Being the change

Change is something we must take into our own hands. For generations, change has been the result of forcing the hands of those in power. Any positive change worth having has, historically, never just been handed out for nothing.

I am not going to convince myself that I can create huge changes, but we can all definitely make small ones. Volunteering is a way I try to evoke positive change. I am the head camp counselor for 11 year-old boys who are considered at-risk youth. With this age group and especially with them being from a vulnerable population, respect is earned and never just given. When you have their back, they will trust in your leadership. They go from arguing with you on the first day to crying and hugging you as they get on the bus to go home. That is truly the most rewarding feeling, and I get chills down my spine when I think about the bonds created each summer. 11 year-old boys like to see what they can get away with. Slurs, especially homophobic ones, flow out of their mouths like water from a faucet. They grow up hearing hate targeted toward gay people, that’s just the culture. However, that kind of bullying was my one line that I drew with them. There was to be absolutely no coming for each other’s sexuality, not even in a joking way. Gender non-conforming people are the most at-risk of violence. I also secretly hoped that having a positive experience with a non-binary person like myself will create good associations later in life.

Another place I volunteered at (before the pandemic) was a soup kitchen. The non-profit offered multiple resources for their clients who were from the homeless LGBTQ+ population ages 15-24. I helped doing Sunday meal prep. It was extremely gratifying to see clients enjoying the family-style meals we put together from scratch. The interaction with the clients was great, too, I looked forward to helping out every Sunday. Then, COVID hit and only select people were allowed to prepare to-go meals. In isolation, I focused on my schoolwork for almost 2 years straight. I major in psychology and I know that I eventually want to help address the complex psychosocial needs of queer folks. So, I recently found a job working as a residential youth counselor for homeless kids who are displaced due to their gender/sexuality. I hope to create more meaningful connections with the youth, and I want to be someone who “gets” them when so many people refuse to understand. I believe it’s incredibly important to see people like yourself represented in all walks of life.

I want to be the positivity that I’ve needed in the past. As a child, I just wanted someone to listen and be my friend. As a teen, I was on a journey of self-discovery and benefited from mentors. And as an adult, I’m still trying to figure it all out. Regardless of the need, take pride in being a change, even if it doesn’t always feel impactful. You don’t plant a seed and expect a tree to grow the next day. But if you water that plant, you’re nurturing the roots for the foundation of stability. Without that, there is no growth.

What are you an expert in?

I’m not an expert in many things, but I have perfected my craft in one area. I can make a mean Teriyaki Salmon with a side of shrimp fried rice. Fastest way to anyone’s heart is a good piece of salmon, that’s for sure. I decided to be nice and give you a rough idea of how to make it yourself. Maybe one day you too can become a decorated Salmon Master like me.

The stuff for the salmon (don’t skip anything, you can find everything, I believe in you!!):

3-5 cut fillets of salmon (skin on or off, your choice)

3-4 cloves of fresh garlic (minced or grated)

2 tsp of fresh ginger (grated)

3 Tbsp teriyaki sauce

3 Tbsp soy sauce

3 Tbsp Hoisin sauce

1 Tbsp white vinegar

1 Tbsp sesame oil

1/3 cup packed light brown sugar

Sesame seeds (for garnish)

Chopped green onions (also for garnish)

The prep:

  1. Cover a baking pan with foil and then grease. Set oven to 400 degrees F.
  2. Combine sauce ingredients.
  3. Pour marinate over salmon (easier to use a ziplock bag), and let marinate for 20-45 minutes in the fridge.
  4. Put salmon on baking sheet. Bake at 400 for 14-17 minutes depending on the size of your salmon pieces.
  5. Simmer remaining marinade on pot.
  6. When salmon comes out the oven, pour sauce over fillets.
  7. Garnish with sesame seeds and green onions.
  8. Serve with side of rice of your choice.

It’s that easy and you get flaky, delicious salmon every time. You’re welcome.