Author Archives: roque

A City That Needs to Sleep

January 5, 2020

Culture and Society

In December, my Mom and I flew to New York City. We stayed for four days. It was a trip imagined years ago in which we would be walking among the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan and breathing in the cosmopolitan air of the place.

We maneuvered our way through the NYC subway system to visit this entire list of attractions:

  • Times Square
  • The 9/11 Memorial (including the Oculos)
  • The Empire State Building
  • The NYC Public Library
  • Saks 5th Avenue
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Chinatown
  • Battery Park
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Ellis Island
  • Central Park
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Neue Gallery

We kept up a fast pace each day to be able to get to all of these places. It was as if the daily frenetic rush of the city seized both our spirits and the blood in our veins.

Despite all of this, I gave myself quiet moments to reflect on the experience. This happened as I stood in a subway train on route to a distant stop, when I woke up late at night to the sound of loud honking from a car out in the street, or while I waited for our check after a meal at a restaurant.

New York City gave me a lot to think about.

It is a densely populated stretch of land that, for whatever reason, has a culture of constant movement, like the perpetual swelling waves of a restless ocean. During my brief stay, it felt all too overwhelming, but I have come to learn that humans are adaptive beings. In this case, it seems far easier to keep up a swift pace than to lag behind and get lost in the fray. Getting caught up in this swell also means surrendering one’s sense of personal space. One gets jostled about in the tide of humans running along to and fro, and in the cramped space of a subway train, strangers reluctantly oblige a necessary intimacy to accommodate oneself and each other.

Amid all of the noise, the tight squeezes, and the rushed movement everywhere, I found myself wishing for rest and space. My mind wandered toward my private residence deep in the woods of middle Tennessee. On any given day, you can hear the hushed movement of water along our creek and the songs of birds and insects through their daily chatter. There are no tight squeezes here, only trees whose branches and roots know no bounds.

Were we ever truly meant to live such claustrophobic and anxious lives? For that matter, were we ever meant to be able to fly?

Sure, I guess.

New York City feels like a prime example of how our human evolution has ensnared us into the pitfalls of our own ambition. To be fair, there are millions of people who have grown up there and love everything about it, and if I actually stayed longer than a measly four days, I might love it too.

Nonetheless, a city that never sleeps is a city that grows tired and weary with each passing day. That is how I felt as I walked among its gleaming towers and glowing lights. The place is imbued with a desire to get bigger and splashier than it was the day before.

Well, how big is too big? How much is too much? What good is all that growth and innovation when our lives become too anxious and rushed to bother slowing down to enjoy or appreciate any of it?

I live in a place in which everything feels like it is enough, and all things grow glacially and in their own time.

I left New York appreciating my home even more and all the ways by which it gives me fullness and joy. I live in a wilderness that probably sleeps more than it should. Only the trees tower among us, and mostly worms and ants burrow tunnels underground. There is open space and steady time.

This is all that I need and more than enough.

-Roqué

The Value of Time

December 8, 2019

Culture and Society

I have been thinking a lot lately about time. Perhaps it’s because I am feeling a little nostalgic. In less than a week from this posting, I will be graduating from college. My life has gone through so much change over the last three and a half years. I started this journey facing a mountain of work and what felt like an eternity until I finished. So much has happened since I stepped onto campus for the first time as an undergrad.

So much time has passed, and yet, here I am, as if it all flew by in an instant.

If there is one daily practice that I have embraced in recent years, it is the concept of mindfulness. I have used it as a meditative tool to help me do my work and get through the day. It requires being present and living in the moment. Each task you do is given all of your undivided attention whether you are merely picking up a bag of groceries or writing a final term paper.

What happens with this practice is that time, and your use of it, feels like it expands. With the absence of the frenetic rush of your mind running a mile-a-minute through several concurring thoughts and your body multi-tasking, you lose all sense of time–and for that matter, you lose a sense of purpose.

I have deliberately decided that I do not want to live my life constantly putting out fires and rushing everywhere. I see people who do that all of the time, and it is not sustainable. I have learned to equate time with a sense of purpose. What I do with my time and what I prioritize during my day are extremely important.

I always work toward prioritizing the important stuff while also making time for solitude, rest, and relaxation. I live mindfully, and time ebbs and flows calmly forward. I prepare for times when I know life will be hectic and crazy, but by my own design, those moments are few and far between.

When I consider the most important parts of my life, my mind conjures images of loved ones, family, and dear friends. I also beam proudly about the risks I took that lead to deeply fulfilling experiences.

These days I also envision time as a precious and finite possession. When you lose an object, you can always buy a new one or do without. When you forget something, you can simply recall it later, but with time, once it passes, it is gone.

All time that has passed in our lives is irretrievable, pretty much forever.

This means that I have important choices to make. Do I spend hours scrolling through Instagram, or do I sit with my impossibly affectionate cat for a while? Do I go out and finish the twenty items on my to-do list, or do I have a quiet day at home? There are no right or wrong answers.

What matters more is whether the activities you carry out align with what you value.

Time exists in the moment. Time in the present is truly all that we have, despite our ambitious plans for the future and our past regrets.

I value my time more and more every day. Every moment that passes is mine for the taking.

I want to use my time to live a beautiful and meaningful life.

-Roqué


Learning to Trust Myself

December 1, 2019

Culture and Society

Building on my previous post, I have been thinking a lot lately about what it means to trust myself. Perhaps it simply means to be confident in my convictions and to stop second guessing my intuition.

The question now is, “How do I learn to trust myself?”

Maybe this means that I need to give myself a gentle reminder whenever I have a gut feeling about something or have a difficult decision to make. Whatever the course of action I take, it needs to be informed by an intention to go with my intuition despite the naysayers both inside and outside of my head. These are opportunities for me to willingly trust what my gut is telling me and to act on those motivations. I will try to do this as often as I can. Practice makes perfect.

Trusting my intuition will help me to determine whether someone is being disingenuous or hurtful. It can help me figure out a true desire underneath a need to please others or be expedient. Trusting myself means that I will be guided by my own principles and standards that may be different from those of others.

I also need to make time for reflection and contemplation—to give myself moments of solitude in which I can be alone with my thoughts whenever difficult circumstances arise that need my attention and decisiveness.

What then is the opposite of trusting myself?

This would look like a person constantly consumed by guilt and anxiety over every decision made. It would also mean giving over important decisions to other people regardless of how I feel or how it effects me. This is no good because it creates a passive existence in which my life moves at the whim of other people’s desires. That sounds miserable.

Trusting myself means that I get to steer the ship in my own life and get to make my own adult decisions without trying to constantly please others. This is how it needs to be.

-Roqué

A Letter to My Former Self

November 3, 2019

Culture and Society

Hello,

I remember you. Skinny. Scrawny. Quiet. You’re the kid who liked to read books and never told anyone your grades even when you always got the highest scores, as if displaying your intelligence was a shameful act.

Why did you always wear your humility like a badge to be proud of? I wish I could have told you that those motivations were rooted in shame.

Someone somewhere planted this seed of an idea inside you a long time ago-that you hold your own sense of personal worth deep within. It is an inherent understanding that outside forces cannot touch. And then, you wrapped that idea and that treasure underneath multiple layers humility.

The problem with too much humility is that it gives you an excuse to hide, and by some configuration of human evolution, it gives others the license to assume they are more competent and capable then you.

You are going to come across people, mostly white men (particularly those in power), who will presume that they know better and should have the authority to dictate what needs to happen over your own work. They will impose their privileged notions over the authentic ideas you’ve brought forth.

I wish I could have told you that your humility will blind you. I wish I could have told you to cultivate more courage so that someday you can stand up to those who presume they know better and tell them to go fuck themselves. I wish I could have told you to start trusting your instincts completely. Stop second guessing. Stop devaluing yourself.

I need for you to know this, because a time will come when you will feel a certain fury–a raging anger against those people who dismiss and devalue your contributions simply because they have no concept of your worth.

I remember you. Sweet. Kind. Hardworking. I want to protect you from the embittered feelings you will start to feel against the world.

There are cruel places out there, and I need for you to stop hiding.

Stop hiding.

-Roqué (Your future self.)

Caring for Oneself

October 13, 2019

Culture and Society

For the first 18 years or so of our lives, our parents take care of us. They provide a safe and warm home, delicious and nourishing food, emotional support and encouragement, resources for a solid education, and a clear set of guidelines that teach us appropriate ways to engage with the world and meet various expectations.

When we leave our parent’s homes for good, we have to learn how to fend for ourselves. We feed ourselves and find our own housing. We get jobs to be able to pay for everything or complete a college education. We essentially take over the job of sustaining our very own well being.

I have been thinking about this a lot lately, and in my mind, caring for oneself goes deeper than having a roof over our heads and our physiological needs met.

Truly caring for yourself involves nurturing your emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical states. While all of these can be rooted in your biological well being, this ultimately means that there has to be an active consciousness and honest awareness of how you are feeling and doing both inside and out.

For example, let’s say you have a productive day. at work. You are firing on all cylinders and getting a lot done. On the outset, that is wonderful. It’s great to get ahead with your responsibilities, but what if the root of this productivity is an avoidance of dealing with a deeper sadness or anxiety? Just because all is well in one corner of your life, this does not guarantee that all is well elsewhere. I find it tricky to be able to discern these kinds of variations when you genuinely want to believe that you are doing just fine. Sure, everything is not always going to be peachy keen, but that is not the point.

The point is that you stay attuned to the vulnerabilities you face with honesty and an open heart and actively find ways to compassionately address them.

Every day, I have a list of little things that I do to help me take care of myself. They are geared toward rejuvenating my spirit and maintaining an awareness of self.

Have a look . . .

  • I write in a journal every morning.

    Usually, it’s one or two small paragraphs that state what feels most pressing in my life, how I am feeling, and reminders to do those things that enhance stability and growth. This is essentially a daily check-in with myself–kind of like a briefing for the CEO, CFO, the Board of Directors, and the shareholders of my body and my life. They each have a vested interest in my success and health, and they deserve complete transparency over every transaction and its outcome.
  • I drink lots of water every day.

    This is one of the points where the biology of your body effects everything else. Staying hydrating sustains everything. Yes, everything. It gives you more energy, flushes toxins out of your body, helps you stay regular, keeps your skin healthy, and refreshes/cleanses your internal organs. Water is your body’s version of the sun. It gives you life and stands at the core of your physical well being.
  • I loudly state several things for which I am thankful.

    It’s no secret that thankfulness has numerous benefits. Several years of having a daily thankfulness habit has improved my mental state. I’m more inclined to believe in the positive side of things and am less effected when setbacks happen. Gratefulness is what feeds resilience. It gives our minds the willingness to stay strong and keep trying.
  • I stay as physically active as I can.

    For me, this means taking the stairs and not the elevator, parking farther away so that I can walk a longer distance, and engaging in a physical activity that I actually enjoy like riding a bicycle and walking. Most days, especially on the large college campus where I go to school, I walk a whole lot, and I LOVE it. Move your body as much as you can and find a fun way to do it.
  • I try to connect with loved ones and friends as much as I can.

    There is something healing about the human connections we make. Through laughter, empathy, and heartfelt discussions, our mental health gains a lot by being engaged with people who genuinely love and care for us. Find those people and hold on to them for dear life.
  • Be generous.

    Whether you give of your time, money, or personal resources, just give. Do so with no expectations whatsoever. Just give. I will not tell you why, but I invite you to find out for yourselves.
  • I make the time to rest.

    Sleep, alone time to decompress, napping, and doing nothing are all forms of rest in my life. Rest is the antithesis of burnout. If we do not recognize those moments when we need rest, then we are in danger of getting far too worn out. Take the time to rest as often as you can. It will restore your energy and your faith in yourself.

For the record, I am not a doctor or psychologist, these practices are thoughts I have culled out of my own queries and experiences.

Life can be tough, and we often have so much we need and desire. The more we taking better care of ourselves, the better off we will be.

Honor the work and the diligence of your parents, and take exceptional care of your body and mental/emotional well being. It’s not fair to pin any of that on other people. Take responsibility for yourself. It’s your life and your own version of happiness at stake.

-Roqué