Author Archives: humanlexi

How to Make Your World a Garden

Decide that it will be one. That you’ll be one with the garden, in the garden. By performing mitzvot. In this garden, you will see miracles. You will relinquish ego, curiously explore, and know boundaries. 

Creation happens in real time. We are regenerative energy cased in bodies in this lowly world. Our existence as we know it on a day-to-day level is that of materiality and physicality. For example, we tend to ourselves by brushing teeth, taking showers, moisturizing, drinking coffee, making breakfast, going to work, earning money, and so on. This is life on earth. 

Each morning, we say the modeh ani and thank G-d for returning our souls to our bodies. The day is initiated with gratitude and the acknowledgement of the soul. On Shabbos we rest. During shmita (“release,” this year!), we don’t plant. Yom Kippur is the Sabbath of Sabbaths. 

Space is allowed between the body and the soul; the animal and the godly.

As any human knows, our animal souls have a way of taking over. We become distracted, obsessed with matters like politics or gossip. Eating junk food, prioritizing pleasure over wellbeing. 

It’s not to say that we are bad or that we should dwell on our shortcomings or wrongdoings. Rather, it’s to acknowledge our propensity to turn our attention to unholy things when we wish for the circumstances of our lives to be different. 

On Yom Kippur, we remember the sin of the Golden Calf, when Moses wasn’t exactly on time to bring down the tablets from Mount Sinai: The children of Israel became anxious and turned to an idol. G-d eventually forgave this heinous sin. He taught that we can repent through atonement and prayer. 

Yom Kippur, often confused as a sorrowful day, is quite the opposite. The miracle of all our lives is that we can be forgiven: by G-d, by our fellow man, and by ourselves. 

Yom Kippur is the cosmic occasion during which we are at one with G-d. Close as we will be all year as we transcend our physical bodies, earthly needs, and ascend through prayer as we tap into the upward flowing energy of Tishrei. 

Tishrei is the month of Libra, represented by scales, as G-d weighs our deeds. We too are invited to weigh our past decisions and future convictions; to judiciously and intentionally commence a new year and a new self.

This is how you make your world a garden: by deciding it will be one. Ascend and transcend through the divine stages of the High Holidays (particularly during Yom Kippur, when the “Yechida” level of the soul is revealed to us), opt to transform what may be scorched land littered with twigs into a land that can bloom for vibrant life is our essence. 

Lamed, the letter of Tishrei, rises above the other letters in the alphabet. We rise above our past self, to our higher self. Forget the indulgences, the pain, all the distractions that made our personal Egypt. (After all, we only became Jews after we left Egypt…) Pray and do the work of cultivating a garden. Labor at the task of beirurim.

Recently I came across the following entry I wrote last year: 

Petchitor fumes humidify Autumn on Kol Nidreh as young Minneapolis Jews gather, masked. Sholom and Mushky’s backyard is a makeshift outdoor sanctuary, where plastic chairs are lined up, men and women are separated by plants, and congregants are in jackets. Kol Nidreh is the beginning of Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement, when we fast and refrain from wearing leather. 

What is poignant about this to me in retrospect, is how, in the middle of a pandemic, Jews came together to rise above their past selves. Services took place outside, everyone wore masks, and Jews did what we have done for the entirety of our existence. 

The labor of our lives can seem so daunting. That is, until we realize that we are already doing the work. 

Yesterday I received a letter from my friend and sister Levana, who wrote to me “In Messillat Yesharim, R. Chaim Luzolto explains in the intro that nothing in this book is new – he is only reminding us of what we already know. That learning the book once does nothing – you have to thoroughly review it…” This can be likened to the 10th step of AA, “continuing to take a personal inventory,” being constantly vigilant.

On Yom Kippur, we reach the highest level of ourselves. Remember however that that highest level of self is always there, and knows exactly how to make the world a garden. With kavanah, love and a tender touch.

Human, rise up, rise up

You have strength within you

You have wings of spirit

Wings of powerful eagles

Do not deny them

Lest they deny you

Seek them out

And you will find them without delay

(lit. they will be found by you . . . )

-Rav Avraham Israel Kook

“From the straits I called God; God answered me with a vast expanse.” Tehillim Chapter 118

Transforming Cheshvan

First published on

How to protect yourself from the world: build an ark.

When the world is flooded with the chaos of 24/7 news channels broadcasting the latest tragic event, people are unfriendly in the streets, and nothing seems to go “right,” build an ark. Not one that houses couples of animals, but one that houses the unique attributes of yourself. 

In the generation of Noah, people were misbehaving. Total corruption pervaded the world in which people robbed from G-d, each other, and theirselves. Not everyone, for Noah was a righteous man who walked with G-d, and so G-d told him to build an ark. Subsequently, G-d flooded the earth with boiling water that would destroy “all the flesh in which there is the spirit of life.” (Genesis 6:17) Noah and his family went aboard the ark along with two of each species, one male and one female.

The Mabul ‘flood’ took place in the month of Cheshvan, a bitter one — literally in name, MarCheshvan ‘bitter Cheshvan’ —  that follows the elevated, high holiday-filled month of Tishrei. After weeks of socialization and celebration, seasons shift from warm to cold, light to dark, and we are invited to retreat, using our time inward as a period for transformation. Where better to retreat than into a personal ark which contains all living things of flesh.

Water is the element dimension of Cheshvan. This month we read Noach, the flood begins and ends, and we pray for rain (on the 7th). Water is Torah (Isaiah 55:1). Water covers 71% of the earth. 60% of our bodies are made from water. In Bereshit (first portion in the bible, creation story), we learn that G-d creates the whole world, man being last. Man encompasses/contains all the universe. And so, if the majority of both our physical bodies and this earth are water, we share more commonalities than we do differences, and we are made of/from each other and this very earth. 

By creating an inner ark, purifying ourselves (flood is like a mikveh for the world), and absorbing the nutrients of the high holidays (through our small intestine, the body part of the month), a time with the potential to be bitter is, as commanded, instead sweetened (Devarim, 26: 15-16). 

Cheshvan Noah's Ark

When the flood ends, there is a rainbow: “I Have Set My Bow in the Clouds and It Shall Serve as a Sign of the Covenant Between Me and the Earth” (Genesis 9:13). Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch explains that “the symbolism of the rainbow is its multiple colors in one cohesive structure. G-d’s pact of peace with humankind and all creation is represented by this eternal symbol” (quoted in Eco Bible, Rabbis Yonatan Neril and Leo Dee). 

When one sees a rainbow outside, there are elements of bliss and awe. If you are around other people when you spot a rainbow, you likely announce the miracle in the sky for all to see. 

In its literal definition, a rainbow is “an arc …that exhibits…the colors …formed opposite the sun by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays in raindrops, spray, or mist.” As so much of our unity (60% bodies) is in water, a rainbow, G-d’s sign of peace, is in essence, the sun’s rays colorfully displaying our togetherness.

The End of Chaos

“The Initial Mystery that attends any journey is: how did the traveler reach his starting point in the first place?”

There’ve been big events worldwide and today I head to Miami for the first time in 11 months. Last time I was home, my experience in using the word “pandemic” had been when my debate partner and I negated the resolution “On balance, economic globalization benefits worldwide poverty reduction” at the Harvard Speech and Debate Tournament during the Boston Blizzard. 

Five years later, when I was in Minneapolis, my father called me and said that COVID-19 will be bad and require we all make “very personal choices.” At a brewery stand up show, a comic I dated for a week joked that “anyone our age who gets coronavirus is a little bitch.”

At St. Patty’s Day darties nationwide, 20-somethings (myself included) drank green beer either oblivious or in denial of the lockdown that immediately followed. 

Everyone in the US, other than perhaps the Amish, is privy to the following events: Lockdown and every day since. 

The stock market crash, Black Lives Matter protests, the 2020 Presidential Election. In between, wildfires, the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg, and exponential increase in Tik Tok influencers. 

In the through line of this clusterfuck, I make the mistake and ponder: Who am I in all of this? 

In March I thought I was important. Today I am no one. 

Prior to COVID, the waking hours of our lives — or at least my life — were occupied and shaped by social priorities and expectations. From routine, to the types of media I consumed, I had ideas about myself. The activities I was preoccupied with in the weeks leading up to quarantine were vessels for these ideas.

In my (almost) year away from home and 11 months mid-way across the country, I learned that none of these ideas matter. I used to be very attached, infected, if you will. I’ve identified with different political and idealogical views; I’ve been preppy, I’ve been goth; I’ve had blonde hair, pink, red. 

Neither a political leaning nor hair color are truths as to who I am. These ideas/moods are commotion.

See, one of the harder parts of solitude is to discern oneself from the rest of the world. In quarantine, I was challenged to relinquish ideas about myself. 

I made it a point to investigate my tendencies, preferences, etc., and to distill my conceptions of these parts of my “self.” This is a trippy thing to do. There were times when I was frustrated because I could not articulate the minefield that is the human experience. It even damaged my ego when I could not evaluate or argue ideas well in language.

Part of what has made the global pandemic so painful for the collective is that we had the idea that we were important enough to not experience such an event. But this had to have been felt when the temples fell, during the Bubonic plague, and WWII. Nowhere is it written that we’re important enough to not experience such events, yet ideas have led us to feel otherwise.

I’m homeward bound and leave these ideas behind me. I encourage you to do the same; To ask yourself what about you is really true. 

So, how did you (the traveler) get here in the first place? 

Does it really matter?

How can you make it better?

These are the questions I’ve asked myself.

I realize what I’ve written is abstract. I hope that in reading this, you’re provoked. What I know to be true is that our will is our power; our ability to discern what we can and cannot control. 

What I’ve tasked myself with, on this journey, is mindfully optimizing my actions, so that the butterfly effect of them (wherever in the universe) is optimized, too. Mindfulness itself has a domino effect. What this means for you, you’ll have to decide… 

Right now the world seems chaotic and confused. No individual is free from the pain of the collective. But with each individual healing or enlightenment, the world can be a brighter place. It’s our job to mindfully exercise our will to be better, to bring the light.

On Preciousness

I listen to rainfall and hear its tracks, as it meets the metal of my balcony and makes its way down gutters and onto pavement. It’s been raining since, at the very least, the dead early hours of the morning. Tempted to create or work, I remind myself it’s four o’clock on a Sunday morning.

On Tuesday, it was my friend’s birthday and I was over at her apartment downstairs. I had seen her a few days prior when we were both outdoors exercising. She said she had forgotten how happy she feels when the weather is pleasant (in Minnesota, that’s anything above 40), and that when the trees bloom this time of year it’s “precious.” I noted how delightful an adjective she’d chosen.

It’s my first spring. My first time watching flowers bloom on trees. The first time I noticed the trees blooming, the tiny buds I thought resembled the slimy bulbs that I’d find on seaweed on Miami Beach. I’ve been fascinated by the bloom. I stop and smell the flowers.

My friend’s description of the blooming trees as precious got me thinking about how this time in quarantine feels precious. The morning downpour is unsuspecting. It’s cradling. I brew coffee and play a “Sunday Morning Dance Party” playlist I curated. I jump on my mini trampoline to get my blood flowing; I stretch; I dance. My body asks for these things.

Without quite thinking about it, I open the refrigerator and pull out red and yellow pepper, artichoke, carrots, and onion. I start chopping. It’s 6am. I put aside the chopped rainbow. The day prior I started to read Love in the Time of Cholera. I lay on my couch to read. My mother always told me that this Gabriel Garcia Marquez novel captured the experience of my family nearly 100 years ago, in provincial El Salvador, where my grandmother is from.

On Friday, I rearranged my furniture. I’d been living in what looked like a catalogue, where form was prioritized over function, but that was not working for me. I had commissioned a friend to paint a portrait of my living room a couple weeks prior, so the old space is preserved now in the physical form of a painting. This reconfiguration of space in my living room opened up a new world – one where I am comfortable, and my place and ability to take up space are more important than the furniture.

With open space now, I can lay more freely. A yoga bolster I angle diagonally so that the underside of the highest point is atop a block. I slightly recline and my hearts space opens. Neck and back supported, I can stretch my limbs in all directions. I say I’ll never sit on a couch or chair again. Before me are notebooks and colored pencils. I doodle Lexiland, where mushrooms sit atop colorful mountains that meet the sea, and clouds are smiling. I draw Rachel’s golden retriever Kaia next.

In taking the time to draw whatever comes to mind, without looking at a clock or phone for hours, I return to my childhood self. All I ever wanted as a child was to feel calm and for other people around me to be happy. In adulthood, the latter took precedent, unfortunately. In quarantine, I’ve rectified that truth. I hear the rain that will fall all day, close my eyes, and I’m reminded of home. Most times water has fallen from the sky in Minnesota, it’s been snow. Just the sound of rain reminds me of the tropics, and how my grandfather loved the rain.

Chopping, brewing, reading, coloring – these are the acts I wish to prioritize always, not just in quarantine. Time in quarantine has been precious to me in rediscovering what brings me catharsis. This reclamation of space and of hobbies shows me how capable we are in redirecting our path and finding things that truly bring us peace; how capable we are in understanding and appreciating something as precious.

Utopia Now

Meditating on utopia, I observe my interaction with the world like a child. It’s with curiosity and an acknowledgement of my separateness from the world that I find utopia. I realize “utopia” is a loaded term, but nonetheless there’s room for it in our vocabulary if we interact with the word thoughtfully and playfully.

It was Friday on a virtual zoom ‘writing for dance’ workshop led by an old Miami acquaintance – with whom I recently rekindled – that I began to meditate on utopia. The acquaintance leading the workshop asked us what came to mind when we heard “utopia.” It was in that workshop that she used the phrase, “utopia now.”

In utopia we bend time; stretch moments; flick away hours. In utopia, the largest structures erected are bridges, and no building blocks the sun. In utopia, nostalgia has no name. In utopia, everything is an option.

In utopia, we speak thoughtfully, and operate within the boundaries of language. Utopia is a place inside ourselves where we’re comfortable naked; a virtual return to the Garden; a reclamation.

In utopia, snap peas are candy. In utopia, we pet trees slightly with our fingertips. In utopia, we bathe lovingly, soapy and hot. In utopia, food is medicine. In utopia, I see my neighbors’ smiles but do not hear their conversation. In utopia, leaves are illuminated, gold and green, with no apparent shape as they shake their morning shake. In utopia, I smell dirt and freshwater and yeast. In utopia, our heads, hands, and hearts are aligned.

In utopia, there’s freedom from expectation. The world has been rid of anticipation beyond necessity, and life is a dance, not a march. There’s endless movement in this world, and infinite points along which we move – to explore. In utopia, humans are confident in ourselves and our choices. There’s only who we are and our inherent preferences. We’re untouched by preconception and confirmation bias. Our heart space is open in utopia.

When I find myself in utopia, navigating a neo-Garden of Eden on Earth in the middle of a global pandemic, I see an abyss; a trampoline; a mountain. Only peripherally can I sense any bother in utopia, and so, I look within, into infinite colorless universes dividing across space and time, and breathe.

To make sense of utopia, I’m calling on YOU to share your version with me. Fill this out and tag me @humanlexi, and email me a video of you reading it aloud at

#UNLITTER Minnesota

Launching #UNLITTER Minnesota

#UNLITTER launched in Gainesville one September day in 2017 and soon became an integral part of what it meant to be environmentally conscious and self-aware in our respective community back at the University of Florida.

Local Gainesville companies, artists, and bands came together in the name of #UNLITTER, and it soon went global. Nearly three years later, I’m in Minnesota, writing this post some couple thousand miles away from where the movement began.

At face value, #UNLITTER is a movement that encourages environmentally friendly behavior like using less plastic, investing in sustainable goods, participating in #UNLITTER Your Mind Yoga, or turning off your phone for a few hours to gain some headspace.

It’s about being thoughtful rather than wasteful in what we consume. It’s about picking up after ourselves. The sentiment extends beyond that of the physical world, in that, to #UNLITTER is to create space. It’s not just #UNLITTER Earth, it’s #UNLITTER your mind.

What I particularly appreciate about the movement is the emphasis on living a simpler life to find happiness. It’s a tricky concept – getting rid of things, and thoughts to create space – one that takes understanding and introspection to grasp. It’s taken me years, and I am still learning.

I’ve found that creating space for myself has helped me find aspects of myself. There are too many things; too many thoughts. We spend too much time and energy dealing with things that bring little value to our lives and distract us from ourselves and the earth we live on.

In quarantine, I’ve #UNLITTERed my apartment and my mind. It took a deep inventory of my literal space to feel at ease mentally, without anticipating a mess or searching for some item I misplaced. In tandem with my usual practice of meditation and mindfulness, I found serenity in how #UNLITTERing gives us space to breathe.

Outside space facilitates inner space and experiencing this on a personal level brought a new meaning to #UNLITTER for me. By creating space in the world, picking up after ourselves, and finding calm in the present moment, we #UNLITTER. We rid the world of what’s unneeded so that we have space to move freely and be ourselves, without unnecessary distractions that we often deem as important.

I reached out to my friend who started the movement and said that #UNLITTER needs to launch in Minnesota. Anyone here up north can attest to the pride that is found in Minnesota, where residents cherish the land, respect the seasons, and endure bitter cold with ease; a graceful embodiment of going with the flow.

In Minnesota, the extreme weather and distinct changing of the seasons allows for an intimate understanding of the earth, and I’ve found people’s lifestyles here largely mirror that of the #UNLITTER mentality, which is to “draw inspiration from one’s environment to positively impact one’s surroundings.”

Now that the long winter is over, and we find ourselves at a warm point, it’s a wonderful time to #UNLITTER the North, and spread the love by advocating for simplicity in pursuit of happiness.

On Orange Slices

It’s a cold morning. The kind where the cold nibbles, and the sun suggests it will burn off. Our star gently illuminates a new day. I sit. My yoga mat separates me from the floor pavement of a garage rooftop. I bare the cold.

I seek to synchronize my breath with the wind. On my mat are items I deemed important when packing my yellow backpack: hot cherry tea in a mug (Jerry gave me a box of teabags), watercolor paint (given to me by Carina sometime last year), a jar – that once contained marinara sauce – of water to dip the brush in, and half a sliced orange.

I hold my pen in a bare hand and protect my notebook from flying away with a gloved hand (to protect from germs that live on door handles and elevator buttons). My hair shines in the sun and graces my view with the wind. I feel myself bare the cold. Breathe.

My back faces Downtown Minneapolis. I see few buildings. Compared to Miami (my hometown), this is much smaller. (I think, even this is too big.) Still, now I prefer open space and the northern sky. I look up and feel confident in our planet. How it protects us – northern sky, a massive dome – and it says, possibility.

I want an orange slice. A page from an older notebook rustles the inside cover of my current journal, and a doodle with bubble letters that spell “Don’t Worry Baby,” colored in aqua blue gel pen flies away. I get up quickly. I worry the doodle will depart with the moment. No, the wind has subsided to breeze.

I sit. The notebook opens to a page with a wristband from Apple Day in Excelsior. I return to where I am and write, and reach for an orange slice. Today, I cut it in a way where the tougher whitish fiber creates boundaries in the slice, squiggly, travelling upward. The juice of the fruit doesn’t look cased or waiting to burst. Instead, contained in itself. It welcomes a bite.

My pen is in my bare hand and the orange in the gloved one that touched door handles and elevator buttons. Pen in bare hand, I need it to eat the orange. I put the contaminated slice down. I need my bare hand.

Clearing Sunday

It’s Sunday morning. I wake up in a jolt. This is the untouchable hour of the morning, when the only sounds are those of sirens and garbage trucks. Since I was little, I’ve imagined working as a sanitation engineer (is that what we’re calling them these days?) to be peaceful. You grasp onto the truck and go from can to can. Handle literal junk –  preferable to some of the garbage that’s presented to us day-today.

At dawn, I’m free, wrapped in forgotten dreams, stored with potential energy. My sinuses are congested, and I gasp for air. This has happened three times. I decide to listen to my mother’s instructions she’d given the morning before, and so I sterilize a nedi-pot, fill it with distilled water, and let it float in a double boiler to get warm.

The spout of the nedi-spot meets my nostrils, head tilted. There is so much pressure. It has no direction. Does pressure have direction? (Googled it: need to talk to one of my engineer pals, as I am still confused in how the physics of this relate to my metaphor.) The reluctance of my sinus junk. I laugh at myself. To document the moment, I attempt a Tik-Tok. I look in the mirror and think I like my mother in her congested state (we Jews are cursed with seasonal allergies).

I move to my living room/kitchen/gym/office/chapel/grocery store of a common area and look around at the space – stuffed. Belongings out of place. The space unable to breathe. I conclude my own breathing is a prerequisite to that of my physical space. I sit on my yoga mat to meditate. The mat is placed – I estimate – about halfway between the five yard span of a wall and the window. There’s a mirror against the wall. I see my own reflection and that of the outside world my back is turned to. The courtyard of my building where neighbors pass by. Last night, my new neighbor friend Jerry cooked a New York strip steak and shared. While I was eating on my balcony, a group of young men in black and gray streetwear sat in the courtyard, eating burgers they’d taken out from Red Cow. They leave. One comes back after having left to clean the small mark they had made. Jerry thanked him. The young man said, “Of course. It’s not mine. It’s ours,” and went inside. I stare back at my reflection and turn 180 degrees to face the courtyard.

I roll my neck and surrender. I practice yoga and open what I need to. My hips. My heart. My sinuses still congested; I flash back to a memory of my childhood pediatrician Dr. Eisenberg massaging my sinuses. I then massage my face for 30 minutes with tender pressure, pushing gently. There is release.

I proceed to handle my space. The dishes. Post-it notes scattered – how did I think so many passing thoughts were noteworthy? My space is littered with thoughts that in time become immaterial. I brew a cup of Gypsy Cold Care tea. The quote on the tea bag was one of Aeschylus and reads, “From a small seed a mighty trunk may grow.” Dope.

The dishes await me. Hot water passes through, in-between fingers and stings over-washed hands. Grassy and chapped. Nails unpainted for the first time in I don’t know how long. The water runs; sink fills; garbage disposal dissolves what’s passed; unneeded. The dishes are finished – for now. I’m hungry. French toast with Friday’s challah? No, this morning I want an omelet – with onion and mushrooms and sprouts. Layers, magic, rebirth.

A final task: clear the kitchen table/standing desk/mail drop spot. I remove Post-its, mail, and a last obstacle: hardened maple syrup on unfinished wood. I chip it away.

I open a package my father sent that I retrieved yesterday. In it: kitchen tools and two bottles of wine. People have been giving me a lot of wine. I catch myself thinking, do I seem that stressed? And then, no! It’s not about me. People are kind and wine is the evening’s nectar. Most exciting is the whisk that came in the package. I employ it to scramble eggs.

I wedge an orange the wicked sharp chef knife my father sent. I turn on Edvard Grieg’s Peer Gynt. A piece I used to play on the piano for my grandfather that I rediscovered just a few weeks ago when I decided to delve back into classical music. I had Googled “Norweigan composer in honor of the Nordic influence in Minnesota. I obliged by the first search result. When I first played it for my grandfather on the piano he said, “In English it’s ‘Morning Mood.’” He used to start his day with an orange. Pellets of tangy juice, ready to be bitten into the way an orangutan eats fruit.

It’s eight thirty. It’s time for a walk.

The Move

Originally published on LinkedIn on March 10, 2020

This past July, I moved from Miami Beach to Minneapolis. You’re wondering “why?” and upon moving here, I asked myself the same thing. My answer to this is: my intuition. I felt it was the move. Everyone thought I was kidding, or crazy. 

The Midwest had always attracted me. I considered going to college in the region. I moved here knowing one person, who spoke so highly of Minnesota, which I, at the time, didn’t realize was characteristic of most Minnesotans. (I’m from Florida — other than the Dolphins’ 1972 perfect season, we don’t have very much to be proud of…)

It feels silly to even point out the stark difference between Miami and Minneapolis; one a glamorous party town, associated with sandy beaches and cocaine, and the other an underrated, freezing Metropolis that becomes heaven on earth during the Summer (when I visited for the first time in June, I had to ask my friend what the whimsical, wispy “stuff” was in the air. It was cotton.)

I moved to another planet. It is the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done. It meant starting from square one in every aspect of life (this includes driving. The first time I drove when it was super cold outside, I had no idea how to de-fog the windows. I drove on the highway with my windows open so I could see. Later that night, I learned what a defrost button is…)

This is the happiest I have ever been. It was not always like this. For many months, I questioned the decision and felt lonely, but held onto the faith that led me here in the first place. It was not without putting myself in uncomfortable situations that I found a place here. I wish I’d counted how many rooms I walked into before feeling like I belonged. I was living by the mottos of “show up” and “just do it.”

I sought out jobs in the Twin Cities, while still in Florida, and worked to connect with whoever possible. In May, I came across a job at my current company Denamico, and became determined to work here. My current boss Kristin and I spoke on the phone — she told me the company was looking to hire someone more experienced than I am. A month later, I traveled here for the first time for other interviews. I told Kristin I was visiting. Serendipitously, Denamico was hosting an event during my stay. Attendees were given the opportunity to introduce themselves. I stood up and said that I am from Miami and planned on moving to Minnesota (my current coworker apparently said, “Who the f***?”). The next day, I visited the Denamico office and was, to my surprise, interviewed (again). After the interview, I called my one friend here and told him that Denamico was it… I was relentless, and after completing a project, presenting it in person a month later, I was offered the job. A week later, I drove from Miami to Minneapolis to make the move. 

It’s been eight months since moving to Minnesota and starting my job at Denamico. My own will is what facilitated my current state, but the characters along the way have largely shaped the experience, as well. The point, and you’ve heard it before, is that we can attain nearly anything we desire. It takes a hell of a lot of trial and error, facing rejection, and jumping into the unknown, but it’s worth it. If you fear being judged, know that the only people judging you are the ones who are too scared to make themselves uncomfortable. After all, you’re living out their fear seemingly fearlessly.

The huge lesson that I’ve shared with you has shown to apply to all areas of life. We have to just do it, and show up. In business, especially. We’re going to lose to competition, feel rejected, keep going, and win every now and then (as long as we show up). The other day, someone brought up how fish swim against the current. A fish that goes with the flow is a dead fish, and so to live is to go against the current. 

Last, even writing and sharing this story (which is being expanded upon in book form) on LinkedIn of all places is uncomfortable to me. It’s “not my vibe,” I thought, but apparently it is now!

Thanks to the constantly surprising Midwest, and all of YOU characters along the way… 

On Bread and Presence

I stare at my tapestry of what I suppose are pine trees. I have headphones in. My head falls back like a slinky, and seeing the inside of myself is all I owe the world.

It’s fun to be in my feelings, where I can say, “I just want to be a fairy,” and sit on the floor of my room or bake challah.

Earlier I prepared challah dough from scratch (Mushky’s recipe). Tomorrow is Shabbat. The Jewish Sabbath that spans every Friday at sundown to Saturday at sundown. On Friday nights I light candles, make bread and wine holy. Millions of Jews across the world do the same. It’s in the vein of this tradition I think of the dough I prepared, and how it will rise overnight, and how this is what my people do.

People make fun of baking bread. What is so funny about the gathering of simple ingredients that we’ve figured out in making something of substance? I’d prefer to know more about wheat and the ingredients I’m using than most of the other information that’s accessible to me – like Paris Hilton’s sex tape or a dude holding up a cardboard sign. Bread is important. There’s a reason we’ve been doing it since the beginning of time. What’s natural isn’t archaic.

I think about our inventions – the ideas I think separate us from our archaic selves. From fire to radio. Today, it feels like tech companies fooled us by giving us all the basics first. The alarm clock function on our phone is average, but look at this Snapchat filter that makes you look like Abraham Lincoln. We were given alarm clocks and calculators, a note pad and compass, phone calls and SMS. A timer to alert me on the status of my bread!

What is it about the smell of yeast that makes it desirable but suspicious at the same time? And is the mystery always in rising up? I question if I’m still referring to bread. Yeast is gold these days. Everyone’s baking. There’s power in making science taste like home. I say science in that baking is a precise science that relies on measurement and chemistry I don’t understand. But I understand other aspects of the bread that took experience, but not much else. Something innate in me lets me bake bread.

It’s the presence that comes with kneading dough, or putting on lotion, or doodling that keeps us on Earth. Why are we trying to go somewhere else? What happened here? Bread is groovy. So is coloring. And staring at walls. There are boundaries in these things. I’m cased in me, and the world in itself. And all of us in each other. But we all bake bread. We all need hydrated skin.

I knead in between my knuckles, hand against hand, the right amount of pressure applied. We know what we need. We know what we want in a single moment. We feel what it is to be thirsty, or have to use the restroom, or to need a piece of chocolate. That’s human. Knowing what we want in a single moment. Feeling what we need. If you’re caught up, I understand. I might be. But cracking my knuckles and neck (I know it’s not “good for me”), I go, ah, my feelings aren’t my thoughts. I’m liberated from the weight of my own concerns and gaze at the reflection of a warm light that shines back at me in the wrapper of a Hershey’s Kiss that sits on my bedside table.

I think, I’m back. My head is back again and I listen to music. It’s passing as is everything else. My room reminds me… This past Saturday was the first time I had spent time in my bed outside of sleeping, or outside of lying in bed on the bookends of falling asleep and waking up. I’ve lived in this apartment for nine months and hadn’t relaxed in my own bed. So much time was spent out and about, and if I was home, on the couch, with endless distractions available.

Now in my room I engage in a moment and its lack of vocabulary, and how what I can’t articulate in the moment is what calms me. Calm is in the swift shadow of my birdcage lamp and how little I expect of it. In the muted tan of the walls and the rigid shape of the alcove. In the tapestry and the trees and the tapping of my fingers against my keyboard. I dictate it. In the white noise and the bubble bath of vibration I swim in. I imagine the hairs in my ears that pick up vibrations (stereocilia, I Googled it) dancing some rain dance, asking for love. Pulling down the goo of the past and breaking through, sticky and mad.