No Caption (4 March 2011)

Screen Shot 2018-04-15 at 9.09.53 PM.pngThis is my first post on Instagram.

The man in this picture is Brandon Grace and he was always the jokester of LISD-TV, where I worked (and spent a vast majority of my time) in high school.  From what I can tell, this picture was taken at the United Supermarkets Arena (formerly the United Spirit Arena) during a Texas Tech athletics event.

Trying to stay up-to-date with the latest trends and apps, everyone in the office downloaded Instagram together because we thought it was a great and clever way to showcase our creativity.

This begins my journey.

Behind the Gram

In an effort to be honest with myself and those around me, I am starting a new blog that will revolve around my social media presence on Instagram.

These daily postings will go behind the scenes of the pictures I have been posting since the first one on March 4, 2011. Having just passed my seven-year anniversary on the service, I hope to show that life isn’t always as glamorous as it may seem.

Over the near-decade in time, I have grown and changed – as everyone around me has. I hope to show that growth and offer insight to anybody who may be struggling with the negative effects that social media may cause.

Stay positive – ADT

Over 90% of Surveyed DePaul Students Support Condom Distribution

A survey posted on the DePaul’s official class Facebook pages (classes of 2015 – 2018) has led into some insights to the student population’s sentiments towards “birth control device” distribution on campus and their knowledge of community resources.

Current DePaul policy states (emphasis added),

“DePaul University reserves the right to restrict the distribution of medical or health supplies/devices items on university premises that it deems to be inappropriate from the perspective of the institution’s mission and values.

Specifically, the distribution of birth control devices, of any kind, is strictly prohibited on university premises.”

The “current” policy was last reviewed with no changes on September 15, 2010. Before that, it was reviewed, also with no changes, on December 5, 2007. These are the only two revisions since the policy’s establishment on April 1, 2005. More language in the policy guides students with

…questions regarding the appropriateness of the public distribution of any item on university property, Students and Student Organizations should consult with the Office of Student Life.

There is currently no “Office of Student Life” at DePaul. The contact person, Jim Doyle, resigned in 2012 after 30 years at the university. Students have voiced concern for the outdated policy, and DePaul Feminist Front gained widespread support to place a referendum question on the Student Government Association ballot, though it was unfortunately not successful. While it was “not successful” it should be noted that 1,339 signatures were still considered valid.

Trojan Sexual Health Report Card 2011
Screenshot of the 2011 Trojan Sexual Health Report Card.

According to Trojan’s Sexual Health Report Card, in 2011 DePaul was ranked 141, which was last place. In 2012 it “climbed” to 114 and in the most recent study DePaul gained one spot to be ranked 113.

This raise in rank could be attributed to the office of Health Promotion and Wellness (HPW) and their efforts to expand visibility on campus. LGBTQA Student Services has also partnered with community organizations to offer quarterly testing for HIV and STIs. The most recent free testing services on campus during the 5th Annual LGBTQA Month in May, there was no STI testing due to the community resource’s lack of funding, so only HIV testing was provided. According to HPW’s website (emphasis added),

“The DePaul Health Services [Sage] fee does cover STD testing when a student is experiencing symptoms.”

The Sage fee is only mandatory to those living in the residence halls (unless they prefer to use private insurance) and is available to all other students for $42 per quarter.

DePaul has the low rankings, however unscientific the Trojan Report Card may be. DePaul Feminist Front gathered overwhelming support. Despite this, the university’s efforts are still to point their focus toward the “emotional and spiritual wellness” of the student, which is no less important than the sexual. As seen in the data below, the overwhelming majority of students support distribution of “birth control devices” on campus. Here’s what was found (updated 06 June 2015, 1:20pm):

Over 65% of students responded they have had sex in the past three months.
Over 65% of students responded they have had sex in the past three months.
  • Of the 68% of students that had sex in the past three months, 43.3% have participated in unprotected sex. 
  • 52.6% of students responded that they were single, while 38.9% responded they were in a monogamous relationship.
32.8% of respondents have sex at least once a week.
32.8% of respondents have sex at least once a week.
  • 32.8% of DePaul students have sex at least once a week, while 29.6% reported they don’t have sex frequently.
  • 63.2% of students responded that they do not use dating apps or websites, while 27.1% say they have them but rarely use them.
Over 70% of students responded that it is both people's responsibility to provide condoms.
Over 70% of students responded that it is both people’s responsibility to provide condoms.
  • 71.3% responded that it is both people’s responsibility to provide condoms. Male’s received the second highest responsibility with 21.5% of responses.
    • Responses listed under “other” included those who didn’t use condoms when having sex, are on birth control, or are in a lesbian relationship.
    • While it’s not a scientific video, Buzzfeed asked their colleagues who they felt should provide condoms and their views were very similar to the DePaul results.
  • When asked if they have ever considered using female condoms, 85.8% responded “no” or “have no need”.
Over 60% of surveyed students have never been tested for HIV or STI's.
Over 60% of surveyed students have never been tested for HIV or STI’s.

While Sexually Transmitted Infections all produce symptoms at various times, some take as little as two days or can take as long as a couple of months. Different HIV tests have different “window periods” but the normal test for antibodies should be taken around three months after the risk of infection.

  • 61.1% of surveyed students had never been tested. 
  • 22.3% have been tested within the majority of the “windows”
  • 16.6% were tested over four months ago

Part of DePaul’s policy states that,

“The University does encourage educational programs that provide a balanced view on health related lifestyle issues and choices.”

But when asked, “Can you name any offices, centers, or foundations that provide free ‘birth control devices’ (i.e. male condoms, female condoms, dental dams, etc), free-to-low-cost testing or sexual health resouces,” 50.2% of students could not name any. The following are resources that students listed (from most responses to least):

  1. Planned Parenthood (63 Responses)
  2. Howard Brown Health Center / Broadway Youth Center (15 Responses)
  3. Center on Halsted (13 Responses)
  4. DePaul (5 Responses)
    • Health Center (Sage)
    • HIV Testing
    • Health Promotion and Wellness Office
  5. Lakeview STI Clinic (2 Responses)
  6. The Following Received 1 Response: Wilbur Wright College, LGBTQA Student Services (does not provide condoms, only referrals to community resources), Ruth M. Rothestein CORE Center, Chicago Women’s Health Center

17 students responded with “yes” but provided no further explanation. Please feel free to visit the linked websites for these organizations if you are needing any sexual health resources to see which services they offer. One surveyed student replied that they didn’t know of any “and I would love for [resource] info to become more mainstream.”

Now that we know that over half of students are sexually active but 50% could not name any resources for “birth control devices” or testing, do they support distribution of these items on campus? According to this survey, yes.

The majority of surveyed students feel that it is DePaul's responsibility to provide
The majority of surveyed students feel that it is DePaul’s responsibility to provide “birth control devices.”

As displayed in the pie chart above, 68% of surveyed students felt that it was “DePaul’s responsibility to make available ‘birth control devices’ to students.” Of the 17 people who indicated “other,” 11 felt that it wasn’t the university’s “responsibility” but that the university “should” want to do it for the students’ sexual health. Though, a few others felt that the university is right in upholding its Catholic teachings and “students should know that when they apply.”

Now we look at the other question: “Do you feel that DePaul should allow students, organizations or foundations to pass out ‘birth control devices’ to students?”

Over 90% of students who completed the survey say they are in support of the university allowing distribution on campus.
Over 90% of students who completed the survey say they are in support of the university allowing distribution on campus.

91.5% of surveyed students said they support DePaul changing its policy to allow students, organizations or foundations to pass out “birth control devices” to students. Of the seven who voted “other,” only one respondent was “indifferent” and one was against it (the graph was generated by those who responded with a simple “no”). The remaining 4 were in support of distribution and even suggested having them available in the Student Center, residence halls, and the health center.

Another respondent gave a justification for her response saying, “yes, student organizations should be allowed to pass out birth control devices because student organizations are allowed to have values that do not 100% align with the Catholic values of DePaul.”

Another survey, which is still active, was sent to high school and college aged people (don’t have to be currently attending school) across the country. Please feel free to forward this survey to anybody you know that fits this criterium as I will compare the results found there to the results found at DePaul.

For this article, “sex” was defined as any act that could transmit sexually transmitted infections, including oral, anal, and vaginal sex. In total, there were 247 responses from those who have an active Facebook account and had the accessibility to take this online survey. 

Beautiful In Its Time

“There is a time for everything and a season for every activity under the heavens.” (Ecclesiastes 3:1 TNIV)

There is a time when we will ask why; why, why now, why me? My faith has been tested to the extreme this previous weekend and week leading to this post. Those closest to me know what has occurred and have been wonderful in helping me through things. Before I continue the rest of this, I want to say one thing: Life. Is. Beautiful. Even the small things that help us to smile as I previously wrote about. Life. Is. Beautiful.

Throughout my life, I have had the opportunity to meet so many people that I do not even have a word to describe the amount. There have been people in my life that have mentored and inspired me to go the distance. Without their love and support, I wouldn’t be here, writing this from the great city of Chicago.

But on a friendship level, I have met some of the most amazing people that I will forever hold dear to me. One of those friends always had the warmest smile. I close my eyes and can picture us, five-years-old and playing on a big dirt mound at the baseball park. My mind then skips to middle school, where we would help take all the staples out of the recycled paper – a very tedious job that was always enjoyable with her around. My mind’s eye then fast forwards again to high school, our long conversations in the counseling center, during my “open”and her counselor’s aide period. We would talk for the entire period, sometimes. I always had a smile on my face because she was one who always brought a wonderful perspective, warmth, and joy to my life.

“[there is] a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.” (Ecclesiastes 3:4 TNIV)

She brought both things to my life and that is how I will always remember her. We will never understand God’s timing, no matter how hard we try – I mean, December 21, 2012 has gone and passed without much incident.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11 TNIV)

We just have to be thankful that he shared his angel with us. I know I am forever thankful that I knew such a beautiful, kind soul. While her and I were not extremely close as we grew up, I knew we always remembered where we had come from. That’s the thing:

“…even if we don’t have the power to choose where we come from, we can still choose where we go from there. We can still do things. And we can try to feel okay about them.” – Stephen Chbosky

What we do with our lives is entirely up to us. Death is inevitable, but it’s what we do with the years we are given that makes life all the more exciting. We can choose to dwell on the past or live a life that we know those who have gone before us would smile down upon. We can honor them. As the David Crowder* Band so eloquently put it:

“I would like to pose a question: How do you sum up a life in a few words? How do you measure the weight of a soul within a matter of moments? You do not. You cannot. But you can pray for rest, you can pray for light. And you can remember, you can always remember.” (A Burial (Interlude))

To steal an epiphany that one of my friends recently had in dealing with a loss of his own, he exclaimed: He died in love. I can tell you right now: She died in love. She loved her family dearly as well as every single one of her friends. The love she shared set her apart from everyone else; it’s what made her glow. I know that I will strive to be the person that she always wanted me to be, because I know she’s looking down over me along with my abuelita, I.T.’s mom, Zan Walker and those close to my heart that have gone to be with the Lord.

“Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine: Et lux perpetua luceat eis. In memoria æterna erit iustus, ab auditione mala non timebit.”

“Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord: And let perpetual light shine upon them. She shall be justified in everlasting memory, and shall not fear evil reports.”

Recognizing Differences

“I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood. It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”
-Audre Lorde

Beautifully Broken

You’re too impressionable.

This was an iMessage I received yesterday from a great friend of mine back home. I will admit, the message I had sent could have come across as rude, even though that wasn’t my intention at all. That’s one thing I hate about iMessage/texting, you can’t read inflection or emotion.

The thing is, the message my friend had sent me actually got me thinking. We all have flaws. We do. Some of us have: body dysmorphia, eating disorders, substance addictions, influenced too easy, narcissism, a narrow view on life, alcoholism, bad hygiene, trust people to easy, etc. The list could go on an on. But we all have that “flaw” that “glitch” that we don’t notice from time to time, but that is always there. Sometimes we don’t even know we have it. I want to apologize to that friend for my actions and words, they weren’t right of me. I’ll try my best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

The thing is, we don’t have to let it define us. Usually the fact that I’m influenced easily is a good thing. Especially when I’m at leadership and volunteer workshops. It helps me become that much better of a person. Conversely, when I’m around a negative influence, it’s not good. By no means is this a statement saying that I give into peer pressure and don’t have a spine, I’m simply saying that sometimes being rude and snarky is contagious and I happen to be a great host. It’s not a good habit or trait and that’s why I don’t let it define me.

I consciously know I’m more than my flaws. I’m fully aware of the fact that the positive qualities outweigh the negatives. Just like they do in you. I am a firm believer that you have more positive than negative in you. Sometimes we just forget to believe in ourselves. But look at everything you have accomplished. Everything you have done so far in life. Every day is a new day, a new chance to make good choices, a chance to make things right. As one of my favorite songs by This Beautiful Republic says:

“Beautifully broken in your eyes. You see the man my sin disguise… You find sinners who are saints. And I find amazing grace. In this sacrifice, in this death is life.”

You are strong. You can do whatever you set your mind to. You are not defined by your flaws. Use them as tools for the betterment of yourself. The bottle won’t bring you happiness. The pipe won’t, either. I’m not saying I haven’t made my own mistakes, I’m just saying that trying to distract yourself from the problem just makes it that much worse. You have to find the happiness within yourself. Always remember this: in the end, the only person you have to please is yourself. 

If you’re happy with yourself, that’s all that matters. Don’t let other’s expectations of you bring you down. But that, my friends, is an entirely different topic I will soon write about.

Make today, and every day, a great day!

Just breathe.

As many of us have started to realize, we live in a generation, society, country, and world of constant communication. Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, WordPress, Blogspot, iMessage and SMS messaging, FaceTime, Skype, Oovoo, Google Hangout, etc. There are countless media in which we can connect with another person, or people, instantaneously.

Every Monday and Wednesday, I take the L to the downtown campus for some of my classes. This 15-minute commute never ceases to amaze me. How every person is on his or her own time. How everyone has earphones in listening to their own style of music, or a comedy sketch, a funny video or even an audiobook. It is as if those earbuds are external veins and arteries helping us sustain life. Because God forbid we forget our earphones and actually have to listen to the natural sounds of the train rolling along the track, the screech of the metal, the closing of the doors, the howling of the wind. We just walk in, sit, or stand, and stay in our own space until our stop. We won’t even get into making eye contact, because that’s basically committing assault

It is through these communication devices that we are being influenced by others on how to live our life, regardless of whether or not it’s a conscious thought. “Oh, I like that Elf on a Shelf idea!” – “Oh, that person listened to this song on Spotify? I’m sure I’ll love it.” – “Hey! They thought this video is hilarious, let’s see what it’s about.” – “That Buzzfeed article was hilarious! I’ll have to share it so everyone can experience the same joy I did!” 

It’s everywhere. Life is constantly changing. Technology is driving it faster. Life can change in the blink of an eye! 

Classes for me started this past Tuesday. Thankfully we had Monday off due to the fact that it was -50 below zero. After some adjustments made with my awesome academic advisor, I didn’t have a set schedule until Thursday morning. I am taking classes that were never in my plan, but have always been the back of my head as interests. I’ve had to work the past couple of days. Order new textbooks, catch up on classes I missed because of school cancellations. Catch up on classes I missed because I wasn’t enrolled in the class then. Study. Eat. Reconnect with friends that I haven’t seen since winter break started a month and a half ago.

BREATHE. That is one thing I have learned how to do well this week. 

These next few years are the most fun and exciting, yet scary and tough. Trying to maintain your own thoughts, mixed constantly with others can lead to you forget who you are and how strong you have become on your own. A friend, very dear to me, from back home called me on Tuesday. They were expressing some things to me. They didn’t know what to do. Thoughts were creeping in their head that didn’t need to be there. 

My advice: “Okay. Breathe. Let’s take it slowly, one thing at a time.” 

The conversation led me to remind this person how much they have been through, how much they have overcome, how they deserve to be happy. Coincidently enough, I had another one of these conversations on Thursday night over text. My other friend and I walked through each one of the situations on their plate and worked it out. They just felt they had to be living a certain way, following a certain preconceived idea of where they should be in their life. How they should be “put together and not ask for help.” 

While social media is a great, great way for many families and friends to stay connected. It can also be detrimental, if not taken for what it truly is: somebody else’s life, not your own

Sometimes it is just best to sit down. Disconnect. Turn off your phone. Just, breathe and Write everything down. 

Maybe you’ll hear your refrigerator hum for the first time, you’ll hear the tires rolling along the pavement, the animals playing outside. Maybe then will you realize what you truly want, your goals, your aspirations. Something nobody can take from you, something to work toward. 

One of my best friends, Brian, gives me a book every Christmas. While this may seem lame to some, I truly appreciate it. I really took something from the book he gave me for Christmas 2012. That is:

Everything can change in the blink of an eye. But don’t worry; God never blinks.

And so ended the first week of Winter Quarter 2014. 

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#Thrive2014

(Okay, so I don’t take any credit for coming up with that title, I totally took it from one of my friends while discussing New Years resolutions.)

Last year I started writing this blog to keep family, friends and acquaintances updated on my happenings in Chicago. Well, as it turns out, I didn’t write a single post while in the Windy City. Which is sad, because so much happened while I was gone. 

I have made the decision to update everyone once a week, through this blog. I have found that it is a very easy way for me to write, post pictures, links, quotes and everything else. I want to let everyone who has helped me get here that their support is something for which I will always be thankful. 

Any time someone learns something that astonishes them, they say “well, you learn something new every day!” Well, I will be posting a new lesson that I have learned every week, because I do truly believe that you do learn something new every day. I will just sum it up and put it into a life lesson. 

I already learned this lesson yesterday: a nice jacket is a necessity to live in Chicago. Which might seem self-explanatory. But you don’t actually value how nice and waterproof and windproof a jacket is until it’s -17 degrees outside and snowing. 

ImageFor those of you that I didn’t get to see over my winter break, I am loving Chicago. I have met awesome, life-changing friends for whom I couldn’t be more thankful. My roommate, Edgar, is awesome, My friends are great, My classes went well (Dean’s List!), and I can’t wait to see what the next 23 weeks hold for me! 

This year is a year to thrive.

Adventure Is Out There

It is currently my 14th night in the beautiful city of Chicago! Let me say, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I can definitely say that I feel at home. That’s nothing to say against Lubbock, my friends, or family, but I can just feel all the opportunity surrounding me. 

Today was the first day of the academic year and I can just feel the desire to thrive in the atmosphere. It’s a completely different feel than that of any college campus I have visited. Nobody shows up to class in sweats, everyone looks presentable and everyone seems excited to learn. I can’t really go into depth about classes because I’ve only had one so far, but I can tell they are going to be just as great as the one class I had today.

During most (basically all) of my free time, I have been hanging out with my new friends. There are four guys in particular that I have been hanging out with and I can already tell that we are going to be life-long friends. We have spent so much time with each other, yet we don’t get tired of being around each other. Usually when you see a person so often, the friendship becomes mundane and stale, but here, there is always something to talk about. (Even if it is just them making fun of my Southern accent.)

A couple of months ago, I was talking to a good friend of mine, Connor, when he explained to me that the best way to not get extremely home sick was to have a great group of friends. Connor attends Pepperdine University in Malibu, so he definitely knows what it’s like to move away from home. I have to say: I can’t agree more with what he told me. This great group of friends, encompassing more than these four guys are always by my side through anything I need. It has made me feel more at home in this hustling and bustling city, which I am so ready to explore.

A little known fact was that I was actually extremely nervous after moving in. I kept myself calm but on the inside, I was really debating on whether or not I really should have moved away. Well, I can attest to this fact: Adventure is out there. While it may just seem like a cheesy quote from Disney Pixar’s Up, I really do believe it.

Currently, I am employed by the Athletic Department here as a student producer and am getting paid a great wage. I have made so many friends, that always bring a laugh, each and every day. I have realized that Digital Cinema is going to be my future and I wouldn’t change a thing about it. I have made Chicago my home for the next four years. 

To anybody questioning whether or not they should leave the area in which they grew up for higher education, I leave you with a paraphrased quote from my friend, Lauren, with whom I agree wholeheartedly:

“Texas isn’t going anywhere. Your family isn’t going anywhere. Chicago isn’t going anywhere. Your friends aren’t going anywhere. This journey is all about the perspective you take and your determination to maintain a positive outlook. That’s not saying to brush all your emotions underneath a rug, it just means that you have to understand there is a great rotation. The rotation between Lubbock and Chicago, between your biological family and your second family in Chicago.”

Goodbyes

I honestly haven’t been good at saying goodbye. I guess it’s because I’ve never had the need to do so.

Yes, I was the only one from my elementary school to go to the technology magnet middle school across town. Yes I was one of few from my middle school who decided to take AP courses, but I still saw those friends. Kept connections. It broadened the amount of people I now know. It was all positive.

I hope this trend continues. That making this move will help me make more and more connections. I will never forget who I am and where I came from. It’s a lesson I learned while watching ABC’s Ugly Betty.

A little known fact about me is that I watched every single episode of this great show when it first ran and then re-watched the entire series last summer. This show was all about reaching your dreams, conquering all obstacles, and eliminating all hindrances.

I’m sorry to ruin the series if you haven’t seen it, but Betty ends up getting her dream job. She is moving away from her extremely tight-knit family, and leaves us with these words:

“I’ve had to say goodbye more times than I would have liked. And no matter how many times we say it, it always stinks even if it’s for the greater good. And though we will never forget what we’re giving up; we owe it to ourselves to keep moving forward. But what we can’t do is live our lives always afraid of the next goodbye. Because chances are, they’re not going to stop. The trick is to recognize when a goodbye can be a good thing; when it’s a chance to start again.”

Not many people know this, but as I toured the Loop Campus at DePaul University, the second I walked in, everything felt right. I can’t explain it very well because there aren’t words to describe this feeling. A sense of a dream coming true. A feeling like this is where I was called to be. I just knew that everything was going to work itself out for the better.

Soon after I applied, I got my acceptance letter along with a generous scholarship. Other outside scholarships followed and now, I am on my way to achieve my dream.

With all of your help, support, friendships, advice, and love. I know I will always have a wonderful place to which I will gladly return on my breaks. But your prayers, thoughts, and encouragement will most definitely be felt no matter the distance.

Over these past few weeks, I have learned that my family will always be there for me. I have also learned which friends I will always be able to count on. For this, I am eternally grateful.

The thing is, I don’t like saying “goodbye” because it implies the two parties will never see each other again. I don’t like that, so while Betty Suarez did a great job reciting her well-written monologue. I leave you with a few lines from The Road to El Dorado.

“What is done has been done for the best.
Though the mist in my eyes might suggest
Just a little confusion about what I’ll lose.
But if I started over I know I would choose
The same joy, the same sadness each step of the way
That fought me and taught me that:
Friends never say goodbye.”