#LondonLoveLessons

I snapped a photo of this beautiful sculpture along the Thames one cloudy afternoon but I know nothing about it- do you know its name and creator?

World, I am in love. With London (among other things and other people…well, one particular person).

I’m a woman obsessed with cities. With their people and various cultures and sub-cultures. With their different styles of architecture. With their various cuisines to sample. With the simple fact that you can turn a corner and see and experience something new. Although I tend to get lost in massive metropolises, the thing that I like about cities is I can always find something new about myself.

I came to London with love on the brain, to visit my partner, Stephen, and to see if I could develop a taste for London life. We sat at Sunday roast together with friends; our elbows bumping as we ate (me trying not to look like an animal as I shoved as much lamb and Yorkshire pudding into my mouth as possible). We ate dinner with his close friends, Jimi and Lucinda. I noticed the cute, small things that they did to remind each other how much they love one another. During dinner, I thought about mine and Stephen’s love story- especially about how obsessed I’ve been about holding his hand over the last couple of months of long distance and how I finally got to feel its warmth.

In London, I learned a lot about love. The love I have for my partner. The love I have for myself. I learned that love stories can be small regardless of physical status (either with a man, city or otherwise). I grew up with Disney princesses and in the golden age of romantic comedies (“Sleepless in Seattle” is one I keep reflecting on), thinking that you need to proclaim your love from the tallest of towers, over the radio wires, at the top of your lungs, to anyone who would listen. You don’t. The smallest tokens can mean much more. Respect. Trust. Understanding. That’s love- the love you have for a significant other and the love you have for yourself.

Each love story is different. One of the biggest challenge I face is comparing the various love stories I experienced my life (as well as the evolving love story I have with myself)- they are all different but they are perfect in their strange little way. Each love story deserves a chance to pan out in its own special way. There is no need to force things. Just remain open and let things happen. Just let love envelope you- and when you do, love will really embrace you without a thought or question. I felt this way when I lived in New York City (despite having intense, awful moments with the city) and I feel this way about London- just let it love. The sites, the people, the food, my darling Stephen. Let love be. And let love in.

(But I do- REALLY- hope to make England my permanent home one day.)

Tell me your love story, dear reader- your love story with a person or otherwise…

#China

Life happens when you’re busy making other plans… Ain’t that the truth?

For the last couple of months, I’ve been gearing up to teach abroad in China. I was busy getting my affairs in order, saying goodbyes and practicing my Mandarin. I was excited to step out of my comfort zone to do something that I have always dreamed of doing and I saw myself a success.

But life doesn’t always go to plan. After a few setbacks and some heavy thinking, I decided to not go forward with teaching abroad. I had issues obtaining my Z Work Permit and unfortunately, missed a deadline for my credential approval (many things were lost in translation, which I take complete responsibility for).

Surprisingly, I’m not beating myself over this lost. Yes, I’m a little sad. Yes, I’m a little anxious. But I am also  proud of myself for trying- and I will continue to try. I may not end this year in the Red Dragon but it could happen one day. I will continue to try, working on my TEFL accreditation, exploring other options, keeping an open mind during this new timeline. I know that one day, I will be abroad (VERY SOON!), living out the dream currently in my head. I won’t let this setback hold me back.

Until then, if you know of any job openings, dear reader…

#Curveball

I will be a NY Yankees fan for life!

I believe it was Woody Allen who once said, if you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans… And oh man, God must be in stitches when it comes to me.

One moment, I thought that I had everything planned- work, save some money, travel abroad. That is now not happening.

But that’s okay!

After a week of setbacks, It took me a couple of days to calm the storm in my head. For a brief second, I thought the plans I worked hard for were ruined. I sunk into a mini depression for two days, mourning their loss. When I finally woke up, I took a deep breath and told myself that you’re going to be okay. Shit happens. You can wish for things to be different in the future but at this moment in time you have to accept things as they are- and they’re not that bad. It’s really not the end of the world.

So, when life throws you a curveball, you hit it out of the park. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade (or add tequila and bit of salt..). You just keep moving forward. The curveball you were thrown set your goals off track. Now it’s time to set new goals for yourself and get to work on achieving them.

#DifficultRealities (Part II)

After reading my last post to my therapist, she recommended that I counteract all the negative things I wrote about myself with a love letter. I do have a lot of good truths in my life and about my personality that I choose to overlook. Even though I spend 24/7/365 with myself, I spend little time actually taking time to build that positive relationship with the  inner me- you have to make that attempt, she and everyone else say.

Well, here goes nothing…

Dearest Andrea,

I seldom tell you how much I love you. How much I admire you. How beautiful and caring, intelligent and strong you are. That you are my hero.

I took you for granted and dishonored you. I said you’re not enough. That you will never be enough. That if you were only a better student, a better daughter, a better friend, a better writer, a better lover- then, I would love you. If you were smarter, more confident, prettier, more social, skinnier, more assertive, nicer- then, I would respect you.

You are brave. You’re a babe. You are a badass. You just forget that some of the time.

I love your courage- courage to cry, to leap, to give, to receive. When your heart breaks, you allow it to open you. When you heal- and you always heal- your heart grows bigger and stronger.

Thank you for trusting your heart over your head even when it means taking a risk, stepping into the unknown and embracing uncertainty.

I catch you dreaming for hours about a better world. You’re always reading, always searching for more knowledge, always expanding your skills, always longing for more awareness. There’s always something going on in your mind: this mixture of hopes, dreams and ideas that no one knows about. It’s a secret garden only I know the entrance to and this garden is magical.

I love that you like to be funny and that nothing fulfills you more than making people laugh. You’re empathetic and feel people’s pain before they need to tell you anything. I love that you feel the world’s pain as your own and how hopeless it makes you feel sometimes.

I love that you’re an open book and share your fears and dreams with the world. I love you even when you shut down. You will sit with it, let yourself cry and just be there. You are beginning to be more conscious of your thoughts and your words, learning to fill them with kindness rather than hurt. You are taking the time to learn more about yourself and are recognizing the importance of it.

You know that you’re not perfect- you will never be and that’s okay. What you need to remember is that you’re loved and appreciated. Being so is far better than being perfect.

You have “Be Your Own Hero” written on a Post-It above your bed. Looking back at that, hell yes- you are your own hero. You are my hero.

No one will ever be as happy that you exist more than I do.

Keep fighting the good fight. You are worth it. Your life is worth it.

Love you for eternity,
Andrea

(And dear reader, when’s the last time that you wrote yourself a love letter?)

#DifficultRealities (Part I)

“If you can’t master your thoughts, you’re in trouble.” #Truth

At the end of “Eat Pray Love,” Julia Roberts’ character reflects on what she learned during her year abroad. I watch that movie every six months or so and always get something new out of it- this time around, I sat on my friend couch on January 2nd, sipping Persian tea when Gilbert explains her “Physics of the Quest:” If you are prepared- most of all- to face (and forgive) some very difficult realities about yourself, then truth will not be withheld from you. 

I’ve been reflecting my own difficult realities for a while now. I had some choice words thrown at me last year, words that won’t leave my brain, words that leave me awake at night, words that were harsh but are true. I have difficult realities that I can’t seem to let go…

  • My thoughts are more negative than positive. I ruminate on the negativity often.
  • I worry more about my future than anything else. However,  I rarely make proactive, positive steps towards securing a better and happier future for myself. I live by default instead by my own design.
  • I make excuses for everything.
  • I hold everyone in my life to a really high standard, including myself. I hold myself to the highest, most unachievable standard and when I can’t achieve that level of whatever, I will beat myself up (and everyone else) into a bloody pulp.
  • I let other people and their expectations define me.
  • I have a wicked jealous streak.
  • I hate being told “no.” That’s why I tell everyone “yes” and often stretch myself too thin doing so.
  • I tend not to finish things (lately, it’s been crafts).
  • I hate change more than anything else in the world. I HATE stepping out of my comfort zone.
  • The feeling I hate the most is loneliness. It makes me emotional and physically heavy; and I have said some mean things to myself and others when I feel lonely. I’m not good at being alone, especially with my thoughts.
  • I overreact often- a drama queen.
  • Paul Mitchell (my former professor) was right- I am lazy.
  • I am a co-dependent girlfriend.
  • I’m always searching for something. I don’t know what that something is, though.
  • More than anything else in the world, I want to be loved and admired. Desperately. I often chase fantasies as I look for love, hoping for a happy ending without putting in any of the work and ignoring red flags.
  • I look to others for my happiness rather than creating happiness for myself.

We will get there… With patience, self-love and lots of bicycle rides.

Life is difficult but it’s not bleak. It’s not hopeless. But I must face reality, know my starting place, count the cost of my goals and put in the work in order to change.

Accepting these difficult truths allows us to take the first steps toward dealing with and possibly changing our reality. So, my truths are out to the world. What now- stay low? Stay miserable, hating myself?

Let’s fix them. Let’s make life- my life- better.

#BigDecisions

Eureka! I have made a decision- NOT.

Door #1, #2 or #3?

I recently had several amazing opportunities fall into my lap: A possible promotion at work (a director’s position!). The chance to live and work abroad. An opportunity to be with my partner permanently. My brain is racing with each possibility- what if I choose this? What would happen if I choose that?. But the dance that my noggin’s swaying to has worked me into several panic attacks.

Whatever path I choose to take will be incredible. I would have more experience to add to my resume, meet new people, etc.  But I’m wondering if I decide to take one opportunity over another, will I regret my choice? I made a list of pros-and-cons for each option, listing in each column words like security, love, my comfort zone, HOVAadventure, future endeavors and career opportunities. I’m hoping that by thinking logically, I make an informed choice, and ultimately, the best decision (NO, I couldn’t and I’m just as lost as ever). All I know is while I might forgive myself for ignoring logic, I’d never forgive myself for ignoring my heart.

I know whatever decision I choose to pick, I will receive backlash. Some of it I can deal with- it’s when I’m presented with the concerns and some choice words from my close friends. I like to be respectful and consider everyone’s opinions (even if I am being called, stupid, by them- which has happened). I’ve had some friends that give me incredible advice that I choose not to take but at the same time, the lack of support I’m getting is heartbreaking.

Live a life true to yourself– that is what I keep reminding myself. But… decisions, decisions…I want to make a decision and act on it. Commit to it. Be wildly confident about it (!!!). Proudly share my exciting plans with others. But the struggle is real and I am truly struggling here.

How do you make big, almost life changing decisions, dear reader? Do you go with your gut?

#LongDistanceLove

With all of the flying I’m doing these days, I can’t help but want to hop on the soonest flight to the U.K . My partner, Stephen, lives in England and needless to say, the distance apart is painful. This is both our first long distance relationship (LDR) and we are determine to make it work- we love each other madly (DUH). Even though many have told me that LDRs never last and aren’t worth the torment, I know that a relationship doesn’t need a static set of geographic coordinates to make it worthwhile and permanent.

If you want to live together, you first need to learn how to live apart.” – Anonymous

I’m a firmer believer of this concept. Stephen and I text each other daily on WhatsApp and have a scheduled video chat date during the weekend. Before he left the States, we talked about how we talk: How often should be message each other? When would be good times to chat? Etc. Setting up healthy communication boundaries and patterns help us set realistic expectations and avoid miscommunication and anxiety.

Couples in LDRs are actually reported developing stronger, more intimate bonds than their close couple counterparts- they are usually more vulnerable and disclose more to their partner. All that phone time is actually making you better at communicating. Being apart forces your communication skills to be razor sharp… Communication is the bedrock of any relationship, but when you’re in an LDR, talking is often all you have.

The thing I actually do love about being in LDR is my freedom. It’s too easy to fall into the  same, boring rut of seeing someone every day and doing the same time when in a traditional relationship. In this one, I’m able to cultivate a life outside of the relationship I have with Stephen. For all of the downsides to an LDR, that’s one major perk: lots of free time to invest in me and me alone. I’m able to make time for work, my friends and my extracurriculars. Our time apart also makes our time together more special.

One of the things that Stephen and I are doing right now is firming plans to live together- we’re uncertain where but we’re figuring out a timeline and suggesting options to make us being together as easy and seamless as possible. Moving to the U.K. getting married. Finding work abroad. Relationships can’t survive on an indefinite current forever- personal goals and plans must be discussed in order to merge your lives into the same place.

Whether you’re living together or 5,000 miles apart, no relationship is easy. I remind myself of this when I start to feel lonely and my brain starts spinning with negativity. I challenge my doubts all the time (especially when I’m missing physical intimacy) but distance doesn’t kill love- doubts do. During those moments, I share my frustration with Stephen or write my feelings down in my journal. I uptight myself and remind me that this love, my darling Stephen, is worth everything feeling in the world, both good and bad ones. I know that when you find love, you hold onto it with everything you can.

Absence really does make the heart grow fonder… Have you been in a LDR, dear reader? If so, any tips or tricks?

#Intersectionality

You tell ’em, Bernie.

This weekend, I’m heading to D.C. to give a talk about the one topic I hate talking about: race…

Intersectionality: The interconnected nature of social categorizations such as race, class, disability and gender as they apply to a given individual or group, regarded as creating overlapping and interdependent systems of discrimination or disadvantage. Let me break this term for you into bite-size pieces: A White woman is penalized by her gender but has the advantage of race. A Black woman is disadvantaged by her gender and her race. A Latina lesbian experiences discrimination because of her ethnicity, her gender and her sexual orientation. Our particular identity gives us access to certain opportunities, which can be unfair for those who do not have a “desirable identity.” Intersectionality gives us way to understand the obstacles that people face because of their identity.

There are times when I feel like I have to choose sides racially- I can’t be everything. Growing up mixed, I felt this tug often. I’m either Black or a Latina. Many people see me as either or. When I go to check off a box in the race/ethnicity column, I struggle with what to choose: African American? Hispanic/Latino? Black, not Latino? How do people choose? We all don’t fit into these neat boxes. Why do I have to pick Black issues over Latina ones? Because I look Black? Why can’t I be considered both?

I sit on the planning committees for some awareness events in town. Often times, I am the only person of color and the youngest person on the team. In one of these meetings, we talked about how we can include more people of color and younger women at our events. Granted, my city’s largest racial population is Caucasian- we would expect that to be the largest turnout. However, did this event bring forth the issues that people of color in my community are currently facing? Are we talking about the issues that young people are currently facing? No- hence, that low turnout on both ends. I explained to my committee that we need to start reaching out to our entire audience broadly- and more specifically, start paying to the issues we are not experiencing every day.

I get it. We support the things we’re passionate about and that’s great. But it’s time that we step into other people’s shoes. Discrimination comes in various forms (racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism, abelism, etc.). The only way we are going to battle and conquer the intensity of the experienced oppression is to open up and do our research. When someone who doesn’t look or act like you brings up their struggles, don’t brush them under the rug. Acknowledge that our struggles are not the same. Nelson Mandela said, our differences are our strengths as a species and as a world community. It’s time to come together to learn and listen.

How can we bring everyone together, dear reader? What does intersectionality mean to you?

#HowAreYou

“How are you?”

“Fine.”

I know you’re not fine.

On our first date, my partner and I talked for hours about things couples usually don’t discuss when they first meet: religion, politics, what we don’t like about ourselves. He told me his insecurities about his physical appearance while I explained to him how I never feel good enough. It was that level of honesty that connected us to each other instantly; one of the many qualities we both share and fell in love with. Since our first date, I have been thinking about the amount of honesty and openness I use in daily communication.

In the span of 24 hours, I was asked “How are you” eight times (I counted this past Monday). Most days, I usually smile and say that I’m “good” or “okay” even though sometimes I’m not (Monday was one of those days). We all do it. We’re feeling like utter crap but we don’t reveal our truths when we’re asked. We don’t want the attention on us. We don’t want to look like “drama kings/queens.” We don’t want to have to explain our problems to people who might not understand.

“How are you” lost its meaning. It has become an official unofficial rhetorical question.

But what would happen if we were honest and responded with how we really felt?

During that special date, I was asked what is the one quality that I liked the most about myself. I thought hard, thinking about the things I was good at and enjoyed doing. A few months earlier, I was having cocktails with a friend at a bar and I asked her how she was holding up. She broke down into tears, explaining that she was depressed and she didn’t know what to do about it. So, I comforted her and was grateful that she was honest with me… I told Stephen that I was a good friend. I’m happy to be the person people feel comfortable opening up to.

It’s that level of vulnerability. I think that is missing from every day conversations. Sure, superficial conversation has its place but I want to learn. I want to know. I want to share. I want people to know that I’m truly interested in their well-being and that I’m listening.

In this year, the year that I seek out more meaning in my life, I want the BIG talk. Small talk is now and forever out. When we share, we bond. We get closer. We understand better. Our worlds open up. For me, it helps me get out of my head. I remind myself that we all have problems, great and small, worries and aren’t living in these perfect little bubbles.

So, when I ask, how are you, don’t hide your response. I want to hear it. The truth. And I want to be asked the same. This doesn’t mean that I’m not going to explain to a stranger how painful my menstrual cramps are or try to have a conversation while in the public bathroom (although I have been doing that lately- sorry to those who I’ve spoken to while sitting on the pot). When I ask, I simply want to know how you are doing.

Now dear reader… How are you?

#IHateMondays

I hate to sound like Garfield but I deeply dread Mondays. When I come off a relaxing and fun-filled weekend, the last thing that I want to do is sit in front of my office computer all day (even though I do like my job- really!. I don’t want to get out of bed. I don’t want to be in front of people. I don’t want to put on pants nor a bra. How do I beat my case of the Mondays (or anything other crap days- like Wednesdays. I’m not a fan of Wednesdays)? Read below for my tips:

  • Pet something furry, preferably with a meow. I don’t know what how my life would be without my cat. Her sweet face is the first thing I see in the morning. Usually she’s demands food at the crack of dawn and won’t stop until there’s wet food in her bowl. But she always makes up her barking with snuggles afterwards to say “thank you.” Not only is Hova the best alarm clock but on days I feel rotten, she reminds me of all the love I have in my life and in her gentle way, with her soft purrs, she lets me know that I’m cared for and that everything is going to be okay- as long I as I can supply her with nibbles.
  • Treat Yo Self! (and not just for one particular day) Coffee can be a great motivator. I try not to buy coffee on the daily (emphasis on the word: TRY) but there are some days where I grab too many cups at SeeSee. But that’s okay! Sometimes, coffee is the only thing that will get me out of bed (sorry, Hova). Nothing like a jolt of caffeine and more cream that my stomach can handle. For the times when I’m at work and the day doesn’t seem like it’s going to end, I think about the cocktail or the glass of wine that is waiting for me outside the office. I’m trying to more considerate of my teeth so I’ve also been treating myself to a new item of clothing when things get especially stressful (I never thought I would be that woman who would be cheered up by purchasing a pair of shoes but I am now. Eat your heart out, Carrie Bradshaw).
  • MUSIC. Listen to something powerful, positive and energizing. Good songs leave you feeling, well, good.
  • Do something nice for someone else. I’m sure your co-workers would rather be out of the office, gallivanting off in the distant horizon. Even though we are all grateful for our jobs, we all can’t be perky all the time. This is when I bring treats into the office. Brownies, anyone? No one is sad when they’re nomming on something delicious- especially chocolate. Gotta love that 1, 3, 7-trimethylxanthine counteracting with your natural neurotransmitter adenosine…

How do you beat your Monday blues, dear reader?