We Got This

This week has taught me a lot.

And no, this isn’t even about college at all; this is about life. This is about learning what priorities I want, figuring out who I want to be, and figuring out to what lengths I can go to become that great person.

Something I realized this week was that there is nothing more important than to support your friends, both in great and less fortunate times. I cannot tell you how much I almost starting tearing up for some of the incredible stories I learned from those who happened to have it all work in their favor, in spite of every single obstacle in their way (you know who you are ;). This person inspired me from the first time I met him, and for that to play out the way it did, I am so proud of all he’s had to overcome to be where he is today. And for one of my other friends, the young icon, he also just never strayed from being himself, no matter how crazy he may get with Philly sports. I’m proud of him too for getting this whole thing to work in his favor.

I’ve spent most of this time just reflecting on what I have done, what I could have done better, and how I could have re-prioritized. But, as I’ve matured and begun to value my own mental health, I am okay with whatever may happen in my life if I am happy. I’m focusing on what I can control, and what I can control is my mindset in this process. There are only so many chances here, but I need to really understand that it is all going to be okay.

It didn’t help that I spent most of last night awake, nervous, anxious, watching stupid reaction videos, thinking about how I could have written a better essay, heck even re-do everything in high school if I could with a time machine. I feel like I am still somewhat afraid still at my very core that whatever comes now and in March will be the beginning or absolute end of whatever journey I’ve told myself I must complete. And I hate it.

So I’m trying to actively change that, at least until the end of the semester. I’m trying to reach out, talk to more people, help support them, find more hobbies to do and work on anything that keeps my mind away from everything that may occur. But maybe that’ won’t matter. I know the stress will keep building, and that is okay. But nonetheless, I know that life will always go on, whether somewhere exclusive wants me or not.

So, to all my fellow seniors, I am wishing you all the best, and most of all, reach out and let’s grab a coffee. We don’t have to talk and definitely don’t have to even remotely mention the word “college,” but I am here. You know how to reach me.


Being Noah Tesfaye #59: We Got This

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

I Don’t Miss the WASPs

As a journalist, I believe that all opinions, no matter how ridiculous, hypocritical, or unnecessary, should be heard. Do you want to know how people are feeling in a certain area? Read their opinions section online or in their physical paper.

On Wednesday, I was casually browsing Twitter, looking through the news, and then I read, quite possibly, one of the most stupid articles I have ever seen:

“Why We Miss the WASPs”

If there ever was a more eloquent explanation for MAGA, filled with its idiocy, racist, and elitist justifications, this would be it.

I, just like everyone, will say that I am sending my good wishes to the Bush family after the passing of former President George H.W. Bush. But, journalistically, this opinion fails to address so many counterarguments, and it does so with such a lack of logic that I’m so glad it was published. This pushes to the very root of the political tension that exists in America today: some just don’t want to let go of the past.

The argument Douthat attempts to make is that the current establishment in charge of our country’s powers, whether politically or socially, is not seen as legitimate anymore and “we” therefore miss WASPs because our more meritocratic and diverse leaders are doing a bad job.

Is that even remotely true? Isn’t the country still vastly run by WASPs as is? He is right in saying that a meritocracy doesn’t exist, but was it ever heading further in that way? There’s a clear and unequivocal answer to that: no.

The nation was never designed from the very core of its founding to be a meritocracy; it was designed to ensure initially the more powerful, wealthy, land-owning White Anglo-Saxon Protestant men during the independence of this country would be able to retain their power. Women, black people, and religious minorities were never a part of the conversation. And even when laws systems have been put in place to ensure a more equal playing field, what happens? The Voting Rights Act gets repealed, and WASPs continue to benefit, leaving us with voter suppression across the country, most notably in Georgia.

He tries to use the SAT (something all us high school students know all too well) as an example to aid his argument, stating that this own meritocratic way of helping figure out how good students are is in itself bad because it results in an elitist higher education system. He’s right! But who created this system? WASPs, at the height of those so-called good times, the ones the MAGA dream is based in. You’re now complaining about a system that Asian students and other minorities are working incredibly hard to master, and now it is a problem for education? You are still significantly benefitting from this system, which you started, still to this day; look at the numbers. I’m not saying that testing isn’t important, but to make a case that the WASPs leadership could fix the issues surrounding how to make college admissions fairer and make affirmative action more effective just does not make sense if WASP leadership cannot admit to the fact they’re responsible for this climate.

What’s more, this article conveniently displaces many of the mistakes that H.W. Bush made himself in not even holding himself up to this WASP leadership morals Douthat claims we lost with his passing. Remember the Willie Horton ad? What about when he spoke out vehemently against the Civil Rights Act back in the 60s? One could argue he set in precedent the far-right direction of the GOP that we see today. To ignore these examples, along with others, is to once again not understand the fallacy in this argument itself.

The problem with Douthat’s logic is that he creates a clear false-equivalency. He conflates WASP leadership automatically with being decent. And by no means am I saying that many WASPs are decent because I’m sure they are. But decency, being an empathetic human being, is not some WASP-exclusive idea that only they can bring into leadership in government; it’s a characteristic that all people of all creeds can have and can develop. It’s a goal that all Americans, all humans need to share in order to become a more inclusive, successful society.

There have been thousands of great Americans who have had the “decency” that you claim is nearly exclusive to WASP leaders. Whether that’s Frederick Douglass, Cezar Chavez, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, or so many others, there have always been people who do not fit this WASP mold that still has instilled in millions the belief that they can be a part of this country and they should demand their rights as citizens to be honored. To ignore these leaders and fail to respect their own efforts to have this leadership style you so passionately wish we have today is to ignore history, to ignore how some women and men who aren’t of this ilk have done so much more than the WASPs you praise. The US is adapting, growing, diversifying to the world’s needs. A nation that hopes to thrive on making everyone more equal cannot do that with such a fixed mindset that is inconsistent with reality.

Today in this very country, we have a WASP-esque President, one from the creed that Douthat claims is responsible for this American caste system. Trump is from that ilk, but rather than being decent and inclusive, proclaims there is nothing wrong with white supremacists, that he is a nationalist. We have a leader and groups in this country that come from this very background that Douthat claims their values of decency need to count when in fact our president today emboldens carriers of the Confederate flag and praise Robert E. Lee.

What this country misses is leadership that is competent, that is well-versed in the law, that is willing to understand all kinds of people. I miss a well-read President, someone who does not shy away from confronting people he disagrees with. But these values are not WASP; they are human.

I do not miss WASPs leading our nation, whether for their physical presence or for the ideals Douthat apparently thinks they have over others because they still do have the power. What do I have instead? I have hope, hope that our nation can take steps that ensure that this system Douthat claims exist does not lead to a return of mostly WASP leadership, but what arrives is the opportunity where people of all walks of life, including some WASPs, that can rise up the ranks. I hope that this so-called caste system Douthat thinks exists does not require a return to what it once was but grow into something bigger. As Roland Martin has said, we want a nation where people from small state schools become US Circuit judges if they work hard, where more governors can come from community organizing.

If I may bring it closer to myself, I knew it would have only been a matter of time for an article like this would end up in the Times. It just makes sense that someone would have such calculated white supremacist views on America. You’ve got families exploring confederate memorials never understanding the horrors of slavery, and when they grow to wear Confederate flag clothing or post one of their flags on their front doors (“Monument Lies”), we are surprised.

What I’ve come to the conclusion of is that this article needs to be shared with everyone. We all need to read the logical fallacies that fuel these minds in order to learn how to best combat them. Once again, this isn’t a partisan issue either. I for one know how many liberal politicians come from this WASP heritage that takes advantage of every privilege and fail to support minorities for much more than their vote in a lot of cases.

White supremacy, no matter how eloquent or how it is used in memorializing people, is still white supremacy. It will thrive and will continue to thrive because it’s in America’s foundation. It will never completely go away. Douthat and many others will continue to attempt to convince us otherwise that what they preach isn’t just so, so read for yourself. I hope you’ll come to the same conclusion as I did.


Being Noah Tesfaye #58: I Don’t Miss the WASPs

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

AirPods Disappoint Me

I love technology.

I would like to say that it is pretty much a given. Growing up here in Silicon Valley, it doesn’t really make it difficult to not be involved with everything tech from a young age. I remember the first iPhone, the first iPad, the opening of one of the first Microsoft stores, and so much more.

But there is one single gadget that above nearly everything else that I despise.

Those, of course, are AirPods.

Headphones are my favorite gadget genre. Headphones go everywhere with you, need to be practical, comfortable, and easy to use. AirPods have all of that. They fit in most pockets, charge while in their case, and can be taken in almost any situation. I won’t deny their comfort but granted, I’ve only used them for shorter periods of time. The weight in your ears is nice, which lends them to be far more secure than the normal EarPods that you would get with your iPhone.

But AirPods have three factors that make them truly the worst waste of money on headphones you can get today, in my humble, well-researched opinion.

They look hideous.

Really. They look like plastic cue tips dangling outside your eardrum. Honestly, the design may make sense in science, as far as ergonomics are concerned, but when it comes to the actual design themselves, they are simply atrocious. I will concede that the size of them are clever and smart, but if you just look at them, I just can’t agree with the current version of the design.

The issue I have with the design also has nothing to do with the so-called stigma or stereotypes placed on people who use AirPods. I could care less whether I was judged or not by wearing AirPods. Every day, I’ll attempt to look presentable, but other than that, my wardrobe consists of shorts, sweatpants, and tons of hoodies. Appearance does not matter to me much, especially when it comes to what others may think. BUT, AirPods are ugly, plain and simple, and regardless of what anyone thinks, I find them one of the more poorly designed Apple products ever made.

The price is just not that fair.

$160 is a price I’d gladly pay if it meant I got a complete gadget package, but I don’t. What’s more, the price doesn’t really help account for any losses of the actual buds themselves. The cost to repair them in comparison to their original price is more than any headphones I’m aware of.

But most of all, there is one singular dealbreaker. If it was not for this single factor, I would have bought a pair the second they were released. There is one reason why I don’t own AirPods today:

They sound so mediocre.

I’ve played songs in about every single genre I listen to consistently, from hip-hop to R&B to EDM to Hans Zimmer movie soundtracks to jazz, and everything I’ve listened to with these just sound so meh. The mids are muddy, the highs are difficult to make out, and while the bass is present, compared to almost any recent pair of wired or wireless earbuds, it pales in comparison.

There is no pair of earbuds I have tried that has this little noise isolation. Have you tried listening to music in a crowded area with these on? You have to crank the volume so high to be able to even make out the lyrics to your favorite tunes. This hurts you, the listener, all because Apple couldn’t care less about these circumstances. I can only imagine how much worse they are in a crowded public transit region

Do you want to know what you could buy for $160 or less in the audio department that sound that miraculously better?

The Audio Technica ATH-M50X

The Sony MDR XB950BTs

The 1More Triple Driver

The Jaybird X3, X4, and Tarah

The Bose SoundSport Wireless

The V-MODA Crossfade Wireless

But that doesn’t really matter to you, the non-audiophile reader.

You don’t care. These don’t sound better than your $25 Best Buy throwaway earbuds. And in many ways, that’s why I cannot believe how genius Apple’s marketing has been around the product itself has been able to push it beyond just a pair of headphones; they market it as a fashion accessory, as a tool to get you through your day.

And in many ways, even though I am a student that doesn’t really have to commute and have a pair of headphones with me everywhere I walk, I don’t know if my priorities will change. I also don’t know how desperate I may be to just have headphones I can rely on that are always charged and don’t get in the way of what I’m doing. I’ll link you to this Verge article I read, which comes from an even more serious audiophile, makes sense. If you prioritize convenience and accessibility, which is the case for most people, then the AirPods are quite possibly the best possible headphones you could own and ever need.

However, until I get to the point where convenience becomes a further priority, or if Apple creates a better-sounding version of AirPods, I’ll just stick to using my two years Bose QC35s and Jaybird X3s.


Being Noah Tesfaye #57: AirPods Disappoint Me

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Comfortable Scares Me

Being comfortable scares me.

The conversation that brings this out the most for me is, ironically, where geographically peers want to go to college. I’m not going to say that warm weather isn’t nice, but of all times in my life, why would I want to stay in my comfort zone now? How is it that when we are heading towards the most important time of our lives that the first reason for going somewhere is finding a place that makes you 100% comfortable and not a place that can challenge you to grow and be better? In my pursuit of figuring out my own behaviors, I just want to understand these two fundamental questions: what compels many of us to want to always be comfortable, and why am I always afraid of being comfortable?

If anything, this mentality I have comes from this idea that I should never be 100% satisfied with what I’ve done. For me, I’ve always searched for ways to further my life, whether productive, and just any way possible. I just want to try and do something either because I enjoy doing it, or that it challenges me to think in new ways. I wouldn’t necessarily call this comfort, but that I find solace in continuing to find new ways I can get better in life.

What’s more, this restlessness that comes from my own refusal to accept being comfortable comes from my own reluctance to sometimes let people get to know me at times. I keep a lot pretty distant and away from most people. I don’t know whether it’s been me seeing people be betrayed by people close to them, or if personally, I’ve seen people hurt me even when I share certain things about my character and history. I don’t want to let people, being in my own comfort zone per se, because I fear people getting to know me and later doing something with whatever information I may share.

And it’s not that I’m the opposite of a control freak either. I don’t mind having things outside of my control. No one is supposed to have that. I can never truly keep track of the behaviors of those who may share certain inner secrets. But it is this irrational fear that makes me fear comfort as well.

For me, in a not so ironic/meta way, being uncomfortable is comfortable for me. I know how to operate being anxious at times, always forcing myself to calculate and figure out how I can maximize my time and opportunities, which while helpful at times, restricts my own ability to enjoy life. And I’m aware of that. It’s unhealthy, ultimately unproductive, and it restricts my own ability to pursue things that I enjoy for fear of being too comfortable.

But I’m trying to change that.

Whether that’s spending time with people I care about more to be smarter in my unproductive times by trying to read even ten pages of my free reading book, I’m getting closer to getting used to being a bit more comfortable and relaxing a bit. The constant go, go, go mentality is great at times, but learning how to slow that down at times is incredibly important for me to live a more fulfilling life, a life I want to take advantage of for however much time I may have left.


Being Noah Tesfaye #56: Being Comfortable Scares Me

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

YES LAWD! — My Affinity for Anderson .Paak

Do you ever have those moments where you hear a song in a commercial and it just cannot ever get out of your head?

Well. That’s how I discovered my favorite artist out today. That’s how I found the rapper, singer, drummer, and incredible human being that is Anderson .Paak.

Ever since I heard the “Am I Wrong” in early 2016, everything about his sound changed my perspective on music as more than merely a simple art form but rather an experience. The instrumentation that introduced me to modern funk, infused with jazz and rap, blended into a single artist package, is what makes Paak so damn special.

From that first song, I discovered “Come Down” and the Malibualbum, which is still consistently in my rotation every single week. It’s the strong percussion, provided by Paak, which he plays live in concert, and the bass melody that brings out the best of his voice. The more you delve deeper into the album, you only further find gems like “The Bird,” “Celebrate,” and “Heart Don’t Stand a Chance.” And even though the varying styles of all the different songs, you realize the true brilliance of his artistry, in his composition as a musician.

This viral video is perhaps the closest you can get to see the true brilliance of Paak without going to a show in-person. The Free Nationals, the band he’s performed with for over two years, match him both as a person, but as a musician who always improvises at every possible step. They help complete his sound. In this unjustly short video, you don’t just get to see his skills, but his charisma, his genuine, fun-loving personality. He’s the type of person I would love to have as a friend, not just because of his nerdiness, but as someone who just doesn’t know how to be anything but himself.

There’s also this incredible clip of him live, this time in front of thousands instead of at the famed Tiny Desk setup, and his incredible voice carries even better live. His vocal control is unmatched, and let alone that, but the fact that he can do this while playing the drums is why I admire him and his work so much.

The first we heard of Paak in 2018 was on the Black Panther soundtrack with “Bloody Waters,” and he continued on his upward trend. And then, seemingly out of nowhere, he released a track we’d heard live for two years: “Bubblin,” one of the best songs of 2018. It’s the black James Bond soundtrack and it is nothing short of sensational. Paak went outside the box on this track, taking a far more punchy 808 track with a cinematic violin orchestra to elevate his performance. A few more weeks ago, we got the Kendrick Lamar/ Anderson .Paak collaboration, “Tints,” which only further set up for the final conclusion of the Paak story this year: Oxnard.

After almost three years, we are finally at the next installment to the Paak discography. We’ve had Venice, Malibu, and now Oxnard, his hometown. In just over a day and a half of listening to it, there is no denying that Paak has already outdone himself once again. I have yet to find to a track that I have disliked. There were ones I still liked over others, but as a whole project, everything fits together so smoothly, I am often at a lost for words. The live instrumentation once again is a strong point in this album and the variety in sounds, whether it’s a 70s funk sound in “The Chase” to the modern rap bass in “Brother’s Keeper.”

And if there’s anything indicator of Paak’s status in the music industry, just look at this feature list: Kendrick, Cole, Pusha T, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Q-Tip, and more!!! Granted, being on Aftermath and having your whole album executive produced by Dr. Dre helps, but still. It is the most stacked feature list of any album this year, and every single feature fits cohesively with the album. They only further elevate his sound and make his efforts to create this masterpiece into what it is.

Perhaps the very best indicator of how I feel whenever I listen to Paak’s music, it is his own catchphrase that encompasses that feeling: “YES LAWD!” I’m not super religious, but that excitement in that phrase itself is what makes me so passionate about his music. So if you even care a bit about music in any capacity, you should listen to Anderson .Paak, not just for the technical skill exhibited in his art, but the feelings his music brings out in everyone who listens. You won’t be disappointed.


Being Noah Tesfaye #55: YES LAWD! — My Affinity for Anderson .Paak

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Racism is One Effective Tool

Midterms wrapped up. Kind of…

I’ve been following both from a distance and from up-close the midterm elections all across the country. It’s been fun to watch, but underlying all of those circumstances, there is one underlying theme that has really struck a chord with me. It was a message one of my favorite writers, Vann Newkirk from The Atlantic, tweeted on election night:

If anyone understands the heritage of this nation, none of this is new. Do I have to go into a long explanation about how much certain groups have gone to extend the reach of the right to vote? Racism is one of the most important tools used to establish this nation, regardless of what anyone has to say because it is the truth. Whether its slavery, the Trail of Tears, Japanese internment, and so so so much more, there have been many points when which this country has turned its back on people because of the way they look.

After people gave their blood, sweat, tears, and lives to grant all Americans with the right to vote, the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. And for decades elections were at least protected through federal oversight. It gave way to decades of more fairly enforced elections. It seemed as though we’d finally turn a direction that would prioritize the most essential right of all Americans.

But then, it changed.

In 2013, Shelby County v. Holder ended Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, effectively restoring the states rights to change voting laws in any way their legislatures see fit. This law was put in place and enforced to specifically ensure places that had previously failed to comply with voting rights laws would now do so. This case ended that discussion and Congress have yet to put any new criteria for the coverage program used through this law.

Almost immediately, states began to impose legislation making it more difficult for people of color, poor people, and the elderly from being able to cast their ballots fairly. A North Carolina voter ID law that was struck down in 2016, after an Appeals Court loss, and during which, the 4th Circuit Judge Diana Gribbon Motz wrote for the panel that:

“The new provisions target African Americans with almost surgical precision” and “impose cures for problems that did not exist.”

If that doesn’t tell you the lengths to which people are attempting to restrict your right to vote, I don’t know what is.

But what is more important than just the decision in Shelby County v. Holder wasn’t in just the way the change of the law itself, it was in the very ideology it was created upon. This is what Chief Justice John Roberts had to say in his court-majority opinion:

A statute’s “current burdens” must be justified by “current needs,” and any “disparate geographic coverage” must be “sufficiently related to the problem that it targets.” The coverage formula met that test in 1965, but no longer does so.

Coverage today is based on decades-old data and eradicated practices. The formula captures States by reference to literacy tests and low voter registration and turnout in the 1960s and early 1970s. But such tests have been banned nationwide for over 40 years. And voter registration and turnout numbers in the covered States have risen dramatically in the years since. Racial disparity in those numbers was compelling evidence justifying the preclearance remedy and the coverage formula. There is no longer such a disparity.

That thinking is what has gotten us to this very point. This thinking that there is no longer a clear reason for having a true Voting Rights Act that is enforced in regions of past violations is the reason why we are at this very moment. When we embolden those who claim racism still plays no role in restricting the rights of some Americans, we get the circumstances we are faced with during this midterm.

Georgia’s gubernatorial race is still counting votes, where a black woman is going against the man who is literally in charge of elections for the state of Georgia and who helped remove 1.3 million people from voter registration rolls. We have a candidate who is running on voter suppression as we speak. This doesn’t even go into the voting machines debacle that occurred, where hundreds of voting machines were not being used, causing longer lines that extended voting hours.

You can get the official numbers on disenfranchisement. You can find the statistics to show racism has played a role on voting, and honestly, why is there such a debate over this nonpartisan issue? I will say that as someone who has always claimed to be politically independent, it abhors me that there is any discussion that we should just call and end the Georgia election, to give it to Brian Kemp, that so-called “liberals” are forcing this extension of an election. This is about doing whatever is necessary to protect the rights of all Americans. Let’s make sure that legislation is passed to restore those rights. Florida already took a step further this week. Let’s make this a future, not just a story.


Being Noah Tesfaye #54: Racism is One Effective Tool

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Rediscovering the Joy of Reading

This school year has been off to a solid start. I’ve had the chance to learn more in the first two months than I have pretty much any other year.

But to be completely honest, there is one class that truly that has reignited my interest in reading. That class, of course, has been English.

I won’t go into detail in the level of English class I’m taking, but the fact remains that the discussions, the writing, the books, everything have been on a whole new level of understanding what it means to understand literature. And it’s made me more eager than ever to pick up our books we’re reading this year.

Speaking of books, this year’s selection has been nothing short of inspiring. We started the year with Pride and Prejudice. As a lame person who never got the chance to really look into Jane Austen, I was blown away with the prose control and tone set out throughout the novel. I didn’t know till then nor read any other novel that was able to capture human emotions that were so real that they’d still be relatable today. Yes, it was difficult at times to read, and I won’t deny that I’ve read some pages three or four times to understand the true message. But, it was the story itself that kept pulling myself back into trying to get even better at understanding what I am reading.

After we wrapped up P+P, we read The Heart is a Lonely Hunter. This novel, told from five different perspectives, frustrated me at first. I didn’t recognize the importance of the excessive (in my opinion) description that I felt didn’t really allow me to get at the root of each character’s motivations. But, as the novel continued, you began to discover the significance in this style choice by Carson McCullers. The fact a 23-year-old was able to write such a powerful book made me even more hopeful, albeit still in shock, that over time, one’s prose could become as poignant as hers, even at such a young age.

And now, we’re reading what is setting up to possibly become one of my favorite novels ever, probably top two: Beloved. I don’t even still have a grasp on maybe a third of what this novel is getting at, but for some reason, it connects me to a history so powerful I cannot ever ignore it. This is the very first novel I’ve read in high school as required reading by a black writer with black protagonists and focused on their own growth as humans. Obviously, being black, I’m definitely frustrated and upset at the fact there hasn’t been a novel yet we’ve read with these qualities until now. However, of any possible novel, I am so thankful that I get to read it in a class, amongst peers, discussing it together, because if I didn’t, I probably wouldn’t pick up on all of the subtle things Morrison does as a writer. This novel truly tackles humanity and what we do under extreme trauma and stress. I just love it so much and I cannot wait to see how it wraps up!

I’d like to mention that none of this understanding would have been even remotely possible without the discussions that my classmates and I had throughout the classes and in group chats. There are always moments where someone has the epiphany that guides everyone towards a more comprehensive understanding of our work. But in that class, in particular, it is the help of our teacher that truly guides our thinking. He throws in random comments that make everyone almost simultaneously say, “OHHHHHH!!!” or “WAIT!” The people in that class make it not only the most interesting class I’ve ever been a part of but a class that pushes everyone towards succeeding. It’s almost like my experience at Columbia, only we just talk about books instead of political theory.

Some people at school like to joke that only crazy people decide to go our route and take this English class. But in all honesty, no matter how difficult this experience has been, it’s a weird feeling to somehow enjoy all of this challenge. This journey, this endeavor into learning about some of the greatest works in history is one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in school. To think I almost chose film over this… Well… I’m glad I made this choice. I’m going to keep on hitting a wall reading or struggling to find the MOWW of a novel, but at least I love it. That’s what matters most.


Being Noah Tesfaye #53: Rediscovering the Joy of Reading

Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Noah Tesfaye #52: How Writing for a Year Changed My Life.

52 weeks ago, I embarked on a journey.

Just a few days prior, I was complaining along with my friend about how much we hated the fact that we never got the chance to write as often as we wanted. We were always occupied with in-class writing, that everything we would do was always for a grade. We wanted the chance to just write about whatever we wanted, whenever we wanted. This friend suggested that I start writing a blog. I had my domain name thanks to my dad saving it for me, and I re-configured it to become this: the blog.

52 weeks ago, I told myself I would try to write every single week for a year. Whether I was in the country or not, whether I was struggling in that moment of time, whether I was sleep-deprived, I told myself I needed to write. I didn’t know at the time why I needed to write, but I just had that inkling to just do it.

Every single Saturday, as I’m doing right now, I sit down in a coffee shop, block off two hours, and don’t do anything but just sit with myself, alone, and write. Whatever comes to me is what ends up coming onto the blog. Some weeks, that idea came throughout the week. Other times, I would sit for three hours in a coffee shop mindlessly surfing through news articles until I found the right thing to write about. But either way, the process would remain the same. I would go Medium, now Highland 2, open a blank document, and just write into a white screen.

When I started the blog, I felt as though I didn’t really know who I was as a person. I knew I physically existed, or at least maybe, shout out to AP Lit;). But I didn’t know what my purpose was, what the point of working so hard aimlessly at school if I didn’t know what I was striving towards. I wanted so bad to have that calling that I felt was necessary towards me achieving some accomplishment greater than my own. But, I told myself that if I just talked to myself, if I just wrote whatever I was thinking, maybe I’d begin to start piecing myself together.

And it worked.

From that very first piece on the point of diversity to most recently writing about my favorite coffee shops, I’ve discovered more about myself than I ever could just thinking without inaction. I’ve learned that I’m a more compassionate person if I always attempt to put myself in other people’s shoes. I’ve learned that I love writing more than almost any single activity in my life. This blog is, after all, the single reason why I began writing for my school paper and local paper because I became more confident in who I was. I’ve also discovered I have a passion for seeking out knowledge in ways I never knew were possible. From reparations to Justice Roberts to Malcolm X, I just want more than ever to learn in every part of my life. Writing the blog has allowed me to find new facts and narratives that I would have never been able to understand had I never written this blog.

Without a doubt, the clearest difference between the start and now is my writing skills. Practicing every single week, attempting to use language in random, unique ways for me has been eye-opening. It’s not just that through the blog that I love writing more, but I realize how much writing can do, and how much power words truly have. Especially when it comes to reading books now in English, I’m more apt in understanding more complex passages, and I pick up far more through a first read now than I could just a year ago. I value and admire my friends’ writing as well on a far deeper level. Without this blog, I would be a writer without the enthusiasm and desire to get better. But now, I’m an okay writer with the passion to take this skill to the maximum.

I also won’t go without saying that there’s a day coming up this week that’s also important for me and for a lot of other friends: November 1st. And I could not be honest with you and say how much writing this blog has helped me become ready for that whole process. I always thought before I started writing that it would be weird and very selfish to write about myself every week for a year, that this person/friend/peer who would do this is stuck up. But, in reality, this blog is selfish, and that’s okay. I wrote initially to find myself and what ended up happening was that I knew so much more about what I wanted, what I wanted to become, that it made this whole process more straightforward. How can you write about what you want if you don’t know who you truly are? I’m not saying I knew even 50% of what I want in life, but I don’t have the prose control or vocabulary to explain how much writing this blog has helped me with writing these essays. And even though I never started with that intention, it helped me so much that when it came to the summer, it was just like writing more blog posts for me.

I never had the intention of getting the blog to necessarily become the next big thing and become viral. But, I’ve been surprised that people will sometimes just come up to me or message me that they read and that they enjoy it. They appreciate the dialogue, the conversation that I try to kindle. Opening new topics amongst my peers is what makes me even more proud of the writing I’ve done this year. Thank you so much to everyone who’s read, swiped up on my Snaps, gone to my Instagram bio, or clicked the link on Twitter or Facebook. Thanks to you, this personal journey has become even more exciting than I ever imagined.

So what’s next? What’s the future? I said I’d write for a year, not thinking I’d make it this far, but here I am. The plan? To continue this journey. As I said, I still don’t really know yet who I am or what I truly want to do, but the plan is to just continue this blog until I get to that point. Who knows if that’s next week, or in three years, or twenty, but that is what’s next for this blog.

52 weeks ago, I chose to write a blog. And it changed my life. Write, even if you hate the idea of it, because, who knows, maybe it will change your life too.

Thank you so much for reading. I’ll see you all next week…


Being Noah Tesfaye #51: The Best Coffee Shops in Silicon Valley

Yesterday I made a mistake. What was that mistake? I decided to drink coffee at noon.

For the rest of the day, I was shaking a bit too much for my own comfort, and by the end of the day, I completely crashed.

But coffee is a part of my DNA. Whether remembering the jebena my grandparents would use to make coffee, to hearing my dad discuss the technical specs of an espresso machine that I had no idea were even possible, coffee is everywhere.

And as I got hooked onto coffee during my summer at Columbia, and now as a person who drives, I’ve been hunting for new coffee shops to try out. And when it comes to coffee shops in general, there are some essential criteria for finding out what place best fits you:

1. Price — As a student, there is nothing more important than how much coffee will cost me. It’s impractical to go every single, heck every other day, or every two days to get coffee. So whenever I do want to go and get some work done for four hours (sometimes even more), I want to make sure I can get coffee that’s worth my money and is a place where I can go in the future for a decent price.

2. Flavor — As much as the cost of coffee is the ultimate deciding factor, the flavor is a significant component in finding the right coffee shop for you. As a cold coffee drinker, you need to find places that have the right roasts for you, whether they’re Verve or Intelligentsia or any other roaster. Do they have the perfect balance of acidity and bitterness for you? Do they make the drinks that you want and like, and if not, can they create something new for you? If you don’t like the coffee, that’s an instant reason to never go to that coffee shop.

3. Location (crowdedness/space for friends to come along + ambiance) — This one is by far the most subjective out of my personal criteria. For me, the busier, the more crowded, the more chaotic the coffee shop is, the more focused I am. For others, it means going to a super quiet coffee shop, or getting coffee and then going to a library to get work done. Either way, find what makes you the most productive. Also, if you like to work alone or with friends, find a place that can accommodate the extra friend or two. If the place has unfriendly baristas, that’s also maybe something you may not like either, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

4. Wifi — Simple. Find a place that has good, reliable wifi. And if you can, get and use a VPN since most shops have open access wifi.

5. Outlets — If I’m working somewhere for an extended period of time, especially if I’m getting there directly after school, having outlets, accessible outlets at that, are crucial to ensuring you can get whatever work you need to get done.

Before I give my list of favorite coffee shops, I just want to say that always be careful with how much you spend on coffee, or anything really. I know at times I’ve spent too much and I couldn’t afford to eat dinner with friends or get something essential I needed. So please, please, please don’t let the caffeine dictate your wallet.

Now, here are my favorite coffee shops.

1. Red Rock Coffee

If you know me personally, there isn’t really any place that I spend more time besides home and school than at Red Rock. Price-wise, it’s about average for iced coffee, but it can get way up there for other drinks. It’s got the outlets and great wifi that are always working. There is no other coffee shop for me personally that matches the flavor that Red Rock has, and it’s their house blend (which I believe is from Honduras, but please let me know if I’m wrong) that reminds me why I go there often. But the single reason why I love this place so much is for the location, right on Castro Street, and its vibe is just unbeatable. It’s always packed, which works really well for my working style, and although it’s difficult to work there with friends since space is often limited, it’s worth it. Also, it’s the only coffee shop aside from Coupa Café that closes at 10, and 11 on Fridays and Saturdays (Coupa closes at 11!), meaning that I cannot be rushed to leave at a certain time. If you want to go to any coffee shop in the Bay Area, go to Red Rock.

2. Coupa Café

Just like Red Rock, Coupa on Ramona has the same kind of ambiance. The greatest thing about Coupa is the fact that it is always open till 11, seven days a week. And if you’re interested in working at a more quiet space, they also have a Coupa by the Palo Alto train station. Pricing on coffee is definitely pushing it to around $4, so I don’t really like to go that often. However, with its decent wifi, along with the two full spaces next door to one another, it’s always a good place to work with friends who are in that area.

The rest of these coffee shops are all good places to work if you don’t like busy spaces or want something different. For example, Prolific Oven in Sunnyvale is a hidden coffee shop off of Mathilda. It’s modern, empty, and happens to have a gastropub inside of it, so if you want actual food beyond coffee, you can do that too. Dana Street Roasting Company is a coffee shop with impeccable charm, one that is extremely affordable (cash only), and just exudes a vibe of “I want to write my memoir here.” It has wifi, and although its outlets are limited, it is just a one minute walk from Red Rock if it’s ever full.

I don’t really like to go to chains for a couple of reasons. For one, often times the coffee is average at best, and that’s speaking purely for Peet’s. From a flavor perspective, Starbucks tastes too much like water for me. I recognize that often times chains are more affordable, and I can attest to the fact that Peet’s is always a go-to whenever I am on a budget. However, going to your own local coffee shops has no comparison. Although more expensive, they are employing dozens of people and help support people more so beyond just a job. When you go to a local coffee shop, having a community that you see regularly, where everyone’s all trying to accomplish their goals, is something you can’t get at a Starbucks or a Peet’s or even a Blue Bottle (which makes incredible coffee by the way).

So those are my recommendations to you. Find a place that you like? Go whenever it’s feasible financially. If not, try another place. Find somewhere that fits you and what you want from a workspace. Until then, I’ll continue to sip on cold brew for the foreseeable future. I’ll see you all next week, for perhaps the most important blog post ever. Till then…


Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE

Being Noah Tesfaye #50: Teenage Things I Don’t Understand… as a Teen

I would like to consider myself an aware teenager. I like to keep up with what’s cool and what’s not, even when I genuinely don’t give to craps about any of that. And for the most part, I just understand and respect those my age for their favorite things to do and activities they participate in.

HOWEVER. No matter how much I attempt to make myself more understanding of teenage behaviors, I struggle to get these things. These are the things teenagers do that I, as a teenager, just don’t understand.

Private Instagram pages. Help me, please. Most of us have our own personal Instagram pages, where we don’t allow the public to see what we post. That’s expected. After all, I don’t really want the rest of the world to be super aware of cousins graduating or my dog passing away. But, most teens go even further than that with so-called “private” or “spam” accounts. Whether it’s memes or random wacky things we do our age, I just don’t understand it. I want to, but I just don’t get it. I know we are all insecure about things, and that’s totally fine to keep certain tidbits separate. But is there a point to having a whole sneaky, stealthy username that comes up only with your contacts? Maybe. But my ignorant teen mind maybe just doesn’t get it. I’m cool with it, but I just don’t get it.

What’s another thing I just don’t understand as a teen? Snapchat streaks. I totally see the point and respect the notion that I might want to stay in touch daily with certain people. I’ve had streaks with a couple people that would break every now and then, but for the most part, it didn’t matter a ton to me personally. But you know the side, 1/4 face look away standard streak message? I just don’t understand why we do it, why people my age do it. I remember how my brother got a couple of people to help keep his streaks while we were in Ethiopia last summer, and he was always paranoid every single day that he would lose them. I just don’t understand it. Most of my friends, to my knowledge, don’t really brag about how long their longest streaks are, nor do we discuss them out in public that much. So why do we do it? I honestly don’t know.

Another weird compulsion, which I am 100% guilty of, is whenever we share every single time we’re out and about with friends. I get this weird itch that for some reason, I need to post to my friends and show them that I’m with another friend. Does that mean I want to show off? Absolutely not, but maybe that’s just me. But for whatever reason, regardless of insecurity, I want to show people other people. I guess it really is my own insecurity, and you know what? Maybe I don’t really care. That’s why I stopped posting whenever I’m out and about, just cause I know the only people that I’m focusing on and caring about at that moment are the people I’m with, not whoever I am around.

Most of this stuff, not by coincidence, is all social media-centric. And for the most part, I want to help pull my focus away from that and the real world. I’m not going to say I’ll stop using Snap, Instagram, Facebook, and most certainly Twitter, but I think I could do more when it comes to understanding why I’m posting, or why I’m sharing whatever. If it’s because I find something cool and that others might be interested, you’ll see it. But if not, then there isn’t really a need to do anything with it. And that’s okay. Unless, of course, it’s to brag about coffee, in which, well, you’ve been warned…


Thanks for reading this week! Follow me on Twitter if you want to ever discuss anything and hear my spontaneous thoughts, and join the Silicon Valley Humanities Students Society if you’re a passionate SV humanities student who wants to join an awesome community! Also, if you want to see more of my work, visit my website!

Twitter: https://twitter.com/noahbball1

Website: http://noahtesfaye.com/

Facebook group HERE