Second Arrows

A few weeks ago I went to my first meditation class at The Den. The topic of focus was “second arrows”:

“When hit with discomfort, the conventional reaction is to whine and regret, kick oneself, take it hard. So we feel two afflictions: 1) the inevitable, physical feelings [a first arrow the world blasts us with] and 2) the additional, mental reactions [the second arrow we shoot into ourself]. We may fail to note any relief or escape from uncomfortable feelings [the first arrow] other than to distract ourselves with sensual pleasure. So we cling to diversions, rather than observing what is actually present, the arising and passing of feelings.”

—The Buddha, The Arrow Sutta

I think it’s important to allow that first “arrow” to hit you–a break up, the loss of a job, betrayal, etc but forbidding it from having a last effect. Initially, there will be that hollow feeling in your chest, a burning in your stomach and that rage that seems to envelop you (fight or flight response/sympathetic nervous system). But your thoughts surrounding these sensations either amplify them or control them. If you feel that burning sensation in your gut and say to yourself “I’m feeling rage,” you’re going to make it worse. It’s such a quick cycle so it takes a lot of practice but it is your choice as to which course of action to take.

I’ve had my fair share of these situations and I’ve definitely shot those second arrows–especially during my last breakup. A friend reminded me of this Buddhist ideal when I was feeling especially upset and it helped me check myself. I realized exactly what I was doing and how it wasn’t serving me in any way. This is where the buzzword we all love to hear people talk about–“mindfulness”–comes in. Something I practice often is getting myself out of unnecessary deep thought–if I’m driving, I drive; if I’m eating, I focus on that; if I’m reading, I pay attention to each word and process it. All of this takes concentration and practice but the physical sensations and reactions to situations do go away over time.

There are innumerable self-guided meditation videos and articles online but I highly encourage a group setting class. The social obligation of staying the entire time has prevented me from leaving classes when I’ve gotten anxious or lost my ability to concentrate. Because who wants to be that disruptive person that leaves early?

And if you’re like me, fresh out of a tumultuous relationship, don’t shoot those second arrows. Don’t go through old texts and think to yourself, “but he/she said…” Delete those messages and let it be. Understand that the only things you have control over are your actions and thoughts.

Dealing with Depression

Social media platforms present the concept of euphoric lives filled with champagne brunches, outfit photos and the latest turmeric matcha recipes. But in my experience, behind the confines of a screen, bloggers have been among the unhappiest people I’ve encountered. I have struggled with depression my whole life. And by “depression,” I don’t mean sadness. I mean that hollowed out, empty and numb feeling that gnaws at the core of your being. This online world used to be a safe haven for me–a place to express myself freely. But for some reason it’s now a competition of who is having the most fun and lavish digital mirage of a life.

This illness took over when I came to college and has led me in and out of multiple psychiatrist and psychologists’ offices. I will go into more detail regarding my struggles in the future but to sum it up–I have tried an arsenal of medication and therapy techniques (most to little or no avail) to realize that the only person that can help me is myself.

A psychologist, Dr. Martin Seligman, conducted a study involving a dog, a bell and a shock. After the dog realized the ringing of the bell meant that a shock was going to be delivered, the dog became afraid of the ringing bell. Next, Seligman placed the dog in a large crate that only delivered shocks on one side. The dog had the ability to jump to the other side but did not do so. Seligman called this “learned helplessness.” When we attribute failures or setbacks to an internal cause (“I’m not good enough” “I’m dumb” “I always make mistakes”), we don’t grow as individuals—we don’t move on. We remain stuck on the shock delivering side of the crate.

In the first two years of my twenties I have learned that everyone is just trying to survive. We can’t expect too much from others (e.g. empathy, sympathy) because everyone is dealing with something. “Oh, you and your boyfriend broke up? Well I just lost my job.” It’s not that it’s some sort of competition of who has the worst problems but sometimes it feels that way. I’m not saying that your friends don’t care, it’s just that we’re all treading water in an effort to stay afloat. So when you find yourself back in a depressive state, as I have time and time again, you cannot give into learned helplessness. No one is going to come to your bedroom, drag you out of bed, push you into the shower, brush your hair and clothe you (except maybe your mom).

You have to act opposite to your emotions. The pull of depression is alluring for many reasons. It can be comfortable. When you stay depressed, you don’t have to struggle to work your way out of it just to deal with the anxious thought that your happiness is temporary and can be snatched at any moment. Reject this idea. A depressed mind plays tricks.

A boy won’t make you feel better, a party won’t do the trick but a sense of mastery or completion of some task–any task—will. Make a small change every day: sign up for a pottery class, read one chapter of a book, clean one corner of your bedroom, eat one healthy meal, walk one mile on a treadmill. Celebrate these accomplishments, don’t minimize them. Over time, you’ll start to feel like yourself again.

New York, Leandra Medine & Making Changes

Over the past few years I’ve enjoyed talking about my distaste for Los Angeles. But as graduation approaches, I’ve started seeing this city in a different light. I appreciate the laid back lifestyle with the equal amounts of inclusivity and exclusivity. LA is a place of acceptance and rebirth. As easy as it would be to continue on in this city, I want to pursue a legitimate career in fashion. So, I’m planning on moving to New York City this summer. The “fashion” in Los Angeles is beach and trend based: Revolve Clothing, Planet Blue, Free People…aka not real fashion.

Over spring break, I visited New York in the midst of Storm Stella. I was using this trip as a test to see if I could tolerate the city during winter (I’ve never lived anywhere cold). I asked the universe for a sign (cheesy AF, I am aware) if I should pull the trigger and move. On my last day in the city, I stepped into Creatures of Comfort in SoHo. I was donning my newly purchased Man Repeller hat and roaming around the store to kill some time before my flight. One of the girls that worked at the store asked me if I worked at Man Repeller. I chuckled and responded, “I wish.” She then said that Leandra Medine, the founder, just walked out of the store. I was like “holy shit” and ran out to track her down (For what exactly? I do not know. It was an knee-jerk reaction). I randomly chose to turn to the left and literally ran down the street until I spotted her navy coat, brown hair and cropped leggings. I stopped her and told her how much she’s inspired me in terms of giving up daily make up use and growing into my weird self. She was extremely kind and we took a selfie which I won’t post because I look like an eager puppy. That encounter made my day/trip/week/month and I couldn’t have even imagined such a clear sign that I should make the move across the country.

My friends and family have had mixed reactions to my decision to move though I haven’t even locked down a job yet. I’ve heard “friends” say stuff behind my back along the lines of “Sonum at a 9 to 5 job? HA” and “I don’t think you could handle New York.” (I’m pretty sure fashion jobs are like 7 am to 10 pm, not 9 to 5…but whatever LOL). But I’ve also had people tell me that they think I should do it in order to avoid regret and “what ifs.” I honestly have no ~fricken~ idea about what I want to accomplish in the fashion industry right outside of college. I do know that I want my own business one day but I’m not about to half-ass anything. I need to learn everything possible about the industry and businesses in general before I try to pull off something like that. My industry knowledge is limited to what I’ve experienced at two NYFWs and from The Devil Wears Prada. I’d honestly be happy working as an assistant to an assistant at a fashion house, magazine or publication as a first job after graduation. It will be difficult and I know I will be ridiculed about everything from my appearance to my abilities and creativity but honestly, what great accomplishment has been easy? To the people that have questioned my decision to enter this field I’ve asked, so what else should I do? They have no answer for me.

People like Leandra Medine and Iris Apfel are the reason I love fashion. In Iris’ documentary she said something along the lines of, “who am I to tell someone what to wear?” And: “There’s no road map to style, it’s all about self expression and, above all, attitude.” This type of mentality is what I see in manrepeller.com. This is the type of fashion I love. I’m so sick of the elitists that don’t experiment with style and look down upon everyone that does (e.g. the type that only wear structured pieces, neutral tones, leather jackets, and only shop at stores like COS and Acne). That’s not the type of environment I could thrive in which sucks because that describes the majority of the high fashion industry. They make a living off of judgment and criticism and are probably among the most unhappy people. I also think that the more famous you are on social media, the less creative you tend to be (LOL at when bloggers ask their followers to help them decide what to buy/wear). The creatives don’t resonate with the masses until someone takes their idea and waters it down for mass appeal. But anyway, I digress.

It’s incredibly important to make the most of your 20s. I recently read The Defining Decade by Meg Jay and it changed my mindset. People keep saying that the 30s are the new 20s when in reality we shouldn’t be acting like we have a ton of time. People pay for the mistakes they made or opportunities they didn’t take in their 20s when they’re in their 30s. We get comfortable in less than ideal situations. One of my friends recently went through a break up which made her realize she was settling for so many things in life. She took a 180 and is now pursuing medical school. These are the types of decisions we are terrified to make. We need to break up with less than ideal significant others (people you couldn’t see yourself marrying) and break ties with jobs that don’t provide any room for growth or valuable experience. We need to try new things even if that means dealing with the possibility of failure. This is something I struggle with—I mean, who likes failure?—but we can’t remain stagnant. I’ve heard that people regret things that they didn’t do, opportunities that they didn’t take, way more than mistakes they made. I only get one opportunity at being 20-something and relatively responsibility-free and I’m going to make the most of it. If New York City kicks my ass and sends me crying back to the more comfortable LA lifestyle—so be it. At least I tried.

An Ode to Significant Others

As I’ve graduated from dating in college to dating in the real world, I’ve come in contact with a harsh truth. We’re all selfish assholes. I literally blocked a guy’s number the other day because I wanted to go to Pop Physique more than I wanted to see him—and he just couldn’t take the hint. I enjoy my solitude; I’m comfortable in it. Giving up my personal time to go on an awkward first or second date is not my idea of a fun night. But how long can we keep this up until we desperately crave a close relationship only to find that we’re left with our mother and aged dog? Sorry mom. I see countless, single 30-something year olds out in LA looking as “happy” as can be. Is it an act or are they actually content with this attachment free lifestyle? (These aren’t rhetorical questions–I really want to know. Email me at theurbanfashiongal@gmail.com).

For the longest time, I used the fact that I’m moving to New York City to push away any serious commitments. Whenever the topic of graduation and the future would come up with a guy, I’d slip in a comment about the move. This worked well until it didn’t and I actually pushed away someone I really liked. That experience—me playing the “cool girl” and it backfiring—made me realize that I want a relationship. I pushed away the idea of settling down and having kids but in reality, I was afraid of the vulnerability attached to it. I have been terrified to say, “This is who I am, the good and the bad; will you accept it?”

We play this game of being uninterested until the point of apathy. We have lost the ability to care deeply, to be vulnerable. What’s so scary about someone not wanting you as long as you want you? At the moment, I’m not 100% comfortable with myself and I’m not looking to settle down with someone because of this. I’m in this transition stage of not knowing what direction I want my life to go in. This doesn’t mean I’m avoiding relationships because I’m uncertain about my future—I’m just waiting to invest my time and energy until it’s right. Life shouldn’t be wasted on half assed relationships. I know I’m going to look back at this time in my life and reminisce about the late nights out with friends, all of the uncertainty that comes with being in your 20s and living in a big city with minimal commitments. I’ll hold onto it while I can.