Capturing a Culture: Representation Matters! by Kailee Haong

As I try to piece together stories about my refugee grandparents who I could hardly communicate with, I ask myself many questions: How much of this will I have to explain to my white colleagues? How many pages do I spend defining words I originally wrote in Chaozhou or Khmer just so my colleagues feel invested enough to keep reading? 

Me, being and feeling contemplative. 

Me, being and feeling contemplative. 

A caveat: Prior to my first year in this MFA program, I never wrote stories about my culture or my heritage. Part of the reason for that is because I wasn't reading stories about my culture or heritage. I didn't know there were any. I was (and sometimes still am) a bit tied up being forced to praise Hemingway for his ambiguity and Steinbeck for his endurance and *sometimes* if we were lucky, we'd get a little female representation—albeit a white female—with a Woolf piece. These are great authors, no doubt. They're heralded for their works for a reason. But in the moment I allowed myself to drift outside the confines of the literary canon, I found myself falling in love with stories I'd never heard before. In 2017, I read 46 books. 26 of those books were by authors of color or queer authors. Over half! I've never read such a diverse, beautiful collection of writings until just last year. I encourage you to do so, too.

This year, I wrote characters that paid homage to my grandparents for the first time ever, and they were two of the stories I've felt most content with writing thus far. My grandparents, two ordinary people fighting extraordinary odds to save our family from a massive genocide by coming to the United States. I did not know them well, but my memories of them will live on in the stories I tell. I hope to do them justice.  谢谢 (xiè xiè), thank you for everything, Mama and Gōnggòng.

Mama, Gōnggòng, & the cousins.

Mama, Gōnggòng, & the cousins.

For my thesis, I'll be putting together a collection of short stories that highlight Chinese American and Cambodian Americans narratives. I hope to create a voice for people like my Mama and Gōnggòng who are no longer around to share their stories and experiences. Right now, I've been buried in novels and short story collections by a number of Asian and Asian American authors and I'm getting more and more inspired every day. Ideas and drafts are floating around, and I can't wait to share what I create with all of you. Thanks for your endless support. 

If you want more recommendations on books by authors of color or queer authors, just ask! I have so many! And, a personal plug, you can come to my writing workshop in the fall. It's called "Writing on the Margins," and we'll dive into the different ways you as a writer can incorporate marginalized voices into your own work. More details as it gets closer. 

This time, a quick quote:

Stories matter.
— Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Target Practice: On being a nation of sitting ducks by Kailee Haong

We are a nation of sitting ducks becoming target practice for the next mass murderer. We sit. We watch our friends, family, children get shot. We watch them fall. We sit. We say: Well, there's nothing really that we can do." That's bullshit. We. Need. Gun. Control. End of story.

Let's start with a common argument that anti-gun control folks will often fling into the void: The fact that people who are FOR gun control must have never even seen a gun in real life before, let alone handled one. 

So, before I give you my argument, I'll tell you my credentials. I have handled, loaded, fired, cleaned, and properly stored a lot of different types of guns. I have gone to shooting ranges a number of times and mercilessly decimated paper targets, clay pigeons, and some cardboard. I'd like to emphasize again: at a shooting range. No humans, wildlife, or any living thing was injured. I have really good aim. I enjoy hitting the target spot on, it's satisfying. Below are some terrible quality photos of ME:

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For many people, going to a shooting range (for example) is just a hobby. We aren't trying to take away your hobby. No one cares if you like to blow off some steam on the weekends and shoot some paper targets. What we're trying to take away is the ability to maim and murder children and adults so easily and so readily. It is easy to purchase a weapon. It is really damn easy. One of the main things we're asking for here are much stricter, more thorough background checks. Why would anyone be opposed to that? You'll stand in a TSA line for hours to make sure you fly safely to your destination, so why wouldn't you support a lengthier process in obtaining a weapon? Step 1. 

Step 2. Why the hell does anyone need to own assault rifles, or really any magazine-fed or rapid-firing guns, for that matter? If you're one of the "own a gun for my person protection," kind of people, fine, but if an intruder is in your house do you really need to fire 20 rounds into the person? It's ridiculous. These are the kinds of guns that are slaughtering the people we know and love. Give me one good reason we shouldn't get rid of them. 

Step 3, ah, the second amendment. Do you know how old that fucking piece of paper is? I mean, seriously. If mass shooters barged into places with the guns they used in the 18th century, you could run a goddamn marathon before they could reload the thing. We're not in the 1700s anymore! Guns are bigger, better, faster, easier to get, easier to use, easier to kill with. It's crazy, it's almost like... as time goes on... things change. Weird concept, right?

I'm tired. I'm tired of waking up to news about more people dying in mass shootings. This is not normal. But here, we've totally fucking normalized it. We are numb to this. We are numb to preventable death. 

"Guns don't kill people, people kill people," I swear if I hear this argument one more time I might scream. Of course an inanimate object can't kill someone. But wait--what's this? Oh yeah, it's a hell of a lot fucking easier to kill someone with a gun than without a gun. 

"You tried banning drugs and that didn't work! Why would it work on guns!" Yeah, we have problems with drugs. That's inevitable. Do you know how many MORE problems we'd have if they weren't banned at all? I'm scratching my head wondering why I even have to explain this logic to anyone. Wouldn't saving one child's life be worth it? What if it was your child? Is that what it takes? Have some goddamn empathy, people. 

"We just need to arm the teachers! Hire vets to guard our schools!" No. We don't live in a fucking dystopian novel. I don't want to walk into class seeing my professor with an AK slung around his neck like we're living in a goddamn war zone. That would absolutely not make me feel safe. Not one bit. We do not need to arm teachers. Similarly, we do not need to hire people to guard schools. First off, where is the money coming from to pay for all these guns and guards? You hardly even pay teachers as is. Pay them what they deserve before even thinking about jacking up the deficit to plop a pistol in every teachers' hand. 

"We have a serious mental health crisis!" Yeah, we do. But the people spouting this as a deterrent for stopping the discourse on gun control don't actually give a shit about mental health. They're using it as a scapegoat. We do have a mental health crisis. There aren't options for many people to seek treatment or help. I won't even go into the healthcare crisis that covers these options, because the same people who are saying "we need to fix the mental health crisis," are the same ones that are undermining and stripping everyday Americans of their right to those services. Not to mention what an unfair light this places on people who struggle with mental illness. The vast majority of people who do are not violent. 

Okay, a breather. I'm just sick of seeing people dead. Aren't you? 

I'll leave you with a quote.

“We lose eight children and teenagers to gun violence every day. If a mysterious virus suddenly started killing eight of our children every day, America would mobilize teams of doctors and public health officials. We would move heaven and earth until we found a way to protect our children. But not with gun violence.”
— Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA)

 

 

From the very beginning by Kailee Haong

Four years ago today, I took my first baby step out of the world of science—which I had so convinced myself would be my world until the end of time—into a world of literature and writing.  

I joined my undergraduate school newspaper as a lowly staff writer. I had never written newspaper articles before. I had no idea what I was doing. I started out writing the leftovers—IT Department Updates Wifi, Cafeteria Adopts Fresh Food Program—you know, those kinds of stories. The quick, 500-word "updates" that no one really reads or pays any mind to. But I was excited. Each time I got to see my name in print, it ignited some kind of passion in me that writing—no matter my audience—is what I needed to be doing.  

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I slowly ascended the ranks of the newspaper. I became a senior staff writer, then a news editor, then an arts & entertainment editor, until my senior year when I had two incredible jobs to balance: Head arts & entertainment editor, and the editor-in-chief of "Our Voices," the journal on diversity. These two positions dominated my senior year in the best way. I got to write, read, and showcase others' talents in my publications. It was incredible. I was on a writing and editing high. And then? I got the acceptance letter to Eastern's Master of Fine Arts program in Creative Writing. Game changer.  

Everything was a shock to me, but in the same beat it felt perfectly normal and absolutely right. I started college taking standard biology, chemistry, and math courses. I ended with courses like critical thought, feminist thought, creative writing—courses that changed how I think, helped me understand why I think that way, and how to put those thoughts on paper. I am so grateful and indebted to my professors for this knowledge.  

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I'm not writing this summary of my accolades to be braggadocios by any means. I'm writing it because in that simple action of joining the school paper four years ago, I set myself on the track I needed to be to end up here, today. I have four short stories published in three local Spokane anthologies, I'm teaching an awesome spread of texts to my intro to literature students in Cheney, I'm writing things that make me proud of myself, and I'm reading some wonderful, inspiring books that keep me pointed in the right direction.  

Writing is not easy. Creating is not easy. But when you print out your x amount of pages that you've spent weeks toiling over, reading and re-reading, editing, and revising, it is an unparalleled feeling. I know there's so much more to come, and that I'm just a baby-writer right now, but I'm so excited for whatever lies down the road.  

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Thanks for sticking with me on this blog I never use.  

As always, a quote: 

Lock up your libraries if you like; but there is no gate, no lock, no bolt that you can set upon the freedom of my mind.
— Virgina Woolf

On to the next by Kailee Haong

Greetings, 

As usual, I set myself up to write all summer and I didn't. Can't say I'm surprised but anyways, here I am, back with another ramble-y blog that's mainly just an update.

Yesterday, I slapped an EWU sticker right above my GU Alumni license plate frame, so I'm ready as ever to roll into this next chapter in my life. 

Tomorrow will be my first day teaching ENGL 170 (Intro to Literature) at EWU. While I'm thrilled to teach undergraduates a really incredible course load of literature, I of course have some anxieties surrounding it. I'm young, practically the same age as many of them, I'm teaching at a school that isn't as focused on liberal arts as I'm used to, and I really don't have any teaching experience. All of that combined makes me an insecure slush pile of a professor. 

That being said, I have a lot of goals for these next few quarters of my time as an instructor. First and foremost, I want to be an inspiration, regardless of whether my students love literature as much as I do, or whether they absolutely hate it and don't even show up. EWU is a much more diverse school than I'm familiar with. That being said, not one of the five main lecturers for ENGL 170 is a person of color (this is absolutely NOT a critique of these fabulous instructor's ability, intelligence, or humanity). Something I have struggled with growing up is not believing I could do the things I'd dreamed of because I never saw people who looked like me doing those things. If anything, I hope my students can look at the front of the classroom and think, "hey, if she can do it, so can I." A modest goal, that's all I could ask for. 

So, wish me luck, all. I have big shoes to fill and a lot of things I want to accomplish. I, like half of students at EWU, am a first-generational student. I want them to know that anything is possible, and that any barricade they may see in front of them, I want to help them over. 

As always, a quote.

The learning process is something you can incite, literally incite, like a riot.
— Audre Lorde

Thank you for listening. 

xx

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I don't even know what to call this by Kailee Haong

Wake up, America.  

We are living in an absolute hell-hole. 

In high school and college I've read the following classic dystopian novels: 1984, Lord of the Flies, The Handmaid's Tale, Brave New World, The Road, Fahrenheit 451, A Clockwork Orange, The Trial, and probably more I'm not thinking of. 

None of these books could have prepared me for the nightmare we're waking up to each and every morning.  

I have good days. Don't get me wrong. I have a good meal or work isn't stressful or I meet someone interesting or the weather isn't too hot. But none of those things can cover up the fact that our country is a rotting, dying, cesspool of disease right now, all thanks to our mighty cheeto in chief. Once again, as before, and always, #notmyFUCKINGpresident.  

Sorry for the profanity. I'm just at a complete loss.  

The events in Charlottesville are absolutely disgusting. I can't even wrap my head around it. Apologies in advance if my thoughts just aren't poignant enough to talk about this. 

White supremacy is a complete joke. America was NEVER white. How can you return to something that simply never was? Y'all came over here, pillaged the people who rightfully owned this place, and then called it white. Tell me how that's fair.

My eyes are rolled so far into the back of my head I don't think I'll be able to get them out. 

You know what's happening in NC? Hate. Pure and simple as that. Not free speech. Not "protecting a monument." It's blatant hate and racism. If I had a dollar for every white guy in a polo at that RIOT (it was not a rally by any means. Don't call it such), I'd be rich. This all sucks. Perhaps what's even more disgusting, however, is that the person in charge of this county did not even condemn the actions of these individuals. Hard to condemn someone who looks, talks, thinks, and acts like you, isn't it? It's pathetic. 

To everyone in power: blanket statements DO NOT WORK. Trying doing something real for once instead of hitting you automated "oops, shit happened," button on Twitter and crafting some elementary, "catch-all" statement that doesn't require any effort or empathy whatsoever. 

I marched for so much more than just women back in January. I'm beyond pissed off that it has been almost 7 months and not a damn thing has changed.  

A quote, for whatever it's worth.

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.
It is our duty to win.
We must love each other and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
— Assata Shakur

#woke by Kailee Haong

Every day, I am haunted with the ghost of my past-self kept alive by the embalming fluid known as “Facebook ‘On This Day.’”

While a majority of my posts from six, seven years ago are simply a monotonous string of “I’m bored”s followed by an occasional scream into the void (you know, those posts you made that have ZERO interaction), some were flat out rude and ignorant.

There have been a few occasions where I’ve been baffled by younger me’s lack of knowledge, but rather than condemn myself for what I used to believe and how I used to think, I’m actually quite grateful to see the progress I have made.

It would be incredibly easy to call me out and say I am a hypocrite—to ask how I could stand for what I do today, and how I could explain what I used to think and believe—but shouldn’t we be proud of the strides I’ve made? At least, I know I’m proud of myself for that. What people and the general public needs to know is that it’s okay to change your mind or your opinion on something. In fact, that’s precisely what education tends to do to people.

While I’m a little abhorred at the stance I used to have on issues, I can say with a sigh of relief now that I’ve been educated, that I’ve learned and grown and changed, and that’s great.

America, it’s never too late to change your mind and your heart. You’ve screwed up a lot of times in a lot of different ways, but that doesn’t mean you’re all bad. So learn something. Face your fears, fight your stereotypical viewpoints, and really see from an underrepresented place. You’ll never know how you really feel about an issue before it hits you in the face.

Not sure where to start? Reading is an excellent place to learn something new, find a new passion, or challenge a view you hold. Join me in a reading challenge this year and do yourself some good. 

Not sure where to start? Reading is an excellent place to learn something new, find a new passion, or challenge a view you hold. Join me in a reading challenge this year and do yourself some good. 

Sincerely,

A kid who used to be against gay marriage because that's all I was ever taught who is now a gay that can’t wait to get married.

P.S. Change is good. Change is really, really good. That’s exactly why we shouldn’t “make America great again.” First, it wasn’t great to begin with (i.e. slavery, racism, homophobia, sexism—to name a few). Second, change comes about from moving forward, not going backward. Anyways, that’s my rant. Get out and get educated. Change your mind about something. I dare you. Time to get #woke.

A quote:

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
— Nelson Mandela

Resolutions by Kailee Haong

I won’t promise myself to write every single day or exercise a few times a week or eat healthier or do x, y, and z. It’s BS and we all know that resolutions almost always get dropped, forgotten, or purposefully avoided. I’m not a huge fan of them.

What I will say is that I will be a better person. A more intentional person. The kind of person I need myself to be, because I think we all lacked some important self-care in 2016.

For fun though, and since I’m trying to be less of a cynical person, here’s a list of a few things I did in 2016 that were incredible:

·      Traveled to 9 different countries

·      Fell in love

·      Stopped eating meat

·      Became editor-in-chief of a journal

·      Made some incredible new friends

·      Got good grades

·      Read 35 books

·      Wrote A LOT

Now, it’s a brand new year. I’m not traveling the world or having the time of my life with my friends this year, I’m graduating college and trying to figure out the direction I’d like my life to go (and coming to terms with the direction it will actually go).  We’ve got a big orange imbecile as president and I don’t agree with a word that comes out of his vile mouth, so I promise I will fight that until the day he’s gone because #notmypresident. This year, I’ve got even bigger shoes to fill. As an activist, as a leader, as a gay woman of color who’s the child of a refugee—I can’t afford to lose my voice now. Just gotta shout a little louder!

I’m heading into 2017 with a bigger heart and a lot more love to give. It’s a hard task to do given the climate of our world right now, but it is what needs to be done. We’ve got a lot to accomplish this year, friends. Let’s hit the ground running.

Happy New Year, and good luck.

As always, a quote to leave you with:

Afoot and lighthearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me.
— Walt Whitman

Musings from an almost-adult by Kailee Haong

My name is Kailee and I’m a senior in college.

Yes, I’m 21. Yes, in the eyes of the law and our good ol’ country of the United States, I am, in all means, an adult. But am I really?

For purposes you will later come to understand, here is a list of things I definitely know how to do at the ripe age I currently sit at:

·      Cooking things with three or less instruction steps

·      Binge-watching HGTV like a white suburban housewife  

·      The best and worst times to post a photo on social media

·      The exact timing to mobile-order my Starbucks and the precise moment I need to then leave my house to have the least amount of human interaction possible

·      How to pack a damn-good suitcase (thanks, study abroad)

·      Skim news articles for the important parts

On the contrary, here’s a list of important things I have no clue how to do that are required for full-on adulting:

·      Taxes

·      What is an IRA????

·      How do you change a tire (or anything car related, for that matter)

·      Scheduling appointments via the phone

·      How to dress business casual? Slacks? Skirts? Dresses? Pants???? Oh, the ambiguity of being a woman in a professional atmosphere 

I’ll give myself a little credit, though. After all, I did finally memorize my social security number (thanks mom for all of the prodding). I’m not even a real real adult yet and I’ve already decided that adulthood is not for me. Because who really wants to leave the beautifully sheltered life of college to enter a world of a 9-to-5 job, 401ks, and making your own dentist appointments? I don’t know about you, but it doesn’t sound all too appealing to me. A warning to all you kids out there: DON’T GROW UP. JUST DON’T DO IT.  

A photo of me working while sick and wanting to be asleep instead??? Also thanks, Tally, for this lovely candid showing my true form.

A photo of me working while sick and wanting to be asleep instead??? Also thanks, Tally, for this lovely candid showing my true form.

I won’t totally obliterate adulthood, however. I’m excited to go to grad school someday (if I can afford it, that is). I’m excited to decorate my own house someday and put my countless hours of HGTV home improvement skills to the test. Hell, I’m even excited to have some tiny versions of me running around someday, as much as I used to cringe at the idea of children.

I guess the point I’m trying to make here is that nothing’s really going to prepare you for adulthood. It kind-of, sort-of just slaps you in the face, and the best thing you can do is learn to roll with that.  

So. Until graduation, I’m going to live up getting my free copies of the Times in College Hall. I’m going to enjoy having only a couple classes a day and not a full-time job. I’m going to love being in an environment with people my age, who understand things people my age understand (only some offense to the people in my office who type “Google” into the search bar rather than just searching what they were trying to search for). I’ll love my freedom and lack of structure, and ability to spend money on Starbucks every single day. I’ll love every last moment of my college career because I KNOW this is a once-in-a-lifetime deal, and it’s insane to me that it’s almost over.

Follow my journey through my last year in fantasy world as I blog about the vicissitudes of being a college senior. Until my next post!

 

With love,

An almost-adult.

A few words, some thank-yous, and a whole lot of pride by Kailee Haong

I tried for days to formulate meaningful words regarding what occurred in Orlando. I typed sentences, retracted them. I jotted down words on pages just to erase or cross them out. Inevitably I came to one conclusion: Me, the girl that talks too much or writes too often—I simply can’t find any words for this situation.

When you boil it all down, the one thing we need is love. The LGBTQ+ community needs love. we need to stop being pushed under the rug and forgotten after everyone has made their “prayers for ____” posts and photos of rainbow flags with hashtags screaming #solidarity or #istandwithyou. Because support isn’t a 24-hour deal. True support comes in the form of friends reaching out after the attacks telling me that they love me, that they wanted to remind me that my feelings are valid and I’m important (seriously, you guys are my backbone). True support comes in active change, rather than passive proclamations of peace. True support is involvement, not thoughts or prayers.

See us. Hear us. Grieve with us.

I was genuinely afraid to attend the Seattle Pride Parade on Sunday, for fear of the worst-case scenario. It disheartened me to feel uncomfortable in an environment where I’d previously felt nothing but love and acceptance. Despite my apprehension, I went anyways, because my desire to stand with my community during this time was stronger than my fear of any acts of hate against us.

The support and love in Seattle was overwhelming. Never before have I felt so proud and so comfortable being hand-in-hand with my girlfriend in such a huge city.

So, here’s my cheesy, personal-garbage-esque caveat:

I am proud. I am really damn proud of who I am, where I’m going, and the girl I love. It certainly isn’t easy being so unapologetically ‘you,’ but it’s something I’ve always strived to do. Hate can’t stop me. Fear won’t stop me.

I am here. I am visible. I am proud. I am loved, supported, and cared for, and that’s just what I’m going to do to everyone else in my life.

To my LGBTQ+ friends: I love you guys like mad—especially those who have confided in me and felt comfortable and safe enough to do so. You’re loved, and I’ll always be here to support you. (And to the closeted ones, you’re strong and beautiful and I love you).

To my incredible hetero buddies: You guys make the best allies out there. Thanks for always having my back and please know that I will always have yours.

To my family who’s supported me no matter the circumstance: You’ve proven that me being me is a-ok and I couldn’t thank you enough for that.

To my girlfriend who goes through the same prejudice and hardships: I will never hide you, I will never stop holding your hand in public, I will never stop being proud to love you.


To leave you with a quote as always:

What is straight? A line can be straight, or a street, but the human heart, oh, no, it’s curved like a road through mountains.
— Tennessee Williams | A Street Car Named Desire

xx, Kailee

To pee or not to pee: The ignorance and bigotry behind transphobia by Kailee Haong

If I see or hear another comment opposing a human being’s right to use the restroom they identify with, I might explode.

Recently, Obama passed an initiative for all public schools which allows students to use whichever bathroom matches their gender identity (for those of you who need to know, because I know there are some of you I’m friends with on Facebook who are completely unaware, gender identity and biological sex are not the same thing). I was thrilled hearing about this! Finally, let kids pee in peace, that’s all they were ever asking for in the first place. Obama put it nicely in an interview, stating: "They are vulnerable, and I think it’s part of our obligation as a society to make sure everybody is treated fairly, and our kids are all loved and protected, and that their dignity is affirmed.”

Doesn’t this seem nice and logical? Where’s the issue?

The issue is in the fact that eleven states now have sued the Obama administration for enacting this. I’m not sure what kind of world we live in if we’re suing people who are only trying to help bring justice and equality for every living person. It’s quite frankly sad and disgusting.

Let’s take a look at some of the “reasons” why people are so opposed to something so fundamentally basic and simple (for fun, I pulled DIRECT comments off of Facebook so you can really see what our good ol’ American brothers and sisters are posting on the internet. I'm serious, these are legitimate, real things people posted. On the internet. For everyone to see. Spoiler: it’s a whole lot of bigotry and idiocy):

1.     Ruth says, “my biggest concern is men pretending to be transgender to get into the ladies bathrooms. Not safe for kids in bathrooms alone.” Hey, Ruth. Hate to break it to you, but that’s not the meaning of transgender.

2.     Mary says, “right on .all of this is bull**** for sick man woman???what to hell are they?” Aside from the horrendous punctuation, horrid grammar, and terrible social awareness, Mary has no argument whatsoever. (I copied this word for incorrect word, and it hurt me to type this way. I’m abhorred).

3.     Genelea says, “you can make a sandwich put everything on it that you would put on a sandwich and then put frosting on it and what do you have just a sandwich with frosting on it the point I’m making is no matter what you put on to wear it doesn’t change who or what you are you are still the same just wearing women or men clothes you are what god made you so stop trying to be something your not.” Genelea didn’t learn about run on sentences in school, but that doesn’t stop her from spewing her opinion and comparing humans to sandwiches. Some people just don’t seem to get it.

4.     Kelli says, “anyone is welcome to enter a bathroom with me, my child and my gun!” I guess Americans have stooped so low that they’d shoot a person who needed to pee. That is pretty sad.

5.     Steve says, “So, if I self identify as a millionaire, can I go to the bank and get a couple of million for the weekend?” I wish, Steve, I wish. But the biggest issue here is that people are stating that transgender people are basically like shape shifters and they’re just deciding to be one sex one day and the opposite sex the next day—and that’s not how it works. Steve, educate yourself, buddy. You’re making everyone look bad.

I think those are enough terribly ignorant comments to make the point. Everyone’s screaming about the safety of the kids! The kids! The kids! And yet we have parents not paying attention and letting their children fall into gorilla habitats at the zoo? This is complete and utter madness, people.

Here’s an idea: let’s just let people go to the bathroom they’re comfortable in and stop worrying about issues that don’t involve ourselves.

Here’s another idea: it’s not legal to discriminate someone based on their sexual or gender identity, so let’s just stop doing that, too.

Be pro-human! Life’s more fun when you’re accepting and not grumpy and ignorant all the time!

*****To all of my Spokane friends, recently someone really cool made the Spokane Trans* Map, which highlights trans* friendly and non-friendly places to either go to, or avoid. Check it out here! 

Celebrate the culture, don't perpetuate the stereotypes: A guide to celebrating Cinco de Mayo by Kailee Haong

A neat infographic about the “proper” way to celebrate Cinco de Mayo was circulating Facebook and it prompted me to want to write something about it.

Growing up, you were probably forced to take a language class in high school. While some of my friends opted for ASL or French, myself and a large majority of the student population enrolled ourselves in Spanish. In our highly Americanized Spanish classes, Cinco de Mayo usually meant some sort of class party, or really just a day that we didn’t have to do any real work. I can recall potluck-like festivities, movies, little get-togethers—things of that caliber. What we never seemed to learn, and what I am going to guess a number of you probably don’t know either, is the real background of Cinco de Mayo. The cop out answer would be that Cinco de Mayo is Mexico’s version of our Fourth of July, and that’s incorrect. So, let’s delve into a short little history lesson.

Cinco de Mayo commemorates Mexico’s victory in la Batalla de Puebla over the French and Napoleon III on May 5th in 1862. Supposedly, the battle was not believed to be in Mexico’s favor, but they were able to pull through in the end.

Puebla, 2014.

Puebla, 2014.

***This is not Mexico’s independence day. The Mexican War of Independence began on Sepetember 16, in 1810 with the Grito de Dolores, and it is on this day, September 16th, that their independence day is celebrated.

In certain parts of Mexico, Cinco de Mayo is often celebrated with historical reenactments, and sometimes parades with food and drink. Quite different compared to how Americans celebrate the supposed holiday. How did it come to be that way?

Cinco de Mayo has come to represent a celebration of the contributions that Mexican Americans and all Hispanics have made to America.
— Joe Baca

Cinco de Mayo emerged as a holiday in the United States as Mexican immigrants used it as a way to celebrate their heritage in the 20th century. At this point, and still today especially, this is not an American holiday. The fact that it is celebrated by so many Americans with zero ties to the culture of Mexico or Puebla or any of the above is demonstrative of our incessant need to rip off parts of other people’s beautiful cultures as an excuse for partying and excessive drinking. If you want to show your support for the holiday, there are plenty of ways to do that that don’t involve cultural appropriation. A good definition for cultural appropriation is written by Susan Scafidi in her book, Who Owns Culture? Appropriation and Authenticity in American Law, and she defines it as follows: “Taking intellectual property, traditional knowledge, cultural expressions, or artifacts from someone else's culture without permission. This can include unauthorized use of another culture's dance, dress, music, language, folklore, cuisine, traditional medicine, religious symbols, etc. It's most likely to be harmful when the source community is a minority group that has been oppressed or exploited in other ways or when the object of appropriation is particularly sensitive, e.g. sacred objects.”

Capilla del Rosario, Puebla, 2014.

Capilla del Rosario, Puebla, 2014.

So, instead of perpetuating harmful stereotypes and getting obscenely drunk, wearing sombreros or ponchos or other dress, or doing anything plastered with the slogan “cinco de drinko,” read about the holiday. Educate yourself on it. If you want to celebrate by eating Mexican food, try something a little more authentic than your local Taco Bell. I recommend mole poblano which is a special dish in Puebla and quite possibly one of the best things I've ever consumed.

Maybe none of this will resonate with you, but I’ve seen Puebla, and I promise it and it’s rich and beautiful culture a lot more than just tacos and tequila. It's full of life and color and vibrance and incredible people and it deserves to be celebrated as such. All photos included in this post were taken during my study abroad in Mexico in the Summer of 2014.

Puebla, 2014.

Puebla, 2014.

México, te extraño muschísimo. 

Coming to terms and learning to love yourself by Kailee Haong

***This is an article I wrote for The Gonzaga Bulletin for our section: "Our Stories."

There’s something in suppressing such an integral part of you for many, many years that makes it so difficult to truly accept and love the person you are once you’re finally able to come to terms with the very thing you were suppressing. 

Then one day you’re staring at yourself in the mirror, bawling like a baby for no reason, and it clicks. The “aha” moment, if you will. 

For me, that moment was realizing that I am gay. While I’ve been out to most of my family and all of my friends for a few months now, I still shake while typing this, because learning how to love your idiosyncrasies is not an easy task. I’ll commend you if you’ve found an easy way around it.

I grew up suppressing. I grew up cramming myself inside of a box I didn’t fit into for the sole purpose of trying to do just that — fit in. I had boyfriends. I gossiped and gushed about crushes and cuties and who was boyfriend-material and who wasn’t. Girls liked boys, boys liked girls. It was a black-and-white issue in high school. Simple. Girls didn’t like girls, and boys didn’t like boys and that was that. Nobody argued it. Nobody defied the limitations of the box. We all just sat happily inside, harboring our naïveté and confusion on our own.  

For a long time, I didn’t have a problem with the suppression. I rolled with the metaphorical punches, I kept dating my boyfriend. I resumed life as per usual, until I got to college. Disclaimer: This isn’t one of those “experimentation in college” types of stories. This is just the cold, hard truth, and the truth isn’t the only thing coming out in this tale. 

We can start with the cheesy caveat of meeting someone, crushing on them, and entering into full-panic mode when you’re not sure where to go from there. That’s precisely what happened to me during my sophomore year. I met someone. I crushed on them. And I went into full-panic mode when I found myself in a situation I had never been in before. That’s right. This crush was on a girl. 

Surprisingly enough, there’s no gay-handbook on how to secretly date a girl when you are also a girl attending a religiously affiliated school, so I was stuck trying to figure it all out on my own. Being in the closet is one thing, trying to share the tiny closet space with another person is a whole new, even more complicated thing. 

I spent the majority of my relationship behind closed doors. Running from myself, running from the truth, and running from the person I’ve never wanted to accept but have always been. I disregarded questions. I avoided discussing the topic of sexuality. As much as I wanted myself to believe that I was done with the suppressing, I wasn’t. The suppression of my relationship mimicked the suppression I had done before because that’s all I’ve ever known, and I wasn’t quite sure how to break that cycle. 

Months in, I got more comfortable, I felt more normal, and I didn’t have to keep justifying my relationship to myself. I just let it happen. The pieces of my personal, intricate puzzle began coming together and, consequently, I began to see the full picture for the first time. Slowly, I began to let people in. Anyone who’s ever been in a vulnerable situation (everyone, probably) knows how difficult it is to take down the walls and allow people to see you for who you are. 

With the growing support of each new friend I confided in, I was nearing the end of my puzzle. I saw who I was, I saw who I needed to be, and I saw the last few things I needed to do in order to be my full, true, authentic self. I told my friends from home. I told my immediate family. I was welcomed with open arms and enough support to last a lifetime. 

Today, I am finally at a place where I can look back on my first “real” relationship with gratitude. I’ve stepped up onto the balcony and can see the situation from a better view, with a new, cleaner, more authentic lens. I have reached a point where I can see through the hardships, the fights, the animosity and the disconnect — because in the end, my relationship helped me realize and come to terms with the person I’ve been all along. It’s like taking off a mask and throwing it away instead of grabbing a different mask, because I don’t need a mask to feel OK anymore. 

College has been a journey for me in more ways than just one. But I’ve learned to love myself wholly and openly. At some point, you’ve got to realize that it’s OK to nearly fail general chemistry. Not everyone is meant to be a scientist anyway. It doesn’t make you a bad person; it doesn’t make you unintelligent or inadequate. It’s perfectly fine to not play a sport (or, in my case, have absolutely no athletic ability whatsoever). Again, it doesn’t make you incompetent or less than anyone else. And finally, it’s OK to love girls. It’s OK to love boys. It’s OK to love God, Buddha, Allah. It’s OK to just love yourself, too. It’s OK, and you’re OK. Three seemingly trivial words that have affected me more than any other combination of words you could ever string together: You are OK.

It took me 20 years to come to terms with myself. It took 20 years to learn how to love myself, care for myself, and genuinely believe that it is OK to be who I am. There’s not a thing I regret in my past. It took each of these little events, every single one of them, to build the foundation on which I can triumphantly stand today. I refuse to be anything but myself and I refuse to ever let anything come between loving myself again. 

Vulnerability is an absolutely gorgeous thing if you let it flourish. Be open with yourself, love yourself, and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ll go.

A truth (now) (almost) universally acknowledged by Kailee Haong

This is going to be a very long overdue post, but I think it needs to be made.

I will preface this post by stating that it brings me sadness, the fact that I will have to block more than just a few people from being able to view this. Friends, it’s 2015, it’s time to show a little less intolerance and a little more compassion.

This past year has been a year of personal growth, understanding, and self-acceptance after years of not being comfortable with who I was. Why the sudden change? Because some small part of me mustered up the courage to let my guard down, let my walls down, and to love wholly and openly. In cheesy terms? I fell in love. Hard.

I’m telling you I fell in love with a human who made me feel comfortable with who I am. Someone who helped me learn to love myself entirely—each and every little flaw included. Someone who made me see life in HD, which I’ll tell you is a lot more vibrant and a lot more satisfying than SD. Someone who made me love early Sunday morning adventures, even on weekends with hardly any sleep.  Someone I can cook with, exercise with, study with, read with, drive with, adventure with—honestly, do pretty much anything with.

If I said I had a boyfriend, I wouldn’t have to block half of my family and friends from seeing this. They’d pat me on the back, ask for pictures, and congratulate me for finding a nice lad. But since I fell in love with a human who just so happens to be a girl, I still can’t be completely open for fear of condemnation or rejection. This makes my heart heavy.

So I ask you, what’s so wrong about doing all of those cool fun things with someone who happens to have the same chromosomes as you do? Why would one short, stubby Y chromosome in place of an X make my life a whole lot easier, a whole lot different?  Can you really say my “lifestyle” is wrong? Because this is the happiest I’ve felt with myself for a long, long time.

It brings me pain to see that love is still not being accepted unconditionally. So I wanted to leave a few messages to people I almost let break me down.

To the women who burned holes through our hands as we sat doing absolutely nothing wrong in a café: Grow up. We didn’t judge you for your incessantly loud church gossip, so there was really absolutely no reason for you to glance over and glare every ten seconds.

To the family that veered their children away from us to the complete opposite side of the room: News flash, but love isn’t contagious. Honestly, I wish it was, because you could use a little bit of it.

To the woman who catcalled my girlfriend when we were going out to dinner: Your slang and sick comments and your dirty, snide smile made us fearful to go out in public. You ruined the first half of our dinner and you made us afraid to go back outside.

This is not a cry for help. It’s a plea for humanity. We really need to stop wasting energy on spewing hatred and bigotry and start channeling that into acceptance and love. I would really like to see a world where I can love who I love without any fear, pain, or prejudice.

Years ago, I got really good at suppressing any feeling I thought wouldn’t sit well with my family or friends. Now? I am comfortable with myself. I am comfortable with the human being I have become. I am comfortable with the strides I have made. I am comfortable with my successes. I love myself, I love others, and I love that humanity is, albeit slowly, beginning to surface. 

To those of you who disagree: This isn’t a “lifestyle.” It’s my life. This isn’t a “choice.” It’s love. This isn’t a “sin.” It’s divine. This isn’t an “abomination.” It’s compassion. This isn’t “disgusting.” It’s beautiful.  This isn’t all of the other nasty words I have seen countless times again and again. It’s love. It’s pure, genuine love. And if you’re reading this disagreeing with me, if you’re one of the people I missed in blocking this post and you’d rather me be discontent the rest of my life than be happy and myself, do me a favor. Look yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself three things you love about yourself. Smile. You hating my “lifestyle,” or me as a person does not affect me. I still think you’re a beautiful human being. Why? Because look around. Humanity is absolutely gorgeous. I’m sorry you cannot accept love, but I’m not wasting another tear on your hatred. I’m choosing happiness.

To those of you who have been supportive all along: You are the reason I have found the courage to write this.  You give me hope, you bring me happiness, and you make me feel loved. And I could never ask for anything more. I love you. You matter to me. You matter to the world. You are important and special and I am so, so thankful for you.

So, gather round, folks. I’m opening that door and I expect to see a beautiful world on the other side. You can either stand with me, or get out of my way, because I’m on to a bright future, and I’m not going to let anything or anyone stop that.

As always, here’s a quote for you. From my buddy Kurt:
“A purpose of human life, no matter who is controlling it, is to love whoever is around to be loved.” – The Sirens of Titan, Kurt Vonnegut

On finding yourself again by Kailee Haong

Sometimes we get caught up in the moment, or moments. We get lost, we get stuck, we put blinders on—we don’t exactly see what’s right in front of us.

It’s in this “getting caught up-ness” where we lose sight of who we are, where we’re going, and what we’re capable of. And that’s no good.

I’m writing right now because I’ve acquiesced into this losing myself and I can see the detriment it has done, and that’s precisely why I took to the computer.

I’m a firm believer in individuality. What’s more incredible than having the world and trumping through it as you wish? Freshman year, I spent countless hours with myself. Be it playing music by the lake, walking into town, or just sitting outside and listening to everything around me. Rain, wind, snow, sun—the world was mine and I didn’t let a single day go by in which I didn’t reassure myself that the world was, in fact, mine.

Yes, we’ll meet people that make us prefer to do all of those things in the company of others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be an individual. That doesn’t mean you can’t curl up in your favorite chair with your favorite book and spend several hours on your own. That doesn’t mean you can’t go for walks and think about absolutely everything in the world.  No matter what occurs, you are and will always be an individual, your own person. Full of free will and not-so-good ideas, and maybe some brilliant ideas, too.

Through numerous different and unique situations, I have learned that it is crucial to love who you are, find what makes you tick, and chase after that wholeheartedly. And sometimes we need a reminder that we are fully capable of doing just that. So, for those of you who might feel a little lost or off balance right now: you can do it! I can, too.

Maybe, throughout the course of our lives, we’ve been bombarded with “everything happens for a reason,” and maybe, for the three hundredth time, we’re sick of hearing it. So here’s something a little better than the aforementioned panacea. From my absolute favorite book, and one of my absolute favorite authors: “I have always believed, and I still believe, that whatever good or bad fortune may come our way we can always give it meaning and transform it into something of value.” Siddhartha, ladies and gentlemen. I strongly suggest you give it a read. Or three.

Good things will happen to you, and bad things will, too. But by no means should the bad dictate the good. And another little reminder, often times, the bad things carry a lot of good with them. Maybe we get stuck up in a whirlpool of bad things, and it feels like we aren’t making any progress, but remember, “we are not going in circles, we are going upwards. The path is a spiral; we have already climbed many steps.”

Whatever it is that’s going on in your life right at this very moment, it’s temporary, it’s fleeting. Don’t fight what’s fighting against you, because “gentleness is stronger than severity, water is stronger than rock, love is stronger than force.” And if things are meant to be a certain way, so they shall be. It just might require some waiting.

So until then, “I can think. I can wait.” I can find myself. I can relish in the beauty and the idiosyncrasies of the world and of individuality. I can pick myself up by my metaphorical bootstraps and trudge forward.

“And all the voices, all the goals, all the yearnings, all the sorrows, all the pleasures, all the good and evil, all of them together was the world. All of them together was the stream of events, the music of life.”

Find your happy, find yourself. I’m off to do just that. 

Let's talk about pay inequality by Kailee Haong

 

I have collected some comments from a post on a Facebook page regarding pay inequality. For privacy, I blocked out their names, but I would like you to know that each of the six comments above were posted by males.

According to a large population of male Facebook users (on this post, at least), we can conclude that:

1.     The gender pay gap is a myth

2.      Male privilege does not exist

3.     Women are essentially lazy

4.     Women choose to be paid less

5.     Taking care of children means you should be paid less

6.     We live in some kind of crazy world, where someone would compare the salary of a convenience store worker to that of a doctor to try and make a point about the gender pay gap

Have we really become that ignorant and uninformed of a country that when we disagree with a fact, we dismiss it as a myth and go about our days? Remember that search engines exist. News sources exist. Statistics and data exist. I’m not certain at what point we decided that assuming information was better than actually seeking it out, but it is a bit disheartening (not to mention incredibly difficult to formulate an argument).  For the sake of it, and because I like to argue, I’ll just break down each of the above six points with six better points.

1.     It is true that the gender pay gap is becoming smaller; HOWEVER, it still exists. In 1963, women made 59 cents to every dollar a man made. In 2013, women made 78 cents to every dollar a man made. Yes, this is progress, but we have begun to stagnate over the past two years, and are not making as much progress as we should be (which is making a dollar to every dollar, simple, right?).

2.     Someone at UC Irvine put together a “male privilege checklist,” which mimics the famous “white privilege” essay written by Peggy McIntosh (who I had the incredible opportunity of meeting last year at Gonzaga). You can access the document above, and I think that is all I will say for this point. Privilege is very alive today.

3.     A while ago, I stumbled upon this brilliant New York Times article that highlighted what unemployed Americans did with their days. Check out this graphic that was put together, highlighting what 147 individuals, male and female, do every day. Fascinatingly enough, men spend about twice as much time sitting around watching TV and movies while women spend about twice as much time doing housework and caring for others. Does that seem lazy to you? I’m going to go ahead and assume not.

4.     I honestly do not know how to even approach this point, because it is so absurd and ridiculous. Women do not elect jobs because they know they will be paid less. Jillian Berman of Huffington Post, however, does understand how this came to be. She notes:

a.     “High-paying, traditionally male-dominated fields, like engineering and computer science, tend to be hostile places for women.”

b.     Women are driven away or discouraged from those fields as early as elementary school due to sexism.

c.      Fields that women gravitate toward are more often lower paying simply because they are seen as women’s work.

She continues, if you like, you can finish reading the article at the link above.

5.     Yes, it is a fact that women take time off of work due to pregnancy or the need to take care of children. What are the other options, though? The men certainly aren’t doing it. Women are ten times more likely than men to skip work in order to take care of their ill child. Let’s be reminded that the United States is the only industrialized nation that has not mandated paid maternity leave.

6.     The person making this statement clearly misunderstood what the pay gap means. In the simplest terms possible, you cannot compare a female convenience store employee to a male doctor. Obviously a doctor who has had many, many years of schooling will make more than a clerk at a gas station. Anyone can understand that. What you need to do is compare a female doctor to a male doctor. Here is an excerpt from a Forbes article: “Researchers from the University of Michigan Health System and Duke University found that among 800 physicians who received a highly competitive early career research grant, women earned an average of $12,194 less than men a year, when all other factors remained the same.” How do we explain that?

If by some crazy means, the people who posted the above comments on Facebook stumble upon this blog post, I hope they rescind their uneducated comments, especially the folks who claim “the statistics have been proven wrong over and over again.” I’m not certain what statistics they are looking at, but I’m going to go ahead and keep believing the New York Times, Huffington Post, Forbes… reputable news sources, so to say.

Now, this isn’t a ploy against men, some post aimed at docking all men’s pay or condemning them simply for being male—no. This is an outcry for the equality that, unfortunately, is still not present today, in 2015. This isn’t the Great Depression, this isn’t World War II era—this isn’t like any other era ever before in history. Face it: women have jobs. Women work. Women contribute to society. I think it’s about due time to acknowledge that. Ignorance will only carry you so far.

I’ll leave you with a quote.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu

 

Combat negativity by Kailee Haong

Some words for all of the horrible words I have been reading in my news feed

 

On police brutality, malicious attacks, and tragedy

It is a shame that we are still seeing so many cases like these. It saddens me to read news story after news story of deaths, injuries, and overall maltreatment toward human beings. But let’s talk about police brutality, first. We’ve dichotomized into two distinct factions here—the brute force, the “law is always right,” the uniforms, the conservatives, and then the youth, the troubled and trouble-making misfits, the liberals, the “be the changers.” I think we forget to take a step back and realize that we’re all human. Disregard race, gender, political background, income, origin, all of it. Humans, we’re humans, people. We’re skin covering 206 bones holding organs and life and 23 pairs of chromosomes. Here’s where I struggle with the issues of these police brutality cases. Let’s take this young teenage girl/pool party story that is the most recent (that I have been made aware of). Lesson one: don’t be disrespectful to police officers. Lesson two: there is absolutely no need to kneel on top of a girl about a third of your size. Lesson three: if you are asked by a police to leave, you should probably leave. Lesson four: there is no reason to scream profanities at children. The problem with cases like this is that dichotomy I mentioned earlier—nobody is willing to look at both sides. We’re stuck in this stubborn mindset that chimes “you’re right, everyone else is wrong!” and this is dangerously caustic to society.

Let’s take a moment to talk about framing (shout out to Kris Morehouse). Here are some headlines about the case I am discussing:

“Texas officer draws gun on black teens at pool party”

“Texas police officer suspended over pool party incident”

“Jarring image of police’s use of force at Texas pool party”

“Shocking video shows Texas police attacking black teens at pool party”

Do you see what a difference language makes in a headline? Can you see the difference between “police officer suspended” and “police attacking black teens”? No wonder people are so staunch in their beliefs if they are only reading ONE headline. Weren’t you ever told to fact check in school? When did the curiosity of mankind die? Don’t you ever crave to know the real story? Get more evidence, keep digging? Maybe that’s just me.

Back to the point. It saddens me to see these atrocities happen to human beings. I don’t know when we decided it was acceptable to treat our own kind like trash, but we certainly should cease that immediately. And this goes both ways—respect should be shown by both parties. Be a decent human being. Easy.

 

On Caitlyn Jenner, transphobia, and homophobia

Again, I am appalled by the terrible comments I have been reading about all three of the things listed above. Days ago, I saw a post from a news source (I don’t recall which) that included a video of some key figures in Seattle (I forget them now, I think the mayor) raising the pride flag in honor of June, the month of pride. I was saddened and disgusted after reading hundreds of comments about how “gay is a choice,” “a sin,” “an abomination,” “unnatural,” need I say more? Let’s revert to something I referred to in the beginning of this post. I’ll even make it really, really obvious. WE ARE ALL HUMAN BEINGS. I’m really not certain how I could be clearer about this point. Your faith or your background gives you absolutely NO moral grounds to judge another human being.  It is A-OK to have opinions, it is A-OK to disagree with things, but it is NOT A-OK to publicly shame, humiliate, or destroy another’s reputation because of your views. I repeat, you have no right to judge another human being. Live your own life, and stop worrying about everyone else’s. If you disagree with something, then disagree. Don’t post about it on Facebook, because your opinion is—get this—just that. It’s an opinion. It’s not right. It’s not wrong. It’s an opinion. Get over the fact that not everyone thinks like you. This is neither the time nor the place to be a bigoted, ignorant human, hating on the lives of other humans. Just love everybody, okay? It’s really not that hard.

More recently, Caitlyn Jenner has made her transformation into a woman and has received an alarming amount of backlash from society. It disheartens me, because we grow up with the mantra “be who you are,” constantly on a loop in our brains, but the second we try to do that, it’s suddenly wrong to be who you are? Why are we inculcating positive messages into our children’s brains and then, when the time comes, taking that freedom from them? When does it stop being okay to “be who you are”? I wasn’t aware that the saying had an expiration date, but it seems like it does today.

I’ve seen posts commending her for her immense courage and bravery, and I too commend you, Caitlyn. It takes an incredible amount of strength to be who you are in a society who falsely claims that it is accepting of all. I’ve seen a shocking amount of posts comparing Caitlyn Jenner to men and women in the armed forces, and this is just ridiculous. The two are completely different, and comparing a transgender person to a person in the military is both irrelevant and just a flat-out weak argument. You cannot say servicemen are courageous and Caitlyn is not. Courage and bravery are not limited to those in camouflage. If you disagree with her transition, that is fine—no one is forcing you to be pro-trans, but that does not mean it is okay to hate, make disgusting comments, or deny her bravery. That just shows cowardice on your own part. We’re all human beings. We need to support one another as such. Just because some are different than you, does not make them any less of a human. I absolutely loathe the color pink, but that does not mean I am going to walk around condemning anyone wearing pink—it’s no different.

 Society needs a wake up call. Someone to grab it by the shoulders and just shake the hate out of it. Hate has no place in our society, and I do not want my future children to live in a world in which they are afraid to be themselves. I’m going to leave this section with a quote I stumbled upon.

“Tolerance is a cheaper, low-grade parody of love. Tolerance is not a great virtue to aspire to. Love is much tougher and harder.” – N.T. Wright

From this point on, I will be removing people from my Facebook, my blog, etc. I will remove those filled with hatred and spite toward humans because I do not need a newsfeed filled with negativity. The world is an absolutely beautiful place if you open up your eyes to it. I see potential in society. I see potential in our youth. I aspire to help create a society that is accepting, that is loving and kind—I aspire to help create a society that is a harmonious conglomeration of human beings, relishing in the presence of other human beings. One last quote from one of my favorite artists:

“Admire as much as you can. Most people do not admire enough.” – Vincent van Gogh