When The Towers Fell

How do I remember 9/11?

I was a freshman in high school. Sitting in history class. The teacher had left the room while we chatted amongst ourselves, taking advantage of her absence. When she returned, she mentioned that something had happened, maybe a bombing in the city, and that we were to sit tight. This was before the advent of smartphones; I didn’t even have my first Motorola flip handset yet. Laptops were barely a thing, and Facebook hadn’t been conceived so no one was rushing to check social media for news. Word of mouth was our link to the world.

More time passed and she returned and informed us that we were all being dismissed, released on our own pending parental permission. I found it a bit strange that our mommies had to call in to say it was okay for us to leave, after all, we were high schoolers now! But my mom was on the ball and had done so. Her job was only about 10 blocks away, so I made my way there to meet her with a group of downtown-bound students. All public transportation had been suspended, and the streets were teeming with pedestrians, even more so than normal New York standards, as if we were walking a marathon.

I met up with my mom at her job and we continued from 14th Street, down to Grand Street. I couldn’t see the smoke from where we walked. But at that point I’m not even sure I knew planes had crashed into the towers. The word currently going around was that the World Trade Center had been bombed. Again. I didn’t remember the first one, but that one hadn’t been SO crazy, right? The mood was cautious, yet spirited. With trains and buses halted, and an unknown looming threat to the city, New Yorkers stepped up in solidarity. As we walked through the streets I love, store owners offered bottled water to those journeying home. Apartment building doormen held their doors open, inviting folks to use their restroom facilities. Strangers exchanged friendly words of encouragement. I saw a long queue of bodies crossing each bridge in the distance. I felt for them, since I only had to walk to the bottom of Manhattan.

When we finally made it back home, we beelined for the television and the clarity it would bring. We didn’t even have to specifically turn to a news station. Every channel was broadcasting live and looping raw footage of the morning’s events. Two planes had flown into the Twin Towers, and our beloved buildings had crumbled.

We had just been there the weekend before. Stage Door Delicatessen had been across the street, with their confection-like pancakes. We’d discovered there was a little shopping center in one of the towers. In New York, you are always making new discoveries; you never truly know all the nooks and crannies of the entire city. I couldn’t believe those two towers, the icons of Manhattan that appeared in countless movies and that I’d always used as a directional compass, like the North Star, looking up in their direction to navigate, were gone.

Everything broadcasted was uncensored. The frustration, rife with profanity, the terror, the shock, the desperation, it was all there, unscripted. We watched as those trapped in the tower and resigned to their fate, soared from the windows to a guaranteed demise that was the lesser of two evils in their heads. The sticky web of stifling human emotion wrapped heavily around us, connecting the souls of all who watched. That day, we were all the same. We all felt the same things.

Back then, I was a chat room nerd, who went online every night at the same time to hang out with my Internet friends. That night, the mood was equal parts solemn and anger. There were no jokes and no discussing the latest episode of Gundam Wing.

“If they take the Empire State Building next, I swear to God…” someone typed.

It felt good to make empty threats against unknown (at the time) assailants as powerless teenagers. It felt good to simply expel the emotion we were feeling. Anyone who tried any troll-worthy comments that downplayed the massacre were punted out to the harshest degree. Methodus Toolz could do that.

The next day was a little less raw, but likely only for those like me who were less affected and less in the line of fire. I hadn’t lost a loved one or listened to a voicemail they left about how much they loved me and how they wouldn’t make it home tonight. I hadn’t thrown on my gear and dodged a barrage of concrete on foot to save anyone like the first responders did. My apartment building was far enough away from the debris and soot to affect me no more than some eye sensitivity for a few days after. But I still felt a deep bond with the people of my city, who had so often garnered a reputation for being rude, nasty and uncaring, who were embracing each other and offering helping hands or shoulders to cry on in the true spirit of support. For awhile after, we didn’t just pass each other in the streets. We checked on each other, gave smiles of encouragement and eye contacts of acknowledgement. We gave each other strength.

For months, even years after, I had the wildest dreams. Dreams of warmongers coming to assault our country on ships with motion-tracking explosive cannonballs. Dreams of terrorists hiding in plain view in bodegas launching rocket-launchers at my window. Dreams of an unknown threat eating away at our moon, threatening to plunge our world into eternal darkness because we didn’t have the resources to stop the source or save it. They prompted me to begin a dream journal to explore my subconscious. I hadn’t expected such an aftermath of rippling currents, expanding out to reach me with its tickling tremors.

When they first showed preview pictures of how they were going to turn the sites of the Twin Towers into deep waterfall reflection pools, I thought, “No way!” For some reason I didn’t think it was possible. But they did. They came through and I’ve visited the memorial multiple times and they are beautiful. When I go, I slowly meander through the site and never lose sight of the reason these pools are here in the first place. I touch a few names, gaze over the railings, and reflect. It’s important that I pay mental tribute when I visit, because I remember the collective trauma. Whatever the surrounding reasons behind it, so much human life was needlessly extinguished. I hope that fact remains respected, even over the passage of time.

My city is strong.

~Tael

The Silent Abuse Of A Narcissistic Partner

I used to think the term “narcissist” only applied to conceited, attractive (or those that think very highly of themselves) individuals who couldn’t stop looking in the mirror like the mythical Greek hunter who drowned in his own reflection. But during the healing phases of my last breakup, I researched how it has a highly toxic way of entering the relationship realm. And I realized, oh shit, it’s happened before. My family probably doesn’t even know about it, because I never really told them the story. Does physical or emotional abuse weigh more? For me, the physical abuse I experienced long ago was far more forgettable.

Back in college I dated your typical urban pretty-boy, obsessed with his image and having a girl on his arm who enhanced that. He was your textbook narcissist, so self-centered, his own sister once told me how much it bothered her. He spent more time in front of the mirror than I did, making sure his outfits were immaculate, the designer logos showing, the sneakers uncreased (I believe he even shoved MetroCards down the front of them to keep the wrinkles out) and that his du-rag was perfectly centered and aligned with his forehead.

He’d insist that I step up my swag, rock the latest sneakers, he’d take credit for sexy heels I’d wear, saying he bought them for me when he hadn’t, and constantly comment on how well-dressed and attractive he was. Lord only knows what his Instagram would look like now if he has one.

The stream of abuse trickled in slowly at first. He’d insinuate that I might be sleeping around on him, demand to check my phone (although he’d make sure to first delete anything off his in front of me before handing over his) and threaten to fuck both me and the mysterious man up if he ever found out. Then he’d use intimidation tactics, like invading my personal space, slowly getting face to face with me, and punching the wall next to my head. I have a certain sort of stupid fearlessness sometimes, so I never actually felt threatened. One night, after a party, one of my good friends observed him yanking me around in a parking lot during an argument and stepped in to intervene. He told him to get lost (my friend was a tank, so my ex couldn’t take him) and walked me home that night, saying he didn’t like the kid’s antics, and that I should rethink the relationship. Still, I thought it would all be fine.

The first night he put me in a headlock during a heated exchange, I forgave him. I knew he wouldn’t REALLY hurt me. But then it happened a second night, and this time the blows came with it. I don’t remember any pain. I just remember my spirit ascending from my body and looking down at my physical body, shaking its head that a smart girl like me had ended up there. When my spirt re-entered my body, I recovered my wits and grabbed an iron from under the bed, prepared to bash his face in. Before I could make impact, he released me and fled. I ended it the next morning.

Since then, I’d never even thought about the other kind of abuse; the emotional kind. The kind that comes from a Nice Guy Narcissist. They put their best mask on up front. The same one they show to everyone else on the outside, saving the Mr. Hyde underneath exclusively for you. With my last ex, it started small. I asked to please not continuously ask to borrow money from me, as it’s a certain thing I’m uncomfortable with, especially in relationships. My requests went ignored. Every paycheck he asked to borrow money from me, and eventually got abrasive when I’d remind him how much I didn’t like it. Eventually I relented and gave in every time because I wanted to make him happy. Maybe that’s where I went wrong, setting aside my deeply uncomfortable feelings in the name of love.

Eventually, I began to give in on more and more things that made me uncomfortable, convinced by him that I was wrong for feeling uncomfortable about it in the first place. Not only that, my discomfort BOTHERED him. It was no longer something for him to acknowledge; it became something I had to hide. And just like that, it was all turned around and the downward spiral began. I could no longer guess what about my normal self would randomly set him off and suddenly become a problem I had to take it upon myself to change.

On a trip to an amusement park, two girls cut the line in front of us and he flipped.

On me.

I took a laid back approach, because I was just happy to be on vacation with him, saying it would be alright, it happens sometimes and let’s let it go.

Triggered.

He said I wasn’t taking his side enough and proceeded to publicly lash out at me for the next hour, as passers-by looked on with concern and I gave them the reassuring eye-contact that said “I’m fine, I can handle this. I’m okay.”

This was after the night after I’d found myself hunched on a bench wondering why he was emotionally pissed because I’d asked, “Can we go to one haunted house first to kill time since the alcohol stand isn’t open yet?” No. We had to sit and wait until the stand opened and apparently, I hadn’t asked with the right attitude, so now he was upset at me. No compromise.

I could never call what would trigger his explosive reactions. If his friend did something I considered disrespectful and I got upset, he got mad at me for feeling and reacting disrespected. If I was too curious about a girl he’d hooked up with but was still friends with, he was resentful. If I got upset because I wanted his attention during an hours-long video game binge (unless I whipped out a vibrator and started pleasuring myself in front of him, that was the only proper way not to trigger it), he became incensed, then made it clear the game would come first before any tears or serious matters that needed immediate attention. If I was cleaning in the evening because it hadn’t been done yet, he’d feel guilty because he hadn’t done it, and demand that I stop and wait until he was ready. If I ran away from a bumblebee in fear, he’d get furious and say I would make it sting him, even though everyone (and the Internet) has told me bumblebees (yes, those giant furry, bear-looking things) are harmless and don’t sting. If he blew all his money on frivolous things and I didn’t want to bail him out when he suddenly needed an expedited passport or to book a cabin for his friends, it was my fault.

20180413_213120I couldn’t be sad. I couldn’t be pissed. I couldn’t ask one too many questions. I couldn’t bring up something that bothered me if 24 hours had elapsed already (although he could); it meant I was thinking about it for too long, which angered him. I couldn’t do what genuinely came naturally. I was only allowed to express happy emotions and say things that equaled praise in regards to him. If he had made me sad, it meant he had failed in all aspects and couldn’t handle it, which resulted in him lashing out at me or saying he may as well leave then. If I read a menu improperly in his mind, he had to devote time to explaining why I was wrong about it, until the food came exactly as I had depicted it would, then there was nothing more to say. He could do no wrong. The rules didn’t apply to him. He could be jealous but I couldn’t. He could announce when it was time to leave an event or outing, even if I wanted to stay, but we could never leave if I was ready to go before he was. I wasn’t allowed to point out any faults of his.

If I tried to say, “Here’s something that really bothered me and I need to talk about it,” instead of listening, he said “Well here’s something that bothered me a few weeks ago and we need to talk about THIS now and i’m angry!” Always overshadowing my needs. Always tossing what I needed to the side. If I tried to say, “Please, how do we stop this argument from happening,” I was accused of wanting things to end on my terms and being “over it”. If I remembered something differently than he did, I was crucified for not adopting his version of the memory. At times, he’d violently punch himself in the face or bash his head into the walls. I suggested a therapist, but he refused. I thought of secretly contacting his father on multiple occasions because of the fearful level of destructiveness he showed to himself. This was not normal. Once he knew that I was cautious about what I said to him, because I was afraid of the outbursts he might have in response, he grew angry at my fear.

One night, on a company trip, he locked me in our room and said he was going to go kill himself and that I had caused these feelings because I wanted to stay in a hotel that night. I had to escape by climbing over the wall of the outdoor bathroom. I was terrified to tell my boss. My friends later said it was better I hadn’t.

He blamed it all on anxiety. That was always the excuse for the lengthy, bitter reactions. He viciously battered me with harsh words as retaliation for bringing up my issues to him. Only in hindsight did I realize how ridiculous it was to pander to these temper tantrums time and again (God forbid I ever argued back that I felt I was right, it would have made the conflict last 48 hours instead of 24). I don’t believe anxiety should make you lash out at people. I have it sometimes, and it never makes me angry at someone, just scared. It never makes me want to attack someone. His anxiety made him interrupt my aunt while she was speaking to me one night, when she said she didn’t want us sleeping in the same bed at my grandparent’s house. I may reside on the social outskirts of polite normalcy, but I know better than to try and pull someone away from their mom or an elder family member because I feel my need to immediately speak to them is more urgent. Even I know that’s rude.

20180406_140443The amount of money he also borrowed from his father, in addition to me, showed me I might never get the the level of respect I craved. Because that’s someone who’s been there his entire life, and far nicer than myself, and I just popped up late in the game. The professions of marriage and kids seemed like the strangest thing coming from him, blurted in moments of drunkenness. He stormed away from me during every argument, even though he told me he hated when I did it (so I’d stopped, but he continued), multiple times, so the conflicts lasted even longer because a proper conversation couldn’t even be held. He’d admitted to me that whatever he didn’t like, he walked away from it. That was his M.O. in life. Which is exactly what he did to me. Straight into his ex’s arms the same night he left me. It was proof that whatever I had tried so desperately to protect, was flimsy and provisional. Why didn’t I see it before? Why don’t we ever see it? The abuse and manipulation runs so deep, you don’t even notice it hidden behind the emotion which equals passion which equals…meaning…? You don’t realize the bonds you thought were so strong were really transient cancers, and the longer cancer lasts the more it leaves you sick, ravaged and exhausted. After the breakup, I stumbled across posts asking “Were you dating a narcissist?” and the lightbulb flashed and grew in brightness. The selfishness, the need for instant gratification, the manipulative tactics when they don’t get their way, the sense of entitlement, the charming mask for outsiders, the table-turning.

Objects can hold energies, and with each one I threw out, I felt my heart cleansing. Only those who have been through an emotionally abusive relationship understand how tossing the articles that belonged to the abuser helps to purge the nightmares. So maybe that’s why my mom didn’t understand when I wanted to toss all the decorative pictures he’d put up, but she wanted me to save them “just in case” she might want them. I knew that she WOULDN’T, it was just a case of sticky-eyes at seeing something free, but if she wasn’t going to take it then and there, I couldn’t stand to have them in my house any longer emanating poison memories. “You’re a brat, you know that,” she said to me, in a cruel moment where I needed someone to think about me and my feelings the most.

I believe life wanted to remind me of my strength. I distinctly remember coming home from a night hanging out with friends towards the end of it all. He hadn’t wanted me to go. In fact, he had made plans with his father earlier in the week, so I had made plans after for the same night to avoid being depressed in the house alone. His father ended up canceling. Of course, my ex got pissed at me because I didn’t immediately cancel my plans. I told him this was unfair, as I really needed to talk to my girlfriends and I knew he would absolutely NEVER do the same thing in my position. Hell, he wouldn’t even drop the controller if I was distraught. He didn’t like me talking to my girlfriends about my relationship either. Well, he did in the beginning, when he still had the mask on.I came back that night with positive vibes, and he felt them, and said something very poignant. He said that he could tell after speaking with my friends that I had come back with a strong, black woman, no-nonsense mentality.

And I could tell it distressed him to say that.

Why wasn’t he proud of me? I had forgotten that’s exactly who I am, and I could never be ashamed of that or have someone, especially not a man, make me feel as if being a strong, black woman with a no-nonsense mentality is problematic. Do you want to know the hidden meaning behind my fifth tattoo? It’s not JUST my favorite Smash Bros. character on my leg. It’s a sign of strength. It is a reminder that I am strong, sexy, confident, regal, and a worthy soldier who holds her head high with a powerful stance for what she believes in. A narcissist will make you try and forget that. My head had been brought down so low, I almost didn’t recognize myself anymore. Now I have a permanent reminder when things get rough. Stand tall.

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The scars from the physical abuse over a decade ago were nothing compared to the mental wounds I was dealt as of late. But the beautiful thing about the mind is, while it can be cripplingly weak, it can be blazingly tenacious. We all may die a little sometimes, to be reborn from the ashes with renewed vigor, lessons learned and a vibrant healed wingspan, thirsty for flight.

~Tael

Platonicity

Ahhh, the age-old question: Are you capable of being pals with members of the opposite gender in a completely non-sexual manner?

OF COURSE it’s possible to “just be friends” with the other sex. And not just the non-good-looking ones either. Because, little known fact, you can actually acknowledge someone’s attractiveness without feeling any desire to sleep with them whatsoever. You know, like how a girlfriend can introduce you to her new lover and you rehash with her and the rest of the crew later about how cute he was. Cute meaning, you’re glad she has someone who’s not hard on the eyes, but not like you’d immediately like to hop in bed with him if he wasn’t off-limits.

Most can’t though.

I’ve seen a lot of people say, “Yeah, of course! He’s like a brother to me!” Then somewhere down the line they’re stammering an incestuous explanation of how they “accidentally” slept with the guy and “Omg, how did this happen??”

Depends on what your degree of platonicity was to begin with. Did you initiate a friendship with someone because they were cute and you were hoping something would happen, and it hasn’t happened yet but you’re still holding out that it will? In that case, you’d better damn well be sure your platonicity gauge is on point, because if they’re not feeling the same, you could be in for quite a blunder.

I have never seen so many previously-thought-to-be-platonic “lurkers” come out of the woodwork as I have the past couple of years. Maybe it’s because I hadn’t been single in so long that there hadn’t been an opportunity for them to send their darts flying. And miss the bulls-eye. But even DURING my last relationship, I had a long-time college buddy (over 10 YEARS!) basically ask if I would be willing to “entertain two suitors.” Newsflash: WE ARE NOT FRIENDS ANYMORE.

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My legit reaction to this request.

Not only was I extremely uncomfortable with this solicitation, but I was also highly offended! He’d known me for over a decade, had played Prince of Persia and Super Smash Bros. with me late into the nights, had been part of the circle of friends I’d embraced in my SUNY years, had shared numerous insights on sex and relationships as friends do, still connected occasionally on gamer memes and updates, and had NEVER made a pass at me WHATSOEVER. Now he was suddenly asking me to cheat on my boyfriend with him. This AFTER we’d had a lovely talk about our current romantic interests, sharing our stories about our feelings about them! WHICH WERE GOOD FEELINGS.

If you’ve known me for that long, you should know better than that. You should know my character. You should know that if we’ve been friends for THAT long, the sexual window has long passed and our relationship has solidified to an amicable closeness. And dammit your platonicity radar should be able to pick up the disinterest AND the discomfort as a result of the annoying, persistent come-ons.

It stings a bit when long-time friends are the ones making these requests. Because we believe those who’ve known you the longest should also know you the most. When I met up for drinks with yet another long-time buddy from college, one who I’d also spent hours with having deep conversations, gaming with, AND who had hung out with both me and my ex-husband together time and again, it was brought up whether I’d sleep with him.  I dunno about the rest of you, but I feel like most women have a deep appreciation for those situations where you can let your guard down with the opposite gender, connecting as fellow humans without fear of ulterior motives, like the sandbox days before we discovered the joys of sex. The comfort of an old friend with whom you’ve already established the boundaries of friendship and friendship-only so there’s no need to have the awkward “I’m not into you” conversation and possibly the lengthy “Okay here’s why I’m not and please stop trying, it’s not going to work” speech for the more aggressive pursuant, is a delight.

So when you have to push the old college buddy’s heavy, liquor-laden body off of yours as he leans in to make his proposition which, once again, has NEVER come up before now, you question these connections you made so long ago. The ones you thought were so secure because of the length of time you’ve known the individual.

Even one of my previously gay acquaintances (and I say “previously” because look what’s coming) of about 2 years admitted, as I was indulging him with my dating app tales, that he had always felt something for me and was interested in pursuing something now that I was single.

What…?

“I think you’ve misunderstood. I’m not GAY, gay. More like sexually fluid and attracted to energies.”

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NoOoooOoOoOOOOOOoO!!!!

Doushite? You can’t be my gay friend and then evolve to my formerly-known-as-gay lover. It can’t work like that.

Back to the friendships you created because you hoped something would happen. Maybe. I’ve done this. Twice. And I ended up in relationships with both of them. It’s great to be friends first before a relationship. However, my platonicity radar was on point each time. I felt the reciprocal feelings developing. But had I not, I was willing to take my feelings for them to my GRAVE. Because if the other person’s platonicity level is higher than yours, your feelings can become a wearisome burden for them. And if you aggressively try to push them, it’s even worse. So unless you’re a well-mastered vibe-artist with wizard-like intuition, and you know for a fact the buddy you’ve been into is also digging you too, DON’T DO IT…Don’t do it unless you know for sure where they are on the meter.

My cache of sandbox friendships with males runs low. Although I do know I can still count on at least one solid one who I’ve known for 18 years, who has been there for the relationship tears, the drunken chats, has met my friends and family, DESTROYS me at both Smash AND MarioKart (DAMMIT), who I probably suck unlimited hours of what should probably be paid IT work out of (gomen nasai!! >.<) and who seems to truly understand the bond of a comrade. And if he ever changes this, I will strangle him.

And while today’s social culture tends to burn the “friend-zone” concept at the stake, it makes me wonder…when did having a friend you didn’t sleep with become a problem? Why don’t we want friends anymore? Maybe I’m just getting old… -.-‘

~Tael

 

Do What You Want

Why do I feel like nobody says this anymore unless it’s in that passive-aggressive way towards a lover when you’re really not feeling their actions at the moment but don’t want to admit it? Today’s culture has become a very opinionated one. Or maybe it’s just because social media allows you to force-feed your viewpoint to the world, whether they want to hear your views or not. In the midst of witnessed heated debates galore on Facebook involving various topics such as gun violence, race issues, women’s rights, or what that rapper did, it’s like you can’t NOT give your opinion (well, I can…) and simply tossing it into the interwebs makes you somewhat of an expert over the computer.

What sucks is when you become entangled in the sticky web of suffocating perspectives from the world and forget that you too, have one as well.

“Follow your heart.” “Do what feels right.”

Those used to be really popular guidelines once upon a time. Now that everyone is an Internet expert on everything from politics, to relationships, to how to make the most out of life, have a fulfilling career, and make money from your couch totally legitimately, you rarely hear advice tailored specifically for the person being given the advice. Blanket recommendations repackaged and reposted for mass consumption are the norm, even though we’re fully aware that the same things don’t work for everybody. Even those you’re closest to may not offer you direction based on your character. For the past few years I’ve gotten encouraged to have a baby, despite my being divorced and without a stable father figure that would be around for the child, simply because I shouldn’t “wait too long.” I hear that “There are lots of single mothers,” and that, “Your mom did it.” Right, but why would I want to actively choose to be a single mother solely for the purpose of having a baby that you want me to have that I’m not even happy about making the decision of having? :/

I’ve never been the type to fear walking a different path from my family or friends. That’s the thing about pioneering. Someone has to clear that path that they didn’t find by following everyone else’s roadmap and set a new route. Sometimes you can’t give a fuck about everyone else’s opinion. Sometimes your opinion will be the unpopular one and that’s fine, because it’s your choice and it’s your life and you have to live it.

A few years ago I worked on Wall Street for an office that had just been bought out by a highly reputable, long-time respected company that brought us awesome health benefits, 401K options, and a stable future.

And I quit.

Poor management and extreme burnout severely diminished my mental quality of life. I would literally wake up every morning and think “This shit again…” Turnover was high, loyalty was non-existent, bathroom meltdowns by co-workers not uncommon. One day, shaking from anger and disrespect brought on by my manager on my lunch hour in an outdoor courtyard, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore, and that I’d rather venture into the unknown and learn a whole new set of skills than remain in my secure position clutching what little seniority I had with the company. So I sought out a startup with an uncertain future, took a pay cut, and haven’t regretted my choice one iota. In just a few short years I’ve surpassed my old salary in my current position, my company has gone remote, and my current boss is a wizard.

It’s a risk that many may not have taken. But having poured 7 years into my old job and endured the humiliating devaluation of my work ethic, I didn’t care who advised me not to do it. It was my life and I had to get out. Some risks are applauded and others are scoffed at until they pay off.

After a breakup, everyone tells you to “focus on yourself.” Which is stellar advice if you gave up everything you love in your relationship and forgot what it meant to do things you enjoy. But believe it or not, some people are fully grounded in who they are and don’t abandon their hobbies just because they’re with someone else. I didn’t hang out with my friends any less, and in fact explored new interests. My friends remain the same whether i’m in a relationship or not; married, with children, engrossed in graduate programs or simply living their own lives.

Maybe your circle advises you to stay single and sleep around (But I’m not too fond of casually sleeping around and prefer meaningful connections). Or don’t sleep around at all and do other things (But I LOVE SEX and I was doing those things anyway). So make new friends if your current ones are busy (Which is exactly how you meet new people and possible new romantic interests who pursue you). But don’t rush into anything (Have you tried online dating nowadays? First date — ANALYSIS. Second date — Is something gonna happen here? Third date — We sleeping together or nah?). I discovered I despise online dating because of the clinical and rapid pace you’re thrown into things. And that my mom’s dating standards are far different than my own, with car, apartment, and lucrative job weighing more than attentiveness, connection, and honesty (curse my Millennial-ness). :/

Despite what advice anyone has to give you, we are all going through life on our first try. Your own intuition should always be your best guide, while recommendations come second. Be bold and confident in this one life you have and wear that cheeky bikini or those short shorts, or that outfit that you second-guess whether it’s “appropriate” for your age (because apparently in non-American cultures, they dgaf). Go to cosplay parties even though you’re in your 30s, take handstand classes just because it’s random, bounce around with your cousins at a trampoline park until you’re exhausted even though it’s mostly for children, and take hip-hop classes because your family always told you that you couldn’t dance.

Fall in love as often as your heart allows, and don’t be ashamed at its capacity. You only have one life and you can spend it diving headlong into the unknown or tiptoe-ing the outskirts according to someone else’s standards. Take a spontaneous trip to Chicago for Pokemon GO Fest (WHICH I DAMN SURE WOULD HAVE DONE HAD THE TICKETS NOT SOLD OUT). Because sometimes you want to do something like fly out and get a hotel room for a night for a one-day mobile phone event. Yes, as an adult woman, you can travel with others who may not be the same gender as you that you met on Facebook, or Meetup, or Twitter. It’s okay.

And by the same notion, don’t do what DOESN’T feel right to pacify your circle or what the “Internet experts” encourage either. Ignore the pressures to cave to organized religion (because they discuss behind your back about how you should) or hop on the Brazilian wax bandwagon (because even bikini-waxing was too intense for my tolerance). Free-spirit your way through life without make-up and heels, and be the one in the family with the unconventional natural look, oblivious to trends.

The more life you live, the more you find that ignoring your intuition is a waste. Lupe Fiasco said you can’t take back words you never said, and the same goes for actions. You can’t take them back if you didn’t do them. If it’s going to make you happy and you’re highly sure you won’t regret it, do it. If everyone looks at you oddly because your decisions are different from what they would have chosen, good. That’s why they’re your decisions and not theirs. And individuals exist to operate outside of a hive mind. Don’t ever forget to be loyal to your true self first.

Because it’s not your best friend’s baby, or your co-worker’s relationship, or your mother’s job, or your family’s trip, or the world’s life, or the Internet’s happiness. It’s yours.

~Tael (Strong Intuitionist)

The Facets of Feeling

I have a problem with the term “chasing happiness.” It’s too simple. The past 2 years for me were a prison of black and white, upbeat happy or pitfall sad. In-between emotions weren’t recognized or permitted. Hell, even sadness was considered intolerable, and angrily acknowledged if it surfaced. The vivid spectrum of human emotion could not be fully accessed. The only emotion allowed…was “happy.” But denying your palate the varied flavors of life through emotional suppression only creates a disastrous recipe.

Happiness. We hold it as the most powerful, sought-after state of being for a healthy, satisfying life. But there’s a problem with those who ONLY wish to be “happy” and banish the other emotions to the dungeon-like doldrums. Happiness is just one shade. Satisfaction, for example, is not as surface-level as “happy.” Satisfaction can run so much deeper and give you a far higher sense of achievement when attained. Contentment, as well, is a warm feeling that echoes softly through your soul putting you in a relaxed state that “happy” cannot achieve on its own. Exuberance is an exhilaratory upgrade of happiness that heightens your mental state with a gripping thrill.

And then there’s the downside of the spectrum. No one wants to be sad. No one wants to be depressed. And no one should wish for it. But when it happens, sometimes you have to feel it deeply. There is no such thing as a “bad” feeling; there is only a poor way to handle it. Choosing “not” to feel it is one such example. You can never truly face your situation by running from the sentiment. If sadness happens to be your reality at the moment, then face it head on, grieve, and learn from it. Fleeing from feelings conquers nothing and produces 0 growth. It’s simply putting a lid on a pot that will continue to boil and erupt later with explosive, exponential intensity.

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It may feel like a curse to feel emotions magnified other than “happy.” If you’re like me and feel things very deeply (mood swings galore as a child), simple words with an odd inflection may cut you deep. Brutal anger may draw a curtain of red over your world. Unfair treatment might make you curl-up-on-the-floor-sick-to-your-stomach with resentment. But buoyant, spirited vibes resound within you, magnifying to a high better than any hallucinogen.

The individual you run into sobbing in public will be one of the most honest people you’ll meet. Unafraid of the world’s judgment, they are showing you their current truth in raw form, without a facade. That highly opinionated acquaintance who constantly vomits their viewpoints that everyone finds “inappropriate,” likely won’t be “two-faced” behind your back because they give you themselves without dilution. The stranger you’ve just met who heatedly shares his indignation at an injustice he recently witnessed is unafraid to display the passion in his heart. Fearless emotion is an amazing thing.

If your goal is to only chase “happiness,” how can you fully appreciate the facets of feeling? Like a brilliant diamond, there are so many glittering sides to experience that grant you new perception at different angles. Angles that illumine paths to reflections you may not have seen before. Paths that lead you to fellow humans who immediately and completely understand what you’re feeling because they’ve felt it as well. They’ve experienced that facet of the diamond themselves. They’ve tasted that emotion and overcome it before and now you’ve created a powerful connection through sharing and empathy.

We need the jarring rage you feel when a friend is mistreated, the sweltering indignance you feel when you’re spoken down to, and the simmering jealous awe that pushes us to climb and stretch for things out of our reach. Going through life cradling one feeling is a robotic pathway of monochrome imbalance. Celebrate the fact that you can feel a myriad of sentiments. Reactions that prove you’re legitimately interacting with the world and people around you. You hear them, listen, disagree, get angered by what they say, happy at their news, sad at their downfalls. Cry when you’re upset, stomp when you’re mad, yell when you’re frustrated. Shout beneath a waterfall like in A Quiet Place and let go of the composure. Embrace the wild freedom of being human.

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Be wary of those who are only ever “happy,” afraid to come face to face with any other emotion. Those are the ones who hide deeper currents that wash over their hidden truths and malfunction their mechanical myths behind the veneer they’ve put up. If your life is one emotion, you’re half-living, and not viewing the full panorama the human soul has to offer. If you haven’t fallen to the lowest point, clawed your way back out, coped through a mind-numbing loss, been picked up by the kindness of karmatic-hearted strangers, and even had your boss comfort you in the throes of devastation, you might not have truly lived yet.

The ending line from the Fruits Basket manga never resonated so well with me before: Repeat the good AND the bad. Do it all, and pile on the years.

Never be afraid to feel.

~Tael

 

What’s Remote Life Like?

When my company announced at a meeting in the beginning of the year that we’d be going fully remote, I didn’t initially celebrate like I’d stumbled upon a winning lottery ticket. Instead I assessed the situation. Cautiously.

You see, I loved our office. We didn’t have the stuffy, corporate cubicle, drag-yourself-into-work-moaning atmosphere. We had a giant, airy, sunlit floor in a Tribeca loft. There was a shiny piano, an enormous comfy couch that made any homeowner envious (most New Yorkers probably couldn’t even fit it into their apartment), and dogs. Office dogs.

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Dogs in the office.

Working from home meant breaking a routine I was accustomed to (and I hate change) and forsaking the social interaction you may not realize you get on a regular basis by leaving your house every day. It meant I wouldn’t be able to indulge in Tate’s cookies or my normal lunch options as often (I’m fairly certain “lunch options” is an urban thing; I don’t know what the rest of ya’ll do, brown bag?), or run that quick errand on the way home from work because you’re already outside. I would most likely shower less and become a recluse. Would I be able to successfully transition without becoming THIS?

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Fast-forward. I am adaptable ninja. It didn’t take long for me to grow comfortable with my new setup. My desk at home is just as messy as it always was at work. A collection of napkins and paper towels, whatever the snack of the day is, scattered old cookie crumbs because cookies tend to be a frequent snack of the day, a birth control pack, and a light-up rubber alligator are currently the staples.

My CEO Ubered my work Mac to my house so yay, my laptop is actually used as a secondary computer for travel. It’s worth mentioning that since we went remote, he now has no real home base. He gave up his Tribeca loft and now travels at random, handling company affairs from overseas or whichever AirBnB he’s staying at in random time zones across the country. Likewise, my boss took the remote opportunity to leave Brooklyn (WAH!) and call an RV home base with her husband and cat, traveling the country and chronicling her journeys on her blog at https://readysetrv.wordpress.com/.

I’m more of a toddler than my work peers when it comes to travel. I thought I hated it. Until I actually traveled; like, did it for REAL. “Travel” and “vacations” in my life growing up generally consisted of long, cramped car rides (HELLO motion sickness!) to family members’ houses where you’d cram in a bed with 3 other relatives or stake out a spot on a lumpy couch or a blanket on the floor. Vacation indulgences were few and far between, expenses tight, and a rare motel stay was a paradise to us. This mentality certainly carried over when I entered self-sustainable employment on my own and couldn’t fathom parting with an entire paycheck for a trip that you wouldn’t tangibly own and keep for the future.

20170624_125014But remote work gave me my first opportunity to leave the country this past June. Our tiny team of about 6 employees all headed to Antigua for a week to work from a breezy island villa where a chef prepared our meals daily and we chose a different beach to visit every day after work. And there were dogs. Island dogs that visited us every day.

I think once you start, and really experience it, then you see the magic. Then you start to feel it. Next month will be my 2nd time leaving the country, and the 5th trip I’m taking this year. The impact of the travel bug is quite exponential.

With a newfound respect for remote culture and it’s perks, I do want to debunk some of the wrong impressions I’ve come across in regards to “working from home.”

I hate when someone responds to my revelation, “Oh, I need to go find me a remote job.” As if you’d simply take any old job you hate just because you can do it from home (although I’m sure there are those who would). As someone who’s been through some hellish work situations, my priority in job hunting was an atmosphere I could vibe with and a job that could provide me adequate challenge. As someone who used to be a “Weekend-Watcher,” one who wasted the majority of their life away anxiously anticipating the 2 days of freedom at the end of the week, it’s amazingly refreshing to no longer be in that mindset. I liked my job BEFORE it went remote. I just happened to be lucky enough to be on the ship when it took that direction. My mom sometimes asks, “Is your company hiring?” As if I’d ever admit to her that it was, lol. But it’s like the industry doesn’t matter to her. The position doesn’t seem to matter to her either or fact that the current abundant benefits she already has would be cut. She’s simply dazzled by the remote aspect. But she can’t do my job.

Which brings me to a more enraging pet peeve; the impression that because I’m working from home, my job is suddenly “easy” or not as challenging than if I’d had to go into the office to do it. Which is bullshit. Software support is not an easy job. The fact that sometimes I can run out of the shower with 5 minutes left to moisturize down before clocking in so I have to sit down and begin the work day topless and if there’s some sort of spyware lurking through my Mac’s webcam then Lord knows they’ve gotten quite a show is irrelevant. It doesn’t make the angry customers calling to complain any less angry because I’m in my house. It doesn’t mean the computer-illiterate need less hand-holding because I didn’t take the A train to help them. And it doesn’t make a poor communicator’s unintelligible explanation of their problem more clear because I have my Hylian Shield slippers on. Remote life simply means “non-conventional office.”

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Yeah, they’re real.

It’s not WRONG to assume I could just have friends over and throw parties while I’m working, because I COULD, but I’d rather not. It takes a certain kind of discipline to work from home and not stay glued to Netflix because it’s right there or be distracted by your cat or the laundry or the latest viral videos circulating on Facebook. My job in particular requires a certain amount of engagement and focus that I know will suffer if my best friend is here chit-chatting away at me about a nonsense situation that only she and will find funny. I mean, if it’s really slow, fine. But my role can get busy and when it’s really busy, I need absolute focus to juggle multiple chats, check in on a glitch that needs to be fixed, and answer the email from the irate woman who THINKS she’s chatting but is only emailing so she’s pissed that our response is not immediate. Exercising that discipline is essential in making sure your productivity doesn’t suffer.

If you don’t have focus, you’re probably not cut out for remote life. But if you are, it’s a great feeling proving that you can be trusted to get shit done without the micro-management of an office. A reward for being dependable. No more bathroom lines. An extra hour of sleep. Easier to incorporate a gym session on my lunch break. Saving money on transportation expenses, and from what I’m seeing in Internet news, MTA’s delays are only growing worse anyway.

As the end of my first remote year draws to a close, I’ve come to thoroughly enjoy and appreciate the benefit. And I plan to toddle my way into remote maturity while the world slowly improves their maturity in remote beliefs.

There’s a book about this. It’s called Remote: Office Not Required. It was our homework before the transition. And it’s a pretty good read. 🙂

~Tael

The IMPerfect Guide (Or FAQ)

I remember the very first video game guide I ever set eyes on. It was the Perfect Guide for Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time. And it was beautiful. I carried this book with me everywhere, delighted by the whimsical, high-quality images and the nerdy-yet-awesome writing style. It was riddled with jokes that even I could pick up on at that age, snarky at times, other times conveying an array of emotions from shock to disgust to adoration at the game’s moments. I felt like I was carrying around my friends in this glossy magazine.

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I wore it down to tattered pages, the spine dislocated, the creases permanent. Because I’d studied the guide so much, I could probably still do an Ocarina of Time run-through with 100% completion off-top.

But once you start, 100% completion haunts you.

While Zelda isn’t technically an RPG, it has mucho similar elements. RPGs have always been vast worlds that maybe started out with a 20-25 hour running time, and can now amass over a whopping 100-hours of gameplay when you factor in sidequests, unlockable bosses, highest weapon attained, etc… No complaints here. But somewhere along the way these clever additions became cruel tricks. Missable sidequests if you don’t talk to this specific person in this one town directly after an event happens. Ridiculous formulas that involve gathering/fighting/completing tasks in a maze-like way to open a secret path.zoot3d-link-and-fairy-bow Bosses that can’t be beaten unless you’ve mastered a certain skill paired with a specific type of armor with a 7% reflective rate, so you just hope you’re in the lucky 7% (which you wouldn’t have figured out without seeking help online). That Shuttle Crash site battle with the suicide android in Tales of Graces? THAT WAS MEAN. The Land of Canaan in Tales of Xillia 2? The most sadistic dungeon I have ever countered. So much so that it makes the infamous water temples in Zelda look like wading pools. And let’s face it, the raising and lowering of the water temples in Ocarina of Time was a difficulty beyond its time. Would anyone nowadays have the patience and focus to figure that out with no outside assistance? (I’m familiar with the younger generation and based on their social media trends, I HIGHLY doubt it).

Thankfully, accessing a guide, or FAQ, when things get rough is only a Google click away from your fingertips. Stuck on a boss? FAQ it. Can’t find the next town? Look it up. That final mushroom needed to make that healing nectar for the sick boy in the forest town eluding you? Search it. The convenience in these answers is a gift, but the curse lies in the necessity to look it up anyway to progress.

After I fell in love with the perfect guide, before I’d start an RPG, I’d have the FAQ bookmarked and ready. I’d consult it before every move I made. I beat Tales of Symphonia easily enough on my own, but when I discovered the guide later I realized I missed out on SO MUCH SHIT. And I’m one who knows to explore every path, click every crevice and talk to every person in town. Somehow I’d still missed out on a good 30-40% of the game! Who could have known how to meet Abyssion on their own? I don’t believe you. And let’s face it; Majora’s Mask was in no way completable without the use of a guide. The Kafei sidequest? Yeah the fuck right. The game was an ingenious concept, but it was TOO SMART. The difficulty level certainly landed it on many’s Most Hated Zelda Games lists. And Skies of Arcadia…while the main story was achievable enough on your own, find me someone who actually discovered the Wanderbirds on their own (unless it was by pure, dumb-luck accident). These development choices almost had me entirely dependent on FAQs.

Almost.

One day I realized I wasn’t having as much fun consulting a guide for every move and double-checking every step I took to make sure I didn’t miss anything. If 100% completion was going to drive me to madness, then maybe it wasn’t worth it. I couldn’t let a goal like that ruin the lighthearted reason why I play in the first place.Link&amp;Epona

Have I abandoned FAQs completely? Absolutely not. But they’re not the same friends I carried around in my backpack so long ago, reading and re-reading with joy. Most of them are clones of one another. The writing doesn’t pulse with a vibrant personality. Unless it’s a leader like IGN, it probably wasn’t done by someone with writing skill, meant to entertain and feel like you’re conversing with them.

I reverted to playing to the best of my ability, scrounging in every corner, busting into everybody’s house and talking to every single person. And if I get too stuck, like I’ve-struggled-for-hours-and-I’m-at-my-wit’s-end stuck, I look it up. But I try not to do it often because I love the sense of accomplishment I feel at finally figuring out what I was struggling with, using my own brain and not the Internet’s. I consulted an FAQ for Twilight Princess just once, and felt supremely proud of myself. Since Symphonia 2, I’ve traversed through subsequent Tales games without an online “map,” back to old-school roots. Like when there weren’t save points. And when you were stuck on something, you could only find out the solution by pouring in hours of puzzle-solving, or getting lucky by knowing a friend of a friend, (or cousin) who knew the answer. If they say there’s two kinds of players, there’s gotta be a happy medium between them. Where you can hunt and gather, but also have fun doing it.

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The latest thing is 100% IV in Pokemon GO. I don’t use an external IV app for the very same reason. Landing a 100% IV Pokemon is 100% luck. You have 0 control over it. I’d rather play a game I love and be happy with whatever I do accomplish, than stress myself out trying to attain something I have absolutely no control over. If it’s meant to come, then it will.

100% completion is to achieve perfection. I no longer beat myself up over not achieving perfection. And I think I’m better off for it.

~Tael