Becoming the Class of 2020

Two weeks ago, I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom back home, watching my fan spin in circles, while staring at an open suitcase of clothing. I was surrounded by plastic containers of books, paper, toiletries, more books, trinkets, and pictures, getting ready to pack up my life and move six hours away from everything I had known for the past eighteen years of my life. I had just written my blog post that morning about procrastinating packing and the uncertsurfainty of what these last two weeks would hold, not quite sure I really wanted to get started. Fourteen days later, I am finding myself sitting in the common room of my dorm, with new friends I have made, writing this post from a whole new perspective.

The first week was a complete whirlwind of names I couldn’t remember, faces that seemed vaguely familiar, buildings I didn’t know, and endless hills that seemed to go on forever. I walked onto campus knowing that a week consists of seven days, one hundred sixty-eight hours, and that was it. But that first week felt like so much more with the experiences I have had and the new life I have been introduced to. In just this small amount of time, I have found a group of people who I can completely be myself with, people who can explore this new future with me. Part of this is so exciting, the opportunity we have to completely reinvent ourselves or try all the things we haven’t had the chance to. For me, this is my chance not to start over, but to build upon everything I am with everything I have ever wanted to be. And I’ve got to say, I have never been so ready to re-create myself.

In the past eighteen years of my life, I have tried a lot of things from Traditional Chinese Lion Dance to running Track & Field. Some of those things were temporary while others were able to carry me through to my graduation day, and all of them will be a part of me forever. I went into this school year knowing that I wanted to get involved with more things, but I wasn’t quite sure what they would be or where I could begin. Then we had club rush, and I put my name down on so many different sign up sheets because… Why not? This is college, a chance to get an education but also try out new things and meet new people. Somehow, by the end of club rush, I managed to sign up to audition for an a Capella group tomorrow morning, a Black Student Union club, The Writer’s Collective, and several other things that I am either passionate about or have simply always wanted to try. Am I good at singing or do I belong in any other club I sigsand feetned up for? I couldn’t tell you the answer to that, but that’s not the point. The point is that we are all here to meet each other and to pave a path for our futures. These clubs and the people I will meet through them, these are my stepping-stones and I am extremely excited to see just how far they can take me.

Now on the other hand of all the clubs or fun activities that my orientation week held, there were also classes, lots of studying, missing home, and an unbearable amount of awkward moments to fill in the space within two weeks. Sometimes I would find myself walking to class only to look up and realize that I didn’t know anyone around me, and they didn’t know me. For some people, that might be exhilarating. But for me, that was terrifying. Back in elementary school all the way through high school, I always knew at least one person in my classes. Here, that’s not quite the case. Maybe I’ve seen one person around campus, or exchanged names with another only to forget it by the next class, but it was a bit of a change to be surrounded by people who knew nothing about me. It took me a few days to really embrace it, to realize that this is my chance to put myself out there, make new friends, and find some people that maybe I would want to get to know better. I think the two things that made this transition easier was one, a care package from home full of food that I very much appreciate, and two, knowing that all of the freshman here are probably going through the same exact thing. Some people miss home, others might be struggling in class, but each one of us are first years just trying to find a foothold in this avalanche of changes. The point is that whether we all know each other or not, it seems like we’re all in this together anyway. We are the Class of 2020, starting now.

Cal Poly SLO has been a such an indescribable experience for me so far, I have changed the way I study (25-35 hours a week), I talk to my professors more, I say hi to way more people who I don’t actually knodandelion.jpgw, and I’m learning what it’s like to be responsible for myself. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss Folsom, the familiarity of everything there from the people and high school to the sunsets and my family. But it does mean that I am ready to embrace a new home with new people, bunk beds, small rooms, and no air conditioning. After two weeks of my new journey, soon enough this place will really feel like home and maybe all the people I will come to care about in it can become my second family here too. But this school is my first step, my opportunity to take hold and to chase every little thing I have ever wanted— a Capella and all. So tomorrow morning, I plan to wake up and crush that audition, right after I remember how blessed I am to have this chance to start over and begin making this my new home.

For any of you who are starting a new journey or are in the beginning of your freshman year too, feel free to comment with some experiences or some things that might have gotten you through the rough patches. As always, follow my twitter and blog posts every Friday, and wish me luck at my audition tomorrow!

World Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is a big month for people around the world for a lot of reasons— Autumn is beginning, all the students are finally back in school, and we are headed towards the holidays. What is there not to look forward to? Even the stores are already beginning to stock up on Christmas lights, right next to the Halloween costumes. That being said, there is one significant detail about this month that many people do not realize— September is World Suicide Prevention Awareness Month.

Now this is a touchy topic, whether suicide has affected your life or those around you in any way, ocean-outlookit’s one of those things people really do not talk about. I want to help break that silence. There are 7.4 billion people in this world and somehow, according to NAMI, about 43.8 million adults fight against a mental illness at some point in their lives. Adults aside, about 20% of the world’s youth deals with a mental disorder within their teenage years, making the risk of suicide even higher. It is the second leading cause of death in ages 15-24. With so many people walking this earth and the amount of supporters we should each have, this number is far too high for a healthy or thriving society. No matter who someone is, young or old, black or white, tall or short, this can happen to anyone and everyone. 43.8 million adults and 20% of our youth… These numbers are far too high.

There are too many people taking their own lives.

It can be hard to understand, whether you gorock-bottom through it or try to help someone else cope with a mental illness on a daily basis, but there are ways to be able to help or find a new perspective. Last year during our poetry unit, I remember a student reading a poem called
In a Beautiful Country by Kevin Prufer. There was one line out of the many that I caught onto and have never forgotten since: “A good way to fall in love is with a rope to catch you.”

I couldn’t help but feel something in that line— a need for air, for a breath, or for someone to catch the fallen before they hit rock bottom. Considering the poem was called In a Beautiful Country and this line regarded something many see happy or wonderful, it begs the question, “Is it really beautiful?” Ultimately, that is the irony of this line because maybe it isn’t so pretty on the inside. This society holds a lot of problems and even more so, a lot of stigmas that create more problems. America is “the beautiful”, however it is also full of stressed and depressed people; this is no longer okay to ignore or to ever shame others for. This happens and can happen to anyone. Isn’t the point of human kindness, to try to help make it easier, to make a change? Because sometimes there comes a point when those who are getting lost in the dark, when they cannot find their way out, they begin to believe that life isn’t beautiful— that maybe they do not deserve to live at all.

As awful as that reality is, for some people, even the “I love you’s” and the “I need you’s” do not mean anything. In some cases, none of it feels as if it matters when every day it is a struggle to get out of bed in the morning, to keep taking breath after breath… It gets hard when someone looks in the mirror only to see their reflection spitting back at them that their life truly is worthless.

It is hard to come back from that… From rock bottom.

Yet, the thing about hardship and absolute darkness is that there is always a way out. No matter how far down rock bottom really is, no one is ever truly alone. It may feel lonely, empty, pointless, and breathtaking… But ylightningou are never alone in anything. Those people saying the “I love you’s”, soon enough they might just say it loud enough to get it through someone’s head that it’s true— that they are loved, they are worth it, that they are here on this earth for a reason. That they deserve to keep breathing for nobody but themselves, they are worth every single breath they take and should never let anyone or anything make them feel differently. Especially not themselves. Because at that point, it’s not “black lives matter” or “blue lives matter”… It is that every life matters. Every single one.

Your life matters.

Maybe one day those going through this are going to wake up, turn on that radio station, and find the one song that reminds them that it is okay to not be okay. It is okay to fall apart every once in a while as long as they pick themselves back up again. It’s okay to get lost, to fall down, go break… How else do we find ourselves and the people who truly do care for us? We grow and we learn from the people we meet, the choices we make, and most importantly, the hardships we go through. Our lives cannot always go the way we want or be sunshine and rainbows every day, but it wouldn’t be what it is without a little bit of pain.

It shapes us into who we will become.

Now for those who say “just get over it,” or maybe “Just go out and fake it till you make it, cheer up already,” for some people, this is not “a little bit of pain.” It is a ca way out.jpgonstant and it is not that simple. For those people, maybe it isn’t enough to keep changing that station every day or being with the people who usually make things easier, doing the things that usually get their minds off of it. It can be easy to get stuck in a rut and even easier to have a hard time finding a way out. For those people, I want you to know that it is okay to get helpThere is absolutely nothing wrong with asking for help or just talking it out with someone, there is no shame in being human. It is absolutely okay to not be okay, talk about it or find help. Whether it’s talking to a friend, a professional, or anyone you trust, there is always a way out.

This is life, it’s neither easy nor hard, simple nor complicated… Nothing is ever black and white anymore. Especially with things like this, there is a lot of gray area and people cannot fit into a box where if you check off all the right things you are fixed. Let me tell you all something: You are not broken. That poem claimed to be in a beautiful country and ironic or not, this world is full of beautiful people. Every single one of you have a life to live full of people who love you, breaths to take, and a future to fulfill. I want this post to do more than raise more awareness to this month, if you take one more thing away from it, I hope it comes down to this: You are worth every breath you take, every tear you shed, and every single smile you give. Never forget that.

Below, if you or someone you know ever needs assistance in a hard time or just needs some help, here is the Crisis Text Line which is a toll-free, nationwide 24/7 crisis text line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a 24/7, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline for suicidal crisis or emotional distress. And lastly, The Trevor Project which is a nationwide organization that provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning galaxy stars

And on a final but very important note, if anyone ever just needs someone to talk to, to not talk to, or just sit and exist with, I am always available no matter who you are, how I know you, or even if I know you at all. My email is on the site,, feel free to reach out to me too, any time and any day. Because you are worth it.

The Art of Letting Go

Last week Friday, I walked (skipped) out of my final day of work at Kohls incredibly excited to have an entire week off from work. I had so much planned, most of which included my book signing, sleeping, playing music, hanging out, and reading, because it was my last week in Folsom and I wanted to make it fun— that is the first time it really hit me… This was my last week in Folsom.

Over the past month, I listened to my friends complain about packing, cried about everyone coffee-homeleaving, and tried to stay present as we all hung out for what would be the last time for a few months. Then I got to hug them for the last time and let them go, knowing that each and every one of them was taking their first step on an incredible new journey. Somehow, soon enough several weeks managed to go by, hurtling past my eyes like a derailed train, before I realized that it was time for my own last-minute shopping and goodbyes. Because I was out of time, this is it.  

There comes a point in all of our lives, several really, where we can look back and say “Right there— that is when I grew up just a little bit more.” This week, I’ve hung out with my parents (hugging them far too many times), watched Tangled and sung along to every song in it, stayed up later than I should watching One Tree Hill, musicand basically done everything that I am no longer going to be able to do. Even walking into my closet to pick what to wear will now consist of maybe four pants choices rather than seven. Singing in the shower, I’ll have to put that on hold for a while. Going downstairs to eat a bowl of cereal at one in the morning, that’s a no from my roommates. It’s overwhelming how quickly things are changing and how easily it is to realize all the things you know you are going to miss. I think Twitter summed it up nicely, saying “College is like losing your parents in the grocery store for 4 years.” I almost wish I didn’t have to go grocery shopping at all.

But I guess that’s the thing about growing up, or leaving home, or just getting out and starting our own lives… Sooner or later, we’ve got to just do it. Our parents put up with us for 18 years or so, getting us through the crazy soccer practice routines and exhausting SAT mornings. Now, it’s up to us. We all have a future we are chasing, degrees to complete and diplomas to get, on the way to becoming full-fledged adults.writer's life Maybe when we were younger we got a gold star for finishing our homework or a nice stamp that said “Great Work!” Now we get to pay large sums of money until we do get those classes complete and degree requirements met on our own accord. Going to college feels like a class in itself: Responsibility Shock 101. Well color me shocked and not quite ready, but leaving in two days nonetheless. It’s funny, I don’t think we’re ever truly ready for the big things. They just happen and we adjust to it all.  

In trying to pack up my things to take with me, my guitar Delilah being one of the saddest pieces to leave behind, it’s almost symbolic to be packing up my childhood and taking what I can fit with me knowing that I cannot bring it all. The only thing I know for sure that I can hold onto are all the memories I have of Folsom, high school, my family, and these past eighteen years of my life. I think one of the things that prepared me the most for leaving is high school— four years of mandatory education, AP classes, students I knew by name but not by personality, and the togetherness it all ended in. A lot of people say that high school  becomes irrelevant once you get to college, but I’m not so sure I can agree with that. High school for me was a lot of things, from hard classes to petty people, but everything I experienced in those four years has shaped me into the person I am today. Whether you loved those four years or not, I guess it’s our choice who we want to become after it knowing that this may be one of the few fresh starts you’re going to get.

Looking back on Friday nights riding around in a friend’s jeep, dancing around with a party light because we can, or just staying up all night watching Netflix, it’s hard to look at it all and know that I am taking a step away from it. Of cohomeurse, I’ll be back for holidays like Christmas or summer break, but I have to wonder if I will ever truly be back. Am I ever going to live under the same roof as my parents again? Will I ever live in the same state as my best friends or my family? I know I’m just leaving for my freshman year, that I’ll be back here in 11 weeks or so, but the hard part is realizing that this is no longer going to be my permanent home— I am. This is where the phrase “home is where the heart is,” comes in, because that’s all I’ve got left to take with me on this journey into my future.

My freshman year is about to be filled with a lot of studying, new friends, hopefully a major change, and a new perspective on where I’m headed in life. I guess that’s a good enough reason to reminisce for a minute on everything I’m leaving behind. That being said, it’s also important to realize that our futures are bright, every single one of us. Whether you’re staying local for college, getting a job, leaving home, or embarking on any new opportunity, I say more power to each of us. sunlit-roadBecause this is our next step, the chance to take hold of our futures and go get it. No matter who you are or where you’re at right now, I believe that we can all find some way to keep moving forward. I have faith in the baby steps just as much as I do in the big changes, as one way or another, we’re all going somewhere. So here’s to all of us, the new paths we are setting our feet on to create, and good luck to each and every person ready to let go and move forward.

A Little Goes a Long Way

Back in 2012 when the song “Little Things” by One Direction came out, I remember thinking of all the people I cared about and the small things they did that I loved about them. I also remember thinking of all the things I have done for people, of how small some of them were. A text good night, making breakfast for my family because I felt like it, or even packing a snack for my brother when I knew he was running late for work.
breakfast w:fam.jpgThey were all just little things…

Or so I thought they were.

Yesterday on a trip to my old high school, a place I swear I am never going to stop learning from, my perspective was changed. I went to go visit some of my favorite teachers in Advisory, as well as deliver a book to those I mentioned in my dedication: “…my outstanding English teachers Mrs. Hillesland and Ms. Mann.” To me, writing any of the people who were a major part of the journey into my dedication was a small and simple thing. It almost felt like common sense to mention two of the people who taught me to love and explore the English language as far as I can take it.

Like I said, it was one of those little things.

But to them, it wasn’t small, it wasn’t completely practical. It was a big thing, a sign of success, the kind that I know teachers receive so much less of than they deserve with the amount of time they put into all of us. In that moment I realized that I had actually made an impact with just a few words. I understood something that took this idea of little things in another direction: Maybe the little things are never as small as they seem— maybe there are no little things.

Think of all the quirks you have and the small instances of expressed gratitude or love you give people. They all mean something don’t they? Even just the words you say or how simple something seemingly complicated really is. city perspective.jpgFor someone else, it could mean the world.

For instance, last week Friday, I had the honor to speak at the first Teen Council meeting of the school year at our Folsom Public Library. I spoke to the high school students about who I am, why I write, what writing means to me, and how I got to where I am today— published author and all. For me, this is all part of my first step in the right direction, it is just the beginning of the amazing journey I am on. But for them, it’s inspiration, an opportunity, and it is the chance to know that they are allowed to go after something they want. I’m sure I could have told them more about getting through high school or graduating, but there was so much I wanted to say that I just kept going until I ran out of air. In my mind, I wasn’t sure what kind of impact I could have made within those fifteen minutes, but somehow by the end of it, I had still made one.

Afterwards, one of the girls came up to me and asked about writing poetry or how to really get going. She questioned, “Do you have any tips or any advice for someone who writes poetry too?” It was a pretty loaded question, I had to think about what I could possibly say as a solid answer for that… What advice helped to get me here and what do I wish I had known earlier? So I was honest.

I remember looking at her and smiling, because it felt like talking to a younger version of myself, a version that wasn’t too scared to ask the questions without true answers. I told her what I knew: Write about how you feel. Be honest with yourself and write about it all, do not hold back. Don’t worry about rhyme, rhythm, meter, or structure right now… read book table.jpgJust write. Because if you are honest with yourself and you can write something real, something raw, the rest will follow as you learn about it. But honesty, that is something you must teach yourself first.

It felt like an easy thing to say, like something anyone I could have asked would have done for me when I started writing. But who knows, maybe she will take it to heart and keep writing, keep learning about herself. Maybe this could be her first step on a new path. Because when I look back at how I got to where I am right now, it took a lot of twists, turns, detours, and mistakes to make my own life something I wanted to build upon. I guess you could say that even the “little things” people did for me were the stepping-stones to get me to my journey.

Maybe it’s holding the door open for someone or the “I love you’s” that slip out to other people without thinking about it, they all add up. Call it karma, or juju, or whatever you want to think of it as, these things hold more impact than any of us could imagine. I’m not saying that each of us has the power to completely change the world or anything, but I am telling you all that everything you do matters.

From giving advice in the library to writing my dedication, these were both actions I took without thinking. It ties into the snowball effect of life; the pieces of our lives, the good and the bad, that build up on each other to push us in one direction or another. In the end, I’d like to believe that it is our choice to put out more good than bad.

If we want to, we can keep doing what we believe are little things in hope that maybe they can become the big things. The kind that make a difference. In a quote from one of my favorite books, Jay Asher’s 13 Reasons Why, “Everything… affects everything.” He was talking little-lightsabout how we treat others, how people have the ability to push and affect others as much as we want to, without regard for them or repercussion. At some point, the paths that we are all on tend to cross and we have the power to make that crossroads something positive, to leave something good behind before we move on.

Next time you compliment someone’s hair, hold the door open for another person, or even just tell someone important “I love you”, try to remember that there are no little things and that our lives can truly impact others. Let One Direction remind you that people are made of quirks that you can love about them, but also let Jay Asher remind you that every action we take has an impact.

Like he said, Everything affects everything. So let it be something good.

P.S. For anyone in Folsom who wants to take a look at my book without buying it, you can now check it out from the Folsom Public Library and the library at Vista Del Lago High School! Don’t forget to follow my posts which will soon be switching from every Thursday to every Friday 🙂 Can’t wait to see everyone at my book signing at Nicholson’s MusiCafe from 10-2 on Saturday!

How to ride a bike

silhouette-683751_1280When you first learned how to ride a bike, what was the hardest part about it? For me, it was this idea that we could start moving our feet, the wheels would then follow, and somehow we were supposed to avoid falling over while we moved our feet even faster. How were the wheels supposed to keep moving forward if there was nothing keeping them up? It never made sense to me until those wheels did start moving, I was actually pulling it off, and I looked down to realize that there was something keeping it up: me.

I was having so much trouble understanding the dynamics and what was going to happen that it didn’t make any sense until I tried it for myself… I was overthinking it. Riding a bike was like writing an essay I wanted to be perfect, or applying to just the right colleges (at least a few safety schools), so my future could be something I wanted. As with all big decisions, it wasn’t quite about things being perfect or finding a way to get it all just right. Things never work out that way, especially when we want them to. And riding a bike? That was never going to happen by thinking about it… Not to steal the words from Nike or anything, but sometimes, you’ve got to just do it.

And don’t overthink it. feather

A lot of people are just beginning a new chapter of their lives, from senior year or a new job, to applying for colleges or starting at one. These chapters began with decisions, ones that were oftentimes excruciatingly hard to make and sometimes hard to follow through on. But in the end, your feet are going to move, those pedals will take you forward, and you will end up right where you need to be. As cliché as it seems, every ending really is just a new beginning.

Back when I committed to Howard University, I almost made that decision by flipping a coin. No, seriously. Because I kept looking for someone to tell me what to do, to make the choice for me, so I could lift that weight off my shoulders. The situation felt like sink or swim, and me? I felt the Titanic. Thing is, oftentimes, we have all the answers we need. Whether it is picking a college, finding classes, or figuring out what the next step is, sometimes that step forward is to take a step back.

That’s the thing about growing up, about responsibility. People have raised us, shaped us, mentored us, even pushed us to the breaking point, just to get us to where we are right now. Everything you have ever droad ahead.pngone has gotten you to where you are, you’ve just got to decide if that is really where you want to be. Maybe it has been a long year of trying to get there and maybe you are beginning to doubt yourself just a little bit. But whether things have been easy so far or not, there will always be hard decisions to make and others that perhaps we wish we hadn’t. Looking at my eighteen years, I know I have made some pretty big choices already; to publish my book, what I want to major in, where I’m going to college… They all changed the course of my life, put me on a new path to my future.

That last one though, that final decision… It was like riding a bike.

Because I chose Howard University back in May, across the country in Washington D.C., a 6 hour plane ride away. Yet somehow, when I looked down, those wheels sand feet.jpghad turned in a different direction and I was keeping myself up. Because in about two weeks, I will be right where I am supposed to be at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. And that is where my new beginning will start, one foot in front of the other.

So yes, this isn’t what I had planned to do and this really isn’t where I thought I would end up. But after so many years of wisdom and mentoring, from my parents, my teachers, and especially my peers, maybe it’s time I began trusting myself. It is time I began trusting my future. Because I have got dreams I want to chase and aspirations I wish to become… I cannot get there if I’m so focused on getting those wheels to start turning. I have to trust that I can keep them going, that I can just do it, and make it there. When those decisions come around, we all need to remember how to take a step back, take a deep breath, and don’t overthink it.

Got any stories about the path you’re on or a time you trusted where those wheels would take you? Contact me or tell me about it in the comments below and don’t forget to follow my blog or my twitter page!