Byline Brag: September 20, 2017

Welcome to this week’s Byline Brag! I’m not super thrilled by that name for this series, so if you have any other ideas, let me know. Bonus points for puns and/or alliteration.

Today’s featured article is the profile I did on a Foothill college grad who’s also a DACA recipient. Community colleges and working class immigrant families are two subjects close to my heart, so the chance to be able to share this story with the relatively privileged readership of the Los Altos Town Crier consumed me.  It’s not just the best thing I’ve written for the Crier; it might be the best thing I’ve written in a long time.

Read more about Liliana here.

As for the rest of my stories for the week, because I poured so much of myself into this article—and because the Business section was small this week—Liliana’s story wasn’t just my favorite byline; it was my only one! But that doesn’t mean I just spent the week hanging out in the office. I covered some school events and brought my camera with me. I’m still not the best photographer, but it has been nice putting the skills I learned from quidditch together with getting to know the community that I’m supposed to be covering.

You can find my images of Los Altos High’s Green Team electric car exhibition and Hausner Jewish Day School’s Dinosaur Dig in the PDF version of the paper.

Believing That We Will Win

My brother and I were waiting to catch the light rail after watching the US men’s soccer team win their sixth Gold Cup. Soccer is one of the things that brings us together as siblings—along with being lifelong Democrats. While the former made for a great day out, the latter ruined the patriotic buzz I had going on. “Time to go home, go to bed, and see what fresh hell Trump has visited upon us tomorrow morning,” he said.

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Professora Elizabeth and the Carnation Revolution

Most days, I’m happy if my Portuguese students retain enough from the one night a week I have with them to be able to speak to their grandparents. I hope that they remember how conjugation works for when they take other foreign languages. And maybe, if I’m lucky, I have a few that fall in love with the language like I did.

Yesterday was different. Yesterday, I terrified them. Then, I made them think.

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52 in 52: Nineteen Eighty-Four

First, Some Excuses

Yep, I’m definitely behind on this. One of these days I’m either going to stop overcommitting myself (unlikely), learn to set more realistic goals (somewhat less unlikely), or just accept that I may not meet every goal I set (most likely).

This actually started out as an experiment I started back in January when I still had an hour and a half commute to and from my internship. I was messing around on my phone instead of reading like I had planned to do, so I told myself, “Maybe reading on your phone will work!” I have iBooks and Kindle on my iPhone and iPad, the two biggest culprits behind my lack of reading time, so it seemed like a good idea.

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Guest Post: I Didn’t March (but Wish I Could Have)

I kicked around a couple drafts about this weekend’s Women’s March, but I couldn’t come up with anything that didn’t sound too self-congratulatory. I marched, I’m glad I marched, and I’m pleasantly surprised by just how many people did the same.

But I worry that the momentum will fade. Will people stay angry? Or will they feel like they did their part by marching and lose interest?

The 10 Actions / 100 Days campaign is a great start in keeping that momentum going. I hate to say it, but people tend to be lazy about their activism unless they are constantly. actively threatened. The organizers of the march did a great job of making things easy for people. Even if your representatives do support the agenda and goals of the Women’s March, follow along anyway. We can’t flood the streets every day, but we can flood inboxes and mailboxes to make our words heard and seen.

As for me, I was approached by a friend who couldn’t march. She wanted to share her story, but not at the cost of her anonymity. She asked me to share her story here and I immediately said yes. I have a platform here and I’m going to use it. Please share it if you feel so inclined.

I sat in a bar Saturday night, having not marched due both to an injury and a fear of crowds. A man who had gotten sloppily drunk in the past in my presence (and also made condescending comments about college students needing coloring books when Trump won) asked me about who I thought was smarter, Hillary or Trump.

It is very possible that he thought I was going to agree with him (despite said previous condescending conversation, where I told him that I, who was sexually assaulted and had developed PTSD I still struggle with years later, had had a flashback/breakdown when Trump won due to memories of my attacker getting off, so did not find him funny in the slightest—he sarcastically apologized, by the way). I have a good life—no student loans, no outstanding debts. I graduated without a job and I could live at home as long as it took to find a job that didn’t make me want to kill myself (I’ve had offers I’ve turned down to that effect). I am White Privilege, apart from that pesky fact of being female. He probably thought I’m one of Them.

However, I told him Trump managed to convince a sector of the population he was smarter, but at the same time showed every sign of at least one personality disorder. He demanded my proof, then insisted that I agree with him that it was wrong that someone called Trump’s inauguration speech Hitlerian. I haven’t read it, so told him I couldn’t speak to that, but that comments he said were indeed similar. Whenever I brought up evidence, citing things Trump said, my “sources” were judged as being at fault. So I gave up. I never liked that guy to start off with.

But it was a woman at the bar who really upset me. She was talking with the bartender about how she had never felt safe in the past eight years, and was looking forward to the next four. How the women’s march was stupid, and as a female in oil and gas she had never felt any kind of problem with sexism.

That was the point where I stormed out, because it was that or start a shouting match I could never take back. I don’t know what position she had in oil and gas, but if she’s an engineer, she’s either lying to herself or completely oblivious.

My first experience with overt sexism happened when I was a sophomore in college. There was a week-long program for students to help them understand industry, full of teambuilding and networking practice and random exercises. One of those exercises involved making a decision on whether or not to build a pipeline in Alaska with data that didn’t say how a component would perform in certain temperatures, though the lowest piece of data had it failing. I argued that after the BP oil spill, the public would not forgive an oversight like that again. I convinced my team, and we were one of two groups out of maybe thirty that chose not to go ahead with it.

Our call was the correct one. It was the Challenger o-ring data—we watched the video of it exploding. But I didn’t get to feel accomplished and intelligent. My table’s supervisor kept insisting it was my “woman’s intuition” that made me make that call, rather than the facts as I saw them. He made several more comments like that throughout the week—I posted one on Facebook, and my father made me take it down. He didn’t want me to be seen as rocking the boat.

I’ve continued to worry constantly about being seen as too female in engineering. No emotions, can’t be too opinionated, can’t risk being seen as bossy. I was second choice for a major company for a job—when I asked why I didn’t get the position, an inside source told me I was their strongest technical candidate, but a “minor group project problem” made them decide I couldn’t work in a team. I have no proof, and maybe I’m wrong, but I wonder if I had been male, like all of my interviewers, what could be seen as “bossy” would just have been seen as assertive and goal-oriented, since without what I did the group would have failed. I’ll never know. Maybe I’m just looking for an excuse of why I failed at that job. But it’s always in the back of my head.

That’s not even going into my worst times of being female—like when I was sexually assaulted and brought the guy up to the college committee and had a male professor try to coach him on what to say to get off (never mind the letter he submitted saying I was incapacitated). All the times I was afraid to say I was assaulted, because I was so embarrassed from the stigma, even though I never did anything wrong besides trusting the wrong person. Because somehow it’s my fault, and I should be ashamed. And I still fight that problem on a daily basis.

But, no, it’s the little things. It’s how I have to wear my hair up and back every interview so I don’t look too feminine but also wear makeup so I don’t look unprofessional, even though I almost never wear any kind of makeup on a daily basis. It’s making sure I don’t say my opinion too loudly, or risk upsetting people. It’s a man earlier this week in this same bar telling his friend not only was I intellectual, but I was so pretty too. And then telling me I could find a job, but there was nothing wrong with just finding a nice banker husband.

And that’s why I wished I had marched. Because I’m tired of smiling and nodding like a good girl should. I’m tired of pretending the things that happened to me didn’t, to make men feel more comfortable. I’m tired of putting up with sleazy guys and understanding my opinion will mean nothing no matter what I say, and of women who have never dealt with certain issues so refuse to believe they exist.

I’m just so goddamn tired.

I’m waking up at the start of the end of the world,
But its feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it’s gone,
The cars are moving like a half a mile an hour
And I started staring at the passengers who’re waving goodbye
Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?

The Electoral College votes today. The last chance for a time traveller to come along and save us from Trump and the Darkest Timeline. I have my hopes… but they’re far outweighed by my doubts.

Holidays coming. Job interview today. Side hustles going strong. Trying to be optimistic about my smaller picture, even if the big picture looks bleak. 2017 could easily be my year.

What’s that? A Russian ambassador was shot in Turkey?

Time to blast apocalyptic pop music. Comment/tweet/holler at me with your suggestions for a #DarkestTimeline soundtrack.

The Darkest Timeline: Day 30

It’s been a month since Election Day. A month since we broke away from sanity and branched off into the Darkest Timeline.

Yep, I’ll let that sink in for a moment. You good? No? Don’t worry, I’m not, either.

Trying to keep up with every off-the-cuff tweet, international dustup, and terrifying cabinet appointment is beyond the scope of my blog. Consider this my post-apocalyptic log instead.

I’m still bouncing between the anger and depression stages of grief. There’s no ability to engage in denial because I work in the media. It’s not like I can bury my sorrows in my work because Trump is a big part of my job. My second-most popular article is about Ben Carson selling his house; you don’t think people would care about a soporifically-voiced surgeon turned failed presidential candidate if Hillary won, do you?

While the Electoral College has yet to convene, hoping that enough electors revolt and elect Clinton is delusion on the level of Sanders supporters spending the summer saying that superdelegates don’t vote until July 25th. Just because something is possible doesn’t mean that it’s probable or even likely.

Here’s what I think will happen, in order of how likely it’ll come to pass.

  • Within the first year of his administration, Trump steps down much as Sarah Palin did when she resigned as Governor of Alaska. He’ll say he can serve the country out of office better than by being constrained by the office, but really it will be him being unable to handle the intense scrutiny of being president.
  • Within the first year of his administration, Trump will be impeached, probably because the conflict of interest will be TOO DAMN HIGH.
  • Trump somehow manages to last all four years.

I’m not making these audacious predictions from a place of hope. If this clusterfuck of a month has taught us anything, it’s that the President-Elect had no idea how much work goes into being President before stumbling into office. He’s used to being the kind of executive that rules unquestioned with a big mouth and an iron first. Being chief executive of the United States comes with far more restrictions than he realized, and already he’s chafing at it.

He has no real interest in separating himself from the gilded brand he’s built, either. He’s gotten so used to running his empire through his children that he’s somehow managed to have them run his business and have them on his transition committee. Because that’s not a conflict of interest at all. But it’s the little things, too, like the Secret Service being used to help sell condos in Trump Tower.

One day before the Darkest Timeline, I refused to accept the idea that I’d live in President Trump’s America. One month later, I’m writing what will be, at best, an “I told you so!” blog post.

I guess I’ve reached the acceptance stage of grief. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to blindly accept whatever happens; it just means that I’ve finally accepted that a Bad Thing happened. If my grief is behind me, then I have to figure out how to fight and push forward.