The Truth About Learning

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There’s something about this week that has made me really think a lot about who I have grown to become in these past few years. Maybe it’s the newer people I’m finding in my life, maybe it’s the amount of things I’ve thrown myself into, and maybe it’s just… Me. This is how we grow.

Wednesday marked 16 month since Maddie died. 16 months and I still can’t believe it. I miss her every day. But I look at the person I was when she was here and who I am now that she’s gone and they are two completely different people all together.

I mean, a lot can happen in a 16 months.

Lately, I’ve been learning how to be honest. I’ve been struggling with a few big things in my life for years on top of years now, but I am only just forcing myself to face it all or find people who truly will support me in each of them; life is too short not to feel like you’re actually living it.

There is no point spending time on people who don’t make us better in the process.

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This extends to the things we put ourselves into. Even though I went into my first year telling myself that I would never be a WOW Leader or volunteer for it, somehow I’ve found just a few people through orientation that truly made me realize what a difference we can make on our campus. Sure, so I haven’t loved my time here at Cal Poly. But what I do love is the power and the capability I have to make it so other marginalized and minority students might be able to.

After all, I still have another year to enjoy it myself.

But the more things I get involved in, from Her Campus to CCE, the less time I have to allocate into taking care of myself. Admittedly, this is very important of course, but so are all the little things I am involved in.

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I work because I am a lead and have a responsibility to learn more skills from it. Plus, money. I write because we deserve to have our voices heard by people willing to listen to us. This blog is irreplaceable to me.

And I volunteer, so so much of my time and effort, whether it’s to orientation, people, or other things simply because every person I am doing it for or listening to or spending time with or working towards making something better for is incredibly important to me.

I do it because it means something, even when it’s difficult.

I’m just having a hard time balancing it all along the way.

There will never be another time in my life that looks like college. From the people to the classes, I’m probably never going to learn so many different things in such a short period of time ever again.

I won’t have multiple opportunities a year to have my voice heard and put my work out there. I won’t be surrounded by some of my favorite people in mandatory weekly meetings every Sunday. And I won’t live just a floor away from my womb-mate to roommate of a twin brother.

Just like I miss a few people because I never saw their goodbyes coming, I don’t want to miss out on college opportunities and my own life because I didn’t apply myself. Because I wasn’t honest about it.

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So I’m working on it, all of it, for you and for me. It’s going into my writing, my drawing, my hoping, and my loving. Every bit of that impacts you and this blog. And I’m excited to see what might happen.

I hope you’ll stick around to find out.

A Lost Life Isn’t Lost Love— A Dedication

34124953_1563548653771896_7372034991028436992_n.jpgHave you ever stopped to consider the amount of people we meet on a daily basis and how those numbers add up to this moment? Classes, sports, work, colleagues, coffee shops, friends of friends… Take a moment to stop and think about that.

Thought about it?

I graduated high school two years ago and the world got a little bigger once I left home. Before coming to Cal Poly, I had never considered what might happen once I got here– I was so focused on getting in that I didn’t think about what happens next. But I integrated myself into the school, found friends in my orientation group and classes. I discovered little pieces of home in this place last year, and in one quarter, I probably met as many people as my high school graduating class.

And I realized, some homes we make, others we are lucky enough to find ourselves in without even knowing how it happened in the first place.

Tower 7 was that home for me last year. For those of you that don’t know, I lived in 3-story dorms last year, each floor containing maybe 40 rooms each give or take a few. The amount of people I met was astounding to me, there were just so many new faces. jian-xhin-281513But lucky for me, I made my spaces a little smaller and spent the majority of time in the third floor common room or over in Nick’s Tower 7 dorm– each floor had about 12 rooms. As much as it wasn’t even my living space, floor 2 adopted me all the same.

I’m even more thankful for it now than I was then.

Like I said, we meet a lot of people in our lives, but there are some groups of people that really change us. Maybe it took me a little while to see it, but I got lucky to have two homes last year.

In the last few months of my life, from my job to my friends, I’ve come to understand how fragile our mortality really is. It’s one thing to know that we don’t live forever, it’s another thing for the world to hand you proof.

Losing Bryce Adams has brought Tower 7 back together again, not only to miss someone, but to love everything he was and left behind. In the memories, photos, videos, laughs… It’s all there, everything that needs to be. And it’s been a beautiful thing to be welcomed into; to be allowed to feel a loss but also to appreciate a life. I know it sounds cheesy, but at my age I think it’s important to understand how to do both.

Too many of us don’t know how.

34067493_1563548540438574_3374910598830620672_nIt’s a reminder that we have to live while we’ve got the time to do so. We need to make time. Have a coffee date with an old friend and take a moment to forget about the grades or the schoolwork, take advantage of the youth that people keep telling me won’t always last.

It’s a process– figuring out who we are, navigating changing relationships, or even learning how to let people go. It’s something we learn along the way. Even though that’s one thing I’ve been trying to understand this year, just as I think I’ve got it down, life reminds me that I really have no clue what I’m doing.

I’m starting to see that none of us do.

Remembering someone and being okay with a loss, it takes time. It’s different for everyone, but we don’t talk enough about the ripple effects grief can take through things like our groups or friends or hearts or faith.

Because things will change.

It’s all a part of life and if you think about all those people you’ve met, they’ve all been through it at some point. Every single one of them is living their own lives carrying their triumphs or struggles or smiles. And that’s okay, whatever it takes to get back to where you need to be, it’s okay to do it.

I think of the people Bryce met, through wrestling and high school before the dorms and freshman year here, and the concept of that impact is beautiful to me. Tragic, but beautiful. And I am thankful to have been one more person to know him.

Like I said back in October, “Stop, take a moment, maybe two— take as many as you need— and you hold on to the blessing it is to know someone like that.34108605_1563548620438566_8022201359270936576_n

You hold on to the love they left behind for you.”

So if you will, live a little for me today, hold onto the love. And as much as I don’t like how many times I’ve said this in the past year, I mean it wholeheartedly:

Rest easy Bryce. Here’s to whatever happens next. 

26 Weeks– New Quarter, New Perspective

“Tragedy blows through your life like a tornado, uprooting everything. Creating chaos. You wait for the dust to settle and then you choose. You can live in the wreckage and pretend it’s still the mansion you remember. Or you can crawl from the rubble and slowly rebuild.”
– Veronica Mars

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Six months ago I wrote a blog post, quite possibly one of the most important I’ve ever written, and somehow 26 weeks have gone by. Both surprisingly and not at all at the same time, somehow I looked at my views yesterday and realized that not a single week has gone by since it went up without someone looking at that post.
Not because of my writing, not because of my blog itself, and not because of me. No, because of her.
Because her life is something worth remembering.
Six months ago, Maddie Elliot’s death was that tornado Veronica Mars was talking about. Over the past few years, between being lab partners in sophomore biology and laughing in memorable Spanish classes, her presence in my life wasn’t one that demanded attention— always front and center— she was the kind of person who didn’t have to be. The good in her would be there regardless. In the way she lived and loved and cared about others, the hard part was losing someone like her and not knowing how to understand and move on from something like that.
It’s not easy.
Because can that dust really settle in six months?
I’m starting to think that, in some parts of who we are, maybe it can. But in others?
Never.
And that’s okay, because when I reached that choice, to live in the wreckage and to recreate it or be ignorant of the change instead… This was something I couldn’t let go, one I haven’t gone a day without thinking about.
This change in my perspective and my life was everything.

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Have you ever heard of the glass shattering metaphor, namely from the show How I Met Your Mother? The idea is that your reality is held behind a one-way mirror, or a glass so-to-speak. When something happens, maybe someone spoils a movie or the lightbulb in your head finally clicks on in math class, the glass shatters and the mirror is broken. You can’t go back.
Losing someone so young and so incredible, that was my glass shattering moment. And every day, my eyes open just a little bit more in the way I see things or people, in how I act. I feel like I’ve almost redefined my life, what I want and what feels worth it. How to open up. How to live. How to love.
It’s sink or swim in college these days and lately, I’ve been deciding to swim a little harder toward something meaningful every day. To make the most of what Cal Poly is and can be to me.
After change or tragedy, the moments that leave you breathless and lost, you begin to rebuild again and again and again. Just keep doing it. You pick up the pieces of what’s left and rearrange it all until it fits, whether it’s your career, your heart, your relationships, or more times than not, yourself.

You make it work as best you can.
Kind of like college where none of us have this figured out, the idea of what we’re supposed to do or how we do it. Choosing a major to come in with is hard enough, let alone actually

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graduating when you feel like you should, hopefully with a job or some sort of plan lined up once you do. Once I got here, the process never really seemed that simple.
Because in the midst of it all, we fail, we stumble, we hope, and we keep trying to move forward as our minds change and our perspectives open up to figure out just what it is that we’re doing every day.
We take it one day, one class, one step, and one breath at a time. Until it feels like maybe we’re on the right path and those pieces are starting to fit back together again. Not perfectly, of course not, that wouldn’t be life if it did. But maybe in a way, with a little more time, you can adjust to the imperfections just enough to be content with what you’ve become.

That dust begins to settle.
In the past year of my life, I’ve learned to give myself time to let change devastate me if it must, to let it wash over every reality and every hope and every idea I once thought was set in stone. Once it does and it fades, I figure out where to go from there.
Like so many of my friends or my classmates, that’s what it’s like trying to navigate our lives and educations together. There is so much more to understand about the realities of this life in what our futures will be while trying to make the most out of a college career that’s flying by.
So six months later, this is me rebuilding the person I used to be– the life I held a year ago, two months ago, two days ago. I am rebuilding from the wreckage, the kind of process you’ll see in my writing, in my choices, and most importantly, in who I think I am. Who I think I can be.
This is how you let your heart adjust to new burdens before turning them into a beautiful kind of chaos; just the kind I’ve come to love being in the middle of. One that makes sense to you. Because stumbling and falling, losing our way and our balance, it doesn’t mean we are incapable to moving forward or getting it all “right.”
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That just means maybe we will figure it out along the way. Sometime and someday, it will make sense.
As long as you trust that maybe, every change is just a step closer to who we are going to be. And if you’re on this journey with me, then you know, there’s so much more to see through the dust and the chaos. Whether there are more tornados on the horizon or something completely new, I’m excited to take you all with me.

So happy Friday, happy April, and here’s to whatever comes next.