“I can’t write” “Write about it”

I don’t know what’s been going on with me lately, but I haven’t been able to write. I don’t know what’s been stopping me though. I have all these ideas and thoughts in my mind, but there’s something blocking it – like a dam. I can literally imagine the ideas building up behind it, unable to pour through. I had been putting this aside for weeks and weeks but today was the day. Today, I felt like it was time to let it pour through. I told myself, “What does a writer do when they begin to think to themselves ‘I can’t write’? (pause) Write about it.”

So here I am.. It kind of reminds me of elementary school, when we would come back from recess and our teachers would make us free-write an entire page in our journal without stopping. You know, you try writing some random sentences at first to fill up the page, but before you know it your subconscious comes up with some sort of truth like, “Why was that kid with the striped shirt sitting alone under the tree during lunch. I think I’m gonna ask him to play with us tomorrow.” Well, today it’s “Maybe the reason I think I can’t write anymore is because I’m holding back.” Whoa where did that come from?

“It’s so dark right now, I can’t see any light around me.” “That’s because the light is coming from you. You can’t see it but everyone else can.” -Lang Leav

To be totally honest, when I started this blog I didn’t envision it to turn out like this. At the time, I wasn’t having any luck job hunting; I kept trying to tell possible employers – “I’m really good at xyz” but nobody was listening. So I thought, “Whatever, nobody hears me so I’m going to show them.” I made it thinking it would be a single, organized, presentable space where I could curate all my professional projects. Almost exactly a year since, I went from starting a blog called HasWestCoastSoul.com to being Has WestCoastSoul. 

I took a U-turn, did a backflip and totally tangented off from the super-professional-portfolioish-blog side and allowed myself to use the power of creating. As I became more and more conscious of my skills and the true volume of my voice, I taught myself to use it purposefully. Needless to say it’s been the catalyst to my growth professionally and personally. I’m extremely thankful that I’ve built this platform for myself to create with and that I am constantly using this as a tool in my evolvement – but here’s the real curveball..

“I handle my failures way better than I ever handle success” – Royce Da 5’9

This blog hasn’t just affected me personally, but somehow it’s influenced others. That means other people actually read it too! I mean yea, of course I see the stats, I know people click it, but I didn’t get it that they actually READ it. I know that people hate reading nowadays if it’s more than 140 characters, so I didn’t expect much. But the fact that people actually take the time to read and reflect.. is just so… beautifully overwhelming. THEN, they actually approach me (either physically or virtually) and tell me how it’s inspired them?! I think when it finally hit me that there are more than just a couple of pairs of eyes on this and that people actually read this, care what it says and let it affect them, the pressure was on. I think all this accumulated positive energy made me overjoyed and I put myself in denial of the true, strong, positive power this little blog held; With all the great feelings positive feedback brings, at the same time, it’s undeniably nerve-wracking to have people except great things from you. It’s like when you’re out enjoying yourself, but once you feel someone staring at you, all of a sudden you forget how to walk in a straight line so you decide to just sit down for a bit. But where does that get you? Nowhere. Literally, nowhere. Worrying and holding back gets you nowhere.  

“Being an artist means forever healing your own wounds and at the same time endlessly exposing them” -Annette Messager

An artist first and foremost, creates for themselves. This is the most precious form of self-expression, process of healing and act of celebrating we have. The acceptance and enjoyment that others receive from it comes secondary to that. It is a possible result, not a factor of creation. And as an audience, we must remind ourselves that we are only able to truly understand the creations of an artist from our own perspectives. We must remember to avoid making assumptions about the artist, assumptions kill art. Fear of these types of assumptions leads to lack of focus and eventually creating with the wrong intentions. As soon as an artist creates for pure commercial purpose, it looses its previous rawness. It’s not personal anymore, so how can we even expect you to relate? We are all human, we all need to do things in our own way. We can’t always make moves to make things comfortable for others. Don’t dim your own shine, don’t walk on eggshells, don’t sugarcoat your words. Keep it raw. Artists have to remind themselves that. I think that I needed to type that all out to remind myself as well. This was a free write afterall.

Bottom line, I am thankful for 2014 because being Has WestCoastSoul has given me so much strength and inspiration. With this, I am able to inspire others. Therefore, I will stop holding back, take out all self-set limitations, and continue to create and grow. If any of that resonates with you, I am beyond happy. May 2015 bring us all peace, strength, faith in ourselves, creative energy, a powerful momentum of hustle, good vibes, growth ad success. Thanks for reading, love you all.

xo, Has

Artist by Nature, Photographer by Accident

It’s weird, I honestly never had any intention of getting into photography as a profession, it kind of just happened on accident. I had always liked the idea of photography but I guess it was awoken when I scrolled through images created by street photographers. It inspired me to begin capturing shots with my iPhone. Then one day, I was cleaning out my closet when I came across my dad's old Canon and I haven't put it down since. 

Shooting the streets was my forte, naturally – I was comfortable on that side. I didn’t have to interfere with the subject, just capture it and tweak the tones here and there. Though I had creative directed, styled, produced and assisted tons of shoots in the past couple years, the thought of simultaneously shooting a model made me so uncomfortable at first. But where is the fun in getting comfortable? Would I ever be able to maintain my free-spirit/takes-shit-from-no-one persona by remaining comfortable? No. So, I let go of my skepticism and self-doubt and decided to try it. Instantly, I was in love. It's been inspiring, overwhelming and strange. 

I was talking to a fellow photographer recently and they made an interesting point: As an artist, it’s impossible to stay on that positive wave all the time, no matter how hard you try. That resonated with me. The tides are what make our experiences unique and give us insight on creating, high or low. So what’s the secret? You don’t have to stay on a high or a low to continuously create good work, just be conscious of your experiences, remain willing to work hard and never stop creating.

They also told me that I needed to figure out what distinguished my art from others. As I look through all the photos I've created, I understand: Everything that I create is partly from my own experiences, partly connecting and empathizing with others. I want the models I shoot to radiate as strong, beautiful, edgy but free-spirited individuals. I want them to be raw and unapologetic. That’s how I feel inside and that’s how I want all individuals, especially women, to realize that they have the power to feel. I don’t want to shoot based on trend, commercialization or a forced cheerfulness. I want my work to portray the power of the human body and that no beauty exists without strangeness; each individual I shoot, has their own unique experiences, energy and spirits. It is possible to be edgy and ethereal – there is power in that type of juxtaposition.

Finally, they said that a camera is like a passport to meeting people and going places you would never otherwise be. I agreed, but as the year took a turn for the worse – I felt like my passport had expired forever. My hands and heart were so heavy carrying grief, I couldn't carry my camera anymore. It finally renewed on my trip to Hawaii in July when I got to collaborate with Tiare, Kecia and BJ. Open doors, bare feet, sun kissed skin, reggae blasting with surfboards, seashells and Buddha sculptures everywhere, the instant I stepped foot into Kecia’s home to prep for the shoot, I could feel the great energy we were about to create as a team.  Every time I want to give up on art, the hope and excitement I see in other artists keeps my faith strong. I feel so fortunate to have crossed paths with such genuine and loving souls through my work. I'm so thankful to have picked up my dad's camera that one day. 

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.” – Ira Glass

xo, Has

Why Is It So Hard To Be Happy?

Do you know what it’s like to want something? I mean to really want something. A couple of years ago, there was something I wanted. I don’t even know the reason I wanted it so badly or maybe I wanted it for too many reasons. Nonetheless, I planted it, watered it, nourished it, built it in my mind and put all of my faith in it. I wanted it with my whole entire being. I told myself since I barely ever want things that aren’t mine, I deserve this one. Just this one time. Mindblowingly enough, I got it. By the time it takes you to re-read this paragraph and take it all in, I lost it.

I was devastated. I was confused. I was anxious. I asked myself “why” so much, it started to taste like a piece of gum I’d been chewing on for a week. Gross right? Asking “why” for so f-cking long felt like continuously (and willingly) pounding my head onto a brick wall until I could no longer tell which was redder. Ouch. I was in a constant state of anxiousness of which I was much too anxious to snap out of. It was overwhelming in the worst way possible. I would mention these vague feelings surrounding my “loss” that year through many of my written pieces but I hope my tone doesn’t sound bitter. I’m actually happy. It’s weird, but I’m really happy.

You can plan a pretty picnic but you can’t predict the weather.” - Andre3000

I'm happy because through that great loss came a great realization. As colorful as you may create your dreams to be, the reality is, reality can often be a series of impending catastrophes. Catastrophes which you have absolutely no control over. You know what though? That’s the thing: you have to accept the fact that you do not have control over everything in your life. Read that again. You do not have control over every-single-thing in your life. There will be tragedies, there will be miracles, there will be a range of memorable events in between, and often, you won’t have a hand in choosing that. I do not say this to make you feel vulnerable nor small. I say it, in fact, to empower you.

“My heart is at ease knowing what is meant for me will never miss me." - Imam ash Shafii

We are all human. We want answers. We want to know. We want to have control over everything. Yet, I now realize that every time I didn't get something I thought I really wanted, it was a blessing in disguise. This must be because the Universe loves me. So the answer to my previous “Why?” “Because I knew it wasn’t mine to begin with.” 

“We live in illusion and the appearance of things. There is a reality. We are that reality. When you understand this, you see that you are nothing, and being nothing, you are everything. That is all.” – Kalu Rinpoche

I believe in destiny being pre-written but I believe in being the author of my own destiny. Understand that the Universe doesn’t revolve around you, the Universe is within you.  Have faith in the Universe. Have faith in yourself. It’s no contradiction, it’s consciousness. You see, it all comes full circle. So cut your losses, if you didn’t get something you wanted, it's because the Universe loves you too.

”God knows, that life is one big road with a lot of signs and turns and twists and curves. Even though the road is rocky, maintain the ride and keep on rocking.” - Mos Def

But how? How do we learn to enjoy the smooth parts of the road when all we’ve known is to maneuver around speed bumps, ditches, roadblocks and detours? You can't take it personal. The road was rocky before your hands started shaking. Let it go. It’s okay to enjoy the ride, to look out the window and reflect on your journey, to be proud of yourself for making it this far with only your two hands on the wheel. Trust yourself, take care of yourself, be at peace with yourself. If you want to be happy, let this realization resonate: The Universe doesn’t revolve around you. The Universe is within you.

xo, Has

Starting Young

Updated December 2015 --

I’m thankful to have crossed paths with so many artists in the last few years. Though each of them come from a different place and practice art with a different medium, they all share one thing in common. When I inquire about the age they began their craft, they all reply, “Well, professionally at x years old, but I’ve been singing/painting/writing/creating since I was a child.” 

“The creative adult is a child who has survived.” – Ursula K. Le Guin

As a child, I never felt like I had a particular talent. I dabbled in many mediums, but I never felt like I excelled at any of them. My sketches weren’t the best, I wasn’t an all-star point guard, and I wasn’t the prima ballerina I wanted to be. Nevertheless, I knew I was cultured. 

I spent a lot of time alone. I wanted to try everything. I wanted to learn. I loved using my imagination to design and build. I’d make funky jewelry, build legos, blanket-and-chair forts. I was obsessed with music. I’d attend dance classes, learn different instruments, lock myself in my room and put my headphones on all day and night. I’d read books, talk to the characters in my head, make up storylines for my dolls and action figures. Even when I had to play with kids outside, I’d be the one making up the games. I was always creative. 

As I got older, I realized I loved writing. I was one of those weird people who could write a 10 page paper in just an hour or two. I’d make lists, dig into magazines, make collages and scrapbooks. If I saw something in my mind, I’d try to put it together and make it tangible for others to see. 

“Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up.”– Pablo Picasso

As the digital world came to life and I began using social media channels, I would create even more. My friends would always ask me to tweak their AIM profiles and design their Myspace pages. I’d snap cool iPhone pictures for my personal Instagram when Instagram wasn’t even a thing yet. All of that built up and metamorphosed into my blog. I knew saw things differently and I knew I wanted to share it with others. So I did. 

The only thing more beautiful than the world we live in is the people who can see it and add to it. If you can’t create, curate. Bring together bits and pieces of the beauty you see, share it with others. Whether its through art, books, film, music, or just inspiring words you pass on to another person. 

xo, Has


Update - December 2015:

Going through pieces I've written in the past feels strange to me sometimes. I'm continuously growing, continuously transforming. Reading excerts from the "past me" as I transfer my old work on to this new blog feels foreign at times.  Mainly because last year, everything was new and I was extremely inspired. Everything I created, I did so enthusiastically. It was overwhelming. I miss it.

August 10, 2014

“You’re just a dreamer”
They tell me as if it’s a bad thing.
They tell me as if I don’t know.
“I’m a dreamer”
I tell them it’s a wonderful thing.
I want them to know.
It gets too real sometimes,
Unable to distinguish between my world and reality.
Let me dream.
Please dream with me,
I’m a dreamer, let me be"

“Has, you know how I f-ck around when I like something and say I might get it tatted? I might actually get a section of this tatted, like really considering it. You know what I loved most? The fact that you didn’t seem angry, it felt almost omnipotent. You’re not mad that they don’t know, you just wanna gift them with this knowledge to go not only outside the box but through it.  F-ck, it was so inviting. I loved it.”

Sometimes, I get the opposite of writer’s block. I have so much going through my mind I keep going to the next idea and the next and the next, planting seeds, coming back to water them. I was up in the late AMs working on material for my blog and everything was just insanely inspiring. I was reading something, then I clicked a music video, then I started editing this picture over and over, then I started thinking about a conversation from earlier in the day – so much flooded in my brain. I felt like I needed to sleep, it was so overwhelming. Like when you love someone so much it’s overwhelming.. and scary but you don’t want to stop it. You want more, so you have to make yourself break away for a second to stay on the ground. It makes you feel omnipotent and vulnerable at the same time. I layed down and started thinking about how I wish I could just show people the inside of my brain, I want people to see the beauty in what I see. Then, I started thinking about how some people think it’s silly to think that deeply. Sometimes I’m so happy when I’m in my own world and sometimes I think to myself ‘How does nobody else feel all this?’ I wanna be left alone but I also want to share it. So I wrote that. 

xo, Has

Always Cheetah, Never Beige

If you know anything about me, you know that I’ve always dreamed of being a Carrie Bradshaw. I want to bounce around my city in designer stilettos and a blonde fro, write in my chic apartment, brunch with my best friends and have my own Big love. The only difference is, I’d be holding a camera instead of a clutch. 

I truly see a lot of myself in Carrie and find myself relating to her quite often. In one particular episode, Big tells her (that after seasons of stringing her along) he’s now engaged to Natasha. Heartbroken, infuriated and somewhat dumbfounded, Carrie ponders the answer to the question every woman wants to know, “Why her?” After days of obsessing over it, it hits her. The only reason Big picked Natasha: the “perfect” Vogue stepford wife over Carrie: the “complicated,” ballsy and independent Cosmopolitan ex-girlfriend is simplicity. 

Natasha isn't perfect, she's simple. She's beige. The only reason it seems like she has no flaws in her personality is because she has no personality. She’s neat, quiet, reserved, and submissive. No personality means no trouble, no fuss. “Your girl is lovely, Hubbell.” Carrie goes on to referencing Robert Redford and Barbara Streisand in The Way We Were. She states that there are two types of women in the world: the complicated “Katies” (or Carries) with wild curly hair and simple “Natashas" with straight hair. Sure enough, Big realizes this for himself and runs back to her a few episodes later. When he tells her he misses her Carrie replies, “Go lay in your beige bed.” 

That hit home for me, so I’ve tweaked it to be one of my mantras – “always cheetah, never beige.” Basic "beige" women are sought out by insecure men who want to settle down with something safe. Settling down is cool but I’ve never been fond of the idea of settling. Cheetah > beige isn’t necessarily a style tip. Being "cheetah" doesn’t mean you absolutely have to be loud or extroverted either. All it means is you are true to yourself instead of walking on eggshells to please others. It’s human to be complex and to have feelings, refusing to condense yourself in order to make someone like you doesn’t make you a “crazy feminist” it makes you a confident person. Don’t be the safe version, don’t blend in and don’t modify yourself to fit neatly in someone else’s box. I’ve always liked a lot of cheetah print and my friends make fun of me for it but that’s me. One of my friends is known for her pastel cashmere cardigans and another for her raiders tees and hightop vans. It doesn't matter if you glow in neon or monochrome, just don't dim yourself down to beige, choose to glow.

P.S. – The definition of a feminism is the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.. Doesn't sound crazy at all. 

xo, Has

Build Your Empire

Recently, I was around a group of very successful women talking about some very shitty breakups. To be honest, I was kind of shocked when I heard about their experiences. Prior to this conversation, I'd see how well they carried themselves and think to myself that there's no chance in hell that a man could ever phase these women.

“Are you okay now?”
“Of course, I’m building my empire.” 

Those words have resonated in me ever since. Think back to all the people whom you no longer interact with. Whether it's an ex, a friend, or someone else who did you dirty - hasn't your life improved since then? I'm a strong believer of notion that anyone who willingly leaves your life is for the best. If someone doesn't have the same heart, soul or mindset that you carry within yourself, what is left to miss? 

“It happens like this:
One day you meet someone and for some inexplicable reason, you feel more connected to this stranger than anyone else--closer to them than your closest family. Perhaps this person carries within them an angel--one sent to you for some higher purpose; to teach you an important lesson or to keep you safe during a perilous time. What you must do is trust in them--even if they come hand in hand with pain or suffering--the reason for their presence will become clear in due time.
Though here is a word of warning -- you may grow to love this person but remember they are not yours to keep. Their purpose isn't to save you but to show you how to save yourself. And once this is fulfilled; the halo lifts and the angel leaves their body as the person exits your life. They will be a stranger to you once more. 
It's so dark right now, I can't see any light around me.
That's because the light is coming from you. You can't see it but everyone else can.” 

- Lang Leav

Everyone goes through hardships, how you choose to deal with them shows your true character. Zoom out and focus on the bigger picture, let the setbacks fuel your drive. What you must take from the people of your past is not nostalgia in the memories but trust in the experience. Trust the time you've crossed paths, trust the process of getting over it, trust in your potential to grow, trust in your vision and follow it to your destiny. Be thankful to have eliminated that negativity and channel your energy into surrounding yourself with people on the same wavelength as you. Find each other. Grow together. Work together. Build your empires.

"We're not the kind of people who curl up in a ball and feel sorry for ourselves. We get up and knock out everything in our way."
"Never feel sorry for yourself, work harder"
"I'm not worried. I don't worry about it, I work for it."

- quotes from people in my life

xo, Has

"Find what you love and let it kill you"

Charles Bukowski was a deep, dark, and twisted soul. I’m convinced that we would’ve fallen madly in love with each other if we ever crossed paths (and he was still alive). His cloudy, conflicted yet insightful ideologies inspire me to jot down my own thoughts and release them unapologetically, with no fear.

I often find his lines floating through my mind for days. One of the first lines I ever read from him was “Find what you love and let it kill you.” I would see this quote re-blogged, re-posted, re-pinned, re-tweeted everywhere. Interestingly enough, only in the context of heartbreak. Notice he says, find what you love and let it kill you, not who. Maybe he means: find something you are passionate about and take it all the way. Live it, bleed it, cry it, sweat it, sing it, scream it, make it yours. Do what you need to do to bring it to life. Don’t halfass it, don’t doubt it, and don’t give up. That is one of the greatest things in life, finding your passion and letting it guide you.

Love can be another one of those great things, but not via heartbreak. Just because somebody you once loved has the unfortunate ability to get under your skin and make you tremendously unhappy does not make it a great nor epic love – it’s just f-cked up. Memories are not facts, only interpretations; nostalgia is just a hazy interpretation of those memories. Stop romanticizing people who hurt you. Stop letting yourselves think that pain is the only form of love. They’re not synonymous. 

If you're going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don't even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery--isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you'll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you're going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It's the only good fight there is.” - Charles Bukowski

Everyone deserves love and one day it’ll come to you. Meanwhile, let go of your heartbreak and focus on your passion. Blow your own mind. Find what you love and let it kill you.

xo, Has

"Once someone gave me a box of darkness..

... it took me years to realize that this too was a gift." You've heard that quote, right? By Mary Oliver. Do you understand it though? I didn't. For a very long time, I didn't understand it at all. Ironically, the lightbulb finally flickered on after I was "gifted" my own "box of darkness."

At first, I resented the box. I avoided it. I tried to stack it against the back wall of my mind. That finally changed one afternoon, when a friend and I were driving home from work. Trapped in the classic bumper to bumper, 3mph traffic jam from OC to LA, we had more than enough time to chat. Before we knew it, we dove deep into a heavy conversation discussing each of our boxes.

My friend told me that his came from his high school sweetheart. They broke up his junior year because her family didn't think he was good enough for her. Years later, a positive, handsome and successful man who her family would be proud to have, I could still see that look of hurt in his eyes. Towards the end of his story, his tone changed and it all made sense to me; "I'm glad I opened the box, it made me who I am today."

He explained to me that no matter how dark it gets, you must absolutely deal with the box. Being numb to bad feelings eventually makes you numb to good feelings as well. You have to feel it all; there's no switch, you can't control it. That's the beauty of being human. Everyone is so scared to feel something nowadays.

After letting it marinate in my mind for a few days, it hit me. Think about how much negative energy you spend when something really upsets you. You worry about it, talk about it, cry about it, kick and scream about it, and what happens? Nothing. You just feel exhausted. Who even knew you had that much energy to spend? Now, consider what would happen if you channel all of this energy into something positive instead. Consider putting all your focus onto creating something, achieving something, helping someone, helping yourself. Can you imagine the results? There's your light.

xo, Has

Hustle Create Inspire

It's crazy to think that we each see the same things so differently. I always felt like an oddball growing up because I thought I payed too much attention to detail; all of the patterns, the color waves, the rhyme schemes, the motions, the life. I would see someone walk past the same thing as me without a second glance and I’d wonder why. Now I've learned that everything is subjective. Perception is powerful and everyone has the power to change their perception.

They say it is a blessing and a curse to feel things deeply. Good or bad,  I think it makes you more human. We all have it, we just need to channel it. So if you feel like an oddball, keep bouncing. If you feel like you’re going crazy, keep going. If you feel like you’re stuck, move. Flip it upside-down and take a few steps to the side. It’s all in your hands. This gives you the greatest power of all, the freedom to create. I had never realized how much I value creativity until the last couple of years. It’s one thing to see the world in your own color waves, but it’s another to take the color waves from your mind and put it out into the world.

The formula is simple: hustle, create, inspire. Begin by working hard and creating something meaningful. Next, put it out into the Universe with good intentions. Soon, it’ll catch the right momentum and inspire someone who will inspire someone else and so on and so forth. Before you know it, a positive domino effect you put into play. Do good, feel good.

xo, Has