Breaking mental barriers during social isolation

Sunday, May 31, 2020

I wanted to share my experiences during this period of physical distancing/social isolation in hopes of connecting to those that I haven't seen in a while, or even those that I might never meet in person. I hope this helps you feel less alone. 

I have been suffering from anxiety and what felt like mild depression for a long time. I fell out of my routines and felt like I had no energy, but I continued to ignore the signs. Then, the quarantine happened and I felt so disconnected from my friends, colleagues and students, and so distant from my local grocery clerks, store cashiers and postal service workers despite being several feet apart. Although I love having peace and quiet in my personal space, I'm a highly social person that needs daily interaction with others to function properly; some people find small talk mundane or irritating, but I believe that if you listen closely enough to the way a person remarks about the weather or how they share a silly anecdote with you, you can learn everything you need to know about them in that instance. So, to not be able to partake in my daily interactions with others was unknowingly taken as a hit by my subconscious. As the weeks progressed of staying inside, not moving my body how I used to, and seeing mortality rates rise due to both the respiratory virus of COVID and the social viruses of racism and xenophobia, I felt even worse. I had painful cramps after eating any type of food and drinking cups and cups of chamomile tea, and I wasn’t sleeping well. I was tired and I ached for sleep but it evaded me, like the stars in the night sky evade the grasp of a child who's intent on catching them. I thought that my stress and anxiety had finally won. 

But my body fought back in the strangest way.

For the first time ever I broke out in hives, which I considered the peak of it all, so I finally called my doctor. After speaking with him (and crying numerous times to my loved ones about how shitty I was feeling), I took a step back and realized all that I still had to be grateful for: being quarantined with my family, being able to FaceTime or call friends, a new job that I could still work hard at, a supportive new partner, and my health. The hives were initially so difficult to accept and look at—they spread from my arms to my back, chest, legs and stomach. I was itchy and miserable for days, but after reaching this breaking point, I returned to meditation and saw the hives as a sign of my body crying out “I’m not okay, and I need you.” I reminded myself that I am still breathing and alive and able to get up each day I am given on this earth. 

I couldn't see all my blessings because I thought I was failing completely. That’s what mental illness does: it traps you with thoughts that make you feel like you have no way out. These thoughts can be crippling and seem very real, like the monster you swore you had under your bed when you were little. At times you feel like you can't even breathe, or like you're going to throw up or pass out and the only thing you can do is hold onto something or sit down until it passes.  

My doctor prescribed me an ointment for the hives and told me, “My recommendation for you about your anxiety is cardio. Walk or go for a run wherever you can. You're a very conscientious person who cares about everyone, and we're all in a funk that's being called 'the new normal.' You're used to your routine of going to school and being social for hours at a time, and now you're working entirely from home. It's easy to become stuck in your head and have obsessive thoughts when you’re working from home, so you have to do something different to break away from that and move your body.” 

I’m slowly easing back into working out how I used to, and I forgot how good it felt to challenge my body. Plus, challenging my body actually helps challenge my mind, and as someone who has issues controlling her obsessive thoughts and ultimately lets anxiety take over, working out isn’t just a hobby--it’s part of my survival. If I did indeed need medication, I am sure I would find the right resources for myself because this is the absolute perfect time to reach out for medical help via telemedicine and free counseling. But we’ve got to give our bodies a chance to fight back in every way possible, and that includes using what we’ve got while we’ve still got it. 

So for the first time in almost three months I ran yesterday. I ran to the park and kept running as my heart pounded in my chest and reminded me I have resilience and strength. I ran as the sweat beads formed on my face and I felt the muscles reawakening in my legs and arms. I blasted the new Lady Gaga album in my headphones and kept running and challenging my body until it was time to go home. Once home, I opened the windows and kept dancing and still moving to the music. I felt alive again. I felt what I had been missing for a very long time, way before I was cooped up at home due to the pandemic. I was a prisoner of my own mind, and I was beginning to set myself free. 

If there is one thing this pandemic has taught me, it’s that we all suffer and have our own variations of illness, whether it’s mental or physical. But suffering silently for weeks, months, years, and calling it "living" is not truly being alive, and it's not fair to you. You have to challenge and discipline yourself somehow, and it starts by doing the thing that scares you or seems hard at first. The hardest part is actually just beginning something—beginning a new routine, a new workout, a new mentality, a healing process. Speaking to medical professionals can also seem daunting, but they are experts in treating your illness and there is no shame in needing help. You may be the most independent person that you know, but you must remember that you cannot do it all on your own. 

The human body and mind are extraordinary things, and the healing process is always, always painful when you start it. But I promise you that we were not designed to be complacent in the destruction of our bodes and minds. We were not born to feel miserable and angry and sorry for ourselves. Yes, the world is FULL of external factors that were designed to cause us pain--systemic injustices, lies, hatred, cruelty, and violence--but we can rise above these factors when we are aware of our abilities, talents and gifts. Yes, trauma is very real and so many of our brothers and sisters are continuously fighting oppression and inequality targeted specifically at them. The best way we can support each other in these dark times is to first and foremost be taking care of our health, our families, our homes. When you have that in order, you can see everything as it really is, which is an illusion that we believe as the truth. 

But the truth is that in order to dismantle the very things that cause people pain and suffering, we have to dismantle the turmoil that's within ourselves. To offset everything that's negatively impacting society, we can't feed into its negativity or lower ourselves to levels of aggression and chaos. Otherwise, nothing changes and no healing takes place. Our ability to transcend past our enemies and aggressors and instead begin a new way educating, electing, and voting can and will lead us into a new way of living, a better way of being and a real opportunity of truly loving ourselves. We all deserve to feel alive and happy, and it starts with small steps and true gratitude. 

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Thoughts On Accountability

Wednesday, July 31, 2019

If you're a writer, then you've definitely come across the phrase "Write what you know" at least once. Whenever I heard or read that in the past, I'd ask myself, "What do I know?" I knew my stories, places I had been to, my childhood, my memories with friends and family, and my relationships. I only knew my life. Looking back at what I've written, I'm glad I was able to use this blog as an outlet to express myself because sometimes it's easier to write it all out, go back after a day or two and delete or edit things, and then share it with whoever is willing to read it. It was a way to connect with people, regardless if I knew them or not, and to spill my thoughts without making anyone feel obliged to respond. They could just read what I had to say if they wanted to, and that was enough for me.

I stopped using this blog for almost a year, but that didn't mean I wasn't writing. I kept a journal as a quicker way to jot down my thoughts, and I started writing poetry on my laptop. If my poems ever get published one day, I'd be over the moon. Then again, I'm not sure if I'd want people reading about the deepest, darkest, parts of me. Not yet, at least.

So, I came back to share with you today everything I've learned so far on a topic that I've struggled immensely with in the past: accountability.

What's accountability? It is "an obligation or willingness to accept responsibility for one's actions." I also really like the following definition, found on the KLM Group's website:

Basically, accountability says, "This thing that happened to you/that was said to you wasn't fair, or it wasn't your fault. But you are still accountable for how you react to it--or don't react to it." Accountability makes no sense at first for those strongly opinionated and defensive. It's easy to ask "Why did this person just do that to me/say that to me? I wouldn't have done that," when faced with an appalling or otherwise unjustifiable act done to us by others. Yet, therein is where accountability comes into play: you can take it personally and let it drag you down with them, or you walk away confidently knowing their actions have nothing to do with you.

Your reaction, of course, does come from you. Which is why accountability is probably the hardest thing I've ever had to master. Everything I've ever seen or experienced usually affected me in some way, so I'd either react instinctively or take others' feelings and make them my own. It's a defensive mechanism that has unfortunately made it hard for me to live in peace daily. My behavior at times is a knee-jerk reaction, or a sort of defense mechanism for protecting myself against unwanted opinions of me or actions against me. 

But, why should I care so much about what other people think or do? 

I think for me, I'm normally the first to react or say something because I think what I have to say or feel has value/is important. While that might be true, it's also draining to give that much time and effort to people and their actions. It can also be downright toxic. If another person is suffering and they bring their suffering to you, you can definitely listen and provide feedback if needed. But if you take their pain as your own or get upset that they use it against you for no apparent reason other than to drain your energy, it's going to bring you down, too.

If I wake up with commitments to myself to enjoy life and be my own best friend, I am held accountable to those commitments--especially when the people I love can't provide love or trust for themselves or for me in the moment. The same goes for strangers; if someone I don't know well or at all is attempting to hurt me because they are miserable, I can still hold myself accountable to the one person who truly matters: me.

If you're anything like me, compassion is probably a huge factor in your life. You maybe care about your loved ones to the point where you put yourself last sometimes for the sake of their happiness. But sometimes, you also find yourself caring a little too much about things and people that honestly will not matter in five years. I can't begin to describe how exhausting it's been all these years to give a shit about the most trivial things and people that are no longer in my life. People have even made jokes and memes about this, saying that they're "extra" for having so much flair and energy. While a certain kind of extraness is perfectly harmless (umm, have you SEEN Jonathan from Queer Eye?!), it's a completely different story when you are the one who is actually doing harm with your emotional venom.

I recently found out an interesting fact about baby rattlesnakes that will tie into what I'm getting at here. Since the babies don't have rattles until they shed their first skins, they can't give any warning before they strike and "can’t control the amount of venom they inject meaning they will inject everything they have." Knowing this, I thought the same idea could be applied to humans. Maybe some of us take a little longer to shed our old skins and don't give warning to those closest to us because we aren't ready to do so, thus hurting them almost unexpectedly? Don't get me wrong--it's never OK to hurt another person because you are feeling miserable. But sometimes the ones we love the most get the brunt of our emotional venom because they love us so much and understandably want to be around us when we're feeling low. And sometimes, it takes our loved ones cutting ties or taking space away from us for us to really understand that it's time to thank the layers that maybe once protected us, but need to be shed because they no longer serve us now.

It is normal to have shitty times and moods in life. However, it is also normal to work through these emotions with a strategy or game plan that keeps the emotional poison away from others. Everybody is different and deals with stress, anxiety, anger and sadness in their own way, but it's imperative for everyone to know the impact they have on the people around them when they're feeling ready to strike. You know yourself best, so the best way to allow these feelings to come and go while not taking it out on others really depends on how well you listen to your body and what it truly needs.

Strategies that have worked for me on dealing with my heavy burdens lately include free writing or keeping a gratitude journal, asking a friend if he/she has time for me to vent for as long as they can possibly listen, crying (despite what you may think, I end up feeling a lot better and can sleep much more easily after a good cry), blasting my favorite bands/artists and belting out a feel-good song in the car or in the shower (I'm totally fine with looking like a weirdo while sitting in traffic), sweating it out at the gym, and watching a show, video, or movie so funny that it makes me laugh until my stomach hurts (I highly recommend any of America's Funniest Home Videos' compilations of babies/kids doing hilarious things). 
If all else fails, even taking deep breaths and relaxing my body can really help. There are great videos available everywhere to help coach you on the best tips for meditation breathing or even belly breathing, but again, only you know what's right for you. 

Lately, I've been waking up to five goals taped up in my bathroom so that I can see them every day as reminders of the commitments I make to myself. They're simple, but specific to my needs, so I can remember what really matters most in my life when I start to feel overwhelmed. I'm starting a new job soon and have more prospects on the horizon to enrich my life and make it meaningful, but the only way I can really accomplish everything I set out to do has to start with me holding myself accountable. I have an amazing support system that cares about my mental and physical health, but they can't always be there to make sure I'm staying true to my goals. I have hurt people that I love and care for in the past simply because I wasn't being honest with myself and depending too much on others, when it should have been me that I needed to depend on. In knowing this, and in going through the pains of tough lessons, I know that I can and will take decisive and intentional steps because I deserve to break free from self-imprisoning cycles that are only holding me back from living with my truest intentions of enjoying a happy and meaningful life.
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A Belated Spring Break Recap

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

The view from my second floor apartment this past week oddly varied from snowy and bleak to sunny and perfect. If you're a true Chicagoan, you know that this is nothing new when it comes to our springs (summer usually makes up for it... usually). March was an extremely busy month for me, since I moved apartments thanks to the help of my wonderful friends! I didn't manage to do much writing, and my days were spent unboxing items and buying/building necessities for the new apartment. But even with my packed schedule and the completely erratic weather we've faced, I managed to have a lively and lovely spring break.

I first checked out a special event for media and bloggers that introduced Hoppy Hour at 360 CHICAGO (formerly known as the John Hancock), which was hosted by Revolution Brewing and KOVAL Distillery. I walked in stunned at the seriously gorgeous view all around me, yet it didn't take long until I experienced my first TILT, which was amazing! If you've never been--or if you've only checked out the Willis Tower Skydeck--I highly recommend getting your TILT on: basically, it's an extended part of moving glass that you stand inside, with bars that you hold onto while you safely lean out over the Magnificent Mile and Chicago's beautiful skyline. Those who have kids (or those with babysitting blues that need an activity idea) will also love that kids TILT for free on Sundays from 1-3pm!

The newly opened Bar 94 adds an even classier touch while you and your friends, family or date sip drinks and gaze 1,000 feet above Michigan Ave. Revolution Brewing was kind enough to provide some of their most popular beers, and KOVAL also shared some delicious gin and bourbon cocktails. The event even included delicious dinner and dessert bites from Blue Apron and a dope DJ. I was so happy to have bumped into my fellow Windy City Bloggers, Destiny and Lily!

Everyone from the 360 CHICAGO, Revolution and KOVAL teams were very sweet and accommodating, so I'm genuinely excited to see their collaborations flourish. Hoppy Hour is every Thursday from 6-9pm, and trust me when I say you don't want to miss it!

Sipping my KOVAL cocktail over the best view of the city.

GM of Revolution Brewing.

KOVAL sent one of their best to represent them--Wilson was awesome!

360 CHICAGO also has other fantastic events to choose from on any day, including trivia on Fridaysyoga on Saturdays, and a once-per-month art night with Bottle and Bottega on specific Wednesdays. Bottle and Bottega was also present at the event and Ines, the general manager of Bottle and Bottega, was super helpful while I pitifully painted a blue building on the canvas she brought for us to add our ideas to.

Mine is the blue building. I think I should stick to writing...
A week later, I was graciously invited to attend a spring soiree hosted by award-winning event planner, author, and chief eventeur Debi Lilly. Debi has hosted numerous events for clients like Oprah Winfrey, Dom Perignon, Bentley, Cartier, Harry Winston, Lamborghini, Moet Hennessy and Bulgari. You really wouldn't think it though, because in person Debi is endearingly kind, silly, and modest.  

Upon entering the DL Loft, I was greeted with the choice of a rosé fizz or carrot bellini (I always say yes to rosé) and I was able chat, mingle and meet some very sweet and creative bloggers like Haley and Kadeeja

The beautiful Debi Lilly!

Rosé fizz. 

We could not stop eating these!

Created my own bouquet after a brief lesson from Debi herself.

When there's a flower wall, you pose.

We got to leave with the bouquets that Debi helped us create during a fun lesson, a bag of candies, cookies, and some beautifully-scented Debi Lilly candles. I'm so glad I attended and got to be creative with flowers for a night, and I cannot wait to keep creating my own bouquets. Be sure to stop by the floral department at your local Jewel to check out arrangements, bouquets, vases, and candles by Debi Lilly, and browse her online store here!

I was absolutely thrilled when KOVAL invited me on one of their distillery tours at their Ravenswood store shortly after the 360 event. After an introduction to the story behind KOVAL's origination (ex: they are Chicago's first distillery since the mid-1800s!), our cordial guide provided us with sample glasses as we prepared to try many of their spirits. As a vodka and tequila lover I was open to the tasting of their bourbon, rye, and gin, but my favorite was definitely the ginger liqueur!

Pic credit goes to Mike for this one!

Surrounded by empty, single barrels, we sipped and listened to the rich history behind KOVAL and its founders. It was clear that while KOVAL upholds its traditions, it is still a growing and thriving company that is proud of its Chicago roots.

Huge shout out to Emily from KOVAL for letting me check out the fun and informative tour--I definitely left with a bottle of the ginger liqueur and a new palette for whiskey! You can find info on their Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday tours here.

I also attended a fun shop-and-drink event in Lincoln Park hosted by Zapwater for the Windy City Bloggers. After checking out the beautiful jewelry by Kendra Scott and the amazing deals at Loft, my friend Gaby and I grabbed some drinks at Tuco and Blondie. The mezcal cocktails I tried were phenomenal, and Gaby loved her elotes!

The rest of my week was spent at the gym, resting, or catching up with friends and family. My nephew Kason was in town for his spring break, and I loved being a tia once again. It is so crazy how time flies; it's as if I blinked and now he's almost a preteen who will soon be way taller than me! During our time together we ran errands, went to Barnes and Noble to get the book he so desperately wanted, "Gravity Falls: Journal 3," and laughed until our bellies hurt. Easter was so much fun, as we ended our vacation with a family dinner and saw the very interesting sci-fi thriller "Ready Player One." It's safe to say I had the best spring break yet, getting back into my groove and remembering who and what is truly important in my life.

His idea of "helping" me build my bookshelf!
He was amazed at the "small" sized Icee. 

Even if it isn't the ideal spring right now, I hope you guys are enjoying the time spent inside with your loved ones. (And if you get cabin fever, at least you have this post for date night/activity ideas when you venture into the unpredictable abyss outside.)

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Life Lessons Learned From Fairytales

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

I've always been fascinated by myths and stories of princesses, knights, evil queens and magical creatures. Granted, I've become absolutely obsessed with ABC's "Once Upon a Time" that it's become my newest Netflix binge (how can you not fawn over the gorgeous Josh Dallas??). But besides the beautiful actors, perfectly played roles and fantastically witty dialogue, there's actually a very relatable story line to be found.

Obviously, reality is nothing like the stories found in fairytale books; we can't wake people up from comas with a kiss, and we certainly can't ever expect having knights and princesses come whisk us away. But "Once" surprisingly goes deeper than this fantasy. Each character has his or her own "real world" persona that is far from fairytale perfect. Season one shows us that in our world, Cinderella got her prince with a price: she's poor, works odd jobs to make ends meet, and has to keep his disapproving family out of their business of raising their baby. The Evil Queen--after casting a curse to extract revenge against Snow White--is lonelier than ever, and has an adopted son who finds her colder than ice. Not to mention Prince Charming as the town's golden boy, albeit an adulterer.

To be able to see the storybook characters that I grew up reading about depicted with human "flawsis honestly fascinating. It's a reminder that if fantasy magic existed, it would come with caveats and consequences. Seriously, anytime someone uses curses and potions and enchanted edibles in the show, their problems become even more convoluted. And isn't real life hard enough without having to add the favor you'll one day owe the warlock in exchange for a potion?

The premise of "Once" points out that you don't need knights or sorceresses to defeat your dragons/problems. You can always find courage, love, and happiness in yourself. As a recovering hopeless romantic, I once believed you needed a particular person to have happiness. While I still love love and all the trimmings that romance brings, I know that growing up means growing out of the idea that you can't be happy on your own. You can be entirely open to love and find the person who is your equal, but it's crucial to remember that nobody is put on this earth to complete you. You must be fully ready to face your dragons alone before you invite anyone else to accompany you on your adventures through life and its perfect complications. Consequently, the only person you need to save you from your insecurities and fears is you. The only hero you need is the person looking back at you in the mirror.

Despite what we may have read in fairytales, a real hero is someone who uses his/her word impeccably to speak only the truth and has so much self-love and acceptance--not arrogance--that they can accept the existence/opinion of others completely different from them. True heroes and warriors allow life to occur without taking things personally, always do their best in what that they do, and don't judge themselves if their best changes based on their health or other unforeseen factors. They look within for wisdom and make the choice to be kind and supportive towards themselves so that they may help others do the same. Make no mistake--it takes a lot of discipline and strength to be your own hero in a world full of lies and illusions. Yet, if you show yourself patience and forgiveness, this really is possible to achieve.

The best part about living in this world is that anyone can be a hero/warrior. And with the right people by our side, it helps to live courageously and be open to pure love and light for ourselves and for others. However, we must remember that we cannot save others. We can only love them. If the people we choose to love falter in loving us back or leave, we need not blame anyone. Some people are programmed to choose misery and self-pity, or to control and manipulate others so that they can feel more powerful than those who are self-aware and wish to progress in life. What those suffering beings fail to realize is that the only control worth having is control over ourselves--specifically, our emotions and insecurities. That is key to happiness, and that is where real magic and power lies. Fear is the poison that plagues us, and when some people allow themselves to be surrounded by sorrow, hatred or violence, it is very difficult for them to rise above it and be committed to their own growth.

There is so much life to be found in this perfectly imperfect world that it makes no sense to focus on failure. I know many of us are hurting because of the continous loss of beautiful lives across the country, and there is anger and blame being thrown all around. To combat this fear, we must celebrate the lives of our lost loved ones, be grateful that they blessed us with their presence, and use our strength and wisdom to focus on the gifts that life has given us. When you are centered around your peace of mind, you can think clearly, communicate honestly, and make the best choices to reach truth and justice. Perhaps living a life true to ourselves can be enough, and may end up being the happily ever after we didn't know we needed.
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A Short Guide to Giving Yourself Grace

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

There is much to be said about being able to know how things will turn out. For me, there's a sort of thrill I secretly get in knowing what to anticipate. This is probably why I love watching my favorite movies over and over again until I can practically recite every single line, or why I choose the same Italian restaurant to dine at after hours of contemplating which popular new place to check out. I even try to organize my daily agenda for my students at the beginning of class, fully knowing there might be some hiccup or last minute change that forces me to be flexible. But being flexible in the midst of wanting things to go your way goes beyond the workplace.

Having everything I want when I want it wouldn't exactly be conducive to growth. Although there are wretched days that make me wish for life to just go my way, I've also learned that things will never, ever remain the same. Feelings, after all, are always changing; one minute you can be madly pining over someone, and the next minute you want to strangle that same person for buying the wrong milk. Feelings are not to be depended on, because emotions change every day depending on your mood and physical or mental state of mind.

For many of us, it's difficult sometimes to be open to unforeseen changes when we feel like we're finally in a flow of things. I'll admit that I still get scared every once in a while if I let my anxiety get the best of me. But from the daily, little things that I know I shouldn't sweat, to the major life changes, I usually need something creative or calming to ignore any shaky feeling. Sometimes I need to binge-watch a favorite show or hear an album that settles my mind; other times, I might need to disconnect for a while and exercise, write, or just be in nature to feel the day's breeze. Keep in mind that whatever helps you in the moment to process what you face will always be different, because no two days are ever the same. Even if it feels like your life is so miserable and nothing will get better, you still have the power to change your perspective on a situation and improve your energy. But this can only happen if you truly commit to yourself and your happiness.

This is still very much a challenge for me to successfully do every day, because sometimes it feels better to feed your fear the anger or emotional obscurity it craves. I only call this post a "guide" in order to reach anyone out there who's been a victim to their own fears, and to let them know that they are not alone. Life will never be perfectly written out for you like a tour guide's itinerary, but you do have the option to say yes or no to every opportunity given to you. The hardest part (for me, at least), is realizing that even the toughest moments are still opportunities for growth in self-love and acceptance--two vital parts to achieving happiness.

What makes those tough moments worth living through is showing yourself all the grace and kindness you need to get through each moment until one day, you are wise and powerful enough to recognize that every waking second is truly a gift. If it sounds impossible right now to do this, know that your time will come as long as you set mindful goals for yourself each day. They can start out small (like practicing gratitude for the shelter and food you have, or taking care of your body), but eventually those small acts of kindness towards yourself build up your courage to see the beauty in everything and to truly fear nothing.

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Snow in October

Monday, October 9, 2017 

Like last year, I decided to write another reflection post right before my birthday. I'll be turning 27 in exactly one week, and this year I am feeling a very similar, yet very different way about growth and change. Perhaps you will agree with me and will find solace in this post, but if you don't agree, that's OK too.

I found my first white hair last week (or shall I say, my trainer Sam did) under the already terrible fluorescent lights of the gym. I twirled the snow white strand that could have easily come from a senior citizen, as if at any moment color would return to it. Sam tried to make me feel better and have it be a celebratory moment about fully becoming an adult, but I threw it into the garbage and tried not to panic. In the span of seconds, my brain came up with different causes for having a strand of white hair before turning 30: stress from my previous job, stress from having my own apartment, genetics (sorry Mom!). But no matter which way I spun it, the fact remained that I am still getting older, and time really does not wait for anyone or anything.

As always, so much has happened this past year that I honestly don't know where to start, so I'll do my best in summarizing the last few months and how I choose to learn from it all.

To begin with, my career took an odd turn that I didn't think would ever happen. I switched from teaching high school Spanish to middle school Spanish, a decision that happened within just days in August. The challenges I faced at my last schools left a bitter taste in my mouth, and I felt compelled to make a definite career change. I had started looking for nannying/tutoring positions since the spring; the recruiter I was in communication with was super friendly and helpful, but parents weren't looking yet and wouldn't be looking until the start of the school year in the fall. I was nervous but excited about the idea of tending to one child instead of seeing multiple classes a day, so I pushed forth and sent resumes out any chance I got.

I decided to take a hostess position offered to me and figured it would be something interesting to add to my CV. In that same moment, a former classmate from both high school and college texted me that her school needed to fill a spot last minute. I initially cringed at the thought of teaching anything other than high school, especially since I was already on the verge of leaving the profession entirely; yet, she had remained a trusted friend of mine since graduating, so I sent in my resume and continued on with my morning. Not even an hour later, the principal invited me to an interview the following Monday, and something inside told me to just go and give it my best effort--at least I had a backup job. What happened next was almost surreal. The interview was a breeze (major win for being interviewed by that same friend!) and I accepted the offer from the principal that same day. I met my students and coworkers a couple of weeks later and right away, I felt like I had made the right decision.

At first, I couldn't believe I had almost given up on my career just because I had a rough time under certain circumstances and leadership. I didn't think of myself as a quitter upon leaving after the year ended, but looking back, it made sense that so many teachers had left the school after even less than a year. I miss so many of my former students, and I regularly communicate with former coworkers, but I also remind myself that places and people are temporary. Some experiences might be so damn hard while you're going through them that you will be ready to bow out early in the game, but it's important to remember that everything will change you for the better if you let it. However, I'm only speaking for myself because I know that I have a high tolerance for mental warfare, so it really depends on how well you know yourself and what you can put up with. It doesn't make you any less stronger to leave a situation (or person) that makes you constantly feel degraded or humiliated.

What does make or break you is what you choose to learn after walking away from the situation/person. As impossible as it seems in the moment, we are not at fault for the way people treat us. Yes, people can gossip behind our backs, spread lies, and generally try to criticize and judge us without even knowing us. What they see on the exterior is what they base their image of us on, and that image is a total lie. When we know ourselves--our true selves--and our purpose on this earth, that is when we shield ourselves with the ultimate truth. This truth is simple: our purpose is to love, to be love, to choose love every day. What makes it hard to do is when we allow emotions to cloud our decisions, which leads to more drama and more suffering. We want to be angry, sad, jealous, all because it's so much easier to give in to our demons. It feels good to seek revenge, to try to break down others, to demoralize them, but we only hold onto burning coal and expect to hurt others when we are really just hurting ourselves. We are no better than the next person, yet we like to gossip and create conflict because it makes us feel more powerful when we're actually feeling helpless and hopeless in our own lives.

In forgetting myself and my needs, I also allowed pain to remain in relationships this past year by choosing not to learn from previous mistakes. If there is one rule that every relationship needs to have, I think it should be to always speak from the heart. As scary as it may seem to be completely vulnerable in front of another person (friend, family, partner), you will always gain more by communicating honestly than by holding onto fear. You are only lying to yourself if you truly believe that your flaws are too much to love or that you cannot get through tough times together because you are not worthy of giving or getting unconditional love. If you really want to focus on the drama and pain, it is better to let the person go than to subject each other to fear. You just need to be honest with yourself and know what you want to eliminate further drama.

I am by no means an expert at life (regardless of the new color of hair I'll find again in the near future) and I am not sure yet of who I will become, but I am sure of one thing: I don't want a life of suffering. My interests and lifestyle might change again in the next ten years, but as long as I choose to see beyond exterior walls of lies that people tend to build, I will be living the life I want. I will be living my true purpose. I have fallen way too many times to count, made decisions in the past without thinking of others, without thinking of myself, and I have created my own walls of resentment and judgment. What hurt the most wasn't what I said or did to people, it was how I felt upon saying or doing those hurtful things because I knew I wasn't being true to me. In the end, you are the only person who could ever support and love yourself the most, so why would you want to create a hell for you to dwell in?

You don't have to wait for the end of the world to reach nirvana or heaven. You have the ability to live in it every day. The thing is, we are also living in a society fearful of its own reflection under domestication that tells us to stifle our true selves in order to suffer like everyone else. This makes it nearly impossible to be happy with who we are and the choices we make daily. Due to relentless situations and leaders, the world is living in fear now more than ever, but it also means that we need to step up to the challenge and act with kindness and compassion even more. This is not an easy time to be alive, but it can be worthwhile to face fear together and remember our true nature, our ability to forgive ourselves, to forgive each other and start over any time we wish to.

It may seem like I digressed a bit, but through all the joys and pain that I faced this past year, I was finally able to make sense of the mess. As long as I remind myself I am not the mess, but rather a force of life that can rise above it, I can be and do anything I choose. I hope that you can find comfort in loving yourself and others through the darkest moments of humanity, because you can also be and do anything you choose. The only thing that limits you is a thought, but those can always be changed.

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Chasing Away Some Summertime Blues

Thursday, July 27, 2017

This summer is just about halfway done but it's honestly been one of the best that I've had in a while. Mainly because I've gotten to do just about everything that I wanted, both happily on my own and with my favorite people.

I have to give a shout out to my friend Jessica, the creator of Ari Rose Body Care. If you love smelling amazing and support organic, cruelty-free, sustainable, and hand-made soaps, then you NEED to check out her products. She is a fairly new business in Chicago, but she can ship all products to you if you don't live in the city. I am in love with her Skin Frosting (your legs will NEVER feel smoother with any other product!), her soaps Midnight Tide, Luscious Lux and Sunshine Day, the popular Black Butter mud mask, and My Little Secret (ladies only!). Jessica is a wonderful momma of two beautiful little girls and works hard to provide the best skincare for every woman--especially if you have sensitive, oily or acne-prone skin. I can't stress enough how grateful I am to have met this woman, and I'm super happy that she had her own table recently at the Beautious, run by Chicago Woman Magazine, an event that featured businesses providing services for beauty and style.

I finally checked out the Maggie Daley Park and there was definitely a lot to see and do. Though it's mainly known for the skating ribbon during the holidays, there are also picnic groves, tennis courts, and a climbing wall that's actually run by Lakeshore Sport & Fitness. The kids had a great time in the Play Garden, which had little playgrounds that were created with a theme (like the sea), but I think Jose had just as much fun!

I was extremely excited to see my brother play in his newly-formed band, I Am Warhol this month. They had a show recently at Livewire Lounge and I went out to support them. These guys are truly talented!

Check out their page on Facebook if you're a fan of hearing metal/rock played by some cool, local Chicago rockers.

I also checked out the Little Goat Diner on Randolph St. when I stopped by for a quick career chat with my newly acquainted friend Liz. Their omelette of the day was phenomenal, which I complemented with a small biscuit and gravy. Delicious!

That same day, Samantha and I went to Estereo in Logan Square. I pass by it all the time on my way home, so I was eager to see what it was about. I loved what I saw walking in: all of the windows were open, the bar was in the middle, tables and stools surrounded the bar and salsa vinyls were playing on a record player. The drink menu featured a lot of yummy cocktails that helped make you feel like you were transported to the Caribbean in the middle of the day!

Paloma and mojito.

On a random adventure for lunch with the bestie, we found the perfect little Argentinean spot nestled in a residential neighborhood. La Nonna provides breakfast, lunch, and dinner to its patrons; the food is AMAZING, but what also makes this place so special is the humble beauty and atmosphere inside.

It opened up about three months ago, so I do anticipate it becoming so busy there might be a wait time to grab a table soon enough.

Also, I am SO proud of my friend Abby for becoming a doctor of physical therapy. We celebrated last week at the Virgin Hotel's rooftop bar, Cerise. It was the perfect night to spend with my beautiful ladies.

I've had quite the culinary adventure so far this summer. No regrets--but no skipping out on the gym either! Sam has been making sure I work hard for each burger....

More updates soon!


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