journal/

on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

blessed

Days like today make me feel really blessed. I hung out with a dear friend visting from Vancouver. We talked for hours, sitting on a grass patch at Dolores Park. I haven’t seen him in a year, and in between we don’t really keep in touch.

Yet we carried on the conversation as though it was left off from yesterday, despite both of us having evolved significantly between the gaps. He is one of the very few people whom I can engage in a blatantly honest conversation about the world with.

I know I am blessed, because I have a really tiny but growing group of people I can have similar conversations with. Conversations that never get pivoted into anything lightweight even when they make us uncomfortable. It is now my filter when I meet new people. I think life is extremely transient, and I want to get to the depth of things quick. I don’t really want to spend time talking about how I spent my weekend (please don’t ask me this question if you ever see me in real life), instead I would like to talk about how we can empower humanity even if it means we are just popping bubbles into the wind.

I used to feel bad that I cannot tolerate small talk, or I’ll pretend to fade into some corner just to fit in. Something changed in the past few months or so. I just don’t give a shit anymore.

The world continued spinning, life carried on and overall it is just really better that I am just upfront with who I am and where I want to go.

I am blessed to have people I can deeply connect with, and I am really thankful that I’ve found out relatively early in my life that I really don’t have to give a shit about things I don’t care about. I wish it was much earlier, but at the very least, it wasn’t when it was too late to start living.

things I think about

So I mentioned in my last entry that I was writing four days in a row, and that I should write whenever I want, because I have no idea when I’m going to stop writing. I think I should stop cursing myself, for I developed a migraine the very next day.

Migraines are a mixed bag for me. Don’t get me wrong. I hate them. It is one of the worst things that can happen to someone who actually enjoys thinking. The powerlessness I feel when I retain all bodily function except the capacity to think. I had one of those migraines that were lingering but yet not debilitating – which lulled me into believing that I could still function.

I ended up sitting in front of a screen for the entire day feeling like shit because I thought I could do some work, but in reality I couldn’t, so it ended up being really unproductive because it would have just been better for my overall well-being if I had just taken the day off and rested.

But. The day I started to get better, I experienced a profound sense of joy. It was having lost the capacity to think temporarily and then having it back again. This sounds perverse but I would welcome a migraine once a while just to have a stark reminder of how not to take my health for granted. Being able to think, to write, and to express myself is a huge human privilege that I often take for granted.

I remember biking down Valencia street that day and having this huge smile on my face. This is how it feels to be well, I thought to myself. The problem with us is that we don’t know how huge a miracle it is just to be alive and functioning well. How much did we have to evolve in order to develop into a stable set of genes that empowered an entire species like us? I didn’t realize how much of a wonder it is to be capable of thought, imagination and creation. Imagine if some part along the way we mutated instead into creatures that had the capacity to think but unable to express ourselves because we had no limbs or voice? Yes, this is what I spend time thinking about.

It is really difficult to manage one self. I know how fleeting health can be, so that’s the exact same motivation that is behind my conflict between wanting to be a workaholic and yet having enough space and time just to be. I want to do so much because I have no idea when I’ll lose my capacity to think. But it is worse when I become the primary driver of my self-destruction if I burn out. That’s what I think about too, trying to find the right balance.

I biked to the Golden Gate park on both days this weekend. Maybe it was partially because of the migraine. The awareness that sitting at a desk all day does not do much to oxygenate my brain. Partially because I think exercise is one of those things that feels really tedious just to think about it, but becomes really enjoyable once there is an opportunity to set a positive feedback loop. I know people who will literally suffer if they do not do some long bike ride or climb some wall every other day, unfortunately I don’t have that impulse built into me. I have always disliked physically moving, because just thinking alone tires me out.

But it perpetuates a vicious cycle, because I did experience it first hand before – it is true people, that more physical energy does translate into more mental energy. It is simple science, but I was in total denial about it. For people who like to think, thought comes so easily that it seems almost unbelievable that it requires a source of energy.

In other news, I have been having conversations with interesting people out of internet serendipity. It energizes me in a very different way when I am able to meet peers that I can ask questions like – “do you think our rate of change will be quick enough to circumvent our rate of destruction?”, or “why is the human species capable of such intelligence but yet we’re still fighting wars?”

One last thing that has been on my mind a lot lately – the idea that the Stellar protocol can be used to power innovative credit systems. The latest one I thought of during a conversation today – what if one day we can pay for our college education with credit that is amassed not financially, but through performing volunteer work? I am really intrigued bridging different ecosystems and empowering micro-communities with micro-economies.

If we want the world to be different, we have to start thinking different, and acting different.

notes people send me

This is the fourth day in a row I’m writing, ever since I decided I should just write whenever I want. I am not sure how long I can keep up with this, but as long as I feel the impulse to write, I should write. Who knows when the words will dry up?

I received a couple of emails today among other notes left on my Medium post, telling me how much it meant to them. They tell me it is like I am ghost-writing in their place. I know what they mean because I have felt the same way reading people’s stories. It is as if someone found a way to retrieve the voice you’ve thought you’ve lost and then proceeded to soothe your soul.

It is very human to seek a sense of belonging, and we find it through the stories we share. When someone shares a story we identify with, it is a very powerful realization to know that we are not alone. This is what to me, humanity is all about. Lighting up each other’s way, lending each other shoulders to cry on, smiling from the heart when we see others in joy.

It means the world to me to have that capacity to help people tell the stories they cannot tell through my own stories. I may not be doing the best job, but it is a very sincere and desired effort. Days like today remind me why I have to keep on doing this.

I wouldn’t exchange this for anything else in this world, really. To be able to bring back just a little bit of light to someone’s eyes.

Same broken

This was one of my favorite tweets today:

I can’t emphasize this enough – I don’t know how I’ll be without the internet. I may not exist. Imagine growing up believing that you’re everything possibly wrong, only to realize there’s an entire world out there who are just as wrong. Then you start to question, what exactly is right?

I remember feeling butterflies in my stomach the day I first experienced the internet. I couldn’t feel a sense of community locally, but there it was on the internet. Tons of people trying out crazy shit in the brave new world.

It is the same sense of community that I try to reach out to when I publish posts like the one I did Sunday. I was thinking to myself that it is okay if not many people would read it, as long as those who need to will read it. This is what I tell myself every time I write posts like that. It doesn’t matter if nobody reads it. I have fulfilled my end of the bargain.

Unexpectedly it has become my most popular post on Medium in just three days, only exceeded by the power of your writing, but that post accumulated all that traffic after an entire year. I do think part of it is the network effect of Medium compounding, but based on the ratio of recommendations, I would say that people really resonated with the subject. More than I actually wish it to be.

I have been the receipient of many similar stories when I was going through my darkest times. Stories of survival, love and surmounting odds. I remember reading a story about a woman who was sexually abused by a relative, and not only did she rise above and thrive – she shared her story in public. Then I thought to myself, if she could share such a private story publicly, my stories are nothing to be private about.

I have a lot of feedback that people think I am brave, but the truth is, I no longer feel like it is an exceptional effort to share such details of my life. It was nail-biting at first, but I have been writing this way for six years now, the difference is my older blogs were never as widely read. But the traffic is not the point. The moment you publish something like this to the world, you become like an open book to the internet, widely read or not.

The impact of being my true authentic self everywhere is huge. I am who I am. Nobody expects me to be perfect or some shiny object. I don’t have to be afraid that one day people are going to discover my dark self. It is there on the internet for everyone’s consumption pleasure. In turn I get people sharing their selves and stories with me. I get to develop a real community, a community based on a common shared narrative. There are people out there who have been reading such long-winded writing of mine for six years (more for those who started reading on my livejournal and earlier). People are naturally drawn to truth.

For all the stories that lighted my way, I hope by telling my stories and living my life for everyone to see, I can be at least one example of a human being who is extremely broken and yet found a part of the world to belong to. Perhaps one day, there will be more people unafraid to share parts of themselves, and we will evolve to become a society less judgmental of ourselves and one another.

Because this is what I’ve learned. Everyone is fucked up in their own ways. We just cover it up really well. But if everyone realizes that everyone else is as fucked up, perhaps we can be a lot more compassionate to one another and stop standing on our moral high ground. Then, perhaps we’ll stop our senseless power struggles in pursuit of never-ending validation, because we’re all the same broken. Then perhaps, we can really start building this world for what it is. For connection.

I can have a dream. Thanks internet, for letting me find my same broken kind of people. I like them a lot. Where we break, is where the light gets in.

Blogging, again

Apparently there is a blogging renaissance going on and the premise is that you can write anything you care about. The problem with me is that I care about a lot of things, so I confuse myself when I feel the impulse to write.

There is something really attractive about writing on Medium (And it is really not because I used to work there). For me it isn’t the beautiful editor or the brand, but the very visceral feedback you get when you see little faces appearing in your notifications. It gets especially endearing when it is someone you know. But every piece I write there is significant to me, so for now I don’t really want to dilute the content I have there with my ongoing public monologue with myself here.

What is the point of blogging then? I don’t know. I’ve been doing it since those days when you had to run a perl script to generate your blog entries. I was blogging before blogger existed. I was writing both inane and contemplative ephemeral thoughts before ephemeral became a buzz word.

The other part is that I’m obsessed with self-quantifying and keeping a record of almost everything I do, just in case in 2080 I am still alive and want to create a memoir for myself. I have no idea what technology exists in the future, but the worst thing to happen is to have some amazing creation tool and a lack of data. I am already regretting not keeping proper backups of my Greymatter blog.

I just want to write whenever I feel the impulse to write. So many thoughts and moments uncaptured, and forgotten. It is also a recent thing that I no longer care about my professional image (not sure if I ever had one), so it doesn’t really matter if people read this entry with no obvious objective except for the simple pleasure of writing. Know me for me, not just purely for the work I do.

So, I want to embrace the opportunity to possibly write about my ongoing and ever-evolving opinions, biases, contradictions, neuroses and whatever tidbits I care to share with you.

Here’s a list of what’s been on my plate recently:

Writing about my depression

It is not the first time, and will not be the last. I wrote about recovering from chronic depression on Medium, it was something I had to put out there without knowing what will return. I wrote it because not enough people write about it, the stigma will not be reduced if we keep hiding it in the closet. The shame and guilt builds, there is not enough empathy, and the next thing you know, another suicide happens. I want to keep on writing about it, no matter how much distance away I am standing now. This will remain one of the core issues I will spend the rest of my life raising awareness for. What matters is the community of people I discover through these posts – having a powerful shared narrative and mutual resonance bonds two strangers like nothing else.

Consciously moving

I love being alone surrounded by four walls so much that it is starting to turn unhealthy. I managed to make myself bike all the way to the Richmond today, and I was rewarded with plenty of beautiful observations:

Little things amuse me so much and bring me so much joy, I don’t really know why I have to will myself so much to get out of the house.I constantly have to schedule things to force myself to break out of my own routine. It is a lot of positive reinforcement and repetition to build new habits, but I am relatively hopeful.

Smoothies

I finally bought the Vitamix blender I was supposed to buy with the birthday money I’ve gotten when I was still at Medium (yes, amazing perk – I used the rest of the money to buy the rest of my co-workers Amazon gift cards which they were supposed to buy a book with). Hence, I’ve been making delicious green smoothies for myself as meal replacements. I feel a subtle energy difference already, and again, I am relatively positive about this change.

And I keep thinking about…

Balance. And decentralized networks. More on this later, but it’ll probably end up being long essays on Medium.

I’ll probably be writing a lot more. I’ve been thinking about it since I discovered Fred Wilson writes every day. I had spurts when I used to write almost everyday, one such spurt was my first trip to San Francisco, and till today I still look back at those entries with great fondness. Also, I want to put it out there – if you follow me on twitter expecting some great dropping of knowledge on design, please do feel free to click on the unfollow button. The difference between me and most other designers is – I care about design, it is just that I care about 10,000 other things along with it. And I no longer feel bad about it.

There is just something about writing without giving a shit and not make a single edit. Except typos, of course.

Renewal

I was sharing with a bunch of good friends earlier, on how going for a meditation retreat changed my life. They laughed, because I seem to be having these life-changing moments all the time.

I do have these transformative moments frequently. I actually think I don’t have as many of them as I would like to. There is a reason why I love new experiences and tons of solitude. I thrive on periods of forced contemplation. It is really easy for me to get into a routine, fall back into old behavioral patterns and simply live on auto-pilot mode – wake up, work, get home, sleep. Rinse and repeat.

I stop looking at my big picture, the snowball I want to build, all the learning opportunities I want to pursue. Work can be empowering, but it can also be an effective distraction if we only focus on the day to day tasks and forget to question why are we working on a particular cause in the first place?

I am not afraid of making big life decisions. I am only afraid of letting myself down after making these decisions. Do I have the will and determination to carry out my ambitions, or do I allow “busyness” to take charge of my life again? How can I increase the level of consciousness I have on a daily basis?

The news of Robin William’s passing impacted me more than I thought it would, just like the passings of Chloe Weil, Aaron Swartz, Ilya Zhitomirskiy and the many others that were not as public. I don’t know these people personally, but I can’t help but feel bound to them in some ways, as though a part of me would die along with each of them. But these are the ones we see, how many of us we don’t see, and how many of us are living as though we are living dead?

It kills me on so many levels inside in ways I cannot describe. That I am never safe from myself, that each time this happens instead of feeling like my old self is miles away I actually feel her close to me again. That I get why. I envy. I grieve. All at once. I can no longer differentiate whether I am grieving for them or for myself. Whether I grieve because I wanted to be dead or that I am now still living.

It makes me rethink myself and the way I live. What is the point of all this technological advancement and progression if the society we are building is fundamentally so broken? The events of the past week or month have not helped.

I have a very dysfunctional relationship with my species. I love and resent us so much. Why are we a species capable of so much resilience and change, and yet so self-destructive?

Some people have asked me why I am able to write so bravely about myself. I tell them that I don’t have an intellectual choice. I must, or I cannot live with myself. I cannot live with knowing that we are so broken and yet we pretend we are not. I cannot live with knowing that everyone of us is broken in some way and yet we make so much judgment on how other people are more broken and less deserving than us.

I want to be publicly broken and yet demonstrate that I can thrive with all the breakage I have suffered, and that being unafraid to be broken is a sign of strength and that it can be tremendously empowering. What power do people have over me, when I am unafraid to break myself?

My regret is not being able to do even more than I already am. That I am not speaking louder about the issues I care about. That I am not living as much as I want to. That I am not making full use of my lucidity and consciousness as a human being and I am taking my ability to think and create for granted. That I am not acting more like the person I want to become. That some days I just want to lie in bed and pretend that the weight I carry does not exist. That sometimes I get really, really tired of wanting to care about the greater whole and I just want to live like a hermit where nobody can ever find me.

But I still try. I try to live on for the rest of us because I know every one of us counts. Everyone who battles daily with their darkness and yet live on just one more day matters to the rest of us who are still struggling. I light my way in order for the ones after me to find their way.

Perhaps I live on in the hope of proving myself wrong. That as a species we are really capable of so much more, that we will eventually work towards building a world where all of us can thrive together, that we can really see beyond the futility of power struggles when there wouldn’t be much of a world left to struggle for if this goes on.

Mortality

I was on a plane to New York from Boston. There was some rough turbulence, and that is a given if we fly frequently enough. But each time it happens for me, I ask – what if this time is going to be that one time?

I think about my death a lot, but choosing to think consciously about it is really not the same when one is being forced to think about it.

It got real really quickly when the plane shook violently, especially with the knowing that my earlier flight was cancelled due to “inclement weather” and there’s a hurricane we were trying to avoid by taking an extended flight path that looked like tiny circles around Massachusetts.

I took a quick mental and emotional audit of my life, critically analyzing if there was anything I would have regretted doing or not doing. I don’t think I could have tried to be more alive than I was already attempting to be, with all factors and context considered.

Travel, the one thing that magnifies the paradox of quickening the urgency of how we live and yet provokes the neccessity to slow down and let go.

I hope to never lose my desire to keep on questioning myself, and that I will be blessed enough to keep on encountering opportunities for myself to face my own mortality right in the face, to always be reminded that it is really there with us all the time, we are just not very good at recognizing it.

On loving freely

There’s something about traveling that makes it always uncomfortable. We can travel in all the luxury we can afford, but nothing prepares us for the unexpected twists, delays, turns, jarring and new experiences.

I remember backpacking eight years ago, weathering spontaneous decisions by not flinching even as I slept in a insect-infested room with a cold shower. These days I feel the difference of just the pillows keenly – they are not the same as the ones I am used to sleeping with at home. Then there were the fourteen hour bus-rides I used to take to faraway places. Now I zip around in an UberX, too tired to take a thirty minute bus ride.

Am I losing my sense of adventure, or have I become one of those always-anxious, controlling, workaholics? Have I lost my capacity to not only feel free, but be free?

I comfort myself by telling myself that I am preserving my energy for a different kind of adventure. In my youth I thrived on spontaneous, non-committal adventures, now I am learning to walk each step with a very deliberate presence, yet keeping my heart open to being called in new directions.

I have had to give up people, places, situations, objects I love. Through traveling I am learning to understand what it means to love freely. I love, that is why I leave. Staying longer than we should only seeks to artifically prolong a moment, without realizing that clinging on is the antithesis of love.

All things change and all things move, and that is how nature has always chosen to demonstrate her love. Even a rock changes its form with time. What would the world be like, if we have learned to love this process of change, instead of constantly trying to hold on?

I walk with a renewed sense of freedom, coupled with a sense of purpose. Every second I am loving what I experience, then learning to let go, knowing that my consciousness will never be the same again, and that is enough. The knowing that everything we love changes us permanently, and we too, change everything we love, permanently.

Life will never be the same again, and life has never been the same, it is our expectation that it stays the same, that brings us not only the greatest grief, but also the biggest obstacle to fulfilling our potential as a humanity capable of great leaps and evolution.

Being seen

There was this episode in “Scandal” where someone was wrongfully shot down by the FBI because he was actually a spy working to inflitrate enemy organizations. His mother couldn’t even know, and she died thinking her son was a terrorist.

I often wonder how many people in this world do what they do even though they will never be seen or acknowledged for it. I also often question myself if I would do what I do if I would never be seen, understood or recognized. There’s this old philosophical question along the same lines, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”

I think it is important to consistently question my own motives and agenda for pursuing my goals. It is incredible how easy to lose sight of one’s original identity and purpose. I want to be the person who tried my darnest to live life, and not the person who tried her best to be successful based on societal terms.

Life loves the person who dares to live it, says Maya Angelou. Plenty of times feeling alive or doing what truly matters come at a price of never being seen or understood and this is where the genuine love of one’s self and life comes into play.

Ultimately it does not matter who sees you if you cannot see yourself.

Self

I have an unbroken habit to write once a week, either here or at Medium. It is usually my favorite time of the weekend, where I would sit quietly, stare at the screen and wait for words to appear. Today I am nursing a slight migraine, but I don’t want to break my habit, so I am going to be even more spontaneous with my writing than usual.

Someone over at Twitter asked me how to write in a way that would express ourselves better in order to connect to our audience. I told him honestly that I write with my heart, if that is not the best way to express myself, I have no idea which way would be better.

I honestly don’t care if people think I write well or if I write posts which are too long. In some perverse way I am not even writing for an audience. I think when we start writing for an audience we lost a part of ourselves. It really depends on the why – why we write in the first place.

Life is extremely transient. It is a waste of our living moments trying to be an agreeable person. I take that back. It is a huge waste of our lives living as who we are not. It came to me in the middle of my New York trip. I stopped in the middle of my thoughts and wondered. Why am I waiting to be the person I want to be?

We are afraid because we have something to lose, but if we’re afraid of losing we will never be able to take the risks needed to truly live and love. If I cannot be my true self, people around me will always be shortchanged because I can never be capable of giving them the best of me. We are always waiting for people to validate us, only to realize that no amount of validation would suffice if we cannot validate ourselves.

I want to write as me, live as me, love as me, work as me. And my identity will keep on shifting because I will keep on growing. Every now and then I go through phases where I tear myself apart and put myself back together again. I feel like I just went through multiple phases of this and I am only expecting more to come.

At the end of my life, I want to look back at everything I have attempted to do and know that at the very least my very self wasn’t one of the obstacles put in front of me.