Friday, June 30, 2017

#STOPPROFILING with truth


I am many things: a dog owner, a writer, someone with blue hair, a bisexual woman, Jewish, a picky eater, someone with depression and anxiety, a 6th generation Oregonian, etc. I make sure to surround myself with people who accept me and all my parts. Some of these identities, however, make me more susceptible to adversity and inequality. While these disadvantages are sometimes due to mere thoughtlessness, sometimes they come due to the systematic targeting of my communities. For instance, the LGBTQ community and those with mental illnesses have been profiled and targeted for years by tobacco companies, leading to higher prevalence rates in these communities.


The way advertising affects us has to do with the way our brains process external stimuli. Whether we realize it or not, everyone is sensitive to every piece of information in their environment. Our brains compile this information to form implicit memories, or memories that we can’t recall but that still influence the way we think and behave. Advertisements take advantage of our unknowing formation of implicit memories by flooding us with positive messages about specific products and brands. By advertising in “gay press” publications, hosting local “LGBT bar nights”, and participating in pride events, Big Tobacco has associated itself with a fun and healthy LGBTQ lifestyle. The fact that LGBTQ youths are nearly 2.5 times more likely to smoke than their straight peers is no coincidence: it’s the result of decades of profiling and targeting by the tobacco industry, designed to hook us on their products.


I don’t need to tell you why high smoking rates in any given community is a disadvantage. We’ve all seen the data showing that smoking leads to any number of health complications, and often, death. Society often puts the LGBTQ community at a disadvantage by not accepting us, who we love, our safety, protecting our healthcare and childcare rights and even our right to go to the bathroom. We are subject to higher rates of hatred, intolerance, and violence than our straight friends. As a result of this discrimination, depression and suicide rates are 3X higher in LGBTQ individuals. Tobacco companies target us because we are already vulnerable.



The LGBTQ community isn’t the only community targeted by Big Tobacco. As Tomi explains, tobacco companies also target black communities and low-income neighborhoods. That’s why we are bringing attention to  truth® to put an end to their targeting of our communities. truth’s #STOPPROFILING campaign shines a light on how the tobacco industry deliberately singles out communities that already face adversity and inequality with aggressive marketing tactics. Tobacco use is more than a health issue: it’s a social justice issue. Join us by calling out tobacco industry profiling as it happens by tagging @truthorange and #STOPPROFILING and enlist at truth.com to become more involved in local actions nationwide. Teen smoking may have reached an all-time low of 6% in 2016, but there’s still work to be done, especially in these communities.


Wednesday, June 28, 2017

NYC Pride 2017


Happy almost-last day of National Pride Month! I was so excited to be able to celebrate Pride this month in the very city in which the movement largely started. I even got to watch the parade just a couple blocks from The Stonewall Inn. The historical significance of my experience was hugely momentous for me.



I've been to pride celebrations before, but this was a whole new experience. For one, NYC Pride was much bigger than Seattle Pride. For another, going to Pride as someone who recognizes themselves as existing within the LGBTQ+ community is an entirely different experience than going as a perceived ally. When I went a couple years ago, I was in the middle of my "I'm committed to a man, why does it matter if I'm attracted to other genders?" phase, and didn't carve out space to truly be proud of the movement and what it's done in the last 50 or so years. Now that I've taken the time and energy to really get to know myself, acknowledging each and every person around me and their role in the fight for our rights was overwhelming. I saw so much love, so much self-love, so much PRIDE everywhere I looked. I'm not going to lie: seeing the love and support in this community moved me to tears several times during the day. We still have work to do, particularly in decolonizing the LGBTQ+ community and including the fight for rights beyond marriage equality in our agenda, but I couldn't help but admire how far those who've come before me have pushed. I wouldn't be able to write this post without the work, blood, sweat, tears, and passion of the people (especially the trans WOC) on whose backs the modern LGBTQ+ movement was built.


I'm still fairly new to the LGBTQ+ community. In many ways, I still don't feel like I belong. Sure, I've always known I don't just like men, but I have to admit that I've internalized a LOT of biphobia throughout my life that I didn't know about until I started thinking about outing myself to people. "Am I any less of a member of the LGBTQ+ community," I ask myself, "because I've only ever seriously dated men? How will I defend myself to those who think women my age kiss other women/femmes 'for the attention?' Do I look the part? Do I act the part? How can I bring someone other than a cis man home after setting that as the norm for myself? Will people think I'm going through a phase? AM I going through a phase?" 


I'm still working to unlearn many of these implicit biases (just as I'm working to unlearn all of my implicit biases). I keep reminding myself how lucky I am to have family and friends who supported me without question when I told them that I'm bisexual. I'm incredibly privileged to not have experienced discrimination based on my sexuality and to even have been allowed space to talk about myself and my experiences. As I move forward to learn more about my role in the LGBTQ+ community, I hope to use my privilege to the benefit of the rest of my community.



Wednesday, June 21, 2017

On Graduating


ICYMI: last week, I walked in my commencement ceremony 6 months after graduating from Seattle University. The weekend was filled with emotion. I found myself reflecting on my time in college and being incredibly nostalgic and hopeful. Since I thoroughly believe in being open on the internet and because I need an outlet to work through these thoughts and feelings, I figured I'd write a little something about what graduating meant to me. *TW* Suicide, depression, anxiety, and other themes of mental health.


I chose to attend Seattle University because of its small class sizes, amazing city location, and emphasis on social justice. I applied as an English major, but switched to Psychology at my freshman orientation weekend. I'd later add, then drop, a Spanish minor, and switch my Psychology degree to a bachelor of science. I chose Psychology because it was something I believed would help me better develop novel characters while still having real-world applications.


I learned a lot from Seattle University as an institution, both in the classroom and out. I quickly became involved in the Jewish Student Union and learned more about Judaism outside of Central Oregon and my family. I was having weekly (if not daily) panic attacks and severe depressive symptoms, and was forced to register with Disabilities Services, where I learned that religious institutions like Seattle University aren't legally required to follow the ADA. I became more and more invested in the field of Psychology. I learned what "divestment" means, and why it's so necessary for any institution that preaches social and environmental justice to divest. I started writing for and eventually was the president of the Seattle University chapter of Her Campus, which taught me so much of what I know about journalism. My professors taught me how to target and chase my dreams, and gave me a completely different outlook on life.


I learned a lot from my fellow students at Seattle University, too. I found and became close with some truly amazing people. I learned what it means to love and support the people in your life in ways that have lead to some of the most enriching relationships I've ever experienced. I'm lucky to have my friends, and I truly don't know where I'd be without them. They've supported me emotionally and physically, they've pushed me academically and as someone invested in social justice, and they've provided me with memories that I will treasure for the rest of my life. Even since I've moved to New York, my friends text and call me regularly so I can remain close to them. I'll never be able to express how grateful I am for every last one of the friends I made and, in a couple of cases, became closer to at Seattle University.


After years of being surrounded by the same people (with the exception of the year I spent in Spain, which is an entirely different story), I had the opportunity to surround myself with people who questioned and challenged me during my time at school. My professors, peers, and members of my community pushed me to recognize and utilize my privilege to help drive what I feel passionately about. I learned in academic, social, and community settings what social justice truly means and how I can be involved in it. I'm still learning and pushing myself every single day, which is work I feel good about doing.


Of course, the last 4 years haven't been all sunshine, and not just because Seattle is notoriously rainy. I was rejected from all 28 of the internships I applied for between my sophomore and junior years. I lost some friends, primarily due to my own irrational and unsupportive behavior. I went from being on the Dean's list to getting C's in my required classes. My mental health steadily declined to the point where I ended up in the hospital a couple times before being admitted for a week-long stay. I had to quit my job and my extracurriculars and start seeing the doctor and a group of therapists on a near-daily basis. I was dumped out-of-the-blue by the person I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with. I rocked some unfortunate haircuts. Nevertheless, I persisted.


Everyone goes through hard times. Everyone had obstacles that made getting through any given period of their lives difficult. Sometimes, we need to take a step back and work on something closer-to-home, putting the rest of our lives on hold or suspending a dream or 2. Sometimes, we need to push through. With the support of my friends, family, emotional support dog, most of my professors, my medical and therapeutic team, and my own damn self, I pushed through and graduated from Seattle University 2 quarters early. I accomplished a goal that I've had since I was a child despite struggling with chronic depression and an anxiety disorder. It's easy for me to beat myself up for the things I wish I'd done better during my time in college– I wish I'd treated my high school friends better after graduation! I wish I'd done less justifying and more working on the symptoms of my mental illness! I wish I'd graduated with Latin honors! I wish I'd fed myself better!– but I'm working really hard to be proud of myself for my accomplishments without leaning on why I didn't do better.






Thursday, June 8, 2017

What's in My Carry-On?


When I was packing for my trip to Vietnam, I realized that I can pack my carry-on bag with my eyes shut. I've been traveling since I was 13 days old. More recently, I get on a plane every couple months.
Apart from the basics (Phone, wallet, keys), this is what I pack with me when I fly.

1. Ear plugs: I don't sleep well on planes. I've tried medication, neck pillows, and just staying awake. Ear plugs, especially the ones I've linked to, keep the annoying plane noises at bay when I'm sitting there with my eyes shut for 1-3 hours. This is especially essential when I'm flying past 10 pm at the time of my destination. My big trick for beating (or at least minimizing) jet lag is adjusting to the time at your destination as soon as you get to the airport.
2. Eye mask: Similarly, my eye mask eliminates one more sense from being overloaded when I'm trying to relax.
3. A new book: So many (too many) airports don't offer free wifi, and I'm completely unwilling to shell out money for wifi on the plane. I love to read, so this free time without any distractions is the perfect time to do so.
4. A condensed snack: Airports and planes have notoriously overpriced yet low-quality food. No matter whether my flight is 30 minutes or 16 hours, I always bring a bar, some pretzels, and some almonds with me. These snacks help fill me up but don't take up too much space.
5. Phone charger: I mean... Duh.
6. Headphones: A girl's gotta listen to her podcasts somehow!
7. Ginger candy: Embarrassing fact: I get motion sick really easily. I don't actually throw up, but I get nauseated and dizzy and headache-y. Ginger is an easy and accessible way to soothe nausea. I like ginger gum or hard candies– they let me savor them a little longer. I don't know if the length of time the ginger is in my mouth affects how long my nausea is quelled, but the placebo effect sure does wonders.
8. A sweater: Why are planes always so cold?? If, for whatever reason, am not too cold, I can use this as a pillow.
9. Portable charger: Just in case I'm stuck on a plane or shuttle without outlets.
10. Lip moisturizer: Ever since I learned that most lip balms have an ingredient in them that make your lips drier, I've stuck to moisturizers that were intended to be used on other parts of your body. I've had this swivel stick for nearly two years, and it's not running out any time soon.
11. Computer (in my computer case): Anyone who knows me knows I love playing Sims. I don't have a lot of time to do this in my everyday life, so I totally take advantage of longer flights to get satisfy my Sims cravings.
12. My backpack (duh!): My grandparents got me this Kipling backpack when I graduated from high school. Seriously: invest in a nice backpack. I hate when people tell me to shell out a little more for something nice (I don't have $80 for a nice pair of boots! I only have $20 in my shopping budget– that's the problem!), but if you have the money, this is a great thing to invest in.
13. Journal: I went through 3 journals a year all through middle and high school. I've had a harder time keeping a journal in the last 5 years, but I know how beneficial it is for my mental health. Like reading, this is a great thing for me to do when I have the time and no distractions.
14. A pen: For journaling and other various writing needs.


Monday, June 5, 2017

Broke, Fabulous, & Traveling: Hue and Hoi An, Vietnam


Before reading this post, make sure you've read my first Vietnam Travel Diary
After spending the first couple days in Hanoi, we hopped on a flight down to Hue. 



We only spent one full day in Hue, but we made the most of the day by going to Hue's Imperial City. It was in the mid 90's all day, so had to make a couple coconut water stops.


Quick background: Vietnam started building the Imperial City in the 1300's. Since then, the buildings have been restored a number of times. The square used to house the emperor and extended members of the emperor's family.


We spent the most time touring the emperor's grandmother's and emperor's wife's mom's building. Every building had a very specific designated purpose.




The Perfume River passes through Hue. We had to cross it to get to the Imperial City, at which point I saw this rad dragon boat.


After our day in Hue, we took a bus (which had seats that fully reclined, AKA the dream) down to Hanoi. Along the way, we drove through the Marble Mountains (literally: part of the drive was a 15-minute tunnel). I caught this pic through the window of the bus.



Arguably the biggest attraction in Hanoi is the Ancient Town. If you follow me on Twitter, you know I took INSIDER Snapchat followers on a tour of the area. It used to be a port town and housed Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese families. During the day, these lanterns served as decoration. At night, they lit up the sky.






Thankfully, the weather cooled down a bit for the 3 days we were in Hanoi, thanks in part to 2 different rainstorms.


Hanoi is on the eastern coast of Vietnam. We got to go to the beach on one of our days in Hanoi. I was born and grew up on the Pacific Ocean. Every time I see it, I feel a little more at home.



Our last day in Hanoi, we rented scooters and drove around the area. We drove inland to see the rice paddies and back out to the coast to ride alongside the ocean for a while. A weird fact about me is that I have bad anxiety surrounding driving. That anxiety, as it turns out, applies to driving all motorized vehicles, not just cars. Luckily, my mom is a scooter riding champion and let me ride on the back of hers.



We ran into a bunch of cows on our trip, but this was the closest we got to them. As someone who was born in a county with more cows than people, this encounter was strangely comforting.


After spending 7 days in Vietnam, I'm already ready to get back out there and see more of the world... Once I save some more money, that is. While I'm saving, I figure I may as well start planning. I'm thinking somewhere in Central America. Any suggestions?