Just Breathe

March 7, 2020 / Maya Fawaz

An alarm blares and jolts me awake. I resist its call and remain curled up in bed, fully immersed in pillows and covers.

I realize that I’m late. Again. Brush teeth, throw on clothes, comb hair... breakfast? There’s no time.

A bus moves to its destination: Head down. I go on my phone. Scroll, scroll, scroll, I didn’t know she went to London. Scroll, scroll, scroll, how is her waist that tiny? Scroll, scroll, scroll, I wish I had her life.

I have a presentation today. I imagine cracking jokes and making my classmates laugh. I am confident and entertaining and charismatic and STOP. What if I’m jinxing it? What if by thinking positively and having high expectations, I end up disappointing myself?

I remind myself to be mindful and live in the present.

Slow down. Breathe. Don’t think. Breathe. Calm down. BREATHE…

Many of us walk through life in a trance-like state, going through the motions.

I would constantly distract myself and avoid confronting my emotions. My tendency to overthink and my overflowing to-do lists proved to be my way of avoiding time alone with my thoughts. I was afraid of the emotions that would surface if given the opportunity to contemplate who I truly was. There was deeply rooted loneliness inside me that I could never quite put my finger on. Repressing and pushing down these feelings made me feel powerful in their so-called conquer. I would often fill that void by piling on work, finding a love interest and attending every social event possible. I lived like this for most of my life. My anxiety-driven schedule caused me to continuously yearn for control, something absolutely unattainable.

It can be easy to romanticize a busy lifestyle and feel pressured into overbooking yourself.

A colorful and intensely packed Google calendar means that we’re “getting our bag” and “hustling.”

However, there is beauty in the chaos of life and in learning to trust and listen to yourself by taking time out of your busy schedule. Mindfulness, the practice of fully experiencing the present moment, is not meant to be an escape from everyday life, rather a way to integrate peace in your daily routine. Through apps such as Headspace, Calm, and Smiling Mind, it is easier than ever to integrate mindful practices in your day-to-day life. Yoga and meditation are popular trends in bustling cities, helping those with anxiety and high-stress levels learn to decrease their effects through breathing techniques. Allowing your mind to let go of everything and focus on the present has been known to improve memory, help with focus, create more cognitive flexibility, providing relationship satisfaction and promoting less emotional reactivity.

It takes a lot of mental discipline to become aware of our lack of introspection and stop the overthinking before it spirals out of control. Mindfulness is a tool to cancel out the noise and quiet the negative voices in our heads, rather than doing their bidding and consistently filling empty gaps in our lives. Mindfulness serves as a reminder that our success isn’t measured by our business and that being alone shouldn’t incite loneliness.

The hippy-dippy practice sounded ridiculous to me at first. My hard-headed nature refused to sit in silence and “focus on the present,” whatever that meant. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make my brain shut up for more than 2.75 seconds. I figured it wouldn’t take long before the random voice in my head would say, “I need to do laundry,” or, “where should I go for lunch?”

Mindfulness is an intentional pause. It’s stopping on your way to class and noticing the textures and colors of the world.

It’s paying attention to life around you and letting yourself be immersed in its noise.

I’m still working on understanding my thoughts.

I’m still understanding more about myself each and every day.

I’m still learning that being on my own doesn’t mean I’m alone.

I’m late to catch my bus. Headphones pop in my ears. Head down. Walk. Walk. Walk.

This time, I gently pull myself out of my rush and bring my attention to my surroundings.

Has the floor always looked like that?

When did that building get there?

Why haven’t I ever noticed that pattern on the walls?


I take a deep breath and let the fresh air seep into my lungs, every crevice fills with sweet oxygen, my chest expanding with every second.

I become aware of the space I occupy, and I am conscious of how my body feels as it’s pressed against its seat, how my arms rest by my side and how my head is perfectly balanced between my shoulders.

Finally, I exhale and let go. ■

By: Maya Fawaz

Layout: Kelsey Jones

Photographer: Akins Baptiste

Stylists: Alyssa Olvera & Madee Felter

HMUA: Gabby Duhon

Model: Jacqueline Porteny

View the full spread as it appeared in Issue No. 13 here.
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