Seeing the World Through Rosé Colored Glasses

“Not Above Canned Rosé”  Bryant Park

“Not Above Canned Rosé” Bryant Park

We live in funny times.

You turn on cable news and are led to believe the world is a big, scary place. You read in the papers people are not to be trusted - they have ulterior motives, bad intentions, or are just plain malevolent.

Maybe I’m an optimist, but I don't believe it. Personally and professionally I've found - in New York and Nairobi; Tel Aviv and Tokyo; there’s darkness in the world, but by-and-large people are full of light. Perhaps a bit self-interested or occasionally short-sighted, but mostly kind. Generous. Wonderful. Kind.

Six months ago I showed up in Manhattan with a suitcase, no place to live, no job, and a bank account moving in the wrong direction. It's something I'm proud of, but not something I did alone.

Along the way mentors connected dots, family and friends helped pack possessions, and a killer therapist unpacked my thoughts (#curestigma) – even strangers shared umbrellas and wine in the park.

Now, I have an apartment I like, a job I enjoy, and a city I love to hate. It’s hard to believe I’ve already been here half-a-year. I feel a little like a German Shepherd – as if the time passed in dog years and it’s already been a lifetime. It’s a new season, in a new place… and for the first time, this restless wanderer might stay somewhere a while.

If growing up has taught me anything it’s that our dreams are never achieved alone.

So, here’s to generosity, more adventures, and seeing the world through rosé colored glasses. Let’s make a kinder world, together.

xoxo,

- jmc

This is Me (One Month in New York)

If you’ve been reading my writing for any length of time, you’ll know I often start with a metaphor, anecdote, or story. And, while I enjoy sharing things I’ve done, places I’ve explored, and interesting people I’ve met along the way… sometimes I think I can hide behind them. 

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I’ve recently realized I like writing about the past because it’s safe. It feels messy to share when you’re in the throes of something. It's less vulnerable to share what you’ve figured out, or are far enough removed from, because at least then you can offer some poetic resolve. 

But “poetic resolve” and “mid-twenties” have about as much in common as Paris Hilton and Socrates, something my therapist reminded me while on a phone call from a Manhattan subway station. 

As wonderful and life-giving as New York has been the last month, all the street falafel in the world can’t bring resolution to your doubts, insecurities, and shame. 

And so, slumped against the filthy wall of 42nd & Broadway, dry tears stung my cheeks. As Brazilian tour groups and slightly off-brand Marvel characters wandered home from Time’s Square, my blessedly patient counselor and I talked about shame. 

Shame about my past or of having too many feelings – of being unemployed or lack of clarity – of my faith or who I love.

Brene Brown writes, “because true belonging only happens when we present our authentic, imperfect selves to the world, our sense of belonging can never be greater than our level of self-acceptance.” 

I recently shared how my word for 2018 is “gentle,” accepting where I’m at and who I am; letting my story unfold organically rather than formulaically. 

For me, the journey of the last few years has been about self-acceptance and New York, in many ways, feels like the culmination of that journey. 

What I didn’t tell you was the frustrated tears about “what’s next” at the beginning of my call shifted to joyful ones by the end of it. 

Because, in our last few moments together, I was reminded of how much I’ve grown. After all, nothing wholly embodies the old hymn “my shame is gone, I’ve been set free” like tears and expletives in a Manhattan subway station. 

A month into this adventure and I’m still a New York freshman. There’s much I’m uncertain about, but I’m starting to understand I can be in the throes of something and still be confident in myself. 

So, while “poetic resolve” seems like a strong word and there are still days I attempt to find sanctity in a halal cart, I’m honestly, dare I say, okay. I’m proud of the things I’ve done, but for the first time in a long time, I’m proud of who I am. 

What would it look like if whatever shame you’re holding onto – whether you’ve been clinging it to it for two hours or a lifetime – wasn’t there any longer? It matters what truth you align yourself with and the truth is, I have nothing to be ashamed of, nor do you.

Let's be a little more brave. Let's feel a little more free. 

Learning to Be "Gentle" with Your Story

The moon is rising, and I hear a wolf howl in the distance. It’s nearly 1 AM in a remote part of Southern Jordan on the Saudi Arabian border. 

Sun City Camp, Wadi Rum, Jordan, Feb. 2018

Sun City Camp, Wadi Rum, Jordan, Feb. 2018

My blistered feet in my new boots ache, and all I have is my camera, tripod, and a diet coke. All the years I spent as a Boy Scout apparently haven’t paid off, and I’m beginning to think I’ve made a mistake. 

Then, I look up. 

Forgetting about things like scorpions and snakes, I sit in the red sand and stare into the ocean above my head. 

For years, anytime I thought about the ocean it felt like I was holding my breath, my lungs unable to expand. Secrets about the most intimate parts of myself burning like hot coals beneath my feet. The fear I wasn’t stewarding my life well, or I was missing out on what I was made to do…. this reality burning like cheap whiskey in the back of my throat as I tried to breathe.

Here though, in the Valley of the Moon, instead of suffocating, I was drowning in light. I don’t know whether it was the place, the full moon, or the Sleeping at Last song playing softly through earbuds, but I started to cry. There, in the desert… not far from the one where the characters of the Old Testament wondered, wandered, and trapped in their heads, tried to figure out why there were there and why they were there. 

I’ve talked before about viewing myself as an equation and life as an algorithm, the solution being a formula I had yet to discover. 

This year though, the word I’m speaking over my life is “gentle” – freeing my calloused shoulders from the burdens of the world and pain in my lungs preventing me from breathing in the present moment. 

Valley of the Moon, Southern Jordan, Feb. 2018

Valley of the Moon, Southern Jordan, Feb. 2018

In 2018, I’m striving to be gentle with myself – personally and professionally – and let the aspects of myself I don’t understand unfold organically instead of trying to force them out. 

“Gentle” lives in the liminal space between suppression and obsession. Its awareness, dancing with your fear, anxieties, and unknowns without suppressing them but simultaneously not giving them power through obsession either. 

If your mind is a castle with many rooms “gentle” is placing that which you don’t understand on a shelf in the foyer… not locking them in the basement but not scattered all over the kitchen table either. 

I plan to write more about what it looks like to be “gentle” in all the areas of your life. But for now, my hope is you’d learn to breathe again, to hang on… not for dear life but to dear life. So, so dear. What a rare and beautiful thing it is to exist indeed. 

Kittens & Cardboard

The gravel crunches under my tires as soft, grey dust flies up from the road; rocks periodically shooting out from the unpaved street, rhythmically knocking the underbelly of my Volkswagen.

I pull down the well-trod driveway to a shuttered house surrounded by 25 sweeping acres. Pastures with waist-high alfalfa grass wait to by cut and baled out front. The air somehow feels clearer here- sweetly tinged with the scent of new-cut wood…  sharp & clean. 

There’s a fondness- for the slightly dilapidated fence, it’s well-worn boards smooth from battering winds and rain of a hundred summer storms... for the grouchy mare grazing peacefully in the pasture, her tail flicking left and right in a bereft attempt at preventing flies from getting too close. 

I slip off my shoes in the cluttered mudroom as the grumbling garage door slams shut behind me. I’m barely inside the house when several cats slink in to join me, purring softly, clearly hoping their affections will impel me to refill their vacant food bowl. 

As they glide in-and-out of my legs however, my mind begins to wander from the Georgia countryside. 

I’m younger and beardless; naively wandering through a yet-to-be gentrified section of Brooklyn. Not far from the Utica Avenue station I stumbled across a box of kittens sitting under a dim streetlight near a shabby apartment complex. I paused for a moment; swallowing in the sorrowful sight. However, as I attempted to formulate a plan to smuggle the kittens across the East River and into my midtown hotel room, I noticed something. 

They were happy… or, if not happy, at the very least exceedingly contented; as if the damp, recyclable carton had always been their home. Realizing even Manhattan has its limits- and not feeling like explaining to my Uber driver why I was toting a box of cats into the Marriott Marquis, I decided to keep walking. 

Not far behind me, a stranger- a Brooklyn local judging by the deep v-neck t-shirt and suede argyle vest- stopped at the furrowed cardboard emblazoned “Free Cats” and picked out the runt of the litter. However, crafting artisanal cheese platters at the organic Food Coop in Park Slope hadn’t prepared him for what happened next. As he lifted the tabby from the box, she became erratic- crying and clawing, desperately trying to fight her way back to the place she knew to be home. 

I didn’t realize it at the time- but that’s what an in-between feels like. It’s a disorienting space wherein everything you’ve known gets stripped away. 

Whenever you enter your in-between- whether after college, or later in life- it’s often more than a simple change in scenery… it’s a seismic shift in all you’ve been defined by. 

When you pursue individualization and the truth of who you are- whom you were always meant to be- the extraneous labels and superfluous aspects of self all get removed, peeled away, killed off. 

You’re free for the first time, but also left floating in empty space… like New York at night; there's no stars, no moon, no sense of time or direction.

You're also alone... for when you stop letting other’s projections of you dictate your identity, there’s a chance the people you’ve been surrounded by might reject you. As you move on, the rest of the proverbial kittens in the box don’t understand where you’re going, or why you’ve left. 

But… back to the tabby for a moment. 

The man behind me on the street in Brooklyn looked like a pretty nice guy- he had well-manicured facial hair, a handsome, if unnecessary fedora, and slid into the passenger seat of a Subaru- the crying kitten wrapped in that suede argyle vest. 

What strikes me now, as my own cats wind between my legs, is the simple fact…. in that moment, the kitten had no idea she was going to a better place. 

Shivering beneath the cotton folds she was terrified- everything she had known had been taken away and she hadn’t the faintest idea where she was going next. 

Now…. I don’t know if my in-between ends in a Brooklyn brownstone with a hunter-green Forrester & a nitro cold-brew tap in my kitchen.  I certainly hope that’s the case… but right now, I feel like I have more in common with the kitten wrapped in the vest than I do the beautiful bearded man. There’s a large part of me that’s scared and wants nothing more than to run back to the box- everything I’ve known- the structure and security I found in my cardboard identity. 

The drive between the place and people I called home to my destination seems like a lifetime- yet in the grand scheme is nothing more than a quick hop across boroughs. 

Perhaps these are nothing more than the esoteric ramblings of an enigmatic twenty-something with too many thoughts & feelings. Yet, if growing up has taught me anything it’s that I am not the first, nor the last, to feel this way… and neither are you. 

In this season I’m finding to build is to first destroy, to know truth is to grieve the past, and to let go is to leave room for joy. 

To quote eternal Hunter S. Thompson, "never forget you come from a long line of truth-seekers, lovers and warriors" and you're so brave for leaving your box behind.