Nature or Nurture… Both?

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Have any of you ever wondered why our environments matter so much to us? Why the “what if”s even come to question or the outcomes of what we do or why we do it always seem to come down to the details?

Well, it’s like they say: Nature and nurture. Some of the things we do are simply human nature. And some of it, well, it’s influenced by the world around us.

Think about it; have you ever done something without thinking, maybe say a word or pet a dog, and a child mirrored exactly as you had just done? It’s like finishing a test and waiting around while you pretend to work until someone else gets up and turns theirs in first—their actions are permission, affirmation, that it is what you’re supposed to do.

Sometimes our surroundings set the standards.

And I’ve been thinking about that because I am going into my senior year of college, and if you’ve followed me since the beginning, you would know that ending up at Cal Poly was a road with a lot of… details. Getting denied, appealing once Nick got in, Howard Orientation right before the call that I had been conditionally accepted here, etc. A lot changed really quickly and the moment I made the decision to stay in California or go, I may have also decided part of who I would become in college.

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Hear me out. With rising tuition fees and ever changing components to that, the in state student is very different from out of state. Howard would have meant I was a DC resident for 9 months out of the year, if not more. Our nation’s home base is very *very* different from San Luis Obispo.

One school is a PWI, a Primarily White Institution that may be considered adverse to diversity. The other is an HBCU, a historically black college/university. In just knowing that, I understand that my experience in college would be altered depending on which school I went to. In one, I would be the minority and probably never be able to forget it, whether or not it was a good thing in any situation. In the other, I would experience not being the minority for the first time in my life.

One is in DC, talk about a colder and much more political atmosphere than California. The other is in San Luis Obispo, California’s Central Coast where it’s never really warm nor cold and politics only matter in specific battles.

Do you get what I’m trying to say? I made the decision and as of now, I am happy with who I am becoming, but that doesn’t mean I don’t think about what it would have meant for this Karina Williams—for the me 2 years ago—to go to Howard.

Nurture defined by environment would have been almost complete opposites from one place to the other. I can’t ignore that.

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I bring it up now because I understand there are some big decisions and changes ahead of me. I am an English major going into my senior year of college and I know that I do not want to teach. That in itself means that my path will be non traditional, again within the minority. Not because I love being “different” or finding my own path, but simply because I can’t live outside what I love. If I did, that wouldn’t be living.

Here, I am in Orientation, Cultural clubs, journalistic clubs, and I surround myself with change makers; my closest friends are some of the most incredible people I have ever met. Sure, involvements in these things had to do with my nature to care about people and what makes them who they are. It also had to do with what has been necessary to keep my head above water as a minority here.

Where I go from here, well that depends on what I plan to do. I think I know what I am headed towards and passionate about, let alone the logical decision, but I can’t help but find significance in what I’ve been through and how I’ve gotten through it.

I’m a creative. By nature and by nurture, I am not living without creating something. Even if I try, I can’t not do it. I feel that pull in my heartstrings and the gravitation of my bones to do something, make something, anything, and it’s almost always present. It’s become undeniable.

I don’t know if I would be who or where I am if I did not spend the last three years here. I am almost sure I wouldn’t be the Karina you know now, but I am also pretty positive creativity is something I wouldn’t be able to ignore.

I have to do it. It’s my oxygen.

If that’s the case, where does that mean I’m going next?

Well I can’t tell you everything, I’d need to figure out details first. But after so many dreams from the medical field to publishing, I think I’m heading toward neither.

You can’t take the creative out of the girl after all, so I’m taking that and I’m running with it—no, I’m living it. Fully.

I am going to create things. Whether they’re films or companies or logos or visions, trust me when I say, I am giving it my everything (even now) because part of me has no choice. My life is in the stories I tell and drawings I create or movies I fixate on. I breathe through poetry and music. I live for the details.

And well, I am going to make all of that my life’s work. The details, the stories, the creating. It’s going to be everything I do. Maybe it’s because I couldn’t have made it through these last few years without writing and seeking out creativity the way I have through my major and my passions. And maybe it’s because that’s just who I am, a creator to the core.

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I might never know what that balance looks like in who I am, one versus the other and how much of each I am made of. But I do know that it’s who I am and what I cannot live without—nature and nurture in real time. So trust me when I say switching my major to English, going to school here, choosing to stay, they were all steps to get me to wherever I go next. After all, what comes next is going to be a big change. One that I welcome with open arms. Happy Friday night.

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.