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Where I’ve Been + 1st day Senior year @Stanford

23 Sep

First, I’ve been super inconsistent with posting. I’d been taking several intensive creative writing classes at school and all of my efforts was poured into those courses. But happy to get back to writing. You will see a shift on what I write about, I will still share my experiences but I will also start writing about my technical experience and journey.

This has been a heck of a year with many setbacks but also opportunities for growth and introspection and I feel ready to share.

Biggest update: I’m a senior at Stanford, as in I am only 3 sweet quarters away from having my computer science AI track diploma.

As many of you know, it has been a long road here folks. All of my courses are grad level this quarter – I love me some study groups w/ students who aren’t stuck on the high school hamster wheel of competing and lack of collaboration. I’m excited for Andrew Ng’s CS 229 Machine Learning course (this morning’s lecture – talk about natural high) and (Hi! Moses Charikar! Loved CS 221 Artificial Intelligence in the Spring), CS 230 Deep Learning course (also w/ Andrew Ng), CS 224W Machine Learning with Graphs because I mean come on talk about cool, and CS 238 Decision under Uncertainty (still trying to figure out what is not covered in this course). I have another class but one of these has to go bc go-hard type A 20 somethings may like taking 19 units but this mom of three already has a heavy load. You try raising a 3yo, 13 yo, and 14yo with those units and then get back to me. 😉

But to back up and give you some insight as to why I am so excited…

I’ve been working hard to face and work through my past traumas (and boy are there many) to meaningfully improve (not just patch which I’m great at) my mental health.

I could write a book about how difficult it is to get help as a first generation / low income Latina. There are so many hurdles to just being able to admit that you need help, that you need to slow down and really change how you cope with hurt and past memories. I’ve always been pro-mental health resources for others but for myself? It took extreme events to crack me wide open and even then I resisted. So I am proud of all of the hard work I’ve done and continue to do to make sure I am in tune with myself and with what makes me feel safe, healthy, and happy.

Earlier this summer

I was in a bad car accident on the 280 N

on the way to my internship where I collided with the cement barrier at 70+ mph when a car swerved onto my lane (the fastest lane). That collision ricocheted my 2006 Honda Accord across all lanes of the freeway (with minimal driving visibility as all airbags deployed) until the car kept going up the hillside and I thought to pull the emergency break on the way down before I reversed back onto morning traffic. I managed to climb out of my totaled car as it was smoking only to start violently shaking after a couple of steps. I looked around to make sure I didn’t hit anyone else and scanned for the other car. It never stopped, just kept going. And it’s crazy to admit but that really got to me. It hurt my feelings deeply that someone wouldn’t even stop to check if I was okay after they caused the accident. Two very kind and generous samaritans pulled over and helped me dial 911. I wish I remember their names because they did just what I needed. To take control and get help and to hold me so I wouldn’t have a full panic attack.

It took me a while to get over that accident. When I collided with the barrier I was terrified my car would flip over to the other side (and onto oncoming drivers on the 280 S) where there is a significant descent. I thought to grip and control my steering wheel but as I careened across all of the lanes in rush hour traffic I kept thinking of my girls and who would mother them if I died. I’ve experienced a few near death events in my life including being held at gunpoint a couple times but

I had never felt this kind of raw fear of dying before.

Having so much to live for makes a fucking difference, I’ll tell you that.

It was a life altering experience for me. It got me thinking about who I am and whether I am living by my principles. It made for a very vulnerable and emotionally difficult summer.

I remade the decision of not drinking.

I’ve done this before, going through dry spells to prove that I am nowhere near in danger of becoming an alcoholic like my parents. If you were raised by alcoholics, you know what I mean. The fear that you’ll end up just like them is real and can elicit feelings of shame, self-loathing, among other lovely negative self-attacks. But this time was different.

I didn’t want to keep using a drink here or there, ‘I just need a drink to unwind’, ‘I need a drink to brave this networking event’, etc. I was getting a bit too comfortable with the sentence ‘I need’ always ending with ‘drink’. So I decided to go cold turkey. First to just get a sense of being able to go without alcohol (without setting a goal bc you can’t fail if you have no goals), then to see how I coped with everything sober, then to remember that I am fundamentally someone who holds many negative associations with alcohol, and then because I feel so much more present with my family and to be honest because I like myself so much more sober. It’s hard when you get a memory flashback and you drink to drown it bc it’s too much to try to even acknowledge the memory, but then you get sad and you think of other effed up memories and you drink more so you can just sleep and forget. It’s not a good cycle and one I wanted to break. It’s been two weeks of not drinking and I am really digging the strength I have shown when these memories or my PTSD is triggered.

I feel like brave Susana again and I like that.

So here I am back on sunny campus and I feel light. I’m smiling as I bike through the engineering quad to get to class. I don’t get anxious at what a sweaty mess I am after the 4 mi bike ride.

I feel at home when I sit down on the front row with my friends and really take in that I am here, in front of Andrew Ng about to have my brain tickled with knowledge.

How to raise children while not being an asshole

17 May

I have been told many times, “You should write a book about raising children! Your girls are just magical!” And every time I heard that I thought, what a fraud I must be to let them think that I could be an authority on raising children. I’m afraid enough on how some day I may fuck up my own children, I really don’t need the stress of having rando 24 year old’s coming up to me to tell me how the book I wrote enabled their shitty parent. No thank you!

But…

I can write a blog post or two… Porque, well, my answer to people who ask, “How do you do it? How do you raise lovely girls?” I always kinda scratch my head and think, it’s quite easy…Don’t be an asshole and you’ll be fine.

But I’ll expand on that because I can understand that not being an asshole can be pretty vague. What I mean is treat your children the way you want them to approach their life. Let me break it down for you:

  1. Be kind. This one seems the easiest to forget. We forget what it is like to have unkind words, looks, actions, judgements, etc. targeted at us. When someone chooses to be shitty to you instead of you know, just providing a kind accepting smile, that hurts. It cuts. And it may not seem like it should hurt that much but do we really want our children to treat others as if they are an executioner a la Death by a Thousand [paper] cuts? This is a daily practice. It means leaving the crap you have accumulated throughout the day from stress at work/school/home outside of the relationship you have with your kid. And btw, it’s totally cool to let them know, “Momma/{insert your title} is having a bad day. I’m in a funk and I’m trying to shake it mija, can you give me a moment to shake it out?” Or whatever makes sense to you. In other words, communicate with your child. Let them in on what’s going on so they don’t feel like the only time you address them is to tell them what to do or what they did wrong.
  2. Don’t do the mean shit your parents did to you. Let’s be real, we all had parents that did something (or todo, osea everything) that totally still fucks with our head today. Yet, we don’t really talk about it. We deal with it. And yet we don’t because in moments of high stress we find ourselves turning around and doing the same damn thing to our own kids. Why? Because we let it simmer and boil and we dare not let off steam towards our parents but  somehow our kids are acceptable targets??? This makes no sense. So next time you feel the anger escalating, think, “How would young me respond to this? Would I do this to myself as a child?” You can’t imagine how many times I have stopped myself by asking, “What would my parent have done?” and then ask myself, “how would that make me feel?” and then after quickly surmising that it would make me feel shitty, I think, “Well, let’s not repeat that mistake.” and try to take it from there. You don’t need to have all the answers. Ask my 3 year old, I just answer most of her “Why [insert all matters that pertain to daily life here] happen?” with “Why do you think it happens?” Works every time. That golden nugget aside, en serio, a little humility and honesty in telling your kid (especially your teenager) that your job is to be a guide and cheerleader to help them find their path (while not living in your basement) and not to be the holder of all answers, will go a long way. Because we should raise our children to be flexible with life’s uncertainties and with our role as (human) guides.
  3. Love you child. This doesn’t mean just blindly claim that “I would do anything for you!” but instead to practice unconditional love is to know you who your child is. Because let’s face it, there’s a diversity of humans on this planet and they are not all delightful so don’t just say “I love you” —  show them that you are there to get to know them and truly SEE and HEAR (Listen Linda! didn’t go viral for nothing, we all need to be heard) them. You may be able to stop the next serial killer, I mean raise the next genius (insert whatever dream parents have for themselves, I mean their children). “What are their passions?” trumps, “What will get them into X school?” Because in a world of big data and algorithms that measure your likelihood of success and impact, most schools will not buy that your kid is interested in everything.
  4. You will have ups and downs. You will have moments where you think, fuck! I just totally screwed my kids. But keep in mind, as long as you are caring for your children (listening to them, feeding them, providing them nurturing), you will be okay. I mean you’re leagues ahead of what my set of humans did for me and look how well I turned out…potty mouth aside. With my girls I’ve learned to push and guide but to also step back and let them explore to have them find what they love. Once they know that, nurture that love and discipline to pursue it. That’s the epitome of passion and privilege and who doesn’t want to provide privilege and opportunities to their child? If you say no, you’re lying! Or you’re a [ insert your own adjective here ] parent…
  5. Your main job is to guide. To protect. To provide. To love. If you provide a loving, understanding, nurturing, and nutritive childhood for your kiddo, you are doing much more than most. But know that sometimes (many times) you will have to be stern and not fun. Many, many times you will think what the heck? How am I messing this up? How am I [insert your own definition of failure here] ? But the fact that you have that concern and are doing something to be a positive influence and presence in your child’s life is more than enough. You don’t have to solve all of your child’s problems. That’s like taking over the console and winning all the games while your children just sit back as quiet spectators. Life will provide many windy and interesting paths as well as straight lines (directed cyclical graphs.. DAGs – sorry I am currently taking an artificial intelligence class and well DAG is just the most awesome acronym) and you should remind them that not one decision they make will be the decision of their life. Each decision informs following outcomes and decisions but it never gets out of our control (thank you USA but actually know that your mind and thought process are yours, no one owns nor can dictate how they should function [again unless you’re that serial killer /harmer of living things]). You can find your way to the same destination by taking several paths so it is never the end of the world. Unless you’re that serial killer I mentioned, by which I hope you have been caught already.
  6. Raise your children to be curious and to have follow through. If your kid loves to dance, have them find classes they can take and see if they have the self-motivation to work towards it (with appropriate age-related guidance). Teach them to be lovers of reading – hint: love to read yourself and do it in front of them. They will want to follow.
  7. Be open minded and welcoming of who they are as they find and define themselves. Don’t put baby in a corner. Let them guide you when it comes to getting to know them. Because they will always be the expert (and should feel as much) on who they are.
  8. Raise them to love themselves. This means you have to watch what you say about yourself. If you say “love yourself” while complaining about how you look, how much money you make, what title you have or don’t, etc. you will not be effective. Practicing self-love is hard but worthwhile; so do it and be the kind guide that helps your children grow into self-loving, kind adults that are ready to treat the world with love.
  9. Raise them to seek happiness, balance, and independence. This means, help them derive happiness from the sound of trees rustling, the feeling of the sun on their skin, a hummingbird flying around your flower bed, [insert any of mother natures beautiful daily (by the second) gifts. Raising children who can cool off, who can look at life like a glass half full, who can rise above the gray…that is the mark of a good parent. And a healthy child and future adult.
  10. Many more things but this covers a big chunk of it. Just practice being a non-shitty parent over and over again and talking to your kids. Listening to them. Instilling in them the qualities you wish others had around you.

When All Else Fails, if you had shitty parents, do the opposite of what they did. Hasn’t failed me yet. 😉

While we Mourn We Should See

25 Apr

I wore the only dress I had that seemed semi-decent
It rolled up around my neck but hung dangerously low
so I pinned it
pin pin
fix it.

But nothing could fix your absence.
You were supposed to lift us.
I looked to you to save us.
You’d gone so far already…
Was it really that much to ask?

But mother effer, this life is so cruel
it doesn’t abide by our rules

Why won’t you do my bidding?
SO I won’t have to
Grieve
Someone like you.

I grew up in East Los.
I thought I was used to this.
The loss.
The end.

But no,
don’t you see?
You left a large gaping hole.
And it hurts,
because try as I might
I won’t ever fill it for those that loved you.

How dare you?
How dare you?
Leave?

New Words

9 Apr

You just don’t even see

You don’t even hear
How you not gonna see
me humpin a teddy bear
with my milk teeth
but you turn around
and walk out
Don’t even flinch and see you way out
What I gotta do to make you see?
But why I try?
Why I care?
for a woman who
don’t bother tryin’
don’t bother blockin’
what my future really be?
15 years flash forward
Baby on each hip
Who you think I learned from?
who you think I try to escape from?
Love
Love
Didn’t even know what that was
I thought college…College…College
Education?
No
It was my last line
Working at the office
library
Mervyn’s 11 pm – 3 am
Practically hoeing
on the metro
for cents on the dollar
tryin’ to be honest
trying to pay u bills
White man tender couldn’t see
No loan for you
keep workin’
keep hopin’
Thanks LMU
I’m lookin’ at you
But what you see?
what you hear?
Nothin
Nothin
Nothin
That’s all you remember
Nothin’ to do wit you
My mama
the one who should be caring
the one supposed to love me
Love at first sight
Or was it Hate At First Sight?
couldn’t get that hanger hook on right?
Boyle Heights walls be translucent
Paper thin
paper white
You wish
But let me know somethin’
if White ruled your world
why you sleep with that creep in me?
I thought I was garbage
Why you think I try those pills
and not one
but two and three
and more
was not enough?
Lying in that bed
probed
pumped
stripped
And all you and he could ask
What They Gonna Think?
Hell hole you had me livin in
Hell hole you seemed so content with
But I know now
I know different now
That hate you spilled
is me
Sad for you
but I love me
I could keep going
but only a lifetime can be told
and I’ve known
one or three

Why Does an Angeleno Move to Silicon Valley?

23 Mar

I’m going on 5 years living in Silicon Valley. In this ridiculously overpriced, overhyped, overprotected, over-homogenous small town called Menlo Park. It feels like a five year old collar that has been shrinking, itching, suffocating the pure smog air that I miss from my dear LA.

Why do I miss LA you ask? Why miss a city that chews up so many dreams? How can I love a city that draws so many non-Native Angelenos and transforms them into pompous, vapid, ass-holy replicas of Entourage characters, or better yet – reveals who they were all along? Because I was born there, simple as that. And of all loyalties that I hold, my relationship to LA is a blood connection. And blood, blood is not easily erased.

LA is the relative I will never disown, the friend who keeps stumbling and falling in public but who I keep defending because hey, she has heart you know, she’s been through some stuff you know?

LA is my birthplace, the only place where I will ever truly feel like I’ve arrived home. My mother gave birth to me at LA County General Hospital and she won’t miss a beat to tell you that she was confined to some God-forsaken corner of some ill-gotten wing of the ancient, creaky hospital to give flight to her screams of pain. Minute by minute she will tell you how my birth, her second, took 18! No 20! No 24! No 36 hours of pain as I stubbornly refused to exit her short, warm body. But can you blame me? Did I know the world that awaited me?

And through some very windy, bumpy roads I find myself here. And not only here for here’s sake but here because shit is happening for me here you see. Attending Stanford and all, majoring in CS and all, and yet I feel so ready to ignite like 4th of July Fireworks until I descend back onto a city that sees my brown-ess not as just a nanny to my own daughter, not as just an interesting story, but as me. As my chingona self.

In LA I can howl. I can run, I can grab and lift and throw.

And here I feel so muted, lying in wait, tick tock, for shit to happen, to make shit happen, until I’m seen for what I’ve done and not who I am. To be a sum of my parts and not my whole self.

And then I remember sullenly that I left LA because it was drowning me in its glittery promise of a simple, sated life that did not include and exclamation point after my name. LA, my dear LA, would have left me in a ditch if I let it.

SO here I am in Silicon Valley until I make a name for what I carry inside, the desire for positive change. To leave the world a better place than I found it. And seeing it that way, that itchy, blindingly white collar is tolerable for a bit longer.

 

 

 

American Dream

7 Feb

I want to climb big mountains

with my brown bare feet gripping the dry earth

skimming,

propelling forward at lightspeed.

But I live surrounded by hills that end in city dumps.

I want to consume large quantities of

knowledge

so I read and read and read

but I don’t know if I’m reading the right thing when I’m stuck in my

ghetto library.

I walk aisle by aisle, reading methodically every book

in every library my two dusty feet can take me to.

But I’m not sure if I’m walking in the right direction,

am I a fish swimming round and round in a fishbowl

confusing it for a the great big ocean?

I want to roar

primitive,

like an animal

who don’t give a fuck,

but I open my mouth and it chokes on all of the hands pressing against me.

I want to feel, I want to dance, I want to be beautiful,

but my neighbors are watching,

the nuns say it’s indecent,

the book,

which my parents have never read,

must surely have a rule against it.

I want to strut,

like the Big Bad Bitch I am,

look down on the dirty, cracked concrete that the city never fixes,

but a 40 year old Veterano throws a penny inside my shirt,

pulling me down to the same gritty, grimy, tired, hood that we both live in.

I want to be a Queen and Rule

but, but,

who is rooting for me?

I want to be a King

but who will by my subjects?

I want to stomp and devour,

I want to scream.

But who is listening?

I want to be written about in books,

not, I think for vanity,

but to be read about

by girls like me.

I want to inspire.

I want to experience.

I want to make it count.

I want to help a people, all people

but those people don’t want to help me.

I want to take

I want to give

I want to make you remember

I want to make you see

I want to

I want to

I want to achieve the American Dream

but so many don’t see me as American.

I want to

I want to

I will.

 

Sunny Mountain

7 Feb

We’re laughing,

quick hehehe’s and hahaha’s and silent cackles exploding inside

Our front brown stoop steps are crowded

Five Year olds shushing their baby sisters, rocking them in their arms.

Lla, Lla,

Sssshhh!

Shhhhhh!

Mami and Papis nowhere to be seen.

The older girls resting their elbows on their knees,

lounging,

looking cool.

Raising their head and eyebrow, mouth pulled to the side

every time a chump walked by

Under the microscope, flat on a slide,

dissecting with the precision of a surgeon’s knife until they kept walking.

Yeahhh, you best keep walking.

Walk away.

“There’s a fair across the street and over the hill.”

“That hill?” I don’t like going there unless I’m feeling brave.

“Yeah, just over and around the abandoned building.”

We’ve poked around there many times, Michael and I. We look for good sticks to use for our canes. Hobble and wobble along the broken concrete and shake it at each other. Sometimes we wake up the bums who sleep under cardboard boxes pushed against the crumbling earth. Not on purpose.

Sometimes we wake up the skinny women but they always go back to sleep when they see it’s just us.

“I’ll take you,” Chico offers.

I want to go to a fair. I can’t remember going, ever.

Except last year, around Christmas. The firemen took us to Knotts Berry Farm. We rode on a Ferris Wheel and petted animals and ate cotton candy that melted so fast in your mouth, I kept grabbing more. My warm, thirsty tongue could melt a giant, pink, fluffy ball in a second. The cops gave us baseball cards. We ran to their cars, crowding them, pushing against the metal, “More Dodger cards!” More Dodger cards!” we chanted and danced, our skinny arms pumping in the air, our street worn feet running in place. They high fived and laughed and they were so happy with us they came back with real, wrapped, Christmas presents. That, that, was a great Christmas.

“Let me go get Lili, she’s right inside, esperame.”

“NO. Hmmm. No, I only have enough money for two tickets,” Chico explains, holding up two chubby fingers.

“Why are you taking me then for?!” I want to yell. But I just stare at his stubby fingers. A fair, a fair, I want to go shoot at a clown and get a big fluffy Teddy Bear, so, so, big he can’t fit inside my door. I want to feel a pillow of pink inside my mouth turn into a tiny pebble. Not cotton balls, I tried those dipped in sugar but they just tasted dry and it took my mom for-eeeeever to get it out of my mouth.

I take Chico’s warm, sweaty hand and look up at him, making sure he’s not playing another mean joke.

We cross the street, he lets go my hand. I have to keep holding on to the long strands of dead grass every time my shoes slip. He’s ahead of me and I see him walk towards tall shadows. Not soft and clumsy like him. Tall lines with more lines poking out, no roundness.

I look up to the sky, so baby blue. There’s a bird, he’s telling me to forget. To sleep.

And I never remember the fair. I never remember what happens next. So don’t ask.

So soft

2 Feb

My Eyore among wolves. I wanted to kiss your cheekbones to see if their sharpness would cut me. How many time did I ask you to pull your ponytail off so I could admire your long silky hair?

Psst. Mariiii. Psst.

I heard you the first time but your soft voice was music to my ears. I liked your attention, Our friendship. I turned around and you were holding up a Winnie the Pooh drawing.

What do you think?

Did you trace that?!

Ouch. Really?

No, I mean, it’s really good. It looks just like him. That’s crazy, you just drew that?

Your cheeks are a high red now, and you pull at your stretched sleeves, trying to hide behind your hands.

Yeah..It’s for you. If you want it.

Thank you! That’s so beautiful, thank you.

I put the pencil drawing inside my folder, careful not to place it against another paper that has writing on it and around to look at Ms. Rosen again.

Hey, did you guys hear? Vicky comes over and puts her arm around my shoulder. I take her hand and push it off.

Hear what?

About Apenimon, he’s dead.

I feel light-headed, like someone yanked my brain, heart and stomach in three different directions. I want to throw up.

What are you talking about?! I ask impatiently, with attitude, placing my hands on my waist. No time for this nonsense.

Yeah, he was playing Russian roulette last night and shot himself. His moms found him in his room. Crazy… Hey did you guys do the math homework?

Yeah, but I don’t get number 7.

I keep walking, dragging my legs with me.

One, click. Two, click. How many times does it take to get to the middle of the –

Boom.

See Me Please

29 Jan

I’m wearing a cream chiffon dress.

I look lovely.

Should I dart in front of that truck?

My tanned skin glistens in the sun, screaming Southern California health.

Toned.

Strong.

The windows were open on our 15th floor lunchroom.

They beckoned,

strongly.

I averted my eyes, blocking the windows out, the LA sunshine.

Pretending everything was okay, eating my lunch.

I run to catch the bus to pick up my daughters and I remember.

I remember.

I can’t leave.

I can’t leave them.

This conversation, and many iterations, airbrushed versions, quiet cries, fake smiles, masked feelings, shuffling raw sewage of hurt dripping away to make it blend. Blending. Existing, surviving, smiling, living.

Walking through life wanting to not only survive but to find MEANING.

So many times, so many days. I wanted to stop it. Just stop.

And it was always them that kept me present. That saved me from myself, from my brain that was hurting from the frantic energy buzzing inside, from the inability to neatly file shit away in a folder. No folder could hold it.

Like The Nightmare Before Christmas. Sewn together, coping. Hoping to hide the seams that were bursting, screams pushing outward to free the energy that I have for life.

When you want so much but you are given a 1 square meter space to fit into. The space given only gets smaller as time progresses. People tune out. They sign off on your failure.

Not knowing what is inside.

Bubbling out. Leavening. Like rising bread.

I take a bite and I enjoy the taste. So I keep kneading and baking.

I hate baking.

It makes me uncomfortable.

But I keep pushing.

And today, now.

I am a balloon filled with so many voices, so many stories, so many paths.

And I am asked, “Who Are You?”

Expected to answer in 2 sentences.

And I always take longer and I fight the feeling that I am taking up too much space.

I want to shrink onto myself.

Not speak.

Because when I let it out, when I roar,

it fucking hurts.

And when I hear that roar from others,

that low growl before the end

it fucking hurts.

Why does it have to hurt so much for so many?

I am okay. I am fine.

I am even.

I can say this with honesty now.

I can say this with confidence.

In the face of the questioning looks, of the wonder, of the hostile unwelcomes.

This place can be so unwelcoming.

 

Almost a joke.

How cold, how faceless, how irritatingly alike so many people choose to be.

See me please.

See me.

Because I strive to see you.

Because how hard is it?

To See with Kind Eyes?

 

Bursting at the seams

8 Nov

I have many hands

To Hold Me in

Pull my corazon inside

I have many faces

portray only the goods ones

only the logic and indisputable

they will see

But it keeps pouring out

Like a boiling pot hissing steam

So many hands

To hold me In

Cover my mouth

Close my heart

So many Hands

I hope they burn

when I let it out

So many hands

and None of them are mine

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