Likes. Comments. Validation.

It’s time we have a conversation we should have had a long time ago. The one about us as people. The one about how disconnected we are as a species to mother nature, to one another. About how we have created a world, a society, full of anxieties that we refuse to address. The social media age has morphed us all into a vapid wasteland only interested in likes/comments and internet fame. Constantly spewing out 86% unoriginal content, we scroll through our timelines overstimulated by it on a daily basis. Born in 1994, the year of the internet, I am a 24-year-old who grew up with AIM, MySpace, FaceBook, and Tumblr. The Motorola Razr, the SideKick, the BlackBerry, and the iPhone 3G. I, along with my friends, grew up with the internet & cellphones.  We saw new platforms come out, new ways to interact with each other were always on the rise. As a kid everyone had a screen name on AIM, we waited to get home to be on the computer and chat with everyone online and as we got older everyone had a MySpace. Those were the days of AFK and ROFL, impressive 6th grade HTML coding, glittery stickers, doll dress up websites and TOP 8’s. Looking back I feel as though those things were all of us trying to show our individuality to the world. And it was there and accessible, in just one click you could be talking to someone on the other side of the world. But along the way, things got really invasive.

You can say it started in 2002 with the Cameraphone, and intensified with Mobile Internet. Once we were able to transport the entire World Wide Web in our pockets is right around the time we started to lose our damn mind. Smartphones opened up a world that was unlike anything we had seen. Instant access to everything. Apps for literally anything, Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, the list goes on. Instagram gave us what FaceBook and MySpace didn’t do for us which was real-time posting on a live feed. Of our peers, of celebrities, of anyone. Then Snapchat gave us something IG couldn’t give us which was a live-feed story of what all of those people on IG were doing in real time.
We are so narcissistic, spending our time taking selfies instead of taking the moment in. Our obsession with fame has given IG and Snapchat its success. We want to feel important, we want to chase that validation and lucky for some it is in the firms of followers or likes to show a certain level of celebrity. But why are we so obsessed with fame? We keep up with things that are basically designed to keep you from exploring who you really are. Designed to make you conform to what everyone covets. All I see around me is people on their phones, typing or scrolling away, denying themselves the beautiful pleasures of the world through the senses. To look around is to interact with your surroundings and to breathe in the moments that you’re in. We’re really wasting our precious time on our screens and robbing ourselves of meeting new people and having new experiences or just connecting on a deeper level with the connections we already have. We have been using social media to mask over the pain we might be feeling in fear of being the only one because everyone just looks so damn happy on the internet. But social media is a highlight reel of someone’s life. It is not the truth. Pain is a part of life, there are not so glamorous things that we need to address-Like depression and mental illness as a whole. The deeper we fall the harder it is to climb out. We need to talk to each other, take moments of the day away from the phone and social media. We need to create more authentic moments through emotions and not through the pure purpose of content. 

So check on your friends, they may need you more than you think. Likes/Comments aren’t real-they are only public displays of affection meant to upkeep your internet persona. Let’s upkeep our relationships more. Spread love. Spread positivity. Remember that everyone is struggling with something at all times. Let us empower one another to be a better version of ourselves. 

I, too, DREAM America

Here is a little known fact about me—my parents never named me. That honor belonged to my dad’s niece Madé, and when my parents were an ocean away she took care of me like I was her own. If I closed my eyes I could recall her vividly; The long hang of her dark curls, the blood red of her lips stretched out over her brilliant smile. She was such a natural beauty she never wore anything other than lipstick. I could recognize her face anywhere, but only because I grew up with a picture we took together right before I came to America by my bedside. I only know how much she loved me through stories. 

I never got to truly know my cousin because she was gunned down in the street in front of my grandmother’s house the year I left Colombia or the year after by two men on a motorcycle. From what I understand, no one was ever held accountable but my family has always had an idea about who was responsible. In the end, the only truth is this: my cousin was not an exception, she was the rule. Colombia’s history since the turn of the last century had been a violent one that set the stage up for what had occurred throughout the 80s and 90s- conflict between the Colombian government, paramilitary groups, crime syndicates, and left-wing guerrillas like the FARC. A conflict that is still ongoing and is the longest running civil war in the Americas’ history. 

This conflict bred an unstable society, one where it’s police force and government officials are easily pocketed by the cartel kings of the city. It made the new normal anarchy, as if drive-bys and kidnappings were just every day news and my friends- it was. My parents couldn’t live like that any longer, and couldn’t see their children live like that either. So they did what they could and brought me and my older brother to the United States, one-by-one. I was the last to leave Colombia, a full year after everyone else had left. I was three.

I’m considered one of the lucky ones. I was naturalized a citizen in 2010 under President Obama so last month’s breaking news that 45 moved to end the DACA—or the Deferred Action for Childhood arrivals—didn’t send me into a panic, but it did send me into a rage. There is a quote by Mandela that wandered into my head that morning, he said “Freedom is indivisible; the chains on any one of my people were the chains on all of them, the chains on all of my people were the chains on me.” I was safe, yes, but what about the 1 million undocumented people in the United States, 78% of which had applied for protection under the DACA? 

The median entry age for DREAMers is six. Oftentimes they come younger than that; too young to remember the country of their births, too young to remember the language they had spoken once upon a time, if they ever even did. The only flag they’ve ever pledged allegiance to is the American flag, the only anthem they’ve ever sung is one about a star spangled banner. To exile DREAMers back to a country where they are foreign and misunderstood, to a land they haven’t seen in ten, fifteen, twenty years, is cruel. To leave a child nationless is cruel. 

Yet, the Trump administration means to do it regardless. Why? 

The only answer is a hard one to swallow. To call a spade a spade, the only unhyphenated group in America is white people. Everyone else is hyphen-American. African-American. Asian-American. Latin-American. This creates the illusion that America is: white, when it is so much more than that. It’s hot dogs at a baseball game just as much as it is $1.25 tacos from your neighborhood taco cart. It’s blue jeans just as much as it is hijab. 

Honestly, I’ve been wildly depressed this year by the state of the union. The rise of Trump’s radical brand of conservative racism and the fusion of the KKK and the Nazi party to form the “Alt-Right” has been a rude awakening that there is still so much work left to be done. I felt a little defeated at the idea that bigots had the power to make me feel uncomfortable in my home but I’m officially through playing the world’s smallest violin, both in my personal and public life. And the best part? I think everyone else is too. 

Yesterday was election day, and it was a day of hard fought wins. Kathy Tran became the first Asian American woman elected to the Virginia House of Delegates. Charlotte, North Carolina elected their first black woman mayor, Vi Lyles. Danica Roem, a trans* woman, defeated Bob Marshall, the man who wrote the anti-trans bathroom bill, in Virginia to become the first trans* state legislator. And Virginia, New York, and New Jersey all went blue. Last year was a set back, but not a defining one. I know all my peers are willing and ready to defend freedom, and those who once marched against us will march with us. 

The revolution will be televised. 
 

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Balancing Act: I

                     Exactly like a circus, life keeps us on our toes. Weirded out by the sight of some parts and in awe of others, life is but an ever changing rollercoaster of perspective and emotions. Finding a balance in life is what I consider to be the basis of success. If you have balance, you have a sense of limits and a control over the animalistic ways of your younger self. When you have found a balance in different areas of your life, you have mastered the concept but realize that part of it is working at it every day and becoming of it, a habit. With that habit, we can begin to focus on other things that enrich us deeper than what we know.

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Being in your twenties, living & working in Los Angeles is absolutely impossible at times to do so without your occasionally alcoholic week. It's living in the city where trouble is lurking around every corner. If you are living here you most likely share in the love of debauchery. This city is for those who like to play. There's always something going on, every night of the week can be a full production night out and some of the most exclusive parties or events are right at your fingertips. This Hollywood lifestyle that consumes so many and surrounds all of us regardless like helicopter wings every where we go. Parties are made to feel exclusive, dinner is another level competition fashion show- the nightlife in LA is unreal. How do you not put on a sexy ass outfit, go out  (almost) every night of the week and meet new people from all walks of life. You're in your twenties, this is what I should be doing!! Right? No not right. 
Sure, I love going out. I will never not go out and enjoy myself but there's a balance to find between what you can and can't handle, what you have to do tomorrow and what you can't do if you're too hungover to do it. Most recently I quit drinking alcohol for 30 days. It was single-handedly one of the most beneficial things I ever did for myself. I always wanted to be healthier but I was always putting it off because I didn't give it so much importance. I was inspired by my alcohol hiatus and jumpstarting everything in one go. Everyone kept asking me, "Oh are you cleansing?!" and I was but I wasn't. I was doing a mental cleanse more than anything. My physical health was a factor but it was more about finding a balance in myself with substances and going out. Why do I feel the need to always drink when I go out, why do I snowball the night away sometimes and get so fucked up I can't do things properly the next day? So I decided then and there I was going to transcend and move on to the next chapter and find new things to balance out in my life.
Out of those 30 days, I worked out 22 of those days ate pretty healthy. Cut out all extra sugar that I tended to have like desserts and candy. I was making healthier choices and just kept the ball rolling by starting to drink a lot more water. After the thirty days were over, I didn't drink right away. I didn't do it on purpose but I just didn't feel the need to drink anymore. I meditated those thirty days on what it meant for me to feel the need to drink in certain social situations. As well as how I was too hard on myself for having fun and would make myself not go out for weeks, fermenting inside a demon from hell that wanted to risk it all for a Saturday night and would do so after self imploding. In finding the root of two problems, I found what I wanted from myself in social situations. Instead I now operate with intention to relate or find experiences with myself or others. Rather than letting the experiences be fueled by substances. I make sure that I go out regularly and feed my soul in different ways but I don't really feel the need to drink anymore. It's been two months since my 30 days and my perspective keeps changing into ways to benefit me better. I am meditating and finding new ways to improve myself, every day and that in itself feels like thriving. 

learning to feel without limits

 

Recently I saw an article from Thought Catalog pop up on my timeline titled “Why Modern Dating Makes Me Want To Punch Myself In The Throat”. As much as I resonated with a lot of it, It isn’t something that I presently fight with internally. I wanted to give a bit of an insight of how I break away from our modern dating culture and act a little more true to myself. While I agree, we are living in quite an interesting era of hookup and dating culture. Technology has made it damn impossible for feelings to happen without finite mathematic calculations first. There certainly IS an art in crafting responses, finding the ‘right’ guy, spending the perfect amount of time pretending to care. But I cant swallow the idea of that being my only option. You have a choice on what wavelength you want to operate from and it all stems from confidence.

I have been single for about a year now and it’s been a crazy experience because everything has completely changed from what things were like before I was in a relationship. Apps like Tinder, Bumble, OkCupid, etc. never existed and although I remember thinking then that technology was poisoning modern dating and creating unneeded social anxieties, it was a much simpler time compared to now. After my lover and I made the decision to break up I was left to explore this insane world from a newly single 22 year old woman’s perspective. Through my own experiences and listening to those of my peers I quickly learned and adapted. I think the hardest part was realizing literally everything is an attention game but with a sick modern twist to it filled with insane double tapping double texting rules and regulations. I have a sick mind with a competitive side so I enjoyed the games. After all, following a long-term relationship you’re supposed to have some fun and get to know yourself again and that’s exactly what I did. I was the best at when to text back, what to say, how to play it. I also fell victim to calculations and anxieties one too many times. It’s hard to be single in this world as it is, Los Angeles is a hell of a place to do so. After frustrating conversations and scary lack of substance in my dates, I quickly took on a different perspective. I thought to myself-men and women both are extreme over thinkers who love to play games and try to make you seem crazy for it. They stop themselves from experiencing something unique by adding too many variables when there should only be two. Lets get one thing straight, human’s are shady people with huge commitment issues, period. Technology is just a tool used to fuel the egotistical fire of mass desire. Before there was Snapchat and Instagram there was a Myspace top 8. An equally detrimental status obsessed feature. We are and have been living in a time where everyone has an obsession not only with profiles and aesthetic but with likes and comments and validation from strangers. Real-time relevant content is always generating on our time lines that is visually stimulating to the eye. It’s got us all hooked up to what the idea of a person is versus getting to know them and facing who they really are in fear of having to compromise a shitty part of ourselves.

The way I saw it was, I could be just another person stuck on the wheel of confusion or gain some clarity by declaring my confidence in myself and my emotional stability. I refused to be another person playing constant games with people and their hearts. Don’t get me wrong a little game-playing is fun and it’s exciting but only if it’s harmless and not humiliating to the other person. I wanted to have fun, keep it casual but if I felt a certain type of way I wasn’t going to hold myself back. I’m the person who will double text you, call you or face time you randomly, doesn’t count how many times we’ve spoken in the last few days or if I texted first last time. I don’t give a fuck- if I like you, I wanna spend time with you. What are you doing right now? I will express what I feel and what I want and if the feels are not reciprocated then I am a much stronger person for it. But I know what you’re thinking, how are you not an emotional wreck? There’s a very important lesson that expressing your feelings teaches you, and that is that bottling your feelings or repressing them only leads to feeling worse than you would have letting them out. Think of it this way, if you express the genuine interest you may have in someone the minute you feel it then the level of emotions are just starting to develop. This is the time to be level headed and pay close attention to how the person reacts. The minute he/she steps out of line in a way you don’t like-cut them off. Of course it will hurt because you are being vulnerable in the first place. But it won’t hurt as much as going weeks “hanging out” with someone, building deep rooted emotions and bottling them only to release them and have them thrown in your face. Not only will you have a feeling of regret emotionally but you also wasted your time and time is something no one has extra of. Don’t be prone to emotional masochism by sticking around in bullshit hopes to change the way someone feels about you because it won’t happen. We need to stop giving hope to surface level relationships and actually get to know the people you’re spending quality time with. Open up but learn to draw the line and protect your energies.

It’s easy to play into all the status quo and background noise but next time someone plays with your emotions call them out and let them know exactly what it is you want and what you don’t appreciate. Just remember, there are 7 billion people on this earth and 125 major cities, you can always move on and take a swim in the ocean……