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.

Student Life

Being Poor in Academia

I have always felt my class background amplified in academic spaces. On my first day of school as a Kindergartner, my mom sent me in a Harry Potter t-shirt, nice jeans, and my Velcro sneakers I had just picked out from Payless the day before. My mother couldn’t afford to purchase new uniform clothes for me and so right from the first day, I stuck out as a sore thumb. I got detention right off the bat and kept getting in trouble for almost a month of school because I didn’t wear a uniform. My mother eventually got the money for “appropriate school clothes” but the damage of being reprimanded day after day had been done. I was the kid who couldn’t afford uniforms, and that stuck with me from my time as a four year old to now as an adult.

High school had a similar effect on me. The day before my freshman year, I stayed up until 3am picking out an outfit. None of my clothes were new, nothing was looking good, and I was deathly afraid about being treated differently because of my class background. After going to the same K-8 school for nine years, I was now attending a whole different school full of people who didn’t know me at all. I was excited to reinvent myself, the life I was going to carve out in these “golden years”, but felt reduced to the clothes on my back.

Even as an adult, I’m ashamed of my class background. I don’t like admit that my family is poor, and have instead gone through life faking it. I would assimilate as much as I could, banking on my academic capital to push me through life. I was promised a different life if I studied hard enough, but have failed to see any evidence of it. When I entered college, already 5,000 in debt from loans, I found myself surrounded by others who faced similar struggles because of how academia is set up. Almost everyone I know is in debt, working odd jobs for scraps and barely making rent. Working class students are drowning financially and taking out more than we can afford.

Most of all, I feel completely crippled and locked in. Even if I decided college wasn’t for me halfway through, I couldn’t step back. I don’t have the means to take a semester off, nor could I ever pay off the debt I’ve accumulated. Within my second year soon entering my second semester, I’m almost 20k in debt coming out of a family that only makes 18k a year.

In my case alone, the number don’t make any sense. How could a student coming from an 18k a year family even get to the point where they’re more in debt than their family makes a year? How does someone like myself, with no economic capital, do better when academia itself is going to put me in an even worse situation?

I’m tired of being financially overwhelmed. I’m tired of universities looking more like corporations than places of learning. I’m tired of my university piling more and more fees by the semester and I’m especially angry that they’re now attempting a 5% increase on tuition when the majority of us don’t even know where our next meal is coming from. Education is a human right that is not exclusive to those with economic capital. Education is not optional anymore, but required to survive.

Mental Health, Student Life

Mind Maps and Color Coded Lists

My personal notebook is full of mind maps I create to sort out my thoughts for future writing projects and blog posts. My simple, faux black leather bound notebook is with me no matter where I go, accompanied by my dirty, striped pencil pouch and my makeup bag that almost always smells a little like weed. There are a few coins at the bottom of my bag and sometimes a loose hair tie for long nights on our campus library. I never clean my bag, just like my room, but still try to give it some sort of loose system so I don’t feel too scattered.

The majority of my life is structured like my bag. To an outsider, I look like a mess. I’m a paper hoarder, collecting every single assignment and mini quiz I get a B or higher on. I refuse to take notes on my laptop and always end up carrying two or three notebooks everyday because different subjects need their own space for notes. I haul around a huge ASUS laptop covered in stickers around campus every single day, because what if I get inspired to write something on my blog? I live in a constant state of preparedness, making sure I have everything I need, even if that means I have a huge ass backpack.

A lot of this need to be prepared stems from my own life of dealing with anxiety and debt. I worry constantly about not taking full advantage of my resources on campus, not absorbing everything I can from an instructor. I’m barely in my second year of college, and I’m already 13k in debt. From my estimations, I’m going to be around 40-50k in debt if I graduate within five years, a heavy weight imposed on my 20k a year family for the sake of higher education.

I’m stressed. I’ve put such a weight on myself and set the bar so high that I can’t breathe. The stress is starting to take over not only the messy organization of my backpack, but my entire life. I can’t sit still. I can’t enjoy my weekend. I’d much rather work in the library to guarantee the grade I’m looking for.

Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life, U.S. Politics

I Don’t Give a Fuck About the First Amendment

I woke up this morning with no energy or excitement to go to my Astronomy lab class. Daly City/SF is currently pouring with rain and assaulting its civilians with wet socks and inverted umbrella. I generally love the rain in concept, but hate having to deal with it bouncing from class to class. The top half of my backpack is damp since my tiny, olive green umbrella can barely cover my head.

I couldn’t imagine anyone being able to accomplish anything outside of the buildings on campus, but somehow, hate finds a way. I was in my lab, not entirely listening to my professor as she repeated the instructions for the third time,  when I first caught wind of the Zionist propaganda flooding our campus. The propaganda specifically targeted the General Union of Palestine Students (GUPS), the Palestinian Youth Movement (PYM), and one of our beloved professors in the AMED (Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diasporas) program. These groups were painted as “terrorists” in the posters and struck a feeling of disgust within our organization (LFS-SFSU) and anger for the hateful portrayal of our allies and friends.

I can’t describe exactly how I’m feeling right now, an hour after realizing what had happened. Our organizations are currently figuring out how to best support GUPS, emotionally and politically, but as individuals we’re angry. San Francisco, a city known for our inclusive, progressive agenda, is riddled with hate speech. Whoever is behind this campaign is spineless and has no real understanding how to constructively speak to issues they may oppose. This disposition is something that we generally see within groups who uphold the system; a heart full of hate and a mouthful of bullshit.

Regardless of your political stance, this direct attack on our community is something that should be denounced. People of our community, who even combat violent rhetoric with nonviolence, are being targeted and attacked. As a city that touts itself for its progressive agenda, I’m appalled how “under the rug” situations like these are dealt with. Hate speech will never be tolerated, regardless of association with the target. Whether or not those targeted in this context were our friends, lovers, or comrades it does not reduce the fact they are people.

I don’t give a fuck about your first amendment rights. Take your free speech, shove it up your ass, and realize the malevolent power hate speech has on communities of marginalized people.

Blabs, Social Justice & Organizing Work, Student Life

Quad Shot Latte, Please

I don’t have much energy today, nor do I feel like I have the mental capacity to really construct a fully developed argument or narrative, but I suppose it’s okay considering one of our candidates for President hasn’t even developed the ability to do so.

October is one of the most stressful times in the semester. It seems like everyone around me is falling apart from the weight of the semester building on their shoulders. Students are forgetting to eat, their weak bodies dragging through campus to get to their next class. Sleep deprived, heavy eyes scan the hallways as the mental checks in every students’ heads click away, reminding them of the lengthy math problems, dense midterm papers, and daunting exams that loom at the end of the day. I’m no exception to this rule, as I feel my emotional capacities run low.

I haven’t worn makeup for almost a whole week. I attend class in the clothing I sleep in, doing the bare minimum for hygiene and showering every 2-3 days. I haven’t been myself recently, and part of this I think is the fact that I analyze everything. My brain is constantly working, fueled off of espresso shots and paranoia that I’ll forget something. Even as I write now, I’m thinking about my weekly checklist. I’m thinking about how good it’ll feel to tick each box off, knowing damn well the list won’t reduce in size.

Right now, I’m trying to power through a rough patch of writers block, which is why all I can really handle to write is a “blab” of all the emotions and conflicting feelings I have. I’m finding a significant amount of comfort in whiny Lana Del Rey songs and naps as I go through this time. It’s taking every bone in my body not to automatically revert back to bad coping mechanisms: bulimic tendencies,  isolation, drinking too much. I’m trying to be kind to myself, understanding that it’s okay to go through blocks like this. I’m like a plant trying to push itself to grow and thrive in concrete, and with enough time, strength, and self love, I’ll be able to do so.

To my readers, students especially, I hope you all are taking care of yourself during this crippling time. Makibaka huwag matakot: dare to struggle, don’t be afraid.

Student Life

I Sold My Soul to Academia

The deeper I go into academia, the more isolated I seem to get. Mid afternoon on a Friday, I’ve holed up deep into my school’s library typing away at my blog. There’s nothing wrong with me taking the time to focus my energies into the content of this blog, if anything I find it therapeutic to just allow myself to subconsciously work on my writing abilities as I ramble into the void that is the Internet, but at times it’s hard to pull away from my laptop and go outside. I’ve become a workaholic, avoiding friends and the many text messages that are currently piling up on my phone. I value the time I spend studying Calculus and writing essays more than human interaction sometimes. Academia is swallowing me whole.

I was just discussing these counterproductive tendencies to a kasama of mine a day ago. In our talk, we started to unpack my deep insecurities and misplaced value of academia in my life. The importance our society holds in academics to my generation is overwhelming, the effects detrimental. I went through high school in the International Baccalaureate program, in hopes of attending UC Berkeley alongside the rest of my glazed-eyed, sleep deprived peers. Being overwhelmed and taking on too much was a badge each of us wore, the number of higher level classes determining our worth as students. Our capacities were ignored and our health was secondary to writing a paper on The Crucible.

In my work as an organizer, I started to realize how much this martyr complex broke me. It emphasized efficiency, a core belief in capitalism and societies like the United States, over the well being and emotional health of a person. In serving the people, taking up this mentality was hypocritical and my journey in dissecting and unlearning this way of life has become crucial to my work in activism. How can I serve the people if I can’t help and serve myself? What does it say about me as a ND organizer when I adopt this mentality and allow institutions to break up my relationships with others?

Not basing my self worth upon my ability to fulfill the ever-growing list of tasks is a challenging life change to make, but identifying this issue facilitates this growth. I am still learning my place in the movement, forever growing and pushing toward the pro-people society I organize for. Taking these small steps to surround myself with my kasamas, I can already feel myself progressing towards a healthier state of being. Within this leap of faith and critical self analysis, true progress can be made. Slowly, I’m allowing myself to admit my ignorance in topics and ask for help. My stubborn, prideful qualities are reducing, and with due time, I hope to reach a level of self love I have yet to experience.