“Forget New Year’s resolutions, the start of the fall season always makes me more reflective and cognizant about where I am and where I hope to go. Maybe it’s residual from the days of going back to school, thinking about how far you’ve come over the summer break and what adventures and challenges lie ahead. Speaking with Yazmin Ashley Harris conjured up a lot of those feelings. She made me want to be more curious, more vulneable, more adventuruous, more human, however that may be interpreted. Grab some tea (or a cocktail or whatever floats your boat), this is a good one to kick off your Monday.” Michaela
Getting to know you! For so many, Instagram is where people put their best “foot they want to be seen” forward. They will sugarcoat even the most dire of situations with a beautiful image instead of just not posting or at least posting something more fitting. A photo that struck me in your feed was one of you posing with an acne breakout and saying that you didn’t have any advice on clearning it up and you ended the post saying you had a “willingness to be vulnerable with [us],” and I so loved that message. Can you tell us more about where you were coming from?
At the time I had published that post, I had just gotten back from a yoga retreat at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California. I had hoped that exposure to the California sun and that with even more yoga my skin would clear up. It didn’t. I had taken that photo of myself to use as a potential before and after post, but didn’t end up taking an after (because I looked the same.) I still posted the photo because I figured there was value in showing my acne speckled face even without a plan to rid myself (or another) from it. Why should I only feel proud to show off my face after I’ve done something to “improve” it? Screw that.
And speaking of Instagram, your handle is “Yaz.thehuman.” I’ve never really given too much thought to people’s handles, except as a means to look them up, but after going through your feed, I am so curious about the connection between why you chose the name and what you share with the world; I have a feeling you have a really brilliant answer. Can you share it?
When I first started on Instagram, my handle was Yaz the Spaz. This was my nickname growing up (everyone including my mother called me this). I absolutely hated it. So I decided to reclaim it for myself and show the world that yes I was anxious, but no, I wasn’t afraid or ashamed of it anymore. There came a point a few months ago where it was no longer resonating with me, I didn’t feel the need to wear my anxiety as a brand or a form of self-deprecating protection anymore. I felt so much bigger than my anxiety and was well on my way to becoming more human- a real loving, failing, breathing human. I share the content that I do so that you or whoever else consuming it can feel human too. I want you to see yourself in both my moments of weakness and in my success, to be a friend instead of someone you compare yourself to and feel less or more than.
I recently spoke with Rachael Lynn here on The Modern Bee about her picking up and moving to Dubai and her search to find a real community and connection with others there. Vulnerability always comes into play in a case like this where you have to open yourself up in these new surroundings. I know that you decamped to Thailand, can you tell us a little about what motivated that and where your head and heart were?
Once I’d hit my version of rock bottom at 20, I truly believed that I had pulled the short straw and that I was being punished. The more I fed myself that story, the worse I felt, and then the cycle of struggling and self-hate seemed too comfortable of a place to ever escape. It took hating and doubting myself enough to drop out of school that ended up serving as the catalyst for a shift. I had nothing to lose, so I figured I’d quit my job, pack my bags, and head to Thailand to study yoga. For the first time ever, I saw how my choices directly shaped my reality. I felt supported enough within this new environment, away from my normal life and responsibilities, to soak in and sit for a while in my failures and disappointments, and search for hidden gems within them. It took reaching a place where I felt I was a complete fu*k up to push me to change. Then, the stories I’d heard about creating your life were no longer words, but my direct experience.
One of my favorite lines of poetry is from Walt Whitman’s beautiful poem, “Song of Myself” and it is: “I am large, I contain multitudes.” Whenever I feel like I’m about to switch lanes or do something “contradtict myself” I hear this line in my head, which I interpret as it being (more than) okay to be multifaceted. I’m curious about your take on this line as it applies to the way you live your life?
We spend so much of our lives trying to figure out who we are so that we can conveniently explain ourselves to others. To me, this quote is a gentle reminder that you don’t need to ever decide to be just one thing. It encourages me to to see myself as ever-growing and ever-changing, unwilling to settle into the confines of one idea of the self.
In a world of possibilities, what would you do with your life if failure wasn’t an option? What advice would you give your younger self just starting out yourself at a trying time in the past that you’ve since overcome?
To be truthfully honest, I feel like I am on my way to making what I’ve written below my reality. If failure wasn’t an option, I would pick my life right up and spend at least a year traveling the world. My dream would be to spend 6 months of the year traveling and collecting knowledge on consciousness and wellbeing to then bring it back home with me to share. In a world without failure, I would open a wellness center for myself and other practitioners to share their gifts. I might also bleach my eyebrows. Most importantly, I would live every moment as if I wanted to be there, and breathe fully into it.
I speak to my younger self often and I tell her all about the amazing woman she is about to become. If I could go back and give her advice though, I would tell her this: Be weird human. Spend less time looking in the mirror and more time feeling yourself. Ask for what you need and seek out a mentor. And do yourself a favor and start a Youtube Channel.
What traits do you value most in your circle of friends? What traits do you most value in yourself?
In my circle of friends, I most value loving honesty, healthy boundary setting, and respect (for both me and themselves). The traits I value most in myself are my commitment to responsibility, ability to forgive, and my willingness to be vulnerable.
I always end the interview with some light-hearted rapid fire questions. Where do you stand on…
Text or call? Call Mocktail or cocktail? Cocktail Night owl or early bird? Mid-Day LOL Headphones or speakers? Speakers
Yazmin is based in Toronto but by way of her Instagram page, @yaz.thehuman, you can keep up with her travels, adventures and honestly, read her fanatastic captions that will get you off your behind and challenge the way you think and see things.