The Black Crayon in the Crayola Box

Life-Lesson #9 Everybody Has a Story A tinge of self-hatred arises when I think about the color of my skin. When I was younger, I was made fun of because of the darkness of my skin-complexion. I remember being nine, … Continue reading

The Inevitable

Life Lesson # 7

What is your purpose in the world?

Are you

writer

lover

author

friend

  philanthropist

teacher

mother

doctor

servant

helper

aid

singer

peace-maker

a force for change?

I have often wondered how my existence on earth will change the world. Today, I want you to go there with me. Yes, go to that place that you try to deny exists. That place where you question your purpose, and why you are really even alive here in our world. Before you go to that place with me, I’d first encourage you to breath. Take a breathe, a deep one, and let your mind wander with me.

The first thing you should know is that you were born with a purpose. Your life has meaning and you were born to give something wonderful and unique to the world. What is this amazing gift that springs out of you? It is your existence here in the world, with me, your mother, your friends, your co-workers, and even your pet. Your gift to the world is you – you as your most self-aware, loving, honest and giving self. If you are not self-aware, loving (to yourself and others) honest with yourself about your own issues, and are not a giving person, then I am here to tell you that you are only giving half of yourself to the world – and a “half” that the world may not enjoy. I will be honest with you:

Our world is jacked UP.

And our world deserves people who are willing to love, outside of themselves, who are willing to care for others, and people who are willing to promote the most beautiful kind of change: healing of the inner-self. We all have the ability to be who we were born to be.

“Your wisest, strongest self is waiting for you with arms wide open.”

Imagine that. God’s greatest gift to his creation is our potential to be great. That statement couldn’t be more true if it tried. We get in the way of our own healing. We are stubborn, unreliable, fickle people who can be so hard-headed when it comes to facing our own brokenness. A large part of accepting your purpose in the world is accepting the fact that you are indeed as imperfect as you believe you are. The great thing about understanding this truth is that it allows you to live out your purpose in the world through a humble and graceful outlook. Believing that the person sitting next to you, or a person you pass in the hallway, or the ex-girlfriend you had that was psycho, is just as broken and imperfect as you are allows you to love better. When you love better, you heal better and you are a more useful force for change in the world.

You were born to be great. I mean, think about it. Our existence functions around the idea of interconnected, yet purposeful coincidences. For example, when I pass by a homeless person on the street, acknowledge him/her, tell him/her “Hello, have a wonderful day,” I have impacted that person’s life by simply opening my mouth, lending an ounce of kindness, and acknowledging his/her existence. Thus, in communicating with a homeless person on the street, a seemingly random, coincidental event, I’ve completed one of my many purposes here on earth: to brighten up, what could have been another dreary, hopeless, extremely depressing day, for a person who is down and out. No event is random.

I’m sure that we have all had those days, when something that someone said to you, or something that you heard driving home on the radio, or a phrase you saw on a billboard, or a hug that was given to you by a person who had no idea you even needed one, really impacted your life in an amazingly positive way. We never really know the impact we have on people. There have been times in my life where a simple hello, or a genuine, “Danyealah, how are you feeling today?” has opened up a wealth of healing and life-change for me. The moments when we extend ourselves to people out of kindness, the moments when we say hello to a homeless person on the street (who just happened to be “randomly” placed on the corner that you would walk past, on a certain appointed day in your life), and the times when we are being our most honest selves with ourselves and others, are the moments that we were born for. Your life is purposeful, friend. And, you were born to change the world. I know, it sounds so ridiculously cliche, but you have got to believe me on this one. Our lives are woven together, interconnected, and purposeful. Do you think that it is by mistake that you are reading this post right now? Not a chance.

So, I encourage you to do some soul-searching. What is your purpose here on our wonderfully jacked up earth? Whatever you find out, just remember that you were born purposefully to make a difference in this place we call our home.

The Quality of Tears

Life Lesson # 5

Tears

Weeping

Sobbing

Bawling

Blubbering

Wailing:

crying.

There are many ways to describe the human reaction to pain that involves the shedding of tears. As people, we all have our own ways of dealing with our tears. Some cry alone, with other people, with close friends, with loved-ones. As for me, I cry alone. I weep alone. The thought of someone else being around to witness is usually the thing that makes me cringe the most. Ironically, someone being around to care for me when I am weeping is usually what I need the most. Sobbing alone is like watching an incredibly painful film without anyone around you to offer you popcorn, to squeeze your hand during intense scenes, or exchange looks when the actors have done something really outrageous.

Crying alone for me feels like death.

I feel the tears, hot and salty. I feel my body tremble slightly as my shoulders curl in. I hear myself breathing, heavily and slowly. Perhaps the worst part of all, is that when I am really upset about some event, or situation in my life, I usually let out a sardonic chuckle just before the tears. I can honestly admit that it takes more guts for me to cry in somebody’s arms than it does to cry at all. When another person is there to witness my emotional outlet it solidifies the pain – the pain I feel is real because another person is sharing in my human experience. To feel another person ailing can be agonizing. You are there with them as they nakedly reveal the evidence that they’ve been hurt. But, for the sake of remaining sane, it is almost always necessary to have someone you care about, whether it is a friend, a dog or a relative, around to console you when you shed your tears. This is a truth that I learned my sophomore year of college, during my second year of architecture school.

First and foremost, architecture school is hard. You can ask anyone who knows anything about design school and they will tell you that it is brutal, the workload can be ruthless, and that the stress is ongoing. Breakdowns for architecture students are usually always around the corner. Our breakdowns seem to lurk around after two or three days without sleep, and tend to creep up on us in the twilight hours of the morning. One of my most memorable meltdowns occurred at around seven in the morning.

It was the day of my final critique for an abstract, semester-long, landscape architecture project. I had not slept in two days. My steady resolve and gentle momentum to continue working on my final model for the review, had dwindled down to pure exhaustion. The only thoughts that wrestled in my mind were, “I haven’t slept in two days, and I have how many more drawings to do?!” And, “Shit, is my project even any good?” I was in perfect condition for a mental disaster. Imagine: back completely hunched over my drafting table, eyes entirely red and baggy, and my outfit the same as the one I was wearing the day before. Adding the final touches to my model, I was gluing 1/32″ linear elements (long, extremely thin, basswood sticks) onto an angular piece of plexiglass. I might have been less frustrated mentally if my hands had not been shaking, if the crazy glue had dried as quickly as stated on the bottle, if the skin around my finger-tips wasn’t peeling due to inadequate scraping off of glue, and if my patience had not been worn completely thin. All I needed was for the sticks to actually stick.

Before I knew it, the tears came. Soft and slow, I felt them on my face, one after the other, unable to rationalize in my mind if I would actually be able to complete my project by 2pm. All I could think about were my grades, the drawings that I had left to complete, how the cheap microns I was using were drying out, the time I’d spent laboring over the concept for the project, and my inability to get the 1/32″ linear elements to actually stay put. To make matters worse, some of the people I knew who were working around me stopped what they were doing and stared at me.

“Oh my God… is she crying?”

“Woah, she’s actually crying.”

Although I had heard what they were saying, I really couldn’t stop myself from sobbing. Then, as if God had heard the faint prayer in my heart, one of my friends, Jorge Rodriguez, who was working close by, looked at me, got up from his seat, walked over to my drafting area, and embraced me. He wiped the tears from my face with his hand, and with every weary ounce of frustration I possessed, I told him, “Jorge, I don’t think I can do this.” He just looked at me as if I’d said something absurd and said,

“Dany, you can do this. I know that you can.”

He hugged me again, asked me if I was going to be alright, and returned to his seat.

In that moment, Jorge was just the friend I needed. The push I needed, the encouragement I needed, the love I needed, the it-is-okay I needed – his kindness was what I needed to move on. He was right, though. I could do it. Later on that day, I gave my final presentation. It was eloquent, polished, clear, and the short, button-down, black dress and fish-net tights I was wearing looked damn good. Not only did I receive an “A” as the final grade for that presentation, my entire studio voted my project as overall extremely well-done, and my professor instructed myself and two other students to hang our work in the student gallery.

To this day, I don’t think Jorge knows just how pivotal that moment was when he held me. I can honestly say that the quality of my tears in the midst of my breakdown was priceless. Having a hand to comfort me and share in that emotional experience with me, was even more valuable than I can relay. I learned that sometimes crying alone is the exact opposite of what we need. We need the human hand, the exchange of looks, the embrace, the pat on the back, the kind words.

Those are the things that measure the quality of our tears.

Easter 2013 002 (edit)