Sensitivity: realization

I always had this issue in life where I would take things too personally. Little comments, remarks, small gestures, they would have such a huge subliminal impact on me to the point where it would bother me for ages. Sometimes I would act on it, albeit overreact and give people the rise they may or may not be wanting, or I would used to shelve it, and it become a massive mess when I would go volcanic. Instead of shelving any pain, I have been just trying to get it out of my system by exercising, and learning not to take things so personally. Rather than seeing anything as a personal attack on me as a person, I just try to understand where they are coming from, what their intentions are, and what I did to affect them to cause such behavior, or if their attitude was just normal to begin with, and I was misinterpreting their actions.

Half the time I get hurt or affected by the behavior of others, it is because something is stressing me out already, such as getting a job, family or friends-related issues, for example. I am already at a vulnerable state at that point, so little things would just get under my skin easily. I would always get so bothered to the point where I would not stop thinking about comments or remarks that irked me, and I would even lose sleep over how angry or annoyed I would get. It was not a pleasant habit, in the slightest. This kind of toxic, grudge-forming behavior is what caused a lot of problems for me in the past. I would burn so many bridges and be outcasted by so many people because I would get so easily hurt and would push other people away so quickly.

Unfortunately, that sensitivity had stages. The second paragraph described stage 1 of my toxically sensitive behavior. The second phase, it would get worse. I would not stop being affected by the fact that I pushed people away. That sort of guilt, it really does eat away at you. I would feel more remorse than you could imagine over hurting people like that, and it quickly turns to self-resentment. And I’m sure I’ve written enough about that to the point where it is guessable where self-resentment would eventually turn to. Like I said, sensitivity to that extreme, it is a vicious cycle that I have been trapped in for two occasions of my life already. At that point in time, I thought that I couldn’t really do anything about it, but that’s not the case. There is a way to break out of the cycle.

Distract yourself from these things by not thinking about them, but rather, focusing on things that you enjoy doing once you cannot do anything more in pursuit of your goals. Do not let the little things and thoughts bother you. Don’t read to deep into things, and try to excavate hidden meanings beyond what is actually there. Some might call it a naive way of living, but I call it building up a wall of indifference so that you have the space and time to grow thicker skin to these kinds of comments and remarks. I genuinely can’t stress enough how important it is to not take things to heart so often. When you do, it opens you up to that vulnerability, and if you are an overtly sensitive person to begin with, it will only end with you taking everything too personally and getting offended quite easily. Learning to relax, let go, and not get offended, that’s what it means to live a featherlight life.

 

romanced: dream

A majority of us are raised in a society where we go to school, get a job, get married, have a family, and then our children continue that cycle. Where I am at currently in my life is post-going to school, but pre-getting a job or I am even further away from getting married; I have very little experience with relationships and romance in general. I only recently had my first relationship, and we agreed that the title was too… intense, and that we would prefer to stay as friends who date exclusively first, as we get to know each other better.

I am embarrassed to admit that I would actually want to be in a relationship. Not for the sake of being in one so that I am not single or to check part of another box off the unspoken to-do list of life, but more for the life experience that comes from it. Even if this relationship does not lead to marriage but rather ends sourly in a break-up, I don’t mind so long as I can learn something more about myself from the experience. Just being a part of the ride is enough to make me happy. To understand what it means to be somebody else’s significant other, while at the same time, being able to see a person as my own, it is important for me. I want to know that somebody out there who can make me feel and act that way exists.

The concept of love and relationships, it’s not something that can be approached logically. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why we as humans are always so fascinated by the idea. No matter what we try to find in somebody else as a mate, sometimes, our hearts may not always agree. Let’s say we want somebody who is tall, Caucasian, and muscular, but we end up in a relationship with somebody who is medium-height, African American, and scrawny. Yet, we are not un-attracted to the African American, despite them being not what we would prefer. And that is because of what they have to offer beneath the surface. While they do not physically resemble what we would want in an ideal mate, the personality and ethics of this African American appeals to us.

The concept of love has a lot of gray areas. For example, one might view a woman getting hit by her husband as domestic violence without any context. But what if the woman wanted her husband to hit her, because that was her kink? I’m not going to explore that idea more, because it is a very…awkward topic, but you get the idea. There are other emotions, primal, hormonal, and hard to understand in general, that cloud our judgement and make us act beyond reason and logic. Yet, that’s what makes being romanced such an exciting and terrifying journey. The unknown does not necessarily settle well with me, but being able to single out that special somebody out of the several millions of people in the world, it’s a wonderful feeling. And it’s a feeling that every human being deserves to have, or at least in the world of my featherlight dreams.

under the cherry blossoms: dream

It might just be because I have watched too many Japanese dramas, but I want to watch cherry blossoms bloom in Japan. Seeing the skies flood with these beautiful pink flowers is a sight to behold and it symbolizes so many different things: new life, a new year, and new opportunities.

When I started Featherlight, it was meant for me to better understand myself post suicide attempt. I used writing to help me cope with so many different kinds of pains and losses inflicted upon me by people who quite frankly were a waste of my time. But this post is not going to focus on that sort of negativity. I made my one jab and I’m moving on from that. I’m here to talk about cherry blossoms and new dreams.

In an ideal world, we can wake up every morning with a big, bright smile on our faces. There would be no need for negativity or bringing others down. When problems arise, we would simply face them and not make bigger deals out of them: situations would never escalate. Life would be simple but pleasant. With the bloom of this year’s cherry blossoms, I can finally say that I see the ugly side to ambition. The stress of taking on too much, it drives us mad with insecurity, exhaustion, and stress. We rub it in to others that we are doing more, as a facade masking how pained or shaken we really are. We are human beings, not robots. Trying to do so much may look good on paper, but it drives away a good portion of our humanity. It wears on our stamina and it makes us unpleasant to be around for a plethora of reasons, namely that we create insecurity and uneasiness with such reckless or bashful behavior.

I don’t want anyone to ever feel like they are not good enough. We all have the privilege of living life, and nobody should ever tell you that you are not good enough or make you feel insignificant in this world. You have been given an inherent purpose by being born a living, sentient being. Use that sentience and allow it to guide you to where you want to go. Don’t be worried if you’re not getting there as quickly as the person next to you. With enough dedication at a pace that befits you, you will arrive at your destination. For me, that is in Japan, owning a bakery, and being able to watch the cherry blossoms every spring. Even if it takes me until the age of 100, so long as I can get there before death, that is all I ask.

Road Movie: Chapter 24

“Are you ready, honey?” Mrs. Logan looked at her daughter. It was finally time to go to Phillip’s funeral. Dakota’s parents had arrived at her apartment to pick her up. They were going to drive together to Graceland Cemetery, where the brunette will see her boyfriend for the very last time. She felt nervous. She had no idea how she was going to react to seeing his body. It had been months, since she basically turned her life upside down and started anew. But this was something she knew she needed to do. She needed to finally confront the fact that she could not turn back and return to the life she used to have with him.

It was a very somber moment. Sitting in front of the sea of people, dressed in black. These were Phillip’s relatives, friends, and a few of Dakota’s as well. It was quiet. The brunette sat in the front, to her left, her parents, and to her right, Phillip’s father. The four of them slowly got up, and approached the casket. Phillip’s body laid there. It was the first time she had seen him since they had gotten into the accident. It had been months. Looking at the young man’s corpse, and seeing his peaceful expression, Dakota felt herself let loose a sigh of relief. The one thing that concerned her about this moment was the look on his face. She would have been devastated had his face worn a look of pain or despair. But it looked like he still went out peacefully. “You’ll always be a part of my heart.” Dakota whispered, as she placed the bouquet on the body.

Standing with Mr. Hopkins, Dakota and her parents quietly walked towards the casket with the rest of the crowd. They were going to bury his body now. “Phillip is in a better place now. And hopefully, we will be too.” Mr. Hopkins smiled at Dakota and her family. “”You’ll always be family to us, Matt.” Peter patted his friend and former neighbor on the back. “Thanks, Pete, Marisa, and Dakota.” He grinned sadly. But he knew that he had to live on for Phillip and Jessica now, more than ever. Neither of them would want him to be unhappy. He was moving into the next chapter of his life. He would be off, helping the less fortunate raise money for college. Nobody knew it at the time, but Matthew Hopkins would go on to be one of the best known philanthropists in the Greater Chicago area.

Walking back to her room, Dakota sighed. It still felt numbing that she just witnessed her own boyfriend’s funeral. But she knew that seeing him with that peaceful expression, that he lived a happy life, even if it was a short one. While her life was longer, Dakota needed to do whatever was necessary for her own happiness now. Phillip would have wanted that for her. Just as badly as she would have wanted that for him. She shook her head. Phillip was an all-consuming thought, but she needed to get him out of her head. She wanted to put those thoughts to rest with the funeral. She had to get into the habit of not thinking about him. “Honey, come down stairs!” Mr. Logan called. “Oh, okay!” She ran down, closing the door behind her.

Walking into the living room, the brunette found herself face to face with both of her parents. “Dakota, I know that you might be stressed, since you’re in between jobs, houses, and you just attended your boyfriend’s funeral, but we wanted to make sure that you had this before you left.” Mr. Logan handed her daughter an ivory studded ring. “This was given to me by my own mother. She wanted me to have it because it was good luck for her when she moved to Wisconsin from Oklahoma. I want you to have it, because you’re moving from Illinois, and I want you to keep carrying on that legacy of making a new place your new home.” She smiled at her. “Thanks, mom.” The two hugged. “I love you, sweetheart. Please take care, and let me know when you arrive at your new apartment, okay?”

“Dakota, you’re my only daughter, and I have to tell you now while we can still talk in person, that I am so proud of you.” Mr. Logan looked at the brunette. It was his turn to give her a speech. “Your mother and I, we both love you a lot. You mean the world to both of us, and we are so happy that you are taking risks and trying something new.” He started. The brunette was unsure of where he was going with this. “Don’t worry about money, okay? Financially, we can support you while you are still starting out as a photographer. But I’m sure you’ll be in high demand! You won your first photography contest with out the gate.” He smiled as he joined in on hugging his daughter with his wife.

Hearing their warm words touched Dakota. She was already grateful to have two parents who are living proof that taking risks and putting yourself out there is okay, but knowing that they support her decision, even when most rational parents would probably yell at her, not support her, and say something of the effect of “you made your bed, now sleep in it.” But that’s what made Dakota love her parents beyond everything else. No matter what she was doing for a living, the two of them were more than happy to support her. They knew that while money was important, being happy while making money was optimal.

Dakota did question if becoming a photographer was a viable option, but she was not terribly worried. Which was a surprising change for once. She expected herself to be stressed out by the idea, but her own love for doing this outweighed every other fear she could possibly have. It was a great feeling to know that she had her parents as a safety net, absolutely. But that was not why she was so relaxed. It was more along the lines of her being happy with what she was going to be doing. That part, plus being able to move to a new city, it was exciting. She knew that with these opportunities, she can continue to grow as a human being. And with that growth, she can continue to reconnect with that “Fierce Nerd” that she knew she was deep down.

Road Movie: Chapter 13

The brunette would wake up the next day, surprisingly enough, not hungover, still in her apartment, and properly clothed. Dakota smiled to herself. Clubbing with Monique was surprisingly fun. The two went to the Studio Paris Nightclub, reminiscent of her days of being in college; Phillip had to pick up a very drunk Dakota from here one night, years ago. It was there that Monique revealed that she was 23 and in graduate school at UChicago studying Developmental Psychology. While she was currently a manager at the camera store, she only pursued photography as a hobby. Upon hearing that Dakota was a marketing executive, Monique beamed with amusement. She admitted that Dakota seemed very withdrawn and timid for somebody who had to make opinionated decisions and take so much initiative. They had a lot of fun at the club, mostly just dancing, sipping a couple drinks, and after realizing how loud the club was getting, going to a nearby convenience store to continue their conversation. Both of them admitted that they do not like to club or party a lot, and that they are the types of people who preferred spending their weekend nights indoors, watching movies, and devouring gallon tubs of ice cream, a ritual that they promised to partake together the following week.

It was Saturday, and Dakota felt excited. It was a new opportunity for her to finally use her camera. Walking around the lake, she decided to start there. Even though it was still fairly cold outside, and there were no boats in the lake at the moment, the brunette still found an empty lake to look peaceful and appealing to her. She continued to walk around the area, eagerly snapping photos, trying different angles and focuses as she went. Flipping through her photos, Dakota gasped. She never bothered to check the pictures on the memory card beforehand. There were photos that were taken by Phillip on there. Of her graduation. Dakota was sporting a maroon and black robe, a black cap, smiling with her pledge sisters, then another with her parents, then the one that really made her tear up, a photo of the her with Phillip. The brunette was uncertain of what to do. Should she delete the picture? Deciding against it, she turned off the camera. She needed to upload these photos, and then put them somewhere she will not get distracted, Maybe a Dropbox or USB? She will figure something out. She just did not want immediate access.

Finally uploading the old photos to a USB and her new ones to her iPhoto app, Dakota sighed in relief as she put the USB in one of her closet boxes. As much as she wanted to move on, she just was not ready to let go of those old memories. The brunette had tried to confront her feelings, but every time she saw pictures of Phillip, she broke down, crying. She missed him and for some strange reason, she felt guilty and angry. Guilty that she could not do anything to save him, and angry about how helpless she felt, feeling like some damsel in distress waiting for her prince who will never come.  At this point, she felt herself hyperventilating again. It was coming: a panic attack. “No!” She cried through her gritted teeth. She had to stop herself from making this worse. Getting up, she grabbed her camera, headed for the hallway, and slammed the apartment door shut. Whenever she thought about him, Dakota felt like the best solution was to get away from the apartment. Being in there just reminded her too much of him.

Dakota decided to go to Millennium Park, and enjoy her time in the area. And that mostly consisted of her taking photos of the Cloud Gate, The large, shiny, curved structure was typically crowded with tourists during the summer, and she could not help but chuckle at herself for looking no different than them with her DSLR camera. Even though she felt like a tourist herself, that sort of awkwardness did not stop Dakota from enjoying herself. She was having too much fun, capturing her memories and adventures. Exploring the world around her, and being able to carrying that with her in the form of her photos, it was fun! It made her happy to finally find an engaging hobby that took her mind and focus away from him. She was too busy trying to take that perfect photo that it preoccupied her mind in a rather productive way.

“Hey, are you still around?” Dakota looked at her phone. She was walking around the city at this point, looking for a place to grab lunch. It was a FaceBook Messenger notification from one of her pledge sisters, Veronica. “Hey, V! Still around Chicago? Yes, I am! How are you?” She sent back. “I’m good! I’m actually visiting this weekend, if you’re free, we should totally catch up!” The brunette grinned at her suggestion. “Yeah, sure! Are you doing anything for dinner?” “No!” “Perfect, let’s have dinner at 6? You can choose the place!” The brunette was brimming with joy at this point. Another person to help get her mind off of him. More company to pull her forward with her life. Until recently, Dakota always identified herself as antisocial. But it looks like her tendencies are changing. She’s starting to see it herself. She’s never been so eager to talk to others, but now she just wants to fill her life with new people, new friends, and make new experiences to replace the old ones.

It was finally time for dinner, and the two agreed to meet at Spiaggia, a renowned restaurant on Magnificent Mile, cited to be one of the Obama’s favorite places. Dakota had her eyes set on finding a skinny freckled blonde: Veronica Kinsworth, her pledge sister. “Hey, Dakota!” She turned around to see a skinny freckled blonde run up to her. “V!” The two hugged. “I haven’t seen you in forever! What brings you back to Chicago?” She smiled at her. “I’m here for a revenue management seminar!” Veronica explained: she was a price analyst for CostCo, so she was in charge of doing price and revenue management for the East Coast branches company in Sterling, Virginia. “Yeah, I could have sworn you moved to D.C. last I checked.” Dakota laughed. “Well, it’s more like moving back to D.C. I’m from Virginia anyways, remember?” The blonde reminded her, laughing. “But yeah, how have you been? I haven’t seen you in forever!” The brunette considered telling Veronica everything. But after quickly weighing her options, decided against that. It made no sense spilling all of these details when she was still not emotionally strong enough to handle the potential rise or reaction she would get from V: she did not want to reunite with a friend and get pitied immediately. Dakota was too prideful for that.

Dinner went along relatively quickly. The two sat and continued talking, although Dakota decided that it was best to make Veronica do the majority of the answering and responding, so she continuously asked the blonde visitor questions. By the end of the night, Dakota knew everything about Veronica’s recent life, from the boys she considered and actually have dated to which co-workers she secretly hated, and her biggest regrets in college and her hopes for the near future, including getting married, having two beautiful daughters, and a labradoodle, and moving to New York City. All the while, Veronica did not learn anything about what happened to Dakota.

immature: realization 39

When there is a conflict, the worst thing you can do is turn and run away. Playing the “avoiding game” just escalates the issue. A good example would be if you see a boy with an injured leg on the street. The child notices you, and screams for you to get help. Instead of helping him, you turn your back, and keep walking. The pleas will then turn into curses and screams of anger, and then finally, that kid will have a permanent leg injury. That is what happens when you avoid resolving conflict. Incurable emotional and mental scars form. These kinds of traumas will forever plague us. For me, being mature means that you can sift emotions out of your decisions and actions and know when to be the higher person and not let small things bother you. I will be honest, I am immature to a decent degree, but I am trying my best to learn to be mature.

The thing about emotional immaturity is that when either you or someone you are dealing with have it, it can cause acknowledgement of one another’s feelings to go to the wayside. Immature people hardly ever see beyond their own needs or thoughts. They put themselves first, in this myopic point on view, and close out the world around them. They never once think about how their own selfishness can hurt others. They try to make themselves the victim, so that others will pity them, and think of any other parties involved at the bad guy. But when this sort of repeated behavior becomes a habit, it is very noticeable and will just cause the immature person to be seen as such.

I have had the wonderful pleasure of dealing with an immature (relative to me) ingrate before. Trust me, they are not fun. But a lot of that behavior stemmed from immaturity. They did not understand how to react to having someone try their best to treat them kindly. And then when conflict arises, they run and hide, expecting me to be the one to initiate confrontation. And then when I confront, I find myself having to apologize despite them being immature and ungrateful for how hard I try for them, and me feeling like an even bigger jackass afterwards, causing me to dislike myself that much more. And when I asked them why they felt it was okay to let me be the instigator, they said it was because when their mom got angry, they would let their mom cool down and then talk. The thing is, I am not their mother. And I do not have the emotional integrity of a mother to swallow my own pride for somebody, because that somebody is not my child. But they decided that it would be in their best interest to make me out to be the bad guy, despite me going through depression and their inability to react maturely to it only worsening my condition.

A recent conversation I had with my friend made me think about something. What to do when you’re dealing with immature people? Simple. You don’t. Let them hang around with people who are more like them maturity-wise. You would think that the group of them being immature would cause each other to be dragged down, but I would argue that they can grow and mature at their own pace, because they are all at the same place mentally. Do not let their emotional ineptitude drag you down. It would obviously be different if a mature person were to be around a bunch of immature people, but if equally immature people stayed together, they will be able to help each other move forward in life. Find people who are at the same pace of maturity as you, and grow together with them. And do not always stick to the same people, if you feel like you outgrow them or if they outgrow you. You do not always have to drive in the fast lane in life. Do not be ashamed if you have to go at a slower pace. You will all end up at the same place, eventually.

how to lead: realization 36

Everyone has an initially different idea of what a good leader should be. Some thing a good leader does all of the work. Others think leaders are just figureheads who do not need necessary experience. For me, a leader is somebody who can do any task pertinent to their organization’s success, but at the same time, knows how to train and inspire others to do these tasks in their place. A very classic example of a poor leader was a restaurant manager that my friend worked for. The manager, rather than overseeing the restaurant, would instead be in the kitchen shucking corn with the other prep cooks. That’s not what she should be doing. Even if she was the best corn-shucker in the restaurant, her job as a manager/leader is to oversee the restaurant from the top level, especially from a front of house perspective since she is the general manager. She should have had a line or prep cook shuck the corn instead.

While people think that a good leader can be defined by different things, my definition was stemmed from a combination of leadership courses I have taken and from multiple directors and managers in companies, hotels, and restaurants. That being said, some people have the natural ability to be leaders and some people do not. People can be leaders, managers, or followers exclusively and depending on the situation. There is a definitive difference between being a leader and a manager, but because I have referenced managers as people who are supposed to be leaders in this post, I will just talk about managing in a later one so people will not get too confused. All you need to know is that there is a difference between being a manager by title and a manager by definition. Somebody who is a manager by title should still be expected to be a leader. Somebody who is a manager by definition is not a leader, or at least, in the context they are being assessed in; you can be a manager in one setting, but a leader in another.

When I became the editor-in-chief for a food publication, I was able to create this hierarchy of leaders with manager titles. I had two managing editors underneath me, who each led their own team of editors, who then led their own team of writers or photographers. It was stressful and strenuous at first, having to train everyone to understand how the software of our site worked and the publishing schedules and deadlines, but once we got everything settled, I never really needed to worry about the publication. I could have been run over by a car or put in a coma, and they would know how to still run everything in my absence. At that point, my role went from begin the trainer to being the innovator and cheerleader; I wanted them to give me feedback on how we can continue to improve the culture of our organization so that way they would be even more proud to be a part of it. I made sure to give everyone, from my managing editors to the editors to the writers and photographers, compliments and let them know I valued their contributions, because without the people in my organization, the publication would not be as amazing as it is.

Being a good leader stems from a lot of factors. Professionalism and maturity are definitely two things you need to take criticism when you fail, to self-reflect on how to improve, and to stay realistic and not kid yourself when a situation is out of control. You need to be brave and confrontational with conflict or problems. Never shy away. You set the example for everyone working beneath you. You set the culture. That being said, do not ever think that something is ever beneath you. You cannot be afraid to either do a task, or train somebody to do a task; when you’re training somebody, obviously lead by example and do the task yourself, just to show them. This was how I managed to train my editors. I showed them how to operate in the site, and they knew how to do it, and I made sure to let them know if they have any problems, to ask me questions. Encourage a supportive environment where you should not be this imposing authority figure, but rather somebody who has their head on straight, experience and knowledge, and an infectiously impressive work ethic. That’s how to be a great leader.