My Los Angeles

My Los Angeles

A little brown girl's experiences at a PWI

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I am an LA native. I'm from San Pedro, CA, Los Angeles's port town, and have spent time living with my grandmother in Watts, CA as well. As far as I know, Los Angeles is home-- all of Los Angeles--not just the recently gentrified areas of it. My everyday sightings in my neighborhood include the projects, hard-working yet rough people sitting on their front porch, and the occasional drug-fueled "tweakers" from the local halfway houses, screaming and twitching down the street. Most of the people I grew up around were people of color, predominantly Latino or Black, and poor. That was my reality. It is for many LA natives here.

So, as a spring admit freshman here at USC, my experience so far has been interesting to say the very least. Although USC is located in South Central LA, it is a socioeconomic microcosm in comparison to the rest of the city. Unlike the locals of South Central, USC is predominantly Caucasian (30.7%) with International students (23.9%) and Asian students (16.8%) as the runner-ups. In addition, many of the students that attend the school are at least middle class and range to the upper middle class, and even high class-- which is something you don't really see in Los Angeles unless you venture into gentrified, or tourist areas. Of course, USC is very generous with their financial aid, and it is to be recognized that most of the students here have some type of financial aid. However, that is significantly different from students that are in or are near the poverty line-- and that needs to be recognized.

I mention all of this because there are key variables into the displacement I feel in my own city, and they all leak into other aspects of my life here one way or another. For example, on the first day of my LINC class (a week long Marshall trip for freshmen on international commerce), all the students introduced themselves, answering questions posted on the projector screen. One of them was "Why LINC?" Every student talked about their love for travel, the amount of it they do, etc. That's great for them, and it is a completely valid reason. On my turn, I answered, like everyone else, "I wanted to do LINC because I've actually never been out of the country. I just got my passport for this trip." I was the only one in the room who had never been out of their country, and now whenever I interact with my classmates, that's usually the first thing they mention, to which my answer is always "My family never had the money to travel". That's only one of many encounters of disconnect at USC, and they range from economic differences, to cultural differences, and even somewhat racist encounters. I've spoken with others concerning my personal experiences, and many of them have also had similar experiences (they are also people of color and come from a low-income background). I am not the only one in this struggle.

Diversity is important, I am a huge advocate of that. The problem is not that I'm suddenly around people that do not look or come from the same upbringings as me; the problem is the underlying attitude about low-income minorities, and the manifestation of that through interactions with them, and the areas associated with them. Rather than really getting to know Los Angeles and all its inhabitants, many are quick to only go to Westwood, Santa Monica, or Hollywood, and almost look down upon the "ghetto," areas. As a result, so much of LA is being gentrified to cater to this audience and enable this attitude, raising prices of goods and property in hopes of attracting the wealthy. My city is looking different nowadays--and it feels different too. When I talk casually to fellow peers here on campus, sometimes I use lingo common to neighborhoods of L.A., and am returned with confused, uncomfortable reactions. I have people from Pennsylvania trying to tell me about the local spots-- all of which are in gentrified areas-- as if I was not born and raised here. My Los Angeles is a completely different world from that of the students here at USC. Progression is necessary, but wiping away the grit from this city is not. I encourage everyone to really think about this--for any city, not just Los Angeles. Think about the people around you-- really take a look at them. Rather than judging superficially, search for substance. There's so much here in Los Angeles and its people, and trust me, it's not all in gentrified, trendy areas where coffee is sold for $6 a cup.

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Working With People Who Are Dying Teaches You So Much About How To Live

Spending time with hospice patients taught me about the art of dying.

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Death is a difficult subject.

It is addressed differently across cultures, lifestyles, and religions, and it can be difficult to find the right words to say when in the company of someone who is dying. I have spent a lot of time working with hospice patients, and I bore witness to the varying degrees of memory loss and cognitive decline that accompany aging and disease.

The patients I worked with had diverse stories and interests, and although we might have had some trouble understanding each other, we found ways to communicate that transcended any typical conversation.

I especially learned a lot from patients severely affected by dementia.

They spoke in riddles, but their emotions were clearly communicated through their facial expressions and general demeanor, which told a story all on their own.

We would connect through smiles and short phrases, yes or no questions, but more often than not, their minds were in another place. Some patients would repeat the details of the same event, over and over, with varying levels of detail each time.

Others would revert to a child-like state, wondering about their parents, about school, and about family and friends they hadn't seen in a long time.

I often wondered why their minds chose to wander to a certain event or time period and leave them stranded there before the end of their life. Was an emotionally salient event reinforcing itself in their memories?

Was their subconscious trying to reconnect with people from their past? All I could do was agree and follow their lead because the last thing I wanted to do was break their pleasant memory.

I felt honored to be able to spend time with them, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I was intruding on their final moments, moments that might be better spent with family and loved ones. I didn't know them in their life, so I wondered how they benefited from my presence in their death.

However, after learning that several of the patients I visited didn't have anyone to come to see them, I began to cherish every moment spent, whether it was in laughter or in tears. Several of the patients never remembered me. Each week, I was a new person, and each week they had a different variation of the same story that they needed to tell me.

In a way, it might have made it easier to start fresh every week rather than to grow attached to a person they would soon leave.

Usually, the stories were light-hearted.

They were reliving a memory or experiencing life again as if it were the first time, but as the end draws nearer, a drastic shift in mood and demeanor is evident.

A patient who was once friendly and jolly can quickly become quiet, reflective, and despondent. I've seen patients break down and cry, not because of their current situation, but because they were mourning old ones. These times taught me a lot about how to be just what that person needs towards the end of their life.

I didn't need to understand why they were upset or what they wanted to say.

The somber tone and tired eyes let me know that what they had to say was important and worth hearing. What mattered most is that someone who cared was there to hear it.

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My First College Gal Pal Road Trip Was Amazing

Every girl should have one good girls trip.

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In some way or another, everybody has a list of things they want to do in their lives before it's all over. After all, we're human. There's adventure to be had in every life. One thing I have always wanted to do before I grew too old and grey was go on a road trip with my gal pals to the beach. A couple weeks ago, I achieved this memorable milestone, and it allowed me to open up to new surroundings and experiences.

On this trip, I went with two of my friends from college, Kait and Lindsey, to visit my roommate Elizabeth in Virginia Beach. This was pretty big for Lindsey and I because neither of us had been to Virginia Beach before. Thankfully Elizabeth and Kait knew their way around the city, so we never got lost on our way to and fro.

Like most vacations, my favorite parts probably took place at the beach. I'm always at utter peace stomping through mushy sand or leaning down to splash the salty water that tries to knock my short self over. We took pictures and did something us college girls rarely have time to do especially in school: Relax.

The four of us did not live up to the crazed stereotype of girl trips in movies. Although I finally got a chance to sing along to Taylor Swift in a car ride with my friends, so that's always a plus. We played "Top Golf" one day, and by some miracle, I actually won the second game by a fair amount after much humiliation in the first one. We visited some of Elizabeth's family, and I finally got to meet her giant dog Apollo (I call him 'Wolf Dog'). Everyday was another chance to ask with enthusiasm: "So what are we doing today?"

Our trip wasn't like the movies where we all cried or confessed our deepest darkest secrets. Everything the four of us shared was laughter and this calm feeling of being at home, in the chaotic peace of each other's company. We understand each other a little better due to finally seeing what we're like outside of Longwood University. After this, all I can say is that we're most definitely planning the next one!

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