The Unexpected #101

Wow. I literally can’t believe that I am writing this. This is blog post #101! And to be completely honest, I’m writing this blog post as I take a break writing blog post #100. I’m having hardcore writer’s block, especially with so much pressure of being the 100th post and all… I feel like Spongebob when all he has is the word “the” on the page. I need to just step back and work on something else for a minute before I drive myself mad. Like I said, I can’t believe I’m writing this -blog post number 101 – partly because I can’t believe I have made it past 100 posts, but also because #101 was never meant to exist.

I’ll explain…

First and foremost, THANK YOU to all of my readers who have been following my writing up until this point. From everyone that’s been tuning in every Monday since day one, and all the readers I have picked up along the way, THANK YOU. It means so much to me that people really take the time out of their day to read a story of mine. That might sound dramatic as hell, but it’s true, I’m super grateful for all of the support I have gotten since deciding to write consistently. Whether that be liking my posts, sharing my content, commenting, even sliding in my DM’s to tell me something privately – I appreciate it all. I am truly humbled; to have started at a consistent “0 views” stat, to be where I am today.

101 blog posts also marks the 2nd anniversary-ish (a little over) of me re-starting this blog. In 2019, I found myself in the thick of my post-grad blues. For the longest, my goal was to revive my LoveYourzStory blog ever since I made it in 2016. I dreamt of the day that I would have the time and energy to maintain a blog and post consistently. However, I always found an excuse to delay it – it was either school, not enough time, or simply because I was lazy as shit and didn’t want to put in the time. All reasonings were valid. I had strong motivation to re-start my blog in January 2019 as a New Year’s resolution, but when the time came, I didn’t have the confidence to do it. I pussied out real quick. But it was always in the back of my mind.

From January 2019 to when I dropped my first post in July 2019, I worked myself up about getting the ball rolling. I was too hesitant, and honestly, a little embarrassed. I knew for the first couple of posts, months, maybe even years? – nobody would really care about what I was doing. I cringed at the idea of pouring my heart out and sharing my personal stories on the internet just to get no views and no feedback. But I knew I had to start somewhere. What really made me take the leap of faith was honestly being so deep in my post-grad depression and feeling so completely lost. I felt like a straight loser honestly. Here I was, proclaiming myself as a writer, shit, I even got the degree to prove it. But on paper I had no experience outside of my college courses.

L O S E R.

P A T H E T I C.

W O R T H L E S S.

D E P R E S S E D.

C O N F U S E D.

D E S P E R A T E.

That’s how I constantly felt from January 2019 until I dropped that first blog post in July 2019. I figured I had nothing to lose, I was already at my lowest. I couldn’t have been more right. I was tired of saying and wishing that I could do all these things, but lacking motivation and confidence to actually fuckin do it. I started giving myself tough love. How did I expect to get anywhere with writing if I literally did nothing? How did I expect to reach my dream of being a published writer if I was too afraid to put myself out there? I was tired of making excuses for myself. I was tired of feeling unaccomplished. I was tired of waiting for something to happen.

I decided “fuck it,” and just rolled with it. I knew I had to start somewhere. And I knew it would take a long while until people would take notice of my work and actually tune in. But the longer I waited, the longer it would take for me to see results. This is something I really had to do for me, I had to face my reality – how bad did I want this? I no longer had school as an excuse for not having time. Yes, I had a full-time job, but for me, I knew my writing career wouldn’t stop at SFSU. I had to just start.

My predictions were right – in the beginning I was met with little views and almost no feedback. But I continued to push out blog post after blog post every Monday anyways. I knew it would be a slow start, but mama didn’t raise no bitch. I didn’t know where I wanted to take this blog, but I knew that I couldn’t get discouraged too early on. But I definitively had my moments. There were times where I felt like I was putting in a lot of effort, time, and energy that I’m not getting paid for, for nothing. Not entirely for “nothing,” but that I was writing and nobody was even reading. I used to doubt if what I was writing was even worth reading. I still have those moments sometimes, where I feel like what I’m doing is pointless because nobody will read or even care. I start to doubt myself and what I’m doing when I let my insecurities get the best of me. But I never thought about stopping the blog cold turkey.

I’ve had so many hiccups and road blocks throughout this process, and most of these inconveniences are because of my damn self. I’ve had my moments where I posted blog posts past midnight, not even technically “Monday” anymore. I fell into the bad habit of starting blog posts the night before – sometimes even the day of. I put myself under so much pressure and stress to get the blog post out, promising myself that the next week’s blog post would be done in advanced to prevent a situation like that. But, being the annoying ass that I am, I procrastinate and put myself in the same exact position I was in a week prior. It’s a bad habit that I’ve been trying to nip in the bud for the last TWO YEARS!

It wasn’t until recently – literally the last 6 months – that I started to really try to throw myself a bone and have the post done at least by the end of Sunday so I don’t stress out about it the day of anymore. It wasn’t until the LoveYourzStory X My Small Business series that I started to think ahead. Of course, I dreamed of the day where I would have completed post after completed post just cued up ready to be released every Monday. I always wanted to have my posts mapped out months in advanced as I learned in my social media class, but that’s just not that easy when I’m trying to balance everything under the sun. Ever since the small business project, I’ve gotten a lot better about finishing posts before Monday comes around.

Not only did the LoveYourzStory X Small Business series push me in the right direction to be finished with my posts in a timely manner and map out what posts would come next in terms of groups of 10, it also built my confidence to reach out to others and connect with my followers and viewers. I always wanted to interact with my followers and do those type of posts where you ask your followers to tag people who would be interested, but I always feared that nobody would participate. On a whim, I decided just to roll with it. If nobody participated, then so be it. But if people were interested, it could be a dope series to release. To my surprise, I got a lot of feedback, tags, and leads. I couldn’t believe it. It gave me confidence to think of other series that I could do that would feature different people and different topics. I love how I can tell my story, but also be that platform for other people to share their stories as well.

But to be completely honest, around the end of 2020, I really had plans to shutdown this blog after blog post #100. For the record, it wasn’t because I was over it, or because I didn’t want to continue, but because I have more passion projects that I want to do in terms of writing. Taking on another passion project task to my already heavy work load just made me feel like I would definitely be spreading myself thin. I was hard set on stopping this blog cold turkey at 100 posts. I thought it would be a great dramatic ending to say goodbye after 100 consistent posts. I have other writing projects that I intended to start in 2021, but given my procrastinating history, of course that has been delayed. I put so much time, energy, and thought into all my blog posts, that sometimes I feel like it takes away from my other goals that I have in writing. That was my reasoning. It was time to say goodbye, not because I wanted to, but because I just didn’t have the time to juggle everything.

When I consulted those around me, some agreed that 100 would be a great last hoorah, while others suggested I dial back on how consistent I post, just so I still post consistently but on a less regular basis. At the time, I still decided to stop at 100. Nobody could say anything to change my mind. It was what I was going to do. Yeah, it would be a bittersweet moment since I would go on to pursue another goal, but it’s what needed to be done to free up my time to focus on what I need to focus on next. My decision was made around the time I was releasing the Small Business Series (Blog posts in the 70’s).

However, when the Small Business Series ended, and it was nearing closer and closer to 100, I started getting cold feet. The countdown was starting. It made me a little sad. But again, I truly believed it was something I had to do to continue one with my plans. I started to think of what my #100 post could be and focus on that. I thought long and hard about what would serve as the last banger. Since the reviving of this blog, I have been so open and vocal about my body positive journey and views. The small business series was so successful that I really wanted to test my luck and see if I could push out another series before I shut it down. Again, the feelings of doubt, insecurity, and fear of putting myself out there and looking dumb crept up again. It’s like the cliché angel and devil on my shoulders. One telling me to go for it and take that chance, the other telling me that nobody would want to participate, it’s not a great idea, and I’m going to make myself look stupid on the internet – since I have tried to do polls and interactions in the past that kind of flopped.

As you can tell with my previous posts, I decided to go for it, collabing with my high school friends, Missdirected.art, who are great photographers with amazing creative visions. And I am so glad that we decided to take that leap of faith with each other. My heart was bursting with so much joy when I found 9 other individuals who wanted to share their story and be a part of this project. It’s always that initial stress of “will this pull through, or will this fail,” that gets me. When I finally saw it start to take a turn in the right direction, my heart fluttered with love and excitement. I wanted to do something like the Body Positive Series for some time, but never thought that it could be reality. You never really see that you’re checking off the boxes of all the goals you previously set for yourself until you take a step back and realize – oh shit, I’m here, I’m where I wanted to be X amount of time ago.

My partner never thought it was a good idea to stop the blog after 100 posts in the first place. Even when I suggested maybe dialing back, posting bi-weekly. Maybe the occasional post every month, or when something that inspired me really came up. His stance was always the same: why slow down the blog when I’m finally at a place where I’m getting some traffic. My argument was the same: because I have a full time job, I have other projects I need to do, and I just can’t do that while maintaining quality content every week. But when I started to see the Body Positivity Series coming together – in the process of interviewing people and seeing who would be a part of it, I started to have a change of heart.

For all my “How I Met Your Mother” fans, I literally felt like that one episode where Ted wanted to break up with the girl he dumped (on her birthday) a few years prior. Ted had all the reasonings to break up with her again, but when it came down to it, he could only think of all the good things about her and good memories. That’s how I felt about my decision. I had my mind made, but as blog post #100 came closer and closer, I felt myself retracting my decision. I started thinking of all the good that could come from continuing the way I have been.

I asked myself: “Do you feel like you did everything you wanted to do with your blog?” And the answer was no. The series that I’ve done and collabed with others really made me realize my potential and all the other possibilities I could do with my platform. I wasn’t ready to shut LoveYourzStory down. There are still a lot more stories to tell and share. I don’t know where this blog will take me, or what it will be like even 1 year down the road, but I do know that for the time being, this is one of my projects that I need to continue to water and nurture so it will continue to grow. I originally wanted to shut down the blog after 100 posts to start and focus on other passion projects and goals. Now, I have to find a way to balance both. I feel like in a way, I’m testing myself yet again: Marinelle, how bad do you want this?

With that question lingering in my mind, I bought my website. So, with that being said, cheers to 100+ posts, and thanks for reading blog post #101 – the post that was never meant to be.

ProjectGiveBack

As Ebony’s 2 year commitment for “Teach For America,” was coming to an end, she debated on what to do next. She started the program after graduating from Georgetown in 2017, and Teach For America randomly placed her in Houston, Texas. The program gives a teacher the opportunity to work in low-income schools for a minimum of two years. After that two year commitment, an education grant is given where the reciever can further their education by getting their Master’s, PhD, etc, or use the money to pay off loans.

Getting her foot into the teaching world was so random – or so she thought. Initially in Georgetown, they threw her in a teaching role to teach STEM to kids. After all, she loves kids and enjoyed science, so she rolled with it. Ebony even wanted to be a teacher when she was younger, among other things. She recalls her big tent that opened up to reassemble a classroom and playing “teacher” with her cousin, Asia, in the livingroom.

“I want to be a teacher!” She had said. Actually, it was between teacher, doctor, or hairdresser, to be exact. When she was told that teachers don’t make that much financially, Ebony scratched that dream and headed onto the next, as young children often do. But yet here she was, almost 2 decades later, taking on that same dream. After graduating from Georgetown and committing to 2 years with Teach For America, Ebony found herself packing her bags in D.C. and heading to Houston, Texas. She even called up our 8th grade teacher to ask for some advice and tips on how to take on the teacher role.

After teaching a total of 2 years with middle schoolers, 1 year teaching 7th grade and the other year teaching 8th grade, Ebony realized something. She realized she loves working with kids. She enjoys getting to talk to middle school-aged children and have deep conversations with them. And she has a yearning to help those kids that need her. But, she realized she didn’t want to teach anymore.

Being a teacher in Texas opened up a path for Ebony to realize what she really wanted to do. She wanted to get into social work to help middle school-aged children. Why? Because she noticed that she enjoyed taking on the “school counselor” role more than teaching infront of 30 students. She interned as a school counselor but came to find out that the teacher, school counselor, administrator roles are too closely intertwined. She wants that separation of roles. Ebony wanted to be the listener, the helper, the resource giver, just not the teacher. And by first being a teacher, she saw parts of the education system that she believes needs some work.

Ebony wants to find a way to bring social work and school together. She hopes to be that bridge because she sees a lot in the education system that is broken. She believes that schools perpetuate the criminal justice system by having certain policies and protocols when there is an incident. Zero-tolerence policies make certain incidents go straight to the police instead of handling it within the school. This is where Ebony thinks “we need more than just school and education.”

Ebony gives the example of a student coming to school with a knife. If this child is caught with the knife, zero-tolerence policies will get law enforcement involved and give them a set consequence regardless of what the reason for carrying is. This child’s commute to school might have them pass through a rough neighborhood, and for their own protection they carry a knife to feel safe. This child would get the same consequence as a child who brought a knife to fight someone at school. Instead of knowing the back story, and coming up with a solution, Ebony feels like these policies just punish rather than help. Instead of giving consequences to children who didn’t have violent motives, consequently schools should ask “what can we do to prevent this? Buddy systems? Add school bus routes? What can we do to help?”

“I would want to work with schools to lessen their relationship with the criminal justice system, as well as work with kids who are involved in the criminal justice system,” Ebony said. “Sometimes when they have a record, they are not able to get into college, or not able to get a job.”

Being surrounded by middle school-aged children for 2 years made Ebony notice what a vital time it is in their lives. Not only does she have experience with this age group, but she knows that this is the age where the students are aware of their emotional and mental well-being, but still moldable. Ebony explains that when students get to high school, they’re already beginning to be set in their ways. Providing help and resources to children as early as possible is her main goal.

Teaching children with behavioral problems and having to refer them to social workers and other forms of help, made Ebony want to follow up on these children. She always wondered if they’re okay and wants to be there for them emotionally. It was then she knew that the teaching route wasn’t the path for her. Instead, teaching led her to a career choice that would make her feel more fufilled. Being a social worker for middle school-aged children.

Her options after her 2 year obligation for Teach For America were to either continue teaching or go down a different path. Ebony decided to use the grant money to further her education and go back to school for social work. The school year ended, and Ebony started taking classes at the University of Houston. And then, COVID-19 hit.

All of Ebony’s classes switched to online, and she found herself back in California to be near her loved ones. Sheltering in Place gave Ebony a lot of time to rekindle some of her old hobbies. In middle school, we had “exploratory.” We got to pick different classes every quarter – from karate, to card making, to theater, to cooking class. We got 4 classes to pick out of the year. In 6th grade, Ebony took the knitting class, which lasted a semester instead of a quarter. She quickly fell inlove with it, and in 7th grade found herself in the Knitting 2 class, which also lasted a semester. But she didn’t stop there, in 8th grade she took Crocheting for another half a year. She preferred crocheting over knitting because it was quicker and she could work faster.

When Ebony moved to Houston, she crocheted here and there, but very occasionally. Now with Shelter in Place, and back home in California, Ebony was looking for something to do to be productive. Her cousin, Asia, started crocheting during Shelter in Place and was posting all of her cute outfits that she made. From tops, to shirts, to swimsuits, Asia was making and modeling her products. Ebony got inspired to start crocheting again, and tried to making her own clothing as well.

Ebony started to crochet tops for herself, and they came out “alright.” She didn’t really like following the shirt pattern, because it required 100% focus. However, she did like the idea of crocheting blankets because it’s something she can do mindlessly. She made a blanket and gave it to her mom. Her niece really liked it and wanted one for herself, so Ebony gifted her a blanket as a graduation present.

Soon, Ebony had ideas of selling her crocheted blankets and giving a portion of the proceeds to an organization to give back to her community. But, she was very hesitant to make her blankets for sale public because she feared no one would be interested. On top of that, she wanted to give back but didn’t really want to give the profits to an organization and not know where the money would be going to. She wanted to know exactly where the funds were headed.

That’s why Ebony decided to start her own scholarship, “ProjectGiveBack.” This scholarship will be given out to Black women, high school seniors pursuing college. 40% of each blanket sale will be put into this fund, until Ebony distributes it out sometime before the start of the new school year of 2021. This way, she knows exactly where and to who her funds are going to.

Part of the reason why Ebony made this scholarship for Black women only is because of a class she’s taking. It’s her Women’s Issues class where a lot of their discussions focus on intersectionality, and how being a woman and being Black further oppresses black women. Especially with all the civil unrest going on in America right now, Ebony believes Black women aren’t getting as much attention when it comes to racism and police brutality. So she wanted to create a space where Black women feel acknowledged and supported.

With her teacher background, Ebony definately wants to highlight Black women who are going to college and continuing their education. Black women are one of the growing populations of college educated people in the United States, and Ebony wants to celebrate that. She truly believes in the importance of education and how higher education can bring about social change as well as social mobility. By setting up her her own scholarship, she has control over who recieves the money and knows exactly who it’s helping. She wants Black women to feel included and like they have something “just for us.”

So with that goal in mind, Ebony decided to sell her crocheted blankets for real! She told all of 5 people (her parents included) that she was going to start selling her blankets and starting her own scholarship. For the longest time, Ebony debated how she was going to reveal her idea. She wanted to make atleast 10 blankets for inventory before dropping the big news. But then she started getting self conscious. Will anyone even buy? What if it flops? She initially wanted to have an Etsy page where she would post the remaining products that didn’t sell. She waited, she prayed about it, she came up with more ideas. All her planning went out the window and she just posted her post on social media after praying and having an influx of ideas. She took it as a sign. She didn’t have a goal. She was content with “let me put this out and see what happens,” mentality. She posted her post – pictures of her with her beautifully crocheted blankets with the caption that followed:

So I have been super nervous to post this but God told me to have faith so here it goes 🤷🏽‍♀️ 😊…

I have decided to use my love for crocheting to give back to my community: college degree-seeking black girls 👩🏽‍🏫. I will be selling custom, handcrafted, super comfy, blankets and…the best part is…40% of the profits will go towards college scholarships for Black girls👸🏾. I believe achieving a higher education can provide kids with unmatched opportunities, insights, and experiences and I hate that money is one of the many obstacles in our way. So, while you are cuddled up in your blanket, rest assured knowing that you are also helping a young Black girl’s dreams come true. Message me if interested in purchasing a blanket (the last three images are for sale) or placing a custom order. Baby blanket prices starting at $80 & regular size throw blankets starting at $100 (plus shipping &handling)

Stay tuned for more products, scholarship details, and opportunities to directly donate to the scholarship fund👩🏽‍🎓👩🏾‍🎓👩🏿‍🎓

She clicked the “post” button and went on a run with her mom at Lake Merced. Ebony’s Instagram notifications were set to “off,” and she didn’t have the Facebook app installed. Little did she know her posts were blowing up. When she finally looked at her phone, she was shocked by the mass texts she was getting. All of her friends were texting her about her blankets. She had no idea and didn’t expect it to blow up as much as it did!

In the first 48 hours of dropping her posts on social media, Ebony had about 10-20 custom orders and sold out on all the pre-made items. She was so grateful for the responses and support she was receiving. She initially planned on giving the scholarship to one winner, but she received so many orders that she plans to give to atleast 2 Black female high school seniors who are about to go to college. She wants to post the women who win the scholarships so buyers can put a face to who they helped and where their money went to.

Ebony stresses that in no way is this scholarship going to be something that a college student can live off of for a semester, but more so, a little extra spending money. She wants it to act as a crutch, where a Black woman in college doesn’t have to worry about some bills, doesn’t have to pick up that second job, and doesn’t have to miss out on the college experience.

Whoever wins this scholarship will have to answer the essay question, “How do you give back / how will you give back?” And in no way is this money restricted to any particular thing. Ebony wants this money to be used for whatever the winner’s desires are. Whether that be paying for books, going towards rent, but even using it on the full college experience. What does she mean by that? She has had her fair share of silly college stories. One of which, includes her and her friends renting a car to drive to a liquor store to meet 50 Cent. She wants these young Black women to experience the college life to the fullest. And they might be crazy silly ideas now, but those memories last. And usually those fun and unforgettable nights costs money. Especially for those going to college away from home – she wants to ensure that you have some type of safety net to fall back on.

Ebony is excited to see what the future holds for her small business. Right now, she is taking all order through social media only, and you can place your order by DM-ing @smileitsebony. Maybe “ProjectGiveBack” will expand to selling other items, she’ll maybe have other crocheters join in on the project, or she may just have a direct link where someone can donate straight to the scholarship. Right now, her ideas are running wild and she’s so open to all the possibilities.

Ebony has been coping with everything that’s happening in the country with crocheting. She doesn’t want this hobby to stop after the pandemic is over. She balances out her mental health with staying busy, following activist accounts, but also mental wellness pages. In the midst of chaos, Ebony’s scholarship is a breath of fresh air. Some people support for the cause of helping a Black woman continue her education, and some people buy for the product. Either way, Ebony is content with either reason, because she knows at the end of the day that money is supporting a Black woman getting an education.

“ProjectGiveBack” is definitely in it’s infant stage, but she is hoping it is something that can get bigger and evolve. And if it does, she’ll be giving back to her community and those around her.

“I identify as a Black woman, and I wanted to address those Black women who are out there, who have done the work already, they’re in college already,” Ebony said. “I want to ensure that they’ll have one less thing to worry about.”

“I’m a Writer”

I think back to an exercise I had to do in my Women and Gender GWAR class my last semester of college. The “GWAR” class is one of the core classes you have to take for your major/ minor that is heavily writing-based. It was maybe the first or second day of class, can’t be exact it seemed so long ago… Anyways, it was one of the very first class meetings. My Professor, Nan, stood in front of the class and said, “Ok, I want you to introduce yourself to the person next to you by saying, ‘Hello, my name is ….. , and I’m a writer.”

What a simple exercise to do. My classmates went about introducing themselves as writers with a smile, probably thinking, “Ok, whatever.” However, I hesitated. Saying “I’m a writer,” hits different and has a completely different meaning when that’s actually what you want to be identified as. But I turned to a classmate and gave my quick, “Hi, I’m Marinelle, and I’m a writer.” I could feel myself getting hot and turning red. I felt embarrassed that I was taking this exercise way too personally, but it really made me reflect on why.

I always get self-conscious about calling myself a “writer” for a lot of reasons. For one, I feel weird calling myself a writer if I’m not getting paid to write. When I tell people I have a blog, I feel a little shy and awkward, knowing that my online presence is nowhere close to where I want it to be. A lot of the time, I’m writing about things I’m passionate about, or experiences and stories that I think can help someone in some kind of way. At the very least, I want people to relate to what I write. From the get I’ve told people that my blog entries and the stories I share would probably never make it on your local TV News station. This ain’t breaking news. These are your everyday life stories.

My Professor went on to say that the point of the exercise was for us to be comfortable with calling ourselves “writers.” She explained that no matter how good or bad we are at writing, no matter how many eyes we have on our work, whether it’s for the public or for ourselves, that at the end of it all, we write, so therefore we are writers. It was a boost for the class to be confident in our writing, since the class was basically a writing class. Nan stressed that we’re all writers at different stages, and we all have more to learn.

Later on in the semester during our 1 on 1 meeting, I brought up how that exercise really hit home for me. I told her that it made me realize that if I can’t even confidently say that I’m a writer out loud, how do I expect others to see me in that light? We went on to talk about my research paper, and all the little goals I had with it. She assured me that I was doing great in the class, and that she was impressed with my writing abilities. She went on to tell me that I’m such a pleasure to talk to 1 on 1, but in class I’m so disconnected and almost not present, in a sense that I don’t want to contribute to the conversation when I know the answer. I laughed because that’s typical me, full of personality when you get me talking, but totally unbothered and minding my business if not. Nan encouraged me to apply for the Women Gender Studies Conference that was going to take place at Fresno State. I took her advice and applied – mostly because it was extra credit if I showed proof of just applying. A few months later, I was selected to speak at the conference about my paper focusing on the Body Positive Movement.

I get so in my head about writing, that it is beyond writer’s block. I have so many ideas and topics that I want to cover. It gets to the point where I go over a possible blog post in my head over and over again – how I would start it off, what topics to cover, what my point would be, what correlations to make, etc, that I exhaust myself. It seems like I write it a thousand times in my head already, that when it gets time to actually writing it out, I’m over it. And that’s partly because I’m high key a perfectionist, but at the same time a scared lazy ass bitch. I want my content to be worth the read, and sometimes I think, “Maybe this idea isn’t as good as you think,” and I talk myself out of writing it. Butttttttttttt, I gotta stop that. I am a writer. If not now, then when? If I’m writing into outer space and nobody actually cares what I say except my best friends and those closest to me, then so be it. Enough of trying to perfect everything. I always say I’m going to be consistent but end up fallin’ off. A lot of changes have been happening in my life and I feel like I should write about them because I know there’s people out there struggling with the same things. So stay tuned for my rants and quarter-life-crisis’s. You know that feeling where you feel like you’re turning to the next chapter in your book of life? Well that’s me. My brain’s in shambles thinking about life decisions.

With that said, I’m Marinelle Cabillo, and I’m a writer.

The Runaway

*This story was originally written and submitted for my Reporting class. I thought to share this story on my blog because Lynn was the first person to freely open up to me about all aspects of her life. As a journalism student, I appreciate people who go out of their way to help someone out, in this case, me. There are people out there that will share their story with you, just keep interviewing :)*

Lynn Chayatanan takes her break at Stonestown Mall to visit old co-workers, and gets ready to drive to her next client’s house, where she will set goals with a child with Autism.

Lynn Chayatanan, 27, works for Class ABA, a company that provides behavioral therapy for children with Autism. She is a behavioral therapist and spends at least two hours each visit with the child, where she tries to get them to complete a goal, such as making eye contact without prompting with a toy or food. Chayatanan believes this is not a job for everyone because of how stressful it can be, but loves how rewarding the job is when she gets a child to say their name for the first time.

“You have these little victories that create a whole human being,” Chayatanan said proudly.

Chayatanan was born and raised in Pleasanton where her parents opened a restaurant, “Lux Thai Cuisine,” six months after she was born. By the age of seven, she worked side by side her parents and older brother at the restaurant. Despite looking like the picture perfect family that works together, there were problems at home, she always seemed to butt heads with her mother, her father was an alcoholic, and she said she also experienced physical abuse.

 

Chayatanan was always into fashion and cosplay, so she would make her own costumes and clothing, she really thought that was going to be what she went to college for. Her parents were always on her case about school because her brother was such a great student. She didn’t take school seriously, her parents feared she wouldn’t succeed.

In high school, Chayatanan’s mother encouraged her to take an AP course. Chayatanan took AP psychology because she thought it would be easy, but in the end fell in love with the subject. It was then she realized that she wanted to go to school for psychology.

In the summer of 2007, Chayatanan ran away from home with just $600 in her bank account. She had enough of the physical abuse that was going on at home, and was fed up with living there. She informed her family that she ran away by calling them on a “pay as you go” phone, and moved in with her boyfriend.

“This may sound cruel, but I had no fear of her not making it,” said her brother, Charlee Chayatanan. “There weren’t any doubts that she could make it.”

She decided to continue her education at Las Positas Community College in Livermore. Chayatanan couch surfed at different friends’ houses because the people she would live with couldn’t “grow up.” She said that they were stuck in the cosplay life and couldn’t take on responsibilities, and this caused her to lose interest in the cosplay scene.

Once Chayatanan was done with community college, she decided to commute to San Francisco State University and moved back in with her mother in Pleasanton. Chayatanan also picked up a barista job at Nordstrom in Stonestown Mall. By this time, her mother kicked her father out of the house, and not long after that, her father died in Thailand, and the family restaurant of 23 years closed down. All these factors made the already rocky relationship between mother and daughter a little harder.

“It was like walking on glass, not even eggshells,” Chayatanan said about moving back in with her mother.

After she graduated from San Francisco State in 2014, Chayatanan continued to work at Nordstrom where she was promised that if she stayed, she would be promoted to manager. She worked harder to get the manager position to the point where she felt overqualified, but it always seemed like she would get passed up for someone else. She thought she hit a dead end until her boss’s girlfriend asked her if she wanted to join the Class ABA Company, since she knew Chayatanan had a degree in psychology.

Now Chayatanan works as a behavioral therapist and has three Autistic children that she meets with every week. She sets up goals at each visit, and feels really accomplished when a child meets those goals.

One of Chayatanan’s greatest accomplishments was when she was at the mall waiting in line for the public restroom with a child she works with. The child looked Chayatanan in the eye and voiced that they had to use the bathroom, and even though they ended up having an accident, Chayatanan was proud that the child verbally communicated, step by step, what was going on.

Even though Chayatanan never expected to go to school for psychology, people that know her aren’t surprised.

“She’s extremely patient and expects a lot from people,” former coworker, Marie Obuhoff said. “She’s able to keep a cool head under pressure.”

It was Chayatanan’s journey that helped her realize what she wanted to do in her life. She remembers the days when she was a runaway and really needed help, and she’s happy that she can extended her help and services to children with Autism. It is bittersweet because she knows that the goal is for her not to be needed anymore once the child fulfills all the requirements.

“I’m basically a tool,” Chayatanan said. “I’ll help anyone who needs my help.”

Back To School- At My Own Pace

It’s getting so close to the first day of school for me at San Francisco State, so I’m starting to overthink everything from the past, the present, and what I want in the future.

If you would’ve told me 3 years ago when it was my first semester at Skyline College, fresh out of high school, that I would be transferring to SF State for Journalism 3 years later, I probably wouldn’t believe you. Back then my goal was to get out of community college in 2 years, and anything beyond 2 years would be embarrassing. Of course it didn’t happen that way. I went to Skyline College with literally no idea of what I wanted to major in. I went in  clueless on what I wanted to do with my life. I realized that I really enjoy being around little babies, so I started taking Early Childhood Education (ECE) classes. The classes were so interesting to me and it was a pleasure being in them. Learning about how children’s minds develop overtime and how different stages in their life and what happens then could impact them drastically was totally up my alley, I loved learning about children. So I got my first job as a baby sitter at a gym….. that’s open to all ages……. from 6 months to 11 years old…… AAAANNNNNNDDDD long story short, Early Childhood Education is no longer my major. Haha, I’m actually really happy that I realized earlier than later. I love my job but it made me realize that I CAN’T do this for a career because it takes a lot of patience, a characteristic I lack. I would hate to have graduated with a degree I loved, then go out and get a job and  realize “this is not for me…”

So I was grateful. I only spent my first year at community college studying child development, so I still had some time to get it together. But I also remember panicking.

“Half of my goal time is over,” I thought to myself, “I have 1 more year to get it together.”

I was back to square one and as clueless as ever. I thought I had it all planned out, and then I was lost again. I watch a lot of TV, and shows like Law & Order: Special Victims Unit (SVU) and Forensic Files had me stuck on the idea of being a detective in solving murders or other crimes. After all, I’m basically the Queen at finding information (stalking people on social media). So the start of my second year I took the intro class to Criminal Justice. The class really opened my eyes. The teacher was a retired police officer for the district my high school was in. He was a great teacher and explained concepts really well. I learned so much about the system and our rights. He also made me realize that the system is very black or white. There is no gray area in the criminal justice system, it’s either one way or the other. And that means sometimes justice is not served under certain circumstances under the law. The teacher would give different scenarios on how the law can be flawed, and then again I came to the conclusion, “this is not for me…” I have too much heart and sympathize with people too much, not to mention a weak stomach, this was definitely not the field for me.

Here I was again… UNDECIDED. How can I transfer if it’s necessary to declare a major? I thought back to when I was a kid. Usually people say make a career out of what you loved to do when you were younger. Ever since I was about 5 years old my dream was to fall in love, get married, and have babies. Yeah, no. Love ain’t gon’ pay the bills, and a baby at this age would do the exact opposite to my wallet. I thought harder. My sisters and I were always those kids during summer break to be cooped up in the house on weekdays because both my parents had work. So I would write my own books. Each summer I would start writing different books, but never seemed to finish them. I would think of different story plots and kind of just write until the story didn’t even make sense anymore. But that was me. That’s what I enjoyed to do. Writing stories.

I met up with a counselor and changed my major for the 3rd time to Cinema. After some great thought I decided to switch to Journalism just because I feel like it will give me more opportunities. So finally after 3 years and many major changes later, I’ve finally transferred to San Francisco State University. It took me a while, and I honestly felt stuck for a long time, like the wheels were never gonna start turning for me. But I’m happy I finally got to this point.

My last semester at Skyline I kept saying that I was “so done,” that I’ve lost all motivation to go to school. Not that I was actually going to drop out or anything, but I was so drained and just wanted the semester to be over. But now that summer is almost to an end, I’ve tried to gain my motivation back. And it’s not easy. I’m not gonna sit here and act like I’m so determined and motivated for this fall semester. I’m stressed, scared, and I already know these next 2-3 years are going to be challenging. Yes, 2-3 years, I honestly doubt I’m going to graduate in 2 years because then I would have to take 15 units each semester, and I don’t want to completely drain myself. I’m a firm believer of “treat yo self,” and I need a social life, a job so I can actually have money to do stuff, and I need to trust myself when I know what I can handle and know what is too much.

My older sister is smart without even trying, always basically got straight A’s in everything, my little sister is smart and works for it, and then there’s me. Don’t get me wrong, I transferred from Skyline to SF State with a 3.15 GPA, but that was by me not reading any of the books and “YOLO-ing” almost every final and test. So I barely tried and got A’s and B’s with the occasional C. My point is not to sound cocky, but that I can only imagine how my grades would be if I actually did try, if I put effort in reading the material, and not waiting until 3 am to write my papers. It’s ironic, I’m always on the Dean’s List, but I’m probably the laziest student you will ever meet. I will do all the assignments, don’t get me wrong, but I’ll wait until it’s 1-3 am to write papers that are worth so much of my grade, to the point where I’m basically begging myself for sleep. It’s a habit I’m going to try to stop starting this fall at SFSU. This is my last push, and I wanna go out with a bang.

My little sister is 2 years younger than me, and it seems she already has her school goals on track. She knows what she wants to do and she’s on top of her classes. It made me really bitter to realize that there is a pretty big chance we will graduate the same year. “How embarrassing,” I would think to myself, “I’m 2 years older and I don’t have it together.”

But I realized that I shouldn’t be bitter or low key jealous that she is on track. I’m actually proud that she is, because I was all over the place at her age with school. All that matters to me now is that I get a degree. Time doesn’t really phase me anymore. I was embarrassed that I took 3 years at community college, and was starting to feel down when I realistically realized that 2 years at SFSU would wreck me, but I’m so focused on finishing that I don’t realize how far I’ve come. At the end of it all, as long as I graduate, I’m happy.  I’m going at my own pace and should be proud of the accomplishments that I’ve already made. I don’t care how long it’ll take me, it’ll just make graduation day so much more sweeter.

With that being said, I’m low key ready for the many meltdowns that will be coming my way.