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001 Jade Butterfly

Living in a culture obsessed with fame and fortune,
we seek happiness through these definitions of success.

Dribbling Tiger, Bounce Pass Dragon

When Windfall was still just a concept, I shared it to anyone who would listen. It was this vague idea of meaningful designs and fixing people’s insecurities. An entrepreneur tore the idea apart, as any legitimate critic should, and told me that insecurity is something people get over. That yes, we all experience it when we’re young, but most of us eventually find ourselves.

Her response stuck with me. I couldn’t tell if I had issues with her criticism because of my ego, or if there was something else bugging me I just couldn’t put my finger on.

I wasn’t a popular kid growing up. I held tight to my close-knit group of friends. I couldn’t afford everything I wanted. I tried my best in school (kinda) and did pretty well. My parents were divorced, but the love was there still. I was a somewhat privileged, lower middle-class kid: the perfect star for an angsty teenage sitcom.

I wasn’t sure how to act, who to associate myself with, whether to do this or that. I tried to be a prep, skater, punk, and everything in between. It took me years to finally be me.

Needless to say I was insecure. But who isn’t insecure at the ripe old age of 14?

Ahh the glorious, prepubescent journey of self-discovery. As we delve into life and try to figure out just what in the world is going on, we wonder… how do we fit into this world? (cue /r/im14andthisisdeep) Who am I? We try to establish an identity.

It’s our tendency to associate with that which we’re good at. What we naturally have an aptitude for, what we’ve been blessed with from birth, or what we believe we can push ourselves to be. Because everyone wants to be successful in life. We want to feel fulfilled.

But how grounded is our identity if it’s rooted in anything material?

I’ve been underweight my entire life. I grew up under a barrage of “wow, you are so skinny,” and it got under my skin when I was younger. Most of it wasn’t ill-natured, but it was uncomfortable still; it forced me to think on my failures and insecurities. I tried everything I could, but I just couldn’t put on the weight.

But in college, I had more resources to work with. I worked out regularly, engorged myself at the dining hall, finally seeing some results. I felt more comfortable when I looked in the mirror. My clothes were fitting better. People were noticing the change. I loved it, but I had to stop. Ironically enough, it was unhealthy. Preserving my image had become more of an obligation than a decision. I felt like I had to do this for my self-confidence; to be better.

If I had continued to work out 3 times a week. If I kept eating 5 meals a day. If I hit my goal weight and then some, it’d be a success by our world’s standards. I would have conquered my insecurities through my own hard work and efforts. Tangible results just because I wanted it bad enough. But are we solving the real issues at hand if we just succumb to our insecurities?

Our culture thrives off of the idea that, “If you feel bad about yourself, do something about it. Be who you want to be.”

Rather than evaluating why we feel this way, we accept it as fact: this will make us better, how can we get there? We give in to the idea that our worth is contingent. Contingent on our ability to meet a self-defined criteria for success.

This sentiment bleeds into every aspect of our lives. This insecurity penetrates all demographics. It’s masked by success, exposed through failures, and will inevitably triumph in time. All because we follow the world’s path to success.. only to find that it isn’t quite as fulfilling as we thought.

Is this it?

A Sense of Self

Billboard ads, music videos, online celebrities. Every form of entertainment we have, we’re not-so-subtly reminded of our ultimate standards of beauty.

It’s hard not to fall into the temptation of comparison when we’re immersed in it so deeply. To wonder how much better our lives could be if we just happened to have hit the genetic lottery. Many fall prey to it. I’m no exception. Struggling to be comfortable with who I see in the mirror every day.

In many ways, these feelings of inadequacy are purposefully drawn out in us. Marketing’s chief goal is not your personal well-being. If a company can get a product in your hand by making you feel insecure, they’ll do it and won’t blink an eye.

It’s easy to demonize corporations and their dirty business tactics and leave it at that. But is it really that simple? Aren’t we the same people who enjoy gawking over the hottest celebrities? Who follow all the pretty influencers on Instagram?

Perhaps it’s not some demonic, oppressive corporate regime manufacturing toxic standards in our culture… but rather, these are merely the natural byproducts of a culture we have created. That we choose to live by.

Father Forgive Me

In the poorest slums of our neighborhoods, you’ll find the most degenerate of people. The hustlers, the drug dealers, gang bangers, murderers, thieves. The ones who the world would be better off without… right? It’s unsettling how comfortable we are stripping people of their humanity; something akin to roaches to be exterminated.

Big KRIT is one of my favorite rappers in the game right now. Incredibly talented. Heavily slept on. If you’re into hip-hop at all, give him a listen. In an older track off his 2010 mixtape KRIT WUZ HERE, he articulates such a humbling perspective on the matter.

“It’s hard to be broke and do better. Father forgive me.”

This single line addresses so much: A sober judgment of right and wrong. Good intentions, but honest weakness. It gives just a glimpse into the realities of living in adversity.

It’s easy to assume thugs are one-dimensional. They choose these lives. They want to be crooks. This narrative is played out in every form of media imaginable. But no matter how insignificant to our own story, humans are never one-dimensional characters. Simplifying their experience, preoccupied solely with their mistakes and trespasses; it only draws us further away from genuine understanding.

We can’t dismiss the realities of life, and we mustn’t be afraid of what we don’t understand.

How lucky am I to even have the opportunity to dwell on these ideas? To build something. To create. To follow my dreams. How many more lost souls are pressed with the same heart of creativity and passion, but just can’t do anything because of their circumstances? And beyond the fanciful flights of creativity, but imagine those who are pressured to make difficult decisions just to survive.

The human experience is an accumulation of decisions over time based on our given choices. And some have more choices than others. I must constantly remind myself of how blessed I am for my opportunities. And to take seriously the opportunities I have at my disposal to bless others, to uplift my communities, and to impact the world.

don’t push me cause i’m close to the edge
i’m trying not to lose my head

it’s like a jungle sometimes
it makes me wonder how i keep from going under

Dance of the Butterfly

Windfall’s first collection is titled Jade Butterfly. The series revolves around the concept of mutual understanding. It’s a subject matter quite personal to me, but it also lays a solid groundwork for the ideas to come.

I’m sure my experiences as a child are quite similar to yours. Growing up with a bona fide sense of wonder; thrown into this unfamiliar world with no instruction manual. Life is a beautiful journey in which we find our own personal truths; discovering for ourselves what truly matters in life. What brings us joy?

We all share one thing in common: a longing for genuine fulfillment in our lives. We’re taught from quite a young age what will give our lives meaning. We’re flooded with tales of romantic love, rags to riches stories, perfect beauty and global fame. What will people remember me for when I die? What makes my life meaningful?

Our lives are interconnected by this mutual search for fulfillment. We are born into the world with an intrinsic sense of purpose. And no matter our race, gender, social status, we all have traversed the weary path of understanding; coming to terms with who we are. And our journeys aren’t nearly over.

We’re all one-of-a-kind, born into unique environments with unique predispositions. This context has a tremendous influence on our growth as individuals. So why are we so slow to consider the environment we’ve all grown up in? The early experiences we’ve had as children trying to find our place in the world. All culminating into the soul searching, inner turmoil, sought dreams and brokenness of the person next to us? Just like me and you.

No matter how different our brothers and sisters seem from us, we’re just playing with the cards we’ve been given.

Through maturity we gain a fresh perspective on our individual flaws and capabilities, our obstacles and opportunities. We develop an image of our ideal self and strive towards it. We strive towards something we feel like we can achieve, because deep down we all just want to be happy. We want to successfully reach our shared goal: to live fulfilling lives.

So we adjust our values accordingly. It seems our identities are finally firm and established. Maybe our soulmate never came but hey, we launched our own business! Or I may not be the prettiest daisy in the bunch, but I’m way smarter than everyone my age, who cares what I look like? We find something attainable to establish our identity in. Not just to be happy, but to keep our sanity.

But no matter how much we try to fool ourselves, it’s never right, and it’s never enough. It always seems to be something just out of reach that would make us happier.

We can’t help but identify with materialism because that’s what we’ve been fed our entire life. America in particular is wholly defined by external validation and consumerism. But if we find fulfillment in anything external, have we really come to terms with who we are deep down? If we simply find fulfillment in that which we find realizable, have we really addressed the fundamental issues?

Never stop searching for answers. Keep exploring, continue learning, stay humble, and through it all, know that you are not alone. We all question our purpose, trying to make sense of the world we live in. But that’s what unites us as human beings.

That’s what makes this wild ride all worthwhile.

Living in a culture obsessed with fame and fortune,
we seek happiness through these definitions of success.

But when we associate self-worth with anything external,
we develop an unstable, distorted perception of ourselves.
we overlook our intrinsic value and lose sight of true beauty.

Mainstream media preys on our insecurities.
leaders build us up in division and hatred.
yet they only follow a culture we maintain,
that we have created.

If we continue to let these ideals shape the lens
through which we see one another;
through which we see ourselves,
we fail to reach our God-given potential.