Beautiful disaster

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If you perceive beauty, the way I do; you’ll know beauty arises from  and is often hidden in some of the most tragic, depressing and ugliest moments in our lives.

It’s been nearly a month since my mini-getaway trip to PR. Which I have to admit turned out better than I initially anticipated. My best friend, Shayna, felt it was only right to celebrate her 25 years of life on a beautiful tropical island;  Me, being the tropic-lover I am, just had to say YOLO and agree to it.

I’m sure it sounds like we had our trip all planned out for weeks, but the truth is, we didn’t. Prior to the trip and the impending arrival of Shayna’s birthday we spent days indecisively choosing between California or Florida. I guess you can tell we just wanted to be somewhere warm. Then she finally asked, “what do you think about PR” At first, I was a little reluctant, since PR is only a few months shy of full recovery from the devastations of Hurricane Maria. I did some research and-without sounding insensitive-we both figured since San Juan is the capital, it should be in better shape as opposed to the other cities/towns and nonetheless, visitor friendly.

And, just like that our decision was finalized.

My parents being the worried wart’s they are, were concerned about my sudden expedition to Puerto Rico. They tried to come up with every plausible reason for me to cancel the trip. Here are a few examples, just so you get an idea (just add a Jamaican accent!)  Is it safe there? Didn’t PR just have a hurricane? Are people even traveling there?

Did you tell your job or request days off?

Are you sure you’ll have a job when you come back? 

Of course, being the stubborn and determined person I am, I still went on the trip.

Prior to embarking on this excursion, I knew this trip-regardless of where we went- meant more to me than posting sexy, thirst trap beach pics for ig/snapchat and posting my geo-location above my pictures (because of course everyone wants to see which hot spot you’re at). Taking a trip anywhere was important to me, simply because I would get a chance to not only celebrate one of my closest friend’s Quarter century, but it allowed me to get away from the mundane routine of work, home. eat, sleep (repeat). It gets depressing after awhile.

It reminded me that I come first, and money can’t always grant you happiness. I became exhausted of my obligations and the long awaited opportunity to break free finally arose.

For most people who aren’t from NYC or don’t reside here. Respect my honesty when I say, NYC is a cold place (literally and figuratively). Sure, snow is pretty for the first few minutes it falls, but once it sticks, it becomes a mountainous storage unit filled with dog feces and what NYC is infamously known for, its illustrious street trash. Still sounds like an extravagant winter wonderland? Nope! Haha, I thought so. PSA for all of the out-of-state people: if you ever come in the winter though, please do enjoy.

I had to plan an escape from this place even if it only meant a few days.

I’ve been rambling a lot, but now I’ll move on to the exciting part, “Ahh, Puerto Rico Ooooh”  (I’m corny, but if you just read that verse without singing it, then you won’t understand the intended joke. it’s a popular hook from Frankie Cutlass 1990s rap song,“Puerto Rico”. I’m sure every New Yorker has heard it as some point in their lives.

Thursday, March 1, 2018: I left NYC Thursday morning and arrived at PR in the evening (thanks to my one hour and half flight layover in North Carolina I arrived later. Still happy nonetheless, I made it safe and sound. Majority of my flight was spent with my eyelids closed and music in my ears; partly because of my persistent fear of flying and intent to contain all of my energy for PR festivities. Who wants to spend their vacation jet-lagged? I definitely don’t.

First Day in San Juan: I took a cab from  Luis Munoz Marin International Airport en route to my weekend home.

Shayna and I being the young and broke, working 20somethings we are, decided to take  Kendrick Lamar’s advice and be “Humble.” Instead of living beyond our means and Bow Wow’n for the gram, we took a low key approach by renting out an airBnB in the city of Carolina (not far from the airport, beach or night scene). There were local stores, endless dine-in/ takeout food spots, bars, hotels, and lounges. In a way I guess we lucked up by finding this area. It felt good not having to spend tons of money on Ubers or scrambling for change to take the bus.

When I arrived, I freshened my self up with a cold shower and brushed my teeth. Shortly after, Shayna and I touched the road! We both took advantage of the chance to show our legs and embraced the beautiful warmth the winter deprived us of. We spent a few hours walking the strip trying to decide on the perfect place for authentic Puerto Rican food and drinks. We set our eyes on a quiet-looking diner. Forgive me, but majority of the places we dined at I don’t remember the names of-I’m trying my best to retrace my memory by reliving the moment. Sadly I’m unsuccessful. I enjoyed a nice filling plate of mofongo ( mashed plantains) with chicken and a sangria. Shayna, took more of a vegetarian approach, white rice with beans and maduros mofongo (mashed sweet plantain) with a mojito. You should already know, two women with delicious food, comfy clothes and beautiful scenery only leads to one thing, a loooooong conversation and laughter. On the way back home we took note of which spots we would add to our To-Do list.

One of the best parts by far was the refreshing feeling of not being disturbed by my annoying alarm clock.  Nearly every morning, Shayna and I woke up either close to noon or at noon exactly. Somehow the days felt incredibly long, which permitted just enough time for spontaneous adventures.

March 2, 2018: Second day in PR the first thing we ventured out to do was of course our #1 priority, the beach! Fortunately, for us the Isla Verde Beach was within 10 minutes walking distance from us. Between us both walking really isn’t a issue, so we trotted our happy asses down to the beach.  Following the rejuvenating salt water baths, we had to see what a typical Friday night in PR entailed.  We dressed in our weekend’s best, ready to slay and headed out for sight-seeing in Old San Juan.

Old San Juan was about a 20 minute drive, if not less from Isla Verde. The architectural structures of the vibrantly painted buildings, cobble stone roads, narrow streets and historical monuments reminded me of scenes I’ve seen in movies. I could feel the essence of an island filled with deep rooted stories. There was this beautifully eerie feeling of Old San Juan. In some ways it felt like nostalgia to me.  I was enticed to absorb as much information the engraved plaques, signs and images provided. I felt at home in Old San Juan.

March 3, 2018 (Shayna’s Bday!): It was officially Shayna’s 25th birthday and everything was up to her. Shayna is such a chill person that she was content with going to the beach, a lounge and checking out the PR club scene. As she wished, was what we did. We went for another midday beach trip: tanned, received our salt water detox, posed for the camera and Shayna successfully hit a coconut off a palm tree. Later on that night we got dolled up, enjoyed dinner at a sushi restaurant and followed up after with a few drinks and hookah at a local hookah spot next door.  Around 2 a.m. we set out for the ultimate Puerto Rican club scene at La Placita!

March 4, 2018: Officially my last day and Shayna’s second to last day in PR. Reality of my impending departure slowly sank in, it was almost time for me to back up and head back to NYC. We decided to go out with a bang by conquering our fears of heights with hiking and zip lining through the forest. Honestly neither of us were aware caution waivers had to be signed before this life-threatening adventures. When the man brought out the paperwork, I started to seriously reconsider my decision. So much for YOLO. We were in too deep, neither of us could back out; our session was paid for and the Uber driver was nowhere in sight. So we signed the papers, strapped up, listened to the instructors advice and we were sent on our way.  Hiking up the trails wasn’t the scary part ( I confess, it had me a little winded, I told myself I need to be more diligent about exercising). It was when the zip-lining attendants strapped our harnesses on to the zip-lining cord that the surge of nervousness stung my body. The first two out of 6 zip-lines were a little intense, but after a while the routined strapped harnesses, sitting back and extended legs followed by a fierce push became second nature. I just prayed my zip-lining wouldn’t stop half way through zip-lining because I’d have to fend for myself.

As you can see I survived it, so for those of you who are thinking about zip-lining at some point in your lives. I’d say definitely go for it and take this from someone who is intensely afraid of heights. It’s an experience you’d love to check off your to-do list, rather than say I wish I could do that.  Why live vicariously through someone else when you can do it yourself?

Amidst all of the heart ache, trauma, devastation and fatalities Puerto Rico has endured during and after Hurricane Maria. This island remains vibrant welcoming, and resilient but most importantly beautiful.

I admire Carib people for seeing life as an endless celebration and being innovative with their limited tools. Although, I didn’t get to experience Puerto Rico in its entirety (that’ll be a little difficult to do in the space of 3-4 days) I felt the spirit of optimism and progression.

I’ll see you again PR.

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Carpe diem!

I think I know the moment I became disconnected with myself.

While residing in Buffalo, I allowed myself to settle for any mediocre job opportunity that was at hand, for the sake of making ends meet. I hated every second of each temp job I attained. During this time I allowed other people-employers-to look at me and form their assumptions about what I needed. And that desperate need was settling for their low wages, ridiculous long hours and heavy labor. I allowed a string of employers to both indirectly and directly tell me that my concerns and future aspirations did not matter; what mattered the most was my commitment to clocking-in to their schedule and doing what they demanded.

I lost myself, I lost hope of my dreams and I was blinded by the negative, bitterness to break free. I began to agree with them and after a while I began showing up to work with the forced poker face, trying to convince myself “Ok yolee, just fake it until you make it, that’s all.” I was so caught up in the hype of having my own apartment and my own space, but in reality what I truly lacked was a sense of complete ownership. The ownership of my decisions, career, love-life, relationships with others, and my life in general. I was lost, struggling to hold on to everything, without realizing that nothing in Buffalo was ever really mine. I rented an apartment, I relied on public transportation, and I lost friends, so in retrospect I had not owned anything.  All I truly had was myself and I often questioned that.

I’m nearing my fifth month of unemployment.

Today, I decided to take a chance without second guessing or overthinking the possible outcomes. Lately, I began accepting rejection as a commonality in my life, but today my warrior spirit showed up and led me to seek out a long awaited opportunity. I was watching everyone around me- close friends, former school peers and even relatives attain their glorious success in the job market.  I even believed in the reassuring repetitive phrase, “Don’t worry your time will come, it’ll show up when you least expect it.”

So you know what I did, guess?

I waited…waited and waited. I’ve been waiting for almost 5 months for this wonderful, mind-blowing opportunity to miraculously appear in my emails or present itself in a voicemail.

The wonderful opportunity didn’t arrive, but you know what did, my good old reliable friend, rejection. For these past few moths she’s been a dependent one. Always ready to greet me with a welcoming smile and open arms. I hated her so much and the more my hate grew the more she swelled with pride.

Today,

I learned a few lessons about myself, 

I allow fear of the unknown to control me and potential progressive steps. I also accept the possibilities of defeat to prohibit my attempts,

I learned that for some people, the universe sends opportunity their way without restraint. As for me, well the Stewarts in general we have to walk out in to the world and pave our own way.

Today as my feet led me to my destination there wasn’t a speck of self doubt within my body.  I opened that door for myself and God opened it on a spiritual level.

If I had not left my mom’s apartment I would’ve remained comfortable in my daily duties of texting and  waiting for replies; waiting for calls I’ll probably never receive, flipping through channels and raiding the food pantry for my umpteenth snack or meal of the day.

My brother made a valid point yesterday. He said to me, we’re already at a disadvantage because we don’t have a foundation to build from and nothing was ever handed to us.

I’m proud of myself for seizing the day, and placing myself back out into the world to show them who I am and what I’m capable of. I somehow landed an instructor specialist job based on my degree and the qualifications on my resume.

I’m completely nervous about this new chapter I’m about to open in my developing adulting memoir.  It’s scary, kids are scary, but I trust God knows what he’s doing for me and with me. my story is just beginning, my life is just beginning and there’s so much more to go.