#BlackOnCampus: from the perspective of a Simmons MBA candidate

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I once heard Professor George Lipsitz of UC Santa Barbara say that we write in order to reach someone out there in the universe who is waiting to hear our voice, to be inspired, to become curious, to join the conversation… and now, I write to you.

Today I stood in solidarity with fellow students of color and allies across the country, to demand that Simmons College account for the trauma, violence, and experiences of POC students who feel isolated, tokenized, misrepresented, and invisible. This is only the beginning of our current battle at Simmons, but as I see it, nothing will change. We are only the 2015 version of the same fight, perpetually engaged in a war that has been going on for centuries: people of color scraping for any amount of equity in a white world.

Part of a greater conversation, I am fortunate enough to be on a college campus at a time when students of color and allies are gathering in solidarity to demand justice and equity for our existence and success against institutions that perpetuate white supremacy. We have a right to be here, just like white students. We have a right to resources and tools to advance ourselves, just like white students. We have a right to have our history acknowledged in core curriculum, just like white students. We have a right to feel safe, just like white students. We have a right to see ourselves in our faculty, administrators, and leadership, just like white students. But unlike white students, we are not privileged to navigate life not knowing these things. And unlike white students, we risk our physical, mental, emotional, academic, and professional safety when we speak for ourselves.

12239899_10103801216982551_5859282870980655845_nI didn’t show up to campus today knowing I would be a part of the Simmons #BlackOnCampus demonstration. I thought it would be just another full Tuesday: macroeconomics and strategic management on deck, with plenty of stress crammed into everything and everyone, as graduation is literally less than a month away (woot!). I got a text after my first class letting me know that something was going down, and I needed to be there. Not knowing exactly what I would be getting into, I had the info I needed: black students are demonstrating at noon. Count me in. I joined a strong, silent group of students and faculty sporting black on black attire, standing  arm-in-arm in the main campus building, with demands displayed as civilians passed by trying to figure out what the hell was going on. At one point, two white undergraduate women were attempting to pass through our circle and asked if they could get through. “No, you’ll have to go around,” a demonstrator explained. “Uhh, really? That’s gonna be pretty difficult since you’re blocking the whole floor… ?” responded one of the women. How appropriate, I thought to myself, that these non-participants experience a teensy-tiny bit of the inconvenience that students of color feel every day.

The demonstration resulted in what we wanted. The president and provost of the college met us, read our demands, met with the student representatives, and set up a meeting for further negotiation. **Notice it’s still a negotiation. I watched the conversation happen, and while I couldn’t hear all the details, saw the president and provost placate the situation, nod their heads in “understanding” and “agreement” that things need to be done. As they left, students cheered, hugged, cried, and hung around to provide support to one another. I stood there, watching my fellow students congratulate each other on their small win and felt happy for them. Suddenly, I realized that I didn’t recognize anyone. I acknowledge that my MBA program is small, especially compared to the undergrad population, but I was surprised to be the only graduate student, at least in my discipline, present. Solidarity aside, I came away from the demonstration feeling eerily isolated, invisible, and out of place.

IMG_3933I came to Boston not knowing what I was going to accomplish here. Fast forward 2.5 years later, I’ve been able to establish myself as a Bostonian (for the most part), without losing sight of my SoCal-chill-vibe, which has been key to my survival here. Despite my cooler than cool/ ice cold persona, I confess that just because I rock does not mean I’m made of stone. At this moment, my “awareness” is at its peak. I am aware of my difference. I am aware that my interests are not aligned with those of my (white) colleagues. I am aware that most people I kick it with here have no idea how I feel about my race. I am aware that I do not seem ethnic enough. I am aware of the “privilege” I have. I am aware of how different my life is here, as opposed to on the West Coast where my OG support system’s at. I am aware of the lack of support I have when it comes to discussing matters of race. I am aware that I am putting myself at risk by posting this blog entry. But at the end of the day, this shit takes a fucking toll.

This is the first time I’ve felt so out of place since moving to Boston. Back home, people look like me. Out here, not so much. After the demonstration, I went straight home without saying a word to anyone. There was no one to tell it to. I let it all sink in. What would come of these efforts on the Simmons campus? Will the administrators simply say there isn’t room in the budget to accommodate the demands? Are they waiting for students to graduate so things simply die down and out? We are obviously not the first generation to attempt change; we are part of the tradition in which people of color make demands that are not met. So I slept the deepest sleep I’ve had in a long time. I was toast. I had nothing left. I was exhausted from my heightened sense of awareness, of my heightened sense of difference, of my heightened sense of isolation. I had crazy dreams about going down a staircase that seemed to go on forever. Where did the staircase end/begin? Where would I end up? And then I woke up.

I’m three weeks away from graduating with an MBA concentrated in organizational leadership. I chose to pursue this degree in order to develop the skills I need to steer organizations in what I see as the right direction. Infiltrate, expose, dismantle. I’m specifically focused in women’s leadership development and diversity & inclusion work, because I have something to say about it and feel personally invested in seeing women and people of color break through. I’m on the job hunt, and have expressed my passion and purpose in this field during interviews without blinking, because these organizations need to know what I bring with me. And I bring this with me everywhere I go and apply it to everything I do. I see my life as a living case study on intersectionality; I read about second-generation biases, microaggressions, leaky pipelines, and sticky floors all day. Equipped with this knowledge, I am attempting to navigate adult life as a woman of color with odds stacked against her. The world was not designed for people like me. Sure, I get turnt, Snapchat, go on dates with dudes I met on the Internet, play with makeup and get my nails done; but that’s me living life as any white person would. A confident, secure woman of color doing her thang and not giving a damn is a huge slap in the face of white supremacy IMO. But I am completely aware of how I got those perks in life. It’s from the struggle of my parents, my grandparents, my ancestors, my people who have literally sacrificed their lives so that I can come as close as possible to being free in this white supremacist world. I strive for excellence and expertise so I can earn my place in this white world because it is now my turn, my moment to honor the past and make way for my nieces, nephews, and possibly someday, for my own children.

I know I’m not alone. Mine is but one tale of many, many, many, and is symptomatic of a much bigger disease. This is one of the many reasons why institutions need to change. We feel the burden of your privilege. It’s a heavy load, but my eyes are open. I will sacrifice myself physically, mentally, emotionally, academically, and professionally for everyone who sacrificed so I could be here, and for those who have yet to be born…

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Putting the Why in D.I.Y.

A Year Since Heading East

A Year Since Heading East

It’s been just over a year since I’ve been in New England– and man, has it been a doozy! So much change (I know I say this every time.. but a lot does change in 6 months!). This change in particular has come with so much growth, especially since I’m well underway as an MBA student at the ONLY womens-only MBA program in the country AND I’m in the home stretch of my twenties. Yup, I’m gonna be 30 reeeeal soon, like less than 6 months soon– so all y’all who have watched me grow up all these years must be hella old! (lol)– but hey, I’m old too!

Summer Projects

What I’ve DIY’d this summer= Top row (L2R): turkey meatballs from scratch, log pillow adorned w/ embroidered flora, fried chicken; Middle: sewn black out curtains, flower wall art (made from toilet paper rolls), knitting project; Bottom: embroidered flora, chunky knitted scarf; zucchini bundt cake

So speaking of old, I talked to my grandmother the other day (who’s damn old). She and I were shootin’ the shit over the phone and she asked me what I’ve been up to. Since I’m all “alone” in New England and have had almost 5 weeks off from school (which I worked my butt off for), I took up knitting, embroidery, and going to all the local farmers’ markets with my little cart, while resuming sewing, crafting, cooking, and baking. Her reply to these activities was, “Ah that’s good– you’re practicing becoming an old maid!” …I just need a good deck of cards so I can start playing Bridge and Solitaire. I wasn’t offended by the old maid comment– I know she doesn’t care if I get married (or not). She’s not married! Plus, if old maids can do all of those things, they sound AWESOME! 

I like the age I am and am growing into. Despite not looking like I’m three decades old (as my aesthetician told me the other day post-chemical peel), I’m glad that I’m living a much more experience-based life than ever before! Experience dictates a strict regimen of a gentle cleanser, toner, moisturizer, AND SUNSCREEN — and these are two-a-days, ya’ hear?! Just ask my pores… In just this past year alone I’ve experienced a LOT: New England winter is one big part of that… and come to think of it, so is a New England summer (urban humidity is gross). I’ve been on my own for a while now, even before heading East, which really taught me how to appreciate what I have but also, not to settle. And I’m not just talking about the big things, like my MBA hustle. Daily things too: just because I can’t afford to eat out every day doesn’t mean I can’t learn how to recreate some of my favorite meals at home with FRESH ingredients! IMHO that’s is the best way to start cooking– find recipes for the stuff you love to eat and make it at home.

My Thanksgiving Feast

My Thanksgiving Feast! (Click to access my Pinterest Board: Thanksgiving 2013)

Once, when I was a wee pup in the cool, calm climate of Santa Barbara, I was chillin with some good friends who had made me a home cooked meal all from scratch (I think pâté was involved). I think I remember saying to the cook, “damn dude, can you make pies from scratch?” To which he replied, “Pies? Absolutely!” My mind was blown– people can make pie at HOME? Without Marie Calendar’s? Without frozen stuff?! [Funny enough, pies are pretty easy. Even pie crust is easy–it’s like 4 ingredients! And since then I’ve made all kiiinds of pies] So from then on man, no excuses. I needed to step my cooking game way the heck up. I started with my dad’s Filipino spaghetti recipe, which is unfortunately unavailable online. From there I moved on to other dishes, like chicken teriyaki, pasta carbonara, all the Thanksgiving foods, and so on– then I moved on to asking my roommate, “what should I cook this week? Meatballs? Ok. How about home brewed iced coffee to beat the heat? Yes.” And the rest is history. Cooking at home makes going out for meals a little more special– I try new things, try to expand my palate, and of course, if there’s a hot lobster roll on the menu, the decision has been made. My recipes aren’t really any of my own, they’re all adapted from recipes I’ve found or have been given, but that’s a start! My kitchen is stocked with good knives, a food processor, Kitchenaid mixer, and other multi-use tools; and I always have spices and citrus ready to add. I have the tools and ability (I’m good at the Internet) to make almost ANYTHING. Last year’s Thanksgiving Feast was epic (click board above to get recipes)– between two people I had the WORKS, and properly portioned it so that I could make a turkey pot pie & thanksgiving sandwiches for weeks. LOL

no comment.

Jammin out.

I’ve always been creative, and that’s thanks to my parents who are practical and fancy at the same time. I remember my mom sewing me outfits and costumes when I was a kid, making holiday sweaters for her fellow nurses at the hospital, and doing all kinds of crafty stuff! I remember going to the swap meet with her early weekend mornings for “tela” (“fabric” in Tagalog) and buying x-amount of yards for her projects– I do that now too, minus the swap meet part, but I always wait for a sale. Both of my parents are talented in the arts: they are both excellent drawers and have perfect penmanship. My dad can sing too and he was my singing coach for my family function performances (cray). How lucky I am to have a childhood surrounded by creativity! And they work really hard..  It really made me good at it, if that makes sense…

Beginnings of graphic design & writing skills...

Beginnings of graphic design & copy writing skills…

My cousins had a computer program for making super pixelated cards in the early 90’s. I’d ask them to type in the commands so that I could make cards while being babysat at their house. I vividly remember graphics of a giant heart, a running horse, and rose. I’d make these for my parents. I can still hear the sound of that dot matrix printer zipping line by line, while the continuous form paper was fed through the machine. The worst was when I’d make a card and tore the edges while trying to separate the guides from the sheets. Now, I’ve come to the point where I’m PAYING for Adobe CS monthly because I can’t stop fiddling with photos, designs, layouts, and video. Yea, dude. Paying. But it’s a small price to pay for letting the creativity flow (and helping with your sister’s 18th birthday programs and video montage).

Photo Props

Photo Props designed, cut, and assembled by hand.

My latest foray into DIY has been in textiles. I started with paper, making photo props with a fellow crafter friend, as a means of experimenting with the medium. Then I started “upgrading” old stuff in my apartment, the beginning stages of simple sewing and construction. This could easily devolve into a chronology of things I’ve made– but that’s not at all my point. There is something innate about creativity and the urge to make something (and I definitely ain’t talkin’ about makin’ no babies or makin’ my imaginary future husband no dinner). I’m talking about the empowerment to look around and see areas for improvement or opportunities for growth by taking on a project. The feeling of motivation and inspiration instead of feeling confined to what’s being mass-produced. Those TJ Maxx pants too long? No problem! A quick snip and hem, and BAM, I got some awesome pants. No longer am I at the mercy of “European” sizes!

DIY Chair Cushions

One of home improvement projects.

Sustainability is another aspect of this, in that people need to have a better appreciation for what is made by hand, by human hand, instead of subscribing to impulsive conspicuous consumption. This is not DIY for the sake of a hobby– this is making the most of what you have; it’s finding a second, third, or fourth use for something; being able to make a house a home without going broke; knowing exactly what you’re putting in your body for dinner. This is where creativity boils down to practicality; turning something into a more useful/healthy/efficient something. That log pillow I made was inspired by a similar pillow (without the flora) that I saw online last year for $30. It cost me $2.85 for that woodgrain fabric, and $5 for 20oz of Poly-fil. Crafting can seem to be ultra-feminine, but it takes skill. Back in my paper crafting days, I called myself an engineer because I had to figure out designs and techniques that would hold up to the purpose of my product. The same goes for other crafts– critical thinking is undoubtedly involved with layout, design, aesthetics, and execution. And then there’s hand-eye coordination, understanding the mechanics of the process, and being mentally present for your project– taking care of business! In knitting my first scarf, I neglected the first and last pegs on my loom for what seemed to be like 40 rows. That sucked. I had to unravel all those rows just to do them again.

I survived my first New England winter, and learned what I need to do to stay toasty and warm. My greater challenge: am I able to MAKE what’s needed to stay toasty and warm?

I’m definitely not the best at anything I do. I’m a Jill of all trades, but a master of none… but I’m not ignorant either. I used to think that knitting was for.. well, a specific demographic. I used to consider myself a Tom boy: give me cars and MMA all day! Sewing and knitting was not for me. But I remembered rule #1 in life (at least in my life):

Rule #1: Never C-block* yourself.

*Loosely defined, to “C-block” is to deprive another of… a gain. To be “C-blocked” is to be deprived of said gain. Etymology will not be discussed here.

C-block anyone else in the world that you want (but be warned, it might not turn out well), but never under any circumstances should you C-block yourself. Don’t deprive yourself of an experience that you’ve never had or challenges you to step out of your comfort zone. These experiences always add a tool to your toolbox of life! This is especially important for women to live by. I don’t want to call it the “confidence gap” but more so that women are expected to be so much and mean so little at the same time. In other words, it’s more of a contradiction gap than a confidence gap. Women are supposed to be confident, but not too confident. Sexy but not too sexy. Just Google: “Double Bind” and see what you get. Like how successful business women often leave some part of being a woman behind, while stay at home moms aren’t considered successful women. Real life example: those same activities that made my grandmother call me an old maid prompted another person to say that I would “make a great wife for some young man someday.” heh? Between you and me, the old maid deal seems more of a win-win than the alternative… but again, can’t rule too much out (see: Rule #1).

DIY rejects the idea of hiring someone else, or waiting for that handyMAN to help you. DIY isn’t imprisoned by consumerism or stereotypes– DIY requires intelligence, initiative, and skill. The D= “Do”: taking on responsibility and holding yourself accountable for the “I.” The I = “It”: allowing  you to feed, clothe, and educate yourself. The “whY” means being free, empowering yourself, and cutting out that middleMAN by embracing challenges of DOing IT Yourself. 

Long story short: I used to think that Target was the place I could find everything I needed, but damn it get’s cold in the winter out here… and there’s a coupon for the craft store: 40% off entire purchase including sale items!

Everything I wanted to say (but didn’t) at my sister’s debut

My Sisters Debut

The beautiful scene to the debut

 I had been thinking of what I wanted to say about my sister on her 18th birthday for weeks but of course had no time to sit and write a proper speech. There was always something else that needed to be done: the slideshow, the music, the programs, the seating chart, the photos, hair/nail appointments, family happy hours! There’s a lot to be done for a Filipino Debut. It’s kind of a big deal, and in my house, it’s definitely a big deal. Not only is it a birthday, but it’s a huge symbol of immigrants “making it” in America by providing their children with an elaborate, well planned and well executed, event, in which the whole family and debutant’s friends are involved. It’s a chance for our big family to put aside differences and show up for one of their own. To take lots of pictures! It’s a showcase of another Filipina American, ready to take on the world, and my sister is totally ready to do that. Although my sister’s debut didn’t have a cotillion, 18 roses, or a traditional 18 candles ceremony, it was still packed with stuff that was live. And you know what happens on live TV– anything. Luckily nothing too crazy or tragic happened and everything went well. But anyways, back to my story: By the time the beautiful evening rolled around, I was first up to speak as the emcee of the night, and I only had time to “wing it.” I was so anxious about the rest of the night that I didn’t speak my true feelings, instead bottling them up inside only to explode during the father-daughter dance in which I was mistaken for being a drunken wreck. I wasn’t drunk (ok, I was pretty drunk), but overall I was happy. I was so happy to see my sister and my father share a special moment that I had never seen them share before. A moment where he held her as his baby girl again, with Clark Richard’s Red Robin playing in the background, as the slideshow I made of the two of them played on the projector screen, photos of them from throughout her life appeared and faded, one by one. They were happy tears. Tears of a happy past with my family, and a happy future that my sister and I have yet to conquer, as we did years ago when we were “roommates” at my parents’ home. I wanted to share with the world how much I love my family, and my sister especially, so here’s what I would’ve said:

I’ll start off by saying that having a sister is the BEST. If you have a sister, you know how great it is to have another woman in your life who just gets it. If I’m not sure if something looks good, I’ll ask her. I may not wear the stuff she does, but she knows my style and I trust her. Sisters get each other cos they’ve known each other all their lives, plus they get their parents too, so you can complain about how insane your parents are being to someone who knows first hand (and we did this often during the weeks preceding this debut). And my sister and I, despite the couple times a year we get frustrated with each other, can just talk to each other and laugh. To all the sisters out there, young and old– treasure each other! You can be best friends or worst enemies, but trust me, the former is much more powerful than the latter.

Now for some roasty things, like how my sister’s ears are not identical to each other: one is from my mom and the other totally sticks out like my dad’s. When she was sans-front teeth for years, she was like a round faced vampire baby and couldn’t say “movie theater” and instead would say “movie house” like a FOB, or something when she could’ve just said “movies” the entire time. She is pretty particular about what she eats but has no problem hand picking the stinky meat of tuyo from the bone for her breakfast of champions, champorado. She used to call my parents her “roommates” to other people when she was just in elementary school, which I thought was hilarious. “Where’d you get that jacket?” someone would ask her. “From my roommates,” she’d say. (SMH) Although she’s a successful student, she developed a reputation of laziness in the family ON PURPOSE so that no one would ask her to do anything, a tactic she learned from secretly watching the Nichole Richie and Paris Hilton series “The Simple Life,” when she was too young to be watching it. Speaking of TV, she developed her witty and sometimes dry sense of humor from watching shows (“Family Guy” etc) that were too mature for her when she was way too young. And lastly, the time she saw the infomercial for the magic eyebrow shaver thing that she thought would fix the eyebrows she inherited from our dad: my mom bought one for me, and she applied it directly to the middle of her eyebrow where she made a slit, like she was a rapper or something. It was awesome.

Many people say Nicolle and I are very similar; we look alike, sound alike, etc– and that makes sense because we’re sisters from the same parents. Duh. Being that I am the older one, one would think that she is like me (since I’m the first, I’m the original), but I would say that we learned a lot from each other. Of course I paved the way for her; my stumbles were her examples of what not to do because she saw what punishments our parents were willing to impose. Speaking of which, in order to get back at my parents for when my sister told on me for getting my belly button pierced when I was 18, I brought Nicolle to get her nose pierced a couple years ago. I had already moved out of the house so what were they gonna do– ground me? What goes around comes around, eh? But besides that, Nicolle taught me how to be a good sister. We are far enough a part in age where there was no competition between us. I took care of her, which is something my parents instilled in me as my true responsibility. There were times I yelled at her, and tried to tell her to be “good” in the way that my parents probably told me, but the difference was that eventually, I’d go back to her room and ask her if she wanted to watch some TV together to make it ok. And she’d entertain me with her wit, her impersonations of our dad reading the newspaper in the morning with a toothpick between his teeth, and as reason for us to go get ice cream or a pedicure.

When I was assembling the slideshow and had hundreds of photos of Nicolle as a kid, oh man.. I cried A LOT. What I would give to go back in time and relive those moments when it was just her and me in the house with nothing to do… How I miss those days with her. But looking at her now, at 18 years old, about to leave for college at a great university, I am so happy at how far she’s come and how many more memories we can make together.

I am so proud of you. You’re an amazing person– you’re so brave, creative, strong, sensitive, original, opinionated, intelligent, determined, and different– and we need all of that wrapped up in some California charm out here in the East! I don’t need to give you any motivational speaker stuff cos I think you’re obviously already motivated. I don’t have to tell you to do what you love and be happy, because you already know that. But what I do want you to know is something that is also very obvious:  that you mean so much to me, even if I don’t say it or hug you or anything like that… I love you so much! Why do you think I always drive when I’m in town? I want you to enjoy our time together and not be stressed by parking in the garage! My tears aren’t from being sad, but instead from being so proud of who you’ve grown up to be and for the little critter you once were.  And also for our parents, knowing that for them, this is all they’ve ever wanted for us– to love each other, to care for each other, and to do well, which we’re doing. I’m so glad they convinced you to have a debut, so I could appreciate you like this, and shout it from the rooftops! Ok, that’s a little much… After this, I won’t see you again for a few weeks when you’re over on the east coast… but after that, we’re using dad’s retirement money on flights between DCA and BOS like all the time!

I’ll always be your até, I love you so much, and happy 18th birthday.

… that’s what I would’ve said.

Birthday Cakes

Birthday Cakes

Home is where the Clould is

Scuffed Boots

I’ve had my eyes on a couple pairs of boots that just went on sale, but can’t hit “submit order” until I confer with a trusted friend. Thing is: it’s 8AM in Boston but only 5AM in Santa Barbra, where surely she is soundly sleeping. This harsh polar-vortex winter has torn up my only pair of black to-the-knee Guess boots that I’ve had for 3 years in Cali. They had it easy in Cali for all those years, in the sunshine and that one time it rained. They were comfortably worn in when I got here, but all the salt, uneven road, snow, crowdedness, and straight-up grime out here has worn them down. I still wear them though, like a champ, ‘cos what else do I have? Ballet flats? Plus, it’s New England– ain’t nobody trying to look that cute up here anyway (I like in Allston, not Back Bay); function over fashion. However I can only wear my awesome Timberland winter snow boots so many times before I have to mix it up. Hence the sale. It’s my chance to make some progress despite the weather. I’m calling them my “spring transition boots” because they’re functional for this bull-shit cold weather we still have, but will go great with spring too. I anticipate shit to be wet in spring, when all this dirty-ass snow melts and all the trash and dog shit is exposed again, so I have to protect myself– but who says I can’t do that with a lil’ estilo? But I can’t do it alone; I can only narrow it down to a handful of choices and then have my friend help me pick which pair (yes, just ONE pair) I’ll actually buy (I live in Allston, not Back Bay– get it?).

Once 11AM hits, I know that she’ll be online soon, because she’ll be at work too, with G-chat opening as soon as she logs into her computer. A quick explanation of my dilemma, links, and a couple exchanges later, I’m hitting “submit” on that purchase, and the boots will be en route. It’s how shit gets done… or well, how shit gets bought.

Way back when she was just a hallway away from me, we’d do this same thing, except the exchanges would probably be done in person. She or I would come over to the other’s office, have a seat, and just start laughing about something. Por ejemplo, I had two bright colored hula hoops in my office, and one day, she grabbed them both, held them up to create a Venn diagram, and stuck her head in the intersecting parts. I mean, wtf? And how funny is that?! I totally have a photo of it too. Other times, I’d go over to her office and play with her neon- orange marionette, Cheeto, or she’d come to my office to work on the Hi-Chew wrapper campsite diorama.

Campsite Diorama

We’re way more than a hallway apart now. I remember once, she typed, “I was gonna come over to your office to tell you in person, but you’re not there!” *sniffle* I’m SO not there anymore. I’m all the way over here in the snow, and cold, and grime. But at least I have G-chat!!

I’m online all the time. All. The. Time. Since I left California (excluding the road trip), there has never been a time when I didn’t at least have SMS messaging capability. When I’m on my computer, my Gmail account is always up. Even better, I never miss an instant message because of the Google Hangouts App. I may not always answer, but I’m always there.

A seemingly unrelated fact about me is that I hate stories/ movies/ video games where the character can’t go home. Hate it. Alice in Wonderland? Nope. Wizard of Oz? Eff that. Separation anxiety? ‘Guess so. When I was in preschool, I remember that my grandma would bring a lawn chair and sit on the other side of the fence and wait there for me. I even vaguely remember seeing her out there in the shade under a tree. Hopefully it’s true that she did that, and it’s not just another thing my mom told me. Regardless, knowing (or maybe in this case) THINKING that she was just right there if I needed her gave me a feeling of connection, confidence, and love. I’ve always looked for that feeling, sometimes to my detriment (just ask my boyfriend about that)– but thank God for technology.

Distance

Visuals just capture distance so well. Cos ya’ know, maps. I’ll admit that sometimes, when I’m homesick, or when I feel like I might be forgetting where something back home is really located, I’ll Google-map it and explore the area.

Looking at that now, it’s like, “dang that’s far.”  So far that when my mom priority shipped Oxnard strawberries to me, they were MUSH when they got here. I don’t think she realized how bumpy a 3K miles can be. I don’t think she realizes she used zero-padding either.

When my mom was my age, she had been away from her family in the Philippines for years, and had a family of her own in California. I wonder if my maternal grandmother did the same thing and left home too. I wonder if my move is somehow a tradition. I also wonder how difficult it must have been for my mom to be so far away, so many timezones away, without the Internet. Communication at that time was limited to expensive phone calls and international rate postage! Talk about patience too!

Distance International

Thank God for technology– it’s my connection back home, back to my sunny So-Cal lifestyle. I’m so connected that sometimes I forget how far away I am. One morning, I remember thinking, “I should probably drive down to Camarillo.” Then quickly realized how far away that is. And then I went outside and REALLY realized how far away it is (cos Boston ain’t no joke; get out the way!).

To give a quick shout out to the Cloud specifically, it’s GREAT for someone like me who is constantly on the go with different devices. Who stores anything locally anymore anyways? And when’s the last time I saw my USB drive? No more attaching a document to an email for everyone to work on and save as “version 2,” “updated version 2,” and “revised updated version 2”– let’s collaborate on the same document at the same time on the Cloud! In bed, but the computer is in the other room? Pull up Cloud App on the iPad. Want access to 100+ photos I just took? Let’s not have to that whole upload/download thing– Here’s access to the album on the Cloud. On the bus but have a great blog topic? That rarely happens, but if it did, I could start something through the app and finish it on my computer like magic. Something so great has to have a downside, but let’s not explore that here or now.

It’s been a while since I’ve written for dear Uncle Dave, and again, it’s cos life happened. I went from being an unemployed stay at home newbie in Boston to full throttle MBA student on top of a 40hr workweek. I’m trying to get find my balance. Thank God for technology– all of this connection and access; it seems to help.

Cheeto says, “deuces”

In Response to “The Asian-American Awakening”

“The Asian-American Awakening” by Connie Zhou http://www.connie-zhou.com/asian-american-awakening/

As a blogger myself, Connie Zhou’s recent hit blog entry “The Asian- American Awakening: that moment when you realize that you’re not white,” was sent to me a few times for me to check out. It makes sense that the entry would be sent to me because it’s popular (definitely making the social media rounds), it’s a blog (I blog), and it’s about an Asian-American experience (and I also have Asian-American experiences!). First off, I can see why this post is making the rounds; good job to Ms. Zhou for making it a down-to-earth, inquisitive article! Also, kudos for giving us a reason to continue the conversation about being Asian-American (and whatever that implies), and unapologetically owning your Asian-American identity! Secondly though, it was difficult for me to make it through the whole thing. I found myself cringing and making an uncomfortable squishy face a few times. To me, it was #problematic for reasons that were difficult to put into words. I expressed this to some friends, and they encouraged me to write a response (so I am removed of all culpability ‘cos it wasn’t my idea, right?). My hope is that through this post, I can respectfully articulate my perspective in relation to Ms. Zhou’s, to ultimately take the conversation to the next level. (Fingers crossed)

First, let’s get my ageism out of the way: it’s hard for me to read/ listen to/ talk with younger people. I’m not that old, I am just shy of 30, but HUGE leaps of wisdom/ knowledge/ experience happen between 18 and 30, so I’m like exponentially older than her. SMH,  I hope this doesn’t completely undermine the integrity of my opinion…  Just as Ms. Zhou was hoping that other Asian-American readers could identify with her confusion of non-white identity, I hope you can also identify with my difficulty to engage with younger generations. While there is something endearing about a young person’s enthusiasm and curiosity, there is something equally squishy-face inducing.

On to the meat… Reading Ms. Zhou’s account of her “aha” moment was at times a little confusing, and seemed to emerge from a pretty sheltered and privileged place.  Ms. Zhou writes:

“Being Asian-American has always been a difficult part of me. I was (and am) proud of my heritage and how far my parents have come, but I had a hard time feeling as if I belonged somewhere. Experiencing first hand segregation and racism has made me despise my race for many years. I was trapped between two worlds.

This is a sentiment that has apparently been  felt by many belonging to the generation after mine. Despising an Asian-American heritage and existence because of first hand “segregation and racism.” Maybe I missed it somewhere in the piece, but I’m still unsure of what exactly she experienced; was it comments about being “oriental”? Perhaps the assumption she couldn’t speak English? The absence of Asian-Americans in civil rights history? A young relative of mine (who identifies with Ms. Zhou’s piece) told me that her environment  (bullying, and straight up “hatred” of immigrants at her private school) created the feeling that being Filipina- American is something to be ashamed of. She lied about where her parents are from, bought skin lightening products… IDGI.

When I was a kid, I got made fun of a lot. My hairy arms, bushy eyebrows, Filipino snacks, accent (apparently I had one), etc… The word “Filipino” was so funny to some kids that they’d just say it over and over to tease me. But never did I feel ashamed. Of course there were some embarrassing times, like when I read “spinach” as “spee-nach” instead of the English pronunciation “spin-itch”. This girl asked me to repeat it several times, while laughing in between my recitations. But instead of internalizing these instances and casting away my ethnicity, I blamed the other person’s ignorance and sought revenge! And henceforth, my snarky, sarcastic talent at dissing you to your face was born. I learned to be quick on my feet, and I learned to be mean right back. People knew better than to come at me with that ching-chong bullshit. I was well versed in yo-mama jokes (thanks, Fresh Prince), but I wasn’t in with the popular group of white kids.  In fact, I was intentionally not invited to many a soiree. But I didn’t want to hang out with those ignorant, racist mofos anyway! I remember reading about the internment camps, exclusion acts, xenophobic laws, migrant worker strikes and protests; struggles that people of color faced throughout history; even the LA riots that were going on just south of the county I grew up in. And I remember identifying with those struggles and thinking, “I have to do better for the people who sacrificed for me. Because they paved my way and I need to keep clearing the path.” Where did my instinct of ownership come from? Why was my relative’s experience so opposite? …

We all experience oppression in different ways and at different intensities, and it’s been like this forever. And I’m not trying to devalue anyone’s experiences– but I wonder when these instances are just desperate attempts of achieving authenticity? To what extent are we so protected and privileged that the adversity being faced is realizing we’re not white? Have generations before us fought for the equal right to life, liberty, pursuit of happiness (and property ownership) so that we can feel ashamed of our culture and then overcome that shame in our own time?

Another thing that struck me the about the piece was Ms. Zhou’s assumption that America gives a shit about her (or anyone), because IMO America only takes notice to money, power, and the opportunity to acquire more of either/both. Change usually starts from the bottom and by challenging the status quo– nothing is handed out for free or for the greater good or for fairness. Ms. Zhou’s observation that there’s an overrepresentation of the black/white struggle but a lack of an Asian American one is interesting. I’m not sure she appreciates HUGE sacrifices black people made for people of color. I’m talking about real physical danger, and death, and having your house burnt down, and never seeing your family again kind of sacrifices. And what about Asian Americans? Or the Mexican Americans? Or the Native Americans? Is their lack of representation in textbooks a just disrespectful oversight? Do they matter less? How’d black history get such a big platform again?

A young relative of mine explained the Civil War as an “economic crisis” instead of a civil rights one, because those are terms she was taught in school. The education we receive in school is always the abridged version– as much/little as we need to know to get through the academic-industrial complex so we’re “ready” for college, not so that we can actually KNOW anything. Our history, our education, our system of learning is all suspect because of it’s source: powerful white men. We really can’t know anything more than what we suspiciously seek out ourselves. What helps is if you have similarly suspicious friends that you can discuss your thoughts, concerns, and findings with; Lord only knows how mine have lead me through my own “awakenings”…(Cue flash back music, and overlay ripple transition)

Years ago, I was sitting in the Albertson’s parking lot in Goleta, California with a friend who would become one of my besties. I can’t remember exactly what brought the conversation about, but I know it had to do with an awakening to the parallel dimension of racial awareness, which I think is somewhat similar to Ms. Zhou’s awakening to being the “not white” and “forgotten minority.” Like Alice down the rabbit hole, or Neo after taking the red pill, it’s a moment of no return. That awkward moment when you realize you are a person of color who is just as guilty of perpetuating a cycle of white supremacy so deeply rooted in our lives that we don’t even know how far it goes. We are all implicated; especially when we pat ourselves on the back because we think we’ve figured it out. 

“I hope I can speak for most Asian-Americans here, but there is that earth-shatterning moment in our childhood when we realize we’re not white.

I will agree with Ms. Zhou that for some people, there are moments when you catch a glimpse of the “other” side, and see who you really are(n’t). Clearly, I have “creative” differences with Ms. Zhou and her awakening, while also  recognizing that she has the right to feel these growing pains; but I can’t applaud her for her discovery. We live in a racial world, and in my opinion, being colorblind, unlike being physically blind, doesn’t heighten your other senses. Instead colorblindness is a disability that dulls your awareness and creates a dependency on being “given” a “fair” shot. There is something powerful about knowing exactly who you are, and I’m very happy for those, like Ms. Zhou, who have finally realized what the rest of the world already knew: you’re not white. It may not be profound, and it’s definitely not earth shattering IMO, but it’s progress.

“In the end, I’ve decided that being Asian-American is all together another race and culture.We are the ignored minority. We currently don’t have a place in middle school textbooks or in sociology. Not enough people walk on eggshells when talking about the Asian race… Being Asian-American, is a world all in itself, and since we are a fairly young race, we’re still figuring things out, I’m just asking for a little acknowledgment from the rest of America.”

This last bit was tough for me to get through. I really think she should replace all those “we” pronouns with “I.” Maybe I’m looking at it upside down or something, but I feel like she lazily ignored  the contributions Asian Americans have made thus far. Some quick ones off the top of my head: Richard Aoki was a Japanese American Black Panther and activist for civil rights; Filipinos of the United Farm Workers of America : Larry Itliong, Phillip Vera Cruz, Pete Velasco, and Andy Imutan, who fought along side Caesar Chavez during the farm strikes; Steven Chu is a Chinese American physicist who was the Obama Administration’s Secretary of Energy; Jose Antonio Vargas is an undocumented Filipino American who advocates for immigration reform— where do you think ethnic studies programs come from? Asian American studies? Black studies? Chicana/o Studies? Do you think these department were graced upon us by white university administrators? People of color fought and continue to fight for space to exist, space to study, and space to learn about “otherness.” Same goes for women, and queer studies. It’s out there. Find it yourself and don’t wait for someone to find it for you.

If my entry was choppy and hard to read let me apologize and say that it was hard to write! So let me put an end to it and conclude with this:

When I was a kid, my mom used to always tell me “don’t exert your effort by doing something the wrong way because you’re just wasting your energy.” Reading Ms. Zhou’s article (over and over again), and hearing about others’ similar experiences, I feel like my mother’s advice rings true: know yourself so you’re not wasting time (being confused or ashamed). As judgmental as I may have come off so far, I really don’t mean to bring anyone down. I’m glad to hear that Ms. Zhou is accepting her identity, and I hope she finds a good balance. And as more kids come to accept who they are, I hope they stop struggling with this notion of straddling two irreconcilable identities, and appreciating the unique perspective (it’s precious and desperately needed). See something say something. Nothing changes if nothing is done, so don’t just stand idly by. I just want to keep pushing this conversation forward, for those who came before me and for those who will be here long after me. Ain’t nothing free, and we owe big time.

Asperatus

I interpreted my horoscope as meaning that seemingly rough times are only a means to my landing on me feet; like growing pains. If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you might have noticed something of a status update rant from me today:
 
 
I believe that this is the first actual complaint I’ve posted on Facebook since I’ve moved. Previous to this, I may have made some observations about New England (ie “it’s hot”, “it’s humid” etc), but I’ve been very careful not to complain. This was move was after all, MY choice and I’ve been trying to just live through the “firsts” as a Californian on the East Coast. Besides my pride, I’m not sure why I’ve been so tight lipped about any negative experiences. Is it the quarter century’s worth of Vitamin D and C that has motivated this openness and enthusiasm for change? Maybe it’s just a sense a humility, and referring to my previous post, just having the instinct to know that the new kid can’t/ shouldn’t be making any demands. Regardless of the precise pathology, my Facebook update came 36 hours after sitting on the thought, several drafts later, and finally reaching a point of having to share. 
 
Now that I’ve been out here for over 3 months, I’ve gotten used to as much as I can: getting on and off the T (train), humidity, using the buses, the cobblestone streets while wearing heels, driving aggressively (but safely), impending inclement weather, impatience for small talk etc… Speaking of small talk, if you were to ask my boyfriend (who I moved here with) about my first social experiences with Bostonians, he will gladly tell you about my interactions with the local movers, RMV (in CA we call it DMV), city officials, etc. These people were NOT about to have any small talk with me. And by small talk, I’m talking tiny like “hi, how are you?” or if I was ever to ask for additional information etc. There were no smiles, no gracious efforts to assist, no interest to be more helpful. BAD CUSTOMER SERVICE. But I’m over that. I get it. I’m not supposed to go out of my way for them, because that’s not what they want, nor would they go out of their way for me. And I’m not supposed to take it personally– it’s “cultural.” 
When I was making my way across the country by car, there were consistent remarks/advice about my move to Boston from Cali: from developing a thick skin to the awful weather to just being aware of the off-putting nature of Mass-holes, I was warned to watch myself. I got the feeling that as a Californian, I’d be a target, which I prepared myself for. And up until now, I think I’ve been doing really well. As many other displaced Californians have also testified to, I’m consistently told that I went the wrong way: it’s supposed to be East to West, not the other way around. As the gracious Californian that I am, I joke about my backwards move, I do the whole “yes, I miss the sunshine” or “oh gosh it was so humid when I first got here” and “yea, I know, what will I do this winter? Multi-vitamins and tanning beds! Har har!” Up until now, I just saw this as small talk, but I obviously and very obliviously, I forgot about the #1 rule of small talk in the North East: get that shit out of here.
 
For the first time, the question of my origin wasn’t just small talk: it was a deciding factor in the decision to hire me (or not). This position was pretty amazing. It really could’ve changed my life and created some cray cray opportunities that I hadn’t imagined before and I was a shoo-in. My professional experience, references, and personality had landed me in the finalists’ pool consisting of me and only one other. I dressed the part, wrote thank you notes, prepped and prepped… But you guessed it, I was the runner up. My recruiter informed me that the company decided to go with the person who was based out of the area. As soon as he told me that I didn’t get it, I knew that it was because my home state is beautiful. Too beautiful. Sooo beautiful and perfect that there is no way I would stay out here in awful New England long enough pay off the investment they’d make in me. In each of the 4 interviews I had with them, the issue of me moving back to California came up. It was a concern from the start, but I had underestimated that California would outweigh my qualifications/ potential. 
 
So here I am, 36 hours after I got the news and I’m bummed. Specifically, I’m bummed because there isn’t much I can do to prove that I won’t move back at the first sign of snow, especially to native New Englanders. I mean, I totally get it: the prospective employers were afraid and were looking out for themselves. I get it.  And again, these people aren’t happy California cows, they are New Englanders.
 
Willem Lange, a pretty well-known New Englander (who doesn’t even have a Wikipedia page), famously wrote: 
What New England is, is a state of mind, a place where dry humor and perpetual disappointment blend to produce an ironic pessimism that folks from away find most perplexing.
 
Thanks, Willem. Thanks. I don’t know what’s more perplexing: my perception of New England, or New England’s perception of me. 
If you’re friends with me on Facebook, you’ll know that I have other very promising prospects for employment. And if you’re friends with me off of Facebook, you’ll also know that I’ve got other plans in place for my time here. But if you’re neither, just know that I’m fine. I’m just at this point now that the undulatus asperatus that I see when I look up at the cloud formations above me have yet to be understood. If the asperatus cloud rarely ever brings a storm, I should see it as a good thing right? But at what cost should a storm be avoided? Am I supposed to be ashamed my California roots? Does my initiation to New England have to include perpetual disappointment leading to the development of genuine ironic pessimism? 
 
A previous horoscope has given me hope that I will be able to look back at these experiences with a comforting sense of meaning, like it all had to be done to get to December:
 
Here’s the horoscope I would like to be able to write for you by the first week of December: “Congratulations, Aquarius! Your quest for freedom has begun to bear tangible results. You have escaped a habit that had subtly undermined you for a long time. You are less enslaved to the limiting expectations that people push on you. Even your monkey mind has eased up on its chatter and your inner critic has at least partially stopped berating you. And the result of all this good work? You are as close as you have ever come to living your own life — as opposed to the life that other people think you should live.”
 
In conclusion, I know that I’m different and different often means scary. So I’m scary. I get that I’m not from here and therefore cannot be as easily read or trusted by natives to this area. BUT unlike the New England rule about small talk, my #1 rule is to never cock-block youself. I realize now that my motivation to never complain about how different/ scary it is out here is because I refuse to be scared out of having an experience. I will persevere, and most importantly, small talk or not, will never cock block myself. 
 
Now, I’m going to put on my Tupac shirt, California sweat pants, put on some West Coast rap, and make myself a carne asada burrito with french fries in it. 

SHE gets it done

My boyfriend and I were driving through the Longwood area in Boston today during the morning rush hour. The street was bustling with activity: suicidal bikers, impatient drivers, power-walking pedestrians, and school-kids being yanked by a parent. The crosswalk guard blew her whistle and we stopped to let a woman and two children cross the street. The little girl was probably around 8, and the little boy looked 5 or 6 but he was in a stroller (and he was screaming his head off). I noticed them immediately because I identified with boy’s emotion– I didn’t want to be up or stuck in traffic with all these fools, but my boyfriend felt otherwise: “He’s too old to be in a stroller! I would just make him walk.” Dang. Logically, I had to disagree with him. My reasoning this time? If I had to take a kid out of the house, like really HAD TO, and he was screaming like that (assuming that it started at the house, assuming they were coming from home), I would stick him in a stroller too! I’d rather push a screaming kid on wheels than drag him– a body doesn’t glide well on sidewalk (and then there’d be added cleanup). I don’t think my boyfriend looked at it that way. 

Disagreeing on how we would handle any given situation is pretty typical for us, but I think it stems from our differing perspectives: My perspective is motivated by pragmatism, experience, and prioritizing. As a woman, these skills are required. For example, when I go to the grocery store nowadays, I have to figure out how much weight I can physically carry over the distance of a mile, to get the food back to my apartment in tact. Since I’ve moved, I no longer get the luxury of parking, so I have to be all old school and walk. Walking is a huge commitment. I can’t just load up my cart with snacks and gallons of Snapple. Luckily though, Nilla Wafers/ Tate’s Cookies are pretty light. And powdered tea is too. Oh the days where I only had to walk from the parking lot to my apartment…. So this multistep process involves finding a recipe or two, then making a specific list and cross checking it to what I already have on my shelf, and then estimating what I am capable of hauling home– and on top of that, making sure I’m not breaking the bank. Exhausting. Being thoughtful is exhausting. BUT it’s something I picked up, and I attribute that to my gender. 

From what I’ve seen, heard, and experienced myself, girls aren’t raised to think they’re invincible, aggressive, and powerful. Rather, we’re raised to think we are precious, polite, and patient. I won’t get into how fucked up all that is, but instead let’s think on how that and other traditions of raising girls has created some (unintentional) gifts. I grew up knowing that I had to make up for my physical strength using strategy. I learned how to use my sensitivity and intuition to read situations and make decisions accordingly. I have just enough confidence to know to be cautious (I walk the streets of Boston w/ purpose– I know it’s better to look like I know where I’m going). I’m paranoid enough to parking signs four times (I’m not the one who got my car towed- AHEM). Survival skills, right? 

So all this has me thinking about the differences between men and women, and even moreso, what is women’s competitive edge? I think our competitive edge comes from the life we’ve been forced to lead; the fact that we are not typically aggressors but instead the evaluators, the planners. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been noticing this characteristic in women being celebrated, and at the very least, discussed (finally). 

It featured several female analysts who were integral in piecing together the puzzle of Bin Laden’s whereabouts. What they mentioned throughout the piece was a) the women’s natural talent for stringing seemingly unrelated pieces of intel together to create a narrative; b) how no one listened to them once they figured things out; and c) how little credit they received for the work they did/do. Check out the trailer here:

Manhunt: The Search for Bin Laden

Another film that directly addresses what I’ll call today’s “woman problem” is _Miss Representation_. It really helped me think through situations like Miley Cyrus sitting naked on a giant wrecking ball. My favorite line from this film is “we are a nation of teenage boys.” I’d add, “we are a nation of corporations run by filthy rich teenage boys that vote.” Think about it. Sex sells… but what kind of sex, who’s watching, and who’s buying?

This is all coming to a head for me because of something a lot more stimulating than Miley Cyrus’s gyrations: politics; and for the the cherry on top: women in politics. As of today, the government shutdown has been shutdown itself after just over 2 weeks. With the debt ceiling deadline being tomorrow, it was critical that Congress get their shit together and come to some kind of agreement that would keep our nation going at good financial standing. Many, including the NY Times, are attributing this sudden moment of progress to female members of congress. 

One headline from the HuffPost on this subject is titled, “Leadership From the Foot of the Table“:

One reason is that most women say they come to office in order to effect policy change, unlike many men, who are motivated by their own sense of personal leadership.
Rarely having had the advantage of command and control that comes from the head of the table, women have learned lessons from the foot: how to bring people together to think outside the box (which includes failing then adapting), and how to build mutual respect and trust.
Women in Congress have done this by co-sponsoring bills, particularly those that affect women and children, and regularly meeting for dinners to deepen their relationships.
On Monday, NY Times published “Senate Women Lead Effort to Find Accord” which was about Republican Senators Susan Collins, Kelly Ayotte, and Lisa Murkowski:
 
Together the three women started a bipartisan group whose negotiating framework formed the centerpiece of a tentative Senate deal nearing completion Monday to reopen the federal government and avert a disastrous default.
 
Did you see the keyword in that excerpt? BIPARTISAN. Unlike the rest of their party, these Republican women have chosen to do the jobs they were elected to do: keep the country running regardless of party schemes; “politics be damned” as Sen. Murkowski said.
 
Why are these women willing to betray their party for the greater good? What makes them willing to sacrifice another term/ their popularity to do what’s right? Do they know the plight of the federal workers being furloughed? I think that being at the “foot of the table” offers a unique perspective that usually involves creativity, pragmatism, and the ability to prioritize what’s necessary to achieve desired results. I retract my earlier statement about it being a “gift”– gifts are given consciously and we have been gifted/given nothing: we TOOK this from the circumstances we are allowed to exist in.
 
In the end, let’s just say that I can put together a couple of bomb-dinners with 3 good totes and 1 trip to the store.