Tiva Lee Samaru
creative soul. educator. performance artist

collection

Autobiographical, so to speak.

THE SKIN YOU'RE IN
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On the other hand, for many others, it has contributed to significant issues with oneself as it relates to health and beauty.

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For many years, acne stuck around. Ignorance, for lack of a better word, encouraged routine visits to a dermatologist and an intake of some potent pharmaceuticals that did nothing more than cause extreme side effects. Ironically, it seems this body of mine knew the exact way to treat itself, so it shunned medication. However, the awareness of other forms of treatment still heavily relied on medication of some kind.

As time went by, different things started happening. Apart from acne, rashes flared up as intensely as a raging fire, itching moved into other places such as the eyes, ears, nose, and throat, while cystic acne covered different parts of the body. Embarrassment soon followed, along with a need to hide and cover up all of these distasteful works of art.

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The cause of all this havoc remained undetermined for many years until one day in a hotel room in London.

As a flight attendant for some years, an everyday breakfast item was milk and cereal.  After working long hours, before checking into hotel rooms, a quick trip to a corner store of any kind to purchase these items became a routine. Usually, arrival in London always fell on the earlier side of the morning. So hunger also became a routine.  After checking in, taking a shower, dancing around for a bit in the bathroom, then heading to the bed to watch something on tv, a bite to eat claimed a spot on the list before nodding off to catch up on missed sleep. However, that morning, after eating the usual bowl of milk and cereal, things took a turn for the worse. An overwhelming feeling of tingling sensations danced under the skin, and the entire organ became itchy. Now, this was no ordinary itch because it couldn't be scratched. It was an internal itch that lingered for hours. Clawing, hitting, and rubbing did nothing to ease the discomfort. At that moment, thoughts tried to make sense of the situation. After probing for answers, the only thing that accrued meaningful blame was the milk! A two-week personal experiment aided with the confirmation that dairy products caused all the skin issues that stuck around for years. Once eliminated, alleviation of these issues followed.

As more years went by, other foods brought old and new problems of their own. Presently, dairy, gluten, vitamin e, lactic acid, and cocoa butter are no longer edible companions. As stated before, it seems this body of mine knew the cause of these skin problems, but at the time, without that knowledge, the blame fell on puberty and hormonal changes. Today, as I look at this picture and the two pimples on my face, the accusation falls on the truffle devoured yesterday. It's helpful to know that food, although necessary for human survival, can have detrimental effects on the bodies and health of so many people. This awareness is invaluable in so many ways. It's brought notable attention to food consumption and even their ingredients.

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Unfortunately, when a taste for things is familiar, it is difficult to stay away from them all the time. Sometimes sneaking a bit of chocolate or cheese may slide by with ease and other times, it means running to the bathroom cabinet for that beloved bottle of Caladryl. Nevertheless, to know the effects of food consumption or lack of it is a blessing, and it allows more conscious decisions about eating and its associated habits. At the same time, this knowledge encouraged a lot more love of self and the caring that comes with that.

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Allergic reactions to food contributed to a strong awareness about a specific kind of self-care as well as the need to exercise vigilance regarding self-control. Maintaining an acceptable diet posed challenges of its own as simple actions like ordering online pushed the limits of thought like an amateur crossword puzzle fanatic. Also, the stigma attached to allergies and  persons thereof was felt on a personal level. Being referred to as fussy and a picky eater once nurtured a constant need to apologise.

Nonetheless, now, the internal and external bodily changes are vividly transparent and emboldened a positive outlook and innate love for the opportunity to continue to fuel oneself with the type of food that maintains a healthy organism. Additionally to share and remind others about the importance of being aware of their dietary needs. Moreso, truly appreciating the variety of wonderful food earth and the powers that be - science or deities alike - provide and making its presence felt in a more purposeful way especially when considering there are many out there who don't even have a grain of rice, or a leaf of lettuce to consume.

LOOK WITHIN
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Many of the world's problems exist for reasons beyond this undertaking yet several, sometimes simple emotional or social problems exist because of it.

Consider relationships. They tend to activate mental and emotional states. Based on the category, such as romantic, friendship, familial and so on, a lot of shifts and movement through different phases as each relationship grows or falls apart, brings about notable changes in mind, body, and soul. Feelings float to the surface, and when one is incapable of genuinely admitting or even accepting them, then adverse reactions to the situation or person arises. At times, this outcome seems viable as capabilities differ from person to person. However, even when news of disinterest in a romantic relationship with someone must be shared, a favorable outcome still exists.

Likewise, with any situation where mental and emotional states come into play, soul-searching offers an opportunity to understand the depth of each situation, its meaning and all the blessings of maturity that come with it.

The challenge with it all is a person's readiness to be open to the truth, whether for oneself or the other party involved.

Moreover, this is usually the most pivotal part as unreadiness is deeply rooted in fear, and for understandable reasons. That level of agitation disrupts any inclination to work through situations consciously, at times leaving words unsaid and circumstances unresolved. As a result, resentment buries itself deep, and communication lacks seamlessness, warmth, courteousness, understanding, and even good intention. In some cases, it turns into a fighting match — a battle for the victory of truth laced with poisonous fumes. In the end, it is hurtful and eye-opening, to say the most. However, the ending and any or all decisions following, all depend on perspective.

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Always feeling like it needed to stand up and fight against other truths when all it longed for was an opportunity to be acknowledged. Therefore, honesty should be pure and accepted as such, so express it and allow others that same chance. Let the revelations of each person sit together on a park bench and share a peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead of beating each other to a pulp and showing up defeated in the end.

The way to open honesty is through self-examination. Looking within being straightforward with oneself and resolving things so that personal traumas, attachments, and expectations understand their place and assist with every situation, feeling, thought, and action.

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Ultimately, everything finds its way back to introspection. So when lost in the oblivion of unsettling circumstances or emotions, acknowledge and embrace the sincerity, fulfillment, and enlightenment it brings.

REPETITION
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One can sit for hours and reflect upon the truth that life relies and will most certainly rely on repetition for some time. Whether preparing for bed or sitting under a friendly tree deep in thought, a component of existence is following through with actions that are often reiterated merely for the sake of survival. Actions, such as cooking breakfast or taking a shower, are usually performed daily. More than that, repetition exists even within the body. The heart repeatedly beats, fulfilling its functional obligations, which sustain us. The repeated rise and fall of the chest when the body inhales and exhales also contributes to our survival. Likewise, eating, blinking, digestion, and even the greatest act of digestion - defecation also does the same.

On a more sizable scale, even the planet we inhabit has its cycle of repetition. The sun rises then sets, allowing the moon a chance to shine, and this happens every single waking day of a human's life. Even those often ignored trees, one casually brushes shoulders with while commuting to work has a cycle of repetition that helps purify the air humans need in order to survive. The consequentiality of repetition is much deeper than perceptive words from the beloved Mahatma Gandhi, and the ironic thing is, many overlook its importance, at times even casting dark shadows on to its relevance, making it as undervalued as a bathroom sink.

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SO WHY HAS REPETITION GARNERED SUCH AN UNPLEASANT REPERTOIRE?

Personal opinion blames human nature and the ignorance thereof. The nature of habit and the lack of cognizance placed on the development of more noteworthy and significantly impacting ones upon which the true essence of repetition relies. Far too often, many get stuck in negative patterns of thought or rely too heavily on the fact that routine will help one revert to a purer time of life or state, and somehow erase the negativity in the first place. However, repetition is the action itself, and until the underlying substructure for this action is transparently understood and acknowledged, then the journey will continuously head in the same direction with minimal opportunities for a positive outcome. Consequently, one will continue to roll an eye at repetition instead of allowing sight the opportunity to experience its more preponderant benefits.

The point is, repetition is a resplendent way to learn and teach oneself. Good, auxiliary things like enlightenment emanate from repetition. The conception of it all follows the saying "practice makes perfect." As a result of repetition, children grow into conscious, healthy humans, and as they continue growing routine is still needed. Athletes rely on it to become more proficiently adept at their sport, training every day, in the same manner, with slight adjustments here and there - ones that harbor considerable impact on their abilities and ultimately the game itself. Musicians rehearse for hours, singing the same songs, repeating the same lyrics and choreography so that it becomes second nature - assisting with proper preparation for a show or recording a new album. In everyday life, cooking is a repeated action, and for most "non-chef" humans, repetition helps with developing stronger cooking skills while ensuring personal enjoyment as one relishes their meal more when it tastes better. Development of this type of day-to-day skill increases the content of one's personal life while reaping significant positive outcome and personal reward.

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SO WHEN POSSIBLE, THINK ABOUT THE IDEA OF REPETITION AND ITS ADVANTAGEOUS INFLUENCE ON ONE'S LIFE AND THE LIVES OF OTHERS.

Think about it deeply. Cast awareness on when it is needed and how it is utilized to both assist with personal growth and development and on the contrary to divert or contradict. Many in this world find themselves following through with destructive cycles of repetition - ones that embolden poor habits or unobliging lifestyle choices. Cycles that establish doubt as it pertains to the real purpose and practical nature of it all. Understandably so, doubt in itself has a way of enlightening the mind, but this sort of doubt is one that infringes upon the value of learning through the use of this helpful tool.

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THE TYPE OF HABITS THAT CAN SIGNIFICANTLY CONTRIBUTE TO THE UPLIFTMENT OF SOCIETY AND LESS ON ITS DEMISE.

In honor of this post, check out my video "Fish Out Of Water".

THE POWER OF CHOICE

THE STAGE-LIFE CALLED OUT AT AN EARLY AGE. PERFORMING WITH SCHOOL CHOIRS, STEEL PAN ENSEMBLES, "CHAOS CREW" - A SECONDARY SCHOOL DANCE GROUP OF MINE, AND WALKING THE RUNWAY AS A TEENAGE FASHION MODEL, ALL ENSURED CONTINUED PRESENCE IN THE SPOTLIGHT.

However, it was not all about or for the spotlight. It was a matter of creativity, emotional release, creative balance, peace of mind, and passion. Singing came naturally, so too did dance and the ability to play instruments. Parental encouragement had a lot to do with exposure in the first place, but a genuine love for the arts enheartened continuous involvement and pursuance for more. As time passed and experience grew, a desire for new opportunities bloomed, making the beauty pageant world quite intriguing and the beginning of a new type of stage-life, one with tiaras, fancy gowns, and all the glamorous and even non-glamorous allowances this type of life provided. Nonetheless, before the glamour comes, the commencement and mine began with the Miss North Eastern College School Pageant.

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North Eastern College is the secondary school I attended for five years of my pre-teen and teenage life. After sitting the general secondary school entrance exams in Trinidad and Tobago, the announcement of school placement results soon followed. On that day, at school, some friends exclaimed in jubilance, some in melancholia, while questions and apathy loomed in this little ten-year-old mind of mine. Where is this school? Are the results accurate? Subjugating emotions held on tightly. At home, sitting on the six-step staircase, to the left of a childhood bedroom, tears flowed. Apprehension played an astronomically significant role, and disappointment at not being placed at a more elite school weighed heavily. Relishing the summer that followed this day was arduous. The thought of beginning a new school - one that did not emit gratifying emotions - invoked deeper feelings of dread and discontentment.

OPTIMISM STRUGGLED TO PREVAIL UNTIL IT DID!

North Eastern College became a second home. Friends were abundant. Opportunities were insurmountable, and fun was in surplus. A swimmer on the school's swim team, a member of the choir and music ensemble groups and a founding member of the "school's unofficial dance group," encouraged an innate love for this school once shunned.

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Moving on is a frighteningly eerie thing. New beginnings are even scarier. The ten-year-old version of Tiva was trepidacious of the unknown - of attending a school the opposite of elite. When, in fact, this school was more magnificent than imagination would let on. Some of the most influential people I know were my peers. Some of the best experiences relied upon this place. Some of the best opportunities came into view at this place, and the first taste of pageant life came to fruition at this place - North Eastern College.

In the fourth year as a student at North Eastern College, and for the first time in the school's history, the Form Six students with the support of the school administration decided to host a school pageant. Urged by classmates, attendance at the open casting call soon followed, then a brief period of waiting before the official delegate announcement. The results were favorable. Preparations began almost immediately. Hairstyle choices, gown design, casual wear options, and accessories became of absolute importance. The overall gown design and the other required pieces of wardrobe lay in the hands of a profoundly crafty sister of mine. The family garage magically changed into a makeshift runway, and daily rehearsals with Daddy strengthened "Q&A" skills. Funding for the purchase of materials for the gown and complementary appendages such as shoes and jewelry came from an eager grandfather, and altogether it became a family affair, as each one played a significant role in the entire process.

Moving past mundane but necessary facts and rushing ahead a bit, the day of the pageant arrived as gracefully and obliviously as the mailman. Nerves were at bay, but a last-minute hairstyle change complicated the morning. Leekesha Quamina, classmate and friend, spearheaded the decision of a quick hair color change which meant undoing the previously done hairstyle and redoing it. It also meant rushing to Leekesha's house - which was pretty proximate to the school - before heading there to attend morning classes, then prepare for the show, making the morning a hectic one. Focus during morning classes was hard to come by and for a substantial reason - there was a humble but constant exhilaration within, making each minute feel like an hour and each hour like a day. Eventually, time passed, and as the high-pitched ring of the school bell echoed through the college, it meant one thing - time to get ready for the show!

A recollection of all the specificities is hard to come by, but at this moment, it centers upon the loud cheers from schoolmates as those two eager feet of mine stepped on stage. Images of Peaches, the family Yorkshire Terrier, tucked in those loving arms of mine and shaking like a leaf during the casual wear segment nostalgically appear into view. The poor thing was terrified. Another memory that stands out is a desperate sprint in silver high heels down the vast and empty hallway closest to the auditorium where the pageant was taking place. Time was lost to "over preparation" during the evening gown wardrobe change and so, running to make it to the stage on time was a congruous and necessary action.

Slightly flustered and winded, those silver high heels glided a slender body covered in a shimmery, body-hugging tube dress with a thigh slit, accessorized with a choker necklace and arm cuffs in the same material on stage. The cheers were virtually deafening. Close friends were all overcome with excitement and support so much so; they rose out of their seats, cheering, applauding, whistling, and wearing the most beautiful and genuine smiles on their faces. Classmates and siblings reacted in the same manner, as well as the rest of the school population and even some beloved teachers. These beautiful displays of appreciation and support allowed for a boost in confidence, which eased that nervous mind of mine just in time for the interview segment. Although recollection has no memory of the question asked, it does denote a sense of tranquility during that segment.

A short while after, the delegates were all invited back on stage to await the results. Any beauty queen would say that this is one of the most nerve-wracking parts of a pageant because the probability of winning or losing implants itself into an overthinking mind making a heart feel quite unreliable. It is at this moment when deep breathing is significant. As that jittery body of mine finally surrendered to calmness, the words, "The first runner-up by unanimous decision is Miss Tiva Lee Samaru from the class Form Four Arts One," echoed. Inundated with emotion and pleased with the results, the audience burst into applause. The competition was fierce, and prospects of coping the first prize were non-existent. Performing to the highest ability was all that mattered, so being awarded second place exceeded any unthought expectation.

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As that last thought concluded, the following question begs for recognition. Would this experience cease to exist if a different path was chosen, i.e., not attend North Eastern College and instead retake the general secondary school entrance exams in hopes of being placed at another school that seemed more appealing? Probably not. That is the beauty of choice. Sometimes, and almost always, after the fact, the realization that the choice made enabled beautiful experiences, and sometimes pivotal ones that may not have transpired otherwise is such an enlightening thing. It, in essence, sanctions the mind to defer from taking the power of choice for granted. As with many other aspects of life, a choice is something that comes by every second. The choice to sleep one minute longer or get out of bed and get ready for work can have so many outcomes. However, the outcome that matters the most is the one that is the most pivotal or rewarding, the sort that allows growth and betterment. That enables the positive path of one's existence and journey here on planet earth. That positively influences others and contributes to society. That, when reflected upon, brings no regret or feelings of resentment and instead brings to light a stronger belief in decision-making abilities.

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LIBERATE YOUR VOICE
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THE TONE DIFFERS FROM PERSON TO PERSON, AND VOCAL FACULTIES ARE DIVERSE. FOR SOME, LIKE MARIAH CARREY OR VITAS, VOCAL ABILITIES ARE ENTIRELY UNIQUE AND ARDUOUS TO MIMIC. NEVERTHELESS, THE VOICE IS A DISTINCT THING AND NEEDS AMPLE APPRECIATION.

The ability to speak, sing, and even shout, is magical. These abilities allow for an insurmountable amount of expression and edification. In other cases, it provides people with career opportunities. So many are highly revered and doted because of their voice - people like famous singers, spoken word performers, music teachers, public speakers, and even university lecturers. The value of the words that leave their mouths carried through sound waves into appeasing ears does play a vital role in popularity in the first place. Additionally the entire realm of physicality necessary to convey that specific message, but the voice is what makes those valuable words even more paramount, and what sanctions this gravitational shift in fondness for a person of such standing.

IN A WORLD FILLED WITH AS MUCH SILENCE AS THERE IS NOISE, THERE IS RESPLENDENCY IN HEARING SOMEONE SPEAK OR SING, EVEN WHEN THE TONE OF THEIR VOICE MAY NOT BE AS PLEASING TO THE EAR AS SOMEONE ELSE'S?

However, what is all the more fascinating, is the distinction between a talking voice and a singing voice. As a singer, this remains far from unorthodox. My singing voice and talking voice oppose each other - they sound very different. Also, as pleasing as the talking voice sounds, the same cannot sentiments lack for its singing counterpart. It took many years to feel comfortable. Shyness and a general dislike for its sound overruled any other feelings. Ironically, since childhood, performing alongside peers at numerous music festivals and singing competitions were commonplace, and non-problematic. Why? Because it was a team effort not solely an individual one, but once solo singing became a part of life, embarrassment, negative criticisms, and on most days, shyness crept in, overruling the sublime compliments from peers and vocal teachers. This way of thinking obstructed progress and desire to pursue that teenage dream of becoming a famous singer grew distant. Other factors also contributed to this dismay, but, the most consequential of them all, is those mentioned earlier. Sometimes personal thoughts can authentically inhibit pursuance, especially when allowed to do so.

However, as time passed, the desire to break free from these weighted noetic conceptions, sanctioned one to push into new avenues, like recording an EP, and as a result, the opportunity to perform for a live audience.

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A friend of mine was hosting an event; he asked if there was any interest in performing and acceptance came naturally. Immediately after, preparation and rehearsals stretched across many hours. For days, nervousness and dubiousness battled against each other, as well as opposing, more inspiriting emotions. Being on stage, never posed a quandary, nor did singing on stage with others in choirs or ensembles. In this case, performing solo, without backup, other voices or even a choir conductor, harbored feelings of fright, among others. Questions about amiability peeked into view. At the time, even personal opinion was derogatory, so the natural process of thought was, how then would an audience enjoy its sound?

A few days before the show, self-consciousness was as contemporary as the sun on a sunny day, but thankfully, tenacity prevented abandonment. Rehearsals continued up until the event, while siblings and close friends provided a stable support network, as they all huddled around the stage come performance time, and as the backing track boomed over the sound system, space for doubt or uncertainty grew thin and unreliable. Memory indicates slight worry during the performance after messing up a dance move or two. Internal moral dropped just a tad, but once eyes locked onto swaying bodies and smiling faces, and ears heard cheers from the voices in the room, ego received the fuel needed to push through. No one in that room knew the extent to which negative forces of thought kept trying to sabotage this fresh boost of ego. Moreover, even within that internal struggle, a smile or two between verses and choruses made appearances, encouraging the audience to smile back, which ignited a much-needed overflow of positive feelings. As the last few lines of the song came to pass, instant relief coursed through a previously tense body and mind, and feelings of success encouraged bravery.

After the performance, audience members swooned and came over to express pleasant sentiments. Vaashish - the friend who hosted the event - expressed feelings of appreciation, as siblings and other friends rushed over to give hugs, kisses, and compliments. Even after achieving success, tiny slivers of doubt still permeated - a challenging feeling to defeat.

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At this moment, and mainly because a career as an enrichment teacher encourages consistent utilization of the voice - both talking and singing - the sound emitted is loved. All those years ago, this voice of mine was not ready to be heard. It still valued privacy and secrecy. However, now, through evolution, maturity, and the nurturing of self-love, a new love for all the unliked is abundant, and the opinions and compliments of others that did nothing but encourage, are now given utmost significance. If anything, the trepidation that lived within and instigated worry about the opinions of others is no longer an obstruction; it is a motivator. To have the ability to speak and sing is something that is embraced now more than ever. It is something that is appreciated and understood. The power it holds and the beautiful work it can create is valued. Experiencing its impact on listening ears, especially the little ones I teach is a daily occurrence. The personal result is gratifying, and the eagerness to share it with more people in new and different ways excites the essence of personal human existence.

Before fingers could even type the last two letters of the previous word, regret beseeched to express wishes of understanding these things sooner. Maybe a career as a singer would have come to pass? Who knows. Simultaneously, the journey to claiming this voice of mine is appreciated. Time was needed. Comfort came through learning. That is just how it goes for some, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Now, a soul lives in this space of feelings of goodness about self and voice. No more waste of mind space on negative emotions, primarily when they inhibit progress because empowerment of mind means empowerment of voice. One that stayed silent for way too long and only felt like it shined when it was part of a group and not when it stood alone. So today, arms are raised to the sky, a head tilts back, a vocal passageway is open, lips part and sounds emerge, raw sounds like that of a warriors' ready to face fate. Today is the day I open my voice to a new sense of liberation - one that ceased to exist up until this moment.

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It is a personal assumption that many others have felt or feel the same. Lack of confidence, among other emotions, contributed or currently contributes to insecurity. Worry about the subjective opinions of others also plays a part, and interferes with opportunities to find comfort in engaging in simple conversations with peers, excel at work presentations, follow through with a career as a music teacher or even audition for that perfect musical theater role. Then there is the unfavorable comparison, which does nothing more than embolden a decline of any vocal self-confidence.

How familiar these sentiments feel, as they too interfered with personal acceptance and liberation of this voice of mine - particularly as it relates to singing. At the same time, different facets of knowledge and understanding presented themselves, making the journey all the more necessary, and after years of growth, this is the literary support this mind of mine wishes to share.

As it relates to singing; embrace the process even if it is lengthy, feels exhausting, filled with negativity or it means a career as a famous singer or vocal/music teacher begins much later in life. Embrace the opportunity to learn and grow and when that comfort with and confidence in vocal abilities are abundant, then share it openly, and be open to both objective and subjective opinions others may wish to share. Additionally, and as cliche as this sounds, practice makes perfect and builds confidence and knowledge as well.

As it relates to speaking; trust in the value of the words and message. Also, use simple scenarios as a foundation for practice, like engaging in conversation with peers or even a stranger, maybe even giving someone a call versus sending them a text. Use all opportunities as a means of growth, and as a way to develop the skills that will allow understanding, using, dealing with, and in some cases ridding oneself of any other inhibiting factors, such as nervousness or poor breathing techniques.

Lastly, the general society tells many, that age has a great deal to do with personal development and success. That different levels of success should happen at adolescent ages rather than older ones. As a result, many people watch time ticking by and gradually become defeated by how slowly their developmental process is moving, and with defeat comes all sorts of harmful sentiments, and a lack of desire to even try to persevere. Then before day turns to night, dreams start fading like the sunshine into the night sky.

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TECHNOLOGICAL CONSUMPTION
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COFFEE SHOPS OVERFLOW WITH HEADS HIDDEN BEHIND MONOCHROMATIC SCREENS. CHILDREN SCREAM "IPAD, IPAD," BEFORE THEY COULD SPEAK.

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Technology takes time away, and for many, disconnection is a tricky thing. Some may wish to state evolution is - the transmuting of society, the expansion of communication, and the incrementation in more astute electronics, hence an increase in usage. Others may think otherwise. However, one thing is sure, technology now facilitates many lives. From laptops to phones to tablets and even applications, these pieces of equipment are essential to human existence, more so, communication channels. Phones have single-handedly made many things more accessible, and the applications they host have made many people more independently resourceful. From budding photographers to writers, everyone has their world in the cyber social realm primarily because of the same pieces of equipment upon which use and overuse rely. Laptops have allowed mobility and encouraged an increase in coffee shop laptop loungers, and in a way, the world is perpetually and actively more productive and creative. Opposition - it exists even when unseen.

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However, as advantageous as these tools are, the downside oozes negative impact, particularly on a social level. As a result of these helpful tools, human interaction has changed, while cyber harassment continues to grow and evolve. People hide behind screens, sending binary waves of unpleasant words to others, while some publicly shame ex-significant others by sharing intimate images - and these are just the bare essentials - another story to elaborate upon, another time.

HUMANS NEVER CEASE TO CAPITALIZE ON HELPFUL RESOURCES, IN SOME WAY, TURNING THEM INTO FOES THAN FRIENDS.

Naturally, opposition exists within, a trait many make full use of, leaning more towards the negative side of it than the positive. Nevertheless, the allowances technology has provided, even within the negative scope, is still limitless and will continue to aid advancement and progression in many facets of life. What has to transpire is for humans to learn how to find the balance to curb obsession, dependency, and even addiction - that is, if one cares about that.

Balance is a difficult thing to achieve. Some travel around the world, hoping to find it, while some read or attend meditation or yoga classes. Balance exists not only in the tangible but the intangible. There are those days when thoughts lack stability, weighing down a mind. That is the sort of elusive balance to which I speak.

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Moreover, even as it relates to technology and its consumption, both tangible and intangible balance is principal and need more consideration. Breakaway from bright screens and alleviate finger cramps from excessive scrolling. Set that phone down without checking it every five seconds. Taking a moment to give technology a break it requires and the break you need is a step or two closer to achieving that balance. It is consequential for the human body as well. It is vital for congruous bodily function, and if that is so, then balance needs more pertinence in other aspects of life, especially when it comes to consumption - in this case, technological consumption.

So, until curbing of personal use boundaries becomes the norm, technological consumption will continue to evolve, eventually rendering itself overbearing, with inconvenience and addiction superseding convenience and productivity. At the end of it all though, it comes down to one simple word, control — actually two words, self-control. Self-control is the line of equilibrium that dissevers or defines use and overuse - and it is an endeavoring characteristic to harbor and utilize.So, once self-control is given the chance to take the lead and assist with decision making, then we will find some sort of balance within our own technological consumption - one that makes us feel more connected to each other and this beautiful world we share - one that makes us more mindful of our productivity levels and innate abilities, instead of the technological devices that facilitate them in the first place.

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ONE THAT MAKES MANY MORE CONNECTED TO OTHERS AND THIS BEAUTIFUL WORLD. ONE THAT BRINGS MORE ATTENTION TO PRODUCTIVITY LEVELS AND INNATE ABILITIES, INSTEAD OF THE TECHNOLOGICAL DEVICES THAT FACILITATE THEM IN THE FIRST PLACE.

In honor of this post, check out my video "The Five Pieces of Equipment."

SUITABILITY

SOMETIME IN 2012, ON A BEAUTIFUL SUNNY DAY IN THE GOLDEN STATE; SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA, THE INTERNET IN MY BUILDING CHOSE NOT TO COMMIT TO ITS DUTY, FORCING ITS "WORK FROM HOME" RESIDENTS, LIKE MYSELF, OUT OF THE BUILDING AND INTO OVER-FILLED COFFEE SHOPS.

Having entered and exited Starbucks in under five minutes due to overcrowding and reduced internet speed, Peet's; the locally grown alternative and local favorite, seemed like the better option. Hands opened the doors to this temporary workspace, clothing patted the sweat off an upper lip, and a body glided over to the cashier station to purchase something - an appropriate gesture of appreciation for the rent-free workspace and free internet. With a croissant and peppermint tea in hand, feet clumsily shuffled over to the single seating section; hands popped open a laptop and eyes surfed the web for upcoming auditions and photo shoots. After scrolling through all manner of websites, a simple but honest casting call, that a friend posted for another friend, seeking out a performance artist for a conceptual photo shoot at the photographer's home in Burlingame, California, seemed quite promising. Enticed by reasonable pay and preponderant opportunity, fingers typed up a generous response, then clicked send. Not too long after, a booking confirmation jumped into sight, and the internal exhilaration felt was enough to fill the empty spots at the coffee shop.

Call time was rather early, and Ella; the photographer flashed a smile as I disembarked the San Francisco Caltrain at the Burlingame stop. Upon entering her Land Rover, there was a quick exchange of pleasantries and an expeditious get to know each other session, as she speedily drove to her abode, nestled atop the hill of a narrow but winding road, with a view that invoked an immediate desire for such delectations of life. There was a placidity about her personal space, something which made settling in, without worry or skeptical thinking, simple. This feeling of comfort urged the internal wanderer to walk around and ogle the fabulous selection of mounted paintings and sculptures like a patron at an art museum. Shortly after, some more wandering and light conversation, myself, Ella and her husband who doubled as her assistant for that day, shuffled our feet down a few flights of stairs to begin our days' work in their in-home photo studio. Fancy!

At the time, Ella was a student of photography at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, California, and this particular photography project was a school assignment, the focal point being - complementary colors. So, as Ella and her husband fussed around with lighting and other technical aspects of the shoot, I prepped for the first look.

ONCE THAT SHOOT CONCLUDED, IT WAS BACK TO THE CHANGING AREA AND ONTO LOOK NUMBER TWO.

THEN LOOK NUMBER THREE.


These images and this exploration of the past, encourage the thought of consequence and the mental asking of serendipitous questions - each question begging for more in-depth research of the moments that contributed to this experience. As a result, time bears significance, but more importantly, one word now comes to mind, suitability. This word renders every other philosophical analogy useless. Why? Simply because of Ella. Ella chose the most suitable person for this project - me. Perhaps the opportunity avoided the negative outcome of all the illimitable variables existing in the past, variables such as timing, the other applicants or different choices like a walk around the city or relaxation at the park and not a trip to Peet's. So then, is it safe to say, all the stars aligned? Perhaps! Alternatively, it could be, regardless of time or variables, that I was best suited for the role and nothing more than that.

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Moreover, every decision, in a way, relies on suitability. Why in a way? Well, simply because some people make decisions, even if it goes against the choice, while others make them, regardless.

Nevertheless, in the working world, it plays an essential role in the hiring process. That is why booking a gig or being offered a job is a universally gratifying feeling to which many would agree. On a broader spectrum, landing that job is, at the end of the day, premised on suitability. It merely denotes that a person is the right fit. In life, fitting in holds utmost importance. Many avoid being the stranger, the discarded, or even the peculiar. Many want to belong, in some way or the other. Whether they fit into their role as an employee or a partner in a romantic relationship, as a teammate on a sports team or a babysitter in someone's home - suitability is the determinant. One can slightly add to this by saying, it is also associated with some modest assumption of a person. People decide if someone is suitable for them or a job based on things like experience, physical appearance, knowledge, skills, and quite possibly how "one" presents oneself. It goes hand in hand with general opinion, and so, it may then be safe to say that it all heavily relies on subjectivity on both ends of the spectrum.

Personally, suitability made the following possible, working with a beautiful and talented photographer with these images as a tangible outcome of that experience. It is also responsible for personal choices on that day of the initial booking - choices such as leaving Starbucks and heading to Peet's, taking the time to read Ella's casting call and determining if the role was fitting.

So you see it works both ways. In this case, it helped Ella select a model, and it encouraged interest in the role. It aided the decision-making process - ultimately resulting in the most appropriate choice by all parties involved.

When applied to everyday life, suitability lacks the presence it deserves. Many make choices without seeking out the advice of appropriateness, or maybe, without considering it. In certain circumstances, it is pertinent and effortless, for example; when applying for a job, or making decisions about food and drink consumption, particularly for those with allergies or specific dietary needs. However, sometimes, it is forgotten when it comes to other aspects of life, as other factors take higher precedence, and so, it stands little chance of being noticed and unfortunately, only comes to mind after mistakes present themselves.

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Additionally, THE CONSCIOUS APPLICATION OF THIS TYPE OF THINKING MAY ENCOURAGE THE NURTURING OF A HEALTHIER, and MORE CONSEQUENTIALLY MAPPED OUT MIND - ONE THAT IMPACTS SOCIETY IN A POSITIVE WAY AND ENCOURAGES MORE PERSONAL ACCOUNTABILITY IN A WORLD WHERE FINGERS point AT OTHERS RATHER THAN OURSELVES.

Tiva SamaruModelling, 2012
RESOLUTIONS

A New Year has different meanings. It also marks the perpetual passing of the previous year.

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For many, a new year means another opportunity to further oneself - to evolve and flourish. Around the world, new year celebrations are loud and colorful, to the dismay of the animal kingdom who, on the cusp of these celebrations, are more frightful than cheerful, and for a substantial reason. While some decide to partake in the bright lights and loud sounds, others celebrate quietly at home with loved ones or in a different space. There are also those folks who, instead of celebrating, are stuck at work - an excellent place to be nonetheless. Regardless of where one is, or if celebrations, serenity or working is the activity of choice on the last day of the year, many people find themselves introspectively revisiting the previous year, racking their brains to jot down to do's for the new year. Resolutions.

As a child, mummy always insisteD upon a list of resolutions - the practical and emboldening kind that would avail personal development differently than before - a sort of band-aid for the bruises earned in the previous year.

There was something unique and exhilarating about filtering through the beautiful and deplorable moments of the previous year, and this made resolutions seem a lot like starting anew, following the same principle as a second chance. However, as age came, resolutions vanished from thought. There was no longer any exhilaration; instead, a reminder that time was ticking away, and demeanors were manifesting themselves in different ways. The authenticity of adulthood became clear, and the consciousness of this stole the breath away from the care of having such reminders. Supplementally, it made the vigilance of being unable to commit to these resolutions much more compound, and this hampered positive thinking. If anything, it nurtured disappointment and other negative feelings of self.

However, the thing is, resolutions are not meant to blast negative effect, rather, it is meant to nurture personal development, and until this is understood, feelings of distrust for this word will loop in one's psyche, as it did in mine for a long time. Needless to state, the process of rehabilitating this annual childhood tradition holds on and, as a result, appreciation for the reasoning behind the need for resolutions in the first place is more transparent. Instead of sitting eagerly with pen and paper, one constructs them silently and within the mind, and makes firm decisions for the future whether in life, love, vocation or otherwise which in essence, falls in line with the purpose of making resolutions.

So, after many years of shying away, the act of making resolutions is embraced and provides a helpful reminder of why it is essential to not wait until the end of an old year and the beginning of a new one to make plans for evolution, instead, practice it daily. Enlighten the mind always. Encourage growth even when the right conditions, lack presence.

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In a society where self-esteem issues run rampant and many lack a sense of obligation to anything or anyone, the practice of daily resolutions can, hopefully, be an easily accessible source of corrective measure.

In honor of this post, check out my video "A New Year Awaits."

Tiva Samaru2018, Acting, Filmmaking
ODDITIES AND ALL

THE SUNNY DAYS OF SUMMER HAVE ASSUREDLY FADED. HERE IN SAN FRANCISCO, LEAVES TRANSITIONED FROM GREEN TO BROWN AND NOW LINE SIDEWALKS OF ALL ETHNICITIES, AWAITING THEIR FATE ALONG WITH DISCARDED CIGARETTE BUTTS, ANIMAL FECAL MATTER AND A HOST OF OTHER UNIDENTIFIED ENTITIES. AS THE TEMPERATURE CHANGES, THE WEATHER, IN A WAY, BECOMES AS REFRESHING AS A LAGER ON A HOT DAY AND SOMETHING ABOUT THAT CHANGE IS REWARDING.

Here in San Francisco, even during this time of fleece leggings and puffy jackets, warm days periodically emerge like lovesick ex-significant others. Gusts of cold winds support the idea of a change of season with those random warm days providing a much-needed form of distraction from reality. San Francisco's weather is beautiful in that way; like human and animal personalities - lots of variables - lots of transmuting and unchanging.

Personally, living in a four-season climate, adjustments become a lot more arduous, sickness comes easily, and wardrobe needs constant updating. Swimsuits cry out for attention versus being a staple, like in the Caribbean, and the park and beaches see an influx of sun-hungry people on those random sunny days.

IN MANY PARTS OF THE WORLD, THIS DESCRIPTION IS APPLICABLE, AND IN OTHERS, IT WOULD NEED RE-INDICTMENT.

One of these others is the Caribbean. Sandy beaches, tropical breeze, and heat - just pristine sunshine, giving school children tan lines. To combat the effects of the sun, a proud show of talcum powder on the chest and necks of some becomes a defense against excessive sweating. As proof of the sun's power, sweat stains in the shape of car seat belts and bag straps, imprint themselves across the shirts of the working class. As a means of avoiding inundation by the heat, people blast air conditioners on the coldest setting, while fans are a highly sought after commodity. Although rain shows its face now and then, most of the time the sun becomes a marginally less sought after best friend and everyday reality.

In the sunny twin island Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, the sun holds a special place in life, with two seasons - the wet season and dry season - seeing more rain during the dry than in the wet. This duality makes for good memories, frequent beach visits, arbitrary flooding, traffic, and sometimes school closures - mainly when those hurricanes stop by to say hello.

AS A CHILD OF THE SUN, GROWING UP IN THE CARIBBEAN MEANT RAMPANT SQUINTING.

Countless childhood images show peculiar facial expressions as a means of trying to look decent while the sun shone blindly into disinclined eyes. As a result, constant questioning of the need for picture-taking in the sunlight became habitual. What a silly girl some may say, but when most childhood pictures look odd because of an odd facial expression, then others may find themselves questioning the need as well.

Throughout childhood and early adulthood, these eccentric facial expressions remained constant. As an adult, the frequency of squinting in photographs gradually got better. The difference? A newfound understanding of how to evade the power of the sun when being photographed outdoors and the purchase of glasses.


SCROLLING THROUGH OLD NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS, EYES STUMBLE UPON AN IMAGE FROM DAYS AS A DELEGATE IN THE MISS TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO PAGEANT AND ONE TAINTED BY SQUINTING.

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As delegates for the Miss World Trinidad and Tobago pageant, immersion in all sorts of pre-pageant preparations and events became a natural part of life. Packed schedules ascertained that. Apart from the many other unmentioned activities, swimming sessions noticeably sat on the pre-pageant regime. Every Saturday morning, it kept all the delegates occupied.

One of these mornings, several media photographers showed up to snap pictures of the delegates in action, many of whom expressed displeasure over having their pictures taken, citing messy hair and un-made faces as the reason. Impeccably legitimate reasons, especially as a beauty queen. Urged by the pageant chaperone, Denise Darlington, and hurriedly strewn into it all, a quick low bun, a pair of hoop earrings, a choker necklace, and a swim wrap helped one look a bit more "put together" for the photo.

THE SUN WAS BLAZING THAT DAY, MERCILESSLY IN FACT, AND EYES RELUCTED WILLING PARTICIPATION.


As memory evoking as this image is, for a long time, subjective criticism focused only on the squinting. This opinion brewed periodic dislike for this image and a secondary awareness of the lack of focus placed on all the great experiences this time of life holds. Subjectively speaking, this image was once viewed as ugly, mainly because of the squinting, but is it that unsightly? The answer comes in the negative form.

By definition, ugly means; unpleasant or repulsive, especially in appearance. Therefore, the next question to ask is, does this image even fit that definition? Again, the answer comes in the negative form.

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FOR YEARS, TAKING PHOTOS IN THE SUN RECEIVED NEGATIVE REACTIONS, AND ON THAT DAY, THOSE FEELINGS REMAINED THE SAME. AS A BEAUTY QUEEN, PHOTOGRAPHS WERE ALWAYS TAKEN AND FEATURED IN LOCAL NEWSPAPERS AND RATHER THAN ENJOY SEEING THEM, ONE PINED OVER THE FACT THAT THIS PARTICULAR PHOTO LOOKED UGLY. THIS STATEMENT ITSELF MAY SEEM SUPERFICIAL AND EVEN SHALLOW, BUT SOMETIMES OPINION MAKES THINGS SEEM THAT WAY.

Looking at a photograph is such a different experience than looking in the mirror. Personally, it provides an authentic perspective on how others receive one's physical appearance and because of that, looking, and feeling good bares some significance. For centuries, physical appearance presented a basis for judgment. On the same note, physical appearance presents a basis for stereotyping. As a person of color, with naturally curly hair, skin color and even choice of hairstyles can at times encourage judgment and stereotyping, thus tampering with the perception of others. Many may lay claim to this statement as well and because of these types of specificities self-presentation rises in importance to make sure that physical appearance is positively received because the last thing many wants, is to offer others the opportunity to take a critical stance against it.

Pondering on that last point, one begs to state that, the previous sentence holds the answer to the unasked question about the main issue with the image in the first place. To elaborate further, had it been placed in childhood photo albums, fuss about it would have been minimal but publication in a major newspaper for millions of people to see garnered self-consciousness and worry over how others would receive it, especially those who were strangers and vice versa.

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Everyone should embrace the right to criticize, question, or analyze their thinking, especially when thoughts dismiss helpfulness. The consideration of how childhood thought processes about the sun and squinting influenced personal feelings about those same topics in adult-life and encouraged association of that thought with derogatory self-criticism is astounding. This same thought process negatively manifested itself through the harsh criticism about that image upon publication. Furthermore, ignorance only made matters worse.

Truthfully, glasses would have resolved things. Had they been a part of life since then, those odd facial expressions would have ceased to exist and opinions of the sun and photography would have differed. At the time, though, if this experience never existed, would any lessons have been learned? Probably not. That is the beauty of living and experiencing things.

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Presently, embracing those odd quirks and mannerisms come quickly for these oddities are beautiful and offer a broad perspective on one's individuality. When a person can express, embrace, accept, and portray themselves as themselves - oddities and all - abundant liberation follow. Each individual has specific ways of being, co-existing with others with oddities of their own. When considered, is it safe to ask, will learning how to embrace each other a little more come when one understands how instrumental each oddity is in the lives of others an their own?

UNADORNED FACES

As a twin, questions about life - as a twin, perpetually loop like the refrain from a modern-day pop musical composition, with the only practical answer to many of these questions being - twin life is like any other, the only thing that makes it different is the oddities others know little about.

For the sake of providing a more definite answer, life as a twin has many benefits such as constant companionship, someone with the same odd tendencies, that secret twin language and a continual stream of support. Apart from that, another obvious benefit is some form of recognition, which, for some twins, comes with the territory. 

As life would have it and as a result of this twin recognition, the chance to share a little about twin-life proudly danced into grasp like a Latin dancer into the arms of a dance partner. This opportunity was a feature story in one of the more popular Trinidadian newspapers - the Trinidad Guardian. The interview was on a school day, after school of course and mummy, like any other, exhibited such exhilaration about the makeup and styling for the shoot.

With a dab of lipstick and some blush for that rosy cheek look, this was the first of many experiences with this form of cosmetics.

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As the article says, "You can't help but see the beautiful vein of simplicity on their unadorned faces" - truth in its purest form.

From attire to entertainment, preference, demeanor, and otherwise, unadorned is the best adjective one can use. Vibrant shades of lipstick segregated themselves from lips, and pretty, powdery shades of eyeshadow never held eyelids in a warm embrace. Cheeks wore natural blush instead of an applied shade, and though teenage self-esteem quandaries, acne, and issues with diet paraded like a beauty queen on stage, something about the simplicity of being simplistic kept one grounded and sincere. It was a comfortable time of life with a fuss saved for other things like homework, coordinating sleepovers and movie dates with friends, swimming competitions, and artistic ventures than appearance and all the work and worry involved. Getting dressed was uncomplicated, and so too was looking at oneself in the mirror without judgment.

In those days, having pictures taken at the photo studio was a trend. These pictures were given to significant others, friends, or put in a frame and hung on a bedroom wall. Recall brings to mind images with a bare face and sometimes lacking jewelry. Compliments on natural looks were often received, and flattery from these compliments came rushing like a younger sibling into the bed of an older sibling after having a bad dream. An opinion of self was favorable, and thoughts of beauty were healthy and supportive. Peer pressure to have a made-up face never existed, and although friends were dabbling in simple forms of makeup such as translucent powders and color tinted lip gloss, personal yearning for purity made their efforts seem questionable.

Once the modeling and beauty pageants began, then makeup application became something one had to learn, and expeditiously. In these industries, evasion seemed unavoidable, because beauty, in a sense, relied on it. A bare face, bushy eyebrows, wind-blown hair, uncolored lips and so on were frowned upon, especially in the fashion and beauty industry in Trinidad and Tobago. Makeup artists covered up every single imperfection and comments about better skin care regimes consumed an already overwhelmed mind. At this time of life, acne was a struggle. Photographers made the most ungracious comments about the blemished skin they had to photograph, and so foundation and concealers became a way of suppressing the truth.

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As life moved on, an incremental need for it attached like vines to an old house and became a heavy burden. Having been a beauty queen and having endured constant criticism for deplorable skin, insecurity about such things was a flamboyantly obvious crutch, further affirming constant makeup use and heavy makeup at that. Specific vocations pursued in early adulthood also claimed a made-up face as mandatory, at times even being scrutinized and assessed for it, so for a while, an uneven skin tone, puffy eyes, open pores, and other imperfections made one feel like a prisoner to an array of beauty products. That was a different time of life and a challenging one in its own right - a time when hiding things under body camouflage, concealers, and multiple layers of foundation became an unavoidable preference. Heavy eyeliner became a tool for distraction, the thought being; make the eyes look pretty so the focus would be on the beauty of them, not the bedding of bags and dark circles which circumvented them.

Most girls fancy all of those things.

As a child, peeking at mummy applying cosmetics exuded feelings of ecstasy and jealousy. The conception of becoming an adult "makeup wearing" woman was refreshing. However, when that time came, the reason for its use was quickly deluded. Previously mentioned imperfections created inadequacies with bare skin, though, during this time, overcrowded with blemishes is a fitting description. Therefore beauty came with coverage, colors, and the right type of product and not merely enhanced by the use of these products instead created. Harsh analysis of oneself, but truthful. Then, many years later,  as the acne and life in the fashion and beauty industry started to fade, gradual disconnection from this involute and layered world commenced bringing with it a sense of profound renewal and rejuvenation. Life changes like occupation, place of residence, significant other, friends, eating habits, diet, and overall experiences also played a part in this switch as it sanctioned individuality to seek out and embrace a deeper connection with subconscious beauty.  This journey allowed for a drastic shift, and ever since, the reason for makeup use has shifted. Nowadays, these products are generally not sought after. A little coconut oil, warmed from the friction created by rubbing palms, is lovingly applied to the skin one once struggled to embrace. Even on those more formal days, makeup still holds very little reign. Fresh, dewy skin with that allusion of shine on the T-zone, freckles, open pores, forehead wrinkles, acne scars, skin discoloration, dark circles and the current polka dot pattern of pimples lining cheeks are all welcomed. Forehead wrinkles and freckles bring memories of childhood days with crazy sunburnt bodies and ridiculous squinting in photographs - dearly beloved defining characteristics that were once covered up and hidden under layers of chemical-based products for the sake of being and feeling beautiful. 

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As a large, full, and unused makeup case sits atop a wardrobe, a little white box stands proudly next to it, with only a handful of items inside - a reminder of the shedding of both self-doubt and the dependency. Yes, it is still worn but minimally and boastfully so. A dab of this and that used not as a substitute to hiding anything but merely for enhancement. A made-up face no longer holds that much power or worth. Now, the power lies within those perfect imperfections, and today it is lovely to once again feel like the girl whose enchanting vein of simplicity shined through an unadorned face. In a way, it feels empowering. Maybe liberating is a more accurate description. The pressure of covering up imperfections has left. 

As a woman who felt this attachment to an array of cosmetic products and brands for many years, truth in saying that many others feel the same exists. Experience tells of ease of losing oneself in the disorienting world of beauty as one becomes consumed with hiding things rather than embracing them and even at times feeling like one cannot leave home without having a made-up face - a woeful reality.

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Society outlines the way women should act, dress, and look. Part of this same society is also made up of the voices of women, who at times, deliver the harshest judgments and criticisms when someone, especially in power or in the spotlight, embraces the appeal of an unadorned face. However, if anyone should understand how enabling and releasing that is - it is women, yet still, self-doubts hide under layers of makeup and harsh critiques are lashed out at others who lack the same amount of layers. Perhaps if this enthusiasm instead strengthens and supports the empowerment of subconscious beauty and all of its complexities and layers, then possibly one day, beauty can be dissociated from superficiality resulting in a more grounded and holistic idea of it all.

Tiva SamaruFeatures, 1998
RECOGNIZE THE GOOD

AT THE MOMENT, THE PERFECT SOUNDTRACK SERENADES WHILE AN OCCUPIED CANINE COMPANION, QHANA, ERADICATES THE REMAINDER OF A PARTIALLY CHEWED NIGHT-DRESS. ON TODAY'S PLAYLIST IS MR. HONG'S ALBUM LONG DAYS.SHORT YEARS; AN ALBUM, WHICH FROM THE FIRST SECOND, RESONATES DEEPLY AND INFLUENCES AN IMMEDIATE PRODUCTIVITY BOOST ON ONE OF THOSE WORKING FROM HOME DAYS.

A minute or so in, the sound of someone knocking on a door sounds too authentic to disregard. Mine perhaps? Affixed to the futon and hesitant to interrupt comfort, the delayed realization that this knocking was an effect in the song causes quiet relief. This reflective moment influences a paramount shift in focus. Slouching into the futon, it adjusts to suit. While engrossed in this moment of relaxation, thoughts start their ritualistic consummation, drifting into familiar spaces and honing in on a word from the previous paragraph. The word affixed bares particular consequentiality as a comparison comes speeding through like a bullet train without a need to stop. It goes like this - just like a body affixed to the futon, so too is a mind to negative personality traits.

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AS MR. HONG'S LONG DAYS.SHORT YEARS ENDS, ANOTHER GEM IGNITES AN AURAL ROMANCE. MIDNIGHT WALK; ONE OF THOSE TREASURED YOUTUBE SUGGESTIONS REDIRECTS THOUGHTS TO A REASSURING PERSONALITY MOMENT.

The moment was on stage at the Miss Teen Trinidad and Tobago pageant. There is always an award for the person with the best personality. Whether called Miss Amity or Best Personality, Largest Heart or Most Charitable, this type of award hints at the quality and authenticity of magic others see. From the beginning of the pre-pageant process, knowledge of this award existed; therefore, a pleasant personality was expected when out at engagements, during rehearsals, at press sessions and so on. As teenagers in a teen pageant, self-esteem issues were as noticeable as the morning sunshine peeking through a bedroom window. Competitiveness also co-existed, making those mentioned above justifiable. Words like "just be yourself" lacked meaning, as critically and negatively judging oneself as a means of finding one's real and better self - for the sake of excelling and winning prizes - became a preferred routine.

AT THE MISS TEEN TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO PAGEANT, THE MAIN VOTING HAPPENED A COUPLE OF DAYS BEFORE THE SHOW. ON A SMALL PIECE OF PAPER, THE NAME OF CO-DELEGATE KENDRA KISSOON - A STRIKINGLY BEAUTIFUL GIRL WITH A GENUINE AND INFECTIOUS HAPPINESS - STARED BACK.

Confident the award was Kendra's from the get-go, constant analyzation and comparison of her personality to mine became part of the process. Negative inner criticism gave way to a gut-wrenching feeling of disappointment after engagements, certain in some way about even the slightest absence of pleasantness and uncertain about its impact on others. Importance was placed on a constant need to align with Kendra's personality as the genuine nature of it lacked any sign of forgery. The driving force behind that thought process was the acclaim of being well-liked: selfish but true. As a result, overcompensation went into overdrive to disguise trapped pleasantries and as an opposing means of staying honest. It then became a bit of reliance, and the understanding of this reality cheered on the negative criticisms resulting in the depreciation of self-esteem; a "handy" tool for a beauty queen. This behavioral cull, consequently affected opinion, on a personal level, enabling negative inner criticism to run rampant and allowing constant comparison of oneself to others to kick in as intentionally as a vigorous anesthetic.

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FAST FORWARDING A BIT, THE WINNERS WERE ALL ANNOUNCED ON THE NIGHT OF THE SHOW.

Right up to the last second, that feeling of nervousness maybe more anxiousness, usually felt when the probability of winning something exists, took over. Being one of twelve delegates, the probability of winning this award existed as either a passing or a stagnant thought. Everyone or at least most hoped to claim a prize for something. Math aside, the uncertainty of winning this particular award seemed higher than the hope probability provided. Needless to say, if only for the sake of the many months of self-bashing, the idea that maybe chance could produce rewarding results seemed to appease. Therefore, it goes without saying - when the announcer said the words, and the winner of the award for Miss Amity is, Tiva Lee Samaru, shock raced into the present like electricity through live wires. Immediately after receiving the award and walking off stage, doubtful reasons swooned like flood waters. The winner is the person with the highest number of votes. Did they count wrong? It almost seemed incomprehensible. Just an award many would say and even question all the fuss, but when recollection shows the affliction incurred for the sake of this victory, it makes the gesture even more honorable.

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Years after this experience, the right kind of internal butterflies took flight, making every experience an adventure and an opportunity to recognize the good within. Admittedly, on some days, dubiousness about the strength of following through with this new found way of being felt as daring as walking along a winding road with closed eyes — an extreme comparison, but indeed slightly agreeable. Nowadays, the approach is different, as, for years, continuous practice nurtured helpful ways of introspection and inner criticism - healthier ways. This way of being, took some time to cultivate with much room left for improvement.

Truthfully, before the pageant, personality issues lacked utmost importance. Therefore inner criticism generally stayed quiet. Yes, as a teenager, simple moments of self-doubt and questioning of morals, ethics, and decision-making existed, but generally, introspection was more positive than negative. However, during the Miss Teen Trinidad and Tobago pageant, negative introspection was innate primarily because the stakes were high. The gains were significant. The difficulty to trust in oneself and to follow that "be yourself" rule stayed strong because in reality if followed, the surfacing of less desirable behaviors became certain - a situation a beauty queen would rather avoid, merely for the sake of, on the surface, having a great personality.

In everyday life, being nominated for or winning a personality award is rare, and even if that possibility exists, a nomination or a win guarantees nothing more than acclaim and what good is that if it ends with some form of self-destruction.

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Yes, be aware of the bad, but more importantly, recognize the good and allow that to be the modus operandi.

Remember, when the mind affixes to a negative thought pattern, toxicity becomes a problem, with several constant battles for change waiting like soldiers on the battlefield. From personal experience, toxicity tampers with self-esteem and endangers the opportunity to notice, experience, and appreciate any good impact as this negative inner criticism preoccupies the mind and overshadows the ability to enjoy each present moment, without doubt, complaint, and uncertainty.

As previously mentioned, it took time to understand the importance of allowing the good to become a personal modus operandi. Even now as a more emotionally connected person, recognizing those positive traits and allowing the chance to relish in non-judgmental self-appreciation still at times feels like a constant challenge. More than that, embracing the positive and adopting this as a circadian principle requires constant work as in reality, the negative seem less laborious, especially in a world where positivity struggles to stay trending.

Regardless, challenge oneself to find a balance between negative and positive personality traits. Challenge oneself to ditch the self-bashing, toxic self-talk, and negative inner criticism. Challenge oneself to adopt a more praising way of analyzing the things that need fixing. Continue to elevate the body and mind by elevating the positive within. Avoid ending up like that overly analytical and critical pageant girl.

REMEMBER THE WAY TO RISE ABOVE THE NEGATIVE AND FEEL CONFIDENT IS NOT BY SELF-BASHING, BUT BY HOLISTICALLY RECOGNIZING THE GOOD, EMBRACING IT, SHARING IT AND ULTIMATELY ENCOURAGING OTHERS TO DO THE SAME.

Tiva SamaruMiss Teen T & T, Honors, 2001
THE TRANSFORMATIVE ONES

Lately, the past - starving for good recollections, roams through, unearthing nooks and crannies and all sorts of experiences. Revisiting accomplishments, and sometimes, recollections destined for oblivion or perhaps resolution.

Repainting pictures of friends and friendships both lost and kept but mainly the transformative ones which emboldened appreciation for those who, without force, influenced dreams. Today, a recollection of those types of amities present themselves. As fortuity would retain it, friends of all types traveled into and out of this life of mine. Some of them leaving behind mounds of emotions to sort through and others leaving frame-able bits.

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As nostalgia sits on that last sentence, the mental image of someone who left some solemn frame-able bits appears. 

Danielle Rumsey is her name. A comely, gray-eyed, English girl. North Eastern College in Trinidad and Tobago is the birthplace of our connection which sleepovers, swimming competitions, road trips and shared love for animals solidified. Subsequently, a critical moment as a result of that friendship comes to mind. With pure intention, our feet stomped through a place with a new world - overflowing with awe - where remembrances and fulfillment lived.

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In the year 1995, Danielle requested some company to attend a rehearsal at her pan tent; as referred to by the locals. This day birthed a deep love for the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago - the steel pan, and enthusiasm from this experience ensured a mouth expressed the desire to play this beautiful instrument to the ears of parents.

A few sunrises and sunsets later - upon enrollment in the Gary Straker's Pan School -sharing this love for the instrument came true. 

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Led by Gary Straker, who at the time was this boisterous, passionate, and aptitudinal steel pan music composer, the pan school consisted of adolescent children and teenagers. The band played at all sorts of events around the country, serenading audiences with renditions of familiar musical compositions. One such composition is from the movie Mission Impossible, and when played, personal fondness grew distant.

As the band grew in size, popularity tagged along and sanctioned the band's opportunity to take part in the National School's Junior Panorama Festival in the year 1997. Gary, with the avail of another charismatic composer, who went by the designation of "Ian," composed a resplendent piece and the band played it magnificently, so much so, a spot on the "big stage" to play in the finals of the music festival bore the band's name. The sacrifice was tremendous and loaded with tedious rehearsals. A filmy recollection of the effects arduous rehearsals created, particularly on the day of the finals, brings to light the badly bruised hands of Nathaniel - a boy at the time and incredible drummer for the band until his premature death in his late teens by the hands of the law. 

As the squeaky wheels of our steel pan racks purposefully rolled onto the stage for our final performance, nervousness appeared until confidence in the composition took its place. 

Once settled in, Gary held his counting stick high in the air in the usual manner, then commenced a customary pre-countdown dance - an energetic two-step. He followed that up with a conventional melodic bang of the steel followed by a rhythmic count from one to four. For the next few minutes, the enchanting sound of sticks to steel rang out. A female judge danced, and a score sheet went airborne - a reaction which fixed the band's place in Junior Panorama history. As "Captain" of the band at the time, radio hosts rushed in for interviews after the affirmation of victory. The dancing judge was the highlight of those interviews garnering laugh upon laugh.

This victory marked a historic moment for the band, one that led to many other opportunities. Recognition came later followed by a celebration and an award ceremony with individual certificates as the only tangible byproduct of this accomplishment.

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As life would have it, a few years later, other experiences and opportunities for personal growth came knocking. The time to move on to other chapters of life blew in like a casual tropical breeze. Gary, of course, continued with his work which eventually gifted him the recognition he deserved - the Hummingbird Medal - one of the highest awards in Trinidad and Tobago. Some years later, illness stole his last breath and just like that; he moved on to a different chapter of existence.

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When considering the course of events that followed that one day at Danielle's steel pan band rehearsal, the conspicuous counter thought is, without Danielle in the equation, the possibility of these experiences seems slim. Granted, if fate willed it, it could have transpired at another time. All this sounds cliche, but from an authentic perspective, had Danielle prevented herself from asking for some company to attend her rehearsal that day, then that would have blocked that specific opportunity to kick start the definitive course the universe charted. In the grand scheme of things, it would have prevented the writing of this story.

Friendships are beautiful in that way, as many experiences result from that relationship. The above sentence confirms the necessity or rather the importance of making and keeping friends, especially those with significant influence. The more profound truth is, friends like these may open doors of opportunity and personal magnification through the right channels of encouragement, and yes, that can come from within, but sometimes someone else's input has a more significant impact.

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So, learn from everyone, even when connections end. Some people stay for brief moments while others journey alongside, but regardless of duration and outcome, appreciate the value of each relationship, as everyone, particularly those bearing gifts of enlightenment, unlock doors furnished with uncharted realms awaiting discovery.