Namaste, with Architecture

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The studio, looking out at Boston’s Copley Square. (Credit: Vega Vitality Boston)

After months of settling in to my new life in Massachusetts, I found a wonderful yoga studio on Boylston Street overlooking Copley Square. The studio is on the top floor, level with the rooftop of the Trinity Episcopal Church, with large, clear windows offering a view of the church and the reflective 200 Clarendon Tower (also, more commonly, known as the John Hancock Tower). This juxtaposition of a sleek, modern skyscraper against the Richardsonian Romanesque peaks of the church, is a soothing image to look out to while you hold your tree pose for 30 seconds.

I’m a firm believer in the practice of calming your mind by looking out at something beautiful. It’s been discussed that staring out at the horizon can actually lower stress and anxiety, and by being outside and being active, we can live a happier and healthier life. Like many young professionals, my weekday schedule can be hectic—between meetings, sitting at my desk, writing for hours on end, and commuting home (I alternate between the train and driving the 2+ hours one way each day into Boston), having the time to be outside to clear my head becomes an occasional activity.

In a perfect world, I would have time to hike every day, but that isn’t so much of a realistic goal. When I lived in New York, I would trade in my subway commute with a walk, using the city streets as my own hiking trail. I would pass some of my favorite landmarks, enjoying the architecture and design of the city, all while getting the exercise I needed.

I should add an aside here—exercise, for me at least, is first a method of easing my anxiety. Dealing with the basic stresses of each day, my mind has a tendency to wander, and most of the time towards the negative. By creating time for myself to move, get my heart pumping, and stepping away from my phone, I’ve found a guaranteed method to lower my stress and turn my focus towards the positive—holding poses, pushing myself to do that one extra mile, pausing at the end of a hike to enjoy the view—it all helps calm me. The physical benefits of exercise are just a bonus.

So when I relocated to Boston earlier this year, my new challenge was to find a way to balance my work life, my commute, my social life, and still find time to move. My walks seemed more distant as I started following a set train schedule, and the longer I lingered in the city, the longer it would take for me to get home. I was spending too much time cramped up on a train, and I could feel myself slipping.

That is what led me to this yoga studio—I realized that while walking in Boston may not provide me the same relaxation as walking in New York did (I know, weirdest sentence ever, but walking in cities really does calm me), there were other ways to achieve it. I realized that the best thing for me was to follow a strict schedule, something that could help me set aside a specific amount of time each day to exercise.

ClassPass was my answer—through this service, paying the equivalent of a monthly gym membership, I am able to attend classes of all types and at a variety of studios before getting on my train to go home. I register ahead of time, and can do anything from yoga, to boxing, to cycling, and come out on the other side feeling stronger and at peace with my day. Instead of sitting on the train stressing over minor anxieties and letting them grow, now I would focus on the high I felt from my class, and what other activities I need to get done before the end of the week.

This week was when I finally made the connection I needed. In New York, I had the element of a view, something to look at while I cleared my mind. Walking the streets of the city always gave me that, but many of the studios I visit now are windowless, so I can only focus on the activity at hand. That’s why this moment at my yoga studio was so poignant, because as I looked out, I saw the beautiful image of modern mixed with stone, of the old against the new, of architecture, and it felt like home.

I’ve realized in my travels, that these are the moments that make your journey feel real, that when you feel that emotion of comfort mixed with awe, it can really enhance the experience. I keep a notebook on me at all times and record these moments—climbing to the top of a mountain in New Hampshire, sitting on the steps along the Trevi Fountain—making notes to remember those little moments of peace in the chaos of the city.

Clarity is a series of personal essays or vignettes about my travels and the lessons I learn while there. You can read more pieces of Clarity here.

One Last Time: My Own Take on ‘Goodbye to All That’

I should preface this with some context: I never expected to end up in New York, and yet, it makes complete sense. Since I put my notice in to move back up to MA and start a new job, I’ve taken some time to reflect on how I got here, and my time in the city. My inspiration was from the book Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, a series of personal essays that tell the stories of writers’ experiences living in New York. All of their stories start the same, arriving here in the city and eventually having to leave for one reason or other. Some come back, others make a new life in their next home. With these essays as my guide, I wanted to put my own story on paper. I wanted to create my own farewell to the city I’ve called home for four years.

‘One Last Time’

I came to New York because I wanted a change. Speaking for my millennial generation, I think there’s this overlying feeling of anxiety when it comes to growing up and figuring out our lives. For some, solving this requires a backpacking trip around the world. For others, maybe it’s running a marathon. It’s whatever action is necessary to help you feel accomplished, to achieve the life you dreamed about as a kid.

For me, this call to find myself came in the form of New York City. I was 24 and restless, an aspiring writer with little guidance as to how to achieve success beyond the clips from my local newspaper job in my home state. I craved something new, something strange, something adventurous.

I arrived in New York City on July 13, 2012, with two orange backpacks—one worn on my back carrying enough clothing for two weeks, and a second on my front with a few necessities and enough books to last me a month. I was excited, wide-eyed and full of hope, completely blind to the idea that I could call any other place home. New York City was this epic finale for me—a sign of a fulfilled life where I could put my skills to use and create the life I’d always wanted. And I did that, at least for some time.

2013 was the first time the city threw a challenge at me: I was fighting a horrible situation at home—bed bugs had found their way into my apartment, and as a result my roommates and I were dealing with stress, lack of sleep, and ultimately a complete hatred towards each other and our personal coping mechanisms. I was constantly at war—with my roommates, with myself, with the unfortunate circumstances, and I had reached my limit. I questioned my decision to move there—could I really handle the big city? Has the honeymoon period finally worn off, leaving me to discover the harsh reality of this place and how unfit I was for it? Had I failed at making a New York life for myself?

I remember walking as these thoughts spun through my mind. Tears in my eyes, shaking with anxiety, I left work that day in a state of distress. I had nowhere to go. I couldn’t go home, I couldn’t go to a friend’s place, so instead I just walked. I started at 28th Street by my office, continued up 5th Ave. past Bryant Park, past the NY Public Library, past Rockefeller Center and the Plaza Hotel. I was Forrest Gump, passing each subway stop with the motivation to keep walking as a way to avoid my life.

It was July, so sunlight was on my side. I figured that based on the first half of my walk, I could make it through the park and back to my home on West 106th Street before dark, and at the worst case, I could always continue walking on the street. With each step, I felt calmer. Suddenly the idea of being in my home wasn’t as scary. I knew I could eventually get rid of the bugs, and I had already decided to move out of my apartment when the lease ended, so there was hope at the end of the storm—something I had not seen before. Allowing myself time to breathe deeply, I stepped onto the grass at Sheepshead Meadow in Central Park, and the skies opened up. I was venerable—a single person in an open field, lacking any access to shelter, but I didn’t mind. I had watched the dark clouds as they got closer and closer to Manhattan, and I knew it would be a matter of time before the rain would pour down on me.

That is where the calm finally set in. In all the chaos of watching the afternoon park-goers run for cover, I stood there with my eyes to the sky, letting the rain fall lightly onto my face. It was reminder that everything would be ok, that even in my moments of doubt, this city would take care of me. I knew then that it was not my time to leave—not yet.

New York City is a constant push and pull. You feel the lure to its excitement, to the vast variety of options for every type of person. When you’re growing up, the world is this expanse of possibility—we are told that we can do anything if we just work towards it, and New York City has become a physical manifestation of this concept—here we can be anything we want to be. But what happens when you get there, when you reach a point where New York has given you everything it possibly can?

For me, it was always about the destination. I was on a journey to find a home that would fulfill me, that would give me that perfect ending to my story. But I forgot that at 28, I’m still writing my story. This neatly wrapped conclusion that I’ve been seeking is still decades away, and that if in my heart I feel it is time to move on, then I have to listen to that. I still have so many chapters to fill, so many new people to meet, so much left to do.

Before I moved here, I’d trek into the city to visit friends a few times a year. I’d take the Metro-North train from Stamford into Grand Central, and watch the landscape change from the sleepy outer suburbs to the dense metropolis that I’ve now come to love. I always loved the part of the trip when the train would cross the narrow river channel from the Bronx into Harlem. I would look out at the high-rise apartments surrounding the tracks, and imagine myself sitting on my bed and looking out one of those thousands of windows. I would see myself as one small piece of this living, breathing, ever-changing city, and I so desperately wanted to make that dream a reality.

You see, my romanticized version of New York was one of simplicity and poetry, an open chasm of opportunity for me to build on. I never pictured myself surrounded by money or fame. No, my New York had art, and tiny bookstores, afternoons chatting with a barista in a coffee shop as the rain fell outside. I had that at one point, but like any place, eventually the glamour fades, and I found myself yearning for something more.

New York City opened my world to more potential than I ever expected. In the four short years here, I managed to knock some big items off of my life’s bucket list. I was a volunteer at the Metropolitan Museum of Art; I became a published travel writer; I had access to some unforgettable concerts, plays, and musicals—all just a short subway ride away. I fell in love with this city—with its towering skyscrapers, its lush parks, its strong bridges. I made a life here for myself, piecing together the aspects I loved to create a picturesque home for myself. And it worked for some time.

The truth, though, is that like any city, New York has a dark side. I could go days describing the true beauty of this place, but from the very start I always had a ping of loneliness in my heart. Finding your place in a big city can be difficult, especially when you are still trying to find yourself. I tried to get into different circles, different industries that I thought could make me happy, but at the end of each day, I still felt like something was missing. There was something about this city that was pushing back, and I was trying so hard to fight that.

That’s what brought me here, to four years after I packed those two orange backpacks and got on a train. Despite all of the joys and wonder this city has given me, part of me has always known that this city would not be where I end up. At least not right now. I tried for four years to fight that push, but now that I’ve given into it, I’m amazed at how easy the ride is. I’m ready for my next step. I’m ready to see what else this world has in store for me. You see, New York isn’t always the last stop—sometimes it’s just one chapter in our story. You realize that for some, New York is the only place worth living, but for others, when you step outside of the grid, you remember that it is just one place on this beautiful planet.

That’s not to say that I am happy to leave behind the life I built in New York City. The city is a hub for transplants, a network of people from every corner of the world, and together we form a sort of family—a support system to help each other push through the daily challenges we face. I was fortunate enough to find a network strong enough to keep me going—we laughed together, cried together, we made the city special and uniquely ours. That is what I will miss most—the people I’ve bonded with. But in my heart I know that like New York, they have forever left a mark in my heart. We survived this city together—and bonds like that cannot be broken.

In my career, I can always tell when it’s time to move on—when I’ve gotten everything I can out of the position, I know that the only way I can grow and learn is by looking for a new challenge. I think the same goes for life—New York has given me more than I could ever ask for. It’s taught me strength, and shown me how to be my true, unique self, and for that I will always be grateful. But for now, New York has given me everything I could possibly need, and it’s time to see what else I can learn. It’s time for me to pack up those orange backpacks again and ride the train to somewhere new. I’ll have a new window to look out of, a new park to explore. I’m ready, so the only thing left to do is pray for rain.

Sculpture Censors

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Classical nudes were covered by large wooden boxes in preparation for Iran’s President’s visit to Rome.

I always find it fascinating when the media panics over the border between art and erotica. It’s not a new concept—some critics reject artworks out of fear that it may offend members of the public, whether based on religion, culture, personal comfort or other. Art history has seen its ups and downs—the classic nude was the staple of the cultural expression of ancient Greece and Rome, but was lost for centuries as new values (ahem, Christianity) came into play. Even after the revival of the classic nude, there were moments when the naked body was still seen as shameful or offensive (the fig leaf, a common symbol of censorship, has become an ongoing debate—some historians still see the added leaves to cover the genitals of classical art, specifically in the Vatican, as vandalism to the original piece, while others now argue that those added leaves are a part of history). Whatever the case, censorship in art has always been a touchy debate.

In the most recent news of art cover ups, an unnamed official at Rome’s Capitoline Museum actually ordered to hide some of the more ‘obscene’ nude statues in the museum with large white boxes—completely blocking any view of the statue. What was the reason: the recent visit to Rome by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani had this official nervous about offending him. And what is more baffling, is that this order wasn’t given by Italy’s Culture Minister Dario Franceschini or Italy’s Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi.

It’s a strange concept for me to understand—yes, I can admit that there are certain works of art that could be offensive (one that comes to mind is Egon Schiele, whose sexual figures border that line between sexual art vs. erotica)—but for the classical nude sculpture that typically graces Italy’s museums, I see no need to cover that up. Perhaps this official was taking the ‘better safe than sorry approach,’ but for a country that is so proud of their contributions to the art world, you would expect them to want to show off their collections, not hide them.

In Reuters’ report on this news, they cited Rome’s newspaper La Repubblica, calling out the decision, saying: “Covering those nudes … meant covering ourselves. Was it worth it, in order not to offend the Iranian president, to offend ourselves?” It’s a valid point, for sure, but in a world of continuous PC culture and fragile political ties, maybe hiding a few sculptures was worth avoiding the potential political backlash. Just a thought.

Read more about the visit here.

It’s Quiet Uptown

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A rainy Sunday outing to the Hamilton Grange National Memorial left me a little too excited.

In the second act of Lin Manuel Miranda’s Revolutionary (ha ha ha) musical, ‘Hamilton,’ the title character and his wife, grieving from the loss of their son, move to uptown Manhattan to learn to deal with their pain. The song itself, “It’s Quiet Uptown,” gives us a snapshot of this grief, set to the backdrop of Manhattan in the early 1800s, when everything north of Canal Street was still farmland.

It’s strange to picture Manhattan being anything but skyscrapers and brownstones, yet beneath the concrete of the city’s present lies hints to its past—one most relevant in the Hamilton Grange National Memorial, the preserved home of our favorite founding father, Alexander Hamilton.

This house, located now on the northern edge of St. Nicolas Park at 141st Street in Hamilton Heights, is the only home Hamilton owned during his lifetime. It was designed by architect John McComb Jr. and completed in 1802, just two years before Hamilton died in a duel against then Vice President, Aaron Burr.

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A statue of Alexander Hamilton stands at the site of the second location for his home.

Over the last 200 plus years, the historic memorial has moved twice, once in 1889 when it was acquired by nearby St. Luke’s Episcopal Church, who moved the house next to the church on Convent Ave. The house was moved a second time in 2008 to its current location, where historic preservationists and the U.S. National Parks Service restored the home based on original design blueprints. It now stands as a museum commemorating the life and legacy of Hamilton.

I’ve already written about my love (obsession?) for Manuel’s musical depiction of Hamilton’s story, so I won’t repeat myself. But what really brought me up to the Grange this past weekend was a craving for a little exploration. My timing was a little too perfect—Hamilton’s birthday is today (January 11), and because of the rain yesterday, the usual crowds that have flocked to the memorial since the show’s success all decided to stay indoors for the day, leaving me with a chance to have a private, intimate experience with the former home of my historic crush.

In terms of historic preservation and replication, the Hamilton Grange National Memorial transports you right back to the 1800s, when farmland would surround the home, and the commute to downtown took an hour and half by horse and carriage (today, you can get to the Financial District in roughly the same time, just by subway instead of carriage). Original pieces once owned by Hamilton mingle with replicas—Philip Hamilton’s original piano, where he and his younger sister, Angelica, would play duets together still rests in the sitting room, while Alexander’s office captures that energy you would expect from a man who played such a vital role in the creation of our country.

Still, the most interesting part of the tour is the story of moving this building. As it was handed over to the care of the National Parks Service, they carefully planned to raise the entire house in one piece over the church, and then onto the hill. That alone, is terrifying to execute—one slip and you could lose this historic landmark. And yet, with careful maneuvering, and very strong equipment, the move was successful and we now have the ability to experience a piece of history (and maybe drop a few song lyrics during the guided tour).

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Alexander Hamilton was born on January 11, 1789. To celebrate, the National Parks Service set out a card to sign at the Hamilton Grange National Memorial.

For my fellow urban hikers, this is a great way to spend a day—Hamilton Heights in itself is a gorgeous area, with plenty of sights to see. I’d suggest starting at the Grange and poking around there first, then moving on to some simple wandering around the neighborhood until you stumble upon a cute café for lunch.

And for my fellow Hamilton Heads—indulge yourself in an hour of historic obsessing over the fact that you are standing on the same foundation where that young, scrappy, and hungry man once lived.

Bridges

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Astoria, NY’s HellGate Bridge

I’m still waking up from the long holiday break, so coming up with a topic worth writing about took a little more effort. The world has remained quiet for the last few days—we all had to nurse our post-NYE celebration hangovers, and then slowly revive ourselves back to life in time to kick start our resolutions (I, personally, will continue my annual tradition of being a cliché and visit the gym for a month before dropping back into a life of lounging and take out).

 

Work has also been slow today, which has given me a chance to really dive into one of my passions—reading obscure articles on Twitter. So far, the winner of stupid Internet trends is a video of a NYC subway rat dragging a dead rat through the subways (you’re welcome), but it was actually this short article on Curbed.com about China’s obsession with building scary bridges that really caught my attention.

Apparently, China’s longest all glass bridge wasn’t enough of a thrill, so designers decided to create a tire and rope bridge suspended between 12 to 30 feet (depending on the section) above tea fields in China’s Xuan’en County. Essentially, this is a high school gym class challenge course on steroids, and from the pictures, it doesn’t look like you get a harness, so hold on tight.

The vertigo-prone side of me finds this bridge terrifying—I can barely look over a railing without getting dizzy. But for the adventurer in me, this looks like a perfect way to get my adrenaline pumping. You see, I love that thrill of taking a chance, of putting myself in a situation that may scare me.

I love bridges. In college, we had the Mount Hope Bridge looming over our campus, and during my four years that became my own symbol of hope. I find so much comfort with bridges—standing at the water’s edge in Astoria Park near my home, I can stare out at New York City and its network of bridges. I’ve made an effort to cross most of them by foot (at least the ones I can cross), and it’s rare for my Instagram to go a month without a carefully-filtered photo of these metal monsters. Because for me, bridges are a sign of better things to come.

I mentioned in my last post about how 2016 has become a year of change for me. Change is scary—you’re crossing into unknown territory and hoping that the outcome will work out for the best. But that initial journey is scary, much like crossing that Chinese rope bridge. For me, I don’t know what to expect, but I have to trust that I will be able to help myself through the struggle—I don’t have a harness, and there are holes in the bridge that will make my journey dangerous. But on the other side, there is safe ground, there is comfort, and when I look back, I will be glad I took the journey. It will be a story I can tell for ages.

I hope that 2016 brings the same joys, moments of growth and struggle, and ultimately, happiness to you all. Let us all take a moment to really think about what it is we want out of this year—New Years Resolutions may appear cliché, but they are also our chance to restart.

Saying ‘Yes Please’ to 2016

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The other day, a friend and I discussed the habits we all have when we go through our ‘dark days’—those little life moments when your world seem to collapse around you, forcing you to find some sort of comfort in the chaos. These habits are sparked from loss most times—the loss of a friend, of a relationship, of a loved one—whatever the case may be, it forces you to learn to live without that comfort. It forces you to cope with change.

The approaching new year always puts me into a mood—I think about my past year, the ups and downs I faced, and what changes I hope to see in future. I could really have these reflections at any time, but the marathon of the holidays always leaves me exhausted, and ready to create some sort of structure in my life after so much chaos.

On top of my usual reflections, 2015 for me wrapped up with some dramatic changes, both very good and very bad. Over the last few weeks, I’ve managed to take the time to process most of my thoughts, and the best way to describe my situation is this—I’m going through a period of transition. I’m not always the type of person who deals with change well, so to cope with this, I turned to a few of my routine habits that help me find a bit of comfort in my life.

I start with a playlist of music that brings me back to happier times—Matchbox Twenty (the only band my family ever agreed on during long car rides growing up), Mumford and Sons (my obsession during the first few months living in New York City), Ed Sheeran (he brought me out of ‘dark days’ 2013 when my apartment was infested with bed bugs), and Sting (just because). Using this as my backbone, I’m able to reflect on my thoughts with a clearer perspective.

Outside of the safety of my headphones though, I’ve found a solid cocktail solution of three things that always make me feel better. First, I try to set aside one day a week for me—the activity changes week to week, but it gives me a chance to slow down and get out of my head. Usually I’ll try a yoga class, or if it’s warm, I’ll walk up to the park after work and sit in the shade with a book.

Second, I turn to my favorite TV show (Parks and Recreation) and binge through the entire thing again. Mike Schur and Amy Poehler were able to create this perfect fictional world that is hilarious, welcoming, supportive, and loving, and when reality seems to be too much for me, I’m always glad I can escape to Pawnee for a few hours. And finally, I’ve found a very recent comfort—rereading Amy Poehler’s book, Yes Please.

I’m a comedy nerd for sure—biographies and interviews with my favorite comedians are pretty much my crack. But unlike books that focus on the person’s career, Poehler’s book is much more open and raw. She still talks about her rise to stardom, but in between her tales of improv and her years on SNL, Poehler gives us an inside look at her daily life. She talks about her highs and her lows, and while other books by my comedy heroes make me want to drop everything and start writing jokes, Yes Please inspires me to try to make the best of the life I have now. She talks about her divorce, and how she dealt with that, and gives you that little reminder that even the most famous celebrities are venerable.

This time, the chapter that struck me most was about Poehler’s trip to Haiti. She was still in the midst of her divorce, and in an effort to escape from everything, she decided to accompany a friend to the country for some humanitarian work. Traveling to Haiti is not the same as traveling to some Caribbean island to relax though—you don’t go there to vacation, you go there to meet the people, to try to help them, and to gain some perspective.

As you read about her trip, you only get a snapshot of her thoughts. She reminds us that even when you separate yourself from everything, your reality will still haunt you, but every day you can find moments that can center you, that can help bring you out of those dark days. It was in this description that I cam across this line, describing the children she met at the orphanage:

“Most of these children were living in the moment. Thinking about the future was a luxury.”

It makes you pause for a moment when you think about this. The future is a luxury. Highlight on luxury. On any given day, I can guarantee 90 percent of it for me includes thinking about my future. I’m obsessed with planning—I make at minimum five lists a day. I map out my exercise routines, my meal plans, how much money I expect to spend in the week, how much money I need to save over the next year, where I want to be in a year, in five years, in ten years. I actually map out what days I will do my laundry over a whole month (I have a system. It makes so much more sense in my head, I promise.). It’s no wonder I’m exhausted all the time—my mind is always worrying about tomorrow.

I would never describe this as a luxury though, but when you are reminded that there are people all over the world who don’t know if they will make it into the next year, it really hits you. We take so much for granted, we stress so much over our futures that we forget to enjoy the moment. I am constantly trying to remind myself of this, especially in times when my present isn’t exactly going the way I want it to.

That’s why we constantly need to remind ourselves of the fortunes we have in our lives. It’s so important to be present, and to be thankful for all that we have.

Why My Facebook Went French

On Friday, November 13, terrorists struck Paris in what was the deadliest attack on the country’s soil since World War II. Explosions were reported across the city, shootings in a restaurant, a hostage situation at a concert hall. The attack left more than 120 people dead, with another 400+ wounded.

Over the past week, we’ve read up on every development—who organized these attacks, the retaliation from the French government, responses from other countries, and most importantly, the stories of hope that comes from the tragedy. You see, in the wake of every terror attack, we have to rely on each other to move forward. In Paris, direct victims will feel the effects for the rest of their lives. Residents, tourists, businesses, etc. in the city will see immediate regulations put in place to prevent future attacks, and the rest of the world will be on high alert, even if for just a short time. We’re still figuring out how to deal with this—it’s an ongoing battle.

For those of us who were not in Paris, who had to watch this attack unfold from our TVs, and we want to do something to help, if for nothing more than to show the victims that they are not alone. Some may donate money, some may pray, and for the millions of users on social media, we tend to turn to the simplest task that can still make an impact—we change our profile picture.

The Paris attacks are not the first time this has happened—we tend to use this tactic every time tragedy strikes. The colors and design change each time, but the message is always the same—we are thinking of the victims, we understand what happened, and that we stand with them. It’s the same reason we wear yellow ribbons—to silently remind the world that we are thinking of the troops fighting overseas. These little posts, they are symbols that offer some comfort to those who were directly affected. They remind us that we are together in this.

Since the Paris attacks, my Facebook page has turned into a sea of red, white and blue. Among the twitter of news headlines, funny cat videos, and Star Wars trailers, we’ve created a unifying reminder that as our lives move on, we are still thinking of those affected by the terrorist attacks. Days will pass, and slowly the social media site will go back to the way it was, exactly as the real world grows and moves on from each tragedy. But for those few days, our pictures act as a symbol that shows we are there, and that we feel their sadness. It’s our gesture to comfort those facing the unimaginable, and if it makes one person feel a little better, then I will be satisfied.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the same idea. Countering the posts of hope and love, I’ve seen so many people feeling compelled to criticize the profile picture change. They take a tragedy and, in an attempt to display their wider social view (?) or maybe their negative look at the world (?), and turn the argument into the weight of these pictures. They make the tragedy about them, showing how their self-righteous decision to NOT change their picture will have a better impact on the world. They could not be more wrong.

Some make fun of the concept, saying that it’s pointless to change your picture because it will not make a difference. But let me remind you, these pictures are meant to inspire and replenish hope to those in need; it’s just one little step in a bigger structure to make the world a better place. By pouring your negativity into that, you’re not helping. You’re just trying to tear our structure down.

Others may argue that instead of changing your picture, you should donate money. I agree that donations are appreciated, but sometimes people are in situations where they can’t make a donation. Or maybe they choose not to. But these people, the ones bitching about the pictures, are just looking for the pat on the back—it’s not enough that they donate money, but they need to be acknowledged as a good person for doing that. They’re missing the point—this isn’t about you.

Now yes, it may be a bit hypocritical of me to write about this, but the more complaining I see online, the sadder I feel. There is so much negativity in our world that it gives me anxiety—I shouldn’t feel guilty for changing my picture. I shouldn’t feel angry when I read these opinions. If I am feeling this way, I’m sure your negativity is not making anyone else feel better, especially those who are trying to piece back their life in Paris.

I chose to change my profile picture to the red, white and blue French flag to show my support, to let the world know that Paris was on my mind. If it makes one person smile, then it will be worth it.