Category Archives: Uncategorized

Funny How Brief a Year is

One year ago I flew home to Miami from Minnesota – where I was living at the time, and where I had recently moved in with my ex-boyfriend – for a dear friend’s wedding. Two weeks at home filled with reunions of family and friends, and then I would be back in the tundra. That was the plan. 

When I arrived home, my parents inquired about my relationship and my future. My plan was to move to my ex’s hometown, Berkeley, California. I was in denial about the nightmares I had about moving. How daunting it was to consider a life across the country from my family and friends. I would wake up in the middle of the night, pacing around our apartment, nauseous. I only admit that fact now because a year has passed and I figure I may as well be vulnerable and truthful about my experience. So, when my parents asked me questions about my relationship and next steps, they helped me breakthrough my view of the short term and extend my purview into the future.

At my friend’s wedding, I was surrounded by members of my community I have known for 20 years. Best friends who knew my family, hardships, and essence as a child. Community members surrounded me; a doctor who made house calls a couple times when absolutely needed, friends parents who housed me when I didn’t want to be around my own as a teenager, and acquaintances I had not seen since adolescence. I looked around and knew that if I were to stay in Minnesota and move further westward, I would tear farther away from the soul of home; I would be incomplete.

What I now understand I was experiencing was the heavy gut feeling that my needs were not being met up north in my relationship. Distanced and frigid, why stay? Love, that’s all. But what did love have to do with my dreams of the future? Not very much it turned out. I had no property nor children nor commitments to virtually anyone in Minnesota. I felt love, or what I thought was love, and I was empty. Even the abundance that came my way I could not receive for my vessel was cracking. Following a couple of upsetting discussions, I knew there was no reason to attempt to repair a relationship with someone I had no material ties to, and who had a different vision of the future.

Within a week of being home, I took a flight back to the Midwest. On my way to the airport, I stopped at my dad’s event catering warehouse where his employees who I’ve known for my entire life – and who my dad has known longer than he’s known my mom – fed me the only Thanksgiving meal I would have that year. My plan was to break up and to pack my belongings. A midnight exit was necessary to save myself further pain, as I realized I had not been prioritizing myself. At the airport, I bonded with a TSA agent whose girlfriend was playing mind games with him, and we wished each other well as I marched through a metal detector.

My Uber driver from the airport on a 20 degree Wednesday night heard me explain my future journey home, and he ordered me to affirm “I am strong.” That night I ended things with my ex and then had dinner with an old friend from college over pho. When I walked into the apartment after dinner, I began to pack and cried. Recalling memories of Apple day festivals, walking on frozen lakes with pellets whipping my face like burning sand, camping in the Apostle Islands on the edge of Lake Superior, snowshoeing at Gale Farms, making acquaintances with a cheese farmer, experiencing quarantine in solitude only to find love.

On Thanksgiving morning, I drove to the neighborhood gas station near Lake Nokomis and purchased a blue raspberry slushie and a tube of mini m&m’s. While I packed my clothes, books, and kitchen supplies – a friend said “if you break his heart, he gets to keep the furniture” – Gilmore Girls played in the background and cold air rushed through the crack I had left in the porch door. The two and a half years prior played in my head like a film reel with missing clips. How did I end up here? I asked myself.

Documents from work, a sales playbook, and journals of notes from calls were piled on the standing desk I invested in during quarantine’s work from home shift. Except the second job I had, which I transitioned to a year and a half into my northern adventure, was one that I would go into in-person multiple times a week. I wouldn’t tell my boss that I fled Minnesota until February. I collected my materials. I ate spoonfuls of Nutella and leftover pho as I prayed to G-d the day would end. 

Thursday night I went to the Chabad house where I had attended countless meals. It was only myself and the shluchim couple. “I’m going home,” I told them. “Finally, it sounds like you’ve found certainty,” they said. That night my dad’s employee who I am closer with than all five of my aunts and uncles flew to Minnesota to assist with my escape. The next morning he helped me pack my car to the brim. He drove it home for me to save me the stress. 

By Friday night I was at a Shabbat dinner in Miami and shared the news. Alas, I had come home… 

The months following were filled with a readjustment to life at home with my parents. I had not lived with them since my teenage years which were filled with conflict and disagreement. It was a second chance, and one of the greatest blessings of my life. 

I worked from home and traveled in January to Minnesota and Arizona for work. In February I visited a friend in New York. In March I spent a week in Salt Lake City for work the week of Purim. During the fast of Esther I stayed in my hotel room. It occurred to me the flying back and forth thing had an expiration date. I was spending my days among married 40 to 50-something year old men who I was entertaining and assisting. They were kind and taught me a lot about teamwork. However, as a Jewish half-latina Miami girl, it was challenging connecting with Midwestern suburban fathers who enjoy golf outings, home improvement, and betting on sports. 

Spring came around and I was lost. I slept no more than four hours a night, wrote all day long, and drowned in memories that had to surface in order to disappear. I traveled more to Minnesota, which became a haunting experience. Driving down streets I lived on, not seeing people who once meant the world to me. On one occasion I could not figure out how to reverse the Audi rental car the kind man at Enterprise gave to me after I arrived in the storefront breathless, just having sprinted across the highway. On a one way suburban road in the snow, I spent a good seven minutes figuring out how to switch gears. 

Disillusioned by enterprise technology, I began to resent my job. I loved my team but disliked the world of maximizing corporate profits. I have always been an anarchist, even at five years old (my mother says), so what the hell was I doing appealing to organizations that I reject? Aha! The answer, I thought, was to go on a WOOF program. Dwelling on a finca in Nicaragua with a small family in a rural area sounded perfect. Or a farm in California where I would milk goats. More likely though would be cleaning the animal pens and building farm infrastructure. Had I gone, I probably would have lasted three days. 

In May at a Khruangbin concert with a friend who had recently returned from Oregon, I decided I would go stay at the same hostel my friend had returned from. The next day I booked two weeks at Bunk & Brew for June, and reserved flights – Miami to Houston, to Los Angeles to Redmond. 

June came around and I was in Bend, Oregon. There – weed cost a few dollars a joint, hippies who literally lived out of vehicles such as school buses and ambulances habitually dosed mushrooms, and I was both enchanted and befuddled. I went on hikes alone around waterfalls and snow covered mountains where I meditated. Among mossy trails with thick pine tree canopies, I was in the planet’s heart chakra. I went paddle boarding and even rock climbed on one occasion. “Anyone can do it,” said the friends I made while I was there. As I climbed Smith Rock, the girl who I connected with most – who enjoyed 4,000 foot overnight climbs on icicle coated rocks – belayed me and said, “you look really unstable.” 

The mountains were refreshing yet I was confused as few folks around me seemed to work a full time job. I was suddenly grateful to have a team that I was committed to. The feeling didn’t last for very long. When I went to the Chabad in Bend, they didn’t answer the door. 

In Los Angeles I saw my friend who got married last November. I told her the influence her wedding had on me – that it catapulted me home… In her apartment I connected with her husband, which was special and something I had never experienced before. I saw a friend from middle school and high school who I frequently traveled with while on the high school debate team. We went to a party and on a hike. Then I stayed with my best friend who I grew up across the street from since the age of three. She felt fulfilled in her livelihood, relationships, and setting. I felt how much I craved the same.

The summer went on and I wished for it to end. When I was 12, I became sick over the summer while away with my family. I had to fly home in a hurry to go to the hospital. Ever since, summer was the season I dreaded most. It’s also the time of year that is most tragic for the Jewish people… My job was slowly killing me – I listened to Radiohead’s No Surprises on loop – and traveled to Minnesota one last time. 

I stayed in an Airbnb in South Minneapolis with a host so unhinged that I left at 5AM my first night there. She told me she was robbed by a pimp as though it was my business (that’s the half of it, a brief detail of what she divulged). I prayed for her and got a hotel room. At the 3M Open golf tournament, which I flew up for, I connected with a kind CIO of a large tech company. Another person I spoke with complimented my name and asked my heritage. When I said I was Jewish, he called me a “Hebrew” and said he would teach me about the New Testament, that “the end has already been told.” In my mind I imagined him showing up at my house with a pitchfork blaming me for killing Jesus.

By August, with the support of my parents (thank G-d), I resigned from my job. I was sent off cordially with respect, and felt relieved. Finally I would declare how I need to write and express myself in my career. How terrible it would be to wake up at 35 with however many kids and think, darn… I never followed my dream

In September I traveled for a month to Vienna, Budapest, Prague, and Jerusalem. Abroad I was reminded how in the United States we are often like cogs in a machine, and how people in other countries drink wine and eat cake midday with a cigarette in hand. Not that I want to drink or smoke – the cake I’ll take – however life slowed down in the best way. Still, as much as people hate America, I believe it is the place on earth with the most opportunity. It’s usually American born citizens who choose to bash the country. Immigrants and children of immigrants (like me) grew up hearing about life in countries far more corrupt and dangerous; America is a haven, even without mid-day cake.

In Israel, another haven – A friend got married in Jerusalem right before Rosh Hashanah, with a view of the city hanging in the background of her flower festooned chuppah. She and her husband embodied purity and how sincerely and viscerally they felt they were completing each other. Chuppahs are like a channel to the divine, and the blessings that came down I still feel flowing.

The high holidays were like a quick jolt of lightning that sent me across the universe; Rosh Hashanah in Jerusalem, Yom Kippur in Budapest; a Shabbat in Prague; Sukkot in Vienna. The Kol Nidre service I went to was at ​Kazinczy Street Synagogue, the most beautiful shul I have ever seen. There were hundreds of seats yet less than 30 people in the synagogue. 100 years ago, it was probably full. I couldn’t shake the thought of the Holocaust… My sister reframed it: it’s a miracle we were there at all. I returned home four and a half weeks after my initial departure. A sukkah party was my first stop directly from the airport. I was delirious and exhausted, simultaneously warmed by my homecoming. 

I have been back in Miami for a month now. The last month has consisted of freelance assignments and research I am conducting. (If you’re reading this, I would love to interview you for my research.) I am pursuing things now that I probably shouldn’t write about; it’s better to share a project or pursuit once it’s completed, or at the least, fully formed. A man I sat next to at a meal in Jerusalem referenced a venture of his, and when I asked for more details he said, “if I talk about it, I find it’s less likely to actually happen.”

A few weeks ago I was in my college town, Gainesville. I saw a former professor who shared words of encouragement. I was reminded of how carefree and confident I felt as a college senior; and now resolve to inhabit those attributes once again. 

What I know is that I must work in a setting where I am both challenged and welcomed to express ideas. There’s pressure, only that I put on myself. My 89 year old grandma says to enjoy the journey. It’s laughable how years away from family, a plague, and breakup can cause one to retreat… I am open to the world again. As my unfiltered self, finally. Now I see my grandma often, run into friends and mentors, and wake up at sunrise to shore fish with my father. I am surrounded by a vibrant Jewish community and no longer feel alone.

I am writing this to tell you the story. More so, I am writing to set myself free. Is this really worth sharing, I think. It’s not art, is it? Does anyone need to know?.. There are no answers.

We all share the exciting, shiny moments of our lives online. I should share the narrative of my last year – minus a detailing of my ebb and flow of emotions, and many inner impasses. 

Being a twenty-something is dramatic and loaded with uncertainty. What I wish for myself this year and all the years moving forward is to stay laser focused on my vision of the future, while enjoying the present moment. I wish the same for you, too. 

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…