When There’s Nowhere Left To Go…

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

After a week two that felt a little more like week seven, I found myself procrastinating a few too many assignments and calling my parents instead of doing any of them. First things first, I told them I was going to drop out of college and they laughed… Jokes on them if I actually do it (I won’t though).

Then I told them that I’m going to create my own company, one that they’ve never seen before. And do you know what they said?

“Do it.”

So I said okay.

Because truly, such an idea is not impossible. It’s based around the things I love and the pieces of what I’ve become here at Cal Poly, all the bits of myself that have only become stronger in the last few years.

Photo by Fabio Comparelli on Unsplash

When you have something like that, something you’re passionate about—one of those things that you can’t tell where it ends and where you begin—you don’t let it go.

You follow it through.

There are a whole lot of things that get in the way of our lives, homework and school included (sometimes). It gets easy to lose sight of what we’re passionate about or what other options we have in this life to build because we’re so set on the same path.

As an English major, people ask me if I want to teach… Not really, it’s a good career but it’s just not mine. And as a chem major, people asked if I was going to be a doctor. I used to say yes, knowing the rest would be too long to explain. But no, that wasn’t what I wanted either.

These are not my paths, these are not the directions I plan on taking my life in. Sure, maybe they were at some point, but not anymore.

I’ve changed over the years and my paths have changed with me. I’m beginning to see that there are so many more options than the ones I thought I needed to chose.

What I want to be is a writer for the rest of my life—at this point I already am, but you know what I mean. I want to write something that means something to someone. And I have, I plan to keep doing it. But that’s not all I want to do.

Photo by Amaury Salas on Unsplash

I want to create, I want to build something that people see their worth reflected off of. A representation of what it means to see all the people who never feel like they deserved to be. Part of me wants to take charge of my own ship and be the only one who can do that, while another part of me wants to surround myself with extraordinary people who can contribute just as much as I can to what we build together.

By my parents saying the words “do it,” I recognize that it doesn’t have to be an either/or kind of situation. Of course we can’t pretend to know where our lives are headed or what’s going to happen, but we can build the foundations of what we want into it all, can’t we?

If I really wanted to, I could still go into the medical field. Not a dream of mine anymore, but I could. I could just as easily drop out and do something else, something different than college. Not really the direction I want to take, but again, I could.

And I could create those stories, the novels that mean something to someone starting with just one person. I could write everything I want to write and still find another path to add onto it. Just like I plan to.

Photo by Johnson Wang on Unsplash

Because I can still create that company if I want to; not alone, no one can do something like that without help, but I can build something out of what I’ve got and start to fill the gaps this world still needs to fill.

Right now, it’s not about putting yourself into set paths and hoping for the best, it’s about creating the ones you want to take and making them happen, whatever it takes to get there.

Do it, I dare you.

Becoming the Game Changer

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

And just like that, it’s a new calendar year. Did you spot the differences in the layout? If you did, let me know and I’ll tell you a secret. But like I said, here we are in a new year and I would say my resolution is to actually write 2019 on my papers consistently for the next two weeks but I know I’d break it so there’s no point.

That’s the thing about resolutions, sometimes we make ones we know are impossible for us to meet, just to see if we can make it happen anyway. There’s got to be a better way to do this.

And well, there is. One with with a whole lot less pressure too. It’s not exactly a resolution, but more of a plan. Hear me out:

Take it step by step, each one something you can reach from the last. And keep doing it until you get to where you want to be. Then do it again. And again…

I say this because I know that I have my own tendencies to set goals for myself that I really want to reach, but oftentimes the bar is set a little too high. So when I fail, it’s almost too discouraging to keep trying.

I forget that sometimes it isn’t about changing yourself to be “good enough” to reach that goal, it’s about changing your expectations—change the goal.

Photo by Anika Huizinga on Unsplash

Think of it this way. Throughout most of my life (that I remember), I’ve always been pretty reserved and not necessarily quiet, but more a watcher than a player. As great as it is to have that quieter or more preserved side when it’s useful, it can be kinda boring and maybe lonely. After all, people usually seek out the exciting or fun ones, not the wallflowers.

Last year, I set my goals on changing that, just a little. Not necessarily changing me, but letting what I’ve learned mold me into someone more capable of becoming who I want to be.

It wasn’t going to happen overnight and it definitely wasn’t going to happen in some huge and/or public grand gesture, I had to start small. So I did a mini version of CCE WOW with our Polycultural weekend (PCW) and somehow committed myself to the Black Student Union’s dance routine in the process. In retrospect, there was a bit of a grand gesture in there with the whole dance on stage, under the bright lights, in front of everyone thing… But the hosting part with PCW was a baby step for me, a step that let me meet a lot of people, my voice get a little bit louder, and I found myself in the middle of things a little more often than not.

I couldn’t stop there.

Photo by Nathan McBride on Unsplash

So I set a new goal: WOW. It went wonderfully, as I hope you all know (if not, you really should catch up), so I kept stepping a little higher and higher the next time. And well, I’m still stepping so that counts for something. This time, I’m just changing the direction a bit.

The goal for 2019 is simple, yet somehow bigger than any I’ve set before.

Just like I had to be the one to push myself to make the grade or get involved or join that club or apply for that job, this year I am letting my life become the epitome of what each of these have in common.

I’m going to be my own game changer.

Sometimes, we rely so much on other people, we look for things we hope can help us fix something perceived to be broken, something that can be better, when it really comes down to us doing it ourselves. We have to stand up and do what needs to be done, even if it’s against our own bad habits or what something used to be.

Because sometimes, sometimes a plan works and you can keep raising those goals every time you stepped up to the last one. You become just a little more of who you want to be for it, whatever that looks like to you.

Photo by Mag Pole on Unsplash

But other times, life just happens, whether or not we’re ready for it. You can’t plan for that. More than just a plan, remember that no matter what you do this year, live for yourself. Be ready to take what you’ve got and make it into whatever you can.

Be ready to change your own game.


If you’ve got any plans or any resolutions this year, I want to hear it! Feel free to shout them out a little in the comments and I’ll hype you up if you need it. Good luck and I’ll see you on Tuesday for Poetry Place. Happy new year.

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.

Enough is Enough Cal Poly

zachary-nelson-192289A week ago, I was getting ready to take part in one of Cal Poly’s best events all year: PolyCultural Weekend. As a weekend for cultural clubs to invite prospective students to stay with us and spend the weekend on campus, learning about the culture and diversity we do have to offer as a school, it was incredible.

This year, not only did I get to host for the first time with two wonderful hostees, but I also got to participate in the dance performance for the Black Student Union; if I may say so myself, it was fantastic. So many people put months, even a year of work into this one weekend, and it went off without a hitch.

Or at least it would have.

All three days held so much spirit and energy and pride for the homes all of us have found at Cal Poly through our cultural organizations, last weekend I felt secure in telling my hostees and so many others that they would be safe here— Cal Poly can be a home for them.

Before my hostees even walked off this campus, I was proven wrong.

Too many times this week have I heard: there is a time and place for everything… In spite of the news stories like the New York Times or the Washington Post, Cal Poly has added quite a bit to its reputation just this week regarding just what kind of place it is.

In light of a fraternity student going in blackface to a party among others in his company mocking Latino culture or immigration and several stereotypesjames-motter-516818-unsplash including that of a “gangster” or a “cholo”, I have a hard time supporting a University that will not support its students of color. Did you know that this school was ranked top 7 in worst institutions for “in fostering Latino student success.” That statement is an excuse to brush off clear racism, to avoid the discomfort of acknowledging the struggle minority students go through, especially at a place like Cal Poly.

In saying there is a time and place for everything, does this mean there is there a time and place for racism too?

If there is one thing I know, it is that every minority here has felt the eyes of our peers this week and the lack of diversity has never been more obvious. Instances like this only turn more attention toward us and there is nothing we can do but take it and try to make it into something more productive. Yet some of us have kept our heads down all week, ashamed of our campus or the attention, and more importantly, insecure in the skin we carry ourselves in because of we know people use it as an excuse to be inhumane.

We are tired.

During an emergency Town Hall Meeting on Monday night, I sat in a room filled with both people of color and caucasian allies that were all there for the same reasons— to speak out against these actions on our campus and stand in solidarity with one another. In that room, many of my fellow black students spoke out, saying that this place never felt like a home until we found a home in each other. We shouldn’t be the only ones supporting one another. The lack of support from administration, our President Jeffrey Armstrong, and even African American staff members that leave the school within a year of coming here is not sufficient for us.

It is not enough.

jeronimo-bernot-259463-unsplashThis morning, I participated in a protest with 300 other students from both of Cal Poly and other institutions— including high schoolers— during the first day of our open house weekend when prospective students come to Cal Poly and truly take a look at the campus they might decide to spend the next 4 (maybe 5) years on. We spent several hours marching around campus to let people know that the way we have been treated, that this school is a good one, but it has a lot of problems and we will not be quiet any longer. Last weekend’s incident is one among too many others regarding racism on this campus and we are done with turning the other cheek.

We are tired.

I am one of approximately 166 black students on this campus.

  1. Among at least 21,000 students.

And yet this school doesn’t seem to be making enough progress as a whole to show they care about changing those numbers. We don’t feel safe here, not even when I watched our president go up on stage during Polycultural weekend and tell all the prospective students that he wants us here— that he “supports his people of color.”

Does supporting our people of color include protecting the black student who was walking to an interview only a few hours ago when someone spit at her and threw the n-word in her face? Is this okay to have to hear on a school campus that claims to be better than racism: “Tell you and your n*gger friends to go back to Africa and stop protesting at my school.”

We are tired.

Of the racism, the unequal treatment, the discomfort, the dismissal of hard topics— what about a hard existence on a campus like Cal Poly?

I’ve spent the week trying to figure out how much I wanted to get into the protests and the marches and the rallying against something like this, but I have no choice but to speak up— if we don’t speak up for ourselves, who else will? Because every day I thought I would feel a little better or a little safer and dawid-zawila-279998instead I am just getting angrier and more frustrated with how little power it feels like we have over what happens to us here. Our voices are all we have.

So this is me speaking up, in a way that I believe I need to. I am taking action in my life to change things here at Cal Poly, through Greek Life, BSU, and even being an orientation WOW leader specifically for cultural students.

This reality, lacking color or for many students feeling proud of what we’re doing or where we go, is not okay and I am making steps toward the change I want to see. So what are you going to do?

Cal Poly, what will you do?

From History to History Makers– BHM Week 4

dawid-zawila-279998Black History Month Week 4 and today I want to tell to you about something that isn’t quite our history yet— here are some of the people who are in the process of making black history.

If you saw Obama’s tweet this week then you know what I mean when I say that young people truly are making change these days. From artists and activists to businesswomen and basic everyday people with more to give, we’ve got a lot of people to be on the lookout for. Lucky for you, I picked out just a few.


One

tumblr_ogmsl1cgf41u05srlo1_1280Let’s start with the artists, here is one guy to know the name of: Tsoku Maela. Raised in Cape Town, this young photographer focuses on the idea of mental health and normalizing the stigma of it, especially for black people. Earning the spotlight with his series of Abstract peaces (take a look here), his photos create a “visual diary of a subject at different stages of their depression and anxiety” when it isn’t all just one emotion or one state of being. As an artist, especially a black artist, I think it is important for people like Maela to explore their culture and more importantly, spread how it has influenced their own lives in a way that can change the lives of others— even if that change comes through awareness like it does here. I’m excited to see what he can do in the future and if you want to get to know more about him or who he is and what he does, take a quick peek at his website or his tumblr!

Two

clem-onojeghuo-228522-unsplash.jpgNow for your activists, let’s take a look into the life of Martese Johnson; if you think you’ve heard that name before, you probably have. That’s because he was one of too many caught on video being thrown to the ground in a police misconduct situation back in 2015— he didn’t quite fit the stereotype of a black kid in handcuffs though. As a student on the black alliance board at University of Virginia and an accompanist to Bernie Sanders at several rallies in the wake of the incident, he’s got quite the positive image built up for himself.  Johnson not only is an activist and a voice, but he is a representation of making good in a bad situation even if you have to do it yourself. In the future, he hopes to follow through on projects on African Americans and the media, maybe even running for public office one day.

Three

olu-eletu-38649-unsplashGrowing up in times like these, it only makes sense to talk about the business masterminds: Bianca Jeanty & Netta Dobbin. In their mid twenties, these two women have already created a company and kicked it out of the nest to watch it fly. MiMConnect is an “emerging networking platform that creates access to people of color with job opportunities, resources and a nationwide network in the media industry.”

Growing up, I’ve learned the difficulties of entering the professional world as an African American; from hairstyles to unfair treatment, this company aims to combat that struggle in creating their own space and helping other companies diversify theirs in the process. These two ladies have used an incredible amount of business and tech to get them to where they are today— maybe if I’m lucky they can help me find a job after I graduate too!

Four

ian-schneider-66374-unsplash.jpgLast, but never the least, let’s talk about someone we all should know by now: us. We are the people who may not always feel that we’re making a difference, yet somehow, one little thing can become everything. Take someone like Mikaila Ulmer, the business owner at 4 years old— she had to start somewhere and began where every one of us do: with a curiosity and a passion to follow it. How about Moziah “Mo” Bridges who just wanted to dress well and became 15 CEO of Mo’s Bows by age 15— the rest of us want to look good too don’t we? Start there. Or even like one of my favorites, Nathan Zed, your entertainer and every day guy with everyday problems who somehow managed to catch the world’s eye. By being themselves, these three all started small with something they cared about, and ended up on paths towards a cause much bigger than themselves.


Though I’ve only highlighted a few, there are countless people who are going to make a big difference in the world around them and they don’t even know it yet. As Black History Month comes to an end, it’s important octavian-rosca-369460-unsplashto remember that this celebration goes beyond 28 days. It is a culture. One that we need to pay attention to. Because this world truly is changing and the people who are changing it come from an immense amount of cultures and backgrounds. Soon enough, some of these people will be making new history and I am excited to be a part of it.

I hope you are too.

P.S. My 2 newest articles are up on HerCampus, check them out here and here if you’re interested (the second one is a fun one)! And I’ve got something exciting and new to share with you to finish off this month so be on the lookout for Tuesday 🙂 Happy Friday everyone

 

The Power of 140 Women

splitshire-9614As a follow up from my post last week, if you didn’t see it you can read it here, I am left speechless by the change I see in the world around me. From the drastic differences in presidencies I have grown up under to the prevalence of strength and power I have seen in the world around me.

And that change seems to be only beginning. This week I tuned into a different set of speeches that are somehow both heartbreaking and empowering at once.

Have you heard the name Larry Nassar yet? Even if you haven’t, I can almost guarantee you have heard of the girls he’s connected to. To name a few: Aly Raisman, Simone Biles, Jamie Dantzscher, and far too many others.

Recently, I am one of countless people who have been tuning in while these stories unfold. These are stories of innocence lost, homes broken, and lives changed— a few lost in the process. All because of one man’s actions. Though public allegations against him only began in September of 2016, Nassar has been accused of sexual abuse by an astounding 140 women over the last two decades.

First of all, there should never be a situation in which 100+ women need to come together against such a traumatic experience they all share in order to find a way to move on with their lives. This should have never happened. Whether the issue is systemic, authoritative, internal, or something else, it needs to be fixed.

Second of all, in researching the trial, I found myself listening to testament video after testament video, telling myself “just one more.” But each and every one was captivating, both in the way I could hear how deep the trauma ran in every girl to the blatant honesty behind the impact of what it means to be a victim.annie-spratt-298421.jpg

Take this line from Aly Raisman’s speech: “If we are to believe in change, we must first understand the problem and everything that contributed to it. Now is not the time for false reassurances.”

She and several others spoke of the lack of control they felt, the loss of their own realities when their accusations were passed off as mistakes, experiences passed off as incredible.

I can’t explain how much it means to me to see these women stand up and speak out together about what they believe they deserve.

This is a whole new era of truth.

If I’m being honest, the gymnastics was one of the only reasons I tuned into the 2012 Olympics; I mean I can’t be the only one who was drawn in by the Fierce Five. I’ve played a lot of sports throughout my lifetime, but it was amazing to watch those five girls do things that I could never even dream of. I remember thinking of how powerful I believed them to be back then.

Only in the last few days of watching three of those five girls come forward in the largest sexual abuse case in U.S. sports, have I begun to understand the real power they hold.

Like I said, I am watching the world change; so quickly that it’s hard to keep up. Yet there is one thing that I could watch every day and never get tired— women standing up, speaking out, and having their voices heard. It can be someone like Oprah, a young woman like Aly Raisman, and even a high school student who understands that there are certain boundaries that should not be crossed. These people are finding their voices.

And as far as I can see, the noise will only get louder from here on out.

ryan-riggins-216051Though it breaks my heart that so many people, men included, have experienced their own violations of self, I am excited to see the power they gain and feel deserving of as time goes on.

If you are ever given less than you deserve, treated incorrectly, or abused in any way, you are allowed to speak up.

You deserve to be heard.

You deserve to be in control.

I understand that our world has plenty of issues, too many to fix at once, and far too many to comprehend in my own ignorance. There are a lot of things I don’t know at nineteen years old. But I know this: I do believe in change.

Do you?

Keys to Happiness- Intro to Change

If you’ve been following my blog for the past year or so, you would know that even though I’m a current chemistry major, I’m switching my major to English. To a lot of people, this might seem foolish, wasteful, or even flat out irresponsible. Here’s the thing: I’m okay with that.ksenia-makagonova-229007.jpg I would rather stress, or struggle, or find my way through college doing something I love rather than do all of that feeling stuck in something that makes me feel inferior or in a major I simply do not care for.

Can you see the difference?

Now I say all this with the understanding that leaving college as an “English major” does not have the best reputation— for good reason. Although it is extremely versatile, it is also not something that people are necessarily looking for throughout the professional world. The job outlook is not great. I know that. But I said I’m switching my major, I didn’t say that’s all I was planning to do… Even the biggest dreamers need a backup plan; for me, that includes adding a minor, at least. Have I fully decided what it’s going to be? Not yet, but I’ve got a pretty good idea of how to make these next three years worth everything I’ve got.

If I’m not setting myself up for a better life now, then when will I ever?

College is a difficult four years where our lifestyles are something completely different from they have ever been or ever will be again— this is a world of it’s own. Once we get out of here, we cross the border between young adult/just figuring things out to stepping into the realm of the professional world with no real way to go back. Once I leave this college life I haven’t finished creating yet, it’s going to be hard to know where I need to go; that doesn’t mean I’m not going to be able to succeed. The success of my major switch is riding aaron-burden-195608not only on successfully switching, but also on finding internships, making connections now (network, network, network), and capitalizing on every opportunity I have to make this college experience worth it.

As I figure out how to make every action I take here count, one of my closest friends here is also in the process of switching her major. We both started at the same time. Ironically, we are switching from almost the same major but we are headed in completely different directions. One big difference between us two? She is on her second major switch right now.

As one of the hardest parts of college and just like so many other students, she’s had a hard time finding the right fit, the right major for her time here. After choosing a different path last quarter, she go into it, took a few classes, and realized it wasn’t what she wanted. A crossroads. The way many might see it, she had two main options: panic, dropout, stay home, and come back after figuring it out, OR take a deep breath, think about her own interests, and give herself a chance at another path.

Lucky for me, she chose option two.

So over the summer, she did a little research, found an internship, and in the process, discovered a better direction she really liked. Now she’s three weeks in and I’m starting to see that even though a lot of us might end up in a bad spot or we aren’t quite sure we like the direction we’re headed in, it doesn’t mean we can’t do anything about it.railroad walk

Because how is that second switch going for her right now?

She is thriving.

You see, there are a lot of things we could do to be happy with where we are in our lives. Some people read self-help books, others meditate, and plenty decide to stick it out and work for something better. But there’s one thing I think a lot of people are afraid of but often desperately need to do, something that we leave for a last resort: Making a change.

As I grow up, maybe that will mean moving to a new city or finding a better job. I know right now for a lot of people my age, it’s finding a new club/group to join or switching to a school that fits them a little better. But just like me or my friend, sometimes making a change is the best possible decision we can make. Don’t be afraid to make it.

If you’re not happy or you’re struggling, find a way to make it so that if you have to struggle, you can at least struggle towards something that will be worth it. We only have one life to live, a life that we don’t have a timeline for when it gets hard and complicated and messy. And we’re going to get lost, I know I have countless times already, but that’s all a part of the experience.

Without a little struggle, the good times couldn’t possibly be worth it. And as cliche as I know it all sounds,sean-afnan-244576 without trying out the wrong paths, we wouldn’t be able to find our way to the right ones. So here’s to discovering success, discovering ourselves, and of course, discovering the keys to being happy.

Until next time, have a beautiful weekend everyone 🙂