I tend to get a lot of questions about my life in the context of academia, bias, prejudice, and the activism work I do. I can understand why it gets a bit confusing for people, so I decided to make a little blog that compiles some common inquiries I get. hopefully this can give you a better understanding of who I am, and why I do what I do.
The very core of who I am has always been interested in science, even before I knew what science was. I’ve always craved a deeper understanding of the world around me; this was a need which was never satisfied growing up, and it actually became a huge source of anxiety for me.
I never had exposure to science education under any capacity, barely regular education actually, so there was no way for me to know that my passion has a name. I used to be obsessed with knowing the “how and why” of everything, and as cliché as this will probably sound, I always wanted to go into space. The universe (which to me consisted of the Moon and the Sun at the time) has always been a source of peace in my life.
Why not? in all seriousness, I always wanted to study the universe, but I had no idea that such a thing could be done—let alone by someone like me, or that women could, or were even allowed to. This is not a statement meant to be understood by everyone, yet so many women around the world could very easily relate.
This is an odd one for me, because even though I fought to get an education I am well aware that mediocrity exists in all places with high degrees and accolades, just like greatness can be found in the most unlikely of circumstances. For this reason, I tend not to look at accolades as a measure of value.
To make this short and as clear as I can, when I was 16 years old (living in the US by now) I had basically taught myself English, moved on from an extremely underserved high school where I had no chance of growing, figured out how to get a GED (which thanks to general ignorance comes with endless bias attached to it) and set out to meet my academic goals. The lack of mentoring and guidance did not make things any easier over the following years, but I was finally leaving behind poverty, homelessness, and abuse, to focus on getting a better understanding of our amazing universe.
I went to Hunter College in Manhattan, and now I am with ASU focusing in Astronomical and Planetary Sciences, this of course includes my academic training in Physics. I also study Applied Astronautics, and Space Policy.
How do advocacy and activism come into the picture?
Navigating many spaces I wished to occupy, I realized the complete lack of awareness and care many people have about the fact that not everyone is born into good circumstances, has access to proper education, mentoring, even basic human rights, or is able to follow what is called “traditional paths". This enables a lot of exclusion in the sciences, and everyday life. Self-advocacy is a great thing to learn.
Do you like social media, do you consider yourself an influencer?
I cannot stand the word influencer, maybe it is because of the expectations it carries. I think when you become public about any aspect of your life, it becomes more about what others think you should be versus who you really are. My life is not palatable for everyone, because it makes people uncomfortable. That is why I don't like to be called anything, I'm just someone who does not stop fighting for her dreams.
When it comes to social media, it was more of a happy accident for me. In 2017 while recovering from an accident, I repurposed an old and unused Twitter account to entertain myself, and in this process, I realized places like Twitter can be a great tool for visibility and outreach.
My "non-traditional" pursuit of autonomy and education has made me gain some notoriety in certain groups, which can be very difficult and attract a lot of unwarranted negativity at times, but it is also an opportunity to help others who come from similar situations.
How do you handle obstacles and stereotypes?
I make them as irrelevant as I humanly can.
What would you say to anyone out there needing motivation to pursue their goals?
I would want to be as honest as I can, rather than generically positive. Personally, it has been an exhausting journey for me, but I cannot say I regret it. I will always encourage others to pursue their goals, no matter what.
Support, mentoring, and access to education can easily be taken for granted by those who always had them, and that is unfortunate and very common. Keep going, if it’s what you really want it will be worth it.
Sometimes you must become the person you needed when you were younger, that ended up being my position and I'm trying my best to make it count.