I’m Not Done Yet. From Finstas to Finding Yourself

 

“Protopia is a state of becoming, rather than a destination.” – Kevin Kelly, The Inevitable. 

As I flip through my copy of “The Inevitable”, my mind wanders to the corners of its own protopia. Kevin Kelly describes it as a state that is better today than yesterday, although it may just be by a little bit. A Protopia is the realistic future we should be striving towards. It’s the unavoidable tomorrow that will arrive come sunrise…

As a working member of this technological society, I know first hand that we are morphing. We’re growing, expanding, and changing, every. damn. day.

You may be reading this and thinking, “duh.” We’re not static beings, but instead are multi-faceted humans with the capability to learn and morph with our environment… This is universally understood. However, how often do you stop and think about how our technological presence plays a part in all of this?

Maybe you’re one of those naysayers who believes that social media is the devil. Maybe you’re a child of the 00′s, who doesn’t know life without an online identity. Wherever you fall on this spectrum, we can all agree on one thing: the internet isn’t going anywhere. So, let’s come together & brainstorm ways to use these intertwined virtual networks to create a very real protopia.

Create

Unless you live under a rock, it is likely that you are a member of at least one social network. Whether its Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram, or a blog platform like Tumblr- you have created a virtual portrayal of real life you. I had an interesting conversation with my 17 year old sister yesterday about this topic. She was talking about how important “aesthetic” has become, and the great lengths her peers will go through to completely scrap an old look to become something new. “Finstas” are being created, and for all y’all who aren’t in high school, these are fake instagram accounts used to post photos that you only want your close friends seeing. It’s not even a matter of these posts being nasty or offensive, these are typically just photos that don’t go with the users “real” insta aesthetic.

The question then becomes, what is real? 

If you scroll all the way down to my very first Instagram post, I’m still the same ol’ Lauren I am today. Just younger, and strapped with an iPhone 4. The core of a social media identity is to represent who you are, but in a virtual world. This is sort of a crazy concept to wrap your head around, so it does not come as a surprise to me that we’re running rapid with finstas and gym posts, when we haven’t once lifted a weight IRL.

On or offline, there is a (not so) simple solution to this: self awareness. 

How do you define yourself? How would you describe yourself to others?

When I was in 6th grade, I shopped at Hot Topic and listened to Good Charlotte. In 7th grade, I had a change of heart and style, and started shopping at PacSun. The middle school years are when you’re searching for your identity. Trying on different masks, seeing which one fits. If I had an Instagram back then, do you know how many punk rock princess posts I’d have to delete before setting foot in PacSun…

It is concerning to me that kids have to go through this process of finding and creating themselves with a smartphone permanently attached to their hip. Social media has become a window to the world, and rather than developing their own identities, we’re clinging to the identities of others. Everyone wants contoured skin, a million followers, and an A1 aesthetic… but are losing touch with their own reality in the process.

Don’t get me wrong, if anyone is a social media advocate – it’s me. But, I am not blind to its dangers, In fact, I’ve made it my life work to create an anecdote.

Educate

We’re always learning, whether we realize it or not. While scrolling though Instagram, you’re learning about the world. About what people ate for lunch. About protopias. Literally– anything and everything.

This classroom is an interesting one, though. With the exception of posts that are created with the intention of being educational, most users aren’t putting their content out there with the thought, “wow, someone is really going to learn something from this.” But we should. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought for a second, “what can people learn from this?” before hitting that – post – button? Unrealistic, I know. But this can be flipped. What if everyone on social media stopped and thought, “what can I learn from this?” as they are scrolling though online content. This type of open-mindedness and thirst for knowledge can lead to a more fully developed sense of self. Think about thinking. Don’t just get lost in the mindless clatter that social media can be.

Inspire

Perhaps content we see or post isn’t meant to teach a lesson, but instead has the power to spark someone’s imagination. At the core of the platform that I’ve created, Out There Social, my goal is to inspire others to leave their comfort zone. This is the fuel that ignites the fire of everything I capture, ponder, write, and share. This is why I do what I do. This is why I love social media. Because I can reach the masses with messages that are so near and dear to my heart. I left my comfort zone in the dust years ago, and have been virtually screaming from the rooftops for everyone else to do the same.

We must realize the power we have as social media beings. Anything you post online, is seen by someone. It may not be a crowd of millions, but an audience is an audience. You have the conscious choice to decide how you will use this virtual stage. You have the free will to portray yourself to this audience anyway you choose. Your best bet, be yourself. Easier said than done, when most of us have a hard time grasping who we are.

Think of yourself as an online source of inspiration. Use your voice to challenge others to think for themselves. Allow people to walk in your shoes, but give them the freedom to tie their own laces. Close your eyes an imagine your own protopia. Then, get out there and make it happen.

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Lessons Learned from Animals on an African Safari

Albert Einstein once said, “look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”


If we were to rewind back to the 90’s…

Lil Lauren was adjusting her butterfly hairclips before school, watching Zooventure on Animal Planet. The thought of going on an African safari was a distant dream, but one that has been fueling with desire since I was a little girl. I’ve always loved animals, and wondered what it would be like to experience them in their natural habitat.

My travels have taken me to zoos and aquariums throughout the country– from Omaha’s Henry Doorly to California’s Aquarium of the Pacific. The opportunity to visit a South African National Park was one that I could not possibly pass up!

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During my stay at the Black Rhino Lodge, we went out into Pilanesberg National Park for both morning and evening game drives. Whether the sun had just risen or was turning in for the night, mother nature blessed us with some beautiful views and animal action!


Here are some life lessons I learned from these beautiful (and not so attractive) creatures…

1.

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Does this mud bath make me look fat…? An African Bush Elephant can weigh up to 13,000 lbs! And yet, a herd of 30+ were walking right along side of our jeep at an inaudible pace. I was surprised to learn how easily an elephant can sneak up on you! While you may not hear an elephant stomping towards you, you can certainly feel their majestic presence.

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Before we went out on our first drive, my ranger said – when you get so close to an elephant, you know what a safari is all about. We were a jeep of 10 humans, outnumbered by elephants (and elephant babies!) in the middle of a dirt road. I was a visitor on their turf, as they just went on with their daily business.

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The massive stature of an elephant brings upon a sense of awe. You know what they say, speak softly and carry a big stick. Well, elephants walk softy and carry a big… tusk. Humans could learn a thing or two from these bold creatures. Personally, I have a hard time listening to the loudest person in the room. What they have in volume, they often lack in content. While the elephant in the room may be the most apparent, it will not be the loudest.


2.

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For 40 minutes, we sat and watched a lioness hunt her pray- a group of zebra (which is called a dazzle.. fun fact!). She must have been stalking this group for quite some time before we arrived. The unsuspecting group trotted across the road, like a traveling buffet. The lioness sat, still, within the shadow, with ears back, hiding her stature.

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The lioness sat without movement as the dazzle grazed around her, but she did not pounce. You would think that with this relative closeness, the cat would make her move. But we learned that a hunt is just as dangerous for the predator as it is for the victim. If the lioness were to trip on the rocky surface, she is outnumbered by these powerful zebra that could easily kick her while she’s down (quite literally) to her death. So she waits. And waits, and waits, and waits, until the perfect moment to strike.

And we would have waited with her…. but breakfast was calling our names.


3.

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A rhino’s skin can be as thick as 2 inches! But despite their thick skin, they’re sensitive creatures. Rhinos like this guy in the picture love their mud baths, which help protect their skin from the sun and from bug bites (which are just as irritating for animals as they are for humans). If a rhino is walking along and gets scraped by a thorn in the bush, they’ll feel it!

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As humans, we build up our metaphorical thick skin over time. This coping mechanism allows us to withstand whatever negativity is thrown our way. Those with thick skin are tough, and can withstand criticism much more effectively than those who take everything to heart. But, we must not allow our skin to become so thick that we are completely callous. Even a rhino can feel the scrape of a thorn on its thick skin.


4. 

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The Big 5 gets all of hype! In the bush, we learned about the Ugly 5..

  • Hyenas
  • Marabou Stork
  • Vultures
  • Warthogs
  • & The Wildebeest

Now, Hyenas and Vultures are named on this ugly list not only for their appearance, but for their predatory, scavenging ways.

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The Wildebeest is something the French would call jolie-laide.. or, so ugly it’s cute. You forget about their awkward statue and patchy facial hair when you see them trotting along side their pal, the impala.

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Beauty goes far beyond looks. Don’t let the haters bring you down, Wildebeest. While you may seem a bit disproportionate, or made from “spare parts”, you’re a delightful creature to be around and were put into this world for a reason.

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We’re all felt like the Wildebeest at one point or another. Not as beautifully patterned as the Zebra. Not as graceful as the Cheetah. But, when you learn to love its uniqueness, you can see what a beautiful beast the Wildebeest is!


5. 

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Our ranger, Darrell, spotted this bird in his peripheral while rushing back to the lodge for breakfast. He quickly put the jeep in reverse, and parked us in front of this colorful beauty. Ruffling through his copy of “A Bird Guide”, he opens to the page that exhibits the Lilac Breasted Roller. Although this bird is aesthetically pleasing, its call is quite ugly. In contrast, the melodious calls you often hear, come from the most mundane looking fowl.

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Referred to by Darrell as “the most beautiful bird in Africa”, the Lilac Breasted Roller is also a part of Zulu folklore. Before a couple were to be married, they must be tied together by the elongated tale feathers of this bird. If the knot became untied, they were no longer granted permission to be married. It is rumored that this is where the phrase “tying the knot” came from!


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Visiting Pilanesberg fulfilled all of my wildest dreams, quite literally!

While this may have been my first time on the African continent, I know it will hardly be the last. As a long time animal lover, I’ve always had much respect for these beautiful creatures. But, this trip has opened my eyes to the world of wildlife preservation. Poaching is a terrible reality, and a deadly crime. Drought is another plague that haunts not only the wildlife, but the humans of this environment. We must not take for granted the luxuries we have access too. What we consider to be every day norms is somebody else’s dream.

Albert Einstein was right.

Looking deep within nature helps us to look deep within ourselves. Every one, and every thing, has a story. Whether or not we are open minded enough to learn their story is up to us.

The Plight of “the cool girl”

We’ve heard it before, that nice guys finish last… But we hardly talk about the how the “cool girl” trails behind.

Behind every cool girl is a world of stories. Stories of open hearts and open wounds. The cool girl knows what she’s feeling and when she’s feeling it, but will suppress it, making sure your comfort comes first. When she does express herself, she does so eloquently, with a rhyme and a reason. She balances her heart and her head, and will bite her tongue before saying too much… Because she always keeps her cool. The cool girl is a catch. She’ll possess the traits that you’re looking for, no strings attached. But why buy the cow when you can get the cool girl for free?

Deep down, the cool girl isn’t as cool as she seems. There’s a whirlwind of uncoolness that lies beyond the surface. Her mind moves faster than her mouth, as she’s constantly processing her fearful thoughts. Insecurities and anxieties from those prior who have dubbed her, a really cool girl. Her walls are built up bigger than her body, but occasionally, when she’s feeling particularly brave, she’ll let them down… For somebody that she finds pretty cool. She’ll be acknowledged for the cool girl that she is, nothing more, nothing less.

The cool girl always contemplates losing her cool, since it’s the crazy girls who seem to be living it right. The ones who demand. Who expect. Who receive. But when it comes down to it, the cool girl doesn’t have it in her. She’d rather call a spade a spade with tears in her eyes than pretend that spade is a diamond. She’ll pick and try again, no matter how many times it takes to get it right. Why? Because she’s pretty fucking cool.

Lauren’s Guide to Los Angeles: You can’t spell Lauren Without “LA”…

If you are thinking about planning a trip to L.A. here are some spots you shouldn’t miss!

Where to Brunch on Sunday Funday? Sunny Side, Venice Beach

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This place had me at $15 bottomless mimosas. Try the side of jerk potatoes, it was the most delicious starch I’ve ever had in my life. The vibe is awesome… chill music, chill people. And, you are about a half mile walk away from the beach.

Where to Watch the Sunset? Muscle Beach

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If you walk along the Venice Boardwalk until you reach the meat heads working out at muscle beach, and then walk left towards the ocean, there will be a ton of rocks jutting out into the Pacific. Not only is this spot my favorite for lounging, it is the most beautiful spot to sit and watch the sunset.

Where to Go Shopping? 3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica

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Picture the best mall you’ve ever been to. Now picture it outside, surrounded by palm trees, on steroids. That is the 3rd Street Promenade.

Where to Just Chill? Venice Beach Skatepark

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It is something you have to experience for yourself. The talent is incredible, and the vibe is so relaxed. Grab an iced coffee, and go hang out for a bit!

Where to People Watch? The Rusty Mullet, Hollywood

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Hollywood is overrated. Many people are extremely disappointed when the arrive, because it is a beautiful facade. If you are going to go, go during the day. Check out all the touristy things like the walk of fame and the Chinese Theater while it is still light out. Then, as the sun begins to set, Hollywood becomes Hollyweird. The Rusty Mullet has seats by a large open window, where you can get something to eat, have a beer, and watch all the interesting characters that walk by. Then, take an uber home.

The Happiest Hour?  Hermosa Beach Pier

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Allow some time in your trip to head down to the Redondo/Hermosa Beach area. There are a ton of bars near the Hermosa Beach Pier offering awesome happy hour specials. Fish tacos galore!

Where to see Artwork? Venice Boardwalk (especially on weekends!)

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I can’t emphasize enough how amazingly creative the city of Venice is. The boardwalk is filled with tents of artists displaying and selling their work. On weekends, the number of vendors nearly doubles! The work is spectacular, and talking to the artists themselves is really cool.

Best Beach? … anywhere. From Malibu, all the way down to Orange County! 

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If you’re in Los Angeles, stay by the coast!!!! No matter what beach you go to, you will be happy that you are there!

Yoga Class? Yoga Nest, Venice Beach

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Not only is the vibe of this place incredible, but you can go get a smoothie right downstairs at The Cow’s End Deli.

Where to Drink on a Rooftop?  The Perch, Downtown Los Angeles

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DTLA was not the city I expected it to be, but, coming from NY, I had pretty high expectations. However, if you want a beautiful view of the city while sipping on a martini, check out the Perch!

Where to Ride Your Bike? The Venice Canals

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This is a spot that I don’t think enough people visit when they are in Los Angeles… and it is a shame. The canals are breathtaking! Rent a bike from the boardwalk, and ride down the street to the canals… you won’t be sorry.

A Slice of Life: Confessions of a Deli Diva

For the past 12 weeks, I’ve been slicing, preparing, and creating works of sandwich art.

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If you think working at a deli can only teach your how to master the art of the panini – you’re missing the bigger picture. Sure, my panini making skills have vastly improved, but here are some more important slices of life:

Power of Preparation

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The key to deli success- preparation. Without it, you are fighting a losing battle. This is no different than success in life. Without preparation– physical, mental & emotional– it just isn’t possible to successfully overcome whatever life is throwing at you. Always make sure you’ve got your tomatoes and lettuce sliced and ready to go!

“It’s just food.“

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This was the first bit of deli wisdom imparted onto me (…thanks Stove). Don’t lose sight of what you’re doing. When you’re stressed out, break the situation down to its most basic form. If you make a mistake, it’s okay. We live, we learn, we make more sandwiches.

Learn people’s names

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No matter what you’re doing, if you’re seeing people on a regular basis– learn their name. And call them by their name. This works both ways! When a customer calls me Lauren, I feel acknowledged as a human. We have a psychological need to be connected, and learning names is step one.

Sleep Well

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Don’t ever underestimate the power of sleep. Breakfast doesn’t cook itself, and a deli diva needs beauty sleep. Sacrifice late nights for days where you won’t be miserably sleep deprived. Learn to manage your time correctly. There’s plenty of time to work hard & play hard.

Don’t Worry, Be Happy

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Moods are contagious, so be in a good one! Be genuine, and spread good vibes! They go a long way. There’s a quote that says, “the grumpier you are, the more assholes you meet.” Yes, there will always be assholes. However, a smile will get you a lot further than a puss. (An all day smile is impossible to maintain without a goodnights sleep… see step 4)

This job was not anywhere near my comfort zone. I went from dance teacher to deli diva, pushing me to overcome my fears of slicers and liverwurst (…thanks Will). Embrace uncomfortable situations– they give you opportunities to grow in ways you wouldn’t imagine, meet amazing people, and gain appreciation for things, places, and services you normally take for granted!