Abandonment and Learning to Love Again

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Many of us have known abandonments and heartbreaks in one way or the other. Maybe it was the father who left you (or was never there). Maybe it was the lover who broke promises. Maybe it was the best friend who had to move to a different town. So maybe it was no one’s fault, just inevitable big life changes.

The way we often deal is to fatalistically look forward to being left again. I personally always speak of “psychologically preparing” for potential disappointments. And I thought it was a good thing …until I thought longer and harder. I believe that our first acquaintance with separation plants a seed inside of us that may grow into a thorny tree which actively seeks to impale any solid hope that the next person will stay.

This idea of psychologically preparing ourselves for the worse has self-sabotage written all over it. In lowering our expectations, maybe we unconsciously lower efforts on our end which must be made in order for future relationships to work. Maybe we jump into these relationships with more negativity than we are aware of or would be willing to admit. This aforementioned tree inside of us, if not uprooted, the thorns may come out through our pores to prick everything and everyone attempting to get close to our heart.

Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable over and over again may be tough, yet a necessary risk we have to keep on taking until we get it right– if we truly wish to get it right. We cannot afford to water this tree or sharpen its thorns; we must make the conscious decision to not nurture the negativity past abandonment may have placed within us. To understand the difference between dooming a relationship before it even started by thinking “this person may leave me” instead of affirming “this person may love me” to the cosmos.

Why are we so reluctant to positively getting ahead of ourselves at the dawn of new human ties? How often do we operate under the assumption of inevitable defeat before the battle? Is it not worth it to consider that the same naivety that made us unprepared to cope with previous love related grief is by perplexing irony the same one necessary to sustain the purity of your love for another ?

Difficult a task as it may be, perhaps we need to remember to press a refresh button in ourselves and look at every new person, every new opportunity, with the same eyes we looked at them before we knew anything bad could happen. There is too much math and science in the way we love these days; it should simply be felt.

 

Why It’s OK to Befriend a Stripper…or How Being Too Judgmental Can Make You Miss Out on a Great Human Being

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They say “tell me who your friends are and I’ll tell you who you are”, while that’s true to an extent–as a general rule, I think there are some wonderful things to be said about some people who do not use certain filters when it comes to their prospective friendship or mere acquaintanceship. It is those people who tend to be so in tune with themselves, so real and individually strong, that they can truly stand alone and not quickly or easily judged by their company. I have a special admiration for these people who can occupied respected positions in society, yet associate (often wisely with vigilance) with those who might not be seen in the same light. To me it is truly mirroring divine love if we concede that there is any. It is childlike in its beauty. There are good people doing bad things/making bad mistakes as there are bad people achieving great things, and society has its own standards set for love and respect, but the only love and respect that matters at the end of the day is the celestial one. A love beyond the limits of our ethical, moral boundaries. Accepting that is one way to learn yourself as well, if there is ever any doubt.

Fairy Godfather: The Friend No Other Friend Knows About

I say Fairy Godfather because in my philosophical musings on the meaning of friendship, this is one of the metaphors that  always come to mind. It is this idea that a genuine friendship should sometimes come with a feeling similar to that of being rescued. It is that friend who appears in your life like Cinderella’s fairy godmother. The one whose presence you can deeply feel even in their absence. The true friendship as Socrates, Plato, or Aristotle conceived it.

 

beginningI don’t know how I was feeling 4 years ago that pushed me to do it, but I hopped on a website looking for a pen pal (or two) across the world. I mean, I am pretty sure I was having a great time in college, I had a surplus of very good friends who are still in my life today, but I guess something was still missing. I guess I was still somehow bored with my existence. Perhaps I was looking for some cultural adventure and/or stimulation. It makes sense at a practical level, yes, but I have always found the world too big to limit my human ties –friendships or what have you–to my geographical location. Yet, irony of fate has it that I would meet someone only 3 1/2 hours away from me, still in the U.S., just a different state. And it has been the most profound, transcendental friendship. 4 years strong. In fact, I have not spent the past 2 Thanksgiving holidays with my biological relatives. Looking back at the foundation upon which it was built, it all makes sense. I share a lot, but this friendship has been one of the most private parts of my life. Some say I live a mysterious life. I really do. One filled with very long, life enriching emails.

The Closeted Activist …or The Gay Ally

nord-glass-closet-dpages-blog-1.jpgThis is the image of a glass closet. Look up the concept in LGBT terms.

Not particularly judging, for the heart has its reasons, but I’m very curious about those who consistently preach on social media, yet never address their LGBT self. At most, they will show support by showing outrage and partaking in the conversation, but they don’t take a stance with the same “I” and “we” that they tend to use when defending their other identities. The one you know for a fact is gay/lesbian, but sounds more like an ally—a much safer zone, I suppose. Not that my personal philosophy is big on “coming out” either, I don’t think life should be spent in a confessional, like you’ve committed any sin or crime. You do you and may your words and actions reveal your nature. However, if you want to be a public advocate or simply aim to inspire others, how do you begin to earnestly do that when there is a step you yourself have yet to take? I believe the best inspirations are people’s personal narratives. To be able to answer how YOU survived/are surviving. To not intently leave yourself out as one of the affected members while you’re standing up for them. To be consistent. You’d be surprised at how many would quickly open their mind upon knowing that YOU yourself, as their dear friend or family, are LGBT… whereas it might take them forever (or never) when all you do is keep on crusading in a general voice that defends an “other”, never making it personal. I know the game because once upon a time I, too, flirted with vagueness.

 

 

 

The Delusion of Heterosexual Pride Day 


A philosophical take on Heterosexual Pride Day, some wise words from Aristotle: 
“…to cause shame to the victim, not in order that anything may happen to you, nor because anything has happened to you, but merely for your own gratification. Hubris is not the requital of past injuries; this is revenge. As for the pleasure in hubris, its cause is this: naive men think that by ill-treating others they make their own superiority the greater.” 
Pride and hubris may overlap in meaning, however they are not quite the same thing. Please do tell what tragedy has been inflicted upon heterosexuals, do give us an inventory of your past injuries…or recognize that what you’re celebrating is your hubris, not pride in its virtuous sense. 
When LGBTQIA folks celebrate pride, it’s not them saying they’re better than you, that they’re a more evolved kind; it’s them saying that you are no better than them, that they are–and always have been–as worthy as everyone else, in spite of society’s vitriol. I know I can speak for myself when I say that I cannot be proud of anything I didn’t accomplish (i.e. bachelor’s degree). I’m not proud to be gay because it’s not something for which I worked hard; I wasn’t crossing my fingers at conception, wishing it would turn out this way (but 21 years later I realized I really just got lucky lol). However, I AM PROUD as a response to your incessant *attempt* to shame.

 If heterosexuality has always been the default, it’s a no-brainer that you too can be proud of who you are and be comfortable in your sexuality, but to rally and make a parody of those who actually need to celebrate and still constantly need to reaffirm themselves shows a lack of conscience and/or how unrepentant you are in being a direct or complicit oppressor. You are still hellbent on making your [already self-proclaimed] superiority the greater. 
In other words, you are not proud to be heterosexual, you wouldn’t even know what that means! You are an asshole who might as hell head out there, rally fools like you, and celebrate that you have eyesight because a blind man said that he, too, can climb Mount Everest 
#HappyHeterosexualPrideDay no…wait, #HappyHeterosexualHubrisDay

Bill Cosby, Legacy, and Reality 

  
So about this Bill Cosby thing, this has been going on long enough for me to not finally throw in my two cents. Let’s see…

I feel like as a relative foreigner or latecomer, a black from outside of America, it is easier for me to pass an even-handed judgment. I am not at all saying it’s impossible for someone who grew up watching the Bill Cosby Show and learned to revere him as an exemplary [parental] figure in [black] America, I am thinking it’s emotionally and psychologically easier for people like me. The imprint he has in the collective consciousness of [black] America, the collective memory and admiration, are no threat to my judgement…because I’m to a great extent alien to it. I don’t have a legacy to protect or a hero to defend in him. 

That said, while I’m well-versed on the history of racism in America (well, in the world), and will concede that the “trying to bring another black man down” theory from the skeptics isn’t entirely vacuous insofar as it has its roots somewhere, I will say that it’s still a reach and some folks need to cease and desist from that attempt. If he’s guilty, it is not because he is black. Of course, it might be less absurd to pull the race card when it comes to *how* he is/will be prosecuted, but to try and use it to deny the accusations altogether is, again, a fat reach. 

I’m careful about what I say on the matter and held back because I am not a woman and I sure as hell do not want to risk undermining the severity of sexual assault and the trauma of the victims. So beyond this individual case, where the accused is a man of fame and once upon a time respect, I am saying this in a general sense, take it as universal wisdom: 

1) A history of systemic oppression does not preclude individual responsibility, and by extension, individual misconduct or wickedness. Bill Cosby could still be guilty as hell independently of a racist system. And you should know that because racism isn’t responsible for “that uncle” young black girls are told to watch out for at the family party; no racist system built that reputation for him. It’s the family secret, the elephant in the room. Not exactly a race issue. Measure your solidarity. Know who you’re supporting. I’m black. Racism is real. But not every single black person is a saint that should be defended. All things must be considered. All the details. Doing otherwise, only seeing innocence where you see black, is a behavior almost as harmful to society as the racist seeing only guilt where they see black. 

2) Human history and psychology can attest to that we are a million times more likely to defend the people and institutions we have idealized for a long time, even when presented with facts, than we are to accept that they simply were never perfect…that, in fact, sometimes they are the exact opposite. Think of the wives swearing their husband were not cheating until it’s too late, after they’ve lost their best friends who dared make such accusations. Essentially, we must remember that “hard to believe” does not mean “impossible”. Last minute truth trumps long standing legacy. 

In sum, to reiterate, this is not particularly about anyone’s guilt or innocence. It’s about being aware of our prejudices. It’s about the thought process when accusations are on the table. 

Is She Serious? Bully On The Train 

  
Today in #WWYD –what would you do:  What would you if someone plausibly suffering from a mental disability (or suffering from a personality disorder) bullied another with a physical disability (using a 4 wheel walker) on the train? That was such a difficult moment to witness today. The old man occupied two seats because even with a 4 wheel walker he is barely able to hold himself up, he cannot sit straight. This woman’s nasty attitude was detected the second she was boarding the train, yelling upon her entrance “excuse me! I need to get on the train!” when really no one was in her point way. Then at the next stop she decides to sit and it had to be next to the disabled old man, so she kept trying to push him and his 4 wheel walker, being a total bully, spitefully uttering “excuse me, I need to sit, excuse me, you’re not the only one, I have arthritis, excuse me!”. At this point someone ceded their seat so she could stop.

 I thought “is anyone going to say something? Am I going to say something? Should I say something?” My hope in humanity was quickly restored when a man confronted this woman who insisted on being the victim; whatever condition she really has (supposedly arthritis) to her justified her bullying a man who was not, and could not, practically defend himself. 

My first reaction I imagine was the same as most witnesses’, disgust for that woman. I also felt pity for that man. Another reaction was the utmost respect for the man who did what seemed right and took a stand. But what if this woman, too, is sick? What if she is mentally unable to properly assess her actions? Can we hold her to the same moral standards or social etiquette as the rest of us? For all I know, she might simply be authentically bad; there is evil in this world, and explaining it away with psychology is arguably the height of denial. That is, there are people who are perfectly fine mentally, their evil doing stems solely from their evil being. But what if…what if she is sick and walking around undiagnosed and/or unmedicated? 

The point of the “what if” is that while our spirited self may be prone to feel frustrated in the face of injustice (here bullying), to maybe want to slap that woman, we must remember to not be too quick to judge in absence of all proper information. We can do both: feel compassion for the man AND wonder if that woman herself is OK. Remember that mental illness is something you cannot see, so physical disability often gets the public’s attention and sympathy a lot faster. She could be sick herself. At least for someone like me who perhaps naively refuse to believe that people can be purposely that wicked, she could be sick. It is not a matter of justifying evil, much less of denying the severity of the situation; I still deeply feel for that man and find the situation itself awful. However, I merely wish to abstain from passing any nasty judgment on that woman by considering one possible explanation: she could be sick, she could need help…she, too, could need our compassion. 

Art and Social Responsibility

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I am torn on the issue of necessarily having to cast bona fide transgender actors in transgender roles. It is a tussle, in my opinion, between the beauty of the thespian art and the demand for –nay, importance of—minority representation on the screen or in theater. However pure the intention might be, it is a self-defeating solution inasmuch as it is limiting to the very talented transgender actors in whose name we advocate. Talent is ostensibly measured by challenging roles, by how accurately one mimics a reality that is sometimes quite far from their own (i.e. a lifelong civilian playing a faithful soldier), and have us believe it.

The wiser socially responsible response to the underrepresentation of transgenders would be to ask why they are not, in general, considered for any roles that are offered to cisgenders; to not only be outraged when straight man play transgenders, but to also wonder why Laverne Cox could not be casted in the role of a cisgender woman as Angela Bassett would. That is, wonder about all the roles that were denied to talented transgenders, not just roles where they would practically be playing themselves. The point of acting is to…act. Perhaps an exaggeration, but complaining about how an actual transgender is not giving life to and immortalizing a transgender character almost sounds like being upset that a married Will Smith is given a script where his character is single. The beauty…and at times even flattery…is in the imitation.

My point is DO call out the systematic exclusion of historically marginalized minorities like transgenders (as was the case with with women in Renaissance England, driven by sexist beliefs), but be careful in reserving the outrage only for specific roles.  Perhaps Eddie Redmayne playing The Danish Girl is adding insult to injury because transgenders are already underrepresented in the media as it is, I get that, but it’s also only a symptom of a more severe disease.  Be ambitious and eradicate the disease by fighting for all roles and not let them think that transgender playing transgender is all that revolutionary, but only a step in the right direction. Don’t let the phobia typecast transgenders—limiting their artistic abilities.

It is unfortunate that social responsibility can ruin our willful suspension of disbelief when it comes the art; it becomes more difficult to escape life as we know it and accept a new reality (or a new representation of it) because all we can think is “oh not again, another cis straight man playing transgender”. We began to obsess more over the performer than let ourselves be captivated by the story itself. Eddie Redmayne the cisgender actor then eclipses his character — Einar Wegener, The Danish Girl. That said, Eddie slayed me since Les Miserables, I’m impressed AF*.

*(As Fuck).

The Philosophy of Fashion 

  
*This is a pre-edited version of my personal statement for a Global Communications: Fashion Track graduate program at the American University of Paris for which I applied. Some people were curious about my approach and asking advice on application essays in general, so I thought I’d make a blog post out if it and share 🙂 * 

I studied philosophy in college, and I was notorious for being so into the field that I exceeded the expectations by breaking a record and taking nearly twice the amount of courses required to graduate with that major. With that said, I can tell you that when many people hear “philosophy”, they immediately think of hardcore questions with which the average person does not want to deal. They are used to hearing sophisticated terms referring to the different branches in philosophy: metaphysics, epistemology, existentialism, etc. Small wonder, then, that when they hear my professor speak of his specialization in “philosophy of food”, they are perplexed. What deeper questions could there possibly be about food? Is it not something you just eat for pleasure or survival? I can imagine them saying the same thing when I speak of the “philosophy of fashion” in a world where fashion is seen as a vain and trivial pursuit. Yet, I disagree. If philosophy is defined as the love of wisdom, then anyone who does not rethink their position on fashion being irrelevant in order to realize its deeper impacts in the world around us –in how we express ourselves, in how we communicate—does not particularly seek to be wiser than before.

Having come from Haiti to the United States of America in my late teenage years, I have had the opportunity to experience life from lenses different than those who are accustomed to just one culture. I developed an interest in different cultures at a very young age partly because I was being taught three different languages as I was growing up. Even after I stopped learning them in school, my penchant for acquiring new languages led to my fluency in four of them and the ability to read and understand two more. Then as I became more mature, it became more than just about speaking a language; it evolved into a strong curiosity with regards to the nature of the people to whom the language was native. We may all speak a million languages, but I believe that there is a universal language of understanding that every human being should aspire to speak. A goal that can only be reached when we familiarize ourselves with cultural references, expectations, values, awareness of ourselves and others, how we communicate, the tools we use for communication, the subtleties. Indeed, as stated in the Global Communications program description, technology has made distance nearly irrelevant, intercultural challenges are everywhere; therefore, the need to explore and to ultimately have a general understanding, is now more imperative than ever.

Fashion leaves plenty of room for self-expression, yet in many places we can be limited by public opinion or even the law when it comes to choosing what to wear. Western civilization’s concept of freedom may reflect itself in how little clothing its people are allowed to wear, whereas on the other side of the world it is customary—nay, sometimes legally required—to be covered. Personally, despite my culturally intelligence and sensitivity, I believe we should have the right to reveal or conceal as we please. Moreover, my own parents strongly disapprove of the way I dress, yet friends and strangers admire my style—often being called a “fashionista” or being asked if I am a designer. My parents are Haitians who are used to traditional wear, clothing that are not exactly eccentric—just plain and simple. They are not from a culture where it is normal to stand out in a certain way. Suffice it to say that friends and strangers living in a culture, U.S., where celebrities are widely exalted for their bold fashion statements would be more prone to compliment my sartorial choices.

Ultimately, Fashion is as much a tool for communications as the words we use can be; even when I did not openly admit to being gay, the confession was written all over my outfits. Of course, we do not want to stereotype, but we also cannot deny that social symbols exist everywhere, and they give hints as to who we may be. Global Communications is a field worth exploring, fashion certainly has its place in it insofar as it speaks on our behalf as well; my interest in intercultural interactions, my predilection for fashion, mixed with my personal background and qualifications make this unique program a dream for someone like me, someone who aspires to work at the international level.

Unplugged: From Binging on Social Media to Embracing Obscurity….Oh, and I Am Fine! 

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It has been appromately 2 weeks …2 WHOLE WEEKS (lol) …since I abruptly decided to sign out of the Holy Trinity–Facebook, Instagram, Twitter. I call them the Holy Trinity because I worshipped them as such. I also signed out of Snapchat. The lifespan of the iPhone battery is short enough as it is, now add my compulsive use of social media to that and you get a battery perpetually hanging in the red zone (for those of you non-iPhone/smartphone users, this means under 20 percent). Yes, it was that bad. One second I was checking Facebook, then Instagram, then Twitter, Facebook again, then Twitter, now Instagram, over and over and over again. I was also sharing a lot; I opened my personal world to more than 2,500 people on Facebook (I’ve done some cleanup since then) , more than 500 on Instagram, and more than 670 on Twitter. Every picture was worth taking, every thought worth divulging, every moment worth announcing. Like many members of my generation, I made it all special (even the most basic dinner and drink at your average bar that anyone can access) …until I realized that by that virtue nothing was special anymore. So I quit cold turkey …for two weeks. Look, if you know me, two weeks is a big deal. It is like being an alcoholic for 30 years, drinking every single night for 30 years, then suddenly going 3 days without imbibing. It was a midnight drunk impulsive decision after a heated argument with a friend, but a good one nonetheless. I had absolutely no regret after I woke up the next morning. Two weeks later, I’m unplugged, AND I AM OK.

Admittedly, it started out as a misanthropic act; I did not want to hear from anyone and I did not want anyone to hear from me after arguing with someone I considered a close friend and feeling (and I’m using “feeling” intently here) betrayed by another close enough to know things about me that at most 5 people know. So perhaps that night I told myself I was done with human beings. Really, I am not. I still love people for better or for worse. I am still a social butterfly, always meeting people and making new acquaintances. I suppose, then, what I was really “done with” are appearances–the appearance of people, including myself. Given that social media is the realm of carefully edited lives, of appearances, I figured a good way to start living more authentically and to seek more genuine human interaction would be to take a break from it.

Being on social media sabbatical has been very refreshing. I hope that you will believe me when I say that it is not hyperbolic of me to say that it has felt like a spiritual journey. When a natural-born thinker like me has not much else to do with his free time but think, having no superficial online distraction, he essentially transforms into Socrates on steroid. OK, maybe that one was an hyperbole. Seriously, ideas are now coming at me faster than a child star rises and falls. I am writing a lot more. I have volunteered my time helping people refine their resumes, and the results are sweet. Shocking: I find myself thinking about God a lot and the idea of it. I usually am more agnostic, but something has been happening. It is weird. Evading the cluttered world of social media has made space for more self-discovery; I am closer to finding what I want in life and what I need to do. I am doing real things with real people. I kid you not, I attended a discussion on drunk driving and the law (moderated by a very stern lady, and since I’m very opinionated myself, we went at it lol) , and my whole life has changed. I walked out with the urge to start being an active crusader against the act. I also finished a whole season of The Good Wife, something I have been putting off for almost 4 years now. I called a friend I had not contacted in over 6 months. I am strengthening my Italian skills, and I am now learning German (again)! I was even able to hold a 3 seconds conversation with a German lady and her granddaughter who did not speak English. She corrected something I said, I loved it. I now just need to keep on working on drinking less, but I am certainly getting my ducks in order. I feel more grown. More mature.

I remember when I was growing up that one of the best feelings ever was being surprised by the radio or television with my favorite song or movie. It was especially wonderful because it was unexpected. It was something to the effect of sweet serendipity. Quick and easy access to the arts, the ability to create playlists, skipping undesired songs, the luxury of simply searching for your favorite song and instantly playing it, has taken that pleasantly surprised factor away. We are more present-oriented, gratified at the speed of light. We are paradoxically ever so in control these days, being able to summon what we want so fast, that we really are not in control insofar as not getting what you want RIGHT NOW is a form of exercising control –over the inconsequential things. Delaying is controlling. Delaying can make it all the more special. That said, some things do not feel that special anymore. Call me grandpa or call me nostalgic, but I do miss the rarity and scarcity that makes some things special. In the same fashion, I missed delighting in running into someone who had been completely out of sight and out of mind. When I see a friend now on the street, at the bar, anywhere, I am now 7 times happier to see them! That is because I had no idea I was going to see them, I do not know what they were doing, where they were on the map every hour of the day, who they were with, how they were, or even when (or if) I would ever see them again. Matt! Tanner! Andrew! Kate! Kelsey! I actually mean these exclamations when I see them now, I mean them more. We no longer have to mutually pretend we don’t know what the other has been up to…as if we didn’t already know from a Facebook status posted 7.2 seconds ago. And I can tell that when they see me, they are now more genuinely and visibly surprised (positively so, I hope). Texting now feels more intimate; I feel closer to the friends I text because they are the only ones who know what is happening with me at any given moment–when they ask and/or when I share. Same thing applies to emailing. That is something else I am learning: make your true friends special by not sharing with the world some things you share with them, give them a modicum of exclusivity.

A friend once told me something about being present at all times and it is echoing in the back of my head louder than ever: you want to give people the chance to miss you. Right. And I also refuse to let my existence and importance be validated by being seen at all times. I shared online not for approval, but to do just that: share. I shared what I liked, not what I think anyone would “like”. Any semblance of attention-whoring may have been accidental. I never doubted, still do not, my relevancy in the larger scheme of things. You and me, we do not need viewers to be great, we do not need to always been seen or heard, we do not always need the applause. An artist in some studio right now recording the next best hit, yet only this artist and the few around him are aware of it; this hit will not be great because we get to hear it and fall in love with it, we hear it and fall in love with it because it is great. It was so from the start. John Lennon said it best: “…For the sun every morning is a beautiful spectacle, yet most of the audience still sleeps”.

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I am OK! Really, I am. Social media is such a big part of our lives nowadays that giving up on Facebook is like giving up on life. People will ask you if everything is OK with you, something must be wrong, you must be deeply depressed, they might even think you are suicidal. They wonder. That is not entirely unreasonable. It is fair. In fact, one of the signs that someone is suicidal according to several trusted sources is a significant change in behavior, like losing interest in activities in which one previously reveled. Pick up on those, pay attention to that when it comes to caring for your loved ones. That said, I am OK. Hell, I am better! I have not given up on life, I have decided to live one more fully and honestly. No filter. I am focusing. I was/am not saying goodbye to social media, I will just be “doing less”. I will be back to trolling on your newsfeed in no time. Just not as much. Lord, give me relapse, but not just now. We all know old habits die hard 😉