Recently, I was forced to navigate the fine line of what Derrick Barry/Britney Spears would describe as “not a girl, not yet a woman.” In other words, I turned 21 on April 12 (shout-out to fellow birthday gals Saoirse Ronan and Claire Dane). On that day, I drove to El Matador Beach near Malibu with my roommate and contemplated the state of my so-called life. Why does my mind dwell on the status of applications for scholarships and fellowships on this car ride? This mindset is a recurring issue in my life. What have I done becomes, “Is what I’ve done compelling enough to receive this award” and Where I am going becomes, “Where I am going to apply?” This internal tension led me to a profound realization. True life: I have a toxic relationship with applications.
The next day while driving with my best friend to my Point Mentor’s House for a birthday BBQ, I brought up the internal tension I experienced on my birthday with my friend. When describing the situation, I realized that this is a longstanding issue. The month before my first year of college I created a spreadsheet of all of the national awards and fellowships, including Point, which I would apply for during my undergrad. On my first day of college, I visited the director of Oxy’s Career Center and somewhat panicked said, “I know it’s my first day, but I am nervous that I will not get a job right out of college.” In short, I have cultivated a mentality centered on “What is the next big thing?”
Later in the evening, my Point Mentor’s partner begged the question: “You are 21. What is your ideal scenario from here on out?” Two days prior, I would have listed off all of the accomplishments that I want to achieve. This time, I vulnerably laid out this internal quandary about struggling to live in the present. My mentor bluntly told me, “These institutions and scholarships won’t ever give you the love that you truly need. Yes, they will support you, but what you are asking for from these prestigious scholarships is validation that your life is valuable. Honestly, in order to sustain yourself, you have to know deep down that your life is valuable.” Very Dorian Corey a la Paris is Burning elder wisdom served over a steak and potatoes dinner on Wednesday evening.
The week proved to be an emotional whirlwind. Applications have never been just applications, but rather sites where I navigate the messier aspects of self, such as shame, guilt, and self-love. Writing this blog post has affirmed two things: First, self-love is not just knowing I am abundant, but understanding the origin story of my abundance. Meaning, my abundant self derives from a history of (trans)ancestors from the past, present, and future who all come together to hold space for me. This space is located inside me.
Second, my Point Mentor, Jamie Coker-Robinson, is my everything. She is the big queer sister I never had. I text her when I am about to go on a date. She texts me about her daughter’s upcoming softball games. We hike at Runyon Canyon and ruminate on the meaning of life and Cate Blanchett’s collarbones. I wouldn’t be able to reach my first realization about the abundant self without this second realization about the role of queer and trans mentors such as Jamie.
If someone were to ask me what my ideal situation is from here on out, I would say “I think the next big thing is playing drag bingo at good microbrew on a Sunday afternoon with my mentor network, including Jamie and Oxy’s resident queer theorist Professor Lukes, and artist-activist Lexi Adsit. The reason being is gay bingo reminds me of the abundance of myself.
This post is written by Point Scholar Adrienne Adams
Growing up in Las Vegas, Nevada, Adrienne Adams understood his developing queerness, gender queerness, and multi-ethnic identity as personal, rather than political. Engaging in the Coalition at Oxy for Diversity and Equity (CODE) and taking courses in the Critical Theory and Social Justice Department have challenged Adrienne to realize the necessity to engage in personal as political activism.
Read more about Adrienne.