To Be Present Is To Be Alive

About two months ago, I felt the urge to pack up and go. No reason in particular, I just needed a change of scenery. I wanted a break from my surroundings and I knew it had to happen sooner than later. It was time for a new experience. On June 12th, I randomly thought, "I want to paint on the beach - and not just on any beach, one in or near Los Angeles, CA." I booked my flight, rental car, and Airbnb for LA within the next two days and found myself rushing to the airport to catch my flight (late per usual) less than two weeks later. Thank God for Chase Ultimate Rewards points! 

As I sat in the plane the morning of June 26th, wondering 'how did I get here,' I shifted my thinking towards what I wanted to get out of this trip. Would I get sad or dare I say, lonely? Would I wish someone else was here? Would I be able to meet new people? Would I be able to hang out with my friends? Would I be able to enjoy my own company away from home if not? I realized I had no itinerary. So many thoughts ran through my mind. It got so overwhelming that I finally promised myself to live in the moment during this impromptu trip - not to dwell on past or the uncertainty of the future. This trip was so spontaneous, as I had no plans for the week aside from meeting up with three people at some point and potentially painting a mural. So regardless of what happened, I was going to roll with the punches and accept what was in store for me each day at a time. And what would you figure, it worked!

Everyday in LA was sporadic and memorable. I got to spend time with one of my cousins who's been in LA for school. On my first day, we hung out with her friends on the beach for some girl time! We had food, drinks, books, and of course I painted lol. We even saw 3 dolphins playing by the shore, which I heard was rare for that beach. It was awesome meeting her friends. It felt like Sex In The City LA style for the day! Bougie, merry, and black girl magic lol. They definitely reminded me of my girlfriends back at home. All of them were well in touch with their purpose and actively helping their community in one way or another. Her friend Amirah even has an awesome podcast called Living For The Weekend, where she and a fellow black millennial woman living in LA talk candidly about their life experiences as they work to make everyday feel like the weekend. Dope! Seeing fellow black women being their own superheroes (or super-heroines, I should say) and sharing their experiences will always be amazing to me. You have to keep your squad tight, motivated, and encouraged. 

My second beach excursion was also amazing. I picked a random beach I found that a blog post described as a "getaway" so I could paint with little to no distractions - just sun, waves, and paint supplies. I wanted to be present and take in the experience and the scenery. A friend decided to join last minute so we headed to Leo Carrillo State Beach in Malibu. As we climbed down the mountain towards the actual beach area, we decided to take pictures of the view and found ourselves in deep conversation about life - the stresses of school/the education system, the importance of mental health and wellness, the complexities of just being a 'responsible' adult, the realization of not fully knowing our next moves, and the ideal career/lifestyle we actually want. You know, the usual hour-long girl talk! Then this woman and her gorgeous dog (a young mostly black German Shepard) walked by. Being the dog lady that I am, I just had to pet her dog but the woman instantly gave me chills for some reason. Although she was nice and friendly, I couldn't figure out what it was about her until she shared her story. We soon found out that on the morning of my 23rd birthday, she was in a horrific accident and flat-lined, but ultimately survived. We all talked for about 15 minutes about how she found purpose in life through this accident - finding people and reassuring them that they are on the right path. She left us with the following words of encouragement: "Yes, to all of your hopes and dreams. Yes, you deserve love and adoration. And yes to whatever you were just discussing. Do it." Needless to say, my friend and I were stunned lol. Isn't it crazy how timely the universe brings people together?! Oddly enough, things like that often happen to me so I was glad to share that moment with a friend. Now I have proof that I'm not crazy haha! So thanks for stopping by and sharing your good vibes Cassandra M. Bauer. You're presence was noted and appreciated. We heard you! Fate had its hand in that moment.

On my last day in LA, I got the opportunity to help paint the first BLACK GIRLS WHO PAINT mural. This was truly one of the highlights of this trip! After I booked the trip, my friend Shak, an awesome LA graffiti artist, proposed doing a BGWP mural in the The Graf Lab (TGL) Space on Washington Boulevard and Normadie Avenue. I was a little apprehensive at first because I haven't painted a mural in years and this would be my first time seriously attempting to spray paint. Painting with a can uses a completely different technique than painting with a brush for sure. But of course, Shak wouldn't have me giving up before I even tried, so he encouraged and ensured me that it would be not only a great mural, but a great experience, as well. So we put some sketches together and the magic happened! I knew it would be dope, but I never saw it going so well. He introduced me to Trauma (a local graffiti artist), Pooh (a local BGWP), and Dominic Jones (a local photographer/cinematographer who captured the experience and work can be found here). Everyone had such great energy. I learned a lot about spray painting. I never pictured myself painting a mural without a paintbrush and there I was, trying new things and loving it! I even got the opportunity to join TGL as one of the first female artists and have been planning, sketching, and practicing ever since.  Check out the photos below!

By the end of the trip, I was pleasantly filled. With what? I'm not quite sure, but filled with whatever I came there for and a lot of it. I met up with a cousin, a friend from high school, and an art friend I met back home. I painted on the beach TWICE, met dope creatives, learned how to spray paint, sketched my next tattoo (super excited), and did some crucial self evaluation on areas I need to change and/or grow. I also affirmed a few things about myself. I realized that to be present is to be alive. I had so many smiles on my face every day! Being around other creatives tend to unlock something in you and open you to new perspectives. As much as I was surrounded by awesome vibes, I spent more than half the time by myself - sketching, writing, planning, and exploring. Those moments were also perfect. Not one moment did I feel alone even though I was by myself. Even though I enjoyed my own company, I was never truly alone because of the company I chose to keep, whether new or old, near or far. I never felt sad, down, or out-of-place. I stepped out of my comfort zone and accepted things as they came. In a way, I made a new environment my home, at least for the time being, and it felt good - so good that I forgot to take photos most of the time haha! Time flies when you're having fun right?! Check out a few pics below!

So yeah, I can't lie, my trip to LA was nothing short of amazing! Living in the now is pretty sweet too. Cheers to being alive cultivating your own vibes!