Life Update: Graduation+
Along with the happy news I’ll be sharing in this update, I will also be touching on some heavier subject matter. I enjoy reading lengthy blog posts so I hope some of you do as well. I haven’t opened up on my blog for a long time so… here it goes.
First of all, I graduated from university a few days ago! It doesn’t even feel like it actually happened or like it was real at all. That’s probably because I’m still taking two summer courses so I haven’t had time to breath and let it sink in. Once I finish those summer classes and the prospect of never having to take another course towards my Bachelor’s Degree becomes real, then I will probably start feeling like a proper graduate. Graduating is bittersweet. I love reading, learning, and academia. I’ve learnt a lot during these past years and the experiences I’ve had have changed my life forever. Thanks to the cultural and historical context I grew up in, getting a bachelor’s degree was always seen as a given. It is expected that every young person should graduate from university and if they don’t then it means they are lazy or a failure. It is generally seen as the most socially accepted path and it’s usually considered shameful or embarrassing when someone strays from the expected 4-year timeframe. Well let me tell you, it took me a heck of a long time to get my bachelor’s degree. It was not easy being the oldest person in class during my last two years at uni. Spending so much time as an undergrad allowed me to learn a lot about the changing student climate. There are a lot of people in my position, students who for one reason or another have not been able to complete their degree as quickly as the thought they would. Some of them drop out and never finish their degree. Others return months or even years later. There are a lot of unfortunate situations that could happen to you at any given time. Everyone has circumstances that no one knows about. There is definitely an air of condescendence and judgement emanating from fellow peers and even school officials towards students who have lagged behind. Struggles are nothing to be ashamed of, you should always feel proud of having overcome them. Of course I cannot lump everyone into the same category. I will be forever grateful to some special individuals who helped me along the way: my family and friends as well as some faculty members, school officials, and even people who are no longer part of my life. I fear that this post may start sounding like a cheesy motivational pep talk so I won’t explicitly say “Don’t give up!” (although that is what I mean to say.) Learn from every single experience and don’t be paralyzed by regret. If it is a good experience, let it be a motivator– a reminder of how great life can be. If it’s bad then let it remind you of how strong you are and what you can overcome.
I also want to take this opportunity to address a subject you are all probably aware of– the recent Orlando shooting. I realize that readers don’t browse this type of blog to read about such things. This is a place where people come looking for entertainment, inspiration or escapism (I’ve seen such comments from readers before.) However, I think it’s important to remember that we don’t live in a vacuum or a bubble. Racism, xenophobia, and prejudice are present in our everyday lives and it’s our responsibility not to turn a blind eye. I know that many different people from around the globe stumble upon my blog every week so I will take the opportunity to use this platform to share my thoughts on the subject. A tribute to the victims of the Orlando shooting and members of the LGBTTQ+ community was conducted during my graduation ceremony. It was met with support and respect by many people, but also with irreverence and dismissiveness by others. Students where joking around and throwing around beach balls while the tragedy was being discussed. And some individuals even mentioned how shameful it was that we had to “talk about sad things” during a graduation. I found that shocking and selfish. It’s an insult to the LGBTTQ+ community as well as the Latino community. We cannot go on about our lives as if these things never happened. It was even more surprising to me considering the majority of people in attendance were Puerto Ricans. According to the data available at the time of writing this, 25 out of the 49 fatal victims in the Orlando shooting were Puerto Rican (the massacre occurred during Latin night). As some of you may know, I am half Puerto Rican (on my mother’s side) born and raised in Puerto Rico. Seeing as this tragedy hit so close to home, I’ve been hearing a lot of disconcerting opinions about it every single day. I won’t even begin to touch on the subject of some of those comments (Such as the need for people to protect themselves from guns with guns or that the club should have had better security. Really?!) I just want to remind everyone that these are not isolated incidents. We should not be trying to place blame or find explanations in symptoms. It is necessary to tackle causes. Violence, homophobia, intolerance, and racism are a huge problem. You might not experience it personally or contribute to it knowingly, but it is there. I am lucky enough to never have experienced a hate crime or violence in my 24 years of life but I have been subject to microaggressions. These include feeling uncomfortable when speaking Spanish in public, being followed around in stores, being told I sound like Sofia Vergara (who is Colombian), being made aware of my accent, being complemented on my “good English” by surprised strangers, being refused service at bars, etc. Again, I am not generalizing my experience or the experience of other Latinos. I have had great experiences with people of different nationalities and have had great experiences in the United States. However, I have also seen and experienced insensitivity towards Puerto Ricans in the U.S. who, by the way, have been U.S. citizens for almost 100 years! (See the Jones Act from 1917.) I urge you to do whatever you can to fight against prejudice. If you are in a position of power and can influence or change legislations, please do so. If you are in a position of social leadership and can spread awareness on the subject, please do so. If you have no idea where to start, begin by eliminating microaggressive behavior and language from your day-to-day interactions as well as respectfully educating your friends, family, and peers about microaggressions and how they contribute to the normalization and institutionalization of prejudice. You can also visit the official Go Fund Me page and donate to help the victims of the Orlando shooting and their families. For additional concrete actions visit this website: 30 Gun Control Actions You Can Take Now. And remember, be supportive of the LGBTTQ+ community every day.
Finally, I want to address my absence (again). My laptop screen stopped working properly so I had to find an external monitor in order to get work done. I make most of my money online and I can’t make money if I can’t use my computer, but then I can’t fix my computer if I don’t have enough money. It’s a vicious cycle that has caused me a considerable amount of stress and discouragement. Aside from that, I was scheduled to have surgery (ambulatory, no big deal) this week but it had to be postponed until the last week of June. I’ve been spending a lot of time and energy on doctor’s appointments and getting lab work done. Summer has always been my favorite season to blog because of all the fun posts that can be themed around it. Lots of those will be coming your way in July when things have settled down a bit more for me (and when I’m done with summer school).
I will end this post on a positive note. I am really grateful for all the wonderful, intelligent, and tolerant people I have met throughout my life. I know my readers are great people and I thank you for your continued support. Remember to be kind to everyone and to always keep looking ahead.