Recreating Home

My heart feels full full full, it feels so full.

I am back in Buffalo, NY and I have given more hugs in these past two days than I have in my entire time since leaving it. I’ve had more coffee chats these past two days than I have during my entire two years there. I have missed these people so, so much. And I didn’t even realize it until I found myself back in the All America City (no, not All American, All America).

My question is this – and maybe this isn’t the case for everyone – but why is it that, no matter what, every single time, you never realize how great something is until it’s gone? Buffalo, NY was never the place for me. It was okay, I’d say, maybe a 6 out of 10. And some days it was a 10, some days it was a 2. It really depended on the situation, on my mood. But something that always remained constant is that I knew I wanted to leave. I wanted to go to Europe, I wanted to go to New York City, I wanted to go to literally anywhere else other than Buffalo, NY.

And now, here I am, living in NYC, but longing for what I felt in Buffalo, when I didn’t even realize it. It’s like a warm cup of apple cider on a chilly fall afternoon, filling your entire soul from the top of your head to the tips of your toes, in and out, and all in just one sip.

Even right now, being out of the city, I feel the mark that New York City has imprinted upon me. This morning, when I was on my way to a coffee shop to meet a friend, I cut off an elderly man with a suitcase and a cane, walking right out in front of him. It wasn’t until I was minutes away that I realized that, maybe, I should’ve offered to help.

My time in New York City has been adventurous and flat. It’s been fulfilling in ways, empty in others. And now, I’m back in Buffalo, NY…where everything feels fulfilling…

Yesterday, I hugged one of my friends, one of my favorites from Buffalo, and I wanted to bottle that moment up forever into a little, tiny glass jar. Last night, I was holding hands with another friend across the table, and with just one look, we made each other cry amazing, happy, fulfilled tears. I’m getting emotional thinking about it now.

I suppose my point for the sake of this blog isn’t really a point, but a question. How do we get there? How do we create home? Because I know when I was in Buffalo, figuring out the same exact question, it felt like a never-ending misery. In fact, that’s why I started writing this blog! …to make myself feel better about the state of my life at that not-so-great transitional time.

And now, here I am, in another transitional time, where there is no warm-apple-cider-souls, no lifelong hugs, and no looks-that-make-you-cry friends. Although, I do have to say, I do have a couple really incredible friends in NYC, and they have made things infinitely better.

So, friends, how do you recreate all of these feelings? How do you carry them with you to a new place? How do you recreate home?

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Twentysomething: Young, Bold, and Powerful

Lately, my soul has felt like a flickering flame. I keep blaming it on New York City, but here’s why: New York is an amazing city. But it’s also so completely draining. It’s the weirdest combination of feelings I have ever experienced. On one hand, the chaos of New York City, I feel, is kind of dampening my spirit in so many ways. But on the other hand, there are so many ways to get involved, become active in the world, and represent yourself and your community.

My spirit is a flickering flame. Society views us as “too young,” aka, incompetent. Because we are only twentysomethings, we surely can’t do anything. We have to “climb the ladder,” “work our way up,” “pay our dues.” And because adulting sucks, we are constantly seeing reminders about how people who are rich and famous now had once failed when they were our age. Like that’s supposed to make us feel any better? We get it, not everyone was born to be rich, famous, and successful. But why should our age be a detriment?

I had a conversation with one of my students yesterday. He loves journalism, and is passionate about Muslim-American representation in publications. He was having a hard time finding jobs that combined the two, so I suggested, “Why don’t you just start your own publication?” His eyes bulged out like I had suggested something as ridiculous as ripping off his own arm and making a tuba out of it. His response, “I’m too young.”

So, I’m going to call out some steaming bullshit.

Some of the most powerful changemakers in history were twentysomethings. Or, at least started their careers as twentysomethings that then led them to bigger movements. And while all people can have the passion to fuel change, it really was true when our parents looked at us as children and said, “They are the next generation of leaders.” Well, now we’re here. We are grown. We are the leaders. We need to be. Because otherwise, it’s all old, conservative, white men in power. And especially with this upcoming election, that just can’t be the case anymore.

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the movement to desegregate the public bus systems, he was twenty six years old. Twenty six years old. Two Six. Just to provide some context, I am currently twenty five years old, and I feel like I haven’t done much for the world other than make a few good lattes at Starbucks. Granted, maybe we all can’t be on Dr. King’s level…but at the same time, why not? Why can’t we change the world?

The answer is that we can change the world.

As twentysomethings, we have a unique position in the world because we are the next generation. We are the leaders. We have the power to unite, and always have. Take a look at history, and you will see a consistent theme: most large social/political movements that have advocated for change have all been led by young people. And if not led by young people, the majority of the members have all been young.

Now, it’s important to note – this isn’t to devalue the work of our older friends who advocate and live their lives as activists every day. Their experience, connections, insight is invaluable to younger movements today. However, the intent is to inspire our young people to make positive social change. “Young people,” aka us. The people who think we are too young, not experienced enough, blah blah fill-in-the-blank with any other excuse you may have.

The time is now. We must act now. We have the power to be leaders, and to lead this country, this world, towards positive social change.

Creating the Most Important Foundation: You

Have you ever had someone start a really terrible rumor about you that couldn’t be farther from the truth? And even though it is a complete lie, it still finds a way to dig deep down to your very core and stay there in your mind for weeks and weeks? I know, maybe this sounds more like a middle-school-nightmare blog post, as opposed to a twentysomething experience. But that feeling, I’ve come to find, can still occur in your twentysomethings. And yes, it happened to me this past week. It’s when you think you are doing something great, and someone else thinks you’re doing a not-great job. It’s like coloring with the brightest emerald green crayon, and someone calling it puke green. And unlike a rumor, someone told me directly to my email server that they thought I was doing a puke green job on something.

And as I was journaling about all of this, I realized, I wasn’t upset about the accusation itself. Rather, I was upset because I felt like my personal value system was attacked. I know I am well-spoken and thoughtful in my approach. Those are values that I hold near and dear to my heart. So when someone accuses me of not living a life that aligns with my values, that is what upsets me the most.

BUT.

As I continued on my frenzied typing, punching the keys on the keyboard, I realized something else. I had no basis to be upset, because everyone has a right to their opinion, and my opinion is that I am a person who stands strongly by my values, and lives by them every single day. I know deep down that I live a life of emerald green.

The revelation I had is this: if you have a strong, solid foundation on who you are, other people’s comments will be repelled off of you like water from a rain jacket. But because I feel solid in how I choose to live life with my values, and I’m self-aware enough to know them, I can say, “I hear you, but I don’t agree.” And move on with my life. You see puke green, I shine emerald.

Over the past two or three years, I feel like I’ve done so many value exercises to really solidify my own. But here’s the thing about values – they constantly change. I could do a value exercise every few months and get different answers every time. But for my friends who maybe have never done anything like that before, maybe you could give this a try. Or even if you have done something like this before, you never know what might come of it this time.

  1. Take a look at this list of values
  2. Pick your top 10
  3. Now, pick your top 5

Questions to consider when picking your values:

  1. Are these values that you are currently living in your day-to-day life, or are they values that you want to live in your day-to-day life? 
    • They should be values that you are currently living. The values that you want to choose but know they don’t align can always be considered areas of improvement.
  2. What are the most important aspects of your life?
    • What are the things that you hold near and dear to your heart? Again, these shouldn’t be things you want to be important, but values that you find important currently.
  3. How do you define each one of your values?
    • When looking at the list of values, there are a lot of words that stand out. And a lot of words that may be similar in their definition. But no two are the same – make sure you read and understand the definition of each one.

Values make us who we are. They help us stand strong, even in the face of other people who try to knock you down. Just keep building that values foundation, and keep standing strong.

A Healthy Break

“Michael, I miss your writing!”

Self, I’ve missed my writing.

“Michael, I’ve missed you!”

Self, I’ve missed me, too.

Moving to New York City has been so…I’m not quite sure the words. I’ve described it before as being thrown into a cyclone. It grabs you and hold you down, swirls you around. You love it, you hate it. It’s painful, it’s the best feeling you’ve ever had.

IT’S WEIRD.

And for the past month or so, I haven’t written a single word on this blog. And for that, I apologize. For the first few weeks, life just got in the way. I was busy moving, then unpacking, then working…blah, blah, blah. Excuses. There will always be a reason not to write. But then, I actually started thinking that maybe I didn’t need to blog anymore, because this blog was a way for me to cope with all my twentysomething struggles, and I actually thought that maybe, finally, there were no more twentysomething struggles. Life was great.

HA!

Not writing these past few weeks has only made me realize how many struggles there still are. Like, for example, not writing. Aka, how to ensure time for self-care. How to make time for things you like and care about. How not to forget yourself in the process, although everything else seems to be changing around you.

And then I realized, I was being too hard on myself. There’s nothing wrong with taking a healthy break. A friend of mine I was just talking with has been sick for the past week or so, and was feeling guilty about staying in bed and resting. Nope. Everyone needs a breaks! Literally. But it also works that way, metaphorically.

This move has been so incredibly earth-shaking. Not in a bad way, just in a way that my entire earth, the metaphorical ground I stood on when I first arrived, shook in every which way. New job, new city, new school, new friends, new apartment, new culture. It’s just…all so new. So, in order to get my bearings, I needed a little bit of a break. I needed that metaphorical rest, that break. From what? I’m not sure. It feels like I was taking a break from myself…? But I think I just needed to focus on all the change that was happening in front of me, which unfortunately, meant leaving some things behind. Like writing.

So maybe I’m writing this post to feel better about myself, or maybe because breaks really are a healthy thing. Either way, here are my reasons why everyone should take breaks:

  1. Self-care is self-love
    • A lot of times, people think taking the time you need is considered selfish…that somehow, self-care is self-indulgent. When in fact, it’s creating a space for yourself to love yourself, when maybe you feel like you need it most.
  2. Focus on your priorities 
    • Breaks help to focus your priorities. What’s important to you? What matters to you the most? When I took a break from writing, I knew I missed it. Taking breaks will help you refocus where your goals and priorities are. If you aren’t missing something that much, it’s a sign. Also, it’s okay to focus on other aspects of your life if need be, even if that means neglecting other aspects. As long as you are aware that it’s happening, and have some semblance of a plan to balance everything out again.
  3. Rest and relaxation
    • Some breaks are for no other purpose than to rest and relax. I say this, potentially, because I feel like I desperately need a vacation. But with that said, I don’t have the choice to not come back after a break. I need to work because I need money. But, that doesn’t mean you can’t take small breaks to refuel and recharge yourself.

So, know that it is totally okay to take breaks. However, with that said, it feels amazing to officially declare this writing break as over!