The Willing Loser

One thing I have always prided myself on is the fact that I’m a very loyal person. If I fuck with you, I got you, no question about it. And if I don’t fuck with you, well, I won’t act like I do to your face to just show face. Loyalty has always been something that I take very seriously, even as a kid. I took that betrayal, small or big, to heart. And unfortunately, disloyalty doesn’t just stop at a certain age. That’s something you have to be aware of for the rest of your life, disguising itself in different forms.

I realized the hard way that not everyone has the same views as me when it comes to loyalty and having pure intentions. I would get my feelings hurt because I couldn’t relate to some people’s lack of ethics in different scenarios. And not to toot my own horn, but seeing that not everyone is a real one was a hard pill to swallow. So to all my real, loyal, genuine ones – this is for you. This is for all the people out there that choose to keep their circles small, distance themselves from iffy energy, and have no problem being a loser by choice. It is nothing to be ashamed of, in fact, it’s something that I prefer.

We have all dealt with our fair share of gossip and being gossiped about. It can be frustrating knowing that what’s being circled around about you is so far from the truth. You may feel the need to defend yourself or set the record straight, and it’s hard as hell taking the higher road and just letting people think what they want. Back in the day to play devil’s advocate, I’d argue that I’m just saying my truth to counter act the bullshit and lies that’s going around. I don’t know which came first, my age or me getting to a point where I realized trying to get people who are easily swayed and feed the gossip to continue to circulate will only do more damage than good.

It takes a lot to gain my trust in friendships and relationships. I get along perfectly fine with most people, and making new friends is not something I struggle with. I’m very social for an anti-social homebody. I can chop it up, make small talk, make surface level friendships, and be friendly. However, I am very selective when it comes to who has access to me. I’m very guarded with who I trust, who I tell my personal shit to, who I tell my next move to. Because I know from experience that not everyone that enters my life will stick around or have the best intentions for me. You know the typical joke, “who hurt you?!” to have all these trust issues, but it’s just fact. You can’t trust everybody and not everyone should have access to your friendship, time, or energy.

Because let’s be honest, the relationship is never really the same after you know that someone is being fake, betrayed your trust, or gossiped about you. I’ve been there and I’ve done that, I’ve tried to let bygones be bygones. Depending on what was done, sometimes it’s possible. But most of the time, and especially in this season of my life, 1 strike and you’re out. I simply do not have time to surround myself around so so wishy washy people. I for one can not fake friendship. I don’t have the care, the time, or the desire to put in effort where the loyalty is questionable.

People play both sides, and if you are not the one actually gossiping or being shady, but you play messenger and feel comfortable listening to others speak on my name, then the same goes. It amazes me to know how many grown ass people still put in effort and time to play both sides to just keep the peace or simply because they want to be liked by everyone. I have reached a point in my life where I don’t give a fuck if people like me anymore. As long as I know my heart is good, my intentions are pure, and I’m a good person who sticks to my morals and values, that’s all that really matters. If you don’t agree with how I go about things, keep it pushing and I will do the same.

I don’t think that I’m better than everyone else, so don’t get it twisted. But I am a firm believer of sticking to your gut feeling. So when my gut feeling is telling me that somebody’s vibe is off, if they don’t seem like good company to surround myself with, if I don’t agree with their morals and principals, I will distance myself. Protecting myself and my peace of mind is #1 always. I can “not fuck with you” but still be cordial, there is a difference. And it was not always so apparent to me in the past. Especially in our adolescent years, when shit goes sour with people, it can be beef on sight. But I’ve learned that you can cut off people but still feel neutral, not everything has to leave a sour taste in your mouth. It takes some time to process whatever transpired, but also a level of maturity.

If you’re still feeling salty and some type of way after distancing yourself from someone or a friend group, what it really boils down to is the fact that it still bothers you because you still care to some degree. I have been in this position many times where I realize a friendship no longer serves me and decide to cut someone off. When I would vent to people closest to me, I would say my truth, voice my concerns, but almost always end it with, “But whatever, I don’t even care.” But is it not caring if it’s still a topic up for discussion? It takes time to genuinely “not care,” especially when you are letting go of a friendship that meant something to you. Especially if you felt betrayed, and you’re trying your best to work through that betrayal.

It can be even harder when you’re cutting off a specific person, but you still run in similar groups. That’s definitely getting yourself into a pickle. In those scenarios, I think it really depends on the other people in that circle – if they can keep the drama genuinely out of it. I’ve come across some people that genuinely do not want to know the details, don’t want to get in the middle, and want to avoid any conflict between both parties. If the friends of friends can remain uninvolved, it can work out. If mutual respect and boundaries are present, handling the situation like adults isn’t too far fetched.

Being the careful person that I am, I definitely distance myself from others if I feel like their loyalty and intentions are questionable. I literally do not have the time to wonder who has my back, who is defending my name when I’m not around, and who is a real friend. I’ll make the decision easier and remove myself from the situation entirely. I have no desire to entertain fake friendships and iffy personalities. At this point in my life, I feel like a professional at keeping my circle small and my friendships choosy. I’d rather be a loser by choice than surround myself with fake people. It will always be quality over quantity for me.

One thing I can’t stand is fake friendships. In my life, I have shamefully played the dumb card way too many times – when you know someone or some people have gossiped about you, feel some type of way about you, and have so much to say to others about you behind your back, but won’t dare say it to your face. And then you’re put in a social setting where to your face, they’re chopping it up and acting like your bestie, and you sit there and show face and try to act like you don’t know all the things that has transpired up until that point. Fuck that. And I’ve allowed that many times in the past.

I used to think the antidote to dealing with scenarios like that was to confront them. If I don’t confront them, I’m being a pussy bitch. If I don’t confront them, I’m being weak. If I don’t confront them, they win and make me look stupid. I think in certain situations, confrontation is appropriate. But there are other scenarios where you realize that somebody else is so wrapped up in their own ideas that confrontation isn’t going to solve anything. There are times where you just know that it will be like talking to a brick wall. And if I’m being completely honest, sometimes it really depends on my mood.

If I feel very strongly about putting someone in their place when they have wronged me, I will confront them. But there are times when I get really worked up and want to confront someone but realize it would be pointless because I don’t want a relationship to continue after anyways, so I drop it. Also when I realize that my only motive to confront someone is to make them feel stupid or shitty, I’ll do my best to bite my tongue. Sometimes knowing where you stand is enough closure you need, and you just hope karma acts accordingly.

I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that being selective doesn’t have it’s lonely moments. You know, when you see those that you have purposely distanced yourself from be with the very same people you kicked it with. Knowing that in the past, you would’ve been there, but now, you’re looking in as an outsider. The feelings of FOMO get really real sometimes. And I feel like that’s what keeps people in toxic friendships and relationships – they’d rather ignore and avoid all the negative things, because at least they’ll still be a part of something. Everyone, whether they like to admit it or not, want to belong and feel like they are a part of the group. And it takes a lot of reflecting and realizations to be comfortable with the fact that you will feel left out sometimes. But don’t let that cloud your judgment. Don’t let feeling bored or lonely be the reason why you surround yourself with emotion vultures, fake friendships, and weird competition. It ain’t worth it.

The other truth about FOMO is the fact that you want others to see exactly how that individual / group of people truly are. “If only they knew,” you think. But in reality, only you will know your own truth. You can’t force anyone to see your side, no one is obligated to side with you, and at the end of the day people will do whatever the fuck they want and hang with whoever the fuck they want. It can be frustrating to see friends of yours chopping it up with someone / people that you don’t think are trustworthy. You may feel the need to be in their ear to warn them out with the best intentions at heart. But then…

That’s gossiping. We have all been there. It’s a vicious cycle. And no matter what, you will always believe that your gossiping is not as severe, because it wasn’t done out of malice, it was to vent, or you simply don’t see it as gossiping. There’s a very thin line between venting and talking shit. If something or someone is bothering us, it makes sense to talk it through with people we trust. They offer us some advice on how to handle it, and it gives us an outlet to express ourselves. But it can easily turn to gossip and talking shit, when there is no desire to vent, but just to mutually hate and talk shit about someone else. We have all been on both sides of the coin – being gossiped about and being the gossiper.

One thing I know for sure – I no longer have the desire to keep friendships and relationships with people who are not loyal to me. I’m too old to be wondering if my friends are talking about me, defending my name to others who have heard otherwise, and being around fake people. My circle may be small, but I’m surrounded by individuals who undoubtedly have my back no matter what. Individuals that have the same respect, morals, and loyalty as I do.

I’d rather be a loser by choice than a fool involuntarily. There’s nothing wrong with keeping your circle small. When you are choosy about who has access to you, you’ll never have to doubt those you surround yourself with. I’d rather have a handful of people that know me inside and out, than a bunch of people who only stick around when it’s beneficial for them.

How Do You Go About Dropping a Friendship?

Recently, I caught up with a dear friend of mine over the phone. They updated me about their life, career choices, dreams, aspirations, the whole run down. I love that feeling of reconnecting, even though we send memes throughout the day everyday. You know, you have those designated people and group chats on Instagram that you send your funny content to, political memes, world events, maybe some gossip here and there, and you are fairly close. You’re technically “connected” everyday, but there’s work, different schedules, and life in general – nobody got time to give constant updates every time. So it felt good to catch up and talk about our lives and dilemmas. We got on the topic of friendships, loyalty, and letting friendships go that are toxic or drama-filled. We are usually on the same page, but we had opposing views on some aspects.

“You should write about this on your blog,” they said as we wrapped up the topic of cutting off friends, “Like, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, but friendship edition!”

“Oh my god, yeah, I might just,” I said, even though I had never watched it. But, I got the gist. This is actually a topic I wanted to write about for some time, but was always hesitant because I didn’t want anyone to think I was @-ing them. But I mean, if the shoe fits…

Friendship breakups are so under-rated. Sometimes, it’s equivalent to a romantic break up because you can feel betrayed, hurt, taken advantage of, and conflicted about things ending. Unlike a romantic breakup though, we don’t really think of the possibility that things can end in a platonic friendship. It can be blindsiding, emotional, and a difficult decision to make. Other times, it’s as clear as day that the friendship needs to end, but just because what needs to be done is clear, doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. It can be very confusing as well if you’re on the receiving end of the cut off.

This phone call led to this question: How do you go about ending a friendship?

My friend vented about their current situation with a former friend. Long story short, my friend was on the receiving end of being cut off, but for no apparent or obvious reason. I’m very neutral and would tell my friend straight up if they messed up, as they shared all the possibilities of why the friendship could’ve ended. But, I honestly couldn’t figure it out. It seemed like it was a 1 way argument, but without the arguing and communication. Only that person knew why they cut off my friend, but never communicated any prior frustration or conflict. Throughout the phone call, my friend kept bringing up how they wished this former friend would just communicate what was bothering them, instead of just ending the friendship with no clear reason.

I agreed that it was weird for their former friend to just stop talking to them and cut them off. Especially since the former friend didn’t communicate anything that would even hint towards frustration or being upset. In fact, the former friend would just gossip to other people, and it got back to my friend, and only then did they find out why they were cut off, but still not having a definite answer coming from the source. It’s like the other person withheld information purposely so my friend could wonder what was going on, and decided to gossip about it and be fake in person. That’s what I thought was weird. It’s one thing to just drop someone without any context. But it’s another thing to drop them, talk shit about them, but still hangout and act like everything is cool in group settings.

“Yeah, that’s some weirdo shit,” I told my friend.

My friend wished they were aware of what they “did wrong,” so they could address it, communicate about it, patch up the friendship, and move on. They believed that it was weird that some people really suck that much at communication and would rather throw away a friendship than openly communicate about what bothered them. We got on the topic of “keeping it real,” with our friends, and went over the different scenarios and instances where we would have to check certain friends in the past. We both agreed that we had no problem checking friends when they’re in the wrong or doing something we don’t agree with. I agreed that in this specific instance, the friendship they lost was probably for the best since it seemed like the other person was pretty fake and liked to play that high school shit. You know, when you find out “your friend” is talking about you behind your back but acting tight to your face – the shit we’re clearly too old for.

But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that in some instances, I was that friend – minus the acting cool to your face. In this specific instance – yes, I felt the one who ended the friendship should’ve communicated something to my friend. But I noticed in general, when I’m cutting someone off, I rarely give a reason why too. There has been very few friendships I’ve had that ended badly. But at the same time there are some friendships I’ve had that ended with obvious fights that resulted in the termination of said friendships. But for the most part, I’m the Homer Simpson meme disappearing into the bushes. My only difference from my friend’s former friend is that I don’t play it fake. You’ll know where I stand.

“Really?! That’s sooo weirdddd!” My friend said when I made this revelation.

I explained my reasoning. For me, when there is a clear fall out and fight, obviously I’ll communicate my side, say my peace, and if I can’t patch it up from there with time, then I just cut it off. But as much as possible, I try to avoid bitter endings with former friends. To be honest, there have been very few occasions where I had to tell off a friend right before I snip them. Very rarely will I be so done with someone that we fight about something for a prolonged period of time to the point where I don’t think I can continue with the friendship. If the friendship is worth it, and there is respectful communication, then I don’t cut people off. I don’t think I’ve had too many situations like that where the friendship was so over that I cut them off, deleted them off social media, blocked them, deleted their number, etc. It ain’t that serious.

I’m open with all of my friends and tell them how it is. But when I start to notice patterns in friendships and in their character, I just take a mental note. Especially if that friend did nothing to me personally to make me mad or question the friendship, it wouldn’t seem right to call someone out on their character and decisions when it isn’t directed towards me. If it comes up in conversation or if they ask for my opinion, obviously I’ll say my peace, but when I notice patterns like selfishness, being untrustworthy, and things of that nature, I just observe and remember for future reference. There is power in silence, and power in moving differently towards them when you see them for who they are. But there’s no reason to end on bad terms.

And at that point, there is no point to bring up or confront people when you realize you don’t want to surround yourself with friends that move like them. To me at least, there’s no point to let it be known that, “hey, I see through your actions that you’re actually not someone I want to associate with.” It’s a waste of time especially if that person is living the life that they want to. It just doesn’t make sense to me to call someone out on their character flaws if I already made my decision in letting the friendship gracefully drift. I don’t want any tension, especially if there is no specific fall out that made me want to end the friendship. Nowadays, I noticed that I just distance myself from people I no longer want a friendship with. Not because they did something to me, but because I notice traits and habits that I don’t want in a friend. No bad blood, no hard feelings, no big fight to make the cut off official – just a mutual understanding that the friendship has drifted.

Friendship break ups can definitely hurt. Sometimes there’s obvious reasons why it ended, and sometimes there isn’t. I realize that my explanation for silence and distancing myself can be the same explanation my friend’s former friend had. Sometimes you can talk it out, and sometimes you will be returned with radio silence, so I guess to each their own. For me, I think silence and being cordial is the best way to go about it especially if they did nothing wrong to you personally and you just come to the realization that you just don’t want to fuck with them like that. However, if there is a specific problem or event that led to me feeling some type of way, I’d definitely communicate it to a friend before I start distancing myself.

Because let’s be real, in this cut off culture, anyone and everyone gets triggered and will snip you and broadcast why all over social media. It doesn’t have to be like that. Handling friendship breakups with class is key. But friendship break up’s shouldn’t be the answer to everything. That’s always a red flag to me, when people rotate their friends like the seasons, and have countless fall outs with a lot of former friends. At that point, you really got to sit and look at the bigger picture – who is the common factor. Some friendships can turn toxic real fast, and it’s okay to gracefully leave a friendship.

And just because the friendship is over, doesn’t mean all the great memories are now soured. That is what I took away from that phone call that night. When friendships end, it’s okay to look back and reminisce and be a little sad about the good times. Those memories don’t have to be ruined because the friendship is over. It’s okay to gather your information and realize that you guys don’t see eye to eye on certain things. And it’s okay to let the friendship naturally drift without conflict.

How do you go about dropping a friendship?

Rob The Barber

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

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

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

Check out his story:

Much Needed Reunion

I know I usually talk about the negative effects of social media, but there are some positive perks.

I love how I can connect with people I’ve grown up with, people that have watched me grow and have helped in my upbringing, and people I want to keep in touch with. Social media gives us a chance to stay connected in certain people’s lives, regardless of distance and time. There’s some people I haven’t seen in over 5-10 years, but I could tell you what’s going on in their lives from what they post on social media. It’s kind of nice to stay in touch without really staying in touch.

With life and goals constantly on my mind, I admit that I have lost balance in keeping up and keeping in touch with friends. I guess that’s just life. We get busy, life happens, we start realizing there’s not enough hours in the day. In other words, I started adulting. And to be honest this shit is depressing. And I’m a little upset that nobody really told me how you gradually disconnect with friends and you realize you’re living your own ass life. And at some point it hits you, wait, I haven’t seen or talked to blah blah in years.

Anyways, y’all know I’ve been feeling a little disconnected and just not myself lately. Riding another wave of the post-grad blues has not been easy, I’ve been dealing with it by trying to talk and hangout with friends more.

This weekend my best friend of more than 15+ years baptized her son, and made me one of his primary godparents. I officially became Jalen’s Ninang. And it’s crazy. These are moments that me and April would talk about growing up. She’s been one of my best friends since 4th grade. We’d always talk about going through life together, being at each other’s weddings, being Ninangs to each other’s children, living on the same block and being neighbors (πŸ’€πŸ€¦πŸ»β€β™€οΈ), and all these milestone life events that we would share together. And here we are. Actually living it.

I don’t know why I’m surprised haha. Obviously these life moment were eventually going to happen. But it really got me like, wow, time really waits for no one. ClichΓ© I know, but it really feels like just yesterday we were talking about all these “future events,” and this weekend, I stood behind her and watched her son get baptized.

After the baptism took place, I looked around in the crowd. And I saw a familiar face. I gasped and walked over in pure excitement to greet Mrs.Volpe. A person that means so much to me!

Mrs.Volpe was our school librarian, but she deserves the title of Mother of Epiphany. I attended this school from kindergarten to 8th grade. She literally watched me grow up right before her eyes, but we got really close during my middle school years. Like 6th grade to 8th grade is when I needed her the most.

Like I said in a previous post, by the time we hit 8th grade, for the most part, we’ve been riding with the same crew and classmates for almost 10 years. We ran deep with each other and gave some teachers hell just because we were a team and going through our rebellious phase. We were a hand full to say the least.

I admit that I was a rebellious kid. On a one-on-one basis, I was pretty well-liked by teachers. I was that student that gave you hell, but behind closed doors you hated to admit that I could connect with you on a personal level. And for just a second they could forget that I talked my ass off in class and questioned authority figures. Our whole class got a bad wrap, but for the most part I feel like I had a reason to my rebellion. I was always that kid that questioned authority figures that expected me to act a certain way just because they said so. The more they tried to control me and demanded respect, the more I resisted. That was just my nature. A true mess. Hahaha. Bless all of their hearts.

But since I had this reputation, sometimes I felt like I wasn’t given a fair chance most of the time. They already labeled most of us “the problem.” And it was like there was no changing any of their minds. And the person we would all run to would be Mrs.Volpe. And she would actually listen to us. Hear our side. When it was our fault, she would tell us. She wasn’t afraid to let us know when we were being little assholes. She’d try to make us see our teacher’s point of view. And even though we didn’t like it or what she had to say sometimes, she always told us the truth. But when we weren’t being treated fairly because of our prior reputations, she would also stand up for us. And that’s what a lot of us “rebellious trouble making kids” needed. Someone to atleast hear our side, to ride for us when everyone else was against us. And that was her. And to be honest, she was a lot of people’s go to person to vent to. She just got us. And during a fragile time in our early teenage years, she was our voice of reason. We all truly saw her as the mom of Epiphany, because she gave us an earful when we were in the wrong, but stood up for her little ducklings when they were being targeted. There are so many current students and alumni that look up to Mrs.Volpe, me included.

Mrs.Volpe is one of those people that I kept in touch with on Facebook. She’s never missed one of my birthdays without posting a sweet message on my wall. For every life event, she has always came through with a comment. She watched me grow up all through my Epiphany days, and has continued to watch me grow through social media. There has been multiple times where Mrs.Volpe has crossed my mind, and I wanted to message saying lets catch up, and I’d always tell myself I’d message by this day/date and forget. Or I’d plan to message and visit during my spring break, any vacation, etc., but didn’t come around to it. It’s a lame excuse, but this is real life. Things just get in the way and sometimes you don’t get to hangout with the people you want to. We had planned to grab lunch or dinner in August, but there was so much going on in Mrs.Volpe’s life as well, that we never got around to it.

And there she was. In the crowd. The person that has been cheering me on from the sidelines for so many years. We embraced and I couldn’t believe that she was at Jalen’s baptism. My heart was full! Especially since I’ve been feeling weird and off lately, this is the reunion my heart needed.

At the reception she met my boyfriend. And it was something special. I’m telling you, she was the mom of Epiphany, so it really meant a lot for her to meet the guy I’ve been with for 4.5 years. We talked and we caught up, and it was such a good time. I think I ran into her at Safeway once, like almost 5 years ago. Come to think of it, I think she met Christian that day, but it was a brief catch up. But other than that, I haven’t had one of Mrs.Volpe’s in person pep talks in 10 years. I graduated Epiphany in 2009. And here we are 2019 catching up. Funny how life works.

We caught up and I told her how I’m currently a preschool teacher and jokingly said I’m getting my karma for being such a rebellious child. She couldn’t believe it. How much time has changed! She expressed how proud of me she is, and I really needed that. She has always been cheering me on from afar. And I’m so blessed to have a person like her on my team. On my side. It has been 10 years but I know if I needed her she’d be right there. Like she has always been.

It was then I realized that she is everything I want to be as a teacher. Even though teaching isn’t my forever career job, it is still currently my job. And talking to her on Saturday made me realize that I want to be a Mrs.Volpe in someone’s life. Tell them like it is, but hear them out. Be firm when you need to be, but show so much love and support at the same time. And if I can be atleast half of what she is as a teacher, I’d be doing a great job.

This is a woman who has seen and witnessed her fair share of heartbreak and pain. But you would never realize by how she lives her life and treats others. Hands down one of the sweetest, loving, supportive, and most of all happiest people I have ever met in my life. And she has blessed so many Epiphany students and families with her presence and support.

It was important for my boyfriend to meet her, because I really feel like she knows the true me. She has witnessed honor roll Marinelle, rebellious Marinelle, angry Marinelle, heart broken Marinelle, and all the above. And I feel like she’s a person from my past that he should meet. I never thought they ever would honestly. I always imagined she’d meet him at my wedding or something haha. I’ve described her to Christian on multiple occasions as the only teacher who was ever on our side. And now he finally got to meet and talk to the woman I’ve talked about for all these years.

I told April, “Your party is what I needed.”

And its true. I’ve been feeling off and emo as hell riding this post-grad wave. Who are you? What do you want to do? What are you going to make of yourself? What career path are you going to take? How will you accomplish that? What’s your next goal? By what deadline? What are you doing with your life? Figure it out. Come up with a plan. Hurry. Time is ticking.

And for a second, those anxieties and worries faded. I was surrounded by my best friend of 15 years celebrating her son, my godson. I was reconnecting with a teacher I adore and look up to. My man is with me and around people that I grew up with. Life is good.

I needed this in so many way. Seeing people that take you back. Back to less stressful times. It took me all the way back to the times when meeting up for the movies was our biggest issue. 🀣 It was a meeting that my heart so desperately needed. That even though time is moving and life goes on, these people that have been with me since day 1 are still with me, are riding with me, and still rooting me on from the sidelines. They remind me of who I am and where I come from. They took me back to simpler times.

Soar High Like An Eagle

Dedicated to Paul Taylor

Days before Thanksgiving 2018, I learned through Facebook that a teacher I had as a kid passed away. I attended the same school from Kindergarten to 8th grade, and a lot of the teachers I had at Epiphany literally watched me grow for 9 years. One of those teachers was Mr.Taylor.

My older cousins and older sister also went to Epiphany, so I knew of their current and past teachers even before I had them myself. They would tell me stories about different teachers they had and what to expect if I were to be in their class. So with all that said, I knew of Mr. Taylor way before I ever had him as a substitute teacher. Once upon a time he was the 7th grade teacher (I think) for a long time. My cousins had him as a permanent homeroom teacher, but by the time I had him, a number of years had passed and he was Epiphany’s go to substitute teacher, so he was still at the school very often.

The very first time I had Mr.Taylor as a substitute teacher was in the 1st grade I think. He had the cool dude vibes with his leather jacket, could play the guitar, and had this distinct deep voice that could command a room when needed, but was pretty laid back most of the time. As a little kid I thought he was the coolest dude, and got excited when he would be substituting. I remember my 1st grade class went wild when he tried to explain how double negatives in English makes a positive statement. Probably too advanced for our little minds at the time, and I totally didn’t get it at all, but I thought it was the funniest thing because I thought he was truly messing with us. Like whatchu mean it makes it a positive statement?! I said what I said! Hahaha

When I say these teachers watched me grow, I mean that in every sense. From 5 year old lil chunky ass Marinelle who loved to participate and got the honor roll every quarter, to the 13-14 year old Marinelle who was as difficult as one could be in class, going through that moody teenager stage where my peers’ approval was way more important than school …. still getting that honor roll doeee πŸ’πŸ»β€β™€οΈ. Some of my friends from Epiphany I’ve known since I was as young as 4. I literally grew up with these people, so the friendship bonds were so tight and strong at the time that once someone in the class went hyphy, it could trigger a whole chain reaction of hell for a teacher. In fact, that’s supposedly what the class of 2009 was known for.

Anyways, I was no stranger to giving my teachers a hard time. I could literally talk to anyone. I think my teachers realized that moving my seat wasn’t gonna really do anything because I would just befriend the person next to me anyways. I was always that talkative kid. It was crazy because by the time I hit middle school, all the teachers I had had a love hate relationship with me. They hated my ass when I talked up a storm in class and refused to take their orders, but at the same time on a 1 on 1 level, I had a real connection with all of them and vented about whatever teenage things I was going through.

So when I got the news about Mr.Taylor passing away, of course I was mad sad. But also, very remorseful. Not saying I was a nuisance to him majority of the time, but me and my friends were definately a hand full. I felt deep regret for my childish ways when I was…well, a child. And I know for a fact if I were to see him within the last couple of years, he’d hold no hard feelings at all, because he really did enjoy my presence.

I thought back to that time where he was about to give me a conduct referral (supposedly something really bad that goes on your record, and it’s basically a note home that your parents have to sign to acknowledge that you were being a little shit in school.) I don’t even remember what it was for, but he said he was going to “write me up.” I was pissed. Livid. Embarrassed infront of the whole class. Luckily, I had to alter serve for a funeral, and had to leave the class anyways. I got up. He asked where I thought I was going. In a sassy tone I said that I had to alter serve and if he could write my conduct referral so I could leave. He told me to come back during recess so he could write it.

When I came during recess I still had that same stank attitude. I had too much pride to apologize for my actions. I was expecting a conduct referral, but instead, he told me he was going back on his word and decided not to give me one, and just gave me a pep talk instead. Instant mood changer. I was so thankful because on the outside I was trying to act all hard with the “yeah whatever who cares, write me up” attitude, but in reality, I was scared shitless to bring that home to my parents to sign hahaha. I thanked him, and always remembered how he did me that solid.

I bottled the sadness and remorse I felt inside. 5 days after he passed away, I had a dream.In my dream, I was talking to April, Lucas, and John, some of my best friends from Epiphany. We were all talking about how we were going to meet up for Mr. Taylor’s funeral, and what a shock it was that he had passed away.

I departed from the group and found Mr. Talor working on a car. For some reason in the dream, I was talking to him as if he wasn’t him.

I told him,”I can’t believe Mr.Taylor died…”

He replied saying that yeah, it was crazy to believe.

I went on and burst into tears, “I just wish I could tell him how sorry I am for being such a difficult kid back then,” by this time it was one of those moments when you’re crying in your dream but also in real life. I was sobbing in my sleep but didn’t realize until after the dream.

He reassured me that Mr.Taylor (Yes, talking in 3rd person) doesn’t even care about or think about all that and that it was fine. He kinda down played it like I was feeling remorse for nothing. He went on to change the subject and we talked about something different.

I woke up. My pillow wet, my face tear stained. I didn’t end up going to his service like I had planned to because it was during one of my classes. But I bet it was a great one, cuz he was a really great guy.

I would like to believe that that dream was more than just my conscience manifesting, but that it was Mr.Taylor’s “goodbye” message to me. Whatever it was, it brought me peace of mind.

His Name Was James

It’s crazy to think of all the little things we seem to overlook when it becomes routine. We’re so used to people, things, feelings, interactions – whether big or small, on a daily basis. Most times, little things in our routine change, sometimes it’s for the better, sometimes it’s not, sometimes you don’t even notice the change, and sometimes you realize it but keep it movin’ because what can you do?

For over 6-ish years, my dad and I literally crossed paths with an old man from our neighborhood almost every day. He was a Japanese old man, probably in his 70’s or 80’s, it’s hard to tell because he seemed to be in good health – being that he would talk to my dad every day during his morning walk. He had white hair, that kind of hairstyle where they’re bald in the middle, but he covered it with a Golden State Warriors championship hat, usually with a matching blue Golden State Warriors Letterman-type jacket. And his most important feature – his smile. He was always in a good mood, with a huge smile on his face. He just radiated kindness. My little sister and I described him as the “cute old man.”

For years, it was routine for me to walk out of the garage to find my dad talking to this man. How did they even get close? I don’t even know. My dad is the type of guy that smiles and says good morning to strangers if they so happen to walk by our house. My sisters and I have crazy schedules, between my older sister’s job, and at the time my little sister & I’s changing school and work schedules, my dad was basically always chillin infront of our house anywhere from 7:30 am to 1 pm, waiting for the next daughter he had to drop off (bless my dad’s heart, he works hard as hell.) before he leaves for work at 1 pm.

When I would walk out of the garage to get in the car, I would already expect my dad to be talking to this kind old man. When they would see me, my dad would say something along the lines of “Well, there’s my next customer!” The old man, with his charming warm smile, would wave at me as I say goodmorning to him, and he would tell my dad, “Ah! Taxi, your next rider is here!” He would say departing words to my dad, and 10 see ya later’s/goodbye’s we would be on our way. My dad would get in the car with a big smile on his face, close the garage, and pull out of our driveway. All the while, our friend would be waiting infront of our house for us to drive away, we’d wave goodbye, he’d do the same, and then we’d drive off. Through the mirror I’d see him continuing his morning walk, going up the hill towards the stop lights. This was routine. Every day.

My dad would tell me little bits and pieces of this man he got to know over the years. He knew he was Japanese, that he had an adult son he wasn’t close to because of the son’s troubled past, his wife had passed away and he was living alone, and he basically had no family in the area. He lived a block away from us, which is why our paths crossed plenty of times during his daily walks. He expressed to my dad that his next door neighbor was his friend, who was on his Will to obtain his house and belongings when he was to pass away.

As the years went by, gradually, things began to change. It seemed that we would pass by him on our car ride to school or Bart, when in the past, he would already be talking to my dad in the driveway way before we got out. It seemed that either our times weren’t lining up, we left earlier, or he started his walks later. All of this was so minuscule to me at the time, but now that I look back, I see that it was his health declining. My dad would make comments that he would see him taking a few steps and pausing. He was getting weaker and older, but still he persisted on with his daily walks. Everytime we passed by him in the car, my dad would honk. The old man would smile and lift up his whole arm to say hello, and we went about our drive. It made me sad to think that my dad and him didn’t talk as often, because it seemed like our times weren’t matching up anymore. Like I said, schedules changed, he was getting older/ walking slower, and we just seemed to see him in passing.

As time went on, it went from seeing him everyday, to seeing him every other day, to seeing him once a week. Gradually, we saw him less and less. This was all over a span of years, so it didn’t seem too drastic as how I explain it now. Like I said, we get so used to routine, that little changes in our day seem so minor, until you look back and realize it’s no longer the same.

The last time I could remember seeing our friend was around November 2018. I want to say sometime after Thanksgiving. It was a brief encounter since I was on the way to school. From what I remember he came walking up our street just as we were about to get in the car. They talked about the Warriors briefly, and that was that.

In February 2019, it had been months since we seen him. I asked my dad a few times before if he had seen the old man recently, and he also said he hadn’t seen him in a while. My dad thought that he had passed away since we hadn’t seen him in months. I brought it up a few more times, and when I didn’t verbally ask my dad, I thought about it everytime I got in the car in the morning and we didn’t see him.

Finally, one night when my dad and I got home, I brought up to my little sister how we haven’t seen the old man in very long. My dad agreed that it had been such a long time, that he’s pretty sure he had passed away. He also told us that he drove past his house a couple days before and saw a big container in the driveway filled with belongings, further explaining why he’s been M.I.A. That thought made my little sister freak out, even though I knew it was a huge possibility. My dad enthusiastically said , “Ok, Marinelle, tomorrow before I go to work, we’ll drive by his house and knock on the door.” This made me happy but at the same time sadness had taken over me. I thought it would be good to get closure on our longtime friend, but I had a gut feeling that it wouldn’t be what I expected. I doubted that he was at home just chillin this whole time, but a part of me still clung to hope that it was a possibility.

My little sister was bummed that she wouldn’t be present when my dad and I planned to go since she would be at school. I asked my dad how he even knew where he lived, and he said, “I’ve been in his house before! In his garage.” My dad also brought up how he would give the old man bread from the bakery, after dropping some off to my grandpa. My dad said he would see him walking by and would give him a portion of our family’s share. All these things we never knew, my dad going to his house, giving him bread, all these aspects of this man’s life that we had no idea of.

“… wait…. do you even know his name…” I asked my dad.

“…….I think its Steven? Steve?”

“Bruh! How have you been talking to him for years and not even know his name?!” Yes, I called my dad ‘bruh.’

“I…… I don’t know it never came up…” My dad said sheepishly.

“Did he know your name?”

“You know, I don’t think so. We might have said it maybe 1 time and we never called each other by name.”

The next day before my dad went to work, we drove the block to the old man’s house. The big container my dad was talking about was gone. There was no car in the driveway. My dad got out of the car and made his way to the house. I lost sight of my dad since the stairs were located on the side of the house. But I did hear a bell ringing. Not a doorbell, but an actual bell that you have to “gong.” After about 5 minutes my dad came back to the car.

“Yeah, he didn’t answer… I think he passed away,” my dad said.

“Was that a real bell?”

“Yeah, he said his doorbell wasn’t working so he just has a lot of bells.”

I felt bad that my dad didn’t get any closure. I looked at the old man’s house again. I saw that his neighbor 2 houses down was outside cleaning her car.

“Go ask his neighbor, or you’ll never know,” I told my dad. My dad’s a shy dude, so I expected him to say Nahhhhhh and drive off and forever wonder. To my surprise he agreed and got out of the car.

I watched as my dad approached the middle aged lady. She was cleaning her car and had to turn off her vacuum. From the car I could hear my dad say “… yeah, he’d be walking all the time.” After about 3 minutes my dad returned.

He got in the car and explained that he asked the neighbor about the old man that lived in “that” house.

“Oh, James? He passed away a couple months ago,” she told my dad.

My dad went on to say that he knew he passed away because it was so long since the last time we seen him. I said atleast we knew for sure and wouldn’t have to be wondering anymore. It was a pretty depressing moment and my dad said how the whole situation was just sad. I tried to brighten up the mood and car ride…

“Bruh, you said his name was Steve.” I said. My dad laughed and shook his head.

When I texted the group chat with my sisters and told them that James had passed away, my little sister texted back that she was actually tearing. He was a familiar face that we saw almost daily. His smile and positive upbeat attitude will always be the first thing I think about when I remember him. Mornings aren’t the same as they used to be. But nothing stays the same. These small routines and conversations were just that at the time – small routines that you don’t think twice about. But now that he’s gone, it makes us think of him everytime we pull out of the driveway to start off our day / morning.

His name was James.