In ninth grade I started at [a learning center]. I have a disability with reading; I need extra time on tests and projects. So you have kids [in the learning center] who are already jaded in the system; they are told that they can’t do something. You know, I never went for honors classes because I never thought I could, but I was probably smarter than half of those kids… I don’t know, maybe. I want to be an intellectual. It’s not really a struggle; I really just need to apply myself. It was the fact that people told you ‘you probably shouldn’t go into this; this is a big workload; it’ll take you a long time to do the work at home.’
Do you think this struggle has made you more confident?
Yeah, probably. Honestly, I just don’t care about insults anymore. I think people have lost sight of the fact that life isn’t going to be perfectly great and I think it’s spawning a generation of people who need to be comforted. And it’s not good; it’s not going to get you anywhere. I’ve seen students abusing the comfort of [learning centers]. I don’t feel hatred over this; I feel anger. I would do the work and some people would just treat it all like a joke. I used to think it was a joke until I decided to utilize my resources.
So why do you want to be an intellectual?
I don’t want to be the guy who says stuff and thinks he knows what he’s talking about. I want to better myself mentally.
Would you live anywhere else other than Long Island, where you’re from?
I would want to live in the Philippines.
I was raised by Filipino parents. So I feel Filipino but I also feel American.
Have you ever felt disconnected from American culture?
Totally. I felt excluded a lot of the time.
I’d be hanging out with my white friends
or Hispanic friends or black friends and somehow I felt different. Don’t get me wrong, I love them all. But for some reason when I’d hang out with my Filipino friends there was just this connection; we fit so easy. I would love to feel that way with everyone, but I guess because we’re brothers and sisters through our culture…I don’t know, it’s weird!
Do you still feel this way now?
I don’t know because there are so many factors. But I feel that in general I’m very good at adjusting to people and surrounding myself with open people. I know how to talk to everyone now.
Would you want to live in the Philippines forever or would you come back?Which would feel more like home?
I would come back. I still love it here. Home is where my family is.