Valentine’s Day – Celebrate Love

When I was a kid, Valentine’s Day was definitely one of my favorite holidays. I don’t know if it’s because I grew up a hopeless romantic, or because the fact that Valentine’s Day is the day before my birthday. When Valentine’s Day things start selling at stores, that was my way of knowing that my birthday was just around the corner. Valentine’s Day and my birthday went hand in hand. I loved love and I felt the love on each of my birthdays.

Growing up I thought Valentine’s Day was one of the most important days to show your significant other / crush how much they mean to you. I mean, it is the holiday of love. I dreamt of the day when a boy would surprise me with chocolate and flowers, confessing their love for me and worshiping the ground I walked on. Of course that’s the fairytale the media tries to feed you, and I gobbled that shit up as a kid. I was a hopeless romantic in my young adolescent years, and when feelings weren’t reciprocated, my ass would be emo as fuck. You know, young teen feeling like you’re forever in the friendzone.

I’ve had my fair share of cringe experiences regarding Valentine’s Day that I thought was the end of the world at the time. One of my best friends, Julie, will never let me forget that one Valentine’s Day in high school. We joke about it now, how it was the worst Valentine’s Day I’ve ever had, and how she was my emotional punching bag for a split second. (Love you, Julz.) And for a while, the magic of Valentine’s Day kind of faded away for me. It was definitely a mixture of growing up and realizing not everything is like the movies, but also not having the best luck in love. The holiday just wasn’t a big deal to me if I didn’t have someone to celebrate it with.

Valentine’s Day is sold to us as a day to celebrate romantic love with your significant other. You must shower your loved one with gifts, flowers, chocolate, dinner, and maybe even a social media shoutout or 2. The 14th of February is supposed to be romance all day, being totally infatuated with one another. And if it isn’t all the above, we are made to feel like the relationship is lacking, not real or genuine, or the feelings are not mutual. Are the expectations of Valentine’s Day ruining the holiday all together?

It seems like there are always 2 main types of Valentine’s Day people – the ones that are hopelessly in love and take the holiday very seriously, or the singles that dread the day because it reminds them that the are not paired up. We have taken a holiday that is meant to show and express love to only be meaningful if it is a romantic relationship. But there are so many more relationships than just romantic ones. And putting those unrealistic expectations on each other for Valentine’s Day can easily make the holiday a big disappointment.

When Christian and I had our first Valentine’s Day in 2015, I felt all that Valentine’s Day magic come back. He got me my first bouquet of flowers and we had our first real date together. It felt as though I finally got what I hoped for as a little girl – someone to spend Valentine’s Day with and do all the cliché date and gift exchanges. This Valentine’s Day will be mine and Christian’s 8th Valentine’s Day together. Clearly we have gotten to know each other very well over the last 7 years, and it has made me view Valentine’s Day in a completely different way as a result.

Christian and I still spend every single Valentine’s Day together, no matter what day it falls on. I can always expect flowers, chocolate, hot cheetos, and little gifts, accompanied by a dinner. But over the years I feel like we have made the holiday less of a “big deal,” and not in a bad way. We don’t need a specific day out of the year to tell us to appreciate each other, and be thankful for each other’s love. But the day is a great reminder to reflect on it. Sometimes when you’ve been with someone for so long, you forget to celebrate your love.

And since we have been together for so long, the holiday isn’t about gifts, or the dinners, or the flowers anymore. For me, Valentine’s Day is more of a reminder. It’s a day where I can acknowledge that I am not rainbows and sunshine all the time. That’s just reality and real life. Each person, whether that be a lover, friend, acquaintance, has their short comings and things they need to work on. There are definitely days where I am not easy to love. There are times when I’m a straight savage, my words hurt like daggers to the heart, and sometimes it may feel like we take 1 step forward and 10 more back. But Valentine’s Day is that reminder that even when I have my moments of being unlikeable, I still have someone who is sticking it out with me and genuinely loving me for me.

And that’s a beautiful thing – to confidently know that despite your differences, someone is willing to continuously love you through your many stages of growth. Throughout the years, we have definitely had our many ups and many downs. We have seen each other at our complete worst and best. We have got to know all the different parts and versions of each other. Though Valentine’s Day is just one day out of the whole year and can’t possibly contain all the love you have for a person or relationship, taking a day to just hangout together and acknowledge the love that is there is a great feeling. No pressure, no expectations, just mutual feelings of love. The holiday serves as a gentle nudge to take us out of our comfort zone and usual routines, even just for one day.

And Valentine’s Day shouldn’t be just limited to romantic relationships. Over the last couple of years, I’ve seen the holiday be more about love in general than romantic love. And that’s the same in my personal life as well. I started celebrating all aspects of my life where love flows. Love for my partner, friends, and family. I used to view Valentine’s Day as a day only meant to celebrate romantic relationships. But now, I am so grateful for my small circle and those I surround myself with, that the holiday is a lot more fun to celebrate when you broaden it to everyone you love in life.

I go about Valentine’s Day like a second Thanksgiving at this point. Just celebrating those I love and letting them know their friendship and place in my life is greatly appreciated. I hope all my readers feel the love especially today. Let today serve as a gentle reminder to be grateful and thankful for the ones that love you for you. For the ones that have seen you at your worst, know your flaws and shortcomings, but are still by your side.

11/07/2020

A letter to my future kids about this historic day.

Kids,

This is on some How I Met Your Mother shit, which is totally like me, so don’t even act surprised. Anyways, I wanted to write and document this day before some time passes and I forget some details…

For reference, let me rewind it 4 years prior to this day. November 2016. I’ll never forget going to school the day after America learned that the next president would be Trump. Going into school was depressing. There was such a heaviness in the air on San Francisco State campus. Trump being president was the topic of discussion in every conversation, every class, and on the news. Everyone was disappointed and scared of what the next 4 years would be like.

My journalism teachers were especially devastated. Journalism is already a challenging profession, but to also have a president that claims certain news outlets as “fake news” would make the job that more challenging. My professors would always add how we are going into the industry at a very delicate time. There will be people that don’t believe us, will question our credibility, and will refuse to talk to us – following the lead of Trump. They were worried for their students’ futures and the country. What would the next 4 years be like?

I can’t believe its been 4 years under Trump. In these 4 years he has caused so much hurt and divide. When he was elected, it brought to light all the broken parts of America that still need fixing. Suddenly, racism wasn’t something to be ashamed of anymore, locking kids in cages wasn’t seen as inhumane, whether black lives mattered or not was now a debate, and following orders to stop the spread of a disease was taking away rights. Just 2020 alone is so bizarre. And some of us in America had enough. Especially with a pandemic to add to all the turmoil that Trump had caused, we demanded change.

Kids, I’m sure your textbooks will go over what kind of human Trump was. Your textbooks will probably have screenshots of some of his ridiculous tweets and statements, you’ll probably see videos of things he’s said and done, and you’ll probably wonder, “how the hell was this guy the president?!And I’ll be sitting there just as confused as you are. I’ll be there to tell you my experiences – being a college student studying Journalism and Women Gender Studies when all of this was going down. Unfortunately, I’ll have to share how decisions under his term hurt people I was close to and made a lot of people fear for their safety. How he acted and influenced others made me fear for my safety as a woman. I’ll even have to open up about the divide it had on the world and in people’s homes. What weird times.

I felt especially guilty because I didn’t vote in 2016. Yup, I admit it. To this day, I still feel so ashamed and embarrassed. It was a mix of knowing California was going to be blue anyways, thinking no way Trump would be elected, and honestly just not taking initiative or making time to register. Right after Trump was elected, I made sure to register and vote for everything that came after. When 2020 came around, I knew I had to redeem myself. If I wanted change, I had to be a part of it. If I wanted to complain and bitch, I had to make sure that I had a say in the decisions being made.

Seeing how America decided to vote in 2016 scared me. To add to that, the pandemic made people hesitant to vote in person. I voted through the mail, and did it weeks in advance to make sure it was recieved in time. Me and your Ninang Merl had a voting session where we sat at the livingroom couch going over props and candidates for Daly City. We debated over certain things, but it helped because it made us take into consideration the opposite side. It forced us to ask ourselves – who would this effect? What’s the pros and cons? For presidency obviously it was an easy Biden / Harris vote of course. Kids, did I mention this was the year that Kanye West was on the ballot? Remind your Papa Lando about this and you’ll hear an earful. Hahaha.

But, we filled out the ballots about 2-3 weeks in advance and we mailed it in that same day, right after visiting your Great Tatay Jacinto. That is also another story… By this time we were about 7 months into the pandemic life. We usually visited Tatay Jack’s place every other Sunday along with all your great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles, and older cousins. We would gather and have dinner, putting on animal planet shows because that was Tatay’s favorite, or America’s funniest home videos. Tatay also didn’t have cable on his TV. But with the pandemic and Tatay being 96, we had to stop the gatherings. It was too risky. So, he spent his 97th birthday Sheltering in Place. It still makes me sad to think about. But your Papa Lando, Ninang Merl, and I would try to drive by every Sunday to drop off some bread for Tatay and Tita. And when I mean drop off, I literally mean drop off. We wore masks, stayed more than 6 feet away, tried not to touch anything, said hello to Tatay, and left. The whole encounter would take about 1 minute max.

That was around mid-October when we mailed in the ballots. But when November started to loom around the corner, I started to get nervous. I did my part, but would the rest of America do its part? I wasn’t the only one stressed. It’s all everyone and anyone could talk about. We had your Ninang Cam’s baby shower on Halloween. It was a good little distraction from the election. Your Ninang Justine, Ninang Lyn, Ninang Cam’s mom, and I planned it for your God brother, Jojo. We were so excited because Kuya Jojo was the first baby to be born in our group. Even though it was in the middle of a pandemic, we kept the event small and made sure people were taking proper protocols. But once the baby shower was over, all of our attention went back to the dreaded election.

The first couple days of November was nerve wrecking. Once it was November 3rd, my eyes were glued to my phone. At this time, your dad and I had moved in together, but we didn’t have cable, only Netflix, Hulu, Disney Plus, Amazon Prime video etc. So I didn’t have access to the news. Now that I think about it, refreshing the results on my phone was probably better for my anxious ass, since your Ninang Merl was saying that hearing the news anchors’ 5 cents made her more stressed. Everybody was saying that it would take days – maybe even weeks to know who the winner was. Especially since voting was taking place during a pandemic. Some states said it would take a week or two to count up all the mail in ballots. Still, I refreshed and refreshed my phone on November 3rd.

I woke up November 4th and went straight to my phone, thinking that I would have a notification with the winner. Nope. Throughout the workday I would refresh my phone, making myself anxious looking at the percentages. I couldn’t help it. It was like watching a train wreck. I just couldn’t look away. And even if I could look away, I’d be getting updates from your Auntie Hong at work. She was on it. I loved working with your Auntie Hong. She’d give me updates while she was on break and I was on duty about the election. Little did she know I had the tab open on the laptop as I did my work, refreshing every 10 minutes or so.

Kids, when you’re in distress, turn to memes. I will say that the memes about waiting for Nevada and how fuckin slow they were counting their ballots was what kept the situation light. The memes made it funny, even though inside everyone was trippin out. By Thursday and Friday, I just assumed that we weren’t going to know the winner until atleast November 12th – the date Nevada gave us regarding their mail in ballots. I tuned it out of my mind, but still I refreshed my phone screen everytime it came to mind again.

On November 7, 2020, at around 8:12 AM, your Papa Lando and Ninang Merl came to pick up your dad and I from our San Francisco house. We were going to meet up my Auntie Salvie, your Uncle Michael, Uncle Ryan, Kuya Jacob & Brayden, and Ate Ava to go hiking. This is something we starter during quarantine. We couldn’t be at Tatay’s house, and we were all cautious about social distancing. But we missed the family hangouts. So we would hike every Saturday, wearing masks and catching up.

“Here.” Your Ninang Merl texted me.

Your dad and I got in the car, and we were on our way to the hiking meeting spot. Of course, all we could talk about was the election. Your Papa Lando and Ninang Merl kept talking politics, talking about which states we needed to win, how corrupt both parties are, etc. Through all this noise, your dad pulled out his phone. He said out loud that Biden won and showed me his phone. I looked at the top that read “The Associated Press has called this race.”

“Wait. The Associated Press called it. That means its official?!” I said in disbelief, searching it on my phone.

We all couldn’t believe it. But something in me was hesitant to believe. So I waited it out. We went on the hike, and your Uncle Ryan and Auntie Salvie started getting notifications through apps and websites. We had a new president. I was still hesitant to look at my phone. I didn’t want to be taken out of the present moment to be glued to my phone, so I saved my stalking and fact checking for after the hike. I couldn’t get it out of my head the excitement and relief I felt. This was really happening? I couldn’t believe it.

After the hike I went on social media and everyone was posting about it. We had a new president. We got Trump out of office, and by his tweets, he was not happy about it. I was in awe. I will say that I had little to no faith in America to vote Trump out. I really hoped we would, but was I confident? Hell nah. I really thought that these swing states were going to disappoint again. I’m so happy that they didn’t though.

I had so many things racing through my mind. Trump was out of office! But there was a lot of work to be done, voting him out was the first step to rebuilding. And then I thought… holy shit, our Vice President is a woman. Not only a woman, but a Black and Indian woman. The first woman to be vice president. I couldn’t believe that I was living this historic day in history. I got to see the first black man become president, and now, I got to see the first black and brown woman to be vice president.

This was big. Your Papa Lando was dropping us back to our San Francisco house because we still had a lot of laundry to do. But I knew people were going to start gathering on the streets. I knew there were celebrations about to explode. And I was right. People took it to the streets, from San Francisco, to New York, to even Canada. I wanted to go out and celebrate as well, but your Papa Lando was afraid for our safety. Which I was hesitant about too. Not only that, but your dad reminded me that we’re in the middle of a fuckin’ pandemic. So, your dad and I celebrated by ordering food and gorging ourselves. By 8 PM we decided to swing by the Haight. Your dad had something to pick up, and we decided to pick up some pizza while we were there. It was dark, cold, and getting a little late, but people were still driving by honking and cheering.

We ordered our extra large pizza and waited outside, that was the new thing to do in the COVID era. I remember looking into the pizza shop and seeing their TV on the news. They kept showing scenes and clips from different parts of America of people celebrating. Clips of Biden and Harris filled the screen. That was our new president and vice president. I thought of how historic this day was. How cool it was to finally have a woman as a vice president. Thinking it won’t be long until we have a woman as a president.

I was hopeful for the future. The last 4 years under Trump was like watching a Circus shit show. The end to his presidency was what America needed after a rough 2020. Kids, I hope by the time you read this that the world has changed for the better. I hope you’re in complete shock that a woman was elected for the first time in my lifetime, because there are so many women of color in office as you read this. I hope this post ages well, and I can tell you that Biden and Harris did a hell of a good job. I hope they do, and it’s up to me and other Americans to hold them accountable.

Kids, that’s what I was doing on Saturday, November 7, 2020, when history was made.

I Hope Your Flowers Bloom

How do you define success, and how will you know when you have it?

Growing up, we all invision what our future will be like. In our daydreams we always think of a happy scenario, the “dream” life, where we’re successful, happy, and probably rich. This prompt is a loaded question, and I thought about how my answer would differ at different stages of my life.

If I were to answer this in 2013, it would be completely different than my answer now. It would probably be along the lines of : stay in college, transfer to San Francisco State, earn my degree, save money. For the longest time, graduating college was the only goal that mattered. And when I finally achieved that goal, that’s when I fell into my post-grad blues.

Keeping my mind on one goal kept me motivated. I wanted it, and I wanted it bad. The thing was though, once I achieved it, I had nothing else to look forward to. What now? I’ve always kind’ve been like that though. I make one goal thee goal, the HBIC of goals at the moment. I do that because I know myself well enough to know that if I overwhelm myself with multiple big goals at a time, I’ll feel swamped with “to do’s.”

So, I do one goal at a time. Graduating college was how I would define success in 2013. And I did it! It is to date the greatest accomplishment I’ve achieved. And I tried to grasp that proud feeling for as long as I could. Because I knew, eventually, the feeling would fade away, and I would have to draft out my next move for success.

And that’s kind’ve where I’m at now. It’s 2020, and my answer to what success is is completely different. Being a college graduate and coming up with my next goal has me stuck. Before this, there always seemed to be a clear path on what to do next. You know, graduate high school, go to college, graduate. All my goals have always been education based. So when I was no longer in the school setting, I had to re-evaluate what my goals were going to be.

You guys have followed me through my post-grad depression journey, and I’m pretty unsure what road to take. There is no “clear” path anymore. The endless possibilities excite most, but to me, I’m overwhelmed. I’m an overthinker, a planner, a whole jumble of nerves and uncertainty.

But one thing that has never changed, it is the fact that I want to remain authentic and true to self. I bring this up to a lot of my close friends. In journalism, you have to work your way up the ladder. I’ve realized while applying to some entry level jobs, that the journalism jobs that are in my range have nothing to do with my end goal. And I apply to some jobs, and after rejection after rejection, 1 job reached out. I was so thrilled that finally something bit back.

After much thought, I didn’t follow through with the next step. Why? Because it had completely nothing to do with what I wanted to use my degree for. It was ironic that I desperately wanted a journalism writing job, but when a writing job came, I couldn’t follow through with it. I was totally capable of the job, it was writing, but more so for a company maintaining their brand. That’s not me. I want to write for a purpose. To inspire. To share stories with meaning.

I don’t ever want to be a sellout for a check. That’s just not me. And sometimes it frustrates me. Because I know I need to work my way up the journalism ladder, but there has to be another way… where I’m starting from the bottom, but still feel fufilled in my writing. That day will come. Hopefully soon.

As cliché as this sounds, success to me nowadays is being happy. Genuinely happy. I want to be happy in life, in my job, in my decisions. Success to me is staying true to myself while being financially stable. Sucess to me is trying and taking chances on things that scare me, because I don’t want to think 20 years from now “what if.” Success to me is keeping up with the people I want to maintain a relationship with. Success to me nowadays isn’t anything material.

Of course, I dream of the day I have a car, own a house, and have a career I love that puts food on the table for my family. Who doesn’t want that? Not those things exactly, but stability and success in general. As I get older, the more I realize this : at the end of the day, as long as I’m happy with my decision, and I remain true to myself, it doesn’t really matter if others think I’m successful or not. Being happy and confident in my decisions is success.

How will I know when I achieve it? This is tough to answer. For me, I feel like I don’t simmer in my success for long. I achieve it, I get it done, and then I scramble onto the next task, the next goal, my next dream. I realized, while trying to answer this prompt, that I don’t celebrate my successes, because I’m too busy stressing over what comes after.

When I graduated, that was pretty easy to determine “when I had it.” I literally got my degree and was finally done with school. I walked those stages and milked my time on Oracle Park’s big screen TV. But its a little tricky to determine success on things that aren’t so black and white.

The thing is, our definition / goal of success is forever changing. My answer today may not be my same answer in 10 years. But I hope it is the same answer since happiness is very important. A part of success is realizing how far you’ve come, and simmering in the moment. That’s something I know I definitely need to work on. Being in the moment and celebrating little victories in life. I get so caught up in the bigger picture that I fear I’ll just keep pushing for the future without looking or realizing I’m knocking out mini goals along the way. I tend to miss the baby steps and just want to fast forward to the top.

But that’s not how it works. Even though that’s how I’ve been dealing with goals. I have the mentality of “well I’ll celebrate and slow down and be happy when everything I want is accomplished.” And I realized that that’s such a sad way of living. Because during all that time, I’m thinking that happiness and being proud of myself will come years down the road. Having “everything together” takes years, and to be honest the list never ends. And then what? I’ll never be happy and proud? bLAck pARty has a song entitled “Bloom,” for which this post is named.

“I hope your flowers bloom,” he repeats and repeats. “I hope you grow up to be everything you want to, I hope your flowers bloom…”

Like flowers, success and fulfilling goals just doesn’t grow over night. You spend days, weeks, months, years, planting your seeds and watering them, caring for them, until your flowers bloom. That’s the same for goals. You just don’t achieve great things over night. You have to work towards them, baby step by baby step. And we should acknowledge those baby steps.

As I grow older, I’m realizing that the most important thing is true happiness. Money don’t mean shit if you feel like shit inside. For me, the job that can pay me 6 figures ain’t shit if I feel like a corporate sellout and that I’m losing sense of my values and beliefs. I have a vision of what kind of writer I want to be. My success may come with struggle – oh, it’ll definitely come with struggle – but as long as I feel fulfilled in my work, and I feel like my purpose is being served, that’s all that really matters to me. Of course, we all want to be successful and make money. But not at the expense of my happiness.

These flowers have been blooming and growing in my backyard for as long as I can remember. Today, I went outside to take a picture of them for this blog. I asked my dad, “how long have these been here?!” For I haven’t really noticed them or remembered them being this vibrant and plentiful growing up.

“They’ve always been there!” My dad said, “You just probably never noticed because the bushes were always in the way.”

He cut down the bushes in our backyard during the Shelter in Place. He’s right. I knew the flowers were there, I just never really noticed or cared about them my 25 years of living in this house. But since my dad cut out the bushes, I noticed how abundant the flowers were. The flowers had more room to grow, to flourish, to bloom. Over the years, sometimes they bloomed, and sometimes they didn’t. Sometimes they weren’t getting water, sometimes the weather wasn’t agreeing (that happens in the very foggy Bay Area), but sometimes, everything aligns and these flowers bloomed.

The bushes my dad cut down blocked these growing flowers for the longest. Its all I ever saw from my bedroom window. Today, I stepped out into our backyard for the first time in a hot minute. I saw plants that were once so tiny, tower over my parents as they fried fish in the backyard. I saw everything that the bushes were covering all these years. All these plants and flowers blooming and growing this whole time. That’s how I feel about the mini baby goals we crush to achieve our main goal. They get overshadowed by the big main bitch – the bushes – and nobody really stops to look past and see that what was once a seed is now growing and flourishing.

I hope the same for not only myself, but for all my readers. I hope whatever goals you are planting and watering, working towards everyday, I hope you achieve it. And when you achieve it, I hope you celebrate how far you’ve come. I hope your flowers bloom. 🥀🌸