20 Things I Learned Before I Turned 20

steffen-trommer-240177-unsplash.jpgWelcome back to another Friday blog post, my last one for April. I’ve got something special for you today— it’s a special day after all. Though to keep it authentic, I wrote this list yesterday, I get to share it with you right now! Every day that I look back since I’ve come to Cal Poly, I don’t feel a whole lot different. Then I actually take a step back from my almost two years here now, and it’s surprising the amount of growth I see in myself.

Imagine how that compares to the eighteen years before I even got here.

I look back and I see a person who’s been through a whole lot of change and lessons, but still molded into the girl I am today because of them. Like the way my list of passions got a little longer or my words have gotten a little stronger.

2 decades is a long time of learning— for some people, it’s a lifetime.

So without further ado, here’s what I’ve learned.

One— life goes on.

No matter what happens, as long as you keep going, life does too. Even if you freeze.

Two— Nothing is black and white.

adam-kring-560738-unsplash.jpgConsidering recent events at Cal Poly, not even racism is just black and white. Nothing is. What I’m talking about right now is a whole different story. For everything you think you know, there’s just one more thing you don’t. Every trick you see, there’s another one you didn’t quite catch. That’s just life, it’s accepting that you won’t know everything or see everything, but understanding your own ignorance in the process. Knowing that you don’t know is the first thing you need to know. Does that make sense?

Three— It’s not a race.

When it comes to life, I’m learning to take the time I need. Getting through classes, running late to sed classes, or really just taking my time getting ready in the morning. I think it’s important that if you need more time to enjoy or get through something, take it.

Four— Breathe.

Sometimes, you’ve just got to take a deep breath in and hold it while you put things in perspective. Then let it out. Count with me: Deep breathe in… Hold it… Hold it…

Five— Don’t get too comfortable.

The time moves quickly in this game of life, blink and you miss it. You know how you might plan out how a conversation will go in an effort to be ready, but then they didn’t bother to follow your script and you’ve got to improv it… Yep, we have to expect the unexpected.

Six— Enjoy it.

alejandro-alvarez-150148-unsplashNo, this is not a taste the happiness coca-cola commercial, but I am saying… Take it all in for a little while. Remember to smell the roses. Because college has been rough so far, but I know there are a whole lot of great things about it that I’ll miss when it’s over. So enjoy where you’re at, even if it’s one minute out of a 15 hour day that you can look back on and smile about.

Seven— There’s no “right” way.

Some people study for two minutes, others for two weeks. Some people get through a four year program in three, others spend three years working doing something else. Just because I might look at someone and wonder, “wait, what am I doing wrong?” i’ve come to realize that all of our paths cannot be compared, not really. There’s no real right or wrong, there’s just where you’re at. And you go from there.

Eight— College is not the best four years of your life.

I repeat, college is not the best four years of your life. One of our advisers said this last week and hearing this from an actual adult, it surprised me. When people used to tell me college would be the best four years of my life, I believed them— talk about false hopes, am I right? Don’t get me wrong, all-nighters and 24-hour Subway are great, but there’s more than this. We’re on a rollercoaster that only goes up

Nine— You’re a priority.

Always remember this. Twenty years has really gotten it through my head that this is my life and no matter what else is going on, I have to take care of me. No one else will, not always. And even if someone else tries, no one knows what I need unless I tell them. If you need something, tell someone who can support you or just do it yourself. Treat yourself like someone you love.

Ten— We have voices for a reason.

Use them. To speak up against injustice, to ask a question in class, to vote, to tell someone “I love you”…  Just say what you need to say and don’t be afraid of saying again a little louder this time, for the people in the back.

Eleven— Take nothing for granted.

Simple and maybe not always so sweet. Hold onto what you’ve it and appreciate it while you’ve got it.

Twelve— Honesty is the best policy.

daiga-ellaby-154929-unsplashWhether you’re telling a friend how you’re doing after that telltale question, or chatting up a cashier, you don’t have to always answer good. Sure, you don’t need to rant about the telemarketer about your dog chewing your shoes or a bad breakup, but sometimes it helps to just be honest with the people who care. And speaking of honesty, don’t forget to be genuine with the people you care about. I know I  have to try to remember that too.

Thirteen— Follow your passion.

I get it, not all passions fit into the 9-5 job. But a passion is something that can be pursued on the side or on lunch breaks or at 1AM in the morning… As long as they get pursued. If there’s something that matters enough to you, you won’t want to let it slip. So don’t; make time.

Fourteen— Music is everything.

I honestly think music saves lives— it’s another form of storytelling that I have an immense appreciation for. Sad? Listen to music. Going grocery shopping? Listen to music. In love? Listen… You get what I mean. There’s a time and place for everything and well, I think music fits into every one of them.

Fifteen— It comes down to you.

No matter what anyone else thinks, sometimes you truly do have to take the criticism or the praise and weave it into the fabric of your life every day. Because this life only belongs to one person, live it for you.

Sixteen— It takes two.

My parents used to have this saying, “it takes two hands to clap.” Though in principle, this was probably recited when one of us did something and promptly used the excuse “they started it.” Sound familiar? Even though, yes, I have learned that it doesn’t always matter who started it, I’ve also found something else in this phrase: you can’t do everything on your own. And maybe that’s okay.

Seventeen— Love is also everything.

roman-kraft-421410-unsplashNow coming from a girl who’s never been in anything remotely close to a relationship and is stereotyped in a generation that “doesn’t know what love means,” I’m not talking about romance. I’m just talking about the act of truly loving something for what it is. Whether its my family or my friends or even my passions. Finding something to love is finding something to keep going for. That includes yourself.

Eighteen— No step is too small.

Progress is progress. Whatever you’re working towards, a degree or a better job or recovery or that one good day… Celebrating the small victories, not just the big ones, is part of what keeps us going. Appreciate yourself for all of it, baby steps are sometimes all you need. As long as you keep stepping.

Nineteen— It’s just a number.

At a certain point, you realize that no matter the age, everyone is doing something different. Right now, some of us are in school, some of us are having kids, and some of us are get married. Maybe a little bit of everything; all of us are working hard. So I’ve learned not to worry about the implications of where we’re supposed to be depending on your age. Do what you need to do, the rest will follow.

Twenty— Work hard but play harder.

jonathan-daniels-399452-unsplashSo maybe it took me twenty years, but there’s a time to work and a time to play. Especially on a quarter system here at Poly, life moves pretty quickly, with midterms as early as week two and we have to make the most of the time we’ve got. Someone reminded me of this today and I realized that I’ve been here for two decades now, if I’m ever going to have a time to let loose, this is it.

So cheers to the end of teenage years and here’s to an entirely new decade. If anyone’s got anything I need to know before I get going full speed ahead into adulthood here, I’m all ears. Happy Friday everyone!

A Book A Day Keeps the Insanity Away


Another month has passed and unfortunately, I’ve only had enough time to get my hands on two books to read all the way through. Not that I’m trying to advertise or anything, but for someone doesn’t seem to have a whole lot of time these days, Audible really does come in clutch with fitting time in for books I can’t sit down to read myself.
So what did I read (listen to)?
Well, great question! Both books I read come from very different authors and very different concepts— even the age groups for general interest aren’t close to one another. But each of them held an important story to tell, as all books do, about the human condition itself. So without further ado, here we go:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty


As someone who always went straight for the teen fiction section when the Scholastic book fair showed up at school, I have developed quite a habit for the genre itself so this book was more out of my comfort zone. And I loved it.
Now I’ve had my eye on Big Little Lies for a long time now. Back when my book first came out, I used to peruse bookshelves and imagine mine up there next to it. This one caught my eye every time, in my mind I was thinking, “I want it to be right up next to that one.” I’m not sure exactly what about it had my attention, but clearly it was something because this book is worth the read.
Set up as a murder mystery novel shrouded in the drama of parenthood and catfights (mom-fights?), there were a whole lot of twists and turns I wasn’t expecting. As someone who reads a lot and likes to expect a plot, I couldn’t do that with this novel because it was tricky; this book had some real secrets. Dealing with the concepts of domestic violence, broken homes, sexual assault, and the inner workings of families, there was plenty to unpack in this book.

Even though this novel was long, I wasn’t bored at all— Moriarty found a way to keep my attention all the way through to the ending plot twists. Character wise, I found myself loving parts of them and disliking others, nobody was perfect and I think that’s important in a novel. We have to relate somehow don’t we?
Whether you’re into murder mysteries, romance, comedies, or war stories, Big Little Lies manages to capture it all within its pages and pack a few punches along the way. Though outside my usual realm of books, this book had me thinking that maybe I need to open up my preferences a little bit. Definitely give this one a read.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green

With his classics like Looking For Alaska and The Fault In Our Stars, I’ve been reading John Green’s books for years. And while I, to this day, do not see the fascination behind Paper Towns (definitely my least favorite), when people started talking about this bok, I wanted to know why. This month I finally gave in.
Though I would not rank this as one on my top favorites of his books, there were some parts that had me wondering if maybe I should. The way this novel depicted mental


health was incredible— both in the way it can affect countless relationships to how it can impact day to day life, Green really brought Aza’s character to life in her struggles. He was very real in his depictions of certain situations, such as losing a parent or trying to support someone when you just don’t know what they need, and most people can relate to the second part at least. That’s a pretty big part of life.
Plus, what would a John Green book be without its classic love story— of course this was one of those, though I can’t quite say it was full on classic. Because of the characters’ own issues, the relationships within this story hit a lot of roadblocks and the romantic ones were no exception. But I liked that he made things a little different in this book and to me, it seemed like the focus really wasn’t on their love story but on the life story.
The only reasons this wouldn’t quite make it into my list of favorites from the author, I personally could not get into it. Maybe there was too much going on in my own life to get lost in pages of this one, but I feel like that’s part of the reason I seek out fiction; I need to get lost in drama that does not belong to me. Though the message was there, just the kind of life pertaining and guiding type I like, I had a hard time truly connecting to the story and its characters… While I enjoyed the story, it felt like just another book to me rather than a book that I took a piece of with me after I put it down.

If you’re reading this, I think you at least know the kind of book I’m talking about. And if you’re curious about this book, see for yourself if maybe there was something I missed.


Liane Moriarty and John Green are both incredible storytellers, I cannot dispute that and neither can their book sales. But one of those books made it onto my (temporary) favorites list, and one of them did not. So if you think maybe I missed the reasons this book should be higher in my list, feel free to tell me why in the comments below; I would truly love to be proven wrong.

Thanks for joining me again in this fine Tuesday. Until Friday, have a great rest of your week!

If All Your Friends Jumped Off A Bridge…

ryan-lange-552049-unsplash.jpgFirst things first, my new post is up on Her Campus so click here to check it out, it’s a bit of a follow up to my last blog post— it gets a little personal but that’s why it’s important.

Anyway, happy Friday everyone! It’s been a long week. I was reading some sonnets for homework the other day when this phrase popped into my head for no reason, that one parents like to use as almost a guilt trip: “if all your friends jumped…” I’m sure you know the rest, right? Back in my day, if I ever wanted to skip homework because no one else did it anyway or ask for a pair of shoes cause everyone else had them, my mom would ask me that question. There was really no disputing it at that point.

It’s like trying to argue with “because I said so.”

I mean, if everyone believes in something or just because they are doing something, does that mean we should do the same?

After an intense weekend of studying and protesting and more orientation WOW training shaped in light of recent events, things on this campus feel very different than when we left for spring break almost a month ago. To be honest, that still seems weird to say when the truth of the matter and this campus hasn’t really changed at all; only our awareness has.

Like I said, once the glass breaks, there’s no going back. I’ve just never really felt it break like this on such a large scale.

With the Greek system shut down until who knows when and racist flyers appearing in several buildings on campus among other things, no one here is in a good place right now because none of us have any idea what happens next. aaron-burden-523450-unsplash.jpgThis entire thing isn’t even about political views or whether or not racism is wrong— I think we’ve established at this point that it is and always will be— this is a bigger problem than Greeks, or Cal Poly, or education…

So what is the problem?

Well, if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? Sometimes people get caught up in a movement or attend a school that they are inherently a part of, whether they agree with every aspect of it or not. Take our fraternity and sorority life on campus— just because they’re all a part of the same system that allowed for many of these problems to occur, is every person involved with Greek organizations at fault? Similarly, if people are part of a movement or an ideal that they support and one person in that movement does something wrong, then it’s a question of culpability by association.

When I protested on Friday with everyone, I can tell you I did not believe in every chant we yelled or action we took. I was there for the ideals we stood for and the solidarity we were aiming to display, but not every movement is perfect and everything in these past few weeks have been far from it.

Yet I stood with them even when I disagreed with a chant because I did agree with the principle; maybe that puts me at fault, I really don’t know. But if something is wrong and you see it’s wrong— I’m not talking opinions but blatant acts against simple alex-blajan-240201-unsplashhumanitarian values like telling people to go kill themselves or saying one race is worth less than another— someone has to speak up whether they’re a close friend, as difficult as that can be, or not. And if you’re a part of something that seems to be going in the wrong direction, maybe it’s best to get out of it. Sort of like how if the weekends protests turned violent or attacked people rather than ideologies, I would not have stuck around.

You can’t let people jump off a bridge knowing it will help no one and hurt a lot of people in the process.  

But how to fix the inherent discrimination or the inequity in the American education system, let alone the US as a whole? I have no idea. To me it sort of feels like we’re all lined up to take that jump, it’s just that certain kinds of people are in the front of that line and those in the back aren’t doing anything to try to change that.

These past few weeks have made me more aware of how close the issues, the ones that I’ve learned so much about in my lifetime, really are. If I thought I was personally easy to spot before, imagine things now when people almost seem to be consciously looking for the black person in the room. No one around me is comfortable around campus right now, especially my minority friends here, and that’s if they were ever somewhat comfortable before. Everyone is upset, from the Greek students who just paid dues to the faculty trying to remind us that midterms have already started, not to mention countless incoming students in the class of 2022 and that have officially decided not to come here at all.

Right now no one is winning, not really. It’s just a whole lot of hate anhannah-troupe-367604-unsplash.jpgd blame and discord spreading through the campus like wildfire. That fire keeps changing direction, as a policy changes here or someone says something problematic on social media there, but it doesn’t burn out. It never fades.

I’m just wondering what comes next, how any of this can be amended on a larger scale unless we have everyone trying to work toward the same solution. Are we going to follow everyone else and still find no solutions… Do we jump? Because as with all things in an agitated state, I question how long Cal Poly can last like this before we are either overtaken by the flames or we burn out instead.

Enough is Enough Cal Poly

zachary-nelson-192289A week ago, I was getting ready to take part in one of Cal Poly’s best events all year: PolyCultural Weekend. As a weekend for cultural clubs to invite prospective students to stay with us and spend the weekend on campus, learning about the culture and diversity we do have to offer as a school, it was incredible.

This year, not only did I get to host for the first time with two wonderful hostees, but I also got to participate in the dance performance for the Black Student Union; if I may say so myself, it was fantastic. So many people put months, even a year of work into this one weekend, and it went off without a hitch.

Or at least it would have.

All three days held so much spirit and energy and pride for the homes all of us have found at Cal Poly through our cultural organizations, last weekend I felt secure in telling my hostees and so many others that they would be safe here— Cal Poly can be a home for them.

Before my hostees even walked off this campus, I was proven wrong.

Too many times this week have I heard: there is a time and place for everything… In spite of the news stories like the New York Times or the Washington Post, Cal Poly has added quite a bit to its reputation just this week regarding just what kind of place it is.

In light of a fraternity student going in blackface to a party among others in his company mocking Latino culture or immigration and several stereotypesjames-motter-516818-unsplash including that of a “gangster” or a “cholo”, I have a hard time supporting a University that will not support its students of color. Did you know that this school was ranked top 7 in worst institutions for “in fostering Latino student success.” That statement is an excuse to brush off clear racism, to avoid the discomfort of acknowledging the struggle minority students go through, especially at a place like Cal Poly.

In saying there is a time and place for everything, does this mean there is there a time and place for racism too?

If there is one thing I know, it is that every minority here has felt the eyes of our peers this week and the lack of diversity has never been more obvious. Instances like this only turn more attention toward us and there is nothing we can do but take it and try to make it into something more productive. Yet some of us have kept our heads down all week, ashamed of our campus or the attention, and more importantly, insecure in the skin we carry ourselves in because of we know people use it as an excuse to be inhumane.

We are tired.

During an emergency Town Hall Meeting on Monday night, I sat in a room filled with both people of color and caucasian allies that were all there for the same reasons— to speak out against these actions on our campus and stand in solidarity with one another. In that room, many of my fellow black students spoke out, saying that this place never felt like a home until we found a home in each other. We shouldn’t be the only ones supporting one another. The lack of support from administration, our President Jeffrey Armstrong, and even African American staff members that leave the school within a year of coming here is not sufficient for us.

It is not enough.

jeronimo-bernot-259463-unsplashThis morning, I participated in a protest with 300 other students from both of Cal Poly and other institutions— including high schoolers— during the first day of our open house weekend when prospective students come to Cal Poly and truly take a look at the campus they might decide to spend the next 4 (maybe 5) years on. We spent several hours marching around campus to let people know that the way we have been treated, that this school is a good one, but it has a lot of problems and we will not be quiet any longer. Last weekend’s incident is one among too many others regarding racism on this campus and we are done with turning the other cheek.

We are tired.

I am one of approximately 166 black students on this campus.

  1. Among at least 21,000 students.

And yet this school doesn’t seem to be making enough progress as a whole to show they care about changing those numbers. We don’t feel safe here, not even when I watched our president go up on stage during Polycultural weekend and tell all the prospective students that he wants us here— that he “supports his people of color.”

Does supporting our people of color include protecting the black student who was walking to an interview only a few hours ago when someone spit at her and threw the n-word in her face? Is this okay to have to hear on a school campus that claims to be better than racism: “Tell you and your n*gger friends to go back to Africa and stop protesting at my school.”

We are tired.

Of the racism, the unequal treatment, the discomfort, the dismissal of hard topics— what about a hard existence on a campus like Cal Poly?

I’ve spent the week trying to figure out how much I wanted to get into the protests and the marches and the rallying against something like this, but I have no choice but to speak up— if we don’t speak up for ourselves, who else will? Because every day I thought I would feel a little better or a little safer and dawid-zawila-279998instead I am just getting angrier and more frustrated with how little power it feels like we have over what happens to us here. Our voices are all we have.

So this is me speaking up, in a way that I believe I need to. I am taking action in my life to change things here at Cal Poly, through Greek Life, BSU, and even being an orientation WOW leader specifically for cultural students.

This reality, lacking color or for many students feeling proud of what we’re doing or where we go, is not okay and I am making steps toward the change I want to see. So what are you going to do?

Cal Poly, what will you do?

26 Weeks– New Quarter, New Perspective

“Tragedy blows through your life like a tornado, uprooting everything. Creating chaos. You wait for the dust to settle and then you choose. You can live in the wreckage and pretend it’s still the mansion you remember. Or you can crawl from the rubble and slowly rebuild.”
– Veronica Mars


Six months ago I wrote a blog post, quite possibly one of the most important I’ve ever written, and somehow 26 weeks have gone by. Both surprisingly and not at all at the same time, somehow I looked at my views yesterday and realized that not a single week has gone by since it went up without someone looking at that post.
Not because of my writing, not because of my blog itself, and not because of me. No, because of her.
Because her life is something worth remembering.
Six months ago, Maddie Elliot’s death was that tornado Veronica Mars was talking about. Over the past few years, between being lab partners in sophomore biology and laughing in memorable Spanish classes, her presence in my life wasn’t one that demanded attention— always front and center— she was the kind of person who didn’t have to be. The good in her would be there regardless. In the way she lived and loved and cared about others, the hard part was losing someone like her and not knowing how to understand and move on from something like that.
It’s not easy.
Because can that dust really settle in six months?
I’m starting to think that, in some parts of who we are, maybe it can. But in others?
And that’s okay, because when I reached that choice, to live in the wreckage and to recreate it or be ignorant of the change instead… This was something I couldn’t let go, one I haven’t gone a day without thinking about.
This change in my perspective and my life was everything.


Have you ever heard of the glass shattering metaphor, namely from the show How I Met Your Mother? The idea is that your reality is held behind a one-way mirror, or a glass so-to-speak. When something happens, maybe someone spoils a movie or the lightbulb in your head finally clicks on in math class, the glass shatters and the mirror is broken. You can’t go back.
Losing someone so young and so incredible, that was my glass shattering moment. And every day, my eyes open just a little bit more in the way I see things or people, in how I act. I feel like I’ve almost redefined my life, what I want and what feels worth it. How to open up. How to live. How to love.
It’s sink or swim in college these days and lately, I’ve been deciding to swim a little harder toward something meaningful every day. To make the most of what Cal Poly is and can be to me.
After change or tragedy, the moments that leave you breathless and lost, you begin to rebuild again and again and again. Just keep doing it. You pick up the pieces of what’s left and rearrange it all until it fits, whether it’s your career, your heart, your relationships, or more times than not, yourself.

You make it work as best you can.
Kind of like college where none of us have this figured out, the idea of what we’re supposed to do or how we do it. Choosing a major to come in with is hard enough, let alone actually


graduating when you feel like you should, hopefully with a job or some sort of plan lined up once you do. Once I got here, the process never really seemed that simple.
Because in the midst of it all, we fail, we stumble, we hope, and we keep trying to move forward as our minds change and our perspectives open up to figure out just what it is that we’re doing every day.
We take it one day, one class, one step, and one breath at a time. Until it feels like maybe we’re on the right path and those pieces are starting to fit back together again. Not perfectly, of course not, that wouldn’t be life if it did. But maybe in a way, with a little more time, you can adjust to the imperfections just enough to be content with what you’ve become.

That dust begins to settle.
In the past year of my life, I’ve learned to give myself time to let change devastate me if it must, to let it wash over every reality and every hope and every idea I once thought was set in stone. Once it does and it fades, I figure out where to go from there.
Like so many of my friends or my classmates, that’s what it’s like trying to navigate our lives and educations together. There is so much more to understand about the realities of this life in what our futures will be while trying to make the most out of a college career that’s flying by.
So six months later, this is me rebuilding the person I used to be– the life I held a year ago, two months ago, two days ago. I am rebuilding from the wreckage, the kind of process you’ll see in my writing, in my choices, and most importantly, in who I think I am. Who I think I can be.
This is how you let your heart adjust to new burdens before turning them into a beautiful kind of chaos; just the kind I’ve come to love being in the middle of. One that makes sense to you. Because stumbling and falling, losing our way and our balance, it doesn’t mean we are incapable to moving forward or getting it all “right.”

That just means maybe we will figure it out along the way. Sometime and someday, it will make sense.
As long as you trust that maybe, every change is just a step closer to who we are going to be. And if you’re on this journey with me, then you know, there’s so much more to see through the dust and the chaos. Whether there are more tornados on the horizon or something completely new, I’m excited to take you all with me.

So happy Friday, happy April, and here’s to whatever comes next.