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Do What You Love With Those That Love You Back

This year I have witnessed magic time and time again.

I have forgiven many who have wronged me while taking away their power by not waiting for their apologies or bothering with their excuses.

I have climbed more than one mountain at a time, by learning many things at once. I always knew when someone said I was stretching myself too thin it was because they didn’t understand the power of baby steps, discipline and passion.

I have reached a point where I am addicted to progress. Or addicted to what many call the journey. I enjoy the walk to the destination so much that at times I just keep walking.

I Learned to use my ‘flaws’ as my strengths and learned to love myself not for the person that I could be but the person that I am.

I have learned to accept love from myself and others.

I have learned that an angry introverted child translates into a passionate disciplined adult.

I no longer regret not being different when I never had the option to be anyone but myself. I would never want to be anyone but me. This being something that I not just know, but understand is the gift of being able to live another year.

To constantly connecting.

To doing more of what you love with the people that love you back.

To understanding ourselves and the world around us more and more each year. Wishing my readers another year of magic! I am grateful for you all.

 

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Paying For Air

PBS wants you to donate. The FDNY wants you to honor them. Pepsi wants you to drink it. McDonalds wants you to eat it. Chipotle wants you to eat it, but it also wants you to know that it is not McDonalds. Dr. Zizmore wants you to look at yourself and see how much better you could be if you went to him. BMCC wants you to enroll, and bring your baby with you.

We are out here giving our time, energy and attention away to ideals that most likely do not apply to our personal life. Our attention span is not getting smaller, it’s just that there is only so much of it to go around.

When mentally exhausted from just our daily commute, we turn to our phones for a break, where we meet demands from literally everyone and their mothers. To know and interact with hundreds of acquaintances, from their daily life, the things they like, the way they feel and even the way people we don’t even know feel about these contacts, is a bit much. The fact that this is how we escape is preposterous. The fact that many of us have become so addicted to escaping the present that we do so by getting stuck in someone else’s past is even crazier.

When we look down at our phones, at least we choose what we see, who we are friends with and who we follow. With the exception of ads, of course (they choose you). If you gave your audio permissions away to the social media apps on your mobile tracking device then your phone is most likely listening in for key ad words. Even our escape is another version of the thing we are trying so desperately to get away from.

If you attend an event, and you take a picture and post it with the hashtag of the marketing campaign that designed the event, you get the free thing. This thing is often times more free advertising, such as a shirt, a cup, a pin, etc.

Welcome to the world of experimental marketing, where they make sure you fucking look at them. Where they take something that you love to do, make it their own, tell you it’s free and make sure that you know why. They know that our attention is limited, they know that we are becoming dull and tired so they offer us free experiences for the chance to be the only brand in our face for that period of time.

Try to think how many times during a day you are solely thinking about yourself. For what baby boomers call the most selfish generation, I’d say not much, with the exception of the occasional selfie. And even then, we have to question why we are posting what we post. Is it really our own? I admire artists who never go to galleries and musicians who aren’t music snobs for this very reason. It’s like when pregnant women put headphones on their stomachs. The baby doesn’t know what it’s listening to, but it will also never know that listening to Enya while in the womb is one of the reasons why it decided to become a monk.

Their trick is to either take things that you have become conditioned to not live without and make you pay for them or create a new need, offer it for free, and then charge you for it once you are hooked. Our new need is attention and experience. Our attention span isn’t small or limited, it is being taken without our consent. We are a generation of renaissance people. No other generation has been as sympathetic, strong, articulate, artistic and diverse as ours. And I hope that the generation that comes after is even stronger, more expressive, artistic and diverse than ours.

Maybe I’ll pay $100 for an hour of silence in a chamber of salts and water. That should clear my head. Peace and silence have become so rare that in the future none of us would mind paying for air.

“Your diet isn’t always what you eat, it’s what you watch it’s what you listen to, so I’m mindful of what I ingest, and so there was basically nothing there that was feeding me. I have a computer, that’s enough there I can pick and choose what’s feeding me. I didn’t have a TV because I wasn’t trying to be fed by that. The same way some people don’t eat meat. It’s about minding my diet.”Saul Williams

 

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Rebel With a Dress Code

Almost two years ago I went to the clothing store and bought three sweater-dresses for work. The office life has its dress code and I didn’t want to spend too much money on my Monday through Friday 9-5 life so I bought what I called a series of 40 hour uniforms.

Over a short period of time I realized that these sweater-dresses were affecting my work life. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin so my work life suffered. My hair is naturally big, my jokes are darker than most people can handle and I like taking fashion risks. I wasn’t able to be myself in most of my life during that time. Ask yourself; What do you spend 40 hours a week on other than work? Most of us don’t even spend that much time sleeping. We even see our coworkers more than our loved ones, then waste our post-work time stretching out our personalities that have been confined in a cell for 8 hours or more. It’s not fair to not be yourself during that time. I refuse to go to after-work happy hours out of obligation or take lunch with co-workers for the same reason. And when asked what I am listening to while I work I no longer come up with a random popular band, but say that I am listening to Sword & Scale, a true crime podcast which shows us that the worst monsters are real.

Some of my co-workers occasionally wear jeans and sneakers as an act of rebellion, but at the end of the day, they are still walking around as toned down versions of themselves. The jeans are dark, the sneakers are bland and the shirts are buttoned up to the neck. There was a time where I too felt like rebelling against the dress code. But we sometimes forget that in small acts of rebellion we give a part of ourselves away to the one thing we refuse to give our power to. It’s a catch 22. Also, why get in trouble for being our half selves, when our full selves need that paycheck? By finding small reasons to be 50% of ourselves we start to lose who we truly are as a whole.

This year I refuse to break the dress code, but I also refuse to fit in. Instead I am wearing bright print jammy pants, tribal shirts and boots that would look good with any tight black leather cat suit. There is a way to be myself without rebelling. Not only am I better at my job, because I am more confident than ever, but others respect me more because as a result of my confidence, my work is no longer questioned. Another effect of being my full self is that I no longer hate my job. Surprise surprise! Would you look at that?

In our over-saturated, ego-driven society we constantly hear people preach about leaving their jobs to be happy. What they don’t tell you about is the part time, under-the-table-paying night job they have to work in order to pay the bills. They don’t tell you about their outstanding credit card debt. They also don’t tell you that the reason they are constantly diving deeper into spiritualism, yoga, crystals, chakras, meditation, self-healing retreats and all other self-calming tools that are trending at the moment is because the daily stress of instability requires them to do all the work above in order to keep calm. It is a push and pull of the ego and the spirit. The ego quits, the body feels the outcome and then reaches for the soul. The fact that these mindful leisurely activities are trending also allows their Instagram followers to grow, causing their false sense of success to grow as well.  It’s a push and pull of constantly having to kill two birds with one stone. Not to say that I am happy at my job, but I am content. Content is what we search for in Buddhism, so why knock it when you have it? My higher purpose in life has become a lifestyle, not an activity. Never will I allow work to mentally confine me or exert me to the point that I am not able to do what I love, keep growing or feel happiness.

I know what I am doing and it shows. If who you are someone who prefers to fit in, then by all means do what makes you happy. We are not all born to be in the spotlight, regardless of what modern society tells you. Attempting to be a star when who you truly are and feel most at peace being is a fly on the wall, is also a form of watering yourself down. And if you plan to fake it till you make it, then fake a little harder. However, if you are toning and watering down who you truly are for most of your life then ask yourself, whose life are you living?

Make a decision. Every day we wake up and decide who we want to be. The reactions we make, the clothes we wear, the words we say, the smiles we fake and sentiments we stand for. I haven’t gone shopping for clothes in almost a year and my outfits have been more fabulous than ever before. Much like my closet, I already had everything I was looking for.

 

 

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Body Permitted

Reserving our bodies solely for sex is over-sexualizing
We are emotionally and on occasion physically naked
In front of our lovers, relatives and friends
We understand our bodies serve a purpose
As we understand that clothing sometimes doesn’t
At times when I wear jeans I know that my legs are in a prison
Being punished for a crime they did not commit
It is then not about how sexual our bodies are but how comfortable we are with it
How comfortable we are in it
How we all have abs under the belly fat
But carving it out won’t necessarily make them more useful
It will only make you feel more comfortable to show it
Because it will make you look wanted
Forcing your body to become dependent on the gaze of others
Regardless of how useful you know it is
A body
Paying for a crime it did not commit

  Body Politics 
#quartervida

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Art by Carol Rossetti

 

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Core Is Home

At the head of the table I sat. Arms open and legs crossed on a chair. She looked at me and said, “You see me.” I was able to see her, because she saw me too. She didn’t mean that in the room full of people sitting at the conference table she was able to physically see me. She meant that I saw her as a person, understood and accepted her fully. I was comfortable. I was at home in my own body, even in a place I was itching to get out of, ultimately I was home and I was visible.

This occurred during one of my last meetings as a store manager and Liya’s last day as a regional manager. To be around others who can truly see and understand you without having to explain yourself is a blessing. When you keep true to yourself all of the amazing parts of you become apparent. When you are not true to yourself all of the negative qualities crawl into your life without your permission. If you let this happen you might wake up one day wondering who you are and how you got there.

There is a core. We all have one. It is who you are without the things you like or the things you are good at. It is not who you want to be or who you once were. Your core is who you’ve always been and who you will always be.

It is a mountain of confidence. The unchanging, the base of your wants and needs. Those who constantly spend time trying to tell others who they are rather than genuinely being live in hiding. The core reveals itself without your permission. Lately I have lost my connection and awareness with my core. Meditation helps bringing it back into focus. Also doing something that you have always been good at inherently brings your core into focus.

I lost focus of my core, because I was trying to tell others who I was and became disconnected in the process. After all, this is a major reason why our teenage years are so confusing. We are at a time in our lives where we want to make ourselves known when we in fact have little awareness of who we truly are.

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I gained my awareness from meditation and doing something I was always passionate about and genuinely good at. After joining Muay Thai my years of kicking a used mattress at home (growing up poor we couldn’t afford punching bags) and Tae Kwon Do was apparent to my teachers. There is written history in your muscles called muscle memory. This history is reflected in every move you make. Yes, our bodies are beautiful, extraordinary creations aren’t they? My Muay Thai masters are able to read that history. When I practice I am seen. When I am seen I am reminded of the person that I am. When I am reminded of who I am all things become clear and I am once again the sole driver in full control of my life.

The years I suffered from depression from the age of five up until my second year of Junior high came back to me when I joined Muay Thai. When I was younger I didn’t necessarily want to die, I just sometimes wish I was never born in the first place. Much like the Bohemian Rhapsody song. Through my years of depression I never stopped fighting. I didn’t know I was depressed. All I knew was that singing and martial arts felt good. Eventually that was all I wanted to do. It wasn’t until my mother took me to the doctor for being underweight that I myself realized I was depressed. I was underweight, because I was addicted to working out. In the 6th grade I would work out at least 5 or 6 times a week. It was never about body image, working out just felt right. I spoke to my then pediatrician and she advised me not to stop, because my mood changed dramatically for the better. Instead my doctor gave me appetite prescription so that I would be able to eat enough calories in a day to sustain my addiction. She then went on to congratulating me for self-curing my depression. I never thought I was depressed, I was just very numb to everything.  I never felt, all I knew was that I didn’t want to be wherever I was at the moment all of the time. I lived my life constantly anxious to be somewhere else. Only to find myself somewhere else and not wanting to be there either. The only thing that made me feel present was martial arts. My ‘problem,’ ended up being the thing that saved me and continues to save me. This goes for anything anyone is ever truly passionate about.

Finding a home within yourself can be a catch 22. The more you try to manipulate your image the more you lose yourself. When you look within and just be, there is no need for show. This is why self-promoters and marketers often need to go to therapy. They become disconnected with the self in trying to connect with the masses and generate dual identities in the process. It is sadly the state of social media. The humble bragger is never free. They are walking oxymoron’s. Understand your core and the right people and opportunities will present themselves as long as you are working towards something. Stop fighting to be understood as the person you want to be seen as and just be. Others interpretation of who you are is just that. It is an ongoing process of self-reminder. This is me reminding myself and in turn reminding you to look deep within you. Find your core. Your core is the home you take everywhere you go. Find it and take it to the head of the table, because that is where you belong.

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Building Communities: Afro-Latino Fest & Curlfest

The first time I left my house without straightening or putting my hair up, I just wanted some food.  It was a hot summer day with a small chance of rain and I was not about to stop myself from enjoying this summer because of my hair. I was not about to take 20 minutes of my life for a 5-minute trip to the bodega. Not again.

There were so many things I wanted to do, and could not because I was risking the chance that spirals would form from my once-straightened follicles. It wasn’t an act of rebellion. It wasn’t an act of reclaiming what’s mine. It was the complete opposite. It was an act of laziness.

It was the same act of rebellion as when some feminists refuse to wear heels or shave their armpits. The constant primping and poking at ourselves is not only unhealthy, but a waste of time. To think that the only time you are worthy of being viewed by the world is when you have fixed your hair, nails, put makeup on your face and have on the right outfit is unhealthy. Yet all a man has to do is wake up, throw some water on his face, put on shoes, a t-shirt and some pants and head out.

This summer I had press passes to both the Afro-Latino Festival and Curlfest in New York City. Attending the Afro-Latino Fest is always a magical experience because although the crowd is saturated with beauties and their natural hair, we are there to be reminded that it is not just about the hair. It is about self-acceptance of all that we are. The fact that our hair has spirals and kinks because of our beautiful, rich African and Taino background. The reminder that if we don’t accept and embrace ourselves and each other, we can’t expect anyone else to do the same. But also the reminder that we don’t need validation from a world that puts European ideals on a pedestal while putting our Afro Caribbean ideals down. With the embrace of the self, the rebellion from that which has been forced on us happens automatically. It is not just about the hair; it is about the art, the music, the culture. The hair is just a representation of that.

While the Afro-Latino Festival and Curlfest have a similar crowd, Curlfest is about learning the ways in which we can maintain what was given to us. For years I would shampoo my hair three times before conditioning. Leaving conditioner on my hair after a wash was a sin and on top of that I never used the right products. While curly hair becoming a trend is sad for those of us who struggled to be seen as beautiful when it wasn’t a movement, I am proud of how far we’ve come in educating one another on the maintenance of our crowns.

After more than a decade of facing the world as a naturalista, I know that I am not my hair. I have dreams of cutting it short, straightening it and dying it blue all the time. But from wearing my hair as the universe intended I also know now that although it is not what defines me, it is part of why I learned so much about where I come from and why I am here. In defending the follicles on my head I had to defend myself, in defending myself I had to defend those who look like me and in that I had to defend our past. Now there is not much defending to do, we have come a long way. Now we are building. Thank you Afro-Latino Festival and Curlfest for making sure that our community is growing, learning and distributing that knowledge.