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.

Right Thing, Wrong Time?

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There’s something special at the end of this post, but you’ve got to get through the rest first. And I want to hear from you all on this topic, because I’m pretty stuck on this one. There are a lot of harsh truths about life that we learn as we grow up, but this one is a hard pill to swallow: Do you believe in right person/class/friend/chance, wrong time?

Because I’m not sure how I feel about it. Part of me wants to believe that if it’s the right___, you can always make it work. But then also, what if you shouldn’t have to.

What if there’s some growing that needs to happen before the right time can truly be right? This is where I get stuck, this definition of “right” and I would love an opinion on this concept; there’s both the carpe diem idea of “why not just go for it and figure it out later” and the realistic “you can’t fit a circle into a hole made for a square.”

See where I’m at? I don’t know if either one is universally correct.

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Part of this came up because of my classes this quarter. I’m doing a lot right now,  more than I have ever done at one time. But I fought my way into every single class I’m in right now and there’s no guarantee that I will ever get to take them if I don’t take them now. So do I let a god thing go with the hopes that I’ll get it back, or do I take the idea that it’s going to be a hard quarter and accept it? Bite the bullet.

I guess maybe I’m trying to figure out what bullets are worth the bite. I’m at the point in my life where I’m making a lot of decisions and I have to own them with everything that comes after once I make them. I’m still easing into that doing it on my own thing because with my classes, you can bet that my parents were my first call just to talk through the decision.

That’s why I bring this to you today, because I want to hear what you think. Genuinely, I do. So much of what we believe or who each of us are has to do with both the way we were raised and the things we have gone through on the way to today. Nature and nurture. It’s all of it.

So what about what you’ve been through makes you believe what you do?

Maybe you’d put qualifications on the statement. For me, I would say it is possible for right person, wrong time, because we are constantly growing. But as with everything, there’s a threshold that once you pass it, you never go back.

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Just like once you lose someone close to you and it really hits you, you can never not notice that grief or that loss or that pain in the world around you. Wherever you’re at, if something isn’t fitting right, it really isn’t your fault.

Maybe it’s simply circumstance. I’m not saying you have to believe in destiny or anything like that, but I am saying that instead of trying to figure out why, why don’t we focus more on the “what next?”

Where is there still room for you to grow in this situation? If it’s the wrong time but the right person or the right job offer or the right opportunity to take a chance, what can you do to be ready for it? Because let’s be honest, we are always growing. There will never be a time in our lives when we aren’t still learning from our mistakes and the actions of others.

Use it. Use all of it. Whether or not you believe in the right ___, wrong time, my attitude focuses on growth and what we can do to be more than what we are now. Don’t take it personally. Use it to improve your person.

Because you deserve good things. Even when they come at inconvenient times and maybe you’re just not ready. That’s okay.

Don’t let it stop you from growing a little bit more than you did yesterday.

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That being said, here’s where I follow through on this: there’s a poem I’ve written that I haven’t posted anywhere because it’s really personal and it crosses a boundary that I’ve never crossed on here. It is brutally honest. And hard. And true.

But since it’s National Poetry Month and our annual spoken word show is coming up soon here, I think I’m ready to share it with you all. Whether or not this is it, I’m making this the right time.

I hope to see you on Tuesday for a new Poetry Place and probably a side of me you’ve never really met before.

Have a beautiful weekend. Let me know what you think.

Intention vs Impact and Newton’s Third Law

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And just like that, it’s Friday again. Spring break or not, we’re always learning and today I want to talk about something that a lot of people might not pay attention to: Intention versus Impact.

You see, the things we say and do in our everyday lives have an impact on what our lives may look like tomorrow. But they also impact other people. If we say something offensive in a group chat, intending to be funny and not recognizing the inappropriateness of what we say, it can turn out to have the effect of something we didn’t intend.

It doesn’t matter that we didn’t intend it. Ignorance aside, it still makes the same impact.

So what does that mean in the big picture of things?

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Well, first of all, none of us are experts. In anything. Like I said, we’re each learning every day and there are simply going to be things that we do not understand. There’s nothing wrong with that, as long as we are open to learning. But what can we do beyond that?

We can pay attention. I’m not saying we should walk on eggshells every moment of our lives, trying not to offend people… Just like the political climate, that’s exhausting. No one is asking you to do that. But, I will ask you to pay attention.

Watch what you say or do, think before you act. You could assume this is common sense, but I think one thing social media has done for us is lessened the impact we see ourselves having once we say something. Just because it’s online or through an app or confined to one space, doesn’t mean it only has the potential to impact that area. Screenshots are a thing.

Once it’s out there, it’s out there. You can’t take it back. You also can’t stop it from spreading.

I say all this because, as I get older, the more responsibility I hold for my actions. Just like being over eighteen means that I can’t punch someone or start a fight without potentially going to jail, being a young adult means that I have to be conscious of my actions and my words. I could post something on Twitter and find it harmless while potential employers or even friends of a friend might not think so.

That’s the idea of intention versus impact—we must realize that every action has an equal and opposite reaction: Newton’s Third Law of Motion. It applies to life too.

And simply because we could all use a reminder sometimes, I wanted to share it with all of you. This blog is here to share my journey with you and this is part of it. Most of it actually, you’re with me through every step of the learning process.

If you’re still here, I guess that means you’re okay with it. So thanks for sticking around, and if anyone has any big experiences around the concept of Intention versus Impact, feel free to share in the comments below.

I would love to hear about it.

Happy Friday everyone.

Winter Quarter Wrap-Up–One For the Books… Or Not

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It’s not that the quarter was a bad one, that’s not it. When I say it wasn’t for the books, I mean it quite literally.

This quarter was for the time.

For the short stories,

For the Team,

For the experience.

This is probably the first quarter of my life I found myself getting lost in something other than my grades. Sure, they still matter to me. A lot. But not in the way they used to.

For me, grades used to be everything, my only sense of worth. I thought that if there was one thing I could control, not my inspiration or my talent or my classes, I could at least control myself. I had a say in how ready I could be for anything and everything.

I guess it’s about time I realized maybe I can’t control my grades either. Sometimes, you’re not ready for something. And nothing can really change that.

Maybe it’s not about the control at all.

I know, I know. About time I have come to understand how futile it may be to try to take care of everything, I know. But that’s not it.

I guess maybe I’m starting to care a little less about trying to control everything. I mean, just look at this quarter: I learned how to jump a car on my own. Three times. I managed bus schedules and academic navigating. I managed my own schedule which has never been so full. I have spoken in front of clubs and crowds of people dozens of times. And I have taken time to stop taking so much time to do things.

Sometimes, you’ve got to just do it. Think later. Act now.

Okay, not with everything. If all your friends were jumping off a bridge… You know the rest. But in some cases, slowing down isn’t the best option. It’s picking up extra shifts when you know it’ll be most productive for you. It’s not leaving a study space for 14 hours in order to get a study guide done (shoutout to my Sunday night/Monday morning and 36 pg study guide). It’s forcing yourself to sit in whatever space you’re in and understand that maybe you can’t control what happens next.

So don’t try. Just roll with it.

I’m at a point in my life where I can see the end of the next chapter—sooner or later, I’ll have no choice but to graduate and step out from the comfortable routine chaos of undergrad into whatever comes next. There are times when I can pinpoint exactly when something began to change, when my mind shifted or my perspective widened, and there are times when I knew there was no going back to who I was the day before given a choice I made.

But I made those choices. I took those steps forward. And I’m learning to let go of control sometimes.

I’m learning about what my life and my people here have to teach me. When it comes to college, I’d say it’s not just about the books anymore. Not even a little bit.

The Little Victories

So I don’t know if I told you all, but I got back into writing lately—fiction writing that is. And I know that’s bad because, ultimately, I should have a set schedule for writing on a regular basis by now, but I’m working on it. Even though I’m more of an ambitions kind of girl who takes on novels rather than short stories, I wrote a short story this quarter.

And I really like it.

Granted, I took a fiction writing class this quarter and a short story was one of our assignments, but you’d be surprised how I ended up with the story I turned in.

You see, the concept of a short story was kind of daunting to me. Because I love writing and stories and I have so SO many ideas, but I’m not great at getting to the point when I need to. My “short” stories never turn out being short.

There’s always too much ambition in the way for that.

Five days before this story was due, I had the first page of four different short stories written. The first page. Only. Picture this: It’s 11:00 pm and I’m scrolling between each one on a Friday night, trying to decide which one I want to keep going with. And every time I tried to add to any of them, all I could produce was cliche melodrama.

The hours passed and I watched the cursor mock me, blinking at me in a constant reminder of my lack of work from the open nothingness in front of me. 1:00 am. I had nothing and I was lying with my head on the table, staring at the computer sideways while I traced lazy circles on the dinner mat my head rested on.

I started typing: “What do you do when a creator’s hands want to create, but their insecure mind keeps telling them that they can’t?”

It made me think of my attempts at painting, the blank canvas a daunting demand to be filled.

1:30 am. At this point, I started messing around with the keys, opening a new document and typing out everything I was thinking. Painting. Not being able to, maybe there was something in the way. And my main character, I wanted her to paint, but she couldn’t.

Why couldn’t she?

For the next two hours, I was on a deep dive into my own thoughts, trying to figure out why this painter couldn’t find beauty in her painting anymore and somehow it just made sense to keep going, to try to get her to the painting she missed so badly it ached but somehow couldn’t touch a single brush without losing it.

I took a painter who couldn’t find the will to paint anymore and I wrote up a life for her in which, that made sense.

I was a writer who couldn’t write something beautiful to save my life. So I wrote about it.

Maybe I didn’t save my life, but I did feel like a writer for the first time in a whole because this story, it turned out quite beautifully.

It opens with Janice, standing among her paintings and staring dismally at her studio walls, aching with a need to create again. But there’s some reason she can’t bring herself to do it and as she walks around looking into each colorful canvas outlining her past, you fall into her life with her and begin to understand what exactly it is standing between her and the person she wishes to be.

Juxtaposed with her daughter, Anita, who is so full of life and energy and constantly pesters her mother to paint with her, there’s something about this story that brings to life the concept of writer’s block in a way I never imagined it. The questions is, does she end up giving in to the pull of creating, or does she walk away from it?

If you want to read the story to find out what happens with Janice and Anita, let me know. I’ll share it with you. Otherwise, I tell you all this because that night, I created something out of nothing. Simply by waiting and giving myself the space to do so.

If that doesn’t make this a successful quarter, I don’t know what does. I did one thing I’m really proud of in the last three months and well, I think that’s got to be enough for me right now.

Hopefully you can find at least one thing too. Happy Friday.