Farewell, 2016—2017, Here I Come!

And another year ends. Truth be told, I’ve been looking forward to 2017 since I got the news about being chosen for the McNair Program, which is likely a sign that I’m a huge nerd. Luckily, y’all already knew that, right?

It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster since my last blog post, what with packing all of my stuff up and flying halfway around the world, swapping my summer wear for winter stuff, and figuring out my housing situation. I got an email from the school about maxing out my credits and losing my financial aid, and had to submit a petition to have my max enrollment pushed up, so that I can take these last few terms and complete the McNair program. I had a bit of a panic over it, but am very glad to say that it’s all been sorted out now.

Aside from the amazing opportunity that the McNair program offers in preparing for graduate school, I’m also excited for 2017 because I will finally be graduating, G-d willing. In the last year or so, I’ve gotten really tired of being an undergraduate student. I feel as though upper division courses, and graduate level courses especially, are more academically rigorous, and I’m really looking forward to that. I’ve been feeling frustrated and disappointed in lower division classes this past couple of years, wanting more out of them.

Along with this frustration, I also struggle with feelings of inadequacy. I’m glad to finally have solid goals and clarity on what I want to do with my life, long-term, but I struggle to avoid the trap plaguing many folks my age: the sense that I should have already been done with this part. I took a couple years off to work, and then changed my major a couple of times, and I’m finally going to be finished, which is a huge relief, but I still feel like I should be further along in life. Probably related to my ongoing battle with impostor syndrome; I am well aware that I will always be the first person to downplay my accomplishments. I’ve been working on combating this with various lists and such in my bullet journal, and I have two separate blog posts planned for next year to show y’all some of the tools I’ve been using; I hope you’ll check out those posts when they come out.

Overall, despite the losses and struggles I’ve faced this year, 2016 hasn’t been unkind to me. I don’t know how or why, but it felt less terrible and hard than 2015, and much less so than 2014. Perhaps it’s because I am used to my disability now, and have taken steps to protect and care for myself. Perhaps it’s the amazing healing I did in Ghana, and getting outside the US for a time. Perhaps it’s because I have a tangible set of goals for the next 12 months, and I know that I’ll be closing one chapter—my undergrad career—and preparing to open another in whichever graduate program accepts me.

Whatever the reason, I want to thank you, my beautiful community, for being there with and for me, throughout the year. I feel truly blessed to have you all in my life, and I wish for us all a 2017 at least as good as 2016 was to me. I wish you as loving and supportive a community as I have found. I wish us all the strength to accept grace from others, and to give grace to ourselves and our loved ones. I wish healing for the hurts and protection from the hateful. I wish us creative success and emotional uplift. I wish us peace and joy and a better world.

Happy new year.

Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: December Check-In & Year-End Review

Here ends my second year of Groundhog Day Resolutions. I feel like I’ve learned so much and done so much this year! In 3 days, I’ll be hopping on a plane to return to the US, and I’ll admit that I’m nowhere near ready. I wish so much I could stay here in Ghana. At the same time, I am very ready to finish my last three terms as a PSU undergrad, and graduate.

Three terms, what? Yep, I’m doing summer, too, because of some really amazing, brilliant news: I was chosen for the 2016 cohort of the McNair Scholars Program! Over the next two terms, I’ll learn skills and make connections that will help me get into a good graduate program and succeed in whatever program I go to. Over summer, I’ll complete a research project and write a journal article to submit for publication. I’m so relieved I got in, and so excited to start!

Getting into the McNair program makes going back a little less scary, and I’m looking forward to seeing and hugging so many people that I’ve missed the last few months. I also look forward to a more varied diet (lots of gluten here, not a lot of gluten-free), though I will miss fresh mango and pineapple.

I didn’t get to travel after my exams, because I couldn’t get the funds together. I also missed my last payment for my payment plan, and now have a registration hold and $100 late fee. If you can help me cover this last $341 of my tuition and fees, and pay for food and toiletries here and during my travels, please donate on Crowdrise.

The review is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: November Check-In

Just one month left here in Ghana. I’ve been trying to take it easy, especially since next week is the last week of classes, and then I have revision week and final exams. I have reading to go through, and prep for a last minute exam in one of my classes — the professor was gone and then things were pushed back, and so on, so we’re taking the 2nd midterm during our last class, and then we have a final in that class on the Sunday of revision week. It seems silly to me, but what can you do?

There’s been a bit of a stir here, since my last post: there was a big fight in my dorm after a white student used a racial slur against a Black student and spat on another Black student. It was all international students, and we ended up having a big forum with the International Programs office to talk about the incident and what would happen next. It was pretty stressful for a while, but life has mostly moved on. Now, however, a lot of folks are feeling very upset and lost after the US election results. (I wrote a piece on Medium about my own feelings towards the election, which you can read here.) There’s a lot of disappointment and frustration, and some fear. The US still impacts so much of our lives here, and soon we’ll be headed back. Honestly, I have pretty mixed feelings about it. (More on that here.) I wish I could stay longer.

Since my exams are all frontloaded, I’m planning to spend the last two weeks I’m here travelling, funds allowing. I’d like to visit Kumasi, Mole, and the Volta Region, and I’m not sure how realistic that is, but I’m going to try to do at least one. If you can help me cover the last $341 of my tuition and fees, pay for food and toiletries, and support me in visiting other parts of Ghana before I have to leave, please donate on Crowdrise. I’ve received so much support, and I’m so grateful for everyone helping me. This has been an amazing experience — thank you.

Review post, as always, is below the cut.

 

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Fewer Days Left Than Past: Mid-Trip Musings

I’ve been feeling a little melancholy this weekend. It’s a combination of things like feeling as though I’m a boring person for not going out and travelling around Ghana more, worrying that I might be missing out on a lot of fun of travelling by focusing on studying, worrying about how little time is left in the semester, and feeling shamed by dudes here regarding my reticence to befriend men. That last is one I’m fighting with myself over: the way some of the guys have treated me is actually not okay, and they’re not entitled to my friendship or time. Still, I feel like I’m being rude or something. A guy flagged me down to chat the other day, and asked for my room number (but not my name, which is kind of rude). He said he saw me and liked my personality (which is just ????) so he wanted to be my friend — which is the exact same way a few other guys have approached me, and definitely does not make me want to be friends with them. One of the guys who cleans the hostel here has more than once tried to talk me into buying him food (order me, actually), despite the fact that we rarely talk much and don’t really know each other. Plus, there are a couple guys who’ve straight up proposed to me within minutes of meeting me. Some people have told me this is a joke, and some people have told me that it’s not, that they actually hope to marry an American for citizenship. Honestly, these dudes are exhausting me, and making me want to stay in my room.

I actually feel guilty for spending so much time alone in my room, which is probably pretty irrational — it’s my right to do what I want with my time. I just can’t shake the feeling that I’m “wasting” this opportunity. Many of the other students arrange trips every weekend and go out every other night, and — even though trying to do homework on trips stresses me out and I don’t actually really like drinking or hanging out at bars — I feel like that’s something I should be doing to get “the most” out of my time here. (Now that I’ve written that out, it actually sounds even sillier than it does in my head.) I’m enjoying my time here, and I have made  friends with some Ghanaian students and with some women who work in the Night Market and one of my TAs. I’ve learned how to navigate an entirely different university, and I’ve been on tours, and gone to beaches, and those experiences aren’t less valuable for having been planned by my study abroad program.

I do wish I could stay, though. There’s so much I’d like to see, but I don’t have time to do it, since I have classes and homework. I’d love to go back to Kakum National Park to just sit in the forest for a while. I’d love to go to the Volta region and visit the falls there. I’d love to tour the palace and explore Kumasi. I just don’t have the time (or money, frankly) to do it. There’s one month until final exams start, and then I’m going back to the US. If I had more money, I’d stay 2 extra weeks here, after the semester ends. I will come back some day, though, and do all the things I wish I could do now.

Another reason I wish I could stay has to do with my health. Studies indicate that discrimination can strongly impact physical and mental health. Fibromyalgia is exacerbated by stress, leading to a rise in symptoms; this is why a lot of medical advice for treating fibro boils down to stress management. While living in Oregon, I find that periods of less stress lead to reduced symptoms, but I still need to keep my cane with me, as well as carrying “the kit” — a bag of health management tools for controlling fibromyalgia and diabetes symptoms. I can walk longer without getting tired, and I use my cane occasionally to help with my balance. Exposure to chemical scents, too much loud noise, a stressful event, or another trigger can render me unable to function within 20 minutes. During last fall term, I didn’t use my cane for the first two weeks of class, but soon found myself experiencing greater stress and needing to use my cane every day. In contrast, within 3 weeks of landing in Ghana, I stopped needing my cane at all. In fact, during the last 2 months (September and October), I can only recall needing my cane 4 days, even though I have had serious trouble finding scentless hand soap, and frequently encounter people wearing a lot of perfume. Living here the last 2 months has been almost like not having fibromyalgia; I would be lying if I said that wasn’t a nice feeling. In light of this, I’m honestly a little afraid of returning. I miss my friends and family, but at the same time I’m scared of going back to being in that much pain, being that tired, all the time.

Still, I have to go back to finish my degree and graduate. I know I have a beautiful, giving, loving community waiting for me, that I have friends and family who care for me and will listen to me rant and cry and reminisce and so much more, who will give me hugs and feed me and remind me that I have good things in my life back in the US. I can come back some day, and I can visit other places. I can go on with my life, and I will.

In the meantime, I’ll enjoy my time here, even if it’s mostly spent at my dorm, in my room: studying, reading, and recharging.

 

 

P.S.: I feel super self-conscious about always asking for money, but I still need to raise funds to cover school costs, food, and toiletries. Please donate to my Crowdrise, if you can, and share the link on social media to help me cover the next month and a half here in Ghana.

Other ways to support my semester abroad: CrowdriseZazzleBookSpoken Word AlbumPatreon

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: October Check-In

I can hardly believe the term is half over! Midterms this week and next, and a bit of melancholy about the time slipping away. Also struggling with motivation, and remembering why I don’t take many 300 level courses nowadays. It may seem contradictory, but the less challenging a course is the less motivation I can muster to study for it. I’m trying to make it easier to study, but I have trouble focusing in my room, and it’s hard to find a secure, comfortable spot to study: the chairs are really hard to sit in for long, and I can’t get up and go to the bathroom, etc., and leave my stuff out unless I’m studying in my room. This is an issue I’ve struggled with for a long time, though, and probably will keep struggling with for years to come. That’s life. I planned a couple pretty successful study groups with folks for the midterm I had this morning, and I think they really helped me and the other students out, so yay for that!

I’m feeling some anxiety about the university charges. The deadline to opt out of insurance for the term was Sunday, but it wouldn’t let me, and I’m thinking it’s because I’m not in the country right now, but it still makes me nervous about them charging me $900 I can’t afford right now. Additionally, my student account reflects that I paid my installment when it was due on Thursday, but it hasn’t come out of my bank account yet, and I hate when they do that. I get paranoid something else I forgot about will go through and then it will bounce or overdraw me and then the school will freak out. Poverty is basically the worst, and so stressful. On that note: I’m still raising funds (you can donate on Crowdrise) to cover the gap between my financial aid and my program costs (including food, toiletries, and $1,023 in tuition and fees). Please give and share, if you can.

The university here is very different than I’m used to. I’m struggling a bit to adjust, honestly, but there’s good and bad in it. Dance class is my favorite, and I really like my Twi instructor and my history professors, but some of my classes are causing a lot of difficulties for me. More on that in the review post, below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: September Check-In

Several days late, but only because the internet in the student housing I’m staying at completely stopped working last week. I bit the bullet and bought a personal wifi router, which includes free Facebook and Youtube until mid-October, and free internet between midnight and 5am, for about $30 USD.

I’m still raising funds (you can donate on Crowdrise or Patreon), to cover the gap between my financial aid and my program costs (including food, toiletries, and $1,023 in tuition and fees). I would much appreciate your support.

I’ve gotten a flurry of acceptances for poetry I’ve written, as a result of submitting a bunch of work in July. I’ve got poems in the latest issues of Words Dance and Wordgathering, and I’ve had a piece accepted for an upcoming anthology by Zoetic Press, and another by Hermeneutic Chaos. So, that’s all felt pretty nice.

I’m pretty well settled in here, and dealing with the ups and downs of life. I’ve also been grappling with my own loner tendencies and my course load. More details are in the review post, which is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: August Check-In

A day late, but full of good news and excitement! Despite my fears and stress, everything’s falling into place for my trip, and I’m feeling so excited and thankful and blessed. I’m still raising funds (you can support me on Crowdrise or Patreon, if you have cash to spare), but I’m now officially days out. Lovely friends have been housing me and helping me out, and I wouldn’t be 2 days from departure without y’all — thanks so much for all the love and support, really.

This month once again has no tracker photos, because those have basically fallen by the wayside with most of my stuff in storage and living out of backpacks. This month’s review is below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: July Check-In

Still fundraising for my trip (you can support me here), and prepping for that — just about a month left before I go. I am now homeless, staying with friends and living out of a duffel and backpack, which is making everything a bit harder and more complicated. This post is, as usual, late, but on purpose this time, because I wanted to finish up some work before I posted. (More on that below!)

I’ve also been struggling a lot with the recent highly publicized shootings of unarmed/unresisting Black people. I am well aware these happen all the time — US police are on pace to kill one unarmed Black person a day in 2016 — but if I let myself marinate in Black death all the time, I wouldn’t be able to function. Sad to say, but wilfully ignoring the violence is better for my health on the average day. I set aside time to do what work I can in the struggle for justice, including on the Fists Up OR/WA Facebook page, and try not to feel too guilty the rest of the time.

No GHDR Tracker Photos this time — moving has done a number on me and my organization. Should be back next month, though. Review below the cut.

 

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Groundhog Day 2016 Resolutions: June Check-In

Better late than never, eh? I have been so busy and stressed that this is the first time I’ve really had time and energy to work on this post. It was meant to go up on the 6th, of course, but that was finals week, and I had to crank out three papers, give a presentation in Spanish, and take a final exam — everything else was put on the backburner. Since then I’ve been frantically trying to get things together for my trip to Ghana. There’s so much for this trip I didn’t even think about. I’m giving myself serious adulting points for all of this — it’s a lot of work! Below are May’s points, and the Review post is below the cut.

 

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New piece up on Black Girl Dangerous + upcoming events

Yesterday, a piece I wrote went up on Black Girl Dangerous! You can read it here: Black, Woman, Traveler: Safer In Strange Places Than In the City Where I Live

Other exciting news:

On October 23, I’m participating in Intersections: An Evening of Storytelling About Identity, Community, Culture, and Pride. The event is 6:30-8pm, in Room 228, 1825 SW Broadway at Portland State University. It’s free, and open to the public.

October 28, I’m reading in the Tell It Slant Reading Series. We’ll be at the Alberta St Pub (1036 NE Alberta Street) starting at 7:30pm. $2 suggested donation. Venue is 21+ after 8pm.

I’m working on self-publishing a book of poems. It’s called Fallen/Forever Rising. I’ll post here when it’s done!

#BinderCon: Too Short, So Sweet

The first ever BinderCon is over, and I’m feeling so much about this experience.

For those who don’t know, BinderCon is more formally called Out of the Binders: Symposium on Women Writers Today,and it’s amazing. The weekend is a space for writers, agents, and editors—most of them women or gender non-conforming—to come together and support each other in getting published and in publishing.

There was so much that was affirming about this weekend: being in spaces filled overwhelmingly with other writers from marginalised communities, in-jokes, understanding, teaching and learning and sharing. Everyone I talked to was so kind and friendly and helpful. The volunteers were amazing, and the #BinderCon hashtag was constantly running with quotes, thoughts, and connections made.

The only hardships for me were related to limitations largely uncontrollable. Being new and run on a tight budget, only one meal was provided by the con, and that was a little hard to navigate, especially as a non-New Yorker. The workshops/panels happened in different buildings in disparate locations, and there was a lot of walking, made more difficult because of my lodging difficulties: I carried all of my luggage with me for the vast majority of the last three days, and my body is not happy with that, and I ended up missing both of the Sunday keynotes because of my pain and walking issues. The only explicit identity panels—one for/about trans folks and one for/about women of colour—happened in the same time slot at the very end, and I had to miss them to catch my flight.

Still, the space was great, overall. It’s so important for ppl facing marginalisations to have nourishing spaces like this one, where our identities, issues, and experiences are centred and discussed. I feel so loved and inspired from the last three days—I’m excited for all the writing I will do!

 

My question: do you have a nourishing space to go to for support? Can you find one? Maybe brainstorm where you could look for community that supports you in your needs

Let me know in the comments if you have a resource to share!

Where Did Nap Time Go? #Adulting

I miss nap time. It’s funny, because kids hate nap time. When we are young, we just want to play and run, and even though not napping makes us cranky, we still don’t want to lay down when there are so many other things we could be doing.

Now, I’m about a year away from graduating university, and I miss sleep. Somewhere along the way, I lost the ability to pull all-nighters (at about 23 years old, I suspect); now, if I get anything less than 7 hours of sleep, I’m exhausted and crusty in the morning, and slow all day long. I’m adjusting to this new normal, but I am also a bit of a workaholic, so I sometimes forget I can’t keep going, and then I spend the whole day really needing a nap.

But the thing that has made me feel like an adult more than any other milestone is travel.

The last two summers, I got scholarships to go to the Make Progress Summit in Washington DC, including travel and lodging costs. But since July, I’ve had cause to travel twice on my own, booking all of my own flight and lodging, and that feels like the crossover point, somehow.

When all the flight and hotel is taken care of, I just show up when and where I’m told, but when I book things myself, I have to think of timing and logistics and figure out all the little details myself, and pay for it all. Going through airport security makes me feel like a child: everything is so scary, and I keep waiting to be told that I’m in the wrong place, or that I’m doing something wrong. But booking things feels more responsible, more in control, and more adult.

I’ve been furiously calculating and re-calculating my funds for the weekend, trying to make sure my flight, hotel, and food are all covered. (Shameless plug: if you wanna help cover my costs so I don’t, you know, slip into a diabetic coma on the streets of New York City, you can do that here. I’d definitely appreciate the support.) I got scholarship to attend BinderCon, and I’m really excited to go, even as I’ve been stressing out about money and logistics.

There’s so much to think about for this trip. I’ll be missing a day of work. And I have so many variables and questions: How late can I leave to get there? If I leave for NY Thursday night and take the red-eye, it’s cheaper, but I can’t go to my hotel until after 3pm on Friday, and how will it be to wander NY on little sleep? Can I get coffee and see friends on Friday? How late can I leave on Sunday and still get home at a reasonable time? When will I get homework done? It makes me feel very grown up.

I don’t like it. I’m tired and cranky, and I want someone else to take care of me.

I vote we bring back nap time.