the comeback kid

Update: I’m not dead.

Not yet, anyway.

PSX_20190529_202340

May 2019. Burnaby, BC, Canada.

I’m going to be real for a moment with you, internet.

There were many moments between August 2016 and now when I wished I was dead. I can honestly say that I was not prepared for the emotional and mental gymnastics university would toss my way, not to mention all that has occurred in my personal life.

Despite that, I’m still here.

Having the gift of hindsight, I would still say it was all worth it.

Here are some things I’ve accomplished while I’ve neglected this poor ol’ blog:

  • [Fall 2016] I volunteer for my first academic conference, New Ways of Analyzing Variation 45. It establishes a firm foundation for my sociolinguistic interests. I meet grad students and professors that I stay in touch with all the years I’m at SFU.
  • [Fall 2017] Syntax emerges as a primary interest in my major. I think about further research as well as grad school, and contact former professors for advice.
  • [Summer 2018] I take on a directed research semester at my university’s syntax lab, analyzing data and literature from graduate students regarding whether or not people find singular ‘they’ to be grammatical, and why.
  • [Summer 2018] I am selected for my first academic fellowship, which helps me gain desired experience in library work, and prepares me for graduate level challenges.
  • [Spring 2019] I am offered a place in the MS Library and Information Science program at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, my first choice.
  • [Spring 2019] I graduate with my BA in Linguistics from Simon Fraser University. (The ceremony is in two days.)

syntax

May 2018. Vancouver, BC, Canada.

There were a great number of challenges in my time in Canada, which I won’t bother getting into here. I’d much prefer to focus on what’s gone right.

Overall, my university has been a truly fulfilling experience. I have made and maintained lots of fantastic connections with such beautiful human beings. I truly challenged myself in ways I might not have done, had I gone to another school.

There’s much more to be sorted out during the summer, but I can’t help but feel a sort of contentment about all I’ve done at SFU.

Growing up, I didn’t tend to finish what I started, but I know more now than when I was younger. I know what I want, I don’t give up as easily, and I work on managing my expectations and output when I have the energy to.

Let’s also not forget that I have been lucky to have heaps of support from many people in my life: supervisors, mentors, friends, family, professors, lovers here and gone. This story isn’t complete without acknowledging them, and the time and effort they dedicated to making my life easier. Some of us may be out of touch, but the impact you made still lingers. Thank you.

the best years

Childhood is often referred to as the leading candidate for Best Years of One’s Life, though a significant amount of us have different experiences. For better or worse, there are many things a person may get to explore as a kid that will not be accessible once adulthood is reached.

Perhaps the reverse is also true.

In adulthood, I feel that I have slightly more autonomy, even if there are still feelings of helplessness. Peeling off the layers of adulthood has been a challenging experience, and in my early thirties, and I am only just starting to suspect that I might have the hang of it.

20160617_095140
June 2016, the day before graduation. Seattle.

I have not updated this blog in over a year. In that year plus, the following events have occurred:

  • [Summer 2015] I worked two full-time jobs, and took on an independent study at my college.
  • [Fall 2015] The mobile game studio I’d been employed with for 4 years closed. After 9 years in the industry, I decided that would be my last job in games. I took the first part-time job I could find, with the goal of finishing college in mind.
  • [Winter 2015/16] I am granted early admission to my first choice university.
  • [Spring 2016] I graduate college.
  • [Summer 2016] I scramble like mad to ensure my place at the university.

During this time, I pushed myself to a great number of limits. A lot of them made me cry from a combination of exhaustion, frustration, and depression, but I managed to make it through. Full-time studies can be incredibly isolating, especially when living near the centre of a larger city.

IMG_3573
March 2016. Montreal. Photo by Marisa Parisella.

I have had to ask myself a few times why I pushed so hard. I came to a couple of conclusions:

  • I did not think I would live beyond age 30. When I turned 31 last summer, I arrived at what one might call an ‘oh shit’ moment. ‘Oh shit, I’m not dead after all. What do I do?’ I made some plans, and pledged to revisit my progress every so often, so long as I wasn’t dead.
  • I gained a bit more faith in myself and my abilities. I doubt this would have been possible without the support system I have in place, composed of chosen family and friends.

I turn 32 tomorrow. I tend to think about how things are going in life the most around birthdays, and each new year.

I am a late bloomer in several ways, so perhaps it makes sense that my thirty-first year felt like one of the best years of my life.

Untitledxx
July 2016. San Diego.

I learned incredible lessons on and off campus. Some days were hellish and unforgiving, but others were filled with laughter and gratitude. Overall, I found methods to keep myself motivated, and outlets in which to kvetch. It is my belief that in this life, both are very important.

If there’s any gift I could think to give to the childhood version of myself, it’s to keep working hard to make things better for the version of myself that remains, and for those I love, for as long as I can.

I’ve dwelled on it long enough, and I can finally say that it’s OK that I didn’t have a particularly fantastic childhood. The best years aren’t always on time.

on the diversity of black women

On Tuesday morning, I saw a striking image of Janelle Monáe (wiki) on For Harriet‘s Facebook page, promoting a new song of hers called ‘Yoga’. I wasn’t a huge fan of the song, but I found that image of her invaded my thoughts for a good chunk of the day.

In this image, Janelle stood against a kumquat-coloured wall, with her hair tied up, and her legs crossed. She wore a short black sport top with TOMBOY against it in bold, white lettering. She had hoop earrings on as well as a look that seemed to dare anyone to challenge her and be foolhardy enough to think they could win.

Tomboy. That word to me feels as though it gets most of its traction in whispers and private messages among trusted friends, and yet it was arguably the loudest element of the image. It took the breath out of me.

11015491_638274516272966_1739934684_n

It should perhaps come as no surprise that I find Black women incredibly powerful, intelligent, creative and autonomous. There are some out there in the world that I will carry love for my entire life. These are a few observations that I have made throughout my time on this planet. Even in times where I may not be able to see someone who resembles my colour out on the street, I can turn to the internet to see what’s on their minds.

It is difficult for me to recall a time when the internet wasn’t full of ire. There is much I pay attention to, especially when it comes to Black women, what their endeavours are, and how they are perceived by others.

It doesn’t look good: there is little to no wiggle room outside of expectations (sometimes developed by stereotypes), and commonly I see many transphobic, racist comments made about them should they strive to do a little living for themselves. They’re not allowed space for anger, anguish or much in the way of assembly without being considered suspicious. The assumption I see a great deal of is that women in general are supposed to be meek, feminine, and appealing to men — even via online comments in allegedly progressive communities!

Salt-N-Pepa.

I enjoyed growing up in the 90s, for the most part. I was exposed to a fair deal of music with Black women at the front, addressing issues of responsibility, sexual independence, and a general sense of women going out and doing their own thing. The songs were catchy, and carried important messages for me as a young lady. I was expressing myself very freely then as a tomboy, which I did not realise until later was rather a lucky thing.

MissyElliott

 

Missy Elliott by far was the most influential rapper of my teens. A talented writer and producer of many popular hip-hop / R&B tracks, Missy always appeared to have a heart of gold, and so much love for her fans, and artists that she was working with. Her videos have been amusing, bright and colourful, and quite often memorable.

Girls, girls / get that cash / if it’s 9 to 5 / or shakin’ your ass / ain’t no shame, ladies / do your thang / just make sure / you’re ahead of the game would often be sung with gusto whenever ‘Work It’ entered the song rotation in my library. Again, messages of women doing for themselves — at least, that’s how I saw it, in any case.

However, the late 90s is when it started: I began to notice the buzzing of judgments. Wouldn’t Missy be nice if she lost some weight? Wore a little something girly? I wondered why these images mattered more to the people talking about them than how incredible it was to observe a lady making it to the top and controlling her image.

Skin of Skunk Anansie (wiki). Not an R&B artist, but a remarkable musician nonetheless.

Don’t believe the judgments stop at music. This form of behaviour permeates virtually every form of media there is, as well as other fields. Serena Williams, a professional tennis player with several notable victories under her belt, is an example of a Black woman exceeding unexpectedly, and a receiver of various crap comments because her figure isn’t appealing to some straight men looking for eye candy in the tennis world. World class athletes are not exempt from this sort of harm, nor are those of different professions who brave the world as their authentic selves.

In adulthood, I have noticed that there’s loads of work to be done in checking one’s assumptions about what kind of person a Black woman might be, just based on her appearance. These are things battled with on a regular basis. This is absolutely a problem for feminine Black men as well as those who are of colour and fall outside of the binary; it’s almost as though the shaming is intended to magically change a person to suit another’s preferences somehow.

That is not how it works. Some harder conversations need to be taking place about the beauty in diversity among Black people (especially women), which should extend to remembering that each person has autonomy and is deserving of expressing it as they wish without the peanut gallery passing judgment without invitation, or inciting violence.

Respecting people who may differ from you is not a plea, and should not be treated as such. It is a demand.