Monthly Archives: August 2014

[Write On] The Community Service Challenge

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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock that’s under a rock, your social media – and news – feeds have been bombarded and taken over by the ‘ALS Ice Bucket Challenge‘.  The basic premise of the challenge goes like this: once dared, you have 24 hours (some give you 48) to either donate money to the cause, or create a video where by some means or another a bucket of ‘ice water’ gets dumped on your head; then you pass it along.  I’ve had all sorts of feelings about the challenge – from cheering on celebrities to laughing at failed attempts, to wondering “Why ALS?” to an honest  “Why?” in general.  Until I was dared by a friend to take part of the challenge last week, I decided to bite my lip, hold my tongue and watch how it all played out…but now that I’ve done, and donated, I feel like I have a leg to stand on as far as my opinion is concerned. But, before I get into it – let’s back up a bit.

ALS (Amyotrophic  lateral sclerosis) is a terrible Neurodegenerative Disease that slowly breaks down nerve cells, preventing signals from being sent to muscles – eventually, causing muscle and neurological degeneration while hardening the spinal cord.   Here’s a few more basic statistics about ALS while we’re at it

No one can sit here and deny the success or merits of the campaign – in fact, it’s genius: let’s crowdsource for a cause. When the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’ was first created, it wasn’t a charity specific phenomenon – it was for all charities (something I think we could all get behind if that was the message), and the message was loud and clear – let’s raise our social awareness, promote viral education, and fund the necessary research.  But now, here we are – California’s in the midst of it’s largest drought ever, there are 800 Million people throughout the world that have no access to clean water, Ferguson has become a civil rights nightmare, don’t get me started on the Middle East and ISIS…and we’re standing around, arguing the merits of  dumping buckets of ice on our heads. Think about the message we’re sending – and what’s being received on the other end;  through a game of proverbial telephone played out via viral videos – the actual dialogue or message about ALS and altruism alike have been lost – all that remains seems to be the ego.

As far as ALS is concerned – the Ice Bucket Challenge has become an international sensation; within a week, $10 Million in donations quickly catapulted to the almost $90 Million they had as of this morning.  Judging by the exponential growth of the cause, it could very well break into the $100 Million mark by the end of this week, if not sooner. To boot, thousands upon thousands of people who would’ve never known what the acronym stood are spreading the word, educating themselves and acting in step with a great ca have their social circles fighting together for a great cause. So now, you might be thinking: it’s bringing people together, it’s getting the word out there.  But, some of the videos as of late have completely forgotten that there even was a cause beyond their own momentary internet popularity.

Then take a step back, and let’s rebrand it as a ‘Charity Challenge’: you pick your charity, you let your peers pick theirs – and the community service aspect truly can make it’s way back to the community.  At any time, any of the people participating in the ALS-IBC could’ve picked a different charity for their contribution – I did; I also donated to ALS.  Charity is a veritical on the branch of Altruism – the belief or practice of selfless concern for the well-being of others. When you’re concerned for the well-being of others, there isn’t an incentive attached – or, a bucket full of ice water, or 15 minutes of viral fame.  No one should necessitate attention or praise to do something as simple as writing a check, especially for those that’ve already reached celebrity status.  One thing that I understand, when you’re a star – actions speak louder than words, and viral videos – doubly so.  But when the message is take the bucket, or donate – I’m begging for a byline that reads: I did both!  

I’m not touting, doubting or shaming the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge – in fact, I hope that all other charities can find a similar model to follow (…that doesn’t destroy resources.)  Regardless of how everyone feels about it, we’re all sitting around – talking about it; and that’s the point, right? I’m more aware than I was before I got this dare; I hope you all are now, too.  I’m also aware of a vast redistribution of wealth that has to take place in this country so that certain diseases, disorders and charities can continue doing the good work they’ve set out to do – and that reaches far beyond ALS.  Athletes, movie stars, singers, writers and the other media mavens out there have something precious that the rest of us don’t – a voice; with great power comes great responsibility and I hope more start using it to raise their voice for awareness.

Lots of people are doing it wrong:

And these guysare doing it right:

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Charlie Sheen’s Ice Bucket Challenge

Matt Damon has a different take on the ‘Ice Bucket Challenge’

If you can’t tell by now – no, I didn’t make a video; and even if I did, beyond my cats I don’t have anything to show.  There’s no ice, no bucket, no water – instead, I donated – and wanted to impart some wisdom that I took away.  Instead of spending our mental energy making a video – or bashing a good cause – we could be converting this potential energy that we all have into something active, kinetic and helpful around our neighborhoods.

Do what you can, with what you have, for the people you care about –  whether it’s family, friends, your community…or all of the above.  Donate to your favorite cause, protest against a bad one, volunteer at a homeless shelter, read to kids at the local library, hang out at animal shelters to walk the dogs and hang out in the cat rooms, find a charity that your work gives back to, or run a marathon for charity.  Don’t be afraid to be proud of your work, but make sure you do it because you care, because you want the world to be healed and whole, and most of all – because you can.

If you’re still looking for places to donate – here are a few links:

Donate Water

World Wildlife Fund (WWF)

American Red Cross

ALS

American Society of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)

Legalizing Psychedelic Therapy

 


 

And not that it matters, but here’s where I donated.

 

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[Weekly Dose of Wisdom]

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Life’s been so hectic lately that fortunately, or unfortunately – depending on your frame of reference, I’ve had way too many other preoccupations or priorities that I’ve placed before this. Between my “real” job at Walt Disney Studios that allows me to pursue my passion for music at The DJ List, my cats and now my fiancé – I’ve barely had time for any of my hobbies lately, from reading to beading, making pickles and infusing olive oils – everything’s been a little put on hold but I’m slowly getting back into the grove of things. Starting with some sprinklings of knowledge fresh for the new week; xo!

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[The Audiofiles] Shambhala ’14: Welcome to the FARM-ily

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My story of Shambhala is two-fold, so bear with me; I get all romantic for a beautiful story and I’d love to unravel this one for you.


My bags were filled to the brim with neon, sparkles and what some of my friends would simply deem “hippie-shit“, our car was overflowing with camping gear ranging from coolers to tents down to folding chairs and for the second time in three weeks, I was standing in my living room, staring at our four cats and debating between Spirit Hoods for the weekend.  Set plush against part of the Salmo River,  Shambhala Music Festival stands as a centerpiece of Canada’s blossoming, and bassheavy, EDM culture.  For the past 17 years, they’ve hosted international stars and fan favorites like Bassnectar, Excision, Danny Byrd, Mark Farina, Justin Martin, Datsik, Ill.Gates and Griz – just to name a small handful of this weekend’s talent.  After all I’ve heard about the weekend, I was beyond honored when The Confluence reached out to me about covering the festival- and doubly ecstatic that my hat trick of a human (best friend, photographer and boyfriend) could join me for this journey.

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For anyone that knows either one of us, it shouldn’t be any surprise that when we collaborate our creative talents catalyze each other – so whether it’s in every day life, or at a concert or festival, we’re attuned to making amazing happen together.  It’s a phenomenon started with our friendship years ago and you could basically say that both of our lives revolve around our unabashed love of music.  We met after the last EDC in Los Angeles in 2010 when my housemates and I had a rockin’ afterparty for a few of our college friends; after a few years of casually kicking it – we finally got to know each other, and friendship blossomed while we were both in other relationships.  At the time, I was rekindling a relationship with my ex who had just been diagnosed with BiPolar 1, and he was leaving a relationship where his ex had OCD.  It takes a strong person to be in a relationship like we were, and having a shoulder to lean on when I felt down was one of the best platonic feelings of understanding I’d ever had. Which got me to thinking: the most wonderful romantic relationships are born within the idea of true friendship; there’s a special kind of relationship that’s cultivated when you’re finally discovering how to  love yourself.  Life drifted us apart over time, but as 2013 came around we were back in each others lives.

As I danced in the New Year in 2013, I got a text from him – in typical Danny fashion – boasting “Make this year amazing!”. Out of a friendship, a bold new romantic relationship was forming – but finally, for each of us, it was a relationship that allowed us to be an unabashed version of ourselves instead of tip-toeing around the other person’s mental state.  It was a breath of fresh air, it was beautiful. Almost all of my nights were filled with laughter and adventure, and by the time we went to Lightning in a Bottle last Summer we realized it was more than your average relationship: it was love.  And we professed it at the top of our lungs to anyone and everyone who could hear.

Over the last year, we’ve been each others rocks, our shoulders to lean on, each other’s confidant and best friend; and now, thanks to my work writing for The DJ List – we’re an official team professionally, as well.  Between his amazing eye for beauty and my passion for the pursuit of a good story, we’ve been on the prowl to capture the best and brightest shows and have been blessed with opportunities to cover class acts like Armin van Buuren, The Lucent Dossier Experience, Cosmic Gate, Autograf, Seven Lions, Krewella and Markus Schulz.  Not to mention, some of the hottest festivals on the West Coast like Sea of Dreams, Lightning in a Bottle, Global Dance Festival: Red Rocks; and now, last but most definitely not least, Shambhala Music Festival.


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Lights are strung up like stars in the sky, and totems dance to the sorted beats of the Living Room and AMPhitheater stages; it’s Thursday at Shambhala and the “Official” festival is just getting underway. But between the smiling faces skipping between us, glistening with face paint and drunk on laughter –  you’d think the party had been going on for days; and if so, you’d be right.

This marked our first international festival but in no way did we feel like outsiders; from the moment we drove down their gravel road, it simply felt like coming home. After parking, we embarked on an epic mission to find a friend from Los Angeles – a mission that endured two days and two nights, and was just as good as his company.  Locals gave us  priceless looks when we told them how far we’d come to explore their world – and I feel beyond honored that they were more than willing to share their stories.  From our neighbors at our campsite to the staff at the Production Office, the Lightning Design Team behind the unparalleled Pagoda Stage and the entertaining side conversations in the food court – everywhere we turned, there were new friends to make and laughs to share.

Shambha-LOVE

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They say that Shambhala is powered by Shambha-Love; and after a weekend like that, I wholeheartedly believe it. What started as a small gathering of 500 friends on the Ranch 17 years ago has manifested itself into a week long extravaganza of costumes, creativity and camping with 11,000 of your closest, new friends.  FinalfirstIMG_4288djlistDJLeistSince it’s inception, festival go-er’s have been so encapsulated by the environment that they’ve camped out for days to get a prime camping spot; seeing as though camping on the highway can be somewhat unfavorable, Shambhala started opening their gates early to let attendee’s set up shop, familiarize themselves with the grounds and relax a bit before the real party started. Artists that frequent the festival donate their time to the event in volunteer shifts and Almost all of the staff at Shambhala has been attending the festival for years.   For the assorted virgin volunteers – they simply couldn’t think of a better first time at the Ranch.

Shambhala is unique on several fronts – and set excellent standards for other festivals to follow.  First and foremost, because the event is held on private land almost all of the stages are permanent fixtures maintained year round by private crews, little branches on the larger festival family tree. Each one is catapulted into a unique visual and auditory experience that you just can’t find anywhere else.  Between the rich forests, babbling river and epic stages – I couldn’t have been happier with my surroundings. Secondly, there’s no corporate sponsorship. From the artisan market to the food court and even the PK Sound Systems that serenaded the stages, Shambs is full of local vendors rocking to the beat who have nothing but love for the event. And third –  it’s a dry event that boasts harm reduction services.  In a world where there are hospitalizations left and right at music festivals, the one headline that you’re not hearing from Shambhala: 11,000 Festival Attendants Party Safe in the Forest for 5 Days.  When you combine hours of dancing with blistering heat, you’re already paving the way for dehydration and heat stroke; add alcohol, and the results can be deadly.  Remove it, and the end result is a glorious microcosm of the world that embraces the unique, the weird, the enlightened, the costumed, the naked, the artists and the beauty of our humanity.

Musical Highlights: Don’t Hate The 808

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From Old School House Grooves in the AMPhitheater, boisterous Drum and Bass at the Village,  EOTO’s live jam sesh, a hodgepodge of lasers and visual eye candy in the Fractal Forest and a farm-ily gathering during Bassnectar’s set on the Pagoda Stage – you wouldn’t have been able to tell who was headlining the stages, or the individual nights, or even the festival itself.  Each artist is given a time to shine, and they more than inspire the crowd to let their freak flags fly.  Day Onesie, Caturday – you name it, there were costumes for it and it was wonderful watching each and every person them embrace the weird within. From Thursday through Monday morning, the stages were oozing with talent, as boisterous basslines and salacious symphonies bounced through the trees.  Regardless of where you ended up, there was phenomenal music coming concurrently from all six stages – our only regret is that we couldn’t clone ourselves and be at every single one.  Now, like parents “don’t have favorites” – I have a hard time picking a favorite stage; I love The Village, Fractal Forest, The Pagoda and The Living Room all for different reasons.  The Village is where you can get down and dirty with your bad self to some bass heavy beats, and the Fractal Forest can mesmerize you for days; I love the layout of The Living Room, nestled next to the river bank and the unreal visual experience of the Pagoda stage will simply leave you wanting more.

As the Friday sun came up, the first official day of the festival was underway and attendees were getting down with their bad selves to sounds ranging from SaQi, Marty Carter and the local flavor of the BC Dubcats. As the sun went down,  we sauntered back to the car swept up in the magic of the festival; half to change and half to purely enjoy each others company.  Like two peas in a pod, we climbed into the front seat of my Subaru and laughed at our adventures from the day.  As the moon manifested over the campgrounds and we marinated in the days moments, Danny sat straight up and looked at me with equal parts passion and optimism; looked me eagerly in the eyes and asked me for an answer that love had given me all along. “Will you marry me?” – and of course, I said yes; over, and over, and over again.  No ring, no pomp and circumstance – just us, wanting that moment forever.

As we bounded our way back through the festival hand in hand and heart in heart, we were absolutely enthralled by EOTO’s set at The Village. Formed by two members of The String Cheese Incident, EOTO’s known for live musical improv without pre-recoreded loops. We caught a smidgen of their dubstep inspiration – Skream – killin’ it on the main stage as we galavanted over to Lindsay Lowend at the AMPhitheater for a few minutes and were back off to The Village for Subvert.  I’d never heard of him until that night but I’ve been hooked on his delicious drum and bass sounds ever since; hat’s more is that he’s the founder of PK Soundsystems, so instead of just DJing – he threw an epic party for the PK crew to everyone’s delight and The Village was the perfect place to host it. Boasting two levels of dance floors that wrap around the stage, The Village’s roster was the place to be for dirty basslines all weekend long.

Surrounded by blacklights, el wire, floating shapes from video games and an eclectic assortment of geometric patterns and lasers, I had my first Griz experience and now I know why he was the few acts, aside from some local favorites and A Tribe Called Red, to be booked twice at the festival.  Performing in the tree house of the Fractal Forest could only be described as unreal, and something only the DJs from LIB’s Woogie Stage might be able to understand.  Now, Moby; for his assorted talks on Music as Therapy at both LIB and Shambhala, I was expecting something a little more….progressive or emotive from him; instead, he took to the main stage to essentially thump bass and draw out the ravers from other stages.  I dig on his music and would love him to come back next year to really perform for the crowd; a little bit of practice what you preach goes a long way in this world.

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As we searched for our way back to The Village for Danny Byrd we made a pivotal friendship that forever changed our weekend.  Tens of people had walked past, but it took a special personality – donning a furry penguin hat – that caught our attention.  After exchanging festival pleasantries, he was just about to point out which direction to turn – only to realize that he’d lost his entire friend group.  In surround sound, we both exclaimed “We’re your friends now!” and gleefully headed down the darkened pathway to the best Drum and Bass set I’ve ever heard.  Danny Byrd has been a personal favorite of mine for the last five years with albums like Rave Digger and remixes to Zarif’s ‘California’, so when I found out he was playing this weekend I had a fangirl moment or five.  Each and every moment of his set was D&B perfection, and they were all his original tracks or mixes.

Dancing my cares away, our new friend Bruce beckoned me over.  “I’m a carpenter…” he explained, reaching into his pockets “..and my gift this year was wooden rings; I only have one left and want you guys to have it.  I hope it fits.”  Eagerly, I tried it on each of my digits; as the wooden ring settled onto my wedding finger, it felt like all the chaos and calamity in the world had manifested itself into the perfect storm.  Danny and I exchanged ecstatic glances as we held onto each other, and after slipping the ring off my finger one more time – he dropped to one knee, and in front of my favorite set of the entire weekend – proposed to me again. Needless to say, this was a night – and weekend – for the books.

The next morning, we woke with ease and excitement – in our eyes, today was the big day; today, we’d be getting our dose of Bassnectar that we’d been waiting oh so long for.  The day started off nice and easy, with a stellar Hip Hop showcase at The Village with Amp Live, Eligh, Scott Jackson, Sweatshop Union and my personal favorite, Zion I.  As the days shenanigans got underway, fans were treated to sets from Breakfluid and The Human Experience; and then, the bass got turned way up.  By the time Subvert took the reigns at The Village, I knew my love for that stage was real. I’d never heard of him until that night but I’ve been hooked on his delicious drum and bass sounds ever since; what’s more is that he’s the founder of PK Soundsystems, so instead of just DJing – he threw an epic party for the PK crew to everyone’s delight and The Village was the perfect place to host it.  I’ve been told on multiple occasions that he’s one of a handful of artists – like Bassnectar, Griz, Paper Diamond and EOTO, that you should experience live for the first time; so until this weekend, I hadn’t heard anything he’s created and now – I want it all. If it wasn’t for Bassnectar and Beats Antique on the Pagoda stage, we could’ve stayed at The Village for the rest of the night.

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The man, the myth, the hair – there’s no mistaking when you’ve caught a Bassnectar set.  Somewhere between the crowd that’s overflowing just to catch a glimpse of his signature hair flip and the hundreds of people effectively lost within his music, Bassnectar cultivates more than just a musical following; it’s a full fledged musical experience that rattles your entire body and rightfully so since they even brought in more subs just for his set.  I’ve been playing his new album Noise vs Beauty on repeat, but nothing can compare to hearing them on the PK Soundsystem at the Pagoda Stage; between the amazing live visuals and the state of the art projection mapping, the Pagoda Stage crafted an experience unlike any show I’ve ever been to.

I couldn’t imagine having to follow up a Bassnectar set, but What So Not –  did it – and they did it big, pulling out all the stops and fresh remixes of fan favorites like ‘Jaguar Trap’ and ‘High You Are.’ Now,  considering Flume was booked three times in Los Angeles over the weekend, it didn’t come as much of a shock to me that Emoh Instead rocked the Pagoda Stage solo.  Maybe the joke’s in the name and we’re all missing out – I’ve seen What So Not twice, and it was definitely so not what I was expecting.  So, call a spade a spade; it was an Emoh Instead DJ set, and it was absolutely phenomenal! He was up there doing his thing – all by his lonesome, so give the man credit where credit is due and don’t dupe your fanbase.  For transperancy’s sake, and the fans.

We made it back to The Village just in time to catch my first Paper Diamond set and now that I’ve seen him go back to back with Datsik, I feel slightly spoiled! I’d never seen either one so to see them in a setting like Shambhala where both artists feel so honored to be there, felt like a real blessing.  After watching the Pagoda illuminate with lasers, we rushed back to catch an epic set from The M Machine and were pleasantly surprised at the high energy set from the Oscar Wylde, the awesome stage manager for the Pagoda, right before.  To end the evening, we roamed around The AMPhitheater to catch some Mark Farina and ended up by The Living Room for Golden Lips of Silence.

Unfortunately, we had to start our caravan back to California early the next day so we had to live vicariously through social media for Sunday’s sets, but it sounds like Odesza, Andy C and Gorgon City held down the fort on Day 3, bringing the 17th annual Shambhala Music Festival to a magical finale on the farm

As with most transformational festivals, the best part of Shambhala for me was the creative community behind it all.  Friends, who moved away from home, come back every summer and truly treat the event as a family reunion.  As with any family, there will always be some dysfunction – but the 11,000+ attendees of Shambhala put the fun in dysfunction. Their message board on Facebook is one of the most active that I’ve seen, and it’s overflowing with equal amounts Shambhalove and nostalgia as it is suggestions for next year.  The amount of litter and trash left behind as the weekend ended was unprecedented according to past attendants; though it was cleaned up by the next weekend, it defintiely left a sour taste in the mouth.  Seeing as though there were ample trash cans to toss things away, adopting the Burning Man mantra of ‘Leave No Trace’ or Lightning in a Bottle’s ‘Pack in; pack out’ mentality, or even something as simple as separate – and labeled – bins for trash, compost and recycling would be beneficial to the camp grounds.

Shamble On: Until Next Year

Now that we’re back across the Canadian border in the comfort of our own beds, reminiscing about Shambhala almost seems second nature to me.  Between the sweeping hills, foliage rich forests and permanent stages boasting PK Soundsystems, Salmo River Ranch has cemented itself as my favorite festival venue, and the Canadian people – beyond being welcome, gregarious and all too friendly – were a hoot to party with and even better to talk to.  For all the friends we made in Canada, we surely hope we can return the favor in some way.

In the wake of such an excellent event, it’s only right that Shambhala starts gearing up for next year’s extravaganza! The festival will be returning to Salmo River Ranch for their 18th year running, and the festival will be held August 5-10, 2015; tickets go on sale November 1st and we can’t wait to have our Farm-ily Reunion. Keep your eyes and ears on The DJ List as well roll out our Facebook album and start getting you pumped for next year.

[Write On] Writing Is My Therapy, What’s Yours?

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Coming off of a whirlwind weekend through the Pacific North West – the last thing that I wanted to do was come home and get all ‘serious’, because I’m in a whimsical mood where I want to flirt with the world and uncover it’s beauty; there’s so much wonder in the world that I’ve uncovered through wanderlust – but I can’t quite into that yet, because there are much more pressing issues at hand.

Growing up, a menagerie of professions floated through my always meandering mind then out through  my fingertips like grains of sand in an hourglass.  Doctor, Firefighter, Astronaut, Model, Engineer, Scientist…the one constant, was that each and every phase was documented in the tattered pages of journals.  These journals fill my closets and overflow dressers, oozing with emotion and filled to the brim with equal parts adventure and awe, delight and despair.   They’re  momentary physical manifestations of my deepest darkest secrets and unexplained feelings that have transformed into coherent thoughts, phrases and paragraphs.  My journals are wishes on stars and inside jokes with myself, thoughts catapulted into tangible words; my catharsis, my hopes, my fears, my therapy. 

Now, there – I said it – the dreaded T word that ironically, we’re unwilling to talk about.

And isn’t that the problem: that we don’t want to talk about therapy.  

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Therapy comes from the Greek word ‘Therapeuein’ and has slowly manifested from medical treatment to something with healing powers; but for me, I like to think of it a little differently. Therapy is what wakes you up in the morning, it’s what makes you come alive, what makes you passionate, what makes you an unapologetic version of yourself ready to tackle each day with vigor and vengeance.  And when you put it that way, therapy is something that we all could use, really.

From a young age, I always felt…well, off.  There wasn’t much of a way to describe it other than I felt different, and was unsure how to quantify the notion. It could have been growing up biracial in a community that lacked any semblance of diversity, or the separation of my parents at age three, or my maligned impression of my own beauty – but somewhere along the way to adolescence, like most all of us, I got lost in the cobwebs in my head and I stayed there….for a while. The sun could be shining, and all was right with the world – but I misplace one little item and I become my own worst enemy, fail a test and the world feels like it’s falling out from under your feet, and most of all, I was afraid of the thoughts that might creep in.

My parents and teachers did as much, if not more, than what they would be expected to do but after a while the job was handed over to professionals.  I refused to put together their pedantic puzzles and instead asked why I couldn’t just talk. Over and over, I heard: We can talk after you draw-paint-x-y-z; but, I didn’t want any of that – I wanted to talk, I wanted to figure out the what’s and why’s for myself. Then, collectively – they suggested writing; so, I wrote.  

Call it what you want – chicken scratch on scrap paper, pages of adolescent poetry, the notes of a novice journalist; but writing soothed my soul.  I could direct all of my energy, regardless of intent, towards a piece of paper and within moments would reach mental clarity. In reality, what I was really doing was creating, jumping on board an eternal pursuit of passion and uncovering that je ne sais q’uoi that we’re all in search of. For the next person, their therapy could very well be painting, or drawing, or beading, or yoga – or running, walking neighborhood dogs, photography, dancing, crafting or music.  But for me, it was writing.

My paper journals were filled too quickly, and besides – I hated  my handwriting.  Growing up in the 90’s meant that there were multitudes of media at my disposal so when I got fed up with keeping physical journals, I turned to the internet. And let me just say right now, the internet might be a black hole for any and all forms of current productivity – but it’s my savior. Even if you feel distant from your physical support system, there’s someone halfway across the world that understands exactly what you’re going through because they’ve just gone through it.

Online there were so many resources that originally, I was beside myself…but I started a Live Journal, and by my Sophomore year of high school added Dead Journal and an onslaught of Xanga’s to the mix.  My junior year of college, I transferred to Tumblr, and within the last two years I’ve found homes on Blogspot and now – WordPress.  The beauty of an online writing culture is beyond the scope of my breath, so let this entire post be a testament to it: from my heart to my head, and then fingertips on plastic -being part of this greater community where we support, stand for and sing each other’s praises has emboldened me to pursue a career I never thought possible.  And because of that, my voice is heard; and because of this, I have to speak up. 

As I grew up, both in the real world around me as well as online – I made friends in chat rooms that I still keep in touch with, and we bonded over being able to discretely spill our souls and be an 110% unabashed, unapologetic version of ourselves. Personally, I had family, friends, neighbors and teachers alike – a solid group of mentors and peers that I could turn to, but my pride got  in the way and the ego is tricky to maneuver.

That’s when the ideas of thinking versus knowing come into play, and so very strongly:

Instead of thinking that the world can pull you out of that hole you’ve been digging,

it feels like they’re going to point, laugh and leave you to your own disillusioned devices.

Mental Health Awareness is about more than just assigning mental conditions to definitions and sending patients home with a goodie bag.  We’re so willing to throw prescriptions at the problem, prescriptions that have been shown statistically to do more harm than good, yet we’re still not willing to treat the real issue at hand.  Putting a band-aid on a festering wound without cleaning it properly can keep a disease in your body, just the same way that adding layers of psychoactive cocktails to your mental state without proper discussion can perpetuate a psychotic episode.

How many people that you know have a physical health condition – do you have a friend with asthma, know a distant relative with MS or Parkinson’s Disease, have a parent with high cholesterol, cancer or a bad heart? I think it’s safe to say that each and every person on this planet knows someone at a personal level who falls into at least category for a physical or bodily ailment, so why – why – why aren’t brain injuries, impairments or diseases held in the same light?  From a young age, we’re scholastically – then medically – required to have physical checkups every year, why aren’t there annual mental health checkups?  When we’re physically injured, doctors prescribe ‘Physical Therapy’ – so why is going into ‘Mental Therapy’ something so frowned upon? We’re given days off of school and work due to physical injury or ailment, so why is it so poorly looked upon to take a “mental health” day?

 It’s all in the stigma and as a society, we need to get rid of it.

It’s the same way that beautiful girl next to you on the bus thinks that her size –whatever- pants make her look like an elephant, or that her face belongs in a paper bag when it’s goddamn naturally beautiful; I know this happens, because I’ve been that girl. It’s the guy at the gym bench pressing 300 think’s he’s a weakling, the straight A student who fumbled on a question that thinks they’re an idiot, the artist who’s been stuck for on a project for three weeks to no avail.

We get so wrapped up in our quests for greatness that I think we often forget that we’re human.  Humble yourself.  Remember that we’re on a giant rock smashing through space at atrocious speeds; things are bound to get chaotic every now and again for all of us.  You’re not alone.  

Therapy comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds and species – I volunteer at cat shelters because it feels good to give back to a species that’s given so much to me, I write  because it calms my nerves and assuages my anxieties, I reach out to acquaintances because I feel better for being part of a community than I do when I’m alone, I talk to strangers because if we talk to strangers they’re now our friends, I smile into the sunlight and dance in the rain because I can and it’s wonderful.

Take a walk around the block and smell every beautiful flower, call your parents because they used to be you, leave post-it’s with happy faces around your office, skip to work, draw, create, craft,take a stand, take a Mental Health Day, call your best friend just to talk because you know that’s exactly what they’re for, start a blog, start a book, start a revolution – there are people waiting for your voice to come alive

Writing is my therapy – what’s yours?

How do you make the world come alive for yourself and those around you?