Whatever you dream to do, be sure to do it well.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Adolescence 2.0 The Eyes of Dusk

Click HERE for the previous post.

"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." ~ Dorothy Thompson

Jean flashed a confident grin to the full-length mirror in her room and fixed the collar of her maroon blouse while music from La Roux played on her computer. She brushed away the stray hairs in front of her face to follow the path of her bangs that she parted to the left. Her brown eyes lit up with the application of black liquid eyeliner and a light kiss of golden eye shadow. She finished her look with a creamy nude lipstick and smoothed out her black slacks. Despite having to cover an assignment on a Sunday night, an upbeat rhythm guided her steps.
Trinity had invited her to dinner over the phone. Dinner! She expected a simple lunch at a café somewhere, not a full-blown meal at a Pakistani restaurant in Brighton Wednesday night. Was this a date? Wait, what? No way. Of course not. Jean laughed at her reflection. We’re just two acquaintances about to know each better so we can become friends, yes? She wanted friendship; maybe even a new roommate so she could live someplace more decent, but it was wishful thinking to believe Trinity needed a roommate too. And would she be comfortable sharing an apartment with a gay woman?
She bit her inner check, ashamed by the thought. It shouldn’t matter of course, so why did the awful question pop up in her mind? Culture and upbringing, she answered even if it was a poor excuse. Her eyes jumped to her loose, silver watch bracelet. Time to go! She picked up three silver rings from her makeshift jewelry box and put two on her right thumb and one on her forefinger. Jean grabbed her midnight blue pea coat in lieu of her favorite leather jacket. She slipped on her business flats, grabbed her bag from the hook, and bolted for the subway. Calculating the commute time in her head, she frustratingly accepted that she might arrive fifteen minutes late to the benefit. Why did time hate her so much?

via flicker.com/briburt

Jean reached the entrance of the banquet hall twenty minutes after seven. In the lobby, she approached a young woman who sat behind a table covered with flyers, the ceremony’s programs, and a myriad of inserts full of information about domestic violence, prevention, and support services. The plastic nametag dangling from her neck read Amanda typed in big block letters.
            “Hi Amanda, I’m Jean Noble,” she said and extended her hand. “I’m here on behalf of Utopia Magazine. I’m actually covering for Claire Reyes…”
            “Let’s see, I do remember seeing her name,” Amanda said as she looked through a box with plastic nametags. “I wondered whether she was coming at all. Here we are!” The young woman smiled and gave Jean the tag intended for Claire.
            “Um, do you have a sharpie I can use to write my name in?”
            Amanda shook her head. “I’m sorry. We prepare all of these before hand.”
            Obviously. Jean took out the piece of paper with Claire’s name and turned it over. She used her own pen to write in her name as dark as possible. Unfortunately she started out in cursive and ended in print. She sighed and wrote Utopia Magazine underneath. It was far from professional but it would have to do. She inserted the paper back into its plastic pocket.
            “What a shame. Your tag won’t have our logo on it,” Amanda piped.
            “Yes, darn shame.” Jean prepared to enter the hall, but the young woman stopped her.
            “Oh wait. Wouldn’t you like to donate to the domestic violence shelters in the greater Boston area? We would appreciate it very much.”
            Jean swallowed the negative answer that swelled in her throat. The month ended in two days and she needed whatever little she had to purchase a bus pass for the next month.
            “Uh, sure!” She reached into her bag and scrounged for her pocketbook. Inside sat a lonely, but hefty twenty-dollar bill. She had her ATM, but doubted a debit card would work here. And her checkbook was forgotten and tucked between books back at her apartment. She stared at the bill and all the magical powers it held: a seven-day subway pass; four lunch meals; more purchases of apples; paying her dinner at the Pakistani restaurant on Wednesday...
            “Is everything okay?” Amanda asked.
            Jean raised an eyebrow at the impatience. “Why would anything not be okay? Here you are.” She bit her tongue to stop any acid from leaking out and put the twenty on the table. This donation would serve as her church offering for the week.
            “Thank you very much. We appreciate your donation.”
            “Yes, you’re welcome.” She grabbed a program and several other reading materials and entered the banquet hall, notepad and pen already at hand. Luckily, the introduction of the night’s keynote speaker had not ended. She found a seat in a table at the back and listened intently as she put together a story from the night.

Many in-depth interviews and friendly chats later, Jean retired to a chair as people slowly filed out of the hall. Overall, it was a successful night and she met several high impact people and friendly college and grad students who in were attendance as well. She gave away all her business cards that had taken shelter in her bag. Surely one of them needed a roommate, right? She half-smiled at her desperation. Anyway, their bright faces and passion brought back nostalgia of her media study days at NYU. The combination of living in Harlem and commuting downtown for school gave her two years of experiences she would forever cherish.
            A beautiful woman arguing with a man at the corner of an emergency exit intruded her act of remembering. Jean piqued her ears even though she knew it was wrong to eavesdrop, but as a writer, she was always on the hunt for new material.
            “You’re sick, you know that. You waited until now to tell me this? Why now? Tell me,” the woman said. She wore a form fitting, sea green sleeveless dress that stopped several inches below her knees and were accompanied by black pumps. Light brown, curly hair spilled below her shoulders. The blues eyes set against her smooth brown skin intrigued Jean. Were those contacts lenses or authentic?
via weheartit.com

            “It just had to happen now. I’m sorry, Charity,” said a gorgeous dark skinned man in an expensive black suit.  “I really am, but tonight I finally reached my limit.”
            Wow, these two look like a power couple, Jean thought. She almost wished she could snap a picture of them. Too bad it appeared that they were breaking up.
            “Get out of my face. Now, before I…” Charity pushed both palms against the air. “Go. We’ll talk about this later.”
            “There won’t be a later. This is it,” the man said.
            “Say what you want, but it’s not over until I say it’s over. Now, please, just get out of my face.”       
            The man shook his head and walked away in resignation.
            Charity pressed her fingers underneath her eyes and breathed deeply. She turned her eyes at Jean.
            Jean almost fell off her chair from the sheer anger and hate sent toward her direction. This woman’s aura was powerful! She marched toward Jean.
            “I saw you staring. Do you usually do that? Sit and listen to people’s conversations while watching them like some damn movie? Did you find that entertaining?” Her blue eyes widened after each question.
Jean searched for the faint lines of contact lenses. They were none she could see. Those really were her eyes. Interesting.
            “I’m Jean.” She offered her hand, but the woman did not accept it, so she retrieved her hanging fingers. “I’m sorry about listening in on your private conversation. That was rude. But let me make it up to you. Want to talk about what just happened?”
            Charity crossed her arms across her chest and scoffed. “You have got to be kidding me? Who the hell do you think you are?”
            “Just a concerned stranger who wants to help.”
            “You can help by minding your own business next time. Some people.” She shook her head and turned for the opposite direction.
            “I didn’t give you my name, so do not use it,” she said, spitting ice cubes.
            “I’m sorry. Look, why don’t I give you…” Jean remembered that she had no more business cards as she looked through her bag. Damn. Well, this was painfully awkward. What should she say next? Reason said to let Charity be on her way, but instinct didn’t want to let go.  “Listen, I’m very sorry. I had a really long night and was just resting before taking the commute back home. You two were talking and looked so gorgeous together that I stared like some five-year old without manners. I truly apologize and meant no harm.”
            Charity finally relaxed her tense shoulders and sighed. “Apology accepted. We were pretty loud so I don’t blame you too much,” she said. “I’ve been having a pretty rough week myself so I’m sorry if I came off as too abrasive.” She held out her hand and Jean accepted it with her signature, soul-snatching smile.
            “No, not at all. Anyway, without coming off as very strange, do you mind if I have your contact info? I’ve run out of business cards to offer.”
            “Here, you can have one of mine.” Charity took the green feathery clutch from underneath her right arm and opened it to unearth a card, which she offered.
            Jean glanced at the card in her hand and learned that Charity was a resident physician in the field of child psychiatry. Pretty amazing.
            “I treat childhood trauma and maltreatment,” she said. “Thus why I’m here. Well, Jean, although we didn’t meet under the best circumstances, I hope you have a good night. I really should be going now.”
            “Of course. Thanks. Have a good night, too!”
            Charity nodded and walked away.
            Jean realized she and the janitor were the only two people left in the hall.
            “Good night,” she told him with a wave.
            He smiled and waved too. “Good night.”

To be continued….

Adolescence 2.0 © 2012 C.S. Severe All Rights Reserved

Monday, February 25, 2013

Unlocking Your Highest Potential: Don’t be Afraid or Embarrassed by Your Dreams.

Hello Folks!

I chose this topic to be next because it’s something that I personally need to tackle, and it addresses a problem surrounding mindset as well. The mind is pretty powerful because it puts into motion our habits that in turn influence our future. 

"Watch your thoughts; they become words. Watch your words; they become actions. Watch your actions, they become habit. Watch your habits; they become characters. Watch your character; it becomes your destiny." ~Lao Tzu 

via thinkpositive30.com
SO, our heroine Amy talks to someone for the first time at some function or other, and this person decides to the pop the question. No, not that one. This one. “So Amy, what are your dreams?” Amy chuckles nervously, widens her eyes, and torments her brain for an answer that won’t elicit a laugh, look of puzzlement, or snort from her new neighbor. 

“Possibly start my own business?” comes her reply with a shrug and little side eye glance. She smiles but knows deep down that her dream is more than to start a business. She desires to start her own media company that will enlist a slew of great, inspiring female artists from all backgrounds and walks of life so that they can be a more prominent voice in the male-dominated mediaverse.

So, why doesn’t she tell the whole truth instead of serving up a tame version? Maybe it’s the possibility of rejection. Maybe it’s the possibility that the person will throw down unsupportive words, take her dream apart and point to the holes and obstacles, or even feel uncomfortable hearing such grand proclamations. 

But it’s a stranger, why should she care? It’s surprising to discover the great lengths we take for people, sometimes people we don’t know, to accept us, to not fear or reject us because in reality, we really are that amazing, fierce, and powerful. The human spirit, once properly harnessed, is a frightening force that can achieve whatever it desires.

But how about the people we care about? Ever notice how parents, family members, and sometimes even friends hardly ask us what our dreams are? We usually get questions like:

“What’s the next step?”
“What are your plans?”
“What kind of job are you looking for?”   
“What career are you thinking about?”
“What’s your priority move right now?”

Or this awful statement:

“Here, let me tell you what you should do.”

We get these questions if we’re lucky because other times family and friends want to prescribe their own life plan for us or tell us what we should be interested in without even asking for our input, which is the worst.  No wonder we’re so embarrassed or afraid to talk about our dreams. It’s just not a topic that comes up as often as it should within our circles. Is it possible that we’re also afraid of asking other people what their dreams are? Sometimes people dodge hearing about other people’s dreams because it reveals something lacking in their own dream setting attempts. And the minute people start talking about dreams, everyone’s favorite phrase of death always manages to creep in. “Be realistic.” John Eliot says, “As soon as anyone starts telling you to be ‘realistic,’ cross that person off your invitation list.”

I don’t take his words to mean to completely cut off those who don’t support our dreams, but rather to give them some well needed space. Celestine Chua offers similar words of wisdom and encourages that we stay away from the naysayers, the doomsday proclaimers, and all around negative soul suckers.  That’s not to say that our lives should be solely driven by blind, unintelligent passion. It helps if there’s a sound structure and plan to our dreams, of course.

The most important thing is not to feel discouraged or shirk from dreaming big because we can’t see the whole picture of how it all comes together, especially in this horrible worldwide economy of ours where jobs are scarce, opportunities appear bleak, and hope is close to running on empty. However, it is particularly in these dark, depressing times that we dare to dream the biggest, boldest, and most ambitious. Instead of allowing our insecurities, weaknesses, and other people’s opinions influence our actions, we should challenge, and yes, even scare ourselves into supporting our dreams and sharing them without shame. I see my dreams as children, an extension of myself that I want to protect.

Now, that's what I call courage. via icanhasinternets.com
Remember, the results, success or failure, don’t matter right now. What matters is the now, the process in getting to where we want to be. Because it’s when we focus all our energy in doing instead of fearing and analyzing that the achievement part happens, sometimes without us realizing. So, to end, the next time we’re asked about our dreams, we can let the words slide out without fear or shame because who knows? Maybe sharing your dream might just help another person embrace and share his or her own dream too.

How about you? What are some ways that you gather courage for your dreams? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Next week: Be Honest with Yourself.

Thanks for reading,

Sammy :)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Adolescence 2.0 The Broken Puzzle

Click HERE for previous installment. 

"To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all." 
~ Oscar Wilde


Jean’s feet gripped the floor of the car and her knees bent occasionally as the train rumbled from stop to stop. The rest of the passengers held onto the railings and bars above. The one space available to grab required she perform some unnatural arm bend. Never in the mood to touch four strangers at the same time or look like some strange yoga acrobat, she kept her hands in her black leather jacket’s pockets. Subway experience taught her the delicate art of balancing one’s body while in fast and jerky motion.
A popular hip-hop hit exploded from a commuter’s Beats headphones and someone attempted to cough out a lung, heart, and then some. Hopefully, the germs planned to stay away from here. Aside from that, no one talked.  The silence made Jean more aware of the conversation she planned to strike up with Blue Bird. Everyone would pretend not to listen, but an audience served only to raise her excitement and nervousness—feelings she fed on for power. 
            “Why are you wearing a shirt from an ex? That is, if you don’t mind me asking,” she said.
            Blue Bird chuckled. “You know I asked myself the same question today, and I still have no answer.  I’m Trinity by the way.” She held out a hand, which Jean gladly accepted.
The woman had a firm, confident handshake. Good sign. Her skin felt smooth too, and Jean held on a second longer before the release.
            “Jean.” She gestured at the shirt. “That’s um that old model, right? Twiggy I think her name was…”
            Trinity nodded. “Yeah. My ex and I were big fans of her, and uh she surprised me with this shirt. Valerie’s an artist and teaches art to middle school children.” Blue Bird’s brown eyes softened as if she remembered a good memory.

            Jean didn’t blink. She had suspected from her appearance that Trinity was probably queer. “Valerie sounds like a pretty awesome person.”
            “Yes…she is.”
Whoever this ex was, Blue Bird clearly still had strong feelings for her.
            The train slowed to a halt a third time, and a third time Jean’s heart sank in fear that her new acquaintance would leave. It was her least favorite part of people collecting in the subway. However, she had a method of never wasting an opportunity. 
            “I’m sorry, but this is my stop. It was really nice chatting with you. I can feel you’re a good spirit.”
            “Blue Bird, wait!” Jean bit her tongue and heat rushed to her face. The nickname slipped out of her mouth without consent.
            Thankfully, Trinity only grinned wider. “Blue Bird?”
            Jean eyed the woman’s tattoo.
            “Ah, yes. Keep forgetting I have this thing.”
            “I’m sorry. I hope you don’t mind.”
            Trinity shook her head. “No, it’s okay. Actually I think it’s kinda cute.”
            “Okay, thanks for not being weirded out. Please take this.” Jean gave her business card.  “Maybe we can talk again or catch coffee together or something. Anyway, it was nice talking to you too. Thanks.”
            “Ah, okay. Thanks?” Trinity laughed, made the card disappear in her blazer, and walked out the train to her destination with smooth confidence in each step.
            Jean sighed and hoped Blue Bird would call and not chuck her card in the nearest trashcan. She usually caught people in her aura, but this time Trinity’s strong, positive vibes wrapped around her and made her feel safe and calm, a feeling she wanted to last longer.
By the time she made it to Copley station, her shopping mate called to cancel their meeting.
“Claire, I’m so sorry. I forgot how atrocious the Green Line was.”
“It’s okay. We can meet up next time. See you in the office tomorrow.”
“Yeah. See ya later.” Jean ended the call and sighed. Another lonely Sunday afternoon waited for her. Now, she had to take the Green Line again to return home. She groaned and decided to treat herself to a big fatty donut before the commute back home.

            Jean walked into the elevator of her building and held her breath as usual in a battle against the stench of aged urine and greasy Chinese food that assaulted her nostrils. Stairs were out of the question. She lived on the twelfth floor of a housing project close to Boston Medical Center, and any attempt to climb stairs would require an oxygen tank strapped to her waist. 
            Getting back into shape remained stuck on her list of goals to accomplish this month. And she could not blame it on the lack of money to pay for a gym subscription. YouTube provided tons of exercise videos that she could do in her small living room, but her heart was not into it. Oddly enough, her small frame and adherence to a vegetarian diet were her biggest obstacles to exercise. She liked what she saw in the mirror and praised her ability to fit into size four skinny jeans. She just had to convince herself that exercise was not mainly for weight loss, but for healthy living.  
            Yeah, yeah, Jean thought and rolled her eyes. I’ll do it when I want to. The elevator rang at her floor and she rushed out with a deep exhale. She fumbled through her bag for her keys and cursed when they refused to reveal themselves. She made another of countless, yet unheeded mental notes to put them someplace more accessible. They finally turned up. With a frustrated sigh, she let herself into the tiny one bedroom apartment. When she closed the door behind her, Jean stood for a minute and looked around.
It was a neat but bare space with an easy chair for the living room that she bought at a thrift store; no television because she watched what little shows she enjoyed on her laptop; and a folding table and chair to eat dinner and do her writing and work. Her bedroom was no better. She had a mattress with an iron bedframe that she also snagged from the thrift, and big storage boxes held her clothes and undergarments instead of a dresser. Books lined and were stacked on the floors of her bedroom and living room. Everything else went into the closet, along with the two large suitcases she left home with.

Boston Medical Center
She hung her back on the hook in the wall and went into the kitchen to get a drink. Her fridge showed off four boxes of extra firm tofu, half a gallon of almond milk, three tomatoes, two oranges, and five apples. She had to have her apples. She took a bottle of Perrier sparkling water and lay on the easy chair. Her eyes spotted the calendar she put up on the wall across from the chair and she nearly choked on her water. Two weeks!
“Two weeks!” she said again to no one. Her heart rapped against her chest and she put the bottle down on the floor to massage her temples. Her least favorite curse word tumbled out of her mouth for a good minute before she finally collected herself and stopped.
Her parents were coming in two weeks. Her parents who thought she lived with a nice roommate in a nice, safe neighborhood with a solid publishing job that included great health benefits when in fact she had no roommate, lived in a relatively unpleasant area, and had three jobs, one of them freelance, with no benefits. Thankfully she applied for Massachusetts’s health insurance and was approved for the state’s insurance. 
           The truth of her reality, however, poked her sides with guilt for spewing the well knitted lies to her Mother and Father just so she could convince them to let her leave Hartford and make it on her own. She never told them her real dreams were to become a successful writer, blogger, and eventually a media mogul with her own media company because that proved too outrageous and unrealistic for them. If they came here and saw how she really lived, they would ignite a storm, drag her butt back to their house in Connecticut, and connect with her some of their friends to get her a real job, which meant sitting in an office, being miserable, and devoid of all creativity. In other words, death.
            No, that reality must not come true. She jumped out of her seat and opened her MacBook to check her email, but knew she nothing of value would show up because she already checked it five times on her Android. Her endless queries for roommates on Craigslist turned up with such unreliable characters or rent payments she couldn’t afford that she gave up for a while and let time slip through her fingers like liquid. Exhaustion and frustration sat on each shoulder and she slammed her forehead against the black folding table and moaned.
            For once, she wished someone would collect her.
            Jean's cell phone sung what she considered the most dramatic segment of Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake Act II: Scene. She checked the I.D., Mr. Firebreather, and sighed. Why the hell was work calling? It’s Sunday! Leave me alone!  
            “Hello, David.”
            “Jean, hi. I was wondering if you could cover the SVAWomen’s Benefit tonight at Cambridge? You know the one. We talked about it on Friday’s meeting. It’s supposed to start at seven. Claire said she couldn’t make it. Sick with a bad cold.”
            Jean blinked repeatedly at her editor’s revelation. “Wait. Claire is sick?” Was this girl for real? 
            “Yes, can you make it tonight? I know it’s last minute, but it’s important we cover this. I’ve already told Claire to send you her interview questions and notes. No one else can do it, Jean.”
            Er, so I was your last choice, which you also already made for me. She sighed. “Yeah, sure. I can cover for her.” Her motivation right now was solely money.
            “Thanks! You’re a doll. See you tomorrow.” Click.  
            She cringed. There he went again with that doll reference. Jean stole a glance at the clock. She had less than three hours to get ready. And the benefit was in Cambridge. How did she manage to spend the whole day in the subway today?
            Thirty minutes before Jean made herself ready to leave, her phone rang again. What now? Did Claire remember she wasn’t sick and changed her mind? Her phone’s screen, however, displayed an unknown number. Always excited to talk to strangers, she slid the bar to talk and hoped it wasn’t another telemarketer.
            “Hello, this is Jean.”  
            “Hey, Jean. It’s Trinity.”
            “Blue Bird! Hey!”
            Trinity laughed. “You sound very excited.”
            “You have no idea,” Jean said and sat down with the widest grin she could muster. 

To be continued...

Adolescence 2.0 © 2013 C.S. Severe All Rights Reserved.