Somewhere Deep in Tatay’s Memory

This is story 6 of 9 of my Tatay’s Series. This is my way of honoring Tatay’s life and legacy. It wouldn’t be right if I DIDN’T give him his own series and avoided writing about his passing all together. But I’m also aware that this is something I need to do for myself – to put my grief, anger, and emotions all out on the table, instead of distracting myself with work and other things to avoid the reality that he’s gone.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

This might be weird to some, but sometimes I think of what my life will be like when I’m an old grandma. What kind of life would I have lived? What things have changed? Who are the people closest to me? What accomplishments did I make in life? What lessons have I learned? Will I still be able to remember and recall my past? And as I witnessed Tatay’s mind start to drift further and further from the present day, I started to put myself in his shoes. I wondered what he was thinking, who he still remembered vividly, and what memories played in his mind. Visiting Tatay every Sunday was like a gamble. Was he going to be aware of who we were and what time frame it was, or was he going to ask for people who have already passed on a long time ago? It made me wonder…

Where do people’s minds go when they get older? What memories stick out to them the most and why?

I remember my Uncle Cris sharing that when Tatay first came to America, he hated it and wanted to go back to the Philippines. I wondered how hard it must’ve been to leave his home and family in the Philippines to reunite with his children and in-laws in America. Out of all his siblings, Tatay was the only one who resided in America. He must have felt so torn – feeling homesick being away from the place where he grew up, leaving behind his siblings and all of his extended family, but also feeling “at home” reuniting with all of his children after 7 long years apart. All I know is, I’m grateful that he decided to call the Bay Area his home and vacation to the Philippines every so often, instead of the other way around. Deep down he probably knew that this was a sacrifice he had to make for the future generations to come.

One of Tatay’s last wishes was to be back in the Philippines. But because of a volcano eruption and COVID following not too long after, we were unable to do that for him. Tatay was known for his flip floppiness when it came to where he wanted to permanently reside. There have been a couple of times where he swore up and down that he was going to stay in the Philippines, but with time he always came back. It seemed like wherever he was, Philippines or the US, he always wanted to go back to the other country eventually. His children would take his decisions with a grain of salt because they knew their father too well – he was always changing his mind. Give him a month or 2 in the Philippines and he’ll be ready to willingly come back to the US, complaining about the weather when it gets too hot. Give him a couple of months to settle back into the US and he’s already requesting his next trip back to the Philippines. That was Tatay, he called both places home.

Pre-pandemic and pre-volcano eruption, Tatay wouldn’t back down with voicing his desires to go back to the Philippines. I truly believe that he believed he would spend his remaining days on Earth in Batangas. He was so adamant. By this time, 2019-ish, it was well over a couple of years since Tatay’s last trip to the Philippines. With his old age, he just couldn’t handle the 15+ hours on a plane. But he was persistent. My aunts finally decided to give him what he wanted, a 1 way ticket to the Philippines – not because they believed he was going to stay there permanently, but because they knew that with time he would want to come back home to the US. They were just unsure of how much time it would actually take this time around for him to come back. So they bought him a 1 way ticket there and planned on a return flight with a date that was to be determined. I can only imagine what that might’ve felt like to finally get your wish to return back to Batangas, and then be told that you no longer could go. The volcano eruption delayed it, but they still planned on rescheduling. When the pandemic happened, there was just no way. At one point during the pandemic my cousin tried to get Tatay dual citizenship. It was the only way he could travel to the Philippines during these times – but he was denied.

Tatay couldn’t make sense of it all. Why couldn’t he go?! Tatay took every opportunity he could to bring up wanting to go back to the Philippines throughout the pandemic. And as his memory started to teeter-totter back and forth between present day and the past, the Philippines became a regular topic for him. Some days he would think that we were friends visiting from another part of the Philippines, other days he’d be asking my dad when he was going back to the Philippines, and other times he would ask on repeat why / when can he go back. My dad and Tita would avoid talking about the Philippines or anyone going to the Philippines in front of Tatay. The topic alone could set him off into a question frenzy. He wanted to go home so bad. His mind was constantly thinking about the Philippines, so it only made sense that he talked about it all the time and sometimes believed that he was there.

I’m not gonna lie, sometimes it felt like a blow to the heart when he could no longer recognize who we were. But Tita would share what Tatay would ask and say on a day to day basis. A lot of the time, he still believed that he was living with us. The time frame he was thinking of would have me and my sisters as little kids. He would ask Tita where my dad was, where my mom was, where my sisters and I were sleeping, and when he’s going back to his house, our house. Tita would have to remind him that he has his own house and we live separately. I wondered what about this time frame stuck out to him. Tatay lived with us for about 6 years, and that is a very short amount of time in his very long life. Regardless, it made me feel a little better to know that we were still somewhere in his memory, even if it was more than 20 years dated.

Tita would also tell us stories about Tatay asking for my dad’s mom. She died during childbirth over 50 years ago. He would call for my dad’s mom in the middle of the night. “Conching,” was the nickname he called my grandma. At times he would ask Tita where his wife was and why does she keep leaving. Tita would simply tell him that she was his wife. “You look different,” he would tell her. Tita would have to remind Tatay that my dad’s mother died over 50 years ago and she’s his wife. Tatay and Tita were married for over 20 years. But that didn’t stop him from talking about my Nanay Conching. So many decades have passed, but his memory of my grandma was still there. He never forgot her.

One Sunday Tita shared with us that Tatay woke up in the middle of the night and called her by my grandma’s name, Conching. He asked if she was awake and she told him she was, but she wasn’t who he thought she was – she wasn’t Conching. Tatay proceeded to tell Tita that he had a dream that there was a lot of people telling him to go with them and sit in a chair with them. Tita tried to make light of it and advised him not to go with the people in his dream because it’s a pandemic. Of course we all thought about the Filipino superstition – when you have dreams of people who have passed on and they’re telling you to come with them, you will pass away in your sleep if you choose to follow them. There would be other times where Tatay would ask for random people that he wouldn’t bring up regularly in the past. But it so happened to be that everyone he was randomly asking for had passed away for some time.

There was another dream he shared with Tita, who later told all of us. In his dream, he saw my Nanay Conching. They were at their old house in the Philippines and she had prepared a lot of food. A lot of people were at their house for some type of party. My aunt, who was 2 years old when my grandma died, desperately tried to get answers from Tatay. “How do you know it was my mom? Did she say it was her?” She asked in Tagalog. He said no, she didn’t introduce herself, but he knew it was her. My aunt continued, “If you see her again, ask her how is Merlinda. Ask if she’s big now.” Merlinda passed away with my grandma. She was a stillborn birth. Tatay seemed to be a little uncomfortable with what my aunt was saying and his expression looked a little sad.

As Tatay’s memory began to fade in and out, it brought me a great sense of comfort knowing that he still remembered my Nanay Conching. She has been gone for 55+ years, and he was still calling out for her in the middle of the night. I’d like to believe that those were not just dreams he was having of her, but signs from the other side to let him know that once he passed on, he would be welcomed in by familiar faces. Even though Tatay’s memory went back and forth between the present day and the past, he always spoke of people and places that meant the most to him. I wondered if his life was playing like a reel in his head – reflecting, remembering, reliving – like a movie.

I guess I’ll never really know how Tatay’s memory was working as he neared the end of his life. I just know that at times it made me sad to know that his memory was all over the place. But he brought up so many different people, places, and reminisced on different parts of his life. It just reminded me that he lived such a long life filled with so many memories that of course his inner RAM was getting all jumbled up. It had 98 years to account for!

The day after his birthday, we all visited him again. He was weak, but still managed to give me a smile when I walked into his room. “Hiiiiii Tataaayyyyy!!” I said in my usual tone. “That’s the first time I saw him smile like that!” My Auntie Salvie said. I secretly hoped that he smiled because somewhere in his memory, he remembered me.

Filipino American History Month

Daly City / San Francisco born and raised. Daly City, California, is known for the huge Filipino presence. People joke around that Daly City is basically “Little Manila.” I was fortunate enough to grow up in an area that is so culturally diverse, but also, had people that had the same background and traditions as myself. I know that a few hours out of the Bay Area in either direction is a totally different story. So I didn’t realize until my early 20’s how lucky I was to grow up here. I know there are a lot of people that have stories about being some of the only Asians at their high school and feeling the need to conform to those around them, which usually meant acting more white.

Of course, when I was younger, I was unaware of how fortunate I was to live in an area where some people have the same features as me, speak the same 2nd language as me, and have similar traditions as my family. At the time, all of this was my normal reality. I went to a Catholic school that highlighted a Filipino-Chinese Saint, Lorenzo Ruiz, every year. And everytime September rolled around, we would have San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass during school hours. I would feel such a sense of pride. Mr. Mills’ class always “hosted” that mass, and I remember since Kindergarten going to the mass every year.

One student would recite sentence by sentence Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English, and another student would translate that sentence in Tagalog. I can still remember the script: “Lorenzo Ruiz, our first martyr.” “Lorenzo Ruiz, una naming martir…” There was a specific song we sang at the mass that was entirely in Tagalog. I couldn’t understand the whole song, but I could understand majority of it. This was my “normal” growing up. Celebrating a Filipino Saint, for example, was “normal,” but now I look back and realize it’s because we had such a big Filipino community in the Bay Area. And I took so much pride in it. I was so proud.

When I was in 5th grade I was finally in Mr. Mills’ class. I was excited because I knew that I had the chance to play a role in the mass since he hosted it every year. When Mr. Mills started to ask for volunteers, my hand was one of the first to shoot up in the air. I wanted to be a part of San Lorenzo Ruiz’s mass so bad. The mass highlighted Filipinos and our language, and I wanted to be involved. Luckily, Mr.Mills picked me to have a part in the mass. I was going to be reading the English translation of Ruiz’s story. I was so excited because it was something I had watched for years from the church pews, but now, I’d be the one presenting it.

I practiced every night with my lines. The mass was going to be in front of the whole school, definitely more than 600 people. We would practice in the church, and I would have the microphone. I was known for being a loud mouth, which is probably why I was picked to read and have the role. Mr. Mills would always tell us, “Project your voice. Enunciate!” I could probably use my regular voice and people in the church could hear me without a microphone, so I was solid. I remember the day of the mass, I started to get stage fright. I looked out into the crowd and saw all eyes on me, as Ivan and I stood infront of the whole school. We told Lorenzo Ruiz’s story in English and in Tagalog, and after, I felt such a sense of pride that I got to be a part of something that highlighted my people.

Even though I grew up in a place where there were a lot of Filipinos, I still didn’t understand why nobody on TV looked like me. I would get excited watching shows that had an Asian person, and it was even more heart eyes if I knew they were Filipino as well. It was to the point where my sisters and I would say things like, “Look, an Asian!” “Do you think they’re Filipino?” “I bet maybe they’re half,” when we would see an Asian on TV. So even though I came from an area that was very Filipino/ Asian dense, I knew from a young age that Asians were  not being represented on the TV screens. From Manny Pacquiao, to Shay Mitchell, to Apl.de.ap, to Jokoy, to Jasmine Trias on American Idol, once we caught wind of them being Filipino, we rode hard for them. On Balitang America, the Filipino news station that broadcasted American news through the Filipino lens, they would feature any Filipino making a name for us in America. From the music industry, to entertainment, to education. 

I feel like Filipinos are very proud of other Filipinos who “make it.” Even if they have a small following, just claiming their Filipino heritage will have other Filipinos rep them. I even remember going on Shay Mitchell’s Ask back in the day and asking if she was really half Filipino. She actually responded and confirmed that she was in fact half Filipina. It made me so proud that an actress that I looked up to was representing us on the screen. I even recall reading interviews where Shay talked about growing up in an area that was mostly white, and being biracial had her feeling left out. Seeing people that look like me on the screen was important growing up. I was the kind of kid that literally set a “Filipino For Lyfe” themed MySpace background. Jokoy described seeing other Filipinos on TV as motivation to go for his dreams and make it as well. 

When I got to high school the history books just touched on Filipino American history oh so briefly. I used to skim through the history books in middle school and see where Filipinos or the Philippines was ever brought up. It wouldn’t be much. High school was a weird time. Going to a high school in Daly City meant that there were gonna be a lot of Filipinos. It wasn’t always the case, but sometimes there would be snarky comments (sometimes from people I was even cool with) complaining about how the whole school is mostly Filipino / Asian. Being Asian or Filipino in Daly City didn’t make you special. You were just like everybody else. Which I saw was a good thing when I was younger. But then I hit my teen years and wanted to be different, I didn’t want to be “like everyone else.”

I wasn’t ashamed to be Filipino, but I wasn’t repping it hard like I used to. Why would I have to rep it if everyone and their mama was Filipino in Daly City anyways? Don’t get me wrong – I still would be happy when I saw a Filipino coming up. But at the same time I wouldn’t plaster “Filipino For Lyfe” as a MySpace background anymore because I thought it was cringe. At this age I was on the prowl for a boyfriend (cringe lyfe), and when people would ask if I would ever get with a Filipino guy, I’d respond in a way that made it seem like “never in a thousand years.” Which I thought was okay, since I’m Filipino too. “What if I find out they’re my cousin or something?!” I would say. Which by the way, isn’t too far fetched, my family on both sides are pretty big.

I would say it wasn’t until I got to SFSU and joined the journalism program did I start to get that sense of pride back again. Suddenly, my whole perspective shifted. I took on the role of “journalist” and was bothered over the fact that a great portion of newsrooms are ran by white people. White men to be exact. The lack of diversity in journalism is what ticked me off. And I wanted to change that. I wanted to represent my people and capture stories of people in my community, and branch out further. Suddenly, that pride was back. But that pride was matched with determination. Determined to make change and actually make a difference. I wasn’t giving people a “voice,” because everyone has a voice. I wanted to be so open and chill that anyone felt like they could open up to me and tell their stories, and describe to me their raw emotions.

Suddenly, I had a mission. I wanted to get more in touch with my culture, the good and the bad. And since being on this journey, I have learned a lot, just by talking to people casually about their own experiences. I started to embrace my Filipino culture with open arms again, like how I did when I was a kid. I didn’t care if I was 1 out of 2 billion Filipinos in the Bay Area. I didn’t care about the “Little Manila” jokes anymore. I wanted to learn more about my people’s history, their stories, their struggles. And I wanted to write it. Not some random journalist who is just trying to bang out another story. I didn’t want someone else to be writing our stories.

Especially being out of school, I have made efforts to try to educate myself on my own. I remember writing a paper in community College about how my dad’s side of the family arrived to America. Just by talking to the members of my own family, I uncovered historic events. My great grandfather was a prisoner of War and survivor of the Bataan Death March. This information I would’ve never known if I didn’t have the school assignment, and if I never asked for the story. I started becoming obsessed with other people’s stories. My whole life I’ve been the talker. And now, I’m taking on the role of listener and teacher.

October is Filipino American history month. Every month, we teach the kids at my school about a new country. This month, I chose the Philippines. Over the years I have seen the Bay Area, but San Francisco is particular, changing. And changing fast. And it’s nice to teach my 1.5 – 2 1/2 year old students about my culture and traditions. One of my students got picked up and told her mom she painted a flag for activity. Her mom asked if she remembered what country’s flag she painted. My student responded with, “Well, it’s where teacher Marinelle’s mom and dad is from.”

I had the right idea when I was in 5th grade, “Filipino For Lyfe.”

1 Year Blog-versary

On Monday, July 1, 2019 I finally made the decision to consistently post on this blog. I didn’t know how long I’d roll with it, I didn’t have tons of content lined up, I didn’t care if I had 1 viewer. I just knew that writing consistently was something I’ve been wanting to do, but kept putting off. Here we are, a little over a year later. A few weeks ago was my 1 year blog-versary! πŸŽ‰

I originally made this blog for a journalism class when I was still in Skyline Community College, 4 years ago. I had to make X amount of posts for the semester, and after that, I didn’t really keep up. I would post here and there, usually articles I wrote for Xpress Magazine or a project I did for a class while I was at SFSU. I was kind’ve just keeping everything I wrote in one place. Every now and then I’d get inspiration to post a blog post that wasn’t an article I wrote for something else. But I was never consistent. It was one of those things where you say you want to do “XYZ” but never have the time or courage to follow through with it.

A year ago when I decided to revive my blog, I was in the thick of my post-grad blues. I graduated in December 2018, and July 2019 I decided to take that leap and start up this blog again. But it wasn’t that easy. That was 7 months of me just debating on whether or not to make this happen. 7 months of making myself feel like shit. Feeling lost. Feeling like I’ve lost all sense of self since I was no longer a student. Feeling stuck and confused on what path to take next.

The hardest part was starting. As clichΓ© as it sounds, it’s the truth. Making the decision to start was the biggest hump I had to get over. Posting consistently on this blog was something I wanted to do since the class ended (the class that made me start this blog). That was in 2016. So it took all of THREE YEARS to actually follow through with it. It was that last 7 months, the hard-core post-grad blues, that gave me that push. I walked the stage in May 2019, and before that I felt the post-grad blues creeping. But after I walked the stage in May, I knew I was in for a sea of emotions. I knew I’d come down from the high eventually, but I didn’t think I’d crash that hard. The last month and a half after my graduation ceremony is what made me start. That antsy feeling of “wtf am I doing with my life?” set in. This blog was hope I gave myself in my darkest times.

And for the record, I’m still somewhat in my post-grad funk, 1.5 years later. This blog helped me pull myself out of the gutter, but I still have my days… Shit, weeks is more accurate. In no way am I saying that I was depressed after graduation so I started writing and now I’m all good. Nope. In fact, if you keep up with my blog, you’d know that that is far from the truth. But, this blog did turn into my outlet.

I’ve poured my heart out online to people I know and people I don’t know. For everyone to see. For anyone that knows me personally, that is totally against how I am as a person. With close friends and those I trust, I can vent my heart out, complain, cry, be angry, all the above. But only a select few people know me. The real me. Only a handful of people know what I really feel and how I really think. It’s not like me to put all my business out there for the world to see. I mean, stalk my Facebook circa 2009 and that’s a different story… But over the years I have evolved from wanting to share every stupid “who even cares” opinion and cringe selfie, to barely posting, to only posting pictures, transitioning to Instagram, being pretty active on the ‘gram, but slowly posting less and less. Yeah, I would still post, but never in depth into my life. I realized I wanted to be more private. The less people knew about me, my family, my relationship, and my life in general was better.

When I decided to start my blog again, I wasn’t posting much. I debated on if I even wanted people to know my business like that. I weighed out my pros and cons of making my experiences public. Was I ready to be vulnerable? At the time I wasn’t sure. I just knew that writing and actually keeping up a blog was something I had to do for myself. I’ve always admired how some public figures I follow on social media could be so transparent with their struggles. It made me feel like I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling. I was tired of seeing the same filtered “always smiling,” “always good,” “no problems over here,” “I’m livin’ my best life,” type of content.

I wanted to bring attention to topics and issues that aren’t talked about often. And I knew in order to reach out / get people to care, I would have to get very personal. Starting with myself. And by doing that, a lot of people have reached out to me with their stories, their struggles, their truth. Whether that be in private, or featured as one of my blog posts.

A response I get a lot is people telling me, “your story made me cry.” And that’s one of the best compliments I could get as a writer. Not because I’m a bitch and I want people to be depressed, but because I know that it made my readers feel something. It touched my readers in a way where there were no words, just emotions. If you’re feeling it that hard, it’s probably because you can relate to the story you just read. And it warms my heart when people tell me they go back to reread certain blog posts when they’re feeling down or need a reminder that they’re not alone. Sometimes you need to read someone else’s story to realize the similarities in your life. It brings healing.

And that’s part of the reason why I write for myself. It brings healing. I can express exactly how I feel in writing. Sometimes I really can’t express my emotions verbally. It’s either I hold it in, or I say how I feel very bluntly and then feelings are hurt. Starting up this blog again and writing my very personal stories forced me to deal with some of my inner turmoil. What am I afraid of? What gets me emotional? Why is XYZ important to me? Sorting out my feelings and writing out my train of thought really helped me within this past year.

When I decided to finally post consistently, I had no idea where this blog would take me. I had no end goal. I didn’t know how long I would continue it, and honestly expected myself to fall off after about 5 posts. But I held myself accountable as if this blog were paying me. It’s something I had to prove to myself, that I could do it. That what I’m doing matters, and no matter what anyone else thinks, I believe in what I’m doing.

In July 2019 I started off with 6 followers on WordPress. 1 year later, I’m at 97. To some, that ain’t shit. But to me, someone who was happy if 1 person viewed my story, this is an accomplishment. I mostly get all my views from sharing on Instagram and Facebook, but it’s nice to know that I have followers on WordPress who don’t even know me in real life.

A few months ago TrapxArt reached out to me to be featured on their website. It felt so good to be recognized as a writer and as a creative. So, I just want to say thank you. To all those who have supported me, who have cheered me on, who have read my content, those who promote my content, have been the subject of one of my stories, thank you. Thank you for sharing your stories, reading my stories, and keeping it real with me. I still have no idea where this blog is headed. I don’t know how long I’m going to keep this up, or where this blog will take me. But I do know that in just 1 year of posting consistently, I have 50 blog posts to show for it (this post will be #51), and a small following of people that read my content consistently.

Thank you for reading, for keeping up, supporting me, crying with me, laughing with me, and taking this journey with me!

Cheers to 1 year πŸ₯‚! *hot cheeto toast*

(Internal) Land of the Snakes

“Now who more thorough than me? I paint a picture of my pain for the world to see.” – J.Cole (Land of the Snakes)

I named this post “(Internal) Land of Snakes,” because the quote above is from J.Cole’s Land of the Snakes. And I realized that dark place where insecurities will take you is where all my snakes roam. My insecurities that hurt me, want to poison my mind, and will pop up when I least expect it.

A while back, I shared my weight gain journey and how I found peace within the body positive community. Body image and being confident has always been something I’ve struggled with. And I want to make myself clear: it is still something I struggle with. It took years to unlearn all the toxic ways of thinking when it came to body image, self-love, food, and my body dysmorphia. I am in such a better place, and I’ve learned how to pull myself out of that dark space when I find myself getting insecure. I’ve had to re-train my brain to not think so negatively about my own appearance and body. I try to avoid my internal dark place, my land of Snakes. The snakes being my own thoughts, insecurities, ego.

But of course, the path to self-love is a life long journey. I guess I can only speak for myself, but I doubt I’ll ever find 100% enlightenment where no outside or inside force can break me down. Don’t get me wrong, my growth and outlook on body image has improved tremendously. For the most part, I have the body positive mindset 80% of the time. But I do have my days. Since I’ve dropped that blog post about my weight gain journey and my body positive experience, a lot of people have reached out to me. I’m glad I could share my story and have people relate to it, feel inspired, and heal. I appreciate every single person that has reached out to me since then regarding this topic of self-love.

But like I said, I want to make myself clear: I still struggle. I definitely have my days. What’s different though, is how I maneuver my way out of going down that black hole. It made me happy to know that I was inspiring people to start/continue their journey to body positivity/ body acceptance. People would hit me up saying how brave I am, and how they wish they could be more like me. It was a nice feeling, but it also made me feel some type of way. I didn’t want people to think that I’m body positive all the time, because I’m not. I still get insecure. I still beat myself up over things. I still struggle. I didn’t want to be treated as a role model for being plus sized and proud 100% of the time, as if I’m enlightened and shielded from self body shaming. Because it’s not like that. The point of sharing my life and insecurities with the world is to reach someone – anyone – and know that it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to go back and forth with your self-love somedays. So, I’ve decided to share this story…

I met Madison in 2016 at Skyline College when we were partnered up for a class assignment. It was my last semester before transfering to SF State. I was so excited. We were in an advanced journalism class. By “class” I literally mean “group” because there were literally 3 of us, myself and Madison included. We didn’t have enough people to make up an official “class,” so we were the 3 advanced journalism students that did something different from the rest of the class. The 3 M’s, Madison, Marinelle, and Martin. We struggled together, we complained together, we were confused together ( mostly Martin and I, Madison always knew what she was doing.) Anyways, it was through that class that I met a friend for life.

We met in January 2016, and by June 2016 she was moving cross country from the Bay Area to Boston, Massachusetts. This, though, was all part of her plan. She went to Skyline so she could transfer to Boston to get her Master’s in journalism. She regaled me with all of her stories. Moving from state to state, being from Idaho, hating the Bay Area (the disrespect to this Bay Area Native), and everything in between. She was 23 at the time, me just turning 21. “Damn, this girl has lived.” I would think to myself.

We got really close, even though it was all of what, 6 months? But she let me into her and her long-term boyfriend’s lives, and I let them into mine. They would have hangouts at their house and they would throw the best little parties. From charades, to cake, to crying while eating cake, to brunch, to hot cheetos, to someone dancing with fire, to the home owner passing out in the bathroom and possibly being concussed… we’ve had our fair share of awesome memories. So 3-ish years later, towards the second half of 2019, when she told me she was planning to propose to Bren, I was elated.

Madison asked Bren to marry her in September 2019. She let me in on all her details and plans, from how she was going to propose, to all the intricate ideas she had for wedding planning. They planned to have the wedding in January. They had just a little over 3 months to plan every detail of their special wedding day. I seriously don’t know how they did it, but they pulled off one of the best weddings I’ve ever been to. Moving along…

Towards the end of September, Madison sent me an Instagram photo. I opened it. They were pictures of her laptop screen. She was on a website for bridesmaid dresses, and all the options were velvet. She sent me pictures of the different styles of velvet maroon dresses.

“How beautiful would you look standing next to me in this color dress?!” Her colorful text said.

And that’s how she asked me to be her bridesmaid. She later asked in a more official way, but she couldn’t contain the secret any longer, especially since she knew it was hard for me to take time off of work. I was so excited, especially since I’ve never been a bridesmaid before. This trip was going to be one for the books – a wedding in Massachusetts during the winter, being a bridesmaid, and it’s a little mini vacation.

At the time, January felt so far away. Madison was letting all her bridesmaids pick our own style dress, color, length, etc. She left it completely up to us, with one request : it has to be velvet. I thought “no problem,” and didn’t really put too much pressure to find a dress. I knew she high-key wanted me in maroon, so I stuck with it. I lagged on getting the dress in hopes I would find something better, or wait for it to go on sale. The pressures of wanting to look good at the wedding were slowly creeping up on me, but I kept my insecurities at bay. That was a whole 3 ish 4 ish months from now, that’s future Marinelle’s problem.

I had my eyes on 2 dresses. I couldn’t seem to pick one. So, I waited. I was stalking these dresses religiously for weeks. Black Friday was just around the corner, so I figured I’d wait and get a good deal. So that’s exactly what I did.

“If they’re ridiculously on sale, I might even buy both to see how they both fit, ” I thought to myself.

Alas, Black Friday was upon us. I rushed to the website on my phone ASAP. My first choice dress – missing from the website completely. “No waaaayyyy, whatever,” at this point my heart is racing. I moved on to dress option #2. Large and X-Large, out of stock. I’m in panic mode. This whole time I thought finding a maroon velvet dress was a piece of cake, only to find out my options were limited. I waited until Cyber Monday. Nothing. Never restocked the second choice dress, and the first dress never came back. I panicked and bought a dress from Macy’s almost twice the price. I was running out of time, it was almost December. Having 1 velvet dress is better than no velvet dress, even if I wasn’t inlove with it. But, I would still be on the lookout for those 2 dresses.

Something in my gut (literally) was telling me this expensive dress was not going to be it. I dreaded getting it in the mail because I knew it was just going to make me feel like shit about my body. It finally arrived, and I eagerly put it on to prove myself right. Yooooo. This. Was. Not. It. My thighs were way too thick for the slit that went down the middle of the dress. To me, I looked foolish. This dress was not helping me in any way, didn’t flatter my body, hugged my gut to the point you could see my belly button, and barely zipped up. There was no saving this dress. It was a no for me, dawg.

If I wasn’t panicking before, I sure as hell was now. It was probably a week or 2 into December already, and I had nothing. As if the universe heard me, my second dress choice restocked in my size. Without thinking twice, I bought it. This had to be the one. I literally had no other choice. If I didn’t like this dress, I would be cutting it close ordering another right after. The dress arrived in the mail on Christmas Eve, right before my family and I were about to leave the house for our family gathering at my aunt’s. But I was too curious, I ripped the packaging open and held it out in front of me arm length. I held the dress by the straps, the velvet soft between my fingers. I haven’t wore velvet in a minute. It looked stretchy, and it definitely looked more comfortable than the Macy’s dress. I liked that there was no zipper, no buttons, nothing to restrict my breathing. It was stretchy, and made to hug my curves without suffocating me. I was relieved…. for the moment. I didn’t get to try it on because we had to go. I threw it on the livingroom couch, knowing that would be the first thing I tend to when we got back.

We got back home well after midnight. My family throws down for parties, so you already know I was fed when I came back home. We eat until it’s food colma. And then you make a little more room just to gorge yourself again. This is nothing new to Filipinos at parties. So this was probably the worst time to try on a form fitting velvet dress, right after Christmas Eve dinner.

Merry Christmas to me, I looked pregnant as fuck in this dress. Not even kidding, if I had put my hand over my bellybutton and turned to the side and took pictures, it would’ve looked like my maternity shoot. I was so sad. If I were to buy another dress I’d have to expedite it and pay extra, and that wouldn’t even guarantee me liking it. And truth be told, this dress and the one out of stock were my best bets. I had to just deal with it. I was a month out from the wedding.

“Maybe if I try it on tomorrow right when I wake up on an empty stomach, it’ll look better,” I thought.

Yeah, no. Still looked pregnant. I felt pretty bad about myself. I started getting nervous thinking about how I was going to stand up there and have everyone see me as the fat bridesmaid. I thought of how I’d keep my hair down as a distraction from my gut and arms. I felt fat, I felt unhappy, I felt like my appearance would get in the way of me enjoying myself at the wedding.

Had this been a couple years ago, I probably would’ve dwelled on this, and my solution would probably be unhealthy. It would probably consist of a crash diet, restrictions, and hating myself into losing a couple of pounds before the wedding. That was how the old me would’ve reacted. Me now, I knew I had to get over it. Being sad over my appearance wasn’t going to help me. It was either I act, or I do nothing. I decided to act on my insecurities, the healthy way.

I was on winter break at work for 2 weeks, so I hit the gym almost every day. I knew I couldn’t lose my gut in less than a month. It was impossible if I wanted to do it the right way. So instead, I ate healthier, but didn’t restrict myself. If I wanted hot cheetos, I was going to eat hot cheetos. I wasn’t going to rob my taste buds of things I like just for the sake of appearance. I figured if my gut is gonna hang out regardless, I might as well have a fat ass to match. So I squatted and did legs almost every single time I was at the gym.

I don’t know if there was an actual difference the month I was working out consistently, but there was a difference in my mood. I felt better, not only about myself but mentally and physically as well. I was still insecure about how I would look during the wedding, but the insecurities were quieter now. I literally just stopped every negative thought that came to mind mid thought. I realized bashing on myself has no purpose. It won’t fix anything, it won’t make me feel good in the end, it won’t do anything except make me feel like shit, so why entertain it?

Around this time, I found myself being more and more inspired by body positive advocates on social media. Their content spoke louder to me because I was going through it. This little hiccup reminded me of everything I stand for, and why I chose the body positive mindset and approach.

At one point, someone suggested maybe I should wear a girdle. I said this was the body I have and this is the body that Madison will get as a bridesmaid. That comment would’ve offended me once upon a time, but instead, it slapped some sense into me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t knock anyone who wears girdles. Do you. Its just not my cup of tea. To me personally, if I’m promoting self-love and being real, I feel like a hypocrite wearing something that will alter my appearance.

I really had to give myself a pep-talk at one point and remind myself that beauty doesn’t define me. The size of my gut doesn’t matter. My arms will jiggle and that’s okay. But I refused to suck in my gut in pictures, I refused hide behind the bouquet of flowers all night, and I refused to keep my jacket on throughout the whole event because I was insecure about my body. Especially living in the Bay Area, I’m covered up pretty much 95% of the year, so when it’s time to wear dressy things and clothes that accentuates my body, I do feel insecure.

Weddings make everyone a little appearance crazy, even when it’s not even your wedding! We all want to look good, and wear things that flatter our body types. You can dress your body type as best as you can, but your body is your body. We put so much pressure on ourselves to look a certain way, and if the expectations are not met, you’re stuck there feeling depressed and ugly. But who benefits from that? Definitely not you. Sometimes you have to pull yourself out of that dark hole. Sometimes you need to be your own hype-woman.

Madison asked me what hairstyle I planned on getting since she hired hair and makeup people for the day of the wedding. I asked what she wanted since it was her wedding. At this point I was feeling back to my body posi self. She suggested hair up. If this had been a couple weeks prior, I probably would’ve said hair down no questions asked so I could hide behind it. But I thought an up-do was a great idea. I’ve never had my hair professionally done, and I’m rarely seen with my hair up. It’s about time I bust out of my comfort zone.

The day of the wedding went by smoothly. I did my own makeup because I don’t trust anyone with my eyebrows. But getting my hair done was so cool, I wish I had someone to do my hair every morning. When it was finally time to dress up, I put on my dress and wasn’t worried about my gut, or arms, or anything really. I was just so excited to be there and see one of my best friends marry her best friend. I didn’t hide behind the bouquet, I didn’t suck in my tummy for pictures, I didn’t post a certain way to look slimmer. And it felt so liberating to have no worries. I looked around at all the others in the bridal party and everyone looked stunning. Most of us were all strangers before meeting up in New York for Madison’s bachelorette party. Some we didn’t even meet until the rehearsal dinner. But everyone was genuinely supporting and hyping up one another. We all bonded over being a part of Madison and Bren’s bridal party, and I must say, it felt good to meet all the many friends who were there throughout the married couples lives.

If I had stressed over my insecurities the whole time, I wouldn’t have enjoyed myself the way I did. I would just be too concerned with being insecure and nitpicking at myself, when honestly, nobody even really cares. I’m glad I got to pull myself out of my own head right in time for the wedding. Because when the time came, I didn’t care about my stomach, my arms, the pimple on my cheek that has literally been on my face for over a month, I was too busy living in the moment and enjoying myself. And when we let insecurities get in the way of that, you miss out on a lot of life.

I just wanted to share this story because everyone has their moments. The body positive advocate still feels insecure from time to time, and that’s okay. It’s nice to share successes, but it’s also okay to share your setbacks. Madison shared her wedding album with all of us and I found this picture of me getting my hair done. I love how you can see my perfectly imperfect tummy in the picture. I stressed about my “booty-do (when your stomach sticks out more than your booty-do)” for the longest, and here she was making her appearance in this velvet dress. I love this picture. This is the real me, body relaxed, not posed at all, tummy hangin’ out.

“Are You Filipino?”

It was Thursday evening, I just got off work at 5 PM and was waiting on a reply from the group chat with my sisters and cousin. Where were we going to freakin’ eat?! And when I mean “waiting” on their reply, I really mean I was blowing it up because nobody was responding to me. I told them to figure out where we were eating by 5 PM so I could Uber there ASAP to save time. But here I was, 5:05 PM with all the crickets. Anyways, that night, we were going to watch Jo Koy, a Filipino comedian. We followed him throughout his career and that night, we were finally going to see him live at Chase Center in San Francisco.

Finally around 5:15 my cousin texted the destination spot. The show started at 8, so I didn’t want to risk it for the biscuit by being cheap. I called an UberX to get to Mi Lindo as soon as possible. I waited outside on the sidewalk waiting for my Uber. All I could think about was how tired I was. I was thinking of taking a nap during my Uber car ride, but I was hesitant because of all those creepy Uber ride horror stories. My Uber driver turned the corner and in no time was pulled over right in front of me. I got in and did the basic greetings and confirmation on who the ride is for.

After about 3 minutes into the ride I feel myself wanting to doze off. Working at a preschool full-time got me going home at the end of the day pooped. I was thinking of taking that power nap, my eyes struggling to stay open. I usually have my earphones on during my Uber rides alone, but I was too lazy to reach into my back pack and put them on. Which was probably for the best, since this car ride would give me all the feels. There I was, tired, exhausted, not to mention hungry.

“Are you Filipino?” My driver asks me. He was a middle aged Filipino man, I would guess late 50’s barely early 60’s. But he later told me was almost 70.

“Yeah I am,” I responded happily. I had to turn on my customer service voice on. But honestly, I wasn’t really in the mood to have a full on conversation.

“Can you speak Tagalog?” He asked through his thick accent.

“I can understand Tagalog, and I can speak it,” I said. But then I started explaining myself. Yes, I can understand Tagalog completely when it is spoken to me. Yes, I can speak it, but it takes a while for me to translate what I mean and formulate it into a Tagalog sentence.

“Ah, it is because you were born here, ha?”

“Yeah. I was born here. I can speak Tagalog, but you can tell I have an American accent.”

“Oh, that’s okay. You know, as long as you can still understand, that is good.” He told me.

He kept the conversation going. He told me he was almost 70 years old, and has been in America since 2009 or 2011 (if I’m remembering this right.) He currently works 3 jobs total, Uber being his part-time gig. He is a caregiver for his other 2 jobs. He cares for elderly patients in their home, and does over night shifts. I told him I was on the way to see Jo Koy. He knew him as the “bald guy.”

“Wow, you work a lot,” I told him.

“Yes, I work a lot. To be honest, I don’t really sleep, just always work.” He explained further that of course he does sleep, but it is while on the job as a caregiver. When he’s doing his overnight shifts and his patients are asleep, he sleeps in a separate room, while occasionally checking in on his patient throughout the night.

“So when do you find time to do things you like and have fun since you work so much?”

“I don’t,” he laughed. “I like working. I’m old already. I don’t need to go to parties or anything.”

He told me how he enjoys working a lot. Working makes him happy. Sometimes when people talk about working a lot, its ususally negative. Its ususally followed by a “life is hard” speech or “all I do is work and it sucks” speech. He genuinely seemed to be content with his work load.

“There’s a lot of money to be made in America,” he told me. “You know that? If you are a hard worker in America, you can make a lot of money.”

We continued on with the conversation. He asked what part of the Philippines my parents are from, told me about his 2 kids back in the Philippines, how he came to America on a tourist Visa years ago, then had to work to remain tourist-ing. He married here in America, and his wife works at Kaiser. His daughter is graduating college in the Philippines soon and he was going to return back home for her graduation. In about a year or 2, he plans to move back to the Philippines for good.

Throughout our conversation I understood why he asked if I could understand Tagalog. He was struggling to speak English, probably the same way I would be struggling to speak Tagalog. The point was getting across, but it took a while. I thought about telling him to speak to me in Tagalog and I would just answer in English, but I didn’t know if it would come across as rude, or discourage him from speaking English. I tried to compensate by throwing in Tagalog phrases so he could understand more.

He asked about my name, and said how beautiful it was. I laughed and said my name is very Filipino since my name is a combination of my mom and older sister’s name. Filipinos love combining names to make a new name. He eagerly chimed in that both of his children’s names are a combination of his and his wife’s (the one in the Philippines) name.

He was shocked to discover that I’ve never been to the Philippines. He tried to sell the idea of me visiting with my family soon. “Oh you will love it there,” he went on. He spoke about all the Filipino food he cooks, and how his wife is chubby because he’s such a great chef.

I could tell that he just wanted to talk. I got zero percent creepy vibes from him. He never said it, but I felt like I reminded him of his daughter or something. He told me she was 20 or 21, me being 25. I think the fact that I’m Filipino made him feel comfortable. Just hearing about his life made me want to invite him to one of family parties or something. He told me it’s just him and his wife, that they met here, in America. Because of his busy schedule, I commented that he and his wife probably don’t get much alone time. From what he described, it seemed like he goes from job to job to job. The whole time I thought of how lonely that must be.

When I told him I graduated SFSU in Journalism he got happy. “Oh, you know, that’s like on the TV? Like broadcasting? You should apply! Just apply! You have a beautiful voice!” I laughed a little in my head because it’s a running inside joke with my sisters and cousins how deep my voice is. But I accepted the compliment.

He said something to me earlier in our conversation that stuck with me. When we were talking about Tagalog and if I could understand and speak it, he reassured me that it was okay if I had an American accent.

“It’s okay. You were born here, but your blood is Filipino. You might be from here, but your blood is 100% Filipino.”

We finally got to my destination. He pulled up infront of Mi Lindo. I told him that I really enjoyed talking to him, and for him to take care.

“Send my regards to your mom and dad,” he told me while waving.

I got in the restaurant, and my sister and cousin could see me from the window. My little sister commented that I was way too happy getting out of the car, prolonging getting out and saying 1 last thing before finally closing the car door. I told them that I just had such a nice conversation with my Uber driver.

Chase Center was only about 2 miles away from the restaurant we were at, so we were doing great time wise. We parked a couple of blocks away from Chase Center, but the short walk seemed longer. That San Francisco cold hits you differently at night. The kind of cold that makes your back hurt and body tighten up. Anyways, it was well worth it, paying $10 cheaper than the Chase Center parking garage.

Chase Center, the new home of the Golden State Warriors. It was a magnificent sight. It’s a beautiful stadium, and the outside of it was just as dope. It was a sea of Filipinos. We joked that we would all see people we knew. And turns out, we all did. All 4 of us.

We got to our seats, and waited for the show to start. The crowd was huge. And it was a sold out show. Finally, after much anticipation, Jo Koy finally entered the stage. He got an automatic standing ovation. I could only imagine how he felt, the stadium is huge, there were so many people. You could tell by his face that he was genuinely like, “damn, I made it.”

What makes Jo Koy’s jokes so much funnier is the fact that we can relate to everything he’s talking about. He’s half Filipino half white, raised by a Filipino mother. He may not be full Filipino, but his experiences growing up are exactly like mine. Feeling like you can relate to someone is such a great feeling. Especially since he’s made a name for himself, he’s telling the Filipino narrative.

I’ve watched Jo Koy since he was on the Chelsea Lately show. Honestly, I would get a little bummed when Jokoy wasn’t in an episode. They would cap on him for being Asian, and the running joke was that they never got the right type of Asian. He would always talk about him being Filipino, and growing up I got a sense of pride from that. Nothing more rewarding than seeing your people on the screen, and it’s a cherry on top when they claim being Filipino publically, and make an effort to rep it.

During Jo Koy’s act, he talked about growing up and not seeing Filipino people on the screen. He goes on to talk about representation, and how that shit is important. He tells the story of how his sister stitched on the Filipino flag on his jacket right before an interview. Why?

To represent all the Filipinos out there, but to also inspire other Filipinos to dream big. He went on to talk about Manny Pacquiao, and how he was killing the game in the name of the Philippines. And how proud he was to see Manny on the screen. And I can relate to that so hard.

I remember when Manny was first coming up, before he was the main event, before all the fame. We were in my aunt’s living room, and he was an under card fight. When Manny won, they lifted the Filipino flag behind him. “Oh, he’s Filipino?” I remember my dad saying. And then Pacquiao got bigger and bigger, and made/ is continuing to make history. I felt that shit. The pride and admiration Jo Koy was talking about, I can relate.

Everytime there is a known Filipino doing big things in America, best believe that person will be on “Balitang America” (a Filipino news station that reports on American news that relates to Filipinos). Jo Koy is right, growing up, there wasn’t enough Filipino representation in the media. So when there was a known Filipino, we repped them, claimed them, and supported them regardless.

From Manny Pacquiao, to Jo Koy, to Apl.de.ap, to Rob Schneider, to Bruno Mars, to Shay Mitchell. Once we learned of their Filipino heritage, us as a community support them like super fans. It gives us a sense of pride to see someone that looks like us on the screen.

Jo Koy tells the Filipino narrative through jokes. He sheds light on issues in the Filipino community, like holding grudges and not talking things out. This is a topic I’ve talked about with my cousins and friends! It’s some real shit. And as a comedian, Jo Koy jokes about some of the toxic Filipino traits, and even though he is making people laugh, it sheds light on the issues at hand.

“Stop that shit,” Jo Koy said when talking about holding grudges and going mute, “Talk! Just talk! Communicate!”

Seeing a Filipino like Jo Koy make it big makes me so proud. Having someone that represents your culture, in media that is predominately Caucasian, really does inspire other Filipinos to dream big. It’s an even better feeling when you’ve followed somebody throughout their career, and finally see them reach the top. Jo Koy said he wore that Filipino flag on his jacket to inspire other Filipinos out there, and it makes me proud. Because I have the same mentality. All these Filipinos in different professions, making a name for all of us in those fields is a beautiful thing.

I want to be successful, not just for me, but to represent my people. I come from Daly City, one of the most Filipino dense communities in America. But the fact of the matter is, once I go out of Daly City or the Bay Area, the Filipino community gets smaller and smaller. There are parts in America where people don’t even know what the Philippines is.

If you keep up with my blog, you already know I want to make it big to represent the Filipino community and shed light on Filipino topics with my writing. I can relate to Jo Koy and his need to rep his Filipino-ness hardcore to inspire other Filipinos.

Even everyday people, like my Uber driver, takes pride in talking and relating to another Filipino. When we see someone make it big and rep us, it’s a proud feeling. And I aspire to make my community proud like that in my lifetime.

One day this journalist will be getting interviewed, and they’ll ask me, “Are you Filipino?”

And I’ll respond with a proud, “Fuck yeah I’m Filipino.”

Walang Hiya

“Walang hiya,” literally translates to “no shame”/ “shameless” in Tagalog.

My ears are no stranger to this saying. In fact, all my life I’ve heard the terms, “walang hiya,” / “walang ka hiya?!” (“Have you no shame?!”). This phrase was almost always said to my sisters and I by our parents. And it was most definitely said to check us and humble us with the quickness. When you hear someone say, “walang hiya,”(statement form) / “walang ka hiya?!” (Question form) to another person, they’re checking the other person’s character and actions. It is generally not a positive reaction, especially in its statement form, “walang hiya” is most likely followed with a head shake and look of disappointment.

“Have you no shame?” has been instilled in mind at a young age. Every Filipino kid has heard this term growing up. And to be honest, my parents still say this to us to this day! Everyone can relate to their parents telling them that they are shameless, to the point where it’s almost a joke. Well, for my cousins and I atleast. When someone is being out of pocket and takes a joke too far, we’ll laugh and throw in, “walang hiya!”

When I was thinking of what to write for this week’s blog post, I kept thinking of how I could summarize my 2019. I didn’t want to do the typical, “What has 2019 taught me…” / “My goals for 2020 are…” post. I thought back on how I changed from the beginning of 2019 to now, about to close out the decade. And all that came to my mind was, “Walang Hiya.”

Shameless. I was definitely shameless this year. “Walang hiya,” has always been seen as a negative thing, but for me, being shameless this year has brought me inner growth. It has been such a confusing year for me personally. I really had to dig deep and remember who I am, what I want, and where I want to be.

My 2019 new year’s resolution was to start posting consistently on this blog. January 2019 came and went, and my blog was mad crickety. I was freshly graduated, and wanted to start my passion projects. The only thing getting in the way of that was… myself. I was over thinking, being insecure, and shy about my work. It’s easy to say, “just start!” when you’re posting your work for the public to see and criticize.

May 2019 I walked the stage with my journalism class. And my graduation ceremony sparked something in me. At that point I was 5 months out of school, and being back in the school setting, even if it was just to walk the stage, ignited my fire again. I saw my professors, and it inspired me to get out of the slump I was in and do something – anything – writing wise. It took a little over a month, but July 2019 I started posting consistently.

In the past, when I was still in school and would post what I wrote every now and then, I would get insecure about what people would think, the engagement I would get on the post, the photo that went with it, etc etc etc. But now, I don’t care about the likes, the comments, if I look “nice” in the cover pic. The thing was, in the past, I did have “hiya.” I had shame, when I should’ve had pride in my work. I was always taught that there is a very thin line between being proud/humble and being cocky. Posting about my writing / occasional video projects made me feel weird. It made me feel like I was boasting about my work, showing off, and seaking attention. It took me a while to let go of that “hiya” and share my ideas/ posts.

Before I started posting consistently on my blog, therefore all my social media platforms to get more engagement, I was very particular about what I posted. I was one of those social media users that would post like, once a month, and was very choosy on what I chose to share. Like I said before, social media is what people want you to see of them. And for me, I didn’t really feel the need to share anything particularly personal. It was like “you can see my family, friends, boyfriend, and that’s about all I’m going to share.” I didn’t post things if it wasn’t “Instagram worthy,” or if I didn’t look cute in it. I didn’t want to post too frequent, and I didn’t want to have too many posts on my feed. Because more posts on my Instagram meant that I was giving the public more pieces to the puzzle of “me.”

When I started posting a blog post every Monday, all that went out the window. In the beginning I felt some type of way that I was over sharing my life, and posting way more than I ever did before. My blog is kind of like posting my diary entries for the world to see. It gets real real quick. But I knew that if I ever wanted to be known as a writer who writes about real shit, I have to share what I write. That was definitely a transition for me. I’m not one to share my personal life on a Facebook status, and you would never catch me having Twitter fingers if I had beef with anyone. I was always a “think what you want to think, I keep my circle small and the people that matter know the truth,” if I was ever in some drama. But now, here I am, sharing my deepest thoughts, my fears, my struggles, my triumph, for the public to see.

Some of the things I write about would certainly get a, “walang ka hiya?!” from my parents, which was part of the reason why I was hesitant on posting consistently. Surprisingly, my mom hasn’t hit me with the, “walang ka hiya?!” statement yet on anything I have written so far. I think it’s one of those situations where she thinks it in her head, but won’t say it out loud because she knows I’m an adult and that I want to reach a bigger audience. Her feedback to me once was that I curse too much on my blogs. “Its good, but just don’t use ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ because its embarrassing, don’t you want people to read and like you? They may not like you if you curse so much.”

I responded by saying that I’m not writing for people to like me. I’m not changing my writing style to show face, because I’m not like that in person. If you know me, I type how I talk. People tell me all the time that they read my content and it’s like they hear me reading it. I have thought of what I post biting me in the ass. As a journalist, we were taught to be professional all across the board. But that’s why I don’t see myself in hard news, because I feel like I have too much personality. I went on to tell my mom that whoever has a problem with seeing cuss words in my writing, doesn’t have to read. I was taught that whatever content you choose to write about attracts a certain audience, and it’s okay if everyone isn’t into it.

Simultaneously while I’m posting consistently, I noticed 2019 was the year that I gave less and less a fuck about my outward appearance. I’m a preschool teacher, I’m always in leggings, no makeup, and a whatever top, because I’m constantly on the move. Might get shit on, might get boogers on me, might have to clean the whole unit, I literally never know. Even on weekends, I found myself not caring how I looked. And there was some freedom in that. But it sometimes made me sad. I wasn’t putting effort into my appearance because I genuinely didn’t care and was too lazy to put on makeup. But at the same time, it made me happy that I was secure in myself that I didn’t feel the need to look a certain way all the time. I also wake up at 5 am, there is literally no time to get cute anymore.

I took “I don’t care,” to a whole new level. Appearance wise, body wise, and all the above. But I mean this in a good way. I found no point in complaining about my appearance. I put less importance on my outter appearance and worked on the kind of person I was on the inside. I learned that I can only control myself, my actions, and my emotions. I can’t control how others react or how others interpret things. I realized my toxic traits and try to work on them. I’m quick with my words when I’m upset, and I’m still trying to learn the meaning of restraint. That’s one thing where I should have shame! But it’ll take time to break bad habits.

I made it a point this year to not support any business or brand that did not support me as a bigger bodied woman. That being said, I stopped buying undergarments from Victoria’s Secret, and started supporting Aerie for their body inclusivity. It was hard for me because I was a die hard Victoria’s Secret fan for years. I’ve spent a lot of money at Victoria’s Secret and they had my brand loyalty. But when they made that comment about plus size women and trans women, I couldn’t. I could no longer support a company that didn’t care about plus sized women like me. I had no shame in vocalizing my reasons. And now, Aerie loyalty it is.

2019 I really opened up myself to the public. I had “walang hiya” in a lot of things I did, and it worked in my favor. Growing up, I was taught that having “no shame” was a bad thing. Now, I want to share that having “walang hiya” doesn’t always have to be negative. Being shameless in my writing, life, and appearance has helped me grow into a more secure woman.

Here’s to having walang hiya in 2020 πŸ₯‚

One Year Later

One year later,

It’s my anniversary.

One year later,

I’m still working at the nursery.

This same time last year, I was finishing up school for good,

I was happy and excited, feeling as I should.

It was crazy that I could finally say, “Hell yeah, I’m graduated,”

Feeling all the emotions but mostly relieved and elated.

It’s my one year anniversary, please don’t congratulate me.

Please don’t remind me I’m not where I want to be.

To this day, graduating has been the highest of my highs,

But let me tell you something, and let me know if it applies.

Nobody tells you how low you can feel when your highest high is all done,

You worked so hard to reach the finish line, but the journey has just begun.

And I know there’s a couple of you done reading about my emo post-grad shit,

But some people reached out and said they can relate, so let me ramble on a bit.

If you’re feeling like me, this poem is dedicated to you.

You’re stuck in post-grad limbo, and you don’t know what to do.

Rejection email after rejection email, you tell yourself to keep applying.

People ask how the job search is going, and you give a half ass smile and say, “I’m still trying.”

High key embarrassed to admit that I’m not used to all of this,

I’m so used to achieving my goals, not shooting and then miss.

I don’t mean to sound cocky or over confident,

It’s just so different from what I’m used to – I’m feeling mad incompetent.

How ironic is it that the girl that planned her future step by step,

Is falling apart even with the “mise en place,” in prep?

A year ago, I thought I had it all figured out.

But now I’m so lost, and I ain’t faking this for writing clout.

So many emotions that constantly run through my head,

To be real I deal with this post-grad funk by staying in my bed.

It’s so hard to prove that you have what it takes when there’s so much competition,

I fantasize about my successful career, while I struggle to find an entry-level position.

But at the same time, I’m picky and I won’t just write for anything,

Keeping my writing voice and being real still means everything.

I refuse to sell out for a high paying job that doesn’t align with my beliefs,

I know that I got to start from the bottom and that’s what adds to my grief.

A year ago, I felt on top of the world and was ready to take on this new beginning,

Now a year later, I want to remember what it feels like to be winning.

Cole told me, “things change, rearrange, and so do I,”

He said it ain’t always for the better and he ain’t lie.

But I know this is a path I must walk with patience and my head up to the sky,

I’m a firm believer that what’s mine is mine, and if it’s meant for me it won’t pass me by.

I can’t wait for the day where I can look back and say,

“Damn, look how far we’ve come, you just took it day by day.”

But for now I walk through the valley of confusion,

Planning out your future to the T is really an illusion.

I’ve forced myself to just try to go with the flow,

Because when the timing is right my heart will truly know.

So I’m at that point in my life where I don’t know what to do,

And I realized it’s okay to be a little lost and not have a single clue.

But she’s resilient, and she’ll take this day by day,

She’s a writer, she won’t give up, she got so much more to say.

To My Filipina Girls

Filipina girl,

Please just keep doing you.

Don’t let these beauty standards tell you what to do.

Fuck those products that make your skin lighter,

I feel like this is something I need to address as a writer.

You don’t need products or surgery to change what you were given,

I wish you inner peace and accept the features you’ll forever live in.

However, I am not one to judge if you go down the surgery route,

But let’s be real we know what this epidemic is all about.

Society and culture tells you that you have to look a certain way,

These things were molded into our minds so young as if our brains were clay.

You’re confused as to why your family tells you to eat more, but will later throw it in your face,

And now you’re wondering why you stare in the mirror and look at your body like its a fucking disgrace.

You’re looking at the people on TV and can’t help but stare,

You’re stuck wondering if you’d feel better about yourself if you were fair.

Fuck that shit, let me say this once cuz I’m a lil’ fighter,

Those people want you to stay insecure and have you wish that your features were “whiter.”

The running joke is that of a Filipino’s nose,

Well let me tell you this, and this is how the new story goes…

I love my nose, my color, and all my Filipino features,

I’ll never deny my background, preachin’ like I’m a preacher.

There’s nothing more sad than discrimination from your own people,

They think if your “Filipino” don’t look the same as theirs then you are not their equal.

Growing up, I never saw people in shows that look like me,

I would get excited and feel pride when there was a known Filipino on TV.

When they repped Filipinos publically it made me even prouder,

So that’s why I’ll say this message again, this time even louder:

Filipina girl,

You are more than your outer beauty,

Educate, inspire, grow that brain, that’s your fucking duty.

Because when you do that, only then will you know,

They want you to stay insecure so they can sell you things, and damn now it shows!

My mission is to make it for the people that look like me,

I’m Filipina and I’m proud, and that’s the fuckin’ tea! πŸΈβ˜•

Imposter Syndrome

“…it’s only natural I explain my plateau, and also what defines my name…” -Nas / J.Cole

These last couple of weeks I’ve been feeling stagnant, uninspired, and I’ve had hardcore writer’s block. I’ve thought about skipping out on blog posts some Mondays and falling off the wagon for a week or 2. But I knew that would only make me feel worse, so I pushed on.

I’m just over 3 months into consistently writing every week, and I’m high key disappointed in myself that I’m running out of gas this quickly. And honestly, running out of things to write about haha. I know that just means I need to reignite my curiosity on topics and really sit down and think on what to write about.

This is just another wave of the post-grad depression blues. Especially since this December will mark my 1 year anniversary of graduating, I’m almost positive that’s why I’m feeling the way I am. Damn. Let me repeat that. One year. And it sucks because the times I feel off like this I think, “One year post-grad, and what do you have to show for it?” And like I said in the past, this was supposed to be my 1 year “break/chillin'” year… the irony. And I annoy myself because I purposely planned on taking off 1 year to just focus on my blog and passion projects, which I have been doing. So why do I feel like this?

I’m projecting “I’m a writer, I’m a writer,” on all my platforms, but sometimes I think, “But are you? You haven’t been published since SFSU’s Xpress Magazine…” and I hate when I doubt myself like that because it puts me in a mood where I overlook everything I’ve already accomplished, and doubt my decisions I’ve made up until this point.

I’m dealing with Imposter Syndrome so bad right now. What is Imposter Syndrome? Gill Corkindale explains:

Imposter syndrome can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success. ‘Imposters‘ suffer from chronic self-doubt and a sense of intellectual fraudulence that override any feelings of success or external proof of their competence

While Karen Schneider describes Imposter Syndrome as:

A lack of self-confidence, anxiety, doubts about your thoughts, abilities, achievements and accomplishments, negative self-talk, feelings of inadequacy, dwelling on past mistakes and not feeling good enough β€” these are all signs and symptoms of imposter syndrome. And these thoughts and feelings plague all people, successful people, men and women of all ages, races, and orientations.

I felt this way when I was preparing for my speech at the Women Gender Studies Conference in Fresno this past April. I was presenting my paper on The Body Positive Community as the new wave of modern day feminism, and I wrote about 11-12 pages on it. But when practicing, I felt like I was going to draw blanks. This is a topic I’ve been so passionate about for a couple of years. I did my research, I had articles to back up my points, and I still felt like, “Ok, but who are you to be presenting this? Are you really that educated on the topic? Or are you just going to go up there and sound stupid like you don’t know what you’re talking about?”

I vented these frustrations to my community college journalism professor, Nancy. The same visit where she told me, “you’re always ahead of one person and always behind someone else,” when it comes to success. I was telling her about the Women Gender Studies Conference and how nervous I was. I even told her how I was lowkey thinking about not going, but the only thing stopping me was the fact that I booked the AirBnb already. She looked at me and said, “You have Imposter Syndrome.”

She explained to me that Imposter Syndrome is normal and that she herself has been in my shoes. She was delivering a speech infront of other professors and colleagues and felt the same way I did. She was questioning herself and her successes, but still pushed on.

And that’s the position I’m in right now. I feel like an imposter, lowkey. I’m a writer. But I haven’t been published in a while, and I’m attaching my credibility to the number of times I’ve been published. And it sucks. And the only person that puts me in this mood is the same person that can get me out of this mood. And that person is me. I’m doing it to myself. And that’s what’s hella annoying.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been a lazy motivated person. If that’s even possible…. but clearly it is, because here I am in the flesh. Let me break it down. I have dreams and aspirations, I want to inspire and spread truth to my readers. I know the steps I need to take to achieve my dreams, and I always end up taking those steps, however, it’s always at procrastinated rate. I’m lazy as hell, but I deliver when its crunch time. Its so bizarre. In school, some professors would praise me for my work, little did they know I started it at midnight. I never missed a deadline, but waited until last minute to get it together, and I always got by with pretty good grades. And that’s how I earned my degree. I guess I do my best work under pressure and borderline anxiety attack and mental breakdown. I’m stressed and anxious now, not knowing what steps to take towards my writing career, but at the same time, what do I expect? This is all I’ve ever known. The stress of “Will I make it or not?” The scary part is, this isn’t for a grade, this isn’t for a paper or project that won’t matter anymore once I turn it in. This time it’s my future, my career.

I get into these moods where, for a period of time, I will be so motivated and I take initiative. I grab life by the balls and get shit done. And then, out of nowhere I’ll feel like how I feel now, burnt out, unmotivated, and I want to fall off for a minute. When I’m feeling really low is when I somehow shoot back up and repeat the process of having immaculate motivation and nothing can stop me, until I run out of gas again. I’m still trying to find the balance of having a continuous motivation and drive, without burning myself out. I want to be at a constant level of productivity, not seesawing back and forth from motivated and inspired, to feeling unfulfilled and down in the dumps.

I was on Instagram, and a friend I follow posted on her story a quote. It was something along the lines of, “People speak about their problems and battles only in the past tense,” and the quote goes on to say people only share their struggles when they already are passed it and have a solution. And that stuck with me. And it’s true. I talk a lot about my past stories, and what lessons I realized they taught me. And nothing is wrong with me reflecting on past events and stories because it does take time to reflect and grow from things. But also, I wanted to share what I’m currently going through, in the moment.

I think that’s why I was feeling a little unmotivated to write – because I was covering topics I was interested in, but I wasn’t addressing how I was feeling in the moment. I will say that writing this blog post was waaaaay easier to write. I guess I need to vent and be real with myself. Put it down in writing how I feel. Right now. Not when I’m already over it and decide to share.

Right now, in this moment, I’m confused, I caught another wave of the post-grad blues, and I’m doubting myself and my abilities. I’m feeling like a fraud because I haven’t been published in a while. I’m feeling some type of way because I’ve almost been out of school for a whole year. It’s so hard to rediscover yourself as someone other than a student. I’m still exploring the non-student-Marinelle. And it’s a confusing time and I want to cry, but at the same time I wouldn’t know what I’m crying for. Just feeling lost, confused, and unsuccessful?

Ever since I’ve started writing consistently, a lot of people have reached out to me saying how proud they are of me, how they’re inspired, and how they look forward to my writing. Thank you, thank you πŸ’˜ I appreciate every single person – friend or stranger- that has ever reached out to me with kind words. It really means everything. If you read my stuff and get inspired, I’m so glad and happy my work is touching someone in a positive way. And I’m hoping by sharing my struggles in the moment, it’ll help someone who is feeling the same. Because I don’t have a solution yet. And if I want to inspire others and tell real stories, I need to share the good, the bad, and the ugly.

And I will say that writing this all out has been therapeutic haha. I don’t know who I’m writing this post for – y’all or me 🀣. But thanks for reading, just riding yet another post-grad wave. πŸ„πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

My Weight Gain Journey

Yes, you read that title right.

You always hear and read about people’s weight loss journey, but rarely about someone’s weight gain journey.

This is something I wanted to write about for a while, but never had the guts to do it. Probably in fear of getting negative comments, fear of getting too personal so publically, mixed with not being ready to share my story when I was still in the evolving process (still am, to be honest). But now, I speak my truth. I don’t expect people to understand my journey, and I know there will be a handful of readers that will disagree with me. But I’m not here to please everyone. You don’t have to agree with me.

I’m sharing my story in hopes that it reaches someone who is struggling with the same thing I spent my whole life struggling with. That self-love journey is the most intense thing to struggle with, especially since it’s all from within. It took me years to cleanse my mind of all the toxic Eurocentric beauty standards that I learned throughout my whole life. To unlearn all the negative thoughts people have and associate with my body type was in itself a journey. But most of all, training my brain to not speak and think negative things about myself was hard mentally. This is my story. This is how my weight gain journey saved my life.

I’ve always thought in my head how outsiders who don’t know me at all see my weight gain journey. Because let’s be real, it’s completely obvious. When explaining this blog post to close friends, I said, “You know, to outsiders who haven’t seen me since high school / early community college, they probably see me in person or on social media and think ‘Daaaamnnnn, she got hellllaaaa bigggggg!’ – thinking ‘what a shame,’ ‘damn, she let herself go!’ But if only they knew what I went through back in the day, and how unhealthy and toxic it all was. Gaining weight and “getting helllllla bigggg” is the result of what I like to dramatically label as my enlightenment.

🎢 Let me take y’all back, maaaaaan! As I do soooo wellllll! 🎢 *J.Cole voice*

For as long as I can remember, I’ve struggled with my weight and body dysmorphia. I was always the chubby little girl growing up. I’ve literally been big since birth. My mom takes pride in the fact that I was 8 and something pounds and she pushed my big ass straight out the womb naturally. Honestly, she deserves all the boasting rights, she delivered all 3 of us naturally and won’t let us forget it! So since birth I’ve been labeled as the big baby.

You know how kids go through a chubby phase and grow out of it? Uh, yeah, I just never grew out of it. The words of adults when you’re that young really absorb in your brain quickly. Around age 4-5, you start being more aware of yourself as a person and that’s when insecurities start to form. I’ve studied that when once upon a time I was an Early Childhood Development major, and I see it now working with children ages 1.5 – 5 years old. I was always being told by family that I was big and “to be careful.” It all stems from a good place, but the execution was sooo lame.

At age 6-7 I was writing in my diary how I need to lose weight. It was during the summertime, so I was stuck at home and obviously feeling mad insecure. I remember writing down a list of things I was going to “STOP EATING! NO MORE!” I jotted down all the foods I was going to avoid for my “diet.” Just the thought of it stressed me out (bruh, at 7), not even a couple hours later, I opened up my diary and crossed out my whole list. It’s crazy that diet culture starts that young.

I got the nickname “Good Life” from my uncle. The joke was since I was big, I must be eating good all the time and have the “Good Life.” I turned red with embarrassment as all the family laughed at my new found nickname. “Its ok!” They all urged. They explained that my older cousin was the previous “Good Life,” she grew out of it, so years later, now I’m the new one. I remember trying to laugh about it too. “Join in the joke so they don’t know you’re actually about to cry,” I would think to myself. But everytime I would be called that, it would be like a full-body cringe, I would freeze up, and I could feel my face getting flushed with pure uncomfortableness. I remember always wanting to angry cry, but it took all of me to hold it in because I knew I’d get in trouble for taking it too seriously.

I think that’s why I became the tomboy. I wanted to be tough, act tough, and be Buttercup in every way possible. Shitty weight comments is what made me grow a thick skin. But even though I was a little tough kid and acted like those comments didn’t phase me, somewhere deep deep down on the inside I was a delicate little flower who struggled with body image issues. I checked my weight on our shitty bathroom scale often and wished I saw something lower everytime. This time frame I’m talking about Kindergarten to 4th -ish grade y’all.

And by 4th grade I had already developed and was most definitely bigger than 96% of the boys in my grade! So at this point, I have family in my ear talking about how big I am, but I also had classmates tell me I’m fat, I could break a chair, and overall just feeling shitty about myself. All of a sudden I had boobs, and I was bigger than everyone else, it was just an awkward time.

Hearing shitty comments that young made me decide early on how I’m not going to talk to my child, or any child for that matter. I’m a ruthless individual if I’m feeling catty. I can destroy someone’s selfworth with just a single sentence. It’s truly a blessing and a curse all at once. I’ve been bullied and I’ve been the bully. It’s all a cycle. Hurtful things have been said to me about my outward appearance, and at times I was the one saying hurtful things. We learn and pick up actions and mannerisms from the environment we grow up in. So since I know first hand what it’s like to be 5 to 10 years old, and being teased about my weight, I know now that I will never be that adult in some kid’s life.

Fast forward to middle school, I’m talking 6th-8th grade. That age group alone is a difficult time in your life already – trying to fit in, find your crew, and maneuver through the childish drama and teenage beef. On top of that you think you’re grown and you’re trying to get noticed by your crush and get chose. I’ve always been stuck in the frendzone hahah. I look back now and it’s funny and cringy as fuck, but back then that shit was tragic. I really felt like I was the DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend) of my friend group. They were all having their first puppy love romances, and I was always just the bro. It made me think there was something weird about me, that nobody saw me past being a bro. Again, this shit is so cringe and minuscle to me now, but back then I was like damn, what the hell am I gross or something? Little did I know that those feelings in early teenage years are completely normal.

Puberty and all that shit really gets to you. Your hormones are all out of whack, popularity and fitting in seems to be the most important thing in your world, and you’re stuck comparing yourself to others. This is around the same time where Myspace was all that and a bag of chips, and Facebook was right around the corner. Peers were starting to get into makeup and beauty products – on the weekends only – since I attended a Catholic school that prohibited makeup, nailpolish, even ankle socks. HAHAHA.

But the benefit of being in a private school was the fact that I didn’t have to wake up everyday and stress over what to wear. Of course, I didn’t see it as a benefit then, but when I think about it now, it took a lot of pressure off of looking a certain way every day. There was a set uniform. Yeah, they weren’t fashionable or cute, but it didn’t matter what my appearance looked like because everyone had to wear the same thing. There were rare days out of the year where we had “Free Dress” days, meaning we could go to school in our regular clothes. These days were a big deal and an opportunity to show your style. I remember being on Aim (damn, I feel old) chatting with my friends the night before free dress days.

“What are you gonna wear tomorrow?”

“With what shoes?”

“Want to try to match?”

“Well do you have a shirt this color too?”

“Bring your camera so we can take pictures!”

I would also keep a mental note of my scars on my left arm. I almost never wore just a short sleeve shirt because I wanted to cover them. The stares, the questions, the disgusted faces people would make when they ask if they could touch it. I would rarely take off my school sweater, and would only take it off if I was legit sweating so much that it was unbearable. And even then I’d use my sweater to cover up my stomach. All these little steps I would take in the name of insecurities was ridiculous.

But the insecurities only amplified as I got to high school. Freshman year I kind of started thinning out because I had P.E. everyday, something I was not used to at all. Previously in my private school we had P.E. classes once a week, so you can only imagine how shook I was that I had to do this shit Monday to Friday. And when the teacher had to weigh us and shouted our weight out loud so the person writing it down could hear… bruh. As you can guess, I absolutely dreaded swimiming class. Changing infront of my peers? THINK AGAIN, I HUSTLED MY ASS OUT OF THE POOL EVERY DAY TO BE THE FIRST ONE OUT TO SHOWER FIRST AND RESERVE A PRIVATE STALL TO CHANGE IN. YOU THOUGHHHHT πŸ’…πŸ½

But listen, this is where I wanted to start my story, but I felt like I had to give a little backstory of how this instance amplified what I already was struggling with all my life.

My junior year in high school, the guy I was in a relationship with for about a year moved away permanently. We decided to do long distance. Doing long distance at 17 and having it be in another whole ass country – let me tell you, 10/10 would not recommend.

It was such a toxic relationship. We both feared that the other would cheat, so I coped with it by stalking the shit out of Facebook to get my answers when I felt like I was being lied to. He coped with it by verbally abusing me and making my self-esteem so low that I wouldn’t even have the confidence to find someone else. This is part of the reason why I took so long to share this story. I didn’t want to write this in a way that focused on my ex being the bad guy. But more so, how this experience just stacked on top of all the past insecurities I had since a child. This is just 1 layer of the onion.

Anyways, we were “together” for 3-ish years on and off. 2 of those years were long distance without seeing each other physically in person. And in those 2 years of long distance, I truly experienced my lowest moments. It really felt like a test of my sanity sometimes. I was insecure as it is, and on top of that I had a “boyfriend” in another whole ass country that sometimes went M.I.A. for days. My gut feeling was telling me I was getting cheated on. So I would take to social media to try to find evidence. It was exhausting. Knowing you know the truth but can’t find the evidence to back it up. We fought almost everyday, I went to sleep crying daily, and we would break up to make up constantly.

I was stalking all these new found Facebook friends of his, and why it seemed like all of them were hot as hell with perfect bodies. If those were the kind of girls he was around daily, why would he need me? Now I see why he spoke bad about my appearance all the time, look what I’m up against…

“You should be happy a guy like me even gave you a chance.”

“Fat bitch.”

“Who would even want to fuck you?”

“Look at me, now look at you. I could get someone so much hotter.”

“You can’t get someone better than me.”

“Even my aunt said you’re fat.”

“If I was there I’d beat the shit out of you.”

“Some girls in my class saw on FB that we’re in a relationship and they were like, ‘that’s your girlfriend?!’ ”

All the while trying to flip the script and say that I must be cheating and xyz. I never cheated. Stayed faithful the whole way even though I knew it was a toxic, tumultuous, mind fucking mess. He later admitted that he did cheat on me after we broke up, which made me hate myself for not listening to my gut feeling. THAT SHIT BE THE TRUTH, PEOPLE! THAT’S YOUR BODY’S WAY OF SAYIN, YO, SOMETHING REALLY AIN’T RIGHT.

My senior prom was coming up and he had planned to attend. At this point we were almost a year and a half into long distance. I haven’t seen him in so long. I wanted to prove a point that I wasn’t the same fat bitch he had last seen in person 1.5 years prior. Prom was in April, so in January 2013 I started to diet. Also known as: starve myself.

I would eat just a handful of cheerios in milk for breakfast, I’d take a heatable “green giant” frozen pack for lunch. This said “lunch” was 30 or 50 calories (I forget) of frozen broccoli in “cheese.” That shit tasted like water. And for dinner I’d eat at home, but not as much as I would usually eat. And you know what? It started working. I started to slim down – and fast. But pretty often I’d feel depressed and binge out on a big hot cheeto bag. However, my binging didn’t out weigh the times I was hungry.

I boasted about how I’m trying to look good for prom. I took pride in the fact that I was starving myself but seeing results. People told me I looked good, they congratulated me on my weight loss. My confidence went up, even though I knew it was such an unhealthy way of living. But I didn’t care.

For once in my life I wasn’t the fat bitch. For once I could back up my comebacks that “no, you should feel lucky that I’m with you.” I valued what I saw in the mirror. The size on the back of my tags justified my worth. And for once it was “where I wanted to be.” For the first time in my life, I had confidence in myself. And if you would’ve told me what I was doing was unhealthy and wrong, I probably would’ve justified my actions.

And if you were to tell me that I picked up an eating disorder over a guy that was totally undoubtedly cheating on me, I probably would deny it. But that’s what it was. An eating disorder. And my peers and people around me had the same mindset as me- that it wasn’t that big of a deal. I planned to stop once prom was over, but I was getting used to it. Maybe I could continue after as well? Just until I get to “where I want to be.”

And what’s crazy is even at my skinniest, I still nitpicked at different parts of my body. Yes, I was getting smaller, but I wasn’t perfect. To me, there was always something else that could look better. It took my body dysmorphia to a whole new level. The sad reality was that I could lose as much weight as I wanted, but the self-hate I had towards myself would always tell me that I should lose more.

I did this process of starving and barely eating for about 3-ish months. Until I got the news that my ex wouldn’t be coming to my prom. I was so depressed that I started eating everything and anything. “What’s the point of this anymore,” I thought to myself. I was doing this to prove something to a particular person, and since he wasn’t coming anymore, why bother?

Around the same time is when I had to walk the runway for my sister’s first fashion show. It was a week or 2 after prom, so in my head, the weight loss wasn’t completely for nothing. Like I said in my previous post, I was so insecure during the first show because all the other “models” were actually models. They were all thin, fair skin, tall, and nothing like me. Even with my weight loss, I was still probably the biggest “model” there.

After some time, I gained back the weight I had originally lost. I was now in my first semester of community college. Some of my friends were juicing for weeks on end, and losing a lot of weight doing it. I somehow got convinced to try it. I told my ex I was going to try juicing for a week, low key hoping for a, “you’re beautiful the way you are,” type of comment. Bruh, he got so excited and happy and encouraged me to do it.

I lasted what, 2 or 3 days with juicing? Im not gonna lie I really felt like I was dying πŸ’€. I felt so weak and hungry. I lost a couple pounds but that shit came right back once I started eating real food. Let’s just say I was a lost soul. Stuck in a shitty toxic relationship thinking my appearance would somehow ease my pain.

Finally, during my 2nd semester of community college, I finally ended things with my ex. It was such a breath of fresh air. I really felt like I could do anything and everything in life. I found my motivation to do better, by dropping the dead weight that was holding me back. It was 3 years too long. Nobody should have to go through abuse like that. Physical or not, verbal abuse is real and really fucks with your head.

At the time I was pursuing Early Childhood Education, so I got a child care job at a gym. I was so embarrassed when I first started working there because it was the most ironic thing for me to be working at a gym. Of all places. Hahahah. I took advantage of my free membership and would workout a couple times a week. I felt like I low key had to put in an effort since I was so out of place. I wasn’t a trainer, a body builder, shit I wasn’t even a member.

But it was kind’ve a lot of pressure to work at a gym, especially hearing what Male coworkers would say about people walking by the front desk. Honestly disgusting. I thought, shit, if you’re talking all that smack about someone you don’t know, I can only imagine what you say about me when I’m not around. Because I clearly wasn’t a fitness freak, and a lot of my coworkers were. I would get workout sessions from Jazzie for free since she was a trainer. It was off the clock for her, and I bitched every step of the way.

I really feel like I got this ironic job just so my path would cross Christian’s. He was my coworker that turned into my man real quick. It was so different being with a nice guy. It was actually weird to me. I didn’t know how to act. Even though I was single for a year, I felt like I had PTSD from my last relationship. I didn’t feel like I had to hide how I really am with Christian. For instance, I ate around him. This is something that I couldn’t do before. I would act like I was full because I didn’t want my ex to think I was a fatass. With Christian from the get, I’ll eat all mine and pick at his while I’m at it. The real me, cuz ya girl can eat.

As our relationship progressed, I added that happy weight, and birth control pills didn’t help this area either πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ. But I have a guy that loves me regardless how big or small I get. But I still struggled. I struggled a lot. I hated the person I was. I hated how insecure I was. I hated that I was getting fatter and loved to eat. I hated that I was probably 35 lbs heavier since high school. I hated the way I looked, the body I’m in, the way I strived for the perfect hour glass figure. I hated that I was getting stretch marks. I hated that it was so obvious that I gained weight. But most importantly I hated that I hated myself.

At the end of my first semester at SF State I had a low key mental breakdown that lead to my rebirth. Transfering to SF State was lit. I spent 3 years in community college and finally felt like I was making progress with my life transfering to a 4 year university. SF State has a Quickly’s, a PhΓ³, an Indian spot, pizza, ramen, Ike’s, Mexican food…. you get the point – I never went hungry. My first semester I had a weird schedule. Some early morning classes here and there, afternoon classes, even a night class that got out at 10 pm. I had to eat at school because I was basically there all day.

I remember this day vividly. I was waiting for my 7 pm class and had a gap. I got some PhΓ³ from campus and a boba drink, I ate in the cafeteria. It wasn’t too crowded. It was about 6:35 pm, and I finished my PhΓ³, it was dark outside already. I was full as fuck. I sat there looking at my empty bowl of soup and my boba drink that was halfway done. I fucking hated myself. Fuckin’ pig. I felt disgustingly full. I felt so shitty about myself that I wanted to cry. To anyone passing by, I was just sitting, staring blankly at my food. On the inside I was breaking down, on the verge of tears. This wasn’t the first time I felt like this. In fact, I felt this way everytime I ate, especially when it was something I bought.

And while I’m on the verge of completely losing it, I look at the time a realize I got to get to class. I walk out into the darkness, not even caring about my surroundings. I’m passing by people but it’s all a blur. It doesn’t feel like real life, I’m too trapped in my head. I get to class and I’m still bothered. I hate myself. I feel disgusting. I’m so fat. You’ll never be happy with yourself.

Then it hit me. If I were to die at that exact moment, what would I have to show for it? I spent 22 years of my life hating the body I lived in. If I were to die right then and there, could I say I honestly lived? Or was the highlight of my life being forever insecure and unhappy with myself? “No more.” I thought to myself. This will be the body I die in. This will be the body and mind I have to live with everyday. Why waste my time hating it? Right then and there I refused to waste anymore time hating my body. It’s like a switch went off in my brain.

I went on Instagram and unfollowed every Kardashian, every account that would make me feel less than, every account that I compared myself to. I deleted a lot of famous people that edit their photos. “No more,” with every unfollow. It was empowering. I then started looking up body positive accounts.

*follow*

*follow*

*follow*

*follow*

All the while my professor is talking about diversity in journalism.

There was no stopping me. At the end of it all I felt my whole body was tingling. The best high – the road to self-love.

I started educating myself with the body positive community. I realized that I resonated with a lot of them. Their struggles were like mine. I felt likeI found my community.

Of course I didn’t accept and love my body that easily. It literally took so long to unlearn every negative thing that I have ever told myself. I found solace in the body positive community and feminism. When you realize that beauty industries profit off your insecurities, you really start to look at things differently.

Not too long ago I craved to be beautiful. Nowadays I crave to inspire, to be authentic, to be knowlegeable and smart. I crave to fight for body representation, and representation of people of color with different body types in the fashion industry. I declared Women Gender Studies my minor, and I truly feel like it opened up my mind.

I studied up on feminism and different ways that women are oppressed. It was like a revelation. I was intaking life differently. My existence in itself is a rebellious act. I’m a woman. A woman of color. A plus-sized woman. I felt empowered fighting for women’s rights, it’s like I had a new found passion. I was insecure my whole life because there was never anyone that looked like me on TV, in magazines, in Hollywood.

Today I am probably 50-60 lbs heavier than I was in high school. But I can honestly say that I am overall happy with myself. Of course I have those days where I feel big and gross, but I got to remind myself who I am. I am so much more than my weight. I am so much more than my outward appearance.

All that’s ever geared towards women are beauty products, dietary supplements, clothes, and all these things that focus on the outside. Growing up I thought this shit was normal. But what does that tell women? That they’re only good for their appearance, that it’s all they should care about. And I refuse to feed into toxic beauty standards and ideals.

To most, gaining weight is the worse thing that could happen to a women’s appearance. A couple years back I would agree. But now, I eat what I want, I wear what I want, I do what I want unapologetically. I strive to be healthier by working out, but if I don’t go for a straight month or 2, I’m not beating myself up about it.

Not giving a shit about beauty standards and societal norms has truly brought me peace of mind. I’ve grown so much – literally, spiritually, and mentally. This is my weight gain journey – it brought me to the path of self-love and self-acceptance.

For those of you who remember me 60 lbs lighter and have thought “yo, wtf happened to her?!” The answer is, she grew up, she found herself, she doesn’t give a fuck πŸ₯°πŸ˜˜