Health

Have you ever come across that person who is always complaining, gossiping, or making negative comments? Before identifying him or her, it can be very difficult to stay away from responding with negativity. Negative people like negative company. Constantly dealing with people who bring negativity into your life or who never fail to bring you down in some way are the kinds of people you should consider weeding out of your life. If these are people you ultimately can’t escape, there are ways to distance yourself without being harsh or rude.

Law of Attraction

The law of attraction notes that “likes attract likes” and if you focus on positive thoughts you will find yourself with a positive outcome. Now, consider applying this concept in another form. If you openly display certain qualities or interests, you are likely to attract people who are also interested in those same things. This, after discerning that you want to surround yourself with new people, is the first step of attracting people who are likely to understand you and who share similar traits.

Farewell to Your Comfort Zone

This one is difficult but very important. Many of us do not enjoy leaving our comfort zones because, well, it is no longer a comfortable place. However, leaving your comfort zone is the only way to achieve goals and stand out from the conventional – it is vital in life. It also allows you to get comfortable with what was once uncomfortable, therefore making your life a constant cycle that pushes you to try new things. Try joining a new club, traveling somewhere with a program, sitting somewhere else for lunch, or even inviting people you’ve never spent time with (outside of school or work) for lunch. Branching out is essential in trying to make new relationships.

Make Time for Yourself

Aside from trying out new activities, having some time for yourself is also an important component to this transformative time in your life. Allowing yourself to think alone and reflect on your experiences will bring you to identify the parts of your life you wish to alter. It allows you to make calm, well thought out decisions.

Focus on Work or School

Focusing on work or school is a great way to concentrate on the things that are important. In addition, it only leaves time for few people which allows you realize that quality time is meant for quality people. This is an easier method for not only distancing yourself from negative people, but it is also a great way to appreciate the people who matter most in your life.

Start Acting Positive

Almost like my law of attraction point, you can attract positive people if you begin to act positive. After you hear the typical, “I hate Monday, I wish it were Friday,” you can either not respond to it by changing the topic or you can respond with positivity by noting, “Really? I don’t mind them – they’re like any other day.” Like I previously mentioned, negative people like to feed off of other negative people. You will be surprised as to how quickly people will begin to catch on to this mindset. Being positive can: 1. Help positivity flourish in those around you, and 2. Repel negative people. Both of these are helpful for achieving your goal.

Staying positive is not only a mood booster, but it is also necessary for your physical health. Do yourself a favor and begin changing the parts of your life that will help you become a better person. The steps may be unfamiliar but you can’t go wrong in trying!

How do you add positivity into your life?

P.S. Journaling and living inside out can also help you live a more positive life.

Image: Bảo-Quân Nguyễn

Education

Let’s face it, we all spend a lot of time getting work done at a desk. Typing, writing, drawing, and organizing our way to the next deadline. Your work space can even be seen as an interesting reflection of yourself. So why not cater your desk to how you work best?

desk 1

For the simple and clean go-getter. There’s no need for unnecessary supplies or distractions. This worker is anti-clutter and prefers having only what’s needed to get an assignment done.
MUST HAVES: portable items such as a foldable book stand, small notebook, and an easy-to-carry thermos.

Desk 2

You appreciate visual company at your desk. Having inspiration at your fingertips is a necessity and your selected pile of books and magazines are always on rotation.
MUST HAVES: just the right lighting, background music, and a new stock of inky pens on standby.

Desk 3

The one that schedules time to schedule things. People ask you for the stapler, the post-its, and index cards. You are the constant email checker and enjoy the list-making efficiency of Wunderlist.
MUST HAVES: color coded agendas, caffeine, and a fully charged laptop.

Work space styles are endless, but once you figure out what your go-to items and settings are, you’re more likely to stay focused and motivated. Plus, spending some time to transform your space can add a little joy to your day to day. And behold, desk jobs can be fun!

Image: Marian Rose Bagamaspad

Culture

The day you turn 18 is monumental. You become a legal adult. But for most of us that have passed that key birthday, we’ve also discovered several harsh realizations about growing up.

Almost everyone has heard it: “College will be some of the best years of your life.” This may be exciting for incoming freshmen who are about to embark on a life-altering journey, but what about college seniors who are working on job applications? What is there to look forward to if your best years are already behind you?

As a college junior, I have no desire to believe that college will conclude the best years of my life. I believe that your college years aren’t simply defined by your age, but by your experience. For many people, college is their first burst of freedom…their first attempt at learning responsibility. What makes college so exciting is simply the intense opportunity for personal growth.

I felt the weight of this responsibility when I became captain of my tennis team during my sophomore year at the University of Nebraska. After just one summer, I went from being an overwhelmed college freshman to assuming a position teeming with responsibility and prestige.

As a self-professed control freak, being team captain is probably just what I needed. However, Uncle Ben said it best: “With great power comes great responsibility.” People who are seen as people of importance are often put on a pedestal. More is expected of them than others. But what no one tells you about being on a pedestal is that it is an awfully lonely place to be.

If someone asked me if I was prepared to be captain that year, I would’ve answered with a definite “no.” If they had asked me the same question about this year, I would’ve answered “probably not.” Although I’m one step closer to being prepared, I’ll never be completely there. Preparedness isn’t something tangible; it’s a state of mind.

When a person decides they’re ready to get married, are they really ready for that kind of commitment? When a couple decides they’re ready to have a baby, are they really ready to be parents? Can anyone be prepared for such life changes? And what defines being truly prepared?

There came a moment during elementary school when I realized that adults aren’t always right. With that came the realization that parents aren’t always right either. The loss of magic I experienced in that moment was very similar to the emptiness you feel when you discover Santa Claus doesn’t exist. It’s facing another inevitable reality.

But there’s also a kind of relief in realizing adults can be wrong. All of a sudden, they become human. That pedestal that you had them on has diminished. The expectations you had of them, as well as your future self, have vanished. They no longer seem invincible. All at once, they become much easier to forgive.

We’re all waiting for that epiphany. That moment when we suddenly feel more responsible, more worldly, more prepared than we were the day before. It’s both daunting and refreshing to know that day will never likely come. There’s no book to tell you the best way to survive a marriage or the correct way to raise your kids. Just as with anything else, that part of your life will be defined by your choices.

It’s much easier to understand your parents once you’ve walked in their shoes. It’s also much easier to understand your boss once you acknowledge their position. Whether it’s choosing a college, moving to a new state or making a financial investment, any big decision in life is difficult to make. And the more you grow, the more difficult choices you are forced to make.

Our culture has a fascination with age. That’s why the day you turn 16 assigns you a responsibility that you weren’t supposedly mature enough for the day before. It’s the same as the day you turn 21. But how many 20-year-olds do you know that could be drinking? How many 22-year-olds do you know that shouldn’t be?

The day you turn 18, you don’t feel any different. You’re the same person you were the day before, with the same level of experience and intellect. The same holds true between your 20th and 21st birthday, your 34th and 35th, and your 59th and 60th. The truth is, nothing changes. You’re simply one day older.

What makes you an adult isn’t that monumental day that you surpass 17. What makes you an adult is your assumed level of responsibility. All the times you’ve chosen to keep your mouth shut when it wouldn’t have been wise to speak. All the times you’ve made a sacrifice for someone that could do nothing for you. All the times you’ve had the courage to admit that you were wrong.

But just like any other type of growth, it has to start within you. You have to want to grow. The question is: who in their right mind actually wants to grow up? Wouldn’t almost everyone like to remain a carefree kid for the rest of their lives?

The answer lies in just another inevitable truth: one day you will grow up. And one day, the world will ask things of you that they expect of an adult in the same way you’d assume your dentist knows how to fill a cavity. The secret lies in trying.

There’s the common saying: “Don’t knock it ‘til you try it.” While some people like to stick to their ways and coin them “successful,” others understand that change is the only way to improve upon something.

Just like you don’t know how fast you are until you run your first marathon, you’ll never know the power of admitting you were wrong until the words actually escape your mouth.

Image: Lee Scott

Culture

It is nearing the end of the semester and you are shooting your finals down one by one. Everyone is exhausted. Everyone is happy that the semester is over. Everyone is going home.

Many students in my school come from another state, even another country. It is rare for me to find another native New Yorker on campus. During these hectic times, it is difficult to get your friends together to have a final farewell when they’re busy packing their suitcases.

They, on the other hand, are leaving the friends they’ve made during the semester to return to a town where things have changed. For any situation, there is a sense of time passing, of things being different, and sometimes that can be hard.

Being the only one left around, it feels kind of lonely. For those leaving, sometimes we can feel excluded. Sure, there are things to do in NYC, but what’s the fun of doing them if you’re doing them alone? And when everyone back at home has changed too, how can we still hang out?

Here’s the thing, and I think I’m just figuring it out. Being alone and having that breathing room isn’t a bad thing. It’s a scary thing, but not all scary things are bad. Sometimes we get so used to being with friends at school, with meeting them for lunch before class or for dinner after seminar or on Friday night for drinks that we forget that we have changed along the way. Winter break is a break from school, but it’s also a break from people. Going back home is a way of taking a break from what you know and seeing how far you’ve come. It’s a good time to reconnect with the most important person. Yourself.

Now, this is kind of hard for me. I’ve grown used to hanging out on my friend’s sofa in Nolita and having weekly mid­week dinners. It’s become routine. At the same time, I haven’t seen friends from high school, cleaned my closet out, or thought to see if my opinions on things have changed. How am I different from when the semester first started? Did I learn anything valuable about myself along the way? Did I grow as a person? How? Why?

While this a brutal thing to do, winter break is a good time to do these things because there is breathing space from all the people who have been influencing us in the first place. Back at home, whether in a suburban town on the West coast or in a city in Asia, there is a sense of “I’m different” that naturally comes with time. It may be lonely, and relieving, to get away from it all, but in the end, it’s what you make of it.

Image: Tomasz Paciorek

CultureSkills

We live in a society where we constantly feel judged and pressured to suppress all of our flaws and quirks in order to blend into the “norm.” Especially as young adults, it is extremely hard to be confident about who you are when most of the time we are not even sure who that is. A lot of the time, it is a constant struggle between deciding if you should be yourself or if you should be like everyone else. And if you do decide to be yourself, there’s the question of how much of yourself you should be.

Even though it can be difficult to figure out who you are in this world, it is extremely important to take a note from one of the most unique and inspirational figures of them all; Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer. Though he may be a fictional character that comes around each holiday season, Rudolph exhibits all of the qualities that each and every one of us need to embrace more often; being a leader, being a friend, and being himself.

Rudolph’s eventual decision to be confident in his red nose is what makes him a leader. Standing apart from the crowd, along with being happy with who you are, is a tip we can all take from the reindeer himself. Rudolph is also an amazing friend to Hermey and Yukon Cornelius. He supports them in their differences just as they support his. Rudolph also makes sure not to leave behind the misfit toys when he is at the head of Santa’s sleigh, and he makes sure to pick them up from Misfit Island and give them a chance to have homes of their own.

Through being himself, Rudolph is able to help an endless amount of people. Though at first Rudolph is ashamed of his differences, he soon learns that his differences are what save Christmas. And while it may be hard to believe sometimes, we all have our own shiny, bright, red nose to light the way on a stormy night and save the day. So while you sit back with your hot chocolate by the fire and watch your favorite Christmas movie this winter, keep in mind that we all have the ability to be our own Rudolph, and that what we think of as imperfections are actually what makes us wonderfully and beautifully unique.

Image: Story Telling Cooking and Kids

Skills

By the end of a tough year of school, it’s easy to get burned out. Even if you’re not in school, doing the same routine everyday can bore you. That doesn’t necessarily mean you should avoid learning all together though. The more you use your mind, the better it will be. Here are a few ways to have fun while improving your mind:

1. Read

We all have those books we want to read if only we had the time. If you have the free hour, take the time. You may not be able to finish your book for awhile, but reading will transport you to somewhere else. More importantly, your brain will still be working on a new task while you’re relaxing.

2. Do Puzzles

Puzzles are an easy way to challenge yourself. This can include classic puzzles, Sudoku, crosswords, or any other puzzles you can think of. You’ll get a fun sense of accomplishment when you’re done.

3. Learn A New Skill

If you’re bored or burned out in your every day life, introducing something new can be just the change you need. Learning a new skill will challenge you in a new way. Plus, maybe you’ll learn something useful like how to cook.

4. Free Write

Writing is a good way to free your mind of distractions. Have you ever had a problem focusing because something was weighing on your mind too much? You can write a story, a letter or anything else you want to get out. You can unburden yourself and improve your writing at the same time. You could even create a new masterpiece.

5. Get New Experiences

You never know how many new things you will learn just by getting out there and doing something that you’ve never tried before. Even trying a dish you never had before will give you a new experience. When traveling, you have to train yourself to know your way around which will give you a sense of direction. Meeting new people will strengthen your memory when you have to learn faces, names, and details. It will all expand your mind while being perfectly painless.

Get out there and try to re-energize yourself. Don’t stop learning. Taking a little time out of your day to improve yourself will be helpful in the long run, even if it is something as simple as taking an hour to read. Be your best self and have fun doing it!

How do you keep your brain active?

Image: opensource.com

Skills

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” – Theodore Roosevelt

This has never rang more true than now. As a twenty-something, my current conversations and thought processes seem to always revolve around the “what am I doing with my life?” question. I am finding that within my circle of peers, someone is either landing a big-time job, traveling the world, attending graduate school, or questioning why they’re not doing any of these things. Social media newsfeeds can be an emerging adult’s biggest frenemy when it comes to keeping track of friends and colleagues. You want to know what someone is up to, but you secretly want to feel like you’re in a better spot than they are. (Oh I’m sorry, that must be my ego talking) That, or you want to justify your place in life by knowing that other people are in the same boat as you. Solidarity, anyone?

I have read countless blogs and articles on this comparison crisis rampant among college students and post-grads. Some have even called it the new OCD: over-comparison disorder. The problem with comparing is that other people’s situations are given a forefront to what progress and success should look like. This is a huge contentment sucker since we each have our own journey to fulfill that is constantly changing shape. Measuring where we are in life with another human being is like trying to shoot at a moving target. It’s frustrating and misaligned. There needs to be a way out of the “this is me” but “this is the world” limbo.

In fact, there is a way that is definitely worth trying. Here it is:

Live your life inside out.

That’s right. We’re about to get real soul-talky. Living life inside out? It means spending more time investing in your journey rather than living up to what others are doing in theirs. It means putting energy into nurturing what makes you unique, learning to not only identify but love your innate abilities and then having the willingness to improve the skills you choose to attain. Rather than absorbing the trends and timelines of your colleagues, observe what inspires you and take action at a pace that’s most beneficial to your own goals, whatever they may be. Identify insecurities and combat them by fostering positive thoughts about yourself and your future. Yes, living life inside out can be easier said than done, but it’s an approach that has a lot of support behind it. To establish some credibility here, Oprah (shout out to you, Oprah) mentioned this approach in a number of her interviews. Life coach and clinical psychologist Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus has even written a book about it with enough empirical research to calm any skeptics out there. Taking a note or two from these inspirers, I’ve learned that self-reflection can really be a gateway into self-acceptance.

So how does living inside out help us compare less and become happier? The first step is to acknowledge the comparisons you have with yourself and others. Say it with me: “Hi. My name is _______, and I am a comparer.” The next step is to shift your focus from the external, material, and visual to your unique personality, places and purpose. Ah, alliteration! Let’s call those the 3 P’s.

Personality: The collection of traits and tendencies that you exhibit to yourself and to the world.
Places: The non-geographical places of interest and value that your actions stem from. Maybe you come from a place of compassion or entrepreneurship or social justice or…
Purpose: Your calling. Your legend. Your reason. The string that threads through everything you do and what ties your beliefs and goals together. It’s your passion turned into action.

Every single person has a different combination of their 3 P’s. If you are able to focus on your 3 P’s you will learn to value them. You can cater your choices to a path that is tailored to who you are, rather than someone else. Don’t let someone else’s decision to join the Peace Corps or go to law school change your dream of launching your own startup. The next time you find yourself feeling uneasy about where you are in life because Person A is way ahead of you or Person B took a different route, realize that it’s because you come from different places, have different personalities, and each have your own special purpose.

A big chunk of this process is definitely learning to love and respect yourself fully so that you can in turn, emit that same positivity to those around you. There is something very freeing about allowing yourself to compare less and to appreciate more. So start within, share your abilities and dreams confidently, and embrace the abilities and dreams of your colleagues. It’s an ongoing process, this whole self-reflection thing, but let’s start at the core so that we can be so happy with ourselves that we are always happy for each other.

Image: David Goehring

CultureSkills

Every second, minute, and hour of every day, something is happening in the world. While we might not be there to experience these moments in time firsthand, there are news reporters, journalists, and eye witnesses ready to give us a rundown of what is going on. Some news stations are biased and may or may not report the entire truth, others probably don’t care too much about the truth. Whatever the case may be, it’s up to you to decide who you want to believe and who you don’t want to believe. Not everyone speaking into a camera is going to tell you the truth and not everyone is going to tell you a lie. This is why you have to use your own discretion when consuming media reported news.

No one can tell you which news station or online magazine is the most credible. This is only because credibility is such a broad term, and the same news outlet that is deemed credible to one person may be deemed untrustworthy by another. For example, there are people who like CNN, but there are others who don’t. The same can be said for any other news channel that people watch. Having people who dislike CNN or any other news channel doesn’t devalue that channel in any way. It just means that people have different criterion for credibility. However, even if you do have a good sense of which news sources are credible to you, the important thing to remember is not to be biased. Don’t take what you hear or see at face value just because your favorite reporter or writer said something happened. They might not have all the facts or even the right facts.

Do your own research; try to confirm what is being said. You have a right to know what’s going on in the word around you. So what if you can’t be aware of everything that goes on? That doesn’t mean you can’t be well-informed about the things you are aware of. Question everything you read, see, and hear. Don’t just go along with what is being said because if you do, you are doing a disservice to yourself. Young people have the power to make a difference, but we can’t do that if we are in a state of obliviousness and if we are constantly unaware of what is going on around us.

The less we pay attention, the more disconnected we become from the rest of the world. Quite a few of my peers say that they don’t care about what happens in other countries or even other cities and states because it doesn’t directly affect them. If you are a person who shares those same sentiments, keep in mind that even if something doesn’t directly affect you, it will still indirectly affect you. You might not realize that now but we don’t often see the things that affect us until it hits close to home.

Question everything. See what’s going on yourself instead of only relying on news reporters to provide you with information. You are not just a resident of a city, state, or town. You are not just a citizen of your country, either. You are a citizen of the world, and the more you know, the more connected you will be. People think that borders and large bodies of water separate us from each other, but really it’s the things we don’t know that drives us apart.

Image: Barzan Qtr

CollegeEducationHigh SchoolInspiration

The transition from college to high school is a weird time. Not only are you getting ready to embark on a new journey in your life, but you might be going on a journey that is different from your friend – some of whom may decide to go to a different university, take a year off to travel, or maybe they don’t see themselves continuing with their education. Whatever their choice ends up being, it will usually end up being different from the one you make.

That is a hard realization to come to, and for many of you, you are already trying to navigate your collegiate experience without the people you have spent four years (or more, if you knew them before high school) of your life with. Luckily, we live in a society where technology has advanced and we don’t have to rely on writing letters to communicate with someone. So, if you’re missing your friends, you can always video chat with them or send them a text.

As it gets to be later in the semester, this line of communication may be hard to keep up, especially once you start getting involved with activities and get bombarded with various assignments. You might even make new friends that share the same interests or are taking the same courses you’re taking.

It’s never easy to talk about ‘letting someone go,’ especially if you’ve known them for a long time. This is not to say that it is impossible to stay friends with the people you went to high school with when you’re in college. Many people are able to keep the friendship intact, which is always a great thing. But if you and your friend(s) grow distant over time, that’s okay too.

We grow up a little each day, and sometimes when that happens, we become different people. The jokes we used to make with our friends might not seem as funny as they used to. Our definitions of fun changes and we just grow away from the people we used to be close to. When I was in ninth grade, I thought the people I befriended would be my friends forever. While we still message each other on Facebook from time to time, we don’t have the bond that we use to have. That is partly because none of us are the same people we were when we were in high school. This might apply to many of you because you just started your first semester of college. I think it’s important to talk about this now because no one told me that I wouldn’t have the same friends after I graduated from high school and went to college. No one told me that the people I sat with at lunch for four years would become strangers.

This might not happen to you but if it does, don’t worry about it. When I say ‘let someone go,’ I don’t mean that you should close them out of your life forever. It’s just that if a friendship has run its course, let it run its course. Some people are in your life for seasons, and others, especially the ones you meet in college, may become your lifetime friends. It’s up to you to decide who those people will be.

On the other hand, you might have had friends who partied a lot and participated in things they shouldn’t have participated in while they were in high school. If you were the kid who hung out with that crowd, it’s up to you to make the decision on whether you still want to keep those kind of people in your life. People can tell a lot about the kind of person you are based on the people you associate with. You might see or understand the importance of choosing your friends carefully right now but, trust me, as time goes on you’ll begin to understand why people don’t always keep in contact with their friends from high school or why people change in the first place.

It’s up to you to decide whether someone will benefit your life in any way, or if the person you used to get into trouble with when you were in high school will keep you from reaching your full potential and having the best collegiate journey you could possibly have. I’m not saying that you can’t be friends with the girl you used to party with a lot or the guy who used to do crazy pranks. It’s just that if they’re still the same way and aren’t going in the same direction you’re going, you don’t have to cut them off completely, you just have to distance yourself from them so you have room to grow and to become the person that you want to be.

College will change you and your life. Whether for good or for bad, that is entirely your decision. Just make sure you have the right people in your life because part of what changes you is the people you associate yourself with. You’re not going to be the same person you were in high school, so don’t be afraid if your friends aren’t the same either.

Image: morguefile

CultureTravel

“Where are you from?” she asked with a confidence that rapidly dwindled into embarrassment when I responded, “I was born here.” The awkward pause that causes eyes to wander, skin to prickle, and blood to rush is quickly relieved by the “but my parents are Colombian.” She seems to breathe again and feel the comfort she was familiar with six seconds before she had asked me the line-drawing question. My parents were born and raised in Colombia, but I was born and raised in Weston, a Fort Lauderdale suburb. Answering the following questions almost makes me feel like an actor rehearsing my lines for the millionth time. Yes, I am bilingual; yes, I have traveled to Colombia; in fact, I visit every summer and my profound attachment to the country has made the declaring of myself “American” unfit, yet, classification of myself “Colombian” slightly uncomfortable.

I knew I couldn’t be the only one with this dilemma, and it became an even more prevalent confusion in my junior year of high school when I chose “White” on my answer sheet through the process of elimination. I am not Indian, Asian, African or biracial, and choosing “other” at the time seemed more like giving up in how to identify myself rather than making a statement; leaving “white” as my last option. But I asked myself, “Do they mean ‘skin-color-white’? Or ‘I-was-born- in-America- white’?” I justified my answer by reminding myself that my father has white skin and green eyes, so, I chose “white” when, in reality, I have dark olive/tan skin. While I could have easily bubbled-in “Other,” at that moment, I chose to identify with my American self. But this was not always the case.

I have spent years trying to decipher this mystery. Am I both? Am I neither? What am I and where am I really from? For years I have felt absolutely uneasy with the idea of trying to label myself one or the other. However, being raised in South Florida has made it much easier to answer the black-or-white-question, “where are you from,” in a grey form. If the U.S. is a melting pot, South Florida is a recycled city bench. The amount of South American, Central American, European, Caribbean, and Middle Eastern communities in that region is astounding. More specifically, in my particular city, Venezuelans and Colombians are even more heavily concentrated. Most of my friends and people of association were either fully American or first or second generation immigrants from Colombia or Venezuela.

In light of this, to those who were first generation immigrants, I was an “American” and those who were second generation immigrants like me thought of me as “Colombian.” Likewise, I am considered Hispanic in this country but considered Gringa, or American, in Colombia – or any other country for that matter. This points directly to how easily others can perceive you, and many times, it may not be in correlation with how you see yourself. It all depends on adaptation and just how much those who have foreign-born parents or immigrants themselves have accustomed to the very-American, semi-American, or in my case, almost Hispanic-colonial-based culture. It has to do with what exactly the person has chosen to integrate into their lives, and what they reject as something they don’t want in their lives. In other words, it is very possible to create one’s own culture, per say, and develop one’s own identification.

Having parents from a different country than the one I was born and raised in means I have Carlos Vives and Frank Sinatra downloaded onto my iPod. It means I am the vegetarian that gets confused looks when I order only a side of red beans with rice and a pandebono at Colombian restaurants. It means that I speak the truly convenient and creative Spanglish language with my friends and US-born-family members, yet, jot down any unfamiliar English word in my agenda to look up and learn later. It means that when I am in the U.S., I will miss Juan Valdez Coffee and when in Colombia, I will think of how many free Starbucks drinks I am missing out on every 12 days. It means I chose to stuff my luggage with a stash of home-made frozen arepas to cook for breakfast instead of swiping my ID card at the college dining hall every morning. It means I criticize both American and Colombian governments and societies. It means I felt the knife in my heart that Saturday afternoon when I abandoned my unfinished homework to protest for a better Venezuelan government in snowy Boston. It means I had to unwillingly part from my cousin at the airport only to wait two hours for her because owning a blue passport unshackles me from having to bear the immigration process. It means that I am a daughter of the breath-taking mountainous rock that veins Colombia and a daughter of the Miami concrete jungle that is arranged as an unending labyrinth. It means many, many things, but it most importantly means that I am a little bit of both cultures and I find my balance in what I create it to be.

Figuring out just where to draw the line in your opinions, practices, and beliefs is where that balance is created. The next time somebody asks you where you are from, strapping yourself to one label is unnecessary; even when you find yourself surrounded by people who are of a certain nation or have decided their ethos, you can craft your own identification through a medium of what you have been exposed to.