Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Let there be light

The tragic shooting in Connecticut has left me thinking a lot about the perpetration of violence and how awful people can be to each other. Big, dramatic things like the shooting make me think about all of the other (relatively) little things that have been happening over time, and it's like, Wow, violence is just constant. From hearing about assaults on women in NewHolly to that gang shooting in Skyway with an innocent boy killed in the crossfire, sometimes it feels relentless.

These problems aren't "fixable." That's what's so frustrating about it. Stricter gun control laws aren't magically going to end violence, even if by some miracle they were passed and enforced nation-wide. As with drugs, illegalizing something more often than not simply creates a black market that's just as vibrant and thriving.

Society is sick. Typical news fodder these days is all about speculating about the Connecticut gunman: Why did he do it? How could this have been prevented? I know people are heartbroken and want to do something, but policy-wise, it's already a clusterf**k.
  1. Deinstitutionalization. Since our nation decided it was "unethical" to keep people with severe mental health diagnoses "penned up" in mental hospitals, outpatient treatment (even if it's involuntary) is inadequate at best. This article sums up the complexity of the MH system pretty well. 
  2. Gun control. Just think about all of the people already that posess guns (with a license, I'm not even talking about illegal aquisitions). Even if guns were to be banned for commercial sale, there's still be that many guns out there, okay? It's like prescription drugs--guns are super easy to access; just tap a family member's "stash." There will still be hella guns even with strict gun control! K. Just think about it.
  3. Is this a gender issue? The perpetrators of violent shootings resorted to that form of violence because they "couldn't deal," or so it seems to be the case. Re the Huffington Post article above: "According to Mother Jones, since 1982, 61 mass murders involving firearms have occurred throughout the country. Of these, 43 of the killers were white males, and only one was a woman." Could it be that men, socialized not to express emotions (or de-incentivized to express emotions) haven't the skills nor the socially-acceptable outlets of frustration that women have? Have they been socialized to use violence as a means to express themselves? To be honest, this is frightening. Again, HUGE cultural/systemic issue here that can't be fixed with a wave of a wand.
I don't mean to be a downer nihilist, but violence of this nature is not new. Granted, the maginitude may seem shocking and graphic, but how can we forget the many underreported genocides that have occurred throughout history and are occurring today? (0_0) I wouldn't necessarily consider myself a doomsday enthusiast, but I've kind of resigned myself to the fact that there will always be a certain amount of horrible, awful things happening somewhere in the world at any given time. So I'm not, like, shocked when people post headlines of atrocious happenings on their Facebook timeline.

This past Sunday at church our worship leader had us stand up and hold hands with the people next to us while we sang the closing songs of the morning's service. I was legitimately crying, man. I mean, we live in a world where men massacre seven year olds and girls in Africa undergo genital mutilation and vulnerable teens are sex trafficked and yet--and in bold defiance of these atrocities, 200+ people stood hand in hand in a sanctuary singing praise to God.

Cuz, you see...even though there are days when it feels like violence and chaos are going to take over everything I hold dear, I am of the persuasion that in the long run, love will prevail. Just as long as people continue to be brave and forbid that tragedy turn them into bitter and cynical people, there is hope yet.

"The Life-Light blazed out of the darkness; the darkness couldn't put it out" (John 1, MSG).

Wednesday, December 05, 2012


The honeymoon phase is over. Are you bored of hearing about my job? Well, here's another post about my job.

I am self-conscious about complaining about work, mostly because of guilt. I mean, at least I have a job, so I shouldn't complain about it. However, I'm currently weighing the decision of whether or not to apply for the permanent position. In this respect, it'd be prudent to take a measured, comprehensive analytical view of the costs and benefits of my current work situation.

What has recently been tough about this job is the heavy workload. There are times when I'm juggling six "urgent" tasks at the same time. My desk is covered in papers, my inbox is a mess and my pupils are dilated--evidence of my fight/flight stress response system hard at work. Thanks, sympathetic nervous system. My position is a strange paradox because although I'm working for the director of the division, and am therefore powerful by this relation, I'm still a secretary. So basically my job is to make HIS job easier. I'm also doing a lot of supportive work with the human resources department.

The high level of stress is taxing my mental health. It's tough to fall asleep at night and I occasionally am afflicted with a throbbing stress headache. This makes me reluctant to even apply for the permanent position. The pay may be nice but at what cost? At what cost? (I forget what movie I'm referencing here, but I know you'll forgive me.)

Furthermore, I'm balking a bit on graduate school. I just don't know if I'll be able to stomach the academic culture so soon after finishing undergraduate work. I've been told not to confuse the people (students) with the actual area of study (public administration), but really, the people kind of make or break it for me. I squirm at the idea of spending the next two years of my life surrounded by passionate and well-intentioned, but entirely stuffy and self-important people. I just don't know if I can do it.

I know that being in the ivory tower of academia would be temporary, but it's absolutely maddening to be so removed from real-world problem-solving and I just finished putting up with four years of this nonsense.

Ugh, so tired of thinking about thinking. Meta overload.

I'm just going to scrawl out some fanfiction in a little corner and hide forever.


Sunday, November 18, 2012

Werking Gurl

A four-day workweek followed by a three-day workweek. Score!

More updates on work:
  • What I'm really starting to enjoy about the position it’s all about staying organized
    • I usually start off the day with five 5x7" sticky notes full of tasks and by the end of the day I only have one left, or sometimes none. Now that's what I call satisfying. Eeeeh.
    • My supervisor commended me on two things I did last week! 1) Formatting and polishing materials to be presented to the department director “She loved them!” and 2) Prepping a PowerPoint presentation template for a housing conference debrief. Re: the second point--I just heard her laugh out loud in her office and then I got an IM from her saying, "This powerpoint looks perfect!" Whew.
  •  There's a free employee gym in the basement!! So it's not great. The ceiling's low and unfinished (exposed pipes and insulation). There are only seven cardio machines. The ventilation is terrible so if you're so unlucky as to be next to someone with B.O. you must endure the stench for your entire workout. Group exercise classes are a few women imitating an aerobics video on a 25-inch standard-def (as in 3:4 aspect ratio) TUBE telly (this is real, ppl). Whatever. It's a means of cycling or ellipticalling out all the stress of my job on the days when Seattle decides to be Seattle-like (as in downpours and windy and such). 
  • I'm really fascinated by all of the financial stats that're crossing my desk. Dude, this is big MONAY. The 2013/2014 budget was just approved (~$92 million for my division, again). And, like, seeing the grant letters (like for $150,000!) is just crazy. Whooooa. So that's where all the places I interned at got their operating funds. AhhhhhhHHHH. It's all making so much SENSE.
  • My co-workers are feeling comfortable enough around me to swear. This is a big deal. HAHAHA. I'm talkin' about the eff-bomb here.
  • It's still stressful, so I get anxious when I think about going back to work tomorrow, but I just keep telling myself that THURSDAY is TURKEEEE.

In other news, my trusty 30GB video iPod is dead. It lasted me seven years. RIP, iPod. May you be properly recycled in a way that minimizes toxins in the air and doesn’t create environmental dangers for communities in the developing world. My wealthy father has chosen to bequeath me his extra iPod touch that he had laying around the house. So, all is well, my friends. All is well.

Ugh, why do I have to be so sarcastic all of the time?

Another piece of news: I may have unwittingly embroiled myself in a Jane Bennett/Charles Bingly-esque relationship. What to do, what to do. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Thoughts and Such

Week two of work, finished. Three day weekend. Yay.

Today I went for a walk around the neighborhood, you know, because it was sunny and all. It's so surprising how few people are outside. Most of the people I saw were men mowing the lawn, a couple of kids, two dog-walkers and a woman raking leaves. The nice thing about the suburbs is that they're quiet. Also, there are some untouched blocks of forests with trees that are probably more than one hundred years old. So that's always nice.

I stopped by my middle school that was recently razed and then renovated. I don't know how they did it, but they managed to make it look MORE like a prison than it already did. I mean, there isn't even a sign near the buildings to indicate that it is, indeed, a public school. It's literally painted grey with concrete accents. The random passerby would easily confuse it for a low-security penitentiary.

I really do enjoy the fall. I mean, sure, the unswept leaves beneath my feet did add an intrusive amount of noise to my otherwise soundless tread. That happens. The most gorgeous things I saw today, though, were Japanese maples--the kind with the leaves that have, like, six delicate and thin prongs. Amazing. There's also something to be said about the smell of chimney smoke and laundry and bitingly cold yet pure air that transports me back to my elementary school days. It seems the older I get, the less time I spend outdoors.

When I went for a walk downtown this week it was much less peaceful but still interesting. For example, when I climbed the hill up to the nearby public housing community, the sidewalks were littered with glass shards from the parked cars that had been broken into. I saw a young mother waiting at the bus stop with her daughter. Down the hill at the park homeless people were sleeping on benches or talking to each other in hushed tones. I don't know if it was my psychological bias or not but I swear I smelled the stale alcohol on them. Not even a block later the only people I'd cross paths with were professional businesspeople: men in dress shirts, slacks and ties, Northface jackets and leather briefcases. And then there are the easily-spotted tourists that look a little aimless and unsure, cameras at the ready.

Big cities are always strange because they attract such a diversity of people, and yet it's like we're completely unknown to each other. It's all at once exhilarating and alienating.

I'm just trying my best to stay open and receptive to this new experience--this whole eight to five thing. I'm starting to have some hope that this job will not be the end of me and that I just might be able to possibly do some good in the division, however long I might be there.

I just hope I'm not around long enough to be put on break room clean-up duty. Gross.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Fish Out of Water

The transition from being an unemployed twentysomething to a full-time working woman has been abrupt.

It's so weird to have an actual job title and get paid a wage. And I'm constantly aware of how cliche my entrance into the working world has been. 

I commute from home and listen to podcasts as the sky slowly turns from black to deep blue. 
I work in a nondescript glossy building in the heart of a bustling metropolitan city. 
I wear, like, nice sweaters and slacks with creases down the middle. 
I have a cubicle. 
I make a lot of copies. 
I change toner cartridges. 
I eat lunch in the break room while reading back issues of The New Yorker

I feel like such an impostor because for basically everyone on the floor, an office setting has been their home for the past 30 years. Me? I'm just like, WAT IS THIS PLACE. Seriously. There is zero exposure to clients. Just zero! I am in the office that houses the supervisors of the supervisors of the supervisors that CONTRACT the supervisors of the agencies that actually do the community work. It's so weird. I still am not quite sure what to think about being so far removed from the actual realities of "the people."

It's like, I know that they do (or at least fund/commission) good work--but all I can see are meeting upon meeting and report after report trying to prove to taxpayers that fraud isn't occurring. lol. Bureaucracy. 

Also, I'm drowning. The person I'm temping/backfilling for was in the position for TEN YEARS. Yah.  Ten years. I haven't ever been a secretary to anyone before. Hell, I haven't ever had a full-time job! So when co-workers on the floor ask me if I'm keeping up with things I just make my most pathetic face and yelp no! There are just so many things to juggle! I'm not just the secretary but I'm also fielding public inquiries and a surplus property program and HR/personnel paperwork and supervising a supported employee. It's just like, WAAAAH! 

Yesterday night I was so exhausted but I was still so wound up from work and thinking about work that I didn't fall asleep until 3am, probably. The job is demanding intellectually and emotionally and socially.

I just keep telling myself that this is a short-term, temporary position, and that as long as I don't screw anything major up, the person who ends up in the permanent position can just pick up all of the slack that I leave behind. Hahaha. 

I just hate, hate, hate not being competent and not knowing all the crazy different acronyms they use and the jargon and not knowing who's who and how to make scheduling decisions. I wish I were able to pick things up right away--or be perfect right away, but that it just not going to happen. UGH why do I have to be a perfectionist? And then I try to project to all of these program managers that I'm smart and understand what they're saying but honestly it's exhausting being professional (i.e., perfect) and ahhhhhh!

First weeks are hard. We'll see how long I last. :/

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

"We're all just hanging by a thread."

All-righty. It's time for some mo' big-picture wordthoughtvomit from yours tru. Topic: chronic conditions.

So. Chronic illness. Diabetes, SAD, gout, EDNOS, chemical dependency, chronic pain, insomnia, generalized anxiety, bipolar II, arthritis, scoliosis, hypertension... Chronic illness touches us all, even the seemingly able-bodied and youthful--even *gasp* MYSELF. So if we're all shouldering this universal burden in one way or another, how do we all manage to "make it work" rather than slump over, defeated?

I've been dealing with shoulder/arm pain for over a year now due to an injury from a Bally Total Fitness hip-hop class (I already know how absurd this is; you don't have to point it out to me). I've done physical therapy, massage therapy and just bought a spinal traction device off of eBay. At a certain point I realized, "I might just have to deal with this for the rest of my life. Sh1t! FML! #ugh"

At the same time, I'm coming to grips with facing my mental health baggage--my tendency toward anxiety and depression. I've accepted that this is how I am. This is me. I'm high-strung. I'm dramatic. At any time I can spiral down to the depths of fear-induced irrationality. Aight. So be it.

The tough thing about chronic illness is that you have no control over it. All you can do is resolve to address it, rather than live in denial and face even worse aggravated consequences down the road (e.g. When Tracy Morgan disregarded his diabetes and nearly lost his sight).

It would easy to be consumed with thoughts of "Why me?" or "Woe is me" or "I hate myself for being the way that I am." Right? To be the victim of your own illness?

Living with a chronic condition is tiring because it requires constant upkeep and maintenance. E.g. to avoid depression I need to eat well, exercise aerobically on a regular basis, take twice-daily Vitamin D supplements, journal, pray, make sure to socialize--there's no break! Tending to chronic illness requires me to constantly being on my A-game because a slip-up means that my illness will take the reins and I'll be in bad shape. And it'll be my fault. Ack, I have to do what for the rest of my life? There's no chance of waking up and magically being absolved of anxiety. It just doesn't work that way.

So I guess what I wanted to do with this post was encourage folks that may be tired of having to deal with their ___[insert disability/"condition"]__. I feel you. It sucks. It's exhausting work.Our bodies and minds betray us at the most inopportune moments.

Just do one thing for me, though, will you? Be really, really, really patient with yourself. Please.

Be as compassionate with yourself as you would with a close family member living with a chronic condition. If you slip-up on your low-glycemic diet or have anorexic thoughts or skip your PT exercises for a day or find yourself despite EVERYTHING still feeling sad and anxious and unable to sleep--just...don't be too hard on yourself, okay? I write this just as much as a reminder to myself as I do to it to you. Just everyone go love themselves. K?


Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Post-GRE Catharsis Post

AHHHH words cannot express how elated I am to be done with the GRE! I prepped for three weeks off & on, did four practice tests and have been waking up at 6:30ish for the past seven days (ugh, it was TORTURE) cuz I had to get to the testing center by 7:30AM today.

It's always crazy scary to embark on high-stakes endeavors, like when I decided to go live in Mexico for ten weeks. So trying to get into graduate school it's like WAAAAHHHH, please let me not mess this up. There's a lot riding on this. And it's tough to be honest with myself but really really I am so excited at the possibility of being in UW's MPA program, but I'm trying to temper my excitement just in case I don't get in this time 'round. They only admit 220 students a year!

But ya know what? I'm not eaten up with anxiety or fear of being rejected. I figure that if I'm not ready for the program, then I'm not ready. I'll redirect--keep looking for a job and do all of this soul-searching/discerning all over again. As much as it seems that peeps may lock into a profession and ride it out until retirement, I'm kind of excited that my generation basically hops onto whatever--I mean, seriously, opportunist much? ;) I'd like to think of it as a form of flexibility and spontaneity and adaptability.

Anyway, I had a point that I was going to get to. These high-stakes moments where I'm doing something kinda crazy and out of my control are the moments where I'm just smacked in the face with the reality of how loved and supported and blessed I am. I'm so thankful to have a big huge TEAM of people that pray for me and text me to ask me how things went. Like, it does loads for my peace of mind and self-confidence and makes me feel so warm and fuzzy inside! I mean, here are some examples:
  • My aunt and uncle lent me their laptop for a week so that I could do practice tests (mine was incompatible)
  • My parents paid for the cost of taking the GRE and emphasized that they believed in me, and not to put so much pressure on myself because it cost so much
  • My grandma kept asking me every Tuesday how it went, until the actually Tuesday of the test when she called me and told me to watch "Modern Family" to relax afterwards
  • My peers (Lydia, Faith, Hillary, Rachel) and my family (my aunts and uncles, cousins, parents, grandparents) were all praying for me, even though I know their schedules are already packed 
  • My parents took me out to dinner at the RAM to celebrate
All I can really do in response is say THANK YOU, LORD, THANK YOU, GOD, THANK YOU, LORD. Everything went well this morning. I was able to roll out of bed with plenty of time, enough to enjoy a nutritious fiber-filled breakfast (oatmeal) and prepare my thermos of chai. Traffic was virtually non-existent and I arrived with 20 minutes to spare. During the actual test I didn't get frazzled, even though some of the questions definitely stymied me. And the cherry on top: My multiple-choice scores were higher than I got on any of the four practice tests. Ugh, so much #winning, I don't know what to do with myself. I AM NOT USED TO SO MUCH SUCCESS WITHOUT AN EQUALLY PROPORTIONATE AMOUNT OF STRUGGLE.

All I can say is that this has to be by the grace of God alone. Admittedly there have been plenty of moments in the past months full of flailing and anguish and discouragement. But this one good day--wow, I'm going to hang onto it. I'm just so happy that no matter what I can just enjoy life because I'm supported unconditionally and my life is in the hands of a God that is ordering my life "just so."

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift my soul. Teach me to do your will, for you are God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
Psalm 143

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

I'd like to make a dedication to all the single ladies..

Do you know what really sucks? The constant pressure to be in a relationship. If you're a woman over the age of 22 and haven't got a fella on the brink of proposal, it's like there's something wrong with you. Okay, first of all, WHAT THE HELL. At social gatherings I feel my stomach knot up because I know that my aunt whom I haven't seen in four years--the one that's walking right toward me--is going to ask, "Is there anyone special in your life?"

I rue the day that all of humanity decided to reduce women to being babymakers and nothing else--like that's our only major contribution and accomplishment in all of history. There is nothing wrong with me if I don't manage to ensnare a man with my sexual wiles and then cling to him for dear life, never to let go.

Let's talk about the term "spinster." I'm sure it immediately conjures an image of a little old lady crocheting her own blankets in a decrepit old house, rocking chair and all. Again, the implicit assumption here is that if you don't get married THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG WITH YOU. i.e. no one would deign to love you for the rest of their lives because you are that. fucked. up.

All I can say to that is "no." Okay, if you're a woman over 50 and never married, I don't want you to be moping around feeling shitty about yourself like you're "not good enough." We need to change this paradigm, and we need to change it now.

I understand that not too long ago, getting married was, like, physically necessary. Women hadn't property or income so they were totally at the mercy of men, be they fathers, husbands or sons. I get that. Praise the Lord that we're in the 21st century and a woman can be economically self-sufficient.

So now marriage is a choice for women rather than an inevitability. Great. I am all for this. So why are so many women chasing after marriage as if their lives still depended on it?

Some look to marriage as a means of salvation. "Oh, if I just got married, everything would be better." It's the draught of fairytale happy endings that keep these women in drunken, delusional bliss. Getting married solves everything. You gain a purpose (being a good wife and mother), someone who will love you forever (validation and affirmation--YAY!) and you're ready to rock this gig out until the day you die. Yep. I get it. It's a template for your life. It's a track to lose yourself in and have satisfaction and meaning.

Some think of marriage as a status/prestige thing. It's like you belong to an elite club where you have bitchin' dinner parties with other well-to-do couples and drink your fancy dessert wine beneath a crystal chandelier. Especially among twenty somethings, getting married is, like, the "thing," so you'd better not miss out because you'll get left out. Harsh but tru.

Some people want to get married because they're pretty lonely and insecure. Now, I'm not judging peeps for feeling insecure or lonely. Not at all. I get needy lots of the time! But marriage to some supposedly guarantees that you'll never feel alone again. This is somewhat problematic because in marriage you can actually become even lonelier if your spouse is neglectful, self-absorbed, absent-minded or worse--emotionally abusive. Marriage is simply NOT the cure for loneliness!

So okay, I've made a lot of generalizations and now it's time for the postmodern pluralistic stuff. Every person is a stupid, unbearably unique snowflake and in marriage it all depends on individual personalities and motivation and character. Not all women are getting married for the wrong reasons. I've actually seen a few people get married for the RIGHT reasons. And I'm really happy for them (this statement is irony free). They deserve congratulations (really). The purpose of this post was NOT to shame married people!

I suppose the purpose of these unfocused meandering paragraphs is to say to women, It's OKAY if you're single. Nothing is wrong with you; on the contrary, EVERYTHING IS RIGHT WITH YOU. Don't let your relationship status dictate whether you're "satisfied" with yourself or confident in yourself or if you're "worthy." There are just way too many women out there feeling bad about themselves for being single and frankly it is unacceptable.

If you're reading this, whomever you are, I just want you to know:
You're gorgeous.
You have so much going for you.
You have so much to offer the world.
Don't let shitty passive-aggressive comments about the bareness of your left ring-finger get to you. Mrs. or Mr. Right, whether they exist or not, whether or not they're "coming for you"--just...You know what? Damn them. Damn it all to hell because you are fucking amazing and you don't have time to sit around thinking about inexistent hypothetical future scenarios. You've got too much life to live.

YOU JUST DO YOU and I guarantee you that someone will be impressed.

Love you all and thanks for reading.

Monday, October 01, 2012


I'm bored and restless. Can my life start already?!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"Let's not be elitist, April."

Okay, so hopefully every human being in the world is on an individual path of continual growth and transformation. Soooo I'm going to share a little bit about mine. Since moving back in with my parents after graduating from college, spending so much time with them has made me privy of their flaws, just as they have become privy to mine. Today I want to talk about being elitist.

Symptoms of April's Snobbery: 
  • Biting, disdainful comments about mainstream popular culture (e.g. Dancing with the Stars, Miley Cyrus/Taylor Swift, Glee)
  • Passive-aggressive comments about people making uninformed consumer choices (e.g. shopping at Wal-mart, buying bananas and Proctor & Gamble products, "Oh, I only buy organic fair trade cocoa powder")
  • Smugly & inwardly gloating at single-occupant motor vehicles as I bike to my alternative homeopathic massage therapy appointment 
  • Using abstruse academic jargon unnecessarily (e.g. constructivist paradigm, internalized oppression, the law of diminishing returns, fundamental attribution error)
  • Being impatient with friends and family that are not progressive enough (e.g. anti-racist, feminist, body-positive, anti-oppressive and intersectional-->Subtext: "Why can't you be cool like me?")
  • Projecting (intentionally or not) a demeanor of judging and self-righteous superiority
Why am I like this? Okay, so now let's commence the nature vs. nurture argument. 

NATURE: I'll be honest; my personality-type tends to be rigid and preachy. This is "how I roll." Granted, I can notice when I'm getting way too ramped up and tightly-wound and try to "tone it down." However, it's an indisputable fact that whether or not I verbalize my harsh judgments of myself and others, I still have them. 

As a self-absorbed perfectionist, I demand a LOT of myself--spiritually, ethically and intellectually. It follows, then, that I'm also quite hard on others when it comes to their thoughts and behaviors. Ugh, and as an intuitive person sometimes all I can see are others' flaws and their selfish motivations. I am a critic and a "glass half-empty" sort of person. Tuff. That's how it goes.

NURTURE: The prevailing cultural hegemony of my generation is without doubt (white) hipsterism. As a middle class American woman, I am about 70% hipster, for better or for worse (mostly worse). Elitism is a cardinal tenant of hipsterism. Being cynical, sarcastic and holier-than-thou in general is what being a hipster is all about.  

Furthermore, as a graduate of an institution of exclusive and elite higher learning I am, by default, an elitist. The main assumption of elitism is that being "enlightened" with "knowledge" makes a person inherently better than a high school dropout or a boorish midwestern redneck (sorry to use this slur, but uh, you'd be lying if you don't use it in the privacy of your own home, too). 

All hail the king of elitism, Dr. Frasier Crane!
I apologize if that pop culture reference is lost on you. 

So. Conclusions? Yes, I am an elitist. I am a snob. I am a self-righteous, grudgingly hipster, unbearable judger of all things that can be judged. There's no use in denying it. 

All I can tell you is this: I'm working on it. I have good days and I have bad days. Ideally, I always want to be in the space of "I just love everyone and I want to affirm everyone and you are beautiful and weeeeeee! life is beautiful, the end." Until then, I will try my utmost to be more compassionate, gentle and understanding with myself and humanity in general. Can't make any promises. But I will try. 

Thursday, September 06, 2012

My Answer to Your Question Would Be...

What do you enjoy doing? What would be your ideal job? Do you want to continue with social work?

These are the questions that haunt me. Even with all of the soul-searching and journaling and praying and counseling I really feel as clueless as ever. I seriously don't know what I enjoy doing. I used to think that it was "helping people" but that cotton candy cloud of abstract idealism revolts me now. I thought that being in the helping arena would soothe my sorrows because at least I would be contributing to the well-being of my fellow man but it's left me more discouraged and disheartened than ever. 

You know what sucks? Admitting defeat. I'm confused nowadays because I'm not sure whether I should just totally walk away from the social work thing or try and reframe my approach to it (i.e. think of myself less as a savior of the wretched masses). I know that social work seems like a good fit because I'm a compassionate person and I genuinely care. At the same time, it's this same deep compassion that makes me consumed with rage and anger when the people I care about are wronged. 

Let's explore the notion of vengeance. Think about superheroes--they protect vulnerable people from, like, aliens and shit. You know, big whoop. Then they have a big showdown with some nefarious criminal mastermind and duke it out until the bad guy just happens to fall off a cliff/get run over by a train/destroyed by his own weapons/take your pick. Endings to stories like these are satisfying because the cause of evil (bad guy) has been removed--may the world rejoice and good riddance!

Well, this leads me to talk about how deeply unsatisfying it is to be in social work. First of all, I don't get to carry out revenge. So, right off the bat I have to accept that I will never get to indulge my vigilantist compulsions. It's not plausible nor ethical to do so, according to my beliefs. "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:9). So basically, I have to wait until "closing time" (i.e. the final judgment of the world) for perpetrators to get what they deserve. In the meantime, the world is not going to be "made right" from the "top down"--you can't force people to be decent to each other, that's just another form of tyranny and oppression. And you can't "make it right" by just killing all of the evil people, either. Oh, ho ho. All this to say that this whole life, this whole world is going to be a mixed bag of good and evil until the day we die. See The Parable of the Weeds.

Another thing that's frustrating about social work is that you're always fighting on (what seems to be) the losing side. Right? I mean, life has not been kind to this unemployed, Latino, gay, HIV-positive, chemically dependent, clinically depressed man with a history of sexual abuse (this is literally a case I saw in a community mental health clinic). Wow, like, I want to stand in solidarity with these beaten-down underdog people but seriously, they are always #losing. For these peeps, small victories mean getting a freaking week's worth of diapers or some milk through WIC. Sometimes I just think "damn." There are so many barriers and so many things going against them. It's like, man, there's no way in hell that this is going to turn around. And yet these are the "cases" a person in social work sees day after day after day. I mean, this is plenty enough to drive anyone crazy. 

So what would it take to get me back into social work? It's been a couple of years since I've had an actually positive experience (Hogar de los Angeles in Mexico). To be perfectly honest, you'd have to drag me kicking and screaming back into the arena...

into the realm of the silent victims.

I got that phrase a couple of months ago and was like, "Oooh, that just gives me shivers." 

Not gonna lie, it is fking DARK working with the oppressed. Like, I have witnessed some serious evil. Like a ball of dread and overwhelm and hopelessness. Like, OMG this is going to swallow me whole if I don't get my shit together.

The answer, then? I will take the plunge back into social work IF AND ONLY IF it's Jesus Christ himself that invites me, and even then I'd seriously have fears, doubts and reservations. So ya, that's where I'm at.

Monday, August 20, 2012

I'm dying, you're dying; we're all dying.

Time to write down more things that I'm pondering. The topic of choice has lately been death and dying (don't worry, I'm going to do the best that I can to end this on a hopeful note). With my grandparents' declining health, death has been in the back of my mind for over a year now, but recently it's back to #1 on the MindCharts. My grandpa's brother Marsh died last month and our family attended his funeral on Berkeley, California on August 11th. They showed a clip of him singing in his church choir and everyone just burst out crying. O, WERE THAT MY HEAD WERE A FOUNT OF TEARS.
Me & Uncle Marsh
You know how in lots of movies, characters out of the blue start acting like their best selves right before they die? I mean, think of the grandpa in Little Miss Sunshine or Boromir in The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. I definitely had a moment like that the last time I saw Uncle Marsh. It was in February at my cousin Justine's wedding. If I could sum up Uncle Marsh is one word it would be verve. At Justine and Sam's reception he twirled me around on the dance floor old skool swing-style, even though they were blasting the mindless techno-pop of the masses. Although I have no formal training and looked awkward & stilted compared to Uncle Marsh's precise steps, I felt so happy and unself-conscious stomping away with him--not a care in the world. That's my last living memory I have of him. Fit for a movie.

Until Uncle Marsh had grandchildren (in 2003), I always believed myself to be his favorite. He often came on vacations with our family (as in Grandpa & Grandma, their progeny and the progeny of their progeny), even if they were in Washington. One time when we were playing around in the river near our cabin in Crystal Mountain, he specially removed the bark from a two-foot long tree branch and shined it up with the natural oils from his hands. Okay, this sounds totally random and odd, but I seriously treasured that stick. I'm sad that I lost it.

Holding that precious stick!
I was thinking yesterday in church about how God can basically take away anything or anyone from us, whenever he wants. Dude, the Buddhists were onto something with the whole "impermanence" thing. And accepting this truth is what makes anything valuable at all. I value my relationship with my Grandpa because I know that at any moment I can lose him to death.

By talking about this I am in no way suggesting that everyone take self-protective measures and never become attached to anyone ever because they're all just going to die anyway. Ugh, GET BEHIND ME, NIHILISM! Nah, that's a miserable way to live life.

I would like to suggest an alternative. I would argue that it's possible to simultaneously (1) hold in mind the reality and inevitability of death while (2) maintaining joy and appreciation for life. Actually, think of (1) and (2) having a directly proportional relationship--the more we (1) stay "grounded" and mindful of our powerlessness against the forces of death, we (2) treasure the what few moments we have left in this thing called "life" all the more. (+/+)

Okay, obviously these thoughts are nothing new, but they're good to revisit now and then when I feel on the brink of despair. Death, decay, decomposition--they're unstoppable. Duh. It's weird but sometimes people seem to die in droves, and when that happens, it's tough to keep ya' head up. It's so easy to fall into the "Y EVERY1 DYING MY LYFE IS MEANINGLESS" but I try and rally and tell myself to FIGHT to just appreciate life and its treasures, even when I feel like those very things are being ripped from me. Ugh, sorry, this is just totally abstract, but I'm making peace with myself--this is just how I roll so deal with it. I would like to end with an overused yet apropos quote.

"Don't cry because it's over. Smile because it happened."
-Gabriel Garcia Marquez or Dr. Seuss, take your pick (source disputed)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Grilled Honey-Mustard Chicken with Arugula and Plum Salad

Fresh and perfect for summer! I was really pleasantly surprised with this recipe. To make it I used a square grill pan (11"x11"), a wonderful gift from my cousin for graduation. Thanks to the pan, the skin of the chicken was delicious and crispy and the dark meat of the chicken preserved moisture and flavor.

Grilled Honey-Mustard Chicken with Arugula and Plum Salad
-3 Tbsp honey (I used Safeway's organic stuff imported from Brazil *eyeroll*)
-2 Tbsp Dijon mustard (used Beaver Brand Sweet Hot Mustard)
-1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme (Safeway organic again)
-4 Tbsp olive oil, divided
-8 bone-in, skin-in chicken thighs (got a 12-pack and froze the remainders)
-Kosher salt and black pepper
-2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
-2 bunches arugula (I just bought Safeway's washed & ready stuff)
-2 plums, pitted and thinly sliced (one plum was enough for three people)

  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the honey, mustard, thyme and 1 Tbsp of the oil
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Heat grill pan to medium high heat. Season the chicken with salt and pepper. 
  3. Sear the chicken thighs in the pan ~7 minutes per side (skin should be properly browned). Place pan into the oven and bake for ~20 minutes, flipping the chicken midway through.
  4. Bake the chicken five minutes more after brushing the honey mixture onto the skin. 
  5. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk together the vinegar, the remaining 3 Tbsp of oil and 1/4 t each of salt and pepper. Toss with the arugula and arrange with plums on top. Serve with chicken.

Monday, July 30, 2012

An Exercise in Futility

-Peace Corps
-The Body Shop
-Gilda's Club
-Rainier Avenue Church
-Federal Way Community Center
-Office Depot
-Tierra Vida, Broetje Farms
-Youth Eastside Services

Currently 0 for 8.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Three Celebrities I Wholeheartedly Endorse

All right, peeps! While I usually express somewhat of an elitist disdain for celebrity culture and celebrity worship, the following three mainstream celebs have without a doubt garnered my full support! 

Number One: Mindy Kaling
Most famous for portraying Kelly Kapoor in NBC's The Office, also a writer, producer and director

Other credits: Recently published a memoir Is Everyone Hanging Out with Me? (And Other Concerns) and will be starring in her own sitcom called The Mindy Project starting on the fall.

Basic info: 33 years old, South Asian American, graduate of Dartmouth

Why I respect her: First of all, Mindy is, like, the only Asian American female actress that I've encountered that does NOT play an overly sexualized or racially stereotypical role (I'm indicting you, LUCY LIU!). Not only that, she is also a talented writer and has produced and directed at The Office. So right off the bat I am a fan.

Second, she has the perfect constellation of traits: 

  • generation-y 
  • middle class upbringing
  • prestigious liberal arts education/vocabulary
  • is completely witty+hilarious
  • has a fresh perspective on body issues (i.e. she acknowledges the pressures of being thin in Hollywood yet considers dieting as a sort of fun pastime. In other words, she doesn't take "weight issues" too seriously--preoccupations like that don't consumer her.)
  • unashamed about her obsession with TV and pop culture She knows that she's totally mainstream re: her movie tastes. I mean, she's aware that romantic comedies are awful and contrived. She's made peace with that and just enjoys it for what it is: trashy, implausible escapism.
  • she's not totally consumed with race. God, what a relief!!! I mean, obviously she's racially aware, but she doesn't have a personal vendetta against all white people that ever lived. Whew. She straddles the intersections of her race & class with real grace, I believe. GO MINDY! 

Where to begin if not a fan yet? I would recommend reading her autobiography, hands down. I mean, it's definitely meandering and unfocused in a lot of spots, but it will literally make you laugh out loud AND you will also start to love her. Available for Kindle on KCLS Overdrive.

Number Two: Donald Glover
Most famous for portraying Troy Barnes in NBC's Community.

Other credits: former writer for NBC's 30 Rock, has a Comedy Central stand-up special, Weirdo, and is a rapper on the side by the name of Childish Gambino.

Basic Info: 28 years old, African American, graduate of New York University

Why I respect him: Like Kaling, Donald Glover does not portray a "typical" black male on Community. He is somewhat nerdy (in a cool way) and is a likable character (unlike Omar Epps in House or Phoenix in Fast Five--ugh, the black "bad guy" trope bugs the heck out of me!).

Constellation of awesome traits:

  • generation-y
  • middle class upbringing
  • parents are devout Jehovah's witnesses and took in foster kids (i.e. He is a really considerate and aware person)
  • presitigious liberal arts education/vocabulary
  • sharp wit Many of Troy's lines in Community are improvised
  • is diplomatic about race In interviews he's been asked about how the role of Troy was originally meant to be a white male, and in response he's said, "Well, let's face it, I am pretty white.. I'm basically a black hipster." He's definitely aware of race, the legacies of racism and the consequences today (see his tweets re: Trayvon Martin). Yet, he seems to have that incredible ability to navigate different contexts (elite white Hollywood land and the black underground hip-hop scene and err'ything in between) while still being his laid back, affable self. Again, his intersection of class & race makes him a super special, awesome, generalization-defying dude. Baratunde Thurston would be proud. 

Where to begin if not a fan yet? Community Season 1, the pilot episode. Then I'd jump to season 3, "Origins of Vampire Mythology." He was awesome in that. Also, watching his stand-up exponentially increased my admiration levels.

Number Three: Marcus Samuelsson
Most famous for being a celebrity chef on the Food Network.

Other credits: guest chef for Obama, owner of Red Rooster in Harlem, philanthropist, author of several cookbooks and a memoir Yes, Chef

Basic info: 42 years old, Ethiopian-born & Swedish-raised, graduate of Gothenberg Culinary Institute

Why I respect him: I first saw Marcus Samuelsson as a guest on Chopped and noticed immediately how polite, articulate and encouraging he was in everything he said. Later, I saw him display his cooking chops on The Next Iron Chef America (he was cut WAY too early) and in Chopped Champions II (which he won!). What impressed me is his ambition in every challenge to tackle really complex dishes and new combinations--he doesn't settle for mediocre or "safe." What sealed the deal was the charity he competed for, Careers through Culinary Arts Program, and how he talked so passionately about creating avenues for young, low-income black youth to experience success and satisfaction in American society instead of getting disillusioned and ending up dead/in prison. I respect that he immersed himself in Harlem and really took in its history and politics and he's so game to invest in the community. LASTLY, he created an entire website, Food Republic, as a means to fight gender norms by encouraging men to cook and host. In sum, Samuelsson is a killer chef + social activist + paradigm shifter. WTF, how does he exist?

Winning traits:
  • trans-racially adopted Gives him such a unique perspective! How many people do YOU know that are Ethiopian-Swedish? His multicultural background makes him appreciate and value others' culture and his also grants him this huge edge in fusion cooking that isn't cultural appropriation but comes from a sincere place.
  • middle class upbringing
  • multilingual (Swedish, English, some Amharic and German)
  • prestigious culinary background Yet he earned every promotion, slowly working his way up from prep boy to head chef.
  • down-to-earth, kind-hearted This man deserves every bit of fame and them some!
  • knows what's up about race He identifies with people of color in the U.S. and just "gets it" even though he grew up in Sweden. It's awesome. And he expresses it all in a polite but firm way, like when he explained how young black men in Harlem have few opportunities for success, which is why Careers through Culinary Arts is so important. 
Where to begin if not a fan yet? Watch for him on Chopped! I promise, his warmth and humanity will shine through. It's incredible. Also, his memoir, Yes, Chef, is really heartwarming.

So there are definitely some apparent commonalities among these three celebrities. The main reason why I think they're the bees knees is that they carry the unique identities of being both middle class and people of color, which makes them their own special breed. They all at once belong nowhere, yet can adapt anywhere. They're in touch with oppressed groups (due to race) yet also travel in highly exclusive and elite social circles. They're basically amazing and--I'll say it--they are my role models!

What celebrities (if any) would you endorse?

Saturday, July 07, 2012

Job Search

It's been a month since I've graduated and I've since applied to about six different job positions. They've ranged from a "Sales Associate" at The Body Shop to a Family Life Director with a church in the Rainier Valley. So far none have resulted in an invitation to an interview. I'm trying to stay upbeat and not discouraged. My goal is to keep submitting cover letters and resumes, at least one a week. This upcoming week I'll be applying to Office Depot! Hey, I wouldn't hate it. :)

It's been humbling to be in such a competitive job market and to realize that just because I have an undergraduate degree, it does not mean that I would be automatically qualified for/competent in a "lackey job" like working a front desk or selling retail.

I'm still pretty bummed about the whole Peace Corps thing not working out. My parents keep trying to assure me that there's "something out there" for me, and that I just need to be patient and wait for it. Well, we'll just see about that.

Hope my next "something" will show up before I'm thirty.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Maladaptive" Coping Mechanisms

What exactly constitutes a "maladaptive" coping behavior?

I've been mulling over this question a lot lately. With little to no structure to my life as of late, I've been very cognizant of how I spend my free time. It's gotten me to think about how a lot of what I do with my free time is a way to "deal" or cope with life.

The world is harsh. It's brutal. I mean, duh. We live in ambiguity because life is a mix of seemingly senseless and overwhelming tragedy as well as larger than life happiness that we share with others. How does one manage to stay away from becoming a "Pollyanna" (denying anything "wrong" with the world) on one hand, while at the same time not become an Eeyore (everything is bad, so why ever expect it to be good? P.S. I suck). So anyway, people have various ways of "dealing"/staying sane. 

The traditional conception of "acceptable" ways to deal are usually graphically represented in a multi-colored triangle or Venn diagram. Maintaining your sanity is "simply" a manner of attending to all of the different dimensions of yourself: your emotional self, your spiritual self, your physical self, your social self, your psychological self--and on and on and on. 

I decided that after graduation, as a way to practice "self-care," that I was going to try and avoid exposing myself to so much trauma through one-on-one work with trauma survivors, etc. However, it seems that trauma/suffering is just, like, EVERYWHERE (our neighbors six houses down the street just got robbed in broad daylight for crying out loud). I've learned that running away from human suffering just isn't the answer. YOU CAN RUN, BUT YOU CAN'T HIDE! MUAHAHAHAHAHA.

So anyway, here are some of the ways that I try and "deal" with the tragedy of human existence:
  1. SITCOM MEDIA/EASY ANSWERS LANE/HAPPY ENDINGS HAPPYCLOUDLAND: Any movie, TV show or book with an oversimplified, overwrought, contrived plot with a happy ending--I'm sold. Why settle for the unpredictability and messiness of real life when you can enjoy a formula of (1) trivial "conflict" that ends in a (2) "life lesson" all for the price of 25 minutes! My favorite sitcoms lately have been Community and Parks and Recreation. Movie of choice? I Hate Luv Storys. Who wouldn't love a goofy opposites-attract movie where poor people don't exist and everyone is young and beautiful?
  2. SUBSTANCE USE: Okay, so far I haven't acted on my inclinations, but  the world is just so sad and messed up that I get these sudden urges to binge-drink alcohol. I now begin to understand why chemical dependency is so prevalent in society. Life is so intense sometimes that NOT feeling anymore sounds veeerrrrry appealing. I'll take anything to not feel overwhelmed anymore. Tell me if I'm wrong.
  3. FOOD: I have literally caught myself having feelings of anxiety, going to the kitchen and eating a cookie/muffin and then experiencing the anxiety dissipate, if but for a short period of time. Food comforts me, so binge eating is a way to try and maximize that comforting feeling...that is, until I'm bloated and disgusted with myself. Lawl.
  4. VOYEURISM/WASTING AWAY ON THE INTERNET: Life is much simpler if you leave it to actors and celebrities to live it for you. HAH! Rather than actually talk with my family, we'll watch a movie about a fictional family and call it a day. I hate when people say "It's so ironic," BUT IN THIS CASE IT IS! #meta Also, I'm sometimes given to uncontrollable bouts of surfing Wikipedia, reading the most random personal details about actors, actresses and musicians. Then I walk away from the computer three hours later in a daze, feeling ashamed like I've just eaten five bags of Doritos. 
  5. TRANSCENDENT SPIRITUAL TRUTHS/PRAYER: It's a lot easier to "deal" when I can rely on the fact that although people are LITERALLY getting away with MURDER every single day, that ultimately there will be a "final judgment" where Jesus will cast those no good S.o.B.'s that prey on vulnerable women and children into the FIRES OF HELL. Muahahahahahaha! "Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: 'It is mine to avenge; I will repay,' says the Lord" (Romans 12:19). There's also this idea of "Well, God knows what he's doing" sooo...Why blame him for everything? Blahblahblah, free will vs. grace/Why do bad things happen to good people/I AM STILL GRAPPLING WITH THIS O.K., PPL?!
Okay, so obviously, this list is not exhaustive. However, it really makes me wonder, what sorts of coping behaviors are "acceptable"/"permissible" and which are considered "maladaptive?" The trendy phrase these days seems to be "Everything in moderation." Add that to a layer of post-modernist relativism and you get the conclusion that each person alone knows which coping behaviors are maladaptive for them and at what magnitude they become maladaptive

HAHAHA, wow, so basically we've learned nothing.

But back to talking about me (I love the self-indulgent nature of blogs!). I definitely am aware of my actions. I have an intuitive sense of when I've "gone too far" and am using a specific coping behavior as a means to escape/avoid my current feelings or the "reality of the world" or whatever. But now I'm thinking, is it even desirable to be always "on," to be always "present" and feeling 100% and aware and sensitive and self-reflective? I mean, that just sounds tiring to me.

This past year one thing I've committed to is the notion of "Be gentle on yourself." You know, don't expect so much from yourself.. don't be super hard on yourself. .don't exigir a level of productivity that's simply beyond your own capacity..

My tentative conclusion on the matter is this: I will allow myself to escape every once in awhile through  TV, through food, through humor.. but ultimately these moments of escapism are a temporary diversion from grappling with and struggling with and seeking to understand the greater matters of life. All of these nagging questions, they're going to haunt me relentlessly until I air them, talk about them with trusted family and friends, pray about them, gain more experience with them--and I really am a firm believer in this process...the stages of conflict, disbelief, struggle, confusion, despair...because I believe that ultimately I will arrive somewhere. My understanding may not be complete, but it will be deeper. I'll be able to handle the complexity and subtlety with a defter hand. 

The product of SEEKING THE TRUTH is gaining the tools to navigate the very ambiguity you try to avoid.

¿Me explico?

Monday, May 28, 2012


Here's my final personal statement I'm submitting with a culminating binder portfolio. Yes, I'm actually submitting this.

            When I began the BASW program at the University of Washington I was generally an optimistic, idealistic and na├»ve person. Now? Well, at least I’m still idealistic. Sort of. Being in the undergraduate program has been like opening up the stomach cavity of humanity and being forced to see and smell the pulsating entrails normally covered by flesh and skin. I’ve come to understand at a very deep level the mechanisms of oppression, the context of history with social problems and the seemingly insurmountable odds we find ourselves up against as social change “agents.” While the world may seem bleak at times, I’ve learned that because of my existence as a social worker, it is now and always will be marginally less so. Slow clap.
            As a result of being in this program, I’ve had to adapt and survive through self-care. In the morning I would learn about how black people were lynched and used as sex slaves. Then, I’d go to coffee with my classmates and try not to cut myself.
            The School of Social Work encourages students to think critically and independently. Well, in this school, I sure have learned how to do just that. While the school may imply that social workers are responsible for the fate of all oppressed populations everywhere, and that if we don’t do something, then no one will, I know in my heart that this is simply not true. I refuse to live in agony and misery, wallowing in privileged guilt and an unhealthily metastasized savior-complex. While I am aware of the plight of vulnerable populations, I as one individual, can only do so much. I will do what I can to address poverty, violence and suffering in the world, but once I’ve put in my eight hours for the day, I will surrender myself to a coping mechanism entitled fatalism.
            When I leave this place, the School of Social Work, I will forever have on my goggles of “awareness.” Trust me, even when I try to enjoy something as mindless and popularly entertaining as The Hunger Games, for example, I will end up writing a five-page analysis of its major themes with respect to power and oppression[1]. I will carry with me ecological-systems theory, empowerment theory, the ethnic identity development model, cultural responsiveness (the dialogic model, of course) and the strengths perspective. These theories have affected the way I interact with people, whether in my professional or personal life; I have internalized them that much.
            In terms of “staying current” with social welfare, I’ll always feed my insatiable compulsion to “be in touch” with the reality of the underclass, whether it be through the NPR public health blog (Shots), The Seattle Times, National Geographic, literary fiction or memoirs of people who have survived horrific circumstances (e.g. Strength in What Remains, Desert Flower, Persepolis). It is my duty as a professional social worker to stay informed, and informed I will stay!
            My strengths as a social worker are my ability to articulate forms of oppression, my critical thinking, my self-reflection and my ability to establish rapport with clients through genuine warmth and caring. Areas for growth would be maintaining professional boundaries with clients, political advocacy and research-informed practice.
            It has certainly been an interesting ride, this BASW experience. I’ve had my hopes crushed into a finely ground powder, then snorted through someone’s nose. I’ve learned to be much more realistic, to reject martyrdom and to enjoy life for what it offers. As a social worker, I may not be able to fundamentally change the structure of society to uplift the downtrodden and usher them into an age of triumph, true brotherhood and utopian parity. However, I’ll do my small part, quietly, without heraldry or accolades, humming a pop ballad from the 1990s.

“Two roads diverged in a wood and I—I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost

[1] Attached.