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!

2021 – My Emerald Year

Illustration by: Marielle Cabillo

I have a ritual of reading my monthly horoscope when Susan Miller posts them on her website. You see, I’m not one to fully trust and make decisions based off of what my horoscope predicts, but I do like to see what is alleged to happen. You know, kind of like a little fun guide into the near future. The extent of my belief in my horoscope forecasts does have its limits though. I definitely don’t map out my month according to my forecast, but I do like to read back at the end of the month and see if anything predicted was true. I make a mental note of when planets retrograde, if there’s new moons, eclipses, etc., because to me, the stars and astrology don’t lie – the other planets have to affect us in some way.

I remember reading my forecast for 2021. I’m an Aquarius, and 2021 was said to be my “Emerald Year.” The Emerald Year for your sign is said to be when you’re at your luckiest. 2021 for me was “the once-in-12-year visit of good-fortune Jupiter to your Aquarius Sun,” (Miller, Susan). Meaning, 2021 was going to be my year of growth, good fortune, and claiming what is mine. Of course with that information, and being a believer in astrology, you start to get excited that astrologically, your sign is the luckiest sign of the year. I was excited to see what 2021 would bring me. I was very hopeful for the new year – my Emerald Year…

But 2021 was by far one of the hardest years for me. Of course there were great moments as well, but I personally felt like the theme of 2021 for me could be summed up by saying it was a struggle. A struggle to pick myself back up after losing 2 people who were really close to me, a struggle to find motivation to do the things I wanted to do, a struggle to make time for myself, a struggle to balance out my life, a struggle to establish myself professionally, a struggle to push forward, a struggle to correct habits of mine that I wanted to change, a struggle maneuvering through this pandemic, and so forth. But of course with struggle comes a lot of growth and realizations. I guess I had my Emerald Year, but I had to go through the mud for it.

2021 was a really sad year for me. As the months passed into the new year, I slowly, yet quickly, saw my Tatay transition out of this world. I know I wrote a whole ass series on my Tatay and all my feelings that came with his passing, but I still can’t believe it. For the first half of 2021, Tatay’s health was one of my main concerns. I wanted to be there every Sunday to show him that we didn’t just forget about him during the pandemic. The remaining second half of the year I wanted to be at his grave every Sunday to show him that we won’t forget him now that he’s gone.

Tatay passed away in mid-July, but I feel like I’m just now coming to terms with my grief. After he passed, I felt like I was just existing throughout the rest of 2021. I was trying to stay motivated, I wanted to be on top of my writing. I was close to 100 consistent blog posts and I planned to buy my website, collaborate with more people, get stories lined up, and finally get ahead. Tatay passed away a couple week before my 100th post, and all my plans kind of went out the window. I wanted to do all the things that I planned, but couldn’t find the motivation to do anything. I bought my website, but my head was in the clouds.

Even though I had so many plans and ideas that I wanted to accomplish, I didn’t try to force anything on myself. I knew that this was a difficult time in my life, I had just lost my last living grandparent, the one I was closest to at that. Now wasn’t the time to put pressure on myself to produce content when I was simply struggling to just exist and move forward with my life. Of course, on the outside, I was handling shit that I had to handle. But on the inside, I felt a part of me died, that I didn’t care about much, but at the same time I cared about everything. I didn’t feel like myself. It went on for so long that I wondered if this was just the “new me.”

It took months for me to really process what I was exactly feeling in regards to Tatay’s passing. What really helped me sort everything out and get my emotions down was publishing his Series. And I really hesitated on that. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was using my grief for some views. I decided to follow through with Tatay’s Series because I knew I had a lot of unpacked baggage that I needed to let out. Also, he was such a major role in my life, it felt disrespectful not to. Writing was one of the few ways I felt I could adequately pay homage to his life and what he meant to me. But most importantly, it didn’t feel right to not write about something that had cut me so deep. Yes, I could write about other things, but I knew my mind would be elsewhere. I pride myself in authentic writing, so producing other content just didn’t seem genuine – my heart and mind was totally engulfed in grief and anger at the time.

In the midst of my grief, I lost another family member who I was very close to. 4 months after Tatay passed, my aunt / cousin, Rhonda, passed away due to her ongoing health complications. I couldn’t believe it. When Tatay died, I already dubbed 2021 one of the worst years of my life. But when Rhonda also passed away, I thought, “Okay, Universe, are you fucking serious right now?!” I felt like I was being kicked in the face while I was already down. Rhonda, Tita-Lola (Auntie – Grandma), as we liked to call her just to piss her off, was someone I hold very dear to my heart. This was another type of pain. I felt like the Universe was taking punches at me from all kind of different angles.

Tatay was someone that was in my life since day 1. He lived with my family for some time, was someone I saw on a consistent basis, and has been the closest grandparent to me since I was a kid. But with Rhonda, even though we were related, I never really saw her consistently, didn’t grow up around her, and didn’t even have a conversation with her until I was a teenager. Rhonda was someone I chose to get close to. She was someone that chose to put in mutual effort to get to know each other, chose to encourage me, and chose to be there for me to give me advice during the early years of my young adult life. I tried to be there for her as she maneuvered through life’s many challenges as well – her personal shit going on, her health complications, her dating life, and every random thing in-between. We got really tight over the last decade or so, so this was the cherry on top of 2021 being the shittiest year to date.

However, I processed Rhonda’s death a lot differently than I did Tatay’s. Rhonda was an open book, she let everyone and anyone who had access to her social media pages know everything about her life. Social media was like her diary. She showed her dialysis treatments, the medications she had to take on a daily basis, and gave us visuals and documentation of her daily routine. Rhonda would post her true feelings on social media, she didn’t sugar coat anything. At times you’d be reading and think, “Rhonda why the fuck are you posting this online?” But that’s what made her experience all the more real and relatable. I feel like just from her posts, I could see what kind of life she lived on a day to day basis. On top of what she would vent to me about, I knew that this sickness was a lot to handle. Her declining health really took a toll on her life.

Rhonda was such a family oriented person. The way I yearn to see Tatay again is the same way she yearned for my great-grandparents (her grandparents). Her grief for those in our family that have passed away was so immense, she was truly an individual that loved with every fiber of her being. But she focused that grief on trying to educate the younger generations of our family history. She was passionate about our family and keeping the memories of my great-grandparents alive. So when she passed away, I definitely was sad. But I was at peace knowing that she finally got the reunion with all of her loved ones that she so desperately wanted. I was relieved to know that she was no longer in pain, no longer suffering, no longer grieving people she loved. That was my peace.

2021’s biggest lesson for me was realizing in depth the phrase, “life is short.” Of course, this is something I already knew, but it takes on a whole other meaning when you lose people close to you. Death will really have you see things for what it is and see people for who they are. Death made me realize money truly ain’t shit. All that matters in this life is time and showing up for people that matter to you. All you can really give people is your time. At the end of the day, time is the only thing that matters, and how you choose to spend your time is completely up to you.

When you’re at the end of your life, you’re not going to give a shit about how much money you have. Instead, you’ll think of the people that were there, made the effort, and showed up for you. So I’ve been trying to “show up” more for those around me. Like making it to the spontaneous hangouts, the hikes with family, take a drive with my dad to keep him company when he runs errands, and attempting to do things that my partner and I say we want to do but never really get around to doing. I’ve been so used to isolating and sheltering in place that my attempt to put in effort to show up was significantly effected. In order to be a good partner, friend, and family member, I needed to show up and make the effort for those around me. That need to show up definitely came to light because of Tatay.

I had to make the effort to show up for others, but I also needed to realize when I needed space. With all of 2021’s craziness, it was the year I had to learn the hard way that in order to be there for others, I first had to be there for myself. And that means taking those mental breaks if needed. I personally take a long time to recharge after interaction. And with my emotions already drained from personal tragedies, I was made very aware of other things that can leave me feeling drained when my cup was already half full. I love my alone time. I am a homebody by definition. So during my time to recharge, I would find the little things that bring me joy – like eating my favorite food, binge watching a show / many murder documentaries, sleeping, or simply doing nothing. The power of doing nothing when you feel drained is so powerful. Sometimes you need those lazy days to detox.

2021 gave me a lot of set backs. With the pandemic persistent and showing no signs of letting up any time soon, I really had to come to terms with this current way of life. I had to realize that this pandemic isn’t going anywhere, I needed to learn how to adapt and make changes so I wouldn’t get burnt out / bored with the same routine. There’s no use in wishing things can go back to how it was pre-pandemic, because that’s not our current reality. But I did not want to live in fear. I wanted to continue to live my life, but safely. At this point, all we can really do is take the proper precautions and go about our lives. COVID isn’t going anywhere, so we need to learn how to survive and exist in this current age without it being detrimental to our own mental health in the process.

Living through the pandemic another full year has actually helped get my priorities in order. It’s ironic because the whole world is kind of in limbo with the pandemic, and that has added to me feeling stagnant with my dreams and aspirations. But it has really given me a lot of time to figure out what I want to do, what I want to accomplish, and make baby steps to get to those points. With cases rising and uncertainty continuing to circulate, it’s comforting to know that I can at least attempt to build out my future plans. The feeling of life “slowing down” due to the pandemic has helped me tune into what it is I truly want out of life.

A lot of those plans are obviously in regards to my writing career and what steps I want to take next. Like I said, 2021 brought a lot of set backs for me. I’m already naturally a procrastinator, so when life threw in a tragedy or 2, I just didn’t know how to deal. There are still times where I think, “is this just the new me?” But as time passes, I’m starting to slowly get back to feeling like “me” again. I needed that break. I needed that time to allow myself to fall apart. I wanted to keep writing and continue with my content, and luckily it all worked out. But if I’m being completely honest, there were a lot of lazy days. Days where I didn’t want to get ahead, where I didn’t care to work on anything, where I worked on things last minute.

At the start of 2021, I had so many deadlines for myself to meet. But it didn’t go as I planned at all. And usually, I would beat myself up about it. But surprisingly, it was the opposite. I knew that the last thing I needed to do was be angry with myself for not meeting deadlines as I dealt with the death of 2 close family members. I decided to show myself kindness. I needed to feel those emotions, go through the crazy rollercoaster of grief, and sort out all my emotions, because if I didn’t, I know I would just self-destruct.

But through the set backs, I have accomplished a couple of things last year that I’m very proud of. Even though I was in a rut, I never once put my writing on hold. I still connected with so many new people and pushed out a couple of Series. And I’m so glad that I’ve connected with so many people who gave me the privilege to share their stories on my platform. I know that this is just the beginning.

My horoscope said that 2021 was going to be my Emerald Year – where I work hard for what I want, grow as a person, and have the universe in my favor. 2021 was supposed to be when I was supposedly astrologically at my luckiest. When Tatay and Rhonda passed away, I thought, “How the hell is this my emerald year? This is the by far the worst year of my life.” But then I took a step back and saw all that was accomplished, all the lessons I learned, all the realizations I had to come to terms with, and all the growth that took place because of what I went through this year and I think, “I got my Emerald Year… just in the most fucked up way possible.” 2021 definitely challenged me in every way possible. I had to re-establish what matters the most to me in this life and that brought a lot of growth and self-reflecting. And I know that all the seeds I planted in 2021, whether I knew it or not, will start to bear fruit in 2022 and the years to come.

2021 was the year I had to struggle. It was a struggle to even get those seeds planted. But I know they’re there, and I’m waiting for my blessings to come. 2021 was the year I lost people very close to me, 2022 and onward is trying to make them proud.