Challenge Accepted!

I have started a new challenge! I have asked seven different people to give me a word, and for the next seven days I will be writing a blog weaved around each word. There were a couple reasons for this idea. First of all, there is nothing more melancholy than the depths of writers block where creativity is stunted by abysmal disarray. In order to launch myself from that state, I decided to channel all my negative emotion associated with the roadblock by inducing inspiration from those around me. It’s new, fresh and seven people are counting on me to deliver, which means, I feel empowered with purpose and a plan.

The second reason I chose to partake in this endeavor holds a bit of a deeper meaning. Ten different people can all look at the same exact piece of art, yet all walk away with a different meaning as to what it symbolizes to them. I believe that it is the same thing with literature. While a concept may be universally understood, it can be processed and interpreted according to our own perspectives. By having seven different people choose a word in which I will write about, I will be able to witness first hand how a word which carries a prominent definition can be understood in so many different ways. It’s simply amazing how much power a single word can posses. As you all read through these next seven blogs, think about how my perception of the word is different from yours as well as all the other seven interpretations it can have to the other participants involved.

Once again, thank you to everyone who has contributed their suggestions. I am just as eager to present my ideas on your thoughts as I am for you to read them!

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A Word of Advice

With so many thoughts and topics swimming through my head, I wonder where to begin. I have faced several challenges this week all reverting back to topics that I have discussed in blogs previous to this one. I have found myself pondering my own thoughts and advice that I have shared with all of you discovering that so often it is difficult to listen to our own wisdom. I once said that I longed to inspire others with words of hope, but today, I share words of disappointment. I admit that I myself have not been true to my own revelations.

Months ago, I documented my endeavor to quit smoking. I spoke from strength and insight as I shared my story to show others that kicking the habit was indeed possible. Today, I share with you all that I have fallen off that wagon and found myself once again in the clutches of nicotine. How did this happen? The truth is, it doesn’t really matter. What is important is that I own my shortcomings and correct them. I feel that this post will be a medley of most of my blogs in the past, only this time, the only person I know firsthand that I am inspiring is myself.

The first entry I ever made was a comical theatric of what it would be like to discover that you have a long lost twin who is more attractive than you. Like everyone else, I have my days where I don’t feel my absolute best. Thinking back to that thought, I realized that most of my insecurities stemming from my body image could be improved by making simple changes in my life. Perhaps it is time that I decide what I would like to improve upon and do something about it.

Having thought back to “Perfectly Imperfect”, I remembered that not every quirk can be changed and some should be embraced rather than frowned upon. Maybe it’s time I reevaluate myself and discover once more how to accept the flaws embedded in my genetic makeup.

I could spend an eternity sitting here crafting my thoughts onto paper to achieve a pretentious explanation for my actions, but at the end of the day, who am I really trying to impress? Myself? Probably.

For once, I have few words to share that I hope resonates with you all. The advice you give others is so often the best advice to listen to, yet most difficult to personally accept. Reading through my own blog I can’t help but think to myself, “Wow, I said that? When did I stop living these mantras?”

We all have our own words to live by. However, we all stray from the path we have set for ourselves to find that we are not practicing what we preach. This doesn’t make us hypocrites, it simply makes us human. We are allowed to fall down and struggle sometimes just as long as we get back up and continue moving forward.

While I have chosen to challenge myself in many ways, I challenge you all to do something as well. Think back to some of the best advice you have shared with those around you. Now, ask yourself if you are living by your own words of wisdom. If not, don’t just ask yourself why you aren’t but what you think you should do about it. Just wait and see what kind of advice you come up with.

In the Land of Opportunity

For those of you following, you may know that I recently quit my job at the bank. While it paid me a pretty penny and offered me hours that complimented my schooling, I found that I was just not happy. At the end of the day, the money and stability was just not enough. I needed to pursue something where I could help people, and quite frankly, I felt that I was often making people’s lives worse. In the heat of an argument with my boss, I up and quit. Probably not a very smart move, but what can I say, I tend to let my emotions get the best of me at times. I tried to reconcile the situation, but unfortunately I was too late. I had resigned and they had accepted. Then, I got to thinking; was it actually unfortunate?

The following shift I worked (which was my last) my boss pulled me aside to ask me if I would be interested in working as a caregiver for her close friend’s daughter. She assured me that she carried no resentment or hard feelings for how I had left things the previous day and actually supported my decision in leaving. She could see that I was unhappy with my job due to my inability to feel that I was helping others. I was lacking in helping others. Her acknowledgment towards my reasons for leaving led her to feel that I would be the perfect person to fill the much needed positon her friend was seeking. I happily accepted her offer and made arrangements to interview with the family. Long story short, I got the job and could not be happier!

Now, let me back up a bit to the part where I let my emotions get the best of me and I quit my job with little thought associated. I went home that afternoon and felt like I had made the biggest mistake of my life. I had just walked away from a very nice salary and now faced no future income as far as I could see. After accepting that a re-hire was out of the question, I faced the harsh reality that I had woken up that morning with a job, and was now going to be ending the day without one. At that moment, I realized I had one of two options. I could either sit and wallow in the decision I had made and hate myself for it, or I could find the bright side and quickly figure out what my next move was.

It wasn’t long until it came to me like a flash of light igniting in my mind. The last time I found myself facing a similar situation, I took a huge risk and succeeded. I decided that it was time I do the same thing. As you obviously know, I am a writer. My dream is to be a full time writer and make a living do exactly what I am sitting here doing today. Unfortunately, dreams don’t always mix with reality. However, in that very moment I suddenly thought to myself, “Say’s who?”

At this point, I was officially unemployed. I could either hop on the computer or start turning in applications left and right in order to find another 9-5 type corporate job, or, I could take this opportunity to follow my dream.

I started looking up websites which I could get paid to blog. I researched all the different ways to be a successful freelance writer. What I found was incredible! I discovered that if I set my mind to it, I could achieve it.

Of course, there was the situation with bills. Those simply do not just go away. So, I did some more thinking and self-exploration. You see, there is a reason why the bank was the 12th company I had worked for. Every job I have ever had, I have quit within a year. I don’t exactly have a very good track record for holding down a job. This is not because I can’t keep a job, but more because somewhere in my subconscious, when I reach a point where I feel that my life has no purpose at the place where I clock in and out of every day, I decide I no longer will allow myself to stay. While it has never been a conscious decision, it was clear what was happening. There was always a valid reason for leaving, but there was also never a good reason for me to stay either. What exactly did I expect to suddenly change now?

When I started working at the bank, I saw myself staying there for at least 4 years. It would get me through college and potentially even help me while I started my career as a writer. Clearly, that didn’t work out. I didn’t want to continue this vicious cycle of bouncing from one job to another. It was clear that the reasons I had left all my previous employers was not because of something they did, but because of me. I was not feeling like I had a purpose. I felt no passion associated to the work I was doing, and therefore, there was just no reason for me to stay.

I have come to understand that I am not the type of person to stay with a job solely based on the stability. I must believe in what I am doing, and if I don’t then it just simply won’t last. Writing is something that I believe in. It is one of the very few things that has ever kept me grounded and often times the only reason I would last as long at a job as I did. You see, every time I had a bad day at work, I would remind myself that one day I would be making a living doing exactly what you are reading right now. Now that I had no job however, I thought to myself, why wait?

I am fortunate that the career I have chosen does not require a college degree, although it is highly recommended. I can still begin pursuing my dream even before my schooling is complete. (Don’t worry, I am going to finish school). By allowing myself to fully dive into my writing and establish myself as a freelance writer, I could finally get a head start on my career. Within days I had a site up and running and was already beginning my new career as a writer. While the pay isn’t exactly substantial, it is a start.

Now we are back to the bills. Having come to the conclusion that the “normal” type of job isn’t for me, I decided it was time I begin looking into other ways I could make money doing things that I would actually enjoy. I decided that I would finally start doing what I had always thought to do but could never find the time for, and start buying and restoring collectables to sell for profit. I also considered babysitting and helping elders with house cleaning and chores. Basically, if I wasn’t doing something creative, I wanted to be doing something that would involve helping others.

My prayers were answered, and I was presented with the amazing opportunity to be a caregiver for a beautiful girl born with a disability. Having met the family and beginning my job, I found that for the first time in my life, I was working without feeling like I was at work. I was getting paid to do something that I would do for free, just like writing.

While I’m not advising anyone who is unhappy with their job to just up and quit because it doesn’t satisfy them, I do want to remind you all that money and stability do not create happiness. I leave you with these last few thoughts; if you could do anything in the world and get paid to do it, what would it be? Now, ask yourself why you aren’t doing it already. Whatever your reasons may be, you must not forget, the only thing standing in the way between your dream job and you actually pursing it is your own fear of failure. No matter what the circumstance are or how many odds are against you, you have a chance at true happiness. You just have to take the risk of going for it, and believing that you will succeed.

 

 

The Gift of Misfortune

Stress induced writers block. That is always how it begins. First, I have a bad day at work and instead of going home and doing what would be healthy and write, I let myself become consumed in my frustration only preventing my art to be the release I need. Soon enough, the writing withdraw sets in and now I am left with a feeling of emptiness and stress. Stress builds and it soon takes the ugly form of letting the mess in my mind pour out into my life. I feel like nothing is going right. I hate my job. I hate my hair. I hate my friends. I hate my wardrobe. I hate everything. Poor me. How pathetic…

Then, I wallow in a moment of self-pity that soon turns to guilt because while I am sitting here complaining about my job, there are people praying for a job. While I’m fussing over my hair, there are cancer patients who have just lost theirs. At the moment that I feel unhappy with my social life, someone has left a note behind to their family explaining why bullying and lack of friends has led them to death by their own hand. As I look through my closet in disgust and question my fashion sense, a poor family riffles through bins at a local Goodwill looking for the most discounted pair of socks they can afford. “Poor me?” I ask myself again. “How selfish am I”?

I can’t hate myself for having a bad day and feeling sorry for myself in a moment of PMS meltdown. However, I can pull myself together and realize that everything I think I have to be sorry about, I actually have to be grateful for. You see, I may not always love my job with a burning passion, but never the less, it is exactly that, a job. It is a steady source of income that prevents me from sleeping on the streets and supplies me with food to nourish my body. Not only that, but because I have a job, I am privileged enough to purchase hair care products and buy nice clothes that I wear out to events with my friends. I have so many things to be grateful for, and instead, I find myself hating it all at times. How pathetic is that?

There was a time when I called Los Angeles my home and was literally living off of canned goods and top ramen. When presented with an extra twenty dollars on a pay check, I was thrilled! That meant that I could actually buy bread that wasn’t on the day old rack this week and possibly even purchase meat to barbecue rather than eating bologna like a fillet. Now, being fortunate enough to have a roof over my head and a fairly decent paying job, Starbucks has gone from a once in a while absolute treat to a nearly every day expense that is just factored into my normal budget. I have to remember that I wasn’t always as fortunate as I am today, and while I still appreciate my coffee, I do sometimes take the luxury for granted. I often take a lot of the things in my life for granted.

A few months back, I decided that for everything I found to complain about in my life, I must find a positive to that negative. I don’t want to ever allow myself to become so shallow and high on a pedestal that I forget what a gift it is to have a car instead of hating the one I have and wishing for a Mercedes. Yes, I have my days where things don’t go the way I want them to. Yes, I will admit that the little girl inside of me will throw a tantrum that I refuse to let the world see. Then, I have to remember that the tantrum I am throwing on the inside is simply that, a tantrum. A ridiculous reaction and over dramatized version of how an adult should be responding to what I might consider a “tragedy.” Exactly what is a tragedy though?

My car breaking down is not a tragedy, it is an inconvenience. My family being savagely murdered on the other hand is indeed a tragedy. Failing a midterm that I studied for all week is not a calamity, it is a disappointment. Living in the Middle East where my home has become over run by ISIS is a tragedy.

It’s sad yet true how much in our lives we have such little appreciation for. Do you think Bill Gates gets excited if he receives a $1,000.00 check in the mail? Probably not. Would you? Absolutely! Just because something may not be a lot in comparison to what you currently have should not diminish the value it holds.

I challenge you all to this next statement. Wake up every morning with a thank you to God for giving you another day. Appreciate the things that to you may seem little, because to someone else, they may be huge. Cherish the life you have, the day you were given, and the misfortunes you encounter, because what may be a “tragedy” to you could be a blessing to someone else.

I am your Conscience

What gives us a conscience; the angel that sits opposite of the devil on our shoulder countering everything the demon whispers in our ear? How did the inner workings of our mind learn to compartmentalize the voice of good and evil? Are we born with an understanding of right and wrong or are we programmed to adjust our conscience accordingly?

Look back to the early days of your childhood and try to recall how you felt when you acted against your parent’s wishes. Did you feel an immediate sense of guilt, or was it not until you were reprimanded that you suddenly felt that twinge of a knot tighten in your chest? Consequences eventually conditions us to behave in a fashion that society deems acceptable.

I believe that we are born with a pure animal instinct we all try to deny. The only true trait that is instilled within us naturally is that of survival. We have been trained to act in a humane manner regardless of our biological makeup. We know that to eat our weakest young as a means of overcoming starvation is not only wicked but morbid. Some animals implement this as a means of survival.

In some cultures, human sacrifice is common practice. To those displaying such rituals are performing what their conscience has encouraged as noble. In most western culture, this is seen as grotesquely morbid. My question is this, is one belief right over the other?

We live in an area where unless specially designed as a vegan or vegetarian establishment, seldom would you come across an eatery which does not serve beef. Go to parts of India however and you will find that the partaking of livestock is an abomination. When I eat steak, I am simply nourishing my body. There is no guilt associated whatsoever. Some parts of the world would find my hunger for beef sinful the same way I find their meals made from the flesh of humans psychologically twisted.

What my conscience judges unfit, someone else’s might provoke as holy. Without society shepherding us through right and wrong, we would all be left with the animalistic instinct of survival potentially leading to bloodshed and chaos. Perhaps the rituals embodied throughout cultures foreign to us are gruesome, it is what creates their conscience allowing a balance of righteousness. It is essential to docile the animal living within us because at the end of the day, a conscience is not something we are born with, survival is. Our conscience is simply the way in which society allows us to tame our natural instincts of survival.

What am I?

I’m a whisper in the compounds of your dark and twisted mind

I wish to vanquish evil, though not always can you find

The voice of reason to whom I bring

A melody of truth to which I sing

A harbor where your sins ferment in guilt that I inflict

In hopes to sway you from the wicked and spells poured out on script

Not all have been blessed to posses me

Those lacking are most menacing to be

A drive which can prevent malicious crimes from bloom

Yet hold the power within ones mind to send a convict to his doom

Like the white noise of a cricket, you hear me every night

While your own free will can enable you a bigot

I can only tell you what is right

What am I?
The answer to this riddle will be the topic of next weeks post.

Keep Your Chops Up

In the midst of a discussion about writing, my uncle who speaks the language of music quoted Louis Armstrong, offering me not only guidance but advice.

”Keep your chops up,” he said. This means to maintain “sharpness of skill” by regularly practicing your talent.

Formed from the lips of a musical master, the expression came about in reference to music, but was translated in direction to literature. As an artist, my uncle gifted me with wise words that will not only enhance my abilities but has inspired this piece.

It is simple to find moments of comfort and delay. In my own experience, writers block is the enemy. Regardless of the hatred I bear towards those solemn hours of darkness, I cannot deny its existence. I find that if I keep up with my writing however, seldom do I collide with such destruction. Having listened to my uncle and taken his advice, I applied this not only to my work, but life.

When entering a relationship, at what point do you find yourself growing comfortable and the flame of romance begins to die? Is this because perhaps you aren’t “keeping your chops up” when it comes to your significant other? Has the everyday “I love you” grown less frequent leaving spaces of romance now vacant? In regards to education and career, have you discovered that the stability it offers now allows for a lack of motivation?

It is simple to fall into rituals of comfort that result in less “sharpness of skill.” As I have often said in previous blogs, we are all guilty of being human. You must allow yourself to sense when your blade begins to weaken in order to establish an eternal point which can never dull.

As a new semester of school begins, I find the ambition within fade from what was once a zealous drive to a lagging obligation. I must remind myself at the start of each day that regardless of the time I have spent on my education, I have no excuse to grow slothful in the coming months. Once you allow your wits to dull, you can no longer allow your mind to expand with knowledge.

I have come to understand that the more I bring my pen to paper in a process of creation, the more logical my writing becomes in composition. As soon as I allow myself to stray from the text, I see the exaggerated effort it takes to manifest a piece only half as decent as my last. As I maintain my art on a regular basis, not only do I craft more enhanced sentences of expression but continually grow as a writer.

To manifest this thought into a lifestyle can only allow development in all aspects of life. In living this way, a relationship can only flourish into something even deeper than before. The firing flame of love should continue to burn and never be extinguished.

Whether it is telling your wife how beautiful she is on a daily basis, or continually expanding upon your talent, eliminate the allowance of falling victim to structure and repose. Though the journey of life has moments of repetition, allow yourself to find inventive ways of maintaining the ardor burning deep within. Stay true to your passion and loved ones always by “keeping your chops up”.

Dedicated to my Uncle Mark, talented drummer/musician.