Meet: Arti

Arti Naidu knows her purpose in this world- to give new mothers the birth of their dreams. For many women, pregnancy is an emotional and spiritual journey beyond any other, but the actual process of giving birth hasn’t always had the greatest reputation. That’s where Arti comes in.

A model and aesthetician, Arti has always had an interest in making women feel beautiful, happy and at peace. After meeting a number of new mothers and pregnant women in her line of work as an aesthetician, she developed a fascination for the process of birth. This moved her to train to become a doula. Her passion about a procedure that so many females fear is a little bemusing to me at first, but as she continues to speak of the emotional journey of a birth, I begin to understand why she’s so spirited about it.

Arti has a firm grasp on the energy around her, and she knows that she can utilize that power to help women during one of the most challenging events that they will ever go through. The job of a doula is to be an emotional supporter of the mother-to-be, but also to maintain a calm and positive energy in the birthing room. She meets with the parents a number of times beforehand and discusses their hopes, fears, and everything they want out of the day- the bulk of her attention being on the needs of the mother. She calls this the planning of the birth party, and suddenly the entire thing sounds exciting to me.  She sets up the birth room just as the mother wants it, making sure she is surrounded by things that will bring her comfort and joy. On the day, she’s all in: whether her support be through encouraging words, hand holding, making sure the mother is physically comfortable, or even being there for the partner. She’s there to provide peace and tranquility, a feeling that will transfer to the baby.

“Strong emotional imprints are already being made on your baby during birth. ” She emphasizes the importance of the energy in the room, and the needs of the mother during the entire process. “So many women have told me that they felt there was no one there to ask them what they wanted, or why they were in so much pain, and sometimes they couldn’t even verbalize what they wanted. That’s what I’m there for.” The purpose of a doula is to ensure that the birth, a memory the mother will hold onto for the rest of their life, is a positive and happy journey. I tell her that the thought of giving birth doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside, but rather fills me with a large amount of anxiety, and she laughs. She assures me that it’s common and completely normal, but it’s not the way it should be.

“In the past, so many women died, hospital births were brutal. The spiritual journey of the birth was lost. But now we have the opportunity to change that.” The relationship with her clients is simple- what do they want? She makes a point of getting to know their personalities, asking what they would like to see happen, learning their birth plan and then monitoring the birth to ensure that everything is as it should be. “If you put your fear aside and don’t let birthing scare you, and you think instead of what your dream birth would be, what the environment that puts you in a calm place would be, then it can be the most amazing journey of your life.”

Arti’s passion about her line of work is both inspiring and comforting; in our two hour long conversation she made me see birth in a completely new light. The significance of a doula is relatively new in Western culture, but on a steady rise. “I just want women giving birth to be as comfortable as possible. As a mother, you don’t have a lot of control when the time comes, and giving up that control is difficult. You have to put it into the hands of people you completely trust and are comfortable with. People that are there to make you feel at peace.”

Hair and Make Up by  Kym D from Swank Makeup
Arti’s Instagram @vamalifewellness

The Tiptoe Method

The word ‘commitment’ used to stand for security and assurance, but now it’s often associated with deep rooted anxiety. Fair enough. When the options seem endless how could a concept as cementing as commitment come naturally to us? Thanks to rapidly evolving technology, we’ve come to a point where there’s always something else out there. Something better, shinier, newer, more compatible. It’s hard to settle down when an abundance of choices are available right at your fingertips. How do you commit to one if you haven’t experienced the rest? Jobs, apartments, phones, outfits, plans, and people. Everything has become effortlessly replaceable.

This never-ending supply we’ve found, no, created for ourselves, has caused us to seek shelter under a shield of avoidance when the time comes to actually decide what the fuck it is we want. We tiptoe around it, avoiding the ultimatum that this kind of thing brings us to. Am I done looking for the next best thing? Is this the one I want to stick to? Am I sure? Will I ever be?

It’s often a subject we prefer to leave unspoken. There’s no hard feelings if it’s never discussed, no stress, just keep moving along. Avoiding it means we don’t have to answer any questions. In dating, it’s easier to just assume we’re all open for business until you have “the talk”. When the time comes to talk about it, it kind of feels like the walls are sinking in. It’s time to decide, it’s time to actually commit to one thing. Instead, we all keep fucking around for a while longer, avoiding the issue, sweeping all our responsibilities under the rug to deal with later.

And yet, we’re only human, despite how close we’re getting to becoming half machine. Having feelings for someone does still come naturally, that part is unavoidable. It’s just the entire process afterwards that we all seem to be running from. Even if you think you have feelings for someone, you keep seeking out your options. Keep swiping. Keep going to clubs. Keep running through partners and having meaningless sex just because we aren’t sure when the time will ever be right, when just one person will ever be enough, who will ever be worth fighting for. People have become replaceable and therefore disposable. It’s as easy as a swipe of a finger.

It’s probably also vital to recognize that we are dubbed the “me” generation. We put ourselves first, which isn’t a bad thing to me for the most part. It’s driven me in my career and also taken me out of many shitty situations with people I knew better than to stay in. But the “finding yourself” excuse eventually wears out. When do you stop finding yourself? Never, I hope. I hope I continue to learn new things about myself until the day I die. I think that’s the beauty of life. The issue seems to be that we’re afraid to grow with just one person.  Is it just a defence mechanism to avoid someone seeing you in a place of vulnerability or is it purely selfish?

Of course, there’s also the fact that past relationships have fucked us up, as they do. People who you may have given your heart to that tore it to shreds. Relationships that you may have tried fighting for that just never seemed to work. We’re all scarred and that has led us to become kind of petrified to dive in again. Save a headache. We often sidestep from actually getting into anything serious because we have post traumatic stress from events prior.

Personally, I stay open with how I process my feelings. If they exist, you should know about them. I wasn’t always this way. I’ve been fucked over, used, I’ve hurt others, I’ve shut off my emotions, I’ve drowned my issues in substances and meaningless sex. But none of that was satisfying to me. I decided at some point that I wouldn’t conceal the way I felt because that would be lying not only to myself, but the person I was with. I’ve experienced different reactions to this. Some react in fear, some in the classic “she’s crazy”, and some go for it because it’s right to them too. The best relationships I’ve been in were built around this communication. And although they ultimately resulted in breakups, they were amicable and with people I still consider friends. That’s because there was nothing hidden, and therefore no feelings seriously hurt. I didn’t tiptoe then, and because of it I never fell over and hurt myself.

Those experiences had me set on continuing to stay open, but recently I’ve found myself tiptoeing around too . Maybe it’s because I’m in a new city, maybe it’s because I’m not ready, or maybe it’s just because tiptoeing causes me less grief. But I learned that the tiptoeing thing is what actually makes me act crazy. It’s what makes me have assumptions and conceal my feelings and therefore not communicate properly – the opposite of where I want to be.

What I’m saying is that the tiptoe method is bullshit. It’s built on a foundation of bullshit and it will continue to cause our generation to dive even deeper into the bullshit dating scene we’ve created for ourselves. Yeah, we have fun. Yeah, we’re wild. Yeah, date and sleep with whoever the hell you want, but don’t deny that it all gets old and it can leave you empty. It’s important to have fun and be single and empower yourself, but denying yourself of the things you truly want just because that’s where society is at is, you guessed it, bullshit.

Being afraid to jump into something will cause you to deprive yourself from an experience you could have had. We keep saying ‘everything happens for a reason the way it should’, but if you’re gonna cliche, you better double up- life is also what you make of it. We lose out when we cower away from each other. We miss something so big. Something, that in my opinion is the entire meaning of life. In all this hoopla and craziness that our world is comprised of, it’s the only thing that really makes it all worth it. Ask yourself, while you’re working and building and creating and growing and living and finding yourself, do you have magic in your life? Do you want it? Is it missing?

That tiny, giant L-word.  Four letters that either make no sense whatsoever or make all the sense in the world, depending on where you’re at. But love is all this is about, in the end anyway. You miss a big part of life when you avoid it. Love is a pool on a uncomfortably scorching day and we tiptoe around it, looking at it, wondering when we’ll be ready to jump into it while we stay burning under the sun in the process. We all want it, but some people never jump in. Some people fear they’re gonna drown. Some just hate swimming because they never learned to do it right. But eventually your feet get tired from the tiptoeing and only once you’re laying down by yourself you realize that you may have given up something you really wanted.

If you’ve been in love and you’ve been hurt, you know that you’ll never fully be sure of anything again- until you actually try it. The unknown is okay. The unknown is actually the best part. I say dive in. Life is too short. Time is fleeting. Fear is helpless. Be a little reckless with your decision making, and give your feet a rest.


God Blessed My Persian Face

When I was in elementary school I was made fun of for a number of reasons. Being a visible minority in the 9/11 era and living in a waspy neighbourhood sucked on a few different levels. One of my most vivid memories of these events was being told I was ugly because my eyebrows were thick and bushy and full of Persian life. The whole “sand n*****”,  “terrorist”, “get out of our country” thing was pretty bad too, but a lot of my childhood was filled with hating the way I looked because I wasn’t a white girl.

I remember going home and looking at myself in the mirror and resenting my heritage for causing me the struggle of not being totally hairless and blonde. One day after a notably bad recess break, I went home after school and took my sister’s razor. With the fierce determination to lessen “the damage” of my thick eyebrows, I went to town. I looked ridiculous, of course, because I was 11 and I didn’t know what the fuck I was doing.

Today, thick eyebrows are everything. Terms like “on fleek”, “on point”, “proper” have been used to describe a girl with eyebrows like the ones I once tried to eliminate from my existence. There are multiple memes floating everywhere praising the holy thick eyebrow. I’m not gonna lie, my eyebrow game is proper. Why? Because my eyebrows are thick as fuck because I’m Persian, and we are born into the world covered in hair. Which is still not okay, by the way. Just the eyebrows are okay.

I hated them until about 4 years ago. I would pluck them into tiny lines like the magazines just to avoid looking the way I was born to look. Now? Now it’s cool. Now I get compliments. Now there are white girls asking me “how I got them so thick” so they can snag some tips. The same type of girls who once called me ugly. Nope. Now I refuse to ever let Western media determine how I feel about myself, and this happened after I was finally validated by it. Funny, that something as minor as eyebrows could have caused my life so much grief. So sad and alarming at the same time.

The cultural appropriation conversation is typically pretty cringeworthy. It’s a lot of political correctness vs. ignorance vs. oversensitivity vs. a lack of empathy. It goes in all different directions. I’ve thought a lot about what it means to me. Am I guilty of it? What is it even really? Why can’t we all just get along and appreciate whatever we want? Because it’s not that easy.

I’m not even on the bad end of it. Eyebrows are universal, I know that. I’m not saying anyone is appropriating Middle Eastern eyebrows. I’m saying how come it’s only okay when a specific group says it is? What about headscarves? What about bindis? And crownrows? Headpieces? Where’s the line? What’s okay and what’s not?

Girls like me, who were shamed for looking a certain way and then later praised for it, often feel resentment towards the people who are now embracing what they once rejected. It’s not fair that it’s only “cool” to look a type of way after white girls do it. Plain and simple. It’s not fair that my friend was thrown rocks at for wearing a culturally traditional bindi and now some 18 year old chick from LA is wearing one to Coachella and being photographed for Nylon. It’s not cool that girls with afros were bullied into relaxing their hair, then told weaves were “ratchet” and now you can clock a weave on any given white girl. It’s not fair because it was never okay until someone else said it was, we were never given the choice and never given the chance to actually enjoy the way we looked or the things we did until someone else said we could. Yes, it’s important to empower yourself via yourself, but it’s hard to do so when you’re young and being bullied by both your peers and society.

There’s a big difference between appreciating and embracing other cultures and exploiting them. My experience has been that my “exoticness” was never really appreciated until certain aspects of my image were sought after. I’m a curvy girl. I feel good about that, but I grew up hating it. I wanted to be a size zero, something my body physically will never be. Now it’s okay for me to have thick eyebrows. Now it’s okay for me to be “thick”. Now it’s okay for me to be “exotic”. And that’s cool, thanks for seeing it, but it wasn’t until it became “okay” that I realized how fickle the media and society’s view on me are. Fuck that. Fuck that forever.

That’s why when someone gets offended by you possibly cultural appropriating them it’s best for you to take a minute to think about the journey they’ve gone through. The whole process of learning to accept themselves that they might have faced before you assume they should take it as a compliment. How sacred what you’re utilizing for fashion is to them. It’s never as simple as you think it is.

I’m flattered by every compliment I get about my skin tone, my eyebrows, my hair, my anything that was given to me thanks to my heritage, but I will never forget how this very society looked at me before. I’m not saying walk on eggshells, I’m not even saying stop doing certain things, I’m just saying that it’s important to recognize where the resentment comes from. Empathy goes a long way. Evidently, so do good eyebrows.

The Simplified Meaning of Life

All humans do is love each other and fuck each other up.

It’s just in our nature, and we’re all guilty of both. Loving someone is good until it’s bad. When it gets to that point, whether you want it to or not, you go on the second route. We go through relationships, we meet people who make it all better and then make it all worse. Sometimes it feels like a repetitive cycle, but it’s growth. And when you really sit down and think about it, it’s all we’re here for.

Love is beautiful. It’s meant to be shared and used in all it’s glory. Sometimes we think we know what it is, and then it changes. Sometimes we try to fake it. Sometimes it’s so real there’s nothing out there that could make you feel otherwise.

The point is that it’s necessary. If you want to understand the truth about any of this, you need to embrace it. It doesn’t always need to end on a bad note,  it can just be a progression of life. And yet, we’d all be liars if we said we haven’t been hurt before. As you go on, you learn to hurt others less and stop letting yourself be hurt in return.

I love love. I love being in love. But in the past few years I’ve found a love that trumps most of my other experiences. It’s a love that is genuine beyond all of my other ideas of it.

I found the realest love within my friends. I’ve always felt unconditional love with my family, but it’s different when you choose your tribe.

I stay surrounded by people, because people give me all the life I need. I have made connections that have taught me more about myself than anything else ever has. I’ve felt a rare vulnerability that has shown me how to be real. And even though most of those connections are across the nation from me right now, it doesn’t change anything.

I’m not showing off. I mean, maybe I am. But it’s for no reason other than being full of gratitude. Friendship is the most indispensable gift we have to give each other, even when it involves romance. Knowing you have people looking out for you who have seen you at your worst, your best, your medium, and every moment in between is almost serene.

I may be speaking a little too soon, but the meaning of life to me is all in the bonds we make. The things we share, the moments we have. I’ve always been lucky to find good people, but I never fully understood how blessed we are until recently.

Why do people still have drama? Love each other more. I don’t mean to sound preachy, but goddamn it just do it. Stop fighting. Stop tearing each other down. Stop being petty. Stop holding grudges. Stop being mad. It’s not worth it. It never has been.

Yeah, sometimes people come and go, but you know when it’s meant to be for life. Make those connections. Make them last and keep them real. Don’t put on a face for each other. Don’t let bullshit get in the way. You can overcome anything with the right people on your team.

Express gratitude. Be genuine. Look out for each other and embrace how lucky you are. Life is as fantastic as you let it be.

I’m just thankful for how beautiful it’s been so far. In fact, I’m so thankful I’m cheesy as fuck lately. I can’t really help it, it’s overcome me.

I’ll be snarky some other day.

How to Human

Something hit me 5 minutes ago. You know when you’re just going about your day and then, suddenly, in an instant you’re completely aware of your breathing, and who you are and all the particles you’re made up of and how fickle life is? It’s kind of an amazing feeling.

I honestly kind of just ended up here on a whim and somehow managed to pull off some kind of existence that I never fully planned out or expected. I decided that if I was going to live, I was going to follow my dreams. What my dreams were exactly I had no clue of originally, I just knew I’d get there if I kept following my instinct. This didn’t happen because I read The Secret or listened to Oprah when she told me to discover my truth, this happened when I realized everything I had learned about life up until that point was mostly bullshit.

Saying the words “I’m following my dreams” kind of makes me want to puke, but it’s true. I use the word dream to define the entire process of my life, not just the end point. Because at the moment I’m setting myself up for a path of external and internal struggle that I will never fully grasp until I’m right in the thick of it. But for now it’s chill, the calm before the storm. Which will, hopefully, be followed by a rainbow. So I’ve decided to give some life advice. Not because I’m even mildly successful or wise, but because I’ve learned a few things over the past 5 years that I’ve found beneficial to myself. I’m a really hard person to please, so I figure learning how to be satisfied in my struggle is something I can share with others.

It took me a long time to figure out how to be happy. I’ve always been generally content with life, but I’ve also experienced depression. Being completely and utterly lost was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was in my third year of university studying a bunch of shit I didn’t care about, knowing I never wanted to use any of it, paying tuition out of my own pocket, well, a pocket that was lent to me by the government. I hated prerequisites. I hated writing papers on things that are completely irrelevant to today’s world. I hated taking exams that tested my knowledge without actually testing my knowledge. I hated walking down the hallways and seeing everyone ready to jump at any moment, sleeping under chairs and drinking gallons of coffee just to keep their eyes open. I hated everything about it.

Why the fuck am I here? Every single day that’s all I asked myself. I had answers, it’s not as if my question went ignored, but I wasn’t satisfied with the reasoning behind my suffering. Family, society, necessity, degrees, success. None of that pertained to me because I knew I was setting myself up for a lifetime of disappointment.

And then it happened. Out of nowhere. It was like any other given school night, I sat there staring at meaningless numbers that apparently had some kind of meaning. It was the eve of my statistics exam, after studying for 3 hours and realizing I did not give a single flying fuck about any of it, I decided to do something else. I decided to quit university and follow some kind of dream that I had vaguely envisioned in my head. I didn’t have a plan. I didn’t have a clue. I just decided to trust my instinct and go with it.

Within two weeks I got a job as a copywriter. A couple months later someone, who I’ve now accepted as my fairy godmother, suggested I start a blog, I did. Someone else suggested I submit my rambling words into a magazine, I did. A month later I was published. Two months later I was invited to be interviewed by Bill Good. I got a scholarship to film school, I enrolled, I started and now I’m looking at the horizon knowing I could potentially fail but determined not to. I am currently residing in my dream. I’m creating things that matter to me. I’m excited to wake up everyday. No. That’s a fucking lie. I’m excited to wake up a lot, not everyday. The actual process of waking up is generally a pretty dreadful activity. I like being awake. That’s what I’m trying to say.

My point is that I may be a fucking nobody, but my dream is only as valid as I let it be. I was never sure of where I was going, I just knew I wanted to want wherever I ended up with all my heart. Nothing felt right until I started over. It was terrifying. Do you know how it feels to tell your Persian parents that you’re dropping out of university to become a writer? I’m still slightly terrified, but like, in a good way. I could have ended up finishing my degree and getting a government job or something. Or more likely, being the manager of a Starbucks. Still possible, but at least I’ll know I tried. Because nothing is worth it if you don’t try. They say being afraid is a good thing, and it is, but there’s a difference between being afraid with excitement and being afraid with misery. The latter can slowly destroy your soul. Misery is only useful up until a point. It can turn you cold if you never learn to utilize it properly.

You don’t have to know what you want right away. Hell, you will probably never fully know what you want, but the trick is challenging yourself and keeping yourself motivated and passionate. Being happy isn’t sunshine and lollipops, it’s often a lot of stress and pain, and a ton of bullshit along the way, but you’ll know when you are. You’ll know because that feeling of misery will fade out and even the shitty things that come with life will be kind of pretty okay. When you figure it out, happiness will linger even when you’re dirt poor, taking a bus, and eating ramen for dinner 5 nights a week. You realize the rest of it is bullshit.

No one knows you like you know you, no book, or sequal to that book, or talk show mogul can ever give you the actual advice you need. University works for a lot of people, but not for everyone. Living as a starving artist is satisfying to some, and completely unimaginable to others. Farming is one person’s dream and another person’s nightmare. The only trick in life is being honest with yourself and how you feel. If you’re content and passionate about the path you’re on, stick to it. But if you wake up in the morning and you dread the day that follows it, you can either stay fucked forever or make it better. Embrace the fear and mystery that come with not knowing what the fuck is going to happen next. If you get too comfortable, life will never teach you all the things that it has to offer. And it has a hell of a lot to offer.

Good Isn’t Always Nice

A “good person” is a pretty vague and open-ended term. It may even be subjective.

It hasn’t been a perfect journey, but I’ve always tried to be one. I’m still figuring out what is definitive when it comes to being good or bad. I mean, there’s obviously a general sense of not being shitty and awful, being caring to the people around you, not taking advantage of the self check out if you can afford it, and so on. But what has always confused me is that many people who I consider “good” are often silent when it comes down to a situation where they can vanquish their “bad” people counterparts.

The reason this confuses me is because I’ve always lived with the belief that it’s necessary to teach others about subjects they may be ignorant about. This is simply because we live in the future and not in a time where it’s acceptable for ignorance to just be a shoulder shrug and a skip forward onto your day. No one can be faulted for being naive, but I think we can all be faulted for not stepping in and spreading knowledge.

Today, I was in a long ass line at your typical yuppie grocery store. The suit in front was being horrendous to the cashier. She was an older lady, clearly struggling with her English, and likely had just started her job. As he went on to treat her like human garbage for being unable to ring through his organic produce, everyone else looked away and waited silently for his wrath to end. Including me. I thought about it. I thought about walking right up to him and kicking him in the leg, giving an inspirational speech, everyone else clapping and saving the cashier lady’s day all while giving her hope for humanity. I didn’t do it. I just thought about it.

I waited my turn, and when it was finally time for me to go up I apologized for his behaviour. She gave me a small smile, but my words clearly did not make her feel any better, and they shouldn’t have. She’s been through it, she knows people are shitty and she probably has to deal with pretentious douchebags all the time. Welcome to the big city, immigrant lady.

I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve been reprimanded for calling people out on their shit, but now I know that I shouldn’t stop. I regret it every time I do. People, both in real life and on the internet, have called me various names for speaking my mind on why assholes should stop being assholes.

While, yes, my words do sometimes come from a place of anger, they also come from a good place. A place where I just expect more from humanity, and just sitting there and being disappointed isn’t fulfilling to me. I think doing so would make me a bad person.

In high school, I was about the same amount of opinionated as I am now, except no one wanted to hear anything I had to say, so I just had to think it. I graduated in 2009, so not exceptionally long ago. One Halloween, a few guys in my class came to school decked out in black face make up. I mentioned something to one of my friends who just told me I was being a buzzkill. I shrugged it off and skipped along with my day. I regret that.

After growing up a bit and realizing that you know what, fuck all those people, I started to stop censoring myself for the comfort of assholes and instead started speaking my mind.

I wish that I had gone up to that dude in the grocery store and told him to leave the cashier alone and stop taking his various issues out on her. I wish I had told him that listen, my mom came here with little to no English vocabulary and had to support my family by doing the same job. Dicks like him were the reason she would come home upset after working a 12 hour shift. It wasn’t the job, it wasn’t the hours, it was the way she was often treated. I regret not doing so.

But what I’m taking away from it is this: people come in all different mindsets. Some will agree with yours, some will even elevate you and help you grow. However, some need you to be the person that teaches them a thing or two. Sometimes you can do it kindly, and sometimes you have to throw it back in their faces. Being a good person isn’t always about how much money you donate to your charity of choice, or how open-minded you are about human rights, sometimes it’s as simple as helping the asshole in front of you become less of an asshole.

I’m often wrong, and I’m always learning. And for that, I am thankful. There’s nothing I love more than when someone calls me out on my bullshit, because I need it. In order for me to develop as a person and become the good person I one day hope to fully see in myself, I need to be told when I’m wrong. Do it for me. I will do it for you too. We should do it for everyone. You become a part of the problem as soon as you start walking away from a situation that you could have bettered.

We, as a world, have come a long way. Yes, there are still terrible things happening everywhere and it’s not hard to sit down and think about it and become severely depressed. But holy shit, the world is still magnificent. We’ve just entered this awkward place of being politically correct to the point of being passive, and that is harmful.

The reason we’ve come this far in the first place is because of people who refused to stay silent. They changed the world. We may not all capable of single-handedly starting a revolution, but in your everyday life you have an enormous power. That power is to just being vocally honest and teaching one another. That, to me, is the biggest part of being a good person.

The escapades of a cynical optimist.