This song has helped me get through a rough night.
This song has helped me get through a rough night.
You know that place. It’s where darkness surrounds and pierces you and you feel like running away from your own mind, but you’re trapped in what feels like tortuous pain. Negative voices overpower the whispers of encouragement struggling to get to your ears and heart. You heave one sigh after the other or if you’re like me, an exasperated f***. You probably can guess that I was just in this place. About an hour ago to be exact. But I’m a little better. So much better that I’m actually writing this blog post. Let me tell you that this is nothing short of a miracle because all I wanted to do before was bury myself in my bed sheets and disappear into some imaginary black hole. And yet, here I am. Writing.
I have two scenes left to write in a book before it’s complete and I couldn’t muster the creative energy and willpower to finish it, so this bothered me to no end. Insert cries of frustration. But that’s not what brought me to that dark place I mentioned above. Let’s just say I’m in a point in my life (I’m twenty-six) where I thought I’d have my own place, a steady full-time job, and relatively normal social life. I have none of these things and the pressures to have my shit together have grown so big that they’re overshadowing what really matters to me. Passion. Dreams. Love. All the things that run on faith and hope and perseverance and a big dash of craziness. They don’t pay bills, get me an apartment, or fund weekend getaways with friends. However, I can’t let them go. Them meaning my dreams to become a published writer, create a small independent media company, and a youth community organization. I also want to get my doctorate in sociology, which I’m working on right now. *Raises fist in air.* Damn this endless application process!
Something in me just won’t give up on these dreams and replace them with something normal and potentially death inducing—you know, a real job that will actually get me the things I feel I need to be a successful member of society.
Anyway, all those material things shouldn’t have to define my life, who I am, and what I can accomplish in the future. I’m stuck on the bigger picture and it often gets me the label of fool or loser, so I draw on my faith in God to get me through the slumps. I gradually realize that I’m wallowing in misery for no good reason. I have clothes on my back, food to eat, shelter against the cold, and a good brain between my ears. I’m pretty much equipped and ready to go and conquer the world. As long as I don’t lose hope and faith, then I can keep going. I have something to live for; I have something to keep me motivated.
So, if you’re ever that place you know so well, just know everything will be okay. Remember what you’re about, the dreams you want to see come true, and do something, anything, like writing a blog post. It’s not so much that you’re getting your mind off whatever is putting you in that place, but it’s more like you’re channeling that negative energy into something else so that it becomes positive. For me that outlet is writing and I can feel myself healing already. Hope has returned no matter how small because you don’t need that much to get going because that’s just how powerful it is.
How about you? What do you find hope when you’re in a dark place? Would love to hear your thoughts.
It’s been a good spell since I last updated my blog and I blame it on my crazy schedule last week. I teach English as a Second Language at a community college that is nearly an hour commute from my house. I have a split schedule so I’m there in the mornings and late evenings. However, despite its challenges and the tiring schedule, I love it! I truly enjoy teaching and I’m the happiest when I teach. It’s seriously a complete transformation when I enter the classroom. My game face is on and my attitude, mannerisms, and speech all change to be the best teacher I can muster to be. I also want to learn more about becoming an even better teacher and a scholar. I’ve found something worth living for, which brings to me to today’s post: What are You Living For?
About a little more than a month ago, I thought I was on my way to live and teach in Okinawa, Japan. Now, if you don’t know much about Okinawa, it’s this collection of subtropical islands called the Ryukyu Islands. The capital is Naha and it’s 968 miles from Tokyo, Japan. In short, it’s a paradise that contains some of the world’s most amazing beaches, beautiful displays of nature, and an attitude of total chill. Yes, I was on my way to this incredible place, but alas, my employers decided to transfer me to Chiba, Japan. I wasn’t feeling the move so I declined the offer. But enough about that. If you haven’t heard already, Okinawa is home to largest population of people over 100 (people here have the highest life expectancy in the world!) and is the birthplace of karate. I’m more interested in the longevity of its inhabitants however.
Aside from the local diet, which can be replicated through tons of books on Amazon, the people of Okinawa benefit from having a deep purpose of living that gets them up every morning. They call it ikigai. Without blinking, the elderly Okinawans can tell you the reason why they rise up every morning. How many of us can do that? Having this strong sense of responsibility and feeling needed is pretty important for living, especially if you’re living past your 100s! However, we certainly don’t have to wait that long to develop a strong purpose in our lives.
I think one way to do develop that purpose is to stop every now and then, maybe for a good stretch of time if possible, to look inward and try out many different things. And on the way, catalog in a journal how we feel about these different experiences. We might just discover something that can develop into our purpose. Some of us are lucky to find that purpose at a very young age thanks to some amazing trigger. Others still need to scope and search their hands against the wall as they walk blindly. Whichever group we’re in or if we’re somewhere in between, we should remember not to underestimate our minds, spirits, and will to live for something meaningful. We can find it even if it takes time.
Now, I’ve taken it to an even higher level. What am I willing to die for? I leave you with these words by Martin Luther King:
“If a man has not found something worth dying for, he is not fit to live.”
What do you think? What are you living for? Have you found something to die for?
Heavy questions, but they’re sort of fun, right?
The shortest distance between new friends is a smile. ~Unknown
Jean Noble sipped at her scalding, large cup of coffee tainted with three packs of brown sugar, hazelnut Coffee-Mate cream, and three swirls of honey. The sweetness danced on her taste buds and kept her alert. She scanned Park Street Station as she waited for the train headed for Copley. A friend she recently made at the office was over there, and Jean was twenty minutes late for their shopping date. She blamed it on the Green line. Three times already she tried to board a train she thought would stop, but it roared past her and blasted hot air at her face.
Instances like these dragged the inner schizophrenic out of her as she mumbled out loud her disgust and paced back and forth with her head stretching to spot the next train. She made several eye contact with like-minded individuals, all of them victims of the Green line’s love for wasting people’s time.
There! Jean spotted an individual who sent the alarms in her head ringing and clamoring for her to make a move. Everyone had a story but not everyone knew it. The young Asian woman that stood at medium height and possessed a lean built knew her story. A crown of reddish brown hair cropped close above her ears sat on her head, showing off the six, no seven piercings on her right ear. The young woman glanced at her men’s size Omega style watch, and Jean caught the tattoo of a blue bird in the inside of her wrist. Her eyes went to the full lips in a faux nude against a pale face and eyes with boredom and tiredness floating inside them. The young woman exuded confidence, coolness, and a tad of sadness mixed with loneliness. Something had happened to her. She stood unapproachable. They were the most difficult, but often also the most interesting.
The green train approached and stopped, so Jean made sure to get into the same car as the young woman. People crowded the train, unwilling to wait another minute for the next. She casually stood beside Blue Bird and examined her oversized, black shirt of a woman’s face in white with strands of hair over her eyes. Jean counted. One. Two. Three.
“I like your shirt,” she said and smiled. “It’s pretty cool.” She hit the young woman with that aura of loveliness, flowers, and full-on acceptance and approval.
Blue Bird raised her eyes in surprise that anyone would talk to her, but after a few seconds she smiled. “Oh uh, thanks. My ex made it for me when we uh…in Italy.” Her voice and eyes betrayed the sadness she wanted to mask.
Jean’s feet gripped the floor of the car and her knees bent occasionally as the train rumbled from stop to stop. The rest of the passengers held onto the railings and bars above. The one space available to grab required she perform some unnatural arm bend. Never in the mood to touch four strangers at the same time or look like some strange yoga acrobat, she kept her hands in her black leather jacket’s pockets. Subway experience taught her the delicate art of balancing one’s body while in fast and jerky motion.
A popular hip-hop hit exploded from a commuter’s Beats headphones and someone attempted to cough out a lung, heart, and then some. Hopefully, the germs planned to stay away from here. Aside from that, no one talked. The silence made Jean more aware of the conversation she planned to strike up with Blue Bird. Everyone would pretend not to listen, but an audience served only to raise her excitement and nervousness—feelings she fed on for power.
“Why are you wearing a shirt from an ex? That is, if you don’t mind me asking,” she said.
Blue Bird chuckled. “You know I asked myself the same question today, and I still have no answer. I’m Trinity by the way.” She held out a hand, which Jean gladly accepted.
The woman had a firm, confident handshake. Good sign. Her skin felt smooth too, and Jean held on a second longer before the release.
“Jean.” She gestured at the shirt. “That’s um that old model, right? Twiggy I think her name was…”
Trinity nodded. “Yeah. My ex and I were big fans of her, and uh she surprised me with this shirt. Valerie’s an artist and teaches art to middle school children.” Blue Bird’s brown eyes softened as if she remembered a good memory.
Jean didn’t blink. She had suspected from her appearance that Trinity was probably queer. “Valerie sounds like a pretty awesome person.”
Whoever this ex was, Blue Bird clearly still had strong feelings for her.
The train slowed to a halt a third time, and a third time Jean’s heart sank in fear that her new acquaintance would leave. It was her least favorite part of people collecting in the subway. However, she had a method of never wasting an opportunity.
“I’m sorry, but this is my stop. It was really nice chatting with you. I can feel you’re a good spirit.”
“Blue Bird, wait!” Jean bit her tongue and heat rushed to her face. The nickname slipped out of her mouth without consent.
Thankfully, Trinity only grinned wider. “Blue Bird?”
Jean eyed the young woman’s tattoo.
“I’m sorry. I hope you don’t mind.”
Trinity shook her head. “No, it’s okay. Actually I think it’s kinda cute.”
“Okay, thanks for not being weirded out. Please take this.” Jean gave her business card.
“Maybe we can talk again or catch coffee together or something. Anyway, it was nice talking to you too. Thanks.”
“Ah, okay. Thanks?” Trinity laughed, made the card disappear in her blazer, and walked out the train to her destination with smooth confidence in each step.
Jean sighed and hoped Blue Bird would call and not chuck her card in the nearest trashcan. She usually caught people in her aura, but this time Trinity’s strong, positive vibes wrapped around her and made her feel safe and calm, a feeling she wanted to last longer.
By the time she made it to Copley station, her shopping mate called to cancel their meeting.
“Claire, I’m so sorry. I forgot how atrocious the Green Line was.”
“It’s okay. We can meet up next time. See you in the office tomorrow.”
“Yeah. See ya later.” Jean ended the call and sighed. Another lonely Sunday afternoon waited for her. Now, she had to take the Green Line again to return home. She groaned and decided to treat herself to a big fatty donut before the commute back home.
Adolescence 2.0 © 2013 C.S. Severe All Rights Reserved.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…” Dr. Seuss
I don’t belong anywhere; I belong everywhere.
Right now I’m a voice that you’re reading. I’m human and maybe you feel a slight connection because of this simple fact. However, if I mentioned that I was a woman and you’re a man, then maybe the connection has lessened somewhat. Add that I’m Black, and if you’re non-Black, the connection decreases even further. Now, add that I’m Christian. Once again, we probably aren’t connecting as much. In fact, maybe some of you have decided to stop reading and closed this browser. And if I told you that I love sci-fi, depending on your interests, I have either further alienated you or brought you back a little closer to me.
And there lies the power of identity to connect or separate people in difference spaces. If you put two vastly different people in a room together (say an upper middle class white man and a working class Black transwoman) and expect a conversation, you’d be clinging to false hopes unless one can have a stirring conversation about being human.
However, in a scenario like this, there is one thing a person can do. Listen. When we can’t find the words, the best approach is to ask, “Who are you?” and listen and learn and process the information given. We shouldn’t underestimate the power of listening to generate conversation and onwards toward connection. And with that connection can arise empathy and possibly even love.
So let’s make an effort to listen when we find ourselves in a room full of people we believe have little connection with us. Swallow the fear, walk on over and ask, “Tell me about yourself. Your past. Your present. You struggles and hopes for the future.”
Ask. Listen. Connect. Love.
I never cease to be amazed by how much I’ve changed in the past five years. Before, I was painfully timid, insecure, and hopeless about my dreams and future direction in life. A decision to change and a fresh new perspective on my faith drastically turned things around, and now I’m on this inspiring journey to unlock my highest potential and purge negativity and needless suffering from my life. I also have more confidence and motivation to pursue my dreams without fear or self-doubts. And even when I have to endure life’s harsh reality, it hardly perturbs my laser focus on where I want to go and what I want to accomplish. Today, I want to share the first of seven things I’ve learned about unlocking potential. I hope these posts will serve as reminders for whenever we find ourselves lost and wandering, but never hopeless.
It all Begins and Ends with the State of Your Mind.
Before you dive into all the steps available out there to increase your productivity, maximize the output of your time, or even understand what you want to do with your life, you have to make sure your mind is in the right state to foster all those dreams, motivate you to act, and charge forward like an angry elephant when everything in life tries to push you back into mediocrity and boring existence. Several days ago, I started reading Overachievement by John Eliot, Ph.D. during my subway rides to work. I’m more than two-thirds done with the book, but already I’ve taken away substantial points he makes about what sets exceptional people apart from ordinary people; what the smart overachiever does over the burnt-out and zealous underachiever. I can’t reveal too much, but I’ll give you enough so you can read the book yourself. I highly recommend it.
Anyway, exceptional, highly successful people are able to reach their highest potential by possessing what Eliot calls the “Trusting Mindset” as opposed to the “Training Mindset” of the mediocre. The “Trusting Mindset” is in the moment and pays no attention to judgment, second-guesses, criticism, over-analysis, rationality, result-orientation, or impatience. It’s not something as superficial as blocking out all these things that are ever present in your mind, but rather zeroing on what needs to be done right now without allowing the rational part of your mind to interfere and undermine the legitimacy of your actions.
Patience, letting things happen, instincts, acceptance, playfulness, and an empty mind are some of the tenants of the “Trusting Mindset”. Ever notice that when reading a really good book, you are chin deep into the moment that when some unfortunate soul comes up to tap you on the shoulder from behind, you jump like you’ve just seen a zombie ready tear at your flesh, or in my case, I become a harpy and yell, “What do you want?” The “Trusting Mindset” is like that except you’re deep into whatever it is you’re doing to achieve your dreams, and anything that isn’t part of helping you get to your destination is irrelevant.
As you can guess, the “Training Mindset” is all about the components that the “Trusting Mindset” ignores as it achieves success. The “Training Mindset” has it place when you’re in school or going through the training you need to achieve your dreams, but when it’s time to perform you have to leave the “Training Mindset” behind and take hold of the “Trusting Mindset.”
There’s more. Eliot says exceptional people don’t put on many different suits for the many different occasions in life that come up. They have a mind focused on achieving whatever their dream may be no matter the obstacles, no matter what people say, no matter the number of failures, and no matter their external conditions—they have that scary confidence that they will make it. Again: I. Will. Make. It.
Another thing: exceptional people relish and utilize stress for their success. Not worry or anxiety, but stress: the butterflies in your stomach kind of stress; the high stakes; the numerous eyes on you, watching your every move; the feeling that your guts are boiling; the heartbeat in your throat; and your mind high and alert in the moment. This is not the time to get yourself relaxed and de-stressed, it’s time to go with the flow and act! It is exactly at this moment that the “Trusting Mindset” is essential because the minute you lose yourself in analysis, results, being calm and rational, and double guessing, you fall and fall hard.
Before I end on this segment, I also want to add a little of what Celestine Chua has to say from her amazing website, Personal Excellence, about your state of mind when achieving your dreams. One of her most important points is to channel your inner desires to motivate you rather than rely on external factors for motivation and inspiration. Sometimes you try to change your settings by moving from one place to another, or even leaving the country, but you still have the same problems you left behind in your previous location. It doesn’t work. No matter where you go, you can’t escape yourself. Or other times you force discipline into your life, think that if you get rid of your laziness, or even stop thinking negatively, you’ll achieve your goals or dreams. However, the steps you take to counter these problems are short-lived, and you eventually return back to where you started. You have to make an effort to understand the deeper meanings behind the culprits that cripple your actions and dreams or drown you in a negative mindset. Once you target the root of the problem instead of tackling surface obstacles, you can move on confidently to your destination. The big difference is now you move forward and act without feeling bored, unhappy, or worried because the purpose you’ve uncovered fuels your actions.
To end, just remember that the state of your mind can be your most powerful ally on the course to achieve your dreams, or, if you’re not careful and aware, it can be your greatest enemy.
How about you? How do you get your mind in the right state to achieve your dreams? I’d love to hear your thoughts!
Happy Wednesday! I hope that you’ve been well and feel ready to conquer whatever comes your way. I know I feel that way, although times have been difficult and tiring. The most important thing is not to lose faith, stay strong, and know that better times are coming if you believe. Sometimes, I wish I could transport myself to a relaxing island where I can have some time alone to sort out my feelings, heal my mind, and soul, but of course the thing about wishes is that they’re disappointing and sometimes leave you feeling worse because you’re powerless to make them come true. The only thing you truly have power over is your mind, your attitude, and your reaction to your environment. Now, if you’re like me and have a less than ideal external conditions or are bound to them by forces beyond your control, you have to learn to feed your environment to the fishes. My circumstances have taught me that when I’m in a rough place, the most important thing I can do is live comfortably in my mind instead of trying to force my environment to bring comfort to my mind. Today, I want to share a few things I do to overcome my environment.
Draw and Invest Strength and Hope from and into Your Ideal Future
This is not just going to your happy place, nor am I suggesting that you live in the future, but rather that you give and receive power in the future you know you want to achieve someday. I’ve learned to nurture my dreams and trust them without question. Whenever a horrible situation comes up or I feel discouragement tugging at my chest, I draw strength from thinking about how my present situation does not reflect entirely who I am and who I will be. I know where I’ve been and I know where I’m going, so I don’t need to be afraid, lose hope and give up. On the contrary, I face the now with fierce determination to work hard on my current projects and not doubt about whether they’ll pan out or not. I see victory and its inevitability. Doing so helps me a ton!
Brush Aside the Excuses and Limiters
Excuses, excuses, excuses! If people adhered and believed their excuses, nothing great in this world would have ever been done. Or will be done. The same is true in our lives. I have a mountain of excuses and statistics and odds that chirp louder than birds in the morning:
It’s too difficult.
You don’t have time.
The competition is too high.
Failure is unavoidable.
The economy is too rough right now.
There are no more opportunities.
All the doors are closed.
You need a better occupation.
You should settle down.
You’re crazy. Stop before you regret it.
You need stability.
And blah blah blah blah
It’s actually quite easy for me tune this out; especially when it comes from loved ones. All I hear is Charlie Brown’s teacher when all these excuses, put downs, or negative points pour like acid on my dreams and ambitions. They’re the small fry distractions that you have to learn to brush aside and rise above from with no looking back. Excuses do not have your best interest in mind. They exist to stop you from reaching greatness, but don’t let them. You were meant to be great. Believe it, work it, and watch it happen.
Make a Nice Home in Your Mind
I’ve said this often to myself: you can go far and wide in the world, but you cannot leave yourself behind. Since you’re stuck with yourself, it makes sense to make a nice home in your mind. Are your thoughts encouraging or aggressive? Are the conversation partners up there pleasant or vindictive? Are you served cookies with a warm blanket or given clamps for your feet and hands? Is your mind a paradise or a dungeon? Several years ago, my mind was the latter of the two. I hated living in my mind along with my environment so that made for a very unhappy life. However, now that I’ve managed to see the illusions of my negativity, open my eyes to my unlimited potential to make my dreams come true, along with trust my God-given abilities to make a good life for myself, I can say without too much doubt that I’ve made a nice place for myself in my mind. There’s still much cleaning and rearranging to do, but I must stay it’s a whole lot bearable than what it was last time, and it’s one of the main reasons why I can overcome my environment. I live in two places: the physical and mental. As long as my mental space is pleasant and I can laugh and make fun of my physical place, I can gather strength to weather my tough external situations.
So, how about you? How do you feed your environment to the fishes? Or do you? I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you overcome the outside world.
Welcome to the first post of my new blog. I had a blog before but I decided to switch over here to see if I can take it to the next level. So what do I write about? Everything! Okay well not everything. Just the things close to my heart: inspiration, stories, visions for a better world, and enjoying the most of what life has to offer. I’m twenty-six, once lived in New York and Seoul, South Korea, so I don’t have much in my suitcase in terms of being interesting. I want to change that, of course. Life has so many things out there to enjoy and I don’t want my finances, real world logic, or other negative voices to keep me from having the best experiences. If you want every day inspiration, stories about a crazy bunch of people trying to make it in this harsh world, discussions on how the world could work instead of how it does, and occasional advice on how to be a better writer or dreamer, then this space in the web is for you. Hope you enjoy and that I don’t disappoint.