Monthly Archives: January 2020

Why You’ll Never See Me Shirtless

January 26, 2020

Culture and Society

Imagine if you will a pool party. It is a warm and breezy day as sunlight glistens on the water. Music is playing, and people are drinking all varieties of colorful drinks with those little umbrellas that never seem to go out of fashion.

There are men and women scantily clad laughing and lounging about.

Then, sitting on a lounge chair, there’s a guy.

He’s wearing sunglasses, a hat, a long-sleeved button down shirt, pants, shoes, and socks. He knew full well that he was attending a pool party, but he had no intention of ever swimming.

I’m that guy.

Sure, I don’t like extended exposure to the sun for purely practical reasons. Overexposure is not good for your skin, but there is a deeper explanation.

It’s taken me a long time to be able to admit it, but I’m not particularly fond of my body. I’ve never been the chiseled athletic male you see on the cover of magazines. In fact, here in America, most people don’t think of Asian men when they fantasize about beautiful men. I get it. There’s Brad Pitt, Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, and all of those other impossibly handsome and talented white men to fawn over.

That’s not me, and the fact that it’s not me seems to have invaded my sense of self and my collection of personal insecurities.

Beyond race, I’ve also never considered myself handsome or beautiful in any serious way. I do the best with what I have, and that pretty much covers it.

I am often fully clothed everywhere I go no matter the occasion or season.

I understand now that my behavior and outlook are rooted in shame.

Yup, deeply so and for better or worse.

Essentially, body shaming, which I impose sufficiently upon myself, is as ubiquitous as it is insidious in our broader society.

For example, whenever you say “Wow, you lost weight! You look amazing!”, there is something deeper at play. Sure, it is intended as a compliment, but you may as well as say, “You look better now than you did when you were fat.”

Ouch.

This is how I see it, anyway, and these kinds of “compliments” happen everywhere all the time. There does not seem to be an awareness of how we impose unfair and unrealistic standards of beauty upon each other.

Why couldn’t we always say, “You are infinitely perfect just as you are”? Why can’t we encourage people to make healthy decisions for their lives (like eating organic foods and regular exercise) without the intended/unintended judgment about their bodies?

There may need to be a collective seismic shift in how we perceive beauty and in our awareness of body/fat shaming when we talk to each other.

In any case, writing this post is a step in some sort of direction for me in terms of how I see my body. Perhaps admitting that my shame exists is a step toward someday defeating it.

Will I someday be that other guy proudly sporting a speedo and nothing else at a pool party?

Nope. Highly unlikely.

But maybe, just maybe, I can start seeing that other guy when I look in the mirror and smile just a little bit, even if it’s someone no one else will ever get to see.

Who is that person? I don’t even know where to begin.

For now, I’ll enjoy showing off my wardrobe at any pool party I attend. I’ll have fun regardless.

The parts of me everyone sees will shine enough, and for now, I am very okay with that.

-Roqué

How to Recycle Different Materials

January 19, 2020

Culture and Society

First of all, if you live in an area that has a curbside recycling program, then lucky you. There are parts of this post that will not be relevant to your situation.

However, if you do not live in an area that prioritizes that kind of initiative (like I do), then you take your recyclable materials to your local recycling centers as regularly as possible. In my household, this involves putting paper, cardboard, plastic, and aluminum cans in different bags instead of in the trash. I load up my car every week to do this. Otherwise, it all starts to pile up.

Despite all of the effort it takes for me to make this happen, I am thankful for the simplicity of the process. I take all of these items to the recycling centers and put them in their corresponding large metal bins. After that, I’m done, and then I probably treat myself for my time and effort.

There are, however, some other tricky household items that may or may not be recyclable. If not, they may otherwise be hazardous and need to be disposed of properly.

Here is a short list of links I have pulled together as a resource in case you might have any of these materials and do not know of a good way to get rid of them. Each link takes you to an article that describes how each item can be safely and properly disposed:

Here are some tips that I follow to make my weekly recycling trips easier:

  • Use Reusable shopping bags to give them an added function.
    Yes, I am one of those people who brings his own bags to the grocery store instead of using all of those plastic bags that they have handy. I also use them to carry paper, small (broken-down) cardboard, and plastic bottles/containers for recycling. I also have quite a few of them in various sizes and colors. They all fit more easily in the back of my car than a bunch of boxes would.
  • Write down the hours of operation for 2 to 3 recycling centers in your area.
    In my case, I have a small handful of places where I can take my recycling, but some of their hours and days closed can vary greatly. Save yourself some grief by knowing when you can and cannot deliver your goods. It’s not fun when you make a trip only to find out that it is closed. If you happen to know of another one that is open, then that would make it all better.
  • Ideally, prepare all recyclables the day before driving it all out.
    I find that the work of gathering all of the materials (particularly if there is a lot) and loading it all up in the car on top taking it to a recycling center and unloading each bag is an awful lot of work for one day. When possible, I like to gather everything and load it all into my car the day before. This breaks up all of the labor into more manageable chunks.
  • Use those large leftover dog food, cat food, or potting soil bags for recyclable items.
    We reuse them every month for our aluminum cans since we don’t recycle those until we know we can make a decent sum of money from a scrap metal recycling plant that pays by the pound. It can take a long while to accumulate a whole lot.

If recycling is a big part of your life, then I hope this post was helpful. Almost every other day, I hear more know about how climate change is affecting our planet, and the news seems to get progressively worse. Recycling is one thing I can do, among many other acttivities, to help undo the massive pollution we humans create every day everywhere.

I want to be more of a steward of the earth than a destroyer.

If you don’t already recycle, please consider making it a part of your weekly schedule and life, and if you do recycle, thank you very much for your efforts, compassion for our planet, and diligence.

-Roqué

My Post-College Reflections, Part 1

January 12, 2020

Culture and Society

Close to a month ago from this posting, I graduated from college. I donned a black cap and gown and joined hundreds of fellow graduates marching into a spacious arena on campus to collectively bid farewell to our undergraduate lives.

It was surreal and exciting.

I was a non-traditional student who returned to college after a solid break. I still remember my first day of the fall semester when I returned back in 2016. The lengthy journey that lay ahead felt like an impossible eternity. Everyone kept telling me that it was going to fly by in a hurry. Well, I actually never felt that way.

I was one of those students who went all in. I decided to be as engaged as I possibly could. All of my assignments were turned in on time, and I did not miss a single class regardless if I was sick or exhausted. No, my college days did not rush by me. My meticulousness with my studies often felt like time was slowed down every day. I diligently plowed through so much work that my days often felt long and arduous.

I did all of this and then some, and I did it because I truly wanted to finish what I started. I wanted to do it well and to learn as much as I possibly could.

With some distance from the whole college experience and time to think about its impact, there are two big takeaways which I now hold dear:

  1. THE LEARNING MUST NEVER END.

    Being in college gave me a controlled and concentrated environment in which to learn. The learning made me more competent, confident, and capable.

    Why should this only happen in college and end when I graduate?

    Truthfully, it shouldn’t. Learning is a primary key toward personal growth and self-empowerment, and I want to be as strong and qualified as I can possibly be. By now, I have already purchased two tutorials for some new software that I want to learn, and I am currently one-fifth of the way through the first one.

  2. SEEK OUT MENTORS.

    I cultivated good relationships with all of my professors not because I wanted to kiss-up to them but because it was their job to help me attain knowledge and grow as a thoughtful individual. To me, professors were more like mentors who guided me toward a higher level of understanding. One of the best aspects of getting an education is that it grants students immediate and intimate access to people who are experts in their respective fields. This is incredibly valuable.

    In time, I hope to meet with more people who have the knowledge, skills, and experience I want to obtain. Since I will not be around such people all of the time like I was in college, I will need to work harder to seek them out, but these connections are worth their weight in gold simply for the wealth of information one can learn from them.

I plan on writing another one of these reflections six months after my graduation date. It may be amusing to see the broader picture of how my college education will have changed me and the kinds of decisions I will want to make.

Until then, I am slowly easing into my post-undergraduate life. I have numerous decisions to make and more adventures to behold.

My college diploma, which I did not actually receive at my graduation ceremony, arrived in the mail today. It symbolizes so much hard work and deep commitment on my part.

I will hold on to my diploma with great pride.

-Roqué

A City That Needs to Sleep

January 5, 2020

Culture and Society

In December, my Mom and I flew to New York City. We stayed for four days. It was a trip imagined years ago in which we would be walking among the towering skyscrapers of Manhattan and breathing in the cosmopolitan air of the place.

We maneuvered our way through the NYC subway system to visit this entire list of attractions:

  • Times Square
  • The 9/11 Memorial (including the Oculos)
  • The Empire State Building
  • The NYC Public Library
  • Saks 5th Avenue
  • St. Patrick’s Cathedral
  • Rockefeller Center
  • Chinatown
  • Battery Park
  • The Statue of Liberty
  • Ellis Island
  • Central Park
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art
  • The Neue Gallery

We kept up a fast pace each day to be able to get to all of these places. It was as if the daily frenetic rush of the city seized both our spirits and the blood in our veins.

Despite all of this, I gave myself quiet moments to reflect on the experience. This happened as I stood in a subway train on route to a distant stop, when I woke up late at night to the sound of loud honking from a car out in the street, or while I waited for our check after a meal at a restaurant.

New York City gave me a lot to think about.

It is a densely populated stretch of land that, for whatever reason, has a culture of constant movement, like the perpetual swelling waves of a restless ocean. During my brief stay, it felt all too overwhelming, but I have come to learn that humans are adaptive beings. In this case, it seems far easier to keep up a swift pace than to lag behind and get lost in the fray. Getting caught up in this swell also means surrendering one’s sense of personal space. One gets jostled about in the tide of humans running along to and fro, and in the cramped space of a subway train, strangers reluctantly oblige a necessary intimacy to accommodate oneself and each other.

Amid all of the noise, the tight squeezes, and the rushed movement everywhere, I found myself wishing for rest and space. My mind wandered toward my private residence deep in the woods of middle Tennessee. On any given day, you can hear the hushed movement of water along our creek and the songs of birds and insects through their daily chatter. There are no tight squeezes here, only trees whose branches and roots know no bounds.

Were we ever truly meant to live such claustrophobic and anxious lives? For that matter, were we ever meant to be able to fly?

Sure, I guess.

New York City feels like a prime example of how our human evolution has ensnared us into the pitfalls of our own ambition. To be fair, there are millions of people who have grown up there and love everything about it, and if I actually stayed longer than a measly four days, I might love it too.

Nonetheless, a city that never sleeps is a city that grows tired and weary with each passing day. That is how I felt as I walked among its gleaming towers and glowing lights. The place is imbued with a desire to get bigger and splashier than it was the day before.

Well, how big is too big? How much is too much? What good is all that growth and innovation when our lives become too anxious and rushed to bother slowing down to enjoy or appreciate any of it?

I live in a place in which everything feels like it is enough, and all things grow glacially and in their own time.

I left New York appreciating my home even more and all the ways by which it gives me fullness and joy. I live in a wilderness that probably sleeps more than it should. Only the trees tower among us, and mostly worms and ants burrow tunnels underground. There is open space and steady time.

This is all that I need and more than enough.

-Roqué