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.

The End of a Year of “Yes”

A year ago, I was a college sophomore trying to figure out why the world kept on moving when it felt like mine froze or how time kept slipping through my fingers. Because a little over two years ago, I told you about Shonda Rhimes’ book Year of Yes and how I wanted to put myself out there by learning to take a chance on myself and say yes more often.

Two years ago I decided to make it a year of yes. Then it became two years. Then two and a half.

Today, in my third year of college and not without a whole lot of hesitation or deliberation, I’m changing my mind.

Today, I’m saying no.

Let me explain.


In January of 2017, I made my blog post all about this concept of a “year of yes” because my entire world was changing and maybe I wanted to take back control. So I decided my control would come in the form of one three little word. Yes.

I joined a new club which was almost the opposite of my energy and personality, I took the jump into switching my major, I took on the challenge of finishing my novel, I worked hard to get Dean’s List, I went out to parties when I was ready… I just kept saying yes. Not past my limits of course, but enough to redefine them.

If you’ve been following my blog for the past two and a half years now, I think you might actually see that change over time. Just take a look: I went from quoting One Direction’s “Little Things” and writing about restless love to education about Suicide Prevention and being okay with not fitting into societal norms around drinking or even sex.

Do you see the progression? Because I definitely do–that’s what I like to call personal growth. I have done so many things in the last two years of my life that I would have never done before I came to college. I was afraid of the world and the rejection that can come with it so I decided to not let that ever happen by simply not giving the world the chance to.

That would leave anyone feeling pretty empty right?

I know that’s how it left me, empty and insecure. But also curious. So I took that curiosity and Shonda’s challenge with it. Somewhere in between, I let myself grow and take on a life that wasn’t fully under lock & key anymore. I mean, how else do you think I ended up taking on being an orientation leader, let alone deciding to come back as a Facilitator. I just kept saying yes.

And looking back, it’s incredible to see how much has change, how much I’ve done and grown over time. Trust me, if you haven’t seen me in a while then I can’t tell you exactly who you’ll find once you do.

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Because not only did I say yes to almost everything in my life, but I started to feel guilty when I didn’t want to or when I knew I would be great if I did say yes. After all this time of taking on so many things and people and experiences, I’m realizing that as liberating it can be to say yes so often, it can also take little pieces of you and scatter them across all those things or people or experiences until you’ve got nothing left for yourself.

Once I saw that, there was no going back. And today, I’m taking my life back. I’m saying no—not to growth or being a part of things I truly love, but “no” to taking on a role that maybe doesn’t quite fit right at the moment. Right job, wrong time kind of thing.

I need to work on me for right now.

So maybe it’s a yes, but a no at the same time. A yes to myself, to taking control of what I want and care about, with a no to doing what I know I’ll be good while losing myself in the process.

In my two years of yes, I’ve come to see that it’s all a balancing game. At a certain point, something has to even out the scales and maybe, it’s my job to see that. It’s our job to do that.

Sure, it took me two years. But look where those two years took me; after all this, I don’t think I’d take it back. Not at all. Now, I think I’m simply ready to find a little more balance.


Happy Friday night everyone.

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.

Have You Heard of FISH?

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Short and sweet for you today, have you ever heard of the FISH philosophy? Trust me, it’ll change the way you see things. Four easy steps:

Play

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When it comes to approaching anything, especially in our society, we can either choose for it to be work or we can choose for it to be a bit of play. This comes from the Seattle Pike Place Market where they make a bit of a game out of selling and preparing fish for people. Instead of regular vendors and yelling about their fish, they joke around with customers, offer samples, and quite literally throw the fish around from one person to the next as a way to keep things energetic.

Not only does this remind you every day to remember to have a little fun, but it also says that you can make everything a bit of fun if you want it to be. Find a way to Play.

Make Their Day

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Sure, every person you meet is just another person to walk through your life in one day. Especially when selling things, it’s easy to overlook the fact that you get a chance to really see every single one of those people. So talk to them, every one of them. Ask them how their day is and mean it, see why they came in the first place.

You have the opportunity to make someone’s day every time you speak to them. Why not use it? It doesn’t take a whole lot– as humans, we’re pretty simple. All we want is to be genuinely acknowledged. If you can do that, I think you just might make someone’s day.

Choose Your Attitude

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Now this one is important because there are a whole lot of things in our lives that we don’t want to do. From working and paying taxes to bills and studying, we’re busy people. We never really stop moving. You can easily get stuck in this pattern of doing it all or going through the motions day by day without really paying any attention to it.

But if you have to do it, every single day, can’t you also choose to be positive or be the kind of person people don’t mind being around while you do? You have to choose your attitude, despite how much sleep you got or who’s in a fight with who… Attitude is everything because it starts with you. So choose yours first. The rest takes care of itself.

Be there

Lastly, you’ve got to be there. As someone who is constantly moving and rarely takes a break in my schedule, I sometimes forget that I’m supposed to be 100% there in everything I’m doing. With the students I’m mentoring, I can’t teach them properly or guide them well if I’m not paying attention to what’s going on. At work, I can’t ask a customer how their day is or tell them good luck on a midterm if I’m not present enough to remember to do so.

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You’ve got to be there, for all of it. We only get one life and there’s a clock counting down somewhere just to remind all of us to not forget it.

So be there to live your life every single day. Find a way to play in everything you do, make someone’s day while you’re at it, and just be there. Okay?

Okay. Because every day I’m getting older and even though my life is pretty fast paced, I have to remember these things too. It wouldn’t be a life worth living without it.

That’s the FISH philosophy. I hope you liked it.