Storytime!

mi-pham-151954-unsplash.jpgToday I am going to try something different with you all, I’m going to tell you a story. And I promise, it has a point in the end and it’s also a really funny memory that I’m never going to live down— so why not throw it out into the open now, right?

Ready? Here we go.

As children, we do a lot of things we can look back at and pinpoint exactly what went wrong. Like, just a hypothetical, looking into my memories to find a key in my hand, inches away from an electrical outlet. See, I wasn’t always this brilliant. Or watching myself wear the same pants to school for a full week— gauchos were pretty awesome back in the day, they were a bright orange too, but awesome enough for that? Maybe not.

But I think one of my greatest moments was a dumb one, I admit it, and I get reminded of it at least once a year. I should have known better and the thing is, I probably did. Sometimes we just have to accept the mistakes we are about to make and instead hope for the best while we go ahead and make it.

That’s exactly what I did.

Did anyone else’s parents always tell them not to run with the scissors or take the stairs with lollipops in their mouths? I’m sure mine did but if I’m being honest, I don’t remember. What I do remember is them telling us not to play with sharp things, or when I asked my mother about makeup, she told me to take my time and I didn’t need it anyway. Thanks mom, you’re the best.aaron-burden-60068-unsplash Of course my dad also told me to be strong and independent, so if I wanted my own set of screwdrivers, he would get them in a heartbeat. I still have them in my room here in SLO.

We’re told a lot of things, what to do and what not to do. But we’re not told everything… Some lessons, we simply learn at our own expense.

Picture this, it’s back to school night in second grade, the perfect chance for the younger kids to sneak onto the big kid’s playground while all the parents have to sit through whatever actually went on in those meetings. I took the twirling bars with a few friends while my brothers ran around doing their own games; it didn’t take me long to get off of those things, talk about a dizzying headache and a wrecked equilibrium to boot.

So I’m minding my own business right, Coke or Pepsi book in my hands (if you don’t remember those, here’s a picture, I spent all my bookfair money on it one year), and Kris runs up to me with his older friends, laughing hysterically. Ignoring them, even though of course I wanted to be included, all I hear is “you won’t believe it” and “you have to look, it’s so funny!”

I should have known it would be at my expense, and also completely my fault.

I hear someone tell me to look up, so I do, and all of them burst out laughing immediately. My face gets red, at least as red as even possible for me, and I storm off in the other direction like the emotional child I was, due to my own embarrassment. I was drew-graham-327935-unsplashso far from laughing at the time it almost makes me laugh more now, looking back on… Well, how I looked in that moment.  

Would you have laughed at an 8 year old me, missing half an eyebrow, clean cut?

See, the night before, I thought it would be fun to see how effective one of those pink dollar store razors could be. I wanted to “see if they actually work,” if I remember correctly. I think I knew they did, but I was too young for leg hair and you couldn’t triple-dog-dare me to try it on my head, so my eyebrow was the next best option.

Surprise surprise, those things are highly effective. And of course, being the resourceful girl I was, I tried to hide it from my brothers by doing what?

I colored it in with a Sharpie.

After laughing profusely, Kris tried to help me straighten it out, but I can only imagine the jokes my parents had for each other when I left dinner that night. I must have looked ridiculous. Actually I know I did, an image of my face in the mirror with half a sharpie’d in eyebrow is burned into my brain even twelve years later.

So be it, I had to deal with that mistake until my eyebrow finally grew out again and the sharpie washed all the way out. I think one of my eyebrows is still slightly crooked compared to the other, and I’m pretty sure that night has everything to do with it. Even so, a friend even reminded me of that night at our high school graduation– like I said, never living that down.

But I also said I had a point to this story right?

Sometimes you just need to laugh at yourself, even if it’s a few years after. Because we all do stupid things, hopefully with small consequences, and on occasion not so small consequences. At least for a lot of us, life can get rough or busy or stressful or all of the above. And it’s important to remember that in those moments, you need to find something to laugh about.

huyen-nguyen-567901-unsplash.jpgThe point of this story was to hopefully provide that something. I mean, come on, an 8 year old me, wearing what was most likely a Paul Frank monkey T-shirt, bright orange gaucho pants (I mean like these, but not cute), hair in cornrows, and half an eyebrow sharpie’d in crookedly and  a whole lot darker than my actual eyebrow(s)…

Trust me, if that visual doesn’t tell you, I was quite the site to see. But I hope you got a good laugh out of this today and if you’ve got a better story than mine, feel free to share yours! Happy Friday everyone, have a fantastic weekend.

The Perks of Being A Bibliophile

freestocks-org-89185-unsplashAs much as I hate to say it, I haven’t had much time to read this past month. After going through two books in April and watching the time go by, somehow it’s already week three of May and well, welcome to another Bookworms post.

I’ve got one of my favorite books for you.

I did say I haven’t had much time to read, but lucky enough I’ve had enough to re-read a book that will always have a place in my heart. As mental health awareness month, it definitely gets into that among several other things, but I think one of my favorite parts about the book is that it truly takes a look at who we are as human beings— how we hurt and how we love, how we laugh and how we live… Though I understand it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, this is one of the good ones.

The Perks of Being A Wallflower— Stephen Chbosky

Considering he both directed the movie and wrote the book, I see an incredible amount of talent in Chbosky; I still haven’t decided whether the story was better told on screen or through pages and well, I’ve gone through each multiple times.annie-spratt-648653-unsplash.jpg

What I really love about this narrative is how intimately you can feel each character, from Charlie and Sam to Candace and Patrick, all of them begin to feel real. I think that’s a really important aspect of novels, the characters can make or break the story. But even if you can’t fully relate to the experiences or identities of those in this book, they can still show you things in yourself that you never saw before.

Let’s talk about plot really quickly, this is your classic coming of age angsty teenage boy plot, as Charlie is a freshman in high school just trying to figure himself out, pushing through bullies along the way. But he’s not the only one. We meet Sam who is trying so hard to get into the college she wants while navigating bad relationships along the way, and then there’s Patrick who is dealing with his own sexuality and coming to terms with how that affects those around him. Maybe these ideas are specific to the characters, but all of it becomes universal to the rest of us. Add in the high school troupe and classic feeling of being right back in those halls, there you go. This is a book about life.

heather-emond-313088-unsplashOftentimes I seek literature to get out of my own existence for a while, especially when it comes to re-reading a book that I know will do the trick; this one, however, does so much more than that. This book builds a whole new world for you to fall into that maybe isn’t so far from the one you’re already in and manages to show you something new every time you thumb through its pages. It wakes you up.

There’s one quote in the book, a cheesy one that I’m sure people make fun of, that I like to think about when I think about love: “We accept the love we think we deserve.” Because we do, I know a lot of the times when we are treated badly or handed the short end of the stick, we wonder what we did to deserve it or maybe if that’s what we’ve earned. We accept the love we think we deserve, I guess it has to come from us to know we deserve more.

Like I said, this book is full of so many stories and lives that I think it is one anyone who loves books should read— I won’t hold it against you if you don’t like it. The novel is written in the form of letters, addressed to someone we don’t quite know or figure out, as Charlie works through his issues and discovers himself throughout the book. More than a story about people and about the different lives they live, this book can be a reminder to take care of ourselves in our relationships and to remember to look up every now and then.yoann-boyer-185507-unsplash.jpg

You may be missing a moment that just might make you feel infinite.

If you don’t know what that means, go read the book and you will find out. As for the rest of it, take care of yourselves this week and I’ll see you all on Friday! Happy Tuesday everyone.

Exploring the Unknown– The Human Library

david-kennedy-383477-unsplashToday, I’ve got something new to share with you all— not a poem, but a story about… Well, other stories. This week I had the privilege of participating in a senior project that I was so lucky to be a part of and now, you can be a small part of it too. 

Welcome to the Human Library.

Picture this, you’re walking into a library just like old times, running your fingers across the spines of countless books holding worlds you can’t wait to dive into and you’re doing the one thing they always tell you not to do— judging them by their covers. Now imagine those books were people, each one with a different story and a different title, from “They Asked Me ‘Where I’m From’” to “Nothing But Another Gay Kid.”

These are the stories of what people feel like represent them, the things that make up the identities we try so hard to define for ourselves. Because these are the stories of what people find identify them, from the way they love and the way they look to the way they act and they way they feel. So what do I think defines me, my title?

Still I Rise— The State of Blackness at a PWI.samantha-sophia-374229 

We all have stories and experiences, little bits of who we are that come to define us in incredible ways. This is part of mine, at least for the next two years here. And as I listened to other people tell their stories it was eye opening to understand just how much we don’t see about others, how much we are ignorant of…

Some of it by choice, some of it not. But all of it unknown unless we ask.

This project was meant to break past stereotypes and the prejudices we hold within ourselves. Because it’s our job to start the conversation and try to see beyond what we think we know.

Everyone who came to the human library to check out the books, they came by choice because they wanted to both be a part of it and see a little more of the students that surround us on Cal Poly’s campus. With everything going on at this school, it’s about time we started listening to what’s happening in other people’s lives and stopped assuming we already know.

Each day I spend here, I am reminded of how little I know, even about the people I love and care for. I’m not saying I plan to pry or force people to let me in, but I am saying that as a whole, a lot of us forget to give people a chance to do so when they want to.

I’ve mentioned it before, but I’m training this quarter to be a WOW (Week of Welcome) orientation leader for next year’s incoming freshman of minority backgrounds. With events like this and each week of training, I hold a little more power in my hands to be a jonathan-weiss-266716-unsplashgood influence on the students I welcome into the school, with a little more strength in my being to do it all right. This quarter, I have become more involved with my campus and the people around me, it’s getting easier to recognize the secrets that hide behind things I don’t understand or the privileges I hold.

I can’t forget about all the books I am still yet to read.

Projects like the Human Library are incredibly important, not just to spread people’s stories, but to also remind us that the world is so much bigger than ourselves. The students who prepared for that event with me over the last two months are just snapshots of our existence, reflections of things we’ve all been through and a whole lot more we haven’t. The thing is, we don’t have to always go through something to understand it, we just have to be willing to learn.

Because, some of these people get pulled into our own chapters, their experiences blending with our own until our pages begin to add up into a heavier, thicker book than what we started with. And as we grow and we change, we take what we’ve got and go from there.

I guess maybe that’s the idea: start with your own experiences, your life, and build on it. Along the way, we can’t be afraid to understand others’ stories while in the process of creating our own. In the end, we are made up of the values wetakahiro-taguchi-574470-unsplash keep and the hopes we hold, all influenced by the things we learn and the people we meet. This week, I got to meet so many extraordinary students. And they got to meet me.

If you want to know a little more about the Human Library, you can find a whole lot of information here and see what it’s all about.

And if you’ve got a story to share, I would love to hear it. As for mine, I think you’ve heard that one by now, but lucky for you, I have plenty of others I can tell you. You’re always welcome to ask.

Happy Friday everyone, see you on Tuesday for a new Bookworms post.

A Quick Reminder on Mental Health

henry-be-239191Last week I told you all I had a post planned, but I moved it to this week due to some new circumstances… Well it’s next week isn’t it?! So here we go.

We are now in the second week of May, what I like to remember as Mental Health Awareness Month and also Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Month— today I’m focusing on that first part. This isn’t just for people diagnosed with mental health issues or those who have love ones who are, this is for everyone. Because just as much as a broken leg can hold us back from our routines, a broken mentality can do the same. Just in a different way than one might expect.

Hear me out.

If you know me, you would know that I love to people-watch. On a college campus, this becomes 10x more interesting— college students talk about so many things in public that I never imagined I would hear and sometimes, I wonder if I should be hearing at all. But one thing that I’m not surprised to hear far too often? The same answer when someone asks “How are you?”

Good.

As long as someone means it when they say “good”, that’s great! But there are a lot of times when someone isn’t good and doesn’t mean it or does need to talk about it, yet this answer comes out automatically instead. I’m not saying to spill everything to the grocery store cashier just trying to get through their shift, but I am saying to be honest with a friend if that’s what you need. 

Because that’s the thing; if you’re not good, you’re not good. There’s nothing wrong with that. Even if it’s just waking up on the wrong side of the bed or not really feeling it some days, we get so caught up in our lives or grades or work that we forget to take care of ourselves and really consider our answer when someone asks us how we’re doing. We forget that maybe it matters.

Everyone is different— some people need to talk about things as soon as they go wrong and other people would rather work through it on their own, not needing someone constantly checking in to make sure they’re okay. A lot of times, people are just looking for acknowledgement of their own situation, whether they failed a class or lost a friend; it’s acknowledging other people’s situations as they are regardless whether you can “fix” it or not. There’s a reason there are 7.6 billion people in this world and each and every one of us has a different way of functioning.joshua-clay-27368-unsplash.jpg

That doesn’t mean we can’t help each other function better when we do need the help.

Even though I’ve seen attitudes around mental health change in my short lifetime, there are still a lot of people who worry about the stigma of seeking help because they believe “it’s not even that bad” or “it could be worse.” I mean it could, maybe, but it shouldn’t have to be. If someone has to qualify their own struggle, it’s enough to at least talk about it, right?

Let’s take a look at some of the numbers for college students from January 2016 (USA Today):

One in every 12 U.S. college students makes a suicide plan, according to National Data on Campus Suicide and Depression.

49.5% Students who reported feeling hopeless in the past year.

60.5% Students who reported feeling lonely – a common indicator of depression – in the past year.

Two-thirds of students who are struggling do not seek treatment, according to the American College Health Association Spring 2015 assessment.

Suicide is the No. 2 leading cause of death among those ages 15-34, according to the Center for Disease Control.

john-noonan-420156-unsplashNow mental health goes far beyond these statistics and factors, but did you notice that little piece about loneliness? As much as we focus on suicide rates or depression or eating disorders, they all have to start somewhere. For college students, a lot of the time they start with being lonely.

Whether you’re mentally diagnosed with severe depression and can’t get out of bed, a social butterfly, or somewhere in-between, loneliness has a lot to do with how we feel on a day to day basis. It can be in our relationships or how we feel, it doesn’t have to be one thing. But anyone can get hit by a heavy workload, a long to-do list, a day that never seems to end, a week that seems to drag by…

And anyone can feel like they’re up against all of that on their own. It’s important to remember that you’re not, sometimes you just have to let someone else know what you need. Or, for all you autonomous people who want to try this first, you can get out there for yourself and do what you need to do. Just remember, sometimes a willful independence can hold you back too.

At Cal Poly, we have this saying— 25/35— to remind people they should be studying 25 to 35 hours a week. As much as I advocate for it, and probably almost doubled that on a bi-weekly basis freshman year, I also know how easy it is to get caught up and forget to exercise or eat in a timely manner. Or sometimes, you know, breathe.

Mental health is about more than medication or statistics or yoga, it’s about knowing when to take a step back when you’re overwhelmed, when you’re struggling, and doing whatever you need to do to get past that. It’s about taking care of our minds the way we are constantly reminded and taught to take care of our bodies.

Because I have to say, this is a beautiful life and though college isn’t quite the best four years of it, they shouldn’t have to be the worst either. And none of it should be made harder than it needs to be. Mental health is incredibly important for all of us, just like hydrating more or being on our phones less. The point is to be better clement-percheron-607072-unsplashfor ourselves on a daily basis, to let us thrive the way we want to. This month is just another reminder and I hope you remember to take care of yourself today.

I think we all deserve at least that, right?


Hotlines are here, I hope you never need them but if you or a loved one does, remember these: Crisis Text Line (Text HOME to 741741 in the US) which is a toll-free, nationwide 24/7 crisis text line. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) is a 24/7, toll-free, confidential suicide prevention hotline for suicidal crisis or emotional distress. And, The Trevor Project,(1-866-488-7386) a nationwide organization that provide crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth.

Poetry in Modern Antiquity

aaron-burden-272517-unsplash.jpgHappy Poetry Place day! Sorry again for missing the last one due to technical difficulties, if you want to know the poem I was going to share with you, take a look at Tyler Ford’s “Too Much” here. In my AP Lit class senior year, we had a poetry unit where we wrote one poem and chose to perform another. For the performance, I was torn between this poem and Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise.”

Though in the end, I chose Angelou, this poem still holds a special place in my heart. So go ahead and check it out and if you’re interested, Ford’s Twitter is here too! Otherwise, just to make up for last month, I have two of my own works to share with you today.

I’ll keep it short and sweet, but these two are a new style I’ve been playing with.

My English class has been getting into a lot of sonnets and Renaissance poetry lately so I wanted to see how I could use that influence in my own writing. Though I may have steered clear of true sonnet forms, as I have a major midterm to focus on rather than counting syllables and rhyme patterns, take a look at these and tell me what you think— they’re a little different, the question is if that’s a good thing or not.


One

barby-dalbosco-20629-unsplash.jpgTell me how long our voices lie

too quiet, for we no longer see

the truth behind these actions, I

see nothing changing, for we long to be

stronger in the stances we take

and louder in solidarity.

We are breaking down the walls you make;

Now hath our voices set us free.

As a poem of power, this one comes from not only the issues I see on my own campus but those around the world. People are beginning to really stand up and say what they need to say. That’s what this is. And it’s never been more important.

Two

‘Tis no less of poetry, but

spilled feeling that you make of me;

in time, in youth, in chastes unknown,

here be love I hath not been shown.

eli-defaria-124757-unsplashFor I suppose if maybe we

may come upon a day when we

hath break our chains and all restraint

our lusts and hopes not far or faint

but strong and loud, power in divine

love, to leave our cold bondage behind.

Now this one was a real experiment, to play with the words we have left behind in a concept that will never really fade from poetry and art— love. I wanted to see what I could do with it and, though I may be biased, I kind of like how it sounds. Short and sweet just like I promised, but I’d appreciate some feedback and commentary, so let me know what you thought of these in the comments below!


That’s all I’ve got for you today 🙂 Have a great rest of your week, see you Friday.

Challenging the Status Quo: Learning to Unlearn

michal-lomza-338227-unsplash.jpgWelcome back to another Friday, you made it through another week! For me, these weeks have been slow, rough, and draining— today I wanted to remind everyone to take a few steps back from life for a moment, to rest and recharge with me. But something more important has come up and I have to talk about it. So look out for my rest and recharge post next week, after a new Poetry Place on Tuesday, it’ll be a good one.

Here is what I want to talk about today instead.

Though I am late to the party that no one wants to be at, apparently another photo has surfaced of a student doing blackface at Cal Poly more recently, this time making fun of the original incident that occured last month.

Is anyone else tired?

First of all, I appreciate the fact that fraternity members who knew of the picture are allegedly the ones who brought it to public attention. Like I’ve said before, oftentimes fraternities come with a bad reputation, but they do have some good in them. This just isn’t about them anymore.

This is about the status quo.

Today I sat in on a forum, of what we hope is the next step forward on campus in changing the way things are, where we were introduced to Diversity and Inclusion Specialist Kimberly McLaughlin-Smith of the University of North Carolina Wilmington. tim-marshall-82948-unsplashShe outlined for us her mission and insight as well as offered a panel of faculty and students to go deeper into the issue.

Within the next six months, she will be working closely with our campus to help create more of a community than we currently have and foster a more inclusive campus. Though I do think it’s important to bring someone in from the outside, as she seems incredibly capable to help make change, I think it’s also important to acknowledge the students and the faculty that are on the inside of this.

As of today, we are Cal Poly. Whether we want to be or not.

Right now, this campus needs change, but the problem is so much larger than us. The issue is so complex that it draws on history— white supremacy if you will— and that history involves slavery, the foundation of America (liberty and a lack thereof), the Trail of Tears, the Chumash land that Cal Poly is built on, etc. More times than not, this history has to do with people dominating over others; not because they deserve to or they are more qualified to do so, but because the color of their skin makes them feel like they are.

This is the status quo.

Mrs. McLaughlin-Smith said something in the forum earlier that got me thinking: “Exposure to anything is everything; the alternative is the same.”

Sometimes learning something new means unlearning something you already know.

So if, growing up, we are exposed to people of color being treated like less than others for something they cannot control and should not be ashamed of, this exposure can become everything. And if, learning to become a practiced and intellectual member of society, we are not taught important racial history both in and beyond American standards, this lack of exposure can become everything.

Both can do a whole lot of damage.

aditya-saxena-386012-unsplash.jpgWith the way things are, the lack of repercussions for racist actions or even the lack of value in simple humanity is problematic— hold the door open for someone, be polite to a woman, remember that Cinco de Mayo is not Mexican independence day, do not throw around the n-word like it’s a game and you’re trying to get the most baskets… Because if nothing is done to make a change happen, nobody exposes anyone else to the implications of an action or a history or a hope for something better, how can we aim for anything more than the status quo we are already living in?

Right here I am challenging the way things are because I know they can be better than this. Honestly, at 20 years old, I may be farther away from having all the answers than I was last week. I don’t even know if I’m asking the right questions anymore. Not because I know less than I did before, but because I’m acknowledging just how much I don’t understand.

I don’t understand why people think it’s okay to belittle others for who they are.

I don’t understand why so many of us see something wrong in our society yet are given so little power to do something about it.

I don’t understand what it’s like anymore to get up in the morning and not worry about being yelled at, or catcalled, or jumped on my walk to class or home.

I don’t understand why the color of my skin should tell someone an entire story about me without them even knowing my name.

Is this the status quo, or is this just my status quo?caleb-wright-14715-unsplash.jpg

If even one person on my campus and so many others feel like this, feel like they don’t belong there or deserve to be there or be here in this country, there is no liberty in that.

Today, I want you to think of your own status quo and what it means to you. For just a moment, humor me maybe, challenge it. Now what can it really look like?

Share your thoughts with me in the comments below, after all, you’re part of my status quo too. See you Tuesday.