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What up tigga/ Obligatory baby pic

Before coming to UW, I was never one to think of myself in a reflective way.

Growing up in a neighborhood where everyone looked different than me, assimilating became second nature. Sometimes, I would throw away the red hot dog sandwiches my mom would pack me for lunch and happily starve myself. To be “funny”, I would squint my eyes, make ugly faces and talk in a harsh Filipino accent. I would rotate through nicknames like “Teriyaki”, “Enchilada”, “Fez”, yet gladly give those kinds of nicknames to myself too. It made me happy that I could make other people laugh so I saw nothing wrong.

High school was different for me. Everyone looked different. They all listened to different kinds of music. They ate weird foods. They dressed differently. They talked differently.

Diversity: it was something entirely new to me.

After spending nine years within a predominantly white private Catholic school, I was finally going to school with people that were colored just like me. Yet, I felt so lost. It felt like I had to start all over again. I had to relearn how to dress, how to walk, what to listen to, what to eat, how to talk. Once again, I assimilated but one thing I couldn’t find was my voice. I was so afraid of judgement fearing that I wouldn’t be able to make friends that I felt it would be better to remain quiet rather than expressing myself. Up until college, I truly didn’t have a sense of identity.

Or rather, it wasn’t until later that I realized that I’ve been rejecting it all my life.

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There’s something really mind blowing when you look at old photos of yourself from just a year ago and realize that the picture of the person that you’re looking at isn’t you.

It was the summer before coming into UW in which I felt like things really changed for me. It was a hot day sitting in my aunt’s stuffy apartment when we had a conversation. A conversation that I will always remember. From this conversation, she gave me two tips. Two ideas that I was skeptical about at first but slowly warmed up to me and took in full-heartedly.

  1. Focus on putting yourself in a self-growth mentality.
  2. Join FASA.

Alpas (v.): to break free, to break loose. For me, “alpas” means a lot to me. All my life, I’ve been weighed down by the expectation and the fear of judgement from everyone around me. Not only did I have expectations from many people but I placed self-destructive expectations for myself. If I wasn’t like everyone else, then I’m not acceptable.

The two pieces of advice that my aunt gave me were the key for me to break loose from the chains that weighed me down. Realizing how I want to move forward and what direction to take is honestly one of my proudest accomplishments in my college career.

I’m not completely free from those chains quite yet but remember this: patience, gratitude, and trust. Breaking free isn’t going to come right away but we’ll get there eventually.

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Find out more about RJ and his position here!

What’s your FASA story? #alpas