Musings: Dream Project [and my own journey in education]

This past winter, I participated in the Dream Project at the University of Washington. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s a program that focuses on supporting high school juniors and seniors with pretty much anything they need: we can help them with filling out the FAFSA (or WASFA if they’re undocumented students), applying for scholarships, or anything else they might need. I really liked the model of this since it’s focused on student-to-student support, and the idea that every student has the right to higher education.

I’m glad that I received the opportunity to work with high school students at Tyee High School because 1) I’m somewhat familiar with the area, and 2) I rarely get to focus on the education pipeline of K-12 students. It encouraged me to think critically about my own experience in higher education, particularly because Tyee was vastly different than the private schools I attended. I have spent my entire life in Federal Way, Washington, which isn’t necessarily known for its schools. Because my parents are relatively affluent, I was able to attend the few private schools in the city and commuted 30 miles a day to attend Bellarmine Preparatory, a private Catholic school Attending Bellarmine enabled me to have some of the best teachers of my academic career to date (and some of them are the reason that I performed well in the Chemistry series at the UW, write with a semblance of confidence, and can tutor my friends in pre-Calculus). This education, not to mention access to top-notch instructors and AP classes, helped me succeed in college when I thought I would fail out. In a word, I was prepared even though I lived most of my freshman and sophomore year in fear that somebody would walk through the door and tell me that I needed to live because I wasn’t ready and didn’t belong in college. I had heard all those statistics about how 70% of high schoolers weren’t prepared for college and thought, doesn’t that include me?

But I know that I’m incredibly privileged to have the choices to receive an amazing education at private schools. My parents had the financial means to send me to a school that changed my life. I’m not saying that schools in Federal Way aren’t amazing or rigorous or able to prepare its students for college – I just think that my low self-confidence might not have fared well at a sink-or-swim education system. I needed teachers who looked me in the eye and said, “you’re a stronger writer” and “I think you would do well in an honors course” because I didn’t see this potential in myself.

The other day, my friends and I were talking about how having a really good teacher can change your life – I shared my experiences working with Frances McCue, a UW professor in the Interdisciplinary Honors Program and Department of English. At the end of my first class with her, I thanked her for inspiring me with the works of Pacific Northwest writers. In response, she said, “You are going to be an asset to every workplace you enter” and these words haven’t stopped reverberating through my mind. If this amazing instructor and writer saw potential in me, I must be able to create real change & talk about things in a way that piques the curiosity of others. Maybe that’s the reason I still write on this blog: I believe that I something meaningful to share.

The same goes for mentors: Mentors can inspire us to see ourselves as inherently talented, valuable, and intelligent. They can nurture us and help us find opportunities to grow. And if we’re lucky, these mentees will support an up-and-coming leader and share the lessons they’ve learned. As a mentor for the Dream Project, I’m not sure if I affected anyone this much, but I hope that I was able to support students get through the tedious stuff, even if it’s creating a FAFSA ID or finding the right scholarships for them. Maybe I do this in other ways too: by meeting with my mentee in Society of Women Engineers (who I love so dearly!) and learning about her journey to find the right engineering field. Or by helping students apply to the right major and take classes that help them develop their skills set as aspiring designers or researchers or healthcare professionals. At any rate, mentorship and teaching can happen anywhere, and good mentorship should always be seen as a two-way street.

Being in the Dream Project was also significant for me because I rarely get to learn about how to be a better educator through formal training, but the Dream Project was a great way to find some relevant reads about equity and justice, DACA, and other policies and challenges that relevant for students. I’m really grateful for this. One quote from the reading that stood out to me was:

Inclusion asks, “Has everyone’s ideas been heard?” Justice responds, “Whose ideas won’t be taken as seriously because they aren’t in the majority?”

I know that this reflection has a lot of different pieces, but that’s because higher education is a really big part because it informs who I am and where I’m going since my long-term goal is to be an academic advisor. This experience has confirmed that education is a fundamental human right, and I hope that every student meets a mentor or instructor who inspires them to keep moving forward, even if they don’t believe in themselves. It’s also a reminder that I shouldn’t take my own education for granted. I should use it as a tool to support other students and leaders, and I hope I can do that in everyday ways as a course assistant, mentor, and writing tutor.




Healing, vulnerable stories, and just desserts: Reflections on Winter 2018 |March 13, 2018

And just like that, we’ve [essentially] completed my 11th quarter in college (@winter quarter, the cold definitely bothered me anyway)! This one was a doozy because seasonal affective disorder is very real and I missed the sun, but that’s OK because I got some snow, drizzles, and a little bit of shimmer from the glitter on my eyeballs!

IMG_8638This quarter, I wrote a lot of things: 13 essays (including a paper on the intersection of privilege, inclusion, and design education!), 9 reflection papers, 7 articles for The Daily, 1 LinkedIn story, and a handful of blog posts that focused on pushing the limits of my creativity! I got to interview dope women of color who challenges institutions like UW to demonstrate values of diversity and inclusion. I listened intently to their stories and the ways they remember to believe in themselves even when the universe doubts their capabilities. One of the students I work with at the writing center mentioned that she reads my stories, and that it was cool to see how the things I love & value come through based on the things I write. This made me grin from ear to ear J

This quarter was also pretty challenging – being in HCDE, a discipline that’s not my forte means that I’m always learning new tools & skills that make me a more effective user experience practitioner: this time, it was visual design. And even though Adobe Illustrator has a steep learning curve and I’d prefer to stick to words thank you very much, I have amazing pals & instructors who are helping me learn how to make more cohesive & dynamic visual compositions than ever before! So, even though it’s quite challenging at times, I know that my work as a reporter/writer/storyteller will only be strengthened by my ability to present it in interesting ways.

IMG_8430In addition to my schoolwork, I also got to work as a course assistant for an introductory human-centered design class. Through many late nights of grading essays and video deliverables, I’ve learned even more about the user-centered design process by teaching it to others. I also worked with  ~80 students to refine their personal statements, class assignments, resumes, and applications – and I hope I helped all of them felt like they told a story as vividly as possible.

I helped out with the blank monologues as a facilitator (thus completing the trifecta of IMG_8245attending/performing/supporting), listened to the same 10 artists on repeat (@Drake & God’s Plan, I’ll never get bored of either of you), said no for the first time in my life (I’m also shocked), and spent a lot of quality time with people I love the most!

I did other things too. I act ice cream and donuts and brunch at my new favorite places (namely, Guanacos as a dinner destination & Salt and Straw for ice cream), pretended to read books (but I will actually read The Night Circus), took 19 credits, wasted a lot of time watching The Bachelor and America’s Next Top Model, went on some dates, saw some high school friends, tried sundaes at pie bar, and felt really thankful for the people in my life.IMG_8652

The last 2.5 months have been a time of love & acceptance & perpetually healing hearts that are nurtured by the kindness of others, and I don’t think I’d have it any other way. Here’s to even more mornings filled with honey ginger tea and s’mores crepes and colorful murals and time with people who make me feel like the best version of myself. As my pals remind me, I am the boss of my feelings and I can’t let anyone make me feel bad without my permission!

This quarter was a lesson in learning and loving deeply, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m lucky to be fighting another day, even if I’m tired as hell. Next stop, my last final, crepes with friends, my last writing shift of the quarter, and a 2 a.m. flight to Bali! ❤

Tidbits from the quarter:

how do measure success and the value of your work?

i thought my love could fix everything

community is one thing we excel in

a master’s degree in courage

make sure details are adequately placed so that your readers can make connections between points in your story.

I want to be remembered for how I make people feel

If you’re going to claim diversity, if you have all of these resources and all of this support, where are your students?

we dare to defend our rights

people’s feelings are never wrong

the end of this but not of love

it saved me from having a single perception of what a story could be.

The work of acknowledgment, the telling of truths, and the opportunities for community and reflection are necessary before we can move forward.

blow us back to the places we never should have left

nothing without labor

to be rather than to seem

out of chaos, something will emerge

who’s going to build the future?

the complex things are what are broken, not the simple things

I can’t just be giving all the time. I have to have love too.

fortune favors the bold who get shit done

we all have power and strength

designers should be communicators and facilitators

Every day, write down 10 ideas you think would be fun to pursue. Don’t worry about how long they would take to make, budget, or whether or not they are realistic in any way — just let your mind wander and see what it believes it could make real.

automatically delete anything that isn’t vibrant enough to be remembered

Inclusion asks, “Has everyone’s ideas been heard?” Justice responds, “Whose ideas won’t be taken as seriously because they aren’t in the majority?”

what I do not have is what I do not miss

damage control is not my thing, i need a PR team

even if a recruiter isn’t looking for me, I’ll make myself known

You are cancer’s worst nightmare.

Design is a skill, and to excel, we must practice. All of us.

nothing is perfect but try your best

getting into school is stressful, but it doesn’t usually look like reality TV

doing the intellectual work to feel safe

you are worthy of good things

I can’t rely on other people to fix my loneliness

// do I know how to be in love anymore

When I came to the university, I was in a world I didn’t recognize.”

Okay I love you and your writing so much. No matter if you’re rejected or accepted to any program or internship, you are still the worthy, capable, smart, compassionate person I am so proud to call my friend.

The person I have grown into recognizes the impact of silence within academic, personal, social, and professional spaces.

it’s 201[8] girl, be your own sugar daddy

you’re clearly going to be a force to be reckoned with when you graduate 🙂

I have never met a single person who wasn’t made out of poetry.

god I love butterflies

Some of the prevailing stories that have been told about groups of people can shape the way we see ourselves.

you have to keep pushing back

Today, I’m reminded that love doesn’t come at the hands of the same people it used to, and that’s OK. I am the boss of my own feelings and I can’t let people who no longer serve me continue to influence my happiness

Musings: On being familiar with failure

Sometimes, people think that I know nothing of failure –  to those people, I wish I could sit you down, whip up some coffee or tea (I’d offer a green smoothie but I don’t have a blender), and look them in the eye and say, “I wish you understood how well I knew failure.”

I fail every single day and if I’m being honest, I often feel like a failure. I’ve seen people make resumes of all the mistakes they’ve made in their lifetime, and I assure you that mine would go on for pages. In five minutes, I came up with the following:

  • Internships that rejected me: UX Writing at Spotify, Primera Blue Cross, Amazon, Google, Airbnb, Uber, Splunk, Seattle Children’s, Alaska Airlines, Tableau, The Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering REU Program
  • Journalism publications that rejected me: The Seattle Times, NPR, KEXP, SMAHRT at Seattle Children’s
  • Jobs I didn’t get: Research assistant at basically anywhere I’ve applied, peer adviser, orientation leader
  • Classes I thought I would fail: Organic Chemistry, CSE 142, CSE 143
  • Scholarships I didn’t receive: Literally any scholarship from the College of Engineering, TUNE House Scholarship
  • Awards I didn’t get: Husky 100 (twice), TUNE House Scholarship, Hearst Journalism Awards
  • Majors that rejected me: Bioengineering

And these are just the things that are top of mind!

I’m not saying that I’m not proud of the things I have done because I’m proud of the things I’ve done during the last 35 years: I got into Human Centered Design & Engineering, one of the most competitive majors at the UW, and am getting closer to making my dreams come true. I interned at Microsoft and will be returning for a second summer. I have worked as a resident adviser, writing tutor, journalist, and course assistant during my time in college. I’ve written more than 100 journalism stories in the past three years. I get to study abroad in Prague this autumn and went to Thailand in 2016. I’m living in a city that I’ve called home for so long, and I’m lucky that my opportunities have never been too far from it.

I guess my point is that I fail a lot – but I also succeed because I haven’t stopped putting myself out there – and I hope I never do. And in moments of failure, I often find that I was saved for something better.


Musings: Always forward (and other tidbits of wisdom from Latin roots) | February 28, 2018

Because I’m a self-identified word nerd, I decided to take a class on Greek and Latin roots this quarter. Although slogging through a list of philosophers and memorizing scores of words roots can be tedious, I’m happy to announce that I can decipher the meaning of most SAT vocabulary words with more ease than ever. Heard of kleptomania? Well, the root klept- means steal and mania is related to obsession, so I can safely conclude that kleptomania is the obsession with stealing.

So here I am, in a cacophony of words and phrases that have recently become a little bit meaningful. Our most recent homework assignment required us to find 10 Latin phrases of interest and memorize their translations, so I took to Wikipedia and decided to pick out some of the phrases that stood out to me, and then write about them – check out the list of phrases here.

As a fun writing exercise, I thought I’d pick a few phrases and write about what they mean to me in this moment – and I highly recommend you try it out! I’ve found that the simplest phrases can be the most meaningful:

All of my favorite phrases have to do with teaching, whether it’s discendo discimus (while teaching we learn) or cura personalis (care for the whole person). It’s a reminder that I’m in the right discipline and business because these are phrases I want to embody in my work– after all, when I teach, I empower every person’s stories including my own. I fundamentally believe that I can learn from everyone I meet, and teaching gives me the opportunity to add to the ever-expanding storybook in my head. As a writing tutor, I’m living a thousand lives by letting people tell me about moments when they fell in love with their job or lost it all or won everything back. And these tales are so vivid, I found myself clutching my seat just to make sure that I’m ready for everything that comes next. These conversations are more about more than an essay due in one week – they’re often about the students’ identities and how they can see themselves as a writer

Nil sine labore – nothing without labor. When I hear this, I think of labors of love. I think about the work and the sacrifice required to be in a relationship where you remain fully but give part of yourself to them. For me, the best relationships involve two people who water each other while keeping the pieces of themselves intact.

Love is changing for me now – true feelings of love are not the person or the moment or the lyrics that have me remembering when all I wanted to do was love. Instead, it’s the feeling of knowing that I’m growing with somebody else – something that’s mutual. This unconditional love is what I try to give to others, especially the people who have stuck around through the wild stories and changing majors and lost water bottles (seriously, so many lost water bottles).

Odi et amo – I hate and I love. This is me a lot of the time – most of the time, I love (if you can’t already tell by how much I write about it). I give myself fully to the people I love and I’m lucky to get a lot of it back in the form of stories and kind words and memories. These are the things I fold up in my back pocket for safekeeping. But sometimes, I hate. I don’t really like it when this is the case, but it’s true. I get angry, lose my temper, & push people away before they can do the same to me.

But do I really hate if all of it goes away with a few well-intentioned words or a half-baked apology? Because if they grab my hand and look me with eyes pleading for forgiveness, I feel the hatred dissipate into thin air and I am left blinking and wondering why I ever felt any different.

Orta recens quam pura nites – newly risen, how brightly you shine. I’m thankful that my cheeks glow from the love I’ve received from others. Not everyone has a community who wants to see them shine as brightly as mine. And now, it’s my duty to lift as I rise in the hopes that we can all shine a little more together.

 Semper anticus – Always forward. I keep moving forward with stories of my ancestors in my mind and the stories of my peers filling my ears.


Musings: Grow flowers from your pain

Does this kind of writing really bring me any peace? I don’t really know, but I guess I have to try:

They say that time heals everything. That if you wait long enough, all the pain and the wounds can disappear from your skin without a trace. Who needs battle scars when you have the memories anyway, and the painful ones have a chance to disappear so you’re left to romanticize the good stuff. In the end, you’re more whole but a little bit stronger. I close my eyes and picture this, feel myself running my hands over my arms and my neck that seem to be put back together. I am whole and blooming

So this is how you grow flowers from your pain,

But time means forgetting and forgetting means that all of my memories of you are less vivid now. I grasp at the pieces of you, of the things that you taught me about how to love myself completely. What if I can’t remember who I really am without you? What if who I am with you is me, the me that I actually like (maybe even love?). I could never be ready for something like this.  Do you still love me that deeply? I wonder. Will I ever love like that, the kind of unconditional love that leaves you grinning even before you’re whisked into a dream that will be never as good as real life.  

The road to feeling whole on my own is one I don’t travel very often.

Do I know how to be alone? Do I really know how to love when it’s me on the receiving end, that self-love [bullshit] that isn’t all about bubble baths and movie nights but tending with care to the most vulnerable parts of myself?

These questions and others have sprung up, but not for any particular reason. I guess I was thinking about how I always want the last say about everything. I want people to miss me, to love me, to see me and recognize all the good I can bring to them.

But that’s wrong, isn’t it? Because if I don’t see myself as inherently worthy of love, no one can teach me this lesson. I have to believe it. Believing this means that I have to value myself on my own accord. Will I choose to remember how transformative love can be?

Whenever I don’t know what to do and I get really, really scared about the future, I talk to my dad. My dad is oftentimes the epitome of peace, and I use to think that if anyone told me I was like him, I would bow my head in gratitude and say, “that is the highest compliment I can receive” – other than being told that I’m like grandma, who’s one of the most selfless people I’ve ever met. If he were here, he’d tell me that I just have to wait. That I am valuable regardless of what people tell me. That I need to focus on being kind and compassionate and loving before I start to define myself by the love I receive from others. Because, at the end of the day, loving myself is all I can do. If I spend the rest of my life, waiting for outcomes that depend on other people, I’ll have nothing left when they leave.

So I must stay and be present to people who are in my life right now. The road to healing doesn’t stop here, can’t stop here because I refuse to let up.


Musings: Healing comes in waves

Today, I watch as the light returns to my face, as my smile shines brightly while I tell stories to the ones I love most. I can feel the sunshine healing the cracks in my bones as I put the pieces of myself together in a more resilient form. I sense the joy of writing and telling vivid stories, ones that will keep people talking and leave people feeling empowered about who they are and where they come from. It’s a blessing to be writing and teaching and sharing, and I hope I never take any of this for granted.

Today and every day, I’m reminded that the most valuable relationships can take us to the greatest heights. Because even if all we’re doing is staring at snowflakes or frosty windows or munching on s’mores crepes as we watch custom orders whiz by on conveyor belts, I feel a little bit lighter.

I’m lucky to love and be loved like this, by people who see me for everything I can be. I know that the darkness will pass and I will be healed once again.


Musings: A search for love amid destruction

February 15, 2018

I stand by the notion that love is the most transformative force of all. I mean sure, it can break you and send you into the depths of self-doubt when it doesn’t work out, as if you were the one who tugged at strings that were already breaking and all you want to do is salvage is the peace. But love is always beautiful – because of the chaos, I find myself emerging with more knowledge about how I can love and be loved better. We all deserve a love like this.

Right now, I’m at war with myself and I don’t know how to win (if you know me in real life and aren’t ready for the deep dive into my current mental state, I’d suggest exiting out). I’ve recently realized that my brain isn’t exactly on my side right now because it wants me to sink deep into depths of self-doubt and self-loathing. I’ve been skipping classes and meetings and avoiding people who I really love – but I know that this isn’t me, the real me. I can feel myself pushing back on my impulse to self-destruct with a rhetoric of positivity and love and light, but my body is doing everything it can to send me down a spiral. I was meant to be soft, to be kind to others even if they didn’t seem to deserve it, to take care of myself and this body that enables me to see the world. I don’t want to act out of anger and spite and jealousy – after all, love is still the most powerful force of all. What will it take for me to respond with love and kindness, to take care of the hurt and not push people away.

I decidedthat I need to take care of myself by arranging an appointment with a therapist, and I hope we’ll be able to have a productive conversation about how I can cope with my silly brain chemistry. And if you think you need help, don’t forget the power of reaching out. Talk to your friends and roommates, or even check out a counseling center for a consultation to see if it’s right for you.

As the monologues reminded me, healing isn’t easier or linear. But for now, my heart rate is slowing and I’m finding solace in the words of people who truly want the best for me. I will find ways to not let the onslaught of rejections from tech companies or tough tutoring sessions or missed plans prevent me from living my best life (and being my most authentic self). I am lucky to know rejection so well because it’s a sign that I’m always putting myself out there. In the coming weeks, I’ll search for ways to be an even better writer, educator, and friend.