Why We Should Stay: Work and Commitments

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.

Happy TunesDay: Collection 31

Happy TunesDay: Collection 31

Y’all. Y’all. I saw Allen Stone in concert. After five long years of pining, my best friend and I saw him live this past weekend!

Anyway, this week I’m kind of in that drag-your-feet sluggishness. I’m telling you, being the boss of your own schedule is not that fun. How does one motivate themselves out of the bed so early in the morning? It’s a question I still don’t know the answer to. Yesterday, I legitimately had to give myself a pep talk in the mirror. It went something like this, “Christina. Get your shit together. Stop watching Shameless.”

It didn’t work very well.

Regardless, I’m trying to squeeze some more of that concert high from seeing Allen Stone. So in the spirit of his good vibes and hoping that I’ll become more motivated after listening to good music, this week’s playlist is full of soulful, hip r&b tunes.

What are some ways you keep motivated throughout the week/your entire life?

Groovy floral background provided by Jenn Sanchez for Design Love Fest.
TunesDay: Collection 30

TunesDay: Collection 30

This week is a relaxed sort of craze.  Being on your own schedule can be extremely liberating, but if you’re like me…you need some semblance of forced structure.

I’m trying this new thing to keep me focused. For me, being busy means running around everywhere for meetings, errands, and work sessions.  But, over the almost year that I’ve been on my own schedule, I haven’t gotten nearly as much done as I wish I have.

So, I guess that means I need an overhaul in how I’ve been sorting out my time. As my poppa says, I need to “buckle down” and get my stuff in order.

Essentially, what I’m saying is, if I call, text, email, Facebook message, LinkedIn inbox, or Twitter message you…ignore me. Or, make sure it’s on a weekend or not during typical 8-5PM work hours.  I beg of you…hold me accountable and don’t let me schedule meetings with you unless its for legitimate work! It’s beginning to be an actual problem.

I need to get my life together.  But, maybe this week’s tunes will help me destress. If you have any tips for how you schedule your time or if you experience similar difficulties in your freelance life, drop me a line.

Sending you all wishes of productivity and clarity!

TunesDay: Collection 29

TunesDay: Collection 29

Oh, hey there!  TunesDay is back.

It’s been a minute.  But, I’m back and feeling…more focused.

It’s strange.  With the horrible things happening all over the world, and especially in the US, I’ve gained an incredible amount of clarity, with a smattering of hopelessness that subsided after a couple of days.

I have had great conversations with thoughtful and insightful people from all walks of life, and I am incredibly appreciative of how people are willing to give their time to just talk, with no pretense or no foreseen benefits for themselves.

Today, I am thankful–for you and for every person who challenges themselves and the people around them to truly think.  I am grateful that we are who we are because of our experiences and each person I have met (and/or reconnected with) over the past month in Costa Rica and back home in California, has had experiences that blow mine out of the water. And still, we come together and share and just…be.  And that is such a beautiful thing to me.

I’m not going to blame my emotionality on my menstrual cycle, but it definitely might have something to do with it.  Regardless, I love you and I like you and I am always, always wishing you peace and happiness.  May you find whatever it is that you need to keep on going in this world.

Background image from Julia Contacessi for Design Love Fest.
TunesDay: Collection 28

TunesDay: Collection 28

Sorry for skipping last week.  Disappointed in myself that I did, but I think I need a break from social media for a little while.

I can only say that I am tired, of waiting for change to happen, of being scared, of being outraged over the violence that consumes us.

I’m not as hopeful as I used to be, and I can only say that what I have written on my Facebook about the happenings of this past week is what I have to say for now.

I believe that I am lucky in a way to be leaving to Costa Rica to start the Birds of La Cangreja project because it will help to clear my head and figure out what role I can and should play in social justice movements and in fighting overall as an ally and as an activist.  But, my travels also comes at a bad time because it feels like to leave is to abandon the communities that need strength here at home.

Though I am torn, maybe because I have the privilege of being able to step away, I should so that I can return and be ready to really tackle the problems that seem so daunting and hopeless.

I have no answers and no real moral to the story or uplifting note to end this on.  I am just grateful in that I know there are so many dedicated and motivated, angry, beautiful, loving activists in the struggle–in the queer, Latinx, and Muslim communities who are holding it down.  I could only hope for an ounce of the strength they have, and do my part in calling our elected officials for gun restrictions, in calling out homophobia, Islamaphobia, anti-immigrant sentiments, and the other forms of oppressive hatred that plague this country.

With this, I hope to continue on with TunesDays upon my return.  I just need some space.

Wishing you all love, healing, and more strength.

Background image comes from The Debrief.
An Obligatory ConGRADulations – A Semi-Open Letter to my Pals Graduating from University

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

Happy TunesDay: Collection 27

Happy TunesDay: Collection 27

 

Sometimes you just need to sleep 12 hours, eat food you know isn’t the best for you, pet a cat, and spend time with people who you love and who love you.  Fight past your initial, cerebral worries that you aren’t doing what you should be doing, because maybe our needs and our cognitive “shoulds” don’t always match up.

Try as we might, not everything we do and not everyone we spend time with will be good for us or will help us “in the long run”.  But, I think that that’s okay.  We can’t always be moving forward–sometimes we have to take steps back in order to make our progression more meaningful.

And maybe the feeling of things ultimately working out and being okay can be attributed to my youth.  I feel like I have time on my side, though I know that life is unexpected and days move by much more quickly than I’d like.  At twenty-three, I think I’ve experienced quite a lot, and still nothing at all.  Despite so many forces working against me as a womxn and as a person of color, I am privileged in so many ways, and that’s probably another reason for my air of confidence in time.

Regardless of what it is, I’m sure that even in our crazed panic to get things done, we can accomplish a lot more if we take the time to consider what we really want or need each day.

I hope that this week’s playlist can help you do that.  Try to set aside ten or fifteen minutes for you to just think–not about the tasks you need to finish before 5PM rolls around, but about how your body and mind is feeling.  You also deserve the time and care you put into the things and people around you.  And if you want to start a new Netflix series instead of “being productive”, maybe you should do it, just this once.

Background daisy globe image comes from Pinterest.
Magic Mic: I Don’t Want To Be An Inspiration

Magic Mic: I Don’t Want To Be An Inspiration

We have a problem.

Our world tends to do this thing where we create icons out of normal human people who do or have done really great things.  Martin Luther King Jr., the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Malala, the list goes on.

I get why we do this.  Sometimes it’s a power move so the political, economic, and social elite can say “see, look at this [insert minority adjective] person who did something cool and I care about diversity and issues”.  And then they can turn around the next day and do something so maligned with the very cause or people they say inspired them.  

Sometimes it’s just so the oppressed can have someone to look towards, so we can feel like we are a part of something bigger.  And we are given a false sense of hope in creating and recognizing a better world because how are we supposed to measure up to the likes of these great icons?

I’ve felt this to my very core.  Growing up, I actively sought out Asian American actresses, political figures, and entrepreneurs. (And by “sought out”, I mean I googled these terms heavily).   On the surface, it was beneficial for primary school-aged Christina to see examples of such figures.  But, I was simultaneously taught that these things were pyramids–that there was only room for one Asian American icon in every industry.  And this made it very difficult for me to see that I too could do things that changed lives for the “greater good”.  I didn’t know that figureheads are meant to be starting, not ending points.  We conveniently didn’t learn that lesson in school.

Creating inspirational figureheads boils people and the movements they’re involved in down to individual action, impulsive thoughts of good-will.   We tokenize figures of morality and teach our children that it is normal and okay to do so.  They become the “good Negro”, or the “empowered Muslim girl who defied odds and speaks out against radical Islam”, or the “really smart Asian who’s a doctor and isn’t living in poverty, so why can’t other minorities step it up?”.  They become respectable figures in history, and we forget that that’s not all they were or are.  We freeze them and their many contributions in time, like an insect in amber.  We forget that they too are flawed, have histories, made mistakes.

Overlooking those things when we teach young people about role models does them no favors.

We’re now unintentionally (or maybe very intentionally) teaching people that you need to aspire to inspire–to become moral icons or you’re not living a worthwhile life.  

When people ask about the mark I want to leave or what my legacy will be, I laugh.  Not a hearty, full-bodied laugh by any means.  More like a scoff or chuckle under my breath.  Because the concept of becoming an icon or a legacy is just so laughable to me.  It’s not to say that figures like the ones I mentioned in the beginning of my post have no place.  It’s just that we use them as reverse scapegoats.  We say that we have them already, so we don’t need more representation.  We deconstruct their very identities, untether them from their contributions and surrounding histories.  You cannot talk about Martin Luther King Jr. and not talk about civil disobedience and Black Power.  You cannot talk about Malala and not talk about the “War on Terror” and Western imperialism.  And yet, this dissociating path is one we’ve been on for quite some time.

In opposition to this, I’ve come to realize that I do not want to be an intangible icon of inspiration for Asian American womxn and young girls. I don’t want my current or future goals to be sterilized, removed from my very beliefs.  

I don’t want to be an unsung hero(ine) or one whose name is written across posters and murals in inner cities & corporate buildings alike.  

I don’t want children to look at me and my story, and think of how impossible it is to accomplish these things for themselves because look, there’s already one Asian womxn doing it, so I can’t do it too.

I don’t want anyone to think they have to escape their very identities and histories to be considered a value to this society–that their race or gender or sexuality will hold them back so they have to blend in, make it invisible, become palatable.

And likewise, I don’t want to become a posterchild for corporate greed on designated days when we collectively celebrate someone whose ideals went against everything that corporation actually does.  The idea of US financial institutions celebrating things like MLK Day when predatory lending and housing segregation still traps many Black Americans in systems of poverty has not lost its irony on me.

It’s about time we start holding ourselves accountable and ensuring we don’t need inspiration to be good people.

Instead, when we do talk about inspirational figures, we need to also teach about their actual beliefs, the difficulties they’ve faced in combating harmful institutions, and how we can actually celebrate their contributions without tarnishing their beliefs.  We do not need intangible representations of justice, peace, civil rights.  We need reality, we need history, we need solidarity.  We need to teach young people that figureheads have their place, but you don’t need to be a figurehead to play a role.  And you don’t need to be the first womxn or first Asian or first LGBT or first [insert any other minority ever] to accomplish something.  We don’t need more “first”s.  We need more seconds and thirds and fourths, and on it should go.  Christina from fifteen years ago needs to know that being an icon is overrated and there is no shame in not being the first.  

I hope that Christina fifteen years from now is not an inspiration.  I hope that she is not a role model or moral icon.  I hope and wish that she will be a true partner, someone who stands (or sits when she’s tired) in solidarity and with strength.  I hope she rejects the notion of being inspirational and instead helps others become their own inspiration in whatever form that may take.  I hope she speaks truth to power and is never written about in history books that relegate minority group struggles to a paragraph at the end of a chapter.  The inspirational figures before and after us deserve better than to be bookends, their lives whittled down to instagrammable quotes and references in well-intentioned speeches about perseverance and diversity.  

But, if I do become an inspiration, I promise to try my damnedest to destroy the pedestal that keeps me so far removed from the people I’ll work alongside.

 

*Background image from Pinterest.*
Happy TunesDay: Collection 26

Happy TunesDay: Collection 26

This week, I’m trying to remember to be mindful of time, trying to take advantage of every moment I have and ensuring that each day is meaningful.  It’s kind of alarming when you remember how fast time can fly by.  It feels like 2016 just started, but I blinked and it’s almost halfway over.

Anyway, I’m trying to finish a bunch of home errands and organizing my physical realities before I get into my goals & aspirations.  I got a haircut yesterday and it’s interesting how something so arbitrary as your hair can weigh you down, not just physically, but mentally as well.  I feel like I am more free– to move about, pursue my real joys, and not stay stuck in my mind.  But again, I need to pace myself and take things a step at a time, something that’s very difficult for me.  Sometimes I feel like a baby kangaroo, wanting to hop about the world, but I know I’m not ready yet!

And now…to the tunes!

My tunesday picks for this week are alternative, mellow R&B/R&B-influenced vibes..  They relax me and help me reframe my brain when its moving too fast for me to keep up with.

What music helps you keep calm and gain clarity?

Background image comes from Cassie Byrnes.
Happy TunesDay: Collection 25

Happy TunesDay: Collection 25

As usual, I forgot it was Tuesday.  I need to get some kind of system that alerts me of what day it is.  Like…a calendar…on my phone…which is something I already have.  So just ignore that entire train of thought.

Ugh.

This week, it feels like I’m a college student cramming for finals.  I present my research on Friday for UCI’s Ethics Center.  Even though it’s pretty low-key, I am nervous because I don’t even remember the last time I spoke in public about my own work.  It’s a weird thing to be searching for academic definitions to use in my presentation when I know what the definitions are, but because I don’t have a Ph.D yet, my own definitions aren’t valid enough.

But alas, it’s part of the process and I’m just trying to go through the motions so I can prove that this work is worth it.

This week’s playlist is a mix of soothing, poppy beats to help me get through this grind.  I don’t know what genre you’d categorize it as, but I dig it.  There’s also a little bursting surprise of k-pop goodness in there.  Dedicating it to my good friend, Seonyoung who got married this past weekend to Jung in a beautiful ceremony.  Love to you both!

Tell me your thoughts!

xoxo,

Christina “I’m not Korean, but my Uncle told me I was so I thought I was adopted” Ong

Background image from Pinterest.