My Own Worst Enemy, My Own Best Friend

“If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm” -Sun Tzu

Enemies. In some Hollywood narratives, you see the depiction of enemies as evil, malicious beings that reign terror on the hero or heroine. In life, we sometimes make enemies; sure, they may not be after our lives, but they sure as hell are after our highs (happiness).

Time and time again, I have recognized the most ruthless force I’ve ever had to face was me, or at least the illusion of me.

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After promising my parents I would never take a drug or drink alcohol during the first week of high school and fully believing it, it felt like something outside of myself lead me into the five year abyss of my teenage life

 

As much as I would love to blame peer pressure or my environment for my formative lifestyle, the truth is I was the only one who chose to take, sell, and entertain those drugs. There was no magical entity that was making me act against my own well-being, in fact I don’t remember a single person putting a blunt to my lips and forcing me to inhale; all 10,000 hits were my choice and my choice alone.

Coming to the realization that I was my own worst enemy had a surprising effect. Instead of loathing in self-pity, I realized that if I could be my own enemy then I could surely become my own best friend.

If I could destroy myself, then I could heal myself. If I could deceive myself, then I could find my way back to truth. There was nothing stopping me from living a clean and sober life besides me.

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In the process of becoming my own best friend, a process that never ends, I realized that a true friend is not one who always agrees with you and cheers you on as you destroy yourself. A true friend is one who will have the tough conversations and question your lifestyle in order to help you better yourself.

 

Tinashe Hwande

Edited by. Tayla Hasselbach

Searching For Blame

Resentment: the unsettling, gut wrenching, choke hold that kept me captive for so much of my young life. I remember sitting in the passenger seat of my 2002 Toyota Camry smoking away my sorrows. Why did life have to be so unfair? Why did I have to live in a world that saw me as less than? A young black man with a chip on his shoulder.

I spent a majority of my latter teen years verbalizing my frustrations with the so called “system” I blamed for my woes. I soaked in the paranoia filled doctrine of conspiracies like a helpless junkie searching for a quick fix, yet nothing could give me the high I was in search of. I was a victim in the truest sense.

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For hours a day, I would saturate my mind with the “mad world” beliefs that were plentiful on the web. I resonated with every new piece of information I found online as they were confirmations for my already skeptical mind. I surrounded myself with those whose beliefs aligned with mine and what we all had in common, more than our love for conspiracies, was the need to point blame outwardly.

Looking back, I could have blamed my insatiable need for conspiracy theories as a drug induced inclination, but, in reality I would have fallen into the same trappings without the drugs. I realized I was always an individual who sought to point blame in the most subtle ways. I wouldn’t tell you something was your fault but would convict the system that created you as the problem.

Not once did it dawn on me that my position in life was my own choosing. I truly felt that I had to take a backseat in life because the greater system was against those of my hue. Nothing held me back as much as that belief.

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It amazes me how we have the ability to create a false reality and live our entire lives on those falsehoods, for the simple reason of not accepting that our lives are in our control. Sure, we may not be capable of predicting or controlling circumstances outside of ourselves, but we do have control of our own actions and reactions to any given situation.

If I had known this in my earlier years, I would have spent much more time changing my circumstances instead of living in a constant state of anger and resentment, which was only a cover for my inherent fear of taking responsibility for my own life.

Tinashe Hwande

Edited by. Tayla Hasselbach

Why “FOMO is a MOFO

*(Fomo is an anxiety that an exciting or interesting event may currently be happening elsewhere, often aroused by posts seen on a social media website.)*

Remember back in high school when every party was the last party? Remember your college years when attending the third rage cage and beer pong filled night was more of a priority than whatever boring subject you had to study for.

It never really clicked in your mind that there would be a dozen more parties right after your midterm, but then again….Fomo. It never once clicked that missing that one party would not cause global warming or accelerate the rising of the sea level. As a teen and 20-something year old, it was tough to process the fact that nobody really cared.

An old, wise woman once told me that the older you get the more you realize that nobody cares if you go to the party.

In life, there are more parties than those with keg stands and beer pongs. The party is a metaphor for anything that you may feel obligated to go to simply because everyone else is. The party is the distraction that often comes between you and whatever it is that you are after. For some, the party is hanging out with friends that do not add value to your like. For others, the party might be watching every episode of that one show that everyone else is watching.

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It is normal to feel the need to always be in the know and continuously show up to where everyone is; in fact, it is a social norm for us to stop what we actually want to do in order to do what everyone else is doing. Believe it or not, some people don’t want to watch that game, yet they feel the need to because they think that everyone around them actually cares.

I know this sounds mean but it is true. It’s ironic because we let these things impede our personal growth and prolong our stagnation while simultaneously idolizing those who choose to bypass the social pressures and instead focus on their own growth.

If you internalize the idea that nobody cares if you go to the party then you will liberate yourself from the false obligation of always showing up to things that have nothing to do with your vision. There is a true sense of freedom that comes with knowing how people really feel about you, showing up to another party or another superbowl get together. Yes, some may miss you in the moment but after a few cold ones it will be as if you never existed.

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When you chose to overlook social pressures and instead choose your own destiny, over time people will actually start to care about what you are doing and respect you more for your decision to remain committed to your vision. People are interested in those who do not conform to the norm, those who choose to miss the party in order to record that album or bypass the club to build that new app.

When I say nobody cares if you go to the party, I am not doing so to stop you from a good time, I am doing so to remind you that you are free to make your own choices in this life. Choosing YOU will benefit both yourself and others far more than “going to that party.”

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Tinashe Hwande

Edited by. Tayla Hasselbach

Seek to “INNERstand”

To understand your audience is one thing; but to truly reach into the deepest parts of another individual, to fully comprehend their drives, inhibitions, desires, and motives; this is to INNERstand them. Whether you are an individual with a burning message to share with the world or an organization with a life-changing product to provide to those in need; both cases require a certain level of innerstanding. Much like within interpersonal relationships, understanding the point of view the other is crucial. The best relationships do not form due to similar tastes in movies or music, but by allocating quality time with pure intention to fully grasp where exactly the other person is coming from.

In this new economy, it is essential to treat your relationship with your customers, as you would treat a friendship. For instance, if you had some news that you wanted to share with a friend, would you deliver it to them in a compelling story that is relevant to their own life experience or just give them a generic statement that you kinda, sort, think makes sense? For far too long, advertisers have been talking at their audience instead of speaking with them; and by speaking with them I do not mean some focus group that is being paid to taste your new Acai recipe. I mean a true conversation; a back and forth dialogue that is deeper than “which one tastes better”. Social Media has made it possible for individuals and companies alike to maintain a streamline of communication. There are no longer any excuses for not getting to know the true beneficiaries of your brand. This sort of symbiotic relationship creates a win-win situation; both parties receive exactly what they want while reciprocating the value.

Take the extra time to know your customer. Ask them questions. Know why they buy from you and not the place next door. Ask them why their kids love the place. This may seem self-serving, but for those with a true sense of care for their community, this conversation allows for a greater customer experience and in return you will have a larger community to serve as they spread the word about the wonderful good or service that you so wholeheartedly provide.

-Tinashe Hwande

(edited by Tayla M. Hasselbach)

Childhood Conditioning

Childhood

Every single human being goes through infancy, childhood, adolescence… Literally each and every one of had to go through it to get where we are today. What a vulnerable, impressionable time of life. We are 100% dependent on our caretakers to teach us about this ginormous, new world we just entered… It’s easy to see how things can go awry.

Naturally, a child is born to two parents, a mother and a father, both offering different teachings, traits, experiences, etc. Now we must take a step back for a moment to remember that parents are not simply acting as teachers, for example as we see in school: carefully constructing lessons and presenting them orally with pictures, planned activities etc. Unfortunately, parents don’t go to school to be parents… they often just get handed a baby (essentially) without a clue in the world what to do.

Children are sponges! They absorb everything, every new sensation, sight, sound, feeling, taste, smell, etc. Thus, parents unconsciously teach their children everything that they do and say in front of them. When parenthood was not by choice, when one parent leaves and the other is left to raise the child on their own, when other burdens take away from time spent with the child… when the parent does not, for whatever reason, take an active, responsible role in raising and teaching the child… problems arise.

Children become scared, they don’t know who or what to trust, they don’t know how to communicate or express themselves because no one ever gave them the space to do that, they don’t know how to take an active role in their lives or make decisions for themselves, they don’t know how to trust and love themselves…

When children are not actively taught, loved, encouraged, admired, developed, etc. they create defense mechanisms, they become blocked in certain areas of life, conditioned to be the way their parents were (which obviously wasn’t therapeutic), they grow up with trauma, pain, anger, sadness, anxiety that can often paralyze them and stagnate their growth and progress as adults in the world.

Adults often face childhood traumas for the rest of their lives if they don’t awaken to their conditionings and make conscious efforts to heal their ingrained traumas, reactions, defense mechanisms, etc. This can impede relationships, academia, work, every area of life.

Overcoming

With every dark cloud there is a silver lining, a sliver of hope, a showing of light within the darkness.

There was a time in which neurologists believed that our capacity to learn was limited by age. We were taught that the grey matter within the brain stopped creating new links and pathways somewhere between our twenties and early thirties. This theory was refuted time and time again, however, as researchers saw “old dogs learning new tricks”.

From therapy sessions to addiction centers, those who were placed in positions to help others overcome lifelong habits began to notice how even the most coniditioned individuals had a capacity for change. These deep habitual changes did not come as a result of some sort of special gene that these people had, but due to the nature of the human being as a whole.

We are creatures of habit, and creating patterns for ourselves has always been the way in which we navigated these terrains that we call planet earth. Whether we formed habits of foraging for our survival, or nursing our young; the place where each habit formed was and still remains the same

Many of us have been conditioned into certain modems of thought and action, therefore forming habits that do not serve our higher purpose. For anybody who’s seen a child go from being a flunking student to a straight A pupil, you have witnessed the capacity of a human to form new connections within the brain.

Whether you’re five or ninety there is always hope. So long as there is breathe in your lungs and a beat to your heart, there is a chance for you to reestablish your position on this planet through the diligent efforts of retraining your mind.

Much like teaching an infant to walk is not an easy feat, reinventing oneself through the formulation of new habits is no simple task. But just like anything else in life, once we make the decision to fully commit ourselves to change we can rewrite our story, and become the alchemist of our childhood experiences turning them into lessons for our future selves instead of anchors to our pasts.

Tayla M. Hasselbach & Tinashe P. Hwande

Living on the Edge of Time

What a crazy, wonderful blessing it is… the camera. We literally have the ability to capture the ever fleeting moment. One second in time that has never happened before, that will never happen again; the camera allows us to capture it, preserve it for the future. We can look back, remember experiences, monitor growth and changes. It’s truly mind boggling.

Millions upon millions of moments we get to experience in this life… we literally live on the edge of time! We can’t possibly remember every single one. The camera helps with this. There’s a balance to find here, however. We’ve come to take the camera for granted! We take photos of every moment as if we would never be able to remember without it. Dependency?

Tell me though… how often do we really go back and review these? I do this from time to time and always have realizations, feel emotions, make connections, etc. I am so thankful I took the photos. Again, there is a balance to find here… living in the moment and capturing the crazy, amazing, beautiful ones to be able to look back on later. It it a gift to our future selves. I cry. Seeing how far I’ve come. Remembering things that aren’t at the forefront of my memory on the daily basis. We live on the edge of time.

-Tayla M. Hasselbach

 

Keys to the Heart

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word “communication”? A 12th grader nervously standing in front of her peers, giving a speech on a subject she just read up on last night? Or maybe you envision a college student typing up a persuasive essay the night before class at a pace fast enough to tear the keyboard in half.

School taught us how to talk and be persuasive both orally and textually, but often neglected the most important part of communication: Listening.

Since I was a youngin’, I’ve heard the phrase “communication is key” thrown around. This cliche made sense in my young mind; if you want to get your point across, you have to speak up. I was never shy of such an act. What took me two decades to learn, however, was the pivotal part of communication.

It was Stephen Covey’s book “7 Habits of Highly Effective People” that opened up an entirely new world for me. He spoke of the importance of listening not for response, but for understanding. Right after I read this, I had an experience which solidified this notion. I felt as if I had been freed from a self-induced, ego-controlled cage and opened up to an entirely new paradigm. Until that day, I was a product of my conditioning, a conditioning that said “communication is key and getting your point across is communication… therefore, DON’T STOP TALKING.” That very day, I found the true key, the essence of communication; listening.

It wasn’t long until I fell back into my default habits of listening to reply. What changed, however, was my new found conscious intention to seek understanding within each conversation. From that point forward, I was able to diligently practice listening to others in order to truly hear what they were saying. The hardest form of this was when disagreements arose. Listening to understand literally meant that I had to sit there and take the verbal abuse of another as they uttered all the things that I had “done to them.” When an argument flared up, something very interesting happened. Instead of being defensive and striking back, I began to see where the other persons pain points were. There were no personal attacks or threats actually made towards me but more so cries for help that had taken the form of angry words.

It was not during a normal conversation that I saw how true communication was key but during a disagreement with a very close family member. As she began to project her fears, insecurities and pain onto me, I sat there and listened instead of responding with even more angst. That day, I learned more about her than I had in my entire life. I was so moved by the experience that I was brought to tears of joy; even though she might not have realized it, we experienced a breakthrough.

“Communication is key” is not some cute Pinterest quote or overused cliche, but a deep truth that we often times overlook. Think about it, what exactly is a keys purpose? And knowing the purpose of a key, why would communication be the key?

In my eyes, communication is a key to the heart. When we can listen to another with the intention to understand, we open ourselves to the possibility of seeing what is truly in their heart. With that very same key, we can open up the doors to our own hearts as well the hearts of others.

Tinashe Hwande

(edited by Tayla M. Hasselbach)