Thursday, May 29, 2014

Onwards & Upwards!

When summer rolls around in the city that never sleeps, the stress of finals has a way of burying itself in the long and forgotten past, and twenty-somethings from all boroughs dress up in their finest heels and ties to impress their bosses and colleagues-to-be. Shoulders are held high, smiles are plastered on, and handshakes are practiced firm. While beginning to adapt to this new lifestyle of professionalism, young interns like myself are often found on the corner of 42nd and Lex, dumping shots of espresso down our throats faster than the scent can be inhaled, and spending our hours after dusk blathering on about our aspirations much faster than they can be worked on. We share high hopes, and also high minds.

Since being away at college each year gives us the opportunity to grow into our skin and develop our character based on choices made day-by-day, our perceptions of the people we once grew close to change in this critical time period, and it is natural to find yourself astounded, inspired, or judgmental, or all of the above. This can happen in either of two ways: as we recall certain facets of their past, suddenly encountering them after some time can either be a pleasant surprise, in which we respect their growth in this gap of time where our lives couldn't cross paths, or we may find disdain in the people they have become, and perhaps subjectively measure our own maturation as more accelerated, thereby seeking the companionship of others who are up to speed. After all, growth is everything. 

They say that we grow to be a product of the five people we spend the most time with, but I tend to disagree, though it may be the case for children. I think that really, there's a lot more that factors into who we become. Over the past few months, I've engaged in conversation about what it means to be an adult, since it identifies as the root of most of my inner discord, experienced firsthand, each day. Some have argued that it has to do with financial independence, or when you find yourself with the responsibility of someone's happiness other than your own (often with the birth of a child). I've primarily thought that I'm not quite ready to grow up, but as of late I've come to a different understanding of it all - it has to do with growth. This brings me comfort, because it is entirely possible to enjoy one's youth (or preservation of youth), while also working to develop/better oneself. While each person's definition and requirements are different and entirely dependent on which qualities speak most to her/him, here are some of mine. 

First and foremost, I spend time with myself, in my own head, with thoughts that are so difficult to articulate at times (so much so that I haven't shared my writing in months). Secondly, I spend time with the many, many characters I believe the people around me to be, and thirdly, I spend some amount of time with the inferences I make about what others think of me. Though agonizing over what others think of you is always fruitless, recognizing the effect of your presence/behavior is crucial towards self-awareness, which allows for self-criticism and leaves room to become better. Earlier this year, I recall being brutally honest with one of my roommates, and while I thought it would be helpful for her to hear the truth, it may have also come across as insensitive. I apologized the second I realized it, but I should have been more thoughtful about my words right then, not in the aftermath. Growth of character happens when you can point out your own shortcomings and make an actual effort to fix them. 

This brings me to a second point. In my mind, growth entails developing the confidence to "fix" your character, in order to rise to your best self. Time and time again, I hear the tiresome excuse: "It's just my personality - you can't change who you are." The issue with this is that you most certainly CAN! In fact, this misconceived notion parallels the idea that you have no autonomy over your own character - which isn't true - and a quote by author Alice Walker proves my point best: "The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don't have any." If you notice something you'd like to improve upon, don't think that you can't (or don't need to). I want people to stray away from the misconception that you shouldn't "change yourself" because you should be true to yourself. I'm saying that they're not mutually exclusive. Staying true to yourself just entails not putting up a facade. Building character might make you a better person from who you were yesterday, but it doesn't change your fundamental being. In my mind, you can build character while being genuine in all that you say and do. 

To recap, becoming an "adult" is about growth, and you can keep choosing to move forward. We all grow into the people we have the confidence to become. 

Onwards and upwards!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Is Life Good?

Assess and reassess.

(Photo by Gustavo Vieira Dias, creative director of DDB Tribal Vienna)

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Sometimes, all it takes is a little pull in the right direction to get back into the routine of things. I haven't written anything in a long while, but for the past few hours I've been overwhelmed with how much I want to accomplish during college and, how I'm also the type of person who needs ten hours of sleep at night.

But some nights, that's okay. I have to remind myself that achievement takes time - that, I'll have to work in steps over time and not care for immediate gratification at all. And on some nights, it's okay to sleep.

(GIF via Tumblr

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

On Writing

"There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed."
- Ernest Hemingway

This is the first sentence I've written all week.

I've always considered writing to be a sort of free therapy - something I would do at three in the morning when my thoughts are kaleidoscopic and I simply need clarity. It has always been a way for me to break down my thoughts and wrap my head around diverging perspectives, resulting in empathy at the very least.

I write in sprints, not marathons. I've noticed that most of what I do compares: if I start a painting/novel/project, it'll consume me until I finish, or I'll fall asleep and start something new when I wake. Obviously, there are exceptions, but this is how I seem to operate.

I know people who disagree with my methods, those who write regularly: those who have, through time, developed the strength to persist through dull days and frustrating writer's blocks. Hemingway's own endurance was tested in his first few years as an aspiring writer, as noted by Paula McLain in The Paris Wife. His struggling character states: "If I can write one sentence, simple and true every day, I'll be satisfied."

Thus, I felt it was necessary to question my methods.

When reading On Writing Well, I immediately found that clarity (literally, on the second page). William Zinsser recounted the differences between his views of writing, and the views of a surgeon/recent story-writer, Dr. Brock. While he argued for the necessity to write and rewrite, Dr. Brock believed in allowing a writer's words to come out naturally, and not be toyed with thereafter. When asked what one should do on days without much inspiration, Zinsser stated that writing is a craft, and a serious writer should stick to a daily schedule, like any other job. Dr. Brock, on the other hand, expressed that writing is an art, and if your uninspired mood affects your writing, simply put it down and come back to it later (what I generally do).

There isn't any "right" way to do such personal work. There are all kinds of writers and all kinds of methods, and the method that helps you say what you want to say is the right method for you... Out of it come the two most important qualities that this book will go in search of: humanity and warmth. Good writing has an aliveness that keeps the reader reading from one paragraph to the next, and it's not a question of gimmicks to "personalize" the author. It's a question of using the English language in a way that will achieve the greatest clarity and strength. Can such principles be taught? Maybe not. But most of them can be learned. 
- William Zinsser, On Writing Well

When approaching creative works such as writing/art/music/photography/design/etc., the most important asset you have is your own character. It can never be the same as anyone else's, and you can't have it "fixed" with plastic surgery. Your methods, whatever they may be, must serve to reflect you in all of your human-ness, so that whomever is put in front of your work, may also be touched by it. I don't question my methods anymore.

(Top photo by weheartit)