April 27, 2012

Stream Of Consciousness: Savoring Sophomore Year

In just a couple of short weeks, I will be officially halfway through college. Normally, such a realization would scare the crap out of me; not because of the passage of time, but the fact that it went so unbelievably fast.

Yet when I think about it now, it doesn't have the same effect on me that it used to. Part of it has to do with my acceptance that it's just the way that life is; that time doesn't really slow down or completely stop for anybody. It's a matter of being able to pause and savor the present moment exactly for what it is. After nearly a decade, I feel confident in finally knowing how to do that.

In those same short weeks, I'll be getting out of my current apartment and probably won't come back until I have to move furniture to my new place. I can't say that I'm all that sad to be living somewhere else next year, without a roommate. While I can't predict how it's going to go,  I am more than ready to put this current situation behind me. It was a lot of stress, mostly because of the difficult relationship between my roommate and I. We're just better off not living together.

However, that doesn't mean that I regret my decision, or anything that has happened in the last nine months. It wasn't the best thing that I've ever done, but a lot of good did come out of it: I got the help that I needed (both emotionally and spiritually). I began to practice the act of surrender; not necessarily giving up entirely, but giving up on my being in control and placing my wants and worries into the hands of the One who is. I learned an incredibly powerful lesson, one that I'll write more about in my next blog; the fact that the people that you surround yourself with do affect you. 

It has only been a year, but I have grown and changed a great deal since. My freshman year was all about experience and finding my footing in what can be a crazy environment. This time around, I was a lot more grounded and definitely had a clearer perspective. I'm more confident in what I want and what I value, and am no longer afraid to say so. 

I don't know what the coming summer season holds for me, and/or what will happen in the future. What I do know is that I am at peace, and am willing to cross those bridges when I get there. Until then, I will savor what I've been given and give thanks for what I have learned. Nothing is worth regretting if you learn something from it.

April 21, 2012

I Am Enough, And So Are You

If I could name off all of the things I was told that I supposedly had to be, I could easily create an entire instruction manual; be less of a geek, and be more assertive. Don't act too serious, but don't make a fool of yourself. There were times where the list seemed endless, and it all turned out to be quite confusing. There were times where I wanted to scream out "what do you want from me?" because regardless of what I did, it never felt right. 

I know now this it is because I have a multi-faceted personality; meaning, I often exhibit a plethora of different qualities that appear to be complete opposite of each other. I consider myself both an introvert, as well as an extrovert. A deep thinker that loves to laugh and have fun with others. I spend time with friends and family, but I also try to take time to be by myself, more or less to relax and reflect. 

Whenever I look back on it, I choose not to blame or hold anything against those that tried to give me that kind of advice. They were only trying to help me, more so because I vocalized that I wanted to be liked and accepted among the kids that I went to school with. I just wish they would have said different things, or kept silent and allowed me to figure it out on my own.

Back then, I wish someone would have told me that I shouldn't (and still don't) have to prove anything to anybody. That my real friends weren't going to expect me to act a particular way or dress in a particular style. I wish someone would have told me to stop, take a look around and appreciate everything that I had at that time. 

Or maybe someone might have said those things, but it got lost in translation.

I'm not sure if it would have changed the course of how I lived my life from that point on; I've realized that there are lessons which we are meant to learn at specific periods or stages. I'm confident in the fact that I wasn't meant to discover or learn a lot of things about myself until I went away to college. 

I may not have had a huge epiphany when I was younger, but I believe that middle school and high school would have been a lot calmer. I wouldn't have been second-guessing myself so much. 

Which then begs the question, do parents (or adults in general) really know best when it comes to growing up and navigating life?

I'm not here to judge anyone's parenting methods, because a lot of it depends on the kid, particularly when they're in their early and late teens. Some like the safety net of being guided by someone older than they are. Others, myself included, would like to be able to figure themselves out on their own terms, in their own time. Otherwise, they dig their heels in full force and it just turns into one big mess. 

Overall, it might be a matter of intuition; that is, knowing when to step in and intervene, but also knowing when to wait, and simply listen and observe.

Personally, a good amount of what I have learned about myself and the world hasn't exactly come from being told about it. I had to go through my own experiences of tripping, falling, and getting back up again without the step by step process of anyone else. Yes, I had other people there for me. But I didn't always choose to go to them for advice, or take the advice that was given to me. It mostly depended on whom it was coming from. 

If I could impart wisdom on my younger self, or anyone with a similar personality as myself, I would say this: 

Don't worry about where you fit in, regardless of what stage you're in as you go through life. It's not the end of the world if you're considered a geek, or if you don't fit into one specific mold. High school, and even college is kind of like living in a bubble, and it seems like there are so many things that matter. Once you get out of it, or at least take a step back, you'll understand that status is one of the least important things there is. 

What is important is that you have people in your life that love you unconditionally, and accept you for all your quirks and flaws. You need to surround yourself with people that will encourage you and enable you to make good choices. 

Don't be afraid to at least take the time to listen to what your parents or elders have to tell you. They might give you advice, but you don't always have to take it. I certainly didn't; not because I was trying to stick it to them, but because a lot of what they were telling me to do wasn't me. You have to be able to recognize what you're comfortable with and what you're not. 

The other aspect is something that has taken me years to fully comprehend, much less follow through with. I call it the practice of imperfection; the notion that there are always things we can do in order to make ourselves better, but also allowing ourselves room to just be; to stop trying to project this near-perfect image, and instead allow people to see you as they choose to. Taking down the walls is a scary thing, but it's extremely refreshing in the long run. 

It's so sad how at some point in time, every human being will believe that they're not enough. It's sad how that is the message that is being communicated by parents, peers, and popular figures alike. What's worse is that those on the receiving end are taking it to heart, and going so far as to end their lives because who they are doesn't measure up. They're considered less than because they're staying true to themselves. I am talking about all races, religions, sexual orientations, and so forth. 

It breaks my heart realizing how people live like that. But it's also relieving to know that one doesn't have to. 

Society will tell you that you always have to be more, and that you have to be better. Please, take a step back and give yourself some credit. Stop beating yourself up for what has already happened, and what you cannot change. Accept that you will make mistakes and learn from them. 

Know that you are enough; you do not have to have a list of reasons, other than the fact that you're a human being. You're a human being with a story that deserves to be told. 

You are good. You are beautiful. And you are enough.

April 14, 2012

No Apologies

One thing that people will notice about me right away is that I am very much a sentimental, happy go lucky kind of person. You'll see it on my Facebook profile, with all the quotes, statuses, and now music video clips that I frequently share. You'll see it through the things that I'm interested in, and my personality in general. But most of all, you'll see it in the majority of what I write, particularly on my blog. 

For most of my teen years, I hated it. There were times where I would get playfully teased for being a "hopeless romantic" or told that I was "too deep." At one point, one person even told me to stop blogging and posting things on Facebook because no one wants or cares to read/see that kind of stuff. (Apparently this person wasn't aware of the exit button that's located on most computer screens)

It made me very insecure, and there were several years off and on where I wondered if that was the root of my social struggles. More often then not, my maturity level did cause me to feel a little cut off from my peers, and even some of my own friends (particularly guys). I felt torn between wanting to blend it an act my age, as well as knowing deep down that I wasn't one to be superficial or shallow. 

In the last couple of years, especially this year, I have become more comfortable and more aware of my identity. I've realized that that depth, that maturity and that sense of romanticism are all a big part of who I am. 

Let me break that down: anything you see on Facebook or Twitter, or read on here? Well, that's just me. 

And I am not sorry for it at all. More or less, I am sorry for those who don't see it in a positive light or take the time to understand it. I am sorry for those who might be so uncomfortable with another person that they will tell them to stop doing what they love or not to be true to themselves. 

After I wrote about my greatest fear, I received three responses saying how much it moved them and spoke to them. Right then and there, I knew that this blog was more than just my sharing of what was going on in my life, or my thoughts on what was going on in the world. It's a way of inspiration and encouragement. It's a way of being a positive example, and giving hope. 

There's this saying that we all have different experiences; yet, I've come to look at it differently. I think we do have somewhat similar experiences, but we just have different ways of reacting to them and dealing with them. It's kind of sad that some people keep their stories to themselves because they have this idea that no one will be able to relate. In reality, there's a good chance that at least one person out there knows what you're going through, and can help be a sense of comfort and healing.

In a society dominated by negativity, particularly when it comes to social media, I think people need that; they need to know that there is more to life than just pain and bad experiences. Too many capitalize on that, and I believe that's partially why the world is the way it is today. 

Those things are also a way for me to remind myself to take my own advice. Lately, it has helped me to reach outside whatever crap I'm going through and remember how blessed I am. I have been given so much, and I want to be able to pass that on to others. Whether it be a small ripple or a giant wave, at least it's something. 

I may never know of the results or the impact of my actions; but as long as I am living out to be the person that I was meant to be, and am being a light in the process, then that's what matters most.

April 09, 2012

My Greatest Fear...And How I'm Conquering It

I only recently began to think about this when it hit me just a couple of days ago, and I have only spoken about it personally with two of my girlfriends. Many of my readers will probably want to slap me upside the head and call me absolutely crazy afterward, but rest assured it is a fear that I am no longer trying to hide in; instead, it is a fear that I am both willing to embrace and overcome.

It took root after what I consider my first real heartbreak at sixteen, and then manifested itself in the years that followed. Throughout my junior and senior years, as well as my freshman year of college, I took interest in several guys that I probably either should have just stayed friends with or kept at a distance. It was nice and exciting at first, but eventually their true colors come out and they would cut off communication from me.  While in retrospect it was probably for the best, it did initially hurt.

And the middle of all that, there were the guys that only pursued me for the sake of sex; those were the toughest situations because most of the time I had no idea how to handle them. There would come a point where they'd get the hint and leave me alone, but it still left me with a twinge of disappointment. More so, I was frustrated because at the time,  I didn't understand why they (or any other creeper, for that matter) would want to prey upon me, specifically.

It got to where I realized that for the past three years, I have been going through this kind of cycle; I meet someone, I get to know them, and then it turns out to be a dead end, one way or the other. Sometimes it's because they turn out to be not who I thought they were, and sometimes it's because it just doesn't go anywhere.

And that is where my fear comes in; I have had a fear that I will never be able to break that cycle, and that I will never be able to have that experience of genuine and true love.

The hardest part about not being a romantic relationship isn't necessarily that I don't have anyone to do things for me. That is a factor, but only a small one. On the contrary, I want to be able to do thing for a man as well; to be there for him, to take care of him, and be able to tell him how I feel about him.

I want to be wanted and pursued for the right reasons.

And that will not happen if I keep my fear at the forefront.

But this is not one I feel I can face by confrontation, at least not in the traditional sense. However, I have come up with a few methods/ways to shut down this kind of unhealthy thinking.

Surround yourself with good and positive people

I used to think that when I met a guy, not talking to anyone about it made everything a lot easier; I wouldn't have to deal with endless questions or suggestions. I could do what I personally thought was best for me, and if it went down hill I could quietly move on. It turns out that not discussing it made it a lot harder; after a while it felt like I was keeping secrets, and my insecurities usually overpowered my confidence.

It's important to have a good sounding board to lift you up, and help keep things like self-doubt and negative thoughts at bay. Find people who will give you unbiased advice as opposed to just spitting out cliches or saying that men/women suck. In that case, sometimes there will be only be a few to confide in, but having a few is better than having none.

Personally, I am also trying to spend less time using Facebook and Twitter. From people posting depressing statuses about relationships or it seeming like everyone but you is constantly getting into one, it can be (and often is) a real downer. Overall, frequently relying on social media for guidance is not the best way to go.

Trust Your Instincts 

This is a given, yet almost cliche. There have been instances where I doubted my own intuition because of the way things turned out, but what I was really doing was doubting my sense of awareness.

Intuition isn't just about that tiny little voice in the back of your mind, but also about how you feel when you're with someone or in a specific type of environment. If you don't have a particular good feeling in either circumstance, perhaps you should slow down or hit the brakes before going any further.

Don't OBW

That is, don't overthink the situation, blame anybody, or wonder day in and day out what might be or could have been. When you think too much, you lose sight of what relationships are really about. When you blame past loves or yourself for what you can't change, it just causes more heartache. I understand how easy it is to say "So and so hurt me and that's the reason I can't get over it." But after a while, the only person that is holding you back from anything is yourself. At some point, you have to let it go.

Have Faith

I can't speak for those who don't believe in God or don't identify with certain Christian beliefs. But personally, I have found that prayer and reminding myself of God's presence in my life has been helping ease my fear, little by little. It has helped me to see that I am never alone, even though there are times when I feel like it.

Lately, I have been trying to ask God for peace in what I am currently experiencing, and peace is the sense that everything will be all right.

At the very least, everyone can have faith in the fact that if it doesn't kill you, you will be fine. Have faith that even though a relationship might not have worked out the way you wanted it to, at least you gained experience and insight. Have faith that you will overcome your fears and get to the place that you want to be in.

I have also learned not focus on the setbacks, but the progress; this year in particular, I made a list of important qualities that not only do I want in a significant other, but what I want between the two of us. In turn, that list has helped me to keep my distance from guys that haven't been good for me. Both of those things are huge steps.

Love, or at least right kind, is not meant to be feared or denied. It is a blessing, a gift that should be both welcomed and cherished. I don't know about the rest of the world, but I'm not going to rob myself of it because of my past mistakes, or what I have seen from the mistakes of those around me. I am not those people, nor do I have to be.

As the saying goes, it's not about destiny, it's about choices. One can either choose to live in fear, or they can choose to live in joy.

I choose joy.

April 04, 2012

Stream Of Consciousness: The Stretch

Like a lot of other college students, I'm getting to that point where I am just ready to be done for the year; ready to be done with having a pile of assignments, ready to be done with an apartment that has very little space and is difficult to keep clean, and ready to have a gigantic weight off my shoulders. More or less, I am ready for a break. 

The last two weeks have been pretty emotional; I have been experiencing a waterfall of joy and gratitude, particularly since I have been partaking in my Lent activity: I am writing letters to those that have impacted my life in some way or another. It has been incredibly moving, but also tough at times. Not necessarily because I have trouble with thinking of things to say, but rather how to say them. There are so many people that I love and care for a great deal, so the big question was always "how do I say this without appearing overly sappy?" But there's only one answer: to simply say what is on my heart, and hopefully the message will be received. 

The weather has been beautiful, with temperatures warm enough to forgo the jeans and break out the sundresses! I will say that it's been very nice not having to bundle myself up in all those winter layers, but it's making my motivation to do school work decrease even more. 

On the other side, I have also been in the midst of dealing with a reality that came at me completely by surprise. It was one of those things that I did not expect to happen (at least not at this time). Like I said in the poem that I wrote after I returned from break, it just doesn't make any sense to me. Don't worry, it's not a matter of life or death, but it hurts. It hurts like crazy

I've only talked about it with a few people, two or three at the most. It's not that I don't trust anyone else, but a part of me really doesn't want to hear all the cliches and what not. Most of the time I prefer to get stuff off my chest, pray, or perhaps even shed a few tears (although that's putting it mildly). 

This is not the first time I've had to deal with this kind of situation; except this time around, I'm doing my best not to go through the "whys?" or "what-if's" and ultimately try to figure out how I feel about the whole thing. Instead, I am choosing to find strength in my faith and just see where it takes me. 

And from that, I've been doing a lot of praying. Sometimes it's as simple as asking God to give me peace, or giving me the courage to give up control. Other times I lament about the fact that I don't understand what's going on, or how to get out of these cycles that I've felt stuck in for a good portion of my life. 

It's funny how you realize that what you need is often times the only thing you have. 

I'm not saying that I'm in the midst of some big revival; rather, I'm learning to stop relying completely on myself and to stop trying to be this near perfect person. That is a whole different post in itself, and one that I touch on as time goes on. But I need a firm foundation and I need spiritual nourishment. 

I am doing what I can to not look too far forward, or too far backward. I am taking it day by day and trusting in what I cannot see. It's tough, but I'm sure everything will fall into place eventually.