Saturday, September 13, 2014

A Little Parenthesis in Eternity

I had to put on pants this morning. And a sweater. Summer rainstorms are beautiful because they are balmy and refreshing, unburdening the thick, muggy air. But late September rain? Hello, fall clothes, coffee, and pumpkin-flavored everything. My tropical blood pines for the muggy embrace of summer, but here I am living the seasons I had only heard about. Winter-spring-summer-fall-winter-spring-summer- and now back to fall. Suddenly a whole year has passed.

Another year bursting with adventures, laughter, love, beginnings, endings, heartache, experiments, beauty, tears, and growth. Especially growth. This city is best described as a grind: demanding, exhausting and insane. But you either let it crush you or you let it sharpen you. I chose the latter. I have embraced this place for all that it is and experienced the highs and the soul-crushing lows, but it has all been part of an intense inner journey to…somewhere I haven’t quite gotten to. Though I feel it’s getting closer. Despite my acute aversion to failure, I have been consciously living outside of my comfort zone for quite a while. Maybe too long now. But it has resulted in some interesting, worthwhile experiences that brought me joy, anxiety, and the full spectrum of emotions.

My life is not as tumultuous as it was this time last year. Curiously, I have found certain stability in the often-grating instability; I have settled into the groove of things. But my questions remain the same a year later: what’s next? How do I get there? What do I really want? And yet, they are of a richer quality because I’ve come to realize that they will never be fully answered. Nor do I want them to be. 

I see you, fall. The last one started me on a wild journey that left me fixated on empathy and emotions; it led me to asking “why” more frequently, and profoundly reflecting. It has intensified the way I experience life on a daily basis- I am continually observing the waxing and waning tide of feelings, accepting them and allowing them to saunter by. This includes stress, anger and frustration. But also immense gratitude, love, and bliss.

If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s how much it truly is about the journey and not the destination. The destination doesn’t even matter, and often things come “full circle,” leaving us in the same place anyway, only transformed by new experiences and perspectives. And it is a beautiful thing.

Our cosmic journey continues.

"We are travelers on a cosmic journey;
stardust, swirling and dancing in the eddies and whirlpools of infinity. Life is eternal.
We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share.
This is a precious moment. 
It is a little parenthesis in eternity."
Unicorns and butterflies, my inspiration to live each day authentically and mindfully <3

Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Quarter Century

Twenty Five. 25. Veinticinco. I keep saying it but it still feels different on my tongue- it's heavier, grittier. There's a certain presence to it. It is unlike any other birthday of mine, where I never really felt a difference. Maybe it's because I'm officially no longer an adolescent; I'm finally a real 'adult' (thanks to the completed development of my prefrontal cortex).

An adult by society's standards (and apparently neuroscience), but finally also to myself. All my life I've felt like I was never the age I was supposed to be- until now. My 'self' has caught up to my age and role in society, and it's as if I have switched from passenger to driver. I feel in total control for probably the first time. I guess this is where life really begins for me, for I am undeniably in the 'real' world now. And it is wonderfully terrifying. 

To be completely honest, I wasn't ready to turn 25 and I wasn't content to: there is some serious dissonance between where I thought I would be by now and where I am. At some point in my early life I decided (or society told me?) that I would be in a very different place by 25- not so single, or so broke, or so...unstable. (but if I were content, would I feel complacent and dissatisfied with that complacency?) 

But I am endlessly grateful for what my life is. 

I suspect the palpable change I sense is that up until recently, I was still growing into my own skin and now I am able to just BE. From 0-22 was a chapter of discovery, and from 22-now is a chapter of clarity. The difference is subtle yet unmistakable: the former was a process of understanding and discerning my core values, fundamental beliefs, and finding my 'path'. The latter is about having a solid grasp on why I have those values, beliefs, and my path, and accepting them. 

The difference between me at 25 and me as a child/college kid is like night and day. I was floating, soaking up the world, but with little purpose. I had few strong opinions, little conviction and was easily swayed- but it makes sense: how could I be otherwise if I hadn't discovered my anchors? In the past couple of years I have found my anchors and I have this overwhelming sense of clarity. I know my path. I am solid in my opinions, assertive in my goals, and clear on what I want (and don't want) in my world. I am mindful, conscious of my ability to cultivate the life and world I WANT and envision. Discovering my anchors has given me this clarity and clarity is paramount to manifesting where I want to go.

This is not to say I have it all figured out. Far from it, in fact. But I have a notion of how I want my life to feel: fulfilling. I have no idea what this will entail, but I have something to drive me. It's exciting but terrifying- like peering over the edge of the roller coaster drop*. 

I am confident, conscious, assertive, and know what I want- out of life, relationships, a partner, work environment, etc. But this can also be frustrating since it means I am setting standards that will often be unmet. I am secure enough to know that "nothing" is better than "anything" and  I'm capable of sitting with my discomfort, sticking to my soul's mandate to find "it". This has been tough for me to execute, yet incredibly rewarding.

I guess all I'm saying is...
Find your passion. Find your path. LIVE IT. 

On my first day as a 25 year old adult, I truly believe that I am on my path and that I've surrounded myself with remarkable people for this journey. Thank you to everyone that's a part of my life. You are my inspiration, motivation, joy, sanity, support. You are the embodiment of my primary anchor: LOVE**.

* Borrowed this from Nancy ;)
** Seriously, all my favorite people have similar traits: love of life, effusiveness, worldliness, intelligence, kindness. You're all the best. <3 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Impermanence at its best.

Thanksgiving. Whaat? This means I have been living in New York for nearly a year. And I was supposed to come "just for six months." HA. Who would've thought?

Well it has been quite the adventure and after about 6 weeks of honing my cover letter-writing skills and searching my soul, things are finally starting to feel more...stable, again. Incidentally, when I let go of the anxiety and urgency to complete the mandatory next step in life (i.e. acquiring some high paying job that would be the genesis of an amazing career), life started to make sense again. In other words, I surrendered anew to the idea of groundlessness, impermanence. I stopped trying to impel my will onto the universe, took a deep breath, and just listened.

Maybe it's coincidence, maybe it isn't. All I know is that I'm in a good place again. I feel productive; I am learning more than I could have asked to; I am conscious of my personal and professional growth as it occurs. And I am grateful: Grateful to be in a place where I am surrounded by passionate, intelligent, do-gooders. Grateful that my remarkable family has supported me in figuring it out. And grateful to have friends to keep me from giving up and running away.

Of course, I am more or less back to my energizer-bunny ways, and I no longer have weekends. I am working part time as a tutor for kids taking entrance exams in NYC. They're mostly 4-7 year olds, and they're all AWESOME (mostly). I had forgotten how much I genuinely enjoy working with little kids and how they lift my mood so effortlessly. And then during normal working hours I work at The Relationship Foundation helping to grow it from startup to stable institution. My co-workers are the best and our days are mostly comprised of hilarity; it's truly wonderful to be in a place that is driven primarily by passion.

I find that I am most comfortable when surrounded by people who share my reality; people who want to shape and change the world. I found this at the University for Peace and loved every minute of it. Then I found a similar world at my UNDP internship. And now, because of this job with a nonprofit startup, I have immersed myself in the world of social innovation startups and have been spending my free time going to conferences, networking events, and professional workshops. I found another world to get lost in, and it rocks.

I've become aware from the past few months that everything is a cycle; we won't always be happy, and we won't always be sad. The important thing is understanding, accepting, and allowing ourselves to go through the cycles, otherwise we get stuck in one place and don't move forward. Through my reflection on everything, I've come to gain a greater appreciation for the impermanence that is (my) life and a deeper trust in myself. 

Now, to brave the winter once again (needless to say, I am dreading the glacial months ahead). Good thing I am going home for Christmas! (#road triiiiip). And good thing I've learned to deal with holiday stress so my vacation will be nothing less than AWESOME.


Saturday, October 19, 2013

"How's the job search going?"

I will be honest: I absolutely underestimated how difficult finding a job would be. It has been nothing short of an emotional roller-coaster of extremes; yet also an opportunity to refine my goals, articulate my skills and experience, and concretize what motivates and impassions me. Reflecting on the past couple months of my job search has revealed a cyclical pattern of emotions and mental states:

1.     -Determination-
I am well educated, have great experience, and so much passion I can hardly contain it. I KNOW I’ll find something meaningful and/or relevant, I just have to put in the time to polish my resume and write awesome cover letters. (This phase lasted me about 5 weeks).
2.     -Inspiration and strokes of brilliance-
At this point, my life is like a blank slate: the world is my oyster; I can do anything; I have the freedom to go anywhere; and the possibilities are seemingly endless, because I have so much life ahead that whatever industry I choose now has very little bearing on my future (career-wise). And ideation is on full throttle-especially when I’m trying to fall asleep- constantly tapping into the entrepreneurial mind, creating business ideas or solving problems.
3.     -Disillusionment-
Checking my email EVERY half hour, anxiously awaiting responses (good OR bad) from any of the 50 applications I sent this past month. Slowly realizing most of them won’t even read the cover letter I spent 2 hours perfecting, let alone write me an email. Beginning to question my own qualifications and wonder, “why doesn’t anybody want to hire me?”
4.     -Dejection-
That wave of overwhelmingness finally crashes and I feel like I’m drowning. I’m never going to find a job. I’m never going to pay off my school loans. The job market is awful, capitalism is heinous, and our education system has failed us. I want to curl up into a ball and give up trying to pursue my passions and aspirations of ‘making an impact’. Can I apply for unemployment yet? I may or may not have resorted to browsing Craigslist. But, I keep cooking with turmeric, reading The Onion, and somehow submit more applications.
5.     -Hope and Unbridled excitement-
Every time I see a new position advertised that I feel I would truly love to have, I experience an intoxicating enthusiasm and think is this what all this waiting and frustration has been about? The perfect job for me, which will launch my career, just hadn’t presented itself yet- until now! I should’ve been more patient, trusting, equanimous, GROUNDLESS. I proceed to spend 4 hours tailoring and perfecting my resume, cover letter, writing samples. All hope is restored and I start fantasizing about paying off my credit card and loans, buying a bigger bed, going on trips and vacations, having a savings account again!
6.    -Panic and desperation-
The high from unbridled excitement soon fades when I realize it was probably a far-fetched goal, anyway, and I won’t be hearing back at all. I skip disillusionment and free fall to panic. I’m moving back home tomorrow. Oh, I don’t have money for a plane ticket. I’ll apply for 10 incredibly random craigslist jobs and try not to sound overqualified. Hell, I’ll even work for FREE to get out of my apartment and try to gain some relevant, concrete skills while I play the Waiting Game. Can I give up now?
7.     -Newfound resolve-
No, giving up is not an option. Curling up and crying isn’t helpful. I suck it up and find a way to make some short-term money while I continue the job search. After all, I have applied to so many places recently that a few have to be contacting me soon with news, either good or bad (right?). Maybe even an interview?! I am getting better at narrowing the search and articulating my strengths. Even if it takes longer than planned, it’s not the end of the world. Isn’t there a saying about failure before success? I got this. And I’ve learned some valuable lessons, gained invaluable perspective and done some serious soul-searching that has been incredibly beneficial to my personal development. 

*Sprinkle anger and frustration throughout* (rinse and repeat)

Everyday is different, yet this cycle often repeats itself in miniature throughout my days. Frustration seems to be a constant, though. Frustration at the overall system and world we live in, or frustration at a particular job requirement; frustration at the lack of responses, at starting to feel idle, at running low on money; and mostly, frustration at how badly I WANT to put my education, passion to use yet can’t even get my foot in the door. ALL I need is the chance. The chance to rise to the occasion, to prove myself capable. In the words of a wise friend, I am HUNGRY for a job, a paycheck, stability. Amazingly, I am not frustrated or at all bothered by the incredible amount of uncertainty this job search has created. In fact, that’s one thing I revel in the most: the excitement of so many possibilities! 

“Don’t worry that your life is turning upside down. How do you know that the side you are used to is better than the one to come? 
Doubt is uncomfortable, certainty is ridiculous” - Voltaire

Thoreau, the Waiting Game, and a Rant about Our Education System

I am going to be that person and say, “I can’t believe it’s already Halloween! When did that happen??” But seriously. I have now been in New York almost exactly 9 months and it has flown by; yet looking back it feels like I’ve been here forever. Funny how that works. Such is the quandary of an energizer bunny-esque lifestyle…

I divide my time here into two different phases: internship and post-internship. February-June I was essentially slaving away 10+hours a day and still managing to have a social life (I got very little sleep); August and onward my life has been the exact opposite! I have dedicated myself entirely to searching, researching and applying for jobs. But this also means I have a completely unstructured schedule and more flexibility in my free time (I get plenty of sleep these days!). I got to soak up the last bit of summer and have enjoyed the brisk beauty of the fall. =]

A consequence of this drastically different lifestyle is how much time I have to THINK. Analyze. Ponder. Soul-search. Self-reflect. I stay home all day, doing the job thing, applying like a madwoman (incidentally, I’ve gotten really good at writing kickass cover letters). So naturally, I spend most of my time with just me. I feel like Thoreau…in the city. But it has gotten to the point where my mind is going a million miles a minute, my head is spinning, and I can’t make it stop- I was awfully close to insomnia. Yet, I also have spurred this ideation that has led me to learn A LOT about different industries and possibilities, and may have planted the seed for my future plans… It is incredibly overwhelming at times (most days), although I am grateful to finally start piecing together all my knowledge and experiences. For once in my life, I feel ready to take the ‘next step’. Or the ‘real world’ (which has abruptly made its presence felt).

But for now, The Waiting Game. I have applied to a nearly unconscionable number of positions within the past 6 weeks; some I want with every ounce of my being, many I’m genuinely enlivened by, and others I would take for the experience (and, of course, the paycheck). I have not been particularly picky; I have cast the net wide in hopes of landing something meaningful, relevant, and that will contribute to my career aspirations (not that those are entirely clear…). What is positively frustrating, though, is how stagnant the economy still seems to be, ESPECIALLY for "recent graduates." But with so much competition, it is hard to articulate and convey exactly why my EDUCATION and internship experience is pertinent and efficient. Which brings me to my most recent disillusionment and unbridled frustration with our educational infrastructure and the piecemeal education reform discussion.

I won’t get into the philosophical discussion regarding what the purpose of education is, however I will posit that its objective is to enable individuals to make informed decisions in order to make a living and contribute to society. The problem is that “making a living” changes in meaning, but the education system has not adjusted accordingly. Maybe 50 years ago the education system fulfilled its objectives in a society where careers and industries were not as fluid, and choosing a major really did equate to choosing a career path. But today- more than ever-the need for collaboration, transfer and applicability of skills, and development of practical skills calls for a serious reform of an outdated system that no longer provides a majority of students with proper capabilities.

In fact, most “majors” do not provide much practical skills training at all, focusing too heavily on the theoretical aspects and ignoring the applicability of said knowledge. The system still functions from the perspective that studying a specific subject (your ‘major’) for 2-4 years is sufficient for a job in that field; that there is no other knowledge necessary for you to be prepared to enter the workforce. My biggest frustration is how egregiously limited (and theoretical) our secondary education is. Yes, one needs to have mastery in a specific field, but one also needs to be a well-rounded individual with a broad knowledge base and skill set (including soft skills). Critical thinking, emotional and social intelligence, financial/business knowledge, social impact awareness, effective communication, combined with a focus on practical applicability (through mentorship, substantive internships, meaningful classroom projects that relate and directly impact the outside world, etc.) is what a comprehensive education ought to look like. Instead, we have compartmentalized, excessively theory-based education with little focus on practicality, applicability, or soft skills development. 

But the system is currently producing incredibly educated (albeit not very well-rounded) individuals with untapped passion and knowledge in a specific field, yet very few actual practical skills; those are expected to be developed upon obtaining your “first job.” The nefarious twist is that due to the saturation of the market of highly qualified job seekers, experience is absolutely critical. Yet, the ‘millenials’ have not been given such training, nor have they been advised to obtain it themselves prior to graduating. And thus ensues the (unpaid) internship culture that further delays individuals from developing financially stable lives or meaningfully contributing to society (i.e. the fundamental goal of education). 

I personally would have liked to have been exposed to the infinite possibilities of INTERCONNECTEDNESS among fields of study, rather than pigeonholed into isolated disciplines.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Summer, Summer

Summer in New York

I have been frequently told that summertime in NYC is just the best- of course this city is not for the faint of heart, so unrelenting heat, humidity, and muggy thunderstorms are indubitably part of the ‘experience.’ Would you expect anything less from a city of extremes? In order to enjoy the evanescent exuberance, you have to suffer a little. Yes, the thunderstorms are aggravating, and I may have missed the nearly intolerable heat wave, and I might be one of few people who enjoy the humidity (it’s like being hugged by the earth!), but I found that summer in New York is absolutely pleasant! The summer months allow the city to be fully appreciated and savored; it’s as if summer is the sole reason for the existence of the innumerable parks, benches, views, water fountains, rooftops, and the activities that they enable.

Although I wasn’t in the city for a month of this warm loveliness, I still got my share of sunny (and sometimes rainy) summer activities: Shakespeare in the Park, free yoga in the park, concerts and movies under the Brooklyn Bridge, reading near the lake, jogging along the river, bar-hopping from absurd distances, riding bikes through Central Park at 1am, watching the sun set -from the water’s edge as well as from rooftop bars with awesome views, watching the sun rise from rooftops, going to the beach, walking the High Line, eating on restaurant patios, people watching from a bench in the evenings, eating lunch next to fountains, and just general frolicking throughout the city. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time in NYC but the summer experience has been especially phantasmagorical; I’m definitely not ready to let it go. 

While the balmy weather, picturesque parks, and ongoing events are reason enough to enjoy this time of the year, the overwhelming attendance of people at even the most obscure events gives it a little something extra; there’s a sense of community that I feel is lacking in other places. There is a seemingly universal desire to be outside and around other people- when there’s a free movie in the park, expect nearly all of Manhattan to be there. While this can be annoying due to space limitations, it’s also awesome for people to be so into different things. I also observed a few new things about New Yorkers:
- They are REALLY good at sharing common spaces; most restaurants, bars, coffee shops, etc. have large communal tables rather than individual ones. Even small tables not meant to be shared have been offered to be shared. 
 They judge less often (unless you’re in Meat Packing...); because public transportation is the main form of getting around, nobody knows where you are going/coming from and thus less inclined to judge how you look in that moment. At any given time on a train, someone is going to or coming from: work, the bars, a date, school, a wedding, the gym, church, an interview, grocery shopping, dancing, a marathon, a festival, a concert, etc. etc.
- They are very fond of rooftops; but who can blame them? 

Alas, autumn has begun settling in and the entire city will soon return to seeking refuge from the bitter cold and being slightly grumpier. I already can’t wait for an escape to somewhere tropical in the near future…! But thank goodness for football season ;)

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


...I'm working on it. 

Rooftop Fireworks, how New York. 
This notion of groundlessness is much harder to accept and embrace than it sounds (especially in personal relationships). The UN was an amazing experience from which I tremendously grew professionally and personally; it also gave me an excuse to move to NYC, which has been equally as incredible- it seems that things just keep falling into place. Throughout my time at UNDP and in NYC (despite the emotional roller coasters and love-hate relationship I seem to have formed) I felt as if I were exactly where I was supposed to be, doing what I should be doing. It's a great feeling; I was really embracing the freedom of trusting the process, trusting my instincts, trusting that I was living out the trajectory I am meant to be on. But I suspect I became comfortable because there was a level of certainty even within that uncertainty of "what's next": the expectation that I would likely be staying in NYC for some time longer, that I would maintain all of the new relationships I had formed, and carry on with my UN-centered life I had shaped. But that all changed very quickly when my internship ended and I (finally) submitted my thesis. I was finally faced with the beginning of the next chapter of my life- it is kind of terrifying. Where to now? How can I regain the trust and repose I felt while in college, in Costa Rica, or in NYC? I am starting to worry, stress, look for answers, trying to grab hold of something (even considering going back to San Diego…)- even when I know that’s not going to provide me with any answers and only cause unnecessary anxiety. So where to now? I am working on that; and I am making a conscious effort to have an open mind and heart because I of all people know how mysteriously, beautifully, serendipitously life can unfold.

I am sorry for leaving you, Pacific Ocean!

An example: since April I had secured a summer camp position teaching a politics course in DC with BluePrint Signature Summer Programs. I was set to leave June 29th: I sublet my room, packed up and had plans to return to New York afterwards. Quite shockingly, a week before I was supposed to take the bus to DC I received a call that I no longer had a class to teach- and just like that all my ‘plans’ and life were tossed around. Good thing I’ve gotten good at this “going with the flow” thing. Next thing I know, I had a flight booked to LAX a week later for a similar position at UCLA, meaning I got to spend an entire stress-free, vacation-esque week in New York, including the Fourth. That was amazing! (Beach, beach, beach!) It also meant that I got more than a week in San Diego after camp was over (beach, beach, beach and so much FAMILY!). Everything worked out in such a way that it couldn’t have been planned better. I couldn’t be happier with how my summer has unfolded.

My BRILLIANT business students
         Camp was incredible. I never went to camps as a kid so being on the other side of it was pretty amazing. We had the best time EVER (for an idea of how ridiculously silly our team of 6 staff was, watch this video we made). The kids were brilliant and some of the sweetest, most awesome 16 and 17 year olds I have met. The Staff was an also an awesome group of people, I made some good memories with them outside of camp itself. Can I just say… TAKI MEOW!  SILLY STRING BEDCHECKS. SHARK ATTACKS. What an awesome three weeks. 
Hollywood Hike field trip
Last night with my Takis :(
SURPRISE. Happy 21st! <3
 Even better: I was close to home! My family! In-n-Out! Burritos. Acai Bowls. The BEACH. I had almost forgotten just how much I missed California, especially the perfect weather, everything about San Diego, and my family and friends. Needless to say, my ten-day San Diego vacation was gloriously jam-packed- family, beach, taco Tuesday, lunches, boats, friendly bouncers, more family, more beach… I was sad to leave. It is home. 

 Thankfully, I had a spectacular last day filled with typical San Diego things to tide me over until the next time (hint: began with Turquoise Coffee acai bowls, ended with In-n-Out, and had lots of pacific ocean in between). I got home at three am and left for the airport five minutes later, content to go back. I am excited to be back in NYC. This little California hiatus was extremely rejuvenating and I am confidently looking forward to whatever the next steps turn out to be! For now, I am just going to continue job-searching and applying like a madwoman, with the understanding and acceptance that whatever happens next is right where I am supposed to be. So blessed to have my family support me through this!

So here I go… entering totally unknown territory. Here’s to figuring it all out!

“If you are distressed by anything external, the pain is not due to the thing itself, but to your estimate of it; and this you have the power to revoke at any moment” – Marcus Aurelius

“The Buddha taught that we suffer because we cling. ‘Clinging’ is defined as ‘holding on or pushing away’ which are the same thing. Both require intense focus and energy”