Don’t Confuse Your Life Task With Your Day Job

“We must learn to lift as we climb.” – Angela Davis

It’s not very often that I am caught off guard about something. I tend to regulate my emotions to the best of my ability and yet, despite that you can still see my heart on my sleeve. When I took the offer to write for the Huffington Post, I will admit, that I wasn’t entirely sure what I was getting into.  I knew that my potential audience would be bigger and my name would get out there more, but I didn’t know what to expect in terms of feedback.

It was my girlfriend who told me that I needed to be very mindful about potential comments that I may receive, after all, I do not get very many on this blog and I have become quite used to that. But, she was referring to people who would not agree with my view on life. What she was trying to do was prepare me for potential negativity with the things I write. 

There was a lot of thought put into what I was going to write about in the Huff Post. I wanted to make sure that I was going to be ok with the angle I decided to take, which of course is all based on my time working at Syracuse University. I really wanted to get into my observations and my feelings with working at SU as well as getting to know the students. I wanted to be able to reflect on my experiences as a former student and current staff while giving the reader a glimpse of what I see and do.

I have taken pride and often times I have been humbled by the show of support by fellow alumni and staff when I debuted a couple of weeks ago. There was nothing better to me than to be recognized for my ability to write. I also wanted to use my gift to highlight those who work in the trenches with me. So this is not only meant as a tool to talk about students but the wonderful staff as well. That is what I based the second blog post on. I started looking at things differently after that blog was published.
I have made it a point not to be overly critical of my own work. I go into this whole writing thing knowing that I can always improve because typos are the bane of my existence. I can take people arguing with me when I post something controversial. I know that not everyone wants to hear what I have to say when it comes to Racism and I am ok with that. But, in this particular case, I am writing about my students, the ones that I have a love/hate relationship with because in many ways (and i hate to admit it) they are the closest thing I will have to younger siblings. 

So imagine my surprise when the comments are negative. By no means am I that sensitive, but I was completely caught off guard by the type of responses. I find it funny that I can talk about something that I feel we need, which is more Latinos in Higher Education, and to insinuate that everything that I am saying is borderline racist is laughable. Of course, I made the choice of engaging one person when I just should have let it go as many of my other friends told me. But, what got me was the fact that there were people liking these responses. It made me question a few things.

Cornel West came to Syracuse University this week too. He spoke about the new youth movement and how America’s youth are poised for action. He said that at any moment we will be witness to a time period where people will begin to mobilize for justice, much like the Occupy Movement. He talked about leadership and being able to tell the truth and take the truth, but the one thing that I found to be most profound (and there were many) was when he gave advice to students who are looking to make in the word, Have the courage to be yourself. Don’t confuse your life task with your day job.” That in itself made me realize that I am doing exactly what I want to do no matter what anyone thinks.

However, it was all brought together by my students. I had 3 students this week ask me for personal advice; things that they cannot ask anyone else. I had one student break my heart when he told me that he felt defeated. He knows what he wants to do but has no idea how to get there. He is convinced that his poor grades will make him a laughing stock. This kid told me that no one knows his story and the hell he has been through in life and all he wants to do is just help other students. What do I tell him? Do I tell him that he is a fuck up? Do I say “pull up your bootstraps, hard work will get you what you want!”

Yes, he needs to put in the work…but how do I help him find his motivation? By doing my job, that just happens to be my life task.

Why I do What I do.

I am taking this opportunity to write while I am in a relatively bad mood. There are many things going on in my life that are just annoying on a personal and professional level. It also does not help that the Knicks just lost to Miami Heat which just puts me closer to edge.  With this aggression, I want to write about why I do what I do because as this blog gets older, this becomes something that I can point back to time and time again.

My day job has not been really stated. I work at Syracuse University as a member of student affairs that handles events that occur primarily in the student center. I advise 5 student groups ( 2 Latino student organizations, 1Multicultural Frat, 1 Latino Frat, and co-advise NALFO). I donate my time to students and try to guide them in the right direction. I have written several letters of recommendations for awards, employment, graduate schools, and internships. I have become a supervisor, mentor, advocate, psychologist, friend, brother, and in some cases, another dad. I can also be the bad guy, the asshole, and the sarcastic dude that never smiles.

My love for students never dies because I know what it is like to be in their shoes. I know what is like to almost not graduate. I know how it feels to be bored with classes and to be distracted by outside forces like girls and family. I know what it is like to be the only person of color in a class filled with white students and the loneliness that is felt when you have to speak for your race (in my case it seemed I was speaking for Blacks and Latinos). I went through many things and never understood who to go or if there even was someone that I could talk to.

When I was hired 10+ years ago, I wanted to be that person. While I think that I have achieved that goal, I found it difficult to just stop there. I wanted to create something that made Latino students proud. With that came the Latino Listerv (that barely gets used now), I began to advise my first student organization, and then there was the creation of Fiesta Latina. With all that, I was not done. I wanted to do anti racism work because pride of a culture comes from understanding it’s struggle.

The Latinegr@s Project was born 2 years ago in a joint effort between me and Bianca. Everyday since then I have been grateful for joining forces with her. My view of educating students broadens to educating the masses (or whomever will listen). Each of these things become extremely hard while not being mutually exclusive. Not all my students are Latino. My adviser role reaches a diverse amount of students just like the blog posts I write.

Yet, I get annoyed when students do not see the full scope of their potential. While, I was there once, the amount of resources has increased; the amount of programs promoting diversity increased and there seems to be very little care shown. As if there is this sense of entitlement where they may be glad programs exist for the sake of existing but not really interested in going. Never is there a thought of what might happen if things like Latino Heritage Month would cease to exist.

I get annoyed when the images of Afro Latinos are never properly shown, which is why I press on with the Latinegr@s Project and its expansion last year. One can never show too many positive images of black and brown people. There is no such thing as being too educated, but what if there are people who just don’t want to listen anymore? When I see imagine above I realize that Afro Latinos are truly invisible. When I see things like the video below, I know that racism is an issue (even if you consider your to be a high class Cuban).

It makes me thing of my students who do not recognize that having bad grades because they rather bag “hoes” and smoke weed just makes them a statistic. I do what I do because I have to fight the good fight. I want to show students that their voice matters.

10 Years (@SyracuseU)

Today marks ten years since I have been in Syracuse. I came here looking for a career and I certainly found one. I left right after 9/11 and it was such a blessing to have an escape from all the death and sadness that was in NYC at the time. What I do not mention is that before that fateful day, I didn’t have a career, I had a job that I did not like. So still being here after all this has been both a blessing and curse.

2004 Fiesta Latina

I learned early in my twenties that being laid off is not just something that happens to older people. I worked at Deutche Bank back in the late 90’s when they acquired Banker’s Trust. When the merger was complete, I watched my supervisor get laid off and then a few weeks later, so was I.  As an admin assistant,  I was getting paid pretty good right out of college. I had gotten my own apt in the Bronx and was living with my girlfriend at the time. So when I go laid off, it was a shock and I had finding a job was incredibly hard.

I landed in a place called MHN (Mental Health Network) and it was job that I liked at first, but it became repetitive. However, I loved the area in which I worked. It was right on Wall St. The World Trade Center was right there and so was the South Street Seaport. I could buy anything and eat anywhere. The job itself was boring to the point that I restarted one of my older blogs and I taught myself HTML. One day, in August 2001, I get a call from my buddy (@panthbro). He tells me that department I worked at when I was enrolled at Syracuse was hiring and I needed to jump on it.

Without hesitation, I did just that. I get an interview, which included a presentation and meeting with several people, and I knocked it out the park. The following tuesday was 9/11 and I knew that this was going to be my last month in NYC.

Making sure my students work lol

I get to Syracuse in October and it was all trial by fire. I worked a concert on the very first day, which turned out to be a 14 hour day. The group was called Everclear. Never hard of them and barely hear about them now. That weekend was a dance party. A fight broke out that practically clears the room. I ran right into the middle of the brawl to grab students, who work for me, out of harms way. This was when I felt pepper spray for the first and only time.  At that time, our Public Safety Officers didn’t carry guns like they do now, they had cans of pepper spray. That was fun to say the least. No one who worked for me got hurt.

I worked hard to get to know the students. I specifically looked out for students in La LUCHA. This is when I met @theJLV. By the end of the 2002, I was their advisor, thanks to him. I had also noticed that Black History Month was being celebrated the way it should be, but nothing was really being done about Latino Heritage Month, outside of La LUCHA.  So, I tried my hardest to bridge the gap between Latino students and faculty/staff because there weren’t many of us then (and there still aren’t many of us now). I created the Latino Listerv to start building those bridges. I worked with the Office of Multicultural Affairs to generate a calendar for Latino Heritage Month. I also started Fiesta Latina in a conference room when it was just a mixer in 2003.

I even met Rakim!

Over the years, I have seen many things. I have seen students come and go. I have seen staff who have been hired, fired, retired, and just plain lose their minds. I have witnessed change from inside and out. There were times in which I wasn’t sure I was going to have a job anymore, but I endured. I have seen Syracuse University at it best and at its worst. I have seen blatant racism that has but tears in the eyes of my students and I have seen the election of the first Black President.

I have made sacrifices. I got married and divorced in those 10 years and I have endured. I have seen how successful I can be when I can out aside my issues and just be me. I have worked hard on my image and continue to peruse a path that is better for me. I have gained weight and lost weight. I have taken classes and started this blog that has allowed me to rediscover myself. I have created and presented workshops that benefit the student body. I have cultivated student leaders and have been a psychologist to others (some of them call me dad…I swear I am not that old…right?). I try to be the best supervisor I can be. I teach them to be the best they can be in a thankless environment.

I support my students! 

The most important thing is that I do love my students. I want to be the person that should have been there for me when I was in their shoes. They have taught me so much and it is because of them that I have truly learned how to be humble. I do my best to follow those who have graduated. I know that I have made it public knowledge that I want to return to my hometown of NYC because I feel it is time. Yet, something keeps me here. Whether it is the economy or just fate, I will continue to strive for something better for myself and the student who are in my lives.

In the end, I am just glad that I have maintained my sense of self and…my sense of humor.

I am Stumped!

I have to admit I am stumped. I am not sure what to do with my life at this moment in time. I know what want. But, getting there is a something I am not sure about. I already know that my days in Syracuse are numbered as it is, but it is a matter of when.

Going into this semester I feel myself being excited to have the students back. I look forward to the many new challenges my job has to offer. The issue for me is that I think I have learned all I can learn and I need to move on. Now, with that said, I know that I need to prepare myself for any transition in my life, which is what grad school will do for me. Unfortunately, in order for me to truly move up in my field, I need to get a Master’s Degree.

There is something about this that doesn’t sit well with me. I am willing to put in the work. I am willing to learn about education and how we can improve it to benefit the Latino youth. What gets me is the amount of work I have put in up to this point. I love working for the University but I feel lost because of the lack of representation within the staff. This does frustrate me, but, when I look at the students that need my help, I seem to forget about all that.

What do I want to do? Well, I want to write a book. I just do not know how I get to the point of pitching this idea I have to someone who would be willing to give me a chance an publish it. This goes well beyond my aspirations of being a short story writer. I am just not sure if this is something I should do after I get my Masters, or before, or during.

I am also nervous because once I walk down this path, there is no going back. I love what I do now, but I feel the time may come to take chance on my abilities. I know that I eluded being on the “The Precipice of Solitude”, but I am also the brink of something better. I just cannot put my finger on it.

Generation Me

I will make this quick. I am surprised I can even get this one out. I am sitting here talking with friends and the discussion came about the type of students that we have. What I found interesting is the consensus is that most of the student today feel they are privileged. Which means that these students believe that since they are in school they should not work all that hard to earn the services that Universities provide.

I have encountered students who feel they should get an award, or an internship because of who they are and the not the hard work that is needed to gain it. I find myself wondering how the mentality changed from one generation to other.

Could it be that technology is to blame? I say that because I think about how the world was when I graduated from SU and how it is now. Social Networking, Cell Phones, Emails, and iPods. These things were non existent less than 15 years ago. My nephew surfs the web and has an iPod…and he is 10. My niece is the same age and called me from her cell phone…

No wonder that children feel that they deserve it all. They are getting that way from the start. It just an interesting observation to me.