It Takes Two Hands to Clap

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If anyone has parents that grew up in a different culture than they did, you’ll probably get what I mean when I say that some phrases really won’t make sense until they’re explained. It’s like my parents saying “wapiece?” when really it’s just a blending of the words “want” and “piece.” Or even “better belly buss than good food waste” or something about the job not being done until the paperwork is finished… Just to name a few, it’ll probably stop you for a minute just to figure it out.

So imagine my reaction when back in the single digits, my brothers and I were fighting in the grocery store over something trivial and my mom hears the “he started it, no she started it” classic. Instead of yelling at us, she spun around in the middle of the aisle and looked each of us dead in the eye, saying “It takes two hands to clap.”

None of us had any idea what she was talking about, so of course we were too confused to keep arguing. Years later though, I find myself using the phrase all the time because essentially, it’s kind of like saying it takes two to tango. Two hands to clap=everyone has a part to play in what happens.

After all, it’s never really just one person or one thing that plays into an outcome, it’s usually a lot of little things. At least two.

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Over a decade later now, imagine the look on my face when I’m thinking this as I tell my parents about something I did that week; instead of getting scolded for not putting my schoolwork first, they told me they were proud of me. Not only for putting kindness and selflessness into the world, but also for making my own choices and adjusting around it.

I said that they taught me well.

They told me that it takes more than listening to actually use what is taught and put it into practice. That’s the second hand.

You see, there are a few people in my life that I’ve known since my freshman year here and we’ve each grown together in different ways. But if there’s someone from three years ago that’s still in my life, that definitely says a lot about our relationship. So of course, when something happens and they need help, I will drop everything to make sure whatever needs to be done is done. And I make sure it’s done the way they deserve it to be.

After all, it takes two hands to clap. Some things, we truly cannot do on our own, even if we try our hardest to make it so. Why not offer a hand where we can? Especially if it’s someone or something we care about, it shouldn’t even really be a choice or just something nice of us to do.

It should be automatic.

With that being said, there is still a bit of a caveat to these situations. Just because you are capable of doing something or care to do so, that doesn’t mean we always should. Like my blog post last week (catch it here if you missed it), it’s a question of intention versus impact. If that impact hurts us more, if someone or something isn’t as good for us as we can be for it, we have to recognize that too.

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When it takes two hands to clap, they’re supposed to be meeting in the middle. Not 30 vs 70%, not 10 vs 90 %. 50/50 when at all possible, throw a little equity in there depending on circumstance, but you know what I mean. Make sure you’re taking care of yourself too.

There’s a reason most of us will have a short list of people we would take a bullet for. Even while that risk seems to grow on a daily basis, off the top of our heads, there are most likely only a few people on that list. Because there are only so many bullets we can take, and at some point, someone else is going to have to be the one to step in front of us instead of the other way around.

It has to go both ways. Otherwise, we run the risk of being used, abused, and simply tossed to the side. This applies to jobs, relationships, work, even how we treat ourselves.

Don’t be afraid to give where you can without the expectation of anything in return, but a genuine trust that you’ll get it back somehow. Slowly, I’m learning to give myself things that will not just take my effort or my love or my time and use it all, but help me grow or learn or love me back in the process.

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I know it’s unrealistic to expect something back from all that we do in this life. But the thing is, we only have one life and so much of ourselves to give within it; there’s not time to waste. Whenever you do give, make sure it’s worth it.

I know that this week, I did.

The End of a Year of “Yes”

A year ago, I was a college sophomore trying to figure out why the world kept on moving when it felt like mine froze or how time kept slipping through my fingers. Because a little over two years ago, I told you about Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes and how I wanted to put myself out there by learning to take a chance on myself and say yes more often.

Two years ago I decided to make it a year of yes. Then it became two years. Then two and a half.

Today, in my third year of college and not without a whole lot of hesitation or deliberation, I’m changing my mind.

Today, I’m saying no.

Let me explain.


In January of 2017, I made my blog post all about this concept of a “year of yes” because my entire world was changing and maybe I wanted to take back control. So I decided my control would come in the form of one three little word. Yes.

I joined a new club which was almost the opposite of my energy and personality, I took the jump into switching my major, I took on the challenge of finishing my novel, I worked hard to get Dean’s List, I went out to parties when I was ready… I just kept saying yes. Not past my limits of course, but enough to redefine them.

If you’ve been following my blog for the past two and a half years now, I think you might actually see that change over time. Just take a look: I went from quoting One Direction’s “Little Things” and writing about restless love to education about Suicide Prevention and being okay with not fitting into societal norms around drinking or even sex.

Do you see the progression? Because I definitely do–that’s what I like to call personal growth. I have done so many things in the last two years of my life that I would have never done before I came to college. I was afraid of the world and the rejection that can come with it so I decided to not let that ever happen by simply not giving the world the chance to.

That would leave anyone feeling pretty empty right?

I know that’s how it left me, empty and insecure. But also curious. So I took that curiosity and Shonda’s challenge with it. Somewhere in between, I let myself grow and take on a life that wasn’t fully under lock & key anymore. I mean, how else do you think I ended up taking on being an orientation leader, let alone deciding to come back as a Facilitator. I just kept saying yes.

And looking back, it’s incredible to see how much has change, how much I’ve done and grown over time. Trust me, if you haven’t seen me in a while then I can’t tell you exactly who you’ll find once you do.

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Because not only did I say yes to almost everything in my life, but I started to feel guilty when I didn’t want to or when I knew I would be great if I did say yes. After all this time of taking on so many things and people and experiences, I’m realizing that as liberating it can be to say yes so often, it can also take little pieces of you and scatter them across all those things or people or experiences until you’ve got nothing left for yourself.

Once I saw that, there was no going back. And today, I’m taking my life back. I’m saying no—not to growth or being a part of things I truly love, but “no” to taking on a role that maybe doesn’t quite fit right at the moment. Right job, wrong time kind of thing.

I need to work on me for right now.

So maybe it’s a yes, but a no at the same time. A yes to myself, to taking control of what I want and care about, with a no to doing what I know I’ll be good while losing myself in the process.

In my two years of yes, I’ve come to see that it’s all a balancing game. At a certain point, something has to even out the scales and maybe, it’s my job to see that. It’s our job to do that.

Sure, it took me two years. But look where those two years took me; after all this, I don’t think I’d take it back. Not at all. Now, I think I’m simply ready to find a little more balance.


Happy Friday night everyone.

Legally… Adulting?

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So guess who made it 21 years around the sun? It’s me, I did. Well, Nick and me of course.

But if you ask him, he’ll probably tell you that he made it 29 minutes earlier.

Now that’s I’m 21, the question is, what changes? Maybe I’ll go out to the bars and wildly dancing on tables every day for the rest of the quarter. Either that, or I’ll participate in as many daygers as I possibly can because legally, there’s no reason for me to get in trouble now.

So of course I’m going to go for it, I mean what else am I supposed to do?

Other than study, work, sleep, volunteer… Because I have so much time outside of that right?

Thing is, we live in a society where college students act like this is all we do. Other than the actual schooling we pay so much money for, a lot of time is wasted on drinking, partying, and not really being productive. Now don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against knowing how to lighten up every once in a while. Living while you can is important after all.

Here’s the thing though, living for me doesn’t really involve alcohol. Unlike what a lot of people seem to believe, not all college students drink. I’m not against alcohol, but I can’t say alcohol is something I really enjoy drinking either. Personally, I don’t like the way it makes me feel.

For some reason though, some people don’t understand that. And that’s where I find a problem. When someone says no to something, I get if everyone else is having fun and they just want you to join in. What I don’t get is the lack of respect by people who are supposed to support you and instead, fail to respect your preferences.

Because as legal adults, we are bound by the law but have a few less limits than we did when we were, say, 16. The older we get, the more we all figure out about ourselves and in turn, the more different we become. Our interests, our hobbies, our talents, our skills… That, and who each of us are as a whole. So you would think that, as we get older and become a little more individual, we would find a little more respect for our differences.

Including drinking habits.

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Some of us like to party, some of us don’t. Some of us like shows like Game of Thrones, some of us don’t. Some of us are DC and some of us are Marvel.

Some of us drink, and some of us don’t.

See where I’m getting at?

Personally, I would love to see some understanding within people my age and younger that what we do or don’t like is up to us. It really isn’t their business. If you really prefer DC, that’s all your choice. I may question your taste—just a little—but that is all you. It’s the phrase “don’t yuk my yum.” If there is something I like, maybe you’ve tried it and maybe you’ve never given it a chance. Either way, that gives you no right to judge me for it.

If it’s legal, we have our own choices to make and deserve a little respect in the process. Concerns are okay, judgement is not.

That’s what I’d like to think it is to legally adult. Maybe you’d agree.

Have You Heard of FISH?

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Short and sweet for you today, have you ever heard of the FISH philosophy? Trust me, it’ll change the way you see things. Four easy steps:

Play

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When it comes to approaching anything, especially in our society, we can either choose for it to be work or we can choose for it to be a bit of play. This comes from the Seattle Pike Place Market where they make a bit of a game out of selling and preparing fish for people. Instead of regular vendors and yelling about their fish, they joke around with customers, offer samples, and quite literally throw the fish around from one person to the next as a way to keep things energetic.

Not only does this remind you every day to remember to have a little fun, but it also says that you can make everything a bit of fun if you want it to be. Find a way to Play.

Make Their Day

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Sure, every person you meet is just another person to walk through your life in one day. Especially when selling things, it’s easy to overlook the fact that you get a chance to really see every single one of those people. So talk to them, every one of them. Ask them how their day is and mean it, see why they came in the first place.

You have the opportunity to make someone’s day every time you speak to them. Why not use it? It doesn’t take a whole lot– as humans, we’re pretty simple. All we want is to be genuinely acknowledged. If you can do that, I think you just might make someone’s day.

Choose Your Attitude

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Now this one is important because there are a whole lot of things in our lives that we don’t want to do. From working and paying taxes to bills and studying, we’re busy people. We never really stop moving. You can easily get stuck in this pattern of doing it all or going through the motions day by day without really paying any attention to it.

But if you have to do it, every single day, can’t you also choose to be positive or be the kind of person people don’t mind being around while you do? You have to choose your attitude, despite how much sleep you got or who’s in a fight with who… Attitude is everything because it starts with you. So choose yours first. The rest takes care of itself.

Be there

Lastly, you’ve got to be there. As someone who is constantly moving and rarely takes a break in my schedule, I sometimes forget that I’m supposed to be 100% there in everything I’m doing. With the students I’m mentoring, I can’t teach them properly or guide them well if I’m not paying attention to what’s going on. At work, I can’t ask a customer how their day is or tell them good luck on a midterm if I’m not present enough to remember to do so.

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You’ve got to be there, for all of it. We only get one life and there’s a clock counting down somewhere just to remind all of us to not forget it.

So be there to live your life every single day. Find a way to play in everything you do, make someone’s day while you’re at it, and just be there. Okay?

Okay. Because every day I’m getting older and even though my life is pretty fast paced, I have to remember these things too. It wouldn’t be a life worth living without it.

That’s the FISH philosophy. I hope you liked it.

Redefining Expectations

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I was awake to see 11:11 PM last night and all I could wish was to be asleep. Because I was very ready for bed. I was just waiting for my mind to agree with me.

But once it did, I got at least eight hours of sleep last night, and let me tell ya, sleep is truly a wonderful thing. Besides that, it’s been quite a long week here. Between classes and work and orientation, I have become quite the busybody. Just seeing how much I grow from week to week is kind of astounding.

So here’s a shout out to Daily Inkling: Your prompt post.

If I had asked for a wish years ago, I probably would have said something like wishing to be happy or strong or beautiful. In the long run, I think each of those was something I would have to find and redefine for myself.

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that maybe I already have.

I chaired my first development series yesterday. To explain what that is really quickly, as one of the Facilitators for the Cross Cultural Experience, each of us put together a series of workshops that will help students better support their WOWies or incoming students at Cal Poly.

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Though it isn’t exclusive, as you can opt in or opt out of this track, it is specifically designed to provide resources and support to underrepresented minority communities here at Cal Poly. So what my CCE team and I have been working on for the past two quarters is putting together these workshops and finding guest speakers to come and talk to everyone—we’re all still learning too after all.

And yesterday, I got to chair our second workshop. Just picture it, me standing in front of everyone leading them through an icebreaker before transitioning to a speaker who gave us the lowdown on Systematic Racism.

Even though it’s the basis of our lives here at a Primarily White Institute, sometimes we forget that it’s built into the very system of our society. There was a lot to talk about in just an hour and a half.

Personally, it’s very different being on the other side of things; last year, I was training to be one of those leaders who didn’t really know what I was getting into but felt like it was something I needed to do and learn about anyway.

Now I’m the one leading the conversation, creating that space for other students to then create a space for their own students.

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Talk about growth. You see, I used to say I’m an introvert and I don’t like talking to people if I don’t have to. If that were true, I definitely wouldn’t have been up on stage with my team in front of 900 leaders in training last week to tell them why CCE matters.

Trust me, it’s been a whole lot of work to get this point and I am quite tired. But that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been life changing and absolutely worth it in the process.

Because when am I ever going to get another chance to do all these things and touch so many lives in a positive way?

That’s the thing, I don’t know if I ever will.

If you knew me in high school, I really don’t know how much digging you’re going to have to do to find that girl again. Because I’ve changed. A lot. Some parts of me have become a whole lot louder and more unapologetic. Other parts have become more patient or accepting of circumstances that I can’t change.

I’m slowly learning to adjust to the world around me and make the most out of what I’ve got. If I didn’t do that, I really don’t know what the point of any of this would be.

After all, we’re here to learn and live and leave a mark and change our lives as many times as it takes to feel like we are doing something worth doing. To feel like we aren’t just breathing for the sake of breathing.

Let’s pretend it’s 11:11 PM and you get one wish. Tell me, what could you wish for to make it feel like you’re living and not just alive?

Maybe it’s time for you to redefine what that looks like to you.

Feel free to share in the comments below. And I’ll see you next week.

Breaking Glass and Broken-in Shoes

I know I’ve already put up two posts for the week and maybe they were a lot to process. So I’ll keep this short and sweet.

Do you remember the breaking glass metaphor I told you about? The one where you can’t see through something blocking your way–the glass– because even though you should be able to see right through it, the light just might play tricks on you. But once that glass breaks, once it falls away from your view, you can never go back?

That’s a lot like our perspectives.

Personally, my poem and my blog post were no surprise to me. It’s just another part of who I am and my life and what makes me… Me. But some people didn’t know that.

And because of that, I think I forgot about the glass that might be shattered by what I had to say, simply by being honest. It’s all nothing new to me.

Even when it’s new for other people

It takes time to adjust to something; even in Orientation, we have to give grace to those who maybe don’t understand pronouns or sexuality or other concepts just because the glass hasn’t broken yet. Their perspective hasn’t been challenged enough to change it.

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We have to be allowed to not be see things sometimes right?

It’s like that glass ceiling, the one we keep pushing and pushing against. No matter how many cracks we put in it, it still never gives.

Sometimes, other people won’t either. Not everyone is going to understand where we’re coming from and maybe that’s because they haven’t walked a mile in your shoes, yet still tried to pretend that they understand the path you’ve worn in the process.

It’s on us to listen, to pay attention, to learn, and to see. It’s not on us to change other people.

I think that’s something only we can do for ourselves and sometimes I see that in who I’ve become here. I’m honest here, more honest at least, because maybe I’m tired of not doing so. If a parent asks me how I like it here, I won’t lie and tell them I love it. Up until maybe this very moment, I thought I should have gone to Howard.

Because maybe I would have been… Better?

At Howard, the glass would have been cracked in different places and sometimes, it wouldn’t have broken the way it has here. I wouldn’t have grown in the ways I have been forced to and I guess maybe I’m saying that circumstance doesn’t define what you can make out of it.

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Sometimes, maybe we need to recognize that where the glass still lies defines our perspectives, and offer a little grace when there’s remains some growing to do. Ignorance isn’t always bliss. But it can be a chance to step back, listen up, and learn something.

I hope you’ve been listening. Because I want to listen back.

Mind if I borrow your shoes for a little while?

An Aside–A Life Obliged

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So about that poem I just posted yesterday—if you haven’t read it, check it out here before reading this. I don’t usually do posts like this, but I feel an explanation and understanding is due. This is it.


Opening up about my mental health and how much I have struggled with it for a very long time, from obsessive thoughts and anxiety to unnecessary melancholy and persistent sadness… It’s one of those things that once I did it, there was no going back.

And I’ve spent so much of my college career simply figuring out where I’m at, what I believe in or how I feel about this life that I didn’t know what to say.

This poem was me saying everything.

I wrote it a few months ago and I’m not in the same place, but that’s not because things have gotten better or life has become great. It’s because I’ve grown and the way I handle myself has grown with me.

Thing is, it’s not just about me. Not anymore. This generation and those after me are growing up in the absolute in between—everything is very divided, we need to be individuals but also fit in, we value maturity but also don’t know when to act our age, we’re afraid to go to concerts or school or a restaurant or the DMV because who knows what might happen if someone gets too angry or takes something the wrong way. We are stuck in an atmosphere that is not healthy. Not even a little bit.

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In addition to that, we are growing up around so many standards for what we do with our lives or what we look like or the things we enjoy or the people we love and there really is no way to avoid it all. You can’t unsee the standards nor the fact that so many of us don’t fit into them.

We focus on the histories of white cisgendered men. That is not to say that they aren’t important, this country wouldn’t be what it is without them—good and bad. But it is to say that histories other than theirs are important too. I mean, with everything changing so quickly in our fast paced world, are you having trouble keeping all straight?

Notice that phrase, keeping things “straight” as if straight is correct and anything else is not.

Why do we do that?

Put people into boxes and tell them whether they’re right or wrong? I’ve dealt with it my whole life. I am a black female in CLA—in of itself, a college largely disrespected despite the fact that the basis of who we are as human beings is held upon the foundation of humanity and what CLA is—and maybe I don’t fit into a lot of the boxes that would make things “easier for me.” That would make me more “normal.”

I’m black and not just black, but a woman. In CLA. And throughout my entire life, I’ve have about two “crushes.” It doesn’t seem like that would be a big deal but in a society so focused on a women’s success as a pair rather than an individual, or at my age, the parameters of a society so focused sex and hook-up culture, all the while sex is something we also try not to talk about.

We are a contradiction.

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We tell other people to take care of themselves and don’t do it ourselves. We ask others how they’re doing and don’t take the time to listen to the answer.

We are not paying attention.

And I feel like in so many things about myself that I cannot change, I am incorrect. My existence is wrong. At a school like this where people don’t feel like blackface is wrong or don’t see why I would have a panic attack on my way to the car because I’m walking alone or don’t see the value or success in a major that focuses less on systems/engineering/stem and more about us

I will never be able to win if I set myself against the standards. But I’ve grown up doing so and in turn, sometimes maybe I don’t see my worth. Or maybe I don’t feel so good because maybe I’m not who other people want me to be. Not when people I admire and loved so much died without getting a chance to live a life that they lived “better” than I believe I ever have.

It’s guilt. It’s feeling wrong. It’s hurting but never saying so… Because so many people are worried about burdening others or being “too much” or imposing themselves on others when truly, maybe they should understand that the right people will never find fault in who you are. And it’s complicated. But the right people in your life don’t always need to fix things or change things, they simply sit with you in it when you need that.

There has to be space to allow such an need to be not only understood, but respected and followed.

My generation is growing up in the in between and we are not okay. Not at all. I see it, I live it, but I want to change it and I am doing what I can. I am using what I’ve been through or my beliefs or what I understand and letting this world mold me into someone who can make change. To be better than the girl I was yesterday.

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I’ve been sitting in this for years, all of it. And even though I can’t change it, sometimes you can’t. Sometimes you have to be okay with making it work and letting it become just one more reason to fight for something better.

That’s why it’s a life obliged. A life I owe to myself to make beautiful and painful and lovely and full. Of anything and everything. That’s A Life Obliged.

So with that, I would love to know how you feel about all of this. Now it’s your turn.