Invest in Yourself

Cleaning-Tub-2

Cleaning-Tub-2For the past several months, the bathroom in my apartment had been incredibly disgusting. Having two room mates with varying levels of both cleanliness – the bathroom seemed to be on the bottom of the list when it came to proper maintenance. Aside from the lights blowing out one weekend, not much attention was given to its overall functionality.

But as someone who has grown up with a junky parent, I’m very sensitive to dirt, grime and disorganization. Bathrooms already gross me out in general because they’re rarely kept clean by patrons as any college graduate can attest to. When there’s no cleaning staff over the weekend and your fellow classmates can’t be bothered to throw paper towels in the waste basket – I would typically went out of my way to avoid a filthy bathroom, and this was no different.

While I had mused about getting a new shower curtain and liner in the past, I regularly hesitated because it seemed unfair that I should financially obligate myself to something that my room mates should’ve been invested in. Shouldn’t my room mates also be grossed out by the shower liner being discolored and shriveled? Am I the only one bothered by the bath mat being slick with grime?

But something clicked over this past week, and it got to the point where I simply chose not to bathe if it meant having to enclose myself in what seemed like a ceramic filth trap. So after volunteering this weekend, I quickly headed to the dollar store and snatched up some inexpensive shower essentials, cleaner for the tiles and went to work. I switched on the boiling out water as I sprayed and scrubbed – my arms immediately beginning to ache from the sudden onslaught of manual labor.

Painfully I reached up in the corners of the shower, excited that the grime my room mate thought permanent easily wiped off. Although a bit grossed out from the stray hairs left sitting around, I reached all the corners, all the walls, and made sure I could get as much dirt as possible off of the tub floor. Finally, after thirty minutes, I had accomplished the task previously unimagined – I had cleaned the shower. 

For several hours afterward, I’d walk by the bathroom, deeply inhaling the intense scent of the vinyl from the shower curtain. Randomly, I’d pop in, admiring my handy work, pushing the curtain aside so I can gaze at newly white tile.

As soon as my room mate came home, I pointed her in the direction of the bathroom, hoping to get accolades for my work. She seemed amused, and commented on the color. Then went about her business.

But I can’t stop thinking about it. I did it. I CLEANED THE BATHROOM. 

At the core of it though, I invested in myself. There was something in my environment that wasn’t in alignment with how I viewed myself, with the big picture of how I saw my life. I didn’t want to have the type of life where I refused to bathe because the shower was so gross. And instead of being upset that my room mates didn’t seem as perturbed as me, I chose to take on that responsibility of having my inner world (one of cleanliness) reflected in my outer world (a clean bathroom).

To invest in yourself means that you take steps to create congruency – is there a disconnect between what you’re thinking, feeling and doing? What can you do (think or feel) to create an alignment between yourself and your environment?

Investing in yourself can be fun, but it requires that you get over certain blockages and internal narratives – like how I felt that it wasn’t fair to be the only one concerned about the bathroom. In the end, of course, I’m extremely happy I did it and am on the look-out for other ways to invest in myself.

What about you? How did you invest in yourself today? 

Looking at Depression [Quest]

Whenever I become interested in something, I dive in pretty quickly. So when I began to follow some indie game developers online, Depression Quest – a game created by Zoe Quinn, Patrick Lindsey and Isaac Schankler – popped up on my Twitter TL.

“Depression Quest is an interactive fiction game where you play as someone living with depression. You are given a series of everyday

Depression quEST

Depression Quest

life events and have to attempt to manage your illness, relationships, job, and possible treatment. This game aims to show other sufferers of depression that they are not alone in their feelings, and to illustrate to people who may not understand the illness the depths of what it can do to people.”

I struggled with depression for much of my life (if not its entirety). Things worsened rapidly in college where I seemed incapable of making friends, figuring out what I liked – while everyone around me met their BFFs in the second week and knew themselves pretty well. While my depression never kept me in bed, I did sleep a lot (due to boredom and loneliness) and it felt like a dense pressure weighing on my mind. Even as I tried to reach out, I was told that depression was a choice (it’s not), or having my issues completely dismissed by a college counselor (whom I promptly stopped seeing).

While I had never been officially diagnosed, and remained wary of popping any kind of medication – depression was the only word I could find that encapsulated all my thoughts, feelings and general reactions to my environment. Even as a child, I had depressive thoughts and reactions to things, and my mindset gradually worsened with age coupled with awful life experiences.

In no way do I believe that depression is a choice – sometimes it’s a chemical imbalance, other times it’s an accumulation of how you were treated growing up and the messages you received from family, friends, or strangers. Sometimes it’s a combination of all three.

I believe my depression was environmental + genetic : perhaps I was born more susceptible to depression (whether it’s brain chemistry or just how my emotions function) and where I’ve always lived (being treated poorly, not having any real support, etc). Depression, I think, is made harder to bear when you’re surrounded by people who won’t support you because they think you need to snap out of it, or you’re just being pessimistic.

Depression Quest is a really great insight into what it’s like to be living with depression (or at least one kind of it). To me, the narratives seemed to fixate predominantly on thought processes – feeling like you’re a burden to people, feeling like your problem is yours to bear alone, reading into everything and giving yourself a lot of anxiety. When I initially played it, I made sure to click all the options that let me work toward getting my character healthy, happy and whole. In the beginning, I could feel the depression pressing down on my body just from reading the thoughts and feelings, making me desperate to work toward wholeness.

And even with my own history, I still found it intensely insightful while also building my compassion.

Definitely worth checking out.

 

Day 5 || Giving Things Up and Productivity

Earlier today, I read a post by Penelope Trunk about productivity.

I really wanted to write about productivity, and make promises about dealing with my internal scripts about why I procrastinate on my writing, or why this is the second blog post I’ve written at nearly midnight – hoping to catch the deadline of writing once a day, every day.

It’s not that I don’t care about writing – I love it, in fact – it’s just that I have issues. I forget how much I love writing, perhaps because it comes so naturally to me. My relationship to writing is like a trine; in Astrology a trine is very harmonious aspect, it shows the relationship between the two planets as having an energy that flows naturally, without conflict. The problem is that the trine makes the person lazy in terms of how they incorporate that energy into their day to day life because they don’t notice it. Which is very much unlike a square, a hard aspect where the two planets are in conflict with one another. This conflict is very apparent and you spend a good deal of time trying to work on the energy of those planets, attempting to craft a type of balance or harmony between them.

Maybe for some people, writing is like a square – a hard aspect – where they realize that they have to write because it’s a pain not to. For me, it’s not a pain to go without writing, but when I actually do it, I realize how much more in harmony I am with myself.

Perhaps my issue with productivity has more to do with seeking harmony – or not seeking it, as the case may be – and preferring chaos, and disorder. Part of that chaos is procrastination which is essentially prioritizing activities (or people) who don’t help you further along the path you’re trying to create for yourself. Another part of that chaos is not even realizing that you’re creating it, or not being aware of the long-term effects. For example: I don’t really enjoy waking up in the morning, I prefer to sleep in even though I normally wake up early enough to bathe, eat breakfast and get some writing in before arriving to work on time.

Instead I wake up and try to measure how much more sleep I can get – which doesn’t really become sleep as I wander in and out of consciousness hoping that I don’t wake up too late and be tardy to work. Then I realize what time it is, and pray that my room mate is just brushing her teeth instead of taking a 30 minute shower. As usual, my own shower ends up being too long and if I want to eat breakfast, then I run the risk of being late. Normally I skip out, preferring to snack on some junk food as I make the nearly ten minute walk to the train station. When I arrive to work I’m starving, and kicking myself for not having written when I said I would and spend the whole morning looking forward to lunch.

My day isn’t ruined by the chaos, but I’m not productive and I feel less like myself when I procrastinate.

But there’s no moral to this post: in order to be productive, you have to figure out what doesn’t serve you, or what doesn’t align with your long-term picture and get rid of it. But it’s hard because being productive is also about responsibility and taking ownership of what we want – which can be scary.

I’m participating in National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo).

30 Days of Blog Posting.

If you click the badge, you’ll be taken to the NaBloPoMo and you can join in yourself!

Crafting an Identity

How do you start a post about your identity?

Credit to : Calamity Kim

Do I talk about my racial background? When I did copy-editing for an indie magazine focusing on black women’s narratives, pretty much everyone focused on being black, on being part of the African diaspora. I didn’t relate to that.

Should I talk about my sexuality? How I’ve been rolling it around in my head, trying to figure out where I belong, how I fit in – even though ultimately it doesn’t matter?That it’s more about love, compatibility, connectedness than it is about sex or gender expression?

Do I bemoan my educational background and the amount of loans its burdened me with? How I dread SallieMae and wish they would get swallowed up by the Earth and free me from my debt! That would, however, be really awesome. 

What about my own internal processes? How my faith seems sated only when I get what I want, how I go into a tailspin when things don’t go according to plan, the way I try to motivate myself with little success, the goals I wish I was achieving but am not? How lazy I am! 

Should I mention my external happenings? Living at home in a cramped situation, working a minimum wage job with no real potential for growth, wandering through a city I don’t like. Too bad my world won’t change over night!

Identity is a complex arrangement of all these nuances and more, and is liable to change. I’ve gotten a new job, in a new city that I’ve never been to. I’ve started looking more seriously into what my next steps would be, wanting to continue my education, wanting to be more of service to the world. Attempting to look at my life with more clarity and trying not to be afraid of being more responsible.

I hope that my identity, how I relate to and see myself is ever evolving in a way that makes me happiest. There are many people who fear change, because they’re afraid to leave behind worn labels, worn ways of seeing themselves.

Hopefully, as I move forward, I’ll become more proactive in shaping my identity, and becoming the type of person I want to be.

 

 

 

 

Boys, Breasts and Self-Esteem

The lovely Mara @ Medicinal Marzipan is hosting Teen Week: Words that Heal, which “is an annual blog series that occurs the last week of March, where bloggers use their sites speak out about their experiences with body image, sexuality, and self-esteem during their teen years.” Please check it out to read all of the other lovely posts.

How does one talk about their teen years? With a fun anecdote? Or something apt while being deeply informative and moving?

Let’s talk about how I looked forward to being a teenage because it meant boys and breasts – something I didn’t exactly have in grade school. Most ten year old girls aren’t thinking about dating, and even fewer seem to care about their cup size. But I did; and it consumed me. I remember thinking how I’d finally date, and all those boys who were jerks to me would be sorry. With my big, bouncing breasts, I’d finally be beautiful and my childhood would just be an unpleasant dream.

But when my teen years arrived, the only thing puberty graced me with was a face full of acne and period cramps that should’ve led me to the nearest hospital. By high school, I’d pretty much come to the conclusion that boys hated me and I wasn’t dating anyone any time soon – if ever. My body remained stubborn, as I sneaked into my cousin’s room to admire my make-shift bust in her full-length mirror. “Do high school girls still stuff?” I wondered, as I layered on two sets of bras, stuffed them with socks and put on my stretchiest shirt to admire my false, new bosom. I’d look great as a C cup…

But the Universe enjoyed rubbing salt into my wounds as my younger cousin seemed to be developing at a much faster rate. She went from a string-bean to a busty teen in under a year, regaling me with stories of the boys she was dating, or kissing (or whatever). My self-confidence settled in the red when she confessed that her and her friends were making fun of how small my breasts were.

Everything came crashing down; I hated my life. Why couldn’t I be beautiful and curvy? Why did I have to be so skinny and unattractive? I thought back to my friend, someone considered very attractive by her friends, who was curvy and bubbly. I seemed to only sink deeper into my depression, wondering who (or what) I had pissed off in a past life to end up with the one I’ve got now.

The conflict with my body – and what I wanted my body to look like – marred my young adult years as everyone seemed to be blossoming and I felt stunted. How can I be sixteen and some lady is telling me that I look nine!? How can these fifteen year olds not believe that I’m only a year older than them?

Rinse, wash and repeat – and you’ve got my life.

And that’s it.

Am I in a better place now that I’m older? No, not really. Many of the patterns I’ve created or experienced in high school are still repeating themselves today; cycles I don’t know how to break. I have a lot of problems, and I need a lot of therapy. But, my understanding and emotional relationship to some of these problems are evolving, changing or at least being challenged. I have an awareness of myself that didn’t exist back then, and I’m super grateful for that.

“Think Positive” is Not Good Advice

“We can as easily become a prisoner of so-called positive thinking as of negative thinking. It too can be confining, fragmented, inaccurate, illusory, self-serving, and wrong. Another element altogether is required to induce transformation in our lives and take us beyond the limits of thought.”

- Whereever You Go There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

Flickr Credit to: hellojenuine

I have a love/get the hell away from me relationship with advice. On any given day, I’ll call up my phone tree, asking various friends for their specific insight. Sometimes the advice is helpful, other times… not so much. Poor advice is normally dished out because:

  • The person has no experience with what you’re going through but feels compelled to say something
  • Someone thinks they understand what you’re going through and tries to relate
  • People tell you what they’d want to hear if they were in your situation

Honestly, I very rarely receive good advice. This is because good advice is partly about tactical information (what practical steps can you take to fix your situation), and partly about giving advice that broadens recipient’s perspective and understanding of what’s going on. Advice is another type of insight, but not everyone’s “insight” is particularly helpful or enlightening. This is basically why I hate “positive thinking” advice.

“Positive thinking” advice is fluffy and doesn’t provide the recipient with any methods on how to make their situation better. Additionally, many people who dish out this type of advice come off as being poor listeners and unsympathetic to what their friend is going through:

  • “To never focus on what’s bothering you, look forward to the outcome.”
  • “It could be worse, just stay positive.”
  • “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
  • “Life is what you make it.”

I understand the rationale behind “positive thinking” advice. The person thinks they’re behaving in an open-minded, compassionate and sensitive manner. More often than not, this isn’t the case. The problem is that it falls into all three categories of bad advice giving:

  • The advice given is very general with assumption that it can be applied to all situations for all persons.
  • People rarely know what to say sometimes, so “positive thinking” advice fills that void. It’s self-serving, because the advice giver can feel a bit better about themselves having offered their “support”.
  • Despite what the recipient is going through, the advice giver feels that their advice is something that all people need to hear because THEY tell it to themselves frequently.

Giving bad advice, particularly in the vein of constant “positive thinking” advice, can definitely leave a sour taste in one’s mouth. It can make someone reluctant to speak with you, or ask for your opinion, because it constantly comes across as you never listening. It’s also impressively disempowering when you’re pouring your problems out to a friend, and they dish you a piece of advice that makes it seem like you’re irrational for being upset or your frustrations are unfounded or unwarranted.

If you can’t give good advice, don’t give any advice at all. Trust me, the world won’t end if you admit to not knowing what to say.

 

 

2011: Half and Half – Why It Sucked and Didn’t Simutaneously

Thank the Goddess that 2011 is coming to swift – and much needed – end. In about two days, we’ll be entering 2012 and I couldn’t be happier. You’ve probably seen quite a few posts about blogging this year, ways to make blogging more awesome, goals accomplished and lessons learned.

I’m going to talk about why 2011 sucked.

Backstory: At the brink of the New Year I was living in Seattle with someone I didn’t particularly like. I needed to leave my living situation but wasn’t making enough money to have my own place. At least, a super awesome place with nice amenities. So I sought out a room mate, but then discovered Penelope Trunk’s blog about taking over your career, and decided I needed to move. To Florida. In a brief, gruesome detail free nutshell. 

Hands down, the second worst decision of my life.

Moving two days before my birthday, I found myself in humid Florida, staying with relatives, two puppies and one mean old lady who I grew to despise. After seven months, the highlight had been my overwhelming feeling of joblessness – mining the internet daily for job leads, scrapping by on what little savings I had left, and being told on several occasions that retail positions don’t like college degrees. Meanwhile, I found myself flailing as I tried to make important “life decisions”:

  • Contemplate going to the local community college and majoring in Graphic/Web Design
  • Applied to over 20 positions with Americorps
  • Thought about getting into PR/Advertising but couldn’t even qualify for free internships because of my BA in French
  • Attempted to learn HTML solo (among other programming code) in order to have employable skills
  • Looking into freelance writing gigs, but found myself mostly at content mills

Ultimately, I decided on blogging, which turned out to be really fun, and allowed me to meet some really awesome people in the process. Yet, the joys from blogging seemed to pale in comparison to my day-to-day frustrations of not being able to take care of myself. I slept in most ways, well past noon, as I half-assed my job hunt, hoping that each application sent would be my golden ticket to employment.

Like most people, I wish I had the power to go back and alter time. Where would I be now if I had stayed in Seattle and moved in with that girl? Would I be blogging? Would I had found another job? What if I had moved to NY first instead of going down South?

Thinking back on my 2011, it’s easy to understand why people believe that things happen for a reason. Everything I went through brought me to this point:

  • I’ve had more interviews since leaving FL than ever in my life
  • Met really awesome bloggers, learned how to use Twitter (kinda)
  • Expanding my writing repertoire to include comics and exploring freelancing
  • Learned A LOT (particularly about social justice)
  • Building my network and connecting with like-minded people

Despite my general tone of powerlessness, 2011 gifted me with a better sense of Self. And when I actually stop to think about it – I know ten times more about what I want out of life than when I was in college, living in Seattle, or even the time I spent in Florida.Which definitely makes the transition into 2012 much anticipated; I’m looking forward to the new year despite everything!

What About You? How was your 2011?