Cut-Off Culture

Is cut-off culture toxic?

I cringed a little just typing that out. This is why: I personally believe that the word “toxic” has lost its meaning in the last couple of years. It’s become an automatic trigger word, and anything or anyone deemed as “toxic” is immediately canceled without question. The word itself doesn’t quite hold the same magnitude and meaning as it once did since it’s being used to describe every scenario – from something or someone actually being toxic to just using the word to describe any minor inconvenience. But, for the sake of simplicity, I beg the question once more… Is cut-off culture toxic?

To answer the question, “Is cut-off culture toxic,” I would say yes and no. There are legit times and situations where cutting someone off is necessary. The act of cutting someone off is not in itself toxic or wrong. Depending on the situation, cutting someone off can be for the better. However, the act of glorifying cutting people off to uphold a certain persona and façade is toxic. The “trending” trait is to put up a front and be proud of being unempathetic, petty, and quick to drop someone if things get hard. Social media plays a big role in that, the idea that the cheese stands alone and doesn’t need anyone’s companionship. Though that is admirable to an extent, it’s also very unrealistic. The act of cutting people off turns problematic when it’s done in such a high volume for minor issues to avoid communicating and confrontation.

There seems to be a division between people’s view on cutting people off. Removing someone from your life in an abrupt and obvious way because of an argument, misunderstanding, or history of manipulation can be very liberating. Overall, the trending advice is in support of cutting people off. But where do you draw the line? When is cutting someone off too excessive and not justifiable? There are those that are proud of their ability to throw out a relationship, whether that be family relationships, romantic relationships, or friendships. Usually when someone says they cut someone off, we tend to congratulate them – assuming that if they’re the one that did the snipping, the other party was automatically in the wrong.

Depending what algorithm you get on your socials, other people’s opinions on cut-off culture can become an echo chamber. Ironically, my Instagram algorithm literally brings up both sides of the coin. I come across posts that praise others for cutting off toxic people that were once in their circle. A lot of these posts are intended to be empowering and motivation to others to “clean up” their social circle of all the untrustworthy, draining, and “toxic” people in their lives. These posts glorify how liberating it is to remove people from your life. Though that may be true, it doesn’t give the full scope of what someone goes through if they do decide to cut someone off. Yes, it can be liberating, but that’s usually later down the road when everything that transpired has been processed. The general message circulating is that cut-off culture is a good thing, it’s what people who want to heal do. Cutting someone off is sold as a way to protect yourself.

The problem with the media’s oversimplified justification and support of cutting someone off, is that viewers start to think that the only way to achieve happiness or find peace is to dispose of a relationship that isn’t perfect. As we all know, no relationship or friendship is perfect. There will always be disagreements, small tiffs, and room for improvements on both sides. Like the old saying goes, there is growth in staying and growth in leaving, you just need to know which one to pick. And with time, the answer may change. The nonchalant support of cutting someone off doesn’t clarify on what grounds you should consider severing ties with someone and when to keep trying. But of course, it is all personal preference.

Like with most things, cutting someone off is not as simple as black and white. It’s not fair to say cutting someone off is 100% right or 100% wrong. There is always a gray area with pros and cons. When you plan to remove someone from your life, it doesn’t mean that you’re just upset with them and plan to give them the cold shoulder for some time. A real cut-off is removing someone completely out of your life. This is usually a permanent action one takes when they feel like they need to protect themselves emotionally, mentally, or physically from another. It may or may not bring closure to both parties, and it is not uncommon for one party to be totally lost and confused as to what happened. Prior to the cut off, an explanation may be made, but it isn’t mandatory. Cutting someone off is like the death of a relationship and ghosting all at the same time.

Sometimes distancing yourself and ending relationships with people that you were once close to is necessary. Cutting someone off is not always a negative thing. In certain scenarios, it is necessary for someone to move on, get closure, or put themselves first. And putting yourself first and being selfish is not always a bad thing. When you put yourself first and start listening to your wants and needs, you will learn more about what you will and will not tolerate. When you find that some people or situations don’t meet that requirement anymore through their actions and words, it is up to you to set that boundary. When someone else can’t respect that boundary, they may feel the need to cut that person off. When it’s not meant to hurt someone and it’s more so coming from a place of self-care and self-respect for yourself, you know that ending ties with someone is for personal growth.

A big part of what makes cutting someone off toxic or not is how it is dealt with after the fact. When it’s dealt with privately and the person doesn’t feel the need to justify their actions to others or on social media, it’s usually a good sign that it was for themselves. Of course, they may talk with their close circle of friends to vent, but there’s no need or want to have to explain themselves on public platforms. This is where the true healing takes place. Healing happens when you don’t feel like you have to prove anything to anybody else, when you’re content with letting people think whatever version they choose to believe.

But even if going separate ways for good is the “right” thing to do, it doesn’t always mean it’s an easy thing to do. I’m sure that plenty can relate to knowing someone or something isn’t right for them, but it pains them to let that relationship go. This is why it’s important to really weigh out your pros and cons to see if cutting someone off is necessary or not, because it’s such a drastic step. Whether it’s a family relationship, romantic relationship, or friendship, we usually think long term and never anticipate that these relationships will fall apart. So when they do, and even more so if it’s your choice to let go of the relationship, it can feel like the death of what once was. They aren’t “gone” permanently like in death, but figuratively, they no longer exist in your world, and that can be a lot to process. And even if you’re the one doing the cutting off, it sucks to admit that it still hurts to some degree to do so, regardless of how “done” or confident you are in wanting to sever ties.

A lot of people think that cut-off culture is problematic because it gives people an easy out to avoid conflict. It’s so much easier to sweep something under the rug and act like nothing happened – or even more extreme – that someone doesn’t exist after a bump in the road. Some claim that cutting people off is an action done by people with poor communication skills. Yet again, I agree an disagree with that explanation. Yes, I do believe that people use cutting others off as a way to avoid the real issues at hand. Sometimes it can be something so minute, but it can lead someone to end a relationship. There are some people that would rather ghost you and act like you never existed than see their part in an argument and admit that they’ve caused some hurt. But on the flipside, if someone feels like they have been taken advantage of to some degree, they may not feel the need to explain why. Or maybe they have tried time and time again to communicate the issue and voice their opinions, but were shut down or ignored. At that point, I wouldn’t feel the need to try to communicate. But how can you tell which scenario it is – plain immature, or someone at their wits end?

For me, one of the biggest red flags is knowing that someone has a history of cutting people off. If someone is known for claiming other people are toxic and boasts about how they cut them off, it almost always has me questioning who was really the problem. When a person uses cutting people off excessively, or as leverage to manipulate others, is when it becomes toxic. This is probably why some think that cut-off culture is toxic, because it’s being used as a tool by people that go back and flip flop on their word. You know, the kind of people that talk all that mad shit when they cut someone off, but you see them with the same individual some time later. This is not to say that you can’t change your mind on wanting someone back in your life. But it all comes down to how it’s done. If you’re always having a dramatic exit with multiple people and publicize it for everyone to see, don’t be surprised when you’re labeled as the person that cried “cut-off.” It’s just a clearer indication that people like that really don’t know what they want and have poor impulse control.

We have created a reality where it’s everyone’s word against everyone else’s. This is a dangerous game because this gives people the power to claim toxicity with any minor inconvenience. Some have fallen into a pattern where any disagreement or differing opinion from their own is considered valid grounds to cut someone off. It becomes toxic when someone is just cutting people off because they don’t want to hear the truth, a different point of view, or don’t like what they’re hearing. Most of the time, the cut off isn’t mutual, and because of this, there will always be 2 different stories, 2 different realities.

I especially find cut-off culture problematic when people feel the need to boast about how they cut someone off on social media. It’s one thing to end a relationship for your own well-being, but to bring it up time and time again in an distasteful manner is something I get second-hand embarrassment from. It’s the bragging for me, when it’s apparent to everyone else that there’s still some hurt behind the gloating. The goal in airing out the tea on social media is to get people to back you up and see your side, and to see the other person to be in the wrong or toxic. Usually when this is done, the goal is to have others cancel them or at the very least, see them in a different light. And then for the biggest cherry on top for the second-hand embarrassment sundae is when these actions are claimed to be being the bigger person, taking the higher road, and choosing not to associate with drama.

There is always a gray area in everything. It’s true that cutting someone off can be valid in some cases, but toxic in other cases. There are scenarios where cutting ties with someone is necessary, and then there are other times when it’s not. Don’t let social media fool you, it’s okay to set boundaries with others and let time tell if the relationship with blossom or end. It’s okay to not jump the gun, don’t make rash decisions because the media is telling you that you should handle a situation this way or that way. Whether some like to believe it or not, we all have toxic traits. No relationship, friendship, or family is perfect. It just depends on who you think is worth the effort and grace.

A Message For Frank Somerville

I’ve always been a fan of KTVU, but more so because of Frank Somerville. I grew up on KTVU news, and Somerville was a familiar face that I saw everyday at 5 PM. He would share little tidbits about his life during his segments, and throughout the years, it made me feel like I knew him personally. It wasn’t until I went to school for journalism did I realize how controversial and bold he was as a journalist. He was the definition of a traditional journalist in the actual sense, given his position at KTVU news, but at the same time, how he went about being a journalist was pretty progressive.

Towards the end of 2021, KTVU cut ties with Somerville over a disagreement. Now, real Bay Area folks know that Frank Somerville was the face of KTVU. Like many others, I waited for the news of his return back on the screen. However, it never happened. And just like that, the show went on. I was shocked to learn that he would no longer be their news anchor. And I was even more shocked a few months later to learn that he received a DUI days before Christmas. The video of the DUI incident was floating around the internet, and it made me so sad to see someone I respected and watched for so many years hit rock bottom. After that incident, any news of Somerville went radio silent. I would often find myself wondering if he was back on Facebook, as he posted frequently in the past.

Recently, Somerville posted on Facebook explaining his DUI in 2021. But before I jump into his recent fall from grace, I want to share a little back story as to why I originally wrote this blog post in the first place. In fact, I started this blog post way before Somerville’s recent statements:

When I first declared my major as “Journalism,” in 2015, I felt relieved. I declared my major so I could finally transfer to SF State in 2016. I spent years as “undeclared.” Before that, I dipped my feet into Early Childhood Education, Criminology, and even Psychology. I knew I wanted to be a writer. Write what exactly? I couldn’t tell you. My mind was all over the place. All I knew was I wanted to write books. I felt like my heart was in Creative Writing, but thought declaring Journalism as my major would give me more to work with in the “real world.”

I declared journalism as my major kind of on a whim, not even really knowing what the job and role entailed. In my head I was like, fuck it, yeah, journalism. I’ll be a writer with more credibility under my belt. Journalism wasn’t love at first class, since I originally wanted to do Creative Writing. But I quickly started to identify as a journalist. What I wanted to write about quickly changed as I started to go through with the journalism courses at my community college. I originally wanted to write fiction, but I found myself wanting to write about real people, real experiences, real stories. I wanted to write with a purpose, make people feel things, and shed light on topics I thought were important.

I remember going to some journalism meeting, or event, or I don’t even remember what. I forget who was even talking, what the meeting was for, or why I had to be there. Was it a class, a meeting, a mandatory event? Brain fart… I just remember what I took away from the presentation. Up until that point, everyone’s cliché response to why they wanted to be a journalist was that they wanted to “give people a voice.” The speaker explained why they disagreed with that statement. They said everyone has a voice. You are not “giving” anyone anything, for people already have a voice of their own. Our role as journalists is to simply seek out the truth and those voices that want to be heard from different backgrounds. Though I can’t remember the event, or even the person that said it, what was said stuck with me. Journalists don’t give people a voice, they give those that want to be a heard an outlet to share their stories.

One of the first things you learn as a journalist is that your job is to tell the story completely unbiased and impartial. That is something I definitely struggled with in the beginning because I have an opinion about every-fucking-thing. Of course, it depended on the topic. Certainly I could remain unbiased and impartial with plenty of topics, but when it came to controversial news, that’s when I struggled. Journalists were supposed to remain professional, neutral, and never break that character. Yes, you can have your own views and opinions, but it should never really be public knowledge where you stand on certain things.

Your social media was strictly business, it was always professional, and clean of any personal biases. At the time, I found it hard to distinguish my professional self with my real self. They advised that our socials be public so any journalistic work we put out can be found and seen by everyone. But that also meant that random people and anyone on the platform could see my personal things as well. That’s because I refused to make a whole other social media handle for my “professional” work. I didn’t know how I felt about it. We were advised to either make a new account from scratch that would act as the professional account, while any personal account would remain private. The alternative was to clean up any existing social media accounts and make it a professional account going forward. I was always conflicted about my presence on social media. Why did they have to be separate? Why did I have to choose between being professional and being myself, why couldn’t both be displayed in a tasteful way? Now, years later, it doesn’t even matter because all I post is my writing content anyways, but at the time, early 20’s Marinelle couldn’t fathom the idea of not posting her personal life – especially my views on controversial news.

Somerville has a big social media presence on Facebook. I don’t even remember when I followed him on Facebook, but that added to the layer of familiarity. Not only did I get a feel of his personality through him sharing on TV, but he gave us all a glimpse into his personal life as well on social media. I liked Frank for the simple fact that he was real as fuck. He would add his personal commentary to news and wear his emotions on his sleeve. This is what my professors have advised us not to do, but for me, it made me feel like I could relate to him. He wasn’t just doing a job. He actually cared. He wanted to help others and bring attention to certain stories. And when I became a journalist, it made me respect Somerville’s professional style even more. He wanted to help others with his platform and bring attention to social injustices.

I started to analyze the way Frank Somerville posted on social media – sharing personal stories, talking about his journey with adoption, and so on. Even on air he would share personal information that made viewers feel like he was just like us. He wasn’t a robot journalist that displayed no emotion, he wore his heart on his sleeve and did it so tastefully. That’s the kind of journalist I wanted to be. He was very different than other news anchors, and I felt like I had a new found respect for him because at the time, I was going through my journalism courses, knowing that my professors would advise against sharing personal information on social media and on air. But it was what I admired most about Frank Somerville, he let you know that he was more than just a news anchor reading off news. He was a real person, and most importantly a person that cared.

When I was in the thick of finishing my journalism degree, that’s when Trump was running for president and then eventually became president. I’ll never forget the day after the election. It was a very somber day, not only for the majority of the Bay Area, but specifically the Journalism department at SF State. Professors were in tears, letting us know that we picked a very difficult time to be a journalist, but we were needed now more than ever. I kind of knew early on that with my writing style, I probably wouldn’t go down the traditional journalist route, and the election solidified that decision. I always gravitated towards opinion writing, or writing about certain topics that I found important. I was never really a breaking news writer anyways. I could definitely write it and was perfectly capable, but it wasn’t where my heart was at. My passion was in telling the stories of your everyday person. The type of story that will have you thinking about life and will have you reflecting at 1 am.

Seeing Frank Somerville’s style of posting and sharing encouraged me to still pursue journalism, even though I was unsure if I “fit in” the professional journalism world. Even though he was still covering hard news, his different approach to interacting with the community is something that I admired. He did some things traditionally, and other things were more progressive. I respected that.

So fast forward to December 2021, Somerville made headlines for DUI charges. In the viral video, it shows a supposed Frank Somerville exiting his car after rear ending another vehicle. I was in total disbelief. Reports were claiming that it was Somerville, but a big part of me was hoping it wasn’t. It was tough to see a news anchor I loved, respected, and basically grew up with hit an all-time low. I really felt for him and wondered how he got to that point. It was not the same Frank Somerville that I had been watching on the news for more than 15+ years.

Recently, Frank posted a Facebook post that explained his actions one year ago. This is the first public statement where Somerville shares what transpired that day. On December 17, 2022, Somerville posted:

“So it was almost a year ago that I was arrested for a dui. I had already been let go by KTVU over a disagreement. The dui had no bearing on that. What it was was an accumulation of a lot of different things. Including serious mental health issues. I couldn’t leave work at work. Instead I took it home and obsessed about it. It started with me going to seven funerals for young black men and women who were killed on the streets on Oakland. I went on my own time and it was devastating. Seeing the open caskets. Hugging the mom of one of the victims and feeling her legs buckle as she said ‘I don’t know how I can move on.’ I also went to the viewings for a  Bart police officer and a Fremont officer on my own time. It destroyed me seeing the flag draped coffins and their boots sitting next to them. The problem was I didn’t feel I had anywhere to go or anyone to talk to. Yet I felt it was my duty to be at all those funerals to let people know that I cared and that KTVU cared. And also to be able to post about it on my Facebook page because I didn’t want those Oakland deaths to be reported as just another number. I wanted people to know that they had a mom and a dad etc. But over time I realized that I felt like I was under a pall of sadness. I felt like I had ptsd. And I really needed someone to talk to. But the last thing I was going to do was tell the station that I was hurting. Main anchors don’t do that. So I tried to deal with it on my own. Prescription drugs. Alcohol. It was the worst decision I ever made but I felt that I had no other choice. I literally felt helpless. I also felt who am I to feel sorry for myself? I didn’t lose anyone. It’s the families who deserve sympathy. Not me. I was just totally stuck. For the record as messed up as I was I didn’t drink on the air. The time I was sent home for being drunk on the air I had actually taken two Ambien  by accident. How I even made it home that night is beyond me. Skip forward to today. I’m almost done with all the dui requirements. It’s cost a fortune. But that’s my punishment. I can only hope that another station will hire me. I’m a damn good anchor and everyone knows that. At the same time I made some serious mistakes. So I will totally understand if that doesn’t happen. I’ve NEVER been in trouble with the law and I never will be again. This dui will not define me. I’ve always believed in second chances and that’s what I’m asking for now. I also want to say sorry to all my co workers and all the viewers. I let them all down. And finally I wanted to say that I’m sorry to the driver I hit. Thankfully he wasn’t seriously injured. I would never be able to forgive myself if he was. – F”

Somerville opens up about his mental health struggles, and how his professional-self would not allow him to open up and admit he needed help. So instead, he self-medicated to deal with the immense pain and sorrow he was feeling when paying his respects to the families of the departed. Somerville’s desire to connect with the community backfired when he realized he didn’t know how to effectively deal with the pain that comes with connecting with the community. In no way is he trying to justify his actions, but get others to see where he was mentally.

3 days after he posted on Facebook about his DUI, he posted a supporting post explaining that he doesn’t want or expect any sympathy. His intentions for sharing his struggles publicly was to be real with his audience, and encourage others to ask for help if they need it. This act of transparency is the exact reason why I applaud Frank’s professionalism and stance as a journalist. Taking accountability for his actions lets his followers know that he may have been on TV, but he’s still a real person, with a real life, and has real problems like you and I.

It’s unfortunate how everything played out because I know I’m not the only one that misses seeing Frank on the screen. His reporting style and desire to connect with his viewers and followers on a personal level definitely inspired me in my earlier years when I first started taking journalism courses. I was very unsure if I could be a “traditional” journalist, but growing up watching Frank on the screen let me know that there is space for me in the journalism world. It may not be in breaking news, but I do have a place here somewhere. I applaud his courageous decision to open up about his struggles and DUI, because other professionals may be in the same boat.

If on the slim chance that Frank Somerville stumbles upon this post and made it this far in the read, I would just like to say that there are a lot of people out there that are still rooting for you. There’s still a place for you out there too.

Thank You 2022

It’s that time of the year again. We’re winding down to the end of the year waiting to welcome in 2023. That means new year resolutions are made, you’re scrambling to clean your house, while simultaneously trying to process the last year that just happened.

I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to reflect on the last year and trying to find the lesson when the new year is approaching. It’s okay if there isn’t an “obvious lesson” to be learned. Very often, some time needs to pass for you to see the significance of a certain year, and the role it played in the bigger picture. I feel like 2022 was that kind of year – I was coasting in the sense where I wasn’t really trippin’ on what was to come, just taking life as it was. 2021 was one of those drastic years that changed a lot, and 2022 was the grace period of trying to re-evaluate life and process 2021.

If I really had to narrow it down, the overall theme of 2022 for me was slowing down and just taking it all in. My personality type is traditionally very uptight when it comes to plans. I’m either stressing out about what’s to come, or planning for the next step. I don’t know if anyone else felt this way, but I started 2022 tired as hell. Of course I had some new year’s resolutions – like writing more, start this or that project, save money, and so forth, but in terms of big life changing goals, I can’t say I had any. 2021 was such a year of change and grief that I just wanted to be a neutral “okay” for 2022. I literally wanted to be left as is and process what happened the year before. I wanted to be right in the moment, not stressing out about anything to come, and just exist without complaint. It seems like a simple task, but I find it hard to just let myself breathe. And in 2022, I did just that to the best of my ability.

I’ve always been pretty safe with the pandemic going on – wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, limiting my outings, taking takeout instead of dining in, not traveling, etc. But in doing so, I became anti-social and even more of a homebody than I already was. I went into the pandemic as a freshly turned 25 year old, and now 2 plus years in, I feel way older than 27. I was past the point of feeling like the pandemic had stolen 2 plus years of my youth and counting. I was so over the pandemic and knew it was time to start living again. We are coming up on 3 years of Covid being a thing, and even though on paper that is a relatively short period of time in the grander scheme of things, when you’re living this type of life day to day, it takes its toll.

It took a while for me to ease up on Covid protocols even after the city / state lifted many restrictions. After wearing a mask for so long, it felt illegal not to have one on. I really had to come to terms with the state of the world’s reality. Covid isn’t going anywhere, and I can’t waste my youth and great years depriving myself of living because I’m afraid. In no way am I denying the severity of the virus and the affect it can have on high risk individuals – which is why I still take precautions for myself and those around me – but it came to a point where I was aware that getting Covid was pretty much inevitable, and all I can do is try my best to keep myself and others healthy with continued precautions. It took a lot for me to go somewhere maskless, eat out at a restaurant, and get back to a semi-normal life like pre-Covid.

Since I came to the realization that Covid is something we have to adjust to and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, 2022 was a year where I decided to treat myself more than usual. I don’t know if it was me filling a void left from 2021, but I found myself more willing to do things. 2021 brought a lot of tears and frustrations, but through the grief, the one thing I took away was that time is priceless. You can always make more money, but you can’t buy back time. I felt deprived of life experiences and making fun memories with those I love for over 2.5 years, so I found myself saying yes to things I would’ve said no to in the past. I was down for the dinner, down for the road trip, down to experience life again.

I feel as though 2022 was my “rest” year. I wasn’t acting on anything, I just sat and observed, taking note of what’s going on around me. I guess my instinct to plot my next moves weren’t completely dormant after all, just remaining attentive to every aspect of my life. I wrote about it in many different ways in my blog posts, but they all point to the same message – not everything needs a reaction, sometimes you just need to observe and take mental notes on what’s happening, then you wait for the right moment to act on whatever the situation may be. And I mean that from a responsible and patient stand point, not a malicious one where you’re plotting on some antagonist shit. When I say plotting, I mean it from a place of listening to your intuition, trying to see the bigger picture, and making sure you have all the facts and information before making big decisions.

I’d be lying if I said I felt energized for 2023. However, I am ready for it. A part of my role in the preschool is teaching kids from all over the country virtually online. Before the winter break, I was demonstrating a project to the class – trying to show them how to get the shaving cream nice and smooth so we could make our own New Year’s Eve fireworks. One thing about teaching online is you never know when you’re going to mess up yourself, but you have no choice but to keep going because you’re live. I kept instructing the kids to use their cardboard piece to smooth out the shaving cream on their tray, but I kept going over the same area where the shaving cream sinkhole was. Every time I fixed it, the perfectionist in me kept trying to make the whole thing even smoother, causing me to reopen the gap maybe 5 times at that point.

“Okay, see, Teacher Marinelle keeps making that hole, but I want to have it smooth. Justtt…. likeee….. thisss…” I said trying to buy myself time being live on air.

Since I can have up to 9 kids at a time, all of their microphones are muted until I call on them, this is to avoid all the kids talking at once. But just then, a microphone turned on, I didn’t quite hear what was said, but I could tell who said it because of their voice. I’ve been working with some of these kids for over a year, so I was confident who turned on their microphone to say something quickly. I looked up from what I was doing and looked at the computer screen, “What was that, _____?” I said with a smile.

They turned on their microphone again, as they worked on their project alongside me, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, remember Teacher Marinelle? It’s okay if it’s not perfect, remember that’s what you told me,” they said sounding so wise and happy.

“….you’re right… I’m so proud of you! I’m so happy that you remembered that!” I said wanting to cry. I always try to encourage my students to make their projects uniquely theirs, and that may mean that all of our projects look different, and that’s okay. I also think it’s important to let them know that it’s okay if their projects aren’t perfect – all that matters is that they tried and made it their own. Especially for the little ones that get frustrated when they want things to look a certain way or be exactly like mine, I encourage them to be different and tailor things to their style. This is also true for getting answers wrong, I applaud them for trying. I reassure them that if they ever need help, I will always help them out. It builds their confidence in themselves and allows them to create and answer freely without worrying about getting things “wrong.”

“I’m so proud that I could cry, but you guys aren’t here to watch Teacher Marinelle cry, you came here to learn!” I laughed trying to play it off. I was so moved that my student remembered my words from past classes. It reminded me that sometimes, we need to give ourselves the same love, compassion, and understanding that we give children. I preach to my kids that there is no such thing as perfect and their unique creativity and personalities is what makes them great. And I was reminded of that same lesson from one of my students.

It reminds me of what 2022 was like for me – it wasn’t perfect, but there’s no such thing as perfect. I made the year my own with no expectations, just allowing myself to grieve, heal, and just be. And since there’s no such thing as perfect, that means that there is no right or wrong way to do things – that’s just life. And everyone is just trying to figure it out. This was definitely the rest year, the “try to figure it out” year, the year where I really thought about what I want. That’s exactly the kind of year I needed. 2022 was the calm after the storm of 2021.

Wishing all my readers a very happy new year! May 2023 beat all of your expectations and then some!

Christmas 2022

Christmas has always been my most favorite time of the year,

both sides of my family have always went above and beyond to spread the Christmas cheer.

No matter the circumstances, Christmas always came on time,

our family got together, we enjoyed each other’s company, and everything was just fine.

As a kid, you don’t really feel the magnitude of what it means to be present and just be there,

until the people you love get older, some are gone, and you realize the holidays can be unfair.

Last Christmas, Christmas wasn’t Christmas-ing the way it used to,

it was the first Christmas without Tatay, and it was so different than what we knew.

Oh, what a year’s time can do!

I laugh a little because it’s true.

The holidays looked completely different for me and the Cabillo family this year.

I say this because more than half of the family weren’t even here.

I never really understood what it was like to have a good chunk of the family not near.

In fact, if you know anything about me, you’ll know that’s one of my greatest fears.

This year brought a lot of changes and relocations to say the least,

but that doesn’t mean that the holiday celebrations should just cease.

Phone calls, texting, sharing pictures and videos of all our different celebrations,

it still felt like we were all together, even if we’re in different locations.

Ironically, we are closer than ever before,

the distance makes us appreciate the quality time that much more.

Tatay is no longer here to celebrate with us in person,

but I know he’s proud of the way we remained close, and I know that for certain.

In my dreams he’s still present at our family events,

and in my heart I know he’s still there and that makes me more content.

On the flip side, the Cruz family was finally almost all together at last.

This Christmas celebration was bigger than most of the parties in the recent past.

I looked around at all the new faces and new family additions,

even coming up with some new family traditions.

I thought to myself, “If only Mama and Tatay could be here to see what they created,”

I started to feel a little sad, but then I changed my perspective and retranslated…

“Look at this huge family that they left behind, one that still gathers,

togetherness is all they cared about, and that’s all that really matters.”

It’s been so long since I’ve celebrated a Christmas with them both,

but on the flip side, look at the whole family’s growth!

I guess Christmas will never always look the same,

but it’s nice to look back and see how far we all have came.

Some have passed on, some will move away, and some will remain right here,

so enjoy the moment because it’ll never be exactly the same year after year.

So Merry Christmas to those near or far,

especially to the guardian angels who watch over us where ever we are.

Just Start

When I was a kid, I used to collect a lot of stickers. Any and all stickers – puffy stickers, the “homie” stickers you get from those 50 cent machines, glittery ones, leftover hearts from the whole sheet you would get when you purchased valentines, Sanrio stickers, Lisa Frank stickers, and even stickers that were kinda janky. I had all these stickers that I kept in a treasure chest box. I got it from a bookstore and begged my dad to buy me it. The buried treasure treasure box came with a parrot that could stay on my arm with a scrunchie-like elastic band attached to it, a telescope, an eyepatch, and more. I remember my older sister reading all the things that it was supposed to come with and realizing that a lot of things were missing. Anyways, I emptied out all of the contents and made it my sticker collection box. They were literally my greatest treasures.

However, I very seldomly used them. I just couldn’t bring myself to peel off their backing and stick them somewhere. What if I regretted it? What if I needed it in the future for a better reason? If I stick it on something, I will never get to reuse it again. Yes, I know, so fucking intense for a fucking 5-ish year old to be thinking about. I never wanted to use them because I wanted the security of knowing I could still use them at a later date. I thought there would be a time and a place where every sticker could be used. There were times where I would think of using a sticker and wonder if this is the “perfect time,” but I always refrained and talked myself out of it. “There might be a time when you’ll need it,” I would tell myself, as if there were so many times that would require a sticker. So, I would hold off.

I was perfectly okay with just admiring my sticker collection. I didn’t use them, but I would open up my treasure chest and lay out all the stickers I had out in front of me very often. It would bring me so much joy knowing that I had such a vast collection. Maybe deep down, I knew I could never bring myself to use them because I liked the security of knowing that I had every single sticker I’ve ever had in one place, unused, and still perfect. Still, I would think of made up scenarios of when I would maybe use them. I was motivated and excited to use them, but never used that motivation and excitement to convince myself that it was worth it, and that the perfect time was right then and there.

At a young age, I learned that you have to think ahead and plan out things strategically. But in doing so, I never really got to enjoy my stickers. If I used them, I could’ve enjoyed them, even if it was only for a short time. I was so focused on the future and thinking that there would be a “better time” for the sticker to be used, that I never got the chance to use any of them. Instead, they remained in my treasure chest, unused and collecting dust. They were nice to look at, and I loved the collection, but I never used them at a later date like I had carefully calculated. I essentially wasted all the stickers I treasured because I was thinking there would be a better time to use them in the future. What sucks even more is the fact that I don’t even know where that treasure box is anymore.

The idea that there is a “perfect time” for certain life events and when to take risks is a belief that was hard to unlearn. Often, we rob ourselves of opportunities and growth when we think that we need to do XYZ first. Thinking that certain things in our lives have to align first before we move onto starting another task will just have the process be delayed. When I find myself myself in the mindset of thinking there will be a “better time” to do something, I notice that I just lag on getting it done. I psych myself out and end up not following through with what I was so excited to start.

Sometimes, there is no “better time” to do something than now, in the present. I know that may sound cliché, but it’s true. Especially if it’s a desire to start a new habit or the first step to a goal, the earlier you start, the better. I have fallen into the habit of saying “now is not the right time,” when things aren’t happening the way I had planned. And though that may be true for valid reasons, it’s way easier to have an idea remain just an idea than to make it a reality. And you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. When you have the motivation and inspiration to do something, act on it. Because if you’re anything like me, the procrastination will kick in and you don’t want to risk not following through at all. You’ll never regret just starting.

Thinking that there is a better time to do something, and waiting until you have all your ducks in a row, will have you waiting for the “right time” forever. Like my stickers, I missed out on enjoying them in the present day because I was too hung up on the future. You can’t plan everything down to a T, but you can do yourself a favor and get that head start in whatever has been on your mind. You don’t want to risk the possibility of regretting not making a move in the past, or not capitalizing on the present. You will never be in the position where you think, “I need less time to do this.” If anything, the real planning happens when you give yourself more than enough time to be able to take your time. Progress comes in baby steps, so don’t wait too long to take the first step.

I started this writing journey over 3 years ago in 2019. I decided to take the leap of faith to write consistently when I was the most confused in my life. I had just finished college, walked the stage 5 months later, and didn’t know what to do with my life. A lot of things held me back, mostly self-doubt, but I decided to just go for it. I literally had nothing to lose, and the anxiety of not doing anything writing related had me wishing I had the courage to start. I would think about it every day. I kept saying after XYZ I would start, and never got around to it. I knew that I was just playing myself at that point – the longer I took, the longer it would take to see progress. And at the time, I felt like my time was limited and I had to do something before I actually lost my mind in the post-grad blues.

I was so nervous when I started sharing my content online. Like I have said many many many times before – so many times that I feel like I’ve written about 10 blog posts saying the same thing and same stories, but whatever, dawg – I worried about how my current followers would react to the sudden shift in my content. It was no longer me sharing highlights of my personal life, it would be sharing my thoughts, my views, my own lived experiences, but also the experiences of others. I didn’t know how long I could keep the blog going, I didn’t know if my topics were interesting, I didn’t know if people would care to read. But I knew I had to take the chance.

I re-started the blog again in summer 2019, but I was thinking of it long before I actually did it. I wanted to write consistently on it after my class ended in May 2016, but found it easy to neglect because I was still in school. It was one of those things where you hope to one day get around to it, but you know in the back of your mind there’s a great chance that you won’t. When I was officially done with my studies at the end of 2018, I had literally nothing holding me back. I tried to weasel myself out of it, saying that now I was too busy with work. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t playing anyone but myself.

It wasn’t until I returned back to school to walk the stage and have my graduation ceremony months later, did I realize how much I was playing myself. I saw my professors that I haven’t seen in a while, and it re-sparked my inspiration to write. The only person getting in the way of me and my success was my own damn self. And even after realizing all that, it still took a couple more months for me to just say, “fuck it,” and get it started.

I always told myself that I needed to have a plan before I started posting consistently. I wanted to make sure everything was in place and in line for me to get the ball rolling. But, like many things, it did not go as planned. I knew that was just my own way of prolonging the process and not taking accountability for my actions. I wasn’t going to get the ball rolling because I was too lazy to get the ball rolling. I kept postponing the start date because I was nervous and let the self-doubt speak louder than my desire to start. But it came to a point where my anxiety of falling behind gave me the greatest push, and I frantically started with no plan, no schedule, nothing. And here we are, 3.5 years later.

My advice to anyone wanting to start something – whatever that may be – is to just start now. There will never be a “perfect time” to do something. Don’t wait for yourself to be ready, wait for the spurts of motivation and inspiration you have, and act on it in the moment. There will never be a better time to start than right now. You never hear people saying that they regretted starting too early, it’s always that they regret not starting earlier.

Waiting for the right time to do something is just a lie we tell ourselves when we’re unsure of the future. Like my sticker collection, 5 year old me waited and waited for the “perfect time” to use them. I refrained from using my stickers because I was always worried that there would be a “better time” to use them in the future. Instead, they remained in my treasure chest collecting dust. Don’t let your goals and dreams be like my sticker collection. Capitalize on the moments where you have the motivation to follow through with your idea. Don’t have your amazing ideas collecting dust in the back of your mind. Act on those ideas and just start. The first step is the hardest step, but you’ll never know where it might lead you if you don’t take the leap of faith. There is no better time than right now.

How Do You Ask For Help?

How do I ask for help? In short, I don’t.

People handle stress and personal problems in different ways. I’ll never forget when I dropped blog post #10, where I shared my struggles with body dysmorphia and my weight. In the post, I touch on an old relationship that was ridiculously toxic and was essentially the catalyst of my eating disorder in high school. I remember posting it that night, and seeing the huge response it was getting. I was sitting in my traditional spot on the couch in the livingroom while my older sister sat in hers. Everyone was reposting me, the likes were skyrocketing, WordPress was notifying me that I was getting a lot of traffic all at once.

My utter shock to the support I was receiving made my older sister read what I had just posted. At that point, my little sister was reposting me from her room, quoting me directly from the blog. I awkwardly laid there, knowing that she was reading something that I never really shared in depth with others. It’s ironic that I felt awkward that she was reading something so personal, yet I published it online for the whole world to see. Sometimes I forget that aspect – that literally anyone could be reading this right now – it’s a weird but cool concept. By the end of it, she expressed her approval of the post.

She stood up and walked over to me, “Why didn’t you ever tell me, bitch?!” she said in tears, halfway laughing and half way pissed. We awkwardly hugged, an uncommon act in my family dynamic. My eyed welled up with tears.

My sisters and I are fairly close. So it was somewhat of a shock for her to read what I went through and not knowing the severity of it all. I struggled with self-esteem and my body for as long as I could remember, but reading it all laid out on the table like that was probably overwhelming for a loved one to read. Her older sister instincts kicked in, and she clung onto certain parts of my story. She was so bothered to learn that I had experienced disrespect to the point where I questioned my own value. I don’t remember what I responded to her accusatory statement, Why didn’t you ever tell me, bitch?! But we didn’t go too in depth as to why.

But the real reason why I didn’t open up about my struggles at the time? Shame. Embarrassment. Fear of being judged. Not wanting to involve family in my personal matters. But I think everything boils down to the fact that personally, I don’t know how to ask for help. Or better yet, I don’t know when to ask for help. When I finally ask for help or admit that I need help, I’m already drowning in the mess that I have helped create. I carry the burden until I am at my absolute breaking point, then in a panic, I will let others know that I’m in need of help. And I think a lot of people can relate to the fact that opening up about certain things to those around you, whether big or small, can be really difficult.

For me, my inner circle of friends and family know the gist of what’s going on in my life. I may not go into detail each time or tell every single story, but they can give you a little synopsis of what’s happening in my life. I’ve noticed too that I vent to different people for different things. Some I go to for life advice and worries, relationship woes, vent about friendships, family matters, work drama, hopes and dreams, etc. Some of these people know all the above, while some may just know about some of the topics listed. We all have our go to people to vent to, and we confide in different people depending on the matter at hand.

I think back to my middle school days or high school days where every single problem, fight, or situation was shared with my best friends and those closest to me. I can’t count how many detailed petty arguments and stories my friends have been through and told me about. And I can only imagine what they remember from what I used to share. I’m sure plenty can relate – when we’re younger, we tend to overshare, vent about everything, and ask for advice – maybe even too much advice. So much so that everyone else’s opinions helped weigh out what you were going to do. It was a group decision, rather than your own.

Now a days, I find myself just generalizing how everything is going, and if I’m really feeling saucy, I might give a couple of stories to back up my reasoning. It’s not that I don’t have time to update those around me anymore, I just find that the older I get, the more private I’m becoming. The irony since I literally post weekly blogs about my personal life and my views, but whatever. And I don’t mean to say that in a secretive way. I’m not hiding anything, and I still overshare a lot with my close friends, but not all things need to be shared all the time. Nobody has the time to be updating everyone on everything. The important things will come out, as well as the funny and small things if it’s relevant.

I have a really bad habit of isolating myself when I’m going through something stressful. There is literally no in between for me – it’s either I’m telling detail for detail, every story, every step of the way, or I say absolutely nothing about the matter until much time has passed. Even in my writing, I realized I write about things after the fact, when everything is said and done and over with already. It’s exactly what happened with my older sister. She couldn’t believe everything I had bottled up inside and dealt with alone. I tend to isolate when I’m so stressed out that venting out to someone seems like more work than relief. I’m so lazy that if I don’t tell you the very first thing in the story, I probably won’t say anything until it’s relevant because I don’t want to start from the beginning when too many things have accumulated to the present day.

When I find myself in a pickle, I turn to those closest to me for advice. When I really thought about it though, I don’t go to people for help. Instead, I go to them to vent, to be heard, to say how I really feel in the moment. I’m not necessarily expecting to be given an answer on what to do, I just want to let it all out. For me, I realized that as I get older, I bottle everything inside until I’m pushed to the edge and need to go on a venting rage. Only then will every single detail be shared and every story be told. I literally wait for the situation to fall apart or boil over to some extent before I notify anyone. And even then, I’m not asking for help, I’m just saying how I feel out loud.

When you’re venting, you want to express everything you’re feeling in the moment, you want to feel validated in your emotions, and you want to hear opposing thoughts and opinions. Usually after a good venting session, I leave the conversation feeling more calm and like my thoughts are clearer. Saying what’s bothering me out loud helps me sort things out in my head. It also makes it more real when you vent out loud. Almost every time, the person I’m venting to offers their wisdom and advice. Sometimes you need to hear your friends’ points of view to see the bigger picture. They know you pretty well and can help steer you back in the direction you need to go. And there are times where you need to hear the truth, no matter how hard it is to take.

I find it difficult to ask for help sometimes because I have the stubborn notion in my head that I need to deal with things on my own. I never want my personal problems to be someone else’s burden to carry because I know that nobody is responsible for me or my personal issues. My way of reaching out for help is venting. And even then, I’m not asking for help. I’m simply keeping those closest to me in the loop of what’s happening in my life. The advice comes naturally, and even though help was not outwardly asked for, it’s what’s given through words of affirmation. Sometimes it’s the advice you get from others that will actually help you help yourself.

I may not outwardly ask for help, but I’ll ironically be lowkey offended when my loved ones struggle in silence. Naturally, I want to be there for those I care about that are going through it. I want to be of assistance when I can be, and don’t want anyone to feel alone. Yet, there are times when I do exactly the same thing and isolate when the going gets tough. Sometimes we need to see ourselves through our loved ones eyes – they don’t want you to feel alone. It’s okay to ask for help, whichever way you express wanting that help. You don’t have to do figure out everything on your own.

Not Everything Needs A Reaction

One of the hardest things to do is bite your tongue when you still have so much to say. My sisters and I shared a room when we were little. My older sister on the top bunk, while my little sister and I shared the bottom bunk. Each night, our mom would turn off the light for us when we were all in bed. We would talk and ask each other questions into the wee hours of the night, but in reality it was probably around 11:45 PM. We would be up talking, laughing, fighting, shit, sometimes even crying – those spelling words always got me fucked up man – for hours on end. It wasn’t uncommon for our mom to yell from the kitchen a couple times as a warning to go to sleep. When it got really bad, she barged into the room and yelled for us to, “Go to sleep, it’s late!” When we really had her fucked up, she would come in, turn on the lights abruptly, and give us that piercing Filipino mom glare – you know the one.

Pretty much every time we ignored her threats. Our dad would always come home around 11:35 PM from work, and that would be the indication that it was really “late.” We would hear the garage door open up and knew we were up way later than we were supposed to be, for me at least, my Ate Michelle has always been a night owl. A lot of the times, Marielle would fall asleep half way through and Mitch and I would continue on. We would share stories of people in our class, our friends, people we liked, giving “what if” scenarios, roasting each other, and talk about what we wanted our future lives to be like.

There were times when my dad had to come in and tell us to go to sleep as well. When we felt really ballsy, my older sister would dare me to go outside and sneak up on my parents in the living room, hiding against the kitchen table to go unseen. I would tip toe bare foot into the dark hallway, sometimes even crawl, trying my best not to creak the floor. The slightest creak would have my heart racing and a huge part of me just wanted to throw in the towel and go back into the room. Sometimes I wouldn’t even make it down the hallway before my mom would catch me, ears of an elephant. Now thinking about it, if my kids were pulling that shit I’d high key think my fucking house was haunted. On nights where I was brave and my mom was distracted talking to my dad in the living room, I would succeed. I’d sit against the kitchen wall for a couple minutes before making my way back to the room just to say “I did it.” But there were times where I got caught. “I’m just getting waterrrrrrrr,” I would say quickly to cover my ass. I never turned down a dare that my sisters bet me to do, I guess it’s just second child syndrome.

One night, all 3 of us were awake in the middle of the night talking. We got into a disagreement, I don’t remember if it was friendly or not, but it led to some bickering. We went on back and forth, and then finally it fell silent. I couldn’t resist the urge to say, “I always need to get the last word.” To which my annoying ass sisters tagged teamed saying, “Word!” to literally get the last word. I started to get frustrated and it was a back and forth “word” battle for a while. It went so far as to us trying to whisper “word” really quietly and even waiting 10+ minutes, hoping that one or both sisters would fall asleep so we could really get in the last “word.” Childish because we were literally children, but really shows our determination and pride. Though that’s a funny story and obviously not serious at all, I think of it whenever I feel the need to get the last word in. Tough pill to swallow:

Not everything needs or deserves a reaction.

Now, I’m not trying to sit here and talk as if I have this mastered, because I’m far from it. In fact, I’m amateur as fuck and it’s definitely a learning process. At the very least, I’m aware of the fact that I don’t have to keep explaining or arguing the same argument if it’s going nowhere and turning into a “word” situation. I used to be, and can sometimes still be, the type of person that needs to fight my case until the very end. I will bring up relevant facts and past situations to help back up the fact that I am right. It used to frustrate me to the core when I knew I was right but wasn’t being heard.

I find this the most relevant during fights, because obviously you’re trying to win an argument. I grew up with sisters, so I am no stranger to petty cattiness. I’m well aware that sometimes, the opposing side’s objective isn’t to win, prove their point, or get you to see their side, but sometimes it’s just to get under your skin. I found this to be true in small disagreements and big arguments in past friendships and relationships. Shit, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t know this to be true in my current relationship from time to time as well.

My reflex to verbally react is like second nature. I have a comeback for everything. In the heat of the moment, I couldn’t care less about someone’s feelings, and if that energy is brought to me, I will definitely match it. I used to take pride in being the best pound for pound comeback boxer, hitting all the low blows if I found it necessary. For me, everything was free game in an argument. But the feeling after reacting so nastily would always leave the shittiest taste in my mouth. It was nothing to be proud of, even if I was 100% right in whatever the original argument was.

When it turns into button pushing rather than solving the issue, I’ve learned the hard way to just shut it down. But it’s so damn hard to train yourself to get into the habit of learning when to stop talking. It’s literally the complete opposite of what I’m used to doing. But I realized that speaking my “peace” could sometimes do the exact opposite. Depending on what the topic is and who you’re having a conversation with, speaking your peace could easily turn into fighting fire with fire. Suddenly, a small disagreement turns into hurt feelings, things that can’t be unsaid, and regret.

Learning is just that – making the same mistakes over and over again until you make a conscious effort to change that behavior. After a certain amount of time going down the same rabbit hole and coming to the same outcome, you get to a point where you re-evaluate how you’re reacting and what you can do differently. You can’t control how others react, but you can control how you react. You can’t control what someone else says, but you can control what you say or choose not to say. You can’t always control the situation, but you can control when you no longer want to take part in it. Not everything deserves your reaction.

When I feel myself going down that same path where my words become hurtful, I try my best to shut it down. It takes a lot to mentally be aware that you’re about to react in a way that you don’t want to anymore. I discovered that the true power wasn’t in the words and comebacks I was saying, but more so the silence that spoke louder than my words. Sometimes not reacting or saying anything is the reaction that is needed. When you realize that some topics of conversation with certain individuals are just not worth the time and your breath, you’ll start to move differently.

At the end of the day, you can only control how you react to others and other situations. Be weary of those that make conversation to just simply get a rise out of you. You’d be surprised how many patterns and habits become crystal clear in others when you start to acknowledge your own fighting and reacting patterns as well. When you see the “why” behind why people push for their opinion, argument, etc., you’ll start to see that you no longer feel the need to defend your position.

Nobody “makes you” say or do anything. You are in control of your own actions, reactions, and words. Having the last word isn’t where the power is at, it’s remaining genuinely unaffected and unbothered after all that is said and done. Not having other people’s opinions and words shake you up is the real “last word” in an argument. When you’re confident in where you stand, you’ll feel less of a need to prove or explain it.

It’s Okay To Pause

One thing that I’m constantly working on is my schedule. I’m always trying to carve out the right time to write, to do or watch things I enjoy, and to have some leisure time. It came to a point where I was so frustrated with myself because I would hold off all of my writing until the weekend. I would be left typing my ass off in the wee hours of Sunday night into early Monday morning. I would sleep like shit leading into Mondays because the start of the work week, but also because the stress of not being done with my post. It would keep me tossing and turning the whole night. I’d wake up early in the morning, about an hour before I had to get ready for work, and type my ass off until it was time to start my day. My coworkers know that once it hits 5 PM on Mondays, it’s time to dip. I switch from my work laptop to my personal laptop by 5:01 PM, trying to throw something low effort into the air fryer for dinner.

I was tired of that shit. Finishing everything entirely under pressure worked in high school and my college days, but this shit wasn’t sliding in my late 20’s anymore. I was tired. Tired in every possible fucking way – tired of stressing myself out, tired of scrambling for time, tired of being disappointed in myself that I didn’t put in my all, tired of not getting my shit together, and literally physically and mentally tired. I knew I had to make the change and effort to come up with a routine where I wouldn’t be in such a disarray time after time. I still procrastinate and still stress about it on Sunday and Monday, but it has gotten a lot better, and I give myself a head start throughout the week.

A switch went off in me earlier this year, I’ve made it a routine to write a couple of paragraphs daily Monday – Friday, Saturdays being my rest days, and Sundays were writing days as well. After reading a couple chapters of Atomic Habits by James Clear, I knew to make a new habit, I had to be consistent. So I didn’t want to break the momentum. I would think to myself “throw future Marinelle a bone.” Meaning, even if I’m not feeling like writing, writing one paragraph rather than nothing will still help me in the long run.

Doing something just twice is the start of a new habit, so I knew that breaking my good habit would be the start of a bad habit. So I tried my best to avoid that at all costs. “What would Marinelle with good habits want me to do?” “This will be the start of a bad habit.” “Future Monday Marinelle will thank you.” All these justifications would come up every time I even thought of skipping a day. I didn’t want to do that, I didn’t want to fail myself or put more added stress on future me. Why stress if I could work on a post little by little? Why stress myself out if I could avoid that feeling all together?

I have this way of thinking in other areas of my life. Since the pandemic, I found myself not as active as I once was. My role at work and the fact that my morning and night commute was 100% cut out, left me the least active I have ever been in my life. Especially since we stopped going to indoor gyms consistently since the pandemic hit. I wanted future Marinelle to be proud of the decisions that I was choosing to make in the present. I have these burst moments where I decide to take immediate action on things – being active is a consistent reoccurring one.

I decided to try to incorporate time for me to focus on my health daily to find that balance. Like I’ve said many times in many blog posts, there just doesn’t seem to be enough time in the day to do everything you want to do. I find it very difficult to balance out everything I want to do, and in the end, one or two things end up getting neglected, and I eventually drop the ball. But my goal was to find ways to avoid dropping the ball so often, or at the very least, know how to pick the ball up quicker once it falls.

I came up with many different routines to figure out the best time for me to write. I tried to fit it in during my break, after dinner and a shower, during early mornings, you name it. Every time I found something that “worked” I would realize there’s other things that need my attention as well, so I’d move it around. This particular instance though, it was me focusing on trying to be more active. So I thought I found the perfect equation to my day – wake up at 6 AM to write, start work at 8, walk for an hour on my break, and wind down after 5 PM. And for some time, it worked.

However, I’m a sleepy girl. I usually spend my 1 hour break sleeping, since I don’t drink coffee or tea for energy. I’m constantly running on my body’s natural energy, which is close to non-existent. With waking up so early in the morning and powering on through the rest of my day, I found myself struggling to keep my eyes open at 8 PM. Then what needed my attention was quality time and rest. For about 9 months plus, I was consistently writing Monday through Friday without fail, proud that I was building a new habit and actually keeping up with it. But switching my writing to the morning quickly had me feeling burnt out.

The straw that broke the camel’s back was when I took a trip to SoCal in October. I was so tired from the drive and traveling, that when Monday came around, I purposely turned off my writing alarm and went back to sleep. “It’s okay, it’s just one day.” But it happened the day after that, and then the day after that, and then the day after that, for 2 weeks. Oh no. A new habit. And this time, it wasn’t a good habit. I was disappointed in myself. For a little over 2 weeks, I went back to my old habit from almost a year ago – saving my writing for the last minute days before.

But the thing was, I knew I was disappointing myself, but I didn’t care. I thought I would care more that I was breaking a good habit and ending my “streak.” And for the record, I’m super anal about keeping streaks going and “throwing myself a bone.” I was bummed out that I ended my good habit, but at the same time, I was going easy on myself. What made this time different from the rest? It was the fact that I knew I was putting in hard work up until that point. It would’ve been a different story if I was half-assing it the whole time.

The idea of having to be productive at all times, even when you’re continuing to push yourself to your limit, knowing you’re about to hit a wall, has detrimental effects. Working yourself until you’re completely burnt out and out of gas is not sustainable. There’s a difference between being lazy and not pushing yourself versus working hard and knowing that you need a break. It’s okay to pause whatever task or dream that’s taking up a lot of your time. Pausing doesn’t mean you’ve given up, it just means you need time to recharge so you can work efficiently.

I was going hard for so long that I knew I was bound to feel burnt out eventually. I was completely ignoring the part of me that knew I needed a break. When I fell off my routine for a little over 2 weeks, I didn’t stop writing all together, I just found other ways to go easy on myself when I was mentally fatigued. I allowed myself to be lazy, to step away, and write last minute like I used to. Technically, I was still “getting it done” in the public’s eyes, just not how I would want it to be.

You’re not a failure if you’re not being productive 24/7. That’s a lie used to guilt trip us to work until we mentally crash. To avoid consistent burnout, I have to listen to that part of me that is asking for that break. Sometimes a pause is much needed, especially if you’re doing creative work. I knew to go easy on myself because the plan was never to just stop, it was to pause and get back on it when I was ready. I gave myself a timeline on when I was going to get back on a routine, that way I could enjoy my downtime without guilt. This time around, it took a little over 2 weeks. The goal is to take consistent pauses to avoid the mental burnout.

Pause if you need to.

Lunch Date Thoughts

A couple months back, I took myself out on a lunch date. I was home alone for a couple of days, which rarely happens, so I wanted to make the most of it. I was so excited to have some much anticipated “me time” that I drafted a list of all the things I would do and eat when I was finally by myself. One of the things I really wanted to do was dine out solo without feeling insecure over the fact that I was alone. It sounds like something small and foolish, but it was really important to me to check that off of my list. I’m used to eating solo at the mall food court when doing errands, or eating by myself during my college days in between classes, but not going out to eat somewhere nice with the intention of eating alone.

I don’t know why, but I was really determined to make this solo date happen during my alone time. I knew that if I didn’t, I would be really disappointed in myself for not feeling secure enough to be at a table of 1 in public. I had a tight schedule, given that I only had a couple of days to myself, so I really only had 1 day to make it happen since I had other plans. I made it a personal mission to make this date happen. I had to prove to myself that I had the security to be out in public, dining, and not giving a shit if I looked like a loser.

If I’m being completely honest, there was a part of me that thought of standing myself up and not following through. The anxiety of looking like a loser to those that might be dining in was creeping in, but I forced myself to do it anyways. I knew I would be so disappointed in myself if I backed out. This solo date, in a weird way, was like a test – a test of how secure I am to be by myself. And to be even more brave, or maybe more annoying, I decided to go balls deep and pick a Japanese BBQ place. Yup, table for 1 to have a whole ass grill to myself in a place traditionally meant for multiple people to gather and grill meats. I thought, if I’m going to go solo, I might as well give myself a challenge and pick a place that you don’t usually see people eating by themselves. Yes, I’m well aware that I tend to make things more difficult for myself for no reason.

When I was in the Uber, I was so glad that I chose to follow through. When I’m feeling overwhelmed about going somewhere, I like to break it down into steps. Okay, first get dressed, then get ready, then call the Uber, then get there. Taking it step by step makes it less stressful and overwhelming. I always feel good about following through with things when I’m already in transit to the destination. The hardest part is getting started, that’s true for many things in life. But in this case, getting started means getting my ass out of bed to get ready for where I need to be. I’m such a homebody that it’s not uncommon for me to want to do something or go somewhere on my day off and end up not doing it because I’m too lazy to get ready.

I hop out of my Uber and enter in the Japanese BBQ restaurant. “For one,” I said confidently. All my worries went out the window when I entered and smelled the delicious scent of Toro beef in the air. That’s deadass the reason why I picked this restaurant in the first place – the Toro beef. The last time I went to this restaurant with my friends, they only allowed 2 pieces of Toro beef on the grill at a time. We were fucking baffled – all of our orders were Toro beef. We had to take turns grilling 2 pieces of meat at a time, it was torture, given that there were 3 of us and we ordered at least 2 orders of Toro beef each. The staff kept checking on us to make sure that it was only 2 at a time too, which made it even more awkward. So when I came back by myself, I was more than ready to have a grill to myself.

I sat at a table that was split down the half and with a divider. The divider had a design with plenty of openings, so I could still see the person next to me and the person across from me on the other side. There was no division between my seat and the guy that sat next to me, so I guess the divider was just there for some sense of privacy for 2 separate parties of 2. I already knew I was getting at least 2 orders of Toro beef, and my eyes were drooling at all the other options on the menu. This was my time to absolutely gorge myself – I didn’t have to worry about what someone else liked, sharing an order, or splitting a bill – I just had to worry about my damn self and pick what I wanted. As you can tell, I’m definitely a foodie, I take my food and alone time very seriously.

I tried not to depend too much on my phone to keep myself feeling secure, but I felt like there’s not much to do while waiting for your food when you’re dining out solo. I tried to just observe the restaurant, but then I felt like the couple next to me would think I was eavesdropping on their conversations… I mean, I totally was, but I didn’t want them to know that. So, I started to send emails and catch up on responses to the candidates of the Creatives Series I just completed – these series take a lot of planning ahead and there’s a ton of back and forth.

My food finally came to the table, and I was overjoyed. Food is my love language, and I was showering myself with love that afternoon. I’m a huge fan of “treat yo self” especially during work vacations. Anytime I treat myself, it almost always includes food. I was trying my best not to just inhale the food in front of me. I wanted to slow down and take advantage of the fact that I had an open afternoon to myself. The best feeling there is is knowing you’re not in a rush to do shit, cuz you don’t have shit to do after. As you can tell, I’m a busy gal, and when I have down time, I sulk in it.

Since I was enjoying my own company, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversations of the couple next to me. We were basically in the same table that seats 4 people, but the fence-like barrier on the table was the only thing keeping us separated. I could still see them through the holes, but tried my best not to look like I was staring. For the simple fact that I have fucking ears, I couldn’t not listen in on their conversations. They seemed like friends who were catching up or who haven’t seen each other in a while by how they were talking.

They got on the topic of art, and how they both like to visit Asian Art Museums. The different Asian cultures really intrigued them and they compared their similarities and differences. This was the segway into the next topic – the woman casually brought up her Japanese background and how her grandma was forced into the Japanese Internment Camps during Word War II. She shared with her friend that her mom told her to never ask about the concentration camps, and especially never to ask the grandma. Her mom let her know that it pains the grandma to think about it, and looking back on her experiences in the internment camp really makes her sad. Everyone knew that her grandmother lived through that, but it was 100% taboo to bring up.

Their conversation made me think of how some people suffer in silence, and you may never know the amount of grief someone is holding onto. It made me think about how people deal with their trauma, or don’t deal with their trauma, and how it affects the generations that follow. It made me think about all the experiences and stories that people avoid telling because it brings them back to a point in their lives that they’d rather not revisit. It made me sad to realize that experience they were talking about probably changed the way her grandma viewed the world and life, and she never felt comfortable enough to share it out loud. And it also made me feel sad for the girl, she would never fully understand her grandmother’s story because she wasn’t allowed to bring it up and ask.

I know that everyone deals with grief, loss, and traumatic experiences differently. I also know that people react to similar situations differently, and what sticks with 1 person may not impact the next person the same way. People are entitled to deal with their own issues the way they want to. But it got me thinking of all the stories and experiences that get tucked away under the rug, and how lonely that must feel. To know is to understand, and not knowing makes it difficult to see why someone is the way they are, why they interpret things differently, or how they view the world.

I thought about how one person’s grief and experiences has a ripple effect and can affect the next generation – passing down the hurt, the isolating tendencies, and the unhealed trauma, and they are manifested in different ways, different scenarios, and different people. It made me think of my own extended family and all the stories and experiences I probably don’t even know, and how it has shaped them into the people that they are today. I’ve always had an interest in other people’s stories and lived experiences, especially of my family when they first moved to America. What was it like? How did people treat you? How did you feel? Were you mad? Were you homesick? How did you do in school? Hearing their responses really helps me see them in another light, I see why they value what they do, why they think the way they do, why they see life through a certain lens. Doesn’t mean that I always agree with them, but I’m aware why they think the way they do.

The 2 friends briefly touched on her grandma living through the internment camp, but it got me thinking of a lot of things for the remainder of my lunch. So much so that I wrote it down in my notes to think about it more at a later time. I ate my Toro beef as if I wasn’t ear hustling on their whole conversation. It was interesting to me that some people find healing through sharing, some through silence, and maybe a mixture of both. I bought a bottle of the restaurant’s spicy sauce for my place and thought about their conversation the whole Uber ride home.

Don’t Be Afraid To Promote Yourself

One semester, I took a music class on Hip-Hop History when I was still taking general ed classes at Skyline College. We learned about the origins of hip-hop, how it came to be, and who were the ones to pave the way for future rappers. It was a really interesting class, so much so that it didn’t feel like the typical college course – dragged out and boring. We watched music videos and listened to a lot of artists I didn’t even know existed.

It’s crazy to say, given I felt like my college experience was so fucking long, but college just seems like highlights now when I look back. Of course, I remember what it was like doing the day to day things that got me to where I am today, but for the most part, my college days could be summed up by core memories from particular stages. Sitting in the back of my hip-hop class that day was definitely a core memory moment. I forgot what the lesson was even about that day, but my professor’s response was something that stuck with me. In the middle of the lecture, a guy in my classes raised his hand. I didn’t bother to look who was talking.

I don’t remember his exact question, but it was something along the lines of, “How do I get my work noticed?”

To which my professor asked, “What do you do?”

“I…I rap,” he said sheepishly.

Now, before that reply, I didn’t really care what was being asked or what the professor’s answer was. If I had to guess, I was probably looking at the clock, patiently waiting for class to end, or trippin’ about what I had to do after, or thinking about what I was going to eat for lunch, or dreading the 1 hour bus ride back home. But when I heard, “I rap,” my head turned so fast to the left of me to try to identify said rapper.

My eyes finally found the culprit. From what I remember – and just a reminder that this was probably 6 years ago, if not more – he was a very thin white guy, probably no taller than 5’3, with glasses, mustache goatee facial hair going on, and may or may not have had a beanie on. If “…” was a scenario, it would be this one. Not to be rude or in any way funny – he just didn’t look like the type to rap, or even listen to hip-hop for that matter. Don’t get me wrong, there’s a good chance that he was good at rapping, he just didn’t seem like the type. My classmates were probably thinking the same thing, hence the momentary silence in the room.

The professor took a moment, pondering on how to reply, her eyebrows lowered, as if in deep thought. I was at the edge of my seat – was she going to rip this poor rapper to shreds, ask him to play one of his songs, or give encouraging advice? “Well, do the people around you know what you do? Do the people in your hood know about your music?” She said not verbatim.

“…No…” He said lacking self-confidence.

“Well how do you expect other people to know you’re a rapper when the people in your area don’t even know?” She said matter of fact. “Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there, promote yourself, pass out your CD’s on the street, let people know what you do.”

Again, these were not the words verbatim, but it was the gist. And that shit hit me hard, as if Miley Cyrus came in with her wrecking ball and all. The rapper shook his head smiling, embarrassedly taking the advice. It seemed that he had an “Ah-hah” moment and was probably thinking, “Well shit, she’s right, I’m not promoting myself.”

I used to feel really cringe back in the day when I would try to promote my early writing on social media. I would overthink that nobody cared, they probably thought my posts were annoying, and people would soon unfollow if all I posted were writing posts. To be honest, maybe there were some truths to what I was thinking. But I came to terms with knowing that what I choose to post is not for everyone, and not everyone will be into it, and that’s okay.

Especially for creatives, promoting yourself to the public can seem awkward, intimidating, and at times overbearing. But if you’re not going to promote yourself, how do you expect others to? In this day and age, the saying, “Closed mouths don’t get fed,” has never been more true. The fact of the matter is, if you’re not claiming your craft on social media, real life, and to those that know you, you’re doing yourself a disservice.

What my professor said that day really stuck with me, and it was her advice to Mr. Rapper that continues to keep me unapologetically promoting myself time after time again. Because it’s true – how do you expect other people to know what you do if you’re not the one promoting yourself? How do you expect to reach a larger audience when the people in your hood don’t even know what you do? How can people discover your work when you’re not even putting yourself publicly out there? Don’t be afraid or embarrassed to promote your work, it all starts with you.