Dating, Life, Love, Reflection

The Believer and the Atheist

It's difficult for me not to wonder at the grandness of this existence, whether truly experienced or imagined.

It’s difficult for me not to wonder at the grandness of this existence, whether truly experienced or imagined.

 

It was a stay-in Saturday night. We were hanging out in the kitchen enjoying our mutual love of spirits and each other’s company. It was something we were both looking forward to. He smiled as he handed me a glass holding his latest rum experiment and I greedily and giddily took it.

“So I noticed that your family and their friends are pretty religious…”

“How do you mean?” I smiled and sipped my drink, which he made to perfection as usual.

“Well, at dinner last night they all prayed before the meal… I just got the sense they were all pretty serious about it.” He furrowed his eyebrows in that familiar fashion and I considered his words.

“Well, I guess they are. The hostess is a pastor and their family is obviously very involved in the church by default. There were also some Catholics there too. Most Puerto Ricans are some kind of Christian.”

“I see.” He began making his own drink. “Do you think it bothers your mom I’m not really religious?”

His sudden directness took me by surprise. I thought about it for a moment and took another sip from my glass. The majority of Catholics are very relaxed in their practice. It is common knowledge among us that many exclusively show up to mass during the major holidays out of obligation (see Catholic Guilt); much like one would attend a family event even if it was not the most enjoyable way to spend time. They are absent Catholics, but still retain the core beliefs that define their faith, even if they do not always live it.

“No, I don’t think so. I mean, we have plenty of family members that don’t really go to church.” I looked at him levelly. Due to his upbringing among the more… passionate believers I knew he wasn’t particularly fond of Christians, or Christianity for that matter. But this particular subject had never come up in our conversations. I was intrigued. “Why do you ask? Are you Agnostic? Deist?” Neither one of those would surprise me. I’d understand that.

“No. I’m an Atheist.”

The world stopped spinning. I swear I felt my heart cease to beat if only for a moment. The look on my face must have startled him because he quickly added with some concern, “Is that a problem?”

As the reality of his words began to sink in I began to ask myself the same question. The answer? I just don’t know.

Throughout the course of my life I’ve had friends and family from all walks of life with varying religious beliefs. Although I grew up in a highly Christian social and political environment, it never made me into the hateful believer I see popping up like weeds nowadays. I knew that any person who would condemn others based on ignorance, bigotry, homophobia, and misplaced self-righteousness could not honestly claim to follow a loving and merciful God. They were undeserving of my respect and fellowship. Furthermore, I’ve always liked to look at religion from a more academic and historical perspective. One cannot forget that many of these writings were written by men in a time when outsiders and women were considered of little importance. Later on, these religions would be used to wage war against fellow men in the name God. I knew what terrible power and influence religion could have on a weak mind, and I refused to be one of them.

If we as society were to use medical writings from hundreds of years ago simply because they are the oldest and therefore the material with most precedence, people would die and terrible mistakes would be made. One has to acknowledge that our understanding of the world, and of God, changes over time. As human kind experiences existence, there is knowledge gained. If that knowledge is not used to improve and expand our lives then we are no better than the animals we so arrogantly consider to be beneath us.

But I had a real dilemma in my hands now. The person I am today has a lot to do with what I believe and what I have allowed myself to feel. I pray every night for those I love and pray every day for strength and wisdom in my own life. More often than not, I found my prayers being answered. I’ve recognized images and events in my life that I cannot simply attribute to chaos. There may not be a plan, but damn it of there isn’t a theme. I often lose myself thinking of the perfectness and beauty of the world, the vastness of the universe, and all the blessings I can claim.

Faith and hard work have helped me overcome many tough times. I don’t believe that any “religion” has the right answers. Humanity is just imperfect. Now I was face-to-face with someone that believed none of what I felt, not even a little.  I have Atheist friends and their thinking never once bothered me, ever. But this was someone I had come to love, someone I hoped to share everything with only to find out I could never confide in him my most personal and deep thoughts… It just broke my heart.

Although I know he would never mock my beliefs, I’m afraid he would think me a simple-minded sky worshiper.

We shared so many loves: art, literature, music, video games, staunch opposition to religion in schools, etc. But the one thing I never thought I had to worry about was now a fundamental difference within our relationship and I didn’t know if it was something that required being addressed.

I’m very much in love, but if this is to continue I know there will be things I will inevitably have to sacrifice, things I grew up looking forward to and things that would bring me much happiness. I know from experience that the moment you start giving up your identity, and that which defines it, resentment begins to grow. I don’t want that to happen. I also know that when there is something truly important to a person they can’t share with someone they may find someone else to share it with. There is some hope in heart though. My aunt and uncle have the exact situation. She was Catholic young Puerto Rican woman and he was a charming Irish Atheist.

I’ve heard it said that love overcomes all. As I battle my conflicting emotions, I pray that to be the truth.

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Life, Reflection, Wisdom

Negativity: No one wants to hear it

It’s about 8:15a.m. on a Monday morning and I’m slowly making my way up the stairs to the common kitchen area in hopes of pouring myself some of that magical and precious liquid known as coffee. With eyes barely open, and a notably zombie-like pace, I reach my destination. I spot a co-worker by the counter preparing his breakfast and I greet him with the best “Good morning” I can manage under the circumstances. He quickly turns to me and begins with, “You’re not going to believe this. I got an email last night with the stupidest request…”

Now, at this point I realize that I am about to be bombarded with yet another work rant that I did not ask about nor feel interested in. I pick up a mug and stare at its empty bottom while my colleague continues to voice the same overplayed complaints. Suddenly his noise is simply too much to bear and I abruptly cut him off.

“Let me stop you right there. It’s not even 8:30 in the damn morning and you’ve already started whining and complaining about work? Cannot you not at least wait, out of courtesy, for me to have some coffee before cornering me with this? Why are you so negative ALL the time? I’m sorry, I really just don’t want to hear this right now…”

I guess my directness threw him off because for a couple of seconds he just stood there dumbfounded. I instantly felt a pang of regret because I did consider him a friend and I had never truly lost my temper with him until that moment, but I had reached my limit. For weeks I had been noticing how co-workers, and people in general, spoke more about the negatives of life than of the good. Yes, life is difficult and we are constantly fighting to keep our heads over the water. Life is a challenge and we should feel blessed to have the opportunity to face it.

If you’re going to complain be prepared to offer alternative solutions, otherwise shut up.

While there is nothing wrong with people pointing out things that need improvement, they should also be prepared to offer solutions. Simply complaining about something will do nothing to change the situation, it will only create an aura of negativity around you that will surely make any future efforts to find solution all the more challenging. Overcoming obstacles is mostly a mental game. If you want to succeed to have to put aside failures (after learning from them first!) and work towards the future.

Don’t confuse pessimism with realism.

I love it when people tell me, “I’m not a pessimist, I’m a realist.” First of all, if you had to utter those words then newsflash: You ARE a pessimist. No matter the situation there is always a positive aspect or opportunity to be taken from it. Thinking otherwise is simply immature and ignorant. Whenever friends come to me with their problems I always try to brainstorm with them and help them find at least one positive in their situation. If there is not immediate positive aspect that can be identified them we look for opportunities. When you close yourself off to creative thinking and hope you’ve already lost.

What did negativity ever accomplish? Other than annoying others and making you miserable, absolutely nothing.

Some time ago I went through a really stressful period in my life and unfortunately developed a bit of anxiety in the process. I was constantly thinking of the negative what-ifs in my life and spending too much time contemplating things out of my control. When I finally got tired of feeling so overwhelmed it dawned on me that all my problems were within my power to change and control. Your life is your own. We often underestimate the power within ourselves and forget that with a little bit of work and true commitment, almost anything can be accomplished. When I started focusing on the positives in my life the change that took place in my mind, heart, and soul can not be properly described here. It was as if the world had changed. Colors were brighter, problems didn’t seem that bad, I was able to take advantage of new opportunities I never bothered with before. But when you’re stuck in your own stubborn pessimism it might a little bit of roughing up for you to get the message.

I guess my point here is: If you have people you care about and they care about you in return, if you have shelter above your head, if you can dream, if you can hope… The world is yours. So STOP being such a Negative Nancy.

“There are only two worlds – your world, which is the real world, and other worlds, the fantasy. Worlds like this are worlds of the human imagination: their reality, or lack of reality, is not important. What is important is that they are there. these worlds provide an alternative. Provide an escape. Provide a threat. Provide a dream, and power; provide refuge, and pain. They give your world meaning. They do not exist; and thus they are all that matters.”
― Neil Gaiman, The Books of Magic

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Life, Reflection, Wisdom

Note to Self: The Lessons of 2013

BabyNewYear

The eve of the new year hangs heavy over me. It is impossible to avoid thinking about all that has occurred in the last 12 months. I remember feeling scared and hopeful in the beginning. I had very specific plans for the year but reality soon set in and burst that little dream bubble. It was a year of hard work, high expectations, occasional disappointment, professional growth,  and emotional maturing. I made it through the rough spots and it’s looking as though 2014 has some new and fun adventures heading my way. Best not forget the knowledge gained.

Duly noted:
  • What I want will not always be what I need.
  • Never too old to watch cartoons or “children’s” movies.
  • I rather be insulted than ignored.
  • Hooking up with exes is generally a stupid and temporary fix. Just say “no.”
  • Life is magical and terrifying.
  • Internet and media tout messages of “accept your body” and “everyone is beautiful” but they use ridiculously gorgeous celebrities as spokespeople. *facepalm*
  • Anything made out of chocolate is a perfectly acceptable breakfast.
  • Men will say and do anything to get into your pants.
  • Women will say and do anything to get their way.
  • Being open to love means being open to hurt.
  • No matter how much of a perfectionist you are, life will F*** UP YOUR PLANS! Think on your feet and don’t linger on the unchangeable.
  • The biological clock is real, thankfully my mind reads it as white noise.
  • There are genuinely good people out there./There are some real d*bags out there.
  • Eat well, live well.
  • Alcohol makes boring people interesting, which is why it should be avoided in large quantities during early dates.
  • Take risks. “What ifs” are terribly annoying.
  • Only you should determine what defines your happiness, not anyone else. Well… maybe only Google or Playstation. They can tell me what would make me happy.
  • Real boyfriend will never live up to fantasy boyfriend, but he does have extra tricks!
  • It’s not how well you drive, it’s how well you react to others’ road stupidity.
  • Everyone, absolutely everyone desires to love and be loved.
  • No matter how bad today went there is always tomorrow.

Bring it on 2014. Bring.It.On.

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Life, Rants

My problem with Hipsterdom and Nerd Appropriation

Mara’s Café is my favorite lunch spot these days, but my natural enemies have also taken a liking to the café. No coffee house is safe.

Wahmbulance Alert

For the most part, life is simply too short to spend it judging others and their choices. People will do and say what they want as it is their right within a free democratic society. Even so, when an individual (or group) aims to claim another’s social, cultural, or ethnic identity, bastardizing the spirit in which originally established, some form of retaliatory response from the offended party is to be expected. Just as the 1st Amendment protects the rights of citizens to be as lame and absurd as they want to be it also protects my right to call them out.  I am offended. And so we begin.

I’ve always been THE geek among friends. Ever the academic and curious observer, trying to fit in was never of much interest to me. I firmly believe that one should not have to feel apologetic for embracing the true self. It is a common complaint among millennials, people are “fake” and it’s aggravating, but we continue to reward the practice by giving attention to the offenders.

It is a fact of life that appearance will be the first thing people notice about you. The way you dress, walk, talk, and act are all being judged. People form opinions of others based on those perceptions and we all attempt to gain control of the process by evaluating and altering our personal appearance. But the fundamental point of an appropriate personal style is lost on many. Simply dressing up the part (and poorly I might add) does not magically grant the qualities you so ardently wish to embody. Putting on a pair of Guess glasses does not a scholar make.

Art for the sake of art. No one said anything about being different for the sake of pretending to be original… That.Makes.You.A.Tool.

Society has an honesty problem. We have surrendered the power to define value in things and people to media. Utterly. We are too busy aspiring toward “ideal” lifestyles to appreciate the beauty of the unfiltered individual. This obsession with perfection is twisting even the sacred: Gaming. If I could properly describe to you the rage that builds within every time I see a picture of some tart in lingerie (or naked) holding a console controller the FBI and DEA would descend on my home before the final edit of this post. Even the manner in which the controllers are held suggests it might have been the first time our girl encountered such an object. (She undoubtedly has a lot more experience holding other things.)

Image is entirely within our power to create but without substance all efforts are without merit. You should be proud of who you are and what you do, whether boring or uniquely interesting. Personal image and style should be an honest reflection of your person and not a formulaic reproduction of the latest desirable types. Your body is yours to govern. Cover it with things YOU like and feel comfortable in. It may sound trivial but your appearance should really be an extension of your inner spirit. It is the first message received by those you meet and that message should be an honest one.

And who am I?

High School was a mix of wonderful and tragically illuminating experiences. I was an introvert and embodied most of the characteristics that define the classic “nerd” archetype. I spent most of my time reading, studying, performing music, learning, and gaming. Parties were events that other people attended while I sat in a dark room trying to beat the final boss of a favorite fantasy J-RPG series. High School classmates googled porn, fashion, and sports while my browser history revealed a love of  mythology. My general innocence, and what suspiciously felt like social anxiety, earned the nickname “Puddle.” I was smart, awkward, literary, creative, and at times lonely. From early childhood I allowed my glasses to become a shield. They were a message to the rest of the world: I like who I am and nothing you do or say can change that. It became my signature.

Girls my age were preoccupied with purchasing the latest fashions from Aéropostale while I waited anxiously at the door for the Amazon release date delivery of my latest literary obsession. Probably the reason why my wardrobe often looked outdated and quirky. I was never the popular or beautiful girl and that was OK. My worth -I decided- would be measured by academic accomplishments, strength of character, and artistic spirit. Now it seems, people are content pretending to look smart rather than working towards personal betterment. They seek a particular type of admiration without having accomplished anything worthy of praise.

How things change: The appearance of intellect is far more appealing to the masses than the honest pursuit of knowledge.

Society and mass media are flooded by saturated images of nerd, geek, and art culture. The former “popular” girl that would wear mini skirts and furry boots has now transformed into the girl wearing leggings, a scarf, and retro glasses. She’ll pretend to read books, like with no pictures and stuff, and will constantly remind those around her they’ve probably never heard of the bands she claim to like (coincidentally, neither has she). The hipster phenomenon has blossomed into an unstoppable monster that threatens to destroy many of the things I hold personally dear. It is the vilest form of nerd and bohemian appropriation. It devours, twists, and markets genuine hobbies, interests, and personalities as a fashion choice. Hipsterdom encourages hypocrisy by allowing us believe that wearing flannel and a beanie somehow validates our uniqueness when in actuality it groups the wearer into yet another clique.

Just remember, whatever impression you want to give others is entirely undone if your actions can’t back it up. You only end up looking a fool.

But I digress. The point here really is:

Please, please, PLEASE don’t tell me I look cute in my “hipster glasses.” I’ll have to inform you I wore them and lived the nerd lifestyle before it was cool. The painful realization of the statement’s irony would surely shatter my soul…

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Dating, Life, Love, Wisdom

Life Happens: RomCom

The promise of tomorrow, sometimes tonight.

It was a dark and really, really, REALLY f@#$%& cold night…

The week had been miserable. Work was busy, as expected for year-end, and grad school had reduced my social activities to a minimum. November came and went in a blink and it was now another holiday season. A hectic schedule managed to distract me from general life worries but I could not escape those fears and doubts one Thursday evening.

I had seen myself in the moment.

A dark-haired twenty-something sitting by herself on the PATH staring into her phone. She was dressed for a date, probably not the first judging by lack of nerves, and yet she seemed troubled. Maybe she was running late, maybe she had second thoughts about the guy, or maybe she was avoiding letting herself become too excited. The year had brought its share of heartbreak and  every guy with promise had disappointed her in the end. Some faded away like ghosts while others managed deeper cuts. This train would take her somewhere she could be happy, if only for a little while. She would forget about reaching 30 in the next couple of years, the pressures to succeed, the dreams that never became reality, expectations, and the yearning for that which all little girls dream of: True Love.

The PATH operator came through the speaker system, “We will be leaving momentarily. This is the train for 33rd Street.”

Would I get there on time? This was a third date and rules mandated I determined my level of interest. I imagined the future and the possibility of “us,” but my thoughts were interrupted by one poignant question: Do I WANT him? The honest answer was “I don’t know.” People will always present the best version of themselves in the initial stages of any relationship. It takes time to discover someone’s true person and that truth helps cultivate and nourish love. I had not shared enough time with my date to accurately assess our compatibility, but so far he had been playing my wants with dead-on accuracy… causing me to give pause. The self-preservation defense mechanism kicked in: Be wary of those that promise paradise… He was, after all, seeing other people. A woman just knows certain things. It was a fact I accepted as no talk of exclusivity ever took place. The annoying part of it was knowing he shared his attention while I gave it entirely. I felt the fool.

The train doors closed and we departed for the city. At the following stop a few passengers got on-board and a tall man sat across from my seat. I was lost in thought, too distracted by mental calculations to notice my surroundings, when it dawns on me that I will probably arrive late. I look up – exasperated – and lock eyes with my tall neighbor. I freeze under his piercing gaze and feel the blood rush to my face. I manage a swift shy smile and go back to staring at my phone like it’s the most interesting object in the world. Lighting had struck.

Sharply dressed, well-groomed, and a knowing smile. My peripheral tells me he is still looking AT me but his smile had struck me deaf and mute. A minute goes by, then two. It feels like an eternity.

I’m on his radar. I know it, and he knows I know. The stranger puts away his book and leans forward. I sense his look and a million thoughts race through my mind: He’s dapper, WHY is he looking AT ME? Maybe he knows me. Will he say something? Oh God, if he talks to me what do I say? What if he asks me where I’m going? I’m technically going to a date. I would be a TERRIBLE person if I flirted with this guy. Is that red hair? Wow, I’ve never dated a ginger. Will our babies have souls? Eh, still cute. STOP IT! I am… insane. Wow.

“So where are you off to tonight?” A deep and measured voice. Just how I like them. Boyish good looks and a charming presence… I’m definitely in trouble. 

Ok, now smiiiile… NOT LIKE A HORSE! Jesus! “Going for drinks on Broadway. Catching up and enjoying a night in the city. Yourself?” Nice, he liked that. Even gave you a little chuckle. It’s better than “Oh yeah, meeting my date later. We’re probably gonna end up making out a lot.”

“Going to see some of my old college buddies play a show. We were actually all in college for music.” Fellow music major? Mmm, could go either way. So long as he’s not a music snob.

“Really? I’m also a music major! I’m a lyrical soprano.” The coincidence brings a laugh out of us and the inevitable comes to pass.

“May I sit next you?”

I smile. “You may.”

The stranger approaches and takes a seat by my side. The conversation flows effortlessly and we find ourselves smiling at each other and laughing more oft than not. We attended the same college and even shared the same professors, but it apparently took a random train ride to orchestrate our encounter. The conductor announces our next stop and my companion takes reluctant notice.

“Well, I’m getting off at the next stop but… I’m really glad I ran into you. Could I ask for your number and maybe ask you out for a drink later in the week?”

It was a snapshot in my life. A defining moment in my twentieth decade. Single, occasionally heartbroken, disillusioned but not surrendered, doubtful of the future but sure of step, and now faced with a decision. Should I remain on the safe path or take the leap? Do you want to dream of the life you want or live it?

He bid me goodnight and we shared one last look before the train completed its stop. The reality of what just transpired finally hit me and I couldn’t help but to laugh out loud. A good friend always makes it a point to remind me that “When the universe speaks, you’d do well to listen.”

Well Universe, I’m listening. Just don’t screw with me for entertainment. So many other d-bags to punish first.

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