If All Your Friends Jumped Off A Bridge…

ryan-lange-552049-unsplash.jpgFirst things first, my new post is up on Her Campus so click here to check it out, it’s a bit of a follow up to my last blog post— it gets a little personal but that’s why it’s important.

Anyway, happy Friday everyone! It’s been a long week. I was reading some sonnets for homework the other day when this phrase popped into my head for no reason, that one parents like to use as almost a guilt trip: “if all your friends jumped…” I’m sure you know the rest, right? Back in my day, if I ever wanted to skip homework because no one else did it anyway or ask for a pair of shoes cause everyone else had them, my mom would ask me that question. There was really no disputing it at that point.

It’s like trying to argue with “because I said so.”

I mean, if everyone believes in something or just because they are doing something, does that mean we should do the same?

After an intense weekend of studying and protesting and more orientation WOW training shaped in light of recent events, things on this campus feel very different than when we left for spring break almost a month ago. To be honest, that still seems weird to say when the truth of the matter and this campus hasn’t really changed at all; only our awareness has.

Like I said, once the glass breaks, there’s no going back. I’ve just never really felt it break like this on such a large scale.

With the Greek system shut down until who knows when and racist flyers appearing in several buildings on campus among other things, no one here is in a good place right now because none of us have any idea what happens next. aaron-burden-523450-unsplash.jpgThis entire thing isn’t even about political views or whether or not racism is wrong— I think we’ve established at this point that it is and always will be— this is a bigger problem than Greeks, or Cal Poly, or education…

So what is the problem?

Well, if all your friends jumped off a bridge, would you jump too? Sometimes people get caught up in a movement or attend a school that they are inherently a part of, whether they agree with every aspect of it or not. Take our fraternity and sorority life on campus— just because they’re all a part of the same system that allowed for many of these problems to occur, is every person involved with Greek organizations at fault? Similarly, if people are part of a movement or an ideal that they support and one person in that movement does something wrong, then it’s a question of culpability by association.

When I protested on Friday with everyone, I can tell you I did not believe in every chant we yelled or action we took. I was there for the ideals we stood for and the solidarity we were aiming to display, but not every movement is perfect and everything in these past few weeks have been far from it.

Yet I stood with them even when I disagreed with a chant because I did agree with the principle; maybe that puts me at fault, I really don’t know. But if something is wrong and you see it’s wrong— I’m not talking opinions but blatant acts against simple alex-blajan-240201-unsplashhumanitarian values like telling people to go kill themselves or saying one race is worth less than another— someone has to speak up whether they’re a close friend, as difficult as that can be, or not. And if you’re a part of something that seems to be going in the wrong direction, maybe it’s best to get out of it. Sort of like how if the weekends protests turned violent or attacked people rather than ideologies, I would not have stuck around.

You can’t let people jump off a bridge knowing it will help no one and hurt a lot of people in the process.  

But how to fix the inherent discrimination or the inequity in the American education system, let alone the US as a whole? I have no idea. To me it sort of feels like we’re all lined up to take that jump, it’s just that certain kinds of people are in the front of that line and those in the back aren’t doing anything to try to change that.

These past few weeks have made me more aware of how close the issues, the ones that I’ve learned so much about in my lifetime, really are. If I thought I was personally easy to spot before, imagine things now when people almost seem to be consciously looking for the black person in the room. No one around me is comfortable around campus right now, especially my minority friends here, and that’s if they were ever somewhat comfortable before. Everyone is upset, from the Greek students who just paid dues to the faculty trying to remind us that midterms have already started, not to mention countless incoming students in the class of 2022 and that have officially decided not to come here at all.

Right now no one is winning, not really. It’s just a whole lot of hate anhannah-troupe-367604-unsplash.jpgd blame and discord spreading through the campus like wildfire. That fire keeps changing direction, as a policy changes here or someone says something problematic on social media there, but it doesn’t burn out. It never fades.

I’m just wondering what comes next, how any of this can be amended on a larger scale unless we have everyone trying to work toward the same solution. Are we going to follow everyone else and still find no solutions… Do we jump? Because as with all things in an agitated state, I question how long Cal Poly can last like this before we are either overtaken by the flames or we burn out instead.

Expectation vs. Reality

What did I put in my empty bag?

My dad used to do this thing with my siblings and I called What did we put in our empty bags; it was a metaphor. The bag represented our knowledge from the day, what we learned— we were supposed to empty it before going to school every ihor-malytskyi-218817day so we could go to class with an empty bag and fill it up with everything we learned. Cheesy, I know. But considering I still remember all of this and that Nick and still I say it to our friends sometimes, it was definitely effective.

So what did I put in my empty bag this week?

This week I have gotten a firsthand lesson on the idea of ignorance and what it’s true definition is: lack of knowledge or information. To be ignorant of something or to call someone out as such is not an insult, but simply a statement to show someone that they do not have all the facts. As a nineteen year old college student, I am ignorant of a lot of things, some of which I am not even conscious of. That doesn’t mean I’m not learning.

If someone were to ask me five years ago where I thought I would be in life, my guess would have come nowhere close to where I am right now. I probably would have said that I would be studying or sitting in class at Stanford University as some kind of pre-med major. I probably would have also said that I would be on the track team, running and jumping as a student athlete. And hey, I thought I would be 5’10 by now. There were so many aspects of this life that I didn’t understand, far too much to be ignorant of for me to have known where my life would take me. I didn’t know enough. I couldn’t have.

I couldn’t have known that my high school experience would so largely influence where I applied to college. I couldn’t have seen that I would decide on switching into a major to follow my passion instead of my obligations. matteo-catanese-401213 (1)And I wouldn’t have believed that I would be rejected by a school, only to be accepted off an appeal to now attend Cal Poly with Nick for the next three years.

They say knowledge is power— I don’t think this is something you can argue against.

According to Business Insider, at nineteen years old I have lived through the last 4 out of 5 “deadliest mass shootings in modern US history”. All occurring in the past 6 years. I’m not here to talk about the politics of it, the devastation or the unfortunate lack of change despite the increasing number of deaths and those affected.

I’m here to talk about ignorance, about learning instead of simply knowing.

I’m here to talk about Expectation vs. Reality.

You see, I have been raised on the idea of hoping for the best but being prepared for the worst. This applies to taking midterms I’m not completely ready for, long drives that might necessitate a blanket or a jacket, and even job interviews that always seem to be a toss up for me. Throughout elementary school to high school, I was privileged enough to grow up in a place where I wasn’t constantly thinking about my surroundings; who was around me, if I was in a place where I had to filter myself from risk of harm, or the possibility of racial slurs being thrown at me as I walked by. That last one only happened a few times.

But in hoping for the best, I just never expected to live in a world where people could be afraid to go to concerts, to diners, to school. I never expected that sabine-van-straaten-280388the largest fear some of us held would have to do with the capabilities of one another.

Unfortunately, that is the reality we are all at right now. We are having to adjust to the way the world is changing around us as the people in it change too. Whether you swing left or right, you’re heterosexual or not, everyone is having to make changes. Sometimes I think people forget about the morality of this life and get too caught up in what they expected to be happening or where they’re hoping they would be.

You can’t always see a hurricane coming, nor can you ever know for sure how things are going to turn out.

This week I am reminded of a concept that ties us all together— we are all human beings. If there is one thing I used to be ignorant of, stereotypical teenage mindset or not, it was the fragility of my own life.

Because in my empty bag this week, I hold all the chemistry formulas and Iliad lessons, but on top of all that I hold my life: The idea that it can be easy to lose. I used to make five year plans, ten year hopes, and imaginative ideas of what my high school reunions might be like. I used to make promises of seeing people without ever following through, or putting off good plans for tomorrow, staying in to watch Netflix instead. But the thing is, in that bag is my life. The only one I am going to get. And while I need to make plans for a successful future where I don’t move back in with my parents and have no job, I also need to be aware of the situation we are all living in.jerry-kiesewetter-189034.jpg

We only get one life to live. In the past week alone, far too many people lost their own. The reality is that we don’t know how long this will last for us, how much time we have. The most any of us can do is say “I love you” while we can, hold onto every moment we get, and make sure that when we contribute a verse to the world, we leave behind something good. Something worth it. Something people can fill their bags with today.

I know what I put in mine.