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In the pause: Stand for something—a lesson from Hamilton

“If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?” – lyric from the song “Aaron Burr, Sir” from Hamilton the Musical

In our country, we are seeing leading and misleading. Comments on social media, with no substantiation or proof, are believed simply because of who’s saying them. Opinion is too quickly becoming fact. It’s important to know what we stand for, not who we align with or how we label ourselves, but what we stand for individually when everything else falls away.

I’ve often talked about being on Team Human, meaning respecting, defending, and advocating for the rights of all people to be free to live a life that suits them best so long as they don’t inhibit anyone else from doing the same.

I believe that health, happiness, and the prospect of success should we attainable for all people everywhere. They’re not luxuries or decided by luck of the draw; they are human rights.

That’s what I stand for. It’s the lens by which I judge everything. It’s the motivation that causes me to act, stand up, and speak out. And it means I don’t fall for anyone or anything that violates that belief, regardless of who may be advocating for it.

In the pause: My Facebook feed was filled with these inspiring stories

On Saturday morning, my friends filled my Facebook feed with these inspiring, empowering, beautiful stories. If you need a boost, here are a set of links to lift your spirit. It reminded me that sharing good news is needed now more than ever:
 
Detroit health director set to make bid for governor
 
Sammy Irssak’s video “I’m Muslim and people call me a terrorist. Do you trust me? If yes, hug me.”
 
A sleeping hedgehog wakes up when he smells food
 
Artist Jason deCaires Taylor creates underwater sculptures as makeshift coral reefs to replaces the ones we’ve lost to climate change
 
The Dodo’s post about a bird who got sick, lost all her feathers and her home, and then got adopted by a kind human
 
San Francisco is the first city in the US to make college free for all residents who have lived there for a year or longer
 
A wheelchair that helps people who can’t walk stand upright increasing mobility, independence, and health
 
And an idea to make a donation to the International Rescue Committee this Valentine’s Day in honor of your love
 
And I love Ruah Bhay Yoga – Healthy Mind, Body & Spirit‘s sweet video of arm balances with her daughter riding piggyback

In the pause: The value of hope

In business school, one of our professors was famous for his line “Hope is not a strategy.” While I appreciate the sober practicality of this advice, hope has a very prominent role in our lives: hope is fuel. It helps us rise, roll up our sleeves, and get to work. Is there anything more inspiring than a dream? Is there anything more empowering and emboldening than a vision of the world we want to live in? Have hope, and use it. (And hat tip to my friend, Michael, for inspiring this post.)

In the pause: Carrie Fisher’s advice on your voice

“Say your weak things in a strong voice.” ~Carrie Fisher in an interview with Charlie Rose

I think the hard thing about speaking our truths, especially ones that hurt, is that they often make our voice tremble. You know how it goes—the lump in your throat, the tears in your eyes, the shaking in your hands. We’ve all got those truths, some of them buried deeper than others. What Carrie Fisher gave us was an example, a template, to help us say and own these hard truths with a strong and clear voice. You don’t need to be ashamed of things you’ve survived, however tenuous that survival may be. If you are here, then you have the right to stand tall and proud, to speak out, and to claim your place at the table with an experienced and knowledgeable point-of-view. No one can take that from you. That is yours, so own it.

 

Wonder: Keep it weird, and authentic

Yesterday I came across one of those clickbait articles about Robin Williams. I rarely read those kinds of pieces, but Robin Williams remains my favorite actor of all-time so I decided to read it. It said:

“When auditioning for the role of Mork, Robin Williams reportedly sat on his head in the interview when they asked him to sit down. The producers immediately hired him because ‘he was the only alien who auditioned.’ ”

So often we’re trying to fit in to a job, a relationship, a community. We don’t show our whole selves at first because we want to test the waters. Is it safe to be weird? Is it safe to be who we are? Am I what they’re looking for?

This story about Robin Williams made me think that maybe we’re doing ourselves a disservice by reeling ourselves in. Maybe we should be exactly who we are right from the outset. And if that means we don’t fit in, then so be it. Authenticity is what matters. And not fitting in can be a wonderful stroke of luck because it encourages us to move on and find our pack.

Let’s not be afraid to be our wonderfully weird selves. Let it all hang out.

Wonder: My writing totems

I was in a little bit of a funk with my writing. I am working on a big freelance project right now and I just couldn’t get in the right frame of mind. These are times when writing totems are especially handy. A writing totem is an item (or in my case several items) that inspire me and get me in a writer-like state of mind. Here’s my list:

  • Coffee – I believe all good things come from a little kick-start.
  • 2 inch picture frame – I keep this in my writing area and it reminds me that I only have to write one word at a time. All big projects are completed by completing a series of small pieces
  • Robin Williams remains my favorite actor of all-time. I love this quote by him – “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.”
  • Funny, poignant pictures – I love this one of a goldfish wearing a shark fin and a kitten looking in the mirror and seeing a lion.
  • Dark chocolate – See the same reasoning for coffee.
  • Phineas – Everyone needs a writing buddy.
  • Joan of Arc quote – “I am not afraid. I was born for this.” Writing is a battle.
  • Picture of the fan that was charred during my apartment fire – it reminds me that life is short and we must use our time wisely to do something good with our lives.
  • Here’s to the Crazy Ones commercial by Apple – To be a writer, you’ve got to be a little crazy.

What are your writing totems?

Wonder: Take a chance

I love this piece in the New York Times about taking chances. The bottom line is we don’t take enough of them. We’re so likely to coast, content to be comfortable with routine even if we’re unhappy. We worry about what it would take to make a big change, even one we’ve always wanted to make. We have to toss away fear and embrace the risk of falling flat on our face, in front of everyone, and then we have to get up again and look everyone in the eye. Sends a shiver down your spine, doesn’t it?

And I say, “Do it anyway.” Go out there right now, into the world, and do exactly what you want to do. Don’t settle, don’t shrink, and don’t take the easy way out. Do what’s difficult for no other reason than because it’s what you want to do. You’ll find that everyone who really matters is cheering you on, and you will inspire them to follow their own journey of impossibility. You can do this.

Wonder: Don’t stay the same

“Longevity means we have to evolve. We have to be able to change.” ~Wolfgang Puck

In a few weeks, my latest piece for The Washington Post is going to be published. It’s an interview with a young man my age who had three strokes within a week. over our hour-long conversation, I was in awe of his strength and courage.

His final statement to me, and the final line in the piece is something that I have not been able to shake. This young man still deals with legacy issues from his strokes. He’s unable to work, he is often tired, and he has memory issues. After almost two years, his doctors told him that he may never fully recover. He may never be exactly the way he was before the strokes. Rather than feel sorry for himself, he said, “That’s okay. I don’t want to be the way I was before. I want to be better.”

His willingness to change and be changed by his experience has brought him this far. I have no doubt that he is poised to go so much further. If the ability to evolve indeed leads to longevity, then this man has a long life ahead of him.

Wonder: Shine – a lesson from U Street street art

Screen Shot 2016-06-18 at 8.56.24 AM

U Street serenity

I saw this street art a few weeks ago. I was rushing around trying to get ready for my move. My stress level was running high and my energy level was running low. I saw this mural on U Street, and a calm washed over me. I can’t explain it really. There’s something about her serene expression and the light around her that made me believe I could do the task before me, whatever it is with whatever I have.

So be shiny. Be real. Raise your voice with your heart. Speak up. Be honest. Rise, and take others with you. That’s the only work we have to do.

Wonder: I’m baaaaaack…

Hello all. It has been over a month since I’ve published to this blog and I want to tell you why I so abruptly took the longest break that I’ve taken in the 9 years since I’ve been writing it.

In March, I received a letter from a photography website threatening to sue me for using an image on a blog post four year ago. That’s right – a single picture, that I got from Pinterest, for a single post, 4 years ago, and I had attributed it to the artist. They never sent me a takedown notice. They just skipped right to suing me for thousands of dollars. By the grace of the universe, my friend, Amanda, connected me to a wonderful attorney who agreed to represent me, and it seems that the issue has evaporated. I haven’t heard a word from them since.

So, I’m back. This has been a wonderful time for me to creatively reflect on my writing and I’ve plowed a lot of time into a number of wildly creative projects including finishing a working draft of my novel, Where the Light Enters, getting one of my paper collages displayed in a gallery in D.C., continuing my writing for The Washington Post, planning a trip to Cuba (yes, CUBA!), and joining a film production company here in D.C. as an associate producer. All while keeping my day job at an education technology startup and being in the process of buying a condo here in D.C.

What I do want to make abundantly clear is that I’ve missed you. A lot. I miss the conversations back and forth. I miss hearing how you’re doing. I miss updating you on what I’m doing, seeing, and hearing. I’ve missed this outlet and I’m thrilled to be back. So here’s to you. Here’s to me. And I’m so glad we’re back together.

And to speak to the unfortunate photo incident of March 2016, all photos that you see on this site were either taken by me or for me. If you want to use any of them, you are absolutely free to do so. No questions asked. Just add a little attribution with my name and this website URL http://christaavampato.com. Let’s never be apart for that long again, okay? Okay.

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