Sometimes a story comes to me through an image, a random thought, a song…I used to think I just had an over active imagination. I haven’t quite gotten used to calling myself a writer but I do understand better now that it’s not just imagination. It is a gift. A calling. Nothing helps me thrive more, lights up my world than writing (and fashion). The better I understand who I am created to be, the better I can love and accept myself. I’m learning just to BE. Here’s to finding out what lights up your world!
A small excerpt from a short story 6 Days. Enjoy!
The slow rhythm of a ceiling fan spinning nonchalantly amidst a quiet background. A young man, in his early thirties, stares blankly at it. He appears to be completely at peace amid the chaos that surrounds him. You see the stillness is only in his mind; for he is lone island in company of a tumultuous sea. Sirens, tortured screams and faint cries for help color the night outside of his bedroom window. A foul thick stench paints the air inside of the tiny room he has chosen to take cover in. Rodents, the size of domesticated animals, scurry across the floor and his lower extremities in a game of hide and seek. Yet the young man, clearly not alarmed at his living conditions, has found a peaceful solitude among the bleakness. The retreat of his will and soul has almost driven him to madness and he no longer gives a damn about consequences or outcomes. In fact, he prays to the gods for madness! Before it all ends, before he takes his final bow, exits stage left. Besides is there any more to the maddening insanity called life? For him, a wasted valley of year after year of utter nothingness with a few insignificant glances of familiar faces and feelings of love. Not real love, because to really be loved or love, one must possess some human quality…what is it? Ability? Ah yes, one must possess the ability and willingness to participate in the dance of love. The young man neither has ability, will or resemblance to humanity. He has known this and accepted his fate at a young age. He smiles at his deepest secret, although the emptiness of the present conditions would suggest this is no secret. And then he draws his eyes on the only decorative object hanging loosely on a pissy wall. A calendar. Gazing upon it makes him giddy, light headed and in comes a fresh release of endorphins. He must keep his composure, remain calm and steady and sure footed for he knows his fate, accepted it at a young age.
As a boy, his parents were told he had the IQ of a genius and they, being average people, dreamt of a wondrous life for him. A magnificent life, filled with accolades and accomplishments, making them proud to have birth such a gifted human being. But at eight, when he slit the throat of the neighbor’s cat from ear to ear, their dreams began to float into darkness until swallowed up, lost into a black hole. From there on, it was rough ride, all through middle school, junior high and high school. When he finally graduated from high school, the parents had hoped the military would bring a sense of balance and discipline into his life. Push him, where their guidance had failed, toward manhood. Make him responsible, a productive citizen of society. Sadly, his short lived stint in the military didn’t provide any of those; instead he was introduced to class three and four narcotics and episodes of gluttony and indulgence at the highest levels. This period, known as the Dark Ages, robbed him mercilessly of health and bled from him the wee bit of human likeness left in his wretched soul. What has remained isn’t a monster, per se, but a hollow gut of a young man who has lived a very insubordinate life. What’s remained is a young man whose life is abruptly ending and he, like a solider perched in a trench on a pre-war’s eve, is preparing to meet his maker. This young man, once labeled talented and thought to be going places in life, is facing the final finale of colossal proportions. Because for all of the days we live unnumbered, careless, drifting through life, unconcerned about the space in time where worlds conclude, chapters end, life ceases to exist…6 days is all that remains for him.
I am an Introvert.
I live right on the edge of the bubble. Just outside of the excitement, of life happening at the moment. Peeking in like a desperate window shopper longingly gazing at a purchase she can’t afford to make. Envying the absolute delight in all of the faces inside of the coveted bubble.
I am an Introvert.
More often, I‘m caught between a fraught yearning of desperately desiring to experience life inside of the bubble and utter contentment of observing it from the outside. A constant struggle of feeling like I’ve missed out on the only opportunity to fully be alive and another chance to grab life by the wheels is just around the corner. An optimist and pessimist in the same body. On the outside, I appear quiet, reserved and reflective. That’s how most view me and the label shy has been thrust upon me more times that I can recall. The revelation here is that this couldn’t be further from the truth about the real me. The shy label is only armor, armor that protects my rich inner world of a constant stream of loud thoughts, an imagination that floats to unimaginable heights for days even weeks at a time and vivid color filled dreams of past and future life. And while my exterior expression may communicate I have nothing to speak about, my mind is playing like a tape recorder on fast forward all of the time. Much of my teenage life I spent in angst and while this is normal teenage woes, for me it was because I wanted to accept the shy label, I thought it was befitting. True, I didn’t talk much, striking up conversations with strangers and friends alike caused anxiety. Instead of conquering my teenage angst, my worries only advanced into deeper roots as I developed into an adult. I spent years attempting to outgrow the shy label, struggling to be more assertive, more open to life, more social, all the while fighting against the grain of who I was originally created to be.
Again, always just outside of the bubble.
A traumatic experience forced me into therapy a few years ago, extensive therapy, where I had no choice but to face my nightmares alone. And speaking of alone, I oft wondered why I so cherished, essentially thrive at times when I find myself there. I spent years convincing myself something was wrong with me, that I wasn’t normal, like everyone else. Therapy, good therapy, gently places a mirror in your hand and lovingly forces you to stare at your reflection. At your insecurities and fears and again lovingly pushes you to embrace all of it. And in the accepting, the false layers began to peel away until you are stripped down to your true core. In all my getting, I got an understanding of me, of my introverted nature. I’m learning about self-care, what it consists of and how it relates to me. I’m learning to unleash the creative inside of me, instead of hiding her, allowing her to breathe and live. I’m learning the endless stories, fantasies inside of my head can actually be turned into something magical once my fingers hit the keyboard. I’m learning music, an impromptu solo dance party, an uninterrupted walk in the park, a glance into the blue sky on a busy day are like white blood cells fighting foreign substances attempting to invade my soul. I’m learning to pull all the way back after a really people intensive, environmentally stimulating work day in order to recharge. I’m learning to say no when I don’t possess the desire to say yes and not to accept social invitations out of guilt. I’m learning I cannot give of myself if my tank is empty and refueling requires alone time. I’m learning not to fear the unexpected waves of creativity, which usually involve a tsumani of intense emotional vulnerability, but instead allow it to swallow me, get still and just create. I’m learning mistakes are not fatal but directional and purposeful, and they are needed in any growth process. I’m learning that I am me and me, fatally flawed but gracefully forgiven, is enough.
I am Enough.
I am an Introvert.
And I’m finally living my truth.
It was five years ago, this fashion week eve, that the fashion universe stopped mid tilt on its axis and ceased from spinning for a few minutes. Lee Alexander McQueen, mister boy wonder turned creative genius, died by way of suicide and the world of fashion grew a little more darker. We miss him, the fashion industry misses him deeply and there has yet to be one proven to fill the void of McQueen’s out-of-this-world creations. Certainly any artist can attest to the dark side of creating…the unstable moments, the isolation phases, and the loneliness. And while these muses often are responsible for giving birth to greatness and mass appeal, they can be downright detrimental if not periodically checked and balanced. No one knows the real reason(s) why McQueen, a bright beacon in the fashion community, decided to end his life. Rampant speculations followed the days after his death; some say losing his longtime friend/confident Isabella Blow and the support of his mother who passed away just days after Blow is what drove his decision to book an earlier appointment to meet his maker.
We miss you, Mr. McQueen. Your brash ego, eccentric behavior, your dark interpretations of fashion. We miss the electric atmosphere of the unexpected expectation you created with each of your collections. We miss the way you created purely and passionately. We miss the effortless way you would marry opposing ideologies; luminous & obscure, structured & disheveled or confined & unrestricted. You weren’t just a fashion designer; you were a designer of hope and like the Sex Pistols who ushered in the punk movement, you knew exactly what the industry needed to wake it from its lofty snooze fest.
The loss of McQueen has been tremendous and sad, leaving fashion with a gaping hole in its heart. But we are grateful for the years he lived, the lives he touched and the collections he designed. May his spirit of just the correct dose of controversy injected on the runway live on. May his legacy continue to thrive, and as Sarah Burton strives to maintain his original aesthetic, inspire another young man with big dreams of fashion design.
Nothing separates a fashion show from the mundane during fashion week like controversy. Ask Jean Touitou. During A.P.C.’s AW 2015 collection, the provocative laced designer was asked to describe his inspiration behind the presentation. Never one to run his thoughts through conscious filter, Touitou explained plainly to the unexcited media the collection was a “mix between the Watch the Throne (the 2013 Jay Z + Kanye album collaboration) single N***** in Paris and the famous Marlon Brando film Last Tango in Paris.” And as if those few comments didn’t spark a charge to the raging, out-of-control flames of current racial tension and discrimination, Touitou, often a walking figurative of inserting foot in mouth, looped Timberland into the charring by stating the brand, “is a very strong ghetto signifier.”
Fail. When asked to further explain those comments, Touitou immediately cited his friend/workship with Kanye West as a source of endorsement. Momentous fail. West, a like sufferer of inserting his foot in mouth publicly, hasn’t been very successful in his attempt to ascend to the glorious realm of fashion royalty. In fact every attempt West has made in designing has been met with either mixed or poor reviews, including his collaborations with A.P.C. Mixing West into an already disastrous elixir coupled with Touitou’s larger than life attitude led Timberland to sever their working relationship with A.P.C.
“We have chosen to immediately terminate our involvement with the A.P.C. brand. Simply stated, this kind of language and approach is in complete contrast with our valves. Timberland seeks to collaborate with designers and brands who are at the forefront of lifestyle trends, equally important, they must also share our values. We will not tolerate offensive language or racial slurs of any kind being associated with the Timberland brand.”
Designers like Touitou create in the dark. Gone are the days when the French ruled the fashion universe, dictating unanimously the what, how & why of fashion. Long gone is the era of a trickle down theory in fashion, where the upper echelon of society decided acceptable wear and then over a period of time was slowly adapted by the lower classes. Today, the instantaneous realm of social media, the fashion blogger extraordinaire, street style & Instagram stars heavily influence and determine what design houses are sending down the runway. CoCo Chanel, a visionary and creative force, understood this, adopting it well before its time. “Fashion is not something that exists in dress(es) only, Fashion is in the sky, in the street…”
Maybe Jean Touitou should hire a good publicist. Then again, not even the best of publicists can dislodge his foot out of his mouth if he’s so insistent on keeping it in there.
*Touitou issued a standard statement exclusively to GQ on January 29th:
“When describing our brand’s latest collaboration, I spoke recklessly using terms that were both ignorant and offensive. I apologize and am deeply regretful for my poor choice of words, which are in no way a reflection of my personal views.”
Things I Learned (To Love) About Myself During My First Year As a Freelancer
They say that it’s great pressure that removes impurities and creates diamonds. If not for the hard times, we wouldn’t be able to expose the dark parts of ourselves to the light. Well, thanks to the past 12 months of my freelance career, my skeletons are out of the closet and doing a tap dance routine in my living room. From the constant solitude, to the pressure to perform, the glorious rejections, and mind altering approvals, my dirt has been put on display day in and day out for one year and the experience has changed me for good.
Of all the shifts, the ability to recognize my real self, the good, the bad, and the ugly, and I love me anyway has been the greatest take away. I’ve been shown my strengths and my weaknesses, faced the dragon, slayed it, and received a well-deserved aha moment to cap off the adventure. Each victory refined me into a new person, but at the same time made me more me than I was before.
The mark of a great relationship is the ability to see the other person as they are and love them anyway. I think now I am in a fantastic relationship with me and it is getting serious.
Here are a few of my hard earned pearls. I share in hopes that they resonate in others and set them on their journey….
You are good, you are enough.
One of the hardest lessons to learn and even harder to walk out each day – YES, I can tell a great story and people will want to listen to it.
I am an expert in my world, and I should never discount my knowledge.
In the beginning, I defaulted to others too often thinking they knew best. My insecurities were suffocating my ability to do my best work.
I am hilarious, and I don’t need to hide that to be taken seriously.
I like to add humor to things and I should never think that makes me a clown or makes others perceive me as less than.
I can be in the company of other talented people and not disappear.
Shrinking violet syndrome was running rampant and it wasn’t until I stopped positioning myself in the fringes did I find a place at the table.
No, it is an honor to work with me.
I’m done with taking what I can get because I’m just happy to be here. I have earned my place and deserve to be valued.
I am not afraid of pushing towards excellence and I shouldn’t be scared to require that of others.
If they leave because I set standards, then so be it.
If it doesn’t create a positive platform for something or someone, I don’t want to do it.
I only have so much time on this Earth and I want to spend it doing something worthwhile. I am not building a career, I’m planning my legacy.
Be brave enough to say no.
I like to give 100 percent, so I must watch what I dedicate myself to.
My instincts are always right when it comes to me.
No one knows what is best for me better than me. Period. Trust myself.
Accept the seasons, nothing is meant to last forever, even your blessings.
Let go when it time to let go. It is not that it wasn’t good, it is just that something better is on the horizon.
How did SHE fall in love with herself? I was always driven. From a young age I knew I was going to be the best lawyer that ever was. I am proud to be the first generation to graduate with a high school diploma, Bachelor’s Degree and now Masters from my household. During parent/teacher nights in elementary school, my teachers would be surprised to find my short 4’9 mother shaking their hand. She has always been refined in presentation yet modest at heart. They were expecting to find an educated professional but instead of a little stern woman. “Digame la verdad, como se porta mi hija” translation “tell me the truth teacher, how has my daughter acted in school.” She never worried about my grades because I always brought home A’s. The important factor for her was my conduct. I went on to High School, was honored with the Gates Millennium Scholarship to go to college and moved into Law School in the cold state of South Dakota. The first summer I lived there I was gracious enough to live with a recent graduate. It was the most economic option for me, he was married and had one child. That family had no clue I was Latino, maybe, but one day I was saddened by the words that came out of their mouth after a news report.
“All those Hispanics are coming over, they are crossing the Rio Grande and just coming over. They ought to stay where they are.”
As an adult, I was now worried about my conduct. Was I acting in a way that would honor my family’s legacy? I had choices, yes, and one of those was to be quite and excuse myself. I left to the Mexican restaurant in town and had a wine-rita (because they weren’t able to sell the real stuff) and I reflected. Was it racism? Was it buying into the media? Did they really have a problem with my culture? It was at that pivotal moment I decided the next time my mother called and I was in a common area, I would answer the phone. They had yet to see an educated Hispanic person and I would subtly introduce that part of me. She called the following Sunday, I picked up the phone and started talking. It then prompted the question, “what is your background” to which I responded. The look of surprise will never leave my memory bank.
It was in that moment, I couldn’t be prouder of my heritage, of my values and of the extreme form of discipline I had undergone. I didn’t make a big deal of it, instead I found a way to educate them and maybe change their perception. At that moment, I fell in deep love with the passionate, empathetic, tactful, proud Latina, ME.
–Laura Isabel Alvarez
Laura earned her degree in Political Science from the University of Houston and currently serves on the Board of the National Society of Hispanic MBAs as the Vice-President. She was inducted as a Master’s of Science of Organizational Leadership from Quinnipiac University in May 2014. She joined Guadalupe Centers, Inc. in April 2013 with several years experience in Human Resources employee related issues and education. As a manager of HR, she is responsible for all Human Resources and Talent Management programs at Guadalupe Centers. You can connect with her on twitter or LinkedIn for the latest happenings in Kansas City, MO.