Updated: Oct 30, 2020
How small changes in your life can lead to self-education.
By Natasha Santana
Image via Romeing.
A couple of months ago I posted a normal picture with a caption giving suggestive steps to keeping one’s life interesting yet also educational, minding the fact that these are things that I personally do in my own life. I was stupefied when I saw the responses I was getting. I did not have the intention for my simple Instagram caption to reach so many friends, family, and even some strangers. I decided why not spread this positive message to others who can finally stop saying that their surroundings seem so small, that their lives seem so bland, and that they're not experiencing or learning anything new. I broke this process down into four easy actions and realizations that even with baby steps, you will get the best results out of.
1. Update that playlist!
I made it my personal quest to roam around the depths of Spotify (if you have Apple Music or another music provider, use that too) and found music that I am not entirely familiar with. Not just my own playlists, but I asked my friends who come from a vast array of ethnic backgrounds about songs that I should listen to, and if you do that too, you will not be disappointed. Growing up in a Latin household, the music range was already widened but just like me, you should be hungry to understand and appreciate the music of others. When I went on this melodic journey, I started appreciating the language of others. How different sounds are outside of where I am from. Catching myself fully humming to Phagooner Mobonaye washing dishes, and learning the words as I look up videos on how to dance to the song. Cultivated by the song, it led me to learn and listen to more songs from Bangladesh, and with that I learned more about the dance and how beautiful it is. Furthering my search, one of my friends sent me a playlist on Spotify of Celtic, Irish folk music that transformed my appreciation for instruments and Ireland itself. Learning along the way that instead of music being made for the ears, it was also a warning call of any danger or enemy. Ranging from ‘trad sesh’ music that is played in a pub, to Sean Nós songs. My favorite song that I also catch myself looking forward to hearing is by saltfishforty called The Creelman/The Normaway Inn/The Reconciliation. Landing me in my last destination, Colombia. The music in Colombia ranges from a suavecito cumbia, to an edgy sound of Colombian rock, and brassy porro. Obviously growing up in a household of 50% of my music being Colombian, I learned much more just on my own search. That porro is music from the 16th century, and it still continues to be played in the Caribbean outskirts of Colombia. A song that reminded me of my roots, and made me want to visit more of my country was La Cucharita by Jorge Velosa. La Cucharita is a form of music called carranga formed in the Andean Highland. To listen to the songs named in this section, and more like them, this is the link to the playlist (updated frequently).
2. Your town/city is not your entire world
The news can seem so claustrophobic, with current news of only your state or only your city. It makes you feel as if you are the only person going through the catastrophes of your environment. In reality, the world is pretty similar relating to news and common events. I do weekly check ups on how the world is doing, and I can say with confidence that keeping yourself updated can make you feel a lot less alone. Additionally, it can help you start conversations with anyone. I learned that police brutality happens much closer to me than just America. Colombia is going through a surge of riots against the government that has abandoned them since the start of COVID-19. You never know when this information can be used; within arguments, debates, and/or normal conversations. Clearing your mind of such ignorance, and understanding the vast similarities that all governments, civilians, and humans have, will further your understanding of governments, civilians, and humans; as simple as it is. You can ask for opinions on the re-openings of Mexican Mayan ruins, and if the Mexican government is taking any appropriate precautions with that decision. Maybe, looking into the Middle-East and their stance on quarantine, and finding out that it isn't just America that is being so heavily affected by Corona. The world is yours, and you have the right and privilege to know and be aware of what reality is right now; you aren’t the only person going through this.
3. Expand your friend group!
Your friend group doesn’t stop with just the people you know in your small town, small school, or small neighborhood. You never learn about what the world has to offer if you never get to know the people that inhabit the world itself. It may come across as a challenge to approach people that you aren’t accustomed to, but would you rather never know and assume what type of people they are? Or, get to know the person/people you are curious about? Now, people who are culturally different and look different than you are not a science experiment. You have to appreciate the information and perspective they will give you. An easy way to start is by going up to someone, and complimenting them! You can’t go wrong with a nice gesture to start a conversation. I approached one of my best friends with an ‘I love the color of your hijab, do they come in different colors? Patterns? If so, which ones are your favorite?’ and from there on out I learned more about my friends life, and her culture. From a small move like that, I was sent on an adventure of understanding the Muslim religion; a religion that a Latin woman like me didn’t grow up being educated on. Being open to the world's foreign exchange will make you appreciate so much more of people's lives. I learned customs from my Polish friends, like how there are two wedding parties, called Poprawiny! I grew closer to my friends by just learning, and by learning you can know more about people and can approach life with a broader sense of friendship and appreciation. ( I found an amazing website with other ways to meet more people that are from different cultures, click here)!
4. Eat something different for once!
Old habits die so hard, trust me, my repetitive order for a 20 piece large mcnugget meal would agree. We all love pizza, we all love burgers, and we all love arroz con pollo con frijoles; food is also diverse! Stop eating the same thing all the time, there is more to the plate than what meets the eye. If you go out with your friends and eat at the same regular places, you are doing yourself a disservice. There are so many spices, flavors, and cuisines for your taste buds to discover. An example is when I had my first samosas, my life was complete. I never stopped talking about samosas after my friend introduced me to them! That was just a small step into my continuous adventure to trying foods from different places, and you should try too! If you don’t have the funds, or don't feel the need to go out, google new recipes! The recipes range from easy to hard, depending on your chef skills, but bring the world to your kitchen. Bring home a new country, or go to a new country with your friends, family, or just yourself. I eat pho every single time I find myself around Saigon Shack on West 4 in the vibrant neighborhood, filled with NYU students. Right near the pho place is a Norwegian fries place that just brings water to my mouth, and right around Wall Street is a variety of Halal carts to choose from that I used to eat from during my lunch break. If you ever find yourself in the city, emerge yourself in the taste of diversity that New York has to offer, using this article as a guideline to venture into new neighborhoods, and local business to support while you satisfy your tastebuds.
In conclusion, see the flags, and see your world. Life is beyond your grasp; life is beyond what you're familiar with. Teach yourself the importance of cultural appreciation, cultural curiosity, and ultimately let yourself diversify every inch of your life. Good luck!
Written by writer Natasha Santana