on presence

Over the next few days, I will be traveling for work and I will not be sharing my writing on happyperson. Today, I want to spend some time reflecting on what the past posts have meant to me and how writing has brought meaning to my life.

For the past 16 or 17 days, I have sat down at the end of the day to write down my thoughts. I have experienced some anxiety when facing the empty screen. Sometimes I am unsure of what I would like to write, and I sit down and think. I realize this pause for reflection is where a lot of my ideas spring from. It is a moment of intentionality, to think of what I would like to communicate to whoever the reader is on the other side of the screen.

At times, I feel I have nothing to say. I stare blankly, feeling as if I have said all there is to say. But we know this is never the case, and sometimes it all comes gushing out of me as my fingers glide tirelessly across the keyboard barely able to keep up with my speeding mind. 

Most recently, I have delved into past relationships, moments that live in memory and have even shaped core aspects of my character. Who are we if not the sum of our experiences? In some sense, this is what I hope to communicate through this blog, my experience with life and the articulation of my own self as I learn and understand its origins and purpose. 

I am alone again, and when I am alone I think of what I want to do when it is all said and done. I have come to understand that my knowledge of where I am at is more important than where I am going or where I have been, but I pay so little attention to the present and spend so much of my time floating elsewhere.

When I go for a swim at the pool, I design work outs that I was able to complete in my days as a swimmer at Colgate and at George Washington High School. I design workouts that I will be able to complete after I have swam and regained my strength and refined my technique. But rarely do I design workouts for where I am actually at right now. I am regaining form and I need to be patient with my progress. The same with the Officer package, I need to practice patience and commit to making small changes rather than drowning myself underneath the weight of it all. I can address it all one step at a time, and I will be thankful for it. 

Being present also means being here, locally. I don’t want to be in New York, nor do I want to be in Instagram, in Ukraine, in the NBA Finals. I want to be locally, in Gulfport, connected with the people around me, engaged in my activities, focused on my pursuits. The tighter the leash I keep on my mind, the more rooted I am in my person and what I am currently pursuing. 

I am becoming a good writer, and I am only saying this because I am actually writing. The prerequisite is just that, write words and you are a writer. Over my lifetime, I may become a great writer, and if I am lucky, committed, and consistent, I may become a known writer. 

For now, these words will do, because this is all I have.

growing confidence

I wish I had natural confidence. I spent the afternoon reflecting on how I have missed so many opportunities due to my lack of confidence – and how I wish I could have believed in myself to endure the tough times. 

But it is hard to judge if whether past actions that I took were due to a lack of confidence or a result of my confidence. When I judge things from the past through this single lens, it becomes hard to assess where the truth lies.

The list of things I am afraid of doing because of lack of confidence is long, but here are a few.

– Asking a girl out in person. Or sometimes even talking to a girl that I like.

– Speaking in public.

– trying something new, and the subsequent discouragement that results from the inevitable failure.

– traveling to a new country/city alone.

Maybe if I put myself in a place to challenge these fears, I can overcome them – and why not now? What better time?

Maybe when I go to New Orleans, I’ll strike up a conversation with a pretty girl. I’ll show interest, and ask what book they are reading, what coffee they ordered, where they are from, and what brought them over.

I want to learn about myself and why I bought into the idea that I am not good enough for this. It’s completely false.

hardwood floors

I slept on hardwood floors with my two cats and a blanket. This was one of our regular arguments, before I could acknowledge that we weren’t right for each other. We had broken up before then, and this time we reconnected in Washington D.C. with high hopes and good intentions. The times in D.C. would lead us to where I found myself now, in Boston, on the floor of our small studio apartment. 

I left an internship as an Editorial Assistant to make the move to a brand new city. I think we drove their together, and before we knew it, we had two cats. This was the start of our life. We would start our mornings together, with coffee and tea, and we would end our nights eating dinner on the floor. I would get creative with our dishes, but not too creative. I never truly had a knack for cooking, but I could make dishes without consulting recipes. This was something she could never do. 

Our fight was probably not even that big, but there were times when she’d throw something at me, an object, and I would try to get away from the situation. The space in the apartment hardly seemed big enough to support both of us, and then she would take out her anger on the cats. I didn’t think they did anything except be cats. They were playful, they climbed our pants legs when we got dressed, and they made fabrics less fabric-y and more raggedy. 

Our biggest cat, Gnocchi, would dash out of the apartment door as soon as we returned from outside. Then we would have to chase him, and he was not an easy catch. But again, they were nothing except cats. Young ones, playful and frolicky. 

In the beginning, I didn’t have a job. Having left the internship at Akashic Books, I also didn’t have much experience. So I found myself in the predicament of many recently-graduated, college-educated kids at that time, jobless and with no prospects. Luckily, I didn’t have many loans. I owed $4,000 at the time, but as I write this I owe nothing. Not to the loans at least. 

So in the mornings, I applied for jobs and within a week I had an appointment with a temp agency. This place was soulless, but at one point they offered me work at a gig at MIT where I basically just gave people name-tags for the event. Any less meaningful work I could not imagine. Then I landed an interview as a Global Cash Specialist. Here, I would process transactions for Brown Brothers Harriman, and now I was in Investment Banking doing a job that is probably extinct by now since a good programmer could have easily supplanted my duties. This was the job I had when we broke up. I made $14 an hour.

I think that she just didn’t believe in us fully, and when she drank, she believed in us less. So most of the times, when we argued it was because of liquor involved. And I have never really craved liquor, it has no appeal to me, but I didn’t know that then. So I drank when people around me drank, but now I know, and am confident to say I just don’t care for alcoholic beverages. Not like I care for Haribo gummy bears and Chewy Nerds. 

So, back to the floor, it was hard and cold. The blanket hardly provided any comfort, and I woke up groggy the next morning. I carried these emotions to work with me, and eventually we were enemies under the same roof. I didn’t want to take the train back home with her, I wanted to take the one after. I didn’t want to respond to her text messages, but I don’t think she wanted to text me either. I couldn’t really talk to people, but I talked to my friends about what we were going through and they urged me to leave. But I didn’t. 

This is where I discovered, or rather experienced, first-hand the battered partner syndrome. Like when someone treats you bad, but the feeling of love convinces you that this is not permanent, that they will be kind to you. Well, she was really bad at this point. 

One day, she left. And I don’t know where she went, but I remember leaving too. I had my things packed in some vehicle, and I left a bag of her favorite chips on the table. I think I wanted her to know that I cared, or to feel that I wasn’t that horrible after all. But the feeling is much like dying, you don’t really know how the person reacts afterward. 

I learned to live alone in Boston. I eventually became full-time at the Boston banking job and started earning $40K a year, but then I left. And since then, I’ve carried this story with me – of how things ended, and I didn’t know how to start telling it. But in all the time that we spent together in that apartment, and all the memories we formed, what I remember was trying to go to sleep that night on that floor with my two cats beside me. The tears streaming down my face, and The Smiths playing on my headphones. While she slept in the bed, on the other side of that door, and we accepted that we were never meant to be. 

Today, I carry the pain of the past. It’s ok though. Oddly, its my own pain and that feels good. Forming my own accountability is hard though. I know there are so many things I did wrong, but who cares. I am writing the story, and I can tell it how I feel. 

a pause for reflection

As time passes, I become more aware of my struggles to deal with emotional scars. I began writing in happyperson, this blog, because I had a feeling that my life lacked meaning, purpose, and a sense of direction. I was not a happy person, and the only way that I could become one was by writing. 

I do not always know what I want to write about. Sometimes, like in this sentence, it’s fluff. But the fluff is, in itself, an effort to understand. This journey seems to be designed in that manner, so I push on. And I wonder what will come from writing these nightly posts? What will I discover, down the line, about myself and my place in the world? 

This blog can be categorized most succinctly as an existential journal. I share my thoughts, the things that I usually wouldn’t share with anyone else. I allow myself to be vulnerable, write poems, and share goals. 

There are truths that are so difficult to accept, and you cling to the hope that they may not be true. We create illusions to escape, and sometimes we create diversions. I notice myself trying to escape my thoughts a lot. I scroll through Instagram, I listen to music, and I sleep with my phone beside my pillow. Because being alone is really hard sometimes. 

In boot camp, I felt alone. I made friends there, but sometimes it just felt lonely. In my solitude, I wrote. We didn’t have much alone time, but that’s when I realized, when I am alone – I write. That makes me a writer. I wrote letters to my mom, Gely, Kathy, Jeffrey, Eric, Caroline, and Sammie. I wrote a letter to Sammie, and she replied – I clung to that letter because it gave me hope, reassurances that I mattered out there to someone in the world, other than family. 

For some reason, I never really felt sure about the letters with Caroline. It bothered me that they were typed. I didn’t ever share why. Sometimes I get sensitive about the smallest things. I wanted a hand-written letter, personal memories, I wanted to know what flavor coffee you were drinking, what it felt like to get caught in a thunderstorm while going out for groceries. I wanted to hear about the new candle you purchased, and what the smell reminded you of. 

I am in some regards a tortured romantic because receiving a letter should have been enough. But I oftentimes acknowledge a fatal flaw is my inability to accept people as they are. I place undue expectations, and sometimes what I fail most at is acknowledging that this is not a problem with the other person or with me. But this is a problem of compatibility – you know what you want in a partner, even if you don’t think you know what you want. This leads to inevitable conflict.

I didn’t touch a single photo on the day we parted ways. I’d see Caroline’s picture on my dresser as I put on my uniform in the morning. I’d have her letters in my desk drawer, and I every time I would lock my phone away I would see them in there. On the day when I finally decided I would erase one photo, I put my head down and cried. The moment was painful, as I acknowledged another failed relationship. 

It was a time when I needed a hug, or maybe a friend to tell me it was all going to be alright. That I would find someone special, that time will heal the wounds. But that didn’t happen. Instead, the silence filled the room as tears made their way down my face. I took the pictures off of my corkboard, and I took the letters out of my desk. It made one big pile, and then I erased a photo on my phone. 

Scrolling back through time to select memories to destroy – why do we do such things? If I were really to love every part of me, then I should have loved who I was in the moments when those pictures were taken. I should have kept them to remember a relationship that brought smiles to my face. Because even the bad ones have some good memories. 

I didn’t though. Those memories will live only in my mind until they expire. One day, I may be somewhere and remember being there with her. But these days, I would have to think hard to reach those places again. I would have to travel backward through many more memories. 

I recently reached out to a girl to ask her to join me for trivia. She let me down easily, but I know that even if I think I want another connection I am not ready. I have wounds still, I have problems and issues I haven’t addressed. Even if I did have a chance to explore a relationship with Sammie, it would probably suffer because of those issues I have failed to address.

What I mean to say, is that in this recent and past relationship, I failed to hold myself accountable and I believed that the key to a happy relationship was just finding a more suitable partner. While there are fatal differences, like misaligned values that can keep bonds from strengthening, the truth is that an incomplete, unfulfilled person will not be complete, happy by introducing to another person.

To think that that is the only discovery I made is overly simplistic. That is a discovery, and a lot of people acknowledge that when they share advice, but it is one of many things I failed to understand about myself. 

Instead of building new relationships, I think I should really strengthen my relationship with my mom, my friends, my sister, and my Dad. I am alienated and distant, but that is a tale for another time. 

Tonight, I will drink my tea and maybe read a book. A cozy bed awaits where I will lay my head to rest.

a diversion

Grandma makes this plate, it’s called arroz con leche.
Grandma makes this plate, it’s called a flan.
I want you to have a taste of grandma’s special dish, 
they’re even better when they’re slightly chilled. 

Everyone loves to have grandma’s cooking, 
grandma’s recipes have traveled centuries. 
But they’re different, like us, showing signs of the times.
Plus amnesia, and sometimes ingredients get dropped.

Sometimes we opt for a different kind of milk, 
now Oat – but who would have thought, 
Grandma says it’s still quite good, 
and when I taste it I agree.

Momma’s garden has tomatoes, and they grow so ripe.
Momma’s garden has onions, and they’re fresh and round.
I want you to have a taste of momma’s Veggies,
they’re so much better than Whole Foods.

Everyone loves momma’s garden, 
which she plants with hands so trained,
that she doesn’t follow schedule or calendar, 
she just listens and observes.

Sometimes we do buy from the store, 
Cucumbers, berries, spinach, and greens, 
Momma says it’s okay, we mix it all
and enjoy it as one.

Dad is handy and can build, he made himself a deck.
Dad is crafty and can mount, a set of cabinets.
I want you to come and see, how Dad has made his home.
He built it with his hands, patience, tools, and vision.

Everyone loves Dad’s projects, 
they grab brews and admire, 
He never drew up plans,
it all was self-inspired.

So he put one and one 
and said that might go nice there.
He thought about what he might need, 
then he went and placed it there.

Me, I have these roots, and I can cook, can plant, 
and build stuff too. 
I want you to come and see, how all these things can make you free.
Just trust yourself, and listen close.

I sometimes failed to see what everyone else loved.
How momma’s plants would bloom,
grandma’s cooking brought joy,
and dad’s projects inspired awe.

But now I see, and I hope you see, 
we could all make something out of nothing.
with the gifts of our ancestors,
and thoughts filled with love.

the calm

Haruki Murakami has a book titled What I Talk About When I Talk About Running. First, I have to say that I would read any book by Murakami because I can find fragments of myself in his characters. I feel less alone, more understood. But I enjoyed reading WITAWITAR because it was Murakami’s book that was written as if it were only meant for him to read. Most writers, if they want to be successful, write for the reader, the audience. But this approach of writing for the self answers different calls, the calls from within, the questions that are buried deep within you. I call this exploratory writing.

Murakami’s story begins with why and how he began to run. He didn’t run in his track team. He wasn’t naturally gifted. His journey began at around 30 years old – relatively late, but age is nothing in these matters. At around age 30, Murakami also began to write seriously. He sold his restaurant to become a full-time writer. He gambled on himself.

To Murakami, running, as well as writing, were an escape. He did not use them to avoid his problems, rather they served as outlets for self-expression, for exploring his own character and purpose.

As a writer, you write in order for someone to read. As a runner, you race and train with others. But the joy of these pursuits, for Murakami, was how well they fit in and accommodated his propensity towards solitude.

The empty page that stares back at the writer as he sits at his desk to write; the lonely roads that a runner treads on his morning runs. These are the starts and stops of a journey with no end. When I sit here to write, I have the same thoughts – what questions am I grappling with? What is awakening my curiosity? These are things only I can answer for myself.

The same has happened as I ride my bike down winding roads, or stare at the bottom of the swimming pool covering lap after lap, or even while running on the trails. I encounter these questions, this inner drive to explore what lies within. There is also an internal calm when I can hear my breathing and feel my heart pumping furiously the blood that will course through my veins to deliver oxygen that the muscles need to keep on pushing. 

The calm is ephemeral, dharmic. By the time I recognize it, it is gone. Maybe that is because I don’t really know how to live in patience. I do everything fast, and I expect everything fast. I am learning this. I devour my meals as if I were timed, and I chug my coffee and water. I get anxious when people don’t respond to a text message. I cannot wait in customer support lines. Time is valuable, and I think that is why patience is hard. I am not ill-intentioned, but I am not ready in that way. So when I encounter the calm, I notice, and I am grateful for it. 

the unknowns

The things I know, I cannot tell them all. Not because they are secrets, no. It is not secrecy, but a brilliance that I cannot share for fear of blindness, deafness, an overwhelming of the senses. 

These things I carry, deep down within me, are the seeds of greatness, too eager to sprout. I am the neglectful gardener, preserving the soil, and protecting the neighboring weeds and grasses. These seeds will sprout and root deeply, force-digging into the hardened terrain.

These things I see, when caught in the rafts of slumber, are visions of a life unimagined, a world of what-ifs that I could not bear to conceive, for to see these things for real would mean a shattering of the walls and the skies that I have known. Nobody truly wants a Truman Experience. The warm walls of Plato’s Cave are luxury suites in Tribeca’s district. 

These things I feel, are unreal, unmatched, surreal. So I walk this world alone and unattached, serving faithfully, and even when I struggle I know that I made this happen out of love, passion, and commitment. I could not unfeel this way. They asked me if I really believe in the things that I write – it made me pause for a second, why not? Because the alternative would be to live it less intense, less worried, but imagine I didn’t have these dreams. 

What comes next? I don’t know. But tomorrow will bring another day, another opportunity. A grand adventure awaits. 

feeling vocabulary

It is difficult to express yourself with a narrow feeling vocabulary. The expressive vagueness creates blind spots, areas of unexplored emotional territory that can become hazardous over time. These form the basis for triggered responses and subconscious reactions to external stimuli. 

When these blind spots go unobserved, they become uglier and more dangerous. But it is hard to become aware that this is happening, that’s why they’re called blind spots. If my friend asks me how I am getting along, I respond with updates on running, cycling, and photography. I place a focus on the things that give my life meaning, but I hardly provide an accurate assessment of my feelings. 

What am I feeling? Am I anxious about some future event? Am I worried about what someone thinks of me? What are my own perceptions about myself?

If you’re not in the habit of targeting emotional blind spots, it will take some time to become well-versed in the task. But with practice, concerted effort, and by writing and reflecting you can start to pinpoint the origins of your joy and of your tension.

The ultimate truth is that the stories you tell are the ones people know, and without a proper feeling vocabulary even you may be in the dark as to what is going on with you.

As for gratitude, I write these pages, I read books I enjoy, and I lay my head on my pillow.

i remember

Every sentence began with an I remember, connecting the past to the present by a bridge self-created. What we remember could be so different from the stories of others, yet the strength lies in their personality. Each person self-defines their personhood using fragments of memories, and there is perhaps no greater symbolic item for memory than the post-it note. That sticky, albeit easily torn sliver of paper – a fragment. 

In these fragments live empires, generations that span from the very beginning to who knows when. Because I remember the mornings when we were getting ready to go to school, and my mom would tie that last shoe so that I could walk, and she would have my books in my bag, and I would climb on her back so she could carry me to my school. I remember how I cried on my first day of school in kindergarten, and then again in first grade. Why should I be ashamed of that now? I know now things that I didn’t know then, that crying isn’t a sign of weakness – it is a sign of strong feelings, an overwhelming feeling that refuses to be contained, and demands nothing more than to express. Expressed feelings.

I remember that our teacher would have us try to write our names, and after a few weeks, there were only three or four of us who hadn’t yet learned their name. I remember that I didn’t think I was too smart, but what did smart really mean then? I had never been measured against anyone else, maybe my sister. My world was my mother, my sister, and the tv. So measurements, conceptually, were the thing that I remember first noticing. 

I probably remember walking down the hallways, where our work hung and was celebrated for our parents to see, and waiting in line for lunch. I remember pledging allegiance to the flag before I knew what that meant, but I remember not being alone – being with others who uttered the same. I remember so much of childhood, of sitting there on the corner of my bed with my neck craned up, playing video games. I remember when I’d climb up the 5 flights of stairs to see my grandma, my cousins, and my aunts and uncles. I remember, and I can’t go back too far, or see it all. The only things left are those fragments.

evading sadness impending gloom

All of life summarized, the rush to get to somewhere unknown will consume your peace. 

Every moment seems to bear an equal weight of importance. When I tell the story, I stop at every sign and open every door. I am seeking a truth that may have gone hiding away. The past is a labyrinth in which I sit down and weep. 

Today we talked about past lives and permanent dispositions. Can a child be born sad? Can sadness be inherited? I had always believed that it could be cultivated, and after so many years of attention and nurturing in that manner, become that way. But a sadness in-grown, and not merely adopted, that is a hard pill to … you know the saying.

Where do our thoughts come from? How do we crack the puzzle of our mind, eliminating intrusive thoughts? How do I move forward from where I am and open myself to something new? I need to give myself space and time to relax – somehow, someway, into the space within myself. I need to relax. I need to ease back. 

Have I processed enough of the past to make living in the present bearable? Now, when my writing becomes more question than answer, I start to think that something is terribly wrong. But here is my theory, it will get fixed, but not today nor tomorrow. But where do I place these hopes?

I sat at the book store, and I was able to get some work done. But I drank my Chai Tea with the expediency of a New Yorker. The weight of the world builds knots of tension in my body. I only want to do what I need to do to make progress, but I look back and all I have been pleading for is a moment of rest. A moment to put my phone down, close my computer screen, and return to me. 

I missed you, Natasha. I didn’t know that I did so much, and then tears formed in my eyes. My eyes, which grow tired and worn, but not from seeing, from not closing enough. From too much of it. 

I always thought I cried too much for a guy. Somehow, not being able to speak led to more of that. I cry when I think about hugging my mom again. I wonder, with honest concern, whether that will happen again. I used to be able to stroll to her room in my apartment and lay down beside her. She would place her arm around me, or I would just snuggle underneath her. That warmness, love. 

We are too often buried in minutiae. When nothing really matters, and here I go tip-toeing towards nihilism. Everything matters. The two bitter extremes. 

I wish I was on good terms with all the people that said they loved me. I need all of the love right now. I need it from people I don’t believe it to hear it from anymore. I need it from my mom. I need it from dad. I need it from myself. Not in the form of a text, or a phone call. I need a hug, a handhold, a head rub. 

I let the day sleep, but I was too tired to reach for it anyway. Tomorrow will begin a new week, I will be renewed soon.