What I Learned In The Past School Year

What I Learned In The Past School Year

There's more to learn than what's taught in class.

Throughout the school year, I complained about how terrible my classes are and how I wished I was at home instead, but I owe this year some form of a "thank you" because of how much it's taught me without me knowing. As the end of the year continues to draw closer, I'm starting to feel that heavy weight in my heart when I realize that the people I've met in my classes may never have a class with me again, and the people I don't want to see may be in every one of my classes next year. It's a bittersweet feeling to end this semester, especially considering how worried I am by change in both my classes and peers.

My form of a "thank you" to a tough year that helped me grow as a person and student is a summary of what I've learned in the past nine months, from the start to the end (not academics wise, of course).

The 2016-17 year began in August 2016, and I was a shorter, more naive girl than I am now. I had not joined the Odyssey then, and some of my friendships were tough to hold onto, regardless of how much I convinced myself that it would get better. August 2016 was the month of new beginnings, a transition into a new life that I'll be having for some more time. I realized soon into the first day of school that I had the same schedule as one of my peers (save for only one class), and I found it helpful to have someone else with the same schedule. I would rate August as a six out of ten.

September came sooner than I had expected, and I was not having fun. To summarize the month, the friendships I was struggling to hold onto were hanging on by a string, and I was devastated just imagining what life would be like without the people who were hurting me most. I wrote an article on it already, but it felt amazing in January when I finally let them go. September on the scale was a four.

October and November were my favorite part of last year because of all of the breaks from school and celebrations. I joined the Odyssey in early November, and I wrote for the Milton community until three weeks ago. My most successful article from the Milton community was about feminism, and I decided to write a second article about it in late April to "celebrate" its success, surprisingly receiving much more attention. Together, the two months would be rated as a nine.

December was the calm after the storm in terms of schoolwork from first semester, but my bridges with certain people were starting to burn. I take full credit for cutting ties with those people, but I just could not see myself benefiting from knowing such hurtful people. December taught me to be patient and calm, because I was lacking both so far. A seven out of ten would be a good rating because of the mix of emotions that was overwhelming me.

By January, my tipping point had reached, and I told myself how naive I was to think that people would change who they were to make one friendship work. I finally gave up trying on what wouldn't work and distanced myself. I felt strong and empowered, and I don't know if it was a coincidence that I had done this for myself in a month that symbolizes change and resolutions. I could not be happier with my decision, and I even wrote about it. School returned, and my classes suddenly seemed easier. I felt the pressure go away from my head and stopped overthinking certain aspects of my life that were meant to change so long ago. I regret not doing so earlier in the year, but January taught me that patience pays off in the end. I'd rate January as a solid eight.

February and March passed like a blur, so I don't remember much except for the fact that I kept seeing myself crossing off another day on the calendar too fast without doing much to help the world. Everyone around me was doing something with their lives, and there I was, sitting in the back of the room with a calendar stuck to my brain, checking off every moment that I wasn't doing as much as my friends. I started to doubt myself and what I was capable of, and maybe, it was the part of me scared of change that prevented me from expanding my horizons. As time went on, though, March comforted me as I began to accept that I had the Odyssey and other talents on my side, and this month, along with April, brought some of my favorite articles, solely because I believed in myself. February was a good five, and March became a seven.

April was the worst month. The stress of schoolwork nipped at the hours on the clock, and I was unmotivated to do anything. I became increasingly nonchalant about my grades, even though I tried to try. I have to thank people for telling me, "Oh, stop worrying. You'll be fine. Look at your grades!", but after hearing it the first few times, it sounded like mockery. It sounded like they were just saying it because they didn't want to hear me complain. I had no reason to, I have to admit, but I was upset with myself for not wanting to do anything. I couldn't bring myself to look at another definition on my fill-in-the-blank notes, feeling my head hurt and my anger rise. I was just frustrated with my demeanor, in turn making my attitude to others extremely cold and rude. April told me to calm down, something I'm especially not used to. I agree with those telling me to "chill," but it's gotten me this far. It was a stressful time, so April was overall a five out of ten.

Finally, May brought the two toughest weeks of the year. I trained myself to start working hard once again, increasing my motivation to do well with effort. In the end, I feel like I ended the year on a strong note, earning some encouragement from others that I was starting to consider genuine. May was a pretty normal month, giving it a seven. Was it a great year? I'd say it was okay, full of lessons, but full of bumps, too. I learned how to grow up and stop being hung on friendships that weren't meant to be while understanding that I had to stop putting so much pressure on myself.

I can only hope that I can relax this summer, and 2017-18 will hopefully bring better memories.

Cover Image Credit: University of Washington

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Islam Is Not A Religion Of Peace, But Neither Is Christianity

Let's have in honest converation about the relgious doctrine of Islam


Islam is not a religion of peace.

Christianity is also not a religion of peace.

But, most people in both religions are generally peaceful.

More specifically, bringing up the doctrine of Christianity is a terrible rebuttal to justify the doctrine of Islam.

That is like saying, "Fascism is not a good political ideology. Well, Communism isn't any good either. So, Fascism is not that bad after all."

One evil does not justify another evil. Christianity's sins do not justify Islam's.

The reason why this article is focused on Islam and not Christianity is the modern prevalence of religious violence in the Islamic world. Christianity is not without its evil but there is far less international terrorist attacks and mass killing perpetrated by Christians today than by those of Islam.

First, let's define "religious killings," which is much more specific than a practicer of a religion committing a murder.

A religious killings are directly correlated with the doctrines of the faith. That is different a human acting on some type of natural impulse killing someone.

For example, an Islamic father honor killing his daughter who was raped is a religious killing. But an Islamic man who catches his wife cheating and kills her on the spot is a murder, not a religious killing. The second man may be Islamic but the doctrine of Islam cannot be rationally held at fault for that killing. Many men with many different religions or experience would make the same heinous mistake of taking a life.

Second, criticizing a doctrine or a religion is not a criticism of everyone that practices the religion.

It is not even a criticism of everyone who make mistake while inspired by the religions. Human are willing to do heinous things when governed by a bad cause. Not every World War 2 Nazis was a homicidal maniac but human nature tells them to act this way in order to survive in their environment. It is hard to fault a person from traits that comes from evolutionary biology and natural selection.

However, commenting on a philosophy, ideology or a religion is not off limits. Every doctrine that inspires human action should be open for review. The religion may be part of a person's identity and it holds a special place in its heart but that does not mean it should be immune to criticism.

Finally, before going into a deconstruction of the myth that Islam is a religion of peace, there needs to be a note about the silencing of talking about Islam.

There is a notion in Western Society that if a person criticizes Islam, then that person hates all Muslims and the person suffers from Islamophobia. That is not the case, a person to criticize religion without becoming Donald Trump. In Western Society criticizing fundamental Christians is never seen as an attack on all Christians because there is a lot of bad ideas in the Bible that Christians act on. Therefore, criticizing Islam should have the same benefit of the doubt because the Quran has many bad ideas in it.

The Quran advocates for war on unbelievers a multitude of times. No these verses are not a misreading or bad interpretation the text. Here are two explicit verses from the Quran that directly tell Followers to engage in violence:

Quran 2: 191-193:

"And kill them wherever you find them, and turn them out from where they have turned you out. And Al-Fitnah (disbelief or unrest) is worse than killing... but if they desist, then lo! Allah is forgiving and merciful. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and worshipping of others along with Allah) and worship is for Allah alone. But if they cease, let there be no transgression except against Az-Zalimun (the polytheists and wrong-doers)"

Quran 2: 216:

"Fighting is prescribed for you, and ye dislike it. But it is possible that ye dislike a thing which is good for you, and that ye love a thing which is bad for you. But Allah knoweth, and ye know not."

There is no rational way to interrupt these passages in a peaceful way. The whole premise of both passages is to inspire followers that war against the unbeliever is justified.

The first verse advocates for genocide against non-believers for the mere transgression that a society worships a different god or worships another god along with Allah.

The second passage is arguable more dangerous because the first passage just advocate that fighting may be a necessity, while the second passage encourages it. The second passage claims that war on the unbeliever is a good thing under the eyes of Allah.

The reason why these passages are dangerous is because they directly incite religious violence. For most followers of Allah, these passages are ignored or they convince themselves the passages means something they do not. However, for a large numbers of followers that view the text of the Quran as the unedited words of Allah, these texts become extremely dangerous. These passages become all the rational they need to wage war on non-believers.

This is dangerous because there are millions of followers of Islam worldwide that believe every statement in the Quran is true.

Therefore, the Quran becomes a direct motivation and cause for its followers to attack non-followers. Rationally one can understand where the Islam follower comes from, if a person truly believes that Allah or God himself wrote these words then why would you not comply.

Especially when there is verses in the Quran that says the Follower who does not fight the infidel is not as worthy of a Follower that does wage war against the non-believer (Quran 4:95). Finally, when male Followers are told that their martyrdom fighting for the faith will be rewarded with an eternity in paradise with 72 virgins for personal pleasure. If a Follower truly believes all of this is the spoken word of Allah then there is more rational why a person would commit these atrocities then why they would not.

Men and women are radicalized by these passages on a daily basis.

No, it is not just the poor kid in Iraq that lost his family to an American bombing run that indiscriminately kills civilians but also the middle classed Saudi Arabian child or some Western white kid that finds the Quran appealing. If radicalization were just poor people, then society would not have much to be worried about. However, Heads of States, college educated people and wealthy Islamic Followers are all being radicalized and the common dominator is the doctrine of Islam.

Osama Bin Laden, one of the most infamous terrorist in history, was not a poor lad that was screwed by the United States military industrial complex. Bin Laden was the son of a billionaire, that received an education through college from great schools. There is no other just cause for Bin Laden to orchestrate such grievous attacks on humanity besides religious inspirations. A person can rationally tie Islam Followers gravitation towards terrorism to a specific verse. Quran 3: 51 tells readers,

"Soon shall we cast terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers."

Any rational person can tie Islamic passages like this directly to terrorism. It is not a complicated correlation to like Nazism and Jewish persecution to Christianity. The Holy Book of Islam directly encourages the Followers of Islam to inflict terrorism unto the non-believer.

So why do some many people deny these obvious truths about Islam and violence?

Political Correctness and the want to not be viewed as a bigot. The correlations here are as direct as the terrors of the Spanish Inquisitions and Catholicism and no one is afraid to retrospect and say, "Yes Christianity caused the direct murder of thousands of people". A person would not even be controversial if one stated that both World Wars has significant religious undertones. However if anyone states that terrorism and violence has a direct link with Islam then there is an outcry.

Even President Obama refused to use the terms Islam and Muslim when publicly talking about the War on Terrorism. I am a hypocrite also because I used the term Islamic Follower instead of Muslim in an attempt to sound more political correct.

That is a problem when society refuse to use terms that are correct in an attempt to not offend anyone. Imagine if scientist could not report their findings because the underlying politics. Society needs to be able to have open dialogue about this problem or else it will never heal. Society needs to throw away the worrisome about being politically correct and focus on identifying the problems and solving them.

The world of Islam needs to open themselves up to this criticism.

There can no longer be a closing of dialogue where the West cannot speak on the doctrines of Islam because they are not partakers (That applies to all organized religion too, especially the Catholic Church). People who draw Muhammed must no longer be threatened with attacks on their life.

When Islamic women and men speak up about the sins of Islam, they must stop being silenced. If humanity is going to take steps into the future with better technology and more dangerous weaponry, then we need to solve this problem with Islam and gradually to organized religion at all.

If not it will doom us way before we get there…

Thank you for reading and if you enjoyed this article follow my podcast on Twitter @MccrayMassMedia for more likewise discussions.

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I Experienced Family Separation, But No One Else Should Have To

Let me tell you about my lived experience as a Chinese-American immigrant who has gone through being separated from a birth family, foster family, and an adoptive father.


For those that know me, it is a well-known fact that I am an adoptee. Due to the One Child Policy, which was enforced in China from 1979 to 2015, my birth family abandoned me. I was placed with a foster family and eventual adoption in 2000 by an American family. In just the first few years of my life, I was abandoned by my birth family and separated from my foster family. Then, still in my formative years of life, my adoptive parents divorced and my adoptive father passed away.

As an immigrant and a child who was separated from her family at a young age, I find it impossible to ignore everything that has been going on in my country lately regarding the forced separation of children of illegal and asylum-seeking immigrants. While my circumstances are different, I feel must speak up about my lived experiences, and how an early separation from my families has affected me.

Overall, and I believe almost anyone who was separated from their families under questionable circumstances would agree, there is always a part of you that blames yourself. If we could've just been better or done something more, maybe our birth families wouldn't have given us up. Maybe we wouldn't have been separated.

These are thoughts that I remember having as a child. As a kid, being told that your family isn't really yours because none of them look like you or having your peers ask you why your mommy and daddy didn't want you is a terrible thing to hear.

Some personal experiences that I remember having as a child are problems with physical contact, an inability to express my feelings, and an overall stiffness or tenseness that never seemed to go away.

I remember my family calling my problem with stiffness, "t-rex" or "dinosaur" arms. When I was younger, when I walked, I held my arms close to my body with my elbows bent, hence the nickname. I couldn't get myself to relax my body enough to swing my arms by my sides. I was constantly tense, and it was only after a period where my family would physically swing my arms for me or remind me to loosen up that I eventually got into the habit of swinging my arms when I walked.

Along with my inability to swing my arms came problems with physical contact. I remember throwing full-on tantrums as a child when my parents tried to hug me. I was never able to give a full hug, I would always either go in with one arm or limply put both arms around with no pressure.

This reluctance toward embraces also extended toward genuine verbalizations of affection as well. Telling the people in my life that I love them has always been hard for me, and at some points in my life, it even bordered on causing me discomfort. Now that I have grown up, it's easier for me to express my feelings, but I still struggle with it to this day.

All in all, I have written this to urge you, please, don't tell me that the forced separation that is going on in our country isn't going to cause any negative impact on the young children who are being taken away from their families.

I know for a fact that those who are old enough to know what is going on will be blaming themselves for not doing enough to keep their families together. And for all of those kids, they will be confused, lost, scared, and hurt. Their first decade of life should be dedicated to forming strong bonds with their families.

Do not tell me that these children and infants will be free of trauma. When I was a baby, I was technically too young to understand what was going on around me. And yet even as an adult, I am still dealing with the effect that being separated from my family had on me.

Have some compassion and empathy. Most importantly, speak up. Do not speak up because you feel obligated to do so. Speak up because you feel a connection with those who are being oppressed.

Speak up because you still believe in the words that are inscribed at Ellis Island to inspire every immigrant that came through to start a new life, and speak up because you want to fight to preserve a country that still stands by its foundations as a nation of immigrants who just want to be free.

"Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door (New Colossus, Emma Lazarus)!"

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