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!