18 Meters Under the Water’s Surface

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Breathe in, breathe out. Breathe in, breathe out. This untaught skill that comes already programmed into our brains from birth is undeniably essential to life. The more I take myself out of my level of comfort the more ways I realize the full power of breath.

This weekend I got my PADI Scuba certification to dive up to 60 ft, which may seem a little futile given the landlocked state of Colorado that I live in. Apart from my upcoming trip to Thailand where I plan to dive, I felt a little bit in a personal rut, and needed to push my boundaries once again. This week’s boundaries? Overcome the fear of confined and atypical spaces.

When you think about it, scuba diving is unnatural. Humans should not be able to descend into the deep depths of the water for hours at a time. The basic principles of science confirm that humans are land dwelling beings. We need fresh air, not some compressed version that we inhale from a tube. But the best thing about science is that it seeks to revolutionize life and question our limitations. Through it technology now allows us to break out of the human shell and become semi un-human, if even temporarily. Scuba diving helps make humans amphibious.

I love the water. If I believed in reincarnation (not saying I’m opposed to the belief) a part of my energy and matter must have once been aquatic. And that of a salt water variety as the ocean is my happy place. I love the smell, the sounds, the movement, even all that extra sand that creeps into your ears for days even after you are over 100 miles proximity from it. But even with all that love for the water, scuba diving scared the s@#% out of me.

Maybe it’s because  the “fun” of scuba diving was never really taught, simply because of the time crunch of the program I was in. Everything was, get under water and deal with the worst case scenarios. You are out of air, grab your buddie’s extra air supply and swim up to surface! Quick you are out of air, do an emergency descent! Somebody kicked your mask off, swim around and try to find it and then clear it!

Clearing the air from my mask was the hardest part of scuba diving for me. It’s one of the most basic skills to have underwater and for some reason, doing this drill made me hyperventilate. A good portion of that had to do with the fact that I did not breathe properly: breathing in through your mouth and out through your nose.  I blame meditation for teaching my self conscience to breath in and out of my nose, especially as a stress relieving mechanism.

In this mask exercise, having my ability to see underwater taken away on top of everything else made me panic. I breathed how habit would have it and in this scenario where where my mask is slightly ajar, water rushed up my nose. As a result I started choking, forgot how to breath, and had a panic attack that made me shoot for the surface.

That’s a terrifying and potentially very dangerous scenario if on an actual dive. Thankfully it was training and a fully licensed professional was there to help. My instructor was great but he made it very clear, “You go to the surface once on your own, okay. Twice, go home, I can’t pass you.” Safe to say I came very close to not passing. Several painful swallows of water later and I realized all I needed to do was just breathe. In and out, repeatedly until I was calm. Funny how I needed to breathe to get my mask cleared, but I needed to breathe first to be able to do it.

In the end I passed, but not without a life lesson to go along with it. When you get into your own head about something it’s really hard to get out of it. As meditation taught me, always come back to breath. Need to re-focus or gain your footing, find your breath. When you put yourself in uncomfortable situations, which I highly prescribe and subscribe to, it’ll be your saving grace.

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If You Love Food, If You Love Startups, If You Want to Save Mula…

There’s nothing better than finding that one app you can’t live without.

But your favorite app is different depending who you are. Runners love their exercise apps, and photographers can’t go anywhere without the photo editing apps.

There’s one type of person, though, who doesn’t have a favorite app. That person is the manager, chef, or owner of an independent restaurant. Although I don’t work in the industry, hearing the stories of what these individuals go through on a daily basis – just to order supplies – made me empathize with their plight.

Did you know that to order supplies one person at a restaurant has to run around the kitchen, scribble notes on paper, and spend hours on the phone? But they never really know how much they’re spending… until the invoice comes. Ugh! It’s an archaic process that should be banished in our technology-driven world.

That’s when I discovered a startup called Orderly. They agree with me – it’s about damn time for an upgrade in the restaurant purchasing process.

In a snapshot, Orderly is a technology app that lets independent restaurants monitor their food spend, track invoices, and order supplies – right from their tablets or phones!

Why is this a big deal? Restaurants can finally throw away the old-school clipboard to save time, save money, and get back to what they love – creating the wonderful dishes we all know and love.

Best part is, the app’s UI is so easy to navigate and use. Training? Nada. Setup? Piece of cake.
If you or someone you know is in the restaurant industry, definitely let them know about this awesome app. After all, we all have a favorite app we use on a daily basis. It’s time to spread the love!

Anxiety and depression are like an identity crisis — a cancer of the soul

“Pull yourself together,” I repeated this command to myself in the mirror as I splashed cold water on my face washing away escaped tears. It was supposed to be a happy family gathering and apparently my emotions hadn’t gotten the memo.

“Oh yeah I’m fine, it’s just allergies.”

But my lie was as translucent as the pain behind my families eyes because they knew there was nothing more they could do to help.

I’ve been battling extreme anxiety and depression from post traumatic stress disorder (PSTD) since I was 8 years old. I was diagnosed after being taken under the loving care of my aunt and uncle. I take the prescribed meds, I see a therapist and I do all those things that are supposed to naturally help: eat well, exercise, create… etc. While these do help, I still have my bad days.

Those who don’t really know me think I have everything figured out —  mapped out career, great friends, super involved on campus, four jobs and all of this done with a smile on my face. Thirteen years has made me an expert at faking normalcy.

But it’s the people that do know me that can see what happens behind the cheeky grin. They know the “me” that I don’t want them to know because the “me” right now is not the me I always was.

Anxiety and depression are like an identity crisis —  a cancer of the soul. They take over your mind and then spread throughout your body affecting everything you do.

The best analogy to describe it is that you’re drowning in an ocean full of people. You’re doing everything you can to swim but you keep sinking deeper and deeper, all the while blaming yourself for your inability to move. Some dart past you screaming, “Swim faster!” because to them it’s second nature. Others try to help by giving you instruction, but lose patience as you sink even deeper. You decide to just accept your fate alone and question if it’s even worth trying to learn how to swim.

Fortunately for me, some patient swimmer (a counselor at the Saltzman Center on campus) grabbed my hand and led me to the surface where I caught my breath. I’m working on swimming now, but it’s good to know I can get to the surface for help if necessary.

For many, the story doesn’t always end that happily. Like any illness that is left untreated, fatalities may occur and often do. We see it almost everyday from our neighbors to beloved celebrities who just couldn’t swim in the ocean of life and gave up trying.

No matter what you may hope to believe, society is not very accepting of mental disorders and how much they control one’s life. People cringe at the word “mental” and automatically jump to the conclusion that people who have these issues are somehow less of a person.

I would argue the opposite. In my own life, the people I’ve come across with anxiety and depression are some of the wisest and most loving spirits. These people know what it’s like to experience pain and sadness — often times an undertone to their existence — and therefore are privy to the pain of others.

In some cases, there are people who come off hard hearted and appear distant to others. They are simply putting up a shield because they’ve been injured one too many times in one too many battles.

Why am I exposing myself to an entire student body or anyone who comes across my attempt to explain such a suffocating illness? Much of what gives me the hope to go through each day is the ever-loving support system I undeservedly have. And I want everyone to have that resource as well.

To those who are struggling: you are not fighting in vain. When loneliness and sadness overcome you, sometimes a simple acknowledgement that someone out there understands can make life a bit more bearable.

To those without these disorders: this isn’t to say you don’t suffer or have never felt similarly. Each person has their own demons. The purpose of this article is not to belittle or compare what anyone is going through to another. Rather, I want to explain these often suppressed and overlooked feelings and in doing so promote understanding.

Whether you chose to admit it in writing like some, ahem, or silently in your head: we all need encouragement, positivity and, most importantly, love. But how can we expect to receive that if we are not givers first?

Maybe Bill Withers was onto something; maybe we all just need somebody to help us carry on. This campus is looking a little wobbly to me. Let’s build up that support system so that we may in fact have someone to lean on.

The views and opinions expressed in the Op-Ed section are those of the authors of the articles. They are not an endorsement of the views of The Chronicle or its staff. The Chronicle does not discriminate based on the opinions of the authors.

Exclusive Interview with The Killer Plant Recording’s Creator

Check out my interview with owner and creator of The Killer Plant Recording Studio, Joshua Sausville located in Midtown, NYC.
Get more info on the Mario-Spin Off Indie Studio here: http://www.thekillerplantrecordingstudio.com/About-Us.html

Facebook’s New Initiative Looks to New Technologies to Provide Internet Connectivity

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While it may seem that everybody and their grandmother has Facebook today, it may surprise you to know that two thirds of the world’s population does not. Not from distaste for the website but due to the lack of Internet access for more than half the globe.

Creator of this social media network, Mark Zuckerberg, announced this week that he has put together a new team called the Connectivity Lab to research and test new technologies to get everyone connected to the world wide web. The Connectivity Lab will look towards using drones, satellites, and lasers to reach isolated areas.

This new team is in connection with the Connection movement put together by Facebook and other technology companies who launched Internet.org last year. This global partnership has made it their goal to make internet accessible to everyone. They see the lack of connectivity as one of the greatest challenges for our underprivileged generation because they do not have access to the tools and opportunities being connected to the internet allows.

Since the coalition, more than three million more people have been given access to the internet according to Zuckerberg. To reach more people Zuckerberg has brought on aerospace experts from Nasa and those who worked with building the Zephyr solar-powered drone.

The Connectivity Lab will look to use drones to bring internet to more suburban areas as they can remain in the air for months at a given time. For more rural areas where a drone can not reach out to large masses of people they are testing satellites to beam connections on the ground. Long distance connections are currently being tested using invisible infrared laser beams.

Whether or not the government and people of certain countries will accept the use of internet in the future remains unknown and of little concern to those at the Connectivity Lab. For now, their main goal is overcoming the technical challenges that make delivering internet to all areas of the globe difficult.

Image courtesy of marcopako.

Modern day friendships: Little to no effort required

If I read one more article describing the detrimental effects of social media on modern day friendships, I may just tweet about it.

There are a plethora of arguments that claim that our media-based world is redefining the concept of friendship, but in actuality, humans are becoming too self-absorbed to be able to sustain true friendships. We blame the advancement of technology instead of looking toward the heart of the issue: the users of technology.

There is no doubt that the social media landscape has changed the way we communicate. As of March 2013, Facebook reported having 1.11 billion users, Twitter, 200 million users and Instagram, 100 million users. Don’t blame the trend; blame the trendsetters.

Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are not to blame for the decreasing value of friendship. These social media websites are not forcing people to depersonalize their relationships. But human beings will always look for a scapegoat.

In the past, friendships were taken as seriously as romantic relationships. Aristotle explained it best when he wrote, “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies.”
Today, people have exchanged this concept for self-promotion and the appearance of having friends. We no longer perform the simplest expressions of friendship by giving another person our time, trust and thought. Instead, we prefer likes, favorites and retweets.

We mistakenly believe that our mere physical presence serves as a sufficient dedication of our time to another individual. A friend deserves uninterrupted time and attention, not the leftover scraps of energy that remain at the end of the day.

To give a part of oneself to another individual through verbal expression – to open up one’s soul, to trust another person – is now terrifyingly difficult. The number of people who can actually be trusted is diminishing because of the number of people we blindly welcome into our lives via staged profiles. Our egos seem to deduce that if we don’t get X number of likes, we aren’t attractive, intelligent or fill in the blank.

When a friendship requires more effort than we desire to put forth, it is thrown aside because we subconsciously know that there are 1.11 billion other people out there who are in search of another effortless Facebook friendship.

It is easier to be distant friends with 100 people than it is to be meaningful friends with one. With a multitude of friends, relationships become about what you can receive instead of what you can give.

If our friendship is devoid of sacrifice, then consider us strangers. If the question, “What can I do for this individual?” isn’t popping up inside our heads, then we are unaware of how friendship works.

I grew up under the label “popular,” but it was really a less sophisticated epithet for “people pleaser.” It appeared as if I had a lot of friends, but in reality, all I had was lists of acquaintances. People thought that they knew me because of a shared class, sport or town – common interests that initiate a friendship but should never determine one.
I felt it necessary to divide my time amongst these “friends” because I was afraid of being alone – as if not having a person by my side at all times meant that I was incapable of being loved, or that having a Friday night to myself meant that I was a loser.

Today, my solitary moments are my highest-valued moments. I can count my close friends on my hands, and I’m not afraid to admit that staying in on a Friday night would be the highlight of my hectic week.

I can be that way while actively posting from my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. If I am having a problem with a friendship, I don’t attribute it to an online medium, but rather, I accept that the problem is rooted in personal differences.

It is time to stop observing the communication problem and start administering a solution. Social media is here to stay, and maybe the solution is as simple as relearning how to be a friend. How ironic is it that the more complex the world becomes, the simpler the concepts we forget?