Do you often second guess a thought or feeling that you have only to find out that your initial deduction was spot on? I have done this many times, and I am not sure why. The more I think about it, the more I feel that I am often generally inclined to be accommodating toward others even if it is at the expense of my own well being and desires. As a result, I tend to discount my own genuine feelings of discomfort, doubt, and being hurt.
What’s up with that?
Well, I do not like being selfish or to be perceived as such, but maybe I need to adjust my thinking. Advocating for my own feelings is not selfishness. If anything, it is an act of self-preservation and protection. Nonetheless, I acquiesce far more often than I need to. In the end, I may wind up unhappy and feeling that my own needs and desires were not met.
Okay, so how do I change this? How do I trust my own instincts better and not default to discounting them? Here are some steps I am willing to try out as often as possible:
Observe the situation carefully and with minimal hesitation.
Discern and acknowledge my own immediate impressions and feelings.
State my impressions clearly in my head.
Figure out the best course of action that advocates for my needs without infringing unnecessarily on the needs of others.
There is an old adage (or cliché as some might see it) that says, “To thine own self be true.”
This statement speaks to the value and active practice of trusting your own instincts and intuition. This is possibly the best way to develop and build the wisdom upon which you can build your life.
Perhaps in my case, there is a deeper underlying factor that prevents me from trusting myself more. I have no idea what that is, but my intuition tells me that I need to change this regardless of whatever that reason may be.
I will follow that internal directive from now on as much as possible. I do not want to constantly sacrifice and compromise my own needs in favor of others. This is not fair to me, and my needs have immense value.
Maybe part of this lack of trust in myself stems from a need to be kind and generous to others. This is all well and good, but by the same token, I need to be kind and generous to myself as much as possible.
If you struggle with trusting your instincts, you are not alone. It is tricky to hone something as intangible as this in which your frame of mind and feelings need to be assessed as objectively and lovingly as possible.
Nonetheless, this is a practice worth exercising. If you cannot advocate for your own feelings and well being, no one else truly will. You are your own best defense.
Trust yourself. The kindness, comfort, and peace of mind you receive as a result will be yours for the taking.
As it turns out, I am not good at relaxing. It’s taken me a long time to come to terms with this reality, but it is true. I am the kind of person who has an endless curiosity to try new things, a lot of fulfilling projects, and no shortage of responsibilities. My life has been even more hectic now that I am currently a college student. My mind defaults to the next assignment due or the looming exam. This is a challenging way to live, but it is what I have chosen.
So then, how in the world do I get better at relaxing? Here are the facts:
I do not like watching a lot of tv.
I am an introvert.
My mind is constantly thinking about school and/or creative projects.
In this modern day and age, watching a tv show or movie for hours on end is the mode of relaxation for many people. I get it. It is escapism in its easiest and most accessible form. We are currently in a new golden age of television due to the wealth of quality programming being produced. My problem with this form of media consumption is not only how sedentary it is but ultimately how disempowering it is as well. If the vast majority of your daily life is spent sitting down and watching something in front of a screen, what have you actually done with your life? If you add up all of the hours spent watching other people do something with their lives, what could you have done with yours? Write a book? Spend more time with friends and family? Exercise and take care of yourself? Meditation? Ride a bike out in the world? Learn a new language? Learn to play a new instrument? The possibilities are staggeringly endless.
This is why I cannot fathom watching tv as a form of relaxation. It is inactive consumption that is highly addictive. I watch some shows once in a while, but there is too much to watch for someone who has a lot he wants to do.
Going out with friends is often a challenge for me. Don’t get me wrong. I love hanging out with friends, but it stands at the opposite end of the spectrum from television. I like to be fully present with people and have engaging conversations. After a while, this is over-stimulation that leaves me a bit exhausted. As an introvert, being by myself always feels better overall.
Well then, obviously relaxation for me does not mean watching television and hanging out with friends. So now what? Maybe I need to think about simplifying and scaling down what I do to relax. What are activities that require little thought and effort but make me feel good?
Cuddling with my cat.
Going for a walk.
Riding my bicycle.
Honestly, I started to write “drawing”, “photography”, “writing”, and “reading books”. These activities are certainly fun and enjoyable, but they require a degree of focus and intention that is not exactly relaxing. In any case, I need to equate relaxing with simplicity and minimal engagement.
This is a start anyway, but I’ll keep you all updated on my journey of relaxation. I am doing this because I am wary of burnout both as a student and as a creative person. Moments of disengagement, absolute stillness, and rest for the mind have immense value.
As I type this, I am in Sarasota, Florida for some time to visit family and to relax. The beach is calling my name. I need to get on that.
What I am writing about this week is not the easiest practice to exercise, but incrementally, I have found it to be a practice in personal wellness with long-term benefits that far exceed the discomfort it creates.
When you are dealing with a difficult person, see and do first through a lens and intention of compassion.
I have come across numerous instances in my life in which people have given me a hard time. Whether it was intentional on their part or not, they became a source of frustration, anger, and resentment. I have led projects in which someone would constantly challenge my authority and speak up about every little thing I said. Other times, people with volatile emotional struggles have derailed plans or made a gathering unbearable. Sometimes, there are just people who are difficult because it is partly in their nature.
This has been a struggle for me, but I have been practicing being compassionate when I come across someone like that. Maybe they are having a bad day or week. Perhaps they may be dealing with a difficult physical condition or did not get enough sleep. Maybe they’re constipated?
Whatever the reason, compassion starts with a place of empathy and grows from there. If we could try to understand where they are coming from, we can not only gain insight toward a better way to proceed, but we can also start to unload feelings of anger or frustration in a more productive way.
There is, however, one caveat I must throw in. Being compassionate will not necessarily solve anything. The person may continue to be difficult, and there may not be a workable solution whatsoever. In those instances, you have to maintain your own sense of self-respect and uphold your end of the deal regardless of whatever drama may ensue. It may even be helpful to just be honest about your feelings after a good dose of compassion is doled out.
Either way, at some point it becomes clear that the person in question does not have the wherewithal to understand how their actions and words affect others no matter what you do. In those instances, project yourself, keep lines of communication clear and open, and try as best as you can to minimize the fallout. If he/she crashes and burns, they do not have to take the whole ship down with them.
If you color all of your actions with compassion, you give yourself the opportunity to consider the perspective of the difficult person. Being human, we may sometimes be blind to the struggles and circumstances of others, and compassion allows us to account for this.
What I have found as a result of being more compassionate toward others is a significant amount of reduced stress and anxiety. Instead of being reactionary and on the angry offensive, I exercise more patience to let others work themselves and their personal dramas out. This also allows me to free myself of constantly taking on responsibility for the actions and mistakes of others. If I take the time to understand the source of someone’s behavior, it helps me see when undesirable outcomes have nothing to do with me. After the twelfth time that someone fails to keep up with their responsibility and several attempts at trying to help that person, you can let yourself and your compassion off the hook. The rest is on them.
So, just think about it. If there is someone in school or at your workplace who rubs you the wrong way or antagonizes you, approach them with compassion and a solid dose of your own self-respect. Maybe you will find your own epiphany from the interactions.
Whatever happens, compassion is a true act of kindness, and we can use a whole lot more kindness in the world today.
This past Thanksgiving holiday was far from a traditional one for me. On Wednesday, Nov. 22, I started to feel sick. The upper part of my mouth and my throat started to feel tender. This is a feeling I generally get when something is coming over me. A failed attempt at heading to Nashville on Wednesday due to the strange behavior of our van threw me over the edge. I was to be bedridden for the following 24 hours. This effectively eliminated my Thanksgiving plans with my family.
While drinking plenty of fluids and floating in and out of a Nyquil-induced sleep, I could not help but contemplate the meaning of Thanksgiving. For me, the best parts include spending time with family that I do not get to see as often now that I live an hour away and am a full-time college student, as well as the waves of gratitude and the glorious bounty of delicious food. This is where my warm and fuzzy feelings toward this holiday ends. They are far outweighed by my misgivings. I have a few of those.
Ok, bring out the bullet points:
We cannot forget the slaughtering of MILLIONS of Native Americans. In the history books I read growing up, Thanksgiving represented the cooperation and friendliness between European settlers/colonialists and indigenous tribes of the continental US. They all came together to share a large meal. What history books fail to mention is that all of America was savagely taken from Native American tribes with brute force and inhumane cruelty. I cannot resolve this in my head.
The blatant commercialism of the holiday promotes greed and materialism. Not only do people spend a ton of money buying turkey and food for a huge meal, but there is immense pressure to spend money on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. America has figured out a way to monetize what is supposed to be a time of sharing and togetherness. This world is bullshit.
The strains of salmonella found in turkeys, not to mention the chemicals used to fatten them up, are dangerous to your health. Here is an enlightening article from the Organic Consumers Association: What Turkey Producers Don’t Want You To Know
More than any other American holiday, Thanksgiving has become increasingly cringe-worthy with each passing year. It is difficult to resolve these serious misgivings that I have.
Nonetheless, the holiday creates a time for me to commune with family and to give thanks for the many joys and gifts we have in our lives. There is still immense value in this.
I want to figure out a way to balance out and acknowledge the truths behind this annual occasion. Perhaps next year, without being sick, I will do something different.
I do it. Lots of people do it. When you are scrolling through your gallery of photos, you decide to post the most flattering photo or the one that lets you show off a little on Facebook or Instagram.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with this, but what if we did the reverse? What does that mean? What if we posted the most unflattering photo? Or what if we were not so selective about what we chose to share?
What would that look like?
Perhaps its not so much about the image itself and more about our perceptions of the ways it would be received. Perhaps it is our reluctance against being so vulnerable on such a public forum.
There are many valid reasons for only showing the good and beautiful stuff on social media. Maybe you have a brand for an online business that you are cultivating. On some level, maybe it is a way to maintain a sense of privacy and personal safety–where the edge of what is presentable becomes the border at which you need to feel more protected and contained.
That is okay.
What I am suggesting is a willingness to be more real. Amid all of the fun vacation photos taken in exotic locales, the food and party pics, adorable baby pictures, and the scenic vistas of our hometowns, what if we could think about how we can be more honest and authentic about presenting who we are?
In the greatest likelihood, this would not be easy for the bulk of us who are not independently wealthy or do not look like a statuesque supermodel or live in a spacious, camera-ready mansion. Why should we only do things because they are easy? Sometimes, exploring our own discomfort can expand the possibilities of what we can do in our lives.
The benefit of authenticity is the personal strength you gain in your willingness to be vulnerable.
Vulnerability is power, even though it may not feel that way. That’s exactly what it is. When you are willing to be honest about your life, you are demanding that the world accept you for who you are and not for who they want you to be. There is immense power in this.
Yesterday, my post on social media was a step toward being more authentic to everyone who sees my feed. This is what it said:
“I’ve always been short and almost always in the minority in a group or a crowd. I’ve had problems with acne and the scars to prove it. I have an underbite and a slightly lazy eye (if you look closely). My left leg is slightly longer than my right. I have compared the color of my eyes and skin to the color of poop. (Not my shining moment.) I have many excuses for thinking that I’m not wholesome, beautiful, or good enough for anything, but I’m getting to a place in which I don’t believe any of it. I’m just going to focus on being actively kind to myself and to as many people as possible. I’m going to focus on doing creative work that is meaningful to me. I’m going to let the inside out because therein lies the true value of what I have to give. As for what’s on the outside? Well, I understand that I have no control over the way people judge me based on how I look. I will let go of that as much as my insecurities will let me, and I’ll be just fine.”
After I published this, nothing terrible happened. In fact, I received some lovely and affirming responses. My world did not implode. My arm did not acquire leprosy and fall off. I feel fine.
Maybe that’s the point. Quite possibly, the greatest challenge involved in being more authentic and vulnerable is the fear we harbor inside ourselves.
So, just think about it. You can still post all that is beautiful and sweet and blissful about your life, but don’t be afraid to share the less wholesome or less acceptable parts too–at least once in a while. There may be tremendous value in what you learn by doing so.
I move forward now with being more authentic on social media in the ways that I am authentic when people see me as I am in real life and in real time.
Ultimately, the truth of who I am is the most beautiful part of it all.
Sometimes, I find myself asking the darnedest questions, such as . . .
Why in the world did I go back to college?
Why in tarnation did I decide to major in video and film production when I already have a strong set of writing and musical skills to build upon?
Why in the world did I leave a cute apartment in a great location in Nashville to live in a cold hollow in the middle of the Tennessee woods?
Well generally, there are no simple answers to these queries, but they all point to one word.
I have always been an incredibly curious person. This is the reason and circumstance behind why and how I became an active musician and pianist. Originally, I did not know that I could develop my skills to the extent that I have. One night, I was sitting in my apartment writing a poem, as one does, and the thought occurred to me that this particular poem would sound great as a song. So, I dusted off my old keyboard synthesizer, and with the poem written on a sheet of paper in front of me, I started fiddling around with a melody.
About an hour later, I had the basic musical framework of a song. Each step along this process was lead by the words “What if . . .”
What if I tried this chord?
What if I added a line to the end of each verse?
What if I sustained this note or that vocal phrase?
Each “What if” led to another one. This flowing stream of curiosity led me to discover skills that I never used in tandem. I integrated my singing experience (of having sung harmonies in numerous church choirs growing up), my writing ability (that involved a love of writing poems, short stories, and essays), and my musical ability of being able to remember anything that I play and to play by ear. Fast forward to many years later, and I have enjoyed the life of an active musician. There is a certain satisfaction in trying out a new skill only to find out that you can actually be good at it, but you never know until you try.
What if there is something more I want to learn?
What if I find opportunities I never knew existed?
What if I found true love?
In my life, pursuing my curiosity has meant having the willingness to take a chance at an opportunity even if you are uncertain about the outcome. It has also meant having the willingness to be vulnerable.
I will not stop being curious any time soon. Here are some of the more recent darnedest questions I’ve asked myself lately . . .
What if I directed a documentary about a topic I feel strongly about?
What if I stopped being so meek and started to speak out much more?
What if I dared to pursue some of my biggest dreams and ideas?
Cultivating your curiosity allows you to cultivate a sense of possibility.
Every accomplishment in life had to start somewhere, right?
Over the last two weeks, President Trump made two very big revelations related to his domestic agenda.
A White House memo was supposedly leaked to clearly define male and female genders in a way that effectively eliminates considerations for transgender people.
He wants to revoke citizenship from children born in the US whose parents are illegal aliens.
I do not think it is a coincidence that these intentions were revealed during the early voting time frame just before the midterm elections on Nov. 6. He’s rallying his base of conservative voters. This is what he does. He makes a few inflammatory claims that tip the balance in the minds of voters whose biases are easily impressionable.
This is the model for political rhetoric in the age of Trump. It has nothing to do with civil discourse, or civility for that matter. Divisiveness is now the name of the game. Trump’s modus operandi is to be so extreme that he’ll capture enough of the conservative vote to make a difference. It seems like a crazy strategy, but this is exactly what won Trump the presidency in the first place.
To make matters worse, this is the kind of behavior that gets higher ratings on tv and radio and more attention overall. News channels eat this up to gain stronger viewership numbers, but this magnified coverage only serves to spread Trump’s agenda and grant him the attention he wants.
The media is ultimately playing into his hands, and millions of their viewers get exposed to Trump’s agenda.
I’ll be the first to admit that perhaps I might be oversimplifying all of this, but needless to say, the state of American politics feels like it is steadily sinking into a murky, smelly, and precarious place.
I know that there is no use in complaining, and so, I have some suggestions on how we can proceed during any and all highly contentious election periods.
Understand how Trump operates. He makes divisive claims to help Republicans gain votes in order to retain his power in the US House of Representatives and the Senate.
Claim responsibility. We all did this. Maybe we did not vote or pay attention enough. Maybe we did not speak as loud as we could. If we can recognize what we could have done in the past, we have a better idea of what more we can do moving forward.
Modify how we consume news. The news media and its 24-hour news cycles have become part of the problem. There is so much commentary and propaganda going around that it is harder to make sense of it all. I propose that we all become more intentional about taking breaks from our news consumption. On a regular basis and for brief periods, turn off the radio or tv if the name Trump is mentioned. Take a mental break to gain some perspective. You have to quiet all of the other voices in order to truly hear your own.
I have said this before, and I will say it again. Diversify your news sources. Between NPR, The New York Times, Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, CBS, and a whole slew of others, do not rely on only one perspective to get your news. Expose yourself to opposing viewpoints. Do the work to find multiple perspectives.
Register to vote, and then vote AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. If you are dissatisfied with the state of your municipality and community, it is important to note that it may be the result of years of electing ineffective leaders and politicians who are out of touch. Keep your registration current and plan on voting regularly and often. One election cycle with your preferred leadership winning may not be enough to start making significant changes. Think about electing a team of local and state leaders who share your sensibilities and priorities over the long haul. There can be numerous elected positions to vote for in your area such as city council members, sheriff, mayor, governor, and a whole slew of others. This is not easy to do, but there is no harm in trying.
More than anything, do everything you can to think for yourself and to cultivate your own opinions and viewpoints. Find your own voice among all of the grandstanding and hype and use it.
Do this with an awareness of the political climate we have evolved into.
If you know where you stand and you have actively educated yourself, no amount of intimidation, extremism, and propaganda can lead you astray.
Earlier this month, I took a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, to meet up with some friends from high school. I’ve visited there at different times before as a child, a teenager, and as an adult for my father’s passing around 6 years ago. This visit, however, was the first time I got the chance to truly observe the culture that exists in Sin City. It was eye-opening to me in terms of the blatant and unapologetic way that money is the lifeblood and compass of this corner of America.
I spent the bulk of my Vegas weekend hanging out with my classmates. We got to catch up and make up for loss time over the last several years. As a group we went out to eat at a buffet at one of the hotel casinos, and we toured the strip and the old strip.
After our buffet lunch, I tried my hand at a roulette table and lost $22.00. I gave up after that. During my last night, I stayed at a hotel, and after some persuasive encouragement, I tried my hand at some slot machines. After losing or breaking even on a couple of different machines, I won $150.
I stopped after that, and I’m glad I did.
As I walked the strip and through some casinos, I made some observations that were a bit unnerving.
At least in the casinos, there were cameras EVERYWHERE. Tons of them. Hundreds? Maybe thousands? They were all encased in these little black globes that popped out of ceilings and corners. I understand that casinos want to catch people who cheat at gambling, but it’s all a little too big brother for me. I imagine that no cough, sneeze, or conversation goes unnoticed. That’s creepy.
Every hotel has a casino. Every casino has a huge buffet. All casinos give their patrons free drinks. It seems to me that this is the perfect equation to seduce people into staying for a long while. People are almost hypnotized and satiated into a comfortable environment that is conducive to gambling your money away with reckless abandon.
Smoking is allowed in every casino. It certainly seemed that way. The smell of nicotine wafted in the air and lingered as I walked through. For the employees and patrons who have to be in this environment all of the time, this cannot be healthy for their lungs and their bodies. In most places everywhere else in the country, smoking takes place outdoors as it should so that non-smokers are not unfairly subjected to the smoke. The people in Las Vegas do not seem to mind.
Casinos operate 24 hours a day. People gamble or play at slot machines literally all of the time and any time. If you want to play black jack at 4 AM, you can do so in multiple places!
Gamblers seemed like zombies. I observed many people with drinks in hand intently pressing buttons and lulled into a relaxed state.
All of the slot machines are now digital. At what point did everyone decide that this was okay? Could it be possible that each machine is now more rigged than they were before? Couldn’t they now operate under some sort of algorithm that manages people’s wins and losses? To me, this seemed like bullshit and a total scam. Miraculously, I won my $150, but I can’t help but wonder if this was a way to induce me into playing more. Algorithms and technology can be powerful entities.
There are slot machines in the airport. Enough said.
Clearly, money and the hunger for it is what drives this city. This hunger is its ultimate commodity, and there is a design that feeds this hunger in perpetuity. The allure of winning lots of money is palpable. If you are desperate for cash, this is where you can feed that desire.
Of course, it’s not all bad. Las Vegas is a spectacle in and of itself. If I return to Sin City, I may spend more time taking in the shows than the casinos. They offer entertainment value and lots of beautiful creativity that I can geek out on. If you are a foodie, those massive buffets will make you happy.
Well, without further ado, here are some photos from my trip:
The experience of visiting Las Vegas felt surreal. The gambling culture and the hoards of tourists made it a bit jarring for me, but the whole experience was saved by the presence of some great friends from high school.
Maybe that’s the gist of it all. If you have to go Vegas, go with good friends. If anything, the human connections you make can overshadow the industry of money in this city. That would make the experience truly worthwhile.
This month, I wanted to write about how I work, both from an ideological perspective and a practical one. Work, in my mind, can be loosely defined as carrying out a series of tasks in order to accomplish a desired goal. Under this definition, many circumstances apply–from cooking a meal for your family to selling a car or building a cell phone app. Work is work. It can be thrilling and inspiring or tedious and soul-crushing. Either way, most of us have to work for different reasons.
In my life at the moment, I am primarily a college student, among various other roles. As such, I have figured out a lot about what works for me in terms of maximizing my learning and getting assignments done well.
Every week, I like to read a section of posts from lifehacker.com called How I Work. It includes interviews from a working professional that asks questions about how they get their work done. They’ve had corporate CEO’s, writers, filmmakers, chefs, and people engaged in all walks of life answer a specific set of questions. I thoroughly enjoy reading these interviews, and this week, I am going to answer the same questions myself. So, here goes . . .
Location: Liberty, TN Current Gig: College Student at Middle Tennessee State University Current mobile device:LG Stylo 3 Plus Current computer: 13″ Macbook Pro One word that best describes how you work: Obsessively
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
I am a musician and singer/songwriter, and I spent the last few years as a performer in Nashville, TN. I was also employed in the non-profit sector when I lived in Charlotte, NC, directing programs for an LGBT youth support and advocacy organization called Time Out Youth. In Nashville, I worked for the Metro Public Health Department developing a program called Welcome Baby in which families with high-risk newborn infants were given information and assistance to help their babies thrive.
In 2016, I was needing a change. I relocated to a rural town southeast of Nashville, TN to live with my partner, and I went back to college to finish my degree. I am majoring in Video and Film Production at Middle Tennessee State University and will be graduating some time in 2019.
Take us through a recent workday.
My school days are by far my busiest. I usually get up by 6:00 AM. I do a morning meditation at my electric piano/keyboard. This is usually just a few minutes of fingering dexterity exercises and a small bit of noodling around. Playing the piano relaxes and grounds me. When I focus on the physical act of playing, I achieve a sense of calm and comfort that few other activities in my life provide.
Then, I shower, eat breakfast, and gather all of my materials (books, paperwork, laptop, DSLR camera, etc.) that I need for the day. I obsessively make sure that I have everything. Forgetting even one important element makes me mad. Sigh.
Between 7:45am and 8am, I am in my car and heading out of my really long driveway. My commute to school is 35 minutes. I rarely hit any traffic and the route I take is quite scenic. I get to campus at by 8:30am, and this arrival time assures me a good spot at the parking deck. Any later than this gets me a parking spot a quarter of a mile away on a gravel lot on the outskirts of campus.
I have an hour before class to review notes for a quiz or test, work on an assignment, or message classmates about group projects. My first class starts at 9:40am. From there, I have a midday break in which I drink more coffee, eat lunch, take a long walk, and do school work. I have another break in the late afternoon for more school work and a possible nap. My last class is done by 9:00pm at the latest. I drive the 35 minutes back home after that. I cuddle with my cat, and I finally go back to bed.
What apps, gadgets, or tools can’t you live without?
This year, I decided to cut myself off from the google/gmail universe. Giving one entity that much access and power over my life felt too unsettling. I do not need a corporate big brother’s grubby hands all over my stuff. I use a secure service called Proton Mail for all of my personal email needs as well as for creative projects. My LG Stylus 3 is not the fanciest cell phone in the world, but I use it for the basic functionality it offers. I can text and call family and friends via wifi, post on instagram, and stay in contact with my class work groups. I do not need more from a cell phone than this.
I am relatively new to the Apple universe. I switched to a Macbook Pro from a regular PC because my coursework demanded it. I was not a fan of the price tag, but honestly, my Macbook is incredibly robust. The built-in functionality and interface are smooth, simple, and oh so elegantly designed. I may be a Mac user for life.
The camera I use for filming and photography is a Nikon D5600 DSLR. It is super easy to use and offers the capabilities I need for my courses. I will upgrade to something more grandiose someday, but this machine checks all the boxes for now.
What’s your workspace set-up like?
At home, I connected two desks to make a large L-shaped desk that allows me to spread out my work. I have a large flat screen tv that I connect to my Macbook through an HDMI cable. This makes video editing work so much better. I have a power strip on my desk to make charging my laptop, cell phone, and camera batteries more convenient. I also light up my space with multiple lamps so that I get sufficient light for reading. I must have good light.
What’s your best shortcut or life hack?
I give myself earlier deadlines. For school assignments, for example, I have a rule that I get them completely done and turned in by the day before it is due, if not sooner. My life is so much less stressful when I am not facing a dire last-minute scenario. This also gives me time to face any technology snaffoos that can occur. Extra time for downloads, uploads, and back-ups is a good idea for any and all gadgets and online portals. Early deadlines are essential to all of my work.
Take us through an interesting, unusual, or finicky process you have in place at work.
Working in groups with other college students can be quite challenging. No two students are alike, and we are all super busy. Some folks handle their time and workload better than others. What I do is to always make sure that everyone has an easy way to stay in contact, and that everyone is aware of upcoming deadlines. Strong lines of communication are vital.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
As a student, I absolutely rely on myself, but otherwise, my partner MaxZine is incredibly helpful. Despite my school life, our pets, garden, and household still need much tender loving care. He cooks delicious meals for me every day and is a champion on the home front.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
I use a paper calendar for school-related deadlines. After trying out every to-do-list app ever invented, I decided to go with Trello for my school work. It lets me make separate lists for each class, and the interface is easy and intuitive. I can access it on my laptop and phone. I’ll be using this for multiple projects from now on.
How do you recharge or take a break?
Playing piano never feels like work to me. That recharges me more than anything. I love taking naps, but otherwise, I read lots of books that are not school-related. I love to take walks and cuddle with my cat.
What’s your favorite side project?
I actually have lots of side projects, but the one that gives me the giggles is Where Pianos Roam. I’m on a break from it right now, but it is basically a photography project in which I follow the exploits of a traveling miniature grand piano and her rowdy bench. I migrated the project from a blog format to Instagram. It’s a lot of fun.
What are your own reading habits like? What are you currently reading, or what do you recommend?
Ever since I became a student again, I am much more of a voracious reader. It is the distraction from school work that I fight against the most. I like to read to give myself a break from studying. I generally love to read in bed (especially on rainy days). Falling asleep to a book and waking up to one are the best bookends. I mostly read through the kindle app on my mac, cell phone, or Kindle e-reader; however, I still read actual books too whenever possible.
There are so many wonderful books out there. This morning, I just finished reading Daily Rituals by Mason Currey. It chronicles the daily work habits of some of the most important creative people in history such as Einstein, Matisse, Beethoven, and many more. The book is broken up into small chapters that discuss each person. The information is well researched and well written. I’m bummed that I finished it. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who is deeply engrossed in creative work and interested in personalizing their own work habits.
I am also reading The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck for my book club.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Follow your intuition. This is advice I’ve been given from multiple people, and it took several times of not following my inner voice to learn the value of this practice. There are intangible and inexplicable aspects of life that connect more with impressions, feelings, and varying sensibilities. These require paying attention beyond the constraints of language and traditional logic. When you practice following your intuition and go with your gut, you get better at it. It means that you are intentionally heading in the direction that you deeply desire the most and is fully aligned with your values and goals. This degree of honestly with oneself is vital to our personal well being and success.
What’s a problem you’re still trying to solve?
I am becoming progressively obsessed with plastic. It is a massive problem created by humans that threatens our natural environment. It bothers me, and there are no easy solutions. At least, not yet.
When you grow up on a tropical island surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, there is a part of you that will always live there no matter how far you go and how different your life becomes. I used to spend hours sitting on the beach, lost in my thoughts as waves crashed onto the shore.
When I left the island, I left my ocean-the place where I went so seek solace, comfort, and joy. I boarded a Hawaiian Airlines flight when I was 17 years old with my tear-stained face. I said goodbye, begrudgingly and willingly. I knew that my whole life was about to change.
For a long time, I walked this earth without my ocean. I did not have a place where I felt grounded and safe, where I could feel calm and at peace.
Looking back, it was this emptiness I felt that drew me to the piano.
The piano became my ocean.
At an old church building where I once worked in Charlotte, NC, there was an upright Yamaha piano in the sanctuary that I discovered when I was wondering around on my break one day. Upon inquiring, the folks who ran that church told me that I was welcome to play it whenever I wanted as long as there wasn’t anyone using it to prepare for a service. I took their permission and ran with it.
I must have spent hundreds of hours–late nights, early mornings, late afternoons, evenings, and all points in between–playing that piano. I felt so safe sitting there, and it inspired me to play my own music. I composed the bulk of my first album “Seahorses” at that very spot.
From a sonic perspective, the piano can be as thunderous and as gentle as the ocean. There can be so much power with the touch of every finger. I could lose myself in its undulating rhythms and feel every bit of the emotion I poured into it coming back to me.
I found the piano at a time when I needed it, and at a time when I was in a dark place in my life.
I heard its crashing waves, and it heard my loneliness.
This instrument became my guiding force, my sense of safety, and my private haven from everything in my life that was going so wrong.
The piano continues to be all of these things and more.
I still miss the ocean, but thankfully, through the highs and lows in my life, I found something just as mighty and meaningful that sustains my spirit.
I sit at a piano, and I feel greater than and better than who I was before. I sit there for hours dreaming my dreams and lost in my thoughts. All of this crashes into me every time, and the air and space around me gets filled with sound.