What Radicalized You?

“What Radicalized You?” The popular hashtag turned Reddit thread, turned q and a for social media circulates through my feed on almost a daily basis. Someone responding with their personal experiences of racial, gender or socioeconomic inequity will tell us about their friend who had to drop out of college because they couldn’t afford it. Of their first time learning of a Black boy killed by police. Seeing their mom survive domestic violence. Learning what it means to work full time and still go hungry. Having a family member deported. The question asks us to think back to that moment in which our reality was so shifted that we were forcefully shoved into what felt like an alternate universe. One where we would instantly begin the search to explain the realities we lived in within a larger system of brokenness. So we could fight it. I feel like for many of us, that moment is like clarity. Contextualization.

I began to ask myself that question. What radicalized me? I couldn’t really answer it and have it make sense. I have always felt radicalized. Maybe not as a small child, but ever since I can clearly remember my high school years and beyond, I was searching. I read, a lot. I listened to punk rock, a lot. I understood on a philosophical level that our systems were broken, and yet, I felt mostly protected and privileged enough to avoid most hardships outside of money being tight and my parent’s divorce. I remember being happy most of my childhood, but critical of the world anyway. Many times I investigated something and discovered the brokenness, I would feel an affirmation of something I already sensed was wrong. It would take that idea I had and sharpen it.

The first time I remember I acted on this relearning of reality was with vegetarianism. I knew killing animals wasn’t right. That eating them wasn’t necessary for our survival. That exploiting life for our own selfish gains couldn’t be ethical. After confirming the reality of factory farming, I was radicalized when it came to food. No more meat, then years later, no more animal products at all. I write about it, I talk about it, I live that political choice to heavily opt out of a food system that is corrupt and set up to exploit animals, people, and the planet in order to make us all sick for the profit of few. But outside of being a vegan, why can I not trace my radicalization and unlearning of other systems to any one moment, or time in my life?

I have a degree in journalism. I’ve had it for about eleven years. About one year ago I started reading books and listening to podcasts written and produced by Mexican or Mexican/American journalists that identify as women. Four years of studying media theory and not one of these (sometimes Pullitzer Prize winning) journalists was mentioned or studied. Sure, I got my degree eleven years ago, but I am almost positive that Mexicans were around back then.

I remember being disillusioned and bored in college for the first few semesters. I learned about who owns the news in America (white guys), who owns the television networks in American (white guys), and who critiques this co-opted and mostly biased dissemination of information in America (they told us, mostly white guys). I knew there had to be more to this equation than reading Noam Chomsky and being upset at Viacom. I didn’t see myself anywhere in that reality, and I felt equally unseen in classrooms where being louder is overvalued and being quiet and introspective is a reason to not get the media job.

So first, I tried the theater department. I needed to blow off steam after taking depressing class after class on media theory and how corrupt it was. The problem, I see now, is there was no greater framework presented to help us understand the inequalities or reasons for corruption: theory. And then no real plan to change it: action. It was all just depressing this is how it is, and feel free to sacrifice yourself at the alter of fighting the good fight, if you dare, for $30,000 a year. I needed more explanation. I wanted to “fight that good fight” (aka: write) but I didn’t understand why I was drawn to the fight in the first place, and what we were fighting against or for exactly. There were blind spots and unexplored intersections everywhere and they were screaming out at me to be discovered. How could I write to change a system that no one was naming? It would take me years to understand that education is also a complex and often times corrupt institution that protects itself by omitting what is necessary to do so.

So, back to the theater department. I took acting. I took costume design. I loved being creative and doing things outside of my comfort zone and I felt more seen. Things like studying A Midsummer Night’s Dream AND A Raisin in the Sun are important. But I still needed more than that. I needed explanations. And I found them in the Women’s Studies Department.

And the explanations (with a million additional questions) were everywhere if you wanted them. It was like your brain could explode on a daily basis if only you wanted it to. A lot of the theory presented explained my experiences and added legitimacy and context to previously amorphous concepts. Some of it was so paradigm shifting that it took months or years of unlearning to start to understand. But each day I was a little bit more radicalized. I took Feminist Theory, Race Gender and Globalization, Water Politics, (turns out, enough to get a second degree if I could’ve afforded one more semester) and as things got more confusing, they made more sense to me, and I wondered why Women’s Studies was separate from the other disciplines because it’s really in everything. In separating it lies much of the problem.

So I’d find myself searching. And I’ve continued searching ever since for what radicalized me. And I found it, or at least a big part of it in Mexican Female journalists, writers, and podcast hosts.

My entire life I have been over-represented. In every form of media I was told I was the beauty ideal, the American standard, the blonde-haired, blue-eyed symbol of whiteness in this country. Porcelain skin. Barbies look like me, Disney princesses look like me, the people on Saved by the Bell and Full House looked like me. I would be hard pressed now, or growing up, to turn on the TV or look at a beauty, fashion, or fitness ad anywhere in this country without seeing someone who looks like me.

But they aren’t me. They’re only half of me. The other half goes unnamed, erased, invisibilized and ignored. Or worse, vilified. My mother is a Mexican immigrant. I am biracial. I am simultaneously represented everywhere while being erased from almost all narratives. Because of my biracial identity, I rarely centered whiteness, aware that I was half Mexican, which equally deserves to be centered. Yet I was constantly told through popular culture, education, and media that my white half is the valued half, the half that is seen and recognized. The half that is worthy and entitled. So what becomes of the other invisible me?

What radicalized me was not one moment, but a million little moments of denying my identity (almost always unintentionally or unconsciously) in a country that favors whiteness. I was taught to erase half of myself in order to step into the immense privilege the other half gives me. This happens in small ways and in big ways. Sometimes the erosion happens slowly as I choose silence and privileged whiteness over pain and confrontation. Sometimes it’s more obvious. A swift mental breaking down amidst the dual concepts of being entitled to everything while simultaneously being entitled to nothing.

Example:

I’ve never felt afraid or discriminated against due to the color of my skin, my language, or my accent.

I once stood in front of a white woman, doing her makeup in the mall when she flippantly mentioned her disdain for Mexican immigrants who are “illegal” and “taking our jobs.” This comment came from no where and was completely out of context. As she looked into my blue eyes for confirmation, seeing a camaraderie implied by our common whiteness. I was stunned, but not too stunned to tell her I was half Mexican, and my mom was a Mexican immigrant. She said nothing for the rest of the appointment.

Was I worthy of this job? Was my mother worthy of existence? And if she wasn’t, wouldn’t that mean I wasn’t?

Example:

I have never felt that I’ve lost business / clients or am perceived to be lazy or less competent because of the color of my skin, my country of origin, or the language I speak.

I was once giving a routine facial to a client I’ve seen once a month for years. Off topic, she mentions the laziness of “illegal immigrants” who could simply fill out the form online to become a citizen, but choose not to do so. She went on to explain the simplicity and ease of this one form that she perceived would magically lead to their instantaneous citizenship.

I chose, in that moment, for her white comfort, to explain the complexities and hardships of becoming a US citizen using an example of a close friend from Australia who married a US Marine. I chose to erase my Mexican family (and half of myself) in that moment to avoid a combative response.

What does that say about me? I was born to someone she just described as incompetent and lazy. In that moment I used my whiteness as a shield, a shroud. Something to protect myself but also to protect that client and her racism and xenophobia.

My husband wonders why I don’t speak Spanish. Why I don’t cook recipes passed down for generations. And the only explanation I can seem to come up with is a slow and insidious wringing out of Mexican culture. A reduction in browness that has everything to do with a generations-long assimilation into whiteness, which in this country is synonymous with being American.

A piece chips off when my mother tells me she’d be mistaken for the maid or nanny when we’d go on outings together when I was small.

Another piece falls away every time I check a box. Whiteness is a social construct so why is it even on there? Which do I choose? I’m half of each but constantly told by the country I live in to only choose one.

My high school Spanish class was made up of 99% white kids who were instructed to dress up like “Mexicans” as part of a required project. I spoke up, was ignored, and got a lower grade for “non-participation.” Another piece is chipped off.

A piece chips off when my parents moved away from the city to raise my sister and I in a “safer,” small, rural, white town. I learn safety is synonymous with whiteness. I’m slowly taught to leave my browness behind in a place where it’s completely erased.

But my mom did the best she could to show us. Every summer I would play with my Barbies (that looked like me) in a small two bedroom Los Angeles apartment where those few familiar notes of La Cucaracha regularly blared indoors from somewhere out on the street. Where my grandparents, aunts and uncles would talk in Spanish over a loud telenovela while smoke from chilis burning on an open flame wafted out the sliding glass door. Mama took us to Olvera Street where we watched beautiful women twirl in their folklorico skirts. Grandma always had money for Paletas, or Helados bars from the ice cream man at the park, or who drove on our block. And grandpa loved his fresh conchas that would sit on the dining room table next to the fresh fruit.

I felt shuffled between one world where I looked like no one, and felt that I only partially belonged, to another world where I looked like everyone, and still felt like I barely belonged.

I am over represented everywhere, yet invisabilized everywhere. My double life radicalized me. My journey to mend my two identities into one whole person radicalizes me now.

My Favorite Vegan Junk Foods Right Now… that you don’t need to make yourself.

I love snacks. All of them. Sweet and savory alike. My husband would tell you I especially love chips and salty things and he would be right. I also have (at this point) quite a few options I make at home, but sometimes I just want to be lazy and go to the store to buy them like everyone else. I also find that new vegans and those of us trying to reduce consumption of animal products frequently wonder what vegan snacks are easy, delicious, and accessible.

Luckily I love finding vegan junk food that is either refined sugar free or extremely low in refined sugars, with fairly clean, organic ingredients, that are sourced ethically. It’s junk food without the corn syrup, food dyes, and questionable chemicals. That used to be a tall order. Today it’s becoming commonplace to find these types of items in your local health food store or COOP and I’m here to show you my favorite go-to junk food snacks of the moment. No time in the kitchen required!

Siete Foods Grain Free Tortilla Chips

The first item on the list are my favorite chips from Siete Foods. I personally love the Fuego and Nacho flavors because they remind me of classic Doritos without all the questionable ingredients. They’re delicious and crispy, and come in tons of options. This company also makes salsas, seasonings, taco shells, and miscellaneous other products.

Ingredients from Fuego Flavor
The Empowered Cookie Double Chocolate Chunk

Next is The Empowered Cookie. I found these when looking for alternatively-sweetened treats. Most of the cookies use coconut nectar to sweeten them, and the flavors are delicious! I enjoy Double Chocolate Chunk and Chocolate Chip Cherry the best. I’ve made these into ice cream cookie sandwiches and they’re amazing with some vanilla ice cream!

Ingredients from Double Chocolate Chunk
Coconut Bliss Dairy-Free Frozen Dessert Madagascar Vanilla Bean

Speaking of ice cream cookie sandwiches… Coconut Bliss recently came out with several flavors that are sweetened with agave and have extremely simple ingredients. They’re very creamy, and do not have a coconut taste like many of their ice creams have in the past. I love classic vanilla, but there are many to choose from. Some are sweetened with sugar so if this matters to you, make sure to check the flavors you’re interested in before purchasing.

Ingredients from Madagascar Vanilla Bean
Lesser Evil Paleo Puffs “No Cheese” Cheesiness

These are classic. For anyone who loves Cheetos… just pick these up. Warning: they are very addicting!

Plant Snacks Vegan Cheddar Cassava Root Chips

On that note… do you love Cheez-its? Try these. They’re not quite as cheesy, but delicious and much more crispy.

Sweet Earth Big Sur Breakfast Burrito

For the last couple of junk food suggestions I thought I would include grab and go options. I love these when I’m running errands on my day off. I can pop them in the microwave and be on my way in a few minutes.

Right Foods Vegan Ramen Chicken Flavor

Sometimes you just want a good old Cup O’ Noodles that is ready quickly. My best friend introduced me to these and I recently picked some up at my local COOP. Quick, easy, and delicious on cold, rainy days! Also, these have much cleaner ingredients than traditional prepackaged ramen, and there are several vegan options to choose from.

Ingredients from Vegan Ramen Chicken Flavor

All of the options listed today I am able to find locally at our Eureka / Arcata COOP stores and Eureka Natural Foods grocery stores. However, they are also available to purchase directly. Please see links below for reference and happy snacking!

https://sietefoods.com

https://www.empoweredcookie.com

https://coconutbliss.com

https://lesserevil.com

https://plantsnacks.com

https://www.goodnes.com/sweet-earth/

https://rightfoods.com/shop/

My Morning and Evening Routine

I struggle with anything outside of my routine. And that’s exactly why I have one.

I originally developed several routine habits as a way to save myself time, be more efficient, accomplish more tasks, and try to etch some space out for myself amidst the chaotic life of a new small business owner. Practical. I think that we are all continuously overloaded with information and tasks, and these routines helped organize my life to make it slightly more liveable. However, after four years of implementing these strategies I’ve discovered the real benefit of having these routines: grounding.

Much less practical. Way more “woo woo.”

When you are grounded you feel calm, centered, balanced and strong. You’re less stressed and tense and more capable of introspection while simultaneously feeling like you’re part of something larger. For me, that “something larger” is nature, the universe, and other living beings. It’s difficult to stay grounded with constant demands and distractions on our time, things pulling us in a million directions at once, but I think there are many ways you can reconnect with your “something larger” in order to become more solid. The more balanced I am, the more capable and calm I feel when change and chaos come my way. And they inevitably always do.

I come back to my routine and feel safe. Your version of grounding can include any practice that is consistent and helps you feel connected to your version of “something larger.” Which, in turn, helps you to learn more about who you are. And you don’t need to be some meditation master. All you need is some commitment to put yourself first and an understanding that it won’t always be perfect, and that’s okay.

Here is my detailed AM / PM ritual! I hope it will help some of you with ideas on how to begin implementing time for grounding in your own life. I also want to mention that establishing this WAS NOT easy. It took at least a year of waking up early before I started to actually enjoy it, working out used to be a chore, and I got A LOT of pushback from my husband. He didn’t understand why I was forcing myself to do (what appeared to him as) even more things. He still thinks I do too much, but now I know that prioritizing me was the best choice I could make. It helps me to be more balanced and calm, and instead of feeling like I never get time for myself, I now usually feel fairly satisfied in that department. What may look like more work to other people can look like accomplishment, time for yourself, and peace of mind to you. Trust yourself.

AM:

-Wake up at 5am. Or whatever time necessary to have at least 3.5 hours of time before I have to begin my day or head to work.

-Set my phone to “do not disturb,” set it aside and put my Apple Watch on. I do not mirror my phone on my watch and only have workout apps, podcasts, music, and audiobooks. It’s also set to DND and is on silent.

-Put cozy pajamas on, pour myself some coffee with dairy free creamer (no sugar) and set a timer on my watch for 30 minutes.

-Read a book for 30 minutes. A physical book, simply for enjoyment. I like to do this in a cozy chair in the living room. Sometimes I light candles, sometimes I turn on the fireplace. Make it cozy! It’s early, so hopefully you can find somewhere quiet.

-Once that timer goes off I put my book away and set another timer for 15 minutes.

-I sit quietly for these 15 minutes with no distractions. Sometimes I practice breathing exercises, sometimes I mentally recite my meditation mantras, and sometimes I’m so scatterbrained that I just sit there and try to relax. The main thing is that I spend 15 minutes alone with myself. Sometimes I do this in the cozy chair, sometimes on a yoga mat, and sometimes in my mediation corner in my office. Again, I think it’s important to carve out some physical space for yourself.

-Once that timer goes off, I get up, grab my headphones and either put on a podcast or audiobook while I clean one part of the house. I generally do not spend more than 30 minutes per day cleaning, but this way I free up Saturdays and Sundays with no big chores. Ie: bathroom Wednesday, kitchen Thursday, dusting Friday. Make sure to assign chores to specific days ahead of time to reduce decision fatigue and time wasted.

-After doing my daily chore, I pull up my daily workout. I am fortunate enough to have a personal trainer who logs all of my workouts into a convenient app so I know what to do each day. I think it’s INCREDIBLY useful to plan out your week in advance as well, so you can eliminate daily decision fatigue. That topic is another blog altogether, but keep in mind you are much more likely to stick with your routine the fewer decisions you have to make in the moment. Set yourself up ahead of time. You don’t need a personal trainer to pre-plan your workouts for that week.) I workout for 45 minutes to one hour maximum. I also listen to music, or a podcast or audiobook during this time.

-After my workout, I get ready. I do not spend more than 45 mins to one hour showering and doing hair and makeup. I’ve decided at this point in my life, other things are more important to me. I listen to a podcast or audiobook while I get ready.

-Before I leave the house I feed the pets while making my morning breakfast smoothie (ingredients prepped and ready to go), and packing my lunch and snacks for the day (also prepped and ready to go). Then I’m out the door for about the next 10-11 hours.

PM:

My evening routine is much shorter, and fairly new. After a long work day I do not want to do anything except eat and sleep. But I knew that establishing something to let the chaos of the day go, so I can move more seamlessly into a relaxing evening is important. So at the beginning of this year (yep just a month ago) I finally committed to an evening routine. The key: make it short and simple.

-As soon as I walk through the door after work I put my work laundry in the washing machine and start it.

-I then make myself a cup of tea while washing my lunch and breakfast dishes.

-I give my husband a kiss, turn my phone on DND and silent and leave it in my work bag, then take my tea to enjoy while I change into pajamas, wash my face, and complete my skincare routine. This probably takes around five minutes.

-After my skin is taken care of, I go into my office, close the door and finish my tea while I write down three things I am grateful for and three good things that happened to me that day. This takes another five minutes.

-After that, I feel much more ready to cook dinner (which I hopefully prepped) and spend time with my husband until bed time.

-Depending on the day, I will usually check my phone for a minute or two right before I go to sleep in case someone texted me, but aside from that I try to keep my phone in another room and/or on DND and silent so I am separated from its distractions.

Photo: Amanda Lankila Photography https://instagram.com/amandalankilaphotography?igshid=calt99ozzq5s