July ’20 Update
It’s been a bumpy few months,,, and i hope this update finds you and your loved ones as well as can be.
Again, i’ve been remiss in sending out my ‘quarterly’ updates. In this post i pick up where my last one ended in December and bring things up to the present moment. Given this spread of time, i am going to keep descriptions general and shallow.
Following submission of my final papers from fall semester, i began winter break with a five-day fast. I limited communication to the first and fifth days, and otherwise stayed silent and off electronics for its duration. Instead, i dedicated the majority of each day to meditation, asana, and introspection. It provided a much needed physical/mental cleanse, and left me feeling energized in every way.
The next 6 weeks were largely centered around reading. Over the course of the fall semester i compiled an ambitious reading list of the content i wanted to read in preparation for my thesis, and i dedicated the vast majority of each day towards working through it. Sprinkled throughout reading i made a point to connect with friends around the city whose relationship i had neglected in recent months due to the semester’s increasing academic commitments.
In early January i had the opportunity to visit my parents in Colorado for a week. At the time i thought it would be my only chance to visit them in 2020, and i did my best to make the most of it. While i maintained my reading pace during the day, we began each morning practicing yoga together and spent each night cooking family dinners. A highlight was a ski day with my Dad, my first time on the slopes in 7 years! Growing up skiing was always a central family activity, and it was so nice to share in that experience again.
Spring Semester in NYC
My coursework began again in late January, and consisted of 5 classes: Animal Law; Animals, Culture, and Society; Post-Animal Agriculture; Animal Ethics; and the Capstone. Given the quality of the MA program and my passion for animal liberation, it likely goes without saying that i loved all of them. Overarching my focus in each class was my thesis; while it began to take shape throughout my winter break readings, it became reified in the first few weeks of the semester, from which point it was always at the back of my mind. I was able to use each course to explore a different facet of the thesis, which makes the case for ending animal agriculture via banning the sale of animal derived food products (i.e., making it illegal to sell meat/dairy/eggs–and yes, i fervently believe the policy is both necessary and feasible).
Like the previous semester, the majority of my non-academic time was focused on activism. In particular, i was part of the team planning New York City’s first Animal Liberation Conference. We had big plans for the 5-day event, with mornings centered around presentations from renowned figures from around the world and afternoons/nights centered on big and disruptive mass actions around the city. Alas, the conference was scheduled for April, and in March Covid forced us to postpone it indefinitely; given the time dedicated to its planning alongside knowing the impact the conference would have had on animal activism in the region, the decision to do so was heart-wrenching 💔 (however, as the impacts of Covid surged in the weeks following our decision, we quickly came to see that we made the only responsible choice available).
As always, throughout this time i continued to plug into other forms of activism throughout the city, generally centered around police abolition, immigrant rights, and climate justice. Some of the largest were monthly actions organized under the banner FTP (Fuck The Police) that centered on the intersection of police brutality, white supremacy, and poverty. While at the beginning of 2020 the messaging of these actions remained outside the overton window/realm of common social acceptability, national (and global) activism in recent months has rendered that no longer the case, a trend that gives me sincere hope moving forward.
On an extended weekend in February i went to a music festival in Costa Rica called Envision. The festival had been on my bucket list since 2015, and this year conditions finally enabled me to attend. I was accompanied by my best buddy from undergrad, Osa, and the festival provided a beautiful opportunity to deepen our relationship while dually exploring ourselves. The festival ended up being one of the most profound and beautiful experiences of our lives, so much so that we decided to write a book about it. The book will be a personal narrative told through each of our perspectives, and will use our experiences at the festival as a backdrop to explore fundamental questions pertaining to Joy, Love, death, universal magic, legacy, and heaven/liberation. We are already working on it, and plan to have it finished by this time next year.
During spring break in mid-March i visited Nikki, a young woman i had been in an open relationship with since meeting her last June. It had been over 5 months since we had last seen one another in person, and it was a really nice week catching up with her. Throughout the week we explored the city, ate good food, did activism, etc.
Unfortunately, during my time in San Diego the Covid situation in NYC rapidly spiraled out of control; as such, i unexpectedly decided to cancel my return ticket home and rebook a flight to Colorado (for $19!). Instead, i returned to live at my parents house for an indeterminate time (what turned into 4 months) with only the possessions i had tossed into my spring break carry-on. (Huge shout out to my parents for being so welcoming and flexible ❤️).
Unfortunately my academic program was forced to finish out the semester of classes via Zoom. While it turned out as good as it could have been, it really can’t be compared to classes on campus. Regardless, we made the best of it. I submitted the final, final paper of my MA in late May; while it was exciting to have finished the degree’s coursework, so too was it bittersweet, as i so enjoyed every step of the process.
George Floyd was lynched a few days later; already deeply moved by the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, i shifted plans and headed to Denver to plug into antiracism/police abolition activism there. While obviously less dynamic/robust/mature than the movement in NYC, i was really impressed with Denver’s turnout. As mentioned above, these mass global actions give me tremendous hope for the future. They have already fundamentally changed society, and i hope will continue to do so in the months/years to come.
In recent weeks i have shifted my attention towards revising and tightening up a journal article i will be submitting for publication in the days to come. During this time, my buddy Osa (whom i attended Envision with) came to visit my parents and i for the week. We spent the days grinding on our respective work, and nights philosophizing about the state of the world and our plans to change it.
These four unexpected months of family time were really special. While it is difficult to acknowledge that in knowing the global price it has come at, i’m so grateful for every day i got to spend with my parents and did not take them for granted.
Undoubtedly the hardest decision i made in recent months was whether or not i would be matriculating at Berkeley Law in the fall as originally planned. A number of factors coalesced to push me towards deciding to push law school off another year. Given that Berkeley Law had been my number one choice when i first applied, the decision was not easy (though i do think it was the right one). Instead, i plan to use this year to expand my thesis into a book. Like the thesis, the book makes the case for ending all forms of animal agriculture, and doing so through banning the sale of animal derived food products. It is a topic whose time i fervently believe has come, and following the completion of my intensive MA i feel that this is the time for me to write it.
While i’m set on dedicating this year towards the completion of both books, my geographic location post-November remains up in the air. For now, i write this update while on a plane back to NYC, where i will spend the final month of my lease living in Brooklyn. September i move to Berkeley where i will be living for at least three months, at which point my plans are unclear (and given Covid, are difficult to discern). I’m currently pursuing a job opportunity in Singapore with the hope of moving there in January (Covid willing); if you have any connections there (or in Hong Kong), i would be eager to learn about them!
I’ll plan on sending my next update in December; in many ways, i expect the world to be a dramatically different place then, and look forward to checking in with y’all at that point. In the meantime, i really would LOVE to hear from you. I send these updates primarily in the interest of maintaining contact with YOU, and sincerely appreciate hearing your updates (no matter how short/long). If you will be in NYC in August, or the Bay Area in Sept/Oct/Nov, please let me know. Regardless, i hope our paths cross again in person soon (and that the public health response will allow us to do so mask free).