Doing Others Work

I spent the majority of my day creating three separate spreadsheets to organize the courses I’m allowed to take at my university. Yes, I took my time to sort them into terms, class days, registration numbers, and class times. I did this because the list of approved freshman courses had no options to filter through the classes, making registration – an already frustrating process – even worse.

I’ve already written about my initial struggles of registering for classes in my blog Registration, but I had no idea the depth of my problems when I wrote it. I have created at least four separate schedules that have all been disrupted due to classes filling up, teachers leaving, or other students taking priority. I decided to make these spreadsheets so I could create 10-12 possible schedules for both my fall and winter term. As a freshman, I have the last registration date, meaning that I will most likely get stuck with classes I am not incredibly happy with. I wanted to minimize my boredom and the amount of time I spend in classes, so I decided to take the majority of the process into my own hands.

However, I don’t think I should have had to make those spreadsheets. Every category I used to sort my courses could easily be converted into a filter system on the approved courses page. I sat there, wading through class after class, putting every single one into the schedule builder to find it’s code and times and days. I felt like an idiot. Ever since I enrolled at this school, I have done more work than ever before and have been paying to do it.

I thought a lot about how I would optimize my university’s website. Because of its range of students and degree options, it has a lot of different pages that students need to access. It’s great that the university has worked so hard to have all of the information available, but it is not easily accessible. I remember finding pages a few months ago that I cannot seem to find again. The maze of hyperlinks and PDF files that every new click takes me to is overwhelming. This lack of structure, organization, and efficiency has left me feeling disillusioned, yet again.

A lot of people have questioned my doubts about college, blaming them on “manipulative” friends, people I admire who I “could never be,” and “propaganda.” When I look at their concerns, I see legitimate care in the form of less caring remarks, but then again, I also see my time already being wasted by an institution of higher education that claims to be “different.” Just the fact that I have to make 10-12 backup schedules to make sure I get a course load I can live with is ridiculous. I have been shoved to the back of the priority line and told to be grateful for it.

So far, I am unimpressed. I can’t get over this idea of losing priority or being considered lower in comparison to more senior students. I worked for four years to achieve some level of respect, only to have it stripped away in the name of security. Security that doesn’t even exist anymore! No wonder college students are so depressed and weary. After dealing with borderline bureaucratic tasks such as registration for four years, all we will have to show for it is an insufficient degree, low wages, and student loans.

It’s becoming a lot harder to see my money and time being drained by a system that has made it clear they don’t care about me and won’t care about me until I’m a senior. I went through this once before, and I am less than eager to do so again. Maybe I’ll finally snap and leave college, or perhaps I’ll stick through it for four years and leave the burden of my student loans to people who are more than willing to pay for them. It will all come down to this fundamental question: how much is my sanity worth?

Eloragh

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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How to be a DJ

I was 17 when I was offered my first job as a DJ. I had done my senior project on education and how I had made my way through the broken system. The final product prompted one of my mentors to ask me to host a radio show about ed reform. I was an amateur media enthusiast at the time. My only experience with media work was the documentary I had made the previous year. Although that documentary won its category, I couldn’t deny it’s mediocrity. I went into the studio, doubting my ability to act as a mediator and draw ideas out of my peers, but I left feeling elated. Not only was I capable of my job, I was fantastic. Our show was a success and it was the first time I had ever heard young people around me sharing their stories and criticizing the system they were forced into.

My next show was about gun violence and reform. In the wake of the Parkland shooting, we wanted to bring the student voice to light again. We had a lot of contrasting views in the studio, but regardless of the difference in opinion, everyone agreed that the Stoneman Douglass students represented a new wave of young adults who were not only willing to have their voice heard, but demanded it. The recognition that I had experienced with my first radio show began to feed my confidence. I knew I was capable in the technical side of the studio, now I wanted to challenge myself as a leader.

I did my third show today. It was more of a marketing program, but it still meant a lot to me. I am currently working with Dr. Yonty Freisem to promote his Media Production Hive curriculum. True Kids 1 and Dr. Freisem’s curricula fit together perfectly, with both sides focusing on media education, student voice, literacy, and empathy. Our show was truly just an advertisement and informational piece on this effort, but we were still able to converse in a Socratic form. As we finished our discussion on what it meant to be conscious on social media and the importance of teaching students to be digital citizens, I felt more comfortable in the studio than ever before.

So that was it, three shows in and I felt like a real DJ. I would be lying if I said the content of my broadcasts were consistent, but the quality of them are. At the beginning of the show, I talked a little about how important it was for me to be given an opportunity to act professional and operate in a professional setting. My mentor jumped in and told me how he wanted everyone involved in the program (True Kids 1)  to excel as much as I did. Although I appreciate his comments, I can’t say that the quality of excellence I was able to achieve is unique to me.

Why are my achievements seen as rare or uncommon? They’re not. The only difference between myself and every other student in school today is that I was granted the chance to act as a professional in a setting I was interested in. Doing a radio show sounded exciting and new, so I naturally wanted to appear prepared and poised. By just allowing me the opportunity, my mentor had already given me a reason to reach for a higher level of quality. I wanted to prove that nothing stood in my way of doing the best job possible. I wasn’t going to allow my age or my education dictate what kind of professional environment I did well in. I was going to let my passion, my drive, and my happiness tell me where I should place my efforts.

From what I’ve seen, a lot of students don’t feel as though they deserve a chance similar to the one I was given. Public education has a funny way of crushing a young person’s self-esteem and making them disassociate from the “adult” world. However, when given the opportunity to integrate themselves into a world of skill and experience, they are so grateful and excited that they will strive to be their best without any outside force.

How to be a DJ is the same thing as how to have a job you enjoy. Every student, every person who is willing to show how hard they can work is deserving of an opportunity to act on that will.

However, being deserving of an opportunity doesn’t mean it will come along by chance. Being young is difficult, people will automatically assume you are less capable, but that just means they will be even more pleasantly surprised when you prove your worth. Get yourself that opportunity, network, make friends, ask for a chance, do your research, always work harder than you did yesterday, and show them the value they don’t expect. We can make excuses about things we cannot control, but achieving excellence is not about focusing on the obstacles, it’s about looking for the solutions.

Eloragh

Posture

Posture says a lot about a person, which is why it makes me so furious when my stance is lazy. I hate slouching (even though it may feel amazing after a long day) because it puts my body and my mind in a state I can only describe as sloth. Slow like a sloth, my mind drags along like a snail, leaving behind a trail of wasted time.

I am motivated by productivity. If I can get started, it’s easy for me to continue. In fact, it’s painful for me to stop working once I’ve found my rhythm. I like to prep my space and my body in such a way that I have no excuses for lack of effort or progress. I get enough sleep, I wake up with coffee and get something in my stomach, I exercise every day to keep my blood flowing and my stress low, etc. I also keep my space incredibly clean and organized. There is nothing that I hate more than working in a messy area. Posture can be rumpled. Life can be messy.

Right now, my posture is not good. I am sitting up on two decorative pillows, and I am 100% sure my spine is not in alignment. My body is already in the way of producing work that I am proud of. However, I have had a long day. I sometimes forget that my body has to recover for me to make actual progress towards my goals and passions. So, I am allowing myself to slouch.

As I allow myself to slouch, I don’t let myself to ignore my to-do list. Having something to show for every day is motivating as well. It is productive, admittedly not the most productive I’ve ever been, but still productive. I produced, I grew, I continued to reach for those goals.

We will have good days, we will have great days, we will all have days where we feel like we ascend to the highest tiers of production. Yes, we will have bad days. We will have days where our bodies or our minds or our experiences kick us and throw us to the ground. All that matters is that we remember our good days, our great days, our golden days and reach for that level of creativity. Progress propels us forward and lifts us up when we feel as though we have nothing left.

Eloragh

A Ballerina Scorned

This was originally posted on May 13th, 2018 at Original Path.

Relationships often form out of necessity and chance. My love for ballet was a complete accident and would have never developed if anything about my discovery of it had been different. There were and still are so many obstacles for me to overcome as a dancer, but it is easy to greet them with confidence after two years of watching myself grow after jumping over a hurdle. I needed ballet to push me to see those opportunities in a positive light. Until I started dancing, I thought school was doing something similar – showing me what I was capable of and asking me to push past it. After I experienced true joy in my work, I saw how poisonous my education had been.

I came into ballet through weird circumstances. I started in 2016 as an assistant to a dance teacher and when I took the job, I was just looking for a way to make a little bit of cash. However, my ambitious personality was intrigued by the high expectations of the technique. I started watching the Royal Opera House’s YouTube channel and fell in love with the grace and athleticism of the art. It was a quick addiction after that.

Fast forward to 2018, I’ve been dancing for two years and am now in a pre-professional training program; I’ve progressed faster than I ever thought I would. I often wonder what motivated me to work so hard considering all the odds that were stacked against me. From the start, ballet and I did not get along. I came to dance when I was 15 and refused every stereotype thrown my way. In my mind, ballet and everyone involved in the art wanted to see me give up. Many people have asked me why I didn’t quit after everything dance put me through. The answer is simple – and what connects this to compulsory education – spite.

Every human is pushed by something different, but my motivation came from the challenge. I was never, and still am not, good at ballet. I am physiologically disadvantaged for the technical style. External rotation of the hips is the most rudimentary idea in classical technique, and I have very little of it. Despite this inherent setback, I was determined to improve. It was as though someone had walked up to me and said: “you’ll never be a decent dancer, so why even try?” Ballet felt like it was goading me to dare to prove it wrong. So I took this spiteful attitude and I used it to fuel my training. Eventually, my application expanded beyond dance.

I will admit, in some ways this was not productive. Junior year was not an easy year for me and I didn’t help myself by trying to be number one all the time. With that being said, spite was really my driving force for a good year and a half. After a teacher in Pennsylvania recommended a dieting book for me to read, I knew I had to be successful so I could meet her someday and show her how wrong she was. Ballet didn’t like me because I refused to fit into the box it thrived in. Similarly, the school system didn’t like me because I refused to sit down and shut up for four years.

Similarly to ballet, I came to Moreno Valley High School due to some strange circumstances. My family had to quickly pick up and move during the summer of 2013, so my parents were pressed to find a school district they were happy with. MVHS had been spoken of as the “number one school in New Mexico” and was supposed to be based on a progressive curriculum with an emphasis on communication. This seemed somewhat accurate my freshman year. I enjoyed school when I was in ninth grade; the administration was stable, the teachers understood our relationship to them, and the general atmosphere was positive and optimistic.

Things became steadily worse from there, however. We’ve had four or five directors since I enrolled, my teachers and I fight almost on a daily basis, and the feeling of the school is reckless and uninviting. Some people may claim that my last two complaints are just symptoms of being in the same place for four years, and, although I am sure my senioritis isn’t helping these situations, I can tell you that I have been feeling this way for a long time.

Since sophomore year, high school felt like an ocean. Those who could tread water and keep their heads above the waves for long enough got to graduate, and those who couldn’t drowned. I was never in danger of drowning, but when I got a C my freshman year, it felt like I had swallowed salt water. That semester has haunted me ever since, freshman English becoming a blight on my otherwise pristine transcript. The next year was fine, no C’s but nothing incredibly impressive either. It was also the year I got in my first big fight with my history teacher. My classmates and I were panicking; we were all taking our first advanced placement class, and we could tell how far behind we were. The majority of us decided that our teacher’s methods were ineffective and needed to be addressed. As I mentioned previously, the class was an AP class, meaning the test at the end of the year could grant us college credit, so her instruction was a matter of our future. When I approached her to talk about the issues we were having, she refused to discuss anything regarding her curriculum and I, being an impetuous sophomore, immediately got upset. Quickly after our disagreement, I felt disheartened by the education system for the first of many times and, because of this event, my deep spite for academics began to develop. From then on, I decided that I would use my anger and frustration towards the injustice I was facing as a source of energy for my studies.

“Junior year matters” is what everyone told me, so I figured this was the perfect time to use my newfound aggression towards public school and live up to the challenge. That year, I took three advanced placement courses, registered for two rounds of SAT’s, two SAT Subject Tests, and two rounds of ACT’s. On top of this, I enrolled at a more formal ballet school and started dancing twice the amount I had previously been. I worked myself harder than ever before and reaped the benefits. By the end of the year, I had reached my goal of achieving a 4.0 GPA, and I claimed it was all thanks to my need to “prove them wrong.”

However, spite cannot provide an endless drive, nor easy to live with. It is more difficult to find your motivation from pessimism and animosity than I had imagined. After years of being compared to my peers through test scores, class ranks, GPAs, community service hours, and many more methods of inaccurate measurement, I was crippled and exhausted of the high school rat race. Again, I became demoralized by my quick burnout. Spite was supposed to carry me to the podium, not drop me halfway to the finish line.

I grew to understand that spite, while somewhat helpful in the beginning, couldn’t sustain me forever. Even as I had progressed in ballet, my dedication no longer came from the spite I once held. In fact, I’m not sure it ever did. I had never needed any vengeful spirit to push me forward, as my own desire to grow stronger and work hard for the sake of doing so was enough. Once I understood this, I had a similar realization about academics: I was no longer passionate about learning, I was competitive about scoring. Twelve years of public education had taught me to compare myself to others to improve my own performance. It took me almost that long to realize how impossible it is to achieve anything when you’re forced into the shadows of others.

Although I knew public education had turned me into a shell of a teenager who survived off of high test scores, I also knew that I had to get my high school diploma. As much as I wanted to throw away three years of unnecessary work, it would have been too much of a detriment. I decided that I needed a new driving force, one that was not rooted in success above my peers. Since then, I’ve spent a long time nurturing my sense of passion and understanding, which have proven much more enduring.

Spite is fun, spite is scorching hot and fueled by a need to prove yourself. This year, I’ve seen my dedication and love for ballet grow as I have become a stronger and more capable dancer. I now understand why I thought spite would help me climb the ladder; I had confused my overwhelming love for ballet with scorn for those that had promised me I would fail. I desperately wanted this to be the case with school. I wanted to feel the fire for learning and education rekindle, but it was gone. There were no more coals to burn. I wondered if my fondness for learning was really a fondness for the praise that came with being the best.

There is a fine line between being vindictive and being challenging, one that I could not perceive when I started down this path. Ballet had never benefitted from my failure like the public education system had. If I had only realized sooner that I had been entrapped in a lie. The lie that traditional school was my only option, the lie that I should be grateful for the opportunities school and only school could offer me, the lie that I was stranded.

Suddenly, I saw why so many students were bored and tired of traditional education – they had never been exposed to the full range of their options.

Ballet and school presented me the same options: do well and get stronger or refuse the work and risk losing your passion. However, I’ve only ever had a love for one. Both respective fields are so difficult to “do well” in, and I would never have worked hard in either of them without the incentives they both offered. The difference is, ballet provided me with happiness, purpose, and passion while school provided me with fear and ultimatums. Unfortunately for the public education system, students are opening their eyes. The false threats against our future are falling more and more on deaf ears as we continue to educate ourselves on the disadvantages of traditional academics.

Now we are seeing a surge in common sense and logic being used against public school. Just because students are young doesn’t mean they don’t understand the fundamental laws of give and take. Why would a fourteen year old who hates math dedicate his precious, minimal free time to studying it? The return on investment is nominal if anything. Sure, his grade in the class may improve, but his quality of life would most likely not benefit. Education is dangerous because it encourages us to hold meaningless measurements above things such as happiness, experiences, and individuality. By reinforcing this idea of progress regarding assessment, schools are setting an alarming precedent for how students will evaluate their own lives as they mature.

Education is not pointless, it’s just misguided. When the current education system was implemented, conformity meant success. It’s been years since we truly reformed our schools and the world has not stopped to let them catch up. We don’t need 500 copies of the same individual who’s taken the same classes and knows all of the same information as everyone else around them. We lack in specialization, and we lack in decision making, two qualities that our modern world demands.

Students have to be presented with a choice and a chance. They need to choose what they want to put their energy into, and they need a chance to prove they’ll work hard and stick to their decision. Compulsory education has boiled down to the idea that students have to learn the same curriculum regardless of their future plans because everyone needs a “foundation.” Why start them on the path of “jack of all trades, master of none” from the beginning? Why not ask them about their interests and allow them to design a course of study that reflects that? Why not take a risk and see what happens?

This is what ballet has brought me to understand. It is far too easy to confuse passion with fear. For a long time, I have been afraid of failure. I was worried that a less than 4.0 GPA would spell out defeat, that the C on my transcript from freshman year was unforgivable. Whatever your “ballet” is, whether it be writing or yoga or meditation, whatever drives you to be the best person you can be, be grateful for it. Many people will never have the opportunity to enjoy their one true passion; many other people will find what they love, only to have it shut down by the notion that it won’t make them “successful.”

The education system is brutal and becomes more competitive every year, but we must encourage our students to approach risk with a sense of confidence, especially if that risk could impact the quality of their future. As students are asked to avoid unknowns and mistakes at all costs, what we are actually telling them is that success should come immediately and that failure at first means failure forever. We are telling them that if they are not good at something as soon as they start it, that they shouldn’t waste their time on it. These ideas are fabrications and serve to simplify educational curriculum. It is those who refuse to conform that will leave an impact, as they understand that the world would be a dull place if we all listened to what everyone told us.

The competition, the repetitive courses, and the lack of autonomy that schools structures are based on strip young people of their natural curiosity and receptiveness to new ideas. If we want students who can think for themselves, who can analyze a problem and use their creative output to derive a solution, we should start by letting them make their own decisions and live with them. If we are not free to make mistakes, we are not free at all. We need to stop supporting such apprehension towards failure, especially within the first years of life.

Two years ago, someone told me I was ridiculous for thinking I could have any future in ballet with the late start I was getting. I was scared, I was worried that I was starting down a path that I would regret. I wondered if spending my free time at ballet lessons every day would be worth it. Two years ago, I was faced with a potential mistake, but I continued nonetheless. Two years later, my name is listed under the principal dancers in my final production, and I am going to study at a professional ballet school in Canada. Think about that the next time anyone tells you that your passion isn’t worth pursuing.

Dakar

Ritsy cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco, etc. usually share a lot of similar qualities. Dakar is the elite city of Senegal where the 1% of this mostly impoverished country ignore everything going on in the fishing villages and countryside as they party their life away.

Today is my last day in Senegal. I spent most of my time here in Mekhe, a small village about 90 minutes out of Dakar. That is where I expected to spend all of my time, working and creating plans and reports. Although I did spend quite a bit of time on that, I also traveled a lot while in Senegal. Dakar is not the truth of this country.

Yesterday, we went to a fishing village called Tivaouane. The roads were made of dark, deep, hot sand with goat droppings mixed in. Most of the villagers could be found along the beach, either catching, smoking, or selling fish. The kids were playing in the rough Atlantic, even though there were what seemed to be jellyfish litering the shore. Their boats represented their livelihoods.

You will not hear any words of pity from me. The Senegalese people, the African people do not need Western pity. The men and women of the fishing village do not want our pity, they want jobs, they want a functioning economy, they want opportunities to become independent.

African poverty is not a failure of people, it is a failure of democracy. Americans especially like to believe that more democracy is the solution to everything. Although democracy often leads to more economic freedom, it is not a solution on it’s own. Much more will have to be done before Senegal will see it’s peoples potential. Fortunately, there are people who do not waste time that work tirelessly to see this perpetual state of poverty end.

I will probably be writing about Africa for a while. I learned a lot while I was in Mehke and I see it as my responsibility to pass my newfound knowledge on.

Eloragh