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Friday, September 27, 2013

Walking through the Storm

Ahh! Okay now that I let that out, I can begin this blog post. I don’t know where to begin. I can say things have been difficult.  I can say I feel frustrated, upset, angry, sad, etc. etc. I can even say I don’t know what to do anymore. I’ve cried more than needed, and my patience is being tested.

Yet, I am still here.

As a believer, I know life’s trials and tribulations are lessons as well as tests. I know God doesn’t allow things to happen without reason. He teaches us things that may not make sense at first, but eventually it all comes together. When I can wake up every morning, I feel it is a blessing. I believe it’s another chance to start over or try something new. I am grateful for that. 


Going to the waterfront makes me feel alive. I love the breeze felt on my face from the water’s waves. I like smelling the salty, seaweed smell from the river. Last Friday, I spent half the day by a west side waterfront in Manhattan daydreaming, listening to music, placing my thoughts in the water. I stood and sat by watching people join me. Some were doing exercise, walking their dog, or sunbathing on the grassy patch. I wanted to be as close to the water as possible. I felt stuck. I didn’t want to leave. My emotions varied.

The day before, I went to the Brooklyn waterfront where the moment I stood at my favorite spot I cried. The tears flowed like raindrops sliding down the window glass. I cried because I admitted to myself how much I changed since losing my job. I had to admit that since I stopped teaching, I felt I lost everything. I volunteered, took many online training classes, participated in events, but it didn’t fill the void I have in my heart. It still hurts that I am not teaching. It hurts that every teaching job interview I’ve been on is a bust. Although, I am aware of the budget cuts from ESL/adult literacy programs in NYC, I still wish I was a part of it some form or fashion. 

At the waterfront in Manhattan, I didn’t cry but reflected on everything I’ve been feeling. I prayed and thought about ways to move forward. I wrote too. I felt as if God was telling me that I still could do what I want, just differently. He also let me know that I still matter and I still can. My hip problem plagues me a lot. I’m in constant pain and believe that will be the case for a while. I’ve been back and forth with the doctors and no solution. The thought of a second surgery still lingers, and it’s still a possibility. I know that. I’m trying to avoid it. After leaving the waterfront, I visited the East Village where I sat in Washington Square Park, taking pictures of the flowers. I like this park, because it’s very artsy. I like how the people dress there too. It is home to New York University (NYU). Anywhere there’s a college, I feel happy. I then visited their bookstore where I saw a couple of books I want to read. They had teddy bears with the NYU school logo sitting on each bookcase. I felt like they were looking at me while browsing through books. Of course, you know which section I went to first, education, and psychology/social work. I really like the teddy bears.

I took a slow stroll to Astor Place where I saw Cooper Union School and some street art, which I love. I saw a homeless man who looked very sad. He wasn’t asking for money from anyone, but did have his hand out. He kept his head down most of the time. His body language showed that he was tired and needed rest. I went over to him putting money in his cup, which only had a dollar coin and two quarters. When I said, “Here you go,” he said thank you. I felt humbled and good knowing he could at least get a meal or something. I know that could easily be me. I rather give what little I have to someone less fortunate, than to be selfish. We are in hard times now, and since being out of work, I know that all too well.

I went to a panel discussion last night about volunteering during a disaster. I enjoyed it very much, because the panelists shared their personal experiences volunteering in disaster relief. I have an interest in mental health and disaster mental health as well. I met someone who works in disaster mental health, which is great. I have a feeling we’re going to have lots to talk about in the near future. I ran into someone I knew who was there. She is very nice and we have more in common than I thought. We talked for a long time after the event was over. It’s been a while having good conversation in a park at night. Many of the things she said, I could relate to on so many levels. I haven’t known her for long, but it felt like I did. It was nice to vent to someone who doesn’t know much about me. It’s no pressure or holier-than-thou attitudes. Instead, it’s mutual understanding and empathy. Empathy is so important when dealing with problems. It’s nice to receive that occasionally. One thing I did learn last night was the importance of asking for help and support.  My self-pride is going to get me in trouble! I don’t like asking for assistance, but I know I could use some support. Besides, my eyes are tired from crying.

I will walk through the storm. I know God is with me and I have to believe things will get better. I won’t give up on my dream or myself. I just can’t do that.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Hitting the Delete Button on Social Media, Maybe

“Wait! Perhaps you want to give it another chance?” I said to myself recently. I like what social media has to offer. However, I’m not too keen on some aspects. I joined Facebook on 2007 and Twitter around the same time. I mainly joined for the social aspect of it, to connect with friends and meet new ones. It took a while to build some presence on both places. Luckily, I connected with people I haven’t spoken to in years on Facebook. Twitter I didn’t use that much. Over time, my friend list grew on Facebook and I shamefully admit I felt special. When I decided to create the Creative Corner blog, I felt both Facebook and Twitter would help me promote it, along with my other writings. It did to a certain extent. I am grateful for that. After my hip surgery, I became more involved on Twitter participating in social work chat forums and debates. I met some cool people in the process. Overall, the experience being on social media has been positive with a few ups and downs.

So, why am I contemplating on leaving it alone?

As a writer (or for any artist), feedback is key to knowing if you’re heading in the right direction in your craft. Although I write for me, I wish I received more feedback on my writing. I post on Facebook and most of the time I get a “Like” or nothing at all. People have told me they read my words, but don’t comment. Comments help, whether they’re good or bad, because to a writer it allows one to improve or push the envelope a bit. I have one friend on Twitter who has been consistent in reading and commenting on everything I write. Whether it’s this blog or news stories, he offers feedback and support. I appreciate that so much. I know people are reading my work, I don’t doubt that. I just wish I received more feedback.

The other reason I thought about letting go of social media is the lack of connecting with people. I feel it’s taking away from the humanistic side of life. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind saying hello over a computer screen, but whatever happened to meeting in person to say hello? I notice the only time a person can see how one is doing is through a “Like” button or a Twitter message. Call me old-fashioned, but a personal letter, email, text, or phone call means more to me than just clicking a “Like” button on someone’s status.  It’s even hard to get people online to meet offline. I’ve tried. There have been times, I attempted to make plans or offer suggestions of meet-ups. It didn’t go too well. I think communicating through the computer is easier for some people. Maybe it’s insecurity or a great way to hide self from others. I’m not sure. Either way, it would be nice to meet in person, talk, and enjoy the environment than overworking the fingers on Smartphones.

Socially, life has become very boring for me. I need to get out more and be around people who are willing to go out, willing to laugh, and willing to enjoy life. I haven’t found that on social media and don’t think I will.  For now, it’s on to plan B.

I haven’t hit the delete button yet.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Reflecting on 9/11: Twelve Years Later

This is always a somber day for me. It's a somber day for New Yorkers, a somber day for our nation. 9/11 took the lives of so many here in New York City. Many have become ill after the terrorist attacks. Many cannot forget the trauma they endured while trying to get away from the chaos. My mom was one of many who ran from the billowing smoke and ash. Even after twelve years, I could still feel the somber mood in a city that never sleeps. I have not been to the memorial site in years. When I visited the area months after 9/11, I remember the strong smell from the smoke that lingered in the air. I remember the shell of what was once a tall building now reduced to rubble. In 2007, I re-visited the area where there were photographs of first responders helping people out of the towers, and personal items found in the rubble.

It still makes me sad to this day.

I think about the people who didn’t make it out alive. The horror they must of felt knowing they were trapped. I think about the people who were in the surrounding area, who felt helpless watching people scream for help or jump out of the burning buildings. I still remember the thick, black smoke hovering over Brooklyn. I remember calling my mom and there was silence on the other end. I stayed by the phone until she called. We were only able to say, “I love you,” before the phone went dead. My heart dropped. I was scared that would’ve been the last time I heard from her.   

I also remember the anger I felt during that time. “How could anyone be so cruel and so evil to commit such a catastrophe?” I said to myself. To this day, I still ask this question. I don’t understand how anyone could do such a thing. I always knew evil existed but 9/11 proved it true. I’m still upset by what happened. My mom survived that day. I’m blessed she is still here.  I know how lucky I am, because there are many who lost loved ones. My heart goes out to them. I feel for those who were diagnosed with illnesses. They are reminded of this horrible tragedy that has plagued their bodies.

Twelve years today, twelve years tomorrow, it won’t take away the impact it has left on us. Our country is still at war. Terrorism still exist, and evil is among us. I can only hope we maintain our strength and resilience in coping with this tragedy. I also hope we learn and remember, because in one way or another, 9/11 affects us all.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Hush! The Quiet Epidemic Called Suicide

USC’s MSW Programs Blog Day.

This is a different kind of post. I will share a topic that is personal and not easy to discuss. However, in honor of World Suicide Prevention Day (9-10-13), I am going to share a story of a young woman who tried to commit suicide. I hope this story will not only bring awareness, but be inspiring as well.

“Just go on and do it. No one will care anyway,” an inner voice says as she lies in bed. No one is home. The TV is off. So is the radio. She lays there staring up at the ceiling. She could still hear the laughter from inner-city youth pointing at her calling her everything but her name. “My name is…,” she would tell them. The response, “Shut up you fat bitch!” She remembers the chain being snatched from her neck from a boy. He looked like he could be 17. As she gets on the bus, she sees him running alongside the bus, swinging the chain in the air, laughing at her. He wanted the gold chain her mother gave her. She wishes he took the gold chain instead of the one her grandmother gave her before she died. The next day, she told the teachers and security staff at the junior high school she despised. Since the incident happened not far from there, she figured something could be done. “These things happen,” a teacher told her nonchalantly. She didn't know that the kids in her class already knew about the incident. They laughed and called her “stupid” for not running after him. She hated that boy who stole her chain. She hated those kids and that teacher who said, “These things happen.”  A year later, she and her friends were held up at gunpoint. A bunch of puny seventh graders pointed a gun at her while threatening to kill her and her friends. A police report was filed. Nothing ever happened. She saw those same kids in the school she despised.

She remembered the first time she told a boy she loved him. He chuckled telling her, “I don’t date fat girls.” The next time she told a boy how she felt, he said he loved another girl. That girl didn’t love him, but that didn’t matter.  At 16, she felt she knew what love is, by 20, she knew what it felt like, and by 25, she understood what a relationship is. At 27, she experienced real heartbreak. “You know how much I love you. You know I didn’t do what you said I did,” he said to her after destroying her innocence. “No means no,” she said wiping away tears. His arrogance made him blind to the reality. He thought money would fix that reality and make it go away. The scars remain unseen. They will never go away.

The bottle of pills is on the nightstand. She begins to cry as she opens the bottle shaking out a handful of pills. She takes a gulp of water and begins to swallow. “Oh Lord, please forgive me. I just want the pain to go away,” she says. She begins to feel sleepy and closes her eyes. She felt someone shake her shoulder saying her name. When she opened her eyes, it was her mother.  As the mother asks about the woman’s day, she is confused. “How am I awake after taking those pills?” the woman says to herself. Later that night, the woman prays asking God for forgiveness. She vows to never think or attempt to take her life again. She knows how precious life is and believes there is a tomorrow. She wants to experience that tomorrow.

I have been ever since.

Suicide prevention is critical in our society. Thinking about suicide is just as serious as attempting it. Awareness and communication is important to prevent this epidemic from reoccurring.

Spread love instead of stigma.

Together we can help people cope with feelings of suicide through empathy, understanding, and taking the time to listen.

For more information about suicide prevention or how to raise awareness, please visit my school's (University of Southern California) campaign here:

Friday, September 6, 2013

A Walk to the Seaport: How it will be missed

I went for a walk with my mom. I enjoy spending time with her, because we get to share ideas and have fun. We always have fun even in doing the simplest of things like having coffee (or chai latte) at Starbucks. I can talk to my mom about anything, which is great since she is the only person I truly trust. I appreciate her more than she knows. We took a walk to the South Street Seaport. I’m glad we did since we learned that it would close this Monday. Plans for redevelopment will be underway and it won’t be open until 2015. A nice man spoke to us as we passed by his jewelry and wallet table. He is from Turkey and his personality made me smile. He said it’s hard to meet nice people in New York City. “Everybody so rude, hard to be nice,” he said. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve lived here all my life and it’s not as nice as it appears to be. I don’t feel comfortable here anymore. I’m used to manners and pleasantry. Most people I meet think I’m from the south, because of my mannerisms. My family is from the south so it makes sense.

We visited the candy store, which was practically empty. The woman there was super nice. I could feel her energy the moment we entered the store. She is an artist and played her album for us. Her voice is beautiful. The music reminded me of my favorite jazz group, The Manhattan Transfer. One song really hit home, because it talked about believing and finding happiness. She sang along and my tears flowed. That hasn’t happened to me before so I was surprised. I explained to her how difficult times have been for me lately, and seeing my favorite place closing makes me sad. She said that what we say in the universe would come to fruition. If one believes and speaks what they want, it will come true. I told her I needed to hear that and thanked her. We got some candy, which she offered to us free. Although we offered to pay for it, she insisted we keep it. I gave her my card. I look forward to us keeping in touch.  

Seeing so many stores still closed since Hurricane Sandy is disheartening. However, knowing the Seaport will close completely makes me feel worse. This is one of my favorite places to visit, especially when I need to reflect. Before going to the waterfront in Brooklyn, the South Street Seaport was my favorite destination. Although it will reopen in 2015, it won’t be the same. I love the vendors and small shops. I’m not into high-end retail stores. I prefer simplicity. I’m happy mom and I had a chance to sit by the waterfront, took pictures, and admired the landscape. Seaport as we know it will be missed, especially by me.

Here’s my video report about the Seaport closing: