Scatterbrained

Sometimes, I think that I have too many interests in life. I love writing, as is probably evident by this blog, but I don’t just like essay writing- I also like poetry and spoken word. I also love listening to rap music, so then I think to myself that I should translate my spoken word poetry into rap. Musicians and rappers dedicate their whole selves to their craft, so I decide to commit to that. 

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(Doing the spoken word thang)

Oh, but boy do I love traveling! Nothing thrills me more than thinking about a trip, planning a trip, and arriving at the airport about to embark on a new adventure. Reading travel blogs inspires me so much, so I think to myself that I should be a travel blogger “when I grow up.” I’ll be a hippie backpacker who still tries to smell nice, and I will encourage my peers that they, too, can do the same. Yeah, that’s the best way to combine my two interests of writing and traveling.

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(Frolicking at the Black Sea in Turkey. P.S. it’s actually blue.)

However, some friends will invite me to go out swing dancing, and it’s so fun- yet being a beginner at it can be slightly frustrating. Whilst dancing with someone who tries to do a move that I can’t recognize, I decide that I need to spend more time in swing dance classes. (I’m too new at swing to have pictures of myself doing it…)

Then, my old salsa teacher will announce a new class series that he is starting. Man, I realize, it has been a few weeks too long since I have done any salsa dancing! I want to be the queen of the salsa dance floor. Sign me up, and perhaps I should finally invest in a new pair of dancing shoes. 

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(Rooftop salsa)

You know what I haven’t done in months and months, yet might ultimately might be my favorite form of dance? Hip-hop. I started doing hip-hop at age 9, and every single time that I go to class, I feel alive. I feel like I was born to do it. It’s just so much fun and also a really cool expression of my appreciation for hip-hop music. 

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(Um… here’s me dancing on a bus in India)

Maybe I could be a rapper who dances hip-hop at her concerts. As Beyoncé once said, “When I shake my butt, I feel it in my soul.” As Pinterest once said, “You have as many hours in a day as Beyoncé.” 

Yet, being a dancer, a writer, a rapper, a travel blogger- these careers are all just pipe dreams, right? Very few people actually achieve success in those fields. And people might look at me funny when I tell them that those are my aspirations. Maybe I should pursue a career in a different interest of mine- nonprofit work. I really love helping people, and I’m particularly interested in preventing domestic violence and helping abused women. That’s a career that would be rewarding and, though it might not pay a ton, still be more stable than that of an artist. Maybe I have more of a social science brain than an artistic brain. I do love volunteering, reading the newspaper, and learning about sociological/cultural issues. 

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(Volunteering in India)

I could travel to a developing country and work with oppressed women there.

And write about it. And learn their culture’s dances. 

As I stretch out across my bed whilst writing this, I think to myself that going to yoga class today sure would be nice. Oh that’s right, I love yoga, too. I’ve always wanted to do yoga teacher training as well. 

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(Tree pose! This is quickly turning into a nostalgic India photo album)

Speaking of yoga, I’m very interested in deepening my spirituality and learning about the world’s religious beliefs. Maybe I should go back to school and become a Religious Studies major. 

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(Sleeping is meditative, right?)

Okay. I could travel to a developing country and teach yoga to oppressed women there. And write about it. And learn their culture’s dances. 

Back to traveling- I enjoy learning other languages and feel, honestly, morally obligated to do so. I love speaking French and just started learning Spanish. 

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(Um, here’s a crêpe that I ate once…)

Okay, I can travel to a French- or Spanish- speaking country and teach yoga to oppressed women there. And write about it. And learn their culture’s dances.

Why can’t I just like one thing. 

Aside

Self-Referral

I recently read Deepak Chopra’s short but powerful book, The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success. It outlines how one can achieve one’s dreams by becoming in tune with the workings of the universe and one’s own spiritual nature- as opposed to traditional Western methods of hard work and conquering others. I, however, have been fixated on one tenant of the first law (“The Law of Pure Potentiality”) outlined in the book. This tenant doesn’t completely have to do with achieving success, but it is something that has basically become my daily mantra: self-referral. Chopra states:

“The experience of the Self, or ‘self-referral,’ means that our internal reference point is our own spirit, and not the objects of our experience. The opposite of self-referral is object-referral. In object-referral we are always influenced by objects outside the Self, which include situations, circumstances, people, and things… in object-referral, your internal reference point is your ego” (10).

In differentiating between our ego and our Self, he says, “The ego is not who you really are. The ego is your self-image; it is your social mask; it is the role you are playing” (11). On the other hand, the true Self is the spirit or soul. The Self is connected to the greater “pure potentiality” or “pure consciousness” (basically, God/God-like energy/higher power).

See how dense this book is? Now I must elaborate further on “pure consciousness.” Chopra states:

“Pure consciousness is pure potentiality; it is the field of all possibilities and infinite creativity. Pure consciousness is our spiritual essence. Being infinite and unbounded, it is also pure joy. Other attributes of consciousness are pure knowledge, infinite silence, perfect balance, invincibility, simplicity and bliss” (9).

Okay, are you following me still? Our Self/spirit is connected to the greater consciousness, just like one grain of sand is connected to the whole beach. Our ego, on the other hand, is our outward self, but it is not our true being.

SO! Here is my point: we must base our self-worth on our own self and not on anything external. We are not powerful because of our titles or possessions; rather, we are powerful because we are spiritual beings, and that is it. Titles and possessions fade and are unreliable, whereas or own self is eternal and stable. As Chopra explains, “Ego-based power only lasts as long as the object of reference is there… self-power, on the other hand, is permanent, because it is based on the knowledge of the Self” (12).

Using myself as an example, I cannot derive power from calling myself a writer. I cannot feel like a more powerful person if I have an article published, and I cannot feel like a less powerful person if I receive a meager reception at open mic night. Another example can be with dating. I am not a more powerful person if I have a boyfriend or if I have a lot of guys interested in me, and I am not a less powerful person if I have no guy in my life. I am powerful because of my spirit, and that is it. However, spiritual power is the highest and most fulfilling power that a person can have.

Life becomes a lot less of a roller coaster when one does not depend on “situations, circumstances, people, and things” for joy, fulfillment, or worthiness (10). In realizing that our souls are made from the same stuff as “infinite creativity… pure joy… pure knowledge, infinite silence, perfect balance, invincibility, simplicity and bliss,” then we do not need anything outside of ourselves (9).

I thus highly recommend this book! At least read the first chapter, as that has clearly been the one to have stuck with me most. However, the book is only about 100 pages, and I actually read it all in one sitting (not something I typically do). We all deserve true self-love!

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Here’s a photo of me reading an entirely different book.

Imperfections Make You Beautiful, And I’m Not Just Saying That

What makes a beach beautiful? Waves that coil in exact tubular form, all the same size, leaving no mess behind? A perfectly flat surface, or surrounding cliffs that are smoothed over and uniformly shaped? Crayola blue water?

No! When we think of beautiful beaches, what may come to mind are waves crashing both large and small, spraying water and mist in various directions, going in and out- maybe even to the side. Or maybe there are no waves at all- just a gentle tide. Perhaps there are rocky, jagged cliffs lining a cove. Maybe the water is a deep navy or a light turquoise.

Thus, a beautiful beach is imperfection. It is not something that can be created in a factory, that looks exactly like all of the other ones. Beautiful beaches are the ones that have things that are weird or rough about them. In general, places on Earth that we typically designate as being beautiful are inherently unusual.

Take this photo of Rio de Janeiro, for example:

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If you think about it, Rio is pretty weird looking. There’s a coastline that’s shaped like a horseshoe, random islands jetting out nearby, with one in particular that looks like an animal lying facedown with its head and butt in the air. Yet, it is gorgeous, and I desperately want to go there. If Rio were all uniformly shaped, it would look pretty boring; it would lose what makes the Rio coastline the Rio coastline.

This beach in Miami has turquoise-clear water:
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However, this one in Greece is a more sapphire/royal blue, with grey, rocky sand:
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And they are both stunning! Greece wouldn’t be Greece if it looked like Miami, and Miami wouldn’t be Miami if it looked like Greece.

The thing is, humans are a part of nature, too. If we all looked perfectly uniform, we would be quite uninteresting. However, as Mother Nature herself has shown us, what makes all of us beautiful are the things that are off and different about us- just like the beaches and the mountains. You wouldn’t be you if you looked like me, and I wouldn’t be me if I looked like you! The fact that we all look uniquely like ourselves- not smoothed over, not a perfectly symmetrical form- is the essence of beauty.

I bet that you think that your crush or significant other is sexy because they look the way that they do; I doubt that you’ve ever spent any chunk of time analyzing their “imperfections” and wishing that they looked like a different person. Rather, you like them because you like… them.

So, don’t just accept your “flaws” (who the hell decided what a “flaw” is anyway?)- embrace them. Love them. Give yourself a big hug and a kiss, because you are gorgeous and awesome.

On Friendship

5-year-olds and 25-year-olds look vastly different from one another, yet some people hold onto friendships for that long. My 26-year-old sister, who hated middle school and high school because she never fit in and her peers tormented her, still has a group of girls with whom she has been friends since the sixth grade. Whenever I meet people who have these decade-long plus groups of friends, it astounds me. Why don’t I have that?

I moved away from my hometown after high school graduation, purposefully, and I went to a new state in which I didn’t know anyone at my university. I wanted that fresh start. Long Beach was boring to me, and sticking around seemed like failure in my eyes. I had an English teacher who once warned our class, “There are some people who attend Long Beach Poly High School, go to Cal State Long Beach, and then become teachers at Long Beach Poly. Don’t be one of those people- broaden your horizons! Get out of your comfort zone!” His advice rang in my soul’s eardrums, and off to Seattle I went.

High school was a rocky start in which the awkward middle school years seemed to linger for too long. However, by the graces of a guy who wanted to be my boyfriend, I started to shake loose the self-consciousness and tried to emulate his gregarious personality. It paid off in that I gained a bunch of new friends and felt much more confident on the outside and the inside. I also learned an interesting quirk about my personality in that I tend to be friends with people from various groups; I’m not one to have a “clique” with whom I hang out solely and exclusively. Rather, I have one friend here, one friend there, a couple of friends over there, and then my birthday parties end up being a little awkward because none of my friends know each other. By the end of high school, I knew that I had made it when my eighteenth birthday dinner party consisted of a group of eighteen or twenty of my closest friends.

Today, four years after that dinner party, I would only consider a couple of those people to be my “closest friends.”

Some of them moved across the country for university, and only being able to see each other, on average, about once a year has made us significantly less close. Those are the kinds of girls whom I still love seeing and catching up with whenever we are able to, but I’ve come to terms with the fact that it is extremely difficult to maintain close friendships of that nature.

A few of them and I gradually and mutually stopped talking to each other, wherein I think that we just grew apart.

A lot of them stopped talking to me.

Perhaps it’s a recognizable story: I would start to realize that I was the only one making the effort to spend time with a friend, and that most of the time when I would ask them to hang out, they would be “too busy.” Eventually, I would stop trying; I didn’t want to beg them to hang out with me or be a part of a one-sided friendship.

It was really sad to lose some of those friends in the beginning. However, I just saw it as, perhaps, the course that life takes when people grow up, go to college, and make their way into adulthood. I guess people really do change.
I started to become concerned, however, when the aforementioned scenario kept happening to me again and again.

I had to wonder: is there something wrong with me? Why don’t I seem to be able to hold onto my friendships? Am I like Taylor Swift, who keeps writing songs about her horrible boyfriends breaking up with her, incapable of realizing that perhaps she is the problem?

I thought that I was a good friend/likeable person; I’m fun, easygoing, always down for an adventure, reliable, loyal, and, I’d like to think, a good listener. If you call me at 3:00 A.M. in tears, I will counsel you and not be annoyed. If you call me at 3:00 A.M. wanting to take a spontaneous road trip somewhere, I will also be down. Yet, repeatedly finding myself in a situation wherein I was the only one making the effort to maintain a friendship made me wonder if my friends actually thought I was weird/boring/annoying/not a good listener/selfish/whatever. Asking oneself, “Why don’t people like me?” has got to be one of the worst internal experiences a person can have.

However, as I look back at the past several years and even the past several months, I have changed enormously. I have moved, lived on my own, traveled to India, studied in Paris and traveled independently in Europe. I went through a devastating breakup. My father died. I am a lot stronger and more mature than I was in high school, than I was a year ago. So maybe it is understandable that someone who would want to be friends with 16-year-old me wouldn’t want to be friends with current me, because those two versions of myself merely resemble each other- they’re like cousins.

Perhaps the most significant change that I have recently undergone is being a lot more comfortable with simply being myself. I feel more capable of being vulnerable, honest, and emotional in front of others; I can say the expression, “When my dad died,” without the handicap of becoming petrified. Additionally, writing was something that I used to do in secret, and even having an academic essay peer-edited in class terrified me. A year ago, I performed at my first open mic, and I now do so regularly and have a blog. Being myself is still a struggle, but I feel a lot more unabashed about it than I used to. At the end of the day, caring about what others think of me is too goddamn exhausting.

And ain’t nobody got time for that.

Alas, allow me to end with another familiar phrase, the one about how it’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you’re not. It’s painful, but it is true; the process of learning to be yourself can leave you with fewer friends, but at least those friends love you for your real self. Being loved for your real self feels a million times better than having a bunch of friends who don’t really know you and around whom you must constantly act.

This video is also very, very helpful on the subject of being yourself: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6xx_pwu7n-Y