#GradSchoolGrind

Earlier this week, I entered another year of life on this beautiful earth. 2017 has been good to me so far.  I am focused on building better habits, taking steps towards my goals, banking memories with so many amazing people, and finding joy in the everyday. I’ve been acclimating and making moves in a new job that I absolutely love. In the 5 months since I started my position, I’ve attended multiple conferences revolving around high school/college success and the endless amount of related issues. I will probably attend millions more of these before the end of my life. I usually shed tears at least once as folks share their stories in hopes of empowering students and changing lives. (I’m the type who cries when people win on game shows – do with that what you will.) When I am on school campuses, working on student issues, or discussing anything related to the college experience, I KNOW I am walking the path that was meant for me.

Around the same time I started my job, I was going through the application process for graduate school. In the years since I finished college, I discovered my passion for higher education and empowering students from underrepresented communities. I never thought I was worthy of graduate school. I certainly never wanted to go back to school. I was awful in the classroom and didn’t take ownership of my academics. I felt like I did not do the work in undergrad to get meaningful letters of recommendation–asking for these was such a scary and intimidating experience for me. My GPA was average. I didn’t feel like I stood out enough to be considered for a program I could feasibly attend. I wasn’t sure I had enough perspective to effect change and do good work in the field I am entering. It was through my post-grad experiences and the folks I subsequently met (working in university outreach, reviewing scholarship applications, Lakas Mentorship Program, running a college and career center) that I realized a graduate degree was a necessity for my life. Through a confluence of factors, people, experiences, and so many others things, I finally pushed myself to apply to two programs.

There are a good handful of folks in my networks also pursuing grad school this year. As I see their admission decisions roll in on my social media feeds, I wish I would have applied to other schools. (How my heart aches to be a Bruin again or move to a new city.) I am so proud of them pursuing an advanced degree and doing all kinds of work to lift up our communities. When I see these specific people pursuing their goals, I feel like the world is going to become a better place. That our future is in good hands.

Geography was key in my application process. I am a homeowner and have a job that I do not plan on leaving anytime soon. And I am fortunate enough to live relatively close to two stellar programs right here in San Diego. I will be working full-time and attending school full-time. I know I will be missing out on some key elements–a lot of programs sell themselves by boasting of their experiential, hands-on opportunities. Most students will sample all kinds of departments, roles, and initiatives before graduating and entering the world as a student affairs professional. I sit there and swoon over assistantship listings and feel a looming emptiness knowing I won’t be doing one. I even started crying at a campus visit day when panelist after panelist, student after student, explained how their assistantships were the most integral part of their grad programs.

All of this sounds scary and overwhelming but holy crap, here we are. I am beyond grateful to the people who constantly held me up, inspired me by the way they live their lives, and reminded me that I am enough. To not only have the option of grad school, but the choice of two programs who recognize my strengths and value my experience… it’s a GOOD feeling. I’m building a life that I am proud of and pursuing a career that is at the crossroads of my passions. I wish everyone could find this type of truth and contentment. Bring on the conferences, the tears, and the hustle. I’m here for the research, the coffee, the commute. I’m excited for the learning, the teaching, the doing, and the transformative leadership. Let’s go get it.

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Where has she been…? And who am I?

I’m in the business of seeing. At least I want to be.

Since senior year of college, I’ve been involved in the art world. As much as I’ve allowed myself to be. As much as the art world has allowed me to be. Creativity, expression, and art have always held an interesting place in my life. They have been my guiding lights, the tenets by which I live. Yet I have taken little action to assert myself in these ways. Without an artistic background or formal training, I have stood on the sidelines appreciating and wishing. It’s not that I am afraid of failure–it’s that sometimes it’s easier not to try. Sure, that’s not as gratifying. And there are always excuses to be made. But the point is I am now “doing me” as best as possible. As I’m rounding out my 25th year, I’m finding that not trying is getting harder than just doing the damn thing. This pent up energy must be put to good use. I still don’t have a clear picture of what this “thing” is, but I’m finally ready to start creating it. There is too much inspiration around me not to.

Consider this blog… why has it been 7 months since I have last written? It’s certainly not a lack of material. It might be hesitation to put myself out there, though people who know me would not believe that. Do I have better things to do? Have I been doing better things? Yes and no.

When I am getting to know somebody, I love to ask, “What you be doing if money, education, and time were not an issue?” Dream jobs can say a lot about person. Alternatively, I enjoy finding out what someone would do if they had one hour of free time. What would you most like to do in the world with 60 spare minutes? My default answer is writing. Specifically for this blog. But somehow, I’ve let seven months get away.

I do know one thing. I have been looking and seeing. And I’ve been inspired. I’ve been reading, watching, and listening. And I’ve been inspired. Feast your eyes on some of the beauty and creativity below.

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Rest area at The Ebell of Long Beach, CA

Diaper babies I made for a baby shower

Diaper babies I made for a baby shower

Restroom sign at The Ebell of Long Beach

Restroom sign

My Halloween nail adornments

My Halloween nail adornments

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Part of a Madmade Designs baby shower set-up at Booze Brothers in Vista, CA

Earlier this year, I made a decision to stay stagnant in my full-time position. It afforded me so much freedom, time for leisure, low stress. I convinced myself early on that I would have time to work on my other projects, which was true. Needless to say, I haven’t made much progress in those either. But I’ve reached a tipping point. I’m ready to do me. Really do me, even if that means doing extra work. Procrastination will no longer plague me. 2016 is not far off and there is plenty to accomplish. I’ve spoken some goals into existence, but here they are for good measure:

  • Find a meaningful full-time position
  • Lead a healthier lifestyle (physically and mentally)
  • Get my small business up and running (and profitable!)
  • Start (and hopefully finish) the digital photography certificate program I enrolled in
  • Buy a house
  • Travel to Europe

XOXO

Roll Out

//coming to you from a layover in ATL

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I just flew out of EWN (New Bern, North Carolina) for possibly the last time ever. There is nothing for me there… no job worth my while, not much to do, rarely anyone who shares my ideologies or values my experiences. Save for the fact that my husband has lived there for almost three and a half years. I’ve flown there countless times to spend a handful of days with him, often bored out of my mind while he was at work.

But we did the damn thing! Been together almost six years and married for over two, we have never even lived in the same city. Call us “crazy,” but we are in love. We’ve long awaited the time for us to actually live with each other and build a life together under the same roof. Well… it’s finally here! Ez has been assigned to Camp Pendleton and will be making his way back to sunny SoCal come next weekend. For the third time, we will be driving cross-country together.

This is not to say everything will be fine and dandy once he gets here. We’ve got to find somewhere to live, fulfill holiday obligations, figure out finances, and so much more. Who knows, I might want to strangle him once we actually live together. Despite the uncertainties, I know that these are exciting times. I could not be more excited to grow together and challenge each other in this next chapter.

Onto the next one!

DIY Bloggers Confound Me

Although this site has been up for a while, I’m just now finding the the blogging world is massive, with its culture and community still strange to me. I am discovering exactly the kind of camaraderie that can be found online, in our ever-connected world. It’s easy to get lost in the endless content that is produced. On the other hand,  it’s fascinating to experience the lives of others as they documents their struggles, passions, and everything in between.

Compared to my friends, I have a lot of free time. Now that I’m not planning my wedding, I’m exploring some of my other interests, such as crafting. There are so many DIY blogs out there! Currently, my Instagram feed is filled with Christmas decor inspiration from living rooms to ornaments, and even creative gift-wrapping and Christmas card envelopes. Really? At first sight, I get super excited. I do a quick check to see if any of these projects are feasible and affordable for me to complete. Then I start thinking about how all these bloggers have the time and money to do this full-time, essentially. Most of the accounts I’ve come across are women who are self-proclaimed crafting moms, sharing their creative life with others. They have tens of thousands of followers and certainly benefit from each other by sharing each others’ work or participating in group posts with a central theme. Just today, I saw a Target gift card giveaway that required you to follow 13 DIY Instagrams to enter. Easy enough for me! Part of why I’m following so many bloggers.

I’m realizing that the DIY/crafting world is quite a privileged one. I use to think making projects yourself was a way to save money–buy cheap materials, take pride in your work. Maybe even make cash off your creativity and patience. But seeing all these bloggers… I wonder how it was before they had thousands of follows. Did they just have a bunch of time to work on endless crafts, decor, and styling? And while raising children! I’m not hating, by any means. I’m sure they have their own struggles and stories. But one thing I did notice was that none of the bloggers I’ve followed are people of color and I rarely see crafters who are men.

I recently came across a call for submissions for an upcoming virtual exhibition by the Center for Art and Thought, entitled “Racecraft.” From the call for submission:

Slow. Sustainable. DIY. Green. Local. Anti-mainstream. These are some of the keywords associated with the contemporary craft movement. Enabled by technology and new media, craft culture has been described as a combination of traditional artisanal craftsmanship, punk culture, and a DIY sensibility. It often positions itself as a response to the problems of globalization, hyper-consumerism, and environmental degradation. Crafting is now, in the words of the maker-activist Betsy Greer, “craftivism,” a politically active site of social change.

But has “green” become the new white?

Despite its activist and inclusive ethos, the contemporary craft movement has been dominated by a neoliberal model of middle-class whiteness. Localism and lifestyle choices have become valorized as the primary modes of social change. People of color are often invisible in the craft movement, except as victims of globalization and exploitative labor practices who need to be saved by first world crafters.

It’s awesome that they are bringing this perspective to light. Hopefully there will be a variety of works submitted.  I’m glad I’m more conscious about this and want to find steps to raise awareness or support people of color in this movement.

I love crafting and making things myself. It’s a great hobby and I feel proud making something with my own hands. I now recognize the privilege in this, although I never further considered the social implications. Silly me, wasting my degree!

Find the tutorial I used for these Scrabble Coasters here: http://simplydarrling.com/2014/03/diy-scrabble-tile-coasters/

Scrabble coasters for a housewarming gift. Click here for the tutorial I used: http://simplydarrling.com/2014/03/diy-scrabble-tile-coasters/

Monday Mindfulness

After reading Arianna Huffington’s Thrive, which defines a new way to view and achieve success, I was convinced that even a few minutes of mindfulness per day could make a huge difference in my life. I downloaded Mindfulness Daily, this sweet app to guide me through exercises and demystify this “being in the moment” thing. It helps that the breathing exercises have cool visuals of flickering lightbulbs, floating villages, and laughing babies. Sounds simple enough, but we are constantly plugged in and on the go.

Recently I started following the adventures of Backpacks & Blackboards. Her post, Little Moments: Mindfulness + Mornings, struck a chord with me, since I have been integrating mindfulness in my daily life. I absolutely love that she is living life on her terms, right down to enjoying every second of her mornings. The difference between life in the US and Taipei becomes apparent, even in her seemingly small morning ritual. I always wonder what it would have been like to pick up and move somewhere totally different. In retrospect, the “perfect” times to make a drastic move have passed… college, graduating from college, when I got married… and some days I wish I had taken the plunge.

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Building a mindful practice has helped me change my mindset and appreciate the adventure in everything I do. I have thoroughly enjoyed living in Los Angeles for over 6 years. Traveling is more than enough for me to experience the world in different ways. I don’t need to live in a completely different place to complete my bucket list. Mindfulness enables this type of clarity and enhanced perspective. On days that I don’t meditate, I feel frazzled. My brain is slow to make connections when I skip out on a few minutes of deep breathing and reflection. We are supposed to exercise to build our muscles and maintain our physical health. But we have to flex our mind muscles too!

Unlike B&B, I rush in the morning. It’s what I do. I sleep to the last possible second before I get ready to leave. I would also love to work on my bedtime, just like B&B. I just can’t seem to put the phone down when I crawl into bed. Hopefully in the coming weeks, I can work on these habits. [New Year’s Resolution, anyone?] I proved to myself that I can still develop positive habits and through mindfulness, hopefully I can break bad ones.

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Old, new, yet to be met

Life goes fast. Too fast for me to dabble in all that dazzles me. I try, though! I give an honest effort to some hobbies and drop other pastimes before I’ve really given them a chance. Then there are those things we must all pay mind to, whether we like it or not. Efficiency, public speaking skills, non-bitchy resting face… you know, the types of traits that bode well in a job interview.

I have never been good at connecting with strangers. “Networking” in some situations, “befriending” in others. It’s not that I’m cold or don’t like unfamiliar folks. If someone chats me up in a long line or a café, I’m totally with it. But I don’t dive deeper than common courtesies and stock questions. It’s odd that I focus so much energy on storytelling and authenticity, yet don’t take advantage of numerous opportunities to link up with new people. Especially with how much I spend time exploring Los Angeles and traveling. I am missing out on stories from all over the world!

But every situation feels the same. Where are you from? What do you do? What brings you here? Then there is some chitchat about the weather and the clarification about what exactly your job entails and the uncomfortable reach to find common interests. While most strangers you meet will make a one-time cameo, every single person has the potential to change your life. I need to stop feeling like every unknown person is an uncredited extra in my lifelong movie.

For as many personal and professional development articles I read, I can never translate the urgency of meeting new people into action. Then I complain about a lack of adventure buddies or having no one to call in a crisis. But it starts with a chance encounter! Maybe now that I’ve started keeping track of the valuable life advice, I can put it all into practice. Seems I’ve got a challenge for the New Year. After all, it’s not just the sights and sounds that make this life worth living. It’s the people whose lives we touch and whose lives touch us.

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Hang out with your friends.

If there’s one tough lesson I’ve learned in my post-grad years, it’s that maintaining relationships takes a lot of dedication and effort. In college, you saw the same folks due to a fairly consistent schedule. You went to class, attended meetings, and had your own flavor of social life. Once you graduated, you started building a career, finding yourself, and navigating the work-life balance. Most of your friends probably set out to do the same.

Sometimes you have a friend who organizes a birthday celebration or there is a wedding or a new baby. There is some big reason to get together, share a drink, and celebrate life. You bid each other goodnight, swear you’ll grab dinner soon, and that you won’t let it be so long until the next gathering. Suddenly months have passed and you’re just going through the motions.

Before I let life get away from me too quickly, I make a conscious effort to schedule time with friends. It sucks we can’t grab a bite on a moment’s notice. And 9-5’s mean we can’t stay out til the wee hours. It’s almost sad to calendar a round of drinks, but it’s necessary! Not just necessary to ensure friendship time happens, but necessary for my well-being.

Tonight, I met up with Cyrus in Downtown Fullerton. For those of you familiar with DTF, you might know about its abundance of bars and grimey nightlife. Definitely a choice hangout for college students. I had no idea of the culinary treasures to be found here. Cyrus and I basically did a neighborhood food tour, all while catching up. We started with ramen at Kopan, had some amazing wine at Twisted Vine, and finished off with desserts and coffee at Layer Cake. Y’all know I’m not much of a food critic, but the food was delicious. I’d love to go back to every place, but there are so many spots to try!

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Soft Shell Crab

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Small Fatty Pork Ramen

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Make time for your friends. Go on adventures. Nourish your soul.