Kapwa Baking Company

Faye remembers it fondly – using a big fork to mash all the ripe bananas that were in a huge white plastic bowl her mom handed her. Smashing the bananas was Faye’s special job every time they made banana bread, and she was happy to do it. Her mother would eyeball the recipe, adding a splash of milk, mixing in flour and sugar, and somehow getting it perfect every time. Making banana bread with her mom are the earliest memories Faye has of baking. And now with her own children, Faye has passed down the banana smashing torch to them – remembering how excited she would get to help her mom in the kitchen.

Growing up, she had always watched both of her Lolas cooking, and her parents were pretty nifty in the kitchen as well. Faye has always felt like baking was always in the “background” of her life, and didn’t realize at the time how much baking meant to her. With time, Faye saw it clearly – baking was her passion that lit a fire in her soul. With the help of her husband, Ryan, and COVID, Kapwa Baking Co. was born. And now, Faye and Ryan are serving classic Filipino desserts, selling out almost every time, while balancing their full-time jobs and raising their 3 children.

It has been a journey to get Kapwa Baking Co. to where it is today. The business was formerly known as Bake Me Happy SF, but with the help of COVID, it took on a new look, menu, and name in 2020. Faye shares her small business’ story, but Kapwa Baking Co. is so much more than a business to her. It has been her dream for years, and her and her husband are finally laying down the foundation of their business. Her goal is still the same – to one day have a café or bakery where she serves her regulars their usuals, a place where the community can gather and enjoy her delicious food. This is why she named her business “Kapwa,” the Tagalog meaning for “community / neighbor.” She was 9 years old when she left the Philippines for the US, and the desserts she offers are some of her favorites that remind her of home.

“My family moved here when I was 9, so I was still pretty young,” Faye said. “But I was old enough to have some concrete memories from the time time I spent there. I admit, a lot of my memories revolve around food haha!”

Ironically, the baking dessert connoisseur’s dream growing up was to be a dentist. Faye’s mom had a dental practice in the Philippines, and for as long as she could remember, she wanted to be just like her mom. Faye wanted to make that dream come true, so she went to college to pursue being a dentist. At the time, she didn’t even think twice about baking and owning a business. She continued with her studies, but found herself spending every break – before and after school – in the Culinary Department’s library. Every time Faye stepped foot in a bookstore, she would go straight to the cookbook section. She wanted to learn more about everything and anything related to desserts and baking. And when she wasn’t reading about food and baking, she was watching it on the Food Network.

Faye knew that she probably loved baking more than the average person, but didn’t give it much thought, other than being a hobby she really enjoyed. Baking was a stress reliever for her during her high school and college days. Faye would bake cookies pretty consistently, and just give them away to her classmates in college. When she started becoming aware of her new found passion in baking, she still continued with her original plan – she never switched her major to pursue the culinary arts. Faye has no formal culinary or baking training – everything she has learned has been through cookbooks, Food Network shows, other cooking channels she would religiously keep up with on YouTube, and of course, trial and error. She is 100% self-taught and humbly acknowledges that she is learning new techniques and information everyday.

“I never really looked at the underlying interest I had in sweets and desserts,” Faye said reminiscing on her college days. “I spent a good chunk of my college life working towards a career that I thought was my dream. In the end, I finally realized that baking and creating fed my soul and that it was what I was most passionate about.”

So, Faye fed that passion when she could. She felt as though baking and creating desserts was just the natural path for her to take. Her very first official “order” came from her dad. He ordered a Shako chocolate cake. If you look it up, a Shako is a cylinder shaped military hat that has embellishments and pompoms and feathers coming out of the top. Faye’s dad took her to get all of her materials to make the Shako cake, and she felt a little overwhelmed. At that point, she had only worked with American buttercream. In the end, she completed the chocolate Shako cake – decorated with fondant, a Styrofoam feather pompom decorated with royal icing, and edible gold dust for the embellishments. This tough first order of hers really opened her eyes to all the different mediums she could use in her dessert making. She started researching all the different ways she could use edible decorations and mediums.

From there, Faye started baking cakes for her friends and family’s birthdays or for special occasions. And usually she would give the cake as a gift. With time, she started experimenting with cake pops, personalized sugar cookies, macarons, and other small desserts. Faye jokes that the time she spent in the Culinary Department’s library finally came in handy! But it wasn’t until she had her son that her business started to slowly take form, about 8 years ago. This is when dessert tables started to gain popularity for being the highlight of parties.

When Faye’s son had his 1st birthday, she wasn’t working at the time. They couldn’t really afford to pay someone to make the anticipated dessert table, so Faye put her baking skills to the test and made all the desserts herself. Friends started to ask about all the desserts that were at the party, so Faye gladly started to take orders. A couple years later, Faye and Ryan welcomed their daughter into the world, and that’s really when the ball started rolling. They started their first small business, Bake Me Happy SF, where Faye catered desserts for birthdays, parties, showers, weddings, and any occasion that required treats.

Kapwa Baking Co. has been an idea that Faye and Ryan sat on for some time, but never pursued. It wasn’t until they took a trip to Portland 3 years ago that re-sparked their interest in having a small business that they could one day have a physical location for. When they were in Portland, they were inspired by all the mom and pop shops that they saw. Still, Bake Me Happy SF was doing well, and they were content with what they were doing for the time being. That all changed when COVID hit. When one business fell through the cracks, another business was born.

Faye admits that COVID and the Shelter in Place orders were the catalyst for starting up Kapwa Baking Co. It was the push that the needed since a lot of events that Bake Me Happy SF had were canceled due to the pandemic. Faye and Ryan had no choice but to pivot their business. That’s when the couple decided that Bake Me Happy SF would change into Kapwa Baking Co. Faye closed down Bake Me Happy SF ‘s websites and Instagram account since she was no longer going to offer the same desserts as she used to. Faye was very hesitant when they were going to launch Kapwa Baking Co. because she didn’t know how her followers would receive it. Her dessert menu was completely new – serving classic Filipino desserts, and some with a new twist, like her Pastillas Milk Jams. Since these were products that were different from what Bake Me Happy SF was originally known for, there were some doubts about how successful the new menu and business would be.

“The first week of our launch, I was fully prepared to only receive 1 or 2 orders from family members because our first product was something completely new,” Faye said.

To their surprise, Kapwa Baking Co. launched successfully! They have only been in business for about 6.5 months, but have already received so much success and support. They consistently sell out of their items, and can get booked pretty quickly. The max amount of orders that Kapwa Baking Co. can take each week varies based on Faye’s work schedule. She works as an administrative assistant at an elementary school, and even though there are no kids present because of the pandemic, COVID has made the job more demanding. There are weeks where they sell out pretty quickly, and that can be due to the limited orders they can accommodate, and then there are weeks where they can take a lot more orders because her work load isn’t as bad. It really all depends from week to week.

Kapwa Baking Co.‘s menu includes: Pastillas Milk Jams, Ube Monster Bread Pudding, Ube Cheesecake Fudge Brownies, Ube White Chocolate Cookies, Cookies and Cream Bread Pudding, and their most popular item – the good ‘ol classic Pastillas. Pastillas are a milky sweet candy that’s very popular in the Philippines. The recipe Faye uses is the same recipe her sister taught her over 10 years ago. When her customers drive by to pick up their orders, their pastillas are soft and fresh. Around the holidays, Faye was selling out of their milk jams because people were buying them to give as gifts. And usually one person will order on behalf of other people like their coworkers, family, and friends, and Kapwa Baking Co. will be greeted with a hefty order. This isn’t something Faye and Ryan complain about, though. They are just happy and grateful that their products sell out and that a lot of people enjoy them.

It’s definitely a blessing to have your products be so popular and selling out very often. Because of the business’ success, Faye and Ryan are still trying to find the middle ground of balancing Kapwa Baking Co. , their 9-5 jobs, and spending time with their 3 children. COVID has brought its own level of craziness to her full-time job, so Faye does all the work for Kapwa Baking Co. after hours. It is chaotic to say the least, but Faye thanks Ryan for having her back, because without him she wouldn’t be able to manage it all. Their daughter has commented on how busy her parents have been, and how they aren’t spending as much time together. Because of this comment, Faye has made a point to have “break” weeks where they don’t take any orders so they can have quality time with their children. Thankfully, her two eldest children are very helpful and self-sufficient, and love to help their youngest sibling, so when it is time to get down to business, all hands are on deck.

And that is exactly what is needed on baking days. That is the most chaotic time of the week – when it’s time to make and bake all the orders that came through. Faye does prep work throughout the week, like measuring out ingredients, prepping packaging, and tiny steps that can be done ahead of time. But all the baking and food preparation are done the night before the pick ups / deliveries. It may get crazy, but Faye does it to make sure that her customers have the freshest products from their company. Faye handles all the bookings, communications, and baking, while her husband, Ryan, handles the packaging aesthetic and deliveries. They have been meaning to find a time where they can have official “business meetings” between the two, but haven’t had the time to pencil that in permanently yet. For now, the flow and balance that they have now is working well.

There are days when Faye feels discouraged, exhausted, and like there aren’t enough hours in the day, but it has never gotten to the point where she feels like throwing in the towel. Faye admits that there have been a handful of nights where there were some tears and a lot of frustration because things didn’t go as planned. She deals with it by letting herself feel the emotions, but letting it go after. Faye knows that for the time being, she has to hustle to get Kapwa Baking Co. to where they want it to be. There are days where her full-time job drains her and she is overwhelmed with her “to do” list, but she knows that this business has been her dream for a long time, so she has to push through those difficult days. This mentality is part of the reason why Kapwa Baking Co. is so successful.

Faye has also been successful when advertising her small business online. When they were planning to launch Kapwa Baking Co., Faye made an Instagram and Facebook account for the business. They have gained a lot of their followers through friends and family sharing their page and posts. Faye recognizes that this is why Kapwa Baking Co. has been so successful – because of the support of friends, family, and customers sharing their content online. Faye makes it a point to add a personal touch to what she posts on the business’ Instagram and Facebook page because she doesn’t want to just post their menus from week to week. She tries to switch it up and have that personal connection with those who interact with the business page.

The positive feedback that they have been getting from customers and those around them is what surprised the couple the most. The support that they get from other small businesses is very heartwarming and encouraging. That’s why Faye’s advice for other small business owners is to support one another. This builds connections and awareness of other small businesses, especially during a time where small businesses are most at risk. She believes that supporting other small businesses will shed light on what’s important – raising up the community, her “Kapwa.”

“We are also looking forward to working with many many other small businesses and doing our part in raising our kapwa business owners up,” Faye explained as she went into collabing with other businesses.

When Bake Me Happy SF turned into Kapwa Baking Co., they revamped their whole menu. Faye was inspired by her favorite desserts and foods that she ate when she was a kid living in the Philippines. Their very first product, Pastillas Milk Jams, were inspired by her favorite candy – pastillas. Instead of having the pastillas in candy / solid form, the Milk Jam can be served on top of bread, ice cream, or even by itself! Faye and Ryan do a lot of experimenting with flavors and testing their recipes. Taste testing is Ryan’s primary job, and though they let their kids in on the tasting fun, they are aware that anything sweet is good to them! So, they will sometimes ask friends and family to taste their new treats. For now, their dessert menu is centered around them taking their own spin on traditional Filipino desserts and food.

Faye laughs and says she wants her customers to know that she is “extremely shy and awkward.” She wonders if people at curbside pickup notice how “awkward” she can be, but wants people to know that despite her shy demeanor, she loves to meet new people! A lot of their customers are friends, or friends of friends, or somehow know a mutual connection, and Faye enjoys building friendships with those who buy from Kapwa Baking Co. There are times where she is very hard on herself, and is working on celebrating her own victories, since she loves to celebrate others’ victories.

Their goal for 2021 is to partner with more local businesses and possibly expand to Farmer’s Markets. Faye wants to dedicate more time to Kapwa Baking Co. so she can consistently take more orders. They are really hoping that opening a physical location will be in their cards somewhere down the line. It has been Faye and Ryan’s dream to one day open up a brick and mortar for their small business, and that’s where the conversation always leads to when they talk about their dreams and goals. Faye loves that she has her husband’s support through it all. She describes him as her #1 supporter, business partner, and all around helper. This is their dream, their goals are aligned, and they are keeping their eyes on the end goal.

“That’s always what it came down to – to own a place where people can come together, share their talents, and enjoy our treats,” Faye said. “A place where people came in as strangers and left as family, where we would know our customers by name and serve them their ‘usuals.’ We wanted a place where we could feature other small businesses and their hustles, hold open mics and art shows for local musicians and artists. Hence the name we chose… Kapwa.”

What Will Make My 2020 Meaningful

“What do you need to do by the end of the year to make this year meaningful?” -Wordsmith Deck

When 2019 was ending, my goal for 2020 was to get a job in the writing/ journalism industry. I wanted to finally put my degree to use. That was one of my biggest fears – graduating and not using my degree. I know that’s not uncommon, a lot of people graduate with a certain degree and end up in completely different fields. And that is completely fine. But for me, I wanted to make sure that I gave it my all in the industry, and I know that meant starting from the bottom.

The running joke of journalists is that the money just ain’t there, even though the field takes a lot of dedication and passion. When I was still in school, it seemed like a lot of the professors and professionals that came in to talk about their experience as journalists had to put work above personal life to be successful. This was always something that worried me because I always knew I wanted a family, but I also wanted to be successful in writing. It seemed ironic that the girl who is so set on staying in the Bay Area got into a field that literally calls for travel and possibly living in different places in the world to be successful.

When 2020 started, I was motivated. I started getting my resume together and applying to journalism jobs. When COVID-19 hit, I used that time to apply to many entry level positions. I was applying and applying, but getting nothing but rejection email after rejection email. It was disheartening. It sucked because the positions I was applying for weren’t even what I was passionate about. It seemed like starting from the bottom to get experience just meant being a corporate sellout for a while until I have some experience under my belt. Not only was I getting rejected, but I was getting rejected from jobs I wasn’t even excited about. Finally, during the shutdown, I got my first follow up email that wasn’t denying me. In fact, they wanted to move forward with me and sent me some more information to reply back to where they would see if I was a fit.

It felt so good. My first non-reject email. May I remind you, I didn’t even get the job. But not getting denied after what seemed like 50 rejection emails was a fresh of breath air. This job could be a 1 hr drive with traffic from where I lived. But with public transportation, it was almost 1.5 hrs one way. It wasn’t even worth it. And it wasn’t even something that I was passionate about. I want to write with purpose and tell stories, but this job would’ve had me writing replies to people on social media under the company’s handles. There was nothing wrong with the job, but I felt like my passion was on the line for the price of getting my foot in the journalism door. And that wasn’t worth it to me. But, it still felt good to know that atleast a company was interested in me. Before this point, I was feeling super incompetent and pathetic. I had the degree, some experience, but nobody wanted me.

I felt a lot better knowing that I could’ve had a “journalism” entry level job if I wanted to. That email gave me hope and encouraged me to keep trying. By this time, COVID was all over the news. We’ve been shutdown for a couple of weeks. 2020 was not looking like how I planned it would be. If I thought it was hard to find a journalism job before COVID, how much more with everything shutdown? People were losing their jobs, businesses were closing down, unemployment was at an all time high – this didn’t seem like the right time to get a new job. The shutdown time kept getting extended. By this time, more than a quarter of the year had passed. My goal was for me to get a journalism writing job in 2020. I felt like my time was running out.

Then, my current job proposed an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. The new living situation would be at least a 2 year commitment to my current job. I felt like if I took the offer, I’d be taking the “easy way” out, and I’d be prolonging my writing career. I didn’t want to put my dreams on hold. But like I said in my previous post, I decided to pivot. Applying to all those entry level journalism jobs discouraged me because it seemed like they had nothing to do with what I wanted to do with my writing. I know everyone starts from the bottom and has to work their way up, but at the rate I was going, I felt like the journey was going to take a long time, and the experience I would be getting didn’t even seem relevant to my end goal.

I took the offer and decided to commit to atleast 2 more years at my current job. But in doing so, I promised myself that I wouldn’t let writing fall through the cracks. Since I graduated at the end of 2018, I used 2019 to just take a breather. I also felt like I was stalling, because I feared rejection and also didn’t know what steps to take to get to where I wanted to be. I didn’t see it at the time, but all those entry level irrelevant jobs made me realize that maybe the traditional path isn’t my path. And maybe it was supposed to be this way… Or shit, maybe I’m just telling myself all this to make me feel better. But all I know is, with how America is handling COVID-19, with no luck in landing an entry level position, feeling some type of way about how I’d feel unfulfilled at most of these entry level jobs even if I did get it, and then having the once in a lifetime opportunity living situation on the table, I knew it was all thrown at me for a reason.

I decided to pivot. I changed my whole plan when I took that offer. But I feel like it was a better plan than my original. I came up with a solution where I can still be the manager at the preschool 8-5 and feel fulfilled as a writer. Like I said, this situation opened my eyes and made me think – Maybe the traditional route isn’t for me. I decided that I’m going to use these next 2 years (or more) to spit out all the passion projects I haven’t pursued yet. If not now, then when? That’s the phrase that kept popping up in my head. It’s the same feeling I felt when I decided to post on this blog consistently over a year ago.

If I do all the passion projects that I have up my sleeve and they’re unsuccessful – 1. Atleast I know I did them and tried. 2. I did it all the while being a responsible adult and working a whole ass full-time job. 3. At least I’ll never have that “what if” in my head. 4. I’ll be proud of myself regardless if they’re successful or not because I know I did it for me as a personal goal and 5. I’m content with the fact that I followed my heart and took the unfamiliar path. And if I try all these things that I’m passionate about and nothing comes out of it, that’s okay too. Then I’ll just pivot again and consider the traditional route. But until then, my passion projects are my goal – and honestly, they always have been.

Just starting those passion projects will make my 2020 more meaningful. It sounds like a small step, but starting is always the hardest part. There is so much more I want to do in writing, this blog is just 1 passion project out of many. I really thought my 2020 was going to be a flop year. But it has really proven to be a year that has challenged me and forced me to grow. Because of the events that transpired this year, I had to re-evaluate a lot of my plans. And now I’m excited to follow through with those plans and finally get started on all the ideas I’ve had since college.

It’s one of those things where you have every detail thought out in your head, and the only thing you have to do is start. You already have the idea, how you’re going to execute it, you did your research, and now it’s just on you to get the ball rolling. I sat on the idea of me posting consistently on this blog for years before I actually went through with it. And now, here I am over a year later, and I don’t remember what it’s like to not post every Monday. I know I am capable, and I know the time to make moves is now.

Getting started by the end of the year on my other passion projects will set the tone for the next 2+ years. After such a rocky and stressful 2020, I’m happy I’m finally settling down and starting to make moves in the right direction again. I was so confused and stressed about what path I would take for almost half of the year. I’m excited to take those baby steps to start. And hopefully, I can stop and smell the roses with this journey because I feel like I always forget to do that. I’m always overthinking, stressed, or worrying about something. It’s nice to finally be in a spot in life where I can take a step back and realize life is pretty great right now.

At the start of 2020, I had completely different goals. Now, towards the end of 2020 (holy shit, I can’t believ it’s almost the end of 2020) I have a completely different vision of what I want to do. I feel so much more content with my decisions, when not too long ago I would’ve reacted the exact opposite and stress. I’ve said time and time again that I believe what’s meant for me will happen in due time. For once, I’m excited to start my passion projects, not scared. I’ve been talking about them for so long, it’s time I stop talking and start doing. I will really look back and see 2020 as the year I got the ball rolling. I’m content in knowing I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.

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. 🥀🌸

Marinelle, Take the Wheel

I’m in the car. Most of the time, it’s with my family. Something always ends up happening, and all of a sudden, we’re in an unsafe situation. Someone else needs to take control of the car. I have to take control of the car. I need to. I can do it. I have to act now before it’s too late.

“I can drive, I can do it,” I say to my family. I can feel it in my body that I have something to prove, this is my moment of truth. I can feel my heart pounding as I reach over.

I take the wheel. I take control of the car and steer us back to safety. The adrenaline is rushing through my body, what a thrill. I knew I could do it! I grip the wheel perfectly on 10 and 2. But how am I driving right now? I haven’t drove in so long? I’m thinking these thoughts as I drive along.

“I told you I could drive,” I say over my shoulder to my shaken up family with a smile. I have that ‘I told you so’ tone in my voice.

All of a sudden, I’m in a panic. I turn the wheel left, then right, then left again. I’m freaking out, my heart is racing, I can’t control the car anymore. At this point I’m crying and screaming. I’m dodging cars, but it’s as if our car has a mind of it’s own. The cause for the sudden shift is always unknown. Without fail, I go from driving perfectly to forgetting everything and losing control. At the climax of my fear and terror, I wake up.

This is a reoccurring dream that I’ve had for years…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been terrified of driving. This phobia stems from my mom’s fear of being behind the wheel. Growing up, my mom expressed her lack of confidence behind the wheel, how it gives her anxiety, and how she refuses to drive unless she absolutely has to. Unknowingly, she planted the seed of fear of driving in my sisters and I’s heads.

What about driving freaks me out? Knowing that I am in control of a vehicle, and just 1 wrong move on my end can result in someone else’s demise. Also, the fact that I can be an alert driver, do all things right by the book, and be safe, but can still be in an unsafe situation due to the fact that I can’t control anyone else’s driving, terrifies me. Knowing that I can be the reason why someone loses their life gives me anxiety. Yeah, pretty dark. But that’s where my mind goes.

When I turned 18, I figured I had to get over my fear of driving. I felt like everyone around me was driving, had a license, or was working towards one. I had FOMO, Fear Of Missing Out, and felt like I wasn’t making the moves I should be making at my age. So, I studied to take my permit test. Of course I wanted to pass the permit test on the first try. And I did. I was happy, but then that happiness and relief turned to dread.

I kind’ve lagged on starting to drive after receiving my permit. Until my dad brought to my attention that the permit is only good for a year, and within that year I would have to take the driving test or my permit would expire and I would have to take the test all over again. And I was not about to stand in that DMV line again. So, I mentally prepared myself to take the wheel, literally.

It was so long ago that at first, I didn’t even remember who I drove with first, my dad or a driving instructor? And then I remembered it was an instructor because my dad refused to get in a car with me until I had some type of prior lessons. I got the number of my friend’s driving instructor and booked an appointment.

I remember my driver pulling up to Skyline college where the 121 bus stop is. I did not want to drive. But I knew that I would’ve taken my permit for nothing if I just let it expire. And lord knows I needed all the time and practice I could get if I wanted to pass that driving test the first time. I got in the car and realized my driving instructor had peddles of his own in the passenger’s seat. It was a relief to know that he could control the car if I straight up had no idea what I was doing.

It may have been because of that “student driver” sticker on the back of the instructor’s car, or maybe pure luck, but nobody honked at me that day. My breaks were hard, I was going slower than I should’ve been, and don’t even get me started on switching lanes. It was all a blurr. But I did what I had to do in that 1 hour session. My hands were sweaty, I hung on to the wheel for dear life, I was sweaty and anxious, and I wondered how people drive with music on!

After a couple of lessons with the instructor, my dad was finally confident to get in a car with me. He let me drive to school, to work, on the freeway, in neighborhoods, and around the area where my driving test was going to be. I was pretty good at it, but I was stiff and rigid. Everything had to be a particular way when I drove – no music, had to have certain shoes on, windows up even though I was sweating, hair in a half clip so no hair got in my face. If any of those factors were off, I didn’t feel confident. With time though, I put on music, but oh so slightly above a whisper. I felt myself getting confident with driving.

You control the car, you tell it what to do,” my dad would tell me when I would freak out about driving.

I booked my driving test literally a couple days before my permit expired. I wanted to make sure I had all the practice, was prepared, and would pass. But by waiting so close to the date, I didn’t think of what would happen if I didn’t pass and had to reschedule. I didn’t think about that. I had to pass. That would be so embarrassing if I didn’t. My older sister passed the test on the first try, so if I didn’t, I wouldn’t hear the end of it from my parents.

My dad made me take my driving test in San Mateo because it was “easier” than Daly City. Which I totally believe because the roads were so much more wider! I remember asking my friends what they’re going to test me on, what questions they asked, what mistakes they made that I could avoid. As I waited in the driving line for my test, I saw a truck infront of me starting their test. They were way too close, ended up turning onto the curb, in a matter of 2 minute, they circled the block and came back. Yooooo. Now I was scared. What if I mess up like that?

My instructor came in the car. I passed all the questions and proceeded with the driving portion of the test. When I successfully made it out of the DMV lot I was relieved. Everything was going good. I felt confident and I made sure to make my motions dramatic and prolonged. It was going great until I got to a 4 way stop. This guy on foot was close to the curb and motioned for me to go. Of course, I motioned for him to cross the street. He refused and insisted I go. I knew that if I didn’t let him cross, I would fail the test. But here we were playing the game of “go! No you go! No you!” Bruh, just cross the street 😫. After what seemed like 1 whole minute, he finally crossed. I knew I passed.

We pulled up to the DMV and the last task was to park. I pulled in, put the car in park, and turned off the car. My instructor let me know that I passed. I was so excited! More so relieved that I didn’t have to take anything over again. I got out of the car and did what I had to do inside. When I came out, my dad was in the car. I looked at what a great job I did parking.

“Dang, I parked hella good!” I told my dad when I got inside.

“What are you talking about?” He laughed, “I had to fix it and bring it in because the butt was out.”

Womp. I was proud anyways. And that was literally the last time I drove a car. I was 19. I’m now 25. Why, you ask? Once I got my license, that meant that I would have to have insurance. My parents didn’t want the burden of a young new driver on their insurance, and I didn’t have a car to drive anyways. I was just happy that I got it out of the way and that I had a license just to say I had it.

I was less scared or driving at the end of all of this. That was until one of my best friends told me about her reading with a psychic. She started from the top of her reading, telling me what the psychic said about her love life, her future, her family. She went into detail and regurgitated everything the psycic told her.

“But then she told me one of my friends is going to get into a car accident with an older male,” my friend said. We went silent on the phone.

“Wait, why do I feel like I’m that friend….” I said.

“Dude, I thought the same thing!”

I was highly convinced that that “friend” was me. I was scared that I would be driving with my dad and I would mess up and get us into a car accident. I refused to drive, all the fear came back again. I was not going to put my life or my dad’s life in danger. I was genuinely scared.

I did end up getting in a car accident with an older male. Except I wasn’t the one driving, and it wasn’t my dad. I was with my cousins, and my cousin was driving the car when a girl “eating soup” while driving rammed us from behind. Elbows flying, necks are jerking, but we were all fine.

That tripped me out for a long time. Because 1. I did get in a car accident, the older male was my cousin who was driving, and 2. I was glad that I wasn’t the driver. It made me realize that I was really out here about to never drive in my life because of what a person told my friend. Its trippy because it actually happened, but what if it didn’t? I would’ve been scared for what? So much time has passed since the last time I’ve driven. Literally 6 years. I feel like I need to relearn how to drive again.

But I’ve had those reoccurring dreams for years, even before I stared driving. For the longest time, I didn’t know how to feel because I believed I was possibly foreshadowing my own death. And for the longest that played into my fear of driving. And I thought that for a while, until I started telling people about these dreams.

I’ve had a fascination with my dreams and dreams in general. I always look for deeper meaning, and look for the lessons or signs in them. I know there’s a lot of people that think dreams are just dreams, but I’m not one of those people. I dissect my dreams and want to know the answer to why I dream of the things I dream about. Back in the day my older sister had a dream book dictionary that interpreted the different scenarios and things in your dreams. From animals, to locations, to things, feelings, etc. Everything had an underlying meaning. That book is lost now, but just this passed Christmas I bought my sisters each a dream book that went more in depth with dissecting dreams.

Control. Is what everyone says my dream is about. Feeling like I have no control of my life, not being confident in my abilities, and the list goes on. I also noticed that in the many different versions of this dream, I’m always trying to prove I can drive. Sometimes I drive successfully, and sometimes I’m a mess from the moment I lay hands on the wheel. The conclusion is always the same though, I end up losing control of the car, regardless how well I was driving.

The people inside the car vary too, but most of the time it’s always my mom, dad, and sisters. Sometimes it’ll just be my sisters, or a variety of mixing and matching those 4 family members. I always want to prove to my family that I can do it. And I guess that remains true in real life. I want to prove I can be successful, but I’m afraid to be moded and lose control and have that success turn to failure.

I thought maybe it’s just my unconscious expressing my fears in life. Driving being one of them. I feel like my dreams are shedding light on what I need confidence in, or what I need to confront head on to not be afraid anymore. This has been a dream that has haunted me for a long time. Because each time it feels so real and vivid. It bring to light my flaws and insecurities. But I got to remember that I am in control of my own life. And if these dreams are really telling me that I’m afraid to take the wheel in my own life, then I need to stop being scared. Not having control is scary. Not knowing what path you’re going on is scary. Not knowing if you’ll be successful or not is scary. I guess this is what haunts me.

Do you have reoccurring dreams? What do you think they mean?

Rob The Barber

I recorded and edited this video of Rob 2 years ago. At the time, he was an aspiring barber that was coming up in the hair cutting world. He took an interest in cutting hair when his aunt gifted him some clippers. He went from cutting his own hair, to his coach’s, to asking the homeless if they want a fresh cut, and now, cutting is his main source of income.

A lot has changed since Rob recorded this video with me. The 22-year-old finally declared a major and is finishing up his AA at Skyline. Before applying to SFSU, Rob is planning to take his love of barbering to the next level.

“I’m just about finished at Skyline,” he tells me. “After taking my sweet time chasing (my) AA in psychology. I’m finally at the point where I feel like I have to make the decision about what to do with my future… I have decided to take hopefully half a year off to pursue my barber’s license before applying to SFSU to further my studying in psychology. I hope to eventually work as a professor, counselor, or something that allows me to be a positive influence in my community, similar to barbering.”

Check out his story:

San Francisco to Sweden

This love story started with a swipe in San Francisco. It was October 2016, and little did Alisanne and Karl know that this first date would change the rest of their lives.

Karl and a friend were visiting San Francisco for a week. They came to the Bay to attend a gaming convention, and would move on to visit Mexico City after. It started with a Tinder swipe. Alisanne honestly doesn’t remember coming across Karl’s Tinder profile, and believes that a friend may have been the one swiping on her account. Either way, she’s happy that their paths crossed.

They met up for dinner in Hayes Valley, and Alisanne made sure to bring a friend with her to the date. They really enjoyed each other’s company, and Karl asked if Alisanne would like to meet up during his last few days in San Francisco, since his week here was almost over. They hungout more and ended up really liking each other.

However, Karl was visiting San Francisco from Sweden.

After his week in San Francisco came to an end, Karl and his friend headed over to Mexico City. But Karl and Alisanne still kept in contact, even when he went back home to Sweden. In fact, they communicated almost everyday. The time difference from San Francisco and Sweden is 9 hours, so communication was not always easy.

It was also not easy for Alisanne to tell her parents about her new flame. She considers herself close to her parents, but there’s just some topics that she knew would be difficult to open up about. Her love life was one of them. When she finally opened up to her parents about her long distance relationship, her fears of their disapproval turned out to be true.

“For my parents, they really thought it wouldn’t last,” Alisanne explained when I asked how her parents reacted to her long distance relationship. “They always did the whole ‘oh, why can’t you stay here,’ and, ‘you might find someone else.’ They were upset that my long distance relationship took up most of my time (talking to Karl) and sometimes they would try to get me to stop ‘wasting my time,’ but I told them it was my decision to be in this relationship and they couldn’t really force anything on me.”

Alisanne admits that defending herself against her parents’ opinions sometimes scared her. It took a lot for her to voice her opinions to her parents that at the end of the day, she’s an adult and will be doing what she wants. And that is somewhat against the Filipino culture. Most of the time, Filipino parents don’t view you as an “adult” until you’re moved out, married, and providing for yourself.

After Karl left San Francisco, he and Alisanne continued to get to know each other over the phone. After 2 months of talking, Karl invited Alisanne to visit him in Sweden. At this point, the two had no official title labeled on them. Still, Alisanne accepted the invitation.

This was Alisanne’s first trip out of the country solo. She was nervous and scared, and now that she thinks back to it, she realizes how dangerous it all could have been. But at the moment she was excited to see Karl and his family. When she told her parents that she was going to visit Karl in Sweden, her parents were freaking out. Her dad demanded Karl’s number, Karl’s mother’s number, and Karl’s address. Her dad even talked on the phone with him before she left. She knew that her parents were just worried and was just looking out for her, but she does see how crazy it must’ve been to an outsider – given that she was 21 years old already – an adult. This was just the beginning of the culture shock of being a Filipina from the Bay Area and dating a chill Swedish guy from Katrineholm.

She spent New Year’s with Karl and his family, and Alisanne got to meet his family and friends. While Alisanne’s family was trippin’ out, back in Sweden, Karl’s family welcomed her with open arms!

“Alisanne came to visit me in Sweden the first time only 2 months after I left,” Karl said. “I didn’t have a driver’s license back then so I asked my family to drive me to the airport in Stockholm to pick her up. That’s not a small favor to ask when the airport is a 4 hour drive total from where I live! They said, ‘ok let’s go!’ 4 hours later we had lasagna together with my family before we got back to my place.”

After Alisanne’s first trip to Sweden, the couple made things official and started doing long distance. She visited Karl about 3-4 times throughout their long distance relationship.

It was August 2017 when Alisanne decided that she wanted to apply for a visa to move to Sweden. She was just about to start her last semester at San Francisco State, and knew that it took about 8 months to almost 2 years to get approved for a visa. However, the universe was on her side and she somehow miraculously got her visa in four months!

“Karl and I did talk about who would move and I eventually decided for myself that it might be pretty cool to move to Sweden,” Alisanne said. “I just finished my bachelor’s in business admin & management, had some money saved up from my last job, and had no plans after school. I also thought it might be harder for Karl to move to the U.S. with all the hectic immigration rules and papers.”

When Alisanne first told her family that she was applying for a visa to move to Sweden, they kind of brushed it off. She believes that her parents thought that it would take over a year to get, because she thought the same thing. When they realized how fast the process was going, that’s when it got real. They were all shocked, Alisanne included, when she got approved in 4 months! Her parents started to get sad and worried because they didn’t think it would be so soon. She completed her last semester at SFSU, and moved to Sweden December 2017, a year to the date of her first visit to Sweden.

Her parents were sad, but in the end supported her decision. They reassured her that she could always come back home if things didn’t work out. She left with one suitcase with all her belongings. This thrilled her little sister, since she could take up Alisanne’s closet space. Alisanne was nervous to move to Sweden, but was ready for the change. At that point, some of her extended family members moved away from the Bay Area. She was done with her degree and was dying to move out of the house.

She did have some fears though. All her and Karl ever knew was long distance over the phone. As you can imagine, getting to know your partner and learning each other over the phone is not easy. There were plenty of fights long distance, and Alisanne feared that they would continue those trends in person. Fortunately, that was not the case, and the couple rarely fights now a days. Karl was worried about Alisanne transitioning to the Swedish lifestyle. He feared that she would be homesick and not like her new home.

Alisanne was homesick for a period of time, but with time she adapted to her new surroundings. The cultural differences and way of life amazes her. Sweden is so different from the Bay Area. She was so used to San Francisco’s diversity – the melting pot of different cultures. Now a days, she finds that she is sometimes the only Asian in the coffee shops and stores. However, thankfully nobody has given her a hard time because of her ethnicity. In fact, almost 2 years of living in Sweden, Alisanne has discovered the Filipino community out there! She describes the Swedish culture to be laid back, chill, and very accepting. So different from what she grew up with- in a very traditional Filipino household.

July 2018 Alisanne and Karl learned that they were expecting! Alisanne was very hesitant to tell her parents that she was pregnant. They reacted kind of sadly, and almost a little disappointed. But her dad let her know that they just want what’s best for her, and being a parent is a big deal. This bummed Alisanne out for a short time, but her parents came around and supported her throughout her pregnancy – checking up on her and asking how she is.

Over a year later, and baby Svea has caught the hearts of everyone around her! Her family from San Francisco and Sweden adore her. This past summer, Svea officially became a U.S. citizen. She is officially Swedish American. She has yet to visit San Francisco, but Alisanne and Karl plan to visit once Alisanne renews her visa.

“Svea has brought out loving parts of us that Karl and I have never seen in each other before,” Alisanne shares. It makes me really happy!”

For right now, Alisanne and Karl are holding off on more kids. She would love to give Svea siblings closer in age, but the cost of another child for the couple right now isn’t ideal. Karl is a teacher’s aid for grades K-6, and helps kids who need extra attention. He also helps out at the after school program. It’s convenient because the school is one block away from their apartment! He comes home during his lunch breaks to spend time with Alisanne and the baby, since she’s currently a stay at home mom.

Alisanne has been a stay at home mom since Svea was born. For the past 1.5 years she’s been unemployed in Sweden, but Sweden’s maternity leave is pretty sweet. The parents get maternity leave of more than 400 days split between the two. She plans to start looking for jobs around March.

Alisanne wants to put her degree in business administration to use in Sweden. However, she fears that most jobs in her field will be in Stockholm, which is 4 hours away from where they live. But she knows she needs to get her foot in the door eventually, and is looking at a neighboring city, Norrköping, which is a 20 minute train ride away.

Since Svea has been born, Alisanne’s family is persistent and hoping that they will come back to live in the Bay Area. For the time being, Alisanne is focusing on renewing her visa, since her 2 years is almost up. Once that gets sorted, Alisanne wants to book a trip to San Francisco as soon as possible! As for living back in the Bay, Alisanne and Karl are uncertain about the cost of living back in California. They definitely want to stay in Sweden for about 5 more years, but don’t have any solid living plans after that, they may stay, or they may consider moving back. For now, they are content with their little family in Katrineholm, Sweden.

“Alisanne and I met the first time when my friend and I were on vacation in SF,” Karl explained. “We matched on Tinder and I asked if she would like to show me around the city. I had my first date when we went out to dinner together, I was confident but not expecting much. The whole evening passed and closer to midnight we said goodbye, looking forward to seeing eachother again. I tried to not get my hopes up too much, I’d rather have a happy surprise than get disappointed. One could always dare to dream. We’re all looking for ‘the one’ to share our lives with. Here I am with a family of my own. They are fantastic and I could not wish for anything else in the world. Who would have thought that a match online could lead up to something like that!?”

Fly High

Can you really have it all?

That’s the question I’ve been struggling to answer. This seems to be the topic of discussion with every close friend I have. This is a topic that gives me crippling anxiety and stress, and what’s even worse is the fact that this is all hypothetical.

Growing up in the Bay Area has really been a privilege. The Bay Area is so diverse and progressive, I’m glad that I was brought up in a really accepting area. What was even better was the fact that I pretty much grew up with all my family close by.

My mom has 4 sisters and 2 brothers. The eldest brother passed away long before I was born. That being said, all her siblings stayed relatively close in the San Francisco area, and the ones that didn’t were still less than a 60 minute drive away (without traffic). Nobody strayed too far from the house that started it all for the Cruz side. Everyone knew that house. My friends knew that house. When I went to Epiphany, “Mama’s House,” as it was known to us, was located right across the street. When my cousins and I attended the school, that is where we chilled for a couple hours until our parents picked us up. And every Sunday after the 1 o’clock mass, we would meet up at Mama’s for lunch. Growing up, a majority of us were there for 6 days out of the week.

Every Sunday was a potluck. People bought food, some would make it, either way, there was always food for everyone to eat. It was basically a small party every Sunday. This was our tradition. Every birthday, life event, and celebration took place at Mama’s.

My dad has 4 sisters and 3 brothers. Their youngest sister died during child birth along with my grandma. 2 of my uncles and their families live in Vegas and visit yearly, but the rest of my dad’s siblings have stayed in the Bay Area the whole time since coming from the Philippines. San Francisco is where it all got started for the Cabillos, and they did not venture far from the city that they called “home.”

When my grandma passed away during childbirth, my dad’s eldest sister took charge as the mother figure. My great-grandfather (my grandma’s dad), after serving America in World War II, got all his children and their families to San Francisco. My aunts and uncles started their new life in the Bay Area. Growing up, their family and each other are all they had. Though they went through tragedy losing their mother, they stuck together and looked out for one another to make sure they all were good. The absence of my grandma really made my dad’s side take “family is everything,” to a whole other level. This is the example I was brought up on.

My dad’s extended family is huge. Back in the day, the Tagle family was named the largest Filipino family in the Bay Area. My grandma that passed was the eldest of 10 children, and they each had a number of children themselves. Our family is big. How big? To the point where majority of us only see each other when someone passes away, and even then we really don’t know who came from which OG.

Given my family history, it’s safe to say that I come from a long line of San Francisco Bay Area Faithfuls. For the most part, we have never strayed too far from the nest, and we look to family for support and companionship. All roots come back to here.

This was also true when I was “looking” for colleges to attend. I put “looking” in quotations because…. was I even? Haha. I knew off the bat that I was going to go to community college to save money and figure out what to do with my life. Everyone was worried about acceptance letters, while I knew from the get that community college was the route I was going to take. I saw no shame in that at all. I saved my parents a shit ton of money, and I got to explore my interests with less stress of “figuring it out” on a time clock. SF State was the only college I applied to when transfering. I knew that going away for college wasn’t realistic. I wasn’t going to make my parents go into debt for an education I could get locally.

But let’s be real, I didn’t apply anywhere else because I was too scared to be anywhere else. The seed was planted in my head that I was going to attend college locally anyways. My parents didn’t believe in going away for college. To them, that’s what Americans do, go away for college and live on their own. But for us, Filipinos definately do not leave the nest until married – and even then you’re probably still living at home to raise your family around family. And that’s normal in our culture. I also didn’t really feel a need to move away for college because there was so much going on with my family. Someone was always having a baby, there was always something to celebrate, and I honestly didn’t want to miss out on anything. Especially with my Tatay. Right now he’s 96, to us that’s truly a living legend. He’s only getting older, and for that reason, the Bay is where I’ll stay… for now.

I’ve always considered myself Bay Area Faithful, the Bay till I die, this is home for life. But as I got older and realized how hard it is to grind, save up money, and learned the value of a dollar, it dawned on me: Can I even afford to live here? And this is the sad truth for a lot of us that grew up here. As I got older, the prices to live in the Bay just got higher, and higher, and unfortunately, higher. I realized that I’ll probably never be able to afford a house in the area I grew up in and planned to stay in.

Depending on my mood, this either makes me angry or sad. Angry over the fact that people that weren’t born and raised here are running us out of our own city, and sad that I most likely will need to make a new place “home.” I’m also sad over the fact that over the years, I’ve seen San Francisco evolve. And as much as I hate to admit it, it’s not the same. It has transformed into something unrecognizable almost. This isn’t the San Francisco I grew up in.

And that’s what feeds into my post-grad blues. Knowing that eventually, I most likely will need to relocate. Looking for jobs will be tough, do I look for jobs in the Bay Area or should I go somewhere I can afford? And how can I when this is the only place I know as home? With all my family, all my friends, everything that is me, is here. I always wanted to raise my children in the same area I grew up in, so we could share similar experiences and start another generation of Forever Faithfuls. But with the line of work I willingly chose, I feel like I’ll be all over the place. A journalist is constantly traveling, going from job to job to make a name for themselves, exposing themselves to new adventures and areas. The irony.

I’ve always pictured myself living close to home, close to my family. How I was raised, I was never under the care of someone that wasn’t related to me. I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or what, but definitely in my family, they did not believe in random baby sitters. And that’s the beautiful thing of growing up with your family, your community is strong and your children build strong bonds with their cousins and other relatives.

We were always under the care of my grandparents. And at one point, my Tatay Jack was living with us. And that’s what I wanted to continue with my kids. I wanted to be so close that if anything came up I can pull up to my parents’ house and be like, “Can you watch them real quick I need to XYZ…” Or maybe even live at home and take over the bills and have my parents stay with me and my own little family. But how, if I move away? And that’s what terrifies me, not having my parents and family there to help support me. I was raised to trust nobody, and I feel that will project ten times more when I have kids, I won’t let just anyone watch them. But I don’t want to stay near just so they watch my kids, but more so be there for little and big moments in my kids’ lives. We drive each other crazy, but we were raised to be a close family.

FOMO is what keeps me here. Fear Of Missing Out. All the cousins I grew up with are still in the area. I see them often and we hangout when we have time. More so now that my cousins have kids, they want to do more family bonding outings, and I’m here for all of it, and I love it. When I picture myself moving, I picture myself missing all the little things. All the small get togethers at Tatay’s, every birthday party, football game, and random hangouts, I’ll be missing out on. And it really makes me sad as fuck. Especially since nobody in my family has really “left.”

If they moved from the Bay Area, it was a family decision, and their whole little family moved. I feel like it’s almost frowned upon to leave just to relocated solo. Well, that’s how my parents go about it atleast. For as long as I can remember, they have used the tactic of fear to have us reconsider moving away.

“Oh, you think you can live over there?”

“You think you can come back to the Bay Area once you leave? You won’t be able to afford it.”

“Over there is racist okay? The Bay Area is the best.”

I know they come from a good place, and deep deep down they’re afraid too. Afraid that we’ll go through with it, and all of a sudden we’re not all together anymore. And I know that their wish is for all their kids and their families to be close, just like how we were raised. So, they use fear of the unknown to have us reconsider. I know that they’re just trying to psych us out so we don’t follow through because they love us and want us close, but sometimes I wish they could just be real and accepting about it. Instead of trying to shut it down with the quickness, I wish they would just say that it would be okay if we were to move. Because their opinion and support matter to me.

“You know, when you say we can’t do something, I know you’re just saying it because you’re scared of us leaving,” I told my mom one day on the couch.

She smirked. She knows why they say what they say! 😂

But then there will be moments when she hits me with the, “It’s your life now. You get to choose,” type of rants. And not in a smartass way, but in a genuine, “I know I can’t tell you what to do anymore” way. This is not one of those “bahala ka sa buhay mo” moments. And then that shit makes me sad too! To know that my sisters and I are at the age where we are about to establish our lives. With time, one of us will move out, and all 5 of us living together will be a thing of the past. And it makes me mad depressed. I’m a bright young lady. I know that nothing stays the same and change is inevitable, and sometimes necessary. But why does it make me so sad? I think it’s the fact that I know that I can never get these moments back. Life keeps moving, it waits for no one. And either I go through with my life, and start building my own life, or I’m 45 and at home.

This is a topic that gets me and Christian beefin’. The topic of settling down and moving away. To him, he wants to move away together as soon as possible to get our lives started. He always says if I want a family and a career I need to act now because the longer it takes for us to get established, the longer it takes for us to be independent and build the life we want. And he’s right. But in all honesty, we come from 2 different worlds. I see his points, I know what he’s saying makes sense and is a no brainer. But our upbringings are so different. It’s hard for him to understand the importance of family in Filipino culture and how we don’t stray far from the group. Which he would be okay with, if the Bay Area wasn’t so ridiculously expensive.

From an outsider’s perspective, he doesn’t see what I see in the Bay Area. He just sees the cost of living here and doesn’t think it’s worth it. And honestly, if I was an outsider I’d think the same thing! I’m an insider and I think the cost of living here is a joke. But I grew up here, a part of me refuses to give up the fight and move away. But is it even worth it anymore? To bust my ass and not have much to show for it but a tiny apartment that would buy me a multiple story house somewhere else?

I’m so afraid to leave the Bay Area, how much more California? But this is all I’ve known my whole life, how will I know this is the destination I want to end up in permanently if I never go anywhere else? It’s one of those things where you know what you got to do, but you cant muster up the courage or balls to do it. Sometimes I feel like it’s a decision between living comfortably and alone away from family, or struggling to stay in the same area, and never saving enough money to live the life I want to live.

A little while after my graduation, my mom told me, “Fly high, follow your dreams.” And that made me wonder, how high is high? If I follow my dreams and it leads me far from the family, is the dream still worth it? Should I still follow it? How high am I flying if I limit myself to only San Francisco? How do I know what path to follow?

The running joke of journalists is that we sometimes put ourselves in harm’s way, yet the public hates us/ we don’t get paid well. When I told my dad that the job I’m at now probably pays more than a starting writing job, he asked why I picked this field. 🤣 He then told me to take the test to work a government job like my mom. He explained that it may not be my dream, but atleast if I put in the years, I’ll be set for retirement after with a lot of benefits. I was almost offended that he would suggest that. But I understand that he wants me to play it safe for my future, because it’s a guaranteed set living. My field terrifies him, just like it terrifies me. Either I make it, or I don’t make it and get paid “peanuts.” But I’m willing to take that risk. I’d rather try and fail, then settle and forever wonder. I need to feel this way about moving too haha.

One time at dinner I asked my cousins if I should try to stay in the Bay Area or try to move away. Almost right after I asked the question at the same time they said “Go!”

“I wish I did, and now I’m old.” My cousin had said.

While my other cousin had a completely different view. I was venting to her about my pros and cons and she hit me with the, “Well, which one is more important to you?” Aka, my dreams or family. Damn. That hit hard. And I realized, nobody can have it all. To follow my dreams will cost me. And to stay for my family could likely cost me my dreams. And it’s a tough decision to make.

I did an Instagram poll asking people if living close to family is important, if they want to raise their family where they grew up, if they would move to achieve a dream, etc etc. Majority of people said living close to family is really important, but also said they they would move away to follow their dreams. A little over half of voters said that nobody can have it all. That “having it all” doesn’t exist.

I do agree that having it all is a mindset. But at the end of the day nobody can have it all. You have to rank what you want and what’s more important. But also, everything is circumstantial, and things come in steps. You never get everything you want all at once. You have to work for it. A friend of mind explained it well saying that we will never have it all because we will always want more, with new goals and achievements being set for ourselves.

So this is my little rant of what’s currently stressing me out. I have no solution for it. And honestly sometimes it makes me feel like I’m adopting American ways where self is more important than the group. And I don’t know how to feel!

Just recently I went to New York, and I was in complete awe with the city. It was a place where I could picture myself living. I just know wherever my career takes me, I need to take the chance. And if I end up back in the Bay after being successful, then so be it!

How high is flying high? I guess I have to find out.