One of my favorite things about my first year living on the beach is experiencing each season and its treasures. The vastness I feel from the universe as I gaze out from the edge of land. The deep, poetic thoughts impressed by my senses.
I moved in mid-August, sand levels were high and tides far out. As the months went on, the sun set closer to the front of my house, perfection each night as it sank below the horizon. Directly into the Pacific Ocean, no obstructions besides nature’s chosen patterns. Fall is my favorite time of year in LA. Sunny, but cooler days, followed by cloudy, masterpieces for sunsets. Fiery skies collecting color through each formation. Unique and powerful. Vibrant and calming.
Once the sand levels lowered, I discovered my staircase was longer than I even knew! As the tides broke over, new steps revealed themselves. A metaphor for the depth drowning brings. The levels climbed to shore after the storm washes over don’t just disappear. To pull myself out of those deeper times, my ladder must extend. Stretching my dimensions. Fully immersed in the human experience. My reach broadens. My capability always expanding. It isn’t until I climb back up that I can see the silver lining. How far I’ve come and how much I’ve gained in the process.
The waves crashing under my house were another exhilarating surprise. Now living on the ocean, not just the beach. I have had this reoccurring dream since I was a child. It’s my world as I know it, but instead of roads, cars, ground, everything is water. I swim wherever I want to go. While swimming isn’t a prominent thing in my life, those dreams have always been, to me, as satisfying as flying. While some people find freedom and relaxation in their flying dreams, I find total peace in these dreams navigated through water. Flowing so easily, elegantly. At my own pace, unbothered by the paths of others. Once again, my dream has became my reality. My comfort has become my home.
As the sun starts to move behind the mountains, I’ve been curious what new perks would be discovered. This time the beach revealed physical treasures. Taken by the sea, returned as precious gifts. Garbage worn and frosted into beautiful gems. Sea glass! Just another transformation through rough waters. Who knew a broken bottle could form into such a jewel? Never underestimate the potential a turbulent journey enlightens. It’s the salt, the scratches, the tumbling through the sea that revealed the value of those sharp, broken pieces.
As I delve into these days of collection, my thoughts slow down. My intentions become clearer. If I only look for the big pieces that stick out from where I’m standing, I’ll miss out on the endless beauty that surrounds. Unique and colorful finds mixed into the sand. Some take digging, most just an open mind. Of course I could wait to see those bigger pieces before I crouch down and rummage through. When things look good, there’s probably more good to be found. But what if I’m missing the good that takes more careful observation? Letting my mind focus only on the obvious big and shiny attractions, when it’s those tiny, harder to find pieces that bring more reward.
With the arrival of this sea glass season, I am grounded, literally. I have a goal, my walks have tangible purpose. I come back with physical reward. A jar full of my successes. Souvenirs of my commitment. Appreciation for individuality, the beauty in authenticity. Battled and bruised, these colors find new form. Just like all the other precious moments I’ve experienced here at the beach, metaphors of a full life. Accepting bumpy times and uplifted because of them. Dreams don’t come true without a little fight. Beauty is pain, understood and nurtured pain.
Closure is an interesting thing. I say I need it to heal and move on but I’m not sure I ever really believe that. What I’m looking for isn’t closure, it’s a way to re-enter. Hanging on to something I need to let go of and “looking for answers” to validate staying. It is the string attached to me and the problem. High voltage and hazardous until cut.
However, I finally received closure on my first heartbreak. One I felt I was stuck with. Unwilling to accept that I couldn’t have what I wanted. I couldn’t make something work just because I wanted it to. I didn’t really believe anything but time would help this wound heal. Help my heart move forward. Want to love again and someone else for that matter. Not even closure.
But then it happened. I finally got the conversation I had been longing for. To be completely raw, I had been begging for it. Confirmation in what we had and understanding in what is now. It actually worked. For some reason, this is what it took for me to let go. I guess it made sense to me for the first time. It wasn’t discrediting the authenticity of our relationship to end it, but giving value to my past. Creating a new space for this time of my life, and not forcing it into the future with me. Believing in its place. Leaving the puzzle piece where it is because it fits there. If I move it or try to take it with me, the puzzle will be left incomplete.
As much as moving on from this dark place in my life felt freeing, it was worrisome how it came about. Having closure from someone else be the deciding factor on my ability to move on is unacceptable. I know I won’t always have that opportunity. I need to find closure within myself. I need to be the final say in what I move on from and how. I must learn to create closure when no one else can give it to me.
Where will I start? What was it about this situation, this particular closure, that gave me relief? Validation and proper placement. Confidence in my feelings and truth for where I stand. But how could I be unsure of my feelings? My feelings are facts. I’ll start there.
Just as it takes time to build trust with other people, it takes time to build trust with myself. If I’m not being honest with myself about my feelings, how can I expect to trust my purpose? So this is what I vow to work on. To allow movement in and out of my life that feels good. If a piece of my puzzle feels stuck, forced into place, it probably doesn’t belong there. I need to listen to my intuitions and trust my gut. I need to put the puzzle pieces down before they get torn up and shredded from misplaced trauma. I need to keep working as my life unfolds and not get held back by one piece. As long as I’m living, this puzzle of life is never complete. But it can be completed up to this moment. Feel solid and fit together to grow from. My timeline is a piece of work. Circumstances laid out on a table, my time and effort to make something of them. To never give up.
So how will I give myself closure? When it feels like I need someone else’s story, someone else’s pieces? Trust I’m working with all the pieces I need. My hands are all that is necessary to secure them. Waiting around to see what other pieces may show up is a waste of time and only cause for pain. I will decide how my pieces fit and let them be. Get excited for the new pieces to arrive and watch my puzzle grow into a masterpiece. Beauty will present itself if I keep placing my pieces and moving forward.
I live in Santa Monica, which seems like it should be a fantasy. The iconic pier of Los Angeles beaches and I only live a block from the ocean! Panoramic views from the ferris wheel, bike paths accessible from Venice as far as Malibu. Shopping, restaurants, and more attractions from Ocean Avenue, 3rd Street Promenade and Main Street. I’m a minute drive from the ramp to Pacific Coast Highway and I have an ample amount of parks and scenic views only a walk away. All of this in addition to the friendships I’ve built in my neighborhood, my local Pilates studio and the dog park next door are what grip me tight from ever straying too far away. However, my reality is not what you would imagine or expect.
Santa Monica has been weighing heavier on the negatives as of late. It’s not the dream I wish it to be. I got to the point where the decision to stay or go confronted me daily. I’m usually the type of person to make a change if something isn’t working for me. Bored of Boston? Move to California. Someone’s energy brings me down? Stop spending time with them. What about when those decisions aren’t as black and white? What about when the decision means leaving behind so much that I still love?
Santa Monica has been invaded by homeless transients. Gunpoint muggings in broad daylight. Hundreds of crime reports daily. Heroin needles, human feces, dirty homeless shouting, naked and squatting everywhere you look. Public sex with no discretion, cars broken into, bikes and packages stolen from your locked lobby areas. There hasn’t been a day in the three years I’ve lived here that I haven’t dealt with harassment in some form. I’ve received several subpoenas for witnessing and being victim to the crimes of my city. One of which was when I saved my apartment’s security from an intruder by calling 911 for him. He was helpless in the attack and he was supposed to be protecting me. Along with trespasser attacks, you can expect robberies as well as intruders who make themselves at home, in your home. Sleeping on your patio, making their way to your kitchen, your bedroom, your children’s bedroom. My neighbors recently opened their blinds to a man peeing on and stabbing the pillows on their deck. Rape and murder threats are something I deal with daily. Drugged up strangers running at me with their hands in the air, ready to beat me AND my dog. Public bathrooms available to anyone who needs yet blatantly ignored by the janky. Our streets are their public bathrooms now. Their waste picked up by the mouths of our pets. If they don’t care about privacy, the rest of us are forced to witness whatever foul indecency surrounds us. The homeless population live above the law. Pepper spray is an everyday accessory and I wouldn’t dare leave my apartment when it’s dark out. How scary it is when a criminal screams to let you know they’ve been out of jail 18 times already in the past year. That they can rape you, go to jail, and be out tomorrow to do it again. They know. They know they can get away with it and they don’t care who witnesses. Do you really want to be the one responsible for putting someone away when they will be back to the same spot, and the same crimes tomorrow? See something sketchy and call it in…if you want to make yourself more vulnerable to danger.
I’ve made visits to City Hall, spoken with the homeless division, the sanitation division, Santa Monica PD and more. “It’s an almost impossible problem to solve” is not even close to acceptable or true. I once had an officer tell me they can’t arrest for public indecency or intoxication because then they’d have to arrest everyone. If everyone is breaking the law, please, arrest everyone! The homeless division provides resources the homeless don’t want and the sanitation division cleans up after the deeds are done. No prevention and no law and order. “No camping” signs planted between tents, diseased mattresses, and suitcases of drugs. Only the dogs who belong to paying residents get kicked off the beach and ticketed. Homeless people stealing dogs outside supermarkets to have an excuse to be even more untouchable by the law than they already are. Untrained Pit-bulls let loose in the dog parks you bring your vetted, vaccinated pets. I’ve seen firsthand a homeless man bring two of his Pit-bulls into my local dog park and attack an innocent puppy AND his owner. The owner got torn apart, his arm bitten open protecting his dog. Where was the homeless owner? Walking away, calling us “pussies” demanding US to leave if we can’t handle it. Cops were called but the man walked free. If they can’t afford a ticket or be kept in jail then why enforce the law, right? If Santa Monica doesn’t get paid, our concerns don’t matter.
Santa Monica has all the potential to be the best city in the world. There is no where else I’d like to live more. Is there more I can do to fight for justice? A possibility for the residents and tourists to walk around feeling safe, filtered from violence and profanity? Hope for peace? Everything and everywhere has its downfalls. Is my safety a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the accessible and scenic location? Even when the scenery is tainted by the ugly, horrific images we must now all put up with?
When making a big decision, I really try to imagine my life post change. I’ve tried picturing my life in Malibu. Too secluded, no nearby Trader Joe’s. Gyms, Pilates studios, shops and restaurants out of walking range. I’m a city girl and I love the accessibility that comes with my neighborhood. I see myself being lonely in Malibu, regretting that move. I think about Manhattan Beach. Clean, suburban vibes, but surrounded by heavy traffic. Stuck in a bubble. I’d be removing myself from the community I’ve made such a big part of my life. My community is most important to me. Pros and cons lists are one thing, but cherishing my top priorities while finding ways to accept and challenge those cons seem to encourage me more. If I have what I NEED, what’s MOST important, my attitude can overcome what’s negative.
Pepper spray, perhaps a taser, Krav Maga classes and awareness of my surroundings will help me stay safe. I can stay alert, use the buddy system when walking around, feel confident in my self defense. Stay smart, build strength. I can proactively protect myself and make steps towards transforming my city back to the safe, beautiful city it once was. I can be part of the difference. Stay and fight for what I love instead of crack under the pressure of something bigger than me. I want to make a difference and I want to live where I love. I think in this scenario, I don’t need to change where I live because it isn’t working for me. Instead, I can change my attitude. Improve my ability to defend myself, strengthen my courage and strive for more accomplishment. Change not just for me, but for my neighbors as well. Staying means a chance to alter so much more than just my situation. I choose to stay and quit complaining. Unsafe and miserable is a choice. Unsafe and positive is a better one. That is what I will change. How can I enjoy my life when I’m stuck fantasizing about one that does not exist? My reality can be rewritten instead of ditched. Happiness is always my choice, and one I will choose forever.
Do I still provide hope while confessing my flaws? Are there some flaws I should keep private? What is the benefit of being an open book?
I believe what is most inspirational is that I’m willing and able to better myself in every way that feels flawed. That no matter what I struggle with and whatever comes my way, my gloves are on and I’m ready to battle. There is nothing new or from my past that can block my success. Nobody’s perfect and nobody’s life comes without challenge. I find the most inspirational people to be those who are most honest with themselves and with others.
It takes a confident and brave person to admit one’s own faults. To express the things about us that remain unsettling gives us permission to focus on positive changes. To carry out a persona where struggling isn’t acknowledged is unbelievable and impossible to relate to. The benefit of transparency is trust, understanding, and ease. No lies to keep up with. What is attracted is meant to be, encouraging personal progress that is necessary and fitting. Truth is a moving process of growth and becoming. Secrets are ticking time bombs, bubbling under the surface, awaiting explosion. Fake images put out into the world will blow to pieces, leaving only a real life that hasn’t had a chance to be accepted and nurtured. Fake truths disguise disgust. Manufactured lives are carried by people who haven’t found their power yet. These people live in fear. Fear of evolution, and fear of exposure. Fabrication takes away real opportunities, real chances for healing, self-love, and admiration. To live a life other than the one we have not only displaces self-discovery and development, but it is entirely extra work. Authenticity makes way for transformation. Truth is the key to freedom.
What does the ideal inspirational human look like? Are we all understanding that “perfect” is fake?
It’s a new age. We are swinging open doors and breaking barriers. Gender variance and sexual orientation are expressed openly with pride and joy. The chance to open our minds to love in all forms. Expanding the gateway, allowing more access to love is a blessing. There’s no such thing as too much love.
No matter how you identify or how you appear, the picture perfect model to me loves themselves. This person might deal with depression on a daily basis or fight eating disorders, medical issues or identify to a gender different than how they were born. No matter what the struggle, everyone has the same opportunity to find happiness within their own truth. I want to be happy with myself more than I want to fit social norms. Isn’t that what is really important? Finally, curves and plus-sized models are in! #loveyourbody and other self-motivating inspiration are trending in hopes to promote the fact that we come in all different shapes and sizes. There’s too much beauty to hold one definition. What is beautiful? Confident. And how do we gain confidence? Understanding we are enough.
Creating our own goals and expectations of who we should be is how we can achieve greatness. Expanding boundaries through media allows anyone to “fit in”. We want to see advertisements we can connect to. Want to relate, and want to feel relatable. How can I buy the dress I see on the woman I look nothing like? How will I be inspired to purchase and use the workout gear when I’m only viewing it on this athletic god fitness model I don’t identify with? Good advertisements adjust to wide audiences. They reach all the possibilities of customers who want to imagine themselves buying what they’re selling. Athletic wear companies and underwear franchises are finally reaching a wider pool of buyers. I feel the warmth when I see these companies promoting XXXL and XXXS sizing. Why limit growth when it comes to sales? When it comes to making people feel good? MTV adjusted one of their hit shows “Are You The One” this season to include an entire cast of sexually fluid humans. Not only inspiring a wider audience of viewers, but opening conversation and exposing new ideas to those of us who haven’t experienced dating on this same level. The more love the merrier.
Have our minds truly adjusted to this shift in societal freedom? Don’t you feel inspired more by a curvy woman with the courage to express her confidence, than a clearly edited photo of a model touched up to perfection? Don’t you question people whose lives seem perfect? They must be hiding something. When someone is vulnerable, raw, open to sharing hard to admit confessions, it reminds me how much more admirable this person is to me than someone closed off or carrying out a fake image. I’m always impressed by the courage of a transparent person more than I ever judge them for what they share.
What are we afraid of? In my opinion, anyone who is mature enough to admit their flaws and strong enough to work towards being the best version of themselves is goals. THAT is the kind of person who inspires me. The kind of path I want to be on. Promoting honesty, true strength, relatable hardships with the power to overcome. Someone recently said to me “Skinny girls aren’t sexy. Muscular girls are hot.” While this example is more specific than my point, the idea that our strength outshines our image is what sticks with me. Build muscle, find your inner lion. Toughness, thick skin, and belief in yourself are what thrives. Who you are, what you stand for and who you want to be is the image that should be in that magazine or on Instagram that you save as inspiration. Take a mental note, what do you really admire?
As much as I still hope for change in the way we talk about drug problems, race, sexuality, and mental health amongst other issues, I do see a shift. Those of us who struggle with feeling understood are beginning to find our voice in this world. There’s an almost desperate willingness to share that creates waves, opening doors to more stories, more hearts to connect with. Life is always moving, we must always be working on ourselves to keep up. I practice living my truth, understanding my purpose, and accepting and loving myself exactly the way I am meant to me. The truth is, nothing can knock me off my path when my path is exactly where I want to be.
Middle school and high school were insecure times for most of us. The pressure to fit in combined with welcoming our and our peer’s hormones to the hallways made for pimply faces and cafeteria drama. There was enough questioning what to wear, how dark our eyeliner could get and comparing ourselves to the “popular kids,” I wondered how it could get any worse.
I didn’t grow up with social media. I didn’t even have a cell phone until high school. Three way calls and AOL Instant Messenger print outs were the extent of electronic manipulation. Competition wasn’t uncomplicated, but it was definitely simpler. “Everyone loves her” or “he’s the hot jock” came from word of mouth and assumed judgements. I didn’t compare stranger's opinions of me on a platform welcoming public ridicule. However, I do remember when Honesty Box was introduced. Honesty Box was BAD news bears. A site where people could anonymously make comments or ask questions and the account holder had the ability to pick and choose which were seen or responded to. The beginning of anonymous bullying as I knew it.
Facebook statuses reading “Lindsay Greenberg is...wanting people to write in her Honesty Box.” It was addicting. As much as the harsh messages stung, I wanted more. For some reason I thought it would make me feel better to confirm my paranoia. I was an overweight ginger, name a better target.
Why do we seek approval? Why do we want to know the hurtful things said behind our backs? I think it’s natural to be curious how we are perceived. Like looking in a mirror with different eyes. Wondering what we’re missing, longing for consciousness and self-awareness. I might not see the gum stuck to the back of my head if I’m facing forwards. However, if I know myself well enough, I would sense on my own when something feels sticky.
Self-awareness is a personal experience. Relying on anyone but ourselves to truly understand why we are who we are is a gamble. Learning to identify our emotions, behave the way we wish, love and root for ourselves, are self-taught lessons.
Remember that saying, “Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me?” It takes time, experience and maturity to practice this preach. While sticks and stones may visibly bruise us, words have the potential to cut deep into our souls. They leave residue that can wear us down as long as we give them the power to. The damage is deeper and takes longer to heal. So, how can we build a filter where we listen while protecting our worth?
I like to take note of qualities I am proud of. Hold myself to high standards when it comes to those characteristics that matter to me. If someone questions me, I gently remind myself to keep working on being the person I want to be. I practice understanding. Judgements towards myself more likely than not stem from struggles entirely unrelated. Judgements tend to reflect most on the person making them. When I have a negative thought about myself, I try to shut it down while the idea remains weak. The more these thoughts linger, the more power they attain. The “truth” behind them gets blurred and my attitude shifts. I focus on positivity. If a thought can challenge me but build me up, I’m all about it. It’s the thoughts that bring me down I see no benefit exploring. There is a difference between getting beat up and battling. The fun part about the ring of our own life is we get to decide if we come out on top or knocked down. Our biggest competitor is ourself. There is no tapping out, the courage to push through just needs to be recognized.
This generation’s youth deal with new pressures. Lack of face-to-face socialization divides and separates. Suicide rates rocketing as lives become fragile with exposure and secluded with loneliness. No longer just a decision of what to wear that day, slumming it in sweats, hoping no one sees. Now, there’s added worry of being exposed. Forced vulnerability. Nowhere feels quite as comfortable or safe as long as cameras exist in pockets. The solution, I hope, is to make quality time spent face-to-face with loved ones a priority. Avid conversations with open minded listening. Never stop seeking ways to practice self-love, and make sure these strategies are for your benefit and not your validation. Don’t be afraid to delete your social media. I promise it’s cooler to know and stand by what works for you. I’m always impressed when I hear someone put real thought into their beliefs. It shows courage and confidence to be able to stand up for your choices.
Is your social media helping yourself or anyone else? Is the reward greater than the give? Do you find yourself more joyous or anxious when you think about social media? Kids are growing up more stressed, secluded and susceptible to manipulated information. They are less motivated to make something of themselves through trial and error, authenticity and real life experience. In this world of social media, fast paced satisfaction and harsh critique can be expected. Always looking for the next best thing when it comes to travel, dating, even our personal goals. I hope to soak in satisfaction a bit longer. Hold on to the highs while keeping the power of the lows in my control. Backlash is inevitable. Like any challenge, the opportunity to grow can be seen as a gift. Pick and choose what you allow to change you. Pick and choose what you change. Get to know your values as they adjust and always be prepared to fight for your worth. If you’re going to listen to judgements, listen carefully to your own.