Estephanie: Motherhood Without My Life Partner

“This is story 10 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Motherhood Series. 10 mothers give us a glimpse into a small portion of their motherhood journey. I am so grateful that these 10 women gave me the opportunity to share their stories on my platform. Though they focus on different topics, each mother has gone through challenges that tested their strength, patience, and sense of self. Thank you again for sharing.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

This is Estephanie’s story, written in her own words:

“My name is Estephanie, but friends call me Juelz. I’m the proud mother of Elían, fiancé to Tone, Founder of Divine Eye, LLC, Licensed Esthetician, and Body Sculptress at Adriana’s Beauty Salon. 

When I first found out I was pregnant my exact words were ‘holy shit,’ as I smiled. This is not something our family knows, but our son was planned per say. We knew our future wouldn’t be easy and that it would be scary, but we loved each other and knew that we would figure it out. My son turns 4 in January, and man he has been our biggest blessing. Being a mother to me means endless amounts of  strength, courage, and resilience. It’s a feeling that no other can ever fulfill. 

You can have the crappiest day, but even when your child is figuring out their emotions, they manage to still make you smile. You sit and observe them, you then realize, ‘My God, you were in my stomach. I created those beautiful hands, that smile.’ And then I think, ‘Damn you sound just like me.’ Like Faith Evans said, ‘I never knew a love like this before,’ because my family is different in many ways like many others. We’re all unique. I’m a single mother to Elían while my life partner, Tone, is incarcerated.

Honestly, my mom was aware of our situation from the beginning. However, Tone isn’t just someone I met 5-6 years ago. I’ve known him my entire life. We’ve been a part of each other’s lives since we were 12. We have history, we dated in high school. Puppy love, right? But I always knew he’d be an amazing partner. My fiancé was fighting a case previous to our relationship’s beginning. My mom knew about his past, and they have an amazing relationship. My family didn’t know about his case, and I was very private about people I dated. So when I finally brought someone to the family they were excited. His situation wasn’t my story to tell. It was Tone’s private matters. We didn’t want the negativity to surround us. People are ruthless sometimes with questions and overstepping boundaries.

 But of course, secrets always find a way to come out. My family became aware of his case while I was 7 months pregnant. By then, they had gotten to know him for who he was and witnessed how amazing, hardworking, and loving he truly is. They witnessed how attentive he was while I was pregnant and after I gave birth. He made sure to stay home and give his son time. By then, it was too late for the judgement. My family loves Tone. I feel like we just didn’t give room for judgement. We focused on ourselves.

We had a lot of court dates, even before I was pregnant. We never knew which court date they would remand him. My anxiety was pretty high. His case is a federal case, and the judge truly had the say if he’s remanded before his sentencing or not. During my pregnancy, all we did was plan and discuss how we would raise our son. We discussed scenarios because we truly never knew which court would be the last one until it was.

May 15, 2018 my fiancé, my son, and I were joined by other family members as we walked into the federal courthouse located in Oakland, CA. The day had come for sentencing and we believed a miracle would happen due to his many accomplishments and life changing choices.

 My life changed in a blink of an eye when the judge sentenced my fiancé to ten years and eleven months. My son was two days away from turning four months old. It was devastating to hear. I dropped to my knees. I couldn’t believe it. It was his first time being sentenced – never missed a drug test, attended all court ordered classes, and worked a full-time graveyard shift (he does drywall). Minimum for each count was 5 years. Tone was just as surprised. 

Life was great up until that point. I was doing amazing in my career. My son was healthy after a difficult delivery. We had just mailed out invitations for our wedding. I was very hesitant to plan our wedding, but I said ‘Why live in fear?’ Tone was waiting for me to give him the okay to plan the wedding. I was afraid this would happen and it became my reality. I don’t regret it one bit. Life had different plans for us. We knew the possibility was high, but like everyone, you pray and hope for the best. 

The people closest to me understand my position of wanting to wait for Tone. There was concern, but in regards to my mental state. They reminded me of all my options. Reminding me that I too matter and that any decision I took, they would stand by it. Meaning if I waited they would support it, and if I decided to walk away they would support me too.

I haven’t wanted to throw in the towel because of the love and respect I have for Tone. I know I don’t owe him anything. I know this case has absolutely nothing to do with me and I know it’s me putting a lot of hope into the relationship. I cannot get up and leave, I say that because I’d be leaving for the wrong reasons. I’d be leaving because I’m ‘lonely,’ not because I don’t love him or because he doesn’t treat me right. Of course I want my family to be complete, of course I want to have date night to get dolled up while holding hands with my partner, but if I walk away, that’s walking away from my family.

The journey hasn’t been easy. Single moms and mothers like me, who aren’t single but due to circumstances have to do it alone, we forget to praise ourselves for all that we do. There are lonely nights where we stay up to cry, wake up with puffy eyes, and handle business. When there’s so much to be done you don’t know where to start but you do. The amazing memories we create with our children, good and bad that you can look back and laugh. 

Motherhood was never supposed to be easy. It is the next step of growth. Motherhood teaches you to unlock those traumas you’ve been avoiding because you don’t want to project it onto your child. Motherhood gets you in a loophole of emotions, but doing motherhood alone without your life partner is hard. I can’t imagine what it’s like to have a partner pass away. I’m blessed to be able to receive a phone call, an email, or these days – even a visit. 

The first years I struggled with my depression and anxiety but I managed it. I lost myself in that process. I lost my glow. I lost my happiness because I was stripped away from what I thought was my perfect life. In reality, what is perfection? I don’t think anyone knows what that is. I just knew I needed to fight, and that the fight wasn’t going to be easy. Everyone’s first thoughts are, ‘Oh she’s going to leave him, watch,’ or ‘Oh, she’s going to cheat on him if she waits, watch,’ or even worse, ‘Watch her wait and the relationship fails.’ Like sheesh, can we be a bit more optimistic here please?

It truly takes a village, my support system has helped me so much with my child. When I needed to go back to work, all hands were on deck. My mom, mother-in-law, and sister-in-laws helped me take care of my son. Mondays and Wednesdays my mom would watch him, the other days my sister-in-law would watch him, and when she couldn’t anymore my mother-in-law took over. My cousins would come over to help me so I could catch up with laundry or cleaning while they helped me with my son. They watched me break down crying an endless amount of times. My cousins and close friends gave me a safe space to vent and plot my next moves. My mom motivated me even on the days I just wanted to be alone, she made sure to get me out of my comfort zone.

I found love in food. It was my coping mechanism even when I was a teen. However, I knew I needed to do something different but didn’t know what. I created myself a routine. Every week looked the same. But I grew tired of it. I would begin books and I couldn’t finish them. My attention span was so small and I couldn’t understand why if I truly loved reading books. Then it was time to dive deeper. I knew I needed to go back to therapy. I tried it but I was afraid to open the doors of Pandora’s Box. So I stopped, but I started to journal. Not every day, but I tried as much as I could. I prayed a lot and I cried a lot. 

 As a mother, naturally you  are a nurturer. I love nurturing my family, that means my fiancé as well. Not only do I have to learn to cope with my roller coaster of emotions, but I too have to attend to my man’s needs and his vulnerabilities so he doesn’t lose his mind for not being here with his family and witnessing our son grow everyday. That’s his biggest fear because he grew up without a father too. 

It’s far from easy for Tone. This was his biggest fear: not being able to watch his child grow up every day. He wishes he could be here, but he has his moments of depression and anger. He writes Elían letters and draws beautiful artwork so he could see them. It’s been harder for Tone when we did have visits – to sit in front of your child and not be able to hug them or even hold their hand due to COVID. If you break the rule, Tone can be sent to solitary confinement. Tone has been in solitary confinement many times during this pandemic, caught COVID twice, and was freezing because it was so cold in those cells.

What hurts the most is not knowing how he will come home from the traumas he’s endured during his life in prison. How he will handle the changes I’ve made during the time he was gone. I worry if we will be able to adapt to the new life after the honeymoon stage fades of having him home. How my son will handle his father being home, if he will react negatively when his dad wants to correct him or if it’s going to be awkward for him. 

I can relate with my son because I also had to visit my father in prison until I was 25 years old. I know the feeling when I see my son watch his father enter the visiting room, how his eyes glow, and he cheeses under his facemask. The pandemic has been far from easy – it has been our biggest challenge. As of right now, we have no visits due to COVID-19. The facility is unaware when the visits will begin again due to cases rising. In the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic I organized a protest (#YOSOYTUVOZ Lompoc, CA) with the help of my family and other families to bring awareness to the inhumane acts that were taking place in the prison. 

Not seeing each other for almost one year, and now being able to see each other and not hug each other is difficult. Helping my son understand that his daddy does love him but can’t hug him is devastating. Especially when he compares himself to other children and their fathers. I know that feeling because I also would do it as a little girl – but now as a mother it’s by far the worst feeling.

Growing up without a father was difficult. I didn’t understand why my father committed the same mistake knowing the high risk of being away from us. My father has always battled with addiction and being in and out of prison. The time my dad was home we have great memories of him, but I also have nightmares of him. I would take care of my dad when he was coked out. I would intervene in the physical beatings my mother received while he was under the influence. I worried if he would come home or not, and if he came home, I feared what state he would be in.

 I’m a daddy’s girl 100% however, it does get overwhelming. It made me a giver and a nurturer yet gave me a cold heart. Although my father is no longer incarcerated, he struggles with his addiction. I can’t believe that although I’ll be 28 next month, I no longer have a healthy relationship with my father. When I’m dealing with heavy stuff I switch to survival mode. It’s been a journey to calm down the survival mode because I have a son now and can’t just get up and leave.

I feel that maybe my family is sympathetic towards my current situation because my mom went through the same thing with my dad. But my father was nothing like Tone. My family didn’t meet my father until after I turned 2 years old because he went to prison while my mom was pregnant with me. My dad wasn’t the best partner for my mother, a lot of healing needed to take place. And with Tone, it was peaceful, no drama, loving, respectful, and family oriented. It was a different experience my family witnessed with Tone. He had similarities like my dad given the choice of lifestyle they chose for various reasons, but he has my Papa’s (grandfather) hard working attitude and detail oriented when it comes to family.

The only thing my son and I can relate to is that Tone is incarcerated for mistakes that were previous to our relationship. The way I’m helping my son with not having his dad around is by teaching him coping mechanisms to help with his emotions while being frustrated. We do a lot of breathing techniques, drawing/painting when he’s sad or having an off day. When he’s mad I tell him to go to his room to take a breather, use the punching bag, or to use his drums. I like teaching him things Tone would teach him, and showing him movies Tone loves. I bring him to work with me, I’ve taught him how to fold towels, and help me with laundry. I do things with him that his dad and I emphasized we wanted to do. I speak highly of his dad and I remind him no matter where his daddy is, that he’s always thinking of him and loves him dearly.

Elían wants to know everything about his dad, from what he eats to what kind of cologne he wears. Sometimes at night is when it becomes harder for me. The hardest question by far has been, ‘Why daddy don’t love me or hug me? I miss him.’ Those were the words I heard the first time we visited him after COVID-19. It was a new facility we were going to and the first time seeing him since the last time we visited pre-pandemic. It was very rough for my son. Again, hearing that from a 3 year old was devastating. It was so hard to put the words together as I cried with him because as a child, I remembered that feeling.

My son is very attached to Tone given the circumstances. Their bond was strong even when I was pregnant. When he would hear his dad’s voice, he’d have a whole party in my belly. One thing about my son is he’s very curious and asks a lot of questions. This year we officially told him his dad was at a camp. He knows that his dad is at a camp correcting his actions by having an adult timeout. And sometimes, as adults we make mistakes and everything has a consequence whether it is good or bad, but when it is bad the timeouts are a little different. They have to go away for a little bit to learn new habits.

 However, we emphasize that if it were up to his dad, he’d be at home with us every single day. I emphasize to him how much his daddy loves him. I have pictures of his dad everywhere. My son’s godparents have bought him a Build-a-Bear with his voice recording telling him how much he loves him so he can hear it everyday. Books about his daddy (wonderbly.com), also blankets with pictures of him when he was a baby with his dad. 

Obstacles in life will always happen, no matter how great your plan is, no matter how good of a person you are, life will challenge you. I am learning to believe in myself because of motherhood. Everything life has taught me has led up to this moment. So when I find myself asking, ‘Why me?’ I now say, ‘Okay, so what’s the lesson here and where can I grow?’ Being a mother doesn’t mean having all the answers, it means figuring it out with the answers you do have and working from there. 

It sounds so simple, but trust and communication is how Tone and I maintain our relationship. We are very raw with our conversations. We have conversations that couples find difficult to have – our fears, our regrets, our happiness, our past, our traumas, things we like about each other, and things we find difficult about each other. I am very open with my emotions and I’m like a firework. And Tone is more reserved and quiet about his emotions. But I can sense it just by the first moment I hear his voice. I cry a lot to him if I’m being honest. I get a sudden rush of guilt for complaining to him and he reminds me that I’m his partner and he needs to talk about these things with me. We pray a lot. We read the same books so we can discuss them to create conversation. I bought a deck of cards for couples to ask questions to get to know each other even more. We try to know everything about each other because all we can do is use our words to explain what and how we feel on a daily basis since we don’t have each other physically here.

I am hopeful Tone will be able to come home sooner than we ever expected. I am hopeful that this nightmare will just be a chapter in our story where we can look back on 20 years from now and say, ‘Damn, baby, we did that.’ Where we can tell our future grandchildren and great grandchildren our love story. Like not only did we overcome this sentence, but a whole pandemic too.  

The best advice I can give someone that is dealing with this same scenario is to learn from each other. LEARN EACH OTHER’S TRIGGERS AND LOVE LANGUAGE. Learn to compromise, learn to understand one another. This journey is far from easy, there will be nights that you feel your heart is truly hurting and the tears won’t stop running down your face but it’s during those moments you grow. It’s during those moments you learn that although you feel like the world is against you, it’s not. Never say, ‘Why me?’ Say, ‘What do I need to learn during this time?’ Take this time to truly get out of your comfort zone. Learn to trust yourself because the doubt will eat you alive. Don’t listen to the bystanders, pay attention to the support and love you receive. No one will understand your relationship better than you and your partner.” -Estephanie

Brittany: Careful Excitement

“This is story 4 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Motherhood Series. 10 mothers give us a glimpse into a small portion of their motherhood journey. I am so grateful that these 10 women gave me the opportunity to share their stories on my platform. Though they focus on different topics, each mother has gone through challenges that tested their strength, patience, and sense of self. Thank you again for sharing.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

This is Brittany’s story, written in her own words:

“I remember the first time telling anyone we were pregnant. It was our monthiversary and we went out for dinner. The server asked if we had any dietary restrictions and we said, “Well, we’re expecting, so probably no raw fish?” We looked at each other with such excitement, “that’s the first person we told that we’re pregnant!” August 10, 2017. Over the next couple weeks we started telling family, friends, roommates, etc.

 August 25th, we go to the OBGYN excited to see our baby’s heartbeat for the first time. What does anyone expect at their first OB appointment? Ultrasound, some tears of joy, excitement, pictures to take home and admire, and info about what to expect in your next stages of pregnancy. Right? Wrong.

 It was so quiet. She pointed out the amniotic sac and said, “let me just take some measurements.” “Okay,” I thought, “after she takes measurements she’ll point the baby out and show us the heartbeat, right?” Wrong again. 

The most daunting sentence came out of her mouth that we can never forget. “I’m so sorry, but I don’t see a heartbeat.” Okay so what does that mean? “Naturally your body will expel the baby, if nothing happens in about 2 weeks then you’ll need to come back…”

 I was so confused, it hadn’t hit me. Things were so unclear that I had to ask to clarify. The baby’s not alive? The baby’s gonna come out on its own? Huh? The term “miscarriage” suddenly wasn’t a term to me anymore, it was a reality that I had to face and endure. The physical pain you go through WHILE you’re experiencing emotional pain, it’s hard to say which hurts more.

And you know what sucks just as much as losing a baby, if not more?

It’s having to tell people over and over that you had just lost a baby.

Fast forward to the next year…

 We found out we were pregnant again! But this time, we were careful. And I don’t mean careful with my diet or physically, I mean, careful about telling people. What a lot of women don’t talk about is how losing a baby from a previous pregnancy affects how you react to your next pregnancy, your ability to experience anything but joy and excitement. You worry CONSTANTLY. 

“Let’s not tell anyone, just in case.” You dread going to that first appointment because, “what if…” Your pregnancy becomes a secret you feel you need to keep, rather than exciting news to tell all your loved ones. You feel alone, trapped in those first (12 weeks) or however long until you finally feel like you are safe to announce. You feel that you need to do MORE than everything right. Be on top of prenatal, watch my diet, watch my physical activity, anything that’s “not recommended for women who are pregnant,” don’t you dare do it.

 Then, the day has come. Your first OB appointment – ultrasound day. Our ultrasound day. My heart’s beating so damn fast while I’m laying down in that chair. I stare at the screen so hard, waiting to see that little flicker. I hold my breath and think, maybe if I stop moving, I’ll see it.

Except, I don’t.

“I’m so sorry, there is no heartbeat.”

I’m shaking my head, as that’s the only response I had at the moment. So many things running through my mind.

Again?

 How? 

Why? 

Are we being punished? 

How could this happen again, back to back? 

Did I do something wrong? 

Is there something wrong with me? 

Can I not bear children?

 Is God telling us that we’re not ready to have children?

 I have to go through all this pain all over again?

You endure the pain again and then you go back and forth between blaming the universe and blaming yourself. For weeks, if not months, questioning- “when will we be ready to start trying again?”

The first miscarriage the doctor just said it just happens randomly. The second time they said it could just be two cases of really bad luck. But they took samples of it the second time (I think) and did tests if I remember correctly. And they didn’t find anything wrong so they were like, “yeah it’s just really bad luck you’re having. But if it happens for the third time in a row we might want to look into fertility services.”

 And when she said that I was so shook. Like OMG, I’m so young, is there something wrong with me? My body? Can I not have children?

June 11, 2018 was the day we went to our OB appointment and saw Leo’s heartbeat for the very first time.

Coming from 2 consecutive “I’m sorry, there is no heartbeat” to “That flicker right there, that’s the heartbeat.”

I mean, we’re over the fucking moon to say the least. But still, those lingering feelings of, “You have to be SO careful, just in case” still loomed under our excitement for the next few months.

January 21, 2019 – Our rainbow baby was born! The labor was tough and the birth was even scarier, and that’s a story I’ve written about in a separate post. But he came, healthy and handsome as ever.

These past couple years have been such a beautiful journey. Navigating my new life as a mother is difficult, exciting, overwhelming, joyful, frustrating, fun, crazy, amazing and everything in between. And you would imagine that everyday, I would think “Wow, we’re so lucky to have this boy, after going through multiple losses.” But that wasn’t the case for me.

Truth is, for me, it’s never been “motherhood after miscarriage”, it’s just been “motherhood”. Maybe it’s different for others. Once Leo was born, he wasn’t “our first baby after having miscarriages”, he was just “our baby”. Our smart, strong, amazing baby. I don’t look back and think what our life would be like if those babies had lived, and I don’t want to. Because I know that Leo would not be here today if things had happened differently.

It’s not that I’ve forgotten about what we had been through, or that it doesn’t hurt anymore, because I do remember and it does still hurt when I think about it. But it just doesn’t affect my everyday life with Leo. It doesn’t affect how grateful I am to have Leo. I’m not anymore grateful to have such a wonderful son.

 I believe that everything happens for a reason, and had those two miscarriages not been miscarriages, Leo would not exist. And I can’t imagine what my life would be like without Leo. I’m grateful for what I have right now, I never really dwell on what I could’ve had because I know there are divine reasons why I didn’t have it.

A couple months ago, we found out that we’re pregnant again! The truth is, I was terrified all over again. And everyone was super excited to hear the news, but a part of me had that lingering thought “What if it happens again?” Everyone found out EARLY on. It somehow leaked and the whole family knew within a week, and I’m not going to lie, I was mad. It’s not that I wanted to keep this a deep dark secret, but it’s intimate news that I would’ve liked to share on our own time… preferably after the first appointment. 

Just like all the other times, I was dreading this wait for that first ultrasound appointment. Thankfully, I went in and everything was fine. In fact, I’m about 18 weeks pregnant now, and things are looking good! Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a little part of me that worries. There’s still a part of me that knows there’s a small chance that something could happen later. And I know for a fact I’m the only one who feels this way. And that’s what I mean when I say that you do feel a sense of “loneliness” when you’re pregnant after a miscarriage. There’s a part of you that is just a bit worried, when no one else is, so you feel like you shouldn’t say anything. 

So, one thing I want to end with is this:

Don’t let others discredit your feelings. It’s YOUR body- your fears or worries or excitement and everything else you’re feeling is valid and just because someone says “stop worrying, you’re fine, it’s not gonna happen, just think positive” doesn’t mean you should hide or bury your fears. You have every right to express your fears, worries, and doubts just as much as your excitement and joy.” -Brittany

Anti-Vax to Fully Vaccinated

I walk through Moscone Center’s doors and I am happily greeted by the staff every step of the way. It’s not crowded and doesn’t look all over the place. In fact, everything is so organized and in order. For some reason I expected chaos, long lines, and spending a good chunk of time there. But from the long row of check-in booths, to the stickers on the floor that tell you what direction to go in, to the sitting area where you wait with 2 big clocks on each side, everything was planned out accordingly and in a very efficient way. Each of my visits for the 1st and 2nd dose, I was in and out in less than 20 minutes.

When I entered Moscone Center, for just a second, I forgot I was on my way to get a dose of the vaccine. I expected the vibe to be serious, but I was surprised to find a light-hearted, welcoming, and joyous atmosphere inside. Workers were dancing happily to the music while escorting you to the next step. I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised with how this vaccine site was operating. Even more so surprised with myself, since I never expected myself to be so eager to take a vaccine.

I’m the type of person that only visits the doctor’s when I absolutely have to. That’s just how I was raised to look at the hospital – you don’t go unless it’s a must, if it’s not that serious, you treat that shit at home and drink water. I would go for the necessary documentation, like if I needed a TB shot for work. I have all the vaccines that I needed to go to school, but if it’s not required, I wouldn’t take it. So when COVID happened last year and talks of a vaccine started circulating, I was dead set on not taking it once it was available.

Like many others, I just didn’t trust putting foreign things in my body. Trust is a big reason why people refuse to take the vaccine. There’s a distrust in the medical field, in doctor’s advice, and how this pandemic is being handled in general. There’s just so much opinions and beliefs that all point to people not trusting the vaccine. And I totally get it. But being in the pandemic for over a year and seeing what effects it had on people, businesses, and people’s every day lives, it really made me reconsider.

I can only speak from my own experiences, and I know at the end of the day everyone is entitled to their own opinions and are in control of their own bodies. But the last year alone has really changed my perspective on the medical field and people in general. This pandemic brought out the good, the bad, and the ugly out of people. For me personally, COVID really showed me who took the guidelines seriously, and who was just out for themselves, acting selfishly for their own pleasure and not for the safety of others and those around them. I found myself so conflicted with trying to keep myself safe, my family safe, but still trying to keep peace of mind. It was so hard not seeing my friends for a long time, and nothing to do but stay home, watch the news, and be fearful of what’s spreading.

From mid-March until June 2020, I woke up everyday and had the same routine. I would anxiously watch the news, seeing cases rising in California, and seeing the effects of what COVID had on my community. I watched Gavin Newsom make his speech everyday, his raspy voice calm and collected, while California watched in uncertainty. I got used to life indoors – not going out to eat to meet up with friends, wearing masks, not seeing people I regularly saw before, and so forth. When we first shutdown in March 2020, I never would’ve thought that over a year later, we would be in a similar spot. I had no idea that life would still be like this in 2021. When news of the vaccine distribution started going around, I was totally against it. I wasn’t in the first tier, so it didn’t really matter if I wanted it or not, it would still be a long way until I could even make that decision.

Initially, I was against the vaccine, but didn’t really have solid reasons why. For some reason, I believed that more people would be against the vaccine than being for it. To my surprise, it seemed the opposite. I had some time to think about whether or not I wanted the vaccine since I’m a childcare worker. I definitely wanted to wait a while first to see how people reacted to the vaccine before I decided if I wanted it or not. To my surprise, my older relatives got the vaccine. Most importantly, my 97 year old Tatay got it. That really made me change my mind. I wanted things to go back to normal so bad, and finally, the vaccine was that hope for me.

At first, I wanted nothing to do with the vaccine. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I would be a hypocrite if I didn’t get vaccinated. Since the beginning, I took the pandemic seriously. I follow the rules, I wear a mask, I keep my distance, I trust the doctors’ opinions, but also know that this pandemic is something new to everyone – they’re not always going to be right, so I keep cautious anyways. I despised people that refused to wear masks, not follow the rules, and make a commotion because they feel that staying inside is taking away their rights. I was tired of everyone being only about themselves and being selfish – helping to spread the virus around because of their own selfishness and carelessness. Though in the beginning I was anti-COVID vaccination, I came to the conclusion that if I wanted life to go back to normal, if I want to keep myself and those around me safe, and if I wanted to help end this madness, this is what I needed to do. Not believing in the validity of the vaccine would be contradictory to what I’ve been practicing this whole pandemic – which is being safe, believing in the severity of this virus, and playing my part in reducing the spread.

I didn’t know how bad I wanted the vaccine until I couldn’t get an immediate appointment. When it was finally my tier’s turn to get the vaccine, I was in no rush. I saw that there were a lot of appointments through Moscone Center, but didn’t sign up right away. At that point I knew I wanted the vaccine, but didn’t make it a priority because I was still a little nervous about it. That all changed when I realized Tatay already had his appointments to get vaccinated. I read that people who are fully vaccinated and are not part of the same household could be indoors maskless. Suddenly, I wanted to be fully vaccinated right then and there. I desperately refreshed my phone with no luck, everything was booked. This pandemic has taken a toll on Tatay’s memory. In the 2-5 minute visits that we make to his house every Sunday, he questions why we have masks on. At 97 years old, he is not aware of the pandemic, and it breaks my heart to slowly see him not remember who we are, where he is, or what time frame he’s living in anymore. I’m anticipating the day I can remove my mask at Tatay’s house, hoping that my face triggers his memory, to be able to give him a hug hello and goodbye without feeling anxious about it. And that day draws near as I just got my second dose.

Never in a hundred years did I think that I would be desperate to be vaccinated. I was hesitant because this is all so new. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that if people back in the day had the same mentality for Chickenpox, Tuberculosis, and all these other diseases that are basically no threat now and not common, we would still be battling those same diseases at an alarming rate right now. Nobody thinks twice on why children need certain vaccines to get into school because they have been a requirement for some time. I believe that’s where the COVID vaccine is headed – it’ll be a required vaccine to get to attend schools, etc. And it only seems like a big deal right now because we are the first wave of people getting it. But with time, herd immunity will kick in, and we will slowly go back to where we were before the pandemic.

The past year has had so much change. People have been isolating themselves, nervous to go out, and worried for their health. For me, getting the vaccine is a glimpse of hope. Not only am I protecting myself, but protecting my family, people I come in contact with, and even the people that don’t want to get the vaccine. I know to each their own – I was anti-COVID vax, but changed my mind. And I know there will be a lot of people who won’t change their mind. But speaking for only me – I chose to believe in science, even if I’m a little uneasy. This year alone has proved that staying home and living the lockdown life works, but isn’t going to rid the world of COVID. I’m optimistic about the future, as I see cases dropping and things scheduling to move up into the next tier.

The sticker board where you can place the sticker they give you with your time stamp on when you can leave 15 minutes after your shot, was near the exit of Moscone Center. I don’t believe it was there when I got my first dose, but noticed it on my way out after my 2nd dose. Seeing this wall reassures me that things are looking up.

Toy Sounds In The Night

As we get closer to Halloween, it’s only appropriate I share a spooky encounter that happened a few weeks ago…

I’ve always believed in the paranormal. Since a young age I’ve been interested in the after life and what happens to us when we die. I feel like it’s either you believe in ghosts or you don’t, and it’s hard to find people that are inbetween. It’s safe to say that I 100% believe in the paranormal. I enjoy watching TV shows of people telling their real life experiences. I get so engulfed in it, but at the same time I spook myself out. It’s one of those things where I think it’s so fascinating, but I just hope nothing creepy ever happens to me – unless it’s a departed loved one of course.

I believe that people can communicate or give signs even after they pass away. To me, things like dreams, little coincidences, butterflies, a song playing during a significant date, etc, could all be messages from the other side. I know there are people that agree with me, but at the same time I know there’s a huge chunk of people that think I’m out of my fucking mind. And I’m okay with knowing that there is a 50% chance that half of y’all think I’m a lunatic. To me, knowing a loved one is still having your back and is somewhat still with you is cool. But the ironic and funny thing is – I’m easily frightened.

I’ve always wondered what I would do if I lived in a “haunted house,” since I am a believer. Christian, on the other hand, is not. I always tell him about dreams I have, butterflies being my “Mama” and “Tatay Celso” (my grandparents that have passed), the volume on the TV going significantly higher or lower, etc. He’s 100% a skeptic, so he would look at me with a raised eyebrow trying not to be rude. But it would beso obviously written all over his face that he thinks I’m trippin’. We have had multiple talks on multiple occasions where I give him a million different scenarios.

“What if our future house was haunted, would you believe me?!”

“What if I experienced things but you didn’t, would you take my word or you would think I’m being paranoid?”

“You better not treat me like I’m crazy!”

He’s the type that needs proof for everything. To him, and many others, things can be explained away as a coincidence or have a reason for what is happening. Christian likes to make sense of the situation before jumping to paranormal conclusions. I, on the otherhand, will see two butterflies and claim dead grandparents right off the bat. I guess a part of me always wanted to open his eyes to believe that there is some things we just really can’t explain away. And maybe – just maybe – I could change his beliefs of life after death. However, I didn’t think I would prove my point in our new living situation…

When we first moved into the new space, we were excited and getting used to the new living situation. It was weird for me because I have lived in the same house my whole life. But now, I was in a new environment, living in an old Victorian San Francisco house. I was so used to seeing the house in the daytime, that it was so weird being in the house at night. In fact, seeing the house in the night time without all the lights being turned off gave me an eerie feeling. I had to learn all the new noises and creeks of the floor and walls. I had to learn to be comfortable and not get scared off of every little thing. It was just a lot of change mixed with all the scary shit I would watch on TV.

The first couple of days, me and Christian would hear noises that we couldn’t explain away. Surprisingly, I was the one saying things like “it’s probably just the ____” or saying it’s because the house is old. And to add to the surprise, Mr. Skeptic was the one getting freaked out. I was surprised to see that Christian was the one that was more spooked from all the noises. I was a little scared, but I knew that it’s an old San Francisco house, and we weren’t used to it yet. I was shocked to see that the man who was certain he wasn’t a believer was suddenly having a change of heart. And to be completely honest, I didn’t play my usual scaredy-cat role because I figured, “Fuck, we can’t both be scared!” A part of me was really scared when he would say things like, “did you hear that? What is that?” But I didn’t want to acknowledge it, fearing that it would suddenly manifest into something bigger. Ignore, ignore, ignore, was my mentality.

What was the absolute cherry on top was when I noticed something had fallen off of the wall. It was in the morning, and Christian had already left for work. I walked passed the living room to get to the kitchen, got my breakfast and walked passed the livingroom again. This time I noticed it. The little foldable roof topper that connected to the wall was on the floor. This wasn’t unusual. The topper gets heavy and sometimes rips the 3M hook right off the wall. But this time was different. The foldable roof was neatly flat on the floor, and the 3M hook was still on the wall. How could this be? I touched the 3M hook in disbelief. How? The hook was about 1.5 inches facing up, there was no way that thing could come off on its own without the 3M hook coming off as well. But yet, the hook was still completely stuck to the wall. I asked co-workers and Christian later, and everyone had no explanation. No more ignoring – I was thoroughly creeped out.

To be sure and for some peace of mind, I invited my best friends to come over to help me sage the place. It was getting to a point where Christian and I were a little nervous everytime we heard something we couldn’t explain. Justine bought me a “palo santo” stick and a crystal, and we used the oven to light it. Justine and I went through every part of the house, saging every room, closet, and crevice, speaking words of positivity and affirmations that only light and positivity was welcome. All the while a pregnant Cam chilled in the kitchen typing out her pregnancy reveal post for Instagram and Shonalyn stayed in the livingroom staying on a roommate call that lasted about 45 minutes.

I don’t care what anyone says, it worked. I felt so much lighter after we saged the house. The house itself felt so much lighter, quieter, as if the air had been lifted. After that day, we didn’t hear anything that had us on edge. It gave us peace of mind. Over the last couple of weeks we have been getting used to the new living situation and most importantly, living with each other. We have been together for almost 5.5 years, and we know each other pretty well. But living together is a whole new thing. We now have the opportunity to see how each other really live. And thankfully, we could do that peacefully without thinking our house was haunted.

A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday night, we were chillin in the room. I told Christian to light our candle because the house smelled like the dinner we just finished eating. Since we just moved in, we didn’t have any lighters or matches. So Christian used the school’s birthday candle that he lit with the oven to light our fragrant candle. Christian played Fall Guys with his brother on the PS4, and I was sitting hunchback hovering over my 20 pages of notes for Blog Post #60. Y’all remember how long that story was, so I was hard-core typing, trying so hard to write atleast 15 paragraphs by the time I fell asleep.

About 30 minutes into writing, I heard a toy going off in the next room. I got a little scared, since it was about 10:30 PM and the all the lights, except in our room, was off. I knew exactly what toy it was too. It was a toy structure that you could race 2 little toy cars down, and it made car engine / beeping sounds. I ignored it. I had 15 paragraphs to write, that’s equivalent to atleast 5 pages on Microsoft Word. I continued on with my writing. About 15 minutes later I heard the toy go off again. Just something about night time makes everything seem a thousand times scarier. Christian had 1 earphone on and was talking to his brother playing the game. Something in me didn’t want to acknowledge it, nervously thinking about what could happen if I say something and it keeps happening.

For anyone that isn’t familiar with “Fall Guys,” it’s a game that basically reminds me of Ninja Warrior but with 60 opponents. Your character is a little, short, chubby chode looking jellybean that you get to dress up in funny outfits. It starts off with you and 59 other people, and you have to complete an obstacle course. If you complete it in time, you qualify to move onto the next obstacle course. Slowly, people get cut off and you don’t stop playing until you lose or you win the crown, meaning you were the last one standing and won the whole thing. Christian has been obsessed with this game recently, and I know that it gets intense where he can’t immediately get up and do something if I ask. I bet other gamer girlfriends can relate *rolls eyes.*

Anyways, when the toy went off the 2nd time I was like oh hell nah. I was getting pretty sleepy, and usually when I set a paragraph goal for myself I always take breaks inbetween – which is honestly annoying as fuck of myself because I have to regain motivation to write again and stop messing around. So, I sprawled out on the bed and began to close my eyes and dose off a little bit. I heard the toy go off. I don’t remember which came first – if I told Christian about the toy going off before or after I laid down. But I heard the toy and got up immediately, wide awake no longer about to fall asleep.

By this time Christian was aware of the toy going off. At first he didn’t hear it, but then it started going off more frequently. “Oh yeah, I hear it now,” he had told me. He explained to his brother over the mic that one of the toys in the school was going off and he needed to turn it off after the game, but he couldn’t because he was still in the competition. In fact, he had the audacity to tell me to turn it off as he played. I refused. I was not about to confront whatever was making that thing go off on my own. We agreed to go together once the game ended.

But the toy was going off every minute. I don’t think Christian got how nerve wrecking it was for me since he had 1 earphone blasting the Fall Guys music and also hearing his brother. I got so anxious. “Do you not hear that?!” I frantically asked him. He told me he did hear it but they were still in the game. My heart was beating so fast. Then it seemed to be going off every 30 seconds! *engine turning on sound* *chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-beep beep!* I was terrified.

“Christian!” I felt like I was on the verge of having a panic attack. All the while Christian is having a conversation with his brother about them barely making it to the finish line. My heart was beating so fast and his frantic “omg we’re not gonna make it!” type of dialog added to the anxiety I was feeling.

“Yeah I hear it,” he said inbetween talking to his brother, “Yeah dude one of the toys is going crazy right now.”

By this time there was no pause inbetween. The toy was going off repeatedly non-stop. I felt like crying. I didn’t know what to do. I was fucking terrified and felt like I was gonna go into fight or flight mode. Was I going to run in that room and see what was going on? Or was I going to call an Uber back to my parents’ house and get the fuck out? Waiting for Christian to be done with the game seemed like a lifetime. I wanted it to stop. I needed that toy to stop. Hearing the sound going off non-stop had me mentally fucked. I was so scared.

“Oooo! Ohhh! Fuck yeah! Yesssss!” Christian is yelling outloud, qualifying for the next round as his Fall Guy makes it over the finish line.

The upbeat tempo was making me anxious as hell. Everything from the toy going off non-stop, to Christian yelling and winning on the game, to me sitting there being over stimulated with all the commotion. When I thought I couldn’t get any more creeped out, the toy started to freak out even more. It went from going off non-stop, to being so frantic that it wasn’t even completing the full audio anymore. It went from *engine sound, chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-beep-beep!* for what seemed like a lifetime to *engine sound, chuga-chuga-chuga-engine sound-engine sound-chuga-chuga-engine sound- engine sound, chuga-beep-beep!* As if someone impatiently had their finger on the button and was ringing it non-stop, so much so that the full audio wouldn’t play, and instead kept getting cut off.

It went like this for about a minute. My heart was pounding out of my chest and I really wanted to break out in tears. Meanwhile Christian is yelling in excitement because he just finished the whole game and won the crown. Finally! He could come with me to turn it off. Once Christian won the game, and he told his brother he was going to turn off the toy, the toy stopped going off. Just like that. We both got up and made our way into the dark hallway.

I knew exactly what toy it was, but Christian was heading the wrong direction. When he headed for the wrong direction, the toy went off again. Almost to signal, “hey, wrong way.” We looked at each other. I was more nervous while he was still on his adrenaline rush from winning 3 or 4 crowns just in that night. I turned on the light in the livingroom, but the room was completely silent. I knew what toy it was, but couldn’t get the words out of my mouth to tell Christian which one it was, as he lifted the cover on the toy shelves to try to find it.

“I don’t know which one it is,” he said.

As he looked through all the toys, I looked passed into the kitchen, which lights were still completely off. I peered my head at an angle, not knowing if I would see someone or something or… honestly I don’t even really know what I was expecting. But when I looked into the dark kitchen, I saw something glowing. The reflection in my air fryer showed something glowing blue. It all started to piece together. Blue glowing light? Reflection? That means it’s across? That means…. that means the stove is on? I stepped foot into the dark kitchen and quickly turned left to look at the oven. One of the oven burners were on. I gasped and turned it off.

“Christian! The oven was still on!”

“What?” He came into the kitchen. I angrily explained to him that he left the burner on when he lit the birthday candle to light our fragrant candle.

“I feel like whoever was making that toy go off was trying to tell us the burner was still on,” I said. At that exact moment after finishing the sentence, the toy went off again. *car engine, chuga-chuga-chuga-chuga-beep-beep!*

We looked at each other and I immediately took the toy and turned it off. I wondered if it was Christian’s grandpa, who passed away just a few months prior, giving us a heads up that we were about to burn the whole fucking house down. What initally had me scared out of my mind, suddenly brought me comfort, thinking if it were my loved ones, or one of Christian’s having our back from the other side. I wondered what would’ve happened that night if that toy didn’t obnoxiously go off that night. It was close to midnight, so we probably would’ve just went straight to sleep after I hit my writing goal and Christian was done with video games, without even thinking twice to go back into the kitchen. I look back and realize that the toy started bugging out once I took a break and started dozing off on the bed.

I truly believed whoever was responsible for making that toy go off, was looking out for me and Christian. That was something not even Christian the Skeptic could explain away. It seemed too much of a coincidence to just be a random occurrence.

In 2 Weeks’ Time

One thing we can all agree on: 2020 is a year we will all remember. This year has brought so much chaos, pain, confusion, and a lot of change. From the COVID-19 pandemic, to Sheltering in Place, to police brutality, to protests, to wearing masks on a daily, to shutting down (again), to California fires, to COVID-19’s 2nd wave, to highly favored celebrities passing away, and all the above. Whatever plans we had for 2020 clearly changed when all this went down. I had to learn to be adaptable, to pivot, to not cling to any specific plan because I knew with the pandemic’s end nowhere in sight, everything is unpredictable. Sheltering in place from mid-March until the end of May really had me living day by day, having no idea what would happen in the next month, or even the next day.

Sheltering in place and 2020 in general has also brought a lot of change for my best friend group and I. I feel like in one way or another, everyone is walking out of 2020 a completely different person. There is so much change that has happened / will happen in the next couple of months. But let me rewind it back, before decisions were made and tears were shed. In blog post #32: “Time,” I ended the post by saying I could feel change coming soon. That was towards the end of February. I felt change coming just over the horizon. Something in my gut was telling me things were about to shift, and I couldn’t have been more right.

Sheltering in Place was something so new to all of us. Do we have enough food? How long are we supposed to do this for? What’s the plan after? Should we stock up on everything? Is everything shutting down? So we can’t hangout with other people? When can I leave the house? Here we are about 6 months later, and the policies and regulations are not going anywhere. Nobody thought it would last this long. The first 3 weeks of official shutdown was the hardest for me. It’s like I was relieved I got to chill and relax, but I was concerned about the state of the world. I had no idea how long this would last or when the next time I could see my friends. After all, what’s 3 weeks off when you can’t go anywhere or see / hangout with people you want to? It’s one thing to be a homebody and be antisocial from time to time, maybe even all the time, but it’s another thing when you are being told you can’t leave.

My friends and I tried to cope by downloading apps like Houseparty and Zoom. We really tried our best to set up meetings so we could catch up and check up on each other. We wanted to make sure that we were all there for each other – whether that be to talk about personal issues, anxieties, or just to keep each other company during these confusing and lonely times. At first, it was all about Houseparty and playing games. It gave us something to do and something to look forward to. Especially since with time, sheltering in place made every day look exactly the same. We would set up little game nights or Zoom calls.

In the beginning, it was literally all fun and games. Until, Cam and I had suddenly had decisions to make. And when I mean “suddenly” I mean for real suddenly, all this shit came out of nowhere. For me, an opportunity came up where I could move out of my family home without worrying about any added responsibilities but still gaining some independence. It would also be an opportunity for me and Christian to take the next step in our relationship. For Cam, she had just taken a pregnancy test, and it was positive. We have joked for years that Cam would be the first in the group to have a baby, and finally, our predictions were true. Cam and I were both at a crossroad.

For most people, my predicament wouldn’t even be a tough decision. But for me, I was scared. For one, in the Filipino culture, it is frowned upon to live with your significant other before marriage. But I have always told myself I would never marry someone without living with them first. This decision really brought to my attention how scared I am of change and how I fear commitment. Which is ironic, because I have always been very traditional, in the sense that I wanted to graduate college, get a job in my field, get married, and have a family. But here I was, in the middle of a pandemic, not where I want to be in my writing career, not even knowing when I would have the opportunity to even get a job in the journalism field.

On top of that, I had a time limit to make up my mind whether I would take the once in a lifetime housing opportunity or not. The feelings of being overwhelmed took over me. This would be a great little baby step in figuring out if marriage was in our cards, especially since we have been together for over 5 years. Not to mention a great opportunity for our future together. But I was scared. I would be the first in my family to move out and change the status quo. I wasn’t feeling confident in my choices – if I said no, I’d regret it for the rest of my life, but if I said yes, what if it doesn’t work out the way I planned? I was also scared shitless to bring it up to my parents. How would they react? I desperately wanted their support, but couldn’t get the right words out of my mouth to sell it to them.

Meanwhile, Cam and Mark were having similar issues. Were they ready for this responsibility? Cam had just graduated from SFSU, earning her degree, so technically she was at an okay stage in her life. But was she ready for this? Mark is in the thick of starting his business and working on getting known and having connections. Would a baby put those dreams on hold? Everything was up in the air. And Cam and Mark really had to weigh out their pros and cons, for this was a big decision – bringing another life into the world. Having a baby meant that their days of focusing on just themselves and their relationship would be a thing of the past. Were they ready to take the next step in their relationship?

The girls and I had our Zoom call. Up until this point, conversations about both of these topics were either through group chat or on the phone. It felt good to see each others’ faces and hear advice and feedback. On my end, there was a lot of venting, going back and forth on why I was conflicted on making a decision. I did a lot of ugly crying, snot dripping, and heart pouring that night. By the end of my rant, I was leaning towards no. I wasn’t ready to leave my family home, this isn’t how I pictured moving out to be. I felt under pressure. This time frame wasn’t enough time to decide a life changing event. So, my answer would be no. And whatever happens from my decision being no is just how it was meant to be. I was exhausted. My friends supported whatever decision I chose, but they did give their 2 cents on why it’s a great opportunity. I heard what they had to say, but dismissed it. I was too scared. I’d never grow the courage in time to do it and follow through. I knew it would put a huge strain on my relationship, but at this point, I didn’t care and if things were to fall apart, “it just wasn’t meant to be.”

I calmed down, wiped those tears away, and after about 45 minutes of my friends just watching and hearing me cry and vent, we moved on to Cam’s situation. Cam was the opposite of me. She was level-headed, calm, and didn’t seem too conflicted. Which was so surprising to me, because my situation was nothing compared to hers. She caught us up on her and Mark’s train of thought. They weren’t ready. They still wanted to do things like travel, get the business on its feet, get a better job in her field, etc. Now would not be the best time to have a baby. Cam said they were leaning towards no. There was a silence in the chat. We supported our best friend in whatever she wanted to choose. It’s her body and her life. But I will say it was so obvious that all of us hoped she would keep the baby. We would always talk about how we wish someone in our group would have a baby so we all can spoil it. We were happy and shocked when she told us her test was positive.

We hoped she would keep it, but we knew that we wouldn’t be living the reality of caring for a child. It would be her reality. It would be Mark’s reality. Only they knew if they were ready or not. And we fully supported our friends in whatever decision they chose. It wasn’t an easy decision, but it looked like she made up her mind. She explained that she planned to make an appointment to terminate the pregnancy. We gave our words of support. It just wasn’t in the cards for them right now. The “MotherFlickers” would have to wait a little while longer for a baby to enter into our friend group.

After a couple of hours on Zoom, we finally called it a night and hung up. Damn. Here I was, feeling like my world has been turned upside down not knowing how it could effect my relationship and my family relationship. I was stressed out. I would wake up everyday, and it would be the first thing I think about. It was all too much. I didn’t want to overthink anymore. But I had to make a decision. This wasn’t in my plan. My plan for 2020 was to find a journalism job, and now, with the pandemic and this new offer on the table, I didn’t know what my plan was anymore. It also made me reflect on why I was so afraid.

I was scared to fail. I was scared of wasting time. I was scared of what extended family would say. I was scared to make a move. And by being so scared, I was making no moves. And that probably is what scared me the most. I desperately tried to cling onto how things have been. But nothing lasts forever. I had planned to maybe move out at 26 and get a place with Christian. But this offer that was right infront of me was once in a lifetime, and put us both in a position where we could save up for our future, live in the most expensive city in the country and still be a 20 minute drive from my family, and not to mention test out the waters in our relationship. What was I waiting for?

I began to realize my fear of commitment. The girl who has talked about marriage since forever, now found herself scared to even take the first step. It’s one thing to talk about the future when you know it’s a few years away. But it’s another thing when you realize, holy shit, the time is now. Suddenly, I didn’t know what to do. Moving in meant that people would expect us to get married ASAP. Was I ready for that? I had to talk myself out of that mindset. I had to remind myself that I was 25, the time is now. Living together will reveal if marriage is the next move. But I’ll never know until I try. I was also worried because if I took the offer, I would be commiting to atleast 2 years in the living situation. What would that mean for journalism? Does that mean that I put my writing dreams on hold for another 2 years? No. It means I should pivote. And I thought up a whole other plan that I can stick to while working as a teacher, but still feel fulfilled as a writer.

If you’re wondering how conflicted and stressed I was, please refer back to Blog Post #41 : “I Saw The Sign.” I wrote that blog post while I was in the thick of my confusion. Knowing the back story now, I’m sure that post will make a lot more sense to my readers. But suddenly, I felt my perspective changing. Who cares if it’s not exactly what I planned? This living situation is even better than my original plan to move out by 26 and get an apartment. I had to force myself to come to terms with the fact that not everything is going to be how I exactly envisioned it. It’s okay to change the plan. It’s okay to switch up the status quo. It’s okay to take a risk. It’s okay if there is no sign, because not everything will.

Meanwhile, Cam called the hospital line to schedule her “appointment.” She talked with an advice nurse who was being very supportive. The nurse asked some questions about if this was a decision Cam was making for herself. She was right about to finalize making the appointment and getting the date and time, but then… she hung up. Suddenly she had a change of heart, and she didn’t want to make any sudden decisions without thoroughly thinking it through.

Was she ready to be a mother and take on that responsibility? On the Zoom call, she told us that her decision was 60 / 40, in favor of terminating the pregnancy. But then she thought of what were the real reasons why she didn’t believe she was ready. She weighed out her pros and cons. Cam knew she was in a position where she could care for a child. She just graduated, she had a stable job, she knew her family is the type to be supportive. But she didn’t know if her and Mark were ready to be parents. Sometimes you don’t know you’re ready until you put yourself in that position.

We scheduled another Zoom meeting – two weeks after our last one. Everyone entered the room and we greeted each other. I broke the news to my girls that I have decided to accept the housing offer. They were shocked but supportive. I honestly shocked myself, because I didn’t think I had the guts to make a decision like that. My friends told me how excited they were for me, but they could see it in my face that I was still a little iffy about my decision. They reassured me that they would always be there, and if things don’t turn out the way I had hoped, it’s okay and it’s just something I had to experience so I wouldn’t regret not taking the offer. I knew they were right. They started to get excited about my place being the new hangout spot, and it made me excited as well. This was going to be a new chapter in my life.

Then it went quiet. “What about you, Cam? How are you?” Suddenly it got serious. Since our last Zoom call, we knew that Cam was scheduling an appointment to terminate the pregnancy. We didn’t know if she had already went through or if it was scheduled. She was very adamant in the last call that it was something she knew she had to do. We asked and tried not to sound sad. Then she broke the news to us.

“So…… we actually decided that we’re going to keep it.”

Everyone’s jaws hit the floor. Everyone covered their mouths in pure shock. Silence. We internalized what was just said, and the silence turned to screaming. NO. WAY. We couldn’t believe it. We all screamed and rejoiced, we were so excited that we were going to have a little one in our group!!!! This was the best news. Of course we would’ve supported our girl either way, but especially the last 2 years, Justine and I in particular, have been itching for one of the MotherFlickers to have a baby that we can spoil. The cover photo is a screenshot I took of our reaction to Cam’s news.

It’s crazy to me that in just 2 weeks’ time, Cam and I made such life changing decisions. It’s even crazier because we had originally said we weren’t going to go through with it at all. And in just 2 weeks, we decided to do something completely different. We were both scared, unsure, and doubting ourselves. We were scared of change and the unknown. But sometimes you don’t know if you’re “ready” for that change, until you actually put yourself in that situation.

2020 brought a lot of change. And things are going to continue to change a lot in our friend group in the next couple of months. I’m so happy that I have the support of my girls to vent to, to share my worries to, to go through life with. The day we have all been talking about is finally upon us. For years we have talked about how we’re going to start adulting and before we know it, we’re gonna have whole ass families and completely different lives. That time is now. And I’m so incredibly excited and giddy for what’s to come. I feel like we all evolved, and broke out of our shells. Change makes you mad uncomfortable, but that’s how you know it’s time. When you realize you’re scared to take the chance, but at the same time you’re also scared to stay in the same position, that’s how you’ll know.

The girl that has feared and avoided change for so long has finally embraced it. And by January 2021, she will have a Godson to share new memories with. In 2 weeks’ time, Cam and I shifted the direction of our lives. And I can’t wait for what life has in store for me and my girls.

I Saw The Sign

Is going with the flow and letting things fall into place equivalent to doing nothing?

This is the question I have sat on this whole weekend.

To me, the quick and simple answer is no. Letting things naturally fall into place doesn’t mean you are being neglectful or careless. But, of course, going with the flow is easier said than done. This is something I find hard to do a lot of the time. Why?

Because I follow a plan. Not a strict one of course, but to some extent I’ve built out the skeleton of how I plan my life to be. And when things don’t go according to plan, I feel like I’m losing control and I feel lost and stuck. Is this way of thinking detrimental to my mental health? As you can see, answering these questions have only brought up more questions for me to answer.

Why is it that when someone does not have a plan, they are seen as irresponsible? While someone who does have a plan but gets thrown a curveball and freezes at the shock of things falling out of line is seen as unprepared? For both scenarios one thing remains true – you can never fully plan out or predict the outcomes of your life.

I’ve always been taught to have a plan, to not just do something for the sake of wanting to do it. I’ve also been taught to exhaust all possibilities – the good and the bad. And this is where I find myself stuck. Constantly outweighing the pros and the cons of every major situation/ life decision causes me to over-think, over-worry, over-analyze every possible detail and scenario, that I close myself off. And then I’m stuck. Stuck not knowing what to do, do you make a drastic change, or do you do “nothing” and let things go on the way they’ve always been? “Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken,” is the closest thing to my mentality.

But, that also means that there is no room for growth or improvement. Is staying where you’re most comfortable the best choice? I beg this question because I don’t know myself. Of course, it seems like the obvious answer is along the lines of: No! Without a little discomfort there is no growth!

But how do you know when it’s the right time to let go of your comfort zone? Does the right time even exist?

There are obvious answers, like the right time to buy a car. You have to make sure you have the consistent funds, the license, and the need for a vehicle. Most people don’t just decide they want a car and go pick it up. You have to do your research, see what your options are, and make sure you plan accordingly. Obviously, if you don’t have the funds, don’t have the license, or the urgent need for a car, it wouldn’t be “the right time” to purchase a vehicle.

I like to call this my “stalking,” phase. When I want something, usually that something will take out a great chunk out of my wallet, like a new phone, laptop, makeup, or clothing. I don’t usually spend my money on stuff (it’s mostly food when I hangout with friends and Uber), so when I do, I make sure its what I really want. If its an electronic item, I watch YouTube reviews, unboxings, reviews, and stalk the shit out of it for months. I make sure this is an item I really want, I take into consideration people’s pros and cons. Once I feel like I’ve stalked enough and I’m ready to buy it, I will save up the funds. All the while, keeping a close watch on possible sales, discounts, etc. That is true for me right now as I plan to buy a new laptop. The one I have right now is so beyond dead, only works when it’s plugged into the outlet, and heavy as rocks. I already have my eyes on a particular laptop, and when I get in the buying/stalking mood, I do my research. All of a sudden I know all the features and aspects as if I’m a computer wizard- which I’m totally fucking not.

That is the same for when I buy clothes or look at expensive makeup products to buy. About a month ago, I knew that the Rogue sale was coming up for Sephora. My sister is a Rogue member, meaning she gets 20% off of her purchases. This is a big deal, and these sales are usually when we stock up and figure out what we want. Being Sheltered in Place, I had all the time to stalk all the products I wanted. When I’m telling you I read maybe more than 150 pages of product reviews, I’m not kidding. What throws me off sometimes though, is when there’s a couple of 1 star reviews but the rest are 5. But anyways, I take into consideration all the information handed to me. Then, I look at reviews from different sites (sometimes they’ll just post the reviews from that brand’s actual website and I feel like I’m being played.) Not only will I go through multiple sites, I’ll ask friends if they’ve ever used it, then I’ll turn to YouTube videos. I guess its the journalist in me, to try to get all the information to make a decision for myself. I weigh out all the possible pros and cons and see if its worth my coin. But at the end of the day, regardless of the reviews, its up to me whether I want to buy it or not. And all those reviews can be completely useless if my skin reacts a different way.

My point is, this behavior just doesn’t stop at shopping. This way of thinking applies to my actual life as well. When I have a goal, I do the same. I try to talk to people who have achieved that goal, have the same goal, or are in the same track as me. I want to know what actions they are taking and what their plan is/was, so we can bounce back ideas and I can kind’ve see what my path should look like. Once I’ve heard the stories of successful people in the industry, and know how my peers have gotten their foot in the door, I’m left to make a decision for myself. In other words, I get the “reviews” in real life. I’m interested in people’s stories – how’d you get to this point? Was this the path you’ve always wanted? How should I go about making moves in the right direction? How’d you overcome the hurdles? Any advice?

But, at the end of the day, its my life. Its my path. I can interview all the people I want and ask for their advice, but our circumstances are different, our journeys are different, our priorities are different, so our paths will be different. Knowing this information, I still ask for advice from those around me, those I trust, those who are going through the same thing. But deep down I know that my life decisions depend on me.

When I feel like I’m in a crossroad, I’m that friend that will vent about it until a decision is made. And sometimes, a decision isn’t made at all, and I choose to do “nothing.” But I feel like there’s a thin line between going with the flow and letting everything fall into place vs. not doing anything. How do you know when the time is right? How do you know when its time to act?

And I guess I just don’t trust my judgment. I’m so afraid to make the wrong move – career wise, decision wise, and life wise. I’m terrified to make a move in the wrong direction, that I end up not even making a move. How can things fall into place if I keep dodging them? Is “going with the flow” and “letting things naturally fall into place,” my excuse for being too afraid to make a confident decision for myself?

And my argument sometimes is : I’ll know the right time when I see it. And sometimes, I’ll even ask God/ the Universe for a sign to point me in the right direction. And if I don’t recieve those signs, was it just not meant to be?

If I see a butterfly, I’ll know that’s Mama coming to me telling me everything will be okay.

If I save X amount of money by this time in the year, it’s a sign that I’m financially ready to move out.

If I dream about XYZ that must mean its a sign to ____

If I don’t get a job offer by ___, that’s a sign that I should ____.

And the list goes on. Its like I’m playing a guessing game with myself. For the most part, I will say I do believe in signs when its so blatantly in front of your face. But what if there are no signs? What if you just have to make a decision without really knowing where either decision will take you? What if no sign is the sign? Or what if there’s no signs at all and I’m just looking into coincidences to justify decisions in my life? How will I know? When is the right time for anything?

If ya’ll are annoyed with my questions, just know that I’m even more annoyed with me, because these questions roam around in my head daily. But I will answer the first question in this blog post. In case you forgot what it was since I asked like 30 questions, let me refresh your brain:

Is going with the flow and letting things fall into place equivalent to doing nothing?

Like most of my answers, nothing is ever black or white with me. I don’t think going with the flow and letting things naturally fall into place is equivalent to doing nothing. But I do think that with time, hoping things fall into place and seeing that its not, and still choosing not to act is equivalent to doing nothing. Not saying its a bad thing, especially since a lot of people can relate. Not knowing the right move is scary. But I’ve learned that if you’re waiting for a sign and the right time to act on something, that sign may not ever come. And it all comes down to what you believe in and what you’re confident in. But if you yourself aren’t confident in the decision, then you’ll always be stuck waiting for that sign, waiting for things to fall into place. But how can things fall into place when you yourself won’t allow it? In this scenario, which came first, the chicken or the egg turns into : which came first, the sign or the action?

Not knowing where a decision will take you is scary. Thinking of all the possible cons that can go wrong is also terrifying. As I get older though, I’m stuck wondering which is scarier: making the wrong decision, or not making a decision at all?

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?