I was born and raised in Puerto Rico and this shapes me to my core. I can’t really imagine who I would be if I were raised anywhere else but I know that my love of nature, music, food, dance, my creativity, my pull towards community work, my maternal nature — it all comes from my culture.
I live by the idea that you're alive and can't really help it, so you might as well do the best while you're here, which means each day is a new opportunity to do anything that you want. There are no real rules because we are just bundles of energy walking around, acting on our desires. I wish I had always known that life will take its own direction, that plans are not set in stone. That there is no pressure to do any one thing; just enjoy waking up day after day, until you don't.
I wake up for my cats. The fact that I can enrich another creature's life is so rewarding. A few years ago, I had a mental breakdown and I attempted suicide. In the midst of it all, all I could think of was — "who is going to look after Kiki?". So I decided to call for help. My cat truly saved my life. I still get depressed but being responsibly for my cats helps me stay on routine.
Since quarantine started, my skincare ritual has changed a lot. I have been using a lot less products and just being more instinctual with it. I rinse my face with cold water in the morning, I try to remember to put on a serum or lotion everyday (and sometimes fail) If I leave the house, I put on sunscreen. I don’t use a face wash anymore but I try to exfoliate twice a week, at least. If I start to break out I put a mask on. Over this time I’ve learned that the true beauty rituals are more just self care; I have a bedtime that I abide by, I wake up at the same time every morning, I drink about a gallon of water a day, I eat three meals a day, I pet my cats a lot, I give a lot of hugs when I can, and I tell all my friends who I truly love that I love them every chance I get.
"Over this time I’ve learned that the true beauty rituals are more just self care; I have a bedtime that I abide by, I wake up at the same time every morning, I drink about a gallon of water a day, I eat three meals a day, I pet my cats a lot, I give a lot of hugs when I can, and I tell all my friends who I truly love that I love them every chance I get."
I believe beauty comes from within; that you make beauty with your actions, when you lead with kindness and empathy. For me, the most beautiful people I've ever met are the people that I feel like I can be my truest self around and who make me hopeful for the world. I feel most beautiful when I don’t have to meet anyones expectation of beauty, so for me that is in nature, on a camping trip where I don’t have to dress any type of way or do anything other than enjoy myself while enjoying nature and take deep breaths to nourish myself. That's when I feel most alive: in nature, when I'm reminded that I am just a small part of a massive ecosystem. Or when I'm dancing.
As far as the future, I have truly no idea. I have learned that planning is useful but life does not follow plans for the most part. Hopefully ten years from now, I'll live in a house with a big garden and lots of animals roaming around. Maybe back home in Puerto Rica. I hope by then that we, as people, can finally learn from the past and move forward accordingly. That everyone sees how pointless it is to be judgmental towards others. That we are all kinder and more honest with each other. That we care and protect for our earth that provides us with so much.
In pursuit of this; be yourself, be kind. Don't compromise on your ethics. Fail better.
Braina Laviena photographed by Drew Escriva. Find Laviena's photography work here.
If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline immediately: 800-273-8255