Define Your Niche. Find Your Tribe.

Although I’ve been blogging, off and on, for almost 3 years, what I’m actually doing, le blogging, is still very much a mystery to me. I blog on two platforms: Tumblr and WordPress. What I do on Tumblr would be more like incoherent screaming and farting. The occasionally crying — AT LEAST a crying emoji. Whilst, what I do here, on my shiny, oh-so-pretty WordPress, with my bold fonts and HD stock photos, is somewhat better. At least good enough for me to claim it as my writing portfolio. Honestly, I hardly think it’s even good enough for that. Seriously. Guys. Look at this post. It’s practically incoherent screaming and farting already! Minus the crying emoji!

Among all the farts and screams and crying emojis, if there’s one, er, two thing(s) I’ve learned, it’s that you’ve got to:

Define Your Niche

I know — kind of hard when you have no idea what you’re doing, right?

Well, think about it this way — you can write through almost any problem. Including writing itself. The best way to find your niche is to just start writing. At first, you may find yourself blogging about all kinds of different things, but eventually, you’ll discover what topics really interest you.

Write about what is most important and relevant to your life.

Write about what you’re dying to learn more about.

Write what you care about — causes that are close to home.

Write about something you can write a lot about.

Thing is, I can write a lot of political thought stuff. I can write a lot about poverty and homelessness because these are topics that are close to home. It’s my life. And, frankly, that’s the stuff I write best.

Not to mention, they’re also topics I am consistently learning more about. Every time I learn something, well, I want to share it, don’t I?!

Find Your Tribe

It’s pretty clear that surrounding yourself with people who care about you, who share similar goals, is invaluable. Not just within the blogging world, or even the writing world, but just life in general! There is nothing more valuable for personal growth and happiness than finding your people.

Me? I love storytelling.

I love to learn about life, learn about people, and learn about the world around me through storytelling, so, naturally, that is what I gravitate towards when I’m seeking my people, my tribe.

Whether you’re seeking a writing group or a community online, look for those who are writing about similar things and have similar goals.

Most importantly, never be afraid to stray from the path, to do something different, to be you.

Hell, you never know who you might find out there, on the off-skirts of town, doing things a little bit differently, seeking a friend to join along. 

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Why I Choose Minimalism

Many of my values, those in which I live by, make decisions by, have much to do with the concept of minimalism. Minimalism turns us away from mindless excessive consumerism, which I believe is one of the biggest threats against humanity and our future. As we spend money, buy and “collect” stuff, we’ve become so desensitized to the world around us, to such a point that we ignore the social and ecological implications as a result of that consumerism. With you and your iPhone, and me with my Amazon Prime – we both suffer from cognitive dissonance.

In fact, I know quite frankly that Amazon is literally putting their employees in the hospital on a daily basis, especially during the holiday season, yet, here I am, adding more merchandise to my cart. I can’t say no to Prime Now, Prime Pantry, and Amazon Fresh. I want to consume more than I want to advocate against brutality against workers. Apple is failing to protect Chinese factory workers, yet, we stand in line for hours just to get our hands on the new iPhone. And, quite frankly, that is just the very tip of the iceberg.

Excessive consumerism directly contributes to global hunger, poverty, and the destruction of our planet.

For me, it’s more than the ethical implications. I’ve spent more than half of my 20’s living in tiny Manhattan apartments. Then, life threw me a curve-ball, and I became homeless. So, I went from a tiny Manhattan apartment to a tiny room in a homeless shelter. I had to be very selective about what I want to keep in my very small space. It does not take very long for clutter and chaos to collect.

Admittedly, I’ve been disgusted with myself. I have been disgusted by how much stuff I have. Now, when I buy something, I consider where it will go when I’m done with it. What happens when the bottle, container, or plastic bag is empty? What happens to the clothes, books, and DVDs you’ve collected?

Like I mentioned above, it’s no simple task. In New York City, everything is accessible to you. You can find a good price on just about anything. But, just because you can buy something on the cheap, doesn’t mean you should.

Believe me, this is in no way a guilt trip, either. I like stuff! I want stuff! Stuff that makes me happy! Hell, I even want you to have stuff that makes you happy. But, that’s the point, you know — stuff that makes you happy. Stuff you’ll utilize, stuff you’ll wear-out, stuff with use, stuff with purpose. So, yes, if there is something you really want — let yourself have it. Indulge. Why? Because you don’t have to be superman or a saint every second of every day. You’ll be miserable if you try to be.

And, I get it, you know? I want all the stuff I couldn’t have growing up. I know the feeling. When you grow up poor, or “modest”, as my mother likes to call it, having stuff, things you thought you’d never have — is feels good. It ends up being a source of pride. It’s a “come up”. But, we are misunderstanding what is truly means to “come up”.

Instead of investing our money — money we’ve never had before — in stuff that will eventually find itself in our oceans and landfills, that is hurting our neighbors, we should be investing in our experiences. Even more importantly, in our futures, the future of our family, and the future of humanity.

The Future of Marriage

The aroma of freshly chopped garlic lingers in the hallway. As I write this blog post my husband is in the kitchen, chopping away. It’s 10:30pm. He has ground beef browning on the stove, while peaking into the living room every few minutes to watch the Twitch stream on the television. I have Spotify open. With my headphones in, I turn it all the way up. We communicate with long glances and soft smiles. This is fourteen years in — harmony between two living, breathing, vibrating souls.

This is marriage.

In truth, I was never much of a romantic. I didn’t dream of my wedding day, although I did get married in my early 20’s. I didn’t even care much about boyfriends when I met Thomas. I didn’t think about what I wanted in a guy. No gossip with the girls. No spin-the-bottle. None of that.

I remember sitting on the curb, grass-strained knees, watching Thomas attempt the same skateboard trick for the hundredth time. I was scarfing down my second gas station hot dog. Sometimes we’d sit in the library after school, read manga, eat up slow WiFi. Sometimes I’d watch him doodle cartoons of me — a heroine, on a skateboard, with a dramatic up-do.

The seed was planted. The roots already intertwined. This was the beginning of a deep, deep, love for one another.

The ideal qualities of a good relationship, a good partner, has evolved quite a lot over the last few decades. The idea of a happy marriage is certainly not the same as what our grandparents, or even our parents had in mind.

Today, I think, while a partner with a high salary is certainly nice, that isn’t going to fulfill our need for companionship. There is always the possibility of financial insecurity, and in those times, we begin to wish our partner had a bit more emotional intelligence.

Perhaps the qualities I care deeply about reflect the time in which we live in. Emotional intelligence is very important to me. Fluidity and flexibility is very important to me, as well. A man who takes care of his family, financially, is great, but a man who can be that, when needed, and more, is better. A man who can lead is important. A man who can let a woman lead is even more important. A man who can also be a homemaker, who can also care for his children, who is again, flexible and fluid enough to embrace both the feminine and masculine qualities within them both — who can reach for personal growth and self-actualization, and wants the same for his partner — that’s the trick, in my opinion. That’s the special sauce. Beyond that, good person-hood, intelligence, patience, kindness, compassion, just to name a few, are all good qualities to have in a partner.

When I think of the reasons Thomas makes such a great partner, these are the qualities I think of. And, so, I married him. Although I believe these qualities make love worthwhile and a life-changing experience, I am not sure if marriage is going to be the answer to love in the future.

In fact, 40% of Americans think marriage is obsolete as a concept. There is no motivation to marry. Couples no longer need to marry to have children, to pass on their property or to have sex. In one hundred years, marriage may not even exist.

Science and technology will make way for social change, and, instead, force us to evolve past what we consider a traditional marriage and family dynamic.

Consider that, in a few hundred years, more of us will be bisexual, transexual and even more sexually androgonous than ever before. We will judge less on sexual identity and more on how we treat one another.

How we have sex will change. How we have children and grow our families will also change. Sex will be seen not as a threat to the relationship but as a way to maintain the individual’s health and well being […] since shame around it will have decreased. Sex will be integrated into a full, healthy, partnership, in any way the couple agrees to.

Some are freezing their eggs, hoping to put off child bearing. This will continue, with fertility treatment moving into egg donorship and surrogate parenting with less IVF and hormone treatment.

There is always the fear that technology will pull us further away from each other, but I have hope that humans will do the opposite.

We will always choose love. We will always want love. And we will always fight for a better kind of love.

What does marriage mean to you? How do you think the dynamic of a family will change in 10, 50, or even a few hundred years?

Minimalism Makes Sense For Millennials

Millennials has become quite a buzzword over recent years. I’m sure you’ve heard the term thrown around. It is often accompanied by several misjudgments including, (but surely not limited to) entitlement, self-absorption, and laziness. As a millennial (also known as Generation Y), I find this generalization disheartening. My peers are selfless, giving, and hard-working individuals.

These are the same people working long hours for low wages – who work 2-3 jobs just to make ends meet. Some cannot even afford a roof. I have more friends who have been homeless than have not, and that’s a statement of itself. Most of my peers have been or are under-educated, underemployed, or living below the poverty line. Perhaps it’s a direct consequence of the Great Recession of 2008 — the year I, and my graduating class, turned 18 and became adults.

Although I was able to earn my degree, I found myself in debt, underemployed, and living far under the poverty line shortly after graduation. The job market seems to become more and more rigorous each day as the cost of living continued to skyrocket. I found myself clipping coupons and washing clothes in the tub. Even laundry was not in my budget.

I remember being in college and not being able to afford textbooks. Today, I can gladly say that I know how to order international edition textbooks for a 1/10 of the price (now legal in the U.S.) – that’s after digging for a PDF copy online.

Perhaps it started earlier than that — when I accompanied my Grandpa through public trash cans, picking up recyclables to trade in for cash. Because that’s $10.

In truth, it was my economic reality that truly drove me towards a minimalist lifestyle.

Does the principle of minimalism bring me joy? Very much so. Not contributing thoughtlessly towards capitalism does bring me joy. Giving, borrowing, and sharing with peers gives me joy. Supporting ethical and sustainable businesses give me joy. Investing in experiences give me joy. And, I think this is also what gives other Millennials joy.

The worst recession since the Great Depression

We all know the economy is shit. I know. You know. Your Mom knows. How many times has a friend reached out to me, discouraged over the job market and at their wit’s end? Too many to count, honestly. We don’t make enough to live! My best friend, Nicole, lives in Alabama. She is probably experiencing the best case scenario, and even the best case is kind of a let down. Why is that? Well, that’s because we’re still recovering from the worst recession since the Great Depression. 

Mental Illness

Mental illness is incredibly common among Millennials with nearly 20% of them living with clinical depression and 12% with anxiety disorder. The cause? Stress. More specifically, financial stress and economic instability. After experiencing a late-term miscarriage in 2014, then again in 2015, I found myself struggling with depression for several years. Although I was able to obtain the resources and healthcare I needed, many find themselves working for employers that do not provide healthcare and often times end up going uninsured.

Capitalist Opposition

Millennials feel strongly about corporate businesses and their capitalistic nature. They spend a lot less buying cheap and poorly made products from big box companies, and instead, opt-in for local businesses. This leaves many retail businesses in worry as more and more millennials are not invested and severely uninterested in the experience of shopping.

Experience Investment

One of the core principles of minimalism is the investment in experiences instead of possessions. Millenials are also postponing marriage and growing their family in exchange for experiences with travel. They’re also uninterested in settling down (in one spot), which directly affects their interest in home ownership.

 

 

I sympathize strongly with my peers, and at the same time, I praise their positive, selfless and hard-working nature. They’re dangerously smart, incredibly clever, so very loving, and they are paving the way towards our future. They’re engaged in social and political affairs with the largest voter turnout in history. They’re some of my best friends, and I root for them each and every day.

How Should We Be Talking About Sex?

Yesterday, a girlfriend of mine dropped a message in my inbox, “I got tied up today.” In which I applied, “At work or like…literally?” Literally.

I continued by sharing encouraging words for her and her new partner, as well as excitement towards having a healthy (and adventurous!) sexual relationship.

Honestly, I’ve been itching to write a post covering topics in sexual health, however, the taboo factor steered me away. That is, of course, until now 😉

When it comes to talking about sex, we really miss the mark.

We’ve somehow been unable to bridge the gap between my neck, my back and real beneficial conversations about sexual wellness and consent. Although western cultures have acknowledged the act of sex as being a normal and healthy part of life, we’re still far from where we need to be in fostering a healthy understanding of sex.

Where we are: There’s nothing wrong with sex! Just don’t have too much of it! Unless it’s with your husband. As long as your husband isn’t actually a woman in a pants suit…

Where we need to be: I got tied up today.

This post has absolutely nothing to do with tying your girlfriend up to the bed post. I’m not debating what is and is not okay in the bedroom, because, frankly, it’s not really my decision to make. The decision is made by mostly-naked consenting adults.

Communication is key.

Communication is everything. Being able articulate your thoughts and feelings in both a clear and firm way, is really the key to avoiding all sorts of problems — not just in the bedroom. This takes bravery, though. Especially when it comes to the topic of our sexuality. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard a woman express her inability to ask for what she wants in the bedroom. And, it’s going to take a lot of work getting to a point where you feel safe enough to voice those opinions. I think one of the best ways to combat this is to make the topic of sex, the conversation of it, both open and free from judgement, for both men and women.

Don’t forget, it’s also not all about you, either. Communication is also about listening. If you don’t have enough respect or regard for your partner to hear their needs or desires, you probably shouldn’t be having sex with them. Consent is very much reliant on healthy communication.

Unfortunately, not only are we not communicating with our partners, we’re also not communicating the topic of sex in a productive way within our communities. We’re still spreading shame instead of sense. We’re still sharing anti-premarital sex rhetoric instead of hard facts. Which is not only dangerous, but produces ignorance and incompetent.

Technology is changing the sexual landscape.

What we should be debating is not what Adam and Steve are doing in the comfort and privacy of their own homes, but instead, public health.

Believe it or not, STDs are at a record high. Many STIs that we’ve once thought nearly eradicated is no longer so. With the introduction of dating apps, sex is more readily available than ever before. What’s even more frightening is that STDs are spreading more broadly and into populations that weren’t traditionally affected — like babies. A rise in chlamydia means a rise in infertility too. This is bad news.

We may not actually be having more sex.

Public health in the US — which includes operating STD clinics where people can get tested and into treatment — is historically underfunded. So, the STD rate increases across the country may have less to do with how much sex we’re having, and a lot more to do with limited access to sexual health care. With Trump’s proposed public health budget cuts, the problem may get even worse. 

Safer sex is better sex.

And, as it always does, it starts with you. It starts with the conversations you have at home and with your peers. Let’s face it, guilt-free and stress-free sex is better sex. Responsible sex is better sex. It’s better for us, and it’s better for our partners.

I don’t think consent is sexy. I don’t think consent it cool. And, it shouldn’t have to be. It’s the sensible thing to do. It’s the right thing to do. It’s the legal thing to do. It’s the *only* thing to do.

Here’s a few hawt reads to get you started on these conversations and, hopefully, into bed too:

 

 

 

How to Accept Rejection — Or, Better Yet, Learn to Love it.

This sentiment isn’t directed merely at our beloved writers, but also towards all artists, all visionaries, all dreamers. However, we scribblers know that rejection is simply part of the gig. It’s all rejection, folks. Over, and over, and over, again.

We all face rejection. All of us!

But, you know what? That’s okay.  Let me give you two big reasons why:

Rejection pushes us in the right direction.

Last year, and the year before that, I endured the most rejection — more than at any other point in my life. While my husband and I fought tooth and nail for our apartment, for our rights, against a rent overcharge, against a tyrant landlord, against a literal slumlord, we were rejected time and time again. From all angles! Hundreds of times, we were chewed up and spit out. Literally, it became us against the world, because it felt, for the first time, that the entire world was, in fact, against us.

Yet, through this inescapable rejection, a new path formed — a fork in the road on it’s way to save us.

Although that did mean homelessness and everything that comes with it, it also meant a way out of a impossible situation, and finally, towards some kind solution, some kind of light. It meant, finally, we would move towards a place of acceptance, growth, and healing. And, eventually, a new project, Scar Tissue, a new purpose.

Rejection makes us better.

Sometimes, we mistake constructive criticism for rejection, as it often feels a lot like it. And, in a way, it is. Criticism is not acceptance, after all. But, it is still a path towards it.

Learning to love rejection is knowing that rejection will always lead us to something better. Loving rejection is about loving ourselves and loving the work we do — enough to move forward, enough to improve.

We often hear both artists and writers express distaste for the workshop, or the classroom, because of the criticism that will inevitably take place in these spaces. Yet, criticism makes for better artists, better writers.

All artists, all writers, experienced rejection in some form or another. Believe it or not, my writing used to be garbage. Heck, to some, it may still be hot garbage, but it’s certainly better hot garbage than it was five, even ten years ago. And, hell, I’m proud of that.

Furthermore, once you face criticism the first time, it becomes easier. By the time your workshop meets for the last time, you won’t be taking that criticism to heart anymore, but instead, be applying it directly to the page, where it belongs.

Each time you react positively and productively to that criticism, you are not only improving your work, but you’re also that much closer to your future self and your future audience.

What kind of rejection have you faced in your life? How have you turned that rejection into something great?

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Disagree Like a Grown-Up

Disagreeing with someone without invoking the God of Vengeance is no easy task! However, tactful and intelligent disagreement it’s a skill we could all benefit from.

In Technology Sabbat: The Practice of Unplugging, I scribbled quite a bit about the power of the internet, and how this ominous web is simply an extension of ourselves. Consider that, while we surf the web and hang out in the comments section, we’re constantly serving and consuming discourse. Unfortunately, not all of our ideas are particularly useful, beneficial, or even correct.

What’s more important is that, while the internet has become this new medium of communication, when we respond, we often tend to disagree. This does not necessarily mean that the world is getting angrier, or that everyone on the internet is confrontational, but instead, it is safe and quite easy to disagree on the internet. Additionally, let’s keep in mind that people often have a lot more to say when they disagree, while not so much when they’re on board with the author’s words.

Essayist Paul Graham, P.h.D, and author of the article How to Disagree proposed a hierarchy of disagreement, which includes seven levels of disagreement:

0. Name-Calling

Don’t be fooled, an argument that results in insult is no argument at all. Insults, whether crude and repulsive (e.g. “u r a fag!!!!!”), or pretentiously-seeming-intelligent (e.g. “The author is a self-important dilettante”, will not help you be taken seriously. Your stance will automatically lose all credibility.

01. Ad Hominem

The literal Latin translation of this phrase is, “to the person.” An argument that attacks the value of a person, rather than the stance itself, is considered an ad hominem. This is hardly any different than name-calling. In any instance where the discourse being shared is not directly addressed, would not be considered an argument at all.

02. Responding to Tone

Responding to tone would be considered the lowest and least evolved form of disagreement. Although the debate may have moved away from personal attacks, the content of the argument is still not being addressed, and therefore, still, hardly an argument at all! For example, one could point out the attitude of the writer whom formed the opinion. However, does the attitude of the writer really matter? Stick to the material. What matters is whether or not the author is right or wrong.

03. Contradiction

There you go — you’ve offered an opposing case! Although this may be true, unfortunately, you have provided little to no evidence to support your opposition. In any case, it would take actual work to provide an argument beyond a simple contradiction.

04. Counter-Argument

This level of disagreement would finally provide some productive dispute. When we provide a counter-argument, we’re establishing a contradiction while also providing some form of evidence or reasoning. However, more often than not, these contradictions aren’t aimed directly at the central argument. Instead, we end up finding both participants actually arguing two or more completely different points of view. This is very common, especially when we’re passionate about the issue at hand. When the argument is in our hearts, and not in our minds, somehow logic eludes us.

05. Refutation

This is both the most convincing and the most productive form of disagreement. Yet, because it actually requires work on our part, hardly do we ever reach this level of disagreement. Through refutation, we must quote the argument back to the author, then find a hole in that argument, before finally exposing a flaw in their discourse. The key here is to directly address what is quoted.

06. Refuting the Central Point

The most powerful, yet extremely rare form of argument, is refuting the central point. Getting to this level of disagreement is all about figuring out what the opposition’s central point is, and opposing that. A central point is often buried under several issues. Because of this, refuting the central point requires a lot of work, and more often than not, cannot be done within a short conversation.

Through our research efforts, we can change how we engage in disagreement, while also avoiding unproductive lower forms of disagreement that serves no one.

We can find and point out instances involving dishonest discourse, where fake news, gas-lighting, and propaganda are involved.

We can make it so both participants actually feel genuinely good about what was discussed.

Remember, the purpose of any debate should not be to win an argument, but instead, to engage in productive disagreement that benefits both parties. Through disagreement, we can learn numerous opposing views which can make us stronger in debate and more intelligent in life.