Holding On and Letting Go

The funny thing about grief is that it forces you to constantly be stuck between trying to hold on— to all of the memories, the good times, the special moments, wonderful time shared and the unforgettable laughs— while simultaneously urging you to find a way to move forward. Not move on. Just forward. And so, you agonize day in and day out, desperately trying to find the PERFECT balance of both honoring and keeping your lost loved one close, while plunging yourself forward into new, terrifying lands undoubtedly vexed by some type of void you now have in your heart.  I don’t think there’s ever a right way to do this. In fact, I know there isn’t. That’s all people will tell you after you lose someone: “It’s okay to cry,” “Everyone grieves differently,” “Be grateful for the time you had,” etc., as if anyone could truly understand. The list goes on and on. The truth is that it’s incredibly difficult. For me, even impossible at times. I’ve spent the past year and a half trying to navigate through my own grieving process whilst entering my final year of undergrad, attempting to plan my future career, working to get back on a healthy track (mentally and physically), and dealing with all of the obstacles life continues to place right under my nose. Yet still, I know that my life is unfolding just as it needs to be. Although it’s damn hard to accept that the universe gives you what you need in this life and that the journey beset upon us are what we’re meant to embark on, I try everyday. I know in my heart that this world was not created merely to instill pain on the human beings who inhabit it, and that alone offers me some solace each day. I’ve always believed that life is nothing but an extensive test-run, perhaps meant to lead us somewhere greater. The pain and pleasure this world brings to us is not something to be discarded. I’ve learned to pay close attention to the things that occur in my life, the experiences and opportunities I have, and the ways in which they impact the course of my life. The good, the bad, and the ugly. We need it all. I truly believe we are all a conglomeration and mixture of every aspect of our life and experience. The communities we work to build, the lessons we learn, the people who make us smile a little brighter and forget the pain in our hearts and on our minds, the families we trust, and the love we work so hard to create and share. It’s all needful. It’s all we have, and it is everything that is promised.

Learning to navigate through grief, trauma, and the lowest of lows I have ever experienced has taught me many things, about myself and about the world. The most important, though, has been my realization that I am not defined by what happens to me. Rather, I define myself in spite of what happens to me. I create my own life, love, happiness, and empowerment, despite what cards the universe hands me at any particular moment. I refuse to simply let my life happen to me. That’s not what she would want, and I owe it to her to live out what she couldn’t. This one’s for mom and all that she brought to my life. Here’s the story of how I lost my mom, best friend, and soulmate in the matter of an instant.

I’ll never forget that date. Sunday, April 9, 2017. Goes down in history as the absolute worst day of my life, let me tell ya. It began when I received a phone call from my brother-in-law at 9:28 am, something that was already out of the ordinary. I answered the phone worriedly, half expecting him to tell me something had happened to Adeline, my niece. I remember hearing through the phone how insanely fast he and my sister were driving down the freeway. Much to my surprise, he broke the news to me that my mom had gone into cardiac arrest and wasn’t doing well. I distinctly remember the last thing he told me being, “Just try to get here as fast as you can. Take the train, do whatever. I just really think you should come. I think you should be there.” After hanging up, I froze in my tracks, but somehow formulated a coherent (enough) sentence quickly telling my roommate what had happened. She ended up borrowing another friend’s car to drive me up to the hospital. I don’t remember much at all from that car ride except for my constant internal dialogue trying to convince myself not to throw up in my friend’s car and how often my sister Courtney & I were exchanging texts. When she suddenly stopped replying so quickly, I knew she had gotten some kind of news, and it was either really good or the worst thing imaginable. I remember weighing the options in my head in that moment, knowing too well that my life could look very different in a matter of moments. Indeed, my life did change. My sister called me to tell me that my mom didn’t make it before I had even made it halfway to the hospital, and my world was rocked. I can’t remember anything of what I replied back to my sister or what happened next apart from my best friend sobbing in the driver’s seat next to me while I just stared blankly ahead. I was the last one to arrive at the hospital, and much to my dismay, there was my entire family, extended and all, grouped standing and waiting just outside the hospital doors, unsure of what to do with themselves. Just like the movies. “So this is real life,” I thought to myself. I remember feeling like I was floating through those doors and into the room where my mom lay to see her one last time before saying goodbye. I sat with her for awhile and just talked to her, somehow hoping that the sound of my voice and my begging would bring her back. I didn’t cry for the entirety of that day or the day of her funeral, and I know that’s because she wouldn’t have wanted me to. She wanted nothing more than for us all to be happy, so I’ve always found it a little bit easier to try celebrating her life than mourning her death. Needless to say, my heart shattered into a million pieces that day, and though I still feel her presence, hear her voice, and smell her perfume, life proves itself to be incredibly tough without her each and everyday.

I’ve always been somewhat afraid of the reality of the world and how it works, particularly how very fleeting everything and everyone seem to be. Because of this, I’ve often had trouble being open and letting people get too close to me for fear that they would leave, something would be done to them, or that I would be so incredibly hurt that I would once again feel my heart breaking and be left with an overwhelming feeling of emptiness and loneliness. My mom’s passing was only a reminder of this immense fear of mine, and although I didn’t realize it at the time, the trauma that her death brought me only magnified those feelings of isolation and fear of dependency on anyone or anything in this world. It’s no secret to anyone that knows me personally that emotionality has never been a strong suit of mine, but I had never experiences detachment and such extreme dissociation than in the year and a half following losing my mom. The day she died, I physically felt my heart breaking into a thousand irreparable pieces, and I swear I could literally feel myself forgetting who I was and everything I had grown to become. I instantly shut down completely and refused to ever let anyone in, which only perpetuated how incredibly lonely and isolated I felt. At the time, I remember consciously telling myself to just not feel so that I could continue moving forward. I thought that if I simply didn’t acknowledge the horrible trauma and pain that I had endured, then maybe it would hurt a little bit less. Not only was I wrong, but choosing to cope in this way was only a detriment to my own healing process. I soon found myself becoming so accustomed to the solitude that I had taken refuge in at school that I became both emotionally and physically detached from my family and friends, struggled to decipher what was reality and what I was imagining, and even losing the desire to connect with others. I have so many wonderful friends at school and the best support system I could ever ask for. But I remember not even wanting their support, no matter how much it was offered and how much my wise mind knew I needed it. I felt and watched myself slowly deteriorate with each passing day, and waking up trying to be as functional and “normal” as possible become more and more impossible.

I ultimately moved back home the following summer (after somehow making it through the semester and finals season with straight As), which was one of the hardest experiences I’ve ever gone through. Although there were countless things that made coming back home so difficult that summer, I remember dreading the quietness of the house most of all. I thought back to my childhood and how fun, loud, and constant the hustle and bustle of my family and our obligations had been, and I was in no way ready for that to all have suddenly changed. Sure enough, I came home to the same house that used to be filled with 5 people, music playing, memories of soccer and softball tournaments, laughter, and endless conversation, but everything was different. The house was now filled with only 2 people, no noise filled the air, and the stillness of the space was perhaps the most haunting realization that I have ever encountered. Needless to say, being home that summer was incredibly painful. I quickly fell into a deep depression upon coming home, something I had tried my best to avoid at all costs up until that point. Once I was back home, though, my ability to find distractions and detach myself from my painstaking reality had become severely limited, and I struggled to find a way out. I can distinctly remember how much pain I was in, how it felt, and how deeply it affected me. I would wake up in the morning so incredibly angry that I had woken up, for I said a silent prayer every night hoping that maybe, just maybe, I wouldn’t have to wake up and do it all over again. I remember struggling everyday to even find the will to live, because all that flooded my mind was how much I had lost in such little time. I now knew how quickly everything can change, and that terrified me. My entire life had been turned upside-down overnight, and I struggled for the longest time trying to accept the sad reality that sometimes inexplicable and horrible tragedies happen, and there’s nothing I or anyone could ever do to prepare for or change that. After going through endless waves of completely destructive and unhealthy strategies that I believed to be helping me grieve and move forward for an entire year (that’s a whole different story coming soon haha), I eventually found my way out of the darkness and allowed myself to embrace the love and support I always knew I needed in my darkest of days.

As I reflect today on my experience and journey thus far, I know that I have experienced the heaviest of losses and pain that is seemingly endless at times, but I also have hope and faith in myself to overcome. I miss my mom every single day more than anyone could ever imagine. Losing my best friend, confidante, adventure buddy, and soulmate will never be easier, and I will never be over it. I know I’ll always have half of my heart missing and the irreparable void that she left inside me, but I am learning everyday to embrace what she left me, even when it feels like emptiness. I will always be a little bit empty, but I’d like to think that emptiness is merely a special keepsake of the memories and time I got to share with her. My mom was always able to wake up with a smile on her face and focus her energy on the beauty and greatness of the world she lived in. Her appreciation for life surpasses any I have ever experienced before. She was the strongest, wisest, most loving and nurturing woman on earth, who also had the capacity to be powerful and unafraid. She was unafraid of being silly and making funny faces, for she knew that they would make someone else smile. She was unafraid of risking her own life and personal goals, for she always put others’ needs before her own. And she was unafraid of making mistakes, because she knew that we would always be there to help her out. My mom was completely fearless in all that she did, and that is what gave her the tenacity, ferocity and pure power that she beheld in all situations. Still, she was so much more than a strong leader. She was also the most selfless and giving human being I have ever known, and I can only hope to be half the woman she was someday.

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Words fail to explain how much I miss hearing her voice, picking up the phone to call or text her, going to Disneyland with her, singing in the car with her, hearing her say, “I’m so proud of you,” “Be happy,” or “I love you,” calling me her angel, and everything about her. I still feel her presence with every step I take and in my every breath, but the constant pit in my stomach that comes with the realization that I’ll never have the chance to see or speak to her again never subsides or hurts any less. There are so many things I wish I could have had the opportunity to tell her, but I never did. Now, I just have to trust that she knew how much I loved, appreciated and admired everything she did and all that she was, and hopefully that will suffice in giving me the strength to carry on. I know it will. Because I have everything I need already inside of me, and I am more than a silhouette. I am everything she raised me to be and more, and I owe it to her know just how worthy and capable I am of this life and all of the hope, joy, love, laughter and fulfillment it can bring. Learning to accept the things I cannot change and move with the winds this world creates for my life. Ebbing and flowing with every breath, overcoming each day. Holding on and letting go.

“So What’s Your Next Step?” : My Post-College Plans!

Ooof. Just writing that title gave me a bit of anxiety. It’s so interesting how the connotation of “the future” has changed over time. I used to hear people ask, “So what do you want to be when you grow up?”, “What are your next steps?”, or “How are you going to reach that goal?” and instantly feel a spark of inspiration and exhilaration within me, surely deriving from my naive ambition and pure zest for life and all I thought I could offer the world. I’ve always been one to constantly plan and orient my life around strict schedules, never really allowing myself time to question what it is I’m meant to do or be. I think that in itself is the key- I’ve always planned out my life based on what I think I’m SUPPOSED to do, not necessarily what is best or most desirable for me. From a very young age, I knew what I wanted to do, who I wanted to be, and identified and laid out paths that would enable me to reach the high (and undeniably ambitious) goals I constantly set for myself. I remember being as young as 7 years old telling my mom that I wanted to be a lawyer, which I think was in part inspired by my dad’s extensive experience and history working with the law, as well as a deep love I have for American History and the development of our political system across time. I had a great admiration for the inner workings of the government, the law, and policymaking procedures from a very young age (though I could not have known that’s what I was interested in), and I found myself becoming fixated on constitutional law in particular, not because that’s what my heart was most inclined to, but because that’s what the world told me was acceptable and would bring me the most success. I know that my “dream” to study law and be a renowned attorney throughout the world was a self-imposed goal I set for myself and the course of my life at a very young age. But now that I am older (and hopefully wiser haha), I can also recognize that that deeply held ambition and plan I had for my life was, in great part, a result of my environment and what others fed to me.

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It wasn’t until the past few yeas of my life upon entering and being in college that I was forced to truly defend, actively pursue, and believe in these “dreams” that I had given so much power to in dictating the course of my life that I realized how difficult it was to do so. It shouldn’t be nearly impossible to defend your dreams, or at least have a list of reasons as to why they’re worth dreaming about…right? I remember the exact moment in my first year of college in which my thought process about my life began to switch and I began to question why it was that I was so incredibly dedicated to this life goal I had held onto for so long. I remember beginning to ask myself whether my desire to continue on this path I had created for myself was because I truly desired it and knew that studying law would bring me the greatest sense of fulfillment, or whether I had begun to treat my life as nothing more than the pursuit of a faraway prophecy, one that I had no particular passion or deliberateness in moving towards. That is, I began to wonder if my dream of studying politics, attending law school, and becoming a lawyer was grounded by any intentionality of my own accord. And the answer, not to anyone’s surprise based on the course of this story, was no.

My “dream” of attending law school and being an attorney was not an ambition of mine that encompassed great amounts of my heart and mind, and I began to understand how much I was lacking in terms of meaningful manifestations. My dream of going to law school was not founded on what I now deem necessary to achieve goals I set for myself— passion, relentless drive, heart, determination, and intentionality. Rather, it was undergirded by this immense obligation I felt to do something great. To be something wonderful. For as long as I can remember, I have always pushed myself to set the most difficult goals, have the most outrageous ambitions, and even forced myself to embark on the most strenuous and burdensome paths possible, just to say I could do it. There has always been a part of me that needed to be the absolute best, and the knowledge that I never would be was what kept me going. The perfectionism I adopted at a very young age has had overwhelming effects on the way I have lived my life and how I have grown to become who I am (which can be an entirely separate blog), and I am well aware of just how much my desire to be “perfect” has paradoxically set me back over the years, not to mention how much physical and psychological harm it has produced.

As I look back, I know there is a definite correlation between this deep desire within me to achieve, strive, and attain perfection and my goal of being a lawyer, because I remember the descriptions and characteristics I used to attach to attorneys and those who successfully practice law. I remember categorizing them as highly intelligent (even comparable to doctors), very well-paid, prestigiously educated, regal, stoic, respectable, and a reflection of what it truly means to be a professional in the working world. I thought of lawyers as perfect (at least intellectually), and THAT is what most drove me to want to be one. I spent so much time idolizing what I thought I needed to be in order to fit, replicate, and be a model of what perfection can be manifested as in the world that I completely neglected my heart and its inclinations. I treated my ambitions and true aspirations I felt within as mere disposable and insubstantial parts of myself, though they were the things I most longed for and were the very most important parts of myself. These past few years have led and allowed me to embark on a long road of introspection and inner reflection, and for that I am so grateful. Without being forced to analyze the way in which I have chosen to organize my life, prioritize my goals and essentially order my soul, I don’t know if I would have found what I am truly passionate about, nor if I would have been courageous enough to choose it over what I had so long perceived to be perfect. That being said, I am so glad that I have found a newfound comfort and confidence in what I really want for my future and in the new goals I have decided to set for myself that are NOT aimed at perfection.

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As I have mentioned previously, I am deeply, deeply interested in American History, the ways in which the law and its execution has changed over time, and the nature of politics in general. While I am aware that my former ambitions were erroneously set on positions and goals that I didn’t necessary desire, I also know that my passion and positive disposition towards politics is not something to be discounted. In this way, I think the ends I was aimed at may have been good and justifiable, but the means by which I went about reaching them were far from correct. My interest and appetite for learning and growing in this realm of academia is something that I’ve found to be unwavering over time, and has even grown exponentially upon entering college and being able to discover ways in which I can further specialize my studies. However, in the same light, I have found that I also have a great love for philosophy, literature, and writing. Actually, this wasn’t a find at all. I knew this literally my entire life, but I progressively forced myself to silence these desires and loves I had for the sake of pursuing what I thought to be necessary and “right.” The past two years in particular have really pushed me to re-acknowledge everything I love and appreciate about philosophy and writing, and I am so lucky that I was able to successfully incorporate them into my studies in a multitude of ways. I have been given the opportunity to learn so much about politics, government, and everything in between. I have also been able to read more Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, and Montaigne than I EVER thought possible, and I have loved every second of analyzing the works of many brilliant thinkers. That being said, I am looking forward to all of the different possibilities that my future may hold, whether they be based on my degree in Political Science or the minors I will have acquired in Philosophy and Spanish. Right now, I am looking at taking at least a semester off and taking a gap before I head to grad school or even think about applying, because 1) I definitely need a mental break and some time off to recenter myself and get my sh*t together, prioritizing my mental and physical health and allowing my heart and spirit to find one another again, and 2) BECAUSE I FREAKING DESERVE IT, OKAY? Hahaha. But really, I’m very much looking forward to having a little bot of a break sometime soon. Directly following graduation, I intend to embark on many travels and see all of Europe with my very best friend, something we’ve been looking forward to for years now. I could not be more excited to venture out, immerse myself in various beautiful cultures completely new to me, and see the world in all of its glory, for I know there is no learning like that which comes from lived experience and opportunity. However, I know that taking a full year off of school would probably drive me insane because I love learning and the academic environment so much, so I will most likely be applying to enter grad school in the Spring of 2020 following all of our amazing European adventures.

In terms of what I will be studying, as of right now I would like to continue on the political and philosophical path and study Political Theory, which I’ve found to be a perfect mixture of the two things I love most. I am looking forward to being able to further examine the ins and out of politics, examine aspects of international relations and offer critiques of regime types. But I am also excited to continue learning more about human nature, the needs of the soul, and examine the deeper questions of the world. From there, I’m completely unsure of where that will lead me. Maybe I’ll end up being a Political Theory professor (something I NEVER considered a possibility for me and would have definitely scoffed at a year ago), a philosopher of some sort, or even a journalist closely following the politics of Washington, D.C. Heck, who knows, maybe I will end up going to law school for the RIGHT reasons someday and I’ll run for Congress! I guess time will tell.

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All this is to say, for the first time in my life, I am not exactly sure what the next year, five years, ten years, or twenty will hold. I never knew in the first place. But for the first time, I am admitting to my inability to tell the future and can honestly say that I am okay with it. I am learning everyday to be okay with the unknown and to not be so fearful of what may come my way or what may even throw me off the set path I have worked so hard to pave for myself. I don’t have my life planned out as of this moment, and I don’t know what the next few years will bring following my undergraduate graduation in May. I have chosen to no longer strictly regiment my life and orient my entire being around schedules, achievements, and goals that cause me to divulge into an unhealthy, perfectionist frenzy aimed at a prophecy that will never be fulfilled. I refuse to let my goals divert my attention away from what I believe to be truly important in this world— life, love, joy, beauty, integrity, family, friends, and hope. The way I now choose to construct my life has these things as the Sun center, and that is what makes every outside goal I set worth achieving. I have found peace in the unpredictability of my life and the outplay of the universe, and I am working on finding it in myself each day. And that is enough. I am enough. Rinse, repeat. Though unexpected, everything has meaning. Significance. A reason.

It’s all intentional. After all, it’s all about intentionality, isn’t it?  (;

Let’s Talk Race! Growing up Biracial

Hi, beautiful people! I hope you are all having a wonderful week and are getting so excited in the days preceding Thanksgiving. I know I am! Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday, and I cannot wait to take a trip home to spend time with my family, share in the season of giving, and graciously embrace all that this fall season has brought me. Only a few short days away!

In this week’s blog, I thought I would write about a topic that has been much-requested on Instagram, Facebook, and in my past blog comments: what it has been like to grow up racially mixed and how it has impacted my personhood and the course of my life. I thought this topic suggestion was really interesting and I was instantly drawn to it, because after looking back on how my life has been shaped thus far, it was never something that I have so openly discussed (apart from the plentiful political science papers that I’ve written on the basis of race) . So naturally, I wanted to dive right into uncharted territory and talk about race and being mixed in the context of my own life, my family’s life, and how the distinct dynamics I have experienced have contributed to my growth. Alright, let’s talk race!!

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Obviously, first thing’s first. My dad is African American, and my mom was 100% Caucasian, so my sisters and I are full-fledged mixtures of them both, and I identify as both black and white. Doing so has been important to me for as long as I can remember (I suppose as long as I have understood what race implies & entails), and I have grown up learning to embrace both parts of who I am. Even within my mixed family, the children that my parents produced are extremely diverse. My oldest sister, for one, is the fairest of the three of us and perhaps most resembles my mom with her mostly straight hair and blue eyes. My middle sister has the most bronzed skin of us and has tight, curly hair and brown eyes, and I am somewhere in the middle in terms of both pigmentation and hair texture. My eyes are also blue (which is crazy, I know. Those recessive genes really came in clutch for our family lol), and while I am often told that I look most like my oldest sister, I can also see similarities between my middle sister and me. That is to say, we are all so unique, anomalous and special in our own distinct ways, and the way we appear to one another and to the world is only a beautiful manifestation of the diverse, loving background from which we come. Looking back, I really do appreciate the way my parents raised my sisters and I— always being honest with us, teaching us the ways of the world, and never trying to hide the adversities or difficulties that could arise throughout the course of our lives. I remember from a very young age my parents describing what it means to be biracial in this world, how it manifests itself in both the public and private spheres, and the way it is perceived by others. They never shied away from being honest with us about human nature and the fact that there were and will always be people who look at us differently, don’t appreciate our coming from a mixed background, or hold us to the same standard or regard as those who identify as full white (or even full black). I distinctly remember my dad telling us many stories in my childhood in which he would give accounts of his own experiences dealing with race and forms of discrimination, including the intolerance he and my mom encountered resulting from their interracial relationship and marriage. Like so many other African Americans, my dad faced endless critique, inequities, and acts of bigotry all throughout his life (and still does), from the supermarket to the workplace. His “blackness” has been an element of his being that others have targeted and exploited in many ways, and he always told us that in his workplace, he had to work at least twice as hard just to be considered on similar footing to his white colleagues. Hearing this come from my dad at a very young age undoubtedly struck a cord with me, and I never forgot all that he told us regarding the impact that race and appearance play in the unfolding of social and political life.

Now that I am older and have widened my experience, array of knowledge and understanding for how race is conceptualized in our contemporary society, I definitely have come to better learn what my race and background mean both to me and to the world. Race is something that I’ve often found to be considered a “taboo” subject by so many people, and I think the stigmatization around it is, in itself, damaging and supererogatory. Race is something that 100% should be able to be discussed, for it is unquestionably something that has most worked to shape our culture, institutions, and even modes of thinking (for better or for worse). My being both black and white growing up has definitely come with its challenges, most of which I have never thought to talk about before. I remember the first introduction I had into the notion of race came with my first encounter in which I realized that I was a little different. My sisters were a little bit different. We didn’t have the super straight, blonde hair that so many other kids at our schools did, nor did we have two white parents that was the norm of the suburbs. Additionally, I had an entire half of my family with darker skin who resembled my dad, while the other half was full white and resembled my mom. Little by little, noticing these minute differences between the way my family looked as compared to the ones that surrounded us at school, out in public, on TV and in the media all led to my eventual realization that my sisters and I were not like everybody else. However, that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it’s beautiful.

Admittedly, it is difficult for me to speak to the conflicts and obstacles that a lot of African American people face, because I don’t feel as if I can completely relate to the black experience, considering only half of my identity is fulfilled there. And yet, I also can’t fully claim the white experience, for I did not grow up just being white and playing to my whiteness. I don’t think I understood then exactly what I was feeling, but I recall very early in my childhood feeling this sense of aloofness and lack of complete belonging, especially when it came to social interactions that involved stratification of some sort, or even at family holidays. I remember struggling to understand what it was that was so different between the times I spent with my mom’s family and those I spent with my dad’s side, never grazing underneath the surface to find the source of my internal discomfort. For some reason, I always felt like I was being pulled in one direction or the other, depending on the people who surrounded me or the environment I was temporarily a part of. While I know my family or friends never did so intentionally, I did, at times, feel as if I did not belong. It didn’t matter how many things we had in common, the fact that I had the same abilities as others around me, or even that I was interacting with my own family. I still felt this inexplicable guilt and tension within myself when I was called upon to be in certain settings, for I almost felt as if I had to reject one half of myself while simultaneously fully assimilating/accepting the other half of my identity. Often times, I think people have this conception that biracial people have “the best of both worlds” in this way. But what they refuse to acknowledge is that along with the ability to somewhat blend cultures and embrace diverse modes of life derived from both races they incur, this “blend” can also lead to a kind of detachment, reclusion, and even oblivion as to what we are meant to be seen and understood as, as well as how we are supposed to be in this world.

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This marginality that has characterized my entire life is something that I’ve only come to fully understand in my college years, but it is something I find essential to indicating what my experience being mixed has been like. Because my parents come from such vastly different backgrounds and their ancestries occur on very separate continuums, my experience growing up was nothing if not multidimensional. I definitely had the “biracial experience” in attempting to exhibit both sides of my identity, and that did not come without cost. Although I was raised in a diverse and mixed household, my experience growing up was not one that I would consider an evenly distributed cultural experience. I grew up in a household that culturally reflected whiteness, and I never saw that as a problem until I started to get a little bit older and hear comments like, “You’re so whitewashed,” “You’re not black enough for this,” and even questions asking, “Are you SURE you’re black? You look, sound, and act full white.” Now, the whole notion of “sounding” and “acting” black is a whole other conversation that I can create a whole separate post about at a later time. But hearing people express these kind of judgments and doubts about my own race and experience was not something that I ever took lightly. I began to wonder why people were so inclined to feel as if they knew more about my race than me, what it should look like manifested in the world, and how they were so quick to judge me based on my appearance and the way that I present myself. Getting comments about being “whitewashed” is still not uncommon for me (or even my family), and although I do, in part, agree with the fact that my environment and upbringing does not fit into what could be coined as African culture, the complete rejection of half of my identity that is implied in these kinds of statements still aggravates me. I like to think that although my household (my sisters and I, specifically) was primarily culturally white, we in no way attempted to forget or deny the presence of our African heritage and the fact that it composes a large percentage of who we are as people and as women. We have never been naïve in believing that life would be easy for us, for our mom and dad explained to us very early on that the world was not structured to benefit or protect women NOR people of color, and that being both would inevitably pose great and lasting challenges. Still, I am very, very proud to be both African American and Caucasian, and my race is something that I am inclined to think of as an asset to my character. My race does not define me, but it does hold great importance in shaping who I am and how I choose to interact with the world I live in. And most of all, looking, being, and feeling different (even on the smallest scale) is not a problem, and I am not a problem. My differences make me who I am, and who am I to say they aren’t wonderful differences?

I still find myself struggling with this concept today, because I think society has forced us to believe from such an early age that being different is not okay under any circumstances, and differences in race, appearance, character, etc. are equally susceptible to judgment and criticism. Though I definitely continue to feel waves of isolation and separation from people around me at times stemming from my inability to FULLY be a part of or accepted by one side or the other (whether it be black or white), I have come to learn that, as cliché as it is, being different is freaking amazing. It’s a gift, and I deserve to cherish it. So what if I don’t look like people who are full white? So what if I also don’t look black and people constantly question my racial assuredness? I know what and who I am, and that is what matters. Being mixed gives me a diverse and unique experience, and that is something to be celebrated and grateful for, not ashamed of. I love who I am, where I come from, and how my identity has shaped me, and I am grateful everyday for my parents and their creating this beautiful, diverse and exciting life for my sisters and I.

My body is not an apology, and the complex and deep-rooted dynamics that undergird my identity all coalesce in order to make me who I am. That is not something I will ever apologize for, nor is it something that requires an explanation. I don’t have to feel obligated to reply to people who shockingly comment about how “white” I look and those who claim I’m lying when I describe myself as being racially mixed. The way I look to others does not shape the way that I identify myself; that power lies within me and only me, and being black AND was is not something that I am (or have ever been) ashamed of. In fact, it is the source of some of the greatest pride I feel for my identity, because it connects my life and being to those of my parents, for whom I have boundless respect and admiration for. For me, embodying the races of both my mom and dad has always been something I have found joy in, and I will always feel immense honor and have dignity in discussing my race and its effects on me. I’m proud of my identity, and I know there will never come a time in which I feel differently.

My Very First Blog: An Introduction to Me!

Wow! This is a whole lot more nerve-wracking than I anticipated…I’ve had a thought in my mind for so long about wanting to start my own blog, but I never got around to it until now. I know part of that was out of fear, but I also wanted to ensure that I would be able to give my site the time, commitment, and effort I wanted to in order to really make it something I can take pride in. I needed to know that if I did it, I would go all-in and give my whole heart and mind to it (something I try to do in every part of my life). To start out, I guess it would make sense to tell you all a little bit about myself, who I am, where I’m from, how I was brought up, etc. I assume an introduction to my blog calls for an introduction to ME, so here we go!

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My name is Kamryn Gooden, I am 20 years old, and I am currently a third year college student at the University of San Diego (though I plan on graduating this May). I am originally from a small suburban town Glendora, CA, just outside of Pasadena and other more well-known cities. I grew up in the same home in Glendora my whole life, and my dad still resides there today. Although at times I wished I lived in a bigger and more exciting city, I now look back and am so grateful to have grown up in such a wonderful town and community. Still, I am absolutely LOVING everything about San Diego and am so grateful everyday that this is the decision I made.

I have two older sisters, Courtney and McKenna, who are 9 and 6 years older than me, respectively. Despite our immense age gaps, however, there was never a moment in time throughout my childhood where I didn’t consider both of them my built-in best friends. I can’t explain how wonderful and dreamlike my childhood really was. I hesitate in saying that anything is perfect, because I know that that’s a far-fetched and often unattainable standard for anything in life. Still, my childhood was pretty close to that, at least in my eyes. Some of my very first memories revolve around my childhood home, spending time with my family and creating memories that were to be cherished forever. One of the very first memories I have in my mind is going to preschool when I was just three years old. I remember distinctly how much I hated going, and how difficult it was for me everyday to be away from my mom. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, and she took great pride in raising all three of her girls. Not only had she dreamt of simply being a mother and raising kids her whole life, but she loved being with us so very much and always wanted to be close. She was successful in doing so, and in creating a relationship with each of us that was very special, enabling her to watch us grow everyday and never miss a single step. The extent to which my mom valued closeness surely impacted my family as a whole, for everything I remember about my very early childhood involves nothing more than all of us being together and being happy. Family holidays, birthdays, and events were always something to be looked forward to in my family, and although w didn’t necessarily have the biggest family or see our extended relatives very often, the five of us were always more than happy to spend quality time together and make unforgettable memories. And although holidays and marked calendar events were much anticipated and a cue for excitement, it was the normal and subtle simplicity of our day-to-day lives that was most special to me.

Apart from the time spent with my family standing out in my memories of growing up, sports were also such a HUGE part of my7 life and how I came to be the ultra-competitive, perfectionistic, athletically-inclined person that I am. I began playing soccer (or rather, kicking the ball around with my dad on the sidelines) when I was just two years old, mainly as a result of being around it so often. Both of my sisters played soccer all throughout their childhood, and sure enough, being tagged along and dragged to every soccer field in California at such a young age to watch them play was enough to make me fall in love with the sport, too. My oldest sister Courtney played for only a few short years before choosing to fully commit herself to dancing, something she greatly excelled at. McKenna, though, continued playing soccer all the way through high school, and she became the sports figure I most looked up to and pushed myself to be like. Both of my sisters have always been amazing at everything they did or tried to do, and although I didn’t really consider it or think much of it at the time, this is probably one aspect of what so deeply ingrained my desire to be the best and achieve perfection in every area of my life at such a young age. I recall my household being very competitive, but not to the point where we didn’t honor one another or celebrate each other’s excellence. Looking back, I think my parents did a great job of allowing us all to find our passion, dedicate ourselves to it fully, and pushed us appropriately to be better versions of ourselves in every way possible. I’ve always been extremely competitive, and I think seeing my sisters constantly win at things they did and continue to strive for better definitely struck a chord with me. I wanted to be able to do the same, so I did. I’ll stop here in talking about soccer because I really could go on FOREVER. (Maybe I will make a whole separate post about that!)

Although most of my childhood and time as a young kid and teenager revolved around sports, with my parents having to maneuver around three kids to different places, somehow getting us all to where we needed to be and never missing a single game, I also remember most of my earliest years as a kid being extremely fun and creative at home. My sisters and I would make home videos on my dad’s giant camcorder, where we would film super quirky and weird things like fake news reports, interviews with each other, and different types of segments that required little direction or preparation. And man, are these a riot to watch now! We still make fun of ourselves every single day for those things lol. We just liked to create things together (as strange as they might have been), and I’m forever appreciative of both of my sisters, our wonderful relationships with one another, and all of the memories we’ve created. I just love them so very much. Our time together has always been special to each of us, and nothing has changed. Despite them being so much older (and arguably wiser haha) than me, my sisters never made me feel excluded and I always felt just as important and worthy as they did. I can’t really put into words how much they both mean to me and how much their beauty, grace, strength, and kindness has helped shape me and make me into the person I am today, but the least I could do is show them my endless love, support, and gratitude for them as often as possible. And this I find completely doable.

All in all, my early childhood and into my adolescence was amazing and wonderful in every way, and I don’t think that I would change a single thing about it if given the chance. Of course nothing is perfect and my family hit definite bumps in the road. We fought one another, went on completely dysfunctional family vacations, shared a few screams, and disagreed a number of times. But there was nothing we couldn’t endure or overcome together as a unit, and the high value my parents instilled of togetherness, connection, and love for one another is what carried us through everything that came our way. To this day, I can’t imagine there ever coming a time where we don’t communicate, assist, or cherish each other just as the human beings we are, and that is what most gives me strength even at my worst.

I think I’m going to cut myself off here, otherwise I’d end up digressing into my whole life story and boy is it too early for that! Hahaha. Anyways, I hope you enjoyed reading a bit about who me, my family, and got a little glimpse into what my childhood and early life consisted of. Let me know if there is anything in this blog post you’d like me to go deeper into— whether it’s family, soccer, my transition into high school, my faith, friendships, academics, etc! There is so, so much to talk about and so many directions to go, but I think this is a good place to start. If you’ve read this far, thank you so much! Be sure to leave a comment telling me what you want to see next. I hope you all have a wonderful week.

 

xoxo, kam

The Journey Begins

Thank you for joining me on this new adventure with a blog! I’ll admit that I’m extremely nervous to start posting and publishing things- there’s just something so real and raw about writing to me, let alone writing for the world to see. Writing has always been something very special and dear to my heart, and I’ve always kept it close. But with time, I’ve come to realize that there’s a certain depth and power that words hold in this world, and they deserve to be taken seriously. As much as I enjoy being a private person, I no longer think it’s adequate to merely keep my thoughts and articulations to myself, ESPECIALLY if they can be used to help someone. Through sharing my life, my experiences (the beautiful and the ugly), and my perspectives on the world as a whole, my eyes have been opened to new waves of life I never anticipated, but am equally grateful for. Through all the hills and valleys that comprise this wonderful life, I have found that sometimes in the wave of change, you really do find your direction. And sometimes, it takes losing yourself a little in order to really be found. I don’t think I’ll ever be done exploring every inch of who I am and discovering, losing, and re-finding myself again, but that’s what makes this life so beautiful and worthwhile. Who we are and what we do is never done growing and changing, and that’s something to be cherished. Right now, this is the place I have found myself in. And I cannot wait to see where this path leads me- today, tomorrow, and in my future.

I am so, so excited to start this new journey and share my thoughts, writings, and reactions to the world with you all, and I hope that through creating this type of space, I can either spark the interest of some people or provide solace for even just one. I anticipate incorporating everything that I love and interests me most on this site, so expect to see lots of philosophical inquiries, commentaries on our contemporary political state, poetry, and talks about my life and the world in general. Although I definitely have some ideas in mind about where I want to take this blog, please feel free to leave a comment or suggestion at any point if you’s like me to write about something specific. Thank you all for your continued support. Always.

 

xoxo, kam

Sometimes in the wave of change, we find our direction.

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