This is What I Believe

On NPR, there was a segment called “This I Believe,” where Americans could submit essays about the values that shape their every day lives. The program is now defunct but you can read past submissions from a few years ago to all the way in the 1950s. From what I read, most of the submitters share the same ideals. Yes, they came from different cultures and faraway cities but for the most part, they all had the same beliefs- the golden rule, honesty, living the best life you possibly could. In lieu of last week’s posting, I wanted to post some of the key ideas that I believe in, little tidbits of my life core that I choose to live by.

I believe that everyone on the planet should own and know how to ride a bicycle. Not only because of the exercise value (going uphill for twenty minutes on your fixed gear will do wonders for your calves) but also for the environment’s sake. A five minute car ride to the  market can produce up to 10 pounds of CO2- a bicycle produces none (unless the bicyclist just finished eating a plate of tacos and frijoles). Save the planet and put the pedal to the metal.

I believe in the power of music. Yes, medicine does work miracles sometimes but it can’t cure loneliness or a broken heart. No drug can give you that unnatural high of seeing your favorite band or performer live, standing a few feet away right in front of your eyes. When I hear a pretty tune for the first time, my limbs start to tingle, almost like my blood flow is being kicked into overdrive. My heart starts to beat faster and my feet start to move. My fingers move into the air-guitar/ air-piano position. And lip-syncing, too. I can’t sing to save my life but I can lip-sync better than anyone else I know. Movies have the same affect for me. They inspire my dreams and cause me to create. And both has cured bouts of my loneliness and depression.

I believe that only you could create your own happiness. Happiness is a funny emotion. For me, it comes and goes quickly until I force it to stay. Once that happens, that giddy feeling can usually manifest into a beautiful, heartfelt day, week, whatever. But it does take the extra effort… and maybe some extra endorphins and vitamin D- put on your running shoes and spend sometime outside in the sunshine. (And I hate the phrase ‘money can’t buy you happiness.’ That’s some serious bull. Ever since I purchased my iPod, I have been walking around with an extra swing in my step.)

And acting like a five-year-old and listening to your inner child. When I have to sit and answer phones at work, I bring paper and colored pencils to pass the time in between phone calls. I’ll admit it- I love to color. I have since the day I could hold a writing utensil. My co-workers make fun of me drawing stick figures but when I tape one of my drawings to their office door, I know that they’d have the biggest smile on their faces upon seeing it. (Art is like both music and the written word to me- those forms of creativity inspire warm, happy feelings.) I never resist the urge to splash in rain puddles, snuggle with my Care Bear at night and watch cartoons Saturday mornings with a heaping bowl of Lucky Charms sans milk.

Despite being a person of very few spoken words, I believe in asking people how their day is going. It shows respect and compassion. I always ask my boss, my roommates, my sisters, the FedEx delivery driver, the cleaning lady. Even if I don’t know you, I will ask you that question. This past New Year’s Eve, me and some friends were waiting for the A train to head uptown when this homeless man approached us. I asked him how he was doing and had a rather interesting conversation with him before he moved on to the next group of young women, hassling them for loose change. People may have that look in their eyes that scream “LEAVE ME ALONE” but secretly, deep-down, I believe that everyone wants someone to talk to, to feel a connection with, no matter how small that interaction may be. This is something that both my mother and an old college co-worker had taught me and that I’m thankful that they sub-consciously stapled this to my brain.

This (as well as many more other things) is what I believe. This is what I hold true to my heart and my soul. Erza Pound was quoted with saying, What matters is not the idea a man holds, but the depth at which he holds it. With that quotation in mind, I will end with this question: What do you believe in?

God Can Be Hilarious (Can He?)

“God can be funny when presented like a genie, he does magic like Houdini. Or grants wishes like Jiminy Cricket and Santa Claus…” ‘Laughing With,’ Regina Spektor

Why is talking about God so awkward? Okay, maybe it isn’t strictly God- why is talking about religion so awkward? I have been curious about this question lately. When I was at university, my friends and I discussed our spirituality often, whether we believed in Divinity or not. No one was afraid to extended an offer to their church or fold their hands in prayer right before eating lunch on the Quad. But now, I say the “G” word to others and they get a panicked look in their eyes. Maybe it’s my environment and the people I surround myself with. Or maybe it’s just because these people are smart enough about choosing not to voice their opinions about the Supreme Power, like the same why I refuse to talk about my political beliefs.

I grew up going to church. I remember my mom snapping the buttons of my little bodysuit (a fashion concept I once hated but now live in) together before we drove off to the chapel on the corner. Vacation Bible School was where I spent my summer, fascinating by the stories of David and Goliath and Jonah being gulped by the whale. “McGee and Me” was the most moving television program according to my eight-year-old self. As I got older, religion and God himself was something I pushed to the backburner. I made the Jesus pot boil once more when I was baptized Mormon. I left the LDS church a little while later and did my share of spirituality searching, exploring paganism and Wicca, my mother’s religion (Catholicism), even Hinduism.

I learned a lot from my holy hunting experiences. God, with whatever form He (or She) chooses to take, is everywhere; He/She is in everyone (regardless if you believe in Him/Her or not) and He/Her is in everything (Whether you believe in some form of the Creation story or not, look outside at the glorious sunshine. It had to come from somewhere, right?) But some questions still haunt my mind, to the point the where I spend the early hours of the morning laying in bed with my eyes wide open, trying to figure out impossible answers.

Do we need religion? For the past few weeks, I have been attending your basic non-denominational Christian church with friends, using my best judgment/ detective skills to determine whether or not Judaism, Islam, Confucianism, whatever faith it may be, really matters. From what I gather, the main purpose of faith is to obey this Divine being and spread/show Godly love to others. Yes, we may not get why someone choose to pray ever hour of the day or why some so-called holy wars exist or even understand why someone refuses the pleasure of sex until marriage. But if the real word, God’s spoken truth, is to love and be open minded to the endless and countless possibilities of the world, why aren’t we doing so? Why aren’t we open to other people’s beliefs? Why is this making talking about religion so awkward?

Whatever you believe in (and this mean you too, worldly atheists), I hope that you put your whole heart into it, from the text written by the prophets to have prayers/curses you speak at night right before your bedtime. From my understanding, the word of God(s) preaches about love and unity. Display respect to our Mother Planet and to your fellow Earth brothers and sisters, no matter what they believe in. Life may be short and confusing but there is always time and space for courtesy. Religion is just a word but true faith is in the kindness that we give.

Suicide of the Soul

“I never knew until that moment how bad it could hurt to lose something you never really had.” -Kevin Arnold (portrayed by actor Fred Savage) from television sitcom‘the Wonder Years

Last week, I was demoted at my job. Hours were cut; pay will be lost; tears streamed down my face as I left my office for the day. I am thankful that I wasn’t fired (and rather surprised, actually) but this was still a blow to my gut. Walking out into the Monday sunshine, I didn’t immediately think about the bills I will not be able to afford now; I thought about the dreams I had for myself and how they were, in mere moments, flushed away. I’ll admit- I hate my job. I’m not good at it. My brain and fingers are meant for creating moving photographic images and fingering piano keys, not data entry and rearranging paper files. Despite not being happy with this arrangement, I worked almost 60 hours a week for the past couple of months, exhaustingly pushing myself to complete my work as best and effectively as I could.

I worked so much with plans to save some money; to get out the current situation I once found myself in with hopes of moving somewhere shiny and new, continuing my education and tackling a job that not only I’m good at but I also love- basically, for the umpteenth time in my short life, I wanted to start over. Begin fresh. Create anew. I’ve been fighting for this dream for a while; for weeks, months, a whole year. The people surrounding me have heard me speak nothing but this made-up future I had for myself. I fought against people I love passionately and whole-heartedly defending it. In my head, this ultimate plan was perfect and foolproof and I was going to stop at nothing in order to see this dream carry through. It is kind of funny how a five minute conversation can change everything,

As much as I encourage my friends and loved ones to conquer their fears and live out there dreams, I wonder how do you know when to call it quits? How do you push certain goals and wishes aside? And then afterwards, how do you forge ahead? How do you kick your heart’s most inner desires to the curb and wake up the following morning with a smile on your face? Are you accepting the fact that you’re a quitter or just (and maybe finally) growing up, accepting reality?

I don’t want to call myself a quitter. I’m sure that no one wants to be referred as the one who simply gave up. But for the past few days of serious concentration, I am starting to realize that something greater might holding my fate cards, waiting patiently to deal out the next round of amazing adventures and trials. Maybe it is time to move on. There are other wonderful and beautiful things out there in the world to see and experience, things greater than I could even imagine. As hurt as I am, I have faith that everything will eventually be okay. I may not see this path clearly now but I will squint my eyes and pace myself slowly until I reach the next fork in the road.

How to Save a Life

“With all the hatred in this world, in this good world, let us be kind to one another.” -Walter Breuning, the world’s oldest living man (age 114)

Although I claim to have no solid New Year’s resolution this time around, I do have an awful habit that I’d like to eventually be rid of by this time next year. Like everyone else I know, I rely on my computer too much, leading up to spending too much time online. But instead of quitting cold turkey, I’ve limited myself to a few sites and blogs about soul-searching and spirituality. (Sorry Craigslist.)

I came across a website the other day that asked some tough questions about life. As I dug deeper through the text on the page, a key sentence sprung out at me: there is someone on the edge, standing on a ledge, about to jump- what would you do?

What would you say if you only had a minute to talk a stranger out of taking his or her life? What if this stranger was your best friend? What if this person was your mother? Does your relationship with the person really matter? God forbid this situation ever happens to you but this the reality that some people face on a daily basis: whether to jump or not.

With the hustle and bustle of our young, hectic lives, we don’t spend a lot of time to recount with ourselves and others. Why are we more concerned with the Kardashians sisters than the genocide victims of Sudan? (Do you even know where Sudan is on the map?) Do you know your next-door neighbors or your little cousin’s favorite color? We spend too much time YouTube-ing double rainbows and blows to the face when we could be giving a friend a warm hug or giving our brother living across the country a quick phone call. We’ve lost sight of the dreams we secretly carry inside of our hearts. As I walk to work each morning, I wonder if all the people I pass by are rushing to their dream jobs, the ones they beamed about when adults asked them what they wanted to be when they grew up. We drown in pools of sorrow and depression. According to the recent USA Today poll, 10% of Americans (about 27 million people) take some form of antidepressant. That’s twice as many people as the decade before. No wonder why people are jumping off buildings and bridges. Think that’s awful? Try picturing yourself living off of $2.37 a week. Our fellow, unemployed and underemployed Americans are doing so. People around the world live off less. We have become tolerant of everyone and everything, sitting back, watching pain and injustices of this world and shrugging shoulders as if to say, “Well, that’s just the way it is.” But what if the way it is isn’t the way it’s supposed to be?

I have written about empathy before. But now, it’s not just about giving a sad face to the homeless man on the street. Show some love and a bit of compassion and buy him dinner. Not feeling that bold? Treat the person standing behind you in Starbucks to a cup of coffee. Purchase of a pair of TOMs shoes. Give your co-worker a hug as you walk by their desk. Wake up with a positive attitude and a smile on yours face. See- the possibilities are endless. Spread the love. Show some love.

Maybe I should change my New Year’s resolution from ‘being happy’ to “being a better person.” Nah- scratch that.  This year, I’m going to be the best person I can be. Maybe you should be that person, too. You never know when someone close to you might leap.

It’s Resolution Time!

In last month’s issue of the ‘Bloomberg Businessweek,’ New York City cupcake baker, David Arrick, was featured for introducing ‘manly’ but delicious creations to the ever-demanding public (and trust me- his whiskey cakes with banana buttercrème frosting are worth the high delivery price).

Arrick started off as a real estate attorney and was eventually laid off at the beginning of the current recession. After observing how locals and visitors were going gaga for some infamous, Manhattan baked goods, he thought about creating cupcakes that catered strictly to the male demographic. Creating such flavors as beer and bacon cupcakes, he started his company in the kitchen of his apartment and hired help off of Craigslist. In the article, Arrick explains that he was convinced that his newfound business ‘was going to fail’ but he continued to try to make it work. And now look where he’s at: owning a successful company with a reality show in the works and a future bakery opening in the West Village.

Okay, your 2011 resolution might not be a masculine cupcake baker. But what is it? Is it something that you can truly accomplishment here, in the now? And if this goal is so important for you to accomplish, why did you want until this long to start putting it to action?! One of my good guy friends has told me this: “Resolutions are just things that we pose to ourselves to get ourselves over the proverbial hump of a new year. If you were serious about bettering yourself, you wouldn’t have waited until a new year to start doing whatever it was you set out to do for yourself.”

What Jonny said to me brings me to this: My dad has always told me that, today is the first day of the rest of your life. It took me a long time to figure out what that meant but now I understand that you can always change your life whenever ever you want to. Don’t wait for the new year to do so. If you want to be braver tomorrow, wake up with courage. Feeling like you need to be a bit more friendlier? Throw a smile to an unexpected stranger out on the street. Like sweets and giving tooth aches? Become the next manly baker (and open up a restaurant next to my place, please). Don’t make an excuse for becoming a new and better person.

(And what is my resolution for 2011, you may ask? Well, to quote Tolstoy, “If you want to be happy, be.” It’s plain and simple, everyone: I just want to be happy.)