What Happens in Junior Year…

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You know, every year brings something a little different than the last and I couldn’t quite tell you what I was expecting out of junior year… But it wasn’t this.

First year was all about getting the hang of college and then second year, well, that was for realizing that you never can get the hang of college. So then what about year three?

Junior year has been all about understanding the learning doesn’t quite come from the classroom. That, and realizing the learning isn’t worth anything without people who matter learning alongside you.

I think I’ve gained more people in my life this year than I’ve genuinely been friends with in my entire life. Sure, in high school we knew each other’s names and said hi in the passing periods. But this year, this year is something completely beyond that.

I walked out of the first two days of the week with 16 WOWies and a Co. Every single one of them came into this year with me and I am unbelievably proud of each of them for making it through to the end of this year with me. Between birthdays, reunions, their first finals, scholarship navigation, discovering SLO… Those WOWies and my adings, whom I care about beyond belief. All of these people, they mean the world to me.

So does the entirety of CCE—the Cross Cultural Experience became my family. I’ve never found so much talent, pride, energy, love, culture, and life hidden in a group of people. That’s over 300 students who were knitted into a community that needed them just as much as they needed it.

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And that’s before I was hired as an Orientation Facilitator in Orientation Team. A CCE Orientation Facilitator. Let me tell you, it’s one thing to be a CCE WOW Leader, it’s a whole new ballgame to be a Facilitator. Because that’s where I found 60 more people suddenly in my life and in less than four months, I learned to lead and learn and hope and dance and keep moving right alongside them. In them, I found my Team.

After all, that’s what we were “hired” to do. We were hired to evaluate, teach, mentor and lead all 16 or so of our LITs (leaders in training). All while being students and employees and volunteers who could manage it all. I have never met so many wholesome, incredible, kind, reliable people that I didn’t know existed on this campus until I became one of them. I couldn’t have done it without my CCE team. Those five Facilitators, our Lead and the board members and then the Awareness Gallery; I’ve never held such a passion, admiration, appreciation, and love for such people. Because we did THAT.

We designed the Gallery and I realized just how deep my passion for storytelling runs in my bones.

We built up a community over twice the size of what it was last year because we were right: underrepresented minority students need a space to exist as they are, to find support just to get through the one thing that we believe we are supposed to be do to succeed. Even when not everyone can get there.

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When you provide a space, it’s going to be used. And it will expand right in front of your eyes.

Just like my life did this year. Because there’s one more group that changed everything, my buddy group. Beyonce.

Bey was only a representation of who our group became, but in the space of six months, I have somehow met and grown to love 11 other people more than I have in the entirety of college. And they’ve given me so many reasons to. I want these people to be a part of the rest of my life, if they’ll have me.

Them, and my roommates. Sure, Nick is stuck with me, but I do have another.

And not to jinx it or anything, but I’ve grown immensely with her. She’s the one I look forward to coming home to lay around the living room with every night, reminiscing and spilling tea and supporting… From Slo days to this day, she is one more person I want in the rest of my life. If she’ll have me.

And you, if you’ll have me too.

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Because the only other person who has seen it all happen is you. Every step of the way. It’s been a lot, right? If I get to add you to the home friends who are slowly becoming life friends, and the college friends here who I hope don’t think I’m letting them go just because one of us graduates, I think I’ve got a whole lot of people in this life that make this something worth sharing. With all of you. For what happens in junior year doesn’t have to stay there, I hope it doesn’t.

If anything, junior year taught me that college isn’t about college at all. It’s about life, the ones we’ve lost and the ones moving forward beside us. It’s about experiencing it, not always knowing what it means or what comes next.

That’s what life is. And this year, I sure as hell lived it.

So that’s a wrap for my junior year of college. Here’s to whatever comes next.

Miss Me?

Photo by Aaron Burden

Did you all miss me last week?

Well here’s the thing, I missed me too. I’ve been moving constantly and doing so many different things at full speed that I can’t believe there are only 24 hours in a day. Between evaluating the 23 student leaders I oversee and chairing practicals for them to analyzing literature in the classroom and classic customer service work at the store, life has been busy.

I started this blog three years ago and since then, last week was the single time I have ever not written a post on Friday. The only time. Ever.

There’s a reason for that.

Have you noticed my posts have been getting later and later to the point where if I posted thirty minutes later it would technically be Saturday? Well if you didn’t, trust me when I say that I noticed. And I apologize. At a certain point it got a little hard to keep up. For someone who doesn’t have class on Fridays, it’s impressive what my calendar always ends up looking like.

Photo by Kristopher Roller

But you know sometimes, a girl just runs out of steam. It’s the end of week 10, prep week for finals, in what has simultaneously been an incredibly long and unbearably quick year. Honestly, I have no idea how we got here already but part of my mind and the whole of my body sure as hell seem to know something I don’t. Because all I hear, with every slap of my rubber soles on slick pavement and quick zip of my backpack before we move on to the next thing, is that I am tired.

So I took a break. A single post, one week without me, did you notice? I did.

Little do you know, by not posting on Friday, I got to go meet two of my best friends from home and my brother downtown for all if their bar crawls since all of our birthdays are close together. These are two of my favorite people I haven’t seen in SO long and I missed them; I missed what it was like to have part of our squad back together again.

So we danced, we bar crawled, and danced some more, a bartender smiled at me as if I was the sweetest thing when I asked for a glass of water because I was genuinely thirsty (sorry, don’t drink), and I let the clock hit midnight as we joined in on the nightlife for a while. I didn’t even know we had nightlife here.

I worked the ache out of my bones and the rust off my body by letting go of thinking for a while and instead, I put all my worries on hold. I decided to just let the memories happen while I happened with it and enjoyed the company of the people I love.

I’m lucky to have them in my life, but sometimes I forget that. By making the choice to go out with them the one night they were in town, I got to spend their birthday celebration with my best friends and also see them for the last time as just another boy and girl in love. Maybe to me, with us, it’ll always be senior year. Causing almost as much trouble on the track as we did around a bonfire. Because less than 24 hours later, they were engaged. And suddenly, we’re growing up.

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Time really does fly by, if you blink, you just might miss it. But there’s something about loving people as individuals and understanding how wonderful it is to watch them love each other, to choose to spend the rest of their lives together. Call it idealistic, but I’m happy for them.

Especially because I know exactly what I wouldn’t have known had I not gone out on Friday. I wouldn’t have gotten to my step goal for the day, I wouldn’t have made a bartender smile at me for a simple question he probably doesn’t get a lot, and I wouldn’t have remembered the genuine appreciation I hold for some people in my life.

All that, and well, I probably wouldn’t be writing this post early today. Because in the process of missing that one blog last week, of making the conscious decision to tell myself it was okay to go, I also managed to find something I had been missing for a little while.

Myself.

Sure, going out doesn’t mean I’m refreshed and ready to go. We’re heading into finals week after all. But it gave me a chance to let go of the bar I hold so high for myself and remember that I’m 21, that not everything holds the weight I believe it to. My shoulders can’t always bear that burden. I needed to put it down for a few hours.

So I’m sorry if you missed me last week; thing is, I missed me too. I miss feeling the life around me and getting lost in things without a plan. I miss breaking routines and dancing shamelessly even if everyone is watching. I miss that good feeling you get when you’re with the people you love and you just know that you are fully and 100% present in the moment with them.

I needed that back, even just for a night. Maybe it’s called self care, I don’t really know exactly what that looks like for me. But I’m willing to find out, if you’ll give me grace for a change in style and some honesty while I do so. After all, maybe just a few of you missed me last week.

Trust me, I missed me too. I miss me. Just know that I’m trying to figure out how to find a new normal, so maybe I don’t have to anymore.

Happy Friday to every one of you. And thanks for sticking with me.

Stuck in a Learning Curve

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I’ve put off writing this blog today because it’s something that I don’t like thinking about. But I’ve realized a concept about my job and our lives that I didn’t quite see coming at this age.

There comes a point where you cannot protect the people you love from things, no matter how hard you try. And I never truly realized that until I watched it happen right in front of my eyes while feeling completely helpless to reality.

The more I’ve gotten involved in college, the more people I find myself mentoring and caring for. When it comes to Orientation and caring about people in general, it’s all a part of the job. Don’t get me wrong, I have met so many incredible people that are absolutely worth knowing and loving as they are. I would never take that back.

But the thing about being an underrepresented minority student on Cal Poly’s campus is that you’re bound to get hurt a few times. Or a more than a few. And no one can change that because it’s the status quo of the system we’re in.

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So what are we supposed to do when we cannot protect the ones we love?

I guess we do the only thing left: we support them.

As much as I would like to go for the proactive approach rather than the reactive one, there are times when we don’t have a choice. And of course, a lot of times the people we care about are strong and can handle themselves; that doesn’t mean we ignore our own worry in the process.

Supporting them in the way they need through the process and whatever comes next is the part that we can control.

So this week, that’s what I did.

Last weekend, we all witnessed an event that was hosted by one of our school’s organizations. Unfortunately, though traditionally it isn’t as bad as our experience was, there were several instances of cultural appropriation, ableist language, issues with upholding the gender binary, and a blatant lack of consideration for certain identities. Every one of my CCE Leaders in Training (LITs), those that I Facilitate, were very upset and offended by it.

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And, I had to watch one of my LIT’s walk up to the front of the event to address the issue because the comments were not okay and he needed to stand up for it. It was like watching something catch on fire knowing that the only thing I had in my hands was oil–I can’t say I’ve ever felt more physically heartbroken and helpless than I did in that moment.

Not a single day has gone by this week that I haven’t checked in on every one of my LITs; not because I needed to, but because I don’t want them to feel like this school doesn’t have a space for them. That’s why we created CCE, the whole point of our community. With the blackface incidents last year and the clear discrimination of Latinx people that occurred with it, we had no one to fall back on but ourselves. It felt unsafe to walk around campus, even in the daylight.

I don’t want my LITs feeling that same way, but as of now, they kind of do. Because they feel unsupported by the program that they put a hell of a lot of volunteer time into. They deserve to have a safe space, to not need protection at all.

Because when they did need it, I couldn’t be that for them. All I could do was react later; help them keep going during it, work through it, and understand it once it happened. I only really supported them after and it broke my heart to have to. It still does.

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And I wish there was more we could do sometimes. But with the way things are at this school and in this society, people are bound to break. It’s the second law of thermodynamics after all (from your friendly ex-chem major): Entropy of an open system will always move from order to disorder. This school is no different.

One day, I wouldn’t mind finding some equity, a space where we don’t deal with the weight of disorder only on the shoulders of certain communities. For now, I will have to settle into support.

Here’s to a very late Friday post. Thanks for listening, see you next week.

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.

How to Build a Resume–Or a Life

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In the past week and a half, I’ve found myself re-working my resume and cover letters for what seems like the millionth time throughout college. Every time I go through it, I find little things here and there that have changed since the last time I did; this time I’m looking a little farther than I used to.

Now I’m a junior, no longer an underclassman. I am also officially an English major with my own concentration and minor/certificate. I am also about 6 classes away from graduating if I wanted to.

Each time I go back through it, I am reminded of where I’ve come from. I am also reminded that I truly have no idea who Karina Williams will be in the next two years. After all, if I guessed my own progress two years ago as of now, I would have been completely wrong.

Two years ago, all I really had to go off of was what we were told in high school—join anything and everything in high school that would make you stand out in college and go from there.

They told us how to get into college, they never told us how to pick one, let alone who to be once we got in there. And I can definitely say I had no idea.

Coming in, I kept my head down and did my work, joining a few clubs but just trying to keep my head above water. The idea was to survive, thriving would come later.

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But you know, surviving doesn’t get you anything to put on your resume. And it definitely doesn’t give you the kind of experience that’ll make things any fun. All that does is put pressure on what you’re already trying to do—survive.

The way I see my old resume, that was me trying to figure out who I wanted to be in the middle of figuring out who I was allowed to be without slipping on what I was supposed to be doing. Get the grades, hold a job, graduate and stand out enough to get a job.

What do we do after we get a job? Keep working every day and never find a new one, just stay on the same timeline for the rest of our lives? Or do we take another road sometimes, make a left or a right and change careers somewhere along the way? Maybe we have kids way sooner than we were planning (I‘m only joking mom and dad), or maybe we never quite take the time to settle down because that just isn’t who we turn out to be.

Our resume can’t tell us what that is supposed to look like and they definitely don’t tell us who we’re going to be in two years. The major may change, the amount of words you realize is appropriate for a cover letter and the absence of a high school GPA that really doesn’t matter anymore.

Did it ever?

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I can’t tell you who I’ll be by the time I turn 23, nor the city I’ll live in or the people who will know my name.

But I can tell you that I’m kind of excited to see where we go together. Whatever happens this summer, I think it’ll have a lot to say about what 23 is going to look like on me. All of this matters, everything affects everything.

Even what we do to fill our resumes and lives and hearts up in the process.

So we may as well make it look good. I can promise at least I’ll try.

To Be or Not To Be

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I don’t know if you all know this, but the original Hamlet “to be or not to be” quote is about suicide, and today I’m changing that association. This blog post is about living. You’ll see.

Well it’s a Friday night, the end of a four-day week, and what I hope has been a good day for you. This week has been a bit hectic in my life, classic quarter system week 7 with more midterms, projects, story reviews etc. The list goes on.

Maybe it’s because week 7 of my winter quarter is over and I’m realizing that I will only ever be able to say that one more time in my college career, but I’ve been thinking a lot about my path lately… All of our paths.

Not a single one of them has been linear. Let me explain why this matters so much.

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Something about American culture, especially in my generation and below, makes us feel the need to compare ourselves and where we’re at with one another. You were either an early bird or a late bird, GATE or not GATE in elementary school. Then middle school and high school: you were in accelerated math/english or not, you were an AP student or not. We have grown up comparing ourselves to one another.

Even when it’s not really fair.

But now, when you get to age 20 or 21, most of our lives can’t be compared that easily. In college, we’re all in different majors and outside of college, everyone is doing something different.

Some people are married with kids, others are single and travelling the world—the rest of us are somewhere in between.

And somewhere between point A and… wherever we are now, someone told us that we’re supposed to be doing what all the other people are doing. But think about that. When we’re all doing something different, that makes “success” impossible. I guess what I’m saying is, with that attitude, we’ve been raised to fail.

Don’t you see that?

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The way I’ve been living my college years so far, at least the first two, I did things because I thought that’s what I was supposed to do. From clubs to orientation, I joined things and became a part of my campus because I figured it was what I should do. If all my friends found themselves liking college by doing that, I thought it would make me happier here.

Long story short, it didn’t.

I felt out of touch with this campus, my schoolwork, and so much else that makes me who I am. After two years of doing things that I thought was good or right or better, I started listening to myself and trusting my gut.

But even more so, I began asking for help if I really wasn’t sure.

Then things started changing.

My relationships began to feel intentional, my goals started to feel more like mine, and my place on this campus started to feel a little more comfortable.

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Because I stopped looking at where everyone else was and started to think about where I wanted to be. That’s it. The only person I ever need to be is a little bit better than the girl I was yesterday. Sometimes, there will be steps back and other times there will be four steps forward.

No matter what, this week I’ve learned to let myself just exist as I am and stop comparing so much. Maybe now I can figure out what my own success might actually look like.

Here’s to the weekend, I hope you are all doing alright. Happy Friday.

Today is Not the Day

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It’s been a whirlwind week here, beginning with jumping my car at 10:30 on a Sunday night and ending with the mayhem of midterms and Valentine’s Day festivities. It was one of those weeks where I got about 3 hours of sleep one day and almost 11 on another.

Sounds kinda like college.

If you noticed, there was no Poetry Place on Tuesday, hence the midterms Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday took priority. But I did want to give you at least a little something.

So that’s part of today’s post. Because after all, it is Black History Month, something that people are also beginning to realize is not only ‘his’tory but ‘her’story too. The more I think about what has had to happen in the past for me to be where I am today, the more I also think about what I do and care about that will then lead me into a future I hope to have.

After all, my current reality will become a part of my own history before I know it. The least I can do is make the most of it.

You see, everything I’ve thrown myself into on Cal Poly’s campus is a huge part of what is changing my future. The things I’m passionate about and the people I hold onto in my life, all of that is changed by what I’m doing here. That’s why I write, why I follow the things I do or pay attention to the people that I want.

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Weeks like this one put it all in perspective. Because, sure, I’m working hard to get a degree to then find a career so I can afford a stable life. But it’s bigger than that.

Beyond the degree and the classes I have the people and the passions and the aspirations that are molded out of the clay I walked onto this campus with.

While I fight to figure out what I want and the directions I want to go in, I’m also beginning to realize that I need to pick my battles somewhere in between.

Some days are better fit for buckling down and grinding out a few hours of hard studying. Others are the ones to maybe spend a few hours watching too much tv or wasting too much time with friends.

I’m starting to realize that college is about learning to pick my battles.

Because within that, some days are the ones to allow myself the grace to take a step back from everything that will take away pieces of me that I need for my own good. And others, well… You get the point. Sometimes I can afford to give a little. Other times, I need to learn when not to.

The Poetry Place of this post, it’s about learning the difference in what that means. Learning the balance.

It’s a part of my life after all, every one of our lives. It’s about deciding which day is which. Maybe if you’ve figured it out, you can pass along some tips in the comments. In the meantime, here’s Today is Not the Day.


Today is not the day

to feel like I can conquer the world,

to hold my head a little too high,

or feel like this will be alright.

Today is just a day

to exist, to keep breathing,

to understand it’s all I can do,

to remember that I’m not okay

and that’s okay.

Because today is just a day,

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time will move forward,

and it will pass.

This day will become

a part of the past

just like they always do.


Happy Friday everyone. I hope you had a wonderful Valentines and remembered all the love that should come from you too. See you next week.

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