May 3, 2019

The Current

In this week's edition:

  • Katiana’s College Farewell

  • Daniel’s College Farewell

  • This Week in Social Media


Katiana’s College Farewell

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I’m Katiana. With my own blood, sweat, and tears, come my fifth year at college, I have mastered American pluralism, finding a way to mend three worlds together via Upwind. I have become a serious politico, an athlete and a black woman. I have mastered this through my three step process: Work. Moisturize. Work.

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I was born in the streets of Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in 1995, and came of age in a white household, in a predominately white suburb of Kansas City. With all the exceptional opportunities my parents gave me, they could never provide me with the knowledge necessary to yield a strong sense of self. Don’t hold your breath, my teachers were of no use as well. I had been primed for, I had been persecuted within, and slowly but surely, I would prosper despite of the dominantly white environments in which I would come of age. Every trained professional in my life, from my teachers, to my high school counselors and college advisors, to my coaches were all white from head to toe. I lacked role models and mentors who could show me exactly what black girl magic looked like up close. I was thirsty for inspiration. Excuse me, I was parched.

Come the time I was a senior in high school, I had received enough detention slips to cover a pinata with paper-mâché. The counselors at my school were very interested in presenting its student with opportunities for colleges and schools in the area. This meant schools in Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Oklahoma, Illinois, and Nebraska. Oh, or Stanford. (I knew I was not going to Stanford #superbye). Essentially, if you weren’t going to a school in one of these areas, a meeting with a counselor was nothing more than a glorified bathroom break. With the exception of two English teachers, two history teachers, and a calculus teacher, I do not recall another single teacher at my high school who wished me anything more than good riddance come class day. My senior superlative was “biggest attitude” which really hurt my feelings, considering how I felt my classmates had voted on that based entirely on the color of my skin and their perception of me with my teachers (often times which was influenced by the color of my skin). I felt I had more character traits to offer than what they saw, but that’s the way it would be. I would not get a second chance to give them an updated, en vogue definition of myself.

Late summer 2014, freshman year, I assumed my place as a CU Buff in these hallowed halls, expecting to be greeted with an overwhelming avalanche of tenacious liberalism. The liberalism I had only ever heard of. Boulder: such a liberal town. Boulder: a lifestyle so healthy, so fresh, I could only imagine spring, summer, and fall weather reports, tantamount to scenes from Defending Your Life. “74 degrees. Perfectly clear all of the time.” Boulder: where the grass to pass a frisbee was such a crisp color green, Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors would orgasm white dandelions. This is what I imagined. Month after month, my frustrations multiplied. My roommate was bipolar, depressed, and I wasn’t the most outgoing or friendliest of people. I had gotten kicked out of a Spanish class for showcasing my displeasure on a partner assignment. The end of freshman year was approaching and I had no close friends to call my own.

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Enter late summer, 2015. Sophomore year. I struggled to balance my work study shifts, with driving for CU Night Ride and to demonstrate a shred of punctuality to weekly practices with Kali Ultimate. I was balancing two jobs on top of 16 credit hours, and the roommate I was living with was verbally and physically abusive. I guess a more direct way to put it is that she was a raging racist from Florida. Weeks before the 2016 Colorado Caucus, I had to move out of my house for my own safety, stumbling into the apartment of an old friend to crash indefinitely, who was none other than that roommate’s best friend. I still had no friends or support system. The end of sophomore year was approaching and the combined weight from my virtual homelessness and pure loneliness altogether induced anguish and stress so significant, I found my grades suffering.

Given my double majors of International Affairs and Spanish, I ventured towards the political arena, determined to find my role in getting black women elected. In the fall of 2016, I took a semester off to work for the 2016 losing Presidential Campaign in Cleveland, Ohio. For the first time in my life, I felt a connection, a sense of belonging that I had been seeking for twenty years. In Cleveland, most of the voters, elected officials, and my colleagues were black. I was inspired! Far different from my college surroundings. In fact, I was so moved by the individuals I surrounded myself with, that during this time, I applied to transfer to Spelman College, a historically black college/university, where I was accepted. Unfortunately, I could not afford that change and remained at CU Boulder.  In Boulder, I rarely get the opportunity to discuss being black in America with people who can empathize with me. I seek empathy because with empathy, acceptance becomes obsolete.

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Mentors of mine have encouraged me to move and plant my own roots in an urban area where black excellence be drippin’ from the gutters to the sewers, such as D.C. and Atlanta. In fact, I did spend a semester in DC and hated it. I hated not being able to be outside. I hated the not so laid back, fast pace of the city. I hated not being able to drive in a car and having to use the public transportation. I hated not having the Rocky Mountains as my backyard. But what I hated most was not being able to play ultimate frisbee with my teammates on Kali. Kali empowered me to train, to eat, to play, to learn, to feel, and to fight for my teammates in a selfless way, different than any other experience in my life. CU’s ultimate program has helped me build myself up - has helped me to reach a level of confidence I never could have dreamt I’d reach during anytime within my college career.

Before I came to Boulder, I maintained a constant sense of restlessness, relentlessly trying to adapt to each person’s perception of me - trying to satisfy some fictional ideal image of me from the perspective of both white America and black America. Albeit, race and role models will always be a pivotal factor and a massive barrier, it is simply step one in one hundred towards success, genius, and self actualization. However enlightening my time has been on campus, my time physically outside of the classroom, that being the campaign and Kali (mostly Kali), has allowed me to acquaint myself with my personal identity.

While my high school self would have done my best to blend in, this engine that has led me through my collegiate odyssey of self discovery has been fueled by Kali love and has entirely discredited this former, toxic way of thinking. Why blend in? There are so few delectable drips of chocolate sauce on this mouthwatering ice cream sundae that is ultimate frisbee. When I watch Anraya Palmer on the screen, I taste a remarkable drop of inspiration. (I wanna gulp dammit!)

While being a buff at the University of Colorado Boulder, I have strived towards a hat trick of inspiration, perspiration, moisturization. With Kali Ultimate supporting me until the very end this year at 2019 College Nationals in Austin, Texas, I am driven to accommodate that inspiration with disciplined training and perspiration.

With these three resources accompanying me throughout college, I have have invented my own definition of Katiana. Who a Katiana is - what a Katiana does - why Katiana is Katiana. And if you ask me, from this career of inventing my own version of black girl magic, particularly on the frisbee field, I have come closer to realizing my own genius. Take it from one genius to another, “Genius is one percent inspiration, ninety-nine percent perspiration.” - Thomas Edison. College has given me the privilege to become my own author, fantasizing about new realities, conjuring dreams, mass producing ideas, and sketching my own narratives, and it has been the greatest privilege.

I don’t get dehydrated. I’m moisturizing daily. I am my inspiration.

- the self-actualized Goddess herself, @Lizzobeeating

 
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Daniel’s College Farewell

Still realllll proud of this school cause everyone in the county thinks we’re slackers.

Still realllll proud of this school cause everyone in the county thinks we’re slackers.

I’m Daniel. I grew up in Arlington, Virginia five minutes from the DC border. I went to high school at H-B Woodlawn, a public, but non-traditional school - not a charter school either. This school admits students from around the county in a stratified lottery to let in students from different districts evenly. The school functions with increased trust in students as a foundational principle. It aims to shift student investment in education and is largely successful, celebrating senior classes of 80-100 students who have allowed the school to be an ongoing experiment since the ‘70s. Students are given an equal say in many decisions, including allocation of funds for new courses. Teachers are referred to by their first names, supporting the value of students seeing teachers as peers.

My father once told me that coaches “demand respect or earn respect”, and the staff at H-B definitely took the latter approach. I’d say almost every student had at least one teacher who they still consider a friend, which really stems from that increased respect. I was given massive support and the school still has one of the best graduation rates in the country.

This level of support was something I’m so fortunate to have had. I was a kid with undiagnosed depression and social anxiety who spent most of high school convinced that his friends secretly didn’t like him. I easily could have taken a similar self-hating approach to the college search, but the H-B staff wouldn’t have it. I was encouraged to challenge myself relentlessly. I was lucky to not need tutoring for my seven AP courses and my ACT test. The college admissions process is overly reliant on standardized testing. These tests are not a reflection of intelligence, but a simplified way for admissions professionals to test how we think. I learned pretty quickly these tests are nothing more than a way for schools to separate us into boxes. I also learned real fast not to be friends with the person constantly talking about their SAT score (don’t be that person). I got a high ACT score which I chalk up to the fact that my thinking and learning styles mesh well with the test’s methodology. Despite this, I still never felt proud of myself.

One factor that went into my college decision was diversity. My high school was extremely white, and I felt like I didn’t want to stay in that comfortable environment. That’s why I was initially disappointed after choosing Northeastern University over the University of Miami, as Miami’s demographics suggested a more vibrant campus. Thinking back to this, I’ve learned so much since then, and it begs the question; was I interested in a diverse campus because I liked it as some sort of aesthetic, or did I care about it because I wanted a university whose value system held diversity as a tenant? I believe it was the latter, but it is still something that new students should be aware of heading into their freshmen year. Diversity isn’t a perk of college campuses, but rather something to be maintained. If your school isn’t doing justice by its students of color, you should be uncomfortable with that reality and support them however you can.

Me with Richie Rich in my feed while working my first summer job .

Me with Richie Rich in my feed while working my first summer job.

On a different note, I quickly learned that the class diversity at Northeastern was something I wish I had thought more about. Attending a private school increases the likelihood that its students will be exposed to wealth and the privilege rooted in those institutions. I learned not to have FOMO or hold myself to the same social standards as people who, say, go out to fancy dinners downtown or vacation on a yacht in the Mediterranean.

No matter what though, starting college is hard. Most people are on their own for the first time and are also trying to define what kind of person they want to be in a fresh setting. I remember being extremely lonely. Not that I didn’t have friends, but that I didn’t feel like I had close friends until maybe midway through my freshman year. Coming from a high school where I’d see my friends in the morning and give them a hug (which blows my mind now after living in Boston for 4 years), it was really jarring to navigate new friends and new boundaries.

Despite what it may look like on Instagram, everyone has their struggles during their freshman fall. That’s also one of the best ways to make friends though - everyone is feeling just as awkward as you are.

Obviously I think you should join ultimate, but I cannot emphasize enough that you need to get involved. I’ve had too many friends go through freshman year and then realize they feel unfulfilled, only to join a club sophomore year as a solution (…and then join frisbee because I advertise hard).

This is totally a joke and definitely not something I’ve actually done before.

This is totally a joke and definitely not something I’ve actually done before.

So yeah, let’s talk frisbee. College ultimate is absolutely the best part of my current life.

Northeastern has a massive program- sitting at ~170 students between the men’s and women’s teams. That doesn’t mean that transition isn’t challenging. I was fortunate to have played ultimate during my senior year at a high school known for the sport, so I was a decent enough cutter, but honestly a liability with the disc. Somehow though, the A team kept not cutting me from the roster in the fall. When it came down to me and three other freshmen, all who were on a fully different level than I was even close to, I was very aware that I wouldn’t be on the final roster. I was surprised once again though, as the team invited me to practice with them for the rest of the Fall, citing my coachability as the reason they liked me. If I have one piece of advice for high school players moving to the college game, it’s that- make it clear that you’re ready to learn. While my coachability was my strength practicing with the A team, my coaching began to develop as I began practices with the B team. Having just transitioned from baseball to frisbee the year before, I had a knack for explaining the game in a way that athletes new to the sport could understand.

Me living at home for four months after freshman year, away from my college friends.

Me living at home for four months after freshman year, away from my college friends.

I quickly fell in love with our B team after that fall, but again, transitions aren’t easy. I was almost bullied off the team. Despite the rest of the squad being supportive, one particularly toxic individual’s behavior was tolerated. I even almost stopped playing ultimate to avoid interacting with him; he was everything that I hated about baseball and why I had switched to frisbee. I couldn’t understand why my teammates saw his behavior as admissible when it was so hostile towards new players. This toxic attitude antagonized my weaknesses. At this point I was still struggling with undiagnosed mental illness, and my coping mechanisms were becoming progressively less effective. Throughout middle and high school I was afraid of sharing my thoughts with others, and learned coping mechanisms that kept them hidden. In my first year of college, I leaned on frisbee for support. It kept me grounded, becoming a place where I could just ignore my outside worries and focus on the team. It also helped that, for the first time I felt like my team was becoming my family, especially since there were plenty of older guys who treated me with respect and wanted me around, despite the fact that I was only 18.

This experience was especially significant because six months later I was made co-captain of the 40-person B team, a rare thing for a sophomore at a five-year school like Northeastern. As captain I began to focus on the culture of the team and the program, putting my foot down to show that actions like that member’s were unacceptable. I dove into leadership, spearheading our transition into a program with separate B/C teams, which expanded playing time for everyone in the program. The assertive steps I took to nourish the supportive team culture I held so dearly mirrored the steps I took to secure my mental health. I started going to therapy and eventually would start taking medication, and in both cases, I was able to tell close friends/teammates about the developments and rely on them for support. I still have hard times, but I’m so much stronger and have focused on building the program to exemplify the support I felt, without any cracks in the foundation.

While I’ve accomplished some cool things with the developmental teams, the positive steps we’ve made to improve our culture are what I’m most proud of. Ultimate gave me the strength and support to address my mental illness for the first time and gave me a community where I could come out as bisexual and provide stories of my past trauma as rallying points for others.

I’m more confident and happier with college ultimate in my life. Ultimate might not be the answer for you (of course, I hope it is), but there’s an organization on your campus for you. Have fun, find your place where you can be yourself, and revel in the fact that you are, likely for the first time, free to really explore the world on your own.

 
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Hey College Students - we want you!

Thankfully, Spirit of the Game teaches us to speak our mind and stand up for ourselves, which we want to embolden here. We at Upwind are working to build resources designed for college students, the largest group out of USA Ultimate memberships. In order to make these resources impactful, we want to hear from you on your current ultimate experience and what you might want to know more about. We are also building a College Student Ambassador Network and would love for you to sign up and participate! Any questions you might have, fill out the form, and we’ll get back to you.

All college students, regardless of gender, race, class, sexual orientation, etc. are invited and encouraged to participate.


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