The morning after.

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This morning feels difficult. Mornings are always the hardest part for me, when I wake up in that state between the unconscious and conscious mind. When it hits me that you’re gone and that I have to leave. That we won’t be together. It feels bitter and sour, like biting into raw fruit, crawling up my tastebuds and leaving my tongue dry.

“I just miss you so much. I miss my old life. I love you so much, you have no idea.”

It hurts to let go, although I know I have to.

I feel a wave of fear run up my stomach and into my shoulders. I’m scared I won’t do well in life without you by my side. I fear not fitting in, although maybe that fear is just a vibe I’m putting out. Maybe I’ll gain some clarity while I’m traveling. In a few weeks time, I’ll be in Bali, on a solo adventure, on a journey to my heart. I feel an innate excitement when I think about Bali. But right now, under the covers and waking up to a rainy morning in Chicago, all I feel is a tinge of sadness. I just want you there with me. I just want to feel the comfort of your embrace, the one I know so well. I dream of being in your arms. I know I did last night.

I also know that I have to step forward. I have to let go of the past, let go of a person who I have memorized, the mirror in front of me for the last four years. I know the feeling of having to let go of someone, I’ve been down this road before. But every time I’m faced with the task, I feel like I’m drowning. I’m scared of what lies ahead. I’m scared of your presence not being there with me, steady and underlying like the beat of the ocean crashing into the rocks, day by day, week by week, year by year. I’m scared of not having the support that comes with knowing that, no matter what happens, you’ll be in my corner.

I wish this hadn’t happened. But I see now how necessary it was. I see how much attachment I brought into my interactions with you, why it hurts so much to dust myself off and walk away. When you lose the person you’re living for, you have to find a whole new reason to live again. I know that it isn’t healthy. I know that it was not healthy. But I didn’t care. The only thing that really mattered to me was you.

You’re miles away from me. Soon, I’ll be even farther. I’ll start to forget the feeling of your lips against mine, your hand touching the small of my back, the different intonations of your voice when you’re happy, upset, or tired.

The grief sits heavy in the morning when I think about how we would lay intertwined every night. I’d wake up to you pulling me closer, trapping my legs under the weight of your thighs, nuzzling into the tickly space in my neck, your hair brushing against my face. Drenched in our sweat from clinging to each other all night, regardless of the temperature. It was that kind of love; a fierce, furious endeavor where we melted into each other because that’s just how we preferred it to be. Coming back to regular life, a place I left for so long, feels awkward and unnatural. My profession at the moment involves talking to anyone and everyone. But I don’t want to share words with anyone but you.

You contact me here and there, sending me quotes and songs that describe how you feel. The last song you sent me asked if I’d be coming back for you. And a part of me wants nothing but to run back into your arms and forget this ever happened. That part of me tells me that you love me, that you made a simple mistake and that I can forget it all happened if I try hard enough.

But what can I say? The person that would have angrily run back to you, waving a finger at your mistakes and urging you not to fuck up again doesn’t exist anymore. She let out a big sigh, packed up her shit, smoked her last cigarette and walked out the door that morning. She gave up trying to find happiness in someone else after having everything ripped away from her at a time when she needed the most support. The time after that was spent scrambling, trying to pick up all the pieces and get to a stasis before it was too late.

It’s a hard lesson to learn, to really learn to love yourself before you love anyone else. It hurts to take stock of my life and realize that I wasn’t taking care of myself for years. It hurts to know that I gave up on myself. It hurts to look at my bank account, my network of friends, my job prospects, even my phone, and realize that at every turning point where I should have been cultivating abundance for myself, I turned my energy towards you.

Carefully, slowly, I’m discarding the things I let decay. Planting new seeds and climbing out of the mess. But it’s funny how, when you’re that deep in love, you don’t smell the rot. You just smell the scent of his skin at 4 a.m. and roll back into a deeper sleep.

I’m optimistic about my future and I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished so far. I’m grateful for those who appeared out of the woodwork to pick me up from where I had fallen. That’s all that I can do. Do the best I can, and hope for the best. It doesn’t pain me anymore to think about you messing around. It already happened. You already did. And I hope I can find the strength to live life a little sweeter, a little more carefree. Take care of the friends who have been there for me and make new friends to have new adventures with, and be the confident person I’ve always wanted to be. But the problem, I think, was that I found the person I wanted to be in you. And because of that, I stopped working to make myself better. Slowly but surely, I began to decay.

I want to be someone who lights up a room when I enter. Filled with stories and tales that make people laugh, be bubbly and infectious and hard to forget. I want my presence to be known, I don’t want to sit in the shadows anymore. But I won’t do that by living the life I had been living. I wasn’t living my life. I was living vicariously through you. I would like to sing and dance and let go of the things that hold me back from being my highest self, my true, beautiful self. The person you saw in me that I hid from the world. I want to let go of the bitterness, throw out the old resentment. Cast away the shyness and fear that kept me small. I want to stand tall on my own two feet and know that I can trust myself to handle anything that life throws my way, and do it with a smile on my face.

I request to the universe to help me become the person I want to be. Someone who shines like a beacon all by herself. I beg her a little bit.

“Please, universe. Show me the way.”

And then I get up and start my day.

Boys

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I am so tired

Of swimming in the shadows of a man.

Exhausting my energy, depleting my power

Looking through his eyes,

Hearing through his ears

Raising up his backbone

To be chewed up and spit out

Vertebrae after vertebrae

After he consumes his sustenance.

No, my ears don’t want to hear

The stories of his wounds,

The tales he neatly fabricates

To justify his shitty behavior.

I deal with my trauma.

My wounds were open too but

I sewed my own stitches and

I brewed my own salve.

I don’t need to infect others with my demons

So I can pretend they didn’t come in with me.

So no, little baby-faced boy

With the skull decal on your motorcycle,

Thinking that “aloof” looks good

I’m not giving you my number.

You are a six-foot child

Wearing your wounds on your sleeve

And I’m not coming any closer

I can smell the blood from here.

 

 

Fear

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As my trip comes to a close, I’ve had the time to do a lot of reflecting on the trip. What it meant to me, what I learned from it, what I would do better next time I go on a trip like this, etc. Honestly, all the biggest obstacles I faced came down to one very simple thing: fear.

I was afraid of having our van stolen. I was scared of being robbed (again). I was afraid of climbing the big rocks at the Grand Canyon. I was afraid of longboarding the canyon rim. I was afraid of having to pee in a bottle and I was afraid of my boyfriend having to be there when it happened. I was afraid of people knowing we were sleeping in the van. I was afraid of having someone knock on our window in the middle of the night (which happened twice and I had a mini-panic attack both times.) I was afraid of getting lost. I was afraid of the van breaking down in the middle of nowhere. I was afraid of cliff edges, afraid of heights. Afraid of falling, afraid of hurting myself, afraid to ask for help. Yes, that list goes on.

I climbed some rocks I was unsure of if I would be able to climb. I’ve been woken up in the middle of the night by parking enforcement and being told to leave. I went to the mechanic to get an oil change only to find out that from Illinois to California, we were driving with some bunk wheel hubs that could have broken at any moment. I’ve woken up freezing cold in the middle of the night, forgetting that the weather would be colder up in the mountains. I’ve driven up steep mountains and had the car die on me while trying to turn around. I’ve gotten lost while driving in the forest with no phone signal for miles.

But every time I faced a fear, and I mean every. single. time, the reward was always greater than the fear that came before it. I’m more comfortable in uncertain situations. I’ve met some of the most interesting and amazing people. I’ve experienced the thrill of accelerating down a huge hill at the grand canyon on my longboard and having an uphill gently slow me back down. I’ve eaten homemade chili made from a man who was a former meth addict, who finally pieced his life together and found solace through surfing in California. I’ve seen some of the most incredible, rarely seen views after climbing rocks and boulders that had me shaking in my boots to even approach. I’ve visited friends and been welcomed into the homes of people I love. I’ve had tons of people approach me and ask more about my van and current living situation. I’ve felt peace, waking up to a beautiful view of the ocean next to the cliff edges that I was terrified would crumble beneath my sleeping body. I’ve found calm in the adventure, I’ve found peace in chaos. I’ve found friends in unexpected places, and I’ve found a sense of trust in myself that I never had before.

Living is scary. Living requires you to face the things that terrify you. Living requires you to ignore the odds, have faith in yourself, and trudge onwards.

Living is scary.

But I think what’s scarier is never living in the first place.

 

Grand Canyon

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One of our first big spots that we passed through on our trip was the Grand Canyon. While we were on our way, I decided to look through some blog posts to get a better idea of how to have the best experience. I stumbled across a blog post that talked about how to get the most out of a short trip at the grand canyon, and it proved to be incredibly helpful. We headed to the Grand Canyon with a goal to hike the South Kaibab Trail. Besides that, everything was totally unplanned.

We tried to find a campground, knowing that Mather Campground (the closest campground to the South Rim of the canyon) is usually booked months in advance. However, a little bit of magic resulted in us having the opportunity to stay at Mather for two nights through a walk-in.

The Grand Canyon is beautiful. It’s one of those things that you have to experience. Though I have plenty of pictures, none of them capture what it felt like to be there, among miles and miles of vastness so much larger than yourself.

 

The first day, we decided to wander around, and longboard around the rim which was a crazy experience. We went all the way to Hermit’s Rest, and longboarded it back. I caught a couple nice downhills back, though I’m pretty sure I burned a hole in my shoe from braking so much.

The Kaibab Trail was incredible. Every stopping point had an amazing view. We made it down to Skeleton point, though we had forgotten to bring a ton of water. If you go, BRING A TON OF WATER. Like, at least a gallon, maybe more for good measure. Alexis and I had one water bottle each, and though we made it out okay, the last couple few hours of the hike were miserable.

 

 

The Van.

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Guys. It finally happened. I am officially the owner of a 1985 Volkswagen Vanagon. And I cannot be any happier.

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Meet Daffodil. To me, Daffodil is a symbol of freedom. I’m excited to be part of this journey. The van rebuild has been taxing, but so rewarding.

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I’ll update this page with more progress pictures. The date I’ll be parting on my journey with Daffodil will be May 6th. Let’s see how this goes.

 

On “A Guide to the Good Life” by William Irvine

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As the week comes to a close, I finished up the last few chapters of “A Guide to the Good Life” by William Irvine. Irvine gives a broad introduction to Stoicism, and walks us through the basic

Negative Visualization

Negative Visualization is an easy way to get acquainted with the rules of Stoicism. It’s easy to incorporate into one’s daily life, as it is a common philosophy that many people hold today. Instead of visualizing the things we want, we are instructed as Stoics to imagine losing what we already have. This is supposed to help us practice gratefulness, and reduce the amount that we cling to desires and wants without truly appreciating what we have. This can easily be summed up in the common phrase “Well, it could be worse!” If we learn to practice the art of imagining that we could have less than what we have, Irvine argues that we will eventually restructure our brain to focus on what we have rather than what we do not have, and it will give us fortitude if we lose anything. It teaches us not to take anything for granted, and to be comfortable with the idea that we can lose anything at any given moment in time so that we are not as shocked or discouraged if we do lose something we value.

Trichotomy of Control

Marcus Aurelius initially created a dichotomy of control, but upon further interpretation, there seems to be another layer of control beneath the initial two. The original dichotomy of control as indicated by Aurelius is the things that we have the power to control and the things we do not have the power to control. Aurelius argues that we should not pursue things that we do not have the power to control, and only pursue things that we know we can control. However, there is a third element to this initial assessment – we find that in life there are things that we have some control, but not all. The idea is that we should pursue things we have some control over, so long as we ensure that our values are in the right place. For example, in a tennis match, I do not know what the outcome will be, but I have some control over whether I win or lose. The virtuous path is to be sure that my goal in playing the tennis match is not to win (which I cannot control) but to try my best (which I do have control over). This will ensure that we do not muddy up our thoughts with things that are up to fate to decide and will ensure that we keep a clear head as to the things we try to pursue.

Fatalism

Fatalism is the concept that we should regularly check in with ourselves to remind ourselves that we will one day be dead. This “stepped-back” approach allows us to truly evaluate our virtues at any given moment, and decide for ourselves whether any of this will matter to us in the long run, with the longest run being one in which we do not complete – we will be a mere memory in the near future, and we cannot do anything about it.

The art of Stoicism results in the attainment of genuine joy. We can choose to live with our grief, anger, and anxiety, or we can choose to take the necessary steps to overcome such feelings. In doing so, we will only have room for happiness.

 

 

How to Start Programming in C++ in Visual Studio

Blog, Coding Tutorials

As you start getting familiar with programming in C++, you may find yourself wanting a more robust environment where you can play with code and run programs. Some programmers prefer using a text editor like Brackets or Atom to develop, testing their code through the command prompt. However, you may be looking for something a little more user-friendly, with enhanced features like a debugger, and an ability to see your file hierarchy – which is especially useful for larger projects. For many, this results in using an IDE (Integrated Development Environment). What’s cool about IDE’s is that you can run, compile, execute, and debug code all from one piece of software. If you have decided to look for an IDE, you may be astonished at just how many IDE’s there are. Which one should you pick?

The truth is, it’s all up to your preference. Personally, I really like using Visual Studio. I like that it comes with a compiler, which can eliminate a lot of issues, especially when you’re first getting started. Not only that, Visual Studio is extremely versatile, with support ranging from Virtual Reality development with C#, to having C++ and Python support, to app development. It’s a great one-stop-shop for your development needs, and although it’s bulky, it can be a great place to get started.

To follow along with me, I’ll be assuming you’ve already installed Visual Studio with all the default settings. I’m working with the 2017 version.

Create a New Project

The first thing you’ll want to do is create a new project, which can be found under File > New > Project. This will open up a new window where you can choose what kind of project you’d like to create.

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When you click on Project, a new window will open up. In the sidebar, click on C++. Choose Windows Console Application, and name your project. You can also create a git repository from here, but more on that later. Click Ok.

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Start Coding!

You’ll notice a default C++ file already has been created for you. Here, you can start editing! I inserted a basic C++ program to get us started.

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Run your Program

After you’ve finished editing, you simply go to Debug > Start without Debugging. Another window will open up with your creation.

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And that’s all there is to it! What are you still reading this for? Go try it out!

 

How to Remove a Background in Photoshop

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Removing a background in Photoshop is actually surprisingly easy, and is a common task when modifying images. In order to do this, we simply need to access the polygonal lasso tool.

Capture

The default tool will usually be the regular lasso tool, but if you hold down the lasso, a few more options will appear. Choose the one that looks like the image above.

In small sections, go over the subject and outline them as close as possible. You can use Ctrl + to zoom in and Ctrl – to zoom out, which will give you more control over the smaller details of the image. When you’re done, go to Select > Modify > Smooth. I usually use 3 pixels. Once you’ve done this, you can use the Eraser tool to get rid of the background. After you’ve removed the entire background, you can fill it with whatever color you choose. I will sometimes use a gradient in order to get a more dynamic look from the background.

cirque de kalise (1)cirque de kalise (modified)

Falling on my Face. Repeatedly.

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On Monday and Tuesday, my best friend Courtney and I decided to have a mini-getaway and drove out to the Mississippi River. We stayed at Chestnut Mountain Resort to do a little bit of snowboarding since she’s been shredding since she was a kid and I’ve recently fallen in love with the sport. After a few easy runs down to the river, we decided to give the terrain park a go. She vaguely remembered how to do some tricks, and I was ready for something new. What ensued was the most hilarious, humbling, and rewarding experience I’ve had all month.

We settled on a small beginner fun box, and after a few sips of premade Jose Cuervo margaritas discreetly disguised in a Kombucha bottle, we set on landing some new tricks. At least ten of our first initial tries, we realized we were slowing down too much before the jump, either stopping right before the box or toppling over in a very slow and ungraceful fashion. As the sun was setting and the temperature was quickly dropping into the negatives as a snowstorm set in, we decided to go to our hotel room to warm up, and ended up watching a few episodes of Black Mirror and drawing pictures with gel pens, falling asleep at around 10pm and confirming that tomorrow, we would definitely reach our goal of landing the box jump.

The next morning, the snow had stopped and we were greeted with a beautiful sunrise, casting a delicate lavender light over the Mississippi River. We made some sandwiches and headed out again, determined to accomplish our goal. As we sat on the lift, we saw the box from an aerial perspective and laughed at how TINY the box was, but how big it seemed in the moment. We also saw a younger boarder (which was rare, since we were staying on a weekday and had the whole park to ourselves) gracefully slide over the box.

“Okay,” Courtney mused. “If he can do it we can definitely do this. We just have to not think about it and go as fast as we can.”

We took turns going down first, recording the other as they gave the box a go. I went a little faster than before, and promptly and unceremoniously fell on top of the box, smashing my shins into the rail and hitting my head on the icy ground. I definitely needed to pick up some speed – the consequence of going too slow was a painful kiss from the box’s cold metal rails. Courtney went down next, clearing the box and then falling straight on her back. The videos we have are filled with ridiculous falls followed by hysterical laughter. Why were we doing this again?

After our first falls, we would keep ditching the box, sometimes avoiding it completely. Fear had crept into our heads, muddying up our goals and making it that much harder. We decided that we were overthinking it, and all we had to do was not think about it.

On her second try, Courtney cleared the box in a spectacular fashion, and I can be heard in the recording hooting for joy like an over-proud mother. I hadn’t yet gotten out of my head, and I was rewarded with a few more wipeouts, bruising my knees and ditching the box a few more times. I even got so angry with myself for ditching the box at one point that I unstrapped my bindings and ran back up the mountain to try again, leaving me completely breathless yet grateful that I had spent the week prior sprinting up the seven floors to my sister’s condo after my workouts.

When I finally made it, I had promised myself in my head to stop thinking. I distracted my head with other thoughts, imagined myself clearing the box, and set a goal in my mind to try my best. I went down, picked up some speed, and slid right over the box, finding myself able to even do a cute little jump down the box at the end. I hollered for joy, feeling an incredible mixture of pride and adrenaline coursing through my veins, and we promptly headed for a bigger, longer box. We both cleared the longer box after a few tries and, by the end of the day, we had even gone off some ramps. It was an exhilarating and beautiful experience, one that only reached me as soon as I decided to let go and stop overthinking.

Humans are blessed with an incredible ability to think, but it can also be a trap. I’ve read somewhere that we need to consciously use our brains as a tool, because if we let it control us, we are helpless against ourselves. This is why meditation is so important and effective – it teaches us how to generate awareness of our thoughts, and through practice, learn to control the thoughts themselves. This simple reminder allowed me to stretch beyond what I thought I was capable of and truly enjoy the moment. Courtney and I spent the entire ride back talking about how much fun we had, treating ourselves to huge slim jims, sugary cappuccinos, and spicy skittles as we talked about life on our way back to Chicago.

Let go of what you’re holding on to if it doesn’t serve you. Allow your body to breathe, allow yourself to feel the flow you have inside you. It will most likely amaze you in ways you never thought possible. And above all, don’t give up. Success is only a few tries away.

Letting Go.

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As I’ve started to implement routine into my life, I’ve found that I’ve had ample time to accomplish some of the goals I’ve been meaning to fulfill. Lately, I’ve been consistently meditating, exercising, and spending time delving deeper into philosophical works. Most recently, I’ve been listening to an audiobook translation of Meditations by Marcus Aurelius, watching Crash Course philosophy, and I’ve finished a few chapters of A Guide to the Good Life by William Irvine. I couldn’t have come across Stoicism at a more opportune time, as it seems my life has been more chaotic lately than ever. Managing two startups, trying to find a job after college, freelancing, and living out of a backpack all while going through a tough breakup has proved itself to be a very unstable time in my life. However, I’ve found solace in studying philosophy, taking steps towards advancing my career, improving my health and wellness, and I feel grounded amidst all the uncertainty.

Stoicism, as it’s known today, is a philosophy rooted in the idea of detaching oneself from negative emotions by learning to fully appreciate everything that we are given by fortune. This may seem counterproductive, as it suggests the idea of being neutral to everything. However, it pushes the idea of joy and appreciation as something that we have to consciously work on in order to achieve. The hedonistic values prevalent in today’s society leave many people unhappy – we live in a time of unprecedented comfort and security, yet we are increasingly dissatisfied with life. This is due to the fact that we don’t spend time appreciating what we have because we are always chasing the next form of pleasure. This habit leads us to always be in a state of dissatisfaction. Stoicism tells you to take nothing for granted, to fully appreciate what you have, to work as hard as you can towards the goals that you want out of life, and to truly live every day as if it were your last by habitually evaluating what you value in life.

This led me to the concept of letting go. Throughout my life, I’ve clung to my desires, passions, and loves in an unhealthy way. I’ve obsessed over my imperfections, I’ve tried to please everyone in my life, and I had developed a habit of trying to constantly prove myself as a worthy being to the people in my life. However, this all stemmed from an idea that I wasn’t good enough, that there was something inherently wrong with me, and I believed that rejection was proof that I had failed to be an exemplary human being. However, I had to realize that I couldn’t please everyone. I will apply for positions that I believe I am a perfect fit for that will be filled by other candidates. I will experience loss, I will experience grief, difficulty, and uncertainty. People will leave my life, whether through death, through circumstance, or of their own accord, and it is not my job to convince them to stay. I can only appreciate the good times that I’ve had, reflect upon the lessons I’ve learned, work hard to transform my goals into my reality, and find stability in knowing that my time on this Earth has not been wasted – I’ve been fortunate enough to experience it in the first place.

Life will move forward, whether I want it to or not. All I can do is try my best, actively participate, and give it all I’ve got. The rest is up to fortune to determine and, in the end, nothing will truly matter anyway. It may seem like a grim topic to think about, but in the next hundred years, you and everyone you love will be nothing but a distant memory. It is not up to us to determine how long we live, what events we will encounter, or which people will stay in our lives, but we can control how we feel in every moment of every day. It is for this reason that I have learned to let go of the things I can’t control, find joy in the simple pleasures of life, try to be the best version of myself that I can be, and let the universe sort the rest.