To Love and to Lose

If this blog post is a bit scattered, I’m sorry. It simply reflects where I’m at with this life and figuring things out with so much going on.

Life is… Complicated. Always. There is good, there is bad, and there’s a whole lot of in between. I think, for right now, that’s okay. Because I don’t think it’ll ever change and if these past few years have taught me anything, it’s that.

My cousin got married last weekend in Colorado with a beautiful ceremony, surrounded by all the people who love him and his wife. It was lovely, to spend time outside of my day to day life and be with family, fresh air and a bit of distance.

Coming back to my life, however, has been less straightforward. You see, this week is the Week of Welcome, that WOW thing I’ve been preparing for throughout the last year. Well, here it is!

Photo by Leonardo Yip on Unsplash

The Awareness Galleries, they turned out beautifully. All of the content, the tech, the designs, they all came together in a way I couldn’t have imagined. And while some schedules may have been off and people were stressed here and there, I think every single person who went through those galleries got something out of it. Something intangible.

A few students even came up after they walked through and told me how much of an impact it all really had. That was more than enough for me. That, and being able to see my new roommate to preface her group before their walkthrough too. It was a nice surprise and she seems like someone I will be lucky to know this year.

CCE has also been a bit of a wild-card this year. For WOW, I haven’t been in the middle of it the way I have been for the rest of the year because the other two Facilitators who are here for the Week have been responsible for CCE. And they have done wonderfully. It’s a beautiful thing to work really hard on something with other people you trust enough to be apart from the process when it’s time to make it happen while still being able to fully trust them to do it and to do it well.

Because now, I have grand WOWies. And I care so much about every single one of them. There is something about the way I live my life, I need to connect with people and be tethered to a lot of other lives in a positive way, otherwise I feel unfulfilled. With my Orientation leaders and my WOWies who are now leaders themselves, I get that impact and those connections coming back to me tenfold. I would do anything for them and that makes me feel grateful. Grateful that I have people like this to love, that they exist here, and that they have a chance to be positively impacted by this program. 

Photo by Chang Duong on Unsplash

Because it’s so much bigger than each of us and that means the world to me.

After all, there is only so much control we have over what happens in our lives. Things like getting involved with Orientation and doing my best to positively touch all these lives, I get to do that myself. Other things, not so much.

There’s nothing like being witness to deep loses and tragedy of so many young people over the years to remind me of all of that.

Over the past two weeks, my small hometown of Folsom has lost 4 alum all from the Class of 2017. And I do not know how to comprehend that. I don’t even know how long it will take me to do so.

In the process, I have caught up with and talked to countless old friends this week to check in or just to talk and sometimes I forget what it was like to grow up the way I did in Folsom. I had my hand in so many pots, from countless AP classes and arts to almost every sport and club I could be in, that the amount of people I love and hold connections to sneaks up on me sometimes. With so many connections, it can be hard to keep up. It can also leave me with a higher chance of losing people.

Folsom, it isn’t that small. But the way I know I love people and the way so many of us cared about one another or were teammates with so many others of us, it makes us all pretty tight-knit when it comes down to it. That’s just how things were. So these losses, they have ricochet between all of us and the lives we have lost, holding love stretching between Folsom and almost every corner of the rest of the world.

Photo by Luigi Colonna on Unsplash

It’s beautiful.

And it’s tragic.

Because death is inevitable. But the death of the young, it hits differently. It’s not something I think I will ever get used to or fail to be changed by, even in such a short period of time.

In the way I write, forgive, hope, support, love, live, and breathe, I see changes in myself that I think will change even more as I move forward from here. Each of us have been altered. I’m sure you’ve seen it just through these weekly posts in the past few years.

So I hope you know that I will take it as it comes, whatever happens next. And if you’re someone in my life, I probably appreciate you more than I can express. So thank you, for sticking around and listening. For being here.

As for Austin, Luca, Len (Lemon), and Josh, you are all so so loved. Just like Maddie, Cinnamon, Bryce, Ronin, and too many more of you always will be. I’m sorry I cannot give you more time than you had, though each of you lived so wonderfully in 20 and sometimes less years that it takes my breath away. Just know that your lives are missed and loved and will live on through the rest of us. Always.

This weekend will not be an easy one, but it is through the love that we hurt and we move forward when we can. No matter what it takes, what time it lasts, or what people we need to hold to get us there. This no longer belongs to just one of us anymore. They lived too large for that.

Photo by Gordon Hatusupy from Burst

And we loved them for it.

In good time, we keep moving even when the world never stops. Maybe that’s the hard part, that the world keeps turning while some people’s cannot for some time.

That’s okay.

Sometimes, it’s worth it to slow down for just a little bit and take it all in while we still can. If you’re reading this, don’t forget to breathe in the life you are living and remind the people you love that you love them still today. 

Here’s to the weekend. And to the four we have lost so quickly, rest easy my friends.

Farewell to Freshman Year

They say that time flies when you’re having fun, and this year… Well if nothing else, it has been an absolute whirlwind of classes, new people, far too many names, and of course, countless nights of fun to collide into what I now hold dear as the memories of my freshman year.

Just like that, it’s over.murray-campbell-29990 (1).jpg

These three quarters here were an entirely new experience, before I knew it independence came with a whole new name— college. Suddenly, we were expected to go to class every day (I only missed one), keep track of all the dates, pay attention to what books we need and what that fine print syllabus said about participation points, not to mention trying to stay healthy, keep grades up, and make new friends. All at the same time. It was like starting over, except we already had everything we needed to thrive. All that was left was to go out there and take a page from Nike’s book: Just do it.

So we did.

Every quarter brought new struggles and new experiences here, but I am blessed to say that my main group of friends stuck around since the beginning. It’s funny how some things work out— you meet someone one day and within a blur of new faces and names, they just seem to keep popping up until somehow, they’re all you’ve got. If you’re lucky, they’re all you need.

It’s safe to say, I got lucky.

Here at Cal Poly, that happened with a lot of things. Getting into this school in the first place was quite a chance to take, one that I can officially say I’m glad I did. After a year in linda-xu-216043.jpgSLO, I guess I’m kind of starting to like it here. To be honest, at first I couldn’t help but feel like I made a mistake— nothing could stop me from thinking that I didn’t belong here if I couldn’t even get in without asking them personally, this school was out of my league, this year was going to be a disaster… If I have learned anything this year, it’s that no matter what, we deserve to be in a place that can change your life for the better, despite what it might take to get there.

As far as I can see, my life is already changing.

I was worried about a lot of things coming in to this school year, but looking back at it, that’s how it was supposed to be. Like most first-years, I wasn’t sure I would make any friends, I could keep my grades or my health up, my roommates wouldn’t like me, and I wouldn’t fit in. In the end, I’m not sure I ever truly fit into the school, but I can say that I found some people to fit in with that feel like home to me. It just took a little time, and quite a bit of coincidence that my closest friend ended up in all my orientation/major groups too. As for the roommates thing, it was pretty weird to be thrown into living with two girls I had never met from an entirely different state, for the past 9 months. But I can tell you, those girls became two of my favorite people here, and it was kind of sad to watch them both pack up and leave this morning. If I have anything to say about it though, even if we don’t talk for a while, they’re at least coming to my wedding. Trust me, they promised.

As for the grades and the health thing… Well, let’s just say it’s an adjustment. As someone coming from a block-scheduled high school, I thought I was ahead of the game and I was about to show quarter system who was boss. I was wrong; but that’s okay. Because you would be surprised at how quickly adjusting happens, somehow you take things in stride, learn your limits, and absolutely start utilizing office hours. arkady-lifshits-117993.jpgThose times are a lifesaver. And for next-year’s class and beyond, just remember this: When it comes to getting extra help, with anything in college from grades/tutoring to an ear to talk to, all I can say is do what you’ve got to do. It’s your life, you’ve got to find a way to not just live it, but thrive in it. No matter what, this is your time.

This quarter, I took thriving to a whole new level— I got my grades up (as long as my finals went as well as I hope they did, fingers crossed), I got out there and socialized a bit more, and best of all, for the past 11 weeks I have gone to the gym Monday-Friday at 8 AM, only missing 5 days total. If you can’t tell, I’m pretty proud of myself. Because sometimes, you’ve just got to do it. Even if waking up that early was as rough as I thought it was going to be, I know that I owed it to myself to become my own priority.

Now, I’m here thinking, I guess this is what growing up feels like.

When I left home in September, I was not quite ready to start over in a new place with new classes and new people. Yet here we are looking back and I have come to realize, you are never ready. It’s like asking my parents if they were ready for an empty nest— of course they weren’t. But we adjust anyway. This is what we do; we take on new burdens, new challenges, and push the boundaries of our own existence until you truly feel like you’re getting somewhere. If you think you’re stuck, try another direction. Because college this year, it was something different.

oscar-dejean-14868And as for my career path, well that is definitely another direction that I didn’t quite see coming. I’ll keep you updated on that one.

All I can say is, I wasn’t ready for my freshman year. But it was ready for me. So I took it in stride and did the best that I could. As my mom always makes sure to remind me, that’s all anyone could ever really ask for.

And now… Now I am just ready to go home.


Here’s to the class of 2017

Last year, I wrote you a letter (If you haven’t read it and want to, it’s right here).

This year, you get an entire blog post dedicated to you. Really, it is a very big thing, you should feel special.

Because you are.

Today is the day, you’re luca-baggio-211858graduating. Just like that, four years of high school, 12 years of mandatory classes, and ultimately your childhood is about to be behind you. Once you cross that stage, there is absolutely no going back. You have made it.

For the past four years, you have made new friends, suffered through boring classes, taken the SAT’s as many times as it took, gone through the stress of college applications, and so many more things that led you to where you are now. In advisory, you spent four years with the same people and now, you may never see some of them after tonight until the high school reunions that seem so far away. People told you to make the most out of high school, that it would be “the best four years of your life…”

I think they just said that because those are the only consecutive 4 years any of us could really remember that well. Whether that’s true or not, here we are.

Take a look at what waits for you on the other side of graduation. Your future is uncertain, none of you really have any idea what the plan is for the rest of your life. Maybe you’re going to a university, 4 year, community, or military. Maybe you’re taking a gap year or following a dream. Maybe you’re going to trade school or joining the working work right out of high school— that’s the thing. There are so many options and so many different roads to take from here on out. In the end, it’s your choice which way you go and there is no one but you telling you where that yellow brick road is.

aaron-burden-261110Because, well, you’re not in high school anymore.

So forget the petty drama, the detentions, the bad grades, and the missed connections. Let go of the admin rules, the rebellion against the system, and the groups you were never a part of. Walk away from the long classes, the scheduled days, and the essence of irrelevance.

None of it matters.

From here on out, you’re growing up and everything is changing. High school was only the beginning. You’ll see what I mean when you’ve been out of high school for a year and have no idea how things look so different. They just do.

Four years ago you walked onto a new campus, back to the bottom of the food chain, ready to show the world of high school what you’ve got. Maybe you wanted to go out for sports, join a bunch of clubs, get the best grades ever, and sail your way into a good college or wherever you might go after that. Some of those years were rough— it’s only four years but its funny how long they can seem when you’re in it. And some of it was the time of your life, you found people who it all made sense with, and high school didn’t seem so bad. By year four, you’re a senior. Taking on the first day of school for the last time, ruling over all of the rallies, and making the most of the time you had left.

Everyone else looked up to you all.

Because they knew, soon enough, that would be them. And they needed to know what to do, how to be, and what they were headed towards. One day, you would graduate and leave them a legacy to fulfill.

Who knew that day would come so soon? 18721448_1216275755165856_1380549139_o

Leaving Vista last year, it was the end of an era. There were some people I would really miss and most of my class that I would probably not see for the next 10 years, at least. After going from seeing people every day to seeing them every few months, you’ll see what it really means to have certain people in your life due to proximity. And if you’re as lucky as I have been, you might also understand what it means when I say distance is not enough to keep some people apart. No matter what you do from here on out, remember that if you want people in your life or you’re striving for something big, it takes effort. A lot of it. But it is always worth it in the end.

So as you cross that stage and head off into your future, don’t forget where you have come from and the person you have become. If you don’t like who you are, you can change it. And if you do, surround yourself with people who will make you even better. Whatever you do today, make sure you thank your parents and anyone else who got you to that diploma in your hands. They’ve done a lot for you. Make sure they know how much it means to you.

railroad walkWelcome to the rest of your life, what was the best summer of my life, and young adulthood at it’s finest. This is only the beginning and I am so proud of all of you, both those of you who I knew well and those of you I didn’t. Because you made it, today is your day.

Make it count. And happy graduation day.


P.S. I was right when I told you about Disney Grad wasn’t I? Best. Night. Ever.

The Beginning of the End

Happy Cinco de Mayo, or what is actually the celebration of a battle victory from back in 1862. We are celebrating a lot today, from the beginning of May to the end of the school year. For a lot of semester colleges, this is the end of the road for their year. If you’re a senior, this is the end of an incredible journey— welcome to the beginning of the end.

It’s been a long time coming, but before you know it, summer will be upon us. Summer means heat, sun, and a whole lot more freedom;loreta-pavoliene-2175.jpg at least I’d like to think so. Whether you’ve been working, going to classes, or just working your way to something better, this is it. This is the beginning of the end for all of us.

For the Class of 2017, high school and college alike, take a look around— you made it. This month will fly by even faster that it seems like the rest of your life already has. All the hard work and the late nights, just a few more weeks for a lot of you, and it’ll all pay off in your hands. For high school seniors, this is the last time you’ll walk around campus for a while and really know most of the faces you see. The last time all your teachers will know your name and the entire school will feel like your own stomping ground. The last time the title of home belongs to a single place. Don’t forget to appreciate it all. And for you college, graduating seniors, congratulations. I looked up to a lot of you as a high school freshman and somehow, four years later, you made it to where you wanted to go. It’s time to graduate and assimilate into this world to be the person you set out to be. Nothing says carpe diem like graduation.

So to all of you, seize the day and never stop.

As a student on the quarter system, I’ve still got another 6 weeks of classes before I can be released into the full summer spirit. For a lot of you however, this is it. This is the end of our freshman year. They all told us it would go by quickly, but I know I didn’t really get that until now. Because today, today friends are flying home or taking their last day of classes, people are saying goodbye to friends for the next few months, and everything is wrapping up with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. Just like that, freshman year is flying by and I barely saw it go. To all my friends finishing up classes, I’m so proud that you msarah-crutchfield-549.jpgade it through the year with flying colors. Welcome to summer. And to my fellow quarter system people, I promise we’re almost there.

I used to think that summer was only important for the kids in school, we’re the ones who got 2 and a half months off with no real responsibilities (before this whole adulting thing). Now though, I’m starting to understand how much the adults, and more specifically our parents, needed it too. Because the longer I think about it, the longer this road of life seems to get. We start off in elementary school, the basic knowledge we need for middle school. Then middle school, honestly, I really don’t know what we did there, and high school where we did everything we could to get into college. I used to think that’s all we needed to do. But then there’s college to get a good job, and a good job to raise a family or just build a good life for ourselves, and the work never really stops from there.

For our parents, the work never really ended did it? Those summers were for them, the vacation they might have saved up over the years and that week or two off they finally get… Those were all for the adults. Considering my parents may be vacationing without us this year, I just wanted to take a moment to say thank you. Because my parents have done a lot for me, even being 6 hours away while Nick and I are here at Cal Poly, they still send care packages or come all the way here for our birthday. annie-spratt-135307At 19,I have to say, adulting isn’t all that great. But all the adults I know… they work their asses off and a vacation during the summer is well deserved. So for all of you who will finally get that break, make the most of it. And thank you.

May means a whole lot of things, like today I had a calculus midterm as a friendly reminder that we’re in the middle of a midterm season that never really ends. But it also means a break, a little more time, hopefully more sun, and a whole lot more relaxing. So for those of you who are finishing up your semester, congratulations on the end of another year. And to the Class of 2017, this is it— I hope you’re ready.

How to define Senior Year

A year ago, I was a senior in high school preparing to stare down the mouth of my final month of high school.

Talk about mixed feelings. baim-hanif-89800

I was excited, I mean graduation was a BIG deal. The day we had been looking forward to since forever was finally catching up with us… My class was getting ready to walk across a stage together before we split across the world to go pursue our futures. I was ready for it, but at the same time I wasn’t.

Everything was about to change.

I remember riding on the bus home from our final league track meet and I was just sitting there trying to define every little feeling that moment held. From the races and the relays to the friends and the unforgettable moments, it was like watching adolescence slip through my fingers.

And in that moment, I could only come up with one way to describe my senior year. So to the Class of 2017, this one’s for you. One month to go, make it count.


How do you define bittersweet?sebastian-pichler-20071.jpg

Maybe it’s saying goodbye to someone with a kiss, knowing that you are together this way for the very last time. Or how about being ready to move on to new wonderful things, while looking at all the priceless memories and people you are leaving behind. And maybe it’s looking at the people you are so proud of take on their new future, the ones who have been meant to follow in your footsteps since the beginning, and realizing that they no longer need you anymore.

That’s when you know it’s time to go, to get that chin up, and move on. Because time has run out, the days have run thin, as there is no longer anything left for you to do here. And it’s hard, it’s hard to shut thajoshua-clay-27368.jpgt door without quite knowing what’s behind the one you’re about to open. The possibility behind it all, it can just be so indescribable. It’s heartbreaking, it’s exciting, it’s confusing, it’s inspiring, it’s breathtaking, it’s unreal…

It’s bittersweet.

Let’s talk about College

It’s that time of year again, if you’re part of the Class of 2017, then you know exactly what time I’m talking about— it’s time to make some decisions.mohamed-nohassi-191165

Even though I have two and a half weeks left in my second quarter of freshman year, I remember the stress of college decisions and acceptances like it was yesterday. There were so many questions running around in my head: what am I going to major in, how far is too far, what if I don’t get in, why did I get rejected, how do I decide… As much fun as senior year holds, these decisions have a way of consuming everything you do for the few weeks you find yourself unsure about where to go or what to do. In hindsight, it was all a bit simpler than I could have possibly seen, I mean I’m in college aren’t I? The most important thing you need to know:

You will end up right where you need to be.

I know it sounds cliche, but the point is, there are always more options. This is a big month for most of you and there are a lot of college acceptance decisions coming out within the next few weeks. While some of you know where you’re headed, some of you don’t.

Just know this— that’s okay.

Last year, two hours before I needed to submit my decision of intent for one college, I was sitting in my room with a list of four colleges, their pros and cons, and a coin in my hand. I took one look at Nick and I asked him, “Heads or tails?” After a lot of back and forth, I finally settled on Howard University in DC and Nick chose Purdue University in Indiana (currently waitlisted by Cal Poly).

Did you notice that neither of us ended up at either of those schools?

If there was one thing I wish I knew, it would be that there are so many ways for your circumstances to turn out the way they need edmundas-stundzius-183589to be. I thought I would be at Howard University, with about two months left of school to go. Instead I am here at Cal Poly with Nick, on the other side of the country from where I was going to be, and now we have three months left to go with finals in two weeks. That’s the crazy fact about college and our futures, it’s always going to change.

I think one of the main concepts I was worried about when getting into college was not feeling like I chose the right school, or finding myself stuck in a position I couldn’t get out of. Committing to a school felt like I was etching my future into stone— once I made that decision, I couldn’t change it.

I was wrong.

Because right now, I am changing my major. A month before I was supposed to start at Howard, I changed my college. Don’t underestimate the power of an appeal, or a waitlist. If you really want something, do everything in your power to make it happen. The decisions you make now have the potential to impact a lot, but no matter what you choose, believe in the choice you make. Last year, I wish I remembered to congratulate myself for choosing to pursue more education in a future I wanted. As long as you’re going after success and happiness in the future (whether you’re going to college or pursuing another path), you cannot ask any more of yourself. So be proud of it.

A key point about choosing your college, pay attention to the people you’re about to surround yourself with for the next four years. I’ll be completely honest, I was not prepared for the lack of diversity at this school. Would that have changed my decision? I have no idea, but I’ve made a handful of wonderful friends that have made all the difference in my freshman year so far. When you toured colleges, maybe you paid attention to the campus hills and the dining options, but don’t forget about the people. They can make a pretty big difference.

Are you going to want to wake up on that campus every day to go to class?

Can you handle being surrounded by the demographics and the attitudes of the people around you?

Just make sure that you’re asking the hard questions, considering anything and everything you can about both opportunity and what it’ll be like to live there. This is yoerik-heddema-1380ur future, a bright one, and this decision is completely yours to make.

No matter what you end up doing, just remember that you deserve to be proud of yourself. You’ve made it through 4 years of high school, you’re graduating in two months… This is a time to get excited about your future. You’ve done the work, you are everything you need to be.

Choose your school wisely, but take a moment to look around at where you want to be for the next four years. Here’s to an amazing journey coming to an end just for another one to start, why not make it count?

I wish each and every one of you the best of luck in all the decisions you’re about to make, you’ve got 2 months left of high school. Trust me, it all goes by pretty quickly.

More than a label, More than a month

I could have sworn that this quarter just began a week ago, let alone Black History Month, yet somehow there are three weeks left before these classes are over. This is my final post on the black history month subject.

But that’s the thing, it isn’t simply a subject to me— just because tycho-atsma-181053.jpgwe spend a month celebrating black heritage doesn’t mean that I am not reminded of who we all are every single day, 365 days a year. I walk around this campus not only underrepresented by the color of my skin, but overwhelmed by this life I hold.

Every day, I am reminded that no matter our race and the history behind our heritage, we are all still human.

Yesterday, I spent my typical Thursday night working on chemistry and studying with Nick in the common room of my dorm. Even after everyone left, we hung out for a while just talking and somehow, we ended up on the broad spectrum of life.

Why do we live our lives the way we do?

Is it always going to be simply one step to the next?

After 12 years of education to get into college, do we work through college to get a job, before working that job to pay the bills and finally, raising our own children until it’s their turn?

Are we going to look back one day and realize that we forgot to live?

anders-jilden-87205.jpgEven more than representing Cal Poly, more than what people see in the color of our skin, it seems that what we get out of this life comes down to how we want to live it— how we live it, and for what. We all have a certain amount of control on how things turn out for us, just take a look at my blog post last week… I could be an English major, Kinesiology major, or something else entirely. The future is a story yet to be written.

So why does it feel like some of us already know what’s coming?

I’ve been told that the problem with our generation, universally across each of us, is that we are always rushing from one thing to the next that we never take a moment to breathe it all in. This is life isn’t it? I have to admit, amidst the midterms and the planning, it takes me a minute to remember that we only have so much time in the day to appreciate the fact that I saw the sun rise in the morning. This is a beautiful life; one the we just might let slip through our fingers if we’re not careful.

Have you ever looked at a friend or a family member for a quick second and found yourself caught in a moment of appreciation for who they are to you? I know I’ve found myself doing that a lot more lately, like seeing my parents this last weekend or even just hanging out with Nick last night. Even though this campus is primarily white, somehow my closest group of friends is one of the most diverse groups of people I have ever consistently been around. Some days I catch myself looking from one of them to the next and wondering, what does it mean to be who you are?

wil-stewart-7771Though I may be so much more than my skin tone, it is still something that will define me and every single one of us for the rest of our lives. The month of February represents a large part of who I am, but that does not mean that this is the only time of year our heritage is recognized. It’s like a birthday or even Valentine’s Day— just because there is separate day of the year to celebrate something does not mean that you show any less love to those people for the other 364 days of the year.

A person’s pigmentation is more than a label or a stereotype.

Heritage celebration is so much more than a single month of remembering the Martin Luther King’s or the Harriet Tubman’s of our past.

Who we are and the lives that we strive for come down to what is in our hearts and what we do with the intelligence we hold to make this world into something better.

Life is about improvement, accomplishment… The little victories I know we can all achieve.  

Take a look in the mirror for me, look past the colors you see or the texture of your hair. Tell me one thing: did you find a way to live this life today? I don’t mean going to work, or to class, or simply getting out of bed this morning… Did you live this life today?anja-137284

Because with everything else that you see in yourself or what others see in my generation, I would like to believe in something more. I would like to believe that things can change, the pace of this world can be something worth living in every day, and that color of my skin can be something more than a visual representation of everything I know I can be.

P.S. To the Class of 2017, I’ve got another post for you next week so be on the lookout for a little advice on college, graduation, and everything in between!