Shadows and Reflections: We See It How We Perceive It

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“The world exists as you perceive it. It is not what you see, but how you see it. It is not what you hear, but how you hear it. It is not what you feel, but how you feel it.”

– Rumi

There are some things I don’t bother to question. One of which is why so many of us are driven to madness by the pursuit of things that in our rational society, appear to be otherwise meaningless. What I question more is why we have decided that a life of creativity is more out of reach than one of 9 to 5’s. For me, that concept doesn’t make much sense. We were born with a curious nature, a drive to play and create and make things for the sake of joy. It’s embedded in us.

I don’t know if I create stories so much as I discover them. I think the worlds I write about are ones that have always been there, I just haven’t known about them before now. I think the characters that sprout in my mind are people that just want to be heard. Sometimes I think they’re aliens from another planet, living in a world with far different rules than the ones we’ve created. I must be an alien to them too, then.

I came down with a pretty bad headache last night, probably because I took this inner joy thing too far. I’ve felt this surge of creativity. Suddenly my first draft wants to be typed out and edited. Simultaneously, the ideas for my second book are becoming more and more clear. I switched back from one to the other, the middle divider being a book that I’m reading. Somehow the worlds can be distinguished, separated in my head, even though I’m beginning to work on them at the same time.

I’m blogging, I’m writing, I’m editing, I’m researching, and I’m filled with life. So what’s been crossing my mind is, why now? Why when my life is coming back around in this town, my creativity surging, is it that I am moving across the country in less than two months? It feels like I have finally found that spark again and got my routine back on track. So why do I have to move now? Why do I have to leave when things have finally fallen into place? Why do I have to bring chaos to my life when I finally feel settled? Or in reverse, why do I finally feel settled before the chaos?

My counselor had a different way of seeing this…and thank god for that, because I would have driven myself mad yet again. Her insight was that this coming together externally begun when I made the decision to leave. My job transfer, the relationships with my family changing, my work relationships changing, and this anticipation for adventure that I’ve been craving for so long, finally coming together. But internally, I was going through a period of grieving many things that ended. The first draft of my book, close friendships falling apart, people moving away, and leaving me behind to stay here.

Her understanding of this internal shift that to me, has felt like a literal rebirth, wasn’t that it should give me a reason to stay. That it doesn’t mean I’ve made the wrong decision. But instead, to look at this internal shifting of me falling back into place as another reason to go. That this was a strong piece I needed for when I was there, in a brand new environment, with no one I know around me, building a new life. That this coming together internally was a part of everything falling into place. That this was a process that began the moment I trusted my instinct the day I was led to make the move and this piece seems to be one of the final ones of everything falling together because of that moment that I listened to that small voice inside of me.

The lesson here is that everyone should go to counseling because let’s be real, who else has that sort of wisdom? I’m kidding, that’s not the lesson…entirely.

But I find there is a piece of me that looks for the negative. I think there’s a part of all of us that does that. The piece that tries to find a reason to be hard on ourselves. A reason to call ourselves a failure. In psychology, the confirmation bias is the tendency to search for, interpret, favor, and recall information in a way that it confirms one’s preexisting beliefs or hypotheses. I don’t know about you, but that’s something I do all the time, especially when it comes to this deeply rooted belief that I am not good enough and incapable of accomplishing great things.

It’s something I try to work on and catch, but it’s something I have definitely not perfected. And when this happens, sometimes we really need another perspective (a kinder one). Sometimes we can come up with one ourselves, but other times, we need to go to someone we trust for it. Because if we don’t, we might spend our days, our lives even, confirming whatever lie it is that we tell ourselves. We go looking for moments that verify it, people that validate it, and when we go into our day looking for something like that, we tend to create even more of it.

So as a reminder to reinforce a more positive outlook, remember that when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.

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Secret Lives and False Beliefs: The Stories We Keep Hearing

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My creative process relentlessly sets a place on the table for music, and ever since I can remember, it always has. Since I was a child, I didn’t play with toys that had no musical element to them. Growing up, books and music were my escape from reality. I create stories to music. I create scenes to lyrics. I owe a lot to the artists and musicians who have allowed me those fantasies and worlds apart from my own.

If you were to talk to my mom about my childhood, she would kindly state that I was always half present, if that. Most of the time, I was far away, somewhere distant. Somewhere no one could quite understand and somewhere I had no words to explain. We laugh about it now, how she thought that there was something off about me. That it was strange that I would have to ask people to repeat themselves dozens of times before I made myself pay attention to what they were trying to say. And other times, I would pay such close attention but not say a word in response. I would just observe and then drift away, completing their sentence, making up the remainder of their story.

My world had friends and lovers, magic and dragons. My worlds were romantic and tragic, evil and envious. But I could only be 100 percent in them if I were listening to the music that set the tone they had. I actively sought out lyrics that matched my characters and their moods. I gave them faces and bodies that were present in my real world, from people I actually knew. And then, I got to make them into whatever I wanted. I got to play in a way I felt restricted otherwise. No one had to know about these places I went to. It was my dark secret and I felt both clever and misunderstood when I was taken for an aloof, ignorant, or naïve kid.

My family moved around a lot and being a quiet and socially awkward introvert didn’t exactly make me the most popular kid either. For most of my childhood, I lacked friendships and when I got them, it didn’t take them long to realize that there was no way to relate to me. It was only in high school that I learned how to socialize properly, mostly because I felt I had to. I mean, when you have an extroverted older sister who is always flying through men and envied by women, there are certain thoughts you have. Thoughts that typically pertain to all the faults you might have. I wondered why I couldn’t be more like her. Why I enjoyed being on my own so much. Why I didn’t want to be with real people as much as I wanted to be with my characters. There had to be something off about me. I mean, everyone else thought it so it was about time that I did, too.

When I first started to form “real” friendships, I still had my secrets. I felt very Hannah Montana, living a double life. One where I was truly happy and with my music, my characters and my other world. The other where I got through the day. I was 14 and then 15, my secret world becoming something much bigger. Now it was not just in my head, but it was blogging, finding a whole community of people online, learning the ins and outs of CSS, HTML, and web design. It was getting a web internship with a marketing firm in Los Angeles where I got to be a web designer and created layouts for different brands. I had no idea what the hell I was doing. I mean, I was 15! But somehow I did and I told no one about it. I would get phone calls from my boss in LA and we would have meetings about what the next company was looking for.

The only person that knew was my mom…sort of. She knew I was doing something, but she didn’t ask too many questions. I still got my secret world. The one with my characters and music, then the one where I got to really be me, say whatever I wanted through my blog, and then my internship. It was exhilarating. I didn’t feel so alone anymore, not when I was away from school and my friends and the real people in my life.

There was a girl, Yolanda, who taught me all about web design and Photoline (which was the cheaper version of Photoshop back in the day). She started a website that became an online magazine and asked if I could be an advice columnist on it. We became close and I guess she’d been reading my blog and somehow thought that 15 year old me had something she could advise other people. I’ve never been one to back down on anything that gets me excited, so I gave her a “hell yes”. Running my blog on the side, I had a separate email for that advice column and was flooded with emails every day. Somehow, I always knew what to say. It was so easy for me to help other people manage their lives even though it was next to impossible for me to manage my own. Yolanda eventually moved on to other things and left the domain completely when it expired the next year so I was just left with my blog.

The reason I’m telling you all of this is because I remember this time so clearly. Every moment that I felt out of place and where it was that I finally felt I belonged. I remember it because I believed people when they said there was something wrong with me. I remember it because I’m far from it now, even though I still feel like that socially awkward and ‘out of place’ kid a lot of the time. And I remember it because I know a lot more now than I did at those ages. I know that it’s my differences that have got me to where I am. It’s my love for living in other worlds that let me finish the first draft of a novel. It’s the socially awkward parts that let me become a great listener and observer. Doing that makes me understand people better, write dialogue better, create stories better and also have stronger authentic friendships (in real life). All of which I thought was wrong with me are now things I am so grateful for.

There’s always messages floating around that are there to tell you your differences should be embraced, but none of it makes sense until it actually clicks. Until one day you wake up and you realize you’ve lived a very strange and curious life. That it’s a life you want to continue living. Even though for most of my life, the things that have set me apart felt like a burden, they don’t anymore. Because what I’ve come to learn is that you cannot have any sort of influence on the world by being just like it.

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Broken Crayons: On The Things I Took for Granted

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I’m thinking that maybe I needed that breaking point two nights ago. That maybe it was a turning point for me. That’s what caused the shifting last night. It was like someone finally found the light switch and the room became bright again. I felt alive again.

I came home from work last night and the air was different. I was back to being me. I realized that it meant that this period of grief, mourning, rest, and patience was over. I guess that time had been hiding this ignition I’ve always had even though I thought it had disappeared. It was 9:30pm when I got home from work and instead of getting ready for bed, I found myself dancing around my room, excited, grateful, and back in love with my life.

I don’t know what changed because externally, nothing has. But deep down, I feel I needed this realization that my frame of thought was circular, certain relationships that had dragged on for far too long needed to be let go of, and even though I wanted so bad to believe some people in my life were going to change, I understood that they wouldn’t. And if they do, they will do so on their own terms and because of their own drives, not mine. But just because some people won’t change, it doesn’t mean I can’t. It doesn’t mean that I can’t change something inside of me that clings on to this illusion of their potential. This part of me that sees people for who they could be rather than who they are.

It was that breakdown of clarity, the thunder and lightning storm that matched my frequency, and this understanding that I have no right to try and change someone. I have no right to hold them to something that they don’t want to be. I have to let people go through their journey the way that they need to, even though part of me aches to have some control or throw my opinion in there. But with that, there was this clarity that those relationships are still toxic to me and that I can’t change it, even though I’ve wanted to and tried to for so long. However, I do have a right to let them go. I have a right to release this hold on them and simultaneously, set myself free. And that’s exactly how I felt last night and this morning. Like I’m free. Like I’m alive again.

Like I’m finished with the grief of certain endings, the loss of relationships, and the rest that follows a rigorous and chaotic period of movement. It took me a while to get here, but it was worth it. All of it. All of the pain, all of the tears, all of the internal and external struggle, the impatience and feeling of dread. All of that which got me here was worth it because sometimes we need those periods to remind us of how grateful we should be when we are out.

Life has its ups and downs and it took me a while to embrace the season of my life that I just went through, but it was when I let go that I found myself back here. I feel lighter and radiant and alive and I don’t want to forget what it took to get here because I don’t ever want to take this place for granted again.

I feel as though this season I am entering of my life is sudden breakthrough after breakthrough, maybe as a reward or a reminder that the previous season didn’t break me. And even though it felt like it did at times, it wasn’t enough and I see that now. I think that we all feel a little broken sometimes, or maybe even most of the time. I know that I do. But the last time I checked, broken crayons still color.

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