Of Creativity In The Workplace

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In all the years since I’ve joined the working class and become part of the corporate environment, I’ve taken part in my fair share of trainings. One particularly stands out these days.

I remember the trainer asked us a question: “Do you think you’re a creative person?” Simple, right? I naturally answered with a very decisive yes (I run a blog, after all! I also happen to delve into painting from time to time). He asked me to explain why I thought that and gave him the blog argument. At which point I got something in the lines of “yeah…but no” (maybe not quite the same wording, but you catch my drift). My first reaction was to feel offended. Actually, I lie, my very first reaction was to feel embarrassed and probably turn bright red all the way up to my ears (something that doesn’t usually happen to me). “That’s not what I mean”, he told the group, “that’s not creativity really”. And I was stunned; and offended still.

A few years having passed, I can look at that moment in a different light. The person who was delivering the training was an entrepreneur, a businessman if you will. So he thought of creativity in terms of how things can be done in a unique, innovative manner, so that ultimately you can bring in more money for the company. Anything else lacked significance. Sadly for him, I would say.

A few years having passed, I do understand what he meant when he referred to creativity in a business environment. If you’d asked me back then how am I being creative in my work, I’d have been completely stumped for an answer. Right now, I can list so many things: pouring myself into smaller or larger impact decisions, coming up with the right investigation route for a certain technical issue raised, applying solutions used for one client to another one I’d not had contact with up until that point, dreaming up ways to fix a problem that everybody has so far said cannot be fixed.

But the best playing ground for creativity is in the communication piece – being able to reply to an email or in a call in a manner that puts across the message you want to put across, while all along remaining polite, professional and getting what you need from the person on the other side of the table. Positioning a message in just the right way. They call this assertiveness, don’t they? Ah, this elusive and mysterious state of being. So un-straightforward, so difficult to pinpoint. It sometimes feels like walking a tightrope high up above a huge canyon – if you fall to the right, you’ll be seen as passive and people will think they can just steamroll you; if you fall to the left, you’ll be perceived as coming across aggressive and unyielding, uncaring even. It’s a very fine line you have to walk and it requires impressive amounts of creativity and going through constant decision making processes (some will be microdecisions, granted, but they still eat up mental energy even if you don’t realise it).

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Photo by Alice Achterhof on Unsplash

It was an unexpected conclusion I reached after pondering on the subject for the past couple of weeks or so. I realised I’ve been coming home pretty much exhausted after some very full days at work which involved lots of what I’ve already listed above. Guilt ensued, along with a slew of existential questions as I just couldn’t bring myself to do any of the things which in my mind so far were the only outlets for creativity. So I began delving into what creativity actually means. Lo and behold, I managed to surprise myself and at the same time give me peace of mind – I’m not stuck in a rut, it’s just a different way of being creative.

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Of Ways To Fuck Things Up

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In the words of the ever glorious Alanis Morissette, isn’t it ironic how things can go from ‘thank you so much for everything’ to an unspoken ‘screw you and screw this’ in 2 seconds flat?

Just like with the things that the goddess-singer lists in her hit song, the reality is that no, it’s by no means ironic. It’s very, very sad and disconcerting however. And the situation contains in itself an equally unspeakable level of disappointment. No matter how much you may try to make sense of it, you’ll always fall short simply because basic information is denied to you. You’ve been blindsided and you have to swallow the bitter pill as it was given to you, or risk turning it even more bitter through any level of prodding into what someone’s true motives might be.

Things break, and they break down into unrecognisable bits and pieces, remnants of what they used to mean in this completely unpredictable universe, because of completely unfathomable reasons.

What I am and will forever be unable to understand is how you can under any circumstance attack someone for caring about the people around (with everything that entails). Imagine going up to Mother Theresa and saying something like “You know what, lady? You’d better stop giving this much of a damn about everybody and stop all your fretting. Have you looked at yourself in the mirror lately?! I mean, you’re skinny and sickly as hell, better just focus on some self care, m’kay?” Now, I know the comparison is taken to the extreme, but to me this sort of reaction is this kind of level of incomprehensible.

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by Mag Pole, via unsplash.com

Surround yourself with a high brick wall and stayed walled up for long enough, and you’ll soon realise people have given up on trying to climb it if they kept being hit by buckets of scalding water and then some tar and feathers to boot. Nobody is Mother Theresa except for Mother Theresa, which means that as human beings we have a limit to how much we’re willing to accept in terms of rejection and hurt.

As for myself, I care. I’m a chance-giver, a second chance-giver and a 10th-chance-giver. I care about other people’s well-being and seeing the ones close to me (or even not so close to me) suffer or experience a rough situation triggers an immense feeling of sadness and the desire to do something – anything – to relieve that suffering, to make the situation easier to face. That’s just who I am, not something I’ve chosen and something I  can only partially control. I’m not ashamed of it. I won’t apologise for it. It’s caring and closeness that the world lacks, not more walls and more loneliness.

So build those walls up high, I hope the view from behind them is nice. But I won’t be part of that.

 

Greaţa

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Încep să-mi pun problema în ce societate profund degenerată îmi duc existenţa. Am citit nişte reacţii în cazul cărora cuvântul abject consider că este excesiv de blând. Ce specie de imoralitate şi câtă ură trebuie să ai în tine pentru a genera comentarii ca cele pe care le văd cam peste tot ca răspuns dat unor fete şi femei care au reuşit cumva să-şi găsească suficientă putere să treacă peste spaimă, frică de moarte (pentru că da, cu moartea si violul sunt ameninţate unele dintre ele ca replică la confesiunile despre cum au fost abuzate sau agresate…), peste ruşine şi sentimente de autoînvinovăţire, şi şi-au făcut auzite vocile în sfârşit. Cât de inuman poţi să fii?

Băi, animalelor, oare dacă vi s-ar intâmpla vouă sa fiţi înghesuiţi într-un colt şi să nu puteţi scăpa din labele cuiva care vrea să vi-o tragă, indiferent că voi vă doriţi sau nu…cum ar fi? S-ar mai pune problema că „Sigur şi-a cerut-o! Cine l-a pus să meargă la sală şi să facă muşchii ăia, să aibă fundul acela care se cere f**ut? Ah, şi apoi să poarte blugii ăia cam strâmţi pe fund. Dacă nu voia să o păţească, nu trebuia să meargă in club şi apoi să plece în taxi de unul singur. Cine l-a pus să se aranjeze şi să se dea şi cu parfum?” ?

Mi-aş dori ca rolurile să fie inversate. Să simtă bărbaţii ce înseamnă să strige după tine nişte specimene de ultimă speţă, ba să-i vezi că parcă au şi pornirea să se ia după tine dacă îi ignori şi grăbeşti pasul, strigând că eşti pizdă proastă şi nefutută. Să ai 14 -15 ani, să treci pe stradă înfofolită într-o geacă de iarnă, cu fular, cu căciulă etc şi de pe nişte schele să înceapă să fluiere după tine nişte libidinoşi care ţi-ar putea fi tată la vârstă. Să te întrebi oare ce ai făcut tu greşit de ai generat astfel de reacţii. Să-ţi pună alţi libidinoşi mâna pe fund aşa, în plină zi, pentru că tu ai îndrăznit să fii femeie şi să le treci prin raza vizuală.

Mi-aş dori enorm în momente ca astea să fie rolurile inversate, şi bărbatii să simtă ce înseamnă să ţi se spună că eşti inferior pentru simplul fapt că eşti bărbat. Pentru că dacă nu ai sâni, înseamnă ca mintea ta nu e destul de ageră. Şi pentru că dacă ai penis, înseamnă ca asta te face să fii isteric şi să nu poţi gândi clar. Deci nu poţi fii plătit la fel de mult ca o femeie.

Femeile sunt încă tratate drept inferioare bărbaţilor în mult prea multe circumstanţe. Sunt tratate ca nişte posesiuni de către destui bărbaţi, de parcă orice li se cuvine şi femeia trebuie să se supună. Pentru că este femeie. Nimic mai mult de atât. “You’ve got to grab’em by the pussy,” citire de la Trump.

Lucrurile ăstea ni se întâmplă şi suntem crescute în spiritul ăsta de parcă noi trebuie să ne ferim de brutele ăstea, nu că ei trebuie confruntaţi pentru comportamentul lor oribil. Noi trebuie sa avem grijă să nu stârnim reacţii pe care bieţii bărbaţi din categoria despre care vorbim nu şi le vor putea controla. Adică, ei nu te-ar fi înghesuit şi pipăit dacă tu nu erai acolo să stârneşti instinctele lor animalice. Nu ar fi fluierat după tine şi nu te-ar fi făcut troacă de porci după ce ai ales să îi ignori şi să grăbeşti pasul, dacă stăteai şi tu închisă în casă, nu treceai pe acolo singură. Sigur eşti curvă. Sau nefutută. Depinde ce inspiraţie au în ziua cu pricina. Ce ţi-a trebuit să te porneşti singură pe stradă spre şcoală cu gânduri din ăstea de educaţie? E vina ta, normal.

Mi s-a făcut greaţă citind comentarii absolut degradante, sunt revoltată de îmi tremură mâinile pe tastatură în timp ce scriu rândurile astea. Să vă fie ruşine! Ar trebui să vă înghită pământul de ruşine, neoameni ce sunteţi ăştia care scuipaţi cu atâta venin!

Of The Two Great Loves

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I’ve had two great loves in my life.

One was that love you dream about when you’re a naive teenager. A beautiful boy you never would have expected to look in your direction is suddenly smitten with you and you haven’t the faintest clue how to react. He’s gentle and makes you laugh and makes you feel like maybe this isn’t real, like you’re going to wake up from a blissful dream. He gives you butterflies and everything feels new and unique. There’s only the two of you in the world, everyone and everything else are just the background for your story. Every girl deserves a guy like this for a first boyfriend.

The other one was the love that saves you from yourself and makes you believe in loving again, in loving in a different way, but just as deep. Maybe deeper even. It was the kind that doesn’t give you butterflies like the first one, but does something much better – it makes you smile the whole day long knowing that there’s no doubt about where you stand with each other. It makes you want to not just dream, but also plan. This was the love that made me feel seen after I’d been invisible in much too long. This love was deep and enveloped me without realising this was happening. This love saved me when I needed it the most, when I was close to the precipice and about to lose myself.

I miss the age of innocence sometimes, when I still hadn’t been truly hurt yet. Could you walk into a relationship from a better position than not knowing the fear of the ending? This is how one should step into it, otherwise it’s like dooming it before it’s had the chance to become anything worth living.

Love is misunderstood nowadays. So many circumstances warrant the use of another word – infatuation, lust, desire, excitement, adrenaline rush – but love itself can be replaced most times by a more accurate synonym, kindness. It shouldn’t be called self-love, it should be kindness towards oneself. Kindness is the foundation of any loving endeavour or gesture, not anything else. 

When stepping into a relationship, it should be falling in love like falling into kindness. Nothing is worth it without love – I say nothing is worth it without kindness.

31 now and true love to me isn’t butterflies that fly away, it’s the love that’s kind and keeps you true to yourself. 

Of Tolerance And Thresholds

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I have a very high tolerance threshold – for bullshit, for strange reactions, for harsh words, for forgetfulness, for the simple fact that we’re all a different shade of human, therefore have widely diverse interests, needs, desires and priorities. Everyone who knows me will know this truth about me. But even my tolerance and ability to understand and forgive have their limits.

I have too much hope in people’s potential, in their capability to grow beyond their limitations and to learn how to be better, how to do better, how to care and love better. Because at the end of decades upon decades, when you’re looking death in the eye, it’s what you’ll regret. That you didn’t care more, reach out more, speak more, hug more, love more. And you’ll think to yourself that while there’s no other way to fade away but alone, at least you could have avoided a lifetime of being alone, walled up in a fortress you built yourself. If only your ego, your bruises and scars could have let you lower the drawbridge.

I’m being nagged again by that horrid, self-deprecating question I so wish I could just forget. Why not me? Why am I not deserving of more, of that thing that others appear to be so deserving of just because they exist?

This much hope leads to disappointment. Expectations lead to disappointment. Event love leads to disappointment.

And that nagging question that keeps sneaking up on me just when I thought I’d stifled it for good.

 

Of Happiness and Worthiness

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It trickles down your face, until it blurs your vision altogether. You know, like when you walk in the rain because you’ve forgotten your umbrella at home, zooming out when you’re already late for wherever you need to go. The worrying that you’re just not enough, the relentless questioning of the self and your worthiness to be happy, to be seen, the constant “why me?” again, and again, and again. And always.

Yes, you are worthy. Yes, you deserve happiness. Sorry to disappoint, but yes, you have to work for it. Just like everyone else. It won’t fall down from the heavens straight into your lap one day, but it’s not something unattainable because of some malicious twist of fate or some malevolent spirit that’s sabotaging you. It’s equal parts learning what you should accept from the universe as it is, what you’re willing to accept as it is, as well as working up the courage and mustering up the energy to fight for what should be changed for the better.

You’re well aware that you’re imperfect. How could you not be awaew, when you’re reminded from all directions, in all shapes and forms, from the oh, so very subtle, to the blunt, uncensored, completely tone deaf?

You’re bound to be disheartened. You’ll want to give up on everything and everyone. You’ll want to be left the fuck alone. All that background noise can become too much to take for even a second longer, let alone a whole day. You’ll long for silence and for a calm that you’re hard-pressed to find. How can you hear your own thoughts when they’re swirling around, joining the constant buzzing from outside yourself?

Please, don’t give up. In this anxiety-ridden society, it’s easy to fall prey to the idea that you’ll always be a fraud, that in fact you don’t deserve any of the good things happening to you and that happiness is something that’s been given to you because someone up there must have fumbled the list of recipients. So now that you’re going through a rough patch, it’s surely what you were meant to receive all along. This must be the point in time when karma re-balances itself.

There’s another side to this whole mess yet. It’s one I plead guilty of and that I’m arduously trying to work on, putting in a lot of energy and just a bit more time than I’ve been doing so far. As much as I’d like to, I can’t just do an about face to the way I’ve been approaching certain situations and relationships. After all the effort to bring forth those rare and precious moments of happiness, it can feel to some almost impossible to accept them, to take them in and just stay like that for a few seconds.

For some absolutely inexplicable reason, it can feel that if you enjoy your short stretches of happiness, you’re rubbing it in someone less fortunate’s face. As if their happiness were your own responsibility, not mainly theirs. So you stifle it, you bury it, you find all sorts of ways of reducing happiness to something unimportant, of no consequence. Worst of all, you sabotage it, to make it last as little as possible, lest it make others jealous, envious, upset.

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Photo by Igor Ovsyannykov on Unsplash

What is happiness to you? And why might you not deserve it, even those little crumbles you manage to gather, through sometimes completely disproportionate effort? I don’t have an answer ready for you, other than we humans somehow manage to damage and break – each other, and ourselves. Putting the pieces back together and learning to see yourself as whole and deserving might be the most daunting task of your existence. But so satisfying once you manage to get a hang of it.

Soundtrack:

 

Of A Short Bout of Autumn

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Yesterday felt like a bout of autumn in the middle of an otherwise unusually scorching summer (yes, folks, climate change is a reality). It put me in a very melancholic mood. I wanted to scream. You’ve got to be kidding me, how has it all gone already?!

I’m a girl of summer, no secret there. I’ve been pining for this summer for what felt like an endless winter and a much too cold spring. So please indulge me if you see me become pensive and slightly aloof when there’s an unexpected low in the temperature. I don’t mean to get like that, I just have a very high weather sensitivity in terms of energy levels and state of mind. Probably always had it, it just took me a while to understand the way I react and the way my body reacts to the transition of seasons and the change in weather from day to day.

We somehow still believe the universe is inconsequential to our own being, while at the same time believing so adamantly in myths that hold no real scientific ground. Experiencing how much power the simple shift in the intensity of light during the day can have over mood and even the way my body works, I can’t understand such narrow, dangerous mindsets.

Today, summer and I are on much better terms.  The temperature’s turning around, the skies are clearing up, the sun’s a friend again. And how could I stay mad when for weeks now the season’s been gifting us breathtaking sunsets and skies that look hand painted. Each evening a different colour combination and shades of pink and purple that aren’t quite the same from one moment to the next.

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Photo by Arno Smit on Unsplash

What are summers for than to read to your heart’s content, and to take in the scent of the warm evenings, let your gaze rest of the endless green of the lush trees and the myriad colours of flowers blooming with no shame and no envy for one another’s beauty? What are they for if not to bask in the warmth of the sun during the day and to awe at the sight of sunsets later on? What are they for than to take everything in, revel in the scents, the colours, the tastes; and when autumn comes round you can say you lived your summer.

One More Aware Step

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When does one start becoming a true writer, no longer simply a scribbler of random thoughts and spewer of feelings turned frustrations? How do you go about working towards becoming a serious, professional writer? Even more confounding – what makes a true, serious, professional writer? Who decides it and bestows upon you that title? The readers? The critics? The printing houses? The effort, time and heart you put into your endeavour and each word that you imagine and put on paper? Is all of this worth it and is this really my purpose here?

I catch myself thinking that we expect too much from life. We’ve got it in our heads that the Universe owes us something, that it owes us happiness for the simple fact that we came into existence due to a multitude of factors coming together in that one single fraction of a second, so we were born instead of some other potential human beings. For whatever inexplicable reason, we concluded that there must be some purpose to life, that divinity or the Universe are supposed to offer that to us on a silver platter, while angels play the harp in the background and divine light shines down upon us. We fail to see that purpose is not just given to you, it’s something you create for yourself and it can be as unique and diverse as snowflakes are.

No, the Universe does not owe you anything, not happiness, nor bliss, nor a ready-made purpose. Life is not perfect by design. If it were, it’d be called paradise, nirvana or something along those lines. So in this imperfect and much too short-lived existence, it’s up to each one of us to draw the mental picture of what purpose is for us, and to work towards it; bit by painful bit, second by fleeting second.

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Photo by Quino Al on Unsplash

In a very unexpected twist of events, about the same time I began to reflect on this and to internalise it, I stumbled on this article. Quoted there is the below musing by Pulitzer-winning poet Robert Penn Warren:

“In the phrase [“to find myself”] lurks the idea that the self is a pre-existing entity, a self like a Platonic idea existing in a mystic realm beyond time and change. No, rather an object like a nugget of gold in the placer pan, the Easter egg under the bush at an Easter-egg hunt, a four-leaf clover to promise miraculous luck. Here is the essence of passivity, one’s quintessential luck. And the essence of absurdity, too, for the self is never to be found, but must be created, not the happy accident of passivity, but the product of a thousand actions, large and small, conscious or unconscious, performed not “away from it all,” but in the face of “it all,” for better or for worse, in work and leisure rather than in free time.”

We are, but we also become, in a never-ending transformation and evolution towards the purpose that we must pinpoint for ourselves, be it small, or be it monumental. But for that we must also have the bravery to take a true, good look at ourselves in the mirror.

It’s a terrifying thing to do, seeing the ugliness in your soul, acknowledging it and resolving to do something about it. What you see in that mirror might be completely unexpected, and it may be the most beautiful thing that you’ve never known about yourself. If only you’d had the courage to glance at yourself earlier!

Getting to know yourself and building purpose – these are active verbs we should all use in writing the stories of our lives. The passive voice is what’s dragging us down and keeping us trapped in our unhappiness.

Clujul e mişto

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Din varii motive, nu am reuşit să ajung la niciun film TIFF anul acesta până ieri, adică ziua 4. Dar nu despre asta voiam să delirez aici.

Citisem zilele trecute un lucru – Andrei Gheorghe, invitat la o dezbatere în cadrul TIFF, crede despre Cluj că ar fi un oraş mişto, desi până acum îl considera un fel de Timişoară de mâna a doua. După ce trec de momentul de revoltă provincială în faţa unei astfel de constatări din partea cuiva venit de la capitală (te iertăm, Andrei, că de altfel şi mie mi se pare că eşti mişto) îmi cam vine să râd. Explic mintenaş.

Mie Clujul mi se pare mişto de vreo zece ani (plus sau minus), de când am aterizat aici pe jumătate extaziată că am venit la facultate, pe jumătate îngrozită de un oraş care mie mi se părea mult prea mare, mult prea grăbit şi mult prea gălăgios după 18 ani de vieţuire într-un orăşel trecut de zilele de glorie comunist-industrială.

Fast forward vreo 2-3 ani şi am început sa cunosc oameni extraordinari, cu dorinţa de a schimba lucrurile în bine, cu viziune, dar mai ales cu ambiţie şi determinare. Oameni care au ajuns în IT sau oameni din domeniul creativ (cu tot ce înseamnă asta), oameni care au realizat că gesturile mici ajung să transforme mai rapid şi mai eficient o societate, atâta timp cât există destule minţi care să gândească în perspectivă şi destule inimi care să bată cu empatie şi înţelegere, nu cu ură şi prejudecăţi. Oameni după sufletul meu, tribul meu.

A fost un moment interesant cel în care am decis că merită toată încrederea din lume Clujul acesta. Aveam o discuţie înflăcărată (că altfel nu poate fi atunci când te mână pasiunea în tot ceea ce faci) cu un bun prieten care împreună cu un grup pe aceeaşi lungime de undă ca el începuseră să organizeze seri de caricaturi şi portrete. De ce? Pentru că viaţa e mai mult decât métro, boulot, dodo. Iar arta e acel ceva intangibil, dar care, în mod cu totul misterios,  ar trebui să ne atingă pe toţi într-un fel sau altul.

Eh, în seara aia mi-am zis că trebuie să mai dau o şansă Clujului înainte de a-mi lua lumea-n cap şi a mă muta la mii de km depărtare. Am simţit că există o speranţă reală şi că letargia aceea de care tot fusesem acuzaţi noi, „generaţia Facebook”, generaţia Millenials, era de fapt o percepţie complet greşită. Atunci am realizat că nouă, adică generaţiei noastre, chiar ne pasă; doar că poate de lucruri care părinţilor noştri le vine greu să le găsească relevanţa raportat la experienţele lor şi la viaţa pe care au dus-o, la lipsurile pe care ei au fost nevoiţi să le îndure. So I stayed.

Mă bucur că am rămas, pentru că suspiciunile mele s-au adeverit. Clujul e plin de oameni mişto, care fac oraşul mişto.

Să nu mă înţelegeţi greşit, nu spun nici pe departe că totul e perfect şi minunat în Cluj, mai sunt multe la care trebuie lucrat (traficul, dom’ primar, ne omoară traficul si autorizaţiile de construcţie data fără cap!). Dar un lucru mi-e foarte clar în minte acum – oamenii sunt cei care fac oraşul. E nevoie de curaj şi inimă deschisă – şi nu spun că-i uşor să le găseşti sau să le cultivi în tine – dar dacă le-ai descoperit, transformă-ţi vocea din şoaptă în strigăt de războinic. Ştiu că poţi.

PS: am să las asta aici, şi asta la fel

Purple Hair, Don’t Care

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31. Thirty-fucking-one.

Part of me is screaming “So what do you have to show for it?”, while another part is yelling back, irreverently (as is only natural after too many cocktails to count, courtesy of a dear friend’s wedding today) – “Pretty fucking much, actually! Let me make you a list.”

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by Rich Helmer, via unsplash.com

I remember now what I almost never got to understanding – I am strong, and capable of making the hard decisions and owning the weight of them. I may cry the very next second, kick and scream in my mind, lament my fate for a few minutes, but at the end of the day, I know I’ve grown enough over the years to be capable of owning my life, my choices, my reactions and my feelings.

I wear my heart on my sleeve. It’s who I am and the only person I want to be. You may wonder how on earth I can survive in this world when I allow myself to be so vulnerable. You’d be mistaken to think I haven’t wondered the same from time to time. Then I remind myself this is my superpower, this is who I have grown into. No apologies.

Allowing myself to be vulnerable, believing in people and their untapped potential, believing there’s more to life than sadness, darkness and hate, trusting and being hopeful even after a fall.

Those are my superpowers and I’m going to be celebrating them. Bring another year on!