Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Coming Out



The process of "coming out" as LGBT is an extremely personal act, but of course, in many countries around the world, including the United States, it is a political one as well.

My life would honestly be much easier if I just shut up about my sexuality. If I just stop talking about how much I liked girls, or grew my hair out to an "acceptable" length for a girl, or just stopped. And to be honest, I exhibit enough heteronormative traits to pass myself off as a straight woman (if I grew my hair out of course). But whenever I think about just making my life easier and pass myself off as someone straight, I remember myself in middle school, a scrawny 12-year-old girl with braces and headgear.

I remember being bullied for being that"lesbo" or "gay". I have had the words "fag" been thrown at me. I have had food thrown in my direction at the cafeteria, and I've been thrown against the wall while walking down the hallway. I remember feeling completely and utterly alone, not daring to tell my best friend or my parents what was going on at school. Because, in my mind, being that"lesbo" meant not having any friends or people who care about you. I remember wanting to die before I let anybody find out that I wanted to spend my life with another girl instead of a guy.

As I remember my experiences before I came out, I try to be as visible as I possibly can because I know from personal experience that I would have vastly appreciated (as someone who didn't even realize I was gay) to see someone like me own her sexuality and live life that was not in denial. I would have loved to see someone live without fear of judgment from others.

So a bit of advice for the young LGBT people out there, whether you have realized your own truth yet or not: your sexuality does not own you, nor does it define you. I'm 23 now, and I've been where you are right now. I remember being scared and calling my best friend in the middle of the night and telling her that I was gay while crying and (literally) shaking with fear of how she would react. The LGBT community is blessed with some of the most creative minds in the world, but we are also bankers, athletes, lawyers, doctors, scientist, farmers, and much more. LGBT people are everywhere, and we can be anyone.
So, at the end of the day, remember this: you can be anyone you want to be. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise based off of nothing but this one trait.

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

First Date



Let me tell you a story of a girl I once dated. Her name was Kristie, a part time gym instructor who worked at the gym that I went to every day. It was a date that I was definitely excited for; I found her attractive, and it seemed like she seemed nice, but apart from that, I knew nothing about her at all. For all I knew, she could be a horrible person, but again, she seemed like a pretty cool person. I texted her, and we agreed to have dinner at a local sports bar near campus.

The moment I got there, I realized that punctuality was a problem for her. Growing up, my parents taught me that punctuality was a sign of respect that you have for the people you were with. But at the end of the day, she was cute, and I figured that there was still potential for the date to lead into something that was fun for the both of us.

The moment she saw me, she immediately launched into a rant about how horrible her day at work was. This rant took a while, and set the tone for how the night went. It seemed as if she was pissed at everyone that day. I tried to be more positive, but it seemed like she wasn't about to settle down anytime soon. The conversation was by far one of the most awkward conversations I've ever been in.

While we were in the middle of pool, one of my friends texted me saying that her and her boyfriend were hanging out at another bar near campus, about 15 minutes from where we were. She asked me if I wanted to hang out. At this point, I figured that the date couldn't have gotten any worse, so I figured why not? I asked Kristie, and she said it was alright. I told her that if it was alright, I'd like to walk to the bar because I didn't want to take an Uber for a place that was so close. Kristie said it was alright, though I noticed a flicker of a scowl go over her face. I decided to ignore it, and thought I was just imagining things.

Anyway, we met with my friends, and decided to have a few drinks. Kristie seemed to still be in a pretty bad mood, and it was then that I decided to stop caring. This was a first date for crying out loud. If she didn't want to have fun, there was no point in me forcing her to have a good time.

While we were walking back, she told me that she was angry at me because first of all, I had made plans to meet with friends even though we were on a date. I responded with that was why I asked for her permission to go, and when she agreed, I took her word for it that it was alright. There was no reason for me to doubt what she said. She responded that I should have known better in the first place and that it was rude. I didn't want to argue with her, and I thought that her preaching about manners was quite ironic in this situation. But I kept my mouth shut, deciding that silence was my best option considering the circumstances.

Secondly, she said that she was mad because I forced her to walk to the other bar. I told her that I asked about that too, and when she agreed, I also took that as the truth. I didn't really know her that well, and there was no reason for me to doubt what she said. She responds with I should've known she was tired from a day of work at the gym and I should have taken that into consideration. I kept my mouth shut at this point, mostly because I wanted the date to be over and get away, but also because I knew that arguing with her would serve no purpose. The only thought I had was how difficult this date turned out to be, and for someone that I've been out with for the first time, she was acting too much like a long term girlfriend. I felt annoyed and pissed off.

This whole experience made me so angry that I wanted to swear off dating completely for a while. If she was a representative for what college girls looked like, I figured that it would be best if I waited to get out of college so I could actually find someone mature. The date was less like a date and more like babysitting a bratty 7 year old. This taught me that physical appearance can only take you so far. At some point, personality will win over, and talking to someone who never stops complaining about their lives is just torturous. Maybe I would have had a better time if she had just stopped complaining and decided to actually come out and have a good time.

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Not Alone



I was single when I was introduced to Maddie in an LGBT networking event on campus. I was in the middle of studying for three back-to-back finals then, and she was a business graduate student. I noticed her immediately; she was tall, with long blond hair tied into a ponytail and bright blue eyes that appeared to light up the room. I stared at her from a safe distance, and after a lot of convincing from my friend (and maybe some liquid courage) I positioned myself in her space and after introductions, we gave each other our numbers.
I saw her again later that evening (or night rather, it was around 8 or 9 pm). The friend I went with had already started to head home. Being the only familiar person left, she walked up and we talked for a while. One thing seemed to lead to another, and pretty soon I heard myself (I felt like I was having an out of body experience) inviting her to my dorm.
 She smelled really nice, that much I could remember. Anything else I don't because apparently, I fell asleep while she was talking.
(I was cramming around 300 pages of tiny text every day. I swore I was just going to close my eyes for a few seconds.)
So anyway, long story short, I woke up to a bright morning light coming through the thin university-issue curtains, and I saw her sitting across from me on my black chair a few feet away from where I was lying on the couch. I immediately realized that I had fallen asleep, and I apologized while feeling extremely embarrassed. She smiled at me and told me she didn't mind. She said that she was glad that I didn't talk that much before falling asleep.
With anyone else, I would have laughed out loud because that sounded so cheesy, but somehow she managed to pull it off. I felt like I was falling in love with her already.
I asked her if I could make her anything to eat for breakfast. She said that it was already a little past lunchtime. I checked my watch and saw that it was already 1:30pm. My face turned a bright red. This whole situation was just so mortifying.
So we walked down to her car, and headed to Tyler Mall and grabbed lunch at one of the small restaurants there. She was extremely easygoing and really charming such that the whole date (was it a date?) passed by in a very comfortable and relaxed way. It was getting fairly late in the afternoon before I realized how much time had passed without me realizing. I told her that I needed to study for my classes because midterms were right around the corner, and she said that she understood. She drove me back to my dorm and hugged me goodbye.
On the way back to my dorm, she asked me quite bluntly if what had happened between us (or not happened) was a one time deal, or if I had wanted to see if I wanted to take our date to the next level. I didn't know what to say. I didn't how to explain how to explain that she was too good for me and that I didn't feel like I deserved her. Or that even though I thought she was amazing I didn't think I wanted anything more. She was amazing, but at the time, I wasn't ready for anybody to be in my life. And after getting to know her, I didn't want to lie to her and lead her on. I didn't want to be "that person" in her life who lied to her about what I was looking for in a relationship.
And for whatever reason, I told her all of that. She said she understood.
***
I saw her again about a year later during another event campus. As things would have it, we were both still single, and she was still as pretty as I had remembered. I asked her how she was doing, and she said that her friends had asked her to move to New York to start a small business with them. She had thought about it and decided it was worth a chance. I told her that I was happy for her, and I truly was. She deserved to be happy and achieve her dreams. We talked some more, and it was as if we were old friends who hadn't seen each other in a long time, not strangers who had one date and (almost) a one night stand.
She asked me if I had come with anyone. I said that I had come with a friend, but she had left. She met with someone that she knew from another event, and they had gone somewhere else. I told Maddie that I was alone at this event, which was kind of lame and pathetic. And she told me "Of course you're not alone. You're here, with me."
I smiled at her and forced myself to looked away. To this day I'll never know how she managed to pull off these cheesy lines.
It's been almost three years since I've met Maddie, but I never saw her again. But to me, she will always be that girl who reminded me that I was not alone.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

How I Failed at College But Aced at Learning

Titles can sometimes be deceiving: I did, in fact, successfully graduate from college and get a degree. One year earlier than I expected, but not with the academic record that I wanted.

Finals: a series of tests that collectively make up around two and a half weeks of hell on earth with a rather large portion of your final grade at stake. Screw up one of these tests, and you most likely will find yourself retaking this course during the next quarter.

Now that I am successfully applying to medical school and writing up my secondary applications, I thought I would give myself some time to reflect on why I believe that even though my GPA is abysmal compared to most other applicants to medical school, I still succeeded at learning.
I could go on and on about how science courses don't come easily to me, or if I applied myself more, I would have gotten a better grade. But I would like to tell everyone about a class that I did well in, academically at least -- an upper-level political science course. The professor was young, never assigned any homework, never took attendance, and admitted in our first day in class that reading the assigned book was pretty much useless. To this day, I couldn't honestly tell you if I loved her or hated her. But I'm getting off track here.

The responsibilities that a student had to take in order to pass the class were pretty basic: one group paper, a midterm, and a five-minute group presentation that counted as a final. I found people who I knew to be responsible, so in other words, no real room for error. For our midterm, we were not only allowed two pages worth of cheat sheets, but we were also allowed to work with a partner. It may sound too good to be true, but at the time, it felt like I had scored a gold mine.

After going through all the lecture slides, flipped through the "useless" book in the library (thus saving myself $150), I started copying down the main ideas on my cheat sheet. I didn't really understand all of the concepts that I was copying down or why some concepts were more important than others, but I knew for a fact that the question "why was this event important" would never be tested on for a grade. To be honest, I copied down the ideas and promptly forgot about them until test day.

But as I looked up my grades online, I had to take a moment to laugh to myself: even though I received an A in this course, I just failed. The only thing that made my grade was an ability to manipulate the system. I didn't know what I was doing for the majority of the course. I didn't know the importance of the various figures that were in the textbook. And I definitely would not have gotten an A without copying down the concepts.

This brings me back to the title of this post -- more often than not, the grade that we receive is not indicative of the amount of material that we learned. After I let this sink in, I realized that this is not the first time that this has happened. In fact, after talking to a few friends, I realized that this is a pretty common occurrence. We will sit in these huge lecture halls without paying attention to a word that the professor is saying until it's a week before finals. Then, we will finally crack open the assigned book and spend a few restless nights cramming the subject material as best we can.
This, of course, is not indicative of every course that I took in college. I took a second-semester organic chemistry course at my local community college where the professor was fantastic. I managed to pass the class, but it was only through daily practice and several sleepless nights that I managed to do so. There were no cheat sheets, you either knew the content or you didn't.

Sadly, for most classes, there are not many great professors -- at least not in my three-year experience. Which, then begs the question: is getting a college degree worth it? It just doesn't happen often. More often, there are professors who are tenured or land themselves as the head of their department and are then content with being a mediocre professor at best. I remember watching a Youtube video of a professor who was complaining (that's putting it in a very diplomatic way) about students in his class using the test bank provided by the college to land a good grade on his tests. He said that the students (who got these tests through a legitimate service provided by a department which was funded directly by the university) should be sent to the dean's office for academic dishonesty. I had to pause the video and take a moment to laugh at this man's ignorance. This man -- who's getting paid more than $100k a year to teach a few classes per week -- is complaining about having to work harder for his money whereas there are students who are honestly drowning in student loans.

So instead of using the sixty or so questions from the textbook (which I assume he didn't have to buy or even know how much it costs) he now has to choose between two options:
  • A) Actually coming up with a list of questions that he wrote on his own time using his "intelligence" as a professor
  • B) Continue using the test bank and be angry at students who know how to use the resources provided to them by the university
In my opinion, he can think what he wants, but the fact that these students know to use what resources are available to them shows a lot more character than his little temper tantrum.
This brings me back to this massive question that I have been asking myself for the past few years: what do grades mean anyway? This is a scary thought, especially since my parents had paid quite the pretty penny to send me through school. I keep thinking about all the money that went into renting me out a dorm room in college, and how that money essentially became wasted in the seemingly endless bureaucracy that clogs up our college experience.

I realize that my thoughts of choosing "pointless" classes that I feel will never help me in real life is a common experience amongst students across the United States. Sometimes I think (or maybe it's coming from being young and inexperienced) that I would have been better off majoring in something like Sociology or English, something that didn't require pure memorization or knowing how to work an equation. Sure, these majors are not as "competitive" in the workforce, but I know for a fact that I would have gotten a higher GPA if I had majored in a "soft" humanities subject.

Whenever I ask my mom about what the point of all these classes are, she simply tells me that loving what you do and doing what pays the bills are usually two completely separate things. Even though this is incredibly annoying, it's also an extremely accurate statement. As much as I hate to admit it, she was right. As controversial as this is, choosing a major that will get you a steady (or very good) job is typically more "useful" than studying something that you "love" but won't pay you a dime. That's not to say you shouldn't follow your passions, far from it. But the reality of graduation is this -- how will you survive in the real world when all hiring managers have to go on is a resume?

I know that this post most likely sounds like me complaining about how I should have done things differently when I was an undergrad (and a little bit of this post is). But I don't believe I am alone in the sense that I felt that the majority of the classes I took were of little consequence to me. I can't possibly be alone in thinking that just because someone has a higher GPA, it means that they are somehow better qualified for a job. I have met many people who are considered successful but don't have a fancy degree from an upscale university. Again: is having a degree worth it? Or is it just another piece of paper?

So what's the point of this rather long post? I guess my point is that my core belief of numbers (birth year, SAT scores, GPAs, etc) are not the full measure of ability, intelligence, or knowledge of subject material. Sure, they're a good measure of what you may have learned, but it's finite. I remember a class where I got low B's on all of the tests, but I went to class every day and got "extra credit" points just for being there. I ended up getting a high A based off nothing else but the "credit" in the class. So, what grade did I really deserve? I honestly couldn't tell you.

So the next time you look at a B grade (or lower), ask something of yourself: is it better to receive an A and walk out remembering next to nothing or receive that B and walk away having learned something? If you ask me, I would rather have had learned something than get a "good" grade and remember next to nothing about my class.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

The Masks That We Wear


I was in a club in West Hollywood with my friend Allison, looking down from a balcony at the large group of people dancing on the main floor. Allison was not in a good mood, mainly because her boss was giving her a hard time. When she was in a bad mood, she tended to rant.

"Look at them. It's so gross."
Raising my eyebrows, I looked at her and asked, "What do you mean?"
"Everyone is fake. They're all just pretending down there."
"Pretending? I still don't understand."

"Fake. Pretentious. Example: look at that dude over there." She pointed at a guy wearing a thin tie dancing on a table on the right side of the dance floor. "I'm pretty sure when it's not the weekend, he's hauling ass at a minimum wage job who probably had to save up a week's worth of money just to afford to be in here. But look at him! He acts like he's the coolest guy in here. It's just so annoying."

"I'm sure he just wants to have fun. Besides, we don't know his history."

"Of course he isn't. Just look at him. That annoying posture. That fake swagger. He acts like he's a gift from God."
  
I didn't really know how to respond, so I decided to keep quiet. 
"Look, here's my theory. A lot of people who act cool, composed, and perfect, both here and on social media tend to be such losers out in the real world."
She now had my full attention. I looked at her seriously this time, trying to see if she actually believed what she was saying.
"That's what frustrates me so much. Why we wear the masks that we do."
"We all wear masks to some degree Ally. You should know that better than anyone else here. Hell, your job is to make people look better than they really are. I believe that you call that advertising or something. But here, in the real world, we would call that lying."
"Haha, Gina. I don't know how to respond to that because there is some truth. But here's the thing, it's one thing to wear a mask and know that it's not your true self, and really it's quite another when you start to believe your mask is the real thing."
"That's true. But the thing is, I think we all need to wear masks for our own reasons sometimes."

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Family


A few weeks ago I had dinner with a few friends, most of whom I haven't seen in a long while. To put into context: I used to see them at least once a week, and this time around I haven't seen them in a couple of months. I missed them very much. They were practically my family when I was in college.

 The idea of what a family means has always been interesting, in the sense that it implies so much: love and responsibility, affection towards one another. Parents. Perhaps children. And we hold the ideal of a family like a shield against everything else; that is to say, we assume that family members are not capable of hating one another, or not be responsible, or that it requires two parents instead of just one, right along a lot of other notions that we associate with the word "family". So many people are surprised, or even angry, when a family does not resemble their ideals. A family is supposed to look like this you say, because families just are supposed to be like this. People say this as if all families are supposed to be cut from the same cloth. People say this like families cannot be as different as the people who make them.
But what about the other kinds of families? The families that you create when the one that you were born into are too busy, or just don't care to spend time. The standards that we place aren't the same, because they're not our real family. But what does a real family  mean?

For many people who are naturally inclined for something else, and being pressured by society to be similar to everyone around them, they are chained, and rebel because they feel as if they have no choice in the matter. Some people are quiet about it, fearing the consequences of being different. Some do it loudly, putting a finger out to what the world may think about them. And there are those who choose to simply live, and hope that no one bothers them and they can be left in peace.
In a sense, we are all different (hopefully not in fundamental qualities like love or a capacity to care for others) because of the lives we live. Many of us have an ideal of what the term family means, but what reality is tends to fall short of the ideals most people set forth. It's the same with everything in life, I think. We start out with an ideal, and when reality sets in it always surprises us when the person or object that we idealized falls short of our expectations.

When I was growing up, I always felt like there was something different about me. I couldn't put a finger on what it was, but I always thought that I needed to fit in to whatever image other people expected me to be. I was taller than many of my peers growing up, so I hadto play a sport. I was a girl, so I hadto be attracted to guys. I was Asian, so I hadto do better at school so my mom could tell other families in the neighborhood my grades. All these chains that held me down chafed at me, and the endless barrage of what was expected of me morphed into resentment towards my parents, some drinking problems, a sense of having to prove myself to the world, and a lot of anger. All these expectations and the feeling of never living up to what my parents wanted led me to seek approval in all the wrong places.
  
But who knows where I would be if these expectations weren't there in the first place.
Tying all this back to what a family means, it blows my mind that we put so much pressure both on ourselves and on each other to fit an ideal that we made up in our heads of what a "family" means. This isn't to say that there's something wrong with a family that does fit the traditional ideals of being loving and compassionate to each other; all I'm saying is that if we broaden our minds a bit, maybe we can at least believe to a degree that all a real family needs is to be loving and caring towards one another. Maybe nothing else is needed. In other words, why should the concept of a family be tied down to a few superficial standards?

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

This Way, Not That: A Letter to My Mom


I remember sitting in the car with you, and you were talking about my future, and how you wanted me to be this way, not that. What you meant by these phrases, you never fully explained, but I remember you putting your point across by flipping your hand back and forth. And that flip-flop of your hand spoke louder than words to me, because in that one clumsy gesture with the flick of your wrist, you summarized to me what it meant to be gay.

And I remember feeling awful for both of us, and how difficult it must have been for you to even broach this subject considering the fact that you couldn't even say the word out loud. So instead of saying it, you flipped your hand over and over again, knowing that I would know what you were talking about, because I knew where you were going with this conversation, and because I knew your daughter.

Maybe you couldn't say the word out loud because saying them would make it true. And I know that to this day, you want so much for the opposite to be true. Maybe you regret ever bringing the topic up in the first place, like ignoring the problem would have kept the issue away.

I also remember not knowing what to say, or whether or not I should lie to you, someone that I've never lied to before.

So I decided to say nothing. As you were talking, I wanted to hold your hand and say to you that your daughter would turn out to be more than just okay, she is a caring, decent, thoughtful human who is in the process of possibly becoming a fine adult, and that this, the word that you couldn't even make yourself say, it doesn't matter because it shouldn't matter. In the grand scheme of things, it is a defining attribute but is also the least important attribute your daughter has been blessed with.

And I also wanted to say that I know you are worried about her because she lives in a society where there are people who would think of her as abnormal and weird, for something that she has no control over and that differentiates her from the majority of the population. And that worry you have only comes from your love, but that it doesn't change the fact that your daughter would rather have you support her because, at the end of it all, it is only when she accepts herself for who she is, and when the people she loves accepts her, will she be truly happy with her life.

And I wanted to say that you did not make a mistake with parenting, that you did not do something "wrong" to make your daughter feel "that way" about girls, and that she is simply who she is.

But instead, I remained silent. Because, to this day, you would rather believe a lie than to hear the truth about your own child. Your only child.

And so we continue to live our lives, my thoughts a blur, you in your seat worrying what you did wrong to make your daughter go "wrong". Yes, the world can be a terrifying place to live in, but it is even more so when the people who claim to love you the most are the first to reject you for the person you are.