Why We Should Stay: Work and Commitments

When you’re a young twenty-something, there are few things you have had the choice to commit yourself to outside of school.  Formal education was kind of a forced thing, and though you might have loved school, it wasn’t necessarily a decision made entirely on your own.

But, there comes a time when you get to decide things for yourself–how you spend your time and who you decide to spend your time with.

We’re not like our parents’ generation.  We move in and out of jobs, switch career paths, decide on a different course.  It’s not necessarily negative or positive, in my opinion.  And even in my case, I didn’t stick with my first job out of college for too long.  Though I interned previously at Tiyya, I just wanted professional work experience in a non-profit organization, working on direct services.  And I moved on after my contracted year as I thought I should.

I left that job last October.  But, I stayed on as an advisory committee member, then a fundraising committee member, and event planner to help out where & when I can.

For a while, I felt weird about staying–volunteering my time because I thought I should be focusing on getting ready for graduate school or whatever else.  It wasn’t that I didn’t want to stay, but my peers were moving a mile a minute, and I felt stuck.  The nasty vein of comparison crept in.  People were getting degrees, new jobs, new homes, new partners. It just felt like too much.

But, every time I volunteered for a Tiyya event or saw those I worked with previously, it just made me so happy.  I forgot that by typical Millenial standards, I wasn’t necessarily supposed to still be there.

The idea that we need to climb invisible ladders and move up and out…it’s complete shit.

Honestly, we should all be so lucky to find an environment that makes us feel happy and needed.  Upon reflection, I think I was exceptionally naïve in thinking that I could dig deep into an organization with so much heart and love, and not get attached.  It still baffles me how I thought I should just leave.

I’m not saying that every person who works briefly somewhere should remain working for that organization or company for the sake of being committed.  But, what I am saying, is that when you do that, it’s not a bad thing.  You aren’t being tied down or sucked in.  Sometimes maintaining a commitment you enjoy, even when your peers are doing other things, can be rewarding and enriching.

By remaining involved in Tiyya, I think about every volunteer, intern, and staff member I interacted with, and I am just so grateful.  And every refugee, immigrant, and asylum seeker who I laughed and cried with taught me so much beyond what a typical year of experiences could give.  It is only fair and right that I continue that commitment and embrace the joy it brings me.

If my two years of interning, working, and volunteering at Tiyya has taught me anything, it’s that the best things happen when the people involved truly believe in what they’re doing.  And if you believe in what you’re doing, you’ll stay in some way.  I’m here to say to anyone who thinks they need to play into the rat race, that there’s absolutely nothing wrong with staying.  You are not stuck.  Because who is to say that we are stuck when we are fulfilled, when we are happy?

With Tiyya, I got “stuck”. And it was the best damn thing that could have ever happened to me.

An Obligatory ConGRADulations – A Semi-Open Letter to my Pals Graduating from University

It’s that time of the year again and I wish I could physically be present to celebrate with and support my dear friends who are graduating.  But, I can’t because I am sharing a California King-sized bed with my mom, dad, and brother in the middle of Nowheresville (just kidding, I’m in Tiburon and it’s actually quite nice).  At least we all have our own pillow.

Since I can’t be yelling embarrassing things at my friends while they walk across that stage to get a very expensive piece of paper and shake the hands of people they probably don’t actually know, in plain ol’ Christina fashion, writing is the next best thing I can think of to express the multitude of thoughts I’m having for my friends who are about to embark on the next part of their journey.

I’ve written before on how graduating can leave you confused and disillusioned.  And while I still believe that to be true, this is a more positive post, one that’s hopefully less foreboding than what you’re used to getting from me.

So, congratulations!!11!!!!!1!1!!!!!

You have accomplished quite a feat.  Behind this 15-letter word of “congratulations” are your years of hard work, sacrifice, moments of great exasperation and defiance.  While we may not always acknowledge it, I know this to be true.  This is your moment.  Take it in and appreciate everything you have done to get you here.

Whether you are a First Generation student, carrying the faith of your family on your back alongside the textbooks you’ve shoved in your bookbag, or a student who never had to question if a university education could be your reality, you have gone through so much.  This day is about recognizing your frustrations and barriers, just as much as it’s about your triumphs.

 

After graduating, it took me the better part of a year to finally figure out how to keep challenging myself and learning after leaving student life.  It is so easy for us to fall in line, to get a job and live our lives, relegating education to something of our past.  And to keep learning, keep questioning and engaging with things critically…it is not something done by most.  But friends, I encourage you to try.  I’ve been privileged enough to have free time to spend chatting with friends about social issues, sitting in on university classes even though I’m not a student.  It’s helped me a lot in easing my way out and simultaneously, back in, to the university.  But for those of you who don’t have that option, it’s going to be hard.  But, you got through so many hard things as a student, and I am confident in your ability to get through this too.  And if you can’t quite get through it alone, I have a very empty living room and three air mattresses.

I know that people think our generation of millenials are spoiled, misdirected, and/or take things for granted.  Maybe that is true for some.  But your graduation and the impending fears you already have or will have should not be dismissed just because you fall into the millennial time frame.  Your worries about the future are valid and legitimate.  After all, you have spent the better part of your life listening to others telling you how to survive a system that was not created for you to think for yourself.  And now, you’re off, and you’re told to think for yourself and accomplish great things.  How vague.  What kind of “great things” can you accomplish if you’re not yet ready to be thrust into the world?

These are all questions we have when we graduate, we just try to hide them.  But I’m here to say, do not hide them and do not be ashamed if you don’t have things figured out, even a little bit.  Be open and honest with your fears, because we all have them.  Don’t let anyone say you are not allowed to be fearful or challenge yourself just because you’re young.  Having fears of the future and also being happy about your accomplishments as a college graduate do not have to be exclusive things.  You’re allowed to question your worth some days, and be super proud of your accomplishments on others.  I didn’t learn this immediately, and still have to remind myself on occasion.

But, most of all, aside from “congratulations”,  I am here to say that I am so proud.

I am proud to know you and to call you my friend.  And I am so grateful that through every option the universe has had for you and for me, we were able to come together in some way and learn from each other.  I am proud that you persevered and did what you needed to so that you could walk across that stage, be cheered on by family, and smile for awkward photographs.  And I am proud to know that you will do great things.  Vague as it is, I am so sure of it.  You have already done great things by just being who you are and being a friend to me.  And though it doesn’t pay the bills, I hope that my pride in you will motivate you to be proud and confident in yourself too.  So, throw up that cardboard hat that literally has no other use than to be a very poorly constructed Frisbee, and celebrate all that you are and all that you will be.

With love, gratitude, and ZOTS (for you other Anteaters out there),

Christina

a reminder on what trauma is not

You are a person with a collection of experiences.  If those experiences do not include a form of trauma, this post is not for you.

Trauma can be an isolated event or it can be a series of them, but regardless, it is hard to separate the experience[s] from you as a person.
Despite this, you are not your trauma.  You were, will be, and always have been more than what has happened to you.  But anyone who says overcoming those experiences will make you better and stronger is full of shit.  Not because that isn’t necessarily true, but because the people who say that usually don’t have those experiences.  And so how the hell would they know if you’re stronger because some awful, horrible thing happened to you?

Because trauma can make you distrustful, scared, vengeful. All the things you’re told not to be because they’re bad qualities? That’s what you can become.  
Not always, but sometimes.  
Sometimes those feelings subside, but sometimes they swell up like an emotional Hulk.  That is alright and normal.  Anyone who negates your emotions doesn’t deserve the time it takes to talk about your trauma or the privilege of helping you heal.

And the healing process is just that.  A process.  Overcoming trauma isn’t a positive experience. It is not a destination or the ending of an uplifting, inspirational direct-to-TV Lifetime Original Movie.
It isn’t something that just makes you “stronger” or have a more nuanced understanding of social issues. It’s a lifelong journey that you never signed up for and the rare moments of accolades or pats on the back by well-intentioned supporters don’t do anything to negate the sense of despair you sometimes (or all the time) feel.

Your trauma is not the moral of a story
or a code to crack in order to figure out why you’re afraid to get into a relationship or walk home alone.

Your trauma is not a side note written in the margins of someone else’s story.
It is not fodder for another exposé, documentary, or political debate.

Your trauma is not anyone else’s inspiration.  It deserves more than being a launchpad for someone else’s success.

Your trauma is your eventual triumph and sometimes your downfall.  It is crying at night, but remembering the day always comes.  It is waves of bitterness, speckled with glimmers of hope and vice versa. It is not something to forget or overcome.  Because overcoming means leaving, and we always know that that pain never leaves, just ebbs and flows.

Your trauma is yours, and yours alone.
And sometimes that can be scary.  Debilitating.

Because people tell you that overcoming it makes you better, more well-rounded.  That people who experience hardships don’t take things for granted, are kinder people, can understand the world in ways others couldn’t.

But the people who say that do it out of habit, to make the world more understandable.

You don’t owe those people comfort and you don’t need to oblige their well-intentioned allyship.  If you are a survivor that doesn’t align with their process of healing and that makes them uncomfortable, that is not your problem.  You don’t need their flimsy solidarity.

In this context, you don’t owe anyone but yourself love, respect, and dignity.  You deserve the dignity your trauma negated you.  And if that dignity includes being angry, being confused, being sad for long periods of time, then that’s what you deserve. Don’t let your trauma or others who want to heal your trauma hold you back from experiencing a full range of human emotions because you don’t want to be seen as weak or depressing.

And if in time, you come to a place where you can write the own ending to your own uplifting direct-to-TV Lifetime Original Movie of sorts, then you damn well get to do that because it’s your life and it’s your trauma and it’s your experience, and no one else’s.

It is you knowing full well that forgiving yourself is harder than forgiving anyone else, but you do it anyway because you have to keep living.

Your trauma is your own, and your own, and still always your own.  And no one has the right or the power to strip you of your truths.

with all the love my tiny body can give,
Christina

What No One Tells You About Working in Non-Profits

or maybe they do, but you always thought they were exaggerating

A career in non-profits is unforgiving.

Being a part of the non-profit world is like that scene in Mean Girls, where Regina George compliments that one girl’s bracelet that was from her mom in the ‘80s even though she secretly thinks it is ugly and gross.

The outside world will throw compliments at you. They will say you are the most warmhearted, inspirational person for being able to be so self-sacrificing. They are thinking, however, that they could never live off of dollars a day. They are glad you are the self-sacrificing one so they don’t have to be.

It’s because people expect all non-profit workers to be selfless. It’s the thing at the top of every NGO job description, right under the tagline that reads “won’t make a ton of money, but it sure is fulfilling”. It’s the kind of thing that really draws in those optimistic, self-sacrificing “do-gooders”.

In the beginning, it’s kind of uplifting and nice that people—your friends, family, kind strangers you happen to talk to in line at the supermarket—call you “selfless” when you tell them you work for a non-profit.

They say, “Oh, I could never do that.”

And you think to yourself, “Well, yes, you could. You just choose not to.”

I must admit that I have thought that to myself so many times, even before I started officially working for a small, community-based non-profit. I will also admit that I would sometimes (read: every time) judge those who would not pursue a career in the non-profit sector or, even worse, take the stuffy corporate route. I’ve since changed my tune ever-so-slightly.

 

The thing is those people who say they could never work in non-profits are usually mostly right. They could probably never succeed in a non-profit, but not because of the reasons they’re thinking.

It’s not because it’s a selfless job that takes someone with a lot of optimism and altruism. That could be true in certain contexts, but not everyone working in a non-profit environment is optimistic or completely altruistic. I’ve met a good amount of realists who are doing quite well for themselves while working in NGOs, granted they are surrounded by a great deal of idealists that balance them out.

But in actuality, I think that the thing about working in non-profits that a lot of people could not handle is how completely unforgiving it can all be. It’s a thankless venture in many ways.

 

Yes, I may be a good person. Yes, I may be compassionate or caring. But simply chalking me up to being “noble” or “selfless” or simply “kindhearted” does a great disservice to those working in the non-profit sector. The amount of work, sacrifice, and effort it takes is completely overlooked when you gloss over it all with those simplifying terms.

 

Non-profit organizations are not selfless. They are tactical and smart, and the good ones are thrifty. They’re constantly in survival mode. Shouting about how kind and great you are won’t get things done. Compliments about how selfless an organization is won’t get things done. The large misconception about non-profits is in the title itself. Though we don’t function to make profit, we do need profits. Financial support is the best kind of support you can give a non-profit. And I think that a lot of times, non-profits are not given the amount of money they deserve, not because they’re unqualified or simply “selfless”, but because the amount of hard work, strategic planning, and foresight it takes to run or even just work in a non-profit is exceptionally overlooked.

 

Every single non-profit worker is forced to wear many hats. I don’t even like hats. They’re nice, but I look terrible in them. And still, you have to deal with it.

Those metaphorical non-profit hats you have to switch in and out of causes a lot of pressure.

It’s not to say that other jobs do not put you under pressure, but the pressure a non-profit worker is put under goes far beyond their job title.

In my case, it’s “Program Development Director”.

And, spoiler alert, I don’t just direct programs.

I am also a case manager, a tutor, an ESL instructor, an intern and volunteer supervisor, a storage unit organizer, a donation collector, an office administrator, and so many other things. I also make tea and eat lunch sometimes.

In addition to whatever basic job duties you might have with your job title, you have to shift and shuffle around every day because things need to get done. There is no extended budget to hire additional program staff. You cannot hand things off to someone else to do, because the worst thing that can happen isn’t just that your paperwork will pile up (which, trust me, is still is an awful thing to deal with). The worst thing that can happen is that an already underserved population will continue to be underserved. You can literally ruin someone’s life. And that is a ton of pressure.  Thanks a lot, hats.

 

Along with the physical responsibilities, you’re also put under the pressure of abstract things, like upholding your organization’s mission. Your existence starts to align with their existence. Their vision becomes yours, their mission becomes yours.

You are suddenly a walking, talking, breathing example of why your organization still needs to exist and why the problem you’re trying to tackle is an important one. You represent far more than anything you’ve ever represented before.

Damn those hats, at it again.

 

Being involved in NGOs, specifically in grassroots ones (though I’m sure the larger ones face similar challenges) is so excruciatingly difficult. Sometimes you feel like everything you do and work for is for naught. But, sometimes during rare moments of caffeine-induced clarity, a client expresses their sincere thanks or you finish a project without having to stop to do some other errand.

In those moments, you realize that you can be both a good, selfless person and a dedicated, talented, hardworking person. Those things are not mutually exclusive.

People don’t like to advertise how difficult it can be working in the non-profit world. I think that is a mistake.

I think it is also a mistake to romanticize the notion of doing good for a career. It takes perseverance, self-reflection, and the willingness to create and maintain healthy boundaries. It is not for everyone.

And, if you find yourself working in the non-profit sector and feel like it isn’t for you, that is okay. It is okay to admit defeat and find another way to support or help the cause. Admitting defeat does not mean you are selfish or lacking in compassion. It means you understand how difficult non-profits can be—that it is not just for the selfless and idealistic. More people need to realize that. Maybe then the already amazing work done by small non-profits can become even more amazing.

What Happens When You Reach a Certain Age

And no, I’m not talking about the oh-so-ridiculously high drinking age of 21 (thanks, America).

Being considered an adult is circumstantial.  Life in America tells you that you become a legal adult at 18.  You can vote, you can be drafted (with some considerations), you can start doing your own damn laundry (although you should probably have started doing that on your own way before that).  The government can treat you like an adult and throw responsibilities at you, but for some reason, your parents can’t, or don’t, or won’t.

So, when you finally reach an age when you are perceived as a real life, normal, human person with enough emotional capacity to pitch a tent in, it’s a little strange.  Because all your life, you’re given excuses for your behavior or your points of view.  When you’re a child, you’re naive.  It’s cute that you think you want to be a ballerina scientist princess singer.  When you’re a teenager, blame the hormones.  It’s “just a phase” that you slam doors and whisper expletives under your breath when you fight with your parents.  When you go off to university, you’re homesick or stressed out.  It’s fine that you’re preoccupied with deciding on a major or juggling classes.  And all throughout your life, no one tells you things.  Not real things, anyway.  Adults are a part of a not-so-secret society and until you’ve reached a certain age, you just aren’t invited.  People shelter their children, anyone’s children, from emotional and physical realities because they think it will stunt their growth or traumatize them to no end.  No one really talks to you in a way that is normal.  Conversations are not real conversations. And you’re expected to just be fine with that.

And then suddenly, sometimes with warning and sometimes without, you’ve reached a certain age. It sneaks up on you most of the time.  I know it did with me.

One day, when you call home, your mom doesn’t just say she’s fine.  She’ll actually tell you things about her life.  She’ll still give unsolicited advice, because that’s what she does.  But, she also asks for your opinion.  She asks because she needs affirmation and consideration–something that you just couldn’t provide before because you hadn’t been that certain age quite yet.

And now you are.

And one day, when you phone your dad, he’ll tell you what’s really wrong with grandpa.  He won’t say it’ll be alright like he did with grandma.  You were young back then, so it was okay that no one told you the truth.  But now you’re a certain age, and for some reason, that deserves the truth.

The thing with being a certain age is that it isn’t a sturdy, standard age.  It comes in ebbs and flows.  You get exposed slowly, incrementally, and then all at once.

You’re no longer considered a child that didn’t know better.  Sometimes you just don’t think about it though.  It seems like a natural progression, but when you look back, you realize that it’s only been one year or two or three since you were just a kid. And now, you’re just a person that can provide support and words of encouragement or bereavement or whatever kind of emotion is necessary for a particular time and place.  And in a way, it’s kind of for lack of a better word, nice.  You are, at a certain age, considered a real person capable of contributing your own voice and thought.

It’s not confusing or extremely uplifting.  It’s just nice.

Because the relationships that are the nicest are the ones that are mutually satisfying.  Traditionally, parents support their children.  And it’s not to say that until you’re a certain age, you don’t appreciate their affection and love.  It’s more that when you do reach a certain age and you find yourself helping your parents as much as they help you, it just makes more sense.

And, I find that when you reach a certain age, you stop thinking about reaching a certain age.  I don’t know if I’ve hit that obscure number yet, but I think I’m making my way there.

When you reach a certain age, it’ll be okay to see your heroes sad.  It makes them human.

When you reach a certain age, you’ll stop saying you’re older than you really are.  The pre-mature wrinkles won’t be sources of pride anymore.  You’ll hate society for being ageist, but you’ll do everything in your power to not be called “old”.

When you reach a certain age, you’ll believe in love.  And loss.  And love again.  It will still be hard to let go, but it will happen.

When you reach a certain age, you will still care what people think.  You’ll just learn that it matters more what you think.

When you reach a certain age, you will see that no one is immune to hurt or heartache.  You will also see that no one is immune to smiles or kindness or a really great smelling loaf of bread.

When you reach a certain age, you will stop saying you will get to it eventually.  You will get to it today.  You won’t wait for a tragedy to strike or a parent to yell at you.

When you reach a certain age, you will sometimes wish you stayed in touch with everyone you ever were friends with.  You will soon realize that it’s okay you haven’t.

When you reach a certain age, you will understand that what you think and say matters.  You will apologize when you do something wrong and stand strong when you know you are doing something right.  You won’t be ashamed for not following the crowd.  You will be a hero in your own right.

The Sad Thing No One Tells You After You Stop Being Student

When you graduate college, after the “congratulations!” Facebook posts stop rolling in, after your relatives stop patting you on the back and stop asking what your future plans are, after all of the hip-hip-hoorays are done, there is a daunting stillness in your life that no one really tells you about.

It doesn’t matter if you’re coming out of college with a full-time job lined up or if you’re still in limbo, wandering from part-time job to part-time job.

I mean, people do talk about it being kind of strange not waking up for class or having to study for exams.  And people talk about how stressful it is to be in the workplace, dealing with taxes, having adult problems.

But those are all strangely little things compared to the big thing that no one talks about.

No one talks about how utterly lost you can feel after you leave school.

And no one says that it’s okay to feel like you don’t have a place anymore because for pretty much your entire life, you have classified yourself as a student, first and foremost.

It has been about four months since I had to stop calling myself a student.  I proudly graduated from an accredited research university amongst many wonderful friends.  I was hopeful, bright-eyed, and sure that things would be great.  But still, I am at a loss.

I don’t know if it is the romanticized notion of the adult world that so many young adults have or if maybe I just clung too tightly to the university. But, regardless of what it is, I feel unsatisfied, like when you are forced to close up a book you just started getting into. People say that chapters of your life have to end so you can start a new one, but what happens when you aren’t ready to start a new chapter?  What happens when you feel like all the characters are having a wonderful storyline except you? What happens when you feel lost?

I’ve always been one to want things to happen organically, but leaving the university felt so forced for me.  It wasn’t natural or normal or some organic progression that made sense.  I just wasn’t ready, or maybe I refused to be ready.

A college education is supposed to unlock so many wonderful doors.  It is supposed to be the track that leads you to some amazing destination.  But it feels like everyone is arriving to their destination a lot quicker than I am.

No one tells you that you might feel that way.  No one tells you that along with adult problems, like paying bills and working long hours, you sometimes feel desperately lonely.

I have a good number of friends that graduated at the same time I did.  I see a good handful of them on a regular basis.  That eases the loneliness.  But, I have a good number of friends still in college.  And though I know we all have our separate responsibilities and roles to take care of, it is hard to not be in the same place, physically or emotionally, as them.

It is difficult knowing that friends are too busy with school to talk to you or spend time with you.  It is difficult knowing that you are no longer an important part of their life because you are not a student like them.  It is difficult knowing that the foundation of many relationships in college is the simple fact that you were in college at the same time as they were.  And now that you are graduated and formally finished with school, that relationship no longer is as important as you may have perceived.

No one tells you that.

Graduating college, I have recently been joking about how old I am.

At twenty-one, I know that numerically, I am far from being what society classifies as “old”.  But, I think what I mean is that I feel “old”.  I feel cast aside by some of my peers, many of whom I considered friends.  I feel unenergized and unwilling to venture out of my comfort zone.  I feel like I don’t know how to move past this strange lull in my post-graduate life.  I feel like I am desperately clinging to the relationships I have because I am so scared of being unable to make new ones.

As a typically extroverted and charismatic person, I feel terrible being so afraid and uncertain of how life continues on when I am so unready and unwilling to move along with it.  I think when you stop being something you identify with for so long, like being a student, that tends to happen.

No one tells you that.

I don’t know if I’ll slowly overcome my obscure sense of abandonment or if I’ll just learn to tune it out.  I don’t know if I’ll get used to seeing only three or four people on a regular basis compared to my multitude of friendship circles I had whilst in college.  I don’t know if these feelings are normal or not.  I honestly don’t know anything.  College taught me a lot, but it didn’t teach me how to deal with not being in college anymore.

I hate to be melodramatic, but no one told me how to healthily grieve the loss of something so abstract as your own identity. Not being a student anymore has been an incredibly debilitating experience for me.  No one told me that could happen.  And even though I’m not technically a student, I’m still constantly learning.

And I guess, that’s going to have to be enough for me.

Once is Never Enough

In terms of giving thanks, I wholeheartedly believe you can never say it or express it enough to those who have so heavily impacted you.  Sometimes I think it odd that another human soul can give another so much of themselves and still not be drained so as to stop that giving process.

But, as I have come to learn, for which I am very grateful, we are often capable of giving more than we thought possible.

I know I have another quarter at UCI, but it already feels like the end.  And when things end, we often say thank you (we say goodbye too, but I don’t think that’s appropriate to say yet).

So, I guess that’s what this post is for.  A little bit of sentiment amidst a whirlwind of last minute trip preparations, fretting over final grades, and midnight snacking.  A gigantic pile of laundry sits atop my bed as I sit on my roommate’s much comfier mattress, and I am slightly overcome with a sense of urgency.  I’ll try to make this quick, but I don’t think that’ll happen.  And it is by no means an all-encompassing list of thank-you’s, but a never-ending, never-quite-good-enough compilation of “thank you for entering my life and believing in me”.

—–

Professors & Academics: I had a wonderful evening with a great professor and mentor that I have grown to admire, respect, and love.  I think that often people see professors as intimidating species with lengthy egos and equally lengthy lists of publications.  And while that may be true for some of them, a vast majority of the ones I have had the privilege of getting to know have been genuine and kind in almost every way possible.  I thank them for their authenticity, dedication, and passion they bring each and every day of their lives.  I thank them for pushing me to follow my own interests and for providing me with a model of how to conduct myself in order to make myself (hopefully) as good of as an academic as they are.

Housing: My first real employment was given to me by UCI Housing.  I met and made great friends, obtained some life skills (like learning to deal with people on a regular basis), overcame a lot of my own insecurities, and found out that a home isn’t always a place, but the company you keep.  Thank you to Middle Earth for three great years, and to Mesa Court for giving me the chance to remove myself from things I had known before and allowing me to step outside of everything, if only for a little while.

Friends: I could write for days about the friends I have made here. But, sadly, I do not have days to write about them–I’d rather be spending time with them.  My experiences throughout my life have been shaped by the friends I have made and kept or fallen out of touch with.  Thank you to my friends that have pushed me out of my comfort zones and pulled up a chair to sit right next to me through it all.  People say a lot about opportunities.  They thank people for opportunities and possibilities that they’ve been given.  But I thank my friends for providing me with the foresight and clarity one needs to even begin to think about opportunities they have.  Thank you for putting up with my second-guessing, my irrational behavior, my food cravings, my shower-singing, and dance parties of one.  Thank you for being there when I need, giving me space when I need, and sticking by me even if I say “you don’t have to”.  I would probably, most likely be a completely incapable person without you all.

UCI: I am so proud to have been able to call you my home for my college career (and beyond).  I cannot imagine a better place to learn, grow, and better myself.  It is so amazing how much a person can begin to love a place.  I thank you for the amazing faculty, students, and professionals you have brought together.  Yes, it’s true that every university has some negatives, and I have surely complained about my fair share of them.  But regardless, I am proud to have been an Anteater, and the opportunities I have been given and taken have changed me for the better. Thank you for giving me encouragement and an environment to develop in.  I can only hope and work hard so that I may one day return as an Anteater as a professor, ready and willing to give back to this community.

 

Much like life, this is a work in progress. Stay tuned, or don’t.  It’s really your decision.