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counterculture

counterculture: success + the modern age

countercultureTaylor P.Comment

How do we define success?

I often have this question on my mind and there fails to be an answer for it that is cohesive. I think success can be relative to many things and is often dependent upon an ever-evolving view of how we perceive the world around us. What I viewed as successful or a level of happiness in my teens and in my twenties is variable compared to where I am at now. I imagine as I near my forties that evolution and expansion of world view and philosophy will continue. In a modern age where many view success on how popular we are (“How many likes did I get on IG? How many followers?”) it is important to consider what success means to us and whether it is a fleeting desire or something more concrete.

My advice: Be brave. Be unpopular. Aim to be different and pave your own way. Burn bridges if you have to. Be tied to your ideas and their progression— not to your “image.”

I think we know we are “successful” only by experiencing failure. It is really the failures that define us more than the successes because it is within the parameters of failures that we respond with our true character. How do we react to the collapse of a previous desire or mindset? How do we confront the untamed versions of ourselves that are not all shiny and perfect but filled with doubt and struggle? Success is a chemical reaction between intention, failure, and the unwavering optimism and perseverance to continue doing something without knowing what the outcome might be.

Do we define success by having a well-lived life, by being top of our class or profession, by maintaining healthy relationships, by owning a home,  by keeping ourselves alive, etc? Success means many different things and sometimes a combination of those things. So what is a healthy level of success? When do we know we have arrived at a satisfactory level of success?

I would like to say there is some secret or magic word we could use to arrive at our destination. There’s not. There’s no formula, no rhyme or reason to the madness, and certainly no shortcuts. One way we can define success is to look at the failures of others that came before us. Another would be to define success by comparing our actions to their outcomes. Some say that it is routine that makes the successor. Others say it is something ingrained within us—that raw energy and intellect that can break the mold. Still others claim it is simply down to luck and believe success is based on being at the right place and right time.  

For me personally— I think my secret is comprised of two very different actions. The first? Failure. The second? Recognizing that failure and turning it into a lesson as you dust your boots off and get back up again. There is an almost unhealthy amount of optimism you have to have— a willingness to see a bigger picture and the faith that even if you stumble, and even if you fall, you will never lose sight of the “possibility” of success. Because every time you make an error or a mistake means there is one outcome that is irrefutably aligned with failure— and one less outcome hindering you from success. When you keep your eye on the prize, despite setbacks, you have the ability to achieve the impossible. If you learn from everything— you can do anything. And in time you will know when something is worth working for and when it is time to chase a new dream. And THAT is what separates people from failing or succeeding. If you give up without even trying out every possible method and potential failure, do you truly know what a well-earned success is or is it just pure luck?

There are many “successful” people that failed an awful lot. And there are loads of quotes from these people on this very subject. But the common denominator is that all of these people had unflagging optimism and did not view failure as negative. They weren’t just satisfied with what was out there— they wanted to know more and to be more. And many of them were selfless in their pursuit of bringing their ideas to the world (this doesn’t mean they didn’t capitalize off this or weren’t egocentric, but that many of them had more worldly pursuits of altruism or philanthropy.) They believed in hard work and character-building. Many of them did not shy away from the bad things in life but embraced them as a mode of change or evolution. I admire these people for their courage and perseverance.

I wrote a blog post several years ago and these two things still stand out to me as relevant reflections on this:

*1) What did I do wrong? 2) What lesson should I have learned from this? and 3) How can I do better next time? Take responsibility for where you have fallen short and looking at failures as gifts and lessons. Not only can you place a positive spin on things by doing this but looking at them as experiences (whether good or bad) ultimately gives you the gumption to move forward.\\

*Evolution is important. We are constantly revolving and evolving. Don’t get stuck in old, bad habits and always keep in mind that your origin is not your destination. You and you alone are responsible for the direction your life can take.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and don't be afraid to fail either. Become a newer, better version of yourself every chance you get and this will be reflected in your work as well.

If the goal is to be a better version of yourself, you may make mistakes along the way but you will learn from them and grow. I like to think that we are all scientists in some capacity and these are all just great (or awful) experiments. So perspective is tantamount to success. I make mistakes all the time but every mistake I make leads me to evaluate where I am at and make new plans. I like to think of life like a road map. Sometimes we take detours or turn the wrong direction, but we always see something different along the way. It is those differences that make us see the world as a more dynamic place. And if we don’t stay stuck somewhere along those detours, someday we will get on-track and eventually reach our destination. Only we will reach it with more knowledge of the world and its practices within us. This alone is a victory. And if the practice of “re-routing” means that we have setbacks, it only further gives us a wealth of experience and the opportunity to make better decisions in the future.

How do you define success?







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counterculture: why we create pt. I

countercultureSonam A.Comment
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We touched base with our founder and editor Taylor Parker earlier this week to discuss the act of creating design work and the pitfalls she has experienced in her profession. This is part of an ongoing series of experience-based articles dissecting the subject of why we create and what motivates us.  


SA: How did you get where you are today and what has impacted you the most?
TP: I always had an entrepreneurial spirit and wore a variety of hats over the years.  I spent the last six years getting my Bachelor's in Architecture and truly believed that was my calling. In retrospect I think it was always just a stepping stone to something more creative and less restrictive. Architecture, being a highly rigorous profession, was very good for me in terms of exercising design skills and strategies.  Design is such an intrinsic part of my person that I jokingly liken it to breathing. Getting creative blocks can equated with drowning for me so I try to constantly be in a state of creative output. 

I’ve always been a bit of a workaholic so the future I saw for myself was a very lonely one— working at firms in a bigger city and basically just existing. I always saw myself alone as serious relationships or children I believed to be beyond my scope. I worked full-time, went to school full-time, barely slept,  and really didn’t practice self-care on the level I should have at all. 

The turning points for me were pretty significant ones: I had a close-to-dying experience and a few years later found out I was pregnant with the most amazing little girl. I would say that those two things made me really look at the trajectory of my life and realize that what I thought was my destiny really was not at all what I had planned it to be.  I was always good at most anything I tried to do which made it more difficult to narrow down to a common niche. I had the ample ability to do anything I set my mind to but in the end lacked focus and execution. Ultimately this tenacity and fearlessness would always be my undoing although I strive more now to remedy those things. My work became a series of failures/experiences where I half-assed things simply because I thought I was a more seasoned sailor than I was in reality. I believe that in some regard I wanted to DO everything and BE everyone to such an exhaustive extent that I could not maintain it. To do such things would be impossible and idiotic. But nevertheless I found it quite unfortunate and had to come to terms with the fact that there is not enough time or energy to experience everything in this lifetime.  I wanted to spend every moment doing and being. It never occurred to me that just being myself was enough. I guess I thought I had something to prove and I know now that I don't have to prove anything to anyone. 

The realization of this was disappointing, but it takes courage to fail and pick yourself back up again and again. So I picked myself up again and again and again-- Over and over and over. I made a colossal amount of errors and l mistakes. And I made a lot of good decisions, too.  I am grateful that I had an amazing support system through family and friends who didn’t fault me for trying and encouraged me if at times that courage would falter. But at the end of the day I became stronger and I learned from most all of those experiences. I now look for the pitfalls and find alternate ways of dealing with them. Being self-aware is incredibly important and I highly recommend that people periodically examine their decisions and are honest about their motivations, especially when working in the creative field. 

In ways that were exponentially significant, and with limited timeframes, I found that not only did I really love teaching but the very basic creative activities that I grew up learning with my own mother. The way I felt about architecture once upon a time (a shimmering star that significantly burned out  in the end) paled in comparison to the synergy I now feel when I am just creating and instructing. So in a way, my “current field” became a meadow full of many things that brought me joy. The incredible thing about that type of joy is that it can spread like a wildfire if you let it. The good kind of wildfire that causes things to grow better-- not the bad-shitty-arsonist-kind, of course. 
 

SA: How do you research the business/marketing side of Tamer Animals?
TP:  One of the most fantastic inventions in my lifetime was the Internet. When I think about how I used to huddle over encyclopedias with their limited facts and figures in comparison to now with the world at our fingertips it is a very humbling thing. I have, in some form or another, been a lifelong student of business practices. 

I will be the first to tell you that I suck at marketing, especially when it comes to marketing myself as a "brand." I am not a fan of the limelight and prefer to sit on the sidelines whenever possible so it has been very character-building to have to exhibit a more sociable version of myself than I am generally comfortable with sharing. That is not to say that I am not an exhibitionist on some level (most creative types are) but I would rather delegate these things to people who enjoy them more than I do. I am constantly in a state of “most-improved-but-needs-improvement” and it has become a dedicated mission to figure out what motivates people to make the choices that they make. The internet, in some respects, has simplified much of this but ultimately complicated things as well.

To begin research  I usually sit down and list the questions I have. I am a huge fan of making lists, especially because I tend to be more on the “messy creative” side. Although a minimalist at heart, my mind is constantly going a mile a minute at times and clutter reigns supreme. I talk about as much as I type and about as fast. I try to curb my verbosity as I have a tendency to seek clarity to a fault. Part of being Type A is being too thorough, I suppose. 

So lists are my co-pilot and keep all that clutter at bay— until I accidentally lose the list in the clutter of course. Apps like to:day are a boon for me because they combine a really beautiful UI/UX with text and visuals. Being a visual person, I find this is very helpful. It is also helpful that I don't lose my phone quite as often as I would lose my lists.

I then systematically go through and search each one and write down any information I feel is exceptional. Sometimes this leads to more questions or notes but I think the process of asking those questions aloud is very helpful. Tax information, marketing, and basic business practices are all easily accessible and constantly in a state of flux. If you can learn something new every day, you are putting your time here to good use.

Product research is a bit trickier. I am constantly pinning and taking screenshots of things that inspire me but I do have an unspoken fear about unconsciously emulating others. I think gathering inspiration can be very helpful but there is a fine line between being inspired and being lazy. While the knee-jerk reaction is to  mimic via inspired means the better questions to ask are more meaningful: How can I improve upon this? If I couldn’t get anyone to buy this, would I enjoy it for my own use? Am I being truthful to my mission and my evolution? Am I being genuine with clients/customers by releasing this product? 

SA: What is your greatest motivator?
TP: That is really a hard thing to pin down. I have always tended to be a very complex person with heavily structured ideals about the act of creation. In a physical sense, my daughter is probably my biggest motivator. I want her to have rich experiences in her life and to be able to expose her to a wide variety of objects and subjects. I am eternally grateful for my mom for she instilled a deep respect for creation within me and taught me not only to have strength but also integrity. These are things that alone are powerful but all together create a high level of perseverance and a hotbed for creativity.

My mother is incredibly skilled in all things creative and I like to think that the majority of my successes were a result of her letting me make messes, think independently, and create without limits. Seeing the recognition and curiosity my daughter exhibits not only motivate me but also make me appreciate the sacrifices my mother made to help me become the person I am today. I strive to be better every day and release kindness into the world any way I can. 

From a personal sense, I think my biggest motivation is seeking balance. It has been a running theme throughout my life— the pursuit of tranquility— and I think it is such an important part of who I am. I strive to make a mark on the world each day in a limited capacity, even if it is just in my tiny universe. I spent a large early portion of my life seeking stability through relationships and thinking that those would make me whole and happy. I thought that once I found my "soulmate" it would "free up" the time i was invested in such things. I believed that by doing so I would have the the newfound freedom and energy to devote more to my creative pursuits. I thought love was the answer to everything and was very naive about the world and human behavior.  I think I lacked the self-confidence and self-awareness to realize that they were obstacles and not bridges. I spent an embarrassing amount of time sinking into those murky waters only to find that the happiest place I could be in was when I was producing.

SA: What have been some of your biggest hurdles as a business or individual?
TP: *Consistency is always a hurdle for me because life tended to have ideas of its own. I always had good intentions but follow-through can be ineffectual. It is still something I am mindful of even now.
*I was always very “hands-on” with any work I did. Having to step back due to time constraints and become more passive in my approach has been very challenging.
*Financials are always a hurdle. I think it helps to treat it as a second job and not a hobby, but keeping a good cash flow going from a reliable source is very importance. It seems counterintuitive in some ways. As much as many of us hope we will be at the right place at the right time, the reality is that it takes a ton of hard work, dedication, and hustling to get where you want to go.
*Scheduling under very strict time constraints (such as having kids or an intense job) is extremely difficult. While I find it inspiring that some women are able to juggle four kids and a high-profile job while running their small business, most of us are under severe constraints. Dedicating even an hour a day is helpful. Write everything down as you think of it. Don’t look at other people to assess your value. 

SA: What advice would you give to makers who are just starting out?
TP: *Don’t get caught up in what is trending. Pave your own way. Choose your own adventure.
*If you fail, don’t just fold or wallow in a big ole pile of self-pity. Ask yourself these three questions: 1) What did I do wrong? 2) What lesson should I have learned from this? and 3) How can I do better next time? Take responsibility for where you have fallen short and looking at failures as gifts and lessons. Not only can you place a positive spin on things by doing this but looking at them as experiences (whether good or bad) ultimately gives you the gumption to move forward.
*Don’t obsess over perfect. Perfect is for the infallible people that are in denial. Be human and create things that expose your humanity and breadth of experience. Don’t be afraid to deviate from all that you know and love. Perfect can also be dull. Dare to go against the grain.
*You will have $0 days and you will have $500 days. Make sure whatever you are doing is for the right reasons or you will never be satisfied with your output regardless of how much you make. 
*Work-life balance SUCKS sometimes. If you overextend yourself too much and don’t take the time out to charge your batteries, you’ll burn out. Not only does this decrease your productivity severely but your lousy lease on life can affect the folks around you (which is a crummy thing to do.) Don’t be an asshole. Get some actual sleep, step away from the phone/computer/whatever, and eat an actual meal. 
*Evolution is important. We are constantly revolving and evolving. Don’t get stuck in old, bad habits and always keep in mind that your origin is not your destination. You and you alone are responsible for the direction your life can take.  Don’t be afraid to experiment and don't be afraid to fail either. Become a newer, better version of yourself every chance you get and this will be reflected in your work as well.

SA: How do you develop your work?
TP: I try to clear my mind. I was never really adept at this or good at meditation so I start by making forms or words on a blank page and see what develops. I think my personal design style is very intuitive— a series of unconscious movements to arrive at a nondescript location. Everything is in a state of being chaotic and unplanned and as a more rigorous person I enjoy the freedom of the disarray. I like to think that I am a scientist more than an artist. I want to throw all of the elements in and see what comes out in the end. They are all experiments to me. Creating is exhilarating and sometimes even a bit scary. But when your excitement overrides your fears you will know you are in a good place. There are unintentional moments in design that can make or break what you are doing but you should never be scared of that. It’s far easier to close your eyes and leap in to the unknown. You can say a few prayers beforehand but the outcome is largely dependent on your frame of mind in the moment.

SA: What is your typical process day-to-day?
TP:  I try to harness creative energy through experience. Rituals are very important to me. The more stress I am under or deadlines that are imposed the more I begin to wane in productivity so I try to limit stressors and prioritize better. I used to set an unrealistic amount of tasks on my lists and became dissatisfied and disappointed with myself so I am not much more realistic about my constraints and energy levels. Rituals like morning coffee or tea, nature walks, crafting with my daughter, singing, and reading are all things that feed my soul. Once I feel energized, I will devote a couple of evenings in a row to distinct tasks after my daughter goes to bed. I am a night owl so working at night is my modus operandi. Being a single parent means that my free time is effectively a hot commodity so I try to make every moment count now.

I spend my days focused on what matters so at night I will be able to celebrate that freedom by calling on a stream of consciousness. I will sometimes knock out four or five illustrations in an evening if I am on a roll. Whether they are perfect or not is immaterial. It is the act of creating that I respond to— the journey rather than the destination. As an INFJ I enjoy my solitude unimpeded in those times and I think those are the moments especially when my work is able to take on a life all its own.

SA: Where do you hope to see yourself in five years?
TP:  We are in the process of moving to a sleepy mountain town near Asheville, so I hope I have become established a prosperous career in that time and can continue creating and experimenting. The idea of being nestled in the mountains surrounded by nature is an irony not lost on me who always prided herself as a city girl. There is something magical though about starting a new life and being a new person. Five years down the road I hope the continue be a good mother, a good daughter, a good friend. I hope to be an even better version of myself whether my ventures are successful or not. I would like to bring more to the table than just myself and to be able to be of service to the world in some capacity.

 

 

Taylor Parker is an architectural/textile designer, illustrator, blogger, children's book author, and maker from Knoxville, Tenn. Through whimsical designs and vibrant colors she hopes to capture the beauty of abstraction through a marriage of nature and the built environment. She likes to combine hand-painted objects with some digital manipulation as her signature style. She has also been in the vintage business for over fifteen years and loves finding unique pieces for wear or environment.  She has a daughter and furkid, loves soul and shoegaze (she is also an occasional DJ,)  and enjoys getting her feet wet in new projects and mediums. 

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counterculture: me, too. (A.K.A. "WE WIN.")

countercultureSonam A.Comment
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When I came online today, I was astounded. The many voices saying “me, too”-- men and women and otherwise, echoed a profound and unfortunate reality that exists in our society today. Some people, many people, are assholes. And some people, many people, have been in situations no one should ever have to be in. It is not a reality I ever wanted to believe but here we all are.

In reading some of the stories I would find myself nodding my head in agreement because I had been there on some level. Some of the stories were heartwrenching and although I couldn’t relate to them situationally I could put myself in the person’s shoes enough to understand that it was horrendous. Some were so eerily relatable that it saddened me that someone else went through the same things I did. And it’s easy for people to target that. Behind a computer it is easy for folks to tear you down and add insult to injury. The people that tear others down with this are the very people who fail to understand the implications of it. Whether they realize it or not, they are part of the problem. I feel awful even writing this because some of the stories I have read today are simply so deplorable that no amount of uplifting statements can support them in a way that would be meaningful. 

Gross misconduct is a real thing, as is abuse, as is assault. Often if you even try to bring it up, especially when it is someone mutually known, it is discounted, invalidated, or distorted. Guys (or girls for that matter) saying someone is “crazy” or “exaggerating” are terms that are so easily thrown around these days to justify bad behavior. Defaming, bullying, and threatening are also pretty commonplace as well. I have friends that support known rapists or abusers and it is always a hard call for me on whether to forgive them for their ignorance or to distance myself from them as well. These are things that should not be trivialized or compartmentalized. And some people are REALLY, REALLY GOOD at distorting the truth to serve their agenda. If no one was there to see it or hear it, did it really happen? Therein lies the problematic manner of these situations. It comes down to faith in one another and unfortunately people are so disconnected these days that they are avoidant as a default with little faith in anyone-- even themselves.

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I have too many instances to list and they are not things I like to revisit or even talk about beyond the surface details. I wasn’t very pretty or attention-seeking or all of the things that people tend to lump into the category of “asking for it.” I was an awkward, bookish, waif of a thing that liked vintage clothes and art growing up. I generally kept to myself (and a small ragtag circle of friends.) I had a classmate in junior high school put his hands down my pants multiple times and threatened me with violence if I told anyone. So I didn’t.

Multiple guys wrote to me after I was divorced telling me I was “damaged goods” and not worthy of something beyond a one night stand and that I was lucky they could be available for that (so flattering, I know.) Three guys told me I was a “just a conquest” because I was "unattainable" after targeting me in such calculated ways that I never in a million years could have thought they were capable of (an irony not lost on me.) A trusted ex-boyfriend’s brother blackmailed me and took advantage of me as a result.

A random guy at a bar tried to force himself on me after a brief casual conversation when I went to leave and called me a “conceited cocksucking whore” and a host of other expletives because I politely declined his advances. And there were of course some failed relationships that were filled with abusive, controlling, and gaslighting behaviors that made me almost lose myself entirely and caused major shifts for me in my social circles if I did step forward and bring anything out in the open. They are tough subjects— the kind we talk about amongst our friends in hushed voices because even if we had proof of things we’re too conditioned to fear that no would believe us. Or we’re “too nice” to want to air our grievances. These are just some examples and skim the surface for many women. I could keep going and list several more unfortunate things, but my message for myself and for others is simple:

This behavior is NOT okay no matter how anyone seeks to justify it and their actions do NOT define you or your life.

I repeat: DO NOT LET THEIR ACTIONS DEFINE YOU.

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And it is okay to speak up, even if it hurts and even if you have to relive that pain or fear over and over again until you don’t feel anymore. Even if it means losing your support system or blacklisting yourself in the process. Because the end result is that you will transcend beyond it when you realize that it isn’t your fault and that there was no way to prevent it. At some point you WILL move on and they will lose that power over you. Anyone who didn’t believe you or spoke against you will likely someday see your truth and have to come to terms with that whether they reach out to you or not. And definitely speak up for others who are too afraid to speak. If you see bad things going down and do nothing to help, you are just as much a part of the problem.

It didn’t take much reflection for me to figure out that when something like 600 of my friends are posting stories and meeting in solidarity, the problem is not a result of how we are dressed, how we act, or how we react necessarily. We can never really foresee how who we are will trigger these responses in people like this. The problem is that our society condemns “unpleasant” things and tends to push them under the rug. It is far easier to pretend these harsh realities don’t exist than to confront them and move beyond them. Everyone knows it, no one wants to believe it, and it is easier to live in a world where we are emotionally detached from such outcomes. It is easy to believe that he or she is just “wanting attention” or “lying for sympathy” than to believe the ugly truth of humanity and ugly motivations of others. The ugly truth is that humans, in general, are severely dysfunctional on many levels. The reality is that some people have a complete lack of conscience, compassion, or integrity in this world. Something I didn't really believe until I was shown it in some less-than-stellar ways. 

 

This is not to say that people don’t lie about these things but I would be willing to venture that the majority are telling the truth or some version of the truth. It is far easier for many people to believe the abusers or to look away— until they are victimized themselves; until the unthinkable happens to them. And I am lopping them all into the same category because regardless of how minor the action, it is still a form of abuse or misconduct. And still not okay no matter how you spin it. I always come back to that Louis C.K. quote: "When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don't get to decide that you didn't."Just because someone thinks catcalling or groping is harmless doesn't mean it doesn't harm someone, for example. 

There are no easy answers or solutions. This is not just a current problem but an ongoing social epidemic that has been going on for generations. We hear more about it simply because there are more people and there is more easily-digestible information out there. And more people seeking to connect and to be more bold than they were before about things once considered more taboo, really. Things happen and you react to them, or don’t react at all, or sit somewhere in the middle like Switzerland because you assume you caused it somehow by how you acted or looked and take accountability for it out of shame. Eventually society conditions you that while this isn’t “okay” it is how the world just is and you have to deal with it on your own. After the anxiety and fear subside, you end up just internalizing it as something you have to accept because it happened. No matter how much you vow to make sure it doesn’t happen again, you know it can happen and can be much, much worse. After you have seen the evils of the world it is next to impossible to pretend it doesn’t exist. 

I wish we could post all of those derogatory texts or e-mails publicly so our friends and relatives could see what these evils look like and react accordingly. I wish we could record those conversations or assaults/attempts and put them on blast for the world to see. I wish that we could live in a society where people are held accountable for their actions. If the penalty was high enough, and if society ostracized those who tended to engage in such behaviors, I would guess that it would end much of this. Most of the people that engage in these behaviors would not want to be exposed and they should be. Our legal system should not protect them or give them a free pass. People that have been victimized should not feel like they themselves will be ostracized, invalidated, or worse if they come forward. But at the end of the day, often it just isn’t worth it. Fighting often resolves nothing. It is far easier to rebuild, walk away, and let God sort those people out. Some things are worth letting go, too.

It wasn’t until I had my daughter that everything came to a head for me and I had to realize that NONE of it was okay or acceptable or even something I could walk away from. Because at the end of the day, I was not a victim. A victim of circumstances, perhaps, but I decided then and there that I would not allow shitty individuals to rob me of who I was or what I had to offer the world. And I wanted to set a good example for my kid and be strong rather than defeated by the blows that these failures of society had dealt me. I have to face these things head on because I feel my daughter deserves to live in a world where she will not have to go through the things that I did or the majority of us have. It’s wishful thinking, I know, but I have hope that if I can prepare her enough and educate her she might stand a chance to at least avoid some of it. I will probably never “speak out” about things that have happened to me (and certainly there are things I will just never be able to tell her even if I was allowed to,) but I will raise her to be more inquisitive, to trust her gut, and to have the capacity to say no— things I wish I would have known more about growing up. If I can show her how to be strong, kind, and how to overcome any setbacks she encounters, I know she will be able to go through life with the discernment to decide what is wrong and right.

There are many wars in our world currently and this is one we will probably not end anytime soon if ever. Generations of people who do not respect others are already in the process of replacing the old generations of crappy people that did crappy things, too. Some people fail to evolve no matter how much we want them to or even how much they want to. But we can teach our children to do better than we have. We can teach them to fight back and to be vigilant. We can teach them to know right from wrong and treat others with respect. We can teach them to be kind. Many people will not do this, but many will. And we need to speak up now more than ever. We need to tell those stories and show that we are human. We need to show the people that do these things that we will fight back and some day we will prevail— that their days of terrorizing others with their inappropriate or violent behaviors are numbered. 

Because we already win. They may not realize this because they feel they have brought us to our knees, given them the twisted attention/reaction/pleasure they were craving, or destroyed our innocence. 

WE WIN.

We win when we say NO.

We win when we try to fight back.

We win when we are brave and true to ourselves. 

We win when we say that despite the awful things they have done, we will keep going and we will be stronger and wiser than before.

We win because we still have hearts and goodness in us— no matter how they try to seek that for themselves, they cannot take that from us.

We win when we forgive (but never forget).

We win even when we are silent because sometimes not reacting is the best way to not give them what they are seeking. 

We win by lifting others up when they cannot lift themselves up. 

We win because something that could, and should, rip us to shreds DIDN’T. 

We win because they will likely always be stuck in the crappy person that they are—insecure, dishonest, unimportant, and perpetually dissatisfied (and those are some of the finer points, really.) They will continue to hurt others, take advantage of them, disrespect, lie, manipulate, etc and likely push away anyone who would have genuinely cared about them as a result. And you will feel sorry for them, but you shouldn’t, because we all make choices and we all have to potential to be better, smarter, kinder versions of ourselves if we actively work towards those things. 

We will always win because we grow, and be, and do. Even when we don't think we are winning, eventually we will see how far we have come against all odds. 

We win because they cannot take our fire from us forever.

We win because we learn from this and we teach our children to be everything they are not.

We win because we keep going, whether for ourselves or those who came before us. 

We win because they cannot take our light and they cannot take our spirit, no matter how hard they try or how dark things may seem to us at the time. 

 

We win every time.

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counterculture: Why I Make No Apologies

countercultureTaylor P.Comment

There was a point in my life when I was known as an “A-P-O-L-O-G-I-S-T.”

I literally was called this by more than one person and at the time it didn’t really bother me. I laughed about it, self-effacing, depreciating my self without a hint of awareness about what being such entailed. My awkward self would process things accordingly:

Them: “Ouch! I stubbed my toe!” 
Me: “I’m sorry!”

Them: “My dog died today.”
Me: “I’m so sorry!”

Them: “I hate my coworker so much!”
Me: “I’m sorry!”

What I probably should have followed up with would be an account of how I am a sensitive person, an empath, who feels things intuitively and picks up on their sorrow or pain. I just wasn’t sure how to say that in a way that didn’t sound ridiculous. By saying “I’m sorry” it meant so much more. It meant “I support you. I am here for you. I can imagine how that feels and it sucks. I am trying to walk in your shoes to understand.” So being labeled an apologist, over time, gets grating. Because I wasn’t apologizing just for the sake of apologizing— I was trying to connect in a meaningful way and did a poor job of it.

The more ironic thing was that an apologist isn’t even what I was. An “apologist” is actually “a person who offers an argument in defense of something controversial” according to the dictionary. I was just under-confident and unable to communicate fully. I have a history of feeling too much, thinking too much, and generally carrying all of that weight around for no reason other than some misguided overwhelming guilt and the unconscious thought that I somehow could take in someone’s pain or sadness so that they would feel less of it. I still wish this was how it worked because I would do it in a heartbeat. 

I totally believe that we should all take ownership of our actions and especially apologize meaningfully if a situation warrants an apology. There are so many times that I look back and wish I would have apologized for something I did or said. I can think of very few times in my life that I did something intentionally to inflict hurt on someone though (I can count those on one hand)— but when I have one can rest assured I probably felt worse than they did about it and agonized over it for many years.  Sometimes so much time has passed that it would be more awkward to apologize than to simply let it go and hope that the person knew you saw the error in your ways. I have a few of those, too, and I imagine they know I had regrets.  I still think about them and wish I would have had better awareness to make things right when things happened rather than waiting too long to where it was immaterial.  

But now in my thirties I have learned THAT there are things we should NOT apologize  for.

We should never apologize or make excuses for who we are or what we do if we are living with a kind heart. If I am living in righteous and humble ways, it’s not my responsibility if someone passes unfair judgement on me or makes false assumptions— That’s on them. Someone that has known me even for six months intimately would only know a small fraction of who I am, and I imagine most people are fairly complex, so I shouldn’t have to apologize for my complexity or my intensity. I am an extremely driven and aggressive (not in the bad way— just in the take-charge and approach people gregariously sort of way) person and I have implemented rather high standards over the years but the highest standards are on my shoulders. I am long-winded-- I love to write. I love the written word. I am a person of great verbosity and being apologetic will not phase me from being genuine and true to my form. I, of course, will apologize if I have hurt someone, whether intentional or unintentional. I have been and will probably always be a person that walks to to beat of my own drummer. I had an ex send me a video on dancing in a style he felt was more refined than my own and I said, "Why on Earth would I want to dance like everyone else? How boring!" Hell or high water, I dance the way I want to and don’t care if I look dumb doing it. I’ll apologize only when it negatively affects others. 

We should never apologize for not putting up with bad behavior. Nope, nope, nope, nope.  If someone mistreats me, I have every right to explicitly tell them how I feel about it. If they feel this is in error, they have every right to explain their side. But if it affects me, I shouldn’t have to apologize for standing up for myself. I have self-awareness enough these days to know when I am at fault or if the other person is at fault (or in many cases, if we both are, in which case I will apologize for my part in things.) I spent a lot of time holding my tongue in the past and it wounded me. Now I say exactly what I think with as much kindness as I can muster and in the end I have no regrets about that. I’m just learning to be a little bit more concise and straightforward about it (usually—- I am anything but succinct typically.)

We should never apologize for having a past. Yes, I wore black in high school (FYI: not a gothic/devil-worshipper but just had an eating disorder and was ashamed of my body! THANKS, Naysaying Relatives!) I had a lot of boyfriends/partners. I was married once. I have debts. I changed majors. I owned a cafe/vintage store/venue that crashed and burned after a year. I come from a dysfunctional family. I started more projects than I can ever finish in this lifetime. I have had bad things happen to me that shouldn’t have happened to anyone ever. I did burlesque.  I used to cuss like a sailor. I used to drink and sang karaoke a bit too much.  I have written a few ranty-angsty letters before to boys (usually with good cause, but still probably not befitting of what most consider lady-like behavior)— my point is, all of those things are part of the fabric of who I am, but they do not define me. Every year I grow, I become, and I transcend. I learn and evolve. The person that inherently defines me is my rather spirited character but the person I was even a year ago is a ghost and shadow of my former self—I barely recognize her at all. Life is fluid and ever-changing and so are we. That being said, if someone has wronged people in a criminal way, or done something malicious to another, they should have the balls to apologize for their past behaviors no matter how long ago the incident. A lot of things CAN be solved by a humble apology or trying to make things right, too.

We should never apologize for walking away in the spirit of self-preservation. If I have walked out on someone (or something,) there is a huge chance that I had really, really good reasons for doing so. It’s never a decision I make lightly.  It doesn’t mean I stopped caring about the person but it does mean I am not going to play anymore. I am too old to engage in toxic relations with people and want to focus that energy on the people and things that bring joy and passion into my life. I will try for a period, and give them many chances to prove they have a good nature, but at the end of the day if there is more good than bad I will exit or keep my emotional distance permanently.

We should never apologize for bad/sad/messy/off days. Sometimes we all have bad days— sometimes we’re a little antisocial or awkward and that is okay. I was super-guilty of being self-conscious about not being a “small talk” person or apologizing for being unhappy when legitimately horrible things were going on in my life— but no more. I’m letting that freak flag fly. Welcome to my (creative) mess.  I will do my best to just tell people ahead of time I am having a “blah” day and then keep to myself. Sometimes being an introverted-extrovert (or vice versa) means we gotta recharge.

We should never apologize for being sensitive. I was often accused of being “oversensitive” in the past (I probably was at times, to be sure) and now that I’m older I have kind of balanced out and am sensitive on a palatable level. But that doesn’t mean that I should never be allowed to cry, or be upset, or have actual emotions about anything. In a society of disconnect, being sensitive is a liability. My sensitivity is what comforts my daughter when she cries and cuts people slack when they clearly are having a rough patch. I should never have been made to feel ashamed for feeling things more deeply than some people do. 

I apologize for the things that matter.

I support those who need supporting and whether it comes out as “I’m sorry” or a long diatribe about how much I love and am there for them, it’s genuine and from the heart and people that take issue with that just need to get over it. I’m NOT sorry about that one. No one should ever have to apologize for being kind.

We should only apologize for the things that are worth apologizing about. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty or sorry about things that are out of our control. Just because someone doesn’t take ownership doesn’t mean you have to. We should use that energy in more profound and constructive ways to fuel our inner fires and become what we are meant to be. So guys (and girls)— no apologies (unless you truly NEED to apologize.) You’re officially on notice! :)

 

 

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counterculture: and like the phoenix, i rise, i rise || ten meditations

countercultureTaylor P.
"lone descent" by  Dafni Kemeridou

"lone descent" by Dafni Kemeridou

THE RISING TIDE

Life can be painful and confusing but at the end of the day every experience shapes and molds us. The end goal (we hope) is that we evolve into better, kinder, wiser versions of ourselves. The older I get, the more I try to refine myself as a person and become a better version of myself. But that better version isn't without growing pains or failures. There are many times I have made lapses of judgement, poor choices, and thrown caution to the wind. I will continue making mistakes and I know that, but I will do my best not to make as many.

When I had my daughter, something within me changed. I am no longer the person I once was-- in a way I became the person I used to be, only I took a detour. In some ways it has made me more loving and patient, but in other ways it has made me more discerning about who or what I want in my life for the next cycle. I am no longer shackled to the things that held me captive before, and although there are different limitations now, I feel more responsive to the world and more confident about my place in it.

Last year I crumbled to dust and was almost swept away by the events of life, but somehow I found courage and strength to rise from the ashes. I am no longer the same but something different. But it also means no longer tolerating that which does not create happiness. When any relationship, big or small, brings you more pain than joy it is time to let go. If I have learned nothing else these last 31 years, it is that I now know when to walk away and when to stay. 

I am focusing on raising our daughter and giving her an awesome start at life as much as I am able. I have started meditating have been on a silent self-improvement campaign, living mindfully, and streamlining my life. I am surrounding myself with people that are not so focused on material things, or status, or constantly dwelling in negativity or drama. Although I have always been one to take accountability or eat crow where it is due, I am furthering those initiatives by being more self-aware and preventative. I am more determined to build and maintain those relationships where it feels mutual and being the best mom, daughter, girlfriend, friend, and acquaintance I can be. I am educating myself on so many subjects right now, kickstarting a business, writing books, volunteering, and throwing myself into my new job with all of its meaningful work. I am casting out disingenuous friendships and dishonest relations and striving toward being around people who have integrity and make me want to be and do more. Selfish and selfless but nevertheless growing. But I want to be a better version of myself for my family and for myself


Throughout this process, I often return to these TEN Meditations Fit For a Phoenix:

1.  ACCEPT (AND RESPECT) WHAT WE CANNOT CHANGE
I read this article and it really resonated with me. I think much of the time we feel like we are in control but it is such an illusory idea that we have control over anything in our lives. Even our decisions, however minor, generally have a process. It can be frustrating to recognize this powerlessness within us. However, there is great courage in allowing everyone the space and respect to be their own person. There is great sacrifice in loving yourself and accepting that your power lies not in what you can control but how you navigate the sea of change. 

2.  NEVER REMAIN NEUTRAL (BUT TAKE THE PATH OF LEAST RESISTANCE OFTEN)
The great Elie Wiesel once said: "We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere." I think it is important to have integrity and stand up for yourself (or others) when there is injustice. Remaining neutral may be peaceful but it order to help influence change in our society or improve the quality of life for others it is of paramount importance that we find our voices and be willing to intelligently and compassionately support those who need our support.  If we can take the path of least resistance, that is ideal, but in all things we should be mindful of the fact that collectively we have the opportunity to make big or small changes within our circles or communities if we are willing to try. We ourselves can be responsible for our actions or inaction— change starts with us.

3. FORGIVE WHAT WE DO NOT UNDERSTAND
We all make mistakes and misunderstandings are a direct result of not being the same person. I know I am often guilty of only seeing my perspective until I remind myself that other people process things differently and no one is wrong in that respect. Perception is reality. So I am very conscious of trying to think through the motivations of others and attempt to understand where they are coming from and why they do the things they do. I may not forget the transgressions but this has allowed me to forgive them, for the human error exists in us all. Just because I don't understand something or share the same values doesn't mean that the other person’s process is any less valuable or real. This fantastic guided meditation by Deepak Chopra is so helpful in combatting the negative and disparate feelings resulting from this confusion.  That being said, we cannot fault ourselves too harshly for not forgiving or forgetting others’ transgressions against us. You can “forgive” in your own mind to be at peace but it doesn’t mean the other person gets a free pass, either. If you have difficulty forgiving another, it is okay to talk to them about it. If they still fail to see that they might have hurt you (or refuse to hear your perspective out as your personal “truth,”) or will not take accountability for their part, you can “forgive” them in spirit and move on with life in peace.

4. TAKE COMFORT IN THE PASSING OF TIME
When my childhood pets died suddenly, I thought I would never heal. I probably cried every day for at least a year. They were with me through so much of my life and the world felt very empty and lonely without them there. The grieving process for any end can be long or short, fast or slow, and has its own way of operating. Grief doesn't have a timeline or a guidebook. Whether a physical death or a figurative one, we are reminded of our mortality, of the clock ticking, and of the feelings associated with uncertainty. We must take comfort in the fact that we are able to have time now to manifest change within ourselves and within our lives. Rather than taking a fatalistic approach to life, we should make every minute count with those we hold dear and consciously not take them for granted. We can take comfort in the fact that slow or fast, we can choose to create wonderful experiences during the passage of time that will be timeless. 

5. BE PRESENT
Along with being more self-aware, being present in our lives is of great importance. I know at times I am guilty of looking at my phone a bit too much or distracting myself from feeling or experiencing on more profound levels just to escape momentarily, but in an age where connection is fleeting we need to be more present and in touch with not only ourselves but the world around us. There are so many details we probably miss every day if we would just look up and interact with our environment and the ironies of life. 

6. REFLECT ON IMPROVEMENT
Start a bullet journal. List goals, accomplishments, and create detailed plans for improvement. Really evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. Focus on the person you want to be without the limitations of societal or personal obstacles and outline the steps to achieve your dreams, even if you don't know what you want 100%. And expect failures. Sometimes you will say something you wish you hadn’t (and later chide yourself for going backward into an old habit) or sometimes you will do things and realize in the moment that it is not serving you to do things. It’s okay. Part of the improvement process is making mistakes—it is how you move forward afterward and your actions that count.

7. BE MORE VULNERABLE
Don't let bad experiences hold you back from love or happiness. I know for me personally I accumulated bad experiences in a mental suitcase and traveled around from place to place saying,"Oh no-- I've seen this before." It wasn't until I met my current boyfriend that I realized that after years of thinking I had all these issues and hangups that made me unlovable that I actually DIDN'T have those things-- I just made poor choices in who I made myself vulnerable to and often we were incompatible in that respect. So I went into this relationship with no roadmap-- I went in sans suitcase and I found that by being MORE vulnerable, letting my guard down, and not letting my past mistakes discolor the very bright and sunny portrait that I was-- I was loved and accepted for who I am intrinsically, regardless of my faults. And now I don't feel the anxiety, fears, or insecurities that came with all of the others because I am being the best self I can be (not what someone else expected me to be) and being completely transparent. And whether it lasts forever or not, there was a great gift in being vulnerable to one another and healing those aspects of ourselves that others might have taken for granted.

8. TAKE A LEAP INTO THE UNKNOWN
Like many of you, I have fears: fears of failure, fears of financial ruin, etc. Real, legitimate, crazy making fears about not being good enough. Fears especially about parenthood and making my family proud. When we constantly compare ourselves to others and their successes, we are focusing meaningful energy on something useless and depressing. Sometimes we have to take calculated risks and take chances that we normally would talk ourselves out of. By putting the focus back on ourselves and taking INSPIRATION from the things that enrich our souls rather than being green with envy over what we feel we have yet to accomplish, we can map positive strategies to maximize our success. Be consistent. Be intentional. Rather than worry about potential failure, reorient your mindset to what success looks like and attempt to make your dreams come true. You won't know if you can succeed if you never try it. 

9.  CREATION IS CATHARTIC
There seems to be a strong correlation between wellbeing and creation for those geared toward more artistic endeavors. It is a mutually symbiotic relationship.  I feel more alive, more vibrant, and more confident when creating things than in any other aspect of my life. It is my lifeblood, how I recuperate, and is generally what keeps me in good spirits the majority of days. Having that outlet is important. Without it I used to have a tendency to retreat within myself, become depressed or anxious, and generally feel under-confident about who I was or what my capabilities were. When faced with a creative block, I have to really work hard at other areas of my life to generate the enthusiasm needed to sustain the same level of expansive optimism that I normally take for granted. The catharsis lies in the ability to channel more articulate ways of doing things, as the more you do a particular task the better you can accomplish it in the future. By creating, you maintain some semblance of control. Like other creators and artists, you can find unique ways that work for you to get the creative energy flowing. 

10. RISE ABOVE
Always try to be your best self (or strive for that— but don’t beat yourself up if you makes mistakes, too, because they are inevitable lessons. ) Always treat people as you would like to be treated (but likewise don’t let someone walk over you if they are mistreating or disrespecting you; there is a time to be silent but there is also a time to stand up for yourself. You’ll learn the difference.) Respect those in different situations from your own and if you can aid them in a better situation or mindset— do so. Don't rush to judgement— spend a lot of time sorting through the facts before making a decision about someone’s character. Remember that when you face adversity it builds your character and that you can only change/help yourself— not others. If you aren't changing then you are stagnating. Rise above your limitations. Rise from the ashes and become your higher self. 


What are some things you do regularly to improve your life?


 

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counterculture: becoming velveteen in 2017

countercultureTaylor P.Comment
"Untitled" by  Kathryn Young

"Untitled" by Kathryn Young

‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.
— Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

 

 b e c o m i n g 

In 2016 I was faced with the daunting task of reevaluating myself as a person and as a company. I was forced (sometimes kicking and screaming) to embrace my imperfections as a new mother, daughter, girlfriend, and brand identity and it caused many direct and indirect changes in how I decided to move forward with this brand and its complexities.

I came into the beginning of the 2016 a very broken person without a definitive direction. I had lost my job I loved, completely lost my motivation, a lifelong dream felt like it had died, and I was in a very painful relationship that was sucking the very heart out of me. I became much colder as a person, more distracted, and the blog suffered as a result. But in the midst of chaos there are little miracles that give us greater insight into who we are and where we need to be.

2016 was a year of profound change for me on a personal level and it helped me reconnect with my higher self, my true self, in ways that were nearly a decade in the making. I became a new mom after a very horrible pregnancy and childbirth experience but it gave me strength I never knew I had and the confidence to let go of fears about myself and my competency as a human being. I had to take time out, which I never had the time to do the past several years, and that made me reevaluate who I was as a person and where I wanted to be. I was able to do a lot of self-reflection and the mental and emotional footwork that can only come in solitude and time which made me a better person in all aspects of my life. It started out as a very destructive year and ended as a very healing one in which I came to terms with the fact that I was stronger and more capable than I ever realized. Even when tragedy might have struck, as it almost did multiple times this year in sometimes major ways, I was able to overcome fear and anxiety in ways I previously had been unable to. 

b e c o m i n g  REAL 

I transitioned into this new year learning that success isn't always a linear process. Sometimes it means taking two steps forward and two steps back (or, in my case, ten) to be able to articulate yourself correctly. Sometimes it means reevaluating the image you see for yourself and making adjustments to your perception of who you are as a person versus who you are as a quantitative brand. Talking about ourselves so often while engaging in a balancing act between being publicly present  and disengaging our egos can be a tough act to follow at times.

I think as a creative person it can be quite difficult to put yourself out there as a brand in a way that doesn't become disingenuous and self-serving. For me, being introverted in an extroverted way often becomes uncomfortable. You are letting people into your private life or at the very least a carefully curated image of who you are and what you want to present as a divine truth of your character or vision. Because at the end of the day, on some level, it is a business or a gallery showing-- there is really no escaping the reality that it is not intrinsically genuine 100% of the time no matter how much you wish it were otherwise. That would be impossible to achieve even with the best intentions. And by speaking so much about my personal experiences, I fear that it comes across as a level of narcissism and superiority that doesn't actually exist within me. I am much happier behind the brand, behind the scenes where I am not a figurehead for a cause. 

In my daily life, I often strive for being honest to a fault and transparent so it is sometimes difficult for me to "put myself out there" when I really just want to bury my head in the sand and pretend someone else is manning the helm that is prettier, wealthier, and more creative. We often want to come across as more put together, more light and airy, more fun and vibrant-- all while engaging in the daily struggles of existence that never make it from pen to paper because of fear or hesitation to show what is more sacred and less interesting to the masses.

For myself as a company it has been a long and arduous journey fraught with may hats and may mistakes along the way. I feel as if I am always embarking on some new venture or another. This blog has been a labor of love-- of finding what works and what doesn't. Life gets in the way and despite my best intentions it usually leads to a hiatus as a result of the ill-fated writer's block that comes with piling too many things on your plate at once. I'm surprised I'm not a culinary genius at this point with having so many pans in the fire! Consistency has been a disappointing and unachievable goal placed on the back burner somewhere between careful planning and differing reality.

This distilled version of myself is something I struggle with, as I often think if we push data too far in one direction we become flat and meaningless but the other direction we can come off as narcissistic and petty. For anyone that knows me on a deeply personal level it is probably quite surprising that I would choose to brand myself so publicly as I am an intensely private person. I struggled with poor self-image most of my life and was extremely uncomfortable when put in situations where I had to share myself or sell my persona as something shiny or flawless. 

I grew up with my nose in books and my head in the stars so I am not interested in the spotlight but as a lifestyle blogger I know that branding is important. You are selling yourself as a brand and not a breathing entity at times and need to meet the expectations of your readers even if they differ from actual concrete reality. This can be often be disconcerting and exhausting, though, because there is often a pretty obvious disconnect between the integrity of who you are as an evolving person and the stability of your image as a "brand." We don't think it matters but as a rule most people don't like change and there is an unspoken level of perfection that we like to see other people strive for in order to inspire that vision of perfection for ourselves. 

I am probably the least likely person to win the perfection award but perfection can be achieved when we stop holding unrealistic expectations of what perfection is which has been a tough lesson for me in life. So if I have any actual goals this year for this blog on a personal level, they are to be more articulate  and more genuine as a person and as a brand. You will likely not see perfection this year but instead be privy to little imperfections, tiny failures, and something more representative of being more tangible.

 


For the new year, my current process is three simple words: BE MORE VULNERABLE.

What is your mantra for the new year? 

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