What My World's Like

#notetoself: be considerate. build community.

Apr
27

how to build community written by the Syracuse Cultural Workers Collective

This is the seventh #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 19, 2012.

Five weeks ago, I arrived at Isla de Ometepe, Nicaragua specifically to work on a permaculture farm. Nearly everything I read about this island was that it was magical. That magic wasn’t fully expounded upon, so I hoped I’d figure out for myself what it was about. As I prepare to leave tomorrow, I realize I understand the gravitational pull this island has on one’s heart and mind from my experience in Balgue. I was actually supposed to leave a few days ago, but it didn’t feel right; I didn’t see it and I didn’t feel it. So I stayed.

During what was to be my final week here, I realized how embedded others had become in this community and how much I felt like I stood on the periphery, here and in it, yet removed at the same time. I wanted to be more of a part of it. There are some incredibly dynamic people here, funny, generous, cooperative… I didn’t want to leave feeling as disconnected as I did and wanted to forge a deeper bond, despite my imminent departure.

This same week, one of the long-term volunteers discovered that she had lice. That realization led to a sort of impromptu communal lice check. One of the women who found out she also had lice never had it before, so she was a bit freaked out. Her behavior after that discovery really impacted me.

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#notetoself: show your love.

Apr
07

don't hurt to anger, hurt, or pain. they steal your energy and keep you from love.

This is the sixth #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 13, 2012.

There is a great irony in my personality. I suppose it’s common amongst others that identify as writers, but knowing it’s not specific to me doesn’t make me any more comfortable with it than if it were only my problem.

I’m a horrible communicator.

Yup. Horrible.

However eloquently I may be able to string together written words, I’m much less gifted with the spoken word, especially when it comes to my most vulnerable relationships. Especially when I’m hurt. Especially when hurt and most other painful emotions are filtered through anger. The only thing I can communicate then is anger. The knives come out. They’re figurative, but the wounds from my words can be just as painful as a literal cut — and they can go deeper.

The result is frequent apologies. I’m sorry for days, but anything said too often begins to lose its power. The last thing you want to do is issue an impotent apology. I fear sincerity won’t be able to carry me for much longer.

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#notetoself: touch the sky.

Apr
03

This is the fifth #notetoself letter, originally sent on March 5, 2012.

Henry David Thoreau said, “the mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” He lived in the first half of the 19th century and yet those words still contain truth today. It’s sad. Quiet desperation kills the spirit.

Before this trip, I realized how discontent I’d become with my life. My work didn’t matter to me. I wasn’t even sure what I was doing with my “work”. I never knew how answer the “what do you do?” question. I don’t know. Live. That was the response I wanted to give.

I’m a great starter. My starting energy is fresh, empathic and certain. Then, slowly but surely, it’d wane and I’d quit. I’m also a great quitter. My attention usually shifts gears to something else equally engaging.

That’s a pattern I’m really sick of.

A few nights ago, I happened upon an Alicia Keys’ song called “How It Feels to Fly” that’s feeding my soul. With such ambiguous lyrics, I don’t know exactly what she’s talking about in the song, but for me, it makes me think about reaching for my dreams.

“I am riding high, don’t wanna come down.
Hope my wings don’t fail me now.
If I can touch the sky, I’d risk the fall
Just to know it feels to fly.”

How many of our goals are our own? Whose definition of success drives our actions? I can criticize corporate America all I want, but I was a part of the rat race, even if I didn’t have a 9-5. The discontent I feel is the result of not doing things I wanted to do, for whatever reason. There’s so much I want to do, and have wanted to do but have neglected to. This trip is the perfect example of a dream deferred. I’ve always wanted to travel and stay somewhere for a longer period of time. That’s just now happening for me. On the other hand, I appreciate it just the same because I can receive so much of this experience differently than I might have in the past.

Being here has awakened me to my desire to do things I’ve neglected to do, things I let sit in the recesses of my mind and my heart. They were there, alive, but unattended. Living a life with meaning, passion and fulfillment are of incredible importance to me.

Earlier last week, one of the people I’ve been blessed to meet on this trip asked me if I wanted to hike one of the two volcanoes on the island. Of course he wanted to do the larger volcano, Volcan Concepcion, the one we look at everyday. Without hesitation, I said yes. Sure. Why not?

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#notetoself: follow the signs.

Mar
30

take the journey

This is the fourth #notetoself letter, sent on February 27, 2012.

So much of life can be enigmatic and perplexing. Undoubtedly, there will be times when you don’t know what to do, how to spend your time, where to invest your energies. For quite a while, that’s been the case with me and my life. That’s part of the reason I’m in Central America.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been living off the grid on a farm. On this 26 acre lot, there’s electricity in three locations and two of those are houses I don’t have access to. If you don’t have a flashlight at night, it sucks to be you, especially when you have to use the bathroom in an outdoor squat toilet. I sleep in a tent advertised as a two person tent, but is only big enough for me and my things. When I lay down, my head and feet are basically connected to it’s perimeter, and I may be 5’4″. May. Two people. Right.

Being an off-the-grid permaculture farm, we seek to maximize production and minimize waste. In my tiny tent is a bag of used tissues, baby wipes and other trash that will eventually be packed into used bottles, which will serve as bricks for some sort of construction. There’s no waste management on this island, so residents usually collect their trash into a pile and burn it. We seek to do something more effective and healthier for us and the environment.

Being in a place where I’m confronted with the idea of food security and trying to create a resource loop where there is no waste just another purpose, I’m heavily analyzing the existence I held in my relatively carefree city life before my time here and wondering what I can and will change. I started researching permaculture and found an opportunity to get certified and practice it for a few months in Haiti this summer, so that’ll be my next big adventure. It wasn’t planned.

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#notetoself: relax into the discomfort.

Mar
26

discomfort zone

This is the third #notetoself letter, originally sent on February 20, 2012.

Isla de Ometepe in Nicaragua is an island formed by two volcanoes with an isthmus between them. Many consider it to be a magical place, although I haven’t yet figured out exactly what makes it so, but suspect I will soon. It’s beautiful and there are more signs of nature than the 42,000 people that live here. I’m staying on a permaculture farm with all kinds of good stuff: random greens, herbs, coconut, banana, plantains, Moringa, Mayan breadnut, taro, jackfruit, neem, guava, cashew, cinnamon, mango and so much more.

When I first arrived, I was ecstatic. Everything about this place was cool– the outdoor showers overlooking Lago Nicaragua, the largest lake in Central America, the squat toilets, the compost toilets, the outdoor dorms with amazing views of the sky (basically just a covered platform with a black tarp on one side acting as a wall), the hammock on the platform in a tree overlooking Volcan Concepcion, the solar-powered outdoor kitchen…

I slept horribly the first night. The only two options for mosquito nets was one that was a bit too small for the bed and one that was the appropriate size, but disgusting. It could’ve been from bat droppings, flies, mosquitoes, any number of things. To me, it didn’t matter; it was just really too disgusting for my comfort. The second night, I forgot to charge my cell phone during the hours of 10-3 when we can charge only if it’s sunny. Since the 6:45 meeting is a bit early for me still, I needed an alarm. Rather than asking someone to wake me up, I decided to sleep in the hammock up in the tree where you can see bright, vivid stars. It was windy and cold all night long. Not a good call, but I was still happy about the experience. The third night, an insect flew into my ear while I was sleeping at 2 am. Another lady here helped me drown it with saline solution, but then I was bothered by the fact that there was a dead insect in my ear. The next day was a fumbling exercise in Spanish and patience, spent going to the town clinic, waiting for it to open, hearing it was closed, deciding to go to another clinic and while waiting for the bus to take me to the other side of the island, discovering the town clinic was in fact open but not really equipped to adequately help me. The nurse looked at my ear with a dim light from her cell phone and flushed my ear with a syringe, ejecting a small, black mosquito. Still, something in my ear didn’t feel right, so she urged me on to the other clinic, where I found out that there was no insect but there was “hongo”. Fungus. I have an ear fungus.

After returning to the farm and preparing for bed that night, I wondered what the hell I was doing. I’m in the mountains. With no electricity. Sleeping outdoors. With a mosquito net that’s obviously not very effective. Freaking out about the plethora of bugs grossly outnumbering me. Really, what?

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#notetoself: release your attachments.

Mar
22

The price of anything is the amount of life you exchange for it

This is the second #notetoself letter I sent during my trip, sent on February 13, 2012.

Buenas! I hope this letter finds you in good health and high spirits. I’m coasting on the joy of so many blessings in the past week, but also a bit weighed down by the reality of the lessons I’m still learning from my bag being stolen a little over a week ago in Costa Rica.

I’m now in Granada, Nicaragua, which on the surface is a quaint and charming colonial city with humongous houses and beautiful, colorful architecture. With the feel of a small town, the pace is comfortably slow and inviting. I can walk at 2 miles per hour here and not feel hurried. It’s a nice change of pace from Brooklyn and Manhattan.

But travel not even a mile outside the city center and experience the stark oppositional reality that this is the second poorest country in the western hemisphere. Tiny, wooden shacks with tin roofs. Dirt roads. Normalized poverty. I’m accustomed to seeing…more. The standard of living in Nicaragua is lower and visitors like me are thought to be wealthy simply because we can travel, regardless of how budget that travel is or what was sacrificed to do so. Here, I’m faced with how much I have and how much I’m accustomed to having.

On Friday, what I presume to be the purpose of my bag being stolen hit me. Hard. Release your attachments.

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#notetoself: be resilient.

Mar
18

I’ve been traveling for seven weeks. Those who get my #notetoself emails are updated, but most others aren’t. I’ve been meaning to share these here for a while. This is the first #notetoself email (reformatted into letters!) I sent after one week of travel, on February 6, 2012. Please feel free to comment, share, etc.

I’ve only been in Costa Rica for one week, and have learned some pretty big lessons. Traveling is by far one of my favorite things to do because it throws you out of your comfort zone, leaving you with less armor to shield yourself with, which can, if you let it, result in purer knowledge of self.

You live. You learn. You adjust. You get over, under and through if you have to simply because…well, you have to.

At the time of my last writing, I was in Tamarindo. From there, I took a seven hour bus ride to the capital of Costa Rica, San Jose. I stayed the night, woke up and took a two and half hour bus ride to Cariari on my way to Tortuguero, a village on the northeast coast of the country. In Cariari, my backpack was stolen. My bag was one of the last things to be loaded, thus one of the first to be unloaded, while I was one of the last to exit the bus. By the time I got off, it was gone. Nearly everything I needed for my day-to-day living during the next two and half months: shoes, clothes, vitamins, medicines, toiletries, etc. Gone.

Too shocked for an immediate reaction, I wanted to cry, but couldn’t. After I realized this was no mistake and I wasn’t going to haphazardly see the thief with my bag so I could run them down and take it back (yes, I really thought of doing this…quite a number of times), I did cry. As I walked down the streets of a foreign city, wondering what to do next. Do I keep moving in the direction of Tortuguero? Nothing clean to put on the next day, or to wear to sleep. What to do?

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a good reminder about our beliefs.

Feb
27

to the creatives…

Jan
06

do the work. be courageous.

Source: Mreeuh Chang

on openness.

Jan
05


I have an admission.

The recent absence of my online presence isn’t exclusively related to being busy or mentally preoccupied. That’s part of it. Another part of it, actually, the biggest part of it, is the recurring struggle I’ve had with allowing myself to be open. I’m set on finding the balance between protecting myself and my life and being an open book. I’d like to share myself in a thoughtful, meaningful way, not recklessly over-share.

Posing this dilemma to a friend, he said, “But the work you do requires you to be honest. All creatives have to be.” It hit me, as it occasionally does at times before disappearing again, that there is something to this process, to this learning and sharing of mine. It isn’t haphazard or reckless; it’s necessary — for me and for whomever my words touch. I forget that my brand of creativity is more specific to how I think and applying understanding to grow. The art that resonates the most is that which is the most honest. My work will only resonate with others when I’m brave enough to open up and share my journey.

So, there it is. I struggle with being open. I struggle with maintaining clarity about my path. But I get it back. I’m here for a purpose and I unfailingly believe in purpose.

I’ll stop being scared. I’ll open up a bit. A few months back, I had a moment, ripe with reminders for myself. Epiphanies flooded me, and as they cascaded, I wrote them on my mirror. The picture above captured the result of that moment. It became a #notetoself I was happy to immortalize.

communicate.
be honest with yourself about who you are,
what you need, what you feel, what you think, what you see.
honor yourself. honor your truth. honor your perspective.
honor who you are. honor who you’ve been. honor who you’re becoming.