Lessons learned from eavesdropping

Mauna Kea, February 2021

I was recently at a restaurant and overheard a conversation at the next table.

Yes, I’m one of those humans who love listening to what’s going on around — what am I supposed to do, close off my ears on interesting stories?!

Two guys and a woman. They’re talking about how difficult it is for men to share their emotions, especially with their male friends.

One of the guys started sharing a traumatic experience he went through a few years ago. He’d witnessed someone getting shot. …

Practical wisdom behind a cheesy line

Washington Square Park, 2021

When I go out to take pictures in the city, I have no goal.

I pick a neighborhood I’d like to explore, and then walk to it and observe things in the process. I rarely have a clear idea of where I am going, and carry no expectation as to what I’ll see.

A deep experience of self-compassion

Photo by Vince Fleming on Unsplash

Brianna Wiest rocked my world with her 101 Essays That Will Change the Way You Think.

One of the points of reflection she shares several times throughout her essays is that:

What we hate about others is what we haven’t accepted about ourselves.

She prompts us to use our frustration towards others as an extremely helpful signal to identify the parts of ourselves we’re still rejecting.

And while that sounded abstractly good to my brain, it gutted me when I put it in practice.

I was talking to a dear friend recently about how frustrated I am when I see…

Share, do not instruct

Photo by Yannick Pulver on Unsplash

Early in my Medium journey, I was able to participate to BeYourself, a publication I deeply respect.

Joel Mwakasege was kind enough to accept my early articles, and gave me some invaluable feedback that fundamentally transformed the way I write:

The only guideline is to share, not instruct. Please change the “You” to “I” and I’ll publish your piece.

What may have seemed like a subtle meaningless tweak changed everything about how I relate to others.

He helped me see that when we use “You”, our stories land very differently with other people.

Rather than saying:

“You should consider this”

The right and wrong way to use mentors

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

When I discovered the concept of mentors, my mind was blown.

What do you mean?!

There are people out there who are simply kind and want to pay it forward, and will become personally vested in helping you grow?

Holy moly, sign me up!

I’ve rarely shied away from asking for help, and I naturally created a board of advisors around me to help with life decisions.

People who have different experiences and who inspire me, to whom I could reach out to whenever I’d be at a crossroad, or lost in a fog.

Somehow along the way, I swung…

Switzerland, 2020

If there’s something I know for sure, it’s that I love food.

I remember meals I’ve had from years ago.

That’s how I love discovering new places when I travel.

And yet.

For years, I’ve build up the habit of finding something to do while I’m eating.

What Youtube video shall I watch?

Maybe a TV show?

Listen to a podcast?

Call a friend?

No matter how delicious or quaint the food in front of me was at home, I’d reach for a distraction while eating.

It probably came from a sense of trying to be productive with my off-time…

3 years of inner waltz in the urban jungle

04.26.2021 — Supermoon

It’s almost been a decade since I’ve left home.

College in Paris, gap year in Australia, grad school in California — all of these experiences came with beautiful encounters and heartbreaking goodbyes. For a while, I told myself the story that moving became harder and harder, as I left incredibly radiant souls behind.

It also felt like I was a different person in each of those places, which took me a while to reconcile.

Being in New York is what helped me make sense of it all in 1096 days.

Life is simultaneously long and short.

That’s one of the paradoxes we get to live with as human beings.

Long, because we have decades ahead of us, and our lives keep getting longer, assuming we have the privilege to have access to water, food, shelter, healthcare.

Short, because at any point, it can be taken away in the blink of an eye.

That’s the reality of our existence.

Leaning too much on either sides of the spectrum can be detrimental.

If we think that we have all the time in the world, and use it as an excuse to not take action to build the life…

Scenic drive to Akaka Falls, Big Island, Hawaii

#1 There can be sunshine and storm in the same place

In the past years, I’ve had the incredible chance to immerse myself more and more in nature.

From hiking in Patagonia, to scuba diving in Belize, to observing a volcano eruption in Hawaii, to simply kneeling on the side of the road in Connecticut to capture beautiful flowers, I’ve be awed over and over by Nature’s extravagant creativity.

And as she gave me the chance to be a fly on the wall to observe and absorb her wonders, she taught me a few lessons that I’d like to share.

1. There can be sunshine and storm in the same place

An honest look at my savior complex

Photo by King Lip on Unsplash

In March 2020, back when I thought the pandemic would last a month, I happily dived into the excellent neurolinguistic programming (NLP) course by Kain Ramsay.

NLP is a pseudoscientific approach that looks at our thoughts, beliefs and patterns of behavior as a means to personal development. It is founded upon a list of assumptions, one of which being:

Personal responsibility precedes personal empowerment.

The course looks at the way we experience life, what triggers certain behaviors, and the way we relate to each other, as social creatures.

One of the most interesting things I learned is related to the…

Laila Zouaki

26. Traveler of the soul, citizen of the world. Committed to creative living. Product manager from 9 to 5.

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