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.

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.

Mental Health, Student Life

The Burden of a University Student

My makeup is smudged as I lay in bed, attempting to regulate my breathing and calm my racing thoughts. This is the third panic attack I’ve had today, and the worst of the three. My back aches, my head thumping, and my eyes tired. The silence in my room is filled with a faint ringing and every so often, the light of my phone is too harsh and I have to close my eyes.

I’ve spent the day running back and forth on an empty stomach and a restless night of sleep between the financial aid office of my school and classes. The aid I was supposed to receive a week ago was delayed by the never ending pile of IRS related tasks, reporting the income of my family and myself to my school. I’ve been scraping by the past week, living off of my parents’ financial/emotional support and the kindness of friends who understand my situation. 

Within three days of being in school, I’ve had almost five panic attacks, starved myself, and gotten little to no sleep. I haven’t gone to sleep without having a mental breakdown this entire week and I can feel my health deteriorating as I type.

And I’m not the only one. Students fill the bursar’s office as each one of us leaves, equally distraught as we entered, only given one word answers from advisors who are supposed to be our support. Financial Aid has its hands wrapped around my throat, as I spin in circles trying to get money that I need to survive. 

It’s the end of the day and I feel heavy. My body hurts and I’m too tired to panic anymore. In all of this, I can’t help but think about the trials of other students. Those who don’t have Aid. Those who are homeless. Those who are starving. Those without a collective. Those without a support system. In all of this, I’ve had people alongside me, helping me breathe and manage my situation but I couldn’t imagine coming out of this without them. 

There’s something deeply wrong with our education system when our students feel like they’re walking into a corporation instead of a learning institution

Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life

Redefining Love and Community

Blogging has kept me sane. The entirety of the past 3-4 months, pouring my heart out to complete strangers, has helped me carve out the voice and person I hope to be and grow as in ways I would’ve never imagined. I’ve been unearthing so much of my pain and trauma for the world to see that I’ve finally reached a point where the majority of stones have been turned. I’ve cried my trauma out, written 500-600 word blog posts, and let myself just embrace pain. Now I want to talk about love.

I’ve reached a point in my adulthood where everything hangs delicately in a hazy balance, the scales tipping ever so slightly and shifting back into place. For once, existence isn’t difficult, but floating with ease. I laugh brightly and let my voice boom and control a room. The past week, I’ve poured my entire self into complete strangers and have felt so bonded by our love for each other, ourselves, and our crafts. At 2am, we belted Hotel California as I hit notes I haven’t bothered to reach since I was 11. I revisited my love of music and let it fill me like a dive into a saltwater pool. I’ve fallen in love with people for being people and let kindness fill my heart. My chest is light, my eyes bright and wide open.

My life is in a point of transition, as doors continue to open. In finding love within my craft and the people around me, I’ve found a deep love within myself. I’ve fallen in love with the way my voice cracks when I push a note too hard, because I’m just feeling it. I’ve fallen in love with the way I fill space, the way I love those around me. I’ve fallen in love with the mind that continues to be critical and a heart that nurtures. I’ve let myself create and take space, opening a level of self love and love for my community I’ve never felt before.

I’m excited to continue to write. I’m so very humbled to have a community that loves and supports me in ways I’ve never felt; a community that in my darkest of days knew and believed in my potential and abilities and never gave up in me. And so today, I’m thankful for the way I love and the way I’ve created love not only within myself, but with those who have never stopped loving me.

Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life

Being a Half Adult & The Power Dynamics of Age

In many ways, I feel like a half adult. I take out loans, manage bills, and have even looked at marriage as a potential tax break, but don’t feel completely like an adult. I’m young, entering my 20’s this year, and find myself between preparing for adulthood and embracing my youth. A constant back and forth, I’m exhausted with the amount of energy I expend puffing my chest around a bunch of assholes who will continue to see me as young, naive, and stupid regardless of the level of emotional and mental development I achieve.

A lot of these kind of toxic relationships have dissolved in my life, or are in the process of being removed and pushed away. They’re a feudal, based on the power dynamics that exist in misogyny. Very often, a young, feminine person like myself gets used, sexualized, and tossed away at the end, leaving crippling scars and bad dating habits in the dust.

And for someone like myself, they’re exhausting. These games of power and control have hurt my own ability to form relationships with others. I don’t trust men; I’ve become so detached from my romantic and sexual aspects of my life that dating isn’t part of my life anymore. Recently, I’ve kept to myself and to higher standards. I’ve been cultivating self worth and confidence through those around me and everything I do for myself. I’ve become keenly focused on my career and everything around me I have yet to experience.

Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life

Fuck December

I haven’t really let myself feel for the entirety of December. The month has been weighed down by the stress of school, compounded by financial insecurity and issues within my romantic life. I haven’t been myself for a while, haven’t written the same way I would the last two months I’ve had this blog. I’ve been heavy, unable to face my personal issues head on, and unable to true connect to my writing. In many ways, I’ve been emotionally vacant and unresponsive, causing me to act out and take things too personally.

School within itself this semester was a shit show. Almost every class was traumatic. Calculus was full of egotistical frat boys and aspiring entrepreneurs, our professor spewing his apolitical rhetoric every now and then. The women and fem people of the class experienced a trauma well known within STEM, forced to deal with the bull-headed misogyny that resonated in the classroom.  My Earth Science class reeked of whiteness, within not only the professor but the students. Even in my most radical, critical thinking class was I met with trans-exclusionary, hyper masculine rhetoric and found myself scrambling to defend myself as an organizer in a space that I should feel free to share my radical politics in. One by one, my spaces became more and more violent and I found myself dependent on marijuana, scraping the last bits of each bowl.

This was compounded by my own financial stress. Too many bills and too many surprises came by way nearing the end, where I had to reach out to my parents for help after being independent financially from them since the Summer. It became increasingly harder to talk about anything financial and was especially traumatizing because of all the financial insecurities I held in my youth being brought to my attention for the first time. I had to deal with myself when I couldn’t, since somehow surviving was a blurry picture. I started to starve myself to bring down costs, feeding into my existing eating disorder. Everything took a sharp turn when I almost passed out studying in the library, and the instincts of survival kicked in.

This weight that I’ve been carrying with me for the entirety of the year is still very much so on my shoulders, but I’d be lying if I said it was the only thing I carried with me. Somehow in all this mess, between the booze and polarizing classes, I found a new love that opened up an unknown world to me. I found solace in my writing, each piece lightening my load. I was able to be mentored by an amazing professor, the same professor who ignited my fire for writing and gave me the confidence to demand my voice be heard. I found a new, revolutionary love within my collective. The kasamas and lifelong friends who only a phone call away, ready to be by my side through the hardships. I found a home, after feeling lost for so long.