Category Archives: reflection

Small Steps Lead to Great Destinations (Part 1)

Only four days into 2018 and I’m already looking forward to the weekend.

But I’ve already accomplished some things, however small. One of my big hang-ups last year was knowing where to separate my professional life from my personal life, to truly make clear mental distinctions, for my self and loved ones’ sake.

No matter how challenging or rewarding, most people’s lives and jobs are a source of stress. However, while some seem to inherently know how to leave their work at the office each night and return to it in the morning, others, such as myself, carry it into off-hours like an old suitcase with one handle. So one goal I am actively pursuing and encouraging this year is leaving projects at the door, and setting appropriate boundaries so that all tasks can be given equal opportunity to be focused on and completed.

Prior to, well, Tuesday, I used a sole task management system to streamline all processes, projects, and communications — professional and personal. In doing so, little did I realize that I was not optimizing performance as intended. Instead, I was muddling various stresses and responding with misdirected energies. Without the distinction, I soon grew numb and unresponsive to a tool designed to make me more productive.

With that, I’ve decided to separate my tasks between two systems: Microsoft Outlook for professional tasks, and Google Keep for personal tasks. Considering I have used both Office and G Suites in such a capacity over the years, it makes sense. I already feel lifted by the change, which has proven to be more psyche-oriented than purely administrative.

To recap: You wouldn’t run a half-marathon in a pair of six-inch stilettos, nor would you expect to sail across the ocean in a bus. Yes, shoes are shoes, and vehicles are vehicles, but knowing how to use them effectively and for their intended use only increases the benefits, inclusive of health and well-being. 

In the case of task management, seeing “practice restorative yoga” next to “update spreadsheet” was more burden then help. Making a clearer distinction of my personal and professional goals has already benefited me greatly, positioning me a few steps closer to my destination.

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New Year, New Me?

My apartment is small, but I love the location. I’ve lived in it for six years and still have yet to find the perfect place for anything. As such, my mental state has been wavering somewhere in between the desire to stock up and the desire to burn everything to the ground.

I’ve been on a big decluttering kick for the past few weeks, this notion of minimalism being the undercurrent on which my efforts valiantly ride. I don’t think I have it down quite yet, but I find that self-interrogation is helping. “How much does one person really need?” “Am I ever going to wear that pair of shoes again?” “Can I just pay someone to do this for me?” Honest examination of the sum of my possessions against the limits of my abode has resulted in a lot of letting go. I have never seen so many garbage bags lined up for the dumpster and donation center.

On Friday, I took three hours to clear out my cosmetics drawers and linen closet, found something I hadn’t had in quite some time — clarity? Freedom? Sense. Sense could finally be made out of that particular corner of my apartment. And it felt great, amazing, even — until I realized I had another 600 square feet to go.

Like life, I would complain that the tasks are never ending — and I have, and will likely continue to do so. It’s exasperating work. So it is said this time of year, out with the old, and in with the new.

Except I don’t plan on adding a lot of new, not to my apartment, and not to my life. There’s still quite a lot of paring down to do, and a lot of good here to be utilized. Best believe that I’m taking that perspective with me into 2018. But I’m taking this one as well:

I physically cleared my space of five large bags of unused items. Good thing, right? Well, not exactly. Sure, I’ve freed up space in my environment, but I’ve also burdened the one that surrounds me. Someone has to empty the dumpster, go through recycling, figure out what’s worth reselling, etc. Out of my sight, out of my mind, but not necessarily for anyone else.

In an attempt to carve out a functional retreat, it’s been drilled home that I make use of what I have, and actually make it work, because it does. No more wasteful spending, of time, money, or energy. All it creates is unused potential. Heaps of it.

So, new year, new me? No, not really. I know what needs to be done. I’ll go with same me, but better.

From me to you — happy new year.

Pure Imagination

After a long week, my boyfriend and I thought about cooking dinner for all of a minute before heading to the corner ramen place. While waiting for our order, the topic of conversation eventually landed on family. “He’s just so smart, so intelligent,” I gushed about my nephew in particular, “obsessed with science and facts; he’s just so knowledgeable about it all—“.

“Geez, when will people learn that all of that just comes down to curiosity,” my boyfriend countered.

“But…” I started, then paused, careful to choose my words, letting my brain chew on the idea instead. “I’m sorry, what?”

“Oh, I don’t mean it personally,” he stressed. “It’s just that nearly everyone says that about their kid. Don’t you remember being that age? How easy it was to be obsessed with something? I swear I knew the name of every dinosaur at that age,” he laughed.

He made an interesting point. I did remember being that age. Childhood was an actual thing growing up, not just TV ideology. It was a time of tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwiches, and playing in the rain with galoshes and oversized umbrellas. From the crossing-guard to the principal, our school community was one of the best there was, contributing to a warmth carried in my heart to this day. Bicycle rodeos and festivals were held during the fall, holiday pageants during the winter, reading achievement awards each month, and student-vs.-teacher kickball games each summer. It was the ideal if not perfect environment for imagination and creativity.

Our waitress set two mugs of Sapporo on the table. My shoulders dropped. I did remember being that age.

“But that doesn’t mean he’s not intelligent,” I said, my gaze meeting his, a suppression of mild annoyance.

“You’re totally right. Time will tell,” he remarked, and I perked up a bit. “But look,” he continued, “unless a kid is an actual prodigy — like, dabbling in quantam physics, speaking several languages, or writing symphonies — by hand — chances are they are just like any other kid.”

His brain had digested the notion long ago. My brain, after about twenty good chews, was only beginning to absorb it.

Sinking back into the booth, I could almost hear my mom saying: “You attended Spanish classes after lunch, completely fluent; even sang in the Spanish-language pageant in first grade. What happened?” I was considered gifted in school, earned money towards a scholarship in second grade, and and worked on the school newspaper after school. What did happen?

My boyfriend checked his email, disappearing from peripheral view, as my brain started to swallow the notion. I should be happy, in particular that my nephew exists within an environment that allows for his interests and fixations to run wild, especially before puberty takes hold. My niece as well; I wonder if she stares up at the sky, watching the birds from the middle of the playground at recess, aching to be on the other side of the chain link fence, like I used to.

I wondered if there’s anything to be done to keep such fancy afloat through the years. Having been on this side of the fence for longer than I’d care to admit, the wonderment surely hasn’t vanished, but it has been more difficult to come by. It makes sense that now, in my thirties, there’s no measurable difference in feeling concerning my ability, or lack thereof.

So was I about to admit that my boyfriend was right? Everyone knows that there are only so many opportunities to do so while saving face. But this wasn’t one of those typical Mars-and-Venus situations.

“Yo, knock, knock. You alive in there?” he asked, smirking slightly.

Our food arrived, and I nodded. My brain was full, and my boyfriend was right. I didn’t fully admit it, but he got a punch in the card anyway. The thirteenth one’s for free.

Knowing Where Home Is

I visited my parents the other day, having found myself in the neighborhood following an early morning appointment in Reseda. Instead of making my way back to my little corner of La La Land as I normally do, I thought, why not?

Well, the typical answer to that question, at least on my end, has been, “We work different schedules”, “Traffic is terrible”, “They’re/I’m out of town, indisposed, too tired, etc. “, or “I don’t want to be a bother”, with the latter being an obstacle of the heart than an actuality.

Traffic is a pretty big reason, however, due to time as much as safety. A patchwork quilt of minefield terrain and monstrous vehicular congestion, the LA sprawl is similar to the burroughs of New York sans its most marvellous subway system. Land-lock is kind of a thing here. It’s a bit shocking, knowing how much more ground can be covered outside of rush hour’s grip. So most people just suck it up and put together a playlist.

I pictured it in my head, hoping they’d be home, thinking that I’d stop by a store on the way to grab some flowers for my mom. She’d like that, I thought. My dad would like that I brought my mom flowers. There weren’t many stores on the way so I just headed over.

Looking at it on a map, the San Fernando Valley’s residential infrastructure is an extensive grid. My parents live at the most west point of said grid, right before the mountains leading to Bell Canyon and Calabasas. The neighborhoods tend to blend into each other, with each strip mall, apartment complex, and cluster of homes looking the same as the next. Anyone, even myself for a time, would have difficulty telling the difference between street corners, but any street heading west will get you there eventually. I still knew how to get there after not living there for 13 years.

Pulling up, I saw both of their cars were in the driveway and was relieved that I’d not only get to see my mom, but my dad before he left for work. Walking up the drive, I knocked our secret knock on the door. My dad answered, smiling brightly, wearing comfy clothes reserved for weekends. “I thought that was you through the peephole! How are you, baby girl?” My mom followed in to the front room, meeting both of us in embrace.

And we had a great time — catching up, looking at photos of their recent cruise through the Panama Canal, talking about plans for the near future and hopeful trips planned a little further on. The more time I spend, with anyone, doing anything, the more I appreciate such low-key times. I promised I wouldn’t stay long, but my folks wouldn’t have that. Two hours went by so quickly, and we found ourselves saying third and fourth goodbyes, as my family is known to do.

While driving away, I couldn’t help but think how important it is to go home, wherever that is. Somewhere that you know how to get to without referring to a map. A place where you want to be, where someone is happy to see you and you them. A place with or without physical, geographical space. Somewhere where things make sense, and where the heart is safe.

It’s important to know where home is, to make it possible for others, and to keep it close. Otherwise we’re all just drifting.

It’s Been a While…

… but I’m here now. Actually, I’ve been here on and off for the past month, writing behind the scenes, mostly hoarding drafts with a social relevance that passes long before I’ve the nerve to publish them. 

It all got me thinking, though, about how the hot topic, buzz-worthy style of writing or ingesting information really isn’t my bag. I mean, there’s a reason why not everyone loves every new film, television show, or single that drops — a fair amount of it is garbage (and you know it’s true).

That said, there are topics that I and others find to be socially relevant as respects the times in which we currently live, including the reactions, interactions, and overall absorption of ideas and information experienced on a daily basis. An account of life experienced nearly 18 years in to a new century is pretty freaking socially relevant, and will likely be considered as much as it eventually becomes a historical point of reference. 

So what exactly have I been up to? I’ve been figuring out my story, checking off a laundry list of weighty personal concerns — friendship, family, mortality, anxiety, financial security, life potential, the future — ever-revolving topics that don’t really fly well in polite conversation. Honestly, I haven’t been too fun to hang out with.

But I have been learning a lot in taking a good look at my life and where exactly I want to take it — which has involved reminders to think outside of myself. It hasn’t been easy; it’s in our biological make up to be selfish, if merely out of the need for self-preservation. Yet, for the sake of friendships and relationships of all kinds, it’s kind of a hard requirement to find that delicate  balance between being a self-respecting, free-thinking agent and doing whatever it takes to not die alone.

Is it brave to do so? I don’t know — perhaps. Shifting perspective, addressing emotions and not squelching them, showing up; that’s just living life, isn’t it? Brave, I don’t know. It just is what it is.

What else is going on? I’ve taken some time to make more room to read, listen, and reference a word’s etymology about 10 times a day. I’ve also been spinning Tove Lo’s latest album Blue Lips non-stop since its November 17th release, which may or may not be healthy. Been having some bizarre, ultraviolent dreams that take at least 10 minutes at a time to transfer to paper. And currently, I’m a few steps across the bridge between Thanksgiving and Christmas where it’s a little too early to be holly jolly and a little too late to still be eating leftovers.

So yes, it has been quite a while. I’m here now, though.

Photo via opensourceway.com

Writing 101 in a Digital World

Sometimes I forget that you don’t need an internet connection to write.

Yesterday I had some time to write before meeting a friend for dinner, and conveniently had my laptop with me. However, I experienced slight panic for a moment when I realized that there wasn’t a WiFi connection to hook up to.

That’s pretty bad.

I grew up in the late 80s, early 90s. My family had a telephone attached to the wall. We didn’t even have a TV for a time. I know that one doesn’t need a computer or smartphone to write — a pencil or pen and paper will more than do the job (even a brow pencil… true story.)

Yet lately I’ve found writing sessions to be fueled in part by the need to immediately publish something — in line with the philosophy of a tree falling in the forest, I guess you could say. However unintentional, having such a mindset — a reflex of powering up to write down — has definitely impacted how often I write, greatly inhibiting my range of artistic motion.

In my defense, technological convenience is something we’ve so grown used being there to the point that the physical act of writing can feel like supplementary behavior until one can get to the perfect moment in which to fully flesh out an idea.

But if our world was to enter apocalyptic status today, right now, there’d be nothing to connect to, no immediate spread of ideas. All works online would cease to exist. If we were lucky, some publications would have survived any fires, floods, blasts. But we’d truly have to rebuild and create a future on a physical, tangible foundation with our selves doing the thinking, not our beloved machines.

I used to think that being in front of a computer was my perfect sit-down moment — and it still is, in most ways. However, it might be time to redefine the line in the sand, with a pencil or pen and paper, and whatever’s swimming inside. No tabs open, and nothing to reference except for, perhaps, a physical thesaurus, encyclopedia, or other source of study. Back to basics, in the interest of preservation.

Updating My Operating System (Er, My Brain)

Sometimes I feel like my brain is in my hands instead of my head where it should be. 

Like most of the population, I’ve grown very attached to smart technology. To a great extent, I trust these devices to store, process, and make information available when I need it. That’s not an unreasonable expectation. That’s their intended function. However, an issue lies with me, in that I have allowed my intended function — my natural intelligence — to be greatly reduced.

Does that make me brain dead?

When I was a kid, my parents made sure that I’d memorized our home address, our home phone number, their respective work numbers, my social security number, and a few emergency contact phone numbers. 

These days I still know my parents’ phone numbers, as well as those of my younger brother and boyfriend. I’ve memorized my home and work address, my work and mobile number, but I’d be hard-pressed to know the same of my friends off the top of my head. 

A month or so ago, I was visiting my sister and we reminisced over photo albums from our teenaged days. As we went through them, I felt myself struggling to piece together certain places and times and faces. Thankfully she could remember them for me, but I was surprised that whole parts of my life had pushed back to the point of nearly being forgotten completely. 

I can’t help but wonder how much more I may have tuned out and forgotten by letting technology do the thinking for me. Will I, too, be forgotten in the process?

Exactly how much I have underused my brain? How many times have I been so focused on documenting the perfect moment instead of fully absorbing the feeling, or taking in an image through my eyes, developing it with my very own operating system? 

I was born with the most complex technology available, surely the most priceless. It’s time to use it. All else is merely supplemental.

Which came first: the human brain, or smart device? 

I know the answer — do you?