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

Navigating Harsh Spaces

This week, I came back to school from break. Sitting back in a generic couch on the third floor of my university’s library, I feel at peace as I tap away at my laptop, trying to wrap my head around being back to reality. My housemate and I have the same Race and Resistance Studies class together every Tuesday night and got released early, so the two of us are cooped up in a half empty building killing time as he waits for his next class and I take refugee between concrete walls.

Being back to school feels odd. It’s less of matter of wanting to lounge about, but immersing myself on a campus that feels both warm and foreign. My classes are filled with men, primarily computer science and engineering majors, that hold cold expressions. My classrooms aren’t small anymore, but filled with up to a hundred people. In rooms that feel as if they’re constantly expanding, I feel very alone.

After living so collectively with my group of friends for the past 2-3 weeks over break, school is a stark contrast; back in creaking seats and cold rooms full of people who don’t even want to be here. Sitting in classes full of men overwhelms me, as my trauma that I hold closely spikes up my anxiety about the guy to my left who has too smug of a smile. I find myself retreating back to my collectives for warmth and strength, since the cold steel that runs through our buildings fail to hold and comfort me the way my partners do.

Within times like these, I have to remind myself that my way of living is a revolutionary concept. Being part of multiple collectives and allowing myself to love polyamorously isn’t something that is easily accepted within our society. Communication crumbles in our society as our emotions suffocate. The concept of love becomes┬átoxic and skewed under systematic oppression as people like myself seek a love rooted in our liberation and further growth as humans.

Regardless of the side eyes, I will continue to practice revolutionary love even though its looked down upon. I will take deep breaths when my anxiety tightens my chest and demand my boundaries be respected. As I go into the school year, I hope to seek some kind of balance between my day to day and collective living, not letting the two be alien to one another but work hand in hand. I will continue to curl up on generic library couches when I write and claim space for myself.

And most importantly, I will never reduce myself. Not for myself, not for anyone.

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.

Mental Health, STEM

A Blink in the Universe

I woke up today with a heaviness that weighed down my entire body. This feeling isn’t new; throughout the entirety of winter break, I’ve felt my depression looming over me. I haven’t been writing, eating, or going out as much as I should, and instead, have been combating it with more weed, and more booze. I’ve let myself waste away, covering it up with the excuse of last semester being one of the most stressful and challenging times. The relief I thought I would have from being on break has yet to wash over me, and instead, I’m left with myself and my unchecked mental health. I can get lost in my depression sometimes, and forget why I’m working as hard as I do.

It wasn’t until this morning that the ease of writing came back to me. I was flipping through a journal my mother had given me for Christmas. “99 Things That Bring Me Joy”, each illustration prompted by a number and writing task. The entries tend to be short, since the pages don’t accommodate much space, but I don’t plan to write much in them. As I flipped through I came across number 59: “An aspect of nature that inspires you.” It wasn’t the prompt that had me fixated on the page, but the illustration: a blue page filled with constellations and a tiny observatory at the bottom of the page. I felt my heart swell in ways it hasn’t for the past two weeks; the kind of heart swell that fuels the majority of my writing. It reminded me of the reason why I love Astrophysics as much as I do: the security and uncertain certainty of space.

I was eight years old when first confronted my own mortality. I owned a ton of books about space, including a tiny, pocket encyclopedia that I had read cover to cover and kept on my person whenever anyone had a question about the universe. I was reading about the lifetimes of stars, the same flaming balls of gas that continue to intrigue me today, and how stars die. For the first time in my youth, I was confronted with the mortality of not only humans and my many pet fish, but of great giants, like stars. These same great giants perished too, and in many cases, took everything with them. I knew that our Sun would one day die, swelling into a red giant opposed to a supernova due to its relatively smaller size, and whether it was into a red giant or a supernova, it’d take with it any form of life along with it, including me. My whole world would be reduced to cinders, and I was okay with it. The price of life was one that was great, because the experience of life is something unimaginable.

So when I do wake up on days like this and feel the weight of my depression, I remind myself part of the weight is gravity. I remind myself of planetary motion and Enceladus, the moon the could support life. I remind myself of everything we don’t know, and how the universe is out there just waiting for someone to find it. And when I do remember all of this, I’m reminded that it’s okay for me to have bad days. It’s okay for me to step back, because I do have a lot on my plate. And when things really get bad, it helps to know that humans probably won’t make it to the death of our Sun. Our lives are a blink in the universe, and I plan to love this blink with all of my ability.

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.

Social Justice & Organizing Work

Brother, We’re Here For You

As my coffee brewed this morning, I scrolled through my Facebook feed. I’m very lucky to have a circle like I do on social media, full of organizers and critical people who post articles, thought pieces, and artistic projects they’re working on. I ran across a post in particular that erked me: a short video of an Asian man singing a country song, titled, “When an Asian man is trying to get a white girl”. My skin crawled reading this, so many assumptions on that video piled into one basket.

There’s so many narratives about the love lives of Asian men, so many that there’s a Facebook page called “Love Life of an Asian Guy”, that I can’t help but ask- why? Some of the narratives are similar in tone as the video mentioned, praising the white woman. I saw the same crap with Eddie Huang, holding a book that detailed how Asian men can get white women. Why is it, in both of these instances, that the white woman is praised? Besides the generalization of white women, why is whiteness constantly a few tiers above women of color?

This comes from a deeper issue of being Asian in a white world: the women are fetishized and the men desexualized. Many Asian men I know are very stern in their struggles of navigating masculinity, feeling as if they can never fall in love with these standards nailed on to their forehead. The problem with the way this struggle is dealt with isn’t in reducing their desexualization, but aligning their struggles with the overall struggle for women’s liberation.

Under patriarchy, things like the desexualization of Asian manifest. Because Asian women are seen as fragile and docile, in turn, the men are reduced. Asian men, in fighting their desexualization, cause even more problems for not only Asian women, but women of color. Why must these men align themselves with masculinity? What does it matter if a man is feminine? When these men align themselves with masculinity, they often turn to misogyny to be accepted, very similar to the issues of the poor, working class white folks who align themselves with whiteness; Asian women and women of color are more in common with Asian men opposed to the typical white male. In failing to align their struggles with women of color, they continue to repeat the cycle of violence to not only women, but themselves.

I’d like to challenge more men, not just Asian men, to understand their roles under misogyny and the need to align themselves with masculinity. In hearing out and supporting women of color towards our liberation, not only will the constraints men of color face be broken, but women and non-men folks alike will.