Author Archives: roque

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

The Boundaries We Keep

October 6, 2019

Culture and Society

I see them everywhere. Sometimes it’s a fence that encloses a pasture with animals who feast on chunks of grass and bask in the sun. Sometimes it’s a door closed shut and locked from the inside. We carry our own boundaries mostly. Some people call it “personal space”–a buffer of air and light through which no one can pass unless permission is granted.

Most boundaries, however, are also invisible.

But why do we keep these boundaries? To keep the true beasts inside of us at bay? Or to hold on to some desperate sense of privacy?

Sure, okay.

There are no wrong answers, I suppose. And it is always valid to ask questions and seek out clues to undress a mystery. Isn’t it?

So, I have to ask, when is it not okay to hold up a boundary?

A life or death situation?
An instant of severe depression or anxiety?
In times of immense grief?

Sure, okay.

So then, boundaries must come down when the physical, psychological, and emotion well being of a person are endangered?

Is that so?

Really?

I question this because, ultimately, who are we to make judgements on the boundaries that other people keep? Unless they reach out on their own accord, who are we to say what is better or healthier for them?

This terrain can be an icy cold and slippery slope, and there are often good intentions that motivate the destruction of boundaries that are not our own.

I always try to be mindful of the boundaries that other people keep because they exist for their own valid and authentic reasons.

Personally, many people are often not aware of the boundaries I keep. I have a few them myself, but mostly, they do not know where they cannot cross because my places are distant and sacred.

Before I consider crossing the closed boundary of another, I question why I do so and make every effort to proceed with honesty, respect, and a deep reverence for any decisions that are not mine to make.

Certain boundaries are worth breaking as long as you understand the price of admission.

But mostly, some boundaries are worth keeping, especially if they let you bask in the sun on your own terms, wherever it is you need to be.

-Roqué

What I Do Not Understand

September 29, 2019

Culture and Society

There are realities in life that simply baffle me. These are circumstances and situations that exist because of complex reasons. They do not present easy or simple solutions, and in fact, they seem impossible to undo.

This week, I thought I would share some of the aspects of modern life that I find confounding. Here is my top three, but I have others.

  1. Gentrification
    It happens everywhere, and I have seen it change and complicate the landscape of an urban center. Here in the Nashville area, it has happened in the form of affluent white people moving into low-income neighborhoods comprised of mostly people of color and historic older buildings. Gradually, overzealous realtors and developers start to come in and market these areas as “hip”, “trendy”, and “affordable”. Rental rates start to increase, and the poor folks who have lived in these areas for years get priced out of their own homes. Shops and boutiques that use the word “artisanal” and “bespoke” pop up, and the neighborhoods start to look more clean and pristine (and less artsy and far less diverse). It boggles my mind why this keeps happening.
  2. Why isn’t there a cap on rental rates?
    Before I stopped living in Nashville three years ago, I paid $650 for a one-bedroom apartment that was less then 10 minutes from downtown. Rental rates have gone up significantly since then. In places like San Francisco and New York, it is not unheard of for a small apartment to cost $3000/month. How are these prices justified? If you are not the owner of a profitable tech-startup or in the medical field, how could you afford such astronomical prices?
  3. Why aren’t there limits on daycare prices?
    My sister and her husband have three young daughters who are not yet old enough to go to school. They both have to work full time jobs to support themselves and their kids, and they pay hundreds of dollars per week for daycare services. I get that caring for children is a valuable and delicate undertaking, but it all seems like highway robbery. There is no such thing as a reasonable daycare rate. It is all expensive.

These three points have a lot to do with money and economics within a capitalist society. I am not convinced that we have attained the most benevolent way of existing as human beings. Our version of economic prosperity is full of inequality and disparity. The poor remain poor and the rich grow progressively richer.

I hope that someday we can evolve into something better. I do not know what that looks like yet, but we should not stop until we have found it.

-Roqué

Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People

September 22, 2019

Culture and Society

There is one thing I have come to know in life. No matter how much I have accomplished and how far I have gone, there is always at least one person who has gone even farther and accomplished more. Perhaps it is human nature to compare oneself to others. Even so, I do not believe that this justifies perpetuating this behavior. Similarly, many of us are prone to destructive behaviors like alcoholism and drug addiction, but we ultimately have the choice not to indulge in them.

In my experience, comparing oneself to others only serves to make you feel less proud about yourself, your accomplishments, and your life in general. It can become a way to put yourself down.

Would it be terrible to just be happy for that person who is prettier/smarter/more wealthy/etc.? No, certainly not, but it is definitely not easy.

I suppose this is where jealousy and envy come in. Someone else has something you covet, and this makes you feel lousy and inferior.

Perhaps the root of the problem is an utter lack of genuine love, appreciation for, and confidence in everything in your life. That’s a big problem, but maybe there is something you can do about it.

Here is a short list of intentions to help you stop comparing yourselves to others:

  1. Instead of being envious, try to admire that other person and to learn from them. They did not get to where they are without at least a little effort. The lessons they have to teach can be invaluable to your own journey and personal goals.
  2. Take a moment every day to write about what you are thankful for in your life. Integrate this practice as a daily priority right up there with eating food and drinking water. Gratitude makes us truly appreciate the inherent richness within our lives.
  3. If you cannot help but negatively compare yourself to someone else, then see if you can ignore that particular person and shift your energy and attention to someone you actually admire and whose life truly represents something you aspire to.
  4. Lastly, see if you can actually meet the person who you are envious of and get to know them a little. You might find that they are human too and face their own challenging struggles. The truth that you discover may be entirely different from the glamorous impression you’ve been harboring in your head.

I have to say that none of this is easy. There is something incredibly difficult about not comparing yourself to others.

I constantly remind myself that life is not a competition and that I have so much in my own life to cherish and celebrate. Therein lies the key to preventing this self-defeating behavior. One must be constantly vigilant to watch out for when it happens and also celebrate everything about yourself and your life that is unique and wonderful.

I am not a psychologist or an expert on human behavior. This topic is something I have struggled with in the past, and I thought it would be worthwhile to share my thoughts on the matter. If you know of good ways to stop comparing yourself to others, let me know in the comments below.

Until my next post, be kind to yourself and celebrate everything in your life that you love and cherish.

-Roqué