Category Archives: Blog

I Get By With a Little Help From My Friends

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So I’m mainly writing this post to ask a very serious question, but before I do, I’d like to give you guys some pretext –

I started a new job in February, and I feel like it just healed my soul. That sounds dramatic, but seriously, that’s how I feel. My last job nearly killed me (metaphorically). I won’t get into much detail, but I was miserable. The people I worked with were awful, my bosses were awful…I worked so hard to get absolutely nowhere, with a company that I’d dedicated my life to, and it broke my heart.

I lost myself a lot this past year. There were a lot of changes, sure – moving across 4 states, getting married – but it was the job that did it. If you’ve been reading up on my site, you know that I’m a person who feels things very strongly, and the misery I felt at this job seeped into every fiber of my life, from my hobbies, to my health and fitness, to my relationships. I was a raging bitch to my husband, I would forget to text my friends back, I stopped working out, stopped making art…I would get home from work, and I’d be so emotionally drained, that I’d just go to sleep. I literally just slept all day.

That was then. Fast forward four months, and I’m a changed woman. I took control of that situation. I left the job and got a new one; I took the time to get to know my boss before I said yes to the offer – and it’s been a pretty great decision. My team is amazing, my boss is the best support system, teacher, motivator, and cheerleader I could possibly ask for; I’m feeling creatively challenged again, for the first time in a year; I’m feeling like I’m building real connections with my team, which is the most important thing to me. After all, my favorite part of what I do is helping people learn and grow, and that’s definitely happening now.

And the effect? Well, I go running at least three times a week – running has always been a passion of mine, and I hadn’t stuck to it this consistently since college. I’m reading books, writing, drawing, playing music…I feel inspired again, finally.

My company got us on this app, Virgin Pulse, which basically rewards you for healthy behaviors. You can track your steps, workouts, water intake, financial health, etc, and you earn points the more consistent you are, that you can later redeem for actual gift cards. It’s such a brilliant idea, and I’m so amazed at my company for investing in us like that. It has definitely helped with my self-accountability.

I have two co-workers who challenged me to give up Starbucks. I was going every other day, at least, and when I added up the amount of money I was spending there monthly, I nearly fainted. I’m proud to say that I’ve been Starbucks-sober for nearly two weeks now. My boss put a Keurig in our office and I bought a bunch of K-Cups, and that’s how I get my coffee fix now. And every time I think about running to Starbucks, I think about how disappointed these coworkers would be in me, and I stop myself.

I also got to see my friends a few times at the start of this year. I finally went home to visit after a year of being away; then one of my closest friends came and stayed with me for a week. I hadn’t seen any of them since we moved, and I loved spending time with them and catching up.

So now that you have all that pretext, here is my question:

Is it ok for me to allow these outside forces to affect and influence me the way they do?

We all do, right? When one thing upsets us or stresses us out, we carry it with us into everything else we do. We’re human – we can’t repress how we feel, or erase and reset our feelings when going from one situation to the next. But we can choose to rise above them, right? For example, when I came home from the job that made me miserable, I could’ve chosen to go for a run to help release my stress and anxiety. Running definitely does that for me. Instead, I chose to succumb to my negative emotions and become a victim to them. Why did it have to take an app and a good day at work to get me off the couch and into my running shoes? Are we really that dependent on the people and circumstances around us. Is it ok to be? Hey, even the Beatles said, “I get by with a little help from my friends,” and I think anybody with real human emotions will tell you that when you’re in a toxic situation, that toxicity spreads into other aspects of your life. But we can choose to stop it from spreading, right, even if we can’t always remove ourselves from the situation right away?

Theoretically, yes. We can CHOOSE to do anything. But is this asking too much of mere mortals? I don’t know. I don’t have an answer.

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O Love

Facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedintumblrmailMy latest art project was a gift for someone very special. Love was once a four letter word to me: something I said to justify staying in a situation I should not have been in.  My entire life, I’ve had no idea
what it means to have a true partner. I’ve never been in a relationship where both sides have been on an equal plane –IMG_0032 mentally, emotionally, intellectually…and then I met someone, in  the most random way, at the most random time, and he revived the hopeless romantic in me that I thought had died.

I was done; I’d given up on the idea of ever making a real connection with anyone. I’d convinced myself that everyone in the world was shallow and stupid, and I was just different – an alien – someone who saw the world differently from everyone else. I’d convinced myself that I would never be able to find someone who saw the world the same way that I did, and that I was better off alone.  But I wanted so badly for someone to prove me wrong. I guess that should’ve been the first sign that my inner little hopeless romantic hadn’t died. My inner little cynic, however, had very little hope of ever being proven wrong.

But this one wonderful, kind, smart, funny, loving, handsome, amazing man managed to do it. “You’re not an alien baby,” he told me once, “you’re beautiful, and you’re brilliant, and I’m lucky to have you.”

So, I guess the lesson here is, I legitimately think that there’s someone out there for everyone: someone who thinks like you, is interested in the same things as you are, someone you can spend hours with and never have to feel like any action or conversation is forced; someone who can make your insides turn to mush with one look. That’s how a relationship should always feel when it’s right. Thank you, baby, for showing me what real love looks like. <3Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrssinstagrammail

Espresso Yourself

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I was feeling an interesting combination of whimsical, artistic, and perfectly caffeinated the other night, and this was the result.  One of the things that’s really suffered in the last few years from my busy life and constant changes is my art. I used to make it a point to work on a project at least three or four time a week, even if it was a simple, silly one like this; it was a perfect way to unwind and de-stress after a long day. I’ve since managed to drop the ball on too many things that have defined me all my life, but I made a commitment to myself nearly a year ago to start taking steps toward being myself again. Growing up is a funny thing – you start trying to figure out who you are, go through phases, change how you act, speak, and dress, recycle interests and hobbies, and, if you’re lucky, you realize that you were the absolute perfect version of yourself to begin with, and all the makeup was completely unnecessary. So that’s where I’ve been: taking off the makeup and trying to find the version of myself that I started with, the version that I liked best; trying to go back to doing all the things that used to make best version me happy, like drawing, painting, writing, running, etc. I’m happy to say that I’m making excellent progress.Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterestrssinstagrammail

O Life

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I’m not going to call myself a writer, or a poet, or artist or anything to that extent. I’m just one small, insignificant person, and I want to tell stories and change the world. I’ve always loved stories. Even as a child, they had a profound effect on me. I used to make my poor grandmother sit with me and tell me every story she knew, untilcropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-cropped-10387617_575763275857307_3752086057097923723_n-1.png her mouth was dry and she’d fall asleep; then I’d wake her up to hear more. When I grew tired of hearing the same tales, I asked her to make up new ones. I proved to be better at this than she, so I became the storyteller and she the audience. I told stories to anyone who would listen. A neighbor of ours expressed once or twice that she believed I would grow up to be a writer. This meant very little to me at the time. I had decided that I was going to be a doctor when I grew up, so I could cure my grandfather of his diabetes.

At seven years old, I moved with my family from our home in Armenia to Pasadena, California. My father had obtained a ph.D. in physics in Soviet Armenia. Until  1990, he and my mother lived a relatively comfortable life. Immediately following my birth, however, the Soviet Union collapsed and Armenia, who had been so dependent on Russia for all of its resources, tumbled into a decade of crime and poverty. Looting, killing, and robbery became an everyday reality. Water and power were turned on for only an hour per day, and gas lines didn’t work at all, leaving those who were unable to find firewood to freeze in the unforgiving Northern European-like winters. Food was non-existent, even to those who had money. I remember the potatoes; we ate potatoes three times a day – fried potatoes for breakfast, mashed potatoes for lunch, and potatoes roasted in our wood-burning stove for dinner. The roasted potatoes were a heavy favorite of both my brother’s and mine.

Dad came to the States first. His mother and brother were already living in Pasadena, and he joined them, hoping to earn a living and support his family from a world away. I didn’t see him for three years, but I never forgot him, and he was never absent. We always spoke on the phone, and he made sure we were never lacking in anything, from toys to clothes to Snickers bars and, of course, money. In those three years, my grandparents, my mother’s parents, became my life. I believe this was the first instance in my life where my creativity was fully nurtured; a few more would follow. I was my grandparents’ oldest grandchild and the light of their lives. As such, no rule ever applied to me. Their home was mine to do with as I pleased, so naturally I spent a great deal more time there than I did with my mother. Drawing, fashion, and, of course, storytelling, became my regular pass-times here. With no restrictions, a creative spirit blossoms; I was on loose reigns and at the center of both of my grandparents’ lives and attentions. And I blossomed.

Shortly before my eighth birthday, my mother, brother, and I moved to Pasadena to join my father. Though thrilled to be reunited with him, the adjustment to a new life was a difficult one for me. At seven years and ten months old, I started the third grade. I could speak, read, write, and understand English, but I hesitated to interact with my classmates. I felt like an outsider, like there was this profound struggle happening within me that my eight year-old mind could barely comprehend, and nobody noticed or seemed to care. That’s when I discovered books.

The first book I truly gave my heart to was Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Oddly enough, my school library didn’t have any of the other volumes of the series, and I had no idea there were more. Harry Potter wasn’t quite the cultural phenomenon in 1998 as it is now. After finishing the third installment, I learned that it had two predecessors and asked my parents to take me to the public library so I could find them. I devoured them both, then read the third again. The fourth hadn’t come out yet, so I re-read the first three until I had memorized each. The story that would define an entire generation had taken root in me. I couldn’t imagine, at the time, that Harry Potter would become what it did, but the second I picked up Prisoner of Azkaban, it became the thing I wanted more than anything. Harry Potter embodied the world of wonder, adventure, and fantasy that I so fervently longed for when I fell in love with stories. I began to read more, anything from Animorphs and Goosebums, to Jane Eyre, to Lord of the Flies. I inhaled books as if they were the very breath my life depended on. And in a way, they were. I had become, and would remain until around thirteen years-old, a very introverted child. I didn’t fit into the physical world around me, so I found a home within the stories.

Early into junior high school, a few of my language teachers began to encourage my creative writing. This was the second point in my life where my creativity was deeply nurtured. My sixth and seventh grade English teacher in particular was quite an extraordinary woman. In place of textbooks, speech excerpts, and dull texts, she had us read actual books, some even far above our grade level. She pushed us to read and analyze novels like Catch 22 and 1984, to think about them critically and, what deeply affected me personally, to allow them to teach us to think about the world critically. I began to notice occurrences around me that had never directly caught my attention before – cruelty, injustice, greed, suffering – I wanted to put a stop to it all, to heal broken people and fix the world, but I didn’t know how. I was just a small, insignificant little girl; all I had were stories and big dreams. This teacher also assigned us a creative writing project each semester. My writing began to reflect my newly-developing world views, and she commended me for it. She told me I had a talent; she began submitting my stories to junior writing competitions. I even won a few.

A few years later, these talents became apparent to a handful of my high school teachers. Rather than force me to fit the “normal” mold that social expectations had carefully constructed for me, they encouraged me to be more. I was old enough, at this point, to understand that they were nurturing both my creativity and my dreams of changing the world; furthermore, they were teaching me how to use my creativity to accomplish my dream. So I listened; for four years, I absorbed the knowledge and wisdom they imparted unto me like a sponge; I read books, studied history, politics, art, music, philosophy…and they taught me how to use my studies to advance my worldview. A few days before my high school graduation, and AP English teacher told me I had the potential for greatness, and  the only thing standing in my way was my fear of the power of my own mind. I had no idea what she meant by this, but I would learn soon enough.

At seventeen years and ten months old, I started my freshman year at the University of California, Irvine as an English major. Within a year, I had pieced together my career path. Upon completing my undergraduate studies, I would go on to get an MFA in creative writing, then a ph.D. in literature. I would teach and publish books; I would inspire students the way that my teachers had inspired me throughout my life, and I would inspire the rest of the world with my stories. It all seemed quite simple to me then; until that point, I had been a child, a sheltered, somewhat spoiled child. The adults in my life had always trusted me, protected me, and continuously told me I was special. I had spent lunch breaks and gym classes, football games and school dances surrounded by friends. Despite having to move and adjust to a new country, my life had been a relatively easy one. And suddenly, I found myself growing up and having to step away from my comfort zone, from the places and people who were safe and familiar to me, and it terrified me. I was living on my own, shopping for groceries, doing laundry, choosing my own classes… Nobody told me I was special anymore; I sat in four lecture halls a day with a hundred other people who had been told they were special. I found myself drifting apart from my very large group of friends. I got my first job. I got a tattoo, because it somehow made me feel like I was in control of something. And I fell in love for the very first time. I would like to say that, had I known that that last first would shape and consume my life for five years the way that it did, I would have fallen out of love immediately, but I’m not entirely sure that I had any control over that one either.

I fell in love with a man who had not made very much of his life. I was nineteen, he almost thirty. The more time I spent with him, the more I became afraid of outshining him. I feared the power of my own mind, so I stopped shining and let my dreams wilt away. February came and passed two years year later, and I missed my graduate school application deadlines. And just like that, my meticulously-constructed house of cards came tumbling down. I graduated that June, moved in with the man who had knocked it over, and we got engaged; I took control of having to grow up. Grown ups worked and got engaged; they didn’t spend years in school chasing fantastic dreams of changing the world. For three years, I played grown-up. I woke up, sat in traffic, went to work, came home, cooked dinner, did the dishes, vacuumed, went to sleep, woke up in the morning, and did it all over again. I stopped reading, writing, drawing, painting, playing my guitar – I would say I didn’t have the time, but I simply for the life of me could not find the inspiration. I was a child; I should’ve been backpacking through Europe in the summers and studying and learning the rest of the year. Instead, I was wasting my life supporting a man ten years older than I. A professional would have likely diagnosed me with depression in those years.

I spent three years cutting out pieces of myself, slowly, in small amounts. I barely noticed in the beginning, but as the years went by and more and more pieces were cut off, the feeling that something was missing grew stronger, until it became so unbearable that the need for significant life changes became undeniable. It’s easy to make a mistake. It’s even easier, once you’re falling, to keep falling. Changing direction is excruciatingly difficult; it takes courage, strength, determination, and an inhuman level of willpower. I know this first hand; I’ve somehow managed to win the battle.

I can give you all the details and tell you all the changes I made, but the only thing worth knowing is this: no person or thing is worth sacrificing your dreams, and if the are, they will never allow you to make that kind of sacrifice. People who give up on their dreams are unhappy and unfulfilled. I almost let mine die; I allowed them to wilt away into almost nothing, but it seems that I started watering them again just in time. And now I have my stories again, and my dreams, the two things that I love more than anything in this world, and I will never again take them for granted. So many people gave me so much, and all they asked in return was that I reach my true potential. I owe it to them to try. I owe it to myself. I worked so hard for so long toward an impossible dream, and gave up just as it was coming into view. I’ve now been blessed with a second chance, and I don’t expect there will be a third. I don’t want fame, or money, though I wouldn’t necessarily turn down either. But all the fame and money wouldn’t compare to realizing the ultimate goal: leaving my mark on the world, making an impact. I want someone who is lonely and a bit different, who doesn’t quite fit in, to be able to find solace and a sense of belonging within my stories. If I can accomplish that, I will consider myself successful. There is a passage within the novel Choke by author Chuck Palahnuik which reads,

“The unreal is more powerful than the real. Because nothing is as perfect as you can imagine it. Because it’s only intangible ideas, concepts, beliefs, fantasies that last. Stone crumbles. Wood rots. People, well, they die. But things as fragile as a thought, a dream, a legend, they can go on and on. If you can change the way people think, the way they see themselves, the way they see the world, you can change the way people live their lives. That’s the only lasting thing you can create.”

I want to create that lasting thing, to be remembered long after I’m gone.

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