change

I'm Not a Bitch, I Just Look Like One by Diamond Coleman

Ever since I was a toddler, I’ve had people tell me either directly or say behind my back that I "look mean" or “like a bitch.” And my best friend, whom I first met in my late teens in a dance program, felt no different. “Not even gonna lie, dude. I thought you were a complete bitch when I first saw you,” she told me, probably while we were both stuffing our faces because, honestly, we love to eat.

“Yeah,” I said, “I get that a lot.” And that is true; I really do get that a lot. It’s almost to the point where I expect people to think I’m mean before they even talk to or get to know me. (I should probably preface everything I'm going to say in this post with this: I don't always look mean in public when I'm by myself, just the majority of the time.)

But expecting this perception of who I am upon first glance doesn’t mean that I’m OK with it. I really hate giving off the vibe that I’m unapproachable, because nine times out of ten I want people to approach or talk to me. Not only does that alleviate some of the anxiety I get when meeting new people, but it also is a clear indication that people think I look nice enough to just start a conversation with.

Sure, there are times, although rarely, when I look super uninterested and irritated because, well, I just am. As people, we all get annoyed and rubbed the wrong way in certain situations and sometimes it’s just impossible to conceal it.

As years have passed, though, I’ve realized that my cold countenance–which in today’s modern world has been coined “Resting Bitch Face” (RBF)–is a part of who I am. Does it suck that most people who first lay eyes on me think I’m cold-hearted and stuck-up? Of course. And as much as I’ve tried to alter my facial expressions in everyday life (i.e., walking down the street, going shopping, getting on and off public transportation) on a continual basis, it’s not that simple for me.

Maybe it’s a defense mechanism. OK, it most definitely is a defense mechanism, at least in certain situations, anyways. When my anxiety is acting up and I feel as if I'm not in control of it, my RBF is in full effect. (For some background, you can read more about my anxiety here.) But because I've been mean-mugging since I was rocking knockers in my pigtails (read: since I was a toddler), it's a little difficult to just stop.

And then that begs the question: Should I change? And if I do, would I be doing it solely because I don't like what people think when they first see me, or would I be doing it for myself? Well, I know that one obvious benefit of changing would be that I would interact with strangers more often, especially in places that I frequent, like train stations and coffee shops. (I mean, what single woman doesn't want to meet a cute guy in Starbucks and strike up a conversation about the CDs on display near the register while you both wait in line?)

On one hand, I think I should learn to accept my RBF simply because it's been a part of me for so long. Also, because it is a part of my personality, depending on the circumstances. But on the other, I think I'd be doing my well-being a disservice if I just became complacent with perpetually looking mean or sad. After all, when you radiate happiness and smile often, you attract positivity and good vibes from others.

And that's what I desire most–to exude true joy even in the most adverse of times and then transfer it to those around me, even to people I don't know. And I really have been smiling a little more lately, partly because I want to seem approachable, but mainly because I witness a positive shift in mindset when I do.

Now, I'm not saying that I should just go around talking to random people all day just for the hell of it. But I do believe that when you have positive interactions with strangers, especially in the morning, it can improve your day. Besides, sometimes talking to strangers is just fun.

So, to all you passerby that I’ve come across–whether it be in the street, on the train, or in a bar–I’m not a bitch, I just look like one.

Header image: via T.R.G./Flickr Creative Commons

On Trusting Your Struggle by Diamond Coleman

struggle.jpg

I was talking with a close friend of mine (and by talking with, I mean texting -- let's not front here) earlier today about how some people count months. Random, I know, but me and this friend are just random individuals. For example, while some people might consider the span of September-December to be four months, she and I, along with many other people, believe it to be only three. After all, you don't count September as the first month; instead, you count September to October as the first month and so on and so forth. And then she mentioned a good instance of this way of counting: no one ever says a baby is one month old when he or she is born, so the same logic applies (I know it sounds like I'm rambling a bit here, but stick with me). So, I told her that Koreans consider a newborn baby to be one year old because of the time he or she spends in the mother's womb. Well, at least that's what I heard from a Korean man I met a few weeks ago. Also, after doing further research right now on Wikipedia, I found out that other Asian countries do this, too. It's called "age reckoning" and it started in China (wow, I really am rambling). Anyways, my friend thought this was really awesome and talking about it brought me to say both bluntly and honestly, "I am 25 and have never been so confused in my entire life." Of course, I'm still 24 in the Western world, but just thinking that I'll be 25 in a few months actually terrifies me. And not only because it's a milestone year in anyone's life, but also because I feel as if I should have everything all figured out. SPOILER ALERT: I don't. If I'm being completely honest right now, this period in my life is the most change I've ever experienced. From losing a loved one to moving to Los Angeles essentially all alone and at a few week's notice all within six months, I've had to deal with a multitude of emotions on a daily basis. Now, that's not to say that I've never had to deal with difficult situations in the past 24 years. Quite the contrary. But the things I have gone through recently have really scared the shit out of me and have really tested my resilience and strength. A quarter-life crisis indeed.

I've lived in LA twice before: once in 2011 for an internship program through my university, and another time in 2012 for an internship I got a month after I graduated. Each of these experiences, while flawed in one way or another, made me fall in love with the city. The amazing weather, easy accessibility to the beach, and just the overall laid-back kind of vibe that it gave off were good enough reasons for me to give it another try. So, after a full two years of being away, I took the plunge and moved back again due to a fellowship that I got at a really cool and well-known social media company. (That whole experience in and of itself needs its own post!) I came out here two weeks before my job actually started without a place to live. I stayed with a friend while I desperately searched for an apartment, and every search engine was fair game. You name it, I probably used it: Craig's List, Roomster, Zillow, RadPad, Westside Rentals (which cost me $60 for a two-month subscription!!!), and a bunch more.

I started my search a few weeks before moving, but I kept getting the whole "it's easier if you're physically here" spiel from the listings I was calling, and I guess for the most part that's true. After what seemed like months of searching, I finally found an apartment through Craig's List. I didn't even care that I had wasted money on Westside Rentals because I was just so ecstatic to have been offered a place right on the spot. It really did happen when I least expected it. Up until getting the place I have now, I had basically lost all hope in finding an apartment that I actually liked and that was somewhat within my budget, so I was shocked when, after seeing the apartment and meeting my future roommate, I locked down a place to call home.

Throughout this whole process, I've second-guessed myself more than I'd like to admit. I never really considered myself to be one of those people who is in constant fear of what's ahead, but now that I'm completely out of my comfort zone, I wholeheartedly identify with that fear. Am I measuring up? Is my work good enough? Am I creative enough? Will I find success in a city whose inhabitants, more often than not, are after the same things I am? Will I find happiness? While LA is a cool and vibrant city, it's still generally competitive and cutthroat (of course not all of it is this way, but if you're looking to get into entertainment of any kind, it can be a dog-eat-dog world), and it can be hard to find your niche. I'm definitely still working on finding mine, and often fear that I never will. It's also so easy to feel so lost and alone. Luckily, my roommate has helped me get better acclimated and because she initially felt the same way I do now when she first moved here, she can identify with what I'm feeling.

This time around, LA is different and I am, too. Unlike the other times I was here, I don't have the same core group of friends and I'm no longer that wide-eyed recent college grad who is riding high on that unique confidence you get after receiving your bachelors degree (I do however, have a couple friends out here still that I keep in contact with). And I'm slowly learning to be okay with that. The emotions I feel right now are only a sign that I'm growing and going after something great, although I may not know for sure just what that great thing is. They also are a result of my tackling my fears head on, most of the time without having a choice. Either way, I'm growing and proving to myself just how strong I really am. It's true that my length of time here in this city is unknown, but I also believe that everything happens for a reason. All that I've done in my life has led me to this moment, and in due time, the reason why I'm here will reveal itself. And when it does, I'll be forever grateful.