Breathe and Exhale

I always assumed that the best writers only write stories of anguish, pain, disappointments. Maybe because all the greatest books I’ve read, came from a place of darkness where characters would live out their worst fears and desire to change.
I remember a time when I only wrote when I was unhappy or lost or when I was unable to explain my emotions within the hour.

I’ve come to the realization that I haven’t written in a while. While I can blame it on my hectic schedule (part time job, full time masters, friends, family, etc.), I think much of the reason I haven’t sat down to write is because I’ve changed. Writing no longer encompasses my sad truths or reliving past experiences.

I remember having off days where I would have a perfect day at work, school, home. But somehow would end my day with a cloud of lost feelings and lack of satisfaction. I would turn on the news and hear stories of starving refugees and war, and think to myself, “What do you have to be sad about?”

I think it’s a feeling we all go through. How do you determine that your life, or feelings, really matter in a world of complexity? It was the answer to this question, that allowed me to finally be free of my thoughts.

It started with me removing all aspects of my life that made me unhappy. As a shy, not outspoken woman, I knew my first step was to confront past emotions, things I had continued to hold on to. So I started with my father. Then moved to my ex-lover, and ended with friends who I had lost over the years. I cannot explain the feeling of removing parts of my life that were floating. It was as if I removed the blockades from a road.

Next, I began to learn the powerful importance of “no.” I began to self-reflect on what was important to me. And in the long run, I had to understand that no matter what I did, someone would disagree, be unhappy for me, or be hurt. I had to let go. My life was in no other hands but my own and I needed to stop living for others approval.

I then decided to repair what was good in my life. I strengthened my relationship with my family and closest friends who I knew would be around for years to come. I repaired my relationship with people I held grudges with. And lastly, I repaired my relationship with myself. I began looking at myself differently. Instead of analyzing my faults and regrets, I began to appreciate myself. Just myself as it is, bare and human.

Lastly on my road to being free, I reflected not on the past or things I could not change, but rather on what lies ahead. It took me realizing that while I may not be satisfied with my current job, or relationships, or financial burdens, that these minor factors would ultimately not make a difference in years to come. I began to let go and stopped worrying about things that were out of my control.

And in doing all these things, I also found a new spirituality and connection with life. I began to appreciate small things like music and food, things we often take for granted and dispose of without looking the other way. I began reading extensively and dancing (even embarrassingly) without a care. I stopped caring what people perceived and rather cared about those who were interested in my persona.

I stopped writing because I began to realize that my life was full of so many stories ahead, yet I was too ignorant and unsatisfied to realize it. So if you’re at a dead end, or simply regretting how your life has turn out, start with the basics. What makes you write? What keeps you breathing in the morning? What is it that makes you happy? Trust me.

And soon you’ll be writing again. But this time, it will be stories of unfounded worlds, and love, and all the in between where you left a dark moment to find true happiness.

Just inhale. Exhale. And begin.




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Why you should fall in love with yourself

The fault in dating today is explained in one phrase:

“We are constantly trying to convince someone to fall in love with us.”

In our distant, social media era, we thrive on people accepting us with indefinite love and obsession. We lack the ability to understand the common stages of acceptance, lust, like, and then love.

We immediately want someone to love us without the preconceived notion of who we are as people. We show our favorite attributes: our favorite outfit, our smiles, our social lives, etc. –We thrive on meeting people with our predestined survey of who we are, what we want, what we accept, and why we are the best person for the job.

The problem with this notion is that we fail to do one thing:

“Fall in love with ourselves.”

We immediately showcase this alternate being of a person, “someone who has a strong lust for life, or someone who has a particular taste for laughter.” Yet we rarely face the ability to express to someone, the darkest parts of our being. The moments when we face our thoughts alone, our fears, or our inability to express who we really are.

We don’t stop to look at ourselves, to understand, to feel the humbleness of being alone. We immediately wrap our minds into this notion that we are something of greatness for this “other” person. That we can alter our minds, beings, and feelings to better feel out this individual. We are in constant motion with “fixing” people–curing the incurable men or women, who we’ve convinced ourselves would change upon meeting our “alternate selves.”

Human beings have always adapted to change. We’ve changed our bodies, minds, and capabilities to better suit, not only our lifestyles but the people we share it with.

Yet we fail to realize that the ultimate truth lies within our own hands.

Falling in love with yourself, is not the act of feeling happy. It means finding yourself in your most vulnerable moment and accepting that you’re complete in every way possible.

Loving yourself is being okay with being sad and happy in one day. It means that the thought of changing yourself for another, is a complete disaster for your inner being.

Because you should never have to convince someone to love you.

Love does not stream from the moments of unexplained happiness, but rather the darker depths of our notions as human beings. Love comes from seeing someone at their very worst being, and knowing that no matter what life may bring, you’d rather spend every second with their worst selves, then being without them for one day.

So before you begin your journey of dating and getting to know people in this social-leading world, you must recognize that the true act of love, is first most accepting yourself as a being capable of flaws and mistakes.

You can’t expect others to carry your flaws and burdens on their backs, if you’re not capable of carrying it yourself.

You must remember that people are capable of struggles, just as you are. Remember to always accept someone for their darkest moments, even if they are not prone to understanding it themselves. If you’re intact with your being, you comprehend much more of another person and their inner struggle.

And last but not least, always remember that being vulnerable or weak, is not always a bad notion. Sometimes, beauty comes from the feeling of “let-go-ness”; of complete freedom of your soul, heart, and mind.
As always falling in love with yourself, is not the answer to your relationship or dating problems.

It is merely the answer to our life long question:

“How do we find happiness?”

And that is rarely found in the hands of another; if not found in the inner workings of our own hands.







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Why “American” Doesn’t Fit my Checkbox

You grab a drink at a bar and a guy looks towards your way. He immediately walks over to ask you where you’re from. You reply with the most basic answer, “New York City.” He wants a deeper answer. You begin to wonder: Are his politics aligned with yours?, is he an extravagant prideful American? “I should just reply American.” No, I think he wants to know my nationality. What if he hates Arabs? What if he calls me an immigrant for being half Latina? I should just say I’m American, right?

Does your nationality and culture override your American citizenship? Is the place you were born, your automatic identity? With the mass media consistently focusing on identity groups such as Latino immigrants, Black Lives, Muslims, etc, the question of American born pride is constant.

So I ask myself all the time, what does my American pride consist of? My American pride is the ability to attend a university as a woman and minority. It is the feeling of being able to drive and to walk down the street in peace. It is the pride to have the world at your fingertips. It’s the ability to read novels and textbooks that elaborate on this beautiful American lifestyle.

Now the reason why I don’t say I’m American. My American pride only exists through the elimination of another culture’s pride. I think it’s important for average thinking adults to understand the context in which ones culture exists. As a half-Puerto Rican, I grew up reading Puerto Rican novels that gave an inside look at the women who were used as birth control test subjects in the Isla de Vieques, at the mere expense so white women in the United States could begin their revolution. The revolution of women in the United States doesn’t hit quite home for me since they’re still Puerto Rican women today, who experience the side effect of forced medical testing.

As a half-Palestinian, the current destructive state of Palestine is at the expense of the United States tax dollars to support military occupation in the West Bank. Although, United States overcame a war on Terror in Iraq and people celebrated a victory of American power, I could not relate as the countless bodies of Palestinian children were disposed in the air with grenades. I could not relate to the limitless amount of army guards and police officers available during Black Lives Matter protests–while the Palestinians form of protection consist of merely a slingshot and rocks.

Yes, I think it’s important to acknowledge your America citizenship. However, to me that birth certificate and Identification would not be available, if not for the expense of those who have suffered under American imperialism and destruction. I think the first step to acknowledge ones identity, is to be able to question our identity and understanding of ones moral consciousness.

I cannot say that my identity is Puerto Rican or Palestinian–I did not grow up covering my ears to the sounds of bombs in Ramallah or Gaza and I certainly did not engulf myself in Puerto Rican political protests as the economic crisis rose. What I do know is that it is an American attribute, to question and disagree with ones identity. I am American born, however, I loathe the policies that have scarred my cultures identities. Can I be both American and non-American? Is that attribute possible?

So I remain once again in a limbo state, where my mere existence is resistant to American society. Where my thoughts are automatically non-American, yet I have the most pride to work and live in this country of dreams.

I am American, but my heart lies in other borders.

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The Hate Cycle

Mother’s often tell their children not to hate. “Hate” is a strong word. 

I was often told to use the word “dislike” as a child when it came to things or people in which I was not a fan of. 

Now let’s take this mother who preaches to her son about using the word hate. She projects the peace and life that she wants her son to share when he grows older. And she hopes, with every ounce of her teachings, that he will one day learn that hate is not the route. 

But let’s change the setting a bit. Imagine that mother, the one who constantly sang hymns of prayer and peace and virtue. She is a mother in the midst of war and conflict. Every inch of her is afraid to send her children to school because of her fear that she may not see them return. Now this mother, has been limited to fend for the last scraps of resources and food for her children. Even in the midst of a hell-hole prison, she still teaches “peace” to her son.

Now one day, the mother sends her son to school. His means of education will help him grow into a man one day. School finishes, and the mother waits. Hours go by and she continues to wait. She steps outside where bodies and pools of blood lay. She is forced to look through the remains of the children and people to know whether her son is alive or dead.

Yet she still spills out peace.

And upon the rummage of bones and the insides of her neighbors, she finds her son’s shirt. And then she finds his feet. And then the realization that she sent her son to school and he never returned hits. And in the midst of the killing of her son and the killing of all the people around her, she is expected to “preach” of peaceful thoughts and dreams.

If there has been anything I’ve learned from Palestine, it is that the strength of this nation is insurmountable with any strength I have ever seen. My brothers and sisters, who lay in the midst of uncertainty and with no escape from the world’s largest and most deadly prison in the world. 

But most of all what I’ve learned, is that no person, no matter how qualified or academic you are; no person, no matter how Godly or powerful you may be; no person, regardless if you watch news reports everyday or not; No person has the right to judge the people of Palestine. 

Take a walk in their shoes; then judge. Because if you were a mother, who constantly spilled out words of peace to your children and put them on a path of righteousness only to find that an army, supported by billions of dollars from powerful nations, has now murdered your son, your neighbors, your people; I don’t think that “peace” and happy thoughts would come into mind. 

Think of those fathers who found their wives and children’s skin burned and ripped apart. Think of those babies who are now left alone to fend for themselves, because a rocket killed 20 members of their entire family.

This is no longer a debate of politics, of religion, of divine right, of land, of oil. It is no longer a debate, when an entire community is killed and we are made to believe that it is in pursuit of democracy and freedom.  Palestine is the only nation in the world right now that is occupied and refused any freedom.

So before we as people want to judge an entire nation on why they “hate” Israelis, or why they “hate” America, or why they “hate” anything; live in Gaza for a week and witness it yourself. Feel the pain that each mother and father feels as they have to pick up the remains of their children in the street before the next rocket hits. 

It is not a debate when children are murdered on a daily basis. Over 300, have been killed in a week. Yet the world will continue to judge. Take a step in humanity. Take a step as a Palestinian and you will learn that “hate” is the proper word for children to use right now. 

Hate is a cycle. Do you think these children who grow up in Gaza, witnessing their families killed with one blow to their homes, are expected to be peaceful when they grow older? How can you expect them to want to stand side by side with a nation who has taken everything from them? 

Understand hate in a different context. Understand that if the US was Palestine right now, us Americans would limit ourselves to “hate” too. 

Hate for a world that would stand back and watch in silence. 

#PeaceForGaza #Freedom #Palestine 

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Palestinian Heart

When I was nine years old, my elementary school had a writing contest. They sought out the best writing piece and the prize winner would be featured in the school newsletter and would have their name announced on the loudspeaker for all of the school to hear. 

I was nine years old. And while much of my competitors wrote stories of fantasy, of their families, or answered the lingering question of what they wanted to be when they grew up; I knew I was far past my time. 

I submitted a writing piece labeled, “My home in Palestine.” It described my love for a land I had never seen, for olive trees and skies that I was eager to feel. I described my love for my grandparents who would speak to me on the phone with their calm voices saying, “Habbibty, Laila.” I was nine years old and I could fully grasp what it meant to have family in Palestine. To wonder if they were okay. To think what life could be like for them. I wrote in my submission, that I wished one day I could save Palestine and that peace would come from the cracks in ground and into the homes of each and every person in the Holy Land. 

I won the contest in the fourth grade and I went on to see my submission on our newsletter. My parents were in complete happiness and showcased my writing piece to anyone who entered our home. 

At nine years old, I knew what problems would lay in the midst of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. And I knew that as long as I was living, I would take on my Palestinian roots with pride. 

When I entered college at 17, I remember learning more about the opinions of others in regards to the conflict. Some people were advocates, others were temporary supporters, and some were just ignorant. I had never had an opinion on how others should feel or believe. 

To each its own. 

However, one day I was told in the process of looking for a job, that I shouldn’t showcase my Palestinian roots, since many people did not want to be associated with the political/religious conflict and that many of my future employers may be pro-Israel or have one-sided views. 

I spoke with advocates and supporters of Palestine. Some told me of their fear that being apart of protests and rallies would affect their opportunities to obtain jobs in certain areas. When they asked for my advice, I told them that they need to do what was best for them and their future.

But what I failed to realize and what many others did not realize, was that no matter where I go in this future or what opportunities I hold in my hand, I will forever be Palestinian. 

My olive skin and dark eyes, not to mention my last name will forever portray my roots and my people. For me, advocacy and protesting has no affect on my life and opportunities. I am proud of who I am and most of all, I am proud to have roots to the brave souls who have lost their lives on those lands. 

At nine years old, I was able to comprehend somewhat of what lies in the Middle East. I knew nothing of hate, just peace. I was a fourth-grader who only knew that there was a fight between two peoples and that they just needed to come together as one. 

At 21 years old, I know more of what lies in the Middle East more now than ever. And while the world would expect me to release hate towards those who have hurt my homeland, you will not find hate in my soul. 

Because just as that nine year old expressed that she wanted peace and that she would forever hold Palestine in her heart, I do the same now. 

I am and will forever be a Palestinian. There is no taking away this beautiful label that I hold across my heart and skin. Peace is at the tip of my tongue. And Palestine is forever and will forever be my love.

So whether you are just learning about the conflict for the first time or you have been following the conflict your whole life, remember to form your own opinion and find others who can support your thinking as well. It is in our human nature to disagree at times. But it is not human to base our beliefs solely off what we see on television. Live outside your borders.


#FreePalestine #PeaceForGaze #Solidarity #Love 

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Temporary Battles

Something I’ve learned in the span of my awkward teenage years into adulthood.

Each and everyone of us: Rich or Poor, Black or White, Happy or Sad.

Everyone of us has a battle, a hidden secret that lies in the midst of our deepest fears.

We each struggle with our own never-ending complications, when our minds run and our thoughts seem to go on to another lifetime.

The problem, is that we fail to realize that each of us have a certain battle to overcome that we don’t publicize to the world. Well, unless you are a reality tv star who airs out their problems. Even then there is a part of our human nature that people often do not see.

It is those moments when silence becomes a virtue and music becomes a savior as you put your mind together to understand what you are battling.

Some of us can’t explain our battles. They are located deep in our minds and at times, they are the gut feeling you have throughout the day. They come in the form of sadness; those weird moments when you can’t figure out why you are sad, although everything around you seems perfect.

The issue with our personal struggles is that the moment we tell others about our battles, we feel judged, naked, stripped, and even more alone than before.

So the point of this is that you, among the countless others, will mold yourself into the people you set out to be. It is by picking each of your battles on your own, that you face the determined-being that you have always wanted to be.

Remember: Everything is temporary.

You think to yourself, in years to come you will have new battles, that won’t seem as tedious or disastrous as the ones you have now. But you will have battles. It is in our human nature, to over-think the simplicity in our lives. Our worries and doubts plague us like diseases at times.

But it is the person who moves on from those struggles that is eventually set free.

Because life will throw you curveballs and at times you may feel, that this moment, right here, is possibly the worst feeling of them all.
Wake up, breathe, and let is pass.

Because the you that is awaiting can’t hold on to these strenuous battles.

You must break free and perhaps one day, you will share battles of your own with the people who love you the most. And it won’t seem as though you are holding the world on your shoulders.

Stay positive. Stay happy. And live.

Battles are only temporary.

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Message from a Dad about Life

Father’s Day is like any ordinary holiday when one acknowledges their parent and throws gifts at them for dealing with all our crap over the years. While each Father’s Day I contemplated what to give my father as a gift, I was unaware of the gift he would give me on this Father’s Day. It was an ordinary Sunday; the weather was beautiful outside. I decided to take my father to the pier in the city, where we walked the entire boardwalk and talked about random topics like landscapes and dogs. We then ventured off to grab our favorite Palestinian dessert, Kenafa. My father was happy. He showed me off to everyone in sight, as if I was this celebrity. We then watched the game and talked about our favorite players, like Messi and Ronaldo. It was the average day for me and my father; taking on some of our most favorite activities. But it wasn’t this part of the day that stuck with me. It was our conversation after. 

I had my Corona. My dad had a Guinness. We drank and talked about everything. Life. Love. Happiness. 

My dad proceeded with this speech:

“I don’t think I ever told you this or if you knew. Just a year and a half ago, I remember when I was at my lowest in life. It was around July, the hottest month of the summer. Business was flowing quickly (My dad works with AC Contracting) and life was good. In the middle of July, I received notice that your grandmother was very sick in Palestine. My mother. I needed to go. I hadn’t gone back home in over 25 years. And here I was taking whatever cash I had in the bank and leaving all my current jobs to head overseas. 

My mother looked so sick. While I stayed up with her in the hospital, all my siblings could care less about what she was going through. I took overseas with me a lot of money; money given to me from a job that I hadn’t finished. I don’t know where all the money went. I would spend it here and there on my mother’s medication or to help out my siblings with their medical bills. All i know is that when I left overseas back to the US after two & a half weeks, all I had was $200 in my pocket. That’s all I had. 

The day I arrived back to the U.S; it was 9 am. I received a call on my phone from overseas. My mother had died that morning. 

Life came crashing down on me. I got to see my mother one last time. And now I was incomplete. Then life got worse. 

I lost every employer, and the majority of the businesses I had worked with, withdrew their contracts and hired other contractors. I lost all the money for the summer and my business went down. I had to completely close it down. Even when jobs did call me, I refused to answer the phone. Instead I stuck to drinking heavily at night and staying in my bedroom. I had no money to even pay the landlord. I was 52-years-old and I had no wife, no family, and no work. All I had was my daughter in college, but I didn’t want to put this burden on her. 

It was then that I reached a drastic part of my life. My car was taken away and I had no money to pay the landlord. I began to ask those friends I had for all these years for some help. No one answered their phones. One man, Carlos, agreed to help me with a few thousand. But when the day came and my rent was due, he informed me that he was out of town. I had no one. My life was in shambles and I even thought what was the point. Thoughts came in my head. After all the money I had thrown at people over the years, I had no one to even speak to me or give me a shoulder to lean on. 

I realized that I needed to snap out of it. This was no life to live. While looking for a new job, I came upon an old friend Sam who I had known in the 90s. He was surprised to see me and talked about how I was the “man” back in the day, holding down an entire business from the start to finish. He didn’t even know. He then said “Mike, I want you to be my partner. I need you to be my partner. You have the skills that I can never have.” It was here that an old friend gave me a life changing opportunity. I quickly saved up money, paid the landlord, bought a car and began to get my life together. 

Soon after, that same friend, Carlos, who I had asked for help once, called me up asking for some money. I told him I could help him and when he called me the day of, I told him the same thing he told me “I’m out of town.” He said he deserved that. He had no idea how much I needed help that day, how much I needed a friend. I called him up the next morning and gave him some money and a hug. 

What this means to you Cassandra, is that you need to enjoy your life how it is. Make valuable friends who will come into your life for moments or stand with you for much time to come. You are 21, and this is not your time to struggle finding a job and jumping into a relationship. 

This is your time to enjoy what life has to offer and live. So go out anytime of the day, eat whatever want, drink with your friends, and just live. 

Life is a funny thing you see. We can be at our highest or our lowest within any given moment. So take this time to truly enjoy and get to know yourself. You want to look back and know that you got to spend your youth well and that you were able to see and spend time with the people you love the most. Life will come into place. That new job, that boyfriend, those friends, etc. It’ll all come into place and you’ll end up saying, wow why did I worry so much. Just live and even when you think you’re at your lowest point, someone reaches out a helping hand to guide you as you have guided others. Just live.” 

My father said this to me that day. It was Father’s Day, however, in the end I received the best gift. To hear those words and to drink with my father and chat about how funny life can be. Priceless. 

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