Musings: A little bit of gratitude for a long year

June 7, 2018

And just like that, I have almost conquered this quarter! I’m so glad that I’ve ended it with so many people I love so much and that I’m back to drinking green tea lemonade the same way I did in 3rd grade (a departure from all the hazelnut and vanilla lattes I drank a year ago – hey, maybe everything has changed!) I’m happy to report that I know way more fun eateries in the greater Seattle area (Thackeray, Oddfellows, the London Plane, and Gelatiamo to name a few), and that I’ve attended dope as hell events about vulnerable stories where we have to save ourselves, culture as a conduit for community, and the ways that activism and corrupt governments can collide. I’ve taken classes about queer love and saw my little brown self represented on the screen. I’ve built things through Arduino and Python (kind of?) and interviewed at Facebook and Microsoft and hoped that I could intern at companies that are a little bit closer to what I want. I’ve listened to thousands of songs, eaten countless scoops of ice cream and donuts, and I’m still here.

The other day, I met with my pal and we expressed gratitude for having each other. I’m so thankful that she’s always been able to see me clearly, even when I can’t do this for myself. It’s such a blessing to be able to grow with people who really love and care about my well-being, and who recognize when I’m surrounded by people who might drain me. This is a hard lesson to learn because we never want to think of our friends in a negative light. But not everyone is meant to be in our lives forever – and we can acknowledge what we’ve received from others and still see that we need to move on.

Goodbyes are still hard and my heart feels heavy – but people aren’t leaving forever, ya know? And the love and the memories and the late-night conversations will continue to show up in the corners of my life. I’ll still see my friends in the gyro shop on the corner, on the twinkly lights that adorn every tree during Christmas time, in every Jonas Brothers and Camila Cabello track that shows up on the radio.

 

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Musings: For the love of love

The last few months have been full of love and life and loss, especially as the school year comes to a close. There are some people who are no longer in my life because they had to leave or because our geographic locations have separated us or because we simply can’t help each other grow. For others, I’m not really sure why — but I know it was time to let go.

Now, I’m wondering if the love I need will ever come back to me.

So I decided to compile all of my musings about love in one place.

A lot of them have come at the hands of a leather notebook that is tattered and torn from being carried in every backpack I’ve owned as I’ve visited cities ranging from Vancouver to Bali and everything in between. This notebook is one the place where I’m actually honest — maybe it’s because this requires me to commit to putting ink on paper and I only know how to do that honestly. So, here we go — some of the most vulnerable things I’ve learned about love (and its many forms) recently.

On lessons learned

What I do not have is what I do not miss

Approach conversations with deep respect

Work on problems that matter to you

Remember that the loudest voices in the room aren’t the only voices

I am feminine and I can be other things

Sometimes big writing occurs on tiny paper

You have always been the place / You were born to build

There is so much power in your name

Who you are is important to your work

Never stop being a good person because of good people

 

It will be okay

As long as there are stars above us

And ice cream scoops to try

And friends who see us for who we are

 

Distill complex problems into a story

 

When you write something, you should be kind to the reader

[a lesson learned through practice]

 

You can be known for telling stories

To ask: what are you making on the other side of grad school?

Light falls on all of us

I hope we can find what we need, whatever that means

 

On achieving my dreams / defining success

Who ever thought that I’d get a chance to have a dream that’s lived out? What a privilege to work with students and teach them the user-centered design process, but also learn from them as they ask me to think critically about why the null was excluded or how creativity can be learned over time.

People are crying because they’re getting into their dream major and I’m thinking about how their lives probably feel different, the same way mine did.

Success isn’t concrete until you help someone get there

The students I work with are a big part of why I succeed

“Your idea of starting with stories goes beyond listening to users to collaborating with the ghosts – those unseen and unheard – past or present [isn’t it cool when your instructors see you for who you are?]

On relearning love

I thought my love could change the world

And when it didn’t

I didn’t know what to do next

 

Love will not heal me

But it will hold my hand

If I ever heal myself

 

She is everything I waited for

I have this envelope of butterflies from the first time she smiled in my direction

Our debut was a masterpiece

I know there was something radical about loving a person when all structures exist to keep that from happening

 

When you find love, you jump in

You don’t sit on the edge negotiating

How to keep your options open

 

The line “do I know how to be in love anymore” is echoing through my mind. But I think I know how to love deeply and care for people in my life. So, unconditional love can certainly be found at the hands of friends, especially those who console me at midnight about how much I’ve grown and jet off to nearby donut eateries and text me to remind me that I’m a 12/10

 

On healing

Things are different now. I am different. I am glowing on the inside and out. I am beaming. I love better. I talk about heartbreak less and love more. I let people know that they matter. I hurt – but I also here

I’ve long ago shed anything I wasn’t passionate about

We could all do more to take care of ourselves (especially as people of color)

You are stitched together with the stories of your ancestors and the light you find in everything and the kindness that continues to flow through your veins

 

Things I love a lot

  1. Fun and flirty red bubble stickers that help me make friends and express my love of old rap music
  2. Short hair!
  3. Smooth ballpoint pens
  4. Leather journals that offer a welcome place for my thoughts to rest
  5. Bright study places with modern light fixtures
  6. Spotify Premium (for real tho)
  7. Waterproof backpacks
  8. Interviews with people who love education as much as I do
  9. Study abroad trips to some of my favorite cities in the world
  10. Love – a good thing. Maybe even the best of things
  11. S’mores crepes and sushi dates with the best pals
  12. Jobs that change your life
  13. Aesthetic libraries
  14. Friends who take their dreams to new places
  15. Best friend duos
  16. Smiles from every corner of your life

Musings: The end of an era (specifically Spring 2k18)

As someone studying, human-centered design, I know that it’s not all about the numbers – in fact, it’s one of the least important pieces of data to me because I am more interested in people’s stories and the way they feel about things – but here we go anyway:

During the past 3 months, I took 21 credits, participated in 2 research groups, completed an honors project about the importance of representation, sautered some wires to buttons and lights, wrote 6 articles, and worked with scores of students at the Writing Center. I smiled for hundreds of photos with my pals, took senior photos for all of my lovely graduating friends, ate a lot of donuts at General Porpoise, and listened to a lot of dope live music. I talked to people about grad school and maybe kinda felt that I could get a PhD in education (something I’ve always wanted to do but was afraid to admit). I’m queer as hell and I’m proud to finally be out and expressing my deep & profound love to all the womxn in my life.

But I know I have work to do.

I’m still learning how to be a person of impact. For the last weeks, I listened to educators and activists and teachers who reminded me that I need to do better to be a more inclusive, authentic, and supportive writer and tutor. I need to remember my privilege and the immense of opportunities that have come from my positionality as a South Asian woman who has the financial support of my parents and citizenship and a skin tone that’s just light enough that no one tells me I don’t belong in this country when I walk down the street (something that my peers can’t always say) – there are some struggles that I’ll never understand, and the most important thing I can do is listen, support, advocate, and educate myself and others.

I have no idea how I’ve become someone that my younger self would be proud to know. I’m halfway shocked that I’m still in college and absolutely terrified that someone will tell me that I won’t make it, that my time is up, that college isn’t for people like me, especially since I’m deferring graduation for a year. But for God’s sake, I know that 5 years to study the right thing is what I need because I deserve to feel empowered and motivated and inspired by my work and colleagues.

The other day, my friend texted me “you win!” in response to my message that I’d received credit for a project I was doing.

But I also win because I’m going to keep going until I’m making a life in service of others. I win because I’m not afraid to be authentic and the good stuff but also the tough stuff.

I have immense gratitude for everyone who has accompanied on this journey to find what I need/want/deserve. Thank you for loving me, for supporting, for telling me that I have something important to give to others.

I am eternally grateful, and I hope to give back this love in everything I do from here on out. I will make you and me and everybody else proud. This is for us ❤

The next 6 months will be wild – I’ll be interning at Microsoft, studying abroad in Prague with some side trips (I’m going to be in Budapest on my birthday!), When I come back, I’ll be writing a thesis and finishing a capstone presentation. A year from now, who knows where I’ll be headed – but I hope that it’s bringing me closer to a life that I’m moved by. I hope that I can become a person of impact right where I am, not in some far away job or career of life.

Odds and Ends:

Do you look both ways when you cross my mind

how do you lose an electric toothbrush

although everyone doesn’t have access to technology, we all have access to stories that inspire us.

the first principle of aid is respect

people don’t forget their history

do it all for the love

I am everything at once

Advancing racial equity in health outcomes, educational outcomes, and the elimination of systemic oppression, is the work of all public health professionals

The longer poems are thick with truth and criticism of the lack of visibility of writers of color in literature and poetry and the grief of losing an identity you never knew to the western world.  

Her job as tutor still comes back to her initial identity of a storyteller – one who expresses their own stories and accesses the parts of them that enable others to tell their story as well.

I was definitely drunk, on Cupid’s arrows, on Valentine’s chocolates, on Christmas trees and late-night calls and snowball fights and hoodies that smell like him.

I had this feeling deep in my gut that I would love her

Now, when I’m in Karachi, all I see are the rusted doors, the chipped paint, the filthy plumbing, the flies.

I am remembering to love my mind because of what it enables me to create, and my body because it takes me to places that I had only dreamed of seeing

“At Microsoft, CEO Satya Nadella talks about a product ethos that stresses the importance of creating products that are user-friendly, empathetic, and collaborative. This means well-crafted UX with carefully chosen words and messages to guide you through the system. No docs neededjust intuitive UX.”

Imagination is a contagious disease. It cannot be measured by the yard, or weighed by the pound, and then delivered to the students by members of the faculty. It can only be communicated by a faculty whose members themselves wear their learning with imagination

the story is changing

we are humans that take back our lives

Not all battles are worth it

there is love here

sometimes you have to make your own history

who you are is important for your work

the magic has been in all of us all along

No one person is going to be able to transform the institution. It takes all of us pushing and lifting

One thing is clear: the hugely successful impact of OMA&D. “Without this office, I probably would’ve dropped out,” Fonseca confesses. “If I didn’t have these spaces where I felt like people were going to understand me, I wouldn’t have stayed. I would’ve felt like it wasn’t for me, just like I believed growing up that college wasn’t for me. I would’ve fulfilled that prophecy

your skills as a listener (even to yourself) and storyteller are certainly on display here.

Until things change, we’ll always be in that space, until we’re the ones in front of the classroom. Until we’re the ones writing the new books that students learn from. Until we’re the ones sitting at the table in the boardrooms. Part of the questioning is because we’ve never been allowed to be there before

Musings: Love is coming back to me

May 24, 2018

Today is a really good day and I’m feeling like the pieces of my life are fitting together again. I went to my class this morning and soldered some wires to buttons and lights, thus marking my only contribution to my physical computing project (not very proud of that).

Then, I ate some pizza and chatted with a new friend, and we got the chance to debrief how challenging it can when you lose your friend and the love of your life all at once – I hope that no one ever has to feel a heartbreak like that. Everything that follows feels a little bit different, and it takes time to rebuild everything. But it can be done – everything is a cycle and we can all be renewed again.

I’m lucky to be learning about what real love looks like and finding it in the most unexpected places.

Then, I did a mini-photoshoot with one of my oldest friends, and I’m so glad that we can always pick up where we left off. We decided to turn the wheat by our student building into a photoshoot location – and the results were pretty fierce if I do say so myself. We also took some photos with a metal Dubs (even though neither of us have school spirit) and some bright flowers that were still blooming.  I ever wore a crop top and a corduroy skirt and some dangly earrings and felt confident in my body, which is something I hadn’t felt in a while. We also got some mango smoothies, and I think they accidentally added banana, which is the biggest blunder of all when it comes to blended fruit. Then, we headed to Agua Verde for a cute lil happy hour powwow featuring nachos, and we basked in the Seattle sun and the glittering waterfront and I felt more at peace then I had in a while.

Also, I’ve been watching 13 Reasons Why, a terrible T.V. show. Although it’s not exactly the crème de la crème of entertainment, I really enjoyed the following line: “I want to be left with love” – and I want this too. I want to make a life building people up because everybody could benefit from a little more positivity. And maybe if I start leading with love again, the peace I need will come back to me.

Musings: The tough stuff [and how stories can help]

Today, I am struggling to find sunshine in my soul and it’s OK to admit that. I feel the aching in my bones. They are creaking underneath the weight of academia, burdened by the task of telling stories all the time but living in fear that I’m not creating of legacy, exhausted by the constant need to justify my choices because my path is not linear or self-explanatory. I look at my reflection in the class of the bus window and can’t recognize those eyes anymore. Have I always looked this weary?

Don’t get me wrong, I feel so damn lucky that I get to do that I love every single day. I decided to celebrate what I’ve been working on for the past 3 years by sharing it on Facebook. I posted at 2 a.m. so I could easily delete it if it wasn’t validated with likes and comments. When I checked it the next afternoon, over 100 people had expressed their support in some way, and there were about how I didn’t have to be ashamed to of doing a fifth year or taking the time to do what I love. They said that I should keep telling stories and being proud of myself. One person even said, “I am genuinely excited about your life” and it made me feel like I just might be on the right path. I will find a way to do what I love, and I hope that it involves a whole lot of authentic storytelling, learning from others, and opportunities to become something I didn’t know I could.

But if I feel all of this, if I can have so much conviction about who I am, then why is sadness and frustration washing over me right now? I try to be positive all the time because I believe that life is so beautiful and should be celebrated. But in the process, I think I’m neglecting a part of myself – the part that struggles sometimes.

Today, I’m starting to get the feeling that I’m losing something important. But how do I know if I’m the one who needs fixing? What if you’ve caused pain to others even though it’s the last thing you wanted to do? How do you live with that? I’m at a crossroads paved with good intentions and I can’t really tell where to turn.

I don’t have a conclusion that feels authentic, so I will stop here. I think I just needed to write this so I know that I’m engaging with my feelings, even the tough ones.

**Later that night**

Pals, my mind is blown.

I recently bought tickets to The Moth, a show where a series of storytellers tell their story on stage sans notes. The theme was “Save Me,” was interpreted pretty broadly. This event reminded me that reclaiming our stories by telling them to an audience is a form of self-acceptance, which can be the most radical form of queer love.

 

Right away, I realized that life is such a precious and fragile thing. The first storyteller talked about how he dropped everything, including their job, to follow a group they loved so deeply: the Spice Girls. They ended up going to 22 shows, which is inherently mindboggling, but they also become a person of impact who was recognized at every show. The Spice Girls were also a way for them to celebrate their identity as a gay male and take more risks, as evidenced by telling himself, “this isn’t very spicy of you” when he realized that he was in a job he didn’t love. Related to queer love, the storyteller talked about how he had heard his mother say that he and his siblings couldn’t refer to “dikes” in the house, so the recognition he received as a superfan of the Spice Girls made him realize that he was valuable and important. This embodies queer love because he learned to have conviction about his choices.  As a queer woman, I was glad to see that the first story touched on the importance of validating your own identity – in the words of my friend, “keep people close, and keep yourself closest.” I was glad to see this representation and I hope that it made other queer people feel like it would all work out at some point if they continued to fight the good fight to be their most authentic selves.

Another really powerful story came from Dylan Park, who served 6 years in the military, specifically in Iraq. He talked about he was at risk every single time he patted down potential suicide bombers, but the bigger shock occurred when he returned home and found out that his brother was murdered after a carjacking in California. To me, this begs the question, “who are we when faced with loss? What role does love play when the person you love the most is taken away?”  Dylan answers this question when he reveals that he meets a taxi driver in Arizona who turns out to be a young boy from Iraq that he met during his time in war. He explains this as the time he lost one brother and gained another, which reminds me that everyone has the ability to find love in new forms. I think he also embodied queer love because he was honest about the hard parts of his journey.

 

There were other stories too, but the ones that I mentioned were focused on intersectionality of identity. These speakers talked about being gay, a veteran, a brother, a person from an economically disadvantaged community, and a person who’s trying to find their place in the world. People who are marginalized often have to tell stories about themselves to combat the narratives that are told about them. I think this event was a celebration of the amount of support when we get when we’re vulnerable with ourselves, and that stories have the power to save us if we let them.

So hey, maybe stories do have the power to save us if we let them. Maybe they’re a guiding light and source of representation and a glimmer of hope all at once

Explore More: 24 Hours in Portlandia | May 20, 2018

Today was/is/will be wild. I have returned back to the la la land after a weekend getaway in Portland, which was a much needed detour featuring Oreo donuts, strong coffee, and an endless supply of books.

Honestly, timing is everything. I’m so glad that life brought my lovely travel companions into my life 2 years ago, all thanks to a nacho night we put on when I was a resident adviser. Now, we’ve visited Vancouver and Portland and I’m hoping that we’ll visit Disneyworld or Florence sometime in the near future. At any rate, I’m pretty lucky.

Let me give you a little rundown of 24 hours in Portland! First, we arrived at our hotel which was only a hop, skip, jump, and 30 minute walk away from Downtown Portland. On our first day, we dropped our stuff off at our humble abode and then headed to Petunia’s Pies and Pastries, a cute little gluten-free and vegan bakery that’s right across the street from a Gothic church and modern skyscraper (nice juxtaposition if you ask me).

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Since we were all pretty hungry at that point, we decided to eat a large slide of the special cake of the day, which was a mocha cake with salted caramel frosting. Honestly, this cake was absolutely delicious and you’d have no idea that no animal products & byproducts were used in this making of such a delicious treat.

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One time for this delicious cake!

We also had a huckleberry pie – fun fact, I almost wrote a report about huckleberries in third grade because we had to choose a local food and make a dish with it, but I picked the Red Delicious apple instead so I could whip up a pie. Anyway, blueberries, salmonberries, and huckleberries are a sweet staple in the Pacific Northwest. The pie had a delicious crumble and the tart berries were a lovely contrast (I don’t watch enough Food Network for this food critique LOL).

Then, we headed to Mother’s Bistro where I ordered some macaroni and cheese! My friends ordered some really fragrant martinis so if you ever want a perfume-y lavender drink with lemon juice and local honey, say “bottoms up” to the Lavender Silk (alternatively, the elderflower sparkler has sparkling wine with a little bit of lemon rind served in a champagne glass, so it’s a pretty fancy time).

Also, we think it was Prom night and it was adorable to see a bunch of lovely lady and gentleman couples in the most beautiful dresses and up-dos of my life! Honestly, I wish I could go through Prom season again because I’d definitely rock a two-piece Sherri Hill number this time around. Also, this cute mom had taken her daughter and her friend to dinner and it was so sweet. Sigh

We also saw cute murals around the city, so that was fun.

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Then, we headed home and walked along the water. The twinkly lights along the way reminded me of walking the coast of Santorini last spring – I get the sense that I was right where I needed to be.

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The next day, we ate some of the hotel breakfast, took photos by the water, and headed straight for the “Keep Portland Weird” sign by Dante’s. Honestly, my friends and I definitely brought the weird (but no rain, thankfully). This sign is right across one location of Voodoo Donuts which had incredibly long lines, but we got some cute photos of the area.

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Then, we stopped at Stumptown Coffee in Portland. I ordered a cold brew coffee because I love sweet cream cold brew at Starbucks, and it was very bitter / I wouldn’t recommend buying it. It made me realize that my coffee order (a white chocolate Americano) is basically dessert. But hey, my drink made for a great photo!

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We also made a brief stop at Powell’s Books. I found a copy of “Passing” by Nella Larsen, and I smiled when I saw a section about pride because my queer heart loves representation. I also ran into my old colleague right outside the bookstore, which was a lovely surprise!

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And lastly, Voodoo Donuts made my heart sing. We only waited a few minutes for our famous pink boxes since we went to a location outside of Downtown Portland, and I got the Dirt Donut because it’s glazed and covered in Oreos. We also took as many photos as possible with the pink wall.

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And afterwards, I did some shopping and bought some cute new summer pieces, statement earrings, and periwinkle New Balance shoes.

Overall, it was a successful 24 hours in the second-best city in the Pacific Northwest (the first goes to Seattle, obviously!). See you next time for my not-so-regular exploration series. Summer is just around the corner so I hope I’ll have more trips to talk about soon.

This trip was a reminder that it’s important to make time for fun, even amid the craziness that comes with the end of a school year. And it’s also a reminder that true friends will show up when you need it most. Here’s to pretzel bites and pastels, road trip playlists with Taylor Swift and Lady Gaga, and sunny weather in Portland and everywhere I’m headed next.

Everything is different. When I look up the sky, I’m smiling at the thought of someone new and no one who’s in my life right now. When I look at my back, I see a little black and white wildflower that’s sprouted from my veins as in the process of healing, just like me. Now, I live 10 blocks away from where I live used to, have 2 different jobs, work as the diversity beat reporter, added a new major, and decided that my body can be whatever it wants.

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Musings: This body

What have I done to my body

Have it shattered it

To the point of no repair

I catch my honey-colored hair

In the shards of glass

My deep brown eyes beg

What pieces are worth keeping

I feel my back ache from the weight

Of their dreams,

Of my fears,

And the way I’ve denied myself

The tenderness of love

My softness begs them to dig their nails in

As my joints threaten to buckle underneath me

Do I know how to catch myself anymore

So, I know that was a little bit dramatic! I wrote this when I was walking back from the gym the other day. I’ve been running regularly the last 8 years with relatively few breaks – but these last few days, I’ve been struggling to run more than a few minutes at a time. I was hobbling back from the gym and wincing as I scaled the endless uphill trek that exists between main campus and my house, and I thought about how I never listen to my body. I’m always breaking myself and sometimes forget that I need to be kind to myself before anything else. And I don’t want to break myself or anyone else anymore, you know?

I think this piece captured some of that, but also how my physical body is a shell of the softness underneath – and I need to be kind to all parts of me.