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.