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.

Narrative Analysis, Social Justice & Organizing Work

Don’t Be A Greg

I’m notoriously known through my group of friends for dating shitty men. For whatever reason, I always manage to date someone who minimizes me as a person and is unable to really grasp where I’m coming from. Anyone who knows me understands the history of trauma and toxic masculinity that I’ve faced through my teens, and even now as I start to transition into my early twenties. It seems that the narrative of women constantly being sexualized and harassed is rapidly becoming more and more commonplace. There is a bond between women and femme people alike where we’re constantly being talked over, reduced, and forced to put our feelings in the backseat, in fear of our lives being taken away. The most frightening part of all of this is that we’ve become accustomed to it as a society. We’ve normalized the sexualization of women and femme people, act as if the triggers of rape victims and survivors don’t matter, and refuse to acknowledge the power that male privilege holds. This is rape culture, and unpacking the causes of it is the first of many steps for us as a society to progress forward.

Two days ago, I was waking over to the tiny mall near my school after a long day of Calculus homework, Paleontology papers, and Presidential debates. I decided to spend my evening creating care packages for my adings, considering all three of us had a long week ahead. Headphones in, blasting the newest Power Struggle EP, I strolled through the shopping centre. As I racked my brain for ideas on what to get them, I was confronted with one of the scariest moments since my rape as a 17 year old; 6’3″, with a huge, hulking body, a man came from my blindside and stopped me in the middle of the walkway. I froze; the images of my abuser slapping me in the face with his genitals, the daunting laugh that echoed through my brain, the forceful grip on my arms, racing back and forth as I tried to recollect myself. This man, twice my size with the ability to snap me in half like a twig, struck a godlike fear into me with the simple act of forcing himself into my space just like my abuser had done to me almost two years ago.

The smile that was once on his face when he first confronted me melted as it was clear that I was frightened by his presence. “I didn’t mean to startle you” he said, “but I couldn’t help but notice how attractive you were from so far away.” My eyes rolled into the back of head as rage started to build within me. Who does he think he is? I thought. What makes him think he can force himself into my space? It didn’t matter how angry or scared I was, I still knew what I had to do: smile. I forced a giggle out of myself as I pretended to be flattered by his advance. “Oh, I have a boyfriend” I said, lying through my teeth. He retreated after his statement, but it didn’t take away from the fact that I was now shaken to my core. I became paranoid for the rest of the evening and days that followed. I went home, full of conflicting thoughts and fear. I regretted wearing makeup, putting on an outfit that made me feel good, and going out past seven ‘o clock.

This idea that a man can force himself into whatever space he wants, as long as his intentions are “good”, is toxic. Women are constantly being bombarded with an array of sexual comments, that work opposite of their intentions. Being seen this way throughout your whole life is exhausting. You start to place your values on your physical appearance, and not your own quality of self: looked at as this pretty thing, instead of a human being.

This experience has lead to sleepless nights and constant paranoia for the past three days and was further compounded by the last man I dated. “Greg” and I met two to three weeks ago at a party. He was refreshing, someone who was comfortable with the person he was and not actively controlled by the standards of masculinity. Our first date, I felt myself slip into a state of ease. We opened ourselves to talk to the issues within our lives, removing the masks we would usually wear when first meeting someone. Full of beer as we strolled through the quiet chaos of Oakland, we rambled on about our favorite Hiphop artists, what albums we had to listen to everyday, and new artist potential within the genre.

It wasn’t until our second date that I started to see through the bullshit facade. Greg was blinded by his own male privilege and would swell up in anger anytime I challenged his perception of the world around him. When his housemate schemed him out of money, something I didn’t condone, he’d lash out in a fit of rage, letting his anger consume him and projected on myself. He’d viciously undermine her, glossing over her critique of him being misogynistic and verbally abusive. Cackling to himself, he said, “What a stupid bitch. Is this how all Bay Area feminists are?”

It was no surprise that Greg would reduce down my experiences as a victim of sexual assault. Greg was the first person I reached out to after the incident at the mall, not doing much as to comfort me after the fact. He knew my past of sexual assault and trauma, so when he shoved his tongue down my throat and grasped his hand around my neck only 24 hours after being emotionally and mentally broken down, you can imagine my shock. I was originally okay with being lightly intimate, but there was a discomfort that grew inside me. After everything he had said, his sexual advances scared me. The more he touched me, my skin crawled. His increasingly forceful kisses overwhelmed me; as he hands made his way to groping my chest, I pushed him as far away from me as I possibly could.

I sat there, frozen. My body shook, my head dizzy from the emotional acrobatics. I couldn’t cry, I couldn’t speak. For almost an hour, I sat there staring blankly at my pile of books on the floor as I tried to process everything that had happened. Greg was frustrated with me, angry that I couldn’t give him any straight answers or explain any of my actions to him. You’re too intense, he said to me, what happened wasn’t a big deal and you need to learn to get over it.

I haven’t spoken to Greg since and I don’t plan to. His blindness to the privilege he held was toxic, and with enough time surrounding myself with a partner who held this mentally, it had all the potential to reduce me down and set me back on a path of victim blaming and glossing over the valid, real feelings I held towards my past assaults and current experiences with male aggression. The worst part about Greg is that he’s common. Greg is much more than a shitty guy with a bad attitude, he’s one of many people who uphold rape culture. Greg is toxic masculinity. He’s every judge, father, and politician who’s boiled down the experiences of women and victims of sexual assault down to “it wasn’t that bad, get over it.” He’s every boy reduced my rape in high school down to “she’s just a slut.” Greg is rape culture.

So I challenge you to challenge others. Identify your privileges, and utilize them to uplift those being pushed further. Most importantly, don’t be Greg. Listen to those trying to extend their perspectives and think critically about your actions. Know that for every Greg, there at least five people like myself who struggle to navigate through our lives due to trauma. Acknowledging privilege has never been about reducing your struggles, but more so understanding the bigger forces at work that intentionally are created to hurt and oppress others.