Category Archives: Personal Journey

Patience or Waiting to Live?

“The two hardest tests on the spiritual road are the patience to wait for the right moment and the courage not to be disappointed with what we encounter.”
― Paulo Coelho, Veronika Decides to Die

PATIENCE has been on my mind, its feelers rummaging through my brain, reminding me of its scalding presence in my life. I breathe its stinging fumes in the morning as I awaken and condemn the day before it has even started. My eyes open and I ask myself two obligatory questions, my passwords to re-entering the land of the living:

“Are you okay?”

“No.”

“When will you be okay?”

“I don’t know.”

Cranking all the levers in my mind, body, and soul to attempt interactions beyond mere existence, I wonder if I’m waiting for something good to happen before I can be “okay”.

Sometimes reality is like wading through waist deep Jell-O, the icky kind that reminds you of the gooey part of a skateboarder’s scraped knee. Encased in this blob of never-ending red, time becomes a hundred times slower, and each step I take gets me nowhere closer to my destination. I’m tempted to fall back into the Jell-O, allowing the jiggling clumps to fill my lungs and drown me. But my ambition is stronger than my pain and drags my tired feet forward.

Patience isn’t my friend. We wrestle, argue, and plot to kill each other while the other sleeps. I hate its life lessons because it’s oblivious to the millions of needles stabbing my spine. The pain steals my focus from whatever nugget of supernatural wisdom patience offers its victims. And yet, I endure it, letting it rule my life because without patience, I would be dead.

That’s our pact: I carry you on my back, and you keep me breathing to open my eyes to another day.

Patience isn’t waiting. But I wait anyway, stupidly, like a naïve teenager still checking the chimney for Santa Claus. Waiting is poison, the lesser, weaker form of patience, preying on crushed hearts too jittery and scared to succumb to the deep cuts of patience.

I wait for no one and nothing. I wait for everyone and everything. I wait, contradicting myself over and over, bumping my sound philosophies against my irrational fears. I’m a walking storm, full of tornadoes, hurricanes, and tsunamis on the inside, but a fragile façade of calmness and forced cheeriness on the outside.

I wait, losing time in the present, forgetting to live, experiencing every cell in my body age, die, get replaced, repeat. Clouds race in maddening speed overhead; the sun and moon rise and set, circling like the braying horses on a merry-go-round. Life fast-forwards around me while I’m stuck trudging through nasty, red Jell-O.

Patience isn’t peace, but like patience, peace is a choice. Patience hurts. Peace doesn’t. When I run out of time, peace smothers my irrational fears, barring them from transforming into the debilitating lies posing as truths intent on ripping my sanity to shreds. Patience helps me bear the torture, allowing me to stay conscious for every sadistic twist and stab of the knife.

I hate patience, but without it, I could never be a writer, and writing is the lifeblood of my existence. So patience and I have been intricately linked since I started writing stories at eight. When I sit to work on a novel or a short story, more so a novel, I can’t rely on motivation and discipline alone. Something much more significant, much more profound and powerful, carries me from the first line to the final word, from one round of edits to the final round, from idea to creation. Hope, the child of patience.

Although I work hard to keep it at bay, I love hope. It’s a tiny gem, not worth a prolonged glance, but it has enough strength to pull more than 80,000 words from the stormy mess that’s my mind. I can’t harness the power of hope without accepting the pain of patience. Hope keeps me human while patience wards off the beast. There’s a difference. Trust me. I give up a million times in my head, wishing I could hang up the NO VACANCY sign on my body. Please look elsewhere to affirm your existence. So many things I want to say, but I can’t because I’m a highly functioning human being. It’s naïve, but hope seasons the bland tasks of operating through this life, through adulthood.

The dangerous side of patience is daydreaming, the enticing promises we whisper to ourselves, the melting of reality for the sweet core of fantasy. I live half my life in a daydream, setting my mind free and wild to conjure the most pleasurable experiences and adventures. I dance in my room and the kitchen to music only I can hear, to beats others would find too abrasive or weird. Everybody should dance no matter their ability; sometimes only our bodies can express the feelings overwhelming our hearts.

The fantasy is addictive, like sugar, cocaine. Feels good but will destroy the body and mind in time. Too bad it thrives best in the hardest swells of patience, in the moments when life’s the tightest, most constricting, most painful. Sometimes fantasy’s everything keeping me dancing. But it’s not hope. Fantasy is a big, beautiful diamond, yet useless, empty, a precursor to deep disillusionment, cynicism, and stubborn darkness. I indulge in fantasy while knowing its true face and lies. If I don’t rip my fingers away from its grip, no writing gets done because writing lives in the realm of reality.

I’m a creative so my whole life is patience. I hate it but my hands fit in all its curves and grooves in ways more intimate than an eager lover. I’m not patience’s slave nor its owner; we live organically as two separate entities bound until death—for as long as I plan to be a writer.

What’s your relationship with patience? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to share if you liked this post.

Featured image: Aeonium by Russ Mills aka Byroglyphics. Purchase the image here. 

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Warning: Inside the Mind of a Highly Functioning Depressive 1.0

Warning: Language

It’s 1:30 in the morning as I write this now with my mind unable to sleep thanks to the millions of thoughts flitting across my head at 240kmh (that’s 150mph for us non-metric folk).

I feel the pain of the world too easily with all the tragedies unfolding this year, this week, today, right now, threatening to tear my heart and mind apart. Hopelessness sets in along with my weakness and sense of powerlessness to change or stop the daily horrors. Forget our politicians. We’d have a better chance of asking a group of orangutans to draft new laws that could carry out lasting change.

I wish peace could be attainable for our planet, but it doesn’t feel like it will ever happen. Sometimes it feels like hate runs deeper than love. That violence is our code instead of helping and caring for our fellow neighbor. And that we would rather cheer for those who scream the loudest and throw verbal vomit the farthest.

But most of us are asking the same question: What the fuck is wrong with humanity?

It’s not like it’s anything new. Generally, humans have always sucked since the beginning. It’s just with the countless social media options of our modern society, we now have the wonderful pleasure of knowing exactly how much we suck, and this shit can be quite overwhelming.

I know we can’t have a perfect world, but could we at least have a world that can work on dialing down the shittiness factor of humanity, its greed, lust for hate, death, and destruction? What would it take? What would we have to do? How long would we be willing to wait for it to happen? Why am I thinking about these things? Why do I care so much when all I’m doing is exacerbating my depression with all of these thoughts?

And yet, I can’t escape them because it’s who I am; it’s pretty much engrained in my DNA to be heavily concerned about the state of the world and humanity. Lucky me.

I know there’s more good than bad out there. Unfortunately, our social media outlets have a high propensity for tragedies and crude humor and cats, always the damn freaking cats. Okay, can’t hate too much on the cats because those little bastards are too cute and entertaining. I mean, just look at this.

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Catroll! Yeah!

But to get back on track, we need more good news to help balance out the bad. We’re not that starved for sensationalism and horrors that we would throw away the stories of humans not being shitty for once and actually accomplishing pretty amazing feats to help others and make the world a lot less horrible.

Maybe I’m simply talking to the wind, and we’ve long resigned to our fate to stay the same and not evolve into better versions of ourselves. I know that isn’t the case, but it certainly does feel that way.

We can’t stay stagnant and keep hoping someone else will the do the dirty work for us. The social upheaval our world needs today won’t come from one charismatic, uplifiting leader, but from everyone coming together to wake up and yell a resounding, “Enough is enough.” And then going there to do something about it.

Anyway, what about you? What keeps your mind running at night if it does?

Stay amazing

Samantha

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

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 

 

Living in Japan as a Creative

Coming to Japan helped my writing. It helped me understand what I needed to do as a writer in terms of meeting my reader and her needs. Now that I’ve taken what I’ve needed from Japan, I want to leave. Without a doubt, this country is beautiful. The people kind and hospitable. The food delicious. The culture poised and steady. Like a perfect square glass sitting on four pillars. I definitely feel the old meeting the new here, hundreds of years of history meshed with crazy modern beats. As a visitor from the West, I’ve experienced a strange and magnificent world that never ceases to astound me.

But my soul struggles to hold it together now that I’ve passed the sixth month mark of my stay here. Japan is beautiful, that’s true. But depression, sadness, repression, and brokenness choke the air here. Sometimes I feel like I’ve stepped back into 1950s America with the old fashioned uniforms of the train conductors, sea of black suits, and housewives doing laundry every early morning.

The conformity is strong here. Even the hipsters have their own rules. And the rules are hardly broken. Now, I don’t live in Tokyo, but a small town in the Aichi prefecture and that could be why I feel so out of place here. But even when I visit the big cities, I can’t shake off the pain from my shoulders or brush aside the tears soaking my sleeves.

The people here need a hug. Someone to say, “It’s okay, be yourself and release everything you’ve got bottled up inside your chest. ”

Before, I sometimes thought that maybe I was an empath. Coming to Japan has convinced me that I am. The people here want more out of life but they can’t or won’t do anything about it. So shouganai (しょうがない) prevails (the philosophy that a current situation can’t be helped; nothing can be done) and it allows everyone here to get through their dreary work routine until retirement when they can finally enjoy life. It’s what helps them live so long, too. It works for them.

But I find the scheme, the script, all of it, so constricting. Like being in a jail cell. My spirit can’t stand it any longer and I wish more and more to leave as the days go by. Sometimes I don’t feel this way. As I enjoy the peaceful landscapes and the sounds of carefree children playing by the river banks, safe and adventurous, I smile, a wave of bliss washing all over me, and think: Japan is beautiful. But that’s all I think. I can’t seem to find the words to say more, which is disturbing for this writer.

I should’ve probably visited this country instead of moving here to teach ESL, which will be my last year of doing so. I’m done supporting myself and my dream to become a published writer through teaching English. Five years is enough.

I can’t regret coming to Japan. My brain says I do, but my heart doesn’t because deep down I am grateful. In some ways, I had to come here to make my dream of visiting the country come true and to fully understand who I am as a person. Some of what I’ve discovered isn’t pretty at all. Some parts are more encouraging though.

At this moment, I really don’t feel anything. Japan’s shouganai attitude is rubbing off on me, but I don’t want it to. Screw shouganai. I don’t want to be resigned to my fate even though doing so would ensure I’d live a longer life. I’ve spent too much time already fighting against fate, conventions, restrictions, and so on to shrug my shoulders and let life happen. I make life happen. That’s how I’ve decided to live even if doing so is hard as hell.

I’m reminded of the lyrics to a DJ Okawari song featuring Brittany Campbell called Brown Eyes:

“Save me from this place. I’m so empty like my heart has been erased.”

Although the song is about a broken heart and betrayal, these lines resonate the most with me about my current situation in Japan.

Hear the full song here:   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HOIaEbm4vgs

Have you ever lived somewhere and felt something was wrong despite all the beauty surrounding you? Would love to hear your thoughts!

Stay amazing,

Samantha

 

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

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Feature image:  @AntsMagazine

Passion and the Creative Functional Depressive

Waking up is the hardest. The pressure starts between your eyes, throbbing and pushing at the same time, and won’t let up. You burrow your head into your pillows to hide from the sunlight streaming out of the curtains you opened last night as one of your many efforts to help drag your limp body out of bed in the mornings.

Because you know. You know well.

You turned off the blaring alarm from your cell phone about two hours ago. Snoozing is useless and no longer exists as an option. Guilt and the high pitch tone of attracting consequences prick your mind as the clock marches onward to the third hour after your desired wake-up time, another pebble in a mountain of promises to self your never keep.

Work.
Money.
Could get fired.
Concerned talks.
Calls.
Write.
Stop.
You care.
WAKE UP, NOW!

You care.

Your brain fires these words and phrases at you, grabbing unto your shoulders to pull your up from the deep waters of depression. Out of your coffin. Out of your grave where you wish you could stay forever, forgotten, alone, and fortunately dead.

Dead.
Dead.
Dead.

You open your eyes.

I have to stay alive. I have to move. I have to get through the day, you think.

With resolve coming out of thin air, you throw back the comforts of the covers and swing your legs over the edge of your bed. You reach for your cell phone and check messages, email, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, and the current news, none of it ever good, always explosions and people being assholes to one another.

You get lost in all of it, becoming robotic as your thumb scrolls up faster and faster. You’re not even reading anymore, just skimming and seeing how much you can cram into your skull.

Another forty minutes goes by. You curse your deplorable time management skills and put the phone face down on your bed in disgust, hating it and promising never again to start your mornings burning the surface of your eyes with the glare of its screen.

You promise to read a good book. To write instead. To exercise or meditate. Prepare a good breakfast. But tomorrow morning, you’ll do the same thing, phone in hand, making promises again.

Your morning routine happens in a blur. You check in and out of reality, in and out of your actions, with a pace both slow and fast, followed by long glances in the mirror. Your eyes pierce into that of another person who smiles, grimaces, frowns, and returns a blank face belonging to the ranks of the dead.

I don’t want to go to work today. I wish I could write instead, you think as you do your hair and face. But when you had no work, you couldn’t write like you wanted to. A paradox. Or a catch-22. Your creative process has never made sense to you. It most likely never will.

You write nonetheless because you’re the tin person and writing is your oil. Without it, you remain still and sink further back into your coffin, your grave, your deep underwater world of endless, stretching darkness.

You manage to drag yourself from the mirror and pack your bag, making sure to put your cell phone, earbuds, and wallet in there. Double-check because you’re terribly forgetful. You can’t count how many times you’ve forgotten your wallet somewhere, your phone, along with other useful items. You’ve recovered much though. For some reason you’re lucky in that area. Why can’t luck love you in the many other countless ways it can love you?

On your bike, your mind is on the music. Always on the music. It’s how you meditate, inserting yourself into the now, never the past, never the future, never anything of importance, sometimes not even your writing. Only the music.

On the train and streets, strangers see your true self, your true face. It’s a face not even your family sees. Not your friends. Not your coworkers. Not your students. No one. A face where the lines break through the surface of your skin, which droops to the ground from the weights of endless, tortuous pain. Your real self mirrors the darkness within, ugly and broken.

Maybe your loved ones and those near you have seen that face, and you only think you’ve successfully hid it behind the many masks you wear to present as a highly functioning human, adult, person, and loved one.

You have many masks. Many of which you create on the spot when the occasion rises.

They should call you a chameleon. You change your face and adjust your energy to match the frequency of those around you. Yes, you have a unique face and energy for every situation and person. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you fail. In an attempt to undo the conditioning of making sure those around you are well and comfortable at your expense, you work on eliminating your anxiety, but the tension escapes, oozing into the air, choking others, making them tense too, uncomfortable, stiff, unsure of how to proceed, looking for ways to vacuum the cold, rigid air your aura blows.

You can’t get closer to me. That’s what you think and believe. It’s why you prefer to be alone. You know the darkness within is too intense, sleeping with your ambitious passion to write great works, which makes you even more distant, so deeply embedded in your world and far removed from reality.

You only feel pain and love. The other emotions come to you on the surface, never penetrating the diamond barrier around your soul and heart: happiness, joy, guilt, anger, pleasure, hate, annoyance, and on and on. Even when you smile and your eyes light up, even when you’re having a good time, even when you’re so sure you’re happy and elated, the darkness, the pain, the depression, pierces behind your head, ballooning up in the space between your ears. It becomes harder to breathe, move, and think. Your actions become delayed, irrational, erratic. Everything is malfunction.

And so you withdraw and stay alone. Sometimes for long periods of time. You have to. To fill up the energy lost, drained, depleted. If you don’t, they’ll all see your true self. Listless. Emotionless. Dead. Worse than an android. Not even an empty shell. Invisible. Gone. In another dimension in time and space where you think you can never be reached.

Come back to me.

Those are the words someone needs to say when you’re with them and have checked out. When you have left with your whole body and soul. Once someone says it, you slowly turn back on and look up into their eyes and smile.

Okay, I’m back now, you say.

And you return for a while, secretly wishing to be alone again even though you enjoy and need the company. But you have to turn the crank attached to your mind to keep yourself going. You want to stay longer, talk longer, laugh longer, hold on a little longer, but with time, it gets harder to spin the lever because thick chunks of hardened darkness fill the nooks of the wheel.

Mental exhaustion morphs into physical exhaustion. Your entire existence screams for a break. A pause. For silence quieter than the sound coming from a TV without signal put on mute. You need a long hard stare into space, looking through the cores of the atoms themselves. You long for a complete and total shut down. But that would mean death, wouldn’t it?

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via sf.co.ua

Your brain flutters awake, reminding yourself that you can’t stay like this. You snap out of your stupor, crank the wheels, and resume functioning.

You observe the smallest details with intense attention in hopes it will add accent to a bland life. From the faintest lines on a face to the curve of a fingernail. The smallest chip on a tooth often obscured by moving lips. The tiny piece of squiggly red thread on a black shirt. The individual tiny dust balls on a desk, irking you. The misplaced eyelash tucked in the folds of an eyelid or a single strand of hair sticking out from a groomed eyebrow.

You miss nothing and everything at the same time, hoping to live fully and presently, only to be swept away by your own daydreams, paddling you into the future.

Come back to me, they say.

Okay, I’m back now, you say.

And for all your darkness, pain, suffering, and occasional bursts of suicidal thoughts, you remain highly optimistic, confident, possibly borderline delusional in the attainment of your dreams. You widen your eyes, pupils dilating, heart beating, and fingers trembling, from anticipation of what’s to come, of what you’ll achieve.

You pant hungrily for the sun’s brilliance and stretch your ears for the soothing songs of ocean waves. The sea salt smell teases your nose and sand climbs in between your toes, massaging out the stress, pulling out cord after cord of curling darkness from the bottom of your heart straight out of your feet.

But inside your darkness is beauty that you let out from time to time. It’s as gentle as the rays of a setting sun. Calm like a quiet river. Resilient like tall stalks of grass getting buffeted by the wind. It’s a beauty you share freely because it comes from a deep love of others, a deep love for all who have experienced pain and suffering, for those who know what it means to be in the dark.

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via  sf.co.ua

You can’t stay still in one location and suffer from bouncing knees eager to keep moving to the newest place with fresh faces and unfamiliar buildings and roads. You’re a butterfly perpetually returning into a caterpillar only to transform into a butterfly again and so on.

You’re a collector of brief, wondrous experiences, instantaneous connections and interactions, accidental meet-ups, and short-term relationships. Those who can stomach your erratic, capricious behavior and your longs bouts of silence for years, even after you’re gone, have your deepest gratitude and love.

In your haze of darkness, you still have faith and believe everything will be all right. And so you release your pain every day and let time heal as it can and should.

I’m not a good person, you think. And you’re right, but you strive to be, despite failing time and time again. You forget the the hard lessons from your mistakes, but your awareness of your actions become acute in the aftermath and you somehow end up learning anyway.

You’re tired of running, but you’re always running away from yourself so you think if you jump from one location to the next, you’ll get away, but you can’t. No matter how far you go, you’re always stuck with yourself. And this drives up your headaches and deepens the furrows between your forehead. You have to learn to live with your thoughts, the constant chatter in your head from sources within and the outside, good and bad, deep and shallow, powerful and weak.

At the end of the day, you don’t congratulate yourself for making it through the day, for operating in your functional depressive state. You don’t think you deserve a shiny medal because you know you’re not the only one. You’re one of millions hunkering their way through the trials and errors of this brief experiment called life.

It ain’t easy. It ain’t easy at all, but you do it anyway.

You live, anyway.

 

Feature image credit: “Underwater room” has been published on October 07, 2012 by Paul Mood.