Nostalgia and Friendships

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Taken in Niagara Falls, NY 2008

Throughout our lives we encounter a vast number of people, and of course there are those who touch us in a way that enriches us more than others. We call them friends; a lot of the time, through brief encounters, we meet others known as acquaintances who can propel us in directions we wish to go. However, throughout this blog, I want to talk about the different levels of intimacy we can experience during the different phases of life. Now, I’m not talking about “sexual” intimacy, rather, the quality of being warm, comfortable and familiar with another person, whether it be with someone of the same sex or the opposite gender.

The most memorable and nostalgic time, for about 87% of people from the western/modern culture, would be between the ages of six and nineteen. I come up with my own percentage because there are plenty of people out there who haven’t grown up the same way; they could have kept more to themselves, been depressed, bullied, abused, or from a completely different culture and so on. But even they are likely to have had one or two friends with a deep connection. However, the friendships we experienced in our youth were much closer and richer, so much so that if you ever hear a particular song, smell a distinctive fragrance or come across a certain food, it triggers a memory that can fill you with nostalgia and a sense of happiness as you reminisce about your younger years.

From about age five to ten, those friendships could have been apart of the building block of the person who you are today. Many of you still know those people very well, the ones you went to daycare or preschool with; that friend that you colored with, the one that stood up for you in the playground, or even the one that felt bad for hurting your feelings. As a young child it’s so much easier to make friends, even just remembering it now friendships seemed to just have started, like a dream; for the people with a great memory you might remember exactly how it started, making the memory that much more sweeter.

For me, from the age of six until about ten, I had a friend named Carl. He and I went to the same day care and first grade. We were the kind of friends that stuck by each other when playing, listening to the teacher tell a story and so on. I can barely remember his face now, but I do remember the feeling of comfort and loyalty I got when I was with him. I lost contact with him before going off to second grade, and until this day I haven’t heard or spoken him.

From ages twelve to fifteen, you have those friends who are there with you when puberty starts and noticing the opposite sex begins. You start to see groups of boy hanging around together and girls too, whispering in each others’ ears, while the boys pull on the girls’ hair. It can’t help but bring a little smile to your face as you remember the silly moments in life that could have left you feeling utterly embarrassed or completely hopeless at yourself.

There was a girl named Tammy I used to love. I remember during recess I’d act like I was the scarecrow from the wizard of oz in order to impress her and the group of girls she was with. I also knew Tammy from daycare. I vividly recall a time where she let me place my head on her lap to sleep, I think I might have been feeling sad that day. I’m not fully sure how it happened but it was very tender moment. At the same time, I had a very close friendship with a kid named Warren. He and I would ride our bikes in different areas of the Bronx, venturing to places that we’d never been to. It was risky because my mother didn’t allow me to go further than a block from where I lived. We had to be quick in our exploration. We also had a lot of sleepovers and tons of pizza. Our friendship ended shortly before going to junior high school, and I haven’t spoken to him since — nor to Tammy.

Things become very interesting from age sixteen to nineteen/twenty. At that point in your life, you can have friends that can get you into some deep trouble, and or, have friends that are super supportive throughout this period in life — the critical points of reaching maturity. It’s almost like the true bond for both genders. Girls become women, boy become men; deepening into the masculine and feminine parts of ourselves, and, at the same time, experimenting with the other. The first real kiss, SEX, first and second base; the root of our romantic relationships with the opposite sex are formed, however embarrassing that is. For many teenage boys, this involved learning about women’s bodies; for women, encounters with an older guy. An experience filled with moments that were wrong but gushing with sensuality. But those friends were there, and much of us still know those friends until this day.

The longest friend that I have had is from junior high school and is named Brandon — the one on the left in the top photo. It’s like a dream, not knowing how it started, we’ve been so very close over the years. In those days we were known as Game Heads. At lunchtime at our school, we were allowed to go outside, and so what we would do is run out of the building and head to a small comic bookshop called Lasers. Those were the most amazing times in my life, Brandon and I were VERY good at kickin’ butt, and our favorite arcade game was Marvel VS Street fighter. We were so close that one of our friends asked Brandon if we were either gay or cousins. Now, in those time in a New York City school, you had to watch VERY carefully what you said to people, because they WOULD gossip about it and, being teenagers in those days, they NEVER let it go (probably true for all generations). Brandon, naturally, chose the option of us being cousins. He took me to the side and told me very sternly that I had to back him up, because back then I was free loving spirit and pretty much didn’t think about things like that. Brandon and I also explored girls as well, sometimes at similar moments (not like in the same room or anything, get your mind out the gutter). We’ve watched and supported each other through the various relationships we had with different girls throughout our life. I’ve watched Brandon have children while witnessing them growing up. Even occasionally, we’d scream out the stuff we did when we were younger in the streets of NYC. And until this day, we’re still very close — we’re cousins after all. I even have a few high school friends until today: Eddy, Megan, and Jose. I love them all very much.

While writing this post I can feel an intense amount of nostalgia and happiness reliving the childhood memories and friendships I’ve had and still have. I miss the moments I spent speaking on the phone for hours, the sleep overs, playing online video games while talking on the phone, and experiencing all kinds of different situations that have lead to a strong bond and an an amazing ability to collaborate when problem solving (with Brandon). And I’m currently missing the times I used to watch Game Of Thrones with my friends Eddy, Rohan and Jose.

These friendships are so much apart of our lives and it’s a real shame that friendship like these seem to be unable to continue developing the way they used to because of “life.” Growing up and taking responsibility for paying bills, making a career, growing our own children and developing romantic relationships to start the whole process again for the next generation. I really miss the ease of which a friendship can flourish at a young age; not worrying about anything, focusing on having fun, and experiencing genuine laughter. Of course, you can have those at any age, but it’s not nearly as profound and distinct as in the younger years of our lives.

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What is More Effective, Empathy or Sympathy?

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Taken at Mottisfont, UK 

Probably one of the hardest decisions we have to make in our lives is how to be there for people or give people support. Much of the confusion we encounter involves our uncertainty about the use of sympathy and empathy. Naturally, many people lean to one or the other, but; what is more effective in creating a strong connection and giving rise to personal growth? To answer this question, we first have to know what empathy and sympathy are, keeping in mind that both of these traits can be learned —like most things in life.

Empathy:

Being able to be present with another person’s feeling is empathy’s playground. It means to co-exist with another, without allowing your own feelings to interrupt their current expression of their flow of emotions during a conversation. Empathy, you could say, is a non-judgmental state of mind in which all you’re doing is aligning your own feelings to the other person and seeing things from their unique point of view. In the state of empathy, there is a high degree of listening involved and understanding the meaning of words that are not said. For example, if someone tells you, “I hate seeing homeless children,” in a harsh tone of voice, an empathetic response might be: “It sounds like seeing homeless children really makes you upset, why is that?” By responding this way, you’re telling the other person that you acknowledge how they feel and are willing to further hear what they have to say. By doing this, you are creating a support structure and establishing a stable connection with the other person.

Sympathy:

Much more of a comparison of feelings with another person, often times having sympathy means feeling happy for a person or feeling sad. Normally it’s a reaction to how someone else feels and then matching those feeling with a same or different situation. Many would say that sympathy creates more of a disconnect, based on the fact that there is an invisible line of competition when it comes to the level of how someone would feel in a worse or better scenario. On the other hand, having sympathy can allow another person not to feel alone or isolated when it comes to their emotions. For example, if someone said to you, “It makes me happy to be able to watch my son walk for the first time.” A sympathetic response might be, “I know, I feel so happy too when I’m able to hold my daughter in my hands as she sleeps.” By responding this way you’re relating the same type of feeling in different situations, however, this can cause disharmony or create rapport, depending on the individuals.

What is more effective in creating a strong connection and gives rise to personal growth?

In the most popular cases, sympathy would be looked at as being the “natural” way to create a connection with someone; but how solid a connection? If a person is trying to explain how they feel, the consistent interruption of interjecting feelings can make a person more reluctant to open up further. Listening becomes much more rigid as a dialogue with a person who only gives sympathy; it will leave the speaker feeling like they’re not being understood. In a real life situation, if you take a moment to listen to how your friends, or even family, speak you can observe how in many situations feelings are being compared rather than one person actually listening to how the other feels. Responses that consist of giving advice right away or, conversely, trying to look at the brighter side of things, will not help the listener fully establish a strong bond with another person and this approach is most certainly not going to giving rise to personal growth.

However, from looking at the meaning of empathy you can see that making a lasting relationship is always possible. Allowing another person to say what they feel or think, without interjecting your own feelings gains trust on a level that exceeds that of sympathy. To be able to say what’s on your mind without judgment can open a doorway into yourself, allowing the progression of personal growth; for not only does the one doing all the speaking grow, but also the one listening. Listening to someone else’s experience and how they feel creates a union that dissolves the thoughts and feelings of separation — a state we all strive to avoid.

At the same time, empathy and sympathy are not only on a one to one basis, but can also be used on a personal level.

For the majority of my life, I would say, I’ve suppressed my own feelings when it came to many relationships and friendships. I was overly worried about other people’s feelings that my own discomfort was reflected back by those same people. For example, back when I first joined the US military, I did basic training before moving on to job specific training, which took place in Maryland. I met a beautiful girl who I thought was “THE ONE”. We immediately connected, and I knew I liked her and she liked me. After a while, and once I had the freedom to move off base, we spent an evening filled with events like walking in the mall, going to the movies and playing pool. That night we really hit it off. However, the very next day things flipped like a hot pancake. Her usual attentive behavior suddenly changed, where once we had looked at each other with affection from afar, now I became completely nonexistent in her world. I couldn’t quite understand what had happened and I tried everything in my power to regain her attention. I went as far as to march the entire company we were in, roughly 150 people, in a cadence that was purely about her and everyone knew it. Even after my time was over with that training, I drove back down to Maryland from New York City to confess my love to her. From her perspective I was probably a complete weirdo, but from my perspective I thought I was being utterly romantic. I kept telling myself sympathetic reasons why she didn’t like me anymore, such as: “She probably doesn’t want a relationship because she’s going on active duty in Germany and I’m going back home,” or “I have to be more persistent if I am going to have a girl like her.” However, I never gave myself enough empathy and I never acknowledged to myself how I truly felt; which in those times were anguish and grief at being ignored. If I had given myself more empathy and recognised my own feelings, I would have probably accepted her not liking me anymore and simply moved on. The way she ignored me was a reflection of how I was ignoring my own self.

In the end, empathy takes the medal home for creating a much richer connection with others over sympathy any day. Especially when it comes to giving empathy to the self. Focusing on personal growth not only helps the individual, but is a key to helping other people, too. And, doing so with empathy will take you much further than sympathy ever will, even if it comes at the cost of being alone.

The Healing Pond

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Photo taken in Southampton

Laying on my back on the sofa, I allow the muscles in my hips, shoulders and thighs to melt into the surface of the cushions; my legs sway a little as they naturally stop in their place. The tension behind my eyes are released, the feeling of peace reverberates to the centre of my body. Rising and falling, the air in my chest flows instinctively— slowly inhale, slowly exhale. My fingers slide apart into the sofa, the palms of my hands become soft as of a lovers graze. A gentle breeze, from no where, runs up my arm as the conjoined quiver slides down my spine; a large exhale.

As I sink deeper into myself, I begin to visualise a small pond surrounded by firm palm trees; the lines in their trunks are profound and distinct. The water is forming soft ripples, gliding along the surface, as if being combed by the wind. I walk slowly towards the pond and look down into it; blue light emanating from the bottom. My curiosity takes control as I try to get a clearer look at what’s there— diving into the water. Bubbles of all sizes form around my body, a bleak grey steam dissolves off my skin into the water, I’m rotating my arms to propel me into the depths of the pond.

Plunging through the mist, the blue light becomes more refine, revealing a cluster of very large clear quartz crystals— covering the entire floor of the pond, their pointed tips facing up towards me. I float in suspension, bewildered by the amount of crystals before me. The energy they emit sends tingles throughout my body. The vibration leaving me paralysed, my body starts to drift. Losing my poise, my back is pointed towards the crystals. The blue light beginning to enter the pores of my left arm, seeping into my cells, causing them to glow white. Lines of white light extend to my heart as it circulates through my body; the incandescent light encased my entire being.

Starting from my feet going up, my body becomes fragmented. Tiny balls form as they start to vibrate faster and faster and clash into each other vigorously. From where my head used to be, a crystallized head starts to form. My crystal-quartz-transparent-human-body floats in the middle of the pond, glowing yellow aura a few inches away from me, as I attempt to move my finger tips.

I breathe steadily as I move my toes and stretch my arms. I am recreated in higher vibration; my body feeling smooth and silky against the sofa. I slowly open my eyes and bring myself back to my reality, ready to share this new energy with the world.

Friendship (Originally 18-Aug-2014)

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Photo Taken at Brooklyn, NYC

These two beautiful people have been in my life for an extremely long time. Eddy, on the left, I’ve known since high school and we’ve been very close for some strange reason. I remember him telling me why we were friends, it was because I thought out everything before doing it. I don’t know if he was indirectly telling me that I was one of the most intelligent people in high school or what, but I went with it. Rohan, on the right, I met through Eddy when they both were attending Bard college. I became close with Rohan due to his interest in film making and his Indian (India) heritage.

I remember a few years ago when I was studying in California for film making and I visited NYC for a weekend when Rohan’s family came into town and they rented a mini van, in which I was the chauffeur.  The van was filled with so many personalities and driving from NYC to upstate, where Bard is located, was a fantastic journey and great time with our dynamic trio. Since I never attended college, it was a nice few days to sleep in a dorm room and hang out with other college people for a while. Eddy would used to say that if I ever went to college it would be with him and Rohan, and I believe that 100%.

Rohan, Eddy and I spend a lot of time together watching various televison shows and youtube videos. Our most favorite show right now is Game of Thrones, and we can’t wait for the new season to come out! Followed by Home Land and The Walking Dead… Well, maybe not so much The Walking Dead anymore since it’s becoming stale.

This photo, I feel I’ve captured the essence of these two great friends of mine. Looking at it nearly brings me to tears. All the moments in my life that I’ve had with them were always filled with laughs and smiles and this photo brings out the best in both of them and signifies the joy I have with them. Even the lighting and where they’re standing brings me back to my own childhood of where all I ever thought about was being outside and playing with friends. I love these two with all my heart and I will be so glad to grow old with them, the three of us have shared so much.