All that I know now

Growing older has taught me how to mark the end of the seasons. I watched the brilliant blue of a summer sky become grotesquely marked by wildfire, felt the suffocating heaviness of heat waves succumb to cold breezes that blew through me as sharp as daggers. I watched as tree canopies transformed from lush greeneries to impressionist mosaics of dandelion yellow and burnt orange, until all that remained were the black and barren branches of their naked forms, forlorn and elegant.

The transitions from summer to fall to winter have only become more familiar, and yet they seem to change more quickly, the time passing faster every year. I mourn too much the departure of the seasons, cling a little too desperately to these chapters that I never feel I had enough time to fully savor. It is a bit like catching a glimpse of a hummingbird in a garden: just as you are truly taking in the grace of its beauty, it has already disappeared the moment you stop to blink.

This fall I said goodbye for an indefinite amount of time to the grandmother that raised me. The woman who wiped my tears and made me snacks and picked me up from kindergarten. As I got older, the role of caregiver and care receiver reversed, and like the passing of the seasons, it somehow happened without me realizing. It is even strange now, to think she is not a part of my life everyday — though I suppose she still is, because I think of her, and am grateful to her everyday of my life.

As I get older, I always find myself wishing I spent more time with family. I am constantly beating myself up over things I think I should do, even when it isn’t my first instinct to do them. I ruminate a lot over this: my tendency to suffer from internal negative feedback over every action I take.

I buckle so often under some perceived pressure from others, to show up more for them, to be more for them, internalizing and creating unnecessary guilt that dampens the quality of my relationships. I am learning to trace this back to my own insecurities about being good enough, to stop second guessing how well I am treating others, to stop doubting my own worth.

Every day is a step forward in my evolution of self. Here is the thing I continue to learn with age: as you fill it, the metaphysical cup of life only gets larger. You try to balance what you hold space for, with all your passions and career choices, your friends and your family. Despite the fact that our families created the foundations for who we are, the nuances of what shapes our lives grows infinitely beyond them. And as we grow, we become so attached to the idea of progress — to be able to make concrete comparisons that who we are now is qualitatively better than who we were before.

But I don’t believe there is such thing as linear development of growth. Not like the facts and figures and direct causations you can find in the immaculate truth of science and math. Growth in how we change as people is a phenomena that never really becomes clear until you’re past it, can turn around and see the clear reflection of who you used to be. Even then, so much of what catalyzes change is not fixed but fluid, as the actions of your past self continue to affect the decisions you make in the present, ultimately shaping the person you are actively becoming.

In many ways, growth has turned into this criminal line up of all my past selves standing in a room, shoulder to shoulder. I look at all these previous iterations of myself, and love them so much more now than I did when I was them. So maybe that is actually what growth is: honoring every version of who you used to be — their dreams, desires, and their mistakes — and learning what it means to take all the best parts with you as you keep moving forward.

It’s all a rigorous balancing act, trying to understand yourself. Wanting to know why you are the way you are, striving to understand your purpose, to once and for all know what you need to do to make yourself “happy”. But here is what we forget when we think about happiness: at the end of the day, you will live and die alone in the body you were born in. I don’t mean this to sound defeatist in anyway, but the hard truth is that our existence is ultimately a solitary one. This is where the misconception comes in — or maybe it is the very nature of being human — that we strive for structure or a sense of meaning in the ways we construct the world around us.

If we have the right amount of money, the ideal family, the prestigious job title — if we travel to breathtaking places or own beautiful things, only then will we be complete. But none of those things will ever offer you a guaranteed happiness. You will continue throughout your life making different choices that change the outcome of your circumstances. Throughout the ebb and flow of those experiences, you will encounter not just happiness and sadness, but also monotony and routine. Life itself, the day to day goings on of it all, even when you discover something new, will inevitably become boring. Contrary to popular belief, this isn’t some affliction that must be immediately remedied. It’s important to discern the difference between stagnation and restlessness. Because in the end, it is your choice whether or not you are content with your circumstances. Nothing outside you will grant you the peace you are looking for. I say all these things in no way to discount the autonomy we have to construct the substance of our lives. I mean to say, there is no point in focusing on material things or goals that you hope will grant you some eternal, permanent happiness — because it doesn’t exist.

There is no actual way to convey the complexity of life’s experiences through social media. Three years ago I ran away from a routine I grew to despise, what felt like the all-consuming mediocrity of an unfulfilling life — and to this day I have no regrets. But more than ever, life is an uneven road.

Just because you figure out what makes you happy doesn’t mean that you have it all figured out. Life is not as simple as finding your passion and then going out and doing it. We live in a world where the infrastructure of society requires you to be complicit in systems that perpetuate consumption, frivolity, and destruction — and reconciling this with needing to financially support oneself is no easy feat. It’s not about being able to over-idealistically “follow your dreams”, but having the freedom to live a meaningful life, one that creates more harmony than discord, more equity than inequality.

I do not live my life or make the choices I do because I have the utmost clarity that it is the right thing to do. I do them, because I don’t know what else to do, besides follow the intuition of my own heart. I still suffer from my own self-machinations, insecurities, and constant procrastination. But the greatest gift life has granted me, whether simply a consequence of age or through experiences I chose to have, is an understanding of myself. Even when I stray, when I become fixated on things that ultimately don’t matter, I remember what motivated the choices that brought me this far.

It was love. Love for the world, that it was worthwhile to go out and see it, to try and create change in it, even amongst fears that I’d lose time or was choosing the wrong path. Love for me, that I owed it to myself to try and do something that I at first didn’t know I was capable of.

My extended time in California has reminded me that I am anchored by a deep foundation of love, instilled in me by a family more resilient and nurturing than I’d ever realized. I have also rediscovered what it means to be emotionally vulnerable, and to share intimacy with another person again, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

So this is where I stand now, with all the acuity of self-awareness brought about by age, and yet still buoyed by a sense of childlike wonder for this world, and all that I continue to discover on my journey through it. I am on a path of becoming more in tune with myself, of trusting the people I love, of creating powerful intention with my words and my actions instead of passively experiencing a world that appears drowned in chaos.

Time will continue passing, the seasons will come and go — what matters is not what is left behind, but what you continue to create for yourself moving forward. I hope you remember you have the power to make the world better, by simply loving who you are, and not accepting the reality that others force you to believe. We are the makers of our own reality, we are the sole owners of our truth.

If you made it this far, thank you for taking the time to read all this.

Living inside shame

It’s so much easier to encourage peace and happiness in others when you yourself are happy. Of course anyone can stand on a mountaintop in their proudest moments and speak the goodwill of the universe: that we truly live by finding harmony in the path binding itself to our feet.

But do we talk enough about what it’s like in the adverse circumstances, our least proud moments when trusting ourselves is most necessary, yet our self-doubt is stronger than ever? We talk so blithely about self-improvement to reach success, to work hard to be your best, to fulfill that blind ambition above all else — but at what cost?

Who are you really doing it for? Yourself? Or the audience that you think is watching you? We don’t talk enough about the shame and guilt we rack ourselves with, when we lose the motivation to lift ourselves up.

I find myself more lost than I have ever been, doubting the trajectory of the path I’ve chosen — mostly because in and of itself there has never been a “clear” path. The path only unfolds as I move forward, and yet sometimes I feel so paralyzed with indecision that I don’t know what else to do but lay down.

Breath deep. Close my eyes. Wait for it to pass.

Shame — how excruciatingly suffocating it can be. Mostly because it is self-inflicted, because I ridicule my own inflated sense of self-importance more than anything else. And hating yourself isn’t very conducive to moving forward. But I know this experience isn’t unique to me — we all inevitably go through it. The days where we don’t want to get out of bed, would rather hide our faces in our hair than sit through the long hours of the day. But I want to talk about it now, because maybe you’re going through it, too.

Our public moments of pride, where we excitedly proclaim our accomplishments and wave them like flags of honor in front of anyone who will watch — those are not the moments that define us. What truly defines you is whether you have the strength to look at yourself without any false pretense or ego, to ask yourself what you are most afraid of, to hold yourself accountable for your own happiness.

The single greatest excuse we make, the one that stops us from pursuing what we want, is when we tell ourselves that we aren’t good enough. This is the lie society will sell you, by telling you you need this many followers, and this many gadgets, this many friends, the right kind of job or the right kind of lover — because for some reason you on your own is not enough.

But believing this lie is the most insidious of falsehoods, in many ways because it is the one we’ve been conditioned to accept from birth.

So that is why I’m talking about it. Because if anything, there is nothing to lose in being honest with ourselves — because it is okay to feel shame, as long as we’re willing to dissect where it comes from, and are ready to do the hard work to come out of it on the other side.

What I’m interested in

I am not much interested in what someone has to say if it lacks nuance regarding perception as an individual experience. I am not much interested in what someone has to argue, if they are only expunging air to prove that they are right. I am not much interested in what you have to say on the internet, in how much of your identity is quantified by taps and likes, measured in impressions, or predicted by algorithms. I am not much interested in provoked outrage, in someone’s right opinion, in unimaginative disdain.

I am not much interested in much these days, except:

How bright and beautiful the sunrise still looks everyday, even from the inside of a hospital waiting room. The strange whoosh of air from a ventilator machine, how it can transform from something first heard in a nightmare to a strange rhythmic lullaby, the cadence of a heartbeat still moving blood through a loved one’s veins. I am more interested in how to make myself more capable of loving, even to the point of exhaustion. Because there is no such thing as loving enough — loving the world, loving myself, loving the people that matter most me. I do not know if humans alone are capable of miracles, but I am not much interested in that, since life itself is a miracle. So I suppose there isn’t very much I am interested in, besides the healing power of love, the love we have within ourselves, both for ourselves, and for one another. I don’t really care these days to have space for much else.

Introspective birthday thoughts

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In the spirit of being overly introspective on one’s birthday, I have a few lessons to share that I’ve come to understand better over the course of my travels. Trying to articulate myself within the limitations of human language almost feels like a disservice to my actual thoughts, but I can still try my best.

1. Celebrate your insignificance. Extract pleasure from knowing that the sun will continue setting, and the moon will continue rising long after your time has ended. In knowing that your dreams, your tears, your laughter, all of it is just another lowly spark in the explosive fire of the ever expanding universe. You are everything, and you are nothing. You are part of a shared consciousness that exists between all things, and it is there if you choose to feel it.

2. Time and space move in such a way that we cannot possibly fathom the deepest changes within our souls, the same way we cannot feel our cells multiplying as we grow, or feel the turning of the earth as it moves around the sun.

3. Stop lamenting the past you didn’t have. See the magic in your own individual journey. And if you feel that there is none, go out and find it.

4. Your greatest fears about yourself do not disappear; they are only monsters that evolve in form. We are not meant to conquer them, but how we face them determines the extent of our spiritual growth.

And now for some birthday resolutions:

Do and say everything with intention. Don’t write empty words. Don’t perform actions for validation. Don’t feel the need to announce your intentions before they are fulfilled.

Trying to present yourself as special is not the same as being special. Focus your energy on cultivating yourself rather than creating a cult of self which people only perceive externally.

I feel like I have lived multiple lifetimes in the span of 11.5 weeks, and have grown in more ways than I ever thought possible. Like love, knowledge is not singular and is not meant to expand in only one direction; it spreads outward in an infinite pattern, allowing you to discover connections and understandings between all things that have always existed and are waiting to be discovered.

Gifts from Takure

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Throughout my travels I always find that the people I meet are looking for beauty. We hike pristine mountain ranges, watch picturesque sunsets from white sand beaches, enjoy the buzzing hum of busy cafés on Saturday mornings. It’s strange that people rarely go looking for beauty in themselves, and yet ironically that is where the truest form of it can be found.

It would be absolutely false of me to say that Nepal is not serenely beautiful. Nestled between the mountains of the Himalayas, the village of Takhure is by far and away one of the most perfect places I have ever been to. But it’s not the mystical sunrises, breaking over the horizon like a rosy pink smile, or the whispering trees, or the terraced hills with their weathered faces carrying hundreds of years worth of stories to tell. The beauty I’ve found is in the Nepali people, who have welcomed foreigners from a different land with unbelievably kind open arms, the purity of their smiles like gifts I didn’t think I was worthy of receiving.

Love, we tend to forget, is a universal currency. And the people who have chosen to call this place home are the richest people I know.

I have learned countless lessons during my short time in Nepal. To recount them now within the limitations of human language almost feels like a disservice, but I can still try my best.

I’ve learned to love more heartily than I have in a long time, to love the fleetingness of moments, to love strangers that quickly become family, to love the earth as much as I always should have.

You’d be astounded by your ability to gain so much by living with so little. The luxuries the world has to offer you cannot be quantified with a price. I’ve never known so purely the joy you we are rewarded with from simply living off the land, and creating tangible, useful things with your bare hands.

There are some journeys we begin, which we don’t realize until we’re part of the way through, that we can never return the way we once were. My time here has forever changed me, and I am eternally grateful for the healing it has bestowed upon me. I hope that in time, I will be able to return the favor, with whatever it is I have to offer — with intention, with my continued growing sense of inner beauty, and most of all, with love.

Thank you, and namaste.