Farewell to 2016

sunshine-and-city-lightsAnd as all good things must come to an end, there is one full day left in 2016. This year has had its ups and downs, as every year always does, but looking back at the past twelve months, there have been some really fantastic moments. Sure, maybe there were some curveballs thrown in there, from Harambe to the election, yet we made it out the other side. So before that ball drops on Saturday night, I invite you to take a little stroll down memory lane and remember exactly why 2016 has mattered so much.

Though not everyone was too happy with the way things have gone this year, I think it’s important to take a moment to look back and appreciate the fact that we are here and we have made it through another year of our lives. Because some people got the chance to make it this far. This has been by far one of the biggest years of my life for several different reasons: I made it to the Masters track meet in May for the fourth time in a row, despite tearing my hamstring in April, I found a wonderful group of best friends, I graduated high school, I finished my first quarter at Cal Poly, and I published my first book (hopefully, of many more to come). I would be lying if I said that this hasn’t been a life-changing year for me and so many others around me. That isn’t to say that it has all been great, I am still trying to adjust to college and conquer wtravels.jpgriter’s block in the process to continue my next book. There have been a lot of headlining events throughout the year, from Black Lives Matter campaigns to yet another mass shooting in Orlando, but we’re still going. Like it or not, it’s time to get ready to end this year with everything we’ve got left and begin again.

There’s this phrase that people like to say and the beginning of each year, accompanied by a smile and a water bottle for the gym: “New year, new me!” I understand the concept behind it, yet somehow it falls short of representing the idea behind new beginnings and new chances. It isn’t a new you— it is simply a you who wants to be better than who you were last year. That is something I think that we sometimes fail to remember… The goal doesn’t have to be starting over from scratch, it is to build upon who we already are to become the better version of ourselves that we want to see. We are all in different places in our lives whether it is professionally, personally, or somewhere in between. But all I can say to myself when I know that this year, I want to find the best parts of myself and improve upon them, is this: Start from where you are, baby step by baby step. You know where you are going and where you want to be, just take that first step and go from there. That’s all we can ever really ask from ourselves.

As 2016 winds down to a close, I can’t help but remember that even though there were a lot of big moments and accomplishmentpeople-jumps that happened this year, I’m taking so much more with me into 2017— I’m taking the people they all happened with. No matter what has happened this year, or the goals you failed to reach, I hope that you hold onto the people that were by your side through it all. Let them be family, or friends, roommates, or even a soulmate. Whatever you take with you into 2017 and what you leave behind, make sure that by your side is someone who matters to you. Because even though I’m preparing for my future, through education and careful planning, I don’t think anything in my plans will matter if I don’t have anyone to share it with. In the end, the people who are there for these moments, the companionship, that’s what counts. And one way or another, just know that there is always someone else who wants to be a part of your story too.

So whether this last year was full of great, beautiful, average, dismal moments, or all of the above, make sure that the last few we’ve got left count for something. It really is important to remember that we only have one life to live and we cannot always say that we will begin change tomorrow, for what if tomorrow never comes? All of our lives matter in all that we do, every single one of us has an impact of the lives around us. So here’s to making that change in 2017 something so much bigger and better than we ever thought it could be. And thank you for taking this journey with me, following and reading my posts every week, it means the world to me. I cannot wait to show you what I’ve got in store for this next year, it’s going to be a good one.world galaxy stars

 

I’ll be Home for Christmas

The countdown to Christmas leaves us with two days left to go. I can imagine all the children’s eyes, alight with the anticipation of Santholiday cheer.jpga coming to town, baking their cookies and filling glasses with milk. The rest of us are trying to finish some last-minute shopping, making rounds to old friends and loved ones we wish to catch up with. The holiday rush is coming to a frenzy, one that has been very apparent working at Kohls this week, as parents try to finish fulfilling the Christmas lists of their kids and others hope to seek the best sales around town. It has been a whirlwind of a week here at home, but as I would like to think, it’s a beautiful kind of chaos that only the holidays can bring about.

As I look forward to the next two weeks, I must also look back to how the meaning of this time of year has changed as I have gotten older. As a child, I would be excited to spend late nights with my siblings in my brother’s room, the anticipation of what was to come as loud in our ears as the beat of our hearts. Years would go by and soon I would be looking forward to searching for gifts to give to the ones I cared about with whatever money I could find. Even in a year, I have gone from appreciating the holidays for the lights and the gifts to truly enjoying the company and the warmth of those around me. It almost feels as if being home the holidays is even mtimeore special after being away for college. The lights seem a little brighter, baking our annual cake is just a little sweeter, and hugging my mother who seems to have shrank a bit since I last saw her seems to be just a bit tighter.

After making it through a one third of my freshman year already, it isn’t hard to believe how quickly these next few years are about to pass by. Holidays will pass a bit faster, my time home will shorten until home becomes another place altogether, and somehow my young adult life will find itself on full speed ahead. People used to tell me that senior year would fly by, that I would be in college before I knew it. The thing is, it’s hard to understand how quickly time will pass until suddenly you look back and realize that you’re another year older. That’s when the candles go no farther than our 28th birthdays, for we wouldn’t want to find ourselves getting too “old”. Yet, as we look towards the future, I always remember that there are ways to slow it all down if we want to.

That’s what the best people in our lives are here for.

You see, there are people in our lives who can give us the gift of immortality by way of the moments they are a part of. These memories have a way of becoming snap-shots, freeze frames, in which some of our best times can then become a part of who we are. In that way, I would like to think that we are made up of many moments and peofirecrackerple around us who change our lives. As each and every one, from the holiday memories to those bigger than ourselves, shape us into the people we become in our future. So whether is it tomorrow, next week, or even after the 30th repeat of our 28th birthdays, make sure that as time passes us by, you can still remember to make and hold onto the moments that never will.

And since this is my last blog before the holiday is upon us, I wish every one of you and your families a very Merry Christmas

First Quarter takes the W

Before I sat down to write this blog post, I took a minute to skim through all of my weekly posts throughout the quarter. It’s funny to look back on things like that, everything that happened over the quarter, and pay attention to little changes or hopes that have morphed into something completely different. Whether it’s reality or something a little farther from it, there’s something so beautiful about looking back at it all to see how everything has changed.working-grind Because I have officially finished my first fourteen weeks of college— one quarter down, and to my parents hope, only eleven more to go.

These past fourteen weeks have been a complete whirlwind of new experiences. From taking even more initiative of my education than I used to building a life for myself outside of Folsom, there have been a lot of changes. I know that I walked into my first quarter of college with a bit of uncertainty and a whole lot more hope— it was a new beginning, where’s the fun in it if you can’t get a little excited? Despite the amount of studying or the immense amount of sleep I’ve lost over the quarter, I think college is becoming quite the journey. I’ve met dozens of people and heard countless names that I may very well never hear again, but I have also found a handful that I think I am going to hold onto. I think that’s sort of the point. We might learn a lot of new things or meet a lot of new people, yet somehow there are a few are truly going to mean something to us.

And when they do, that just makes everything so much more special.

I think one of my favorite things about college so far is the fact that I go to the same school as my twin brother… I mean, how fantastic is that? I’ve made a lot of memories here, but I think one of the best ones that represents who we are happened over Halloween weekend. The Friday night before Halloween, I was hanging out/taking care of a friend that night who was sick and somehow made it back to my room at 5AM only to find someone else sleeping in my room who didn’t belong there— sleeping in my bed. I was not about to sleep on the floor in my own room, so instead, I called Nick and walked all the way to his dorm to sleep in one of his extra beds. Lucky for me, he’s a winter-hutpretty stand up guy who got out of bed to let me in at that unruly time of morning. As just one of many reasons going to the same school as him has been great, I also get the luxury of having two sets of dorm homes and therefore, two sets of people to get to know better. I guess that’s one thing that Cal Poly has that Howard did not: Nick.

One of the best things about new paths and beginnings is just that— the beginning. The decisions we make and the people we just happened to run into somehow always seem to have some sort of impact on who we become. It’s the uncertainty that comes with every opportunity, or in the words of Chris Brown, “How do you let it go when you just don’t know what’s on the other side of the door when you’re walking out?” With college, there was no option but to walk through that door with our heads held high, ready to face whatever came to us. As much as I appreciate the security of knowing where I’m headed and what is going to happen, I can also find the beauty in not quite being able to see what our futures hold and being okay with it. If I always needed that security in my life, I probably would have gone to Howard because I knew where I stood and what I was up against. But here at Cal Poly, I was almost thrown into it a month before I would have started in DC. That’s the beauty of the unknown, of taking chances that are no longer guaranteed— it just might send you right where you needed to be.

After fourteen weeks, this is the beginning of the end and I must say, this quarter has been incredibly unpredictable. There were ups and downs, late nights and early mornings, and an immense amount of firsts that I have lost count of. And somehow, it’s all over now. My last final was yesterday and I am one third of the way through my freshman year. Truly, I am excited to see what comes to me in the futulittle-lightsre and I also cannot wait to be back in Folsom with friends and family for three weeks. Not to mention, a brand new Barnes & Noble that I plan to spend far too much time in. It almost feels like I have created a new life for myself here, with a new definition of who I am and a new group of people to share it with. As much as I’ve changed over the quarter, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of person I’ve become, how much I’ve really changed once I settle in at home. Today, I’m about to return to the old life and same people that built me up into the person I am today— I can’t explain how excited I am to just relax and sit back for the next three weeks. I hope everyone traveling has a safe trip home or wherever you may be headed, and is welcomed back with open arms.

So here’s to the holidays and the blessing it is to have something to return to. Happy Holidays everyone.

Try a Little Tenderness

It’s dead week here at Cal Poly, which has basically involved a bit of rain, lots of coffee, and a whole lot more time working through problems and reading up on old material. Because next week is the last week of our first quarter— I am almost one third way through my freshman year. As much as I want to reminisce on that fact, it’s not hard to remember that it’s not over yet. I’ve still got finals next week, the

railroad walklast set of challenges standing in the way of me getting on a train with Nick to head home for three weeks. Finals are all I’ve got left to finish. And I’m ready to show those tests who’s boss around here.

I think one of the most interesting things to watch happen over the course of this week was the difference in personalities around campus. Some people took it upon themselves to throw as much fun and enjoyment into one week because they knew that during finals, they would have to buckle down and really get to work. Other people, like me, started studying two weeks ago, knowing that the earlier we start, the easier it would be to go into the week feeling confident and prepared. The funny thing is, no matter where you fall in that spectrum, we all end up in the same place: pass or fail.

That’s it.

For these classes and for college, it doesn’t always matter how much you study or how much work you put into it… The only thing that matters is knowing who you are and how you work best. I guess that’s how high school came
into play: if we got to know ourselves in the past, it could really change how we g
et to where we want to be in the future. Life has a way of throwing lessons at us with no regard to whether we catch them or not. Lucky for me that I caught this one earlier than later, because I’m sure this year is going to be over before I know it.

a-way-out

It’s been hard to get through this last
week, with the constant studying, the late nights, and the incessant need for time to keep passing whether we want it to or not. One of the few things getting me through it all is knowing that in exactly a week, I will be on a train home to Folsom, brand new Barnes & Noble and all.

They say that as you get older, the holidays become something entirely different than what it used to be, and the meaning changes. I used to think of the holidays as sleepovers in my older brother’s room, baking our Christmas cake, opening one gift the night before, and always sneaking out of the room to check our stocking for 24 days in a row. Looking at it all now, the only thing that matters to me are the people. My family, my friends— the biggest component of my life that has made me who I am. As long as I have those who matter me and time to spend with them, that’s all I really need.

I guess that’s what my parents have taught me over the years. Material things lose meaning, it comes down to the hands you hold and love you give that fOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAeels the most like the holidays to me. Because that’s what’s special, the reason things hold meaning— they make you feel something.

Whether it’s the meaning of finals week or what’s to come afterwards, this week I’ve been feeling both pretty stressed and excited at the same time. It makes me wonder about how we spend our time; we spend so much time looking forward to what happens next or where we’re headed that sometimes we forget to appreciate the present. After working hard through 12 years of mandatory education, I ended up here at Cal Poly so I could work through four more years of education to work my way towards the professional world… Then what? As much as I’ve been looking towards the end of the quarter, I have been working on appreciating where I am in my life right now and understanding that time is finite. Wherever I’m going, I’ll get there whether I’m ready to or not. And I’m okay with that. For now, I’m going to work through this last week of the quarter, do my best as my mom always says is all I can ever do, and appreciate that I’ll be home in a week.

No matter how little sleep, how much time I spend studying, or how stressful this week is, it can only last for a finite amhitting-the-booksount of time. So I hope that for all of my readers, if you’re going through a lot of hard work or stressful times, just remember that things can only last so long. One way or another, time will pass and will be on to the next thing to do on this list of our lives. I’m going to do my best to make the most of where I am right now, and hope that I can make it out of this week with some shred of my sanity left. I wish the best of luck to those preparing for the homestretch of this race we’re all running, and to those returning to their families this week, welcome home. 

A Step in the Right Direction

Welcome december-firstto the final month of 2016, when I am officially allowed to post Christmas themed photos and there is nothing anyone can do that will stop me. As of today, there are 23 days until Christmas, and if you couldn’t already tell, I am pretty excited. This month is filled with so many little things to appreciate, from family traditions, baking cookies, lights around houses, and a chance to look back on the last year of our lives before we move on to the next one. I was trying to figure out what my favorite part of this month might be and I realized that it’s something that makes me who I am, something that makes all of us who we are— the people.

After many years of celebrating the holidays with my family and the core friends I’ve had all of my life, I never stopped to think about what it would be like to do something different until I was thrown into it. Without being home for the entire month of December, I thought it would feel a little less like the holidays and a lot more like growing up. Pleasantly enough, I was wrong. Because I forgot about one thing— people like to celebrate things, especially when it comes with gifts and meeting new faces. From different events in my dorm to decorations downtown, special times of the year are still special no matter where you might find yourself. Even the club I joined with Nick, the Black Student Union, is doing a gift exchange today with hot chocolatecoffee and festivities on the side. When I thought about sitting around with a bunch of good people, relaxing and hanging out for a little while, that’s when I realized why I truly do love the holidays, and even just the idea of college. It’s not about the gifts, and it is certainly not just about the education; it’s about opening up to new things, finding new groups to be a part of, and making new traditions wherever we go to leave a piece of ourselves behind for the next person.

Last week when I was home for Thanksgiving, one thing someone said to me really stood out in my mind: “You haven’t changed a bit.” At the time, like I said this was less than a week ago, I agreed with them and laughed because I didn’t think I had. Yet somehow, yesterday I found myself going to the gym on my usual routine with Nick, studying as much as I usually do, and the biggest change of all, I found myself stepping even farther out of my comfort zone than before I left. Remember those A capella auditions I went to at the beginning of this quarter? I thought that would be my biggest step out, considering I never really sang for anyone but my family and occasionally, my close friends. I was always too shy to do it but when I came here to Cal Poly, I figured it was a chance to reinvent myself, so why not. Yesterday, before going to tguitarhe gym of course, someone passed through the common room and said she had heard that I could sing, so she asked me to play for her. And I said yes. Thirty minutes later, I was sitting in someone’s dorm room, serenading maybe eight of my friends as we all hung out and talked about music. That was the moment I realized that I had changed, maybe not a lot, but the moment was a big one for me. That’s when I knew that I was finally getting more comfortable in my own skin. I think that’s what college is all about, more than early classes or planning for a future, but figuring out who we are and who we want to be.

Slowly but surely, I think I’m finding my place here at Cal Poly. It’s taking some time, a whole lot of trial and error, and much too little sleep, but I know that I’ll make it there. With finals breathing down my neck, and a long to-do list before this quarter ends, these are busy times in many of our lives. But for me, it’s nice to find some security in knowing that this week, I took one more step towards making it through this next adventure in my life called college. With the little things the holidays bring and the people I will meet, some of whom I know will change my life, all I can say is thlittle-lightsat the future is about to be something very special. So happy last month of 2016, I’m ready to make it as beautifully memorable as possible. I hope you are too.

If you have anything you love the most about this month, from movies to traditions, feel free to talk about it in the comments below! See you next week 🙂