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Friday, April 28, 2017

For the children: Role Models

As a child I felt insignificant. I did not have any true role models. I looked around and could not see any success around me. I saw violence, I saw crime, I saw drugs, but where was the success? As I grew older I thought success was simply financial gain or looking better than the next person, but I was mistaken. I did not see success because to me even as a small child, success was a mentality. 

Success is the indomitable will of knowing you can get knocked down and still get back up. Success is coming full circle with both your hopes and fears, and still keep going. It is important for us to share our stories of strength, how we pushed through fears, how we stood up for what we believe in, and how when we failed we got back up. Success takes courage. Success takes discipline. Success takes passion. Success takes us, and together we are powerful.


Thursday, July 21, 2016

Stand with Me

Everyone I love, I need you now. I hate to admit this but sometimes I need strength to overcome and keep going. Since Billy passed away I have done my best to carry his spirit always with me, but sometimes the world and weakness of others gets to me. Can we keep fighting together?

Thursday, June 23, 2016

“There is neither happiness nor unhappiness in this world; there is only the comparison of one state with another. Only a man who has felt ultimate despair is capable of feeling ultimate bliss. It is necessary to have wished for death in order to know how good it is to live.....the sum of all human wisdom will be contained in these two words: Wait and Hope.”~Count of Monte Cristo

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Fire and Honor

The universe has a voice but it does not have words. If you listen only with ears, you will not hear. You may think you are wrong or broken because you do not act like others around you. Do not let the acts and words of other noise chaos your inner peace. They may try to pull their storm into you, but you have the ability to pull them into your inner peace. 


A lesson from buddhist mantras

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Eulogy for William R. Choy

This is the Eulogy I wrote for Will, reflecting on his life and how he has inspired me to carry on.
_______________________
My name is Sara. Many of you know me as Will’s friend or his sister. But Will referred to me as his little curse. I would play terrible pranks like replace his whiskey with soy sauce, randomly skype his friends, autocorrect the “lol” on his phone to terrible naughty bad things and so on.
     Will was and will probably always be the most patient and loving person I know. I remember, no matter how late at night, he was willing to meet up to provide solace. Sometimes I would be so angry. I was so hateful. We lost so many to disease, evil and the world’s madness. We have suffered so much and for many of us, we already know how our life will end. It can leave one so understandably angry and hateful. But Will told me “If hatred could burn the world down then imagine what love could do.“
I loved him so much and I still have trouble expressing how I feel. But if you could imagine what it is like to lose gravity. It feels something like that. When he began to fade, I thought I could never love again.  I felt so alone. The first couple weeks were the worse because it was just his aunt and I. But over time, more people kept coming forward. People who Will loved and Will loved them back. They told me stories of how Will influenced their lives and brought them joy. Many even went out of their way to reach out to me and talk to me personally.
     Will said everyone who visited him, wrote him messages, stood by his side, cared for him when he was not so lovable, the ones who reached out to me and looked death in the eye were brave. To him, bravery was not dying. Dying was just another part of life.  Being brave means to be terrified but still push through. To be brave is to do the right thing and follow your heart even no one is watching. To be brave is to love in a world where hate is so strong.     
These past couple of months, I have seen more bravery and strength than I have ever in my whole life.  And some of you have become like my new family.  I do not feel alone anymore. I feel hope. I never thought this life would be so beautiful. It is not hatred for a disease that has brought us together; we are united by the love of one man.

     If Will could still love in a world so fragile and on fire, then we can too. When you leave here today, if you apply this compassion, bravery and love as you continue living your life, then Will is not dead. He is alive in all of us.  You will never be alone.


Sunday, December 7, 2014

Jim Crow is alive and thriving

Michelle Alexander, the author of Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has helped me further understand why we do not live in a post-racial society or much of a society at all. Below, I have briefly summarized a small section of her lecture in order to help others understand why the USA is not equal when it comes to the justice system. 

“We have not eliminated discrimination but simply redesigned it”

-Michelle Alexander 


Between the 1880s and 1960s, the United States had Jim Crow laws meant to legally racial discriminate against African Americans. These laws were based on the concept of separate but equal, however they only perpetuated and enforced social, economic and educational disadvantages. These conditions for African Americans were inferior to those of Caucasian Americans in order to prevent them from surpassing their caucasian peers or being truly and completely equal in society. Today, in modern USA the idea of Jim Crow is now simply the phrase “conscious intentional bias" yet racial discrimination is not just a conscious action such as of name calling or refusing to hire an employee. No, the concepts and practices of Jim Crow laws remain today rooted into the justice system.  Instead of using race as a label for discrimination, the label of convicted criminal is now being used as the tool for discrimination. A convicted criminal can not vote, can not have access to financial aid for education, will have trouble obtaining a job, is not allowed access to public housing nor even allowed food stamps. We can not think to ourselves, "people of color just shouldn't commit any crimes if they didn't want their rights stripped away" or "they commit the most crime and thus must pay the consequences." No, according to Michelle Alexander, “The explosion of imprisonment is not due to crime rates. Crime rates are at historical lows yet black incarceration rates has soared.” 1 in every 15 black men compared to 1 in 106 white men are incarcerated for nonviolent crimes (nps.gov). The Jim Crow laws may no longer be legal but incarceration and suppression is now just the new form of racial control.

One may ask "why are there more black people in prison than white people?"  One example would be that The War on Drugs is being exclusively waged on black dominated communities, even though black people are not more likely to use drugs than white people. Law enforcement is not going to white dominated suburbs nor college campuses to search for people to convict of drug possession. In order to find those to convict, random groups of people or individuals are being stopped and frisked. The cop is most likely putting his or her hand on a gun as a fear tactic and definitely not informing the person being frisked that they have a right to say "No." Out of 600,000 frisks in 2010, 87% of those frisks were on people of color (Alexander). It is because of this targeted discrimination that more black men are in jail than white men for nonviolent crimes proving that legal racial discrimination is not dead, it is thriving.

Ultimately, the cycle will continue. First, an underprivileged black man is targeted for something as small as Mary Jane possession. Second, he is convicted to the maximum unless he or his family hires a private defense lawyer with money most underprivileged people do not have. This is especially difficult if his father before was convicted of a crime as well and struggles with finding a living wage. Then lastly, released without the means to thrive in society nor even get back into society such as buying food or having a living wage job. At the end of the day, creating second class citizens without rights nor the means to survive is somehow acceptable in the eyes of the law but that is only if there was no name calling. 




To learn more please watch Michelle Alexander's full lecture on systematic racial discrimination.
















More information can be found in these links:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c0Fah_W10do

https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/race/news/2012/03/13/11351/the-top-10-most-startling-facts-about-people-of-color-and-criminal-justice-in-the-united-states/

http://www.nps.gov/malu/forteachers/jim_crow_laws.htm

Tuesday, October 28, 2014


My struggle with PTSD & Stigma

I am not a Doctor. I wrote this post to talk about my own personal experiences of why I felt stigma and in no way it is meant to be insensitive to any one else nor really describe mental illness as a whole. I can only hope my experiences and strength inspires others who struggle with mental pain to seek help or at least treat those suffering with respect.

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I suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder which includes anxiety and severe bouts of depression. I have been hospitalized twice for symptoms related to severe anxiety attacks and destructive behavior. At the height of it all, some of my behavior included staying awake for 2 or 3 days straight, didn't eat, couldn't get out of bed, couldn't sleep for more than a few hours at a time due to nightmares, smoking excessively, afraid hatred would consume me, biting whole nails off, pulling hair, constantly feeling guilty for reasons I shouldn't be and wanting a reset button on my life. There is quite a bit more I could add to that list but overall, I just couldn't really see me as having a future. My head was just foggy. I was so numb and it was worse than any physical pain I've ever endured. And yes, that is from a person who had severe burns, about 15 surgeries and cancer. I was on four different medications at once to get through my day without having an anxiety attack and to sleep through the night.

I only had a handful of people I felt comfortable talking to about what I struggled with behind closed doors because I felt massive stigma. Much of my stigma came from feeling guilty and feeling judged as broken. I felt that I was a burden to anyone I asked help from because my need was so great and I didn't have anything to offer back to them. I felt like I was being ungrateful for the simple things in life and the blessing I had around me. I felt so ashamed because the friends and family I turned to did not wish to address these issues because they did not want to feel like a failure. They would tell me to "just be happy" or that I was "selfish." Those statements disregards the inner battles making it seem like being nightmares, anxiety and depression is a choice. No one wants to feel chronically like he or she is drowning, unable to escape or tortured. It is a heavy burden and war inside. Suffering from mental pain is not selfish. It is an illness like any other illness. You wouldn't call cancer patients selfish, just how it is never okay to call anyone else with an illness selfish. Not only that, the reasons for me was not just a single event but a series of events. I just can't unwind a lifetime of anger, mourning and confusion overnight. I felt so alone but realized that many of my family and friends most likely have never been through the same battles as me and do not know how to handle the situation.

The reason I am able to talk about my own pain now is because I have more confidence in who I am as a person and have a more genuine group of people around me. In order to make progress in recovery, I had to really understand what exactly happened and why. I had to learn that many events are out of my control, but what I could control was my own reaction. However, I can not say I am 100% as I am sometimes prone to relapse. In truth, my mind is still an ongoing battle but at least now in my mind I am winning. And I still struggle with night terrors and nightmares on a daily basis but I have since learned to control my anger. I turned the pain of experience into wisdom and an outward action of helping others instead of inward anger or blame towards others.

What I ask of others is to be empathetic to the struggles others have behind closed doors and that each struggle is individual and unique. Do not try to make a person feel guilty or a failure but instead encourage that person to receive proper help. Just be a friend, you could save a life.