The Last Summer

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And here we are, another Friday. I don’t know how all of you usually spend your summers, but if mine aren’t filled with a couple rereads of my favorite books and discoveries of new ones, then I am doing something sorely wrong.

After all, travelling right now isn’t in my budget and travelling alone isn’t really my thing regardless. So what’s the next best way to get out of town, even if not physically? Our imaginations. Whether you prefer movies, books, video games, or wine, all of it is a chance to get out of our reality for a little while. 

Another word for that, at least in my case: escapism. Usually this word gets a bad rep for people using it as an out instead of dealing with their problems, but let’s be honest, I think that’s just human nature. In my case, escapism is a way for me to get away from the banality of what summer can sometimes turn into. 

It’s also a chance to take solo adventures, learn a few new skills with summer classes, and of course, create my own worlds to escape in. I mean, that’s the fun part of being a creative… Creating.

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If I want to make creativity and art part of my future, if I want to be good enough that it’s the only way to live, I have to practice it. I would like to say that it’s the path to a successful future for me, but I guess none of us can really tell exactly what the means until we get there. 

Not unless one of you can tell the future, in which case if you can, I have a few questions.

Because I’ve been talking to a few friends and I’m starting to get the feeling that none of us are quite sure what path is the “right” one. There are quite a few options after all. 

There’s getting a job straight out of college and seeing where that takes us. There’s freelance or travelling and seeing what this world has to offer before settling down into it as if we know what it all looks like. Then there’s grad or post undergrad studies and depending on what we’re looking at, it could take a couple years. Even then, we still have to figure out what to study or specialize in. Another path per say. 

And these are just a few of the options, I can’t say I know what all of them are. I don’t even know what I would prefer. This is most likely my last summer of wandering somewhat aimlessly between jobs and places and friends that I’ve known at least for a little while. After this, all of us are supposed to be heading in directions others cannot follow, down what at least for them will be path number 1.

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To be honest, I’m only just starting to realize that I don’t have a plan for my blog once that happens. There’s no plan, no telling what my days will look like or weeks will hold. No telling how many paths I’ll settle into. I have no idea where I’ll end up. 

For me, I love falling into fiction and writing my own ways out of this reality. Art in itself is a whole different kind of study in escapism. But this idea of figuring out where we’re headed and what we really need to be doing in order to get there, that’s something that escapism doesn’t really work for. There’s no running from time.

If I play my cards right this summer, I’ll head into senior year with a few extra options I created for myself. From books and extra skills to job prospects and even just a hunch of where I want to go next, one of the few things I can control is what I do right now.

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So who knows, maybe my version of turning a mundane summer into something interesting might just pay off in the long run. Again, if you tell the future, feel free to let me know what you think. Otherwise, I’ll have to wait just like everyone else.

At least we’ve got right now guaranteed. Happy Friday everyone. 

If It Ain’t Broke…

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Sometimes I forget that even though this blog continues week by week and my age keeps going up one by one, that doesn’t mean I’m outgrowing everything I think I am. Habits, friends, tendencies, the usual. Just because we’re growing up, all of us, doesn’t mean we don’t fall back on the little things that used to work for us in the process.

Even if they’re little things that we thought worked for us, when maybe they didn’t. If it ain’t broke… Maybe we need a second opinion.

You see, here’s the thing. They say matter cannot be created nor destroyed and we know that as a fact, at least I hope we all do by now. But when it comes to social laws, are there any that say one thing that grows while another one does not can no longer fit together as it has before?

Because there should be. Either that rule has not been defined yet, or human beings simply cannot refrain from testing this rule again and again until our patience has been tested positively past worn down and weary.

As much as I wish for someone to answer that question, I think I already know what the answer is. But here’s why I’m only struggling with it (again) right now.

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When I was younger, I think grew up in people’s shadows as much as anyone else would. We’re all side characters in someone else’s story after all, whether we try to be or not. Even now I tend to have my head stuck in a book or a fictional world that really isn’t this one and I think I took my role as a reader, or that side character, a little too seriously. Always have.

So when other people that I care about or do things for or support, aren’t supporting me in the way I need them to, I wonder why. Anyone would. But then I negate all the times that I haven’t been that support for other people and realize that maybe I’ve done the same thing to people that love or support me too. After all, we’re all our own main character, we put life in terms of ourselves. Sometimes.

This is a healthy way to think, if we question ourselves when criticizing something and examine why we feel the way we do, or if the logic is one-sided rather than at least trying to see all facets of the story before claiming it to be truth. It’s good to think this way. 

Unless, of course, we then believe that we’re the problem. Consistently. I mean yes, sometimes we are. Just ask my mom about my venting or complaining about my expectations for people—the other person is not the problem, at times my expectations are just a little bit too high. Or simply incorrect.

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Other times though, she also does a really good job of reminding me that my expectations or standards for how I feel I’m treated and valued and loved and supported… Those aren’t expectations at all. They should be the set bar for how I feel in my own life and the people that impact that every moment I breathe.

Just like our habits and our tendencies, even our diets and our preferences, as we grow and figure out who we are the key people in our lives should be growing with us.

Maybe that means they grow apart; some people grow to understand that their relationship is more the check in every couple of months kind. Others realize they’re the ones we go to with the “situations” or to “spill the tea” if you know what that means. If not, check this out.

But whether or not it’s together—sometimes better for each party if it isn’t—growing does need to happen. And if we’re the ones holding ourselves back, we’re also only just hurting ourselves in the process. I can’t say I’ve always been a big fan of change; readjusting and finding new normals is hard. And scary. And exhausting. It’s supposed to be.

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Yet, that’s also where I find the best parts of the story: my story, the stories or lives I’m simply a side character in, and especially the fictional ones I get to be a part of too. Growing is necessary and the in-between, the insecure parts… That’s when almost anything can happen, when something almost always does happen. We just have to be willing to make it.

There are no right times or people or circumstances; do what you can with what you have. If what you have isn’t enough, then go find what you need and go from there.

It’s not about fitting in to what used to work or playing a waiting game, not at all. Life seems—is—a little too short for that. Take what you’ve got, and make a move. Grow. 

That’s all you can do.

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.

It Takes Two Hands to Clap

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

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

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

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

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

I said that they taught me well.

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

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

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

It should be automatic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

I know that this week, I did.

Legally… Adulting?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Including drinking habits.

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

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

See where I’m getting at?

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

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

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