day 7 days a week and honestly it is utter chaos, but I happen to love it. You’d think that by the end of Fallas (March 19th) you’d see things settle down a bit? They do, but only until Easter. I remember returning to university after Fallas for what felt like only 3 days, only to get another 2 weeks off for Spring Break. Spring Break extends even further because of all of the Saints celebrated on different days, honestly March and April feel non-existent in terms of work and studies. May rolls around and you’ve got tons of fairs and music festivals popping up in different parts of the city, students are normally studying because June is exam month, but overall it is a pretty calm month in terms of Holidays. However, after the exam period June initiates the starts of not only hundreds of events and festivals around the cities in Spain, but also the start of everyone disappearing and going on vacation. By July, most people are gone and summer is in full swing. By August however, Valencia and most of Spain I’ve heard, turns into a species of post-apocalyptic desolation zone. There’s literally no one here, I can honestly say that I have taken to dancing in the middle of the street because well… I can! There’s no one. No cars, no people, there are just a few bits of struggling tourists left behind but nothing significant.

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A photo taken by me from the top of a building near Xativa street in Valencia.

SIESTA IS A REAL THING

In case you were wondering, yup, people take a siesta here. I’m not sure if they all sleep, I’m not even sure what it is that they do. But at 3pm everyday without fail, shops and restaurants close their kitchen and services for siesta time and most won’t reopen until 7 or 8pm. It’s extremely inconvenient for getting things done, and if you’re like me 3-5pm is when I’m most hungry and want to eat something serious. However, I’m left waiting to dine at 8pm or even 10pm which is extremely late for me, and extremely normal to all Spaniards. Not only do I find it inconvenient for me, but also for people who work normal jobs. Since most grocery stores close at 8:30 or 9pm, and the second half of the work day finishes at around 8pm, I always wonder how on earth people ever get anything done? I always tell myself I need to stop getting hungry around siesta time because nothing is ever open, I’ve also tried actually taking a siesta at that time… I ended up sleeping until 8pm and I wonder how on earth these Spanish people wake up and go back to work again.

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Valencians can sound really angry

Spain is a highly choleric nation, people here are passionate, maybe too passionate. I have heard people get into arguments about the quality of Serrano ham and football leagues. I have heard older ladies speak to each other in such a way that made me believe that police intervention might be necessary only to see them hugging and kissing each other on the cheek with profuse friendship; it is very intense. All over Spain you will find this sort of behaviour, but I believe Valencia to be the most intense city in all of Spain. People here are loud, they are boisterous, and they love to look at you and give you their opinion. No one cares about waiting in long lines at the bank here, why? Because the bank teller is very passionately giving some sort of juicy gossip to each of the clients which she obviously has known for years. Of course, when you’re new to all of this, you stand in line wondering why on earth they are yelling at each other and especially why they’re taking so much time away from doing their job to talk. But see, they love to talk here, they love it… a lot! I’ve actually put this to the test too. If you happen to see a gathering of Spanish women or men discussing a topic ardently and you so happen to know at least 40% of what they’re talking about or criticizing, you can make instant friends by going over and saying something like: “tio… es que te digo, es alucinante lo que esta pasando en Gandia!” and they will immediately include you in the conversation, possibly buy you a drink and share their paella with you. The saying: “The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is huge here in Valencia, huge.

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They have odd and arbitrary rules that make no sense

There are little petty rules at restaurants, shops, parking places, stores, and everywhere that make absolutely no sense. I may have noticed this more as a Westerner who can pretty much get food whenever, buy whatever whenever and have no one say anything to me about anything ever. But here in Spain it doesn’t work like that. For instance, there are many restaurants who don’t permit you to exchange something into their fixed menu list for that day, even if you say you can’t eat something on that menu. If you want extra of something and they don’t want to give it to you because it is simply something they have never done before they’ll act very distraught and even irritated at you asking. If something doesn’t make sense and you actually tell them it doesn’t, they’ll look at you very confused and then say: “es que es asi…” simply meaning: “that’s how it is.” It’s not something I can generalize but at the same time, yeah, it actually is. You’ll find everywhere you go in Spain there are just some odd things like that.

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The town centre of Madrid at night, back in March.

There are really only two big sale seasons

This was a very interesting one to bump into. Apparently in Spain there are two “Black Friday” type sale seasons (by the way there is also a “black friday” but it sucks and they haven’t gotten the full concept yet). These seasons are January-February and July through August, they have what they call “rebajas” it basically means reductions. But these reductions are serious, and I mean serious. I have bought skirts and shirts for 3 euros, shoes for 5 and all sorts of other things I didn’t need for an obscenely low price. It’s difficult actually, because every week as the months progress they reduce things even more. So basically you’re left unsure as if to shop during the primera rebajas (1st) or the tercera rebajas, which basically mean that only the little ‘baglings’ of things will be left that you may not necessarily like as much. I say if you like it, and it’s cheap, buy it as fast as you can because the next few weeks items fly off the shelves. It’s actually quite fun and a great way to stock up on seasonal items. What does suck is that there are normally no reductions on anything at any other time in the year and so you do end up paying pretty high prices for things you know will be ridiculously cheap later on, it always leaves you with the torture of: “to wait for rebajas or not to wait for rebajas, that is the question?”

Weird Flats and Building Codes

Did I mention Spain was a little slower? That may be the reason behind why there is no fire extinguisher in my building for instance. No sort of fire escape plan, no sort of anything escape plan, no air conditioning system built-in or even the possibility of building one in, and all sort of other “necessary” things that seem to be kind of not needed by the building codes in Spain. Spain is weird, and by weird I mean people seem to have a general sense of “everything will somehow work out” which leaves me thinking…”or maybe we will all die because we are not prepared!” but no one cares about that. Preparation isn’t a huge thing here apparently. If you rent a flat, be prepared to lower your expectations about a lot of things, also be prepared to not act snobbish when they don’t have any of those fancy trimmings you may have thought indispensable in your modern society, that doesn’t fly here. Landlords tend to be really chill and actually friendly for the most part, but if you have a complaint that doesn’t seem like an immediate emergency, it’s best to take a deep breath and add a bit of British upper lip to the slight leak in your bathroom sink, or the one light switch that isn’t working.

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Around the area of Colon in Valencia.

The lack of understanding over not understanding

I’d say this is the biggest one for me, and also the one that makes me the most frustrated. Overall there is this united sentiment of everyone here knows why everything is done the way that it is done, and why, and if you don’t then there’s clearly something wrong with you. I remember my first week moving here, I had grown up speaking Spanish my whole life but it wasn’t at the best level at first. I would go to restaurants and find things that I had never even heard about before, often times those things weren’t even in Spanish, they were in Valencian (yes, there is another language in this city). I would ask the servers what certain things meant and they would say things like: “what do you mean what is this? It’s clearly blah blah blah, everyone knows that!” I’d sit there trying so hard to explain that I was not from here technically, but they still seemed confused that I didn’t know. Often times I feel bad for tourists and even students that don’t speak Spanish, because Spaniards are not very understanding with them and seem more frustrated than anything else. There have been many moments that I have intervened to help a fellow Native English speaker out with simple things like where the metro is, to not wanting milk in their coffee. I do wish this was something I could change about the attitudes here.

People are very interested and friendly

It’s not all bad, I’d say Spain is one of the countries most in touch with true friendship and family. People care here, they care too much sometimes, but they care. I recently visited an emergency room with my boyfriend (everyone’s okay) but I remember expecting it to be a lot like in America where no one looks at you, everyone avoids eye contact and someone can die right next to you and you kind of just don’t get involved. However, it was a world of a difference. A woman whose son had broken his chin smiled at us and asked us if we wanted to have a seat, she then started a conversation with us, later on she even asked my boyfriend how he was and if everything had turned out well. The doctors were super chill and laughed, asked questions, talked about life and stuff. I find that everyone is a bit more human here in Spain. Whether it is negative or positive everyone is a lot more real. People aren’t pretending as much, or trying to be something here, they just are.

Food is a big deal, a Huge deal

Food is kind of a big deal here. It’s an art, Valencia does not play with their food time, and neither does Spain in general. There are about 6 meals eaten here a day, and if you think they’re all small portions you are mistaken. I ask myself everyday why people here are generally so thin, because they eat more than you’ll ever see anyone eat, ever. My little students would explain to me that in the morning you have your breakfast which normally consists of something small like a piece of toast with some jam or olive oil and of course your Valencia orange juice. Adults normally have coffee in the morning as well. After breakfast comes “almuerzo” which is basically snack time, and during this time you’d eat maybe a small sandwich, some fruit, maybe a yogurt or something. Next comes the big meal which is their version of lunch and what we would probably consider dinner and lunch together but they call “comida”, this is their biggest meal of the day and can consist of anything from roasts, to paella, to giant potato casserole type dishes and rice, lots of rice. You’d think after this they’d be good until dinner, but after that blood sugar drop during the infamous siesta, you wake up looking for a sugary snack, that’s where “merienda” comes in. Around 5pm you can get yourself a chocolate milkshake, a crepe, a little croissant, something sweet and fattening to bring you back to life and hold you over for dinner. Yes dinner. Dinner (cena) is the other big meal and it normally has restaurants opening at around 8pm, people have dinner as late as 10pm here, and they normally go on well into midnight. Food is life here. Life is food.

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At our favourite place in Russafa Dionisos

Art is very prestigious

One of the things that makes me love Spain the most is how serious they take the arts. Art and being an artist, studying art history, anything related to art and humanities is something recognized as a very noble and prestigious career. Especially here in Valencia, the streets are often named after painters, poets and sculptors. Coming from a society where only the math and medical fields seem to make the cut for admiration, I truly appreciate how much importance is given to artists here. There are also amazing designers in Spain, it’s definitely one of the best countries for art and design despite what many may think.

There’s more regional pride than national pride

Each region in Spain is definitely more proud of their region than you could ever consider them to be patriotic of their country. They say it has a lot to do with the years of dictatorship that Spain went through, but for one reason or another Spaniards don’t really fly the Spanish flag, they fly their regional flag. Valencia has a flag which they fly on almost every balcony and school, the Catalans in Barcelona have their pride and many of them even desire being an independent country. In general, each province of Spain is very proud of their little portion and often times I feel they even forget they are a part of Spain. This is super confusing to someone from outside of Spain, because when Spaniards visit other countries they often seem more patriotic and call themselves “Spaniards” but here in Spain they are either “Catalanes” or “Valencianos” or “Gallegos” or whatever region they are from. It’s like once they’re back in Spain they’re not from Spain, they’re from their province. I find it quite interesting as this gives a unique diversity to the country that you’ll find in few places around the world.

Spain is an incredibly beautiful country

I don’t know how many people know this but Spain is truly stunning. There are very few areas in Spain that aren’t just full of rugged gorgeous coastlines, lush forests, mountains and beautiful beaches. Many Spaniards have no interest in traveling outside of the country, and although I find this a bit odd, I do understand. It’s mainly because there is so much to do and so much to see within Spain that you can literally have whatever type of vacation you want without ever leaving the country. Also, traveling around the country is fairly cheap and easy and so it is well worth it to explore as much as you want of Spain.

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Walking through the Turia Park in Valencia.

Well, that’s it for now. That’s what life has been like in Spain up until now, I hope this is useful for someone out there who may be traveling to or moving here even. Viva España!

 

 

 

29 Life Lessons

I remember when getting older was something I looked forward to with much-anticipated joy. Among my friends, it was always the eldest one of the group who had the most bragging rights. So much so that we liked to add a precocious “and a half” to whatever age we were so that we could be just a little bit closer to getting to our fantasy idea of “adulthood”. There are a few somewhat challenging birthdays in our lives, they call them milestone birthdays sometimes… but I honestly wish they weren’t called anything special, it adds to the pressure. When I think about it, I often find that the birthday before the dreaded milestone birthday is usually the most torturous. At 9, you’re just about to go into double-digit ages and you know that soon after that you’ll be a teenager, which if compared to childhood sounds horrific. At 19, you know that the next year your parents won’t be saying I have a “teenager” at home anymore, you can’t say you’re something-teen, your awkward phases better have passed because you are supposedly shooting straight into adulthood and everything after that is nothing but bills and age…old age. But now comes 29, this month I’m turning 29. All I can think right now is how on earth am I turning 29? It doesn’t hurt that the other day they asked me if I was old enough to sign for a package (yet again), but 29? Really? It doesn’t sound right. The thing that gets to me the most is that I’m a year (only a year) away from turning an age that I honestly don’t know how to act or prepare for and it’s pending there like the balance on your bank account for that purchase you shouldn’t have made but did.

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I guess all of my life I’ve had this idea of what 30 looked like for me, I’m sure we all have those ideas. I guess I really felt that turning 30 would feel a lot more grown, a lot more prepared, stable, and definitely a lot more adult and further away from feeling like a kid or a teen. The thing is, I don’t feel that way. 29 is a step away from 30 and it often feels as if I’m somewhat regressing into childhood. We all have ambitions and dreams, and so it’s very easy to get stuck thinking about all of the things you haven’t done, all of the things that you can’t quite figure out how to start. I’m very well aware that I’m not prepared for this to be the last year of my twenties, I’m aware that I don’t really want to be older but that as the saying goes the only alternative to getting old, is dying young. This post is about the sincere and honest life lessons I believe I have learned in these 29 years of life, focusing mainly on the things I learned in my twenties.  I thought I’d share these things for some reader to bump into, maybe someone who is out there feeling awful about the age they’re turning, maybe someone who wonders why on earth time is passing by so fast. Or like me, they just can’t figure out exactly what to do with their life anymore, at an age where they thought everything would make absolute sense. So here it is, the 29 serious things that I’ve learned so far.

1. Stop caring so much about what your critics think about you, they don’t actually care.  

For a long time I thought that what other people thought about me, about the way I looked, the way I acted, talked, etc was super important. I thought someone was actually going to get affected or feel hurt because I looked a certain way or dressed a certain way, the truth is… nobody actually cares. People are just annoying. I find that just as we find distractions and ways to entertain ourselves, there are people who will focus on you as their distraction from their own insecurities. Those people who tell you to change something about yourself, who tell you that you’re not good at something are probably distracting themselves from a huge elephant in the middle of their own mental rooms. It’s not you, it’s them, move on.

2. Don’t spend so much money on trendy apparel, find a style and fit you like and stick to it.

 I can’t begin to explain how much I’ve spent on random things and encouraged purchases in my 20s that I honestly would give away within the next four months after purchasing. Just because it’s trendy or even cute doesn’t mean it will look good on you or fit your lifestyle. Just because your friends or family are telling you to buy it because you look great in it or should wear more colour doesn’t mean it’s for you. All my life I thought I had to buy high heels and pumps because it’s an important shoe to have in your wardrobe, especially for interviews. I’ve learned that it completely depends on who you are. I honestly rarely wear heels and when I do I find that owning one pair is good enough. I have never again worn those purple 6-inch heels that I bought at Selfridges in London because a friend said I should wear more heels, it isn’t going to happen either. This brings me to lesson number

3. Be Yourself in every aspect.

I’m not a heel wearer, I’m not a fake lashes, mac conturing, highlight getting, nail manicuring, spandex dress wearing type of girl. I get that you’ll have friends (as I have had) tell you that you don’t dress sexy enough, or that every once in a while you should wear something short and skimpy, or even that you should get your make up done at Sephora. I’ve heard it all, but it isn’t me. There’s nothing wrong with trying it and believe me, I’ve tried. But the few moments when I’ve tried to be that person it has failed miserably because the heels don’t match my Meg Ryan/ George Jefferson from The Jefferson’s walk nor does the conturing make up match my Lucille Ball facial expressions. I’m okay, I’m happy.

4. Do things you actually like, not things you think you’re supposed to like.

Okay, so I know I’m going to get a few stares for this one, but for the most part I’m not someone who enjoys grueling workouts and heavy gym sessions. I feel sick, I feel tired, and even when I’m in shape, I’m awfully unhappy. For a long time, I felt that I had to do exercises I didn’t enjoy because I was supposed to like that, just like I thought I was supposed to like socializing at parties. I don’t. I hate it. That being said, fitness is important, but fitness you enjoy is more important. I’m still on the path to finding workouts I enjoy. So far I’m a relapsed zumba class taker, a runner, a weight-lifter, a cardio bunny, a spinner, and sadly moving into a Pilates relapse as well. I still get excited about long walks and hiking though, and indoor rock climbing is something that I want to do more often. I also would like to swim. But I’m done pushing myself to do things I honestly hate doing and worse, paying money for it.

5. Don’t feel bad about not being a ‘go-getter’ or an aggressive person.

I think once I turned about 25 I realized something about myself, I’m pretty laid back, I know what I want, but I’m definitely not going to go kill anyone for it. I’m just not such a fighter when it comes to opportunities or ambitions. I see a lot of people getting ahead and hustling left and right, sometimes I wish I was more like that, but the truth is I’m not, I’m pretty peaceful I prefer to let things flow. I may be ambitious in my own way, but I don’t sacrifice my sense of peace for anything.

6. Read things you enjoy and that give you a good feeling.

I like to read, but I don’t read things just because they’re best sellers or because all of the big book-worms of my circle are reading it. I serendipitously find books that give me happiness and joy, and I read them, enjoy them, devour them, and quote them. I’m currently reading a book about a woman who decides to have a sheep as a pet in her Paris apartment. I’m obsessed with sheep, I loved the cover, and honestly, it’s an enjoyable book. If I’m going to spend time reading I better enjoy it.

7. Push for happiness.

As someone who can struggle with bouts of blues I can’t stress enough how much I’ve learned to avoid things and even people that I know can trigger those thoughts and feelings. I realize that unlike the general public I actually have to push myself to be happy sometimes. I have to watch a happy and hilarious comedy after watching a dramatic film to make sure I’m cleansed of sadness. I have to concentrate on happy positive events to keep my mood up. I have to actually put in the work and sometimes even frustrate and fight with myself to go out and socialize, do something, but not be stuck in depressive solitude. The other day I was feeling low and I literally obligated myself to go get a drink at Starbucks. Happiness and positivity don’t come easy for some, sometimes you have to fight for it. The good thing is It’s always worth fighting for.

8. You honestly don’t need that many friends.

I mean… you really don’t. Like I told a good friend once: “Would you rather have 10 decent quality Zara suits in your closet you barely wear or one epic quality Tom Ford?” I think we all know what the answer to that one should be.

9. Don’t tell people your crap.

I’m literally flinching as I type this one because holy halibut is it true. Just keep quite about things, your plans, your ideas, your goals. Stop telling people your crap! You don’t know who will steal your ideas, who will be envious of your successes and your goals. Especially when something is in its initial stage just… Shhh! This brings me to point number 10.

10. Chill out with the over sharing on social media.

When I entered my twenties we were just coming out of ridiculous personality quizzes on Myspace and fights over people being moved on the infamous “Top 8”, soon after that, Facebook became the thing. I cannot tell you how many break-ups have turned vicious because of social media, how many rumours have started, how much cheating has gone on, how much drama has been created. Social media can be a great tool, but is it honestly necessary to update everyone on your constant life changes? I think not. I get sharing pictures of those you love most, posting a nice quote, but I find that the few moments that I’ve over shared my emotions on social media it has been a dumb thing to do. These days I stick to instagram and pinterest, I feel safer there. But also, I don’t have to give lengthy explanations about my life and where I am, to nosey family and friends who are just looking for a bit of distraction.

11. Be weird.

Do odd things, not odd creepy things but just odd things. Get up randomly at 5am to watch the sunrise while eatings peanut butter from a spoon. Dance alone in your bathroom, go pet animals at a petting zoo, try on gowns randomly at a department store and pretend to be an old Hollywood actress or actor, imitate accents, just be a quirky person. Don’t fit in so much, you’ll blend into a wall one day and become a  brick. (btw I’ve tried and tested all of these and I approve)

12. Make a blessing jar.

Write down blessings and happy things that have happened to you throughout your day, everyday. You’ll see how awesome it is to read them at the end of the year and see that you have a lot to be grateful for.

13. Take time to keep up with your interests.

I can’t stress enough how sad it is when a musician or an artist just doesn’t take as much time to enjoy (not work on or improve) but simply enjoy their talent. It’s easy to forget that you are a musician because it is your passion when you have to learn a song for an event, or when you’re studying music, but to enjoy it is the thing that makes you good at what you do. To have time to be passionate and happy when you draw, or paint, or play an instrument is what makes you a true artist.

14. Don’t give so many second chances.

This was a hard one to learn, but the truth is that person you’ve been waiting on to change is probably not going to. If they are, it’s best they do it on their own and not while you are hanging on and getting blasted by all of their constant storms. Being sorry means change, not constant repetition.

15. Search out your ancestry.

Seriously, please do! Just do it. It is the greatest thing ever to know who your ancestors were, what traits you have in common. Not only this but it is interesting and moving to know that we are the living proof of history. It helps you appreciate your family so much more.

16. Find your anthem.

Now this is pure musician advice, find your anthem bro. Find the song, or the few songs that describe you, move you, give you goosebumps, make you think of hope of adventure and everything good in between. Think of the last songs you’d ever want to hear and make them yours. Dance to them, sing to them. Tell people “this is my song”. Get excited about them, freak people out with them, find your anthem(s).

17. Write.

Always write, you don’t have to be a writer to write, just write. Sometimes your writing is the best advice you’ll ever receive, strangely enough.

18. Travel anywhere, even if all you have is a car or a bicycle.

People think that travel is this huge and luxurious thing sometimes, it doesn’t have to be. Explore your city, get lost man, actually get lost. Ask for directions, be a wanderer, it doesn’t have to be a gold-plated vacation that you manicure perfectly for instagram. It can also be something you do for you, somewhere you go to just be.

19. Take yourself to a nice restaurant.

This is something I have found some people think is uncomfortable. Dining out alone, I find it enjoyable and often times very inspiring. People watch, eat slowly, savour your food and close your eyes while you eat it. Be a foodie, make people jealous of the relationship you have with the piece of glorious food on your fork.

20. Don’t try to fit in, and don’t feel bad if you don’t.

I don’t fit in. I have this blog because I’m probably the most outcast, left out person who still manages to have great people in her life that exists. For a long time I felt horrible that I’m just not Miss Congeniality, I’m not the popular girl, I’m not the girl who gets hundreds of collages and best friend shout outs on social media, for the most part friends forget my birthday. People never post about me. I’m the behind the scenes friend that gives you the raw advice you need to hear, I’m the one that’s there for you at 3 and 4 in the morning, but that no one ever invites to “girls night”. But, I’m also the one who goes to snobbish art openings, the one who has much older, wiser and incredibly talented friends who quote Salvador Dali and know about wines and ancient Greece. I’m not the one who gets the friend collage, but I am the one who gets handwritten letters and christmas cards from people who have done incredible things around the world. I don’t have a group of  girlfriends that I go get my nails done with, but I do have incredible musician, writers, poets who I have long lunches with and go 6 months without seeing only to come back to the same lovely conversations. What I’m trying to say is, I’m an outcast, but I have found other outcasts to be anti-socially social with.

21. Don’t invest so much of yourself in situations and people who are not doing the same for you.

This one was tough to learn, but at some point I looked around and realized that I was always concerned and stressed giving advice, losing sleep and money for people who were honestly not my friends. I don’t regret being a nice person, but I do regret investing so much time and money into people and situations that were doing more harm than good. I’ve realized it’s not wrong to sew and expect a harvest, it isn’t wrong to do good and expect good back. There’s nothing wrong with being kind and expecting kindness in return anymore than there is nothing wrong with turning your back when that kindness is not reciprocal. I don’t go by an eye for an eye, but I certainly don’t think sticking around for a parasitic relationship is healthy nor is it right.

22. You’ll never stop being afraid, just do it.

I’ve always been good at facing my fears, but what I wasn’t good at was acknowledging that they would almost always be there. Every time I’ve moved I’ve been a bit afraid, but I’ve done it. I think if there’s anything I don’t regret in life is facing my fears, whatever the outcome, facing my fears makes me feel like a hero. Like Mulan… always like Mulan.

23. The thing people teased you for when you were younger always becomes your shining feature.

This, this is an important one. I’ve learned that the things about me that people teased me the most about are always the thing that makes me stand out and I end up loving the most as time goes on. Listen well kids… if you’re being teased because you’re “too” short, you’re going to love being a mini little cutie when you’re older. If you are teased for having curly hair like I was, you are going to be complimented non-stop for having big luscious curls. It’s the way life mysteriously works. I used to be constantly teased for my height, and now, I don’t even like how tall I feel in heels. I was teased for my hair, and it is the one thing people compliment me the most on. Start loving it now, and stop wasting your time agreeing with your critics.

24. Never let anyone make you feel bad about how you mourn.

When my eldest sister passed away, a lot of people criticised that I kind of didn’t show much emotion. I simply couldn’t react and don’t process emotional things at the same speed as others may or may want me to. I simply plow through in the moment, I keep going, and somehow one day it hits me… this person isn’t here anymore, this relationship has ended, you have lost this opportunity. Later is when the tears start flowing and I come to a realization of the things that did hurt me. However there are some things that will make me cry on the instant, they will touch a nerve that no one knows about, a wound that maybe hasn’t healed 100% and the tears will start flowing. I’ve realized it’s okay. I shouldn’t feel guilty about being sad, or about how I deal with it. I try my best and that’s all that matters.

25. Be an eternal student at whatever cost.

Says the girl who is studying for a PhD and slightly freaking out… but seriously, it doesn’t have to be a lengthy doctorates but always study. Learn a new language, learn to sculpt, to sew, to sing, whatever! But always keep studying. There is so much endless knowledge out there, I guess I keep studying because I’m afraid to miss out on any of it.

26. Be careful with the idea you have of someone, versus the reality.

I think if there’s something I did throughout my twenties is get a general impression of someone and form an idea based on it. Later on I was crudely surprised when they were nothing like the idea I had developed. Ideas are great, but there’s an idea and then there’s the reality of what things and people are like. Don’t confuse the two.

27. Learn to love your body.

People say this a lot, but I’m going to add a little more to this. Learning to love your body for me, doesn’t necessarily mean learning to love a weight or health level you aren’t happy with, but loving your body enough should push you to want to be healthier so you can enjoy your life better. What I mean by loving your body is loving the things that aren’t perfect to you, your shape, your one random leg dimple, your strangely shaped tummy or your extra toe. Whatever it is that you came with you have to love it. It’s the thing that transports you through life, the thing that gives you an image people remember you by, and to go around hating it and cursing it, saying negative things about it… well, it’s just like beating your car and putting bad chemicals in it.

28. Learn to trust God’s timing.

Ahhh… this one. This one is hard. There have been things in my life that I have been late for which I can’t comprehend. Things I cried over, screamed over, went into depression over, and yet, it just wasn’t the right time. When the right time did come, I realized that had I not been held up at life’s security line I wouldn’t have met people who would later on be there for me when the timing was right. If things hadn’t gone wrong and launched me on a completely different path I wouldn’t have realized that different was better. I’d say this lesson is an ongoing one because patience is not one of my virtues, but I’m getting better. I’ve realized that if something doesn’t work out it honestly wasn’t supposed to, because God knew that it would probably take me further away from perhaps meeting a specific person I was supposed to meet, at a specific time and place. Had everything worked out earlier… the dream doesn’t come true. It’s all a little supernatural that way. Suddenly you’re standing at a metro exit a year later looking at someone you wouldn’t have met if things had worked out earlier like you wanted and then you smile and say to yourself: “but then I wouldn’t have met you”.

29. It’s okay to change and to be sad because you do.

I’ve changed. I’ve changed dreams, I’ve changed attitudes, I’ve changed as a person. I used to be so adamant about not changing my plans. It’s a difficult thing because sometimes life changes you, and you’ll have no idea it is even happening. The moments when I realize that I have lost interest in something I loved to do are always quite hard, sometimes those changes mean that you don’t feel the same about certain people, or certain situations. I have gotten used to changing location, but not so much to changing my mind. When I started out in my scholastic journey I knew that I wanted to be a fashion designer, I was sure of it. But as time and the economy changed, I saw it wasn’t as easy or even possible. I had to adapt, but as I adapted I also changed. I have grown detached from the fashion world in the way I used to be. I’ve let go of a lot of dreams throughout my life, but I’m trying to see that this only means I get to find new ones. Different ones. Greater ones.

A Monthly Spell

I wake up, my heart is racing out of my chest because I’ve just woken up from one of the worst dreams I’ve ever had. It’s always one of the “worst” dreams I’ve ever had, every fear, every negative thing I could ever have thought of, it just comes up in this one carefully packaged nightmare. As I come to my senses and pick up my phone, check messages, check the time, the weather… things don’t get any better. There’s this odd heaviness on my chest, numbness in my fingers, and an overall feeling of doom that has come virtually out of nowhere. “What is this?” I wonder. I go through my entire yesterday bit by bit, I think about the things in my life that are going well, I think about the people I love, and I wonder: “Did something happen to make me feel this way? Why do I feel so anxious and nervous? Why am I so accelerated right now? Why do I feel like there’s nothing wrong but there’s going to be something wrong? I am awfully good at feeling things before they happen…dreaming them even, could this be it? Is something going to happen?” all of these thoughts move through my mind at a speed of a thousand light years and I haven’t even been awake for more than 10 minutes. I think that perhaps my blood pressure is low (I tend to suffer from that), I think maybe I need a salty snack, or to make my way to the bathroom and wash my face with some warm water. I chuck it up to not being a morning person, but 20 minutes into this I start to fear it’s something else. After I brush my teeth I make it back to bed, because I can’t really bear to do anything else, I can’t help but think it wasn’t always this way, I didn’t always wake up like this; but in the last 5 or 6 years I have. Not always… just on some random days, and no matter how much I know, I never know enough to immediately realize what it is. I go through the things I did the day before, and the people I saw and I see that it’s all happy. I remind myself that I have an amazing family, that I have an amazing boyfriend, that I’m studying, that I live in a great city and run through the perpetual list of fun things and experiences I’ve had lately. It’s odd… it all seems good, and yet I feel off and it makes me feel even worse. Suddenly I feel like the biggest ungrateful jerk that ever lived and I just want to either a)fake my own death/disappearance or b) tell everyone I’m sorry but I simply just quit…quit at being in their lives because I suck. Suddenly an alert pops up on my phone screen “You are now a week away from your period, remember you get crazy and you feel even more crazy”. I can see myself over 3 years ago programming that alert to my phone so that every month I’d get the reminder, and yet it still wasn’t enough to save me from this.

Every month at around the same time I experience something doctors like to call PMDD (Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder) it’s basically PMS on steroids. It’s like in Shrek, when Fiona the beautiful princess turns into an ogre at night so she has to hide in a cave? Yeah, it’s like that… but magnified by a thousand, because if I actually stayed a pmdd ogre no one would be writing a fairytale about it I can tell you that much. It normally kicks off exactly 10-9 days before the period actually shows up, and honestly… it’s a nightmare. The first thing that happens is that I get super negative and low quite suddenly, I simply wake up that way one day wondering who died, because it honestly feels that tragic. I then turn a bit paranoid because I start wondering if other people notice that I’m slightly off, and I start fearing that they will because it just isn’t the easiest thing to explain. How do you explain that to friends? To classmates, to your students, to the person you love in your life? How do you just casually say… “erm by the way I’m basically a psycho hyper-emotional weirdo for like a week or so out of every month, but like… it’s totally okay, once it’s over you can love me, I can love you and we’re all good, it’s all good!”. Life doesn’t stop because I have this, I still have to teach classes, I still have to study and meet with people, and yet I feel like mentally any bit of information that is a little bit out of the ordinary, and a little more than letting my brain turn to mush my watching YouTube hair tutorials is going to send me for some sort of intergalactic negativity ride. Whether it is by coincidence, or just really bad luck, a lot normally does come up during those weeks too. Blame it on the PMDD or on life just loving to test you but normally in the start of that week is when the most things magically go wrong. I mean people cancel classes, I’ve gotten fired from jobs, I’ve moved, I’ve lost friends, loved ones don’t feel well, I have a super nerve-racking presentation… you name it, it seems to have to happen on the week where I feel that the best thing I can be in life is a human burrito wrapped in a blanket watching Bridget Jones and eating chocolate.

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I wasn’t always like this… and that’s the most difficult part. I still remember when I was welcomed into the women’s monthly chocolate eating club when I was thirteen. I took it quite well, didn’t think it was going to be such a big deal, and for most of my teenage years it wasn’t. I felt like one of the “lucky” ones, I never felt pain, I was upbeat, energetic, and honestly I was fine. Most of my friends complained about their time of the month and talked about how awful it was, how it lasted for a week, how it was filled with pain and cramps, and even fainting. I was glad because I just wasn’t one of those women, after 3 relatively painless days mine was over, and I could go back to normal. This normality went on for years, but around age 23 something changed. I didn’t immediately know the cause but I was beginning to feel awfully depressed and anxious around the same time every month. I didn’t pick up on the pattern until I started checking my journals, and noticed that I went into a deep pit of despair at the same time each month. It was so odd, almost like a spell… like my normally happy self just couldn’t be happy no matter how hard I tried for almost a week. I would argue more with my sister, I’d get super sensitive and cry about everything anyone said to me. I felt rejected and abandoned, and the only person who could help me was my mom. I had always had little bits and bouts of depersonalization since I was a kid, but during these weeks I almost felt that I didn’t exist -and in the worst moments too. We could be shopping at a store and I didn’t want to tell anyone that I was checking my hands and rubbing them so that I knew that I was really standing there and everything around me was real. Mirrors gave me a slight anxiety because I questioned my own existence, it sounds absolutely nuts but that’s exactly how I felt. It’s like I was disappearing and I was fighting to stay here, to stay here for myself and for everyone else and I was so angry that no one could see me… but at the same time, I was angry with myself for not being able to tell anyone I was here, that I needed them.

These last few months I’ve felt it more than ever. I’ve wondered how I can break the spell? Maybe I haven’t prayed about it enough, maybe I haven’t even wanted to admit that this is a real problem, that perhaps I need help. I just don’t want to see myself, me, the adventurous, happy and strong independent person as someone who needs help. But the truth is maybe I’m starting to see that I do. I wish I could tell people, that I can’t think straight during these weeks, and that when someone expects me to make a decision or to think about something really big I feel overwhelmed. I’ve always been someone who tackles one thing at a time, I can’t have too much on my plate, but during these weeks I feel like I can barely have my own head attached to my body. I try to stay positive for my family’s sake. My mom is the most positive and happy person I know, she’s not one for wanting sadness around her, and with good reason… but sometimes, I feel awful. My students, it’s not their faults that their teacher can’t concentrate and is forgetting some grammar information. My boyfriend, it’s not his fault that I can’t think straight about topics, or that I just feel anxious and defensive about things I can normally think level-headed about. It’s no ones fault, not even mine. Yet I always feel like it’s mine, and when I have a day like the day I had today, I’m forced to ask myself why on earth this has to happen, and why on earth I’m hurting the people I love most.

Girl Lady Sad Upset Woman Hipster Depressed

This morning I woke up and the room was spinning, the short-lived energy I had over attending an aerial Pilates class had flown out the window, I had a series of negative and odd dreams, I felt disconnected, like my life wasn’t real… and for a few minutes I wasn’t even sure where on earth I was. I started thinking about the fact that in less than 10 years I had moved almost 20 times, and instead of being excited about it I wondered if that’s why I have a slight feeling of constant displacement. Of fearing to make plans for the future, or to even talk about it because I just never feel that I know where I’ll be. If perhaps the feeling of depersonalization comes from looking at person who has no idea where they are going or if they’re going to make it, someone who feels like they’re just dragging everyone else down an unknown path. “Not everyone wants to be a nomad, not everyone wants to be both emotionally and physically nomadic” I say to myself. I wonder often who really wants to stay, I start wondering if my fears are showing, if it’s spewing out left and right to the point that even the people who pass by me on the street can see it and feel sorry for me. I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me I think. I don’t want anyone to see this.

If there’s something I’ve heard a lot from friends and acquaintances it’s how much of a positive and inspiring person I am. I always feel happy when they say that because for the most part, I think I am, I think I’ve survived a lot, but then weeks like this come by to remind me that I’m just kidding myself. I’ve always told myself that it’s no one elses fault you’re having a bad day, everyone deserves a smile, someone else could be worse off than you, smile. I smile a lot. I laugh a lot, and when I do… I’m honest about it. But deep down I’m laughing because otherwise I don’t have anything else, I know I have nothing else but the faith and the belief that when this week is over hopefully things will be back to normal. Lately however, I’ve been wondering if the tornado I am leaves anything behind to go back to normal in a week or not. If the civil war that takes place between my normal conscious self and the reactive hyper-sensitive storm is destroying everything, is leaving everyone to find shelter far away from me. I have moments during these stormy weeks when I laugh, when I feel okay, I feel a bit stable, the tide has gone down a bit and the waves aren’t dragging me in… and in those moments I feel like I can do this, like I can function normally and be in control during this time. Sadly, those moments feel short-lived. I guess I just want to say… I’m sorry, to everyone I love, and to everyone that I feel I’m letting down by not being an inspiration during this time, the truth is I’m not inspiring myself much either. I feel like I need people to be there for me, but like these storms leave people without resources, and in those moments I’m not too sure what to do other than sit here in the midst of bitter tears and hope that I can imagine another ending to the day, a scenario in which I take a flight (it’s always a flight) but this flight takes me and those I love to a beautiful place where we are all happy, where everyone I love is with me and we are all happy. I like to think about that place, there are no arguments, no low moments, no sadness, just up and up, just a million emotional eternally happy red balloons that float up into the sky and never come down. I know in a few days I’ll read this and scoff about it, I’ll probably even laugh and maybe… just maybe the sun comes up and all is back to normal. But I know very well what happens, and how it affects people, how I just can’t handle what everyone else can sometimes, how I just feel like I’m letting myself and everyone down, I know there’s a tornado that develops every month and though it only lasts for a little bit, I’m very aware of how it makes everyone feel. Of how it makes me feel.

 

 

 

How I Ruined My Hair For Other People

Hello readers,

By the title of this post I’m sure many of you are thinking that this is some sort of beauty related article, or that I’m going to give some tips on how to go through a “hair recovery” but I’m actually not. Rather, this is about something I’ve realized recently. I actually made the grave mistake of having a not so awesome day today and combining that with a heavy dose of nostalgia and looking through old photographs. Just a word of advice… don’t. Just don’t. If you’re having a bad day, if things aren’t going your way, don’t turn on The Scientist by Coldplay and sift through old photos of your friends, your family, and how great you looked or didn’t look, just step away from the memorabilia and focus on something ridiculous like reality TV or Buzzfeed quizzes. You’ll thank me later.

Today however, I did just that. I ‘nostalgified’ the heck out of my day by going through memory lane via the old photos on my external hard drive (note to self: hide external hardrive, especially during certain times of the month). As I was looking through everything from baby photos to bad college pictures, I realized something… I used to love my hair and now I don’t. I was born bald, very bald… for a long time too. The hair I did have was a golden of ringlet on the top of my head, that golden ringlet was there for a while supplementing for the fact that no official “hair-mane” would come in until I was about age 5 or 6. But when I was 7, something magical happened, it’s like I became a chia pet overnight and grew about 10 pounds of long curly brown hair. As life will almost always have it, I was the only one of peers with curly hair, and kids are ruthless. Somehow though, I didn’t care a single bit, I’d like to tell you that kids bullied me into hating my curls and that I would ask my mom to straighten it… But that never happened, I was confident as fudge. I thought I looked like Rapunzel, and since my mom had bought me loads of art books from an early age, I resorted to thinking that I had those Renaissance curls that Da Vinci would always draw. I figured the other kids didn’t understand, and being it that I was always the Benjamin Button of my group, I figured they never would and moved on. I was always known as the girl with the long curly hair and the guitar. People called me things like gypsy, Shakira (for some reason), hippy, Janet Jackson, Topanga (Boy Meets World), and sometimes not so friendly things like mop and muskrat (now I must admit I don’t quite know what a muskrat looks like so I didn’t care about that one too much).

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Umm… fallacies! Muskrats don’t even have curly hair. On the other hand they are cute so whatever bro.

I knew that at times I was racially profiled for my long curly mane, I knew that people had comments to make about my hair, I knew that even other multiracial people would say bad things about my hair, but I didn’t care. From the years 2003-2006 I went through a heavy punk rock phase and that’s when my long hip length curls came even more in handy. I dyed them even more blonde, and I thought I looked like some sort of rock & roll mermaid. I loved my hair, and people’s opinions of it didn’t matter a single bit to me. After a bad darker dye job in 2007, my hair wasn’t as healthy and began to fall out, that’s when my mom suggested I’d chop it off, I hadn’t done that in ages, and I was very attached to my long crazy curls. Nevertheless in August of 2007 I chopped my hair off to about mid back, and honestly, it didn’t look so bad, it was curling with lots of volume and I loved it. After that, I had left my hair alone and it was growing in so lovely… I didn’t know how lovely it was until today, until I went through and looked at those photos and realized that my hair had never looked so beautiful. By 2009 I had probably the most amazing and bouncy ringlets ever, and looking back now I wish I would have appreciated them more than I did, or at least tried to preserve them more. All the damage from highlights and bad dye were gone, and my hair had blossomed beautifully. The sad thing is I never knew it enough to not forget it. Especially to not forget it when someone would come along to say it wasn’t as beautiful as I thought it was.

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My amazing 2009 hair before its massive soul and physical destruction.

In late 2009 I had met a guy in Germany, he was a lawyer from Russia, and I was still a nomadic gypsy girl who had no idea what love or serious relationships were. I’m a late bloomer in so many ways, but perhaps in relationships more so than others. I was a child with a crush on an idea I had in my mind, and sometimes you don’t quite grow out of that like people say you do. When we met it was brief, but we kept friendly long distance communication for months, we became friends and I grew to care about him very much. When he asked me to be his girlfriend… I’m not going to lie, I thought that I was somehow supposed to say yes. Now, how do I explain this without sounding like a jerk? It’s not that I didn’t want to say yes, but that I didn’t know what a “yes” would actually even mean. This has nothing to do with age, but rather that I feel that society paints us so many pictures, we think we are just going to walk into our own “life shop”, pick one up, hang it on our wall, and it’s going to look exactly a certain way that we had imagined it would -this is not always so. I thought that my wishy-washy ideas of what I thought I wanted out of a relationship and out of “love” was going to somehow happen because I said yes, and agreed to be someone’s girlfriend. As this relationship proceeded, things went on pretty normally, but one day something happened that changed things. This person said something I wasn’t expecting: “I don’t like your curly hair, I honestly think it looks so much better straight” he said. He told me I looked “cute” with curly hair, but more elegant and womanly with straight hair, what he said hit the bottom of my stomach like a bad meal you know is going to leave you debilitated on a toilet somewhere in the not so distant future but you keep on eating anyways. I didn’t like what he said, but I thought…’is that so bad? it’s just his preference, he’s still a nice guy’, when I look back now, I should have said something. But naive little nomad girls with imaginary love stories don’t react so quickly. I had worn my hair straight before, but never because I liked it better, or because I was trying to “fix” something, but rather because I liked to have that option. Over the next few months however, I began shopping for different types of hair products; I subconsciously didn’t even notice the transition from ‘surf hair sprays’ and ‘curl definition creams’ to ‘smooth keratin conditioners’ and ‘sleek and shiny’. This word “sleek” became a thing all of a sudden, all of a sudden I had to be “sleek”. What the hell even is sleek anyways? Why is it a thing, why is it important? Why is polish and shine, and organized, and professional… all of these stupid words, why are they important? I was straightening my hair more often, and got it cut a bit shorter, and by the time we were in the same city spending time together, I was now some version of “sleek”. Even though the relationship was serious, it didn’t last. First I had to straighten my hair, then there was something wrong with wanting to travel and be nomadic… ultimately there was something wrong with me. Now believe me, no matter how many years I’ve traveled, how many people I’ve met, and how many things I’ve learned, I have yet to understand why people pretend to accept people they technically don’t actually like. It was over after almost a year, and honestly, after some time there were no hard feelings. It ended well somehow and I don’t look back on this person with hate. However, this person did inject something into my mind which hadn’t been there before. A newfound thought that said: “men like women with straight hair, people like me better with straight hair” and I couldn’t quite shake it off. I wore my hair straight for the rest of 2010, and then sometime into 2011, then the next guy I met (who also said he didn’t like my hair curly) also reinforced this idea just as I was beginning to bring out my curls again.

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While in my favourite place living in Brooklyn NYC, and my new straight hair ideal.

I now had a well-formed habit which dictated that anytime I was going to go out to a special event, to a dinner, a job interview, anything “important” I needed straight hair in order to look older and pretty much just better. I used to always wear my hair curly no matter what I was attending, but the new me thought it was audacious to even think about wearing her hair curly to a fancy dinner, much less on a date. The new me had the idea that anywhere important meant having straight locks, and it was now a stronghold in my psyche. By 2012 my hair was worn almost always straight, even while living in England my hair was rarely ever curly. By 2014 I didn’t feel “myself” with curly hair, and once I moved to Spain in 2015, I had become so self-conscious about wearing my hair curly that many didn’t know I would cry when I thought that in its natural state my hair would just curl and not stay straight. The one time I faced my fear and wore it curly to a church I was going to in Spain, a girl immediately made fun of it and said I had giant afro hair and said it was frizzy, another woman said I looked “cute” like a fluffy dog. I was stopped unjustly on the metro by the metro police and they immediately asked me where I was from, my friends had to help me and get me out of a ticket I didn’t deserve. I blamed it all on my hair. Every time I have worn it curly since, it seems that people have felt themselves entitled to give me an opinion about it, to tell me that they like it better straight, to question my ethnicity, to ask me why I am or am not one thing or another, and to get mad when I give them an answer they don’t like. Every time I wear it curly I look at myself in the mirror and feel that I am not ready to go out and be “professional” because one day someone told me it just wasn’t good enough. One day I ate from the tree of prejudice and ignorance and saw my hair was curly and that it could bring me problems. I feel like every time I wear it curly now, I’m exposed, my one insecurity is out there shining bright like a diamond (or not because diamonds don’t shine and we all know that, “thanks” Rihanna) and it feels uncomfortable and honestly quite sad. Last year I cut my hair the shortest it has been since I was 7 years old, and I loved it, but I’d be lying if I told you I wore it curly from then on. On the contrary, I mostly wore it straight. The water and climate in my current city have wreaked havoc on my hair and it hasn’t been healthy. As a result, straight hair has been my only option (or so I feel). At the end of last year something happened that made me realize that not only had I grown to hate my curls, but that I was genuinely traumatized with the idea of letting it be curly again. Someone who didn’t know how to blow dry curly hair asked to blow dry it, I knew what would happen, I knew I’d feel embarrassed and lesser beautiful when they brushed it out and saw that the result wasn’t the infamous “sleek” hair I imagined they were expecting. But I let it happen, of course I ended up looking like a cotton ball, but what made me feel worse was that tears welled up inside of me and I cried, I cried bitterly. I literally couldn’t help how horrible I felt when I realized that I was this controlled by dead skin cells that grow out of my skull.

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Thanks Rapunzel, I know… I know.

Today, as I was looking through old photos I realized something, my hair was beautiful. It was always beautiful. You know why? Because it was mine and it looked amazing. I ruined it not because I hated it, I messed it up and damaged it not because I thought I looked bad with it, but because someone I thought cared about me told me that I could be better without it. I was trying to make someone else happy, so I learned how to not be happy with myself for them. It sounds tragic, and it is; how many times do we learn to not be happy because of someone else? Because of a family member? A friend, a lover? I was taught that the giddiness I felt in wearing my hair curly, in thinking I looked like a mermaid wasn’t accurate. I know many people feel unhappy with themselves for some reason or another and if they seek change for whatever they want and it makes them happy, that makes me happy too! Be happy! Fix what you want! But this wasn’t my case, I used to love my hair. After years of loving how I looked and learning to ignore the haters, one person, one guy came along in the most diplomatic and loving way to say that he just didn’t like my hair curly and I was hooked. I lived for 21 years of my life loving my hair, and have lived for 7 hating it, I don’t know how to get around this hurdle quite yet… but I think that for my own sake, and the sake of what I stand for, I better start being a lot less diplomatic with people when they have “comments” about my curls. I’ve realized that my true friends are right, I look exactly like Moana, exactly. And the next time someone says I look better with my hair straight, I might just tell them I didn’t ask them for their opinion and walk away like a boss. Like. A. BOSS.

 

Fallas in Valencia & Why it’s life.

From March 1st to the 19th (and a little bit before that), in a small city called Valencia, Spain, there is a holiday called “Fallas” which nobody would ever believe existed unless they experienced it. My latest nomadic journey took me here, to this precise city, and although I often question how on earth I arrived here, it has become a species of home. Today is the last day of Fallas, and as I sit here typing this indoors, outside it sounds like the remnants of world war II taking place all over the city. No one can tell the story the same about how it started and why, but even those who complain can agree that once it is over, it all feels like it didn’t even happen. According to most, the holiday celebrates the day of St. Joseph, the humble carpenter who became the father of Jesus. However, others say it is a celebration of the initiation of spring. The most convincing story I heard was that in the 18th century or so, peasants in the countryside of Valencia would work relentlessly on their carpentry by the light of fire lamps. They would work all throughout the dark winters, and once the sun began to shine for longer, they would toss their lamps into the hay, and burn all of the old projects and things that they didn’t want to keep from the old year. Apparently the burning of the objects, and the celebrating of not having to work by fire lamps turned into a big thing, and all of that escalated into the insane holiday we know today. There are many parts to this festivity; the main one being the building of the “fallas”, enormous colourful and satirical sculptures of different themes and sizes which are displayed all over the city. These sculptures are judged, some are prized, and in the end, they are all burnt to the ground (yup, you read correctly) they burn them. An iconoclastic act of “cremation” gets rid of every single one of these sculptures which people had photographed only days before. Another interesting portion of this festivity are the “falleras”, women from every section of the Valencian province who wear these “baroque/regency” period gowns, with grand adornments in their hair and march throughout the city in representation of their “falla”. It’s such a big deal in fact, that many of these women compete to become what they call “fallera mayor”, it’s a type of pageant queen, but it’s really a lot more than that. It is considered an honour to the area of Valencia where you are from, you must be a “true” Valencian in a sense, it’s not just about physical beauty. For many little girls in Valencia to be a Fallera is a goal, it’s something they aspire to, and families invest lots of money into their gowns and hair styles, and also into their learning of the dances and costumes they must participate in.

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Fallas is an extraordinary festivity, there is nothing like it all over the world. In fact, the most impressive part of Fallas aren’t even the Falleras, but rather, the immense amount of pyrotechnics, fires, bombs, rockets, and explosions that are heard throughout the city at every given moment. Fallas is most definitely an explosive and exaggerated holiday in every way you can think of. Kids of all ages walk around the city throwing different types of mild explosives and lighting things up (I’m actually not kidding). From the 1st day of March all the way until this afternoon, the center of the city was home to a canon and explosive show called “La Mascleta”. Everyday at 2pm, you got to live what it would sound like living in a country that’s at war and being bombed for about 8 minutes, all with the soundtrack of “Valencia en Falles” in the background, a song you’ll hear at least 10,000 times before this festivity is officially over. Not only that, but from the 15th of March and beyond, you get to hear even more explosives at midnight and beyond. I know what you’re thinking… “do people sleep during fallas?” the answer is no. No they don’t. You’re not supposed to. You’re not supposed to shut your eyes even! Because Fallas is not about sleep and rest and relaxation, Fallas is about chaos and eating churros and chocolate until you end up half dead somewhere between Russafa and Patraix wearing your blue plaid fallero handkerchief and a cowboy hat you stole without noticing.

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Falleras and Falleros.

I was first introduced to this holiday last year, although I had heard rumours of it when I first arrived to the country. No one knew how to prepare me for it, nor did they know how to explain what it was, and honestly… now I know why. Even as I type this article, I can’t really describe this festivity in a way that paints a clear picture. There are a few types of people who will attempt to explain Fallas to you, most of them will fail. You’ve got the jaded Valencian folk who will tell you it is the most awful experience you’ll have for a month or so, they’ll advise you to leave the city, the country even… they’ll tell you to get the hell out. Then you have the rabid excited Valencian folk who probably own a falla on some street near their home, their grandparents were falleros, they are falleros, their grandkids are falleros, their pets are falleros and you just won’t understand the method to their madness, and you shouldn’t try to. Last you have those who stand in between some of the excitement, but will probably leave in the last weeks when the tourists arrive. I however,  feel that I am none of these. I took to Fallas like an artist, like the natural anthropologist I am, in an attempt to see some sort of connection and depth in this holiday, and boy did I find it. See Fallas isn’t just a holiday, it isn’t just a festivity that has people building sculptures only to burn them in the end. Fallas is an allegory of life itself. Life is a Fallas celebration.

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We dress up for it, we celebrate it, we make a huge deal out of it, it’s full of explosions and bombs, of fears and ups and downs, but in the end you show up just to see it all end. There’s an eerie and nostalgic feeling on this last night of Fallas, you can tell we are all waiting for it to end, you know that at this time tomorrow, Valencia returns to a normal average Spanish city. All of the ashes of the things you were excited to see are swept into a trash bin, and everyone goes home. The churro carts at the end of the streets, the taco stands, the men selling balloons, all of it is gone in the blink of an eye. People become a little somber, and what happens in “fallas” stays in fallas. This year, Fallas was incredible for me, I got to celebrate it with someone I love, and it was amazing. The explosions were out of control, the fireworks went on for a lot longer than you’ll ever hear them anywhere else on earth, the crowds were insanity, the marches and the bands didn’t stop. There were rows of over a hundred families making paella on the streets and roads you normally have to wait to cross; cars don’t really exist during fallas and it is surprisingly fun to see them disappear. You eat things you say you’ll never eat, and you dance to music you never listen to, you marvel at silly things, and people dress up sometimes. It’s chaos personified, it is something that you have to experience to understand, and even with all of that it is something everyone is a part of. I guess it is the thing I love the most about Fallas, it is that everyone joins in. The young, the old, the local, the tourist, everyone, we are all together celebrating this loud and over the top holiday that we don’t understand and yet we are happy. When you ask the kids for a wish, they’ll tell you they wish that Fallas would never end. But when you ask the adults, they often wish they didn’t go on for so long. It’s definitely not a “productive” festivity, most companies close, and getting anywhere is near to impossible. Just like life, Fallas is something that those who live as children cling on to, it is something that we crave and we just don’t want to shut our eyes for a second to miss. As you grow older, we stop living like children, we stop being excited about love, about living, about the truly innocent and pure things that make us laugh. We look for all of these sorts of enhancements, these fake stimulants to bring us the joy we’ve lost, the zest we became ashamed of. All year, people all over the province gathered explosives, designed the fallas, painted, worked together, had meetings, and organised this giant festivity for all of us to enjoy, and in one night everything will be gone. We will live our lives just like that.

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What becomes of the Fallas all over the city. 

There’s so much we do, so much we go through, and so many things we see, now more than ever I can relate to the depth of this holiday. I had an amazing time this week, I lived a full life, and I got to celebrate without thinking about work, I got to live like a child for a few days again. Tonight however, it all burns down, and tomorrow? Tomorrow we will be living in a melancholic daze, wondering if any of this truly even happened or not. There will be no tangible record of it, aside from our photos, and our leftover churros. Even the sparklers, and the confetti will be swept up, it will all be gone. Valencia captured it, this quirky little city captured exactly what the essence of life is. It’s chaos which is gone in the blink of an eye, it’s madness. So much goes on, it’s fun, it’s childish in reality and it doesn’t grow up even when we think we do, but it ends, and we always knew it would. Tomorrow is Monday, and tomorrow Valencia is just another city. One day we will realise that keeping our childish innocence and joy was all that ever mattered. Fallas, (like life) is a sort of dream, and tomorrow we will all wake up.

I Think Fashion Let Me Go

There’s nothing quite as disconcerting as the death of a dream, I can compare it to the death of a star. Dramatic, explosive, a display of utter wonder and amazement, and in some beautiful way… tragic. I don’t know if what I’m writing about is truly the death of a dream and the beginning of another, or if I even know for a fact that my dream has “ended” or not, but I honestly think that one of my biggest dreams has officially let go of me.

“I saw myself not as a small fish in a big pond, but rather as a whale of ideas and creativity, forced to be contained inside a tank of tasks and “real-world” truths I didn’t care for. “

When I was a kid there is one thing I did consistently, every single day and that was draw. I drew everywhere, I had no world outside of drawing, I had no other real interests outside of those worlds and characters that were born through the tight pulse of my constant scribbles. I remember being anywhere and waiting anxiously for the moment that I could go home and work on my “fashion collection”, not only was I obsessed with drawing, but more specifically, the drawing of clothes and accessories. I created fashion line, after fashion line, I would interview my sisters’ friends and turn them into the inspiration for my new “it girl”. I would constantly develop new advertisements and concepts for my collections. At the age of 10 I would tell everyone that I was the CEO of my own fashion line, and if you think I was kidding, I honestly wasn’t. I once designed an entire collection based on alphabets and fonts (it was surprisingly good). I would rip out my favorite designs from bridal wear magazines and try to improve them. Around the same age I sent a letter to my favourite and most beloved designer Oscar De La Renta (may he rest in peace) to my surprise, he actually did write back, the PR department sent me a t-shirt and a letter of encouragement; to me, this was the fuel I needed to continue. I knew I was meant to be a designer, and a famous one at that. I didn’t rest, I worked during my entire childhood on collections and drawings and fashion campaigns, almost as if I had been preparing some species of lifelong thesis for Lord knows what brand, or what university. I was a restless illustrator, my mother would constantly remind me that socialization was important, that going outside every once in a while was good for me… but I didn’t pay attention to that, I kept drawing. The closer I got to finishing school, the more scratches I made on a notepad where I counted how many years it would take me to go to college and study fashion design. How many more years it would also take for me to open my own line and see my designs on runways. I had everything planned.

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As the years passed and I successfully graduated everything early in order to start on my “real” goals, some of this momentum began to fade with the bitter sting of reality. As I began studying fashion, I realized that I couldn’t be an “artiste” who did nothing else but spit out inspiration and designs left and right, while some magical fairy would come and do all of the other work for me. There were business courses, there were construction courses (which I detested), there were merchandising courses. I saw myself not as a small fish in a big pond, but rather as a whale of ideas and creativity, forced to be contained inside a tank of tasks and “real-world” truths I didn’t care for. As I continued in my programme I drew less and less, the inspiration became harder to come by, and days would go by without me having the slightest desire to draw. At one point, I had lost all sense of touch with the little girl who fidgeted constantly in her elementary school seat because all she could think of was getting home to lay on the floor and draw. I loved to study, don’t get me wrong, but the downside to studying fashion was that it somehow commercialized it for me. Even worse, fashion became something that I had to change for. The first thing I was convinced of was that being an introvert who didn’t really want to talk about myself was a negative in the fashion world. The fashion world was a cruel, merciless, and ostentatious luxury which only dawned its glorious eyes on those rich enough or with the right connections. I was shoved to the side because there was always someone more aggressive and willing to “fight”. There was always another taller person who could stand in front of me and take my place… and I wasn’t good enough because all I wanted was to retreat to my place of peace and create. I didn’t want to bother with CV making, and connection building. I had no interest in parties and “mingling” at fashion week, all I wanted to do was make artwork, I wanted to see this artwork on people, I wanted people to feel beautiful, powerful, maybe even happy. But I learned that the fashion career wasn’t about that, at least not if you were one of the little guys.

“I saw the ‘blessed’ runways and they brought me excitement at first, but fear immediately after. They brought me a sense of emptiness, a lack of belonging that I’ve never really had. “

chanelIt wasn’t until moving to London that I really woke up to the crudeness of the fashion industry. Those that sat quietly, and wrote passionately from the back rows could easily forget about ever being recognized or considered, this ruthless world wasn’t for them. I was praised on my writing, and many thought that my concepts were wonderful, I was never told I wasn’t good. But I was always reminded that I just didn’t fight the fight, I was always reminded that I just wasn’t cut out for the amount of hustle it takes to be in the right picture with the right socialite. I was a talented fashion person with the wrong personality. A professor once told me that I was some sort of creative genius, but with that came the stereotypical social anxiety of a creative soul who only wants to do that and nothing else. At parties I felt awkward and although I smiled and laughed and perhaps no one noticed… I would have wanted to be anywhere else but there. I saw the ‘blessed’ runways and they brought me excitement at first, but fear immediately after. They brought me a sense of emptiness, a lack of belonging that I’ve never really had. I never had to battle with those feelings when I was just drawing and designing. I didn’t have to feel inadequate when I combined gouache and faber-castle pens to create a new collection, I didn’t have to feel like I had to be the fashion worlds’ equivalent of a Regina George in order to dream up a whimsical and ethereal collection. I could be myself to create, and that’s all I’ve ever known how to be.

“I had every bit of a “Miranda Priestly” in me, I knew what it would take to be a leader and make the magazine look good, to take it to the top and I was good at it.”

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My true interests on a magazine cover.

By the time I finished studying in London, I had only further exacerbated my disconnect from the fashion world. My last attempt was a fashion editorial position at an American magazine that pushed me right over the edge. I had every bit of a “Miranda Priestly” in me, I knew what it would take to be a leader and make the magazine look good, to take it to the top and I was good at it. But the truth is, I still just wanted to create. The drawings of yester years had become the articles of the present, and the burning flame of wanting to draw had somehow shifted and fueled my passion for writing  more often. I thought things were going well, but still, it was never enough, there were always fires to put out and I was always forced to be a little meaner and a little bit more ruthless everyday. The truth is, I couldn’t stand the people I worked with, for the most part they hated each other and did a great job at faking a fashion-forward friendship over champagne and martinis. They had progressed from vicious to levels of petty at an all-time high and I just couldn’t take it anymore. I wanted to write, I wanted to talk to people and interview them, but I had no desire to fight another greedy fashion blogger who wanted to take my job. Once again, I questioned why I couldn’t create and be happy, why did I have to be someone else? Why did I have to hustle?

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An accurate photo of who I am in the fashion industry.

Today, I will admit with all sincerity that I have no idea what I want to do anymore. I don’t know if I’m a designer anymore, I don’t know if I’m a fashion journalist, I don’t even know if I even care about fashion all that much. These days I see myself naturally un-subscribing from fashion blogger accounts on instagram and following travelers and photographers. I notice that I care very little about the posts by fashion magazines and what they have to say about Gigi Hadid or Oscar dresses, and I seem to enthusiastically read a lot more about environmental issues and nutrition. The accounts that I look through talk about health and science, and the ones that I scroll past mention trends and celebrity gossip. I haven’t really cared much about what has happened in Paris Fashion Week, I know it’s going on or something…but none of the posts are interesting to me. I haven’t bought a fashion magazine in over a year, and to be honest, I haven’t really invested in any “designer” pieces in even longer. The truth is, I really don’t care that much anymore. Don’t get me wrong, I do love style, and I do love fashion in a way… but I think that dream let go of me, or maybe, I just wasn’t dreaming the right thing. A good part of me feels that I don’t know who I am anymore, and that is hard to deal with. I want to know who I am, but when you attach who you are to a dream career for such a long time and those things don’t work out, you feel a little lost ( a lot lost). I’m working on a PhD at the moment, and my thesis will be fashion related incredibly enough, but I want to talk about the artistic illustration side of fashion, a side that I feel has been ignored and overlooked in place of this wretched publicity that they kept force-feeding us to think is the only important thing. Maybe, perhaps in another time, in another place, the inspiration will come back, and I will have enough to make my dreams come true in a different way. Sometimes I still close my eyes and imagine my collections on the big fashion runways, even if I don’t go to any of the after parties. Sometimes I do see myself sitting in a boutique, a lovely and artsy boutique full of gowns I’ve designed; and customers anxious to wear those designs and try them on. Sometimes I still imagine that magazine of mine becoming a reality, and traveling around the world to make it happen, giving so many of my talented friends the opportunity to write too, creating jobs for other creatives who feel just as displaced as I do. Sometimes I think about those things. I don’t know who I am too much right now, not as far as my dreams go anyway, but this quote by Oprah made a difference. I’ve always been an explorer, maybe I just didn’t know that I was going to be one for this long, and in so many aspects of my life. So I guess I’ll just have to keep exploring.

“We should also consider that, in the end, the answer to “Who are you meant to be?” is perhaps this: the person who keeps asking the question. ” -Oprah

The Spiritual Spiritless

This is one of those articles where I admit to following my thoughts deep into the rabbit-hole of questions and theories, well into the point of no-return. Granted, I take these kinds of trips on a daily basis, but I don’t recommend it as it is not for the faint of heart. What I’m about to discuss encompasses a lot of what I’ve considered throughout my life, but also some of the knowledge I have gathered recently. The Nomadic Black Sheep blog didn’t begin from a simple thought of wanting to start a blog about my nomadic life, about my adventures in life, nor about my concerns with modern popularized Christianity and where the world is headed. The Nomadic Black Sheep came from “The Black Sheep” a hipster-type house study group that I created last spring, in which I invited people from all faiths, thoughts, who enjoyed creativity and going deep into analyzing the bible and beliefs to my home for a candle-lit evening of sharing and snacking. I being a Christian, considered that the church doesn’t have a place for people like us. You know… the weirdos, we are Christian… but we don’t quite fit in at church, denominations make no sense to us, and the reality is that we want to follow the word for what it is not for religion, we want to find the mysteries behind it. A lot of us are lost at our cookie-cutter church meetings, and the repetitive sermons about grace and prosperity, some of us know nothing at all. It’s much more than that isn’t it? We question things, big things, I felt that I couldn’t find a place to discuss those thoughts, our real thoughts and fears. For a while, the group was a success, but being it that my current city is a very transient place, I soon realized that I was losing a lot of my members due to moves. I knew it would be like a wave, it would come and go, and eventually it faded out until there was nothing left. It was sad to see it end, but at the same time, I know that at anytime and at any place, it can rise again. My last Black Sheep meeting was in September of 2016, and since then, I had been working on many other preachings and thoughts which I have saved  up and hadn’t put together. I’m unsure why, perhaps I was saddened by the ending of this group, or perhaps I simply didn’t know how to share without other voices there to bring the warmth the group needed.

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For a long time I’ve been considering a species of blanket-term to describe a condition I see occurring with more frequency: I call it the spiritual spiritless. It’s an interesting almost funny anti-religious, religion called spirituality which in turn tries to describe something that isn’t there, as being present by the use of a term which is thrown about as easily as the words “hate” and “love” rapidly losing its meaning.  For the sake of further explaining  my writing, I have to seek the help of my most favourite author and literary soul mate C.S Lewis, who gave the most precise opinion on the abuse of words and how they lose their significance:

The word gentleman originally meant something recognisable; one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone “a gentleman” you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact. If you said he was not “a gentleman” you were not insulting him, but giving information. There was no contradiction in saying that John was a liar and a gentleman; any more than there now is in saying that James is a fool and an M.A. But then there came people who said – so rightly, charitably, spiritually, sensitively, so anything but usefully – “Ah but surely the important thing about a gentleman is not the coat of arms and the land, but the behaviour? Surely he is the true gentleman who behaves as a gentleman should? Surely in that sense Edward is far more truly a gentleman than John?” They meant well. To be honourable and courteous and brave is of course a far better thing than to have a coat of arms. But it is not the same thing. Worse still, it is not a thing everyone will agree about. To call a man “a gentleman” in this new, refined sense, becomes, in fact, not a way of giving information about him, but a way of praising him: to deny that he is “a gentleman” becomes simply a way of insulting him. When a word ceases to be a term of description and becomes merely a term of praise, it no longer tells you facts about the object: it only tells you about the speaker’s attitude to that object. (A ‘nice’ meal only means a meal the speaker likes.) A gentleman, once it has been spiritualised and refined out of its old coarse, objective sense, means hardly more than a man whom the speaker likes. As a result, gentleman is now a useless word. We had lots of terms of approval already, so it was not needed for that use; on the other hand if anyone (say, in a historical work) wants to use it in its old sense, he cannot do so without explanations. It has been spoiled for that purpose. -C.S. Lewis

Just as the word gentleman has become a useless word, I find that the word spiritual has lost its value as well. What is a spirit? And are the people who use the word to describe themselves truly convinced and in a belief that they are a spirit or that they have one, and that whatever it is they believe in, that spirit will continue on to another life once this life is over? Suggesting of course the obvious that a spirit cannot be killed nor put to absolute death. The Cambridge English dictionary gives us a few definitions of the word “spirit”: the word spirit as a state of mind, as an overall feeling of self, the word spirit as the inner character of a person, thought of as different from the material person we can see and touch; and also the word spirit as something that cannot be seen but can be felt to be present, as is the case when people speak of ghosts. 

Regardless of which definition sounds right for you, a spirit isn’t something logical. There is no logic behind our thoughts, our feelings, or our ability to see an entire image in our minds and construct, and even create scenarios and have the ability to explain them to people. There are clear logical and pragmatic powers in the movement of our bodies and the way our organs work, etc. But no matter how hard we try to explain a thought, it is simply impossible without the idea that indeed we aren’t just bodies, we are something else. Perhaps we are making of ourselves too big of a deal to believe that we have the right to say we are not something which we clearly cannot explain we are. Many writers have created entire works of literary genius by the means of dreams and revelations, thoughts that came from virtually no where. Even C.S. Lewis himself claimed that most of Narnia came from a sudden vision he had of a faun with an umbrella walking through a forest. Walt Disney himself had a similar epic “vision” when he created the character Mickey Mouse:

“He popped out of my mind onto a drawing pad 20 years ago on a train ride from Manhattan to Hollywood at a time when the business fortunes of my brother Roy and myself were at lowest ebb, and disaster seemed right around the corner,” Walt penned in a 1948 essay titled “What Mickey Means to Me.”

95818691.jpgThese are not the thoughts of a logical brain whose different areas turn off an on at different times, or respond to stimuli which need specific nutrients to thrive. These are not the products of serotonin, and dopamine, nor are they the measured speeds of blood flow from the cortex to the frontal lobes. These are visions from the inside of individual worlds which influence our hearts, which bring feelings to our bodies, which make us feel things that we cannot explain, things which aren’t tangible.

Science for instance, attempts to give us an explanation for one of the most spiritual things that exist: love. There are many justifiable claims that explain the inner processes and the chemicals released to give us the infamous feeling that most of us crave, and yet it still can’t manage to explain why they occur in the first place and much less why they stay.  For instance, many can claim that love is a tangible thing, based on attraction, but attraction would need some type of sight, communication, or touch. This would mean that without these things to ignite the chemicals which create this scientifically explained “love”, love wouldn’t exist. How then can we explain the love we feel for those we lose? How does it stay there? How does someone keep loving their wife/husband long after they’ve died? They aren’t tangible anymore. How do we love people who are no longer here, how do many of us feel like some part of them is still with us? Whether we believe in another life or we don’t, we cannot help that death and total loss are not natural to us, and that the idea of losing someone forever, even of losing ourselves forever, is something that haunts us and makes us question whether we want to say there’s nothing else.

I believe that if there is no continuation after an ending, there was clearly no point for a beginning. We see it everywhere, it’s a pattern all over our world. A seed is a seed, it is planted, something grows, it ages and it dies, but after it dies a seed is left, it goes back to the earth, it lives again. Why should we be any different? Our bodies die, but our thoughts do not. They live, they live on repeated by others and loved by others, but most of all, we ourselves are loved by others long after we are no longer tangible. There is no complete ending, and this to me is the perfect example to define that in order to be spiritual, you must be certain that you are first and foremost a spirit, and secondly a body and not the other way around. If indeed we were body first (or body and logic only) we would have no need for feelings like love, much less for memories that provoke feelings. We need memories to survive, but do we need the strong emotions attached to those memories? Not precisely. Not all of our memories are attached to feelings of self-preservation or survival, therefore taking away all logical purpose. I once did a small film-documentary on fragrance in London, and whilst filming the different people and asking them about fragrances, I encountered a young woman who teared up at the smell of a rosewater fragrance from Penhaligons. “It reminds me of my mother” she said. “She passed away, and she always smelled like this, when I smell this fragrance I feel like she’s with me.” The young woman had an emotional response to a smell, which triggered a memory, which brought her a connection to someone who she once shared a tangible love with and no longer did. She claimed (just as many do) that she could feel her mother with her. Science could call this a coping mechanism created by the mind, but even then, why were the thoughts, emotions, and feelings even there to create these “coping methods” anyways? clearly, it takes more than just the mind and its logical function, it takes our spirit.

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I believe that you are connected spiritually to whoever you love, no matter where they are, your spirit and theirs is connected. We are connected through illogical, inexplicable and completely spiritual forces which tells us everything from whether something is evil or benign, to whether someone we care about may be in danger. We get feelings when someone we care about is in harm’s way, and we are confused and perhaps baffled when our feelings are confirmed. We spend our days with someone randomly on our minds, just to find that person calling us our texting us only minutes later, we have dreams about relatives going through situations, only to find out that they needed our help. All of these things, we choose to ignore and to push aside in favour of logic, when logic will never truly be our ally. Logic and reasoning will give us what we want, but not what we need. It will give us immediate answers, but it will brush off the true questions, the mysteries that perhaps are so complex we are afraid to discover them.

1 Corinthians tell us something about our spirit which I feel defines things for me:

1 Corinthians 2:14New International Version (NIV)

14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.

Without the spirit, we will see anything that goes beyond logical reasoning as foolish. That includes things like the feelings of love, that includes kindness, and especially forgiveness. It isn’t logical to love, it isn’t practical to be kind to others without considering our own needs, and much less is it rational to forgive those who wrong us. What logic is there in giving to someone in need when there are so many people in need and when we are in need ourselves? Is it not logical to preserve and seek out our own good above all things? Why should we forgive someone who has treated us poorly? Is it not the most rational thing to feel anger and hate towards them? But most importantly, why on earth would it be practical to fall in love? To love someone to the point of thinking about them, of feeling fear of losing them? of wanting to be near them always, and feeling as if anything that could potentially happen to them would be our own demise. It is not logical nor explicable. The truth is, none of the things that make our lives have life, are logical.

As someone stated on a blog portion of a site I found called creation.com says: “If one seeks the truth with an open mind they will find it. but most don’t want there to be a God because it make them accountable.” Ro 1:21. I think just in this way, the thought of their being a spirit, a spirit to be accountable for, to be responsible for, is something which goes hand in hand with the idea of a God who watches over those very spirits. There being a God will never answer for the evil acts of humanity, no more than there being good people will remove the bad people who commit acts of evil. Freewill is a reality, whether we believe in God or not, there is a truth, but the truth must be sought. There is a good, but the good must be done. There is always a choice to be made, whether they are simple choices or difficult ones. We cannot say we are spiritual and fail to acknowledge our own spirit. We cannot fail to understand that the spiritual world is real, that even in our everyday life we are present with it, and that no matter how much we choose to deny it, it is greater than the small-minded logic we try to compare it to.

I was a preteen when I read and believed this:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved. Romans 10:9-10:

And I remember wondering how it was for people who didn’t understand this, much less believed it. Perhaps I don’t expect to explain everything and have it be understood. But I do believe that indeed it is in your heart that you believe and are justified, and to be justified is to be made moral. You cannot be righteous through your own human logic any more than you can love through your own human logic. Human logic will only have you do what’s best for your own survival and needs, it won’t give you an understanding of love, much less of the feelings that encompass it. Perhaps as a basic explanation I’d refer to the biblical term that God is love, He is mercy, He is forgiveness and kindness, and if so… there is no doubt nor should there be that there is a God. That indeed He filled the world with patterns and cycles to remind us that there is a beginning after death, and that love lives on, long after our spirit goes on to the next chapter.

How a pilates class taught me something

Today I took a Pilates class. I used to dance ballet when I was younger and I was quite passionate about it until I realized I wasn’t doing to good in terms of injuries and time management. I began college, and I quit ballet. I was sad to quit it, but I had no choice at the moment. Fast forward to almost 10 years later, failed attempts at almost every single form of fitness possible, and you will find that although visibly thin and petite, I am severely out of shape. Since moving to Spain and embarking on my nomadic lifestyle, I have walked everywhere, I have enjoyed walking and hiking but I haven’t done much of anything else. In fact, last time I lifted any form of a weight, was almost 2 years ago while still living in the States. This means that other than moderate cardio, I have been inactive when it comes to strength training, or balance, or any of those things.

Here I was at this Spanish Pilates class, the instructor was lovely, gentle, and very nice. However, I was intimidated, scared, and even a bit ashamed by the numerous amount of women clearly over the age of 50 who were stretching and lifting circles around me, while I felt out of breath, and like at any moment my little feeble legs were going to shake right out of their place and on to the mat. At one point, I rolled off my Pilates ball… yes, I rolled off, and almost slammed into the glowing Himalayan salt lamp in the corner. I fixed it with humour by laughing at myself, but deep down I was actually wanting to cry a bit. I felt I looked ridiculous beyond understanding, and even though the lady behind me struggled a bit, it was nothing compared to the obvious lack of “form” I had. Here’s the thing, I was super excited about taking this class, I thought for sure it would be the highlight of my week. I miss working out in the styles that I appreciate, I miss having good fitness and balance, I miss ballet. I also miss the overall feeling of learning something new that I know is good for my body and all that, but I left feeling a bit disappointed. I didn’t really enjoy myself as much as I thought I would, I felt alienated and awkward, and even a little bit lost.

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Me at Pilates class.

Despite all of this, I’m glad that I took this class, because through this Pilates class I learned something: overall, when it comes to “achievements” or even abilities, I’ve had things be moderately easy for me. I’ve never been one to spend days studying for an exam, a few hours and sometimes much less than that has been enough for me to grasp the concept and ace the exam. I can think of certain life challenges that have presented, but they’ve seldom been about things that test my own abilities, and skills or even knowledge. Due to this or so I feel, I’ve learned to be hard on myself, to the point of being quite merciless. When I try something new and I don’t ace it on the first try, I have a natural instinct to give up and to say “it’s just not my thing”. I don’t know if any of you can relate to this, but there’s just something in me that makes me feel as if not knowing how to do something on the first try is a type of sign that lets me know that I won’t get better. It doesn’t precisely go with the mentality of ‘not giving up’ or being positive, and much less with how much I encourage my friends and loved ones to not give up on anything, to try new things. I guess I’m okay with trying new things as long as I honestly think that I will be good at them, but is it just me? Maybe there will be things that I should learn to enjoy that I’m not good at. I used to be a dancer, but I’m not really an athlete. I’ve relapsed from running, jogging, gym-memberships, weight-lifting and bowling. I’m really bad at bowling (my mom on the other hand is amazing at it, and every sport ever). Maybe I grew up seeing my sister be the athletic one and I stereotyped myself, maybe I honestly don’t have as much resistance as normal people… but that isn’t the problem, I shouldn’t feel like I have to be good at it to enjoy it or to do it.

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I guess today I learned that I want to give Pilates another try, I don’t feel I should give up just yet. So what if I rolled off the ball, and I couldn’t do a single sit-up? I’ve never been able to do a single sit-up, and much less while balancing on a poorly inflated red Pilates ball. This is the first time I try to do something with my body which perhaps makes me self-conscious and too exposed to my surrounding for my own introverted needs, since dancing ballet with a group of girls I knew well. I don’t know if any of you reading this want to give up on something at the moment, but I propose you ask yourself why you want to give up on it. Is it because it is too challenging? Should that be a valid reason? Or is it because you didn’t do perfectly well the first few times you tried it? Maybe it’s because you’ve realized that it isn’t worth it to you, that you won’t gain anything or learn anything from it, and if those are your reasons then I guess they should give you peace and you shouldn’t feel like you’re giving up but rather letting go. But, if it is of value to you, if you are passionate about it, if there’s any ounce of possibility in still making it happen, perhaps giving up isn’t the best option, even if like me, you are rolling off and falling on your face. Maybe you shouldn’t expect to walk on your first try like I have been expecting of myself. Maybe we all need to learn to fail, learning to fail is an art that I have yet to master. Even now, as I feel quite exhausted, I have come to the realization that I did something new today, failing isn’t failure, failure is attempt and attempt is novelty. Novelty is always a favourite thing of mine. Maybe next time I fail it will be another step towards novelty, and being that it will be a new failure, I would have learned something after all.

My Mom’s take on La La Land

This post may be a little out of the ordinary from the usual psychological and over-thought depth pile that I share on this blog, but it was something which I thought was so comical I just had to write about it. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, or working a lot which is basically the same thing (trust me I would know), La La Land has swept the audiences away, and taken Hollywood by storm. Apparently it has won everything from Golden Globes, and if I’m not mistaken “Best Picture” or is nominated… I have no idea. The point is, the movie is very popular and quite liked. I saw the movie myself and thought it was lovely, a little disappointing in the end, and also the beginning, but overall it had whim and an unexpected twist. There are spoilers in this article so if you haven’t seen it and you wanted to, please stop reading now.

I am a bit ashamed to admit that I did feel sad after watching the film I felt a bit blue for days, I couldn’t get over that relationship not working out, it was a little too real for me, and it hit a few nerves. I guess I took the movie very seriously, and felt sad for the characters, and for people in similar situations. La La Land really caused an impact, but more so than the whole movie, it was more the relationship between Mia and Sebastian. Now, although I spent weeks moping over La La Land, I thought it would be a great idea to show the movie to my mom, the most sanguine, happy hippie-type person I know. I wondered what her take would be on the movie and honestly, it was the greatest idea I’ve had yet, La La Land may have temporarily changed and saddened me, but my mom has officially changed La La Land for me, and I can’t believe the second time around I have laughed throughout the whole movie. And so, here’s a fresh, honest, interesting and completely un-rehearsed take on La La Land from my mom.

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  1. Opening scene: LA Traffic and first musical: (I hadn’t told my mom it was a musical and she sort of hates musicals) Mom: “What? Why is she singing? Is this is a mystery movie? It looks mysterious. But wait, No! This is a musical? No! Stop singing! Why did this movie win so many awards? Me: “Yes mom it’s a musical, it gets better I promise!” (she looks skeptical)
  2. First Scene with Sebastian: Mom (referring to Ryan Gosling): “He has a funny little face that guy, he reminds me a bit of the Home Alone kid, or what he should have looked liked if he would have stayed kind of cute.”
  3. Scene with Sebastian getting fired from Christmas job: Mom: “Why is he so sad? He was obviously going to get fired, he should of just played the Christmas songs and then gone home and played whatever he wanted, why did he have to go against the rules, he needed that job! What is wrong with the characters in this movie?”
  4. Scene at pool party where Mia sees Sebastian again: Mom: “I’m still not getting the greatness of this movie, I’ve been watching for a while too, It’s long. The relationship of these two characters is doomed from now, it isn’t going to work, it’s so obvious!”
  5. Scene where Mia and Sebastian dance while looking for cars: Mom: “Oh my gosh! They are singing again?! Why?” (I’m losing all hope of her liking this movie, we are officially 37 minutes in and counting, she hates it).
  6. Scene with Sebastian showing up at Mia’s job: Mom: “Oh brother… this isn’t going anywhere good. Why did he go see her? She has a boyfriend? I think this girl is a little crazy.”
  7. Scene when Mia leaves boyfriend and goes to movie theatre with Sebastian: Mom: “But… she’s barely talked to this guy? She’s leaving her boyfriend for him, and like… they’ve had some dumb conversations in like two days, and they have hated each other for most of those days?” (I try to convince her of it being romantic. I fail.)
  8. Scene at planetarium “first kiss”: Mom:”See here’s the thing with this movie, it goes back and forth between some really cool fantasy scenes, and then some really lame reality scenes, I don’t understand. It is not blending well. I don’t think that’s them dancing…” (at this point I’m chuckling)
  9. Scene where Sebastian surprises Mia at home and they fight: Mom: ” He is working! What is wrong with you?! He’s working! She’s immature, what’s wrong with this girl? I don’t understand. She’s being selfish, he’s earning some money, their roof was leaking. She doesn’t seem happy about his success. She’s selfish, she doesn’t love him, you know why? Because she isn’t willing to compromise, she could have gone to Idaho with him! She missed him didn’t she? Lies. Selfish girl! (tells the screen) don’t stay with that girl she’s crazy.” (I’m now laughing)
  10. Scene where Sebastian misses Mia’s play: Mom: “Poor guy, he was working for her, and she doesn’t even let him explain that he rushed over to see her play. Poor guy couldn’t make it! I feel horrible for this guy. She has some issues, she couldn’t go to Idaho for him, but he has to be at her play? He’s a good guy.” (I now start seeing this movie completely different)
  11. Scene with Sebastian going to see Mia in Nevada: Mom: “See? He really loves her, he wants her to be happy, she couldn’t care less about him, and he’s right, she is a cry baby. Poor guy. They are not meant to be these two, she’s selfish.”
  12. Scene with Mia’s last audition: Mom: “Where did that piano come from? Is he playing? An orchestra now? Oh goodness… this is why I can’t do musicals.”
  13. Scene with Mia and Sebastian discussing relationship: Mom: “Why is she asking where they are? She clearly left him. She’s negative, she says “if” and he says: “when” this girl didn’t want to keep going with anything.”
  14. Last scenes (5 years later): Mom: “She didn’t wait for him! She didn’t love him! I told you! She married someone else, I could see that one coming from the beginning, this movie sucks, I want my money back. Goodness, she couldn’t even wait a little bit? She has a kid?! Oh wow. Why is she all sad now remembering what should have happened? Poor guy. Why are these people dancing again, I just saw this whole movie and now they are playing it again from the beginning? Where’s her current husband? So wait… did they end up together or what? This is an odd, odd movie. So now Mia and Sebastian had a kid? Oh… so it’s all in their imagination, this is so weird. This is so monotonous, we all know their life would have been nice, why the repetition? More dancing…this romance started with her flipping him off, and I think it should have ended this way too, it would have been funny.”

(Credits start rolling, mom is now laughing)

Mom:”What a crazy movie, I really don’t understand why it has won so many awards, this wasn’t a great love story. See, the guy loved her, but she clearly didn’t love him. He was happy for her success and would push her to succeed, she seemed jealous to me. I also didn’t like all the singing. I can’t believe you moped around because of this movie, it sucked!”

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And so, this was my mom’s take on La La Land, and now she has officially ruined the film for me. The music is still great though.

Thank mom!

 

Homesick

A true wanderer never gets homesick, or do they? I think that even though the concept of “home” is a very different one for those of us who have the Fernweh disease, I don’t think that it is completely non-existent. For me, home is a series of memories, things that bring me back to a time in my life when I was happier, things were perhaps easier, and life had the image of being overall “better”. That doesn’t mean that life isn’t good now, or that everything was perfect in the past, but being homesick leaves you looking at life through nostalgia coloured glasses, and it is something which is tricky to shake off.

For the month of January and trickling into February, I have felt homesick. Life in Spain has me feeling like I’m lacking something that perhaps is so shallow and completely pointless that even as I write this, I want to laugh at myself for missing such things. They are everyday things, small things that I more than took for granted while I had them, but somehow have become the center-stage objects of my longing affection. I walk myself through a morning in the United States; through a series of Saturday morning cartoons, or “Say Yes To The Dress” re-runs. I hear the familiar voices of Food Network stars on TV as I try to find some expensive organic breakfast to make for myself, although in reality the thing I will do is skip breakfast in order to go have a cheese soufflé at the Panera around the corner from my house. I walk into my closet, because I can actually do that… and I stand in there staring blankly at my organized clothes, pretending that I’m somewhat shopping in my own personal boutique and that gives me a dumb little pep in my step that no one knows about. Later on I make my way to Target, yes, Target: that giant one-stop shop that glitters of red and white logos, clean aisles, and the hauntingly delicious smell of Starbucks. Why is that place so perfect? Sometimes I dream that I go there on a crisp Autumn or late Winter morning, I get my coffee, and I inconspicuously walk around holding my soymilk vanilla latte in a pair of ballet flats and a perfect jacket. There’s nothing on my list that I really need to buy, but I’m just there, sniffing candles, and looking through the mugs and notebooks.

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I see myself watching lame Hallmark movies with my sister, we make fun of every cheesy love scene, and we eat way too much of our mother’s cooking. We go to those American malls you only think exist on TV series but are really just that lame (or awesome) depending on how you want to look at it. There’s a lot to do, but there’s really nothing to do, and just when you think you have made new exciting plans for the weekend, something leaves you hanging out at a Walgreens or a Target again looking through shampoo bottles. I see myself at those enormous cinemas, they are so obscenely giant and convenient, no assigned seating, you sit where you want. You do what you want… your large popcorn is more like a rising metropolis of corn nibbles and you never finish it because no one can. The roads are packed, I look out the window and see the buildings, see people in their cars, stuck in traffic, talking on their cell phones when they’re not supposed to and it all makes sense. I walk into stores and am greeted by cheesy grins and people willing to help you to the point of becoming a nuisance, but in some way it feels right, it is supposed to be that way, the customer service leaves you feeling like you’re a saturated-fat eating superstar and you feel damn good about it. You’re supposed to get a “welcome” or a “thank you for shopping with us” it feels right, perhaps it is the most insincere thing you’ve ever heard in your entire miserable life but it feels good.

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Probably the best word to describe a Nomads type of “homesick”

Lately, Spain feels very alien, and nothing feels quite like it used to. Not here, and not when I think about my native home. I guess there’s a part of me that wishes I could just go back home, I want to go back long enough to remember why I’m here, why I’m a nomad. I’m sure due to current events it wouldn’t take me too long… but I still wish I was there sometimes, a “there” that maybe doesn’t exist any longer. I want to go back to the home I remember, although at the same time I fear that returning would only leave me feeling disappointed and certain that I have lost something even greater, that my home isn’t the home I’m writing about anymore or the one I want to show to people. It is a strange and unfamiliar atmosphere which surrounds me at the moment, maybe I don’t know how to feel. I think not knowing how to feel is also a feeling, an uncomfortable one at that. Perhaps I miss my friends there, but I know most of all I miss my sister. I wonder if being homesick is more about people you miss, or if it’s actually about the place, and hence sometimes I imagine that if my sister was here, that things would be quite alright. They would be, but I think I would still miss some of the things I share there with her, some of the sights, the smells, the textures that felt like the ‘everyday’. When you’re a nomad nothing feels like the ‘everyday’. You give up that feeling for the constant feeling of novelty and unfamiliarity. You give it up for the feeling of wonder and amazement, and perhaps when I wake up from the current plague I’m experiencing, I’ll remember exactly why this that I’m doing right now is so much better than that which I was doing back then. But right now, all I know is that I’ve been wanting a blooming onion from Outback Steakhouse, a Starbucks drink from an actual American Starbucks, a shirt from Target, a pointless walk around a below-average American mall with a full tour of the food court, and to sit down with my big sister and watch a film on a ridiculously big screen in whatever seat we feel like sitting with no need for subtitles and with way too many nachos.

How I feel about America now

I had waited a long time to write this post, even though I had been writing it long before anyone was considered a candidate for election, long before the memes began and the protests started. I am an American, my whole life (most of it) was lived there, that’s where I went to high school, that’s where I first spoke, that’s the place where my birth certificate says I’m from even though it says “American born abroad”. Even still, I’ve always been “abroad”, in every sense of the word I am abroad. I am abroad in my thoughts, my behaviour, and my opinions. I’ve never been able to cultivate the American pride that blatantly spits on every other country and calls America “the greatest”. I’ve never seen it right, even with its conveniences and my nostalgia towards it, even with how accustomed I may be to this my home country, I’ve never seen it correct to say it is the best. I have always been conscious that America will and shall always be a nation formed by many nations, in essence making it perhaps the greatest melting pot… and hence exalting the fact that every nation is great if it can make one nation, so great.

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On November of 2016 I felt a pain in my heart that I didn’t think was possible to feel outside of losing someone dear to you. It was during these elections that I realised that I felt let down by the country I called my own. But the worst feeling was the combination of losses, the loss of faith in humanities ability to see that all humans are equal, and also the loss of respect for the Christian church in America, who for the most part welcomed these thoughts of separation with open arms. I’ve been stunned by the amount of Christians celebrating and embracing the slogan “make America great again”. Because for eight years, for eight long years they felt that the acceptance and equality, the “European” like mentality, the tolerating of individuals outside of American soil both in thinking and in location meant that America was no longer “great”. It meant that we had a different kind of president both in skin colour and in behaviour, and that just wasn’t great enough. It meant that our first lady wasn’t a life-size cut out of our stereotypical “all-American” girl ideals. It meant that just like I was once told by an employee at my old job at a store called  Lilly Pulitzer: “you just don’t fit the look of the brand, you don’t look American” I guess for eight years America didn’t look “American”enough and that just wasn’t acceptable. It wasn’t acceptable because all of us who compose America which may look a certain way, who may be a little different, who may eat some other kinds of foods and speak other languages, we just don’t fit the mould of the country who has seen our ancestors set it up, build its bridges and send it rocketing towards the future.

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I’ve been to these churches, I’ve spoken to these pastors and these leaders before, and no matter how hard they try to say that they include everyone, that Jesus loves everyone, they fail by the longshot to actually abide by those rules. These patriotic Christians can’t help the way they look at anyone who isn’t as “white” and “American” as they are. They look at you in a way that you can’t forget, it’s like beneath all of the smiling and the grinning, and the “Jesus loves the little children” songs, you see it… you can tell that you just won’t be good enough to them. At their churches and their gatherings you’re the “dark-skinned girl” or you’re the one that everyone thought was Mexican or Chinese, even though you may not know the first thing about either of those two countries, even though you’ve lived a few blocks away from them your whole life. It’s never enough. They keep telling the church that they are open to everyone, they say it so much because they want to make sure no one feels the exclusion they are subliminally screaming out by the mouthful. They tell you that you are “exotic”, that they love how “different” you are, without realising that the fact that they are pointing it out at all says they noticed something you didn’t think was all that important. They say things like: “I love having so many different cultures at our church” but the fact that they have to acknowledge that they’re different at all speaks volumes of how they’ve seen all of us for years. They host “hip-hop nights” for the young people, and go on mission trips to the countries they would secretly never go to. But it’s okay, because they take good pictures to post on their church websites. There’s always a smiling homely caucasian girl with no make up, dark blonde hair, and bohemian clothing next to a confused Haitian child, and that picture says it all. She’s smiling because she thinks she’s doing something so great for her church, and for God, but she doesn’t realize how much she’s alienated herself from the people she’s “volunteering” to go see. These are the people who say God is love, God is merciful, but they boast and they pride themselves and they glorify America first. They glorify the right to carry weapons that could kill and justify it under everything except the bible that they preach from. I ask you Christians, what are you doing? What are we doing right now? The second I heard the name of Jesus at the inauguration, the second I heard preachers and pastors known by the world saying that this was a “blessing”, that it was a “blessed” day, I knew that this is nothing more than the beginning of the end. I knew then that who I thought was the enemy was not the enemy at all, but the enemies were those who I had grown up believing and trusting. I realized that for the sake of protecting race, protecting politics, protecting the all-american America which excludes anything that isn’t great, rich or white, Christians would sell out. They would sell every bible verse they have hanging on the walls of their Laura Ashley style homes. They would put their American flag tapestries ahead of their leather-covered bibles, and their guns in front of their crosses. They would say they support a president who has disrespected every type of person in existence, who has boasted about sexual assault, who has lived a life of deceit and lies and of not caring who he crushes on the path to “success”. This man is going to make America great again, because according to numerous pastors and evangelists, according to an evangelist whose father brought thousands upon thousands to Christ, he was a good man and everything else… well, all the other stuff we can sweep under the rug.

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Yesterday as I saw the America I thought was progressing fall apart, I realised that nothing was going to be the same anymore. Even if by some miracle, if by some stretch of mercy something happened, and all of this was stopped, things wouldn’t be the same. The new president has exposed the ugly underbelly of an America who was quietly boiling in anger while we “the different ones” had our day in the sun. It’s over for us now, and the hard part of all of it is going back to daily life and having people ask you how it feels. How does it feel to be an American now? It feels like every day I ever went into a church group and they asked me where I was from because “Florida” wasn’t good enough. It feels like every time I’ve had to enter a dinner party full of white Republicans and feel that everything I say will be held against me in some way. It feels like the countless number of times I’ve heard pastors wives say that someone is “so Latina” or be surprised at the curls in my hair, or make comments about why someone doesn’t look white, or doesn’t look black, or just doesn’t look how they wanted them to. It feels like all of the racist teachers I ever encountered as a kid got together and took over the world. It feels like the many times I’ve noticed the subliminal messages against biracial couples, against children that are mixed. It feels like the empowerment of females was kicked in the stomach, it feels like the dreams of millions of immigrants was flushed down a toilet, it feels like the pain of hundreds upon thousands of people everywhere seeing the bad guy get away with his plan.

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I’m disappointed in America, yes, this is true. But more so, I’m disappointed in people, I’m disappointed in the church I believed in. I have learned now more than ever that we don’t share the same God. I thought we did, but we don’t. I don’t believe in the Jesus that supports guns, and elitist patriotism, I don’t believe in the Jesus who thinks America is the greatest nation on earth, I don’t believe in the Jesus who thinks violence is justified or that prosperity is the golden nugget that makes the world go round. I don’t believe in the Jesus who thinks that anyone has the right to mock someone who was born with a physical incapacity, or the Jesus who says that Mexicans are anything other than people just like me. I don’t and have never believed in the Jesus who notices skin color and social class. I will never believe in the Jesus who cares more about someone’s ethnic background than he does about their soul, about the issues they are going through. I have woken up, and I have realized that I didn’t fit in at “church” for a reason, and thanks to the new politics, I finally know what those reasons are. I was always alienated, I was always different, our gospels were different, our religions were different. They can’t hide it anymore, they can’t hide their racism, their classicism, or their ignorance, it’s over, it’s uncovered. God has done the one thing that He always does, he has brought light to that which was hidden in darkness. Now we see people for what they really are, we see our churches for what they really are, we see America for what it really is.

All Photos in this post are from the Ellis Island archives. Reminding us of America’s immigrants.

Not Everything in Life is For You.

In case no one knew my hair is brown, dark brown. It’s just curly, brown and for the most part difficult to manage. I blow dry it straight almost always, not for any particular reason other than that I’ve just grown accustomed to seeing myself with straight hair since entering my twenties and I look just a little bit older which helps when you look like a preteen and you’re trying to hustle in your career or whatever. If there’s something I’ve wanted to do to my brown curly locks in my lifetime is have a particular lovely shade of ash blonde with golden highlights (think Jessica Alba, who has been my patron saint of hair for decades).  I was born an ashy blonde baby, and I’ve wanted that hair colour ever since. Genes decided otherwise, and over the years, my hair has gotten darker and darker until I’ve achieved the naturally dark chocolate shade I’ve got going on now. Here’s the thing, I never quite gave up on my Jessica Alba hair dream. Year after year I would pine after this hair colour in the hopes of achieving this ashy blonde perfection. At sixteen I did my first set of home highlights… correction, my first set of erratic at home highlights. But for me, these brassy yellow patches were good enough to satisfy me with glimpses of “awesome” blonde hair each time I looked in the mirror. By the time I turned eighteen I had done significant damage to my hip length curls, and even though I looked like the perfect beach bum, my hair was done for. I had to colour it dark and in the following year, chopped off most of it. By age nineteen I had sworn off hair colour for good, and for the next five years I would stick to that vow religiously. It wasn’t until another great picture of Jessica popped up on my feed that I thought: “how great would that hair colour look on me? Look at her! We are about the same skin tone, we have similar features, I can do this!” and so I took the plunge in Barcelona and added a few unsuccessful highlights. Later that year I added a few more, and then chopped my hair off, and got rid of them just like that.

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Top photo: the infamous Jessica hair. Side photos: Me and my natural hair color that I’m learning to accept.
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2015 comes around, and I woke up one day thinking: “I’m getting older, nows the time to make a change, to look more grown up, this time you got to take the full plunge, do the Jessica colour, do it!”. Every good hair stylist I know, both in England and the U.S. had warned me, they had all told me I had a great natural hair colour and that I shouldn’t risk dying my hair, they told me my hair was so healthy I shouldn’t dye it. They warned me that any discoloration would wreak havoc on my curls, but all I could think was: “everyone dyes their hair! Why can’t I?. I envied the numerous women I saw with balayage and ombre (the good kind), I wanted to see multiple beachy tones in my hair too. I wanted to look like Jessica! And so after some research I went with the ridiculous idea of going to a “natural” hair salon, with “natural” dyes. “It won’t damage your hair” they said, “you will look great and natural” they said, “your hair will be even healthier than before you dyed it!” they said… well, needless to say this wasn’t the case. About eight hours, four coffees, and three arguments over how much developer they needed to use on my easily lightened hair, I was left with a brassy mess of splotchy yellow. I was forced to dye my hair darker three days later, and six months later even darker and chop off about 3-4 inches. Last year I chopped my hair the shortest its been since I was a child, and even this week I was cutting the last remains of overgrown damaged dyed hair. There’s a point to this story, and that point is this: hair dye is not for me. I simply can’t dye my hair, I just can’t. My hair doesn’t tolerate it, it splits the second chemicals hit it, it falls out from the root, it simply hates dyes. I can’t “balance out” my hair tones, or  add “dimension” or whatever they call it. I can’t have the Jessica hair I want, I simply can’t. All these years I have been insisting on something fervently, that I truly and honestly cannot have because it just isn’t for me.

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I’ve realized that I’m a custom-made person, I have custom tastes and accommodations. There are things that I need in my diet, in my lifestyle, in my relationships, that virtually no one else I know needs. I have come to the realization that my life isn’t going to be like anyone elses’ life, but more importantly that not everything in life is for me. Maybe most people colour their hair, but I won’t be able to without suffering horrific consequences that I don’t want to deal with. Perhaps everyone enjoys a good wine with their meal, maybe they even say it is good for you but I can’t tolerate it. Perhaps people recommend eating a diet of heavy veggies and leafy greens, guess what? My stomach hates that type of diet. I think life becomes easier when you stop thinking that your life and your reactions to it have to be the same as everyone else. This week I had an opportunity which didn’t work out for unjustifiable reasons. I’ve been crushed about it to say the least, but at the same time I’m trying to see this as another Jessica hair attempt. An attempt at making something fit for me because it fits for everyone else. I think society teaches you that there’s this age mould, a pattern that everyone needs to subliminally adjust to. I’ve narrowed it down to, the crazy drinking college years: 18-23. Figuring out your life, establishing a career and getting engaged and/or married: 24-27. Having your entire life together and possibly bringing another human into the world: 28-33. You are now the godfather and must know everything and have every single aspect of every molecule in your existence perfected: 33+ sounds about right. But what if you fall behind? What if somewhere between the crazy drinking college years and the figuring out life section you somehow tripped on the rock of unexpected events and things just didn’t turn out the way you were “supposed” to have them turn out, what then? I think that’s the part most of us get stuck at, including me. That’s where we are really hard on ourselves and we figure that we are failures, but are we really? Time isn’t really as strict with us as we are with time and with ourselves. But that’s a hard concept to get past.

I think just like I realized that hair dye, despite it being something I like and wanted, wasn’t for me; instead I’ve realized that as much as I like dying my hair, having it be healthy fits me better. There are many other things in life that don’t work out, which also aren’t for me. There are so many opportunities that have failed in my life, and in the moment I never see why they had to fail, but now, I see that they weren’t for me. At the core of who I am is adventure, is travel, is flexibility, and yet so many of the opportunities I’ve cried over missing have been opportunities that would set my life on a completely different course. Most of the time those opportunities would have me set, stable, and sitting at a 9-5 job living a pretty normal life. I have had to ask myself if I’ve ever truly wanted that. I don’t know who is reading this, but maybe like me, there’s something that isn’t working out for you. Maybe nothing is working out for you, perhaps like me, you have to search deep down and really ask yourself what you want, and see if maybe none of those things that you want are really for you. When I say for you, I mean in favour of you, beneficial for you. Not everything we want is good for us, even the “good” things. Right now, as I’m sitting here sipping my Swedish blueberry tea and reminiscing about better times in Stockholm, I can’t help but think that anything that hasn’t worked out, was probably going to keep me away from the things and the people I really loved. I am telling myself that I haven’t failed at life, and life hasn’t failed me, but perhaps not everything is for me and that’s okay.

Thoughts on Growing Up & 2016

Dear readers,

Happy 2017! It has been a while, but this distance will become a bit more common as I combine working with various activities from my doctorates programme. Just to give you all a little update, I spent most of November and December working and studying, and the last part of December and beginning of January in the gorgeous country of Sweden. I will write more about that later, but now, I wanted to give an update on some of my thoughts, and things I’ve been dealing with nearing the end of 2016 and into this new year, which I’m hoping to be hopeful for.

I think we all can agree that 2016 was a little bit like a horror film, and judging by the many jokes, memes, and an actual 2016 “horror movie trailer” I guess it’s easy to say most of us found the year quite horrific. However, I had a lot of wonderful things happen to me personally in 2016 which I’m grateful for, so even if I wanted to call the year awful, for me, it really wasn’t. In 2016 I went to Madrid, I travelled to different towns around my new city, I moved into a lovely flat on the greatest street in Valencia, I went to the beach in Alicante, I hiked a mountain to a castle in Xativa, and I wrote some nice songs. I finally got accepted into the PhD programme of my dreams, I made new friends, I ate new things, I read Persuasion, I taught many English classes and wrote a few articles. I played at a gig and had a great time, and most interesting of all I met an amazing guy that I never thought I could meet. I ended 2016 in Sweden, a place I had been wanting to go to ever since I can remember, and I said goodbye to 2016 on the city roofs of Stockholm watching fireworks and embracing someone I love. 2016 was not a bad year. I’m sure if we all look through some of our own personal moments, we can find some gems to hold on to. However, 2016 was a difficult year for the world… and of that I have nothing to say other than it quite sucked. All of the awful world events that occurred during the last 4 months of the year, and even continuing into the beginning of this year, are events that have left me displaced, confused, and quite scared to be honest. I’m trying so hard to hold on to the peace of God in these trying times, but the truth is, the world feels like it’s actually ending. Which brings me to a discovery I made at the end of 2016 which has become even more clear to me now on this eleventh day of this new year: I’m terrified that I’m beginning to feel like a grown-up.

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I’ve come to the dreadful conclusion that a lot of the sadness and anxiety I’ve been experiencing which has been trailing in from last year, come with the inevitable doom of  feeling that I can’t keep clinging on to my childhood like I’ve tried to for the last 5-6 years. This year, I’m starting to feel like an adult, and frankly… I don’t love it. Before anyone goes on a rant about responsibility and reality, this goes beyond that. This is more of a feeling; an aching, stomach dropping, empty sort of sting that I’m going to try my best to describe. The closest I can relate this to is with the day I lost my excitement for playing with Barbies. I loved Barbies as a kid, I used to dye their hair with markers, and plan pretend parties, and weddings with them, I used to run home and dump them all on the ground and dress them up, put on fashion shows -I couldn’t wait to spend time playing with my dolls. I was definitely a “late-bloomer” if that’s what you want to call it, but I’d like to say I was more of a “long-lasting child”. Even at 12 and 13 when my peers were already talking about boys, I had no interest in all that. I was still happily imagining worlds, drawing non-stop, and playing with my Barbies. It wasn’t until about age 14 or 15 that I really became different and you could see any change in the way I saw life. Around this age, my Barbies had slowly disappeared from my daily imagination routines, and progressively the corners of my room were filling up with different nail polishes, and make up books. Think Toy Story 2 and the depressing scene of Jesse the cowgirl doll and the depressing song that went along with it. All I know is that one day my mom casually (and without knowing what impact her words would have) said the following: “Hey! You’re not playing with your dolls anymore, why is that?” I was stunned in my tracks, as I realized that I didn’t have an answer for that. The truth is, I hadn’t thought about them, they had naturally disappeared from my mind, and just like in the film “Inside Out” I had somehow deleted those beloved Barbie memories permanently, I had no affection for them anymore. Where there was once joy and excitement to see them, nostalgia and fear now dwelled. I began to cry, and my mom was as confused as I was, I ran to my Barbies in some sort of attempt to pick them up and hold them like I used to, to tell them that I could still imagine worlds with them, that I could still plan fashion shows and battles… but it was no use. It was like trying to turn on a machine that had been broken for years, I no longer saw them the same way and there was nothing I could do about it. I grew up, and it felt odd.

I feel like 2016 was that Barbie moment of a year, and now in 2017 I’m attempting to cope, battling to keep calm, as I process the fact that I’m feeling this way. I don’t feel like I can keep milking my childhood for all it’s worth anymore, I’m looking at the world and I’m understanding what is happening with every inch of my being, I’m watching my own life  and the lives of others around me, and I’m seeing how it’s only going in one direction, and that direction is towards age, towards growth, and responsibility. It scares me, I can say that, can I? I’m scared that more so than “growing up” I’m feeling “grown-up”. I fear that I don’t feel like the youngest in my family anymore, or like the youngest amongst my peers like I always was. I know I’ll always be my sister’s little sister, but I’m not feeling so little anymore. I’m not feeling like her and I are so far apart in age and understanding that she has to explain things to me in a gentler and younger version in order for me to understand like she used to. I understand now. People see it as normal for me to do the things that adults do, to have those responsibilities they have, to drink too much coffee because indeed I am sleepy a good 20 hours out of the day. People have asked me if I have children, and even when those moments occur  when people think I am 13 or still in high school (because I look very young for my age), I’m no longer getting mad. I’ve somehow naturally gotten to that point my mom used to warn me about. She used to always tell me that one day, I’d be grateful that I look younger than my age, and somehow it has actually happened. I’m starting to feel like the future life I imagined as a kid is here, and if there is a future after that, I’m having a hard time imagining it, and perhaps the feeling of “arriving” is just something I don’t cope well with in any scenario. I’m a journey person, I love the idea of a journey because it is still a process, there’s still a chance. I know that I’m still on a journey and that we all are, but still, it’s feeling less like one and I don’t know how to feel about that. There is so much I still want to do, so much I wonder if I’m already late for. Five years ago I could have changed my life’s path, I could have changed where I was going, but now I don’t have as much time to do that. Ten years ago I was still a child, and even though I already had a Bachelor’s degree, I could have gone and gotten another one, I could have moved somewhere else, had another life, had other dreams, I could have done more, seen more. I just feel like growing up feels so settled, it feels so stable in an unstable way. It makes you feel like anything you say will be combatted by an invisible comment or voice that reminds you of your “place”, a place that you never really asked for. Growing up feels like there’s a giant invisible dragon flying around that we all have to defeat, but we aren’t even sure how to defeat it if we can’t even see it. Growing up feels like you understand things that you really don’t want to understand, your innocence goggles are taken off and you’re looking at the world and at people for what they really are and it’s too difficult to hide behind idealism, because the truth is, life is harder than you ever thought it would be.

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I guess what I’m trying to say is, I’m currently coping. I’m not doing so great at times, and at other times my “adulting” activities keep my mind too occupied to sit around and ponder about the mysteries of the universe, and whether time exists or not. But for now, I’m turning off CNN because it’s making me throw up, I’m accepting the fact that there are some things I do have control over, like whether I spend my free time reading news articles or watching funny cat videos on YouTube, or whether I shop for basic grown-up pajamas or Hello Kitty ones. I think my choice is obvious.

We Share Because We Care

Hello lovely readers, today I have felt the need to discuss a topic which is a bit of an epidemic among us: the over sharing of our lives on social media. For a few years now, I have followed a few families on YouTube. Many of them, if not all, share their daily routines, changes, and important life decisions with their viewers. At first I found it to be a sort of interesting and relatable way to experience life with other people who live life differently, or maybe people who are at a very different place in their lives than you would be. But later on, the more I watched, the more I felt like I was invading someone’s personal space. I remember one YouTube family in particular, who had posted a video about miscarriage, I don’t know why this impacted me in this way, but at some point of watching the video I clicked away. Not because I didn’t care, or because I couldn’t relate, but simply because I felt I was invading their personal space as a family.  I felt perhaps I knew too much about someone elses pain, and couldn’t sincerely be there for them in the way that they deserved. Social media connects us, it brings us together, but it also makes us nosey.

A few months ago I shut down my Facebook, it was supposed to be temporary, but it is slowly turning into a permanent decision. The truth is, I don’t miss it. I know it’s great for making connections and all that, also with keeping up with the Joneses, but I really don’t miss it. However, that doesn’t mean that people didn’t miss their ability to find out what was going on in my life. I was surprised to learn that some friends and family (whom I don’t speak with on a routine) thought I had “deleted” them. Some were even offended, and expressed their concerns via email. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how unhealthy our dependency with social media has become. Ten or fifteen years ago, my aunts would always call me to wish me a happy birthday, nowadays… if they don’t see it on Facebook, they forget for the most part. I used to receive letters in the mail, and cards, I used to get phone calls from friends and relatives around the world because they had thought of me. Now, I realize that without Facebook I am lonely and quite “friendless”.

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I have come to the realization that what isn’t online isn’t alive, what isn’t posted didn’t happen, and what isn’t “liked” isn’t approved. We share because we care, so we over share because we “over”care -we care too much,but often not in the right ways. When someone says I “disappeared” because they don’t see me on Facebook, I always tell them: “you have my number and my email, I didn’t disappear.” They never seem to accept that as an excuse, it always seems to the majority, that by signing off on social media, I have in some way become a hermit, someone who doesn’t want to be a part of their “normal” virtual society which shares everything from midnight snacks, to first time potty training triumphs, to break ups and shiny nail salon visits. There was a philosopher by the name of Jean Baudrillard which I have admired greatly for a few years now. His books on the theories of hyperreality, surrealism, and how our world is moving towards a nonexistent existence, are definitely worth reading (Simulacra and Simulation). He talks about events not really taking place, unless they have taken place virtually and vice versa, and that makes me think. Could it be that in some way my life doesn’t exist anymore unless I have an online presence? Could it be that our families, our choices, and our relationships are no longer as important unless we see pictures of them? Sometimes I ask myself these things.

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As a lover of all things visual and creative, I am still a proud holder of an Instagram account. I have written my motto as “my life in squares” because technically it is the only place where I share little insights into my life, my beliefs, and the things I’m passionate about, from (what I believe to be) a more private sector of virtual sharing. I know for a fact that photos I post of my loved ones, of friends are always from a memory stand point, some things I just want to remember even if no one “likes” them. When I started on Instagram in 2011, I had no idea that it was a follower-based app. For over 6 months I was posting and editing photos believing I had some sort of personal photo album with shiny filters which I could give to my photography. It was a fun creative tool, with no need for followers. It wasn’t until I moved to England and a friend asked me why I hadn’t approved her “request” that I realized people could follow and like my photos. Currently, I have a decent number of followers on Instagram, mostly friends, family and a few travel bloggers, but sometimes I forget they are there. I forget how much people depend on what I post to keep in touch with me, and to know what is going on in my life, because the truth is, they’ll never actually ask. One of the most notable patterns of our current addiction to over sharing is that of how relationships are handled online. There is a little bit of me that cringes when someone tags their couple as part of a “In a Relationship” status on Facebook. Why? Because how “Facebook official” are they? How sure is everyone else who is going to like your status? How many comments and questions are you going to receive? How many people are going to be virtually disappointed when the status possibly changes again? There is no problem with indicating that you are married, or in a stable relationship so as to keep things clear and safe between other possible virtual interactions, but by sharing so much, have we gone too far? I feel that people today have this unsatisfiable need to have an online presence, to tell the world what is going on in their lives. Part of it I understand, this is undoubtedly the way we communicate now, but are we over-communicating? I understand that some things, some moments, you want to share… but perhaps I miss the 90s. My family has boxes and boxes of photos that were taken in fun moments no one found out about. I have thousands of photos that only my family knows about, and I have to admit I like that. We never had a cute edited family Christmas morning photo around the tree when I was growing up; we have horribly focused, uncombed hair, unmatched pajama photos of us around  poorly decorated trees. We don’t have Thanksgiving photos of a perfectly coiffed table, but rather miscellaneous photos of turkeys and pies, of my mom trying to hide from the camera wearing her “cooking clothes” of my sister half asleep watching a game on TV. The kind of photos no one will ever see but us. Nowadays we don’t really take those photos anymore. We don’t have the photos of old boyfriends and girlfriends that no one found out about, or of things we did that we didn’t tell anyone we had done. We don’t live our relationships, we post them. We don’t live our lives, we edit them.

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We need more awkward family photos in our lives.

I’m as guilty as everyone else, so I question even my own motives. Perhaps I love Instagram for the “nostalgic” factor. The colours the filters offer give me some sort of reminder of happier photo taking days. I admit I like posting photos of happy moments with the people I love most, and I do share them. But Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, all of these other things, I have stepped back from. I don’t feel the need for them anymore. The people who care about me, write me and asked me how I was, not why I deleted my Facebook. They call me, they email me. I don’t think I’m missing much, I feel as if I have closed many doors into many people’s lives that perhaps I didn’t want to know about. Not for any negative reason in particular, but because I once lived in a time when I didn’t feel the need to know what anyone else was doing at every given moment, or where they were going in their lives. I once lived in a time where we received phone calls and visits to our house, but we never really knew what was going on with anyone outside of those moments, and it felt normal. That was normal to me, that felt a lot healthier. Now I feel that I can see everything at all times, I think I know it all when most of the time I don’t know anything, I feel like I know people I don’t really know, and I don’t really know people I really know. Maybe one day we will find a balance between sharing because we care, and over sharing because we seek approval and attention. Until then, I think I’ll keep myself off Facebook, I don’t miss it one bit.

The Truth About The “Millennial Generation”

Hello readers,

Long time no post, I shall begin this article by stating the following: my life is going pretty well, it truly is, I’m happy, and although this article won’t “exude” such happiness, I must state that things could be and have been a lot worse in my life and this is merely more of a generational vent, or sense of anguish than it is anything else. However, I am writing from personal experience and can relate 100% to everything you are about to read.

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If you haven’t already notice by my witty sarcasm, cynicism about romance, and my article on the spice girls… I’m a millennial. Which means I’m one of those people who has to read those stupid articles directed towards me and my peers (mostly written by Gen-xer’s, rolls-eyes) about everything we are doing wrong, and how we are the most pathetic, lazy, uncommitted, and possibly the worst generation that has ever existed. We get made fun of for our eating choices, they call us hipsters, they keep trying to figure out how to change the workplace for us, what makes us “tick” but never actually give us a serious job. I mean, I can see where they’re going with that, the baby boomers had The Beatles and Woodstock, gen-x had all those good 80s movies, great music, other reasonably noticeable things… and we have social media, apps, and re-do’s and remakes of just about everything. But I feel compelled to write about something that has perhaps been bothering me since high school, I have a vendetta to resolve with society, and every poorly written, poorly analyzed, and completely horrific thing written about millennials. As a millennial I feel a humanistic need to stand up for myself and everyone else and yell at something or someone concerning the truth about what is truly going on. Our true struggle, and our true fears matter. I speak for myself and a lot of people when I say this -things have not been easy or fun for us, things have overall sucked.

“I had a burning urge to finish school because as a creative, the only thing on my mind was to design and create, I wanted nothing to do with algebra and trigonometry, and everything to do with sketching and pattern drafting.”

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I grew up in the United States for most of my life, and since I was a kid I was taught the importance of studies, something which I carry with myself till this day. I was always told by parents, by teachers, by everyone, that studying would give you the results to everything you ever wanted in life. But mainly, to this allusive “stability” that meant everything from a house, a car, food, relationships, and possibly a golden labrador retriever and an american flag hanging from your garage door. Of course, I wanted more out of life, but stability was definitely something I wanted attached with it. I had a burning urge to finish school because as a creative, the only thing on my mind was to design and create, I wanted nothing to do with algebra and trigonometry, and everything to do with sketching and pattern drafting. I graduated from high school at the tender age of 16, and immediately began college at 17. While I was in college I was constantly daydreaming of the day I would own my own boutique, the day I would see my designs on runways and in department stores, the day my illustrations would grace the pages of my favourite fashion magazines, and of the numerous amounts of opportunities I would receive once I graduated.

 “I was so positive and secure in my future, but the closer I was to finishing, the more I became concerned for the future I had always envisioned.”

I worked hard in college, and when I mean hard, I mean I had no other life but to study. Unlike my peers who enjoyed many parties, and drinking nights, all I did was study. I made some friends, but most of them were study buddies. I was dedicated and borderline insane with my studies, and my perfect “A’s” showcased my work immaculately (I was very proud). I was so positive and secure in my future, but the closer I was to finishing, the more I became concerned for the future I had always envisioned. You see as I was advancing in my studies, simultaneously the housing market in the U.S. was crashing. The jobs of my parents were endangered, our home was endangered, I began to hear words I hadn’t heard before, words like: “foreclosure” and “debt”. I realized that I couldn’t only concentrate on my studies, but also on how we would survive in this new economy which wasn’t favouring anyone. By the time I graduated, my father had moved to another state to chase an ever diminishing job market. Our house was in danger (ultimately lost), and the career services department at my university which had years prior given us the pep-talk of the century, was quickly turning us down and sending us to retail jobs. Retail? I thought: how am I supposed to pay for over 60k in student loans with a retail job? What about designer positions, what about fashion buying? What about magazine editing, and illustration? What happened to the “many branches” of fashion design and merchandising? What about the average starting salary of 60k a year? I had two majors, and suddenly nothing to do with them. I graduated magna cum laude, with honours, and no job prospects. We moved to a southern state with my dad, and I began to work as a manager at a store. I thought to myself: “This is just for now, probably a few months, until you hear back from New York, or London, or Paris of course.” I knew with great certainty that it was just a temporary situation and that things would get better for my family, and also for me. However, I quickly learned that wasn’t the case. It was like playing one of those Mario video games where you kept bumping into that mushroom and getting smaller and smaller. Just like that, my hopes began to disappear. I found a job at a small local boutique after 8 months of looking and the last thing anyone considered or cared about was that I had studied design. A lady once asked me what kind of “freak” I was for graduating college at 19. The things I thought would give me prosperity and opportunities made me annoyingly overqualified. They made me a threat to older people who had been working there for years with little to no college education. I was treated horribly by managers who said I didn’t have sufficient experience even though my college credentials were impressive. I was told “you don’t have enough experience” so many times, and yet, receiving a negative response was actually better than the thousands of times which my “precious” polished resumes and cover letters were blatantly ignored. For months I thought it was a dry spell, but after years it was becoming quite scary.

millennialscollage

“We use sarcasm, randomness and memes to hide the undeniable truth: we have no stability.” 

On average I have had an alarming 6 or 7 interviews with over a 10 thousand applications sent in the course of my lifetime after college. From those applications I’d say 100 were answered negatively, and maybe 5 were answered with a “maybe”. Those maybe’s turned into internships, the new term for modern-day slavery. If I had a euro for every time someone told me that internships were great because they gave you experience and connections, I’d be richer than the exploiters who sold me that lie. I mean, it makes sense right? You pay the equivalent of two house mortgages for a degree, and then you work your arse off (cough cough serving a master) for someone for free? While you simultaneously exhaust yourself working at a restaurant, bar, or store in attempts to pay for the room you live in… and you try to live life and eat healthy… and also maintain the internship which will get you the “real” job? Yup, that sounds legit. If that wasn’t enough, our generation has gotten the incredibly awesome label of “uncommitted”. According to statistics, our generation doesn’t want to get married. I mean, let’s see… we can’t afford to take care of ourselves, we can’t afford to pay our student loans and you want us to commit to a mortgage? To marrying someone? To having children?! How does that make sense? We are a generation that has been starved of opportunities, and laughed at for trying to ‘make it’ in any possible way that we can. We use sarcasm, randomness and memes to hide the undeniable truth: we have no stability. Our lives are very temporary, just like our stupid internships. We know our jobs are temporary because we are always waiting for a dream job that no one ever hires us for. We know we have no experience, because no one gives us the chance to gain this mythical experience. We know our relationships are temporary because we can barely figure out if we will stay in the same city and survive for more than 6 months. Our lives are a crazy amount of “temporary” and we are reflecting that in every aspect of our lives. In less than 10 years I have moved over 8 times, not only to different cities, but to different countries. My old college classmates? They’ve done the same. When I ask them if they have ever found a job, most of them tell me they never did, most of them work retail, and very few have succeeded. The few that have, I’m not even envious of but extremely happy for, they are a rare breed in a ridiculed and ostracized generation. I’m proud of them.

“I’m kind of like: “umm… I have over 10 years of experience in applying for jobs, does that count?”

Where do I stand now? I stand with an honoured Bachelors in Fashion Design and Merchandising, which has gotten me plenty of useless retail jobs and an unpaid internship in New York City which nearly got me killed by a taxi. A glorious Masters in Fashion Journalism from the sparkly world renown London College of Fashion, who hosted geniuses like Alexander McQueen; that degree got me plenty of unpaid internships, jobs where I did everything and was paid nothing, loads of fame, popularity, and no fortune. Basically I became the girl who “looks” rich, and can only afford ramen noodles for the week. Last but not least, a Doctorates in Art History which I may start on soon (but still debating) this is my life. What do I do? I travel, and barely survive teaching English. I became a nomad by default, not just because I love travelling. The truth is, my “unstable” and uncommitted lazy life has come at a high price. There’s a part of me that is tired of receiving rejection letters from companies who simply say I’m not a match, or that my experience isn’t sufficient, I almost laugh (in a crazy way) when they tell me they’re looking for someone with 10 years of experience. I’m kind of like: “umm… I have over 10 years of experience in applying for jobs, does that count?” I feel like in some alternate universe that should give me something to hope for, or at least a puppy or something. But it doesn’t, all it gets me is inquisitive know-it-all relatives and friends asking me what I’m doing with my life, gen-xer’s at my throat calling me lazy, and baby boomers feeling sorry for me and trying to “understand”. The truth is, this sucks, it sucks big time. It’s awful when people remind you how talented you are, and how you shouldn’t give up, but none of them can actually help you get a job, an actual job that can support you. It’s awful when you can’t even imagine owning a house, or a car, or anything like that, because that’s just not something you can do right now; and it’s something you’ve been saying for a decade. It’s awful when a YouTube celebrity gets an “honourary doctorates” (I hate those) for posting videos on how to look like Lady Gaga, and you know someone your age is a millionaire for posting a video of their daily hair routine. See, all of you older generations, you weren’t competing against this monster that is social media, you had no idea what your old classmates were doing, or how fast or slow you’re going in your life -we know, we always know.

So before you call another millennial lazy, or uncommitted, before you reject their application and say the don’t have “enough” experience, take sometime and think about this: think about how many of us have had our dreams crushed by actions and issues completely outside of our control. Think about how many of us are highly educated, geniuses even, and no one knows about us because a YouTube star is receiving all the likes and attention. Think about how many of us you call unambitious because we are stuck with giant loans and working at coffee shops and retail stores due to the fact that we never found a job in our field. Think about how many of us maybe thought about marriage and a family when we were younger, until we realized we truly couldn’t afford that dream. Think about the fact that every single one of us in this generation is struggling perhaps harder than any other generation to survive and cope with life in a world that has completely changed, and has changed too quickly for us to adapt to. I know there are a lot of millennials out there doing great things, and changing the game, and I’m overjoyed for them, I hope one day, I too find my place in the sun. I hope one day when someone calls me an editor, or a musician,  I can actually afford to live like I work as hard as I do.

Here’s to you millennials, they hold you back because you’re the greatest generation of all time, we are the greatest generation of all time.

 

Norway, This is For You.

There’s nothing quite like the rush I feel when I know exactly what to write. I dash to my computer with a speed unlike any other, and this morning I got that priceless feeling. I haven’t gotten around to writing about this particular subject in the way that I’ve wanted to for so long, there’s too much say. I didn’t know how to put it into the right words, and yet this is just another proof which shows me the strength of my own sentiments. This is not a regular travel post where I share the places I went, and the things I ate, I don’t give recommendations on the top 10 best places to visit while in the cities I went to in this country, and I don’t really talk about the country from the perspective of a tourist. I never felt like a tourist there, or even a traveller. But rather, someone who had in ancient times lived there her whole life, and came back and was greeted by the land itself. This article isn’t about Norway, this article is for Norway.

Two years ago I had the greatest privilege in my life of visiting and spending a lot of time in this glorious country. It is to date, the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Some may disagree, some may argue that there are islands who surpass the beauty of those pristine fjords, that perhaps there are places with more to do and more to see, but not for me. See, Norway woke me up to a feeling I wasn’t sure could be possible to feel on command. It is something supernatural, otherworldly, something which captivates you beyond your own senses and lingers within you for the rest of your days. Norway is a mystery in itself. I spent time in Oslo, a lively and stunning capital city which feels more like a dream than it would ever a metropolis. Lined with forests and blue waters, mountains and hills surrounding highrise buildings and modern architecture, in Oslo I always got the feeling that I wasn’t quite sure where I was. I loved every minute of that feeling. I remember stopping at a cafe in Karl Johan’s (I believe the most popular street in Oslo) and being seated on a chair with a furry mantle, it was at that moment that I knew I was in a different place, a place I had been looking for, for all of my life. Ironically, I had visited Norway during its hottest summer in 50 years, and although I am not a lover of heat, this did not take away from the captivating effect this country had on me. Norway is a paradise of colour, emerald grass that smells like freedom, cold waters that raise every nerve in your being, and a sense of belonging with nature. Here, nature is not something you go see, it is something that embraces you daily. People here don’t love the outdoors, they are alive with it, they respect it and share it. The people of Norway are unlike any other, some say Norwegian’s (like many other Scandinavians) are shy, timid, and a bit antisocial. But I was welcomed by the friendliest of faces, conversations, and stories. I was embraced by Norway; in Norway, I was Norwegian, and I loved every minute of it.

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This was taken in my favourite place in Oslo: The Norwegian Folk Museum.

There is a word in Norwegian: “koselig” it is not something which can be translated easily, but if I dare try, it basically means the art of coziness. It is a comforting, loving, sense of winter and warmth that gives you a feeling of home. Norwegians have koselig running through their veins. One of the greatest nights of my life was spent in a beautiful wooden home on the mountains of Bergen, all thanks to a friend who is now family. The house was like a fairytale, like living inside of  a rich hazelnut or walnut which had magically turned into a home for its dwellers. Candles lit everything, and brought the foggy fjord and autumn stained mountains outside, to further life. The dinner itself was pure magic, pure koselig. The best food I’ve ever had in my life, berries and mushrooms from the rich land, natural butter which melted over the most decadent potatoes I’ve ever had. An atmosphere that I will dream about till the end of my days. I close my eyes sometimes seeking comfort, and think of this dinner. I think of the friendly people who welcomed me into their home, and shared with me their projects… even a beautiful bunad which the wonderful lady of the house was making for her daughter. A project that would take two years, and even now, I wonder if she has finished it. I think of the lovely grandmother who spoke to me in Norwegian and said : “spiser, spiser” which means “eat, eat!” I somehow managed to understand everything she said to me in Norwegian, and she understood me. It was a moment which changed me in some sort of way. I hiked to the top of a mountain called Ulriken on a whim, and saw the Northern lights from the very edge of another. There is so much I could say about all of these moments, and yet my mind vividly races back and forth and comes up with so little words to describe them.

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The train ride that changed my life. It was and is the happiest day I have lived.

One of the greatest ironies for me, was perhaps the fact that in Norway many do not believe in a higher power. But what they may never know, is that in Norway I grew to believe in God even more. I believe that in a way, in Norway God is like a brother or sister in a family, which you see everyday, and so often, that you’ve gotten used to seeing them and no longer remember they are there, and yet they are. Yet He is. I have this theory, this funny little theory which brings me joy to consider, and it is that somehow I believe that God lives in Norway. I feel as if I’ve seen him there, on every occasion I’ve had a time to open and close my eyes in this stunning country. That is where He lives, He is everywhere there, in every mysterious and foggy fjord you find by turning corners, and getting lost. In the faint Northern lights I saw which tricked my eyes in the summer time train ride to the Western coast. He is in the trees, those dark emerald trees and forests which surprise you with sounds of cascades and rivers at every turn. He lives on those imposing glaciers, and the sounds of rushing waterfalls. Norway made me feel small, so small and honoured to be embraced by a place so supernaturally beautiful that every doubt I ever had left my bones. Norway gave to me, this place simply gives.

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My favourite photo ever taken. Yes I hiked in that outfit.

One of the most heart warming things that happened to me in Norway, came in the form of the people. Those blessed Norwegians that unknowingly carry love and kindness in their genes like clockwork, and they bring it out in the best of moments. In my strange and mixed ethnicity I carry a proud 5% Scandinavian. It’s small perhaps, but I carry it with pride and joy, as if it were all of me. In Bergen I met a kind man who owned a beautiful jewelry shop. A quiet, introverted artist, who crafted unique and stunning jewelry unlike any I had seen. In our brief meeting we barely spoke more than a few words. But in his shop I was captivated by a necklace, a necklace with a viking ship pendant that I loved. I simply made a comment about the beauty of the necklace, and he thanked me. I stepped outside after a while, just to look at the view… because the whole country is a view, and as my friend and I are about to leave the shop she gives me a box. In the box was the necklace with the viking ship I loved. This wonderful man had given me this necklace with a message, he said now I was more Norwegian. In that moment, I felt something in my heart that till this day, I shall never forget. Even as I write this, tears begin to flood the corners of my eyes. I have always been someone without a place, without a real home, without even an origin. I have been questioned my entire life on where I come from, and where I am going to. But in that moment, I met someone who said: “you belong”. I found a country that said “you belong”. I know that no place is perfection, and that within Norway lies the errors and the mistakes of any other country, of any other group of people. But Norway is a special place, with people who have warmed my heart in a way that can only measure up in opposite to their most frigid Arctic winter.

Norway is not a place that challenges me, that makes me work for a sense of belonging, it isn’t a place where I have struggled or fought or any of this. Norway is a place that has brought me healing, and a sense of love unlike any other place. When I think of peace and kindness, I think of Norway. When I think of the warmest of people, I think of Norway. When I think of mystery, and awe, of magic and a world unlike my own… I think of Norway. Norway is my Narnia, and if I had to build a thousand wardrobes to go back again and again, I would find a way. Norway is every bit worth it, every bit missed and cried for, Norway is where the greatest part of my heart is, and will forever be.

Jeg elsker deg, Norge.

 

I Am Beautiful, And I Think So.

A few days ago I was talking to a friend of mine, she is a lovely girl and very pretty. I don’t remember quite how the conversation led to this but at some point she said to me… “you are an attractive girl, you’re not this gorgeous supermodel type, you’re definitely not a miss Universe, but you are attractive.” Now before you crucify my friend in your mind and decide that she’s definitely not nice for saying that, I will say the following: isn’t that what all women think? About themselves? About their friends, about everyone who isn’t on the front cover of a magazine or walking a runway? Sadly, I think this is something all women can say they struggle with. My friends comment did bother me, but not for the reasons you think. Her comment bothered me, because I simply realised I didn’t agree with it. This is the same friend who watches Victoria Secret fashion shows and feels sorry for herself. This is the same girl who says she wishes she looked like Gisele Bundchen. When she made this comment, I realised something  powerful. I think I’m beautiful. I don’t think I’m beautiful for a petite woman, or for a multi racial woman, or for a whatever kind of woman… I just think I’m pretty much beautiful, and I refuse at this point in my life to apologise for it. Am I allowed to say it? Can I just say that I don’t wish I looked like Gisele? Or had her body, or her long legs or whatever it is people say about her? I just don’t. I don’t want to look like a Victoria Secret model, they are gorgeous but I don’t think I’m any less gorgeous, and I’m done agreeing with women who put themselves down because somehow society has taught us that this is the way to be.

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Marion Cotillard, my moms celebrity twin.

I remember the first time I ever even thought about beauty. You see, I grew up in a house where my mother was by far the most beautiful (and still is) the most beautiful woman I have ever seen. She is the brown eyed version of Marion Cotillard, and absolutely stunning in every way. However, she never taught us to talk about physical beauty, or to value it as much as other women perhaps have taught their daughters; and for this, I am eternally grateful. My mother complimented me on my wisdom, on my learning and study habits, on my creativity, and my adventurous spirit. Growing up I never saw my mom fussing over her looks very much, or talking about things she didn’t like about herself, or even saying she wished she looked like anyone else. She was never obsessed with clothes or jewelery, and she still isn’t. She is a true artist, a painter, a sculptor, a poet… she concentrated on those things, and I don’t think she ever really has noticed how stunning she is. When I was about eight years old, I went to some sort of church meeting where they had all the kids playing in a room. My mom had managed to french braid my hair, and I was feeling particularly special, so I walked up to a mirror, looked at my braids, and said: “I am beautiful, I look so pretty!” when I said this, every other little girl in the room laughed. They came up to me like vicious little demons, surrounding me left and right and began to mock me. “Who told you, you were beautiful? You’re not beautiful, not even a little bit” they said. I felt something sink in my stomach, because up until that point, I hadn’t given much thought to being beautiful, or to not being beautiful. But when they explained that they had never liked me because I wasn’t beautiful, I began to understand things in a different way.

During my teenage years I never, not once thought I was beautiful. I learned that I had everything going against me to be considered beautiful, I thought myself to be an ugly duckling and I never was. Apparently I was the wrong height, the wrong weight, the wrong built, the wrong colour, I had the wrong hair type, I was just wrong, I was not made beautiful. That’s what I understood from every other insecure and vicious teenage girl around me. That’s what I understood from the women at my church who even considered themselves unattractive. That’s what I understood from cousins and close friends who complimented me on my talents, and my style but never looked at me and said I was beautiful. I realised that even though I always told my best friends that they were gorgeous, they would never tell me the same in return. I realised that when I felt confident or when I dressed up, I received hateful comments, and evil glares. I believed that it was because I was fooling myself into thinking I was beautiful when I wasn’t. But as I’ve grown in many ways, I’ve come to terms with something very important: you have to love yourself, all of yourself. I realised that I am naturally confident, I don’t feel envious of people, I don’t compete with people. I can look at someone who is maybe tall and super slender and think: “wow she’s gorgeous!” without thinking: “Ugh! Why don’t I look like that? I hate her!”I don’t hate another woman for having looks that I don’t have. I just don’t. I like that I’m short. I’m 160cm, I like that height, I wear high heels and I feel giant, I don’t, and I feel normal, I’m completely okay with it. I’m petite, and I may struggle to find my size at many stores, but I don’t care, I’m happy being small. I don’t envy girls with super long legs and bodies, they are beautiful, but they are not me. I am never going to look like that.

Perhaps it was the beaches of Spain that have taught me to love myself more dearly, as I have enountered a plethora of beautiful women of all shapes and sizes bathing topless at the beach, simply enjoying themselves. I come from a society that feeds you what you should look like, what your body should be like, what even your most personal aspects should look like. The only other bodies we see are photoshopped, fixed, airbrushed and enhanced. But I walk around these beaches and I see that no one fits that stereotype, I see that this stereotype is nothing but a ghost, an artificial woman which we all hate and envy. The beaches of Spain show me mothers with their daughters playing on the beach with nothing but a bikini bottom on and showing the world that they are happy in their own skin, but most importantly teaching their daughters the same thing. I believe that having a healthy relationship with your body and what it looks like is important to loving who you are and will be for the rest of your life. I think I became accustomed to hiding the fact that I was beautiful, I was accustomed to having to be “humble” and by humble that meant I had to say I wasn’t beautiful. But rather, that I was just some dorky girl, who was “okay” looking but not stunning, because I didn’t fit the stereotype. I was taught by my peers to complain about my looks, to look at other women and think I wasn’t good enough, and somehow I got sick of it. Those girls hated me because I was confident and they weren’t. Those girls hated me because I was beautiful and instead of them feeling like they could be beautiful as well, they decided to hate me for their inability to love themselves.

Are there things about my body and my image that I don’t love? Sure. There always will be… but see, there always will be things about my personality that I don’t love either. For instance, I worry a lot, I worry too much. I overthink absolutely everything, and to be honest, I sometimes even avoid making plans just to stay home overthinking.Those are aspects of my personality that I don’t like at all. But to sit here and lose confidence over who I am, and end up hating myself based on the aspects of my personality I dislike, is a great exaggeration. I have become unapologetic about my beauty, in every sense of the word. I like who I am, and I work hard to keep my body healthy and somewhat fit (I said somewhat), I don’t slack on taking care of myself because I like to look in the mirror and feel proud of the results, I like to feel happy with my reflection. But I’m never going to be happy with what I see if what I’m trying to see is the reflection in someone elses’ mirror. I think I’m beautiful, and I don’t just think I’m beautiful in “my way” I think I’m beautiful all around. I think I’m absolutely stunning and gorgeous, and I look good in everything I try on. Pretty much every colour suits me, I have a nice shape, great legs, I have a lovely and interesting hair colour, my eyes are impressive, I don’t look at any celebrity, model, actress, and think: “I wish I looked like her, or had her…” I don’t wish any of that, if there’s something I don’t like I can work on it, but I have no desire to be someone else. I’m not going to reduce myself around women who feel bad about themselves, I am also no longer going to complain about my looks because you are complaining about yours. I am no longer going to apologise for being beautiful, and for thinking that I am.

I hope all of you beauties out there learn to do the same.