Success is Relative

To be honest, the last few months have not been the easiest, creatively. I have had a whirlwind of ideas, concepts, next steps if you will, floating into my mind (some of which are better than others), and that just where they have stayed. In my mind. Personally, I can be intimidated by the sheer volume of other people creating things, it makes me not want to do anything ever. 

The allure and vision of becoming successful one day is slowing fading out of my mind and time just seems to go by: I’m standing still, slowly turning in a panoramic manner, and everything else seems to be moving in hyperlapse. Sound familiar? If not, let me paint you a better picture (complete with some sad piano music, a black and white filter, and all) : Standing Still.

I have to ask myself then: where am I getting this definition of success? Who is creating that for me? And why does that definition apply to my life? Long story short: it doesn’t.

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The world’s definition of success is actually so vague and purposeless that it makes me frustrated for actually falling for it. I didn’t even realize where I was feeding my soul information from until I started to dig deeper.

In the context example Google uses for its definition of success (meaning popularity and wealth), the sentence it gives is “the trappings of success.” I’m sure you know as well as I do that the feeling of entrapment can come hand and hand with success. But the definition I care to explore more about, the one I want to continue to meditate on is “the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose.”

We are all created for a purpose. Is that for us to know right away? Maybe. But at the very least, it is for us to figure out along the way . As we continue to grow more in our faith, we discover more about ourselves on a daily basis. This means trying on a daily basis. This means failing on a daily basis. But it also means one step closer to your own personal success on a daily basis.

Success does not look the same for a woman who was born to raise 3 children to be future leaders of the world as it does for me. It does not look the same for a woman who is a teacher during the day and attending night school so she can advance her research studies. It does not look the same for the lawyer working until 2AM in the high rise in Midtown Manhattan. It does not look the same for the athlete training 6 hours a day and making sure she gets 8 hours a sleep a night so her body can recuperate.

Success is setting reasonable goals for yourself within your own lane. Only you and God know your own limits; and you have to be honest with yourself. This is something I know I need to work on. I will be either all in or not at all. Lately, it has been a not at all mindset, which has left me feeling discouraged and left behind. If that’s you too, that’s okay. As you grow in your skills and abilities to become autonomous, your limit and capacity to tackle more responsibility increases.

That definition of success that I mentioned earlier (the accomplishment of an aim or a purpose)? I think I want to rewrite it to say “The accomplishment or aim of a purpose.” You may never been truly feel like you are “done.” But we continue aiming, because we will always be called to a Higher purpose.

Don’t look for the success that will entrap you. Look for the kinds of success that will propel you into your unique purpose. Own your own definition of success.

 

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Two of the Biggest Mistakes I Have Made

Mistake No. 1: I think I can change people.

“Wait..then why do I even do what I do?” “How can I make an impact?” “What is the point?” I ask myself.
At the end of the day, the most I can be to someone is someone of influence. And that is enough. By being there, by sharing what I am passionate about, my sharing my faith, just my demeanor and presence can have an impact on someone. I can’t twist their arm, get inside their head, and create a change. Lasting change is a gift from above; and it comes from within. So in the meantime, I can be the change that I want to see in others. At the very least they will observe that I do things differently, and perhaps become influenced by the example that I set.
As it pertains to myself, I find that it is the closest circle of people I associate with that influence my actions (for the better, or the worse). Which, yes, can cause me to change overtime, but true change comes from within. I’m often a stubborn person, I don’t like change. Once I get settled into a routine, I am pretty tight fisted about it. But because I am saved by grace, there is a world of opportunity for me that exists in the sphere of change.

Mistake No. 2: I think I can’t change how I feel.

Let me start off by saying this: feelings are a good thing. It means I still have a pulse. However, when things get intense in my life, I have a tendency to be dramatic (sometimes I like to say “theatrical,” because dramatic gets a bad rep).

In the past, I have dragged out feelings and held onto moments of hurt in my life for far too long. Yet, it was my choice to do those things.
Sometimes it is hard to let go of pain from the past. For me, that pain was a crutch, a crutch that reminded me everyday that I didn’t deserve to be treated right, fairly, or respectfully. When someone does have a foot injury and has to use crutches, it is nearly impossible to go anywhere without them. With every step taken, the crutches follow. They have to. Weaning off of the crutches can be painful at first, but it is an important step to complete and total healing.
Healing is a choice, and a difficult one at that. I have this phrase that I totally made up called “wax on water.” Basically I picture pouring water on a wax candle; and how the water cannot possibly penetrate the outside layer of wax. Scientifically, it just. wont. happen. If I can make myself this wax candle, every bad situation, mean jeer, or strike that comes my way will not get under my skin and it will roll off of me like wax on water. The faster I change how I react to a situation and how I feel about something that has happened to me, the quicker it is to get over it. When I let things sit and fester, then I question myself, my actions, my worth, and my relationships.
My Dad always says “you can attract more bees with honey than with vinegar.” So I ask myself: are my reactions and words the taste of something sweet or bitter? Stay on the sweet side of things. ❤
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Old Thing Back

In June 2008, I took my first trip to New York City. I remember being overwhelmed by all of the architecture, the sights, the sounds: three days just wasn’t enough. Here are some of the original photos I had developed from the trip (and brought them to New York and have them 9 years later… can you say “sentimental much?!?”)

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I was on a double decker bus when I snapped a photo of Times Square. The colors, the lights, the advertisements: everything just popped out at me all at once. I was taken aback by the detail of all that was happening in the photo. It was like a real life page out of an ISpy book.

A few months later, well into my junior year in high school, I took a beginning art class. One of the pieces we had to complete at the end of the year aimed to encompass many of the techniques we had learned throughout the year (and experiment with our favorite medium). The subject was landscape. Although I do love a good Cezanne pasture scene, after visiting New York the previous summer, something about cities had really tugged my heartstrings. I knew I had to paint that image of Times Square as a cityscape, and I wanted to paint it in watercolor.

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Although it’s been a few years since I have drawn and painted regularly, I was recently inspired to start working with watercolors again. For so long, I felt that I had to be as detailed, or as good I once was. In reality, I was just “out of practice.” To start something new, to pick up something from where I left off, I didn’t need experience, I needed a stepping stone.

I can’t let the fear of not being good enough prevent me from starting in the first place. Because if I fail, there’s grace for that. 

And just like that, I got my “old thing back.” That painting I mentioned earlier now hangs in my apartment and only recently have I admired it as a reminder that you (and the world) don’t have to qualify yourself to creative and achieve wonderful things. Only God can do that.

Here’s a little Spotify playlist I made to get you in the mood to start creating new things.

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On Finding Home

My Drawing Spot

There is a reason that people say there is no place like home. While often this does refer to a physical place for some, I do think that home has so many different connotations. I think that home is more of a feeling than a place.

For some, home can be a place of hurting, a place of pain: a physical place that is not desired to return to. Others may not have felt the feeling of home. Perhaps home connotes a restless feeling from moving from place to place and having to uproot a livelihood, a workplace, a lifestyle. I believe that true home is found in security, rest, and community. While a home can be a physical place, it is so much more than that: it really can feel like a safe haven. I know that when I walk through the doors of my home, I am fully relaxed, restored, and protected.

When I was a high-schooler, my mom introduced me to the movie “The Saint.” I will always remember this one scene taking place in Russian during the Cold War. One of the protagonists has to make a run for her life to the American Embassy so the Russian Mob would not kidnap her. She is able to break away and sprint towards the embassy (in dramatic fashion of course becuase… #movies). As she gets closer to the gates she starts screaming “I’m an American, open the gates!” (Watch the scene here).

Although this is obviously an extreme example, I feel that whenever I rush home and make it, I’m able to guard my heart and mind from the any battles or struggles that I’ve been fighting through the day. Once I am home, when I’m truly home, I can pray, read, journal – whatever it takes – for me to shake off the day. I know that God wants us to live in peace and He truly desires that for each and every one of us. Isaiah 32 says “My people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places.”

Home is a place where I can fight my daily battles, and fight for the things that matter most. It is a place of creation, inspiration, motivation, and determination. Home resets, recharges, and rejuvenates me. It is more than just a physical place, it is a state of mind.
Matthew 11 invites us to turn to Jesus when we need to rest “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” I need to fix my eyes and set my mind on the one who can give me rest, that true feeling of home.

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Once I found my home, my sanctuary, I have to do everything to maintain it. I can’t just let my guard down. Proverbs 24 says “By wisdom a house is built, And by understanding it is established; And by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches.” It is through the wisdom of the choices that I make every day that my house (both my physical space and that feeling of home) is built. It is a continued understanding of The Word that my home becomes a place that is established and deeply rooted in truth. And my continual thirst for knowledge – and keeping my faith fresh – that my “home” is filled with true and precious riches. It is then that I will feel safe, secure, and grounded. It is then that I will find my true home.

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About a month ago, I thought I was going to have to move out of my apartment I have lived in for the last 5 years of living in New York. It broke my heart because I have such an emotional attachment to my physical home; and it is my first place I called home in New York. It is where I hosted a Thanksgiving meal with close friends, where I received a phone call that I got a job after searching for months. Through a miracle (and a ton of posting on Craigslist) I got a new roommate just in the nick of time when I needed to resign the lease (praise the Lord, amirite??!). To say it has been a blessing would be an understatement, because I really do treasure the aspect of home. It may seem silly to say this, considering this is a rental apartment, I have invested so much time making my place somewhere I feel comfortable and safe, where I can shut the door and lift my eyes to Heaven, where my help comes from (Psalm 121:2).

So I ask myself the following:
What can I do to make sure when I come home, I am delighted to be there?
What can I do now to make my home feel safe for not just me but for others?
How can I bring that feeling of home, of peace, of rest out of my physical home and into the spheres of influence where I live my daily life?

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Livin’ the Mundane Life

More often than not, life seems very monotonous, very routine. I often find myself trying to break out of routine becuase I get bored with doing the same thing over and over. Although I am a planner by nature, I thrive on the unexpected and variety.

I have looked at monotony the way that I feel most people see it: for its negative, repetitive connotation. I’d say to myself “I’ll be stuck doing this same thing for the rest of my life,” or ask the question “what good can come out of just repeating yourself and not learning anything new?”

What I seemed to have been missing over the years is that monotony can be seen as a discipline. By doing the same task over and over (and doing it well), I have the opportunity to build a reputation for consistency, for accuracy, for reliability. Practicing the same task over and over again can be healthy, becuase it builds habits so that you have room to grow in other areas of your life. When you become disciplined through repetition, you then gain that skill and then can graduate to bigger and better things (while retaining all that you have learned). If you move on before you mastered a skill, it can feel like you’ve lost your sense of direction.

Now, I have some new questions for myself. I’ll challenge myself by asking “is there anything I’m doing now that seems mundane or tedious, but is actually building my character and/or my skill set?”

Here are some close images from one of my latest drawings. While drawing each individual square seems tedious to me at first, without each window of the building, it would be incomplete.

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Quality Alone Time

On the surface, I come across as a highly amiable and social person. Which is mostly true: few things delight me more than spending time catching up with a friend over a latte (or breakfast – I love a good avo toast). But so much of my life has been going going going that sometimes I become anxious or lose focus or I find myself saying things like “It’s almost July and I still can’t believe I haven’t finished (fill in the blank).”
I’ve slowly learned the importance of “me” time. This could be spent reading, praying, writing, walking around the city, painting, or even sleeping. All I know is that my body and my mind need rest and space.
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I’ve recently made a routine of “me” time by making matcha lattes and doing my morning reading. I look forward to it every day: it’s quality time spent reading and praying. It’s my time I don’t have to answer emails, texts, or calls. It is an important way to start my day to reset my heart, mind and spirit so I can go into the day filled with encouragement and joy,
Here is my recipe for matcha lattes (adapted from @LeeFromAmerica).
2 Teaspoons of Jade Leaf Matcha
1 scoop of Vital Proteins (optional)
A pinch of Brain Dust (yes, you read that correctly) (optional)
A dash (or four) of cinnamon
1 cup of heated almond or coconut milk
1 TBSP of coconut butter (I like Artisana Naturals)
Set aside the matcha in a small mixing bowl. Heat up the almond milk in a saucepan over the stove on low to medium heat. Put some boiling water in a tea kettle. Once boiled, let the water cool down for a minute, then pour the water into the small mixing bowl with the matcha. Whisk the matcha with a bamboo whisk (like this one) to get out any matcha clumps. Let sit for a minute. Add all ingredients to a blender (including the heated milk and matcha mix). Blend for 1-2 minutes so you get MAXIMUM foam from the coconut butter and milk froth. Pour into a mug, sip and enjoy your “you time.”
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The Power of Perks

Staying focused is hard. Really hard. Short term, long term, I struggle with both sometimes. Coming up with a reward system for yourself or little perks when you reach certain milestones is key to keep going, for me.
When I was little, maybe 8, I had to write this research paper on an invention of my choice. I could have picked anything, and mine was the ballpoint pen. Something simple, something you use almost everyday. Anyway, all that is to say that every time I wrote 100 words of the paper, I was rewarded with 5 M&M candies. It was an incentive for me to keep going, even when I didn’t feel like it. Because, let’s face it, I wanted M&M’s.
Right now, I’m on a “mega savings plan.” “Ummm, what is that?” you might ask. Well, it’s a plan I made up myself to save as much money as possible as quickly as possible. It’s hard to give up old spending habits (ie cabs everywhere and going out to eat), so I made myself a savings incentive list, so that I have a motivation to keep going (besides the obvious: having a substantial savings). When I save “$X,” I can take a weekend solo trip. When I save “$X” more, I can take a language class I’ve been wanting to take. So on and so forth.
Yes, self-discipline is good. It is necessary. But unfortunately it is not all that is part of the equation. One of my best friends Louisa has recently lent me a called Accent of Leadership by Steve Kelly (I haven’t finished reading it yet becuase I’m letting all of the concepts sink in- but I couldn’t wait to share with you what I have learned so far). He made a good point in saying the following:

“Some people think if they were more self-disciplined, problems would go away. Yet until we develop a vision that is bigger than simply being more disciplined, the change we seek will never become permanent.”

Completely cutting yourself off from everything won’t improve your habits or quality of life, and you may just find yourself right back where you started. As you go into this week, ask yourself: what are your perks to keep you going? What is your greater vision, the bigger picture you have for your life? How do you or will you create a reasonable reward system for yourself to get you closer to your goal? And how will the decisions you make every day get you closer to your end-goal? (Edit 6.25.2017)
If I find myself habitually drawing on the go, I have so much joy by integrating that into my daily life. It’s almost like it has become a part of what I do daily: and I love it! Above are some drawings I recently made on the go, in an Lyft when I was in California this past weekend. Enjoy!
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Joy is a Choice

There is a difference between pretending like everything is okay, putting on a front and being genuinely joyful. I’m talking about having an unmatchable lust for life and for the Kingdom.

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It is okay to allow yourself to FEEL. To feel angry, unsatisfied, frustrated. However, in order to move forward into a season of fruitfulness I find that you have to choose happiness, faithfulness every day.
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Choose joy over everything, choose to love over everything. You will find it easier and easier to deflect hardship that comes your way when choosing to be joyful becomes second nature. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” – Nehemiah 8:10
One of the things that has given me complete happiness and joy has been filming short clips of my favorite spots around the city. It’s important to celebrate the where you are.
Enjoy!
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Reaching Generations

Sometimes I take for granted the things that people around me have created to make my life easier or my life so wonderful. It’s easy to hold your phone in your hand, something that has been “perfected” and developed over decades of tech advancement & testing to take a picture of a classic New York monument, one that took so long to build; and not even think twice about it.
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I feel so often I take for granted the finished product of things; and don’t appreciate the time it takes to build something beautiful, something that lasts, and something people can appreciate for years to come.

My favorite building in the world (right now), the Flatiron Building, was actually envisioned and designed by architect Daniel Burnham, who worked with The Fuller Company until its completion in 1902. Unfortunately, even after working to put a dream into practice, the CEO of the company who bought the land in the 1800’s was not able to see the finished product before he died. Nevertheless, because of Fuller’s vision and investment, millions of people are able to enjoy his handiwork today.

I could study and draw this building for years, and I have, and I always find a new architectural element that fascinates me. One of my favorite things to do in the city is to sit on the chairs in Madison Square Park across from the Flatiron Building (probably with a cup of coffee in hand) and just thank God that these beautiful landmarks still stand here today.

So when you start your next project, think of the legacy you want to leave behind. Is what your working on something just for now for yourself or something generations of people can enjoy later? Be patient, and know that to produce something of quality that lasts can sometimes take more than a lifetime.
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