Author: Belén Alemán

The Weight Of Words

“When we do things with love, even if we believe we have failed, something good can always come out of it, something good can be made from it, because the initial substance with which we started is the purest of them all: love. Such a tiny, all-encompassing word that we can feel better than we can explain. Good things in their purest form take time, effort, dedication, and perseverance. It’s never easy, but it’s always worth it. Fight. Fight fiercely and humbly for everything you believe in. As long as your motivation is sincere love, you will never truly fail. Everything in life is permeated by the very real magic of love. Choose to see things, people, and situations through that lens and your path will always unfold before you. We can never truly measure the impact we have on others, but as long as love is our motivation, we will leave the Earth a better place than how we found it.” I wrote the words above in a letter to my sister the morning …

The Mustard Seed Within

We dream things. We dream them big and small. We even dare to dream dreams undreamt of before. Many of us turn these dreams into reality against all odds. We fight for them; we adapt for them; we change for them; we move mountains for them. We find a great and wondrous strength within us that allows us to chase after them and breathe them into being. But often, our dreams begin to frighten us to inaction. We convince ourselves that we’re not good enough and, therefore, that they’re unachievable. We believe we don’t deserve to bring them to fruition. We see the work that lies ahead, the obstacles and overly beaten paths we must endure and cross, and we shy away into complacency; we wither in our comfort zones. When does this happen? And why? How does a confident and persistent person go from running head first into every adventure ready to fly, to thinking that it’d be best to lay back and watch life happen before her eyes because everything she wishes for …

She

She felt herself a victim of the world, of this cruel and unequal place into which she was born without a say. She was told she had to conform to society, but society was difficult and unfair and chaotic, and not at all what her mind, body, and soul required to achieve that inner peace to which she was told she must strive. There were too many pressures, constantly and from all sides, enough to make any human go mad. She thought herself a fighter, always seeking to do justice, but felt cut short not by her own faults, rather by a lack of resources. She craved time, yet never felt she could afford to make it. She would watch others attempt to follow their dreams and would think, “Oh, what fools!” She would see them fail and fall and dust themselves off and try, try again, and again, and again, until finally she would stop paying attention from the dizziness it caused her. Whenever she paused to think and re-consider her path in life …

Choosing Not To Choose

Choices. I wrote this word down after a conversation I had at Glide, the place where a few of us volunteer once a week to help serve breakfast to the homeless in the Tenderloin neighborhood in San Francisco. We were wondering if there was any way to simplify the process of serving food so that it would be easier both for the staff, as well as for the clients. While casually brainstorming ideas, Brando, the manager of the Free Daily Meals Program, made an interesting comment: those that come to Glide don’t have the privilege of making choices throughout their day. They go about their lives depending on the goodwill of others. “Most of the time, they don’t even get to choose where they go to the bathroom,” he said, and it’s true. A lot of us can walk into a Starbucks to use the restroom, but if any of the people that go to Glide try to do the same, they will be rejected 95% of the time solely based on appearance. This obviously …

Did I Really Just Meet The Real-Life Carrie From “Sex and the City”?

…Yes, yes I did. I’m not kidding. If Carrie hadn’t married Big and wasn’t living in a multi-million dollar New York City apartment, she would be living in San Francisco, have a boyfriend, and would be running her own successful business helping companies craft their stories through creative writing. And she would be THE BOMB. Real-life Carrie worked as a journalist for 15 years, both in newspapers and in magazines; at one time, she was the editor of Elle. Like most women that have lived in NYC, she can rattle off crazy dating stories like it’s her job, and she’s quick to smile and laugh, just like fictional Carrie. They share a subtle similarity in voice tone, and they are both tiny, fit and, simply put, badass. Real-life Carrie has been in San Francisco for 7 years after pausing her career to get an MBA with a focus on sustainability. As a journalist, she discovered she didn’t like the objective gap needed when interviewing others; instead, she wanted to side with the people she met, feel …

On The Run: An Oregon-California Road Trip

“A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike, and all plans, safeguards, policies and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggles that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.” – John Steinbeck A friend and I spontaneously decided to visit Portland, Oregon, over Thanksgiving break because neither of us had ever been, so why not? We bought last minute tickets to fly up on Friday, and decided to drive back down that Sunday. Just like any trip, no matter how well planned, there are always things you cannot control. Although beautiful, Portland turned out to be freezing, and pretty wet: we got rain, snow, and hail. I assume all three were necessary, just for good measure. However, despite not being dressed appropriately for the cold (which goes to show that we’ve become California brats in a few short months, since we saw the 30ºF/-1ºC  forecast, looked at our winter coats, laughed, and thought “Who needs them, right?” WRONG. WRONG. WRONG. Thank God for Black Friday and 50% off at …

When Was The Last Time?

Close your eyes and take a deep breath. And another one. Feel your ribs expand as your lungs fill themselves with air, then feel them contract as you exhale. Another deep breath. No, that wasn’t the beginning of a yoga class. That was me trying to make you aware of something we do so naturally at each moment that we take it for granted. Do you realize what a blessing it is to not have to consciously think about breathing? That our bodies and minds silently and relentlessly do the work for us? When was the last time you stopped to be thankful and appreciative? Consider the rest of your life, as well. Consider everything you’re going through, good and bad. Are you able to recognize the blessings being poured out to you amidst it all? When was the last time you paused and took it all in? With the holidays around the corner, I urge you to take some time out for yourself, to get back in touch with everything you are, and to be thankful …

A Reckless Abandonment of Self

There’s a song lyric by my favorite Argentine band, Soda Stereo, that I love above all others: “El silencio no es tiempo perdido” – “Silence is not time wasted.” There are many times when words are not necessary, neither written nor spoken. It’s a hard lesson to learn for those of us who love words and who also love letting our tongues run loose. For me, the greater lesson I constantly struggle to grasp is to not fall prey to extremes. I don’t like it when things are black or white; there are too many shades of gray in between. However, if I happen to be in the process of teaching myself to keep my mouth shut, to listen to another instead of interrupting them with my unsolicited ideas and opinions, I will most likely end up defaulting to the other side of the spectrum: I won’t speak up when it is correct and healthy for me to do so. Anger is an emotion that I used to never keep inside, but I have started …

Because I’m…

“How are you?” a friend asked. For the first time in a while, I paused to think about my response. This has become such an easy question to answer with a quick and lazy “Good, you?” that stopping myself from vomiting that phrase was a hard task, harder than it should have been. This time, though, I pushed myself to think before responding because I wanted to get an accurate reading of how I felt. Without being fully aware of it, I was craving to get back in touch with myself, similar to the times I realize, almost all of a sudden, that I haven’t taken a long, deep breath all day and I force myself into it. It was a much-needed, please-just-take-one-second-for-yourself, break. Finally, I replied with an answer so honest that it even surprised me: “I’m… HAPPY!” It came complete with a wide, satisfied smile. How are you doing? Are you happy? Why or why not? What needs to change? While I welcome your answers, I don’t need them; you do. They’re for …

We Can Do More

“That man is always in a bad mood!” I said, annoyed. Brando smiled back and, with a you-should-know-better-than-to-say-that look, he responded: “Well, I would be, too, if I had to sleep on the pavement every night.” Aaaaand that is how I was promptly and swiftly put. in. my. place. Touché Brando. You win. For the last month, I’ve been volunteering at Glide, a non-profit that, among other things, has one of the biggest free daily meals programs in San Francisco: they serve over 500 people per meal three times a day. Once a week, I join other volunteers and help serve breakfast to poor and low-income residents of the Tenderloin neighborhood. I’ve found it to be very rewarding thus far, which is why I continue to go back, and Brando, the Free Meals Program Manager, and everyone else I’ve met has been wonderful. Glide’s clients, as they are referred to, range from being quiet and distant, to bubbly and outgoing, to pretty aggressive at times. No matter the circumstances or the mood, as a volunteer …