Mental Health

Getting Rid of Pedestals

I think a lot about the ways in which my self image consciously and subconsciously rule my life. The idealizations people hold of me, although frustrating and limiting, sometimes fill me like a guilty pleasure; a dirty habit that continues to manifest and take hold of me.

And I know the ways my own perception and idealization of myself and my life hurt me. Those who surround me are held to impossible standards, including myself. Agitation and conflict arise as I try to micromanage behavior to fit a mold I can’t even squeeze into myself. In turn, life starts to look out of control and wild, spiking my anxiety and creating more problems and more issues over things I can’t and shouldn’t control.

I know I do these things. I know that much of this behavior is a defense mechanism, sprung from trauma and low self esteem. What I haven’t done is fully own up to it. I haven’t been harsh with myself, clinging to a false sense of independence and self that gets muddled by the genuine work done in rebuilding my self esteem and interactions with others. I’ve done very real work within myself, but now that I’m dealing with core, deep set issues, I’m scared.

I’m scared to own up to my weakness, I’m scared to allow for change when I don’t feel ready. I’m scared to sit down with a therapist and trust a stranger with my emotions. I’m scared to allow someone in, not only because of trust, but because I don’t know how I’m going to move forward with shattered idealizations.

STEM, Student Life

“Fucking Bitch”

A week ago in my Physics lab class, I was told by a classmate that “my tight ass would need a good fucking” and that somehow, he’d able to provide the service. I felt my hands go clammy, my breath stop as I held my position in place, my fingers rolling into a tight fist in my pockets as they grew damp with sweat. My head throbbed as I struggled to hold back the tears welling in my eyes; the memories of harassment as the only woman on a robotics team flashing images against my skull like a bad horror film. My voice shook as I scrambled to collect myself, the words spilling awkwardly into disjointed sentences and trembling vowels.

This wasn’t the first time he’d verbally abuse and harass me in class. Two weeks ago, we had first met, joining their group. Right from the start, I headed a game plan: let’s get this done, and leave an hour early. They all smiled in agreement.

It started with talking over me. Whenever I tried to keep our group on track with the instructions of the lab, he’s speak over me and challenge what I was saying. He’s rally with the other men in our group, showing goofy videos off his Facebook, laughing wildly. Then, he started to mock and demean me. Anything I said became a joke, as he mocked my pronunciation of words and undermine the work I was doing. Any calculation, experiment setup, or theory work would be questioned heavily to the point where I couldn’t answer his question and he’d copy my work anyways.

The microaggressions took a dangerous turn when they became actions. From the corner of my eye, as we were working through the calculations of our experiments, I could see him looking at me, up and down. I felt a chill up my spine, as words started to melt into one another. My body felt into a numbness, as my cheeks filled with hot blood, spilling through the entirety of my face. In that very second, I was on fire. As he tried to grab my notebook to copy my calculations, I questioned his understanding of the lab’s theory. I questioned if he knew anything at all, snapping back in a fit of rage. “That’s right,” I said, my voice booming in the seemingly empty room, “you don’t know, because you haven’t done shit. All you’ve done is dicked around, expecting to leech off everyone else’s work. Don’t expect any help from me.”

“Fucking bitch” he said, “don’t even talk to me.” The anger I felt in that moment swelled, filling my lungs with smoke, cheeks flushed. This anger, the same anger and numbness I felt a week ago, the same anger I felt being constantly harassed and verbally abused in robotics, the same I felt in the 1st grade when a boy in my class told me I couldn’t do math, fails to be anomaly. Women in STEM, black women significantly more, face constant harassment, through darting eyes and demeaning comments. Our boundaries are always crossed, our work stolen, and our bodies treated as entertainment instead of being seen as equal partners in the world of STEM.

But somehow, in all of this mess, I’ve found some kind of community within my classes. As we slave hours and hours over Physics homework, I’ve met a vast amount of people. Friends in both of my physics lecture and lab classes, friends during office hours, and now, just friends. Predominantly, they’re men of color. The same men of color who defended and comforted me when I hit my breaking point during lab. The same men who have a deep respect for the work I do, the person I am, and my many aspirations as an Astrophysicist. The same man of color who is my adviser, rooting me on to apply for internships. It is through the protection, care, and strength of the men of color within my classes that helped me through the hardest days. They are the reason I don’t live in constant paranoia, their company always something I look forward to every week.


I am my Strength and my Delicacy

One of the most empowering moments for myself was when I stopped letting my identity control me. Growing up in the Bay Area, liberal ideals about queerness and gender identity have always shaped how I saw myself as a queer, nonbinary person. There was a constant need to seem queer enough as a means of validating my many identities, overshadowing those that was resonated and felt most dear to myself. There was this overwhelming feeling of needing to perform and fall in line to what people saw as a true queer, trans person, when I wasn’t even sure what that identity looked like for me.

My queerness has been rigid from the moment I came out. Coming out felt like a spectacle, as a 12 year old girl who realized her love for her best friend was more than friendship. I didn’t want to validate my love for her, nor did I see it as that big of deal, but felt pressured to assume an identity shaped by others’ perception. In my mid teens, I went through a process of proving my queerness to my straight friends, obligated to fall in line with what stereotypes they had of queer folks, particularly lesbians. An identity shaped by queer, white liberals, something so foreign to someone who simply was in love with a girl from her class.

These feelings were further compounded when I started to explore my gender identity. I was surrounded by white, upper-middle class people who’d lash out at anyone who fell in an uncertain realm of gender identity. To this day, I’m not certain what my identity at that time was. Polluted with what I thought was a “true non-binary person” I felt compelled to remove my breasts, cut my hair, and wear men’s clothing to somehow express how vacant of gender I was. I felt trapped in my own identity, trying to bring words and meaning to a person I already was.

To this day, I still fail to put words to my identity. Instead, I’ve allowed it to function like a stream of water, constantly changing and able to take multiple forms and fill various spaces. I’ve gotten past much of my previous beliefs of what being a “true non-binary person” is; it’s okay to be comfortable with my own body and still be trans. It is possible to be both a woman and non-binary at the same time, because the sting of being boxed into only a woman still exists. My identity is mine to change, dismantle, and reassemble as I go through life, never skipping a beat and forever open.

What would a life a nonbinary person be, directly challenging the binary itself with its presence, if not complex and confusing? If not open to change and personal interpretation? Without its constant fluidity, what does the nonbinary identity serve if its going to box us back into categories once again, just like the gender binary.

My gender identity is the way in which I wing my liner and wear sneakers everyday to school. It is the power and strength that rings in my voice and the softness of touch when I hold my partner’s hand. It is the aggressive, freight train-like presence I bring into classrooms, devouring all that’s in my path and refusing to let myself back down from solving difficult Calculus and Physics problems. It is the quiet that hangs in my movements, as I spread tarot cards on a table, only making noise when burning sage. My gender identity is much more than an assignment, a label, and a term, but the ways in which I live and fill my heart with those around me.

Social Justice & Organizing Work, STEM, Student Life

The Importance, Power, and Warmth of Femme Spaces in Academia

There is no way to repay women of color for the burdens we’ve carried on behalf of men. Historically, we’ve always been pushed into some kind of mold that caters to men, leaving only the shell of a woman, not driven by her own passions, militancy, or happiness but by marriage, the coddling of grown men, and the further reinforcement and upholding of the nuclear home.

In junction with all of this, I think about my own struggles as a woman of color. Within my respective field, I am consistently surrounded by men and masculine energy that chips away at me. These spaces are unsafe for a brown woman like myself, in which I become vulnerable to disrespect and sexual harassment. I am undermined, questioned, and my work, stolen. I get side comments about being on my period, being a bitch, and taking everything too seriously. Never am I seen as an equal in these spaces, consistently talked down to, having to work ten times harder to prove my ability and worth.

This constant abuse comes home with me. The constant guard I use to shield myself through these classes trickles back down into my safe spaces in which I often find myself stepping on toes. I become the very person I resent, forgetting to reach out towards my collective and the support of women of color. More so now, its become even harder to surround myself with feminine energy due to the amount of masculine spaces I spend large amounts of time in: at home, in class, with my partner, etc. I find myself re prioritizing now, shifting time where I can to make sure there is a balance of energy present in my life, with enough space to reflect, breathe, and re energize.

My career is only one portion of a bigger picture that every woman of color I know experiences. Each and every one of us carries the unique experience of race and gender in junction with one another. We don’t experience these two facets of ourselves as independent of one another, but occurring simultaneously, in ways that white women and men of color will never understand and experience. These experiences are so unique to the point of there being a variety of women of color feminist theories and ideologies, specific the the conditions of different races. The way in which a pinay would experience her race and gender is vividly different from the way in which a black woman experiences these facets, but rooted in the same issues of class stratification in junction with gender and race.

More and more, it becomes clear that the need to surround myself with feminine people and energy is vital to combat the detriment and overall toll that masculinity takes on me. Whether that be investing time with the women of color within my STEM class, time within the women’s sector of my collective, or simply studying around other brown femmes, the balance of energy is vital towards keeping everything I feel emotionally and mentally stable, even when faced with the many facets of oppression that are present in my chosen career.

And now, as I type alongside one of my closest queer pinay friends, as I feel the warmth and reaffirmation of bell hooks’ talk on campus, as she and I giggle in between my dancing and vent our frustrations with identity politics, I feel more whole than I have in the past two weeks. I feel ready to tackle my daunting load of Calculus homework, I feel at peace with my current conditions and state in classes. My complex femme identity not only is reaffirmed around the presence of other femme folks, but a space has been created, claimed, and full of our energy without worry of misogyny and racism to enter. My defenses are dropped, and I find solace between the eggshell, concrete walls that border the library.

Narrative Analysis, Student Life

Reevaluating, Prioritizing, and the Strength of a Pen

I’ve been away from my blog for quite a while and have missed the routine of writing a post everyday. The more and more I dive into the Astrophysics program on campus, my time becomes thinner and thinner, between the hundreds of pages of reading I have for my social sciences classes, and the hours of time allotted to even get through Physics homework. In all this time I’ve been away, I’ve learned a few things, and grown in different ways. New questions and obstacles have emerged, changing my conditions and the tactics I use to get through them. I feel as if I’ve entered a new book in my life, not even a chapter anymore, as I approach my 20’s and leave my late teens in the dust.

I’ve realized how true the statement “writers have no lives” is. Finding the time to write has become increasingly harder the more elements I introduce into my academic, social, and creative circles. My classes are more and more demanding, as I jump into the challenges of my core classes for Astrophysics alongside my upper division work in Race and Resistance Studies. The two paired together create this academic weight I’m constantly carrying: chapters and hundreds of pages of reading every week alongside Calculus and Physics homework that require 10-15 hours worth of intensive work every week. My social life is thriving, in more ways than one. My housemates and I have created a community in our home, where we all respect and care for one another. The house is warm, and a refugee from the outside. After being on my own, I’ve entered a healthy relationship, with the guy who’s the furthest thing from Greg. I’m starting to communicate better, trying to own up to my own faults instead of running away from them. My partner has also flowed into my creative circles, a bassist and producer himself, in which we share space with a music collective, in which the four of us collaborate on songs and our own EP’s.

There’s nothing wrong with where I’m at, if anything I’ve been waiting for the day I’d be here, it’s more so a matter of reorienting myself and making sure I don’t get lost. I need to reevaluate the space I’m in, vastly different from the place I was emotionally and mentally last year. I need to ask hard questions about what matters to me most now, and make sure that in all of it, I have the time and the ability to do so. In the context of my writing, I need to ask myself if it matters and, if it does, how do I prioritize it again?

My vacancy of writing stems from a lot of factors. First, I have a new creative outlet. No longer am I alone in a library typing away, but have been welcomed into a community of creatives, creating music, and applying my writing in the context of songs. I have a music background, originally in opera and Broadway music, but also in the world of Hiphop and Bay Area sound. Unlike my writing, I have a creative community in the world of music, with people who challenge me and are constantly introducing me to new elements of creating music. This support and constant growth explains a lot in my shift towards music, and a new application of my writing. In many ways, I feel isolated and alone as a writer. I don’t have writing circles, or people to challenge me the way I did last semester with my mentor. Being alone, I don’t have anyone to support me when writing gets hard to do, or to challenge my writing itself. I feel locked in place, with no room to grow but unable to put my work to the side because it still matters.

Another element is within my schoolwork. With a thriving social life, I’ve neglected aspects of my schoolwork. I’ve put off readings, only done homework assignments the day of their due date, and found myself in a constant state of catching up. In juggling my social and academic lives, I’ve forgotten about writing. I’ve forgotten how good it feels to break down all the processes that turn in my brain, all the elements of an argument that only go so far when I talk about them. I’ve forgotten its importance in my life in processing everything I experience, how vital it is for me to go through this process of interpreting emotions and thoughts and structuring them into a visual argument that I can reflect and further process; this loop within my writing that has been the catalyst to so much personal, emotional, and mental growth. My security, my safety blanket that extends past myself and on to others. I’ve left my lifelong passion in the dust and have become hollow as a result.

As I transition into the new school year, I find myself needing to put my writing and academic circles as first priority, letting the rest fall into place. I need to start thinking about what being an Astrophysicist means to me, and how it connects to my lifelong work as an organizer and writer. I need to start applying for internships within my respective field, devouring books and theory alongside. I need to start filling my life back with the melody of my writing, focusing on my short stories and blog work much more seriously than I have in the past. I need to remind myself of why I’m here in the first place, and the love that I carry within my work.

Without my writing, I’m hollow. Without my writing, I’m emotionally unstable. Without my writing, the world doesn’t make sense. Without my writing, I’m not the person I want to see, and I never want to be someone I don’t know ever again.

Family Life

Goodbye Nanay Ering

After spending the night doing Calculus homework and reading about Lenin and the Russian Revolution, I woke up this morning with a heaviness I couldn’t put words to. The City has been cold and rainy since yesterday, and this morning in particular was disjointed a clumsy. After being dropped off home, I curled on my bed and scrolled through my newsfeed, where I stumbled across a post my ate had posted a handful of hours ago. My nanay Ering had passed away and a sense of shock and numbness overtook my body.

She was my only lola in my family, known as the mother of mothers. I called my mother right afterwards, crying and trying to piece together the situation. Nanay had developed infections from her smoking, and althought we knew her time was coming, none of us expected it to happen this morning. After enduring immense pain, her body finally gave out and shutdown.

I’ve only met her once, a decade ago, when my manang Jing was getting married. I was 10 at the time, naive to the rarity of the situation. My mother and I can’t afford to visit the Philippines as frequently as we’d like, leaving us with only webcam videos and the occasional phone calls. What is only oceans away has felt like entire solar systems, always so close yet so far from my family back home, the only true family I know.

Nanay, I miss you. I miss your laugh, I miss your warmth. I miss your food, I miss your jokes. The smell of cigarettes cling to your memory now whenever I smoke. The way you loved filled our family with such warmth and joy because you were the glue. You were on of the strongest women of our family, never married and always supporting all of us instead of yourself. I hope to be as selfless and kind as you were, with the wit and charm of a brilliant pinay. I’m grateful you’re relieved of the pain that wrecked havoc on your body, and that you’re reunited with the rest of our lolos and lolas. I love you nanay, and I hoped you knew that too.

Spirituality, STEM

The Empress and The World

During the day, I ping pong back and forth between my social science and STEM classes. In both my Calculus and Physics courses, we work with raw numbers, drawing endless diagrams to somehow interpret a 3D plane on a piece of paper, recalling everything we learned in Calculus I, and doing direct applications of Trigonometric identities and the unique qualities of the angles and sides of triangles. I take a lot of comfort in these classes, especially since finding a community of brilliant women of color, and feel a level of emotional connection and comradery to the other femmes in our classroom. We gush over our favorite albums, Solange’s newest release in particular, and bond over the common struggle of being brown/black and femme in spaces full of toxic masculinity and suffocating whiteness. We check each other’s work, never failing to share our answers with one another and talk through our processes. After full days of analytical thinking and processes, I come home at the end of the day to a house that smells like sage and palo santo, shedding my hard exterior and allowing myself to be centered for the first time that day.

More and more, holistic health is what’s been keeping me sane and grounding me through one of the roughest couple of weeks at school. I’m still pinching pennies, almost always on a verge of a breakdown whenever I think about the hoops I’ve had to jump through to receive the blood money that continues to add to the weight of my ball and chain. As someone who’s lost in the world of equations, diagrams, and the language of math and physics, digging deeper into myself has been the relief that’s keep me level-headed and able-bodied to tackle the stress of school. More recently, I’ve started to soften my hard exterior and let people in, connecting emotionally and spiritually with the ones I love through gifting blessed crystals and interpreting their cards. The practice and art of tarot in particular has kept me not only in tune with myself but those around me, reaching a deeper meaning of self and love for those around me.

Tarot reading works as spiritual therapy. Someone is entrusting me with their fate and problems in a way most people will never experience. The emotional connections I’ve had every person whom I’ve read their cards for, regardless of how well I know them, hangs as the cards force you to look and feel deeper. The act of chance and fate within tarot itself is what’s so unnerving but effective, since my role is simply interpretation. The energy of the cards themselves, as the individual allows themselves to bond to them, is what guides a person. Tarot is more about the person being read digging into themselves in a way they never had before, with the interpreter regulating the energy of the cards and making their overwhelming power and knowledge digestible, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Whether or not anyone believes in tarot isn’t my concern. I don’t do tarot because I expect some kind of validation from those around me, and I especially keep it hidden from the cold, stone-faced world of STEM. I do tarot for the emotional connection it brings with those around me. Every single person I’ve read has reached some kind of clarity and emotional relief when doing tarot. It could be that it’s simply a deck of cards that just have clever, open ended meanings. It could be that tarot is complete bullshit, with no mathematical basis to prop it up in the world of STEM. It could be that I’m just very good at reading from a tiny book of explanations. Tarot is less about whether or not it’s true but more so about what it does do: heal.

Tarot forces the interpreter and the one getting a reading to talk through their problems. Tarot forces you to take a long hard look at yourself, pushing for change and growth. It gives comfort to the direction you’re taking with your life, or guides you to a new path and chapter of life. That’s what’s so special about tarot; regardless of who you are and what you believe, it cradles your heart and helps to give you some sense of direction moving forward. Tarot, whether or not it’s “real”, is the most emotionally vulnerable, grounding kind of coping mechanism one could take up.

I probably won’t tell my friends in STEM that I do readings anytime soon, since it’s hard enough to be brown and femme in those spaces, but it’s not something I’ll actively hide and tuck away. Tarot has helped me round myself out and lower my anxiety down to a happy, functional level, better than any medication or therapy session ever has.I look forward to the people I’ll meet because of my readings, and those I have yet to help guide and comfort, as I continue to carve out what spirituality means for a brown femme like myself, caught up in the world of stars and planets.