Category Archives: Personal Development

Being Alone and Lonely in Japan: An Introvert’s Perspective

 

Listen, you’ll need bottles of cheap wine, 500+ tracks of good music, some of it mindless like 2000s pop, a deeper appreciation for introversion, a good activity to speed up time—mine is writing (thank God or else I would’ve jumped in front of a Shinkansen already)—Netflix playing in the background, a quick dismissal of whatever qualms you’ve had about talking to yourself in public, your Kindle to tackle all that reading you’ve long neglected, and a big healthy dose of IDGAF anymore because it’s that serious.

Loneliness and being alone.

Two different concepts but living in a small town in Japan, I can no longer tell the difference.

Being alone is loving your own company because you think you’re the coolest even when you’re not, but it doesn’t matter. You must believe you’re the coolest if you’re going to get onboard with being alone.

You relish the silence that comes once you’ve entered your place after work. You don’t want to bang your head over the deafening sound of your endlessly rolling thoughts.

You can relax, stretch your limbs, get stuff done, eat ugly, forget the pants, and curse loudly at the stupidity of whatever show you’re watching. Sleep late or early. Read or waste time on YouTube videos or scrolling through Facebook.

No one is there to nag you. No one is there to ask you for any favors. No one is there to annoy you. No one is there to judge you.

No. One. Is. There.

Back home, I enjoyed being alone. But here in Japan, it’s a different story because I’m alone every day even when I’m with people, sometimes especially when I’m with people.

Back home, I’m not alone every day because when I’m over being alone, I can go ahead and be with people I love and enjoy talking with. I can take a break from being alone. I have a choice.

But here, six thousand plus miles away from people who like hugging (I’m a hugger; people aren’t huggers here), who can keep me engaged in a good conversation, and who have a strong connection with the real me, I can’t take a break from being alone. Guess what happens? My time alone eventually turns into the beast called loneliness.

Hold on tight because I’m about to drop some bombs about loneliness in Japan, especially when you live in a rural town where the most exciting thing is an earthquake tremor.

First, let me get this one simple thought out of the way: being lonely in Japan sucks.

Okay, now we can go ahead and hit the deeper points.

1.) Communication:

If I ever plan to live in a foreign country where the people don’t speak either French, English, or Spanish, I’ll make sure to be enrolled in real, not online, language classes. My Japanese ability is enough to get me by and fulfill essential needs: shopping, eating out, traveling, and banking.

But a person needs more to maintain a healthy mind. A person needs conversations that go beyond likes and dislikes and what you think about Japan or why you’re here.

After answering these questions multiple times, you don’t want to talk to anyone anymore. You instead end up talking to yourself since you’re under the impression that you’re the most interesting person you know.

Just kidding, of course. Maybe.

There have been times when I didn’t make any attempt to start a conversation because I knew it wouldn’t lead anywhere significant. I chose to stay quiet and only talk when spoken to.

As an introvert, keeping up a superficial conversation drains so much energy out of me. It augments my depression and feelings of loneliness. In fact, relief  spreads all over me when the conversation ends.

Of course, I talk with my family and friends back home and it helps a great deal, sometimes even saves my life. But nothing can match the simple joy of talking to someone in person, seeing each other’s eyes, smiles, funny grimaces, and feeling each other’s energies.

Here, I am no better than a talking doll with a string you can pull on her back. A doll’s probably more alive, though.

2.) Weekends:

In a previous post, I wrote about how Japan has been great for my writing in term of getting the words down. Why? Because my weekends consist mostly of drinking white wine, cleaning my apartment, and writing.

I’ve written more than I’ve ever had here. It’s the result of not having my weekends booked with the laughter and joy of family and friends. Instead, it’s me, the laptop, and a fiery passion to get work done.

Writing is great. I love it to death. You all know that already. But my sanity needs more than writing. In fact, too much writing has made me colder, more introverted (yes, that can be a bad thing; balance is key, people), and a tad more obsessed with writing itself, which I didn’t think was even possible considering how passionate I am already.

I’m sad to say that I’ve also lost a good chunk of interest in traveling to other cities here. Depression does that to you. Robs you of things you once enjoyed like traveling and exploring new places (thank goodness it hasn’t taken writing yet; the universe knows I’d end it if I lost that). So I prefer to stay in and write at my desk or sit in the corner of my favorite café in town and spend hours writing there.

Another culprit behind my not traveling so much is having to do it alone. This is hard for me to admit, but I don’t like traveling alone.

Kudos to those who can do it, but it’s not for me. I can live alone, no problem, but traveling alone pushes me further into my head and thoughts, which makes me talk out loud more than I’m comfortable with before I can check myself.

If I do have to travel alone, it needs to be in nature with a sparse sprinkling of folks. I can’t stay in crowded places or else I’ll suffocate. So it’s hard to explore a new city because those have lots of people, right? What can I do except run away back to my room where—spoiler alert—no people.

But if I’m with someone, my mind takes a break from the crowds and inner thoughts to focus on the person beside me. I feel better and can endure a trip for quite a long time. I become a happy traveler.

3.) Daily Life:

No. I don’t exist in my daily life. Reality doesn’t exist in my daily life. Nothing exists in my daily life. Monday morning through Friday night is known as THE VOID, the zenith of my loneliness. I escape it somewhat unscathed on Friday nights with lots of wine.

They say life is what you make it. Yeah, well, I’m hanging by my teeth on the highest ledge of the Burj Khalifa to make it through the rest of my stay here in Japan. But the key to surviving this great leviathan called loneliness is not giving in to it.

Never give in, just keep pushing and another day will come one after the other until it’s all over, and you can go back and ask yourself, “What the hell was I doing with my life then?”

Living. You were living and you keep doing it, except way smarter this time around.

So, what are your experiences with being alone and lonely? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

Advertisements

Feeding on Rejection, Criticism, and Reality Checks

This is how it goes. I submitted a short story to a horror magazine last month and received a response about four days later. Before I clicked open the email, I knew it’d be a rejection, and lo and behold, it was a rejection. I promptly dropped it into my Rejections Folder, bringing the count up to 63 big fat NOs from literary agents and magazines.

Now, some might say I brought the rejection to myself for calling it out. Negative. As a writer, I’ve learned to expect rejection 99% of the time and hope for a positive response 1% of the time. It’s not that I think I’m a shitty writer, or else I would’ve quit torturing myself years ago and slide into living a more normal and stable life like most people. You know, be happy.

But I can’t quit writing because a powerful spirit of creation possesses my body: I must write, create, or I die. I’m totally seriously. This is deeper than a calling. It’s like having a second heart. Kill it and my real heart will die soon after. Try to take it away from me and I’ll cut you off cold. Writing has been with me for twenty-one years. Guess who will win in a relationship? Yes, that’s right.

I live in a passionate hell of my own making: it burns, but the flames are never hot enough to destroy me. Sometimes the flames purify me before they go back to burning again. And so I keep writing and grinding hard to get my work published.

Each literary rejection I receive adds a layer of steel around my heart where now even the criticisms, both helpful and painful, I receive from people in situations unrelated to writing have a minuscule effect on me.

I used to be a highly sensitive person with a raging temper who would chew your head off if you offended me. My response to heated environments would turn me into a twister of dramatic outbursts, rushing to make a series of bad decisions based on my current emotional state. In short, I was a walking bomb of rage, ready to explode at the slightest mean poke.

When I received my first batch of rejections, I wanted to throw my laptop out the window and eat a carton of ice cream to heal my scorched soul. The second and third wave of rejections forced me to work harder to improve my craft, read, write more, edit, rinse and repeat. By the fourth and fifth wave, I knew and understood why I was rejected and simply worked on fixing that.

This is what goes through my head now when I receive a rejection:

Oh, I probably should’ve done this and that, or my style doesn’t suit their tastes. Ok, back at it to do some edits or find new people to submit.

I get a small prick in my chest, of course, because I’m human, but I’m no longer devastated or start cursing everything aside from that one obligatory ah, f**k. My hardened writer mindset propels me forward so I don’t stay stuck in a haze of self-pity or low self-esteem.

I don’t have time for that. There’s writing, editing, reading, and learning to be done, and I, unfortunately, don’t have an android version of myself to do it all. It can be hard and frustrating, but I’ve got to do it anyway.

They say writing to get published is a long waiting game, but for me, it’s also a race against myself. How can I be better than my old self in terms of writing speed, quality, word choice, characterization, pacing, tension, and making a reader laugh out loud or get teary-eyed?

The truth is that this race never ends. I’ve signed up for a lifetime journey of self-discovery, pushing my limits, and experiencing the amazing exhilaration of bringing worlds and characters to life.

All the negatives that come with writing—the self-isolation, neurosis, deadlines, rainstorm of rejections and critiques, and so on—can’t compete with the deep self-satisfaction, self-affirmation, and, definitely for my case, the pure thrill of creating.

Sometimes it’s beyond logic and reason, beyond getting published, beyond living forever in your books; it’s knowing exactly why you exist despite what everyone and everything believes and suggests.

And so it goes like this. I feed on rejections, the criticisms, and the occasional harsh reality checks. I don’t ignore them, though. That’s different and unwise. I use them as fertilizer to help my craft grow into a robust green garden full of vitality and beauty.

As a writer, creative, or any person pursuing a project with an insane passion, we can’t let the failures and defeats snuff us out from under the soles of their feet. We push back, get ourselves back up and running again, and seek to learn more. Always. Because what doesn’t kill us shouldn’t only make us stronger, it should make us smarter so that the same old shit doesn’t keep happening again.

And while rejections are important for growth, victories are still better. And that’s what I want. Victory.

What’s your experience with rejection or criticism? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

Featured Image credit: by Park Pyeongjun via totorrl0107 

 

From College to Today: How I Fought and Won against Self-Doubt, Disappointment, and Negativity. Part I

Life stopped holding my hand when I turned twelve. I developed antagonistic feelings toward life and decided it was an enemy I needed to conquer. I moved from a predominately Black and Hispanic urban Catholic school to a predominately white public school in a suburb of Boston. I started the eighth grade in this new middle school with great excitement and anticipation, but my excitement turned to dust in my mouth after the first several weeks.

I felt isolated, different, and incredibly unhappy. I missed my old friends and making new friends was harder than I thought. Sometimes, I locked myself in a bathroom stall to cry or find some escape from my present reality. I despised my situation and cursed life for it, unable to find the kernels of joys placed all around me. I saw only demons dancing in hell, pointing at my sadness and laughing at my supposed helplessness.

The years moved along and I went to the high school of that same town. High school was only slightly better and I longed to reach the end. I graduated sixth in my class of about 200 students with honors and scholarships. Tufts University was my destination.

tufts_banner

College was hell. And this surprised me because I had hoped it would be worlds better than high school. I couldn’t believe it turned out to be worse than my childhood nightmares.

I blamed myself because I was painfully shy and more self-isolating than I was in high school. I suffered from a bad form of introversion. The result? I experienced the minimum of college life and my social circle never reached beyond 3 members. And forget romantic interests. A unicorn had a higher chance of existence than my love life. I didn’t think I was desirable in any way so I never took a chance to step out or reach out.

However, I was supremely thankful to the handful of people who chose to hang out and talk with me, especially since I was convinced that I wasn’t as interesting or captivating as my fellow classmates. I made little impact at Tufts and it took a lot of work to scrape off that big piece of profound regret from my mind.

Writing was my savior during that time. I majored in English. And then majored in Biology because my parents and I already decided that I would become a doctor when I was in middle school. When you’re the child of Haitian parents, you have three career paths to choose from: doctor, nurse, or lawyer.

The sciences at Tufts kicked my ass and dragged me down into the worst depression of my life. I would fail again and again in my exams. Insecurities chained my every limb, self-hatred multiplied, and negativity was my home and prison. I saw no way out, so I contemplated suicide often, especially during my third year. It was on my mind every day. But my faith in God stopped me from going through with it. I found solace in the Bible and in the love I felt from Jesus. I never sought a therapist, which was one of my biggest mistakes. I probably would have been able to unpack a whole lot of stuff weighing me down.

College graduation came and it was the happiest day of my life because I was finally leaving hell. I had mustered enough courage to tell my parents that I no longer desired to be a doctor and that I wanted to study about education. Best part: I had been accepted to a Masters Program at Columbia University’s Teachers College. I was going to live in New York freaking City. I floated higher than I ever thought possible and let a roaring loud wave of relief, excitement, and happiness wash over me.

My two years living in New York would be the best two years of my life.

teachers college
Teachers College, Columbia University

***

 

In college I walked in a haze of negativity and self-doubt obscuring my vision and crippling my hopes for a future. I longed to hang out with friends on weekends, laugh for no reason, and work hard on a dream motivated by passion. I desired these things because somewhere deep inside I knew that life couldn’t only be the flames and the aches. Although small and fragile, there was some awareness that I wasn’t meant to live this cramped, self-hating existence I was living. I was meant for something more fulfilling, rich, and beautiful. And that small hope pushed me to apply to graduate school in NYC, a city that stole my imagination and heart after a three-day visit with my family. I wanted to live in New York and it came true.

My face once I opened up my letter of acceptance to Columbia University

I didn’t know it back then, but I was slowly releasing myself from the throes of negative thinking before moving to New York for school. I was fed up with feeling down, fed up with feeling like I had zero control of my life and where I wanted it to go. Suddenly, it really didn’t matter so much what people thought of me or whether this or that person could perform this task better than I could. I had a desire to truly focus on me without taking the outside world into consideration.

It took going beyond the superficial desires manufactured by my upbringing and society to better understand and be in touch with who I really was and what I could do. I was approaching the edge of this new and liberating mindset, but doubt and negativity kept pulling me back. It would take some great friends to give me the shove I needed into a pool of healing and self-love.

Freedom begins in the mind

When I first stepped out of the moving van to head up to my room, I instantly felt the rhythm of the city humming beneath the soles of my feet and tingling my skin and senses. The beat matched the excitement of my heartbeat and never stopped drumming until I left two years later. The air had something contagious in it: possibility, hope, uniqueness, coolness, and discovery among many things. I couldn’t help but get caught up in the potential for what things in my life could be. It was a great feeling. Like I said before, I was riding on an amazing high. But I would soon find out that the best thing about living in the city was the people.

New York would have been nothing without the incredible bunch of individuals I met from different walks of life. For some strange reason, the shyness that held me hostage in college dissipated in the city. I was outgoing, confident, and supremely cheerful, and it attracted so many cool people my way. Something about being outside of my comfort zone energized me in a way I never thought possible. I wanted to forge new friendships and connections so I dove right in without an ounce of fear. Doing so allowed me to meet one special friend who helped me confront my negativity straight on and embark on a new path: affirmative thinking.

 

My Stop!
My Stop!

***

I jumped into life in New York with my eyes closed and my faith and confidence level high. I relished the beauty of the present and looked forward to the promise of the future. Every day was new and guaranteed surprises and laughter.

I exuded a great beam of light wherever I went. My friends would sometimes comment on how my eyes shone bright or how I gave off a glow. The joy swelling in my chest simply overflowed.

My love for my new friends and desire to meet new people knew no boundaries. I sought them and made plans, something I hardly ever did back in Boston. I went out with friends for dinners, movies, Broadway shows, rooftop parties, social justice events, intimate gatherings, and seminars with keynote speakers. I experienced fun study sessions that lasted until 4 in the morning, bonding with my study buddies. I wanted people to be joyful and safe around me. My bubble was a no-judgment zone full acceptance and love.

And yet, despite all this positive energy, negativity held on to a portion of my mind, opening it up to fears of rejection and emotional pain. I knew I suffered from depression but dragged my feet on seeing a therapist. As a Haitian American, it wasn’t part of my culture growing up to seek mental health services. Praying was our therapy.

But sometimes prayer honestly isn’t enough and one needs physical medical attention or assistance.

My depression wasn’t crippling enough to stop me from attending classes and functioning in day-to-day activities. Therefore, I didn’t think it was necessary to seek help. I thought I could handle the pain myself and overcome the pressure behind my eyes, the creeping thoughts of loneliness, and occasional aches from unexplained sadness. I couldn’t visualize speaking to a person about my problems so I would write down my thoughts in a journal instead.

It helped to be surrounded by a group of caring, wonderful people. Most of the time I wasn’t even aware of my negativity, only when I was alone. And then one day I had an interesting exchange of text messages with a very good friend, someone I would eventually fall in love with. She was a Buddhist and exposed me to Buddhist philosophy and teachings. I’ll never forget an analogy of life she gave me.

vis www.vizant.com
via http://www.vizant.com

She told me to imagine my mind as a tall building. If I wanted to turn all the lights in each floor, it would take a lot of time and effort. But if I brought out the sun, then the whole building would be illuminated all at once. She told me to bring out the sun. Back then I wasn’t exactly sure how to do that, but her words comforted me and helped pull me further out of my quicksand of negativity. She led me to become more aware of my thoughts and feelings, and to catch negativity at its root.

Little did she know, she was  shifting my life towards a new, liberating direction. I would take this new perspective with me to my next destination after New York.

My graduation from Columbia was bittersweet. I knew I would miss my friends, the City, the great food, and the simple joy of walking down Riverside and Central Park. But I had to move on.

I made the wild decision of leaving the U.S. and spending a year in another country with a completely different culture.

I was going to Seoul, South Korea.

Oh Korea!
Oh Korea!

To be continued…

Stay amazing,

Sammy

If you enjoyed reading this article, please spread the love and share it! Thanks in advance!

Feature image:  @AntsMagazine

Hello Failure, Good-bye Failure

My relationship with failure used to be toxic, but now we’ve reached a consensus on how often it should disrupt my life, along as to what degree it can mute my other emotions, putting fear and negativity front and center.

Confused? Let me give you a better idea.

Failure knocks on our doors, and it’s up to us to decide how we will respond to it. Some like to invite failure in and let it sit down for a while, engaging it in pleasant, but distant conversation.

Maybe we shed some tears while failure watches with stoic disinterest. It drops words of negativity here and there, hoping to stab us somehow. However, if were fully aware, we’ve known failure long enough to know these discouraging words are worthless lies.

After a while, we send failure on its way, but not without accepting its small gift of lessons and instructions. Our dreams are waiting outside for us to welcome them back inside to receive the love and nurture they need to grow and thrive.

Some of us, however, invite failure inside our homes and let it take over. There is no conversation, just disorder as failure eats all our food, lounges on our couches, and yells at us about how we’re losers and big disappointments.

We accept these lies and this pleases failure. It invites its lesser friends, negativity and discouragement. Soon more mentally disparaging guests move in and they push us back and forth among them.

The whole situation’s abusive. During this soul-crushing time, our dreams wait outside for failure and its friends to leave. Our dreams are hungry; some have been scared away while a few can’t take it anymore and die right outside our front steps.

Depending on our choices or capabilities, we try coaxing our dreams to come into our chaotic households. Sometimes we have to drag them inside because we’re stubborn and don’t want to lose them. So our dreams shuffle awkwardly through the trash and mess that failure and its gang keeps creating.

Our dreams eye failure with disdain and failure responds in kind, letting them know they have no future. Their contentious relationship makes us want to shoot them both between the eyes.

Some of us make make do with the situation, and our dreams squeezes by, but growth is stunted. We ask ourselves repeatedly why our progress is so abysmally slow.

Sometime or other we realize we need to kick failure out of our homes. We’ve cried enough. Have been abused enough. Been hurt enough. We’ve had enough of zombie walking through life and missing out on its best parts or initiating its greatest moments.

Life is everywhere, all around us, and observes our actions toward failure. Seeing our incompetence with dealing with failure, it gives failure more power over us. Failure and its emotionally-damaging companions become harder to kick out.

Some of us might misdirect our anger toward failure and channel it over to life instead. We blame life for failure’s arrival and abuse. We build more and more of this negative anger, and it comes barreling through our door. Before we know it, a twister of negative feelings rages right inside our living rooms.

We feel powerless and stuck and call on life to do something, but we’re still too angry. Life’s response? It gives anger more power, leaving us feeling more despondent than ever.

We ask ourselves whether this will be our fate forever.

At some point, some of us will realize we have several choices to make:

1. We let this twister continue ravaging our house while we continue our day-to-day activities. Those of us in this category have long allowed our dreams to hide permanently or even die. We’re resigned to our fate. And some of us are all right with that and live the best we can. That’s just life.

2. We force our dreams to grow in this chaotic house. But we might come to resent our dreams. Everything’s a struggle. Pleasure and self-fulfillment are nowhere to be found. We make minimal progress, but regress soon quickly afterwards. Some of us will conclude that we might as well settle for decision number one.

3. We confront failure and its gang head on. We’re armed and ready because failure and its allies are clever and formidable foes. And let’s not forget the twister of anger throwing everything all around and clouding our vision, making us nearly blind.

At this point, it feels like everything is against us: life, failure, ourselves, and our army of negative emotions. We have already incurred injuries and we are in desperate need of healing. Some of us are bleeding to death, holding on to life by the thinnest thread.

So how does this battle play out? Who are our allies? Do we get a useful wizard in the mix to help support our campaign against failure? Pressure mounts and we might feel incapable of engaging failure. It’s way too strong.

Some of us might soon discover by way of a friend from the outside or some other medium that we have a secret weapon. It’s a power so great and astounding that if used properly could dismiss failure and its armies without much bloodshed on our part.

What is this great source of power and how can it be used to push back against failure? It’s usually at our lowest that we come within reach of this secret weapon, which isn’t a big secret at all.

This great power is our mind.

Our minds are not visitors or objects in our houses. Our minds are the houses. Imagine a battlefield with two opposing armies. If the commander of one army could control the whole environment and make the earth swallow its enemies, victory would be quick and swift.

We possess this incredible advantage against failure and its armies. We control the environment. We control the house and can stir it awake to become a breathing, living being that snuffs out stubborn and persistent failure.

The promises held in controlling our house swell like a balloon waiting to burst. We simply need the resolve to take a pin and pop it. But how do we go about doing this?

Controlling the mind isn’t some difficult task requiring hours of concentration or training. All we have to do is find a quiet place where we can be alone and undisturbed and challenge ourselves to engage with our minds.

Thoughts will run one after the other, sometimes tripping all over each other. We may feel restless and feel like we’re wasting our time. We know better, however, and resist the urge to get up and do something we deem more valuable. We won’t be able to control the mind until we fully engage it.

We search through all the chaos up there to find the control center, to find its seat, to find our deepest selves. If we scoff at the idea of finding our deepest selves, then the trial ends. We might find no peace for the failure ruling over our lives. But if we to push aside all doubts, cynicism, and the disruptions of logical thinking, we will begin to hear our minds speaking to ourselves.

“What are you looking for?” the mind asks.

“I need peace. I want my failures to stop controlling my emotions, feelings and actions. I want to stop feeling so angry.”

“Why are you angry?”

“Because I failed even when I worked so hard.”

“Why are you angry?”

We pause in confusion. “I already told you. I failed something very important to me.”

“Why are you angry?” the mind asks again.

We think before we answer this time and go deeper. “I wanted this very badly. Too badly. I tied achievement to my worth as a person. I believed if people saw this achievement, they would respect me more. I would earn more prestige and receive accolades from the most important people in my life.

I wanted to prove the naysayers wrong and shove my victory in their faces. I wanted to show that I was right and knew what I was doing. The shame and embarrassment I feel from my failure is stopping me from trying again. I don’t want to experience these feelings again.

I don’t want to keep trying again because it drains too much energy out of me. It’s too hard and tiring. I’m so tired. Failure exhausts me. I don’t have enough confidence in my abilities, skills, talents, or myself. Sometimes, I don’t even feel like I deserve success.

I compare myself to others too much and feel contempt toward their success, which seems to come by so much easier for them. I feel crippled by my insecurities and blame others for my failures so I take my anger out on them, snapping at them and being short-tempered.

I don’t want to go to anywhere where people know me too well. I hate when they ask me questions about what I’m doing with my life. I hate that I don’t have anything solid to show them, only my aspirations and plans, things people don’t truly value.

Our society values results, not so much the process. Results. I’m so impatient for the results. I want them now. I feel defeated so I just want to do something easy, mediocre, but socially acceptable instead of pursuing my most difficult dreams.

But deep inside, it makes me feels unfulfilled to let go of my dreams and watch them die. It’s a pain deep in my soul. Sometimes I wish someone or something could save me from this pain. I wish I could be free to try again without fear or restrictions and make my dreams come true.”

“Then be free,” the mind says.

“It’s not that easy,” we protest and start listing all the things standing in our way.

Our mind ignores this list and says, “See our dreams realized. See our obstacles gone. Feel the emotions of our achievement. Feel our negative emotions and thoughts diminish. See how we help and inspire others. See the places we go. Feel our strength over failure, disappointment and rejection. See and feel. We are there. We have made it. Do you believe this? Do you believe you are free?”

We either believe we are free or we are not.

“Are you free from your insecurities? Your looping negative thoughts? What you believe people think of you? Your self-sabotaging thoughts and habits? Are you free from your twisted notions of how much you are worth?

From your family’s definition of who you are? From society’s definition of who you are? Are you free from the hurt and pain you suffered in your childhood? Your teen years? From the way you were treated, mistreated, or regarded?

You are already worthy. You are already powerful. You are already important. Do you believe this? Are you free?” the mind asks again.

“Am I free?” we ask ourselves honestly. “No, some of these things still have a hold on me, still bind me. I am not completely free. I am not free.”

“Good to know. Now that I know you are not free, we will work together to set you free so that we may be free together. When we are free together, we will always keep moving and never stay stuck.”

Our honesty has given our minds the signal to begin purging failure and its companions out of our house. It can be a long process, but with patience and persistence, we help our mind by engaging with it regularly.

These ongoing appointments give our mind more of the valuable information and transparency it needs to get the job done. During this time, we might witness our most ugly sides or our greatest fears.

Although they’re large and unmanageable at first, our mind weakens their hold on us, compressing them into small tiny blocks. We can push them aside to make room for more positive and self-affirming emotions and feelings.

The negative or traumatic experiences that have helped form us as individuals don’t disappear. However, with our help, our minds compress them into small manageable units as well.

Finally, our dreams have the ideal environment to receive the necessary support and nurture from our minds.

Our process, our everyday living, is no longer something we shun or try to escape by way of the past, future, or other outlets.

We come to enjoy the process and derive peace and happiness from it. We live fully in the present, and our dreams thanks us for it.

When failure comes knocking again, we don’t ignore it because its lessons and instructions are too important. We let it in, understand it, and send it on its way. Our houses have finally become pleasant places to live.

The present has finally become a pleasant place to live.

How to Find the Light in the Persistent Darkness of Your Soul

always_a_dreamer__by_zeus1001-d61oyoc
“A man must dream a long time in order to act with grandeur, and dreaming is nursed in darkness.” – Jean Genet

I’m a dark person. It’s not that I’m depressed or mostly negative. I’m simply dark. I don’t like to smile a lot. I think too deeply about things. My mind finds comfort in getting wrapped around my untold stories. The sadness and pain of this world deeply pierces my soul and thinking. I’m the kind of person who dislikes being told to be happy or to smile. I live in a reality shrouded in darkness, but I’m not unhappy. I’m actually quite hopeful and optimistic. I believe in miracles and magic. I trust love prevails over all things.

I don’t like connecting with everyone I meet. It takes energy. Sometimes too much for me to handle. I take solace and pleasure in time spent alone. Being with people for far too long drains me unlike anything I know. I’m a loner. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that. This doesn’t mean I don’t want and need human contact. I do. Just not all the time. If I want to function for the next several days, I need to have my alone time.

Explaining this darkness to myself has never been easy, so I feel it’s almost impossible to explain it here without sounding like I’m suffering from sort of severe depression. I’m not. However, in this dark world of mine, it’s necessary to find some light because I do stand on a thin line where I can teeter into soul-sucking, depression-filled darkness. To stop myself from overstepping that boundary, I search for the light inside my persistent darkness.

But finding the light takes work.

The first thing I do is talk kindly to myself.

I tell myself a lot of self-affirming statements to keep exaggerated negativity at bay. I tell my self I’m strong, I’m powerful, I’m incredible, I’m amazing. I can achieve anything I conceive in my mind. I just need to act. And not be afraid of the results.

The result isn’t the most important thing. The process is.

Focusing on the process helps a lot. I focus on the joy and bliss that comes from creating worlds. I dive in the pleasure that comes from making characters do what I desire. My mind explodes with energy from this creative process. Energy from my creative spirit.

Image courtesy of taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of taoty at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I tap into the light of my creative spirit.

This light keeps me from sinking into the bad darkness, the darkness that rips souls apart and infests the mind with hope-eating bacteria. The darkness that makes death beautiful, appealing, and even necessary. The light from the creative spirit chases away the bad darkness and provides the oil for burning my passion for one more day. For one more month. For one more lifetime.

I create even when I don’t want to.

Sometimes I don’t want to create anything in the physical world. I don’t want to write because the darkness is too deep. I prefer to create in my mind. The worlds arise and people move inside these worlds, talking, walking, alive within a story. It’s perfect in my mind, and I want to stay up there. Sometimes for a long time. But the mind is not enough. The real world is waiting outside. I need to bring the mind and reality together, and that takes work.

So I create even when I don’t want to. I start and once I do, everything comes together.

Revel in the creation.

I love what I create even when I know it stills needs work. I revel in what I’ve brought forth with my mind. Nothing makes me feel more human. More alive then knowing my work is talking, interacting, making decisions, dreaming, experiencing failure and lost, and healing from wounds.

Remember, it’s okay to feel.

One thing I tell myself to do is to feel whatever dark emotions are swirling inside me. I let them run their course. I don’t suppress them. It’s when they’re out in the open that I can attack them, deconstruct them, minimize them, and make them as insignificant as dust. And then, I blow them away and keep on going.

1779097_762126683825304_340084144445753404_n
“What makes night within us may leave stars.” – Victor Hugo, Ninety-Three

I am what I think in my mind.

The future isn’t far off. The future is now. I am now. The most important thing to remember is the present moment is everything. Whatever I say I am in my mind is who I am. I am alive. I am incredible. I am powerful. I am capable of being healed. I am capable of healing others. I am learning, growing, and becoming a better version of me because I want to. I am who I say I am.

How do you find the light in your darkness? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Stay amazing,

Samantha

 

If you found this article interesting or helpful in any way, please share it by using the share buttons below. Thanks!

Be sure to look out for my e-book, The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit, coming out soon! 

Help Me! I’m Letting Social Media Ruin My Dreams! Part 2

ID-100289094.jpg
                             Courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Howdy Folks,

Last time, I talked about scavenging through our minds for the real, deeper reason why we spend an excessive amount of time on social media. Now, I’m back to share with you four of the strategies I’ve learned to help deal with this problem. Moving forward with the right mindset will put these solutions into better use.

The first is the easiest but often the most difficult to do.

1. Give your biggest social media obsession a break for a specified amount of time: weeks or months depending on what you can realistically handle.

Don’t jump into the icy waters and say you’re never going on X, Y, and Z again. You’ll simply end up back on the website or app an hour later. Sometimes my fingers type Facebook.com as soon as I open a web browser without my wanting to go there in the first place. It’s scary how it had become instinct for me to get on Facebook.

The break will be hard because you’ll start to panic about all the information, news, funny videos, and updates that you’re missing out on. But guess what? You’re only taking a break from your biggest social media addiction, which means you can casually, I say casually, scroll through what’s new in other websites or apps. The point here isn’t to replace one addiction with another, but to force yourself to think about how you can use time more effectively in the long run, especially if you’re a creative.

When you take the break, you’ll hopefully find yourself giving more love to your projects and feeling better about getting more done. Giving Facebook a break has forced me to hunker down and write while planning for the next batch of writing. Sometimes, I can’t believe how much time I’ve saved and wonder why I didn’t do this in the first place.

Keep a record of how much you’ve accomplished in a notebook, calendar, or note app on your computer or phone. Recording these achievements is essential. Don’t skip this task.

 

ID-100211568.jpg
                         Courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

I don’t plan to stay off Facebook forever. I want to finish editing my book first, and then I’ll log on to the popular social network. But when I do, I’ll have my list of accomplishments available to remind myself of how much I got done when I wasn’t a permanent resident of Facebook and that I should never return to becoming one ever again.

Okay, so your break or fast from your media overlord is over and you’re afraid you’ll go back to where you started—wasting lots of time. This is where 2 might help.

2. Set a timer on your phone or computer for social media activity and stick with it.

You can set the timer for five, ten, or fifteen minutes, depending on what you think is reasonable. You’ll be surprised how a timer going off can abruptly snap you out of a trance and set you back on track to working again. The main point here is take back control over your time and not surrender to multiple distractions.

Now 3 is for those worried about important personal connections during the break.

3. Communicate with friends and family you really care about through texting apps
or other forms of communication—phone calls.

To be honest, the only people I call on the phone to ask how they are my parents and grandparents. My friends get texts and video chat calls. The amazing realization I got from taking a Facebook break was how very little my circle is. After my family, I care very deeply about only six of the three hundred plus people who are my friends.

10
                                                                 Courtesy of Rocketclips, Inc.

 

They are the ones I want to stay in touch with for the long run. They’re the ones I want to know how they’re doing and where they are. They’re the ones I want to share details of my life with. I don’t need to know the minutiae of other people’s lives or tell them everything about mine nor should I be wasting essential time doing so.

Social media is an illusion anyway. Understand that and you’re already several steps ahead to living a better life.

Okay, 4 is for the creatives/dream chasers.

4. When taking a break from a project on the computer, step away from the computer.

Do something else. Leave your work space alone, go outside, take a walk, take a nap, grab a healthy snack, meditate; do anything but browse on the net, read e-mail, or catch up on social media. Doing so might turn your “break” into an all out one-hour eye-tiring session. Trust me. I’m a certified victim of computer “breaks” and they do not help one bit in rejuvenating me after a long writing session.

And that’s all I’ve got for you. What are some ways you manage your time properly when hooked to social media land? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

If you found this article interesting or helpful in any way, please share it by using the share buttons below. Thanks!

Be sure to look out for my e-book, The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit, coming out soon! 

Help Me! I’m Letting Social Media Ruin My Dreams! Part 1

ID-100278781
Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Why are observations about time flying crawling into our conversations lately? What’s changed that a day goes by like an hour, a month like a day, and a year like a month? Technology is one major culprit, or more specifically, social media. We shed copious amounts of our precious time by scrolling our lives away. We scroll up and down Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Reddit, or any other social media site that commands our thumbs to dance.

And let’s not get started on the comments section. What’s so fascinating about reading other people’s reactions to videos or articles that we set up camp in these comments, scanning hundreds of replies, most of which end up as tagged names anyway?

We go to sleep with social media at our fingertips and we wake up with it in the morning, all while ignoring the negative health hazards of practicing such behavior.

So, why do we do this?

ID-100308659
Image courtesy of Tuomas_Lehtinen at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

Is it fear of missing out? Being disconnected? Fear of silence or spending time with our own thoughts or *gasp* other people?

Is it boredom? A need for entertainment? Loneliness? Lack of purpose? Laziness? Or an unhealthy obsession with getting constant validation from our peers or strangers?

Or do we use it to escape our less than rosy realities? Escape the truth of our lives? To procrastinate and put off the hard work required of important projects?

The list of reasons differs for each person, but one point remains the the same: we lose time, the most valuable gift we receive from life.

As a creative, a writer aspiring to become a successful author, effective time management is one of my most important tools for transforming my dreams into reality. Unfortunately, like a good number of other creatives, I get easily distracted and squander time on “breaks”.

The creative process can oftentimes be mentally and physically draining, so I have to hit the pause button to recuperate. One of the worst ways I would do that was through social media, engaging in the happenings of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Since I’m pretty determined to get a book published, it didn’t take long for me to realize I had a problem. I had let social media occupy too much space in my creative life. Something’s definitely wrong when your life’s work has to compete for time with status updates and hilarious Buzzfeed videos and lists, or even serious topics like hard news and every day social injustices.

My “breaks” were more like one hour escapades into social media land, which tired my eyes out even more instead offering rejuvenation. The result? My motivation for writing would get cut in half, and it became a struggle to climb up to my word count goal. Not cool at all.

Some introspection on my part helped me figured out how to end these toxic social media disruptions and get moving forward to what mattered the most, producing a book worth publishing. Here are five pieces of advice I gave myself, and I hope they can help you too.

1.) Find the real reason for why you spend so much time on social media.

In life, it’s easy to set our minds on autopilot mode and proceed through our every day habits, including the unhelpful ones, without a single critical thought. However, if we’re going to make major changes to our actions, we have to first start with our minds.

Before we can rescue our time from social media, we need to ask ourselves this question: Why do I spend such an excessive amount of time on [insert addictive social media site here]?

ID-100310083.jpg
Image courtesy of bplanet at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

For me, it had a lot to do with living alone in a foreign country without my family and friends close by. Spending time on Facebook connected me back to my loved ones, but I soon started spending way more time than necessary on the site, scrolling, liking, reading and even responding to comments on news and movie pages and so on. Thirty minutes would evaporate from the clock, sometimes even an hour or more.

The lack of the familiar made me fill up on it as much as I could through Facebook. I also feared missing out on people’s happenings and being disconnected from everyone else.

Several important truths popped up from answering this question. First, I don’t need to know what all my three hundred friends on Facebook are doing to live a happy, fulfilled life. It’s an illusion that I need to be in the know all the time. Second, I need to make a list of my closest friends and family members and focus on contacting them individually to find out what’s new in their lives (oh my, what a novel concept). Third, I need to admit that most of my newsfeed is news and videos anyway, and that I’m looking for an alternative way to be entertained.

Once I shook my brain out of its zombie mode and better understood why I spent so much time on Facebook, I felt ready to set down some concrete solutions for dealing with my problem.

But you’ll have to wait for Part II for those four solutions. Until then, talk to me! What social media site are you addicted to? Have you figured out why you’re on it so much?

Stay amazing,

Samantha

If you found this article interesting or helpful in any way, please share it by using the share buttons below. Thanks!

Be sure to look out for my e-book, The Passionate Dreamer’s Notebook: For Those Who Refuse to Quit, coming out soon!