From Cupertino to Berkeley #6: Through hardships to the stars

from kimi no na wa

This written piece and chapter of my life is dedicated to Cara and Rainey — for without them, I would not be alive today :’)


Hello world. It’s been awhile — but if you’ve been keeping up, you’d know that I’m happy. Not only have I found happiness in this hopeless world, I’ve found love and purpose — two things that I feel are fundamental in the search for our truest selves.

In my last piece, I shared the story of my life: my upbringing, hardships, and circle of love. I’m finally at a point in my life where I am truly comfortable and happy with who I currently am — and I can’t wait to see where ‘taking it one step at a time’ will take me. I realize now that I have unlimited potential — because there’s never just one single path to anything that I may seek. The paths are everchanging — they change and bend with time.

Am I still scared about the future and the unwavering possibilities of failure? Hell fucking yeah. But now I know, that when those times come, I’ll not only be ready, but I’ll also be welcoming.


Your foot forward, their foot backwards

We’re entering week 5 here at Berkeley and shit — there’s just so much shit going on, both here and the world. I’m overwhelmed by the constant onslaught of political bullshit coupled with academic pressure, familial pressure, and self-imposed pressure.

After the protests, violence, and media coverage of what happened here, I needed a break. My sociology professor was kind and intelligent enough to press pause on our studies and turn our classroom into a town-hall esque discussion forum and allowed the students to freely vent their frustrations, worries, and fears about the current political climate.

Story after story, I listened. I caught myself crying after many of them — but I couldn’t piece together any thoughts. I felt as if I were directly taking on their pain through their stories, and I blanked out. That is, until I stepped out of the classroom to observe the demonstrations.

Everything seemed fine and looked to be dying down, so I headed home. But surprise, surprise — the actual shit went down when everything was ‘over’.

Destruction of public property, littering of the streets, assaulting of others.

Seeing this broke my heart as much as listening to others’ pains did.

Everything was just so backwards.

I knew that certain groups, like undocumented students, were terrified of what Milo had proclaimed to do.

I knew what the implications would be if Milo were continued to have a platform.

I knew that Milo is just as deserving of the literal shit that was thrown at Shkreli.

But still, my heart cried, for everyone.

A lot of times, we claim to have the higher moral ground in the battle for what’s right — but what happens when we act in similar ways to those that we claim to be fighting against?

As much as I’m glad that Milo was shut down by communal efforts here in Berkeley, I just can’t stand behind what seems to be a zero net gain approach.

In recent years, we ALL have perpetuated a culture around shutting down opposition to our ideals. Open-mindedness is now only half-assed and ends when confronted with any sort of friction. Whenever we voice our opinions, we are called snowflakes, pussies, liberal world-ruiners — and when they voice theirs’, they’re called fascists, racists, and scumbag world-walkers. And maybe we are those things. But I find it hard to believe that ‘half’ the population would be those things. But as we shut down others, we suppress their true feelings — and eventually, that harbored negativity explodes.

It’s kinda like when someone says something out of anger and they say, “I didn’t mean it” out of fear of backlash; but that’s the thing — they did. Those are their true feelings. Bottling that negativity never bodes well for anyone.

This is an unpopular viewpoint, but I believe that we should let the haters, well, hate. To be as hateful as they truly are. Why? Agency. Free will.

I believe agency is the most fundamental part of our human existence. Unfortunately, it allows the worst of us to be the most hateful creatures to ever walk this planet, but it also allows the best of us to stand up and fight for what we truly believe is right in this world.

But all we’ve done is trample on others’ agency. We suppress any opposition — their agency — we suppress the very thing that makes them human.

I know it’s a naive way of thinking, but I can’t wholeheartedly stand by a strategy that does not involve the collective solidarity of all people. In the end, you’ll end up with a zero net gain; you will have collectively lost as many battles as you have ‘won’ — essentially having no impact on change.

At the very least, I know change starts with every single one of us — so if we single anyone out, did we truly move forward as a society? Or did we step forward while leaving others behind, while telling ourselves that it was necessary in order to move forward from leaving others behind?


Hello again, youth empowerment

AND HUGE 180!

So, new year, new positions. Last month, I joined the District Council team of Interact D5170 as an advisor.

Coming from Cal Rotaract as a senior, I’ve always been the oldest grandpa of the bunch, but now with DC, I’m practically a baby. Every other advisor is like 50 years old. Just kidding. More like a billion years old.

Anyways, the dynamic is incredibly different. With Rotaract, I’m used to being the one in charge, the one in the driver’s seat, or the one making his voice heard. Now on DC, it’s more of a ghost position; I sit back, observe, and advise. This wouldn’t be too bad if I weren’t so invested in taking an active role in empowering the youth — so I felt like the odd one out for a few weeks.

Enter PWR — their Presidents’ Winter Retreat — where around 200 Interactors would gather at Walden West to strengthen their leadership skills and foster their untapped potential.

I had no expectations coming into PWR because, well, I wasn’t really told much about it. I never did any Interact events in high school besides the organic service events so when it came to district-wide events like this, I was ignorant.

Not having expectations is good so I don’t trip over anything, but it left me feeling very…unattached. For the first half of day one (technically day two for us), I didn’t feel like I was connecting.

Our Berkeley Stayover event is very dear to me because it enables us to be with the Interactors on a one-to-one level. We do our best to show the kids what they have yet to see within themselves — and so in a way, they are there to improve their very core. PWR on the other hand, feels more like a collective effort to become inspired. It’s less about finding themselves and more about finding support and inspiration for their aspirations. Almost like little things vs big picture things. The different dynamic lost a lot of the intimacy for me.

As the day went on, I noticed more and more stragglers on their own. I was observing from the mezzanine and recognized one of the Interactors since I often saw them on their own. I decided to walk down and start a conversation with them, but on my way down, I was given word that another Interactor was in need of, well, a friend.

There was an Interactor that felt like an odd duckling and decided to remove herself from the activities. I was told that she felt perhaps homesick and was going through some existential crises. I ran outside the lodge, skipped on my cute ass, and sat down next to her.

I get it. Interact culture can be quite…overwhelming. It’s filled with positivity and often disregards negativity in its pursuit to inspire. Like many other groups that aim to inspire, you are told to “be yourself” or to “believe in yourself” — when you barely even know yourself. You’re practically forced to put up a facade to conform to something that will get you ahead or on the same playing field as your peers. But you know deep down that that just isn’t you.

As good as community service and leadership can be, I’ve seen the disingenuous dynamic countless times. A lot of times, people in leadership positions will be so focused on the bigger picture, that they forget the little things that helped them become who they are and get to where they are. The people that support them. The gestures from their loved ones. The simple yet impactful reactions they will get from those they serve. What it truly means to serve their community.

The Interactor told me about how she would always be shot down for voicing a different opinion — and even ridiculed. As a strong, intelligent, and passionate Black female — it pained me to know that racial biases at play were a real possibility. She felt as if she didn’t have a voice — she had lost her feeling of agency.

This is one example of why it is so important that we do not suppress the thoughts or words of an individual — as it tramples on their sense of agency and plants the seeds of resentment.

I did my best to share my life’s story and to offer my wisdom on being silenced — as has always been the case in my family. We were told to stray away from giving advice in regards to suicide since we (advisors) were not officially trained in the matter; but as someone who went through similar heart-crushing crusades, I couldn’t stand idly by.

So I spoke. I listened. I cared. And I loved. With all my heart.

And I provided the comfort and reassurance that she needed to keep up the fight for herself — much like Cara and Rainey had done for me when I was dead-set on leaving this world.


After this interaction, I felt much more comfortable being at PWR and being an advisor. The fiery passion that I would bring to each Stayover sparked again in my one-to-one interactions that I had with that Interactor — I was home.

I also got to spend a lot of time with the other advisors — playing board games, making fun of Nicole, and sharing our unlimited wisdom on relationships with one of the DC kids.

But as always, seeing my favs grow fills me with such pride and joy — especially because I’ve played some sort of role in helping them realize their potential.

So here’s what I saw from three of them this past weekend.

Misaki

I’m pretty sure I have a soft spot for Misaki; when I met her, she was quite lost, just like I was prior to meeting her. My simple gesture to be there for her carried a lot of weight and I believe it inspired her to fight for herself.

At FLC, tears flowed down my adorable cheeks as I was screaming and cheering for my fav, Misaki, as she gave her speech about her international project in front of a crowd of FOUR FUCKING THOUSAND PEOPLE!!

Since then, I’ve seen her work tirelessly to prove the scornful doubters wrong — that Syrian refugees are human and deserve to be loved. Post after post, effort after effort, project after project — y’all have no idea how happy and proud I am to see her work and passion shine during the darkest parts of our timeline.

At PWR, as usual, she didn’t cease to amaze me. She’s always presented with such odd obstacles, but every single time, she finds a way to effortlessly adapt to any shortcomings and shine as the most intelligent, beautiful, and independent person that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting.

Sometimes I worry because since I often tell her that I’m proud of her, that perhaps my words carry little weight. But I truly am proud and couldn’t possibly be prouder — she deserves the absolute best, and well, that’s why I’m here hehe.

I may have inspired Misaki, but she’s inspired me to be the absolute best I can be — and has proved to me that no challenge is too big of a challenge to take on.

Konoha, bitches.

Jessy

Like Misaki, I met her at CBRS last Spring. After becoming the outreach coordinator, she would be one of the main liaisons between us at Cal Rotaract and the district — meaning I would get to see her for two more semesters of Stayovers.

When we met again at Fall CBRS, luckily enough, she was in my group. It had been quite awhile since we had talked, but as we were walking to our dinner location, she took some time to talk to me about how she felt about her life. She was telling me about how happy she felt — and how content she was with who she had become and where she was currently in life. As someone that has made that the cornerstone of my life, seeing her so happy and comfortable with herself melted my heart.

And shit, her college essays were absolutely KILLER.

Just by looking at the passion and dedication she brings to events like Stayover, I can wholeheartedly say that she deserves the absolute best going forward. I’ve worked with many people in my service career, but never have I seen things done so effectively and efficiently — get your shit together, Berkeley kids.

At PWR, during their town-hall panel, she showed her self-confidence, self-acceptance, and self-advocacy through her answers. I had to get off my ass and stand up while listening to her and boy I’m getting repetitive but I was SO DAMN PROUD!! I truly am so happy for all of my favs that are struggling and growing through these dark times — and I’m appreciative of the opportunity to be able to go through it with them.

Jessy referred to me as one of the few Rotaractors that had genuinely impacted her — because I allow myself to be emotionally vulnerable and I take the time to connect with them outside of the events. Comments like these are very reassuring to me, as I never really know how to gauge my relevance and helpfulness to the youth — but when she says things like this and tells me how glad she is that I’ve become an advisor, I’m filled with indescribable happiness and feelings of fulfillment that inspire me to keep pushing forward.

Victoria

When I found out I’d be joining the DC team, my friend Jocelyn told me that I just HAD to get to know Victoria, our lieutenant geezy. I low-key rolled my eyes but then she said that Victoria is super genuine — and I was like shit, okie! Finding something genuine has been my personal adventure for over a year now — and I’m so glad that I found Victoria.

I sat down next to her during our second meeting expecting a conversation, but I didn’t expect her to flat-out ask me, “so, Kevin. Tell me your life’s story.” Shit mang I’m all about embracing the unexpected but that was almost too unexpected. I cutely scrambled embarrassingly for about a minute or two to gather my thoughts and ended up giving a pretty nice tl;dr version of my heart to heart piece.

She listened to my story and told me something that really struck a chord:

“You don’t do things for the sole purpose of inspiring others; it’s just something that comes naturally to you.”

As my life has now become about “finding something genuine”, hearing from another genuine person that the things that make me proud of myself are in fact genuine — is reassuring.

At PWR, I wanted to focus my attention on one of the DC members — and I ended up choosing Victoria and shadowing her the entire day.

I got to hear more and more about her self-doubts, her worries, and her aspirations going into PWR — and I was reminded of how I would be whenever it was Stayover season. I had only talked to her a little bit, but seeing her most genuine heart and personality was enough for me to believe in the best of her.

And as expected, she did her best. She overcame her worries, her self-doubts, and did good by her aspirations. As the day went on, I watched as she carefully took my advice and relayed it to the rest of her team, and executed her duties as lieutenant governor flawlessly. I watched as she kept a close eye on the rest of her team, caring for them at every step.

I made sure to tell her how proud I was to see her put her best foot forward — and to continue to fight for those she cares about.

I’ve grown quite fond of her in this short amount of time, but I am so glad that I decided to become an advisor because I get to meet genuine hearts like Victoria.

And now when I think of failing in the future, I embrace it, knowing that she would say,

“Everything will be okay.”

Though it’s only been a few months, my life has been quite eventful. I’m still in love with myself, I’m still doing my best to empower the youth, and I’m still doing my best to improve and be the best that I can be.

I’ve also fallen in love for the first time in two years — and I’ve been so much happier in my day-to-day activities.

I’m hitting the gym every morning with my best friends and the boobs have been coming in quite nicely and I’m quite proud with my progress :)

I know that as my list of favs grows, that they may feel less special in some sort of way. But to me, my favs mean the whole world to me. They constantly heal the broken pieces of my heart and inspire me to keep searching for the next best version of myself. I love each of my favs as much as I love myself — I hope they know how special they really are cuz damn it ain’t easy to be regarded as kawaii kev’s fav :-)

After listening to my buddy Raymond speak at PWR and giving a shoutout to Stacy Johnson, I’m much more calm heading into the future, knowing that she’ll always be looking out for me from above. I miss her so much.

CBRS part three is coming up in two months, and I needa prep and improve as much as I can so that I’ll be ready for the next wave of hyper Interactors. I’ll also be speaking at City Hall for District 4 YAC’s AIM event — and I hope that I can be just as inspiring as I’ve been while at events like CBRS.

So yeah, I’ve found love. I’ve found purpose. And with them, happiness.

Thank you for believing in me and loving me on this everchanging path.

I’ll protect their smiles with all my heart —you can count on this cutie.


If you haven’t already, you can listen to my first track, “Circle of Love”, dedicated to our community project, on my SoundCloud here.

fin.