All it takes is a Switch

IMG_5409 photoshop

Dear Quiet Minds,

All it takes is a switch.

Not a physical switch, but more of a mental one. Rather than say no switch to yes. It can really be that simple. With one flick of the wrist, a whole room (or a whole mind) can be showered in light.

Recently, I received an opportunity that will completely change my entire environment. I’ve been keeping my head low in school, working hard and although I’ve had a few instances where I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone, comfort has always been in reach. Now with this new opportunity, comfort will be far from arm’s length and I have to admit I’m very scared. Being in a new environment and meeting new people usually stir up an internal battle of anxiety within me. I’ve been feeling low even though this is an opportunity that should have me jumping up and down in pure joy.

Normally when I get down, I have an internal conversation where I lay out the pros and cons so that I can pick myself up again. Through these conversations, I’ve discovered that any situation can be simple if you want it to be. I can easily say that it’s simple and just by saying so it becomes exactly that because the concept of simplicity and complexity is all mental. During complicated situations, you see all your problems tangle together. One problem slithering underneath the other, ultimately squeezing so close together that it looks utterly impossible to untangle. But if you just imagine a clear mind and take one problem at a time, forgetting the others, it’ll be easier to start finding the solution. This is something that I’ve been trying to do recently because I’ve realized this year that happiness, confidence and peace are all choices.

IMG_1535 photoshop.jpg

Every morning when you wake up, you are presented with an imaginary switch. You can either choose happiness or frustration, confidence or shyness, peace or chaos. By simply switching to the more positive mindset, the entire day becomes more bearable and not because the situations become bearable, but because you make them so. With a different perspective, everything looks brighter and less threatening. Usually when presented with a major change in your life, it can be easy to fall into a pit of darkness and fear where all the complications hiss at you from every direction. But if you make the choice to turn on the switch, then it can help you see all the good that can come from these problems.

Although big changes are coming and problems will always be there, switching to a better perspective can really lighten up your day, which is something I definitely want to put into action. Ultimately, the opportunities we are offered, whether good or bad, give us the chance to learn about ourselves, build our character and achieve things that we can be proud of. Just remember that you have control over your own switch and have the ability to make the best out of every opportunity.

Sometimes all you need to do is get out from under that umbrella to realize that the day has been sunny all along.

Love,
Jackie

Advertisements

“A Group That Spreads Love” Documentary

church photoshop.jpg

Dear Quiet Minds,

I am sure we all have experienced the horrors of finals. This semester I was given a challenging task because two of my professors decided to assign a documentary as the final “exam,” so I had to whip up two documentaries in a month (how fun). This meant I had to find a story worth filming, get permission from the location, conduct interviews and piece it together in a way that was comprehensible. Naturally, I was having a mental breakdown. After I finally decided that the whole world wasn’t falling apart, I came to my senses and asked my professors if I could choose one topic for both classes and create two videos out of it. Luckily, they both agreed, but made it very clear that both videos had to be completely different. So naturally, I had another mental breakdown.

After I regained my focus, I decided to create a documentary about a young adult ministry at the Lady of Our Guadalupe Church. The group was composed of young adults, ages 18-35, who went out into the community to spread their faith and help others. My partner and I got the chance to go with the ministry to feed the homeless, where we filmed from afar. We also got the chance to go to their meetings and interview the founder of the group and various members. Since I’m a perfectionist, I tried to film as much extra footage and extra interviews as I could to make sure I had enough content for both of my documentaries.

Then came the editing. For the first video, I edited it with my partner and it was more informative about the group and got straight to the point. For the second video, I had a chance to edit it by myself, which gave me more room for creativity. I wanted this video to be more thoughtful and really show how the group’s mission and purpose changed people. To create this atmosphere, I used music that began with a serious tone and gradually grew more emotional. I also chose interviews that were personal and showed the journey of the members. Overall, I was very proud of the finished outcome because I was able to brave this challenge. Down below is the second video that I edited by myself. Hope you all like it!

Love,
Jackie

Anastasia the Musical

Anastasia edit 2

Dear Quiet Minds,

Ever since Anastasia hit Broadway, my sister and I have wanted to go to New York to watch the show. Unfortunately, our bank accounts said otherwise, and we were left with the unfulfilled need to watch Anastasia. After months and months of searching, I was finally able to find Anastasia on the Internet and it was absolutely enchanting.

Anastasia the Musical still had the classic songs from the 1997 version, such as “A Rumor in St. Petersburg”, “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past”, but the lyricists for the musical created multiple new songs that were just as amazing. My personal favorites were “My Petersburg”, “In My Dreams”, “In A Crowd of Thousands” and “We’ll Go From There.” They fit the scenes in the musical so perfectly and had the most contagious rhythm ever. Besides the music, the writers of Anastasia made the Romanovs’ story more historically accurate, meaning that Anya’s past was a bit darker. This dark turn really drew me to the story because it paired the reality with the fantastical.

Furthermore, this magical story was brought to life by a wonderful cast. Anya was portrayed by the wonderful Christy Altomare and I honestly couldn’t have asked for a more perfect female protagonist. She sang every song with such emotion and I couldn’t help but fall in love with every one of her performances. Dmitry was played by Derek Klena, who captured Dmitry’s charismatic personality perfectly. Even from far away, you could see his facial expressions and hear the different tones in his voice as he sang, which added to the storytelling. Seeing the chemistry between both Christy and Derek really created a beautiful and playful dynamic on stage. The last piece to this fantastic trio was Vlad, who was portrayed by John Bolton. Bolton’s comedic timing and vocals really put the icing on the cake. This trio was built with such strong actors that I was gripped from the start.

Another aspect I loved about Anastasia was the stage design. For having such limited space, the stage directors used their props and lighting with such creativity. There were so many intricate details in the scene that added symbolism and beauty to the overall story. I was blown away by how they were able to display the settings and use movement to give it such a realistic effect. I loved how every song was used to tell the story, how the actors were able to switch the levels of their voice and essentially create dialogue as they sang with each other. It really demonstrated that these shows are so much more than just saying lines. There’s a sense of camaraderie between all the actors and so many opportunities for creativity.

Anastasia ignited in me a new love for Broadway and I am completely obsessed.

Love,
Jackie

Do We Really See Each Other?

IMG_1968

Dear Quiet Minds,

Do we ever really see each other?

Sometimes, I talk to people and I wonder if they are actually paying attention to the words coming out of my mouth. They might just switch the conversation and start talking about themselves or they’ll completely miss my subtle jokes. Watching myself lose connection with the person in front of me immediately causes me to start distancing myself from them. I’ve noticed that I disconnect with them in stages: first, I start talking less, then I stop listening and eventually, I make a lame excuse to leave. Realizing that a person is not truly paying attention to you gives you a sad, empty and, sometimes, angry feeling because you feel like you’re not worth listening to.

Recently, I’ve been reading a book called If I understood you, would I have this look on my face? by Alan Alda. Alan Alda is an actor, but his curiosity led him to start researching the importance of relating and communicating with others through the simple act of empathy. If everyone were to consider the feelings of the people they are talking to, then the disappointing loss of connection would never occur. In his book, Alda emphasizes the benefits of active listening which is when you let the other person know that you’ve heard what they’ve said. By reacting to their words, you show them that you care about what they’re saying and want to hear more. That’s why empathy is crucial, especially when you’re working in a team.

When I was younger, I didn’t talk much when I was put into a group because I feared being judged or reprimanded. Most of the time, if I didn’t understand something, I wouldn’t speak up because I didn’t want anyone to think I was stupid. Nowadays, I push my fear of judgment to the back of my mind and start spewing out ideas. But, there’s a more effective way to operate in a group setting and it’s called empathy. According to Alda, “if you get the sense that the rest of the group is aware of your feelings and won’t punish you for speaking up, you might be more inclined to offer an idea” (57). This is why so many shy people remain quiet. They fear that if they do speak up, their idea will be immediately shut down, which will leave them feeling dumb and unwanted.

Alda also mentioned a TED talk by Dr. Helen Riess, a Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard, where she focused on the power of empathy. She said the best way to exercise empathy is by labelling the emotions of people. If you are speaking to a person, examine their facial expressions. Do they look happy? Do they have a nervous tick? Do they have a glint of sadness in their eyes? Paying attention to these details will help you be more considerate of people and their feelings. Some people are easy to read, but there are some who conceal their emotions very well. I know that I don’t easily show my emotions unless I’m with my sister. If I’m annoyed with someone or I’ve had a very stressful day, I never tell others. Not because I want to hide things from them, but because I’d prefer putting aside those negative thoughts and be more positive around others. Sometimes, I might show a slight sign of annoyance, but it doesn’t happen frequently.

Even though I seldom show my emotions, I always wish that someone would actually look at me and notice how I’m truly feeling. We all wish people would notice our unhappiness, let us vent without interruption and once we’re done, reassure us with loving words.

Helen Riess shared a beautiful message in her TED talk. She said, “Most people need to have their specialness reflected back in the eyes of others in order to see it themselves.”

You need to look into the eyes of the person you are speaking to and reassure them of their worth because they might not know it themselves. They might feel so down that they need someone to remind them exactly why they matter.

So, for all those people who feel like they are constantly being ignored and pushed away during conversations, I leave you with three words: I see you.

Love,
Jackie

To watch the full TED talk, click the video below:

 

 

Why Do We Love Hearing Stories?

lamp photoshop

Dear Quiet Minds,

Why do we love hearing stories?

According to neuroscientist Uri Hasson, the area of the brain that is active when a person tells a story is the same area that is active when a person is watching a movie. As they tell their story, their replaying it back in their head as if it were a film. This becomes even more interesting when you consider the person listening to the story. Apparently, the same area of the brain becomes active when a person is hearing the story. Both the person telling the story and the person hearing it are visualizing the story and, essentially, playing a movie in their head.

People’s brains seem to align with each other when they are drawn into one story. It creates a connection that hooks everyone into the conversation, leaving no time for unintentional daydreams. So, is storytelling the best way to communicate with others? I believe that’s a definite yes. When you tell a story from the beginning and gradually dive deeper and deeper into the tale, people are sucked in. We are all fond of dramatic stories, so there’s nothing better than hearing about someone who has faced many obstacles. Because everyone’s had to overcome problems in their lives, the story becomes more relatable and personal to the listener, so they feel a great need to listen until the very end.

It changes the dynamic of the conversation because now both parties are completely invested. It creates a bond between them because they are in the story together, vicariously undergoing those obstacles and constantly reacting to each other. If we were to communicate with stories, conversations would be way more riveting. Even if you don’t have a story to tell, take a topic and explain it from the beginning, gradually going deeper into the gritty details until the conversation has reached a special level of profoundness. Telling a story full of obstacles and confusion is like slowly closing in on that punch line you’ve been saving. It leaves listeners on edge and causes a reaction that is genuine because the person you are talking to actually cares about what you have to say. It’s like when you read a book and actually laugh out loud. The author got you to react, making the experience more memorable and creating a connection between the invisible author and the present reader.

And that’s the special thing about stories: they make you care.

So, if you want to tell your friend some good news, don’t just go straight to the punch line. Take your time, gather your words and do what everyone loves: tell them a great story.

Love,
Jackie

 

Feeling like a Gryffindor!

IMG_1907

Dear Quiet Minds,

During spring break, I went to Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios with my family. When entering Islands of Adventure, the first ride I encountered was the immense green monstrosity that is The Incredible Hulk Coaster. For so many years, my dad had gone on that ride alone because my sister and I were too scared to accompany him. Since I hadn’t been to Universal since high school, the fear I garnered from my childhood remained in the pit of my stomach. However, this time around we decided to brave our fears and finally experience the coaster that so many love and dread. During the line, I felt my stomach churning, but as the minutes ticked away, my stomach started to settle, and I lost all the anxiety I was feeling. I started to embrace this newfound bravery and once I got on the ride, it immediately became one of my favorites. For once, my stomach didn’t churn during the drops or the turns. As I felt the wind race through my hair, I was actually smiling and enjoying the experience. That experience set the tone for the entire trip because for the rest of the rides, I didn’t feel fear. I felt joy.

IMG_1803.JPG

For so long, I have been so scared to try new things, but I think as I’ve grown I’ve gained this sense of nonchalance that I didn’t have before. After all the stress, worries and tears, I’ve become more tolerant and I think because of this, I was way more relaxed with trying these rides. Since the beginning of this semester, I have been working nonstop. I’ve had to help others constantly while dealing with my school work. Going to Universal was finally my time to be a child again. I got the chance to see the park through clear eyes and smile without worry. It was such a nice moment, being able to walk through the streets of Universal and see couples in robes flaunting the colors of their Hogwarts house. Everything just felt so lively and colorful.

hogwart people photoshopped.jpg

I even got the opportunity to see the Knight Bus, King’s Cross and as I walked past a series of walls, I found myself staring out at Diagon Alley. In all its magical glory, I saw Weasley’s Wizarding Wheezes, Knockturn Alley and the large dragon standing on top of Gringotts. Seeing this world ignited the excitement within me, but then again, Harry Potter has that affect on people.

Dragon hogwart photoshop.jpg

After soaking in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter, I went on the Simpsons ride and the Men In Black: Alien Attack ride, which concluded my two days at Universal.

IMG_1967.JPG

Even though I dislike going to theme parks because the lines and rides end up giving me a headache, this time around I felt so free and happy to get away from all of my problems. I wanted to get on as many rides as possible before the day ended. This excitement and peace really allowed me to tap into my fearless inner child and have a great, memorable experience.

I felt like a Gryffindor!

Love,
Jackie

 

Black Panther (2018) Review

Black Panther Sign.jpg

Dear Quiet Minds,

Last weekend, I went to watch Black Panther (2018) directed by Ryan Coogler and it was absolutely inspiring! Since I hadn’t watched the trailer or Captain America: Civil War, I went into this movie blind so I didn’t know anything about the Black Panther prior to seeing the film. Luckily, he needed no introduction because the film sucked me in from the start. This Marvel movie starts with T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning to Wakanda, a futuristic African nation, to become king after the death of his father. However, his rise to the throne is threatened unexpectedly by Erik Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan). Although this synopsis sounds like a power struggle, it goes beyond power and focuses primarily on maintaining the integrity and morals of Wakanda. Both T’Challa and Erik seek a different future for Wakanda.

Recently, I haven’t been fond of the Marvel movies. They’re all competing on who can be the funniest, ultimately using comedy to undercut the dramatic and sincere moments in a hero’s journey. Black Panther; however, was funny at times, but did not undercut the moments of sadness and confusion that T’Challa was going through. We watched T’Challa struggle internally and externally without having it downplayed by unnecessary moments of comic relief. For once, the hero’s journey was serious and important. One thing I really loved about Black Panther was the fact that its villain wasn’t really a villain. Erik Killmonger had redeemable qualities. When we look at other Marvel films, most of the villains are evil and that’s it. In Black Panther, Erik Killmonger could have well been the hero. He felt that Wakanda needed to move away from isolationism and start helping the African people in other areas of the world. The only thing that turned him from a hero to a villain was how he wanted to execute his plans. In the end, T’Challa learns from Erik and Erik feels regret for seeking revenge. His redeemable qualities definitely shifted the dynamic in Black Panther and demonstrated the human behind the villain.

black panther poster 1.jpg

Another aspect of the film that I loved was the female representation and the costume design. Whenever T’Challa went on a mission, he chose women to accompany him. Throughout the film, Okoye (Danai Gurira), a general of the Dora Milaje warriors, and Nakia (Lupita Nyong’o), a Wakandan spy, are by his side. These two women were able to take down men with the determination of their gaze and their insurmountable skill. They did not need provocative attire or armor to get the job done, which brings me to costume design. Mostly in films like Wonder Woman, the woman are given short skirts to enhance their sex appeal, but in Black Panther, the women wore armor that was practical and protected their bodies. These costumes were designed by Ruth E. Carter who focused on creating an Afrofuturistic design. She incorporated the stacked neck rings worn by Ndebele women, the amazing prints of Lesotho blankets and other traditional African patterns in all her costumes. Watching this movie was a very beautiful experience because it expressed open-mindedness and acceptance through its celebration of different cultures. It made me feel so happy to be alive because diversity was finally being displayed on the big screen like it should have been displayed years ago.

In the end, Black Panther brought so much enrichment to the Marvel Cinematic Universe by touching on issues like colonization and power distribution. Even though it was a shame to imagine that Africa could have become something just as powerful as Wakanda in the future if not for colonization, I’m very glad director Coogler evoked this image. It can open people’s eyes and show them that every culture deserves space to grow and develop into something beautiful. Although history can’t be changed and movies can only do so much, I’m glad that the superhero world is becoming a more colorful place. With the majority of Black Panther‘s cast being African American, we are moving in the right direction. Hopefully, Marvel will start creating deeper and richer films that integrate superheroes from the Asian, Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities into this expanding cinematic universe.

Here’s to a new era of film!

Love,
Jackie

 

Oleta River State Park Documentary

img_1736.jpg

Dear Quiet Minds,

This past month I have been working long and hard to complete my first ever documentary. It’s been a long process, but I finally finished it. At the beginning of this semester, my professor told me that I needed to make a documentary for my writing for video class. It could be a piece on a person and how they overcome their struggle, maybe a small business owner, but it had to have meaning. Since the passing of Hurricane Irma and her lasting impact on homes and businesses in Miami, I wanted to focus on how this hurricane impacted a state park. Near my university there is a state park called the Oleta River State Park and during the hurricane, it suffered flooding and damage to its trees and cabins. I wanted to talk to the park’s staff and visitors to see how the hurricane had impacted them and how they recovered.

This gave me the opportunity to get out of my comfort zone and do things I never thought I would do. For one thing, I went to the Oleta River State Park and kayaked while filming. Luckily, my dad was there to maneuver the kayak as I held the camera with all my might, but I never imagined myself doing something so out-of-the-blue. In that moment, the only thing that mattered was getting the perfect shot. I allowed myself to get my hands dirty and let my creativity roam free. I also had to approach strangers and ask for interviews so that I could get their opinion on the park. Many people turned me down, but after several rejections, I found some nice park visitors who were willing to contribute to my documentary. I felt very proud of this achievement because I feared that my shyness would hinder me during this process.

After much editing and narrating, I finally completed my first documentary. I wanted it to depict the park as a symbol of hope and resilience, and I was very pleased to see that I had succeeded. I’m very proud of my documentary and hope you all enjoy watching it. To see the full documentary, click the video below.

Love,
Jackie

The Face Behind the Words

Jen's eye photoshop.jpg

Dear Quiet Minds,

One year ago, I started “Dear Quiet Minds” and it has changed my life in a very subtle, yet powerful way. For starters, it has given me the opportunity to write and be creative every week. Although there were many times when I couldn’t think of anything to write about, I’ve found a way to publish content. Even though it’s been a difficult journey, forcing myself to write weekly has really allowed me to create a habit that has not only facilitated my creative processes, but has given me something that I can look back on. Blogging has allowed me to create a space that is completely mine and with this being my 51st blog post, I have accumulated enough memories and photographs to the point where I’m surprised at how far I’ve come. I’ve finally built something that I can proud of.

Up until this point, I have never posted a picture of myself. Mostly, I did this because I wanted my blog to remain anonymous, so that I can write freely without being judged or criticized. Anonymity has given me an invisible shield of protection between me and my readers, not because I want to distance myself, but because I don’t want perceptions to become a barrier. However, in this past year, I have grown and learned to own my words. I have gained confidence and feel that putting a face to these words is the next step I should take to fully own what I’ve created.

Thanks to “Dear Quiet Minds” I’ve been able to take more photos and learn a lot about my thoughts and opinions through these posts. Now, it’s time for me to put aside my fear of criticism and stop hiding behind the mask of anonymity. I am proud of every word I have ever typed in this blog. Even though some blog posts are better than others, each one represents a day that I could have quit but decided to keep writing. I’ve come to love the feeling of placing my fingers upon the keyboard and waiting for that small push of inspiration. Whether the words I write are misplaced, sloppy or perfectly chosen, they have all given me a reason to be proud of my achievements.

I’m happy to be the creator of “Dear Quiet Minds” and be able to reach so many other amazing minds!

So, I’ll leave you with this picture and remind you once more that you should never be afraid to own your words!

IMG_0469

Love,
Jackie

 

Why is it so Hard to Change?

IMG_1034 photograph

Dear Quiet Minds,

We are all creatures of habit.

When you go into a classroom and choose your unassigned assigned seat, you will remain in that seat for the entire semester. When you take a certain route to work, you will constantly take that route until forced to choose another. In no more than a week, we create a habit, whether good or bad. This habit causes us to live out our days in repetitive motions that become familiar, so much so that, after doing it more than once, we refuse to change routine. We transform into robots, going through the motions at school and work because the familiarity has facilitated our day. Even if this routine has made you suffer, you prefer it because it will get you through the day calmly and without anything spontaneously disrupting the peace. In the end, we’d rather face the evil we know than explore the unknown.

However, once you make a conscious decision to change the habit and prepare yourself for the change, there’s still a factor that’s pulling you back and that’s judgment. I remember when I started trying to get fit, my grandparents would see me trying to do the exercises and laugh. I know that they weren’t trying to put me down or insult me. They just found the notion of doing exercise and being on a diet funny. This, however, really hit me because I felt like I was being judged or called out for my actions. This fear is what usually stops me from successfully making the change. It’s so much easier to do something alone than under the critical eyes of the people you care about. Even when you’re trying to do something as simple as be more positive or nicer to someone, your friends or families might see you acting differently and start bringing up the past. It causes you to retreat into your safety bubble and revert to your old ways.

IMG_1016 photophop.jpg

It’s hard to adapt when the people around you are so critical and uncooperative. So, you just return to your robotic state because it’s comfortable and no one can disrupt your peace with their unnecessary comments. Unfortunately, crawling back into comfort is not the way to change your life for the better. When you want to improve yourself, you need support and encouragement. Sometimes you want to change, but don’t know how. When people bring up the past, they completely destroy our hopes of becoming better people. We may be creatures of habit, but, more importantly, we are sensitive and emotional creatures, and when we feel attacked or brought down, our instinct is to retreat to a place where we feel safe.

Changing, however, is the only way you are going to obtain what you want in life, so the best thing to do is start improving yourself slowly. Choose one thing you want to improve on and start doing it over and over again. In a week or so, it’ll become a habit, just like that.

Sometimes change is just an opportunity to create better habits so that improvement becomes a lifestyle.

Love,
Jackie