I know why you are so unhappy…

Everything in your life stands as a barrier to happiness: That high-powered corporate job, or blue-collar service job, your cell phone, your iPad, your money or lack thereof. Everything in our world, everything artificial, stands in the way of pure happiness. Everything you do has no purpose. You work to pay bills, to get stuff and keep stuff, and then what?

The purpose of life is to enjoy the universe.

To those of you who scream: YOLO whenever you do something stupid, that is, drink too much, smoke too much, party too much, do too many drugs, drive recklessly in the BMW you can barely afford, that is not enjoying the universe. None of those things matter.  You waste your time.  I ask my students all the time Why do you party? The best answer I ever get is to forget my problems. That is exactly right: people party to escape the world, the transient, ephemeral, superficial, artificiality of the world.  Well, what’s wrong with this world? We have all of this stuff to keep us company.

I used to believe my mom was wrong for not wanting to celebrate Christmas.  What was the point in being here if you weren’t going to enjoy the experiences in it? How could you forgo the unabashed grandeur of it all? Our consumerist culture truly is the way to happiness right? NO!  It is just a barrier to keep us from enjoying the universe.

I guess I’ve been watching too much anime or something.  I’ve been watching this one where this girl goes back in time from modern day to the feudal era.  (wow, I sound like a total geek right now, bear with me, I have a point).  Anyway, she is without all of these modern technologies, and enjoys sleeping under the stars. And in this one episode, she is forced back to modern times and is slowly forgetting her adventures in the past era.  And for some reason, the rote monotony of her modern life hit a chord with me.  All of this crap we do everyday has no point whatsoever. Toiling away with these trivialities makes us generally unhappy.

Now for all of you naysayers out there, I must point out: you may argue that it is how one perceives all of these trivialities is what determines whether one is happy or not. That may be true, but at least for me, I have to argue that I feel imprisoned sometimes by the monotony of everyday life.  I want to be outside, get fresh air, eat food I’ve grown myself. Living in an apartment (without a balcony no less) creates barriers and prevents me from connecting with the universe in the way I believe people should.

Every history class I ever took in school had me believing that the Native Americans were crazy. Don’t you remember learning that their religion was called animism: which, according to wikipedia, “is the worldview that natural physical entities—including animals, plants, and often even inanimate objects or phenomena—possess a spiritual essence.” Who in their right mind thinks that a tree has a spirit? We learned that Christianity was normal, and that the Native Americans were kooks. (Because one old white man who sees over every man, woman, child and every other living creature, and dictates their fates, answers their prayers, and judges what will happen to them in eternity, makes A LOT more sense).  I think they were (are) on to something.  The universe, in its natural state, anyway, is such a rich place.  We destroy all of its riches to create all of this artificial crap. 

The reality is that in the last 500 years we have spent so much time closing ourselves off from the natural world that we are completely unaware of the natural essence of things. Have you ever stood before a great tree that made you silence your thoughts because its power was just so awesome. What about the thrashing waves of the ocean on a cool summer night?  How does being in the presence of powerful, natural elements have such an effect on you? How could inanimate objects contain so much power?

There are too many barriers keeping us from the universe and the world in its natural state.  We are unhappy because we are imprisoned by useless junk and we don’t take the time to just be with the world.  The earth can provide everything we need to survive and thrive. We just have to take the time to get to know it.

Barbados

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Why I Stopped Shopping at the Mall

It’s been about six months since I started wearing the skirts everyday. It was done in part so I could connect with my more bohemian self, and also so I could simplify my outfit choices. It worked wonderfully at first. And then, in one misguided trip to Macy’s I got carried away. I bought about $150 worth of clothing, on sale and all that.  I walked away with two giant bags filled with stuff.

Now that I have many more clothes, I find myself at a loss of what to wear most mornings. Without blogging, I find myself falling back into my old habits. It’s time to purge again and get rid of the junk. (And return to writing, too)

Furthermore, I haven’t had most of this stuff more than a couple of months and some of it already looks like crap.  These clothes aren’t meant to be worn frequently.  I feel like I’ve wasted my money. Many times I don’t want to wear what I have simply because it looks shoddy.  How often does that happen to you? I’m tired of it happening to me, so I have officially quit shopping at the mall.

It is  a shame that these large companies don’t take the time to put together quality clothing, but it’s not surprising.  I mean, they are paying scraps to little kids in China to put these scraps of clothes together.  Clearly, they care more about their profits than anything else.  If profits weren’t their main concern, they’d pay their manufacturers better. Why not cut corners on quality, too?

Do you know what “pilling” is?  It usually happens when a fabric has little tiny balls of fabric stuck all over it. So if a canvas tote bag you’re carrying rubs up against a synthetic, polyester t-shirt, you get pilling. Pilling is the bane of my existence.  It makes relatively new clothing look pretty shoddy. I’m starting to think clothes were only meant to be worn once.  I saw an article on Yahoo! over the weekend, “Britney Spears Explains Why She Wears the Same Outfits in Public.” We as a people in this country have serious problems if we have to explain wearing the same clothes over again. I know it doesn’t apply to me, the regular, not-famous human, but the fact that this even made the tabloids, speaks volumes about our society.  And us normal people don’t want to repeat outfits too frequently either. So of course  clothing manufactures can get away with selling this clothing of such poor quality.  Besides, this low-quality crap is the only thing that most of us can afford.

Nonetheless, I know how to pick out high-quality items on sale.  However, the time required to find the style/color/size I want coupled with the availability of superior quality items (and fair price, anyone?) makes it very difficult to find what I’m looking for, especially last minute–and that, of course, is how I do most of my shopping. It takes work. Work that I’m just not interested in doing. Malls really aren’t my favorite place, ya know?

So at one point, I thought, to save money (and time, and stress, and frustration) I should sew my own clothes.  I thought that going old-fashioned was the solution to the crap at the mall. “Old-fashioned” has been my solution to slowing everything down a bit.  It worked very well for improving my diet, but apparently not for my personal style. See, I’ve had the machine for a while now and the only thing I’ve made is a giant pillow-bed for my dog.  I’ve hemmed a couple of things, but I really don’t think I’m going to do much more sewing than that.  Sewing projects really just aren’t for me. I think it is an important skill to have, but I’m going to stick to crocheting hats and scarves for now. So lately I’ve been perusing Etsy for people who hand-sew clothing.  I bought a hand-sewn purse a good while ago (not online) and it is still in wonderful condition.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything of that quality at the mall. I paid $50 for it. A tote of that quality is worth FAR more than $50 dollars retail. 

It is clear that these big companies, really aren’t looking out for the needs of the consumer.  I need durable clothing (purses and shoes) that can stand frequent wear. I think I would save far more money if my clothing didn’t wear out as quickly as it does now. The items I buy would stay nicer, longer. The reality is, I’m just not going to be able to find that at the mall, for the amount of money I’d like to spend.

P.S. I also decided to stop shopping at the mall because I want to support black businesses.  It is very difficult to do that at the mall.  My community is suffering and the least I can do is spend my money where it’s needed. 

I Stopped Fighting, But I’m Not Giving Up

I spent a year and a half fighting for my graduate thesis. Fighting for  every line and every word my adviser had something to say about on my draft.  It was my writing after all. It was mine, and I vowed, at age 10, that I would never again let someone coerce convince me to write something that I didn’t want to write.  I saw it as selling out. I probably could have finished my thesis “on time,” or early, if I had been willing to walk the path of my predecessors– you know, the one of smile and nods, and just doing whatever they want me to do, just so the work can be over with. In the end–of my thesis, anyway– I got on the conveyor belt, and behaved how a good graduate student should.

My entire life, I’ve never been quite fond of rules.  I complain endlessly for society trying to push me into line.  Don’t get me wrong, I agree to common courtesy, honesty, kindness, and following the law. But sometimes I just fight. I really just don’t like doing what I’m told.  My mom always told me, “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”  Nonetheless, that’s what I do when I get pissed. It’s definitely not slow-paced living at all.

Today, after a less than favorable job performance review– I have to say, probably my first– understandably, I was devastated.  I want to do well in my place of employment. I was actually desperately in need of some confirmation I was doing okay. And I got the complete opposite of that today.  So the fight within me starts- I’m ready to pound my fists into the wall.  I’m thinking, “How the hell can I still do this my way?”  and “How am I such a failure?”

Why do I always have to do things the hard way– which is mostly my way, I suppose? Here I am, about to make the same mistake I made with my thesis. Fighting tooth and nail for what want, knowing that in the end, I’m not going to get what want, and I’ll be climbing up the steep side of the mountain all for naught.

I’ve spent a significant portion of the last couple class periods telling my students that they may not like their system of education, but they have to take what they can get from it– mostly, learning the discipline to do things they don’t want to do. Because, you know, if you don’t suck it up and do things you don’t want to do, how are you going to be able to push through the challenges and least interesting parts of achieving your goals?

Now aren’t I the silly hypocrite? How can I know so much and express this to others with exceptional clarity, but have a fog in front of my eyes. I’m trying to learn from Taoism- to stop fighting, to live in harmony with the universe, and to let the wind carry me in the direction it blows.

As of this moment, I’ve stopped fighting, but I’m not giving up. I’m going to do what I have to do to turn the review around (I have a second chance, ya’ll).  I’m going to get in line, and walk deliberately with the flow of traffic.  Although now, at least I know where I am, and can hop off the conveyor belt when I choose to do so.Image

(sorry for the accidental, unfinished post earlier… “Why I stopped shopping at the mall” should be up soon).

What you should stop stressing about right now: #6 What other people think about you.

Sibling rivalry taught me how to worry about what other people think.  I am the oldest of four. Two younger sisters, and a brother.  I’m going to preface this by saying that I am, by far, the most sensitive of the bunch, and most likely to over-read into other people’s actions and reaction.  Coming up, I thought my parents had a favorite.  And it wasn’t me.

By birth I am a strong Leo. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Leo is the fifth astrological sign of the Zodiac, and ruled by the sun.  It is the only astrological sign ruled by a star, in the center of our solar system no less.  Thus, it is by no surprise that Leo’s personality traits are often defined as such:

“…they love being center stage. Making an impression is Job One for Leos….these folks never shy away from the limelight.” —Astrology.com

“…driven by the desire to be loved and admired, Leos have an air of royalty about them. They love to be in the limelight…” —GaneshSpeaks.com

“…are driven by a desire to be loved for what [they] bring to others…Many Leos are attracted to the theater, the performing arts and public relations…[they] truly understand the importance of putting on a good presentation.” —HuffingtonPost.com

So imagine now, as a child who sought the adoration of others, I began to concern myself with who got better grades, who had the most stellar achievements, who had the best PSAT score, who went to the better college… all so that I could seek the approval of my parents.  Of course I couldn’t out-achieve my younger siblings and I felt inferior. I felt that my parents focused on their favorite because they out-achieved me. Poor, Talia. I thought.

Of course it is natural for a youth to seek these things, but as an adult, it’s who has the nice apartment, the nice car, the best job, the most money… and who has them first.  As the oldest, it’s only natural that I should have them first, right? Thus, I’d be worthy to be among them; so that my accomplishments and achievements are discussed a length; so I am the superstar adult-child. I have concerned myself at great lengths about what they thought, and making sure that I’ve impressed them. 

I sound vain, don’t I?  But that is what approval seeking is… it’s vanity.

Now what have I done? I’ve followed a certain path only for approval, and failed miserably at it. I’ve wasted precious energy trying to be something of value to other people.

Over the last few months I’ve been working to embark on a journey for myself. I’ve decided to shed any approval seeking  ways and begin down the road less traveled. I’m going to make unpopular choices, because when they make sense for me.  I’m starting my own business (and hopefully a non-profits) and whatever else I want to do even if I don’t meet some superficial standard I set to be good enough for my family.

When I pursue my ambitions wholeheartedly, I will find value in myself.   I am a Leo after all.

Lion

What You Should Stop Stressing About Right Now: # 5 Other People’s Problems

Now don’t think I’m a cold-hearted, narcissistic  a-hole for telling you to forget other people’s problems.  I care very much about the people who are close to me, and I pray for their well-being. However, worrying about, or stressing about their problems is really just a waste of my time and energy.

A couple of years ago really close friend of mine confided in me that her boyfriend cheated on her with one of her best friends. My heart broke. I was angry, frustrated and hurt.  I wanted to exact revenge on the perps. However, people who know me know that I’m only 98% words and 2% action (makes sense that I’m a writer, right?) Legally, I have no right to do anything anyway….

So I told this friend of mine that she deserved no such treatment, and I advised her to move-on from both of these people.  I raged and I fussed and I whined and cried to myself.  And what has happened? My friend has decided that everyone makes mistakes and they deserve forgiveness.  Another punch in the gut for me.

The thing is, people are going to do what they want to do. Doesn’t matter what advice you give them, 9 times out of 10, they’ve already made up their mind.  When someone comes to you with their problems, they want one of two things 1) Confirmation that they are doing the right thing and/or 2) Emotional support.

Another really frustrating situation is when one of your friends should be angry about something and they aren’t.  And for a span of time, this seemed to be happening to me quite frequently. Something bad would happen to a friend, and they were just so blasé about it.  And boy would I rage and fuss and tell them to take up arms.  I just knew that I could fix their problem for them, if only they would let me completely take over the situation and fix their life.  Do you know what happened after I went on my rampage? They became even more blasé about it

I’ve learned that if someone you love should be angry about something, let them be angry. If you get angry for them, then they don’t have to get angry. If you take action on their behalf, they don’t have to take action.  Sometimes, it takes time for people to realize what has happened to them or what they have done.  People come into their own understanding about life at their own pace.  Everyone lives and breathes at their own rate, and you have to let them do so. You can love people and support those around you, without completely taking on their problems.

Besides, if you are taking on other people’s issues, you aren’t handling your own.  Handle your business, and maybe, just maybe, those around you will follow suit.

The Tao of Pooh, The Stonecutter, and More Thoughts on Keeping up with the Joneses

I recently read The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff.  The book is a great introduction to Taoism.  Essentially, the book encourages readers to not fight the happenings of life, to just go with the flow and not try so hard.  

Actually, I was reading this book when I was researching the “Keeping up with the Joneses” post. In The Tao of Pooh there is a story which exemplifies being satisfied with your current situation, and not trying to live another person’s life.  You may be familiar with this story, or maybe not. I wasn’t when I read the book, and I found the story to be a great delight, which is why I’m sharing it here. The story is a Chinese or Japanese parable of unknown authorship. This version is excerpted from The Tao of Pooh. 

The Stonecutter

There was once a stonecutter, who was dissatisfied with himself and with his position in life. 

One day, he passed a wealthy merchant’s house, and through the open gateway, saw many fine possessions and important visitors. “How powerful that merchant must be!” thought the stonecutter. He became very envious, and wished that he could be like the merchant. Then he would no longer have to live the life of a mere stonecutter. 

To his great surprise, he suddenly became the merchant, enjoying more luxuries and power than he had ever dreamed of, envied and detested by those less wealthy than himself. But soon a high official passed by, carried in a sedan chair, accompanied by attendants, and escorted by soldiers beating gongs. Everyone, no matter how wealthy, had to bow low before the procession. “How powerful that official is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a high official!” 

Then he became the high official, carried everywhere in his embroidered sedan chair, feared and hated by the people all around, who had to bow down before him as he passed. It was a hot summer day, and the official felt very uncomfortable in the sticky sedan chair. He looked up at the sun. It shone proudly in the sky, unaffected by his presence. “How powerful the sun is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the sun!” 

Then he became the sun, shining fiercely down on everyone, scorching the fields, cursed by the farmers and laborers. But a huge black cloud moved between him and the earth, so that his light could no longer shine on everything below. “How powerful that storm cloud is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a cloud!” 

Then he became the cloud, flooding the fields and villages, shouted at by everyone. But soon he found that he was being pushed away by some great force, and realized that it was the wind. “How powerful it is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be the wind!” 

Then he became the wind, blowing tiles off the roofs of houses, uprooting trees, hated and feared by all below him. But after a while, he ran up against something that would not move, no matter how forcefully he blew against it — a huge, towering stone. “How powerful that stone is!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!” he thought. “I wish that I could be a stone!” 

Then he became the stone, more powerful than anything else on earth. But as he stood there, he heard the sound of a hammer pounding a chisel into the solid rock, and felt himself being changed. “What could be more powerful than I, the stone?” he thought. He looked down and saw far below him the figure of a stonecutter.

 

I love irony. We go day in and day out never being satisfied with what we have. What if, we were content with the current situation we were in? I’m not saying we shouldn’t aspire to be more, and eliminate all goals. But if we enjoyed what we were doing at the moment wouldn’t we be happier?

I think, I just graduated with my Master’s degree and I’m trying to figure out what I’m going to do now for money.  Shouldn’t I savor the moment where I’m really getting my freelance/tutoring business started? Even if I’m not making any money yet, isn’t there there so much possibility? Creative and inspiring business ideas are flowing through me like a flower about to bloom I shouldn’t envy other successful small business owners. I haven’t been where they’ve been or gone through whatever trials they’ve gone through. I can learn from their mistakes, but I’m on my own journey here. I’m just getting started.

Bon Voyage!

What You Should Stop Stressing About Right Now: #4 Keeping up with the Joneses (Kardashians)

When I was in college, I found a group of “friends” who liked to maintain a certain image.  While I loved my college, I found that many of the people who attended the school had their parents paying for everything.  I was lucky that my parents were paying my tuition. My first semester of college, I had very little money.  I didn’t save very much money because I have/had issues with delaying gratification when I was in high school (but that’s another story).

In college free time was spent eating out, going to the movies, partying and shopping.  I mean, how else could I solidify my new friendships? My peers came to Miami to immerse themselves in the carousal and debauchery of the city. Even though I came for an education, I was “supposed” to indulge. So, to fit in here, I had to change everything about myself: I had to get cute, skanky clothes, a tiny bikini, and have tons of money to go out eating (or whatever,) four or five nights out of of the week. I didn’t even bother with the designer labels I was supposed to have plastered on every piece of fabric I wore or carried.  Still, I never felt comfortable in the skanky clothes I bought and I really didn’t want to go out that much.  Forking over a ten-dollar cover charge to a cheap and dirty night club so I could suffer from midnight to four am was a waste of money, especially since I usually preferred sleeping during that time. My version of  “keeping up with the Joneses,” was keeping up with my “friends” at an expensive college in Miami.

What I failed to realize at the time, was these people weren’t my friends if the only way I could be friends with them was if I had to participate beyond my financial means. Real friends can appreciate you for who you are, what you do, not for how much you spend to hang out with them. The truth of the matter is, I wasn’t having that much fun trying to keep up with the things they enjoyed doing.

Yet at the time, I felt like I would have no friends if I didn’t spend my time and money the way they did,  dressed like them, and gave a flying fudge about my partying/drinking quota. Instead of involving myself in the cheap/free on campus activities and organizations that interested me, I got a credit card my sophomore year and spent more money than I had in the bank. This credit card spending turned me into an American debt slave who is now forced to find a full-time job to pay for my past transgressions. It’s been nine years and I still haven’t been able to escape the financial costs.

I guess that’s because I hadn’t figured it all out yet. Trying to “keep up with the Joneses” did nothing but made me miserable. I spent a ton of time wanting things I thought I wanted and couldn’t have. I didn’t know that

Happiness isn’t getting what  you want, it’s wanting what you have.

I saw that quote the other day, and it touched me in a profound way.  I’m sure I’d heard it before, but for some reason, it stuck with me this time.  It explains why I haven’t gotten to a place where I’m just content with what I have.  The idea of keeping up with the Joneses seems like such an antiqued issue. When I think about that phrase, I think of the Stepford wives. Identical houses, lawns, lives, all in a suburban subdivision.  Really? Who lives like that: Peering over our neighbor’s fence to check out their brand new super-deluxe barbecue grill.  That’s not me!  I don’t live in house with a yard and a fence.  I don’t even have a patio 😦 but that doesn’t mean I don’t get stuff envy.  I envy people’s high rise apartments overlooking the city, their nice new cars, and their Facebook lives. Everything people do these days is so transparent. You see every detail about peoples’ lives you barely even know.

Keeping up with the Joneses in 2013 is really about “keeping up with the Kardashians.”  We drool over lives of  people who are dripping wet with disposable income. Images of everything we cant have is plastered all over TV, Instagram, Facebook, billboards, and anyplace that has a flat enough surface for print and an image.

And we want all of that stuff and envy the people who have it.  While you spend time wishing you had more money to go on more vacations, or buy a new fancy camera to take Instagram photos, you could be living your life.  You don’t know what life is like on the inside of that life. Even if you wanted “their life” you could never have it. You could never be inside their life.

I try very hard to stop wasting time envying and copying other people. What they are doing and what they have has little to no effect on my  existence. I don’t know how they acquired the things they have. I am on my own journey. When I dance to beat of my own drum,I’m so much happier. Once I stopped trying to maintain a certain image (tight clothes, jeans shirts, etc.) everything has changed. I’m less concerned about fitting in and maintaining a certain façade. Instead of keeping up with the Joneses, the Joneses will one day wish they were keeping up with me. 😉

Life in the World Outside of Grad School: When Will I Have Time to Blog?

I would like to apologize to my readers for being MIA the last week and a half.  I had every intention of posting my series bi-weekly.  Unfortunately, (or fortunately, rather) life got in the way.  Last week I started a new job at a summer camp and don’t have as much time as I’ve had previously. And this past weekend I graduated with my Master’s degree (YAY!!!) and got to spend time with my out-of-town family.

I hope to be blogging again soon.  I tend to get hard on myself when I don’t do the things that I intended. I feel like I’m letting myself down, and I’m letting my readers down by not having my posts up and ready over the last 10 days. However, the reason why I started this blog in the first place was because I realized I can’t do everything all at once.  I need to take it easy and do fewer things at a time.  That’s not to say that I wont be back blogging at all this summer. I will be back soon with the rest of the series, “What You Need to Stop Stressing About Right Now,” #4-10.

I need to take some time to get acclimated to this new schedule and get a bit ahead on some new posts.

Cya soon!