Filipino-American Representation: Easter Sunday

I’ve been following Jo Koy’s career for over 15 years, back when he was a panelist on the Chelsea Lately show. I had no business being 12 years old watching that show religiously every night at 11 PM. Those were the days where I thought 11 PM was late… My sisters and I got into the show because our older cousin put us on. He’s a huge Chelsea Handler fan and let us know that there was a Filipino comedian that was on the show pretty often. He would describe funny comments and the banter that would happen on the show until we finally started watching it for ourselves.

It seemed like every single joke Jo or Chelsea told was in relation to him being Filipino, and I wasn’t mad at it. In fact, I waited it for it. That’s the thing about Filipinos – we take pride in our people that make it big and rep us. Jo Koy took every opportunity to let people know that he was half Filipino and grew up in a Filipino household. At a time where the only well-known Filipino was Manny Pacquiao, it felt good to see another Filipino making it big. Jo Koy is a Filipino-American born in the US, so his upbringing and experiences are pretty similar to a lot of first generation Filipino Americans. Through his comedy, he expresses not only what it’s like to grow up with the typical generational gap between parents and their children, but also showing the dynamic between first generation American-born children with their immigrant parents. After the show ended, I still kept tabs on Jo Koy’s career and followed his projects.

From my own personal experience, growing up there were little to no Filipinos in mainstream media in America. When my sisters and I would see someone that resembled a Filipino on TV, we would get our hopes up and do our research. I think we were desperate to see someone that looked like us in shows and movies that we liked. Not only would my sisters and I have suspected Filipino stars on our radar, our parents would too. “Did you know ______ is Filipino?” they would ask proudly. Usually because the person ended up on Balitang America confirming their Filipino lineage. The Philippines, and Filipinos in general, love to keep up with Filipino stars that make it in America.

It was a good feeling to know that a Filipino comic was selling out venues, getting Netflix specials, got his own Funko POP!, and making headlines. After seeing his come up, we all feel a sense of pride, and can’t help but feel like a milestone is being made in Filipino-American history with his movie, Easter Sunday. I believe this is only the 2nd Filipino movie to play in theatres, the first being The Debut. Jo Koy makes it a point in all of his stand up routines to say that he did not grow up with Filipino idols to look up to. He mentions his sense of pride seeing Manny Pacquiao’s rise to fame. I’m sure he knows that he is that Filipino idol to Filipino-Americans right now.

Jo Koy’s movie, Easter Sunday, that debuted on Friday, August 5th, touched on so many topics in the Filipino community while still keeping it lighthearted. I personally felt like I could relate to almost everything in the movie, given that a lot of these topics and issues are so embedded into the Filipino culture. These have been topics that I have covered on my blog, talked about extensively with cousins and friends, and have thought about on my own time. Over the last couple of years I’ve been doing some deep diving into who I am, what makes me me, and how I was raised. Easter Sunday shows how families may have unhealed trauma and unhealthy family dynamics, but they can still be a family full of love with the best intentions at the end of the day. Filipinos know this firsthand.

In the movie, Jo is conflicted whether or not he should sellout to secure a spot in a sitcom show. It is apparent that they only want Jo in the show if he agrees to do his Filipino accent. He has mixed feelings about it because he believes he’s funny without the accent and doesn’t feel like it’s relevant or necessary for the part. His agent makes light of his torn decision, and encourages him to just agree to do it for the sake of securing the deal. This is an interesting take since Jo Koy is known for impersonating his mom and her accent. It really shows the point of view that there’s a difference between poking fun at your culture versus being told to make a mockery of your culture by people who are 1. not that ethinicity, and 2. seek to profit off of it.

Jo is in a dilemma because he feels the need to prove something to his family. He wants to prove that he is successful in his stand up career despite going against his mom’s wishes to pursue nursing. The long standing joke is that Filipino parents expect their children to go into the medical field. It’s a profession that has a huge Filipino presence. When Filipino children choose to take another career path other than nursing or the medical field, it could get ugly. Filipino parents take this opportunity to use scare tactics to discourage their children from choosing a career path they are passionate about.

This discouragement could be interpreted as being unsupportive and controlling, which let’s be real, it is. However, the nagging encouragement to pursue nursing is really an unspoken desperate plea to avoid the unknown at all costs. Filipino parents don’t know how to put into words that they are worried for their child’s future. They don’t know how to express that they just want the best for their kids and don’t want them to fail. And they definitely can’t put their pride aside to admit that they are afraid of the road less traveled and would prefer tradition because it’s familiar. The lack of communication translates to anger and doubt. For the most part, Filipino parents want the best for their children. They want them to have stable jobs that they know will be in demand and would prefer their children take the safe option. Exploring creative passions professionally goes against the work familiarity that so many Filipinos are used to.

Filipinos are so used to busting their ass to make ends meet. That means starting from the bottom and working your way up. Work wasn’t meant to be something they enjoyed, it was something they had to do to have food on the table for their families. Surprisingly, pursuing a career in something you actually like and are passionate about is somewhat a new concept for traditional Filipino families. Thankfully, my parents never fell into the stereotypical Filipino parents who push nursing onto their children. I’d be lying if I said it was never suggested, but my parents just wanted my sisters and I to finish college in anything we wanted. Being a college graduate was all that was important to them, so going for what we wanted to do was never the issue. My sisters and I were lucky, because I know a lot of people whose Filipino parents weren’t as lenient.

To Jo’s family, he’s the big shot that made it in Hollywood, so it’s totally understandable why his character felt pressured to agree to something he was strongly opposed to if it meant landing the role. As a Filipino kid whose mom didn’t want him to pursue comedy, he’ll do almost anything to avoid letting his family down. Introducing this internal conflict in the movie sheds light on the fact that a lot of Filipino adults still feel the need to be successful because they dread being viewed as a disappointment to their parents. The sad truth is this: not wanting to disappoint your parents doesn’t just stop when you’re a kid, it continues on into your adulthood. Especially when you feel like you have to make them proud, but also outshine others.

There’s a lot of pressure to be successful and make your Filipino parents proud. But there’s also a lot of pressure to be better than those around you because you’re always being compared to someone. We see this play out in the movie with the relationship between Jo and his cousin Eugene. Clearly, Eugene’s character is the typical loser cousin who means well but just can’t seem to get their life together. Even though Eugene’s flaws are ridiculously apparent, Jo’s mother has her beer goggles on. She insists that Eugene is a “good boy,” even though it’s clear that he has tangled himself in with the wrong crowds. Jo rolls his eyes multiple occasions when hearing his mom say that Eugene is a good boy, not because he’s jealous of his life, but because he knows that she means Eugene is a good boy in comparison to him. In this instance, what’s being compared is how attentive Eugene is with Jo’s mom while he’s away trying to jumpstart his career.

As Filipino children, we are no stranger to being compared to our siblings, cousins, or family friends. And nothing is off the table for bragging rights – it can be about success, appearance, how big their house is, the person they married, what material things they own, what field they work in, how they treat their parents, what life choices they made, what school they got into, etc. It can be a very toxic game elders play because it can either motivate you or make you jealous and bitter. Putting everyone else under a microscope just opens the doors for judgment and gossip. In the Filipino culture it can seem like everyone is concerned about everyone else except themselves.

Religion plays a big role in the Filipino culture. I grew up around the Santo Niño statues, praying before eating, and going to church on Sundays. It was interesting, but not shocking, that Jo Koy decided to have a church scene in the movie. After all, the movie’s setting is supposed to be for Easter Sunday – resurrection day. Filipinos are known to be very religious and attending church on Sundays is a typical thing. When Jo is forced to give a speech in front of everyone in attendance, he calls out his mom and Tita’s feud. In a way, Jo is calling out his family members for not practicing what they preach. Exposing his family’s drama in church revealed something deeper. It’s not just about the petty drama, but the underlying meaning behind it.

The movie tastefully shows the Filipino family dynamics when it comes to feuding within the family. However, in real life, these scenarios can get straight up ugly and petty. We see how Jo’s mom and Tita take little digs at each other throughout the movie. They play it petty by threatening not to go to each others’ parties, not eating food the other made, leaving early, stealing recipes, trying to out-do each other on presents to the Philippines, and making rude unnecessary comments to diss each other. It’s funny for the sake of the movie, but we know scenarios like this that played out in real life. And it all boils down to pride.

Every Filipino family can relate – you have the aunties or group of elders that like to stir the pot and talk shit. It’s all fun and games until someone gets butthurt off something and it turns into a he said she said moment. In Easter Sunday, Jo’s relatives couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for the argument – and this is very true in real life as well. They tend to give their side of the story to whoever will listen, and then these people have to act like they don’t know the drama when the other person gives their side. Everyone is aware that this is going on, but the chisme is just too juicy to not listen to. So many sides and points are made that by the end, you don’t even remember what came first, who dissed who, or what the real argument is about. But it just shows the pettiness and pride Filipinos have when it comes to confronting an issue.

But the problem is, the issue is never confronted. Instead, the flames are fanned and the problem just gets bigger because everyone is just in everyone else’s ear. Both parties know that the other is angry and talking behind their back, which is the reason why they feel the need to get everyone to rally behind what they are saying. But that’s the issue – things are never resolved. It’s always passive aggressive anger. Instead of confronting each other respectfully, it always needs to escalate further to be resolved, or resolved for the moment. Filipino families are traditionally tight-knit, but they are notorious for grudge keeping. There is no such thing as things being forgiven and forgotten for our elders sometimes. It can be swept under the rug, but the next time something comes up, that shit is coming out from the backburner and being used again. Filipinos love hard but fight harder, over the pettiest things sometimes too.

A lot of built up resentment can cause these family feuds. And it all boils down to this – someone gets their feelings hurt, and they don’t have the tools to properly express those feelings. In the Filipino culture, admitting your feelings are hurt or that something bothers you is almost like a sign of weakness. Everyone wants to come off all bossy bad-ass, but the truth is, everyone is just butthurt and it’s a front to cover up those hurt feelings. And because we are not taught to express those feelings, they bubble up in other ways – anger, petty remarks, jealousy, acting like you’re better than others, acting like you don’t care, and being a straight savage in the worst way possible.

We see the result of hurt feelings manifesting itself into ill-mannered behavior in the movie when Jo’s mother tells him that he’s not a good father. Jo’s mom is hurt over what his Tita said – that she’s a bad mother. So she tries to lessen her shame by saying that if she wasn’t a good mother, maybe he isn’t such a great father either. It’s a chain of unnecessary hurt, and honestly everyone’s reaction in the movie was priceless. His post office uncle got me with the, “What is wrong with you?” comment after his mom blurted that out. Of course, this is a movie, so a resolution was made after the climax of insults and childish behavior. But it gave us a glimpse into how far things can go when pride and hurt feelings are commanding the ship.

Easter Sunday hit closer to home since the movie takes place in Daly City! That’s crazy to me. My city, the city known for its Filipino community, is the setting for a movie. Daly City is often shadowed by San Francisco, so it felt good to see us being put on the map for once and not piggybacking off of San Francisco or the Bay Area as a whole. I loved that Easter Sunday was in my city, it showcased food that I eat, Tagalog was spoken throughout the movie, and the mannerisms of each character made me think of my own family – That just made the movie that much more relatable.

Overall, the movie is exactly what I expected it to be. I watched it on opening night and then took my whole family to see it a few days later. I felt like it was a big moment for Filipino-Americans and wanted my parents to be a part of it. My parents really enjoyed it and I feel like every Filipino in that theater could relate to something in the movie. For once, we were watching our experiences play out on the big screen. That’s a big deal. For so long I’ve wanted to see the Filipino experience in media, in our textbooks, in the arts, and now I feel like we are finally getting that representation.

The Smiling Photograph

My dad’s mom, Conching, passed away during childbirth over 55 years ago. At the time, my dad was about 5 years old. Tatay was left to care for 7 children, ages ranging from about 14 to 2. Like their ages, what each sibling remembers of Nanay Conching ranges as well. Some remember the day she passed away vividly, some remember bits and pieces of isolated moments, and some remember nothing at all. Because my dad and aunt were the 2 youngest siblings, they heavily relied on the memories of their older siblings to get an idea of what kind of person their mom was.

From what I have gathered throughout the years, my grandma was a very kind and religious woman. She was the eldest of her siblings, and had a very nurturing personality. Every new piece of information lit up my family’s faces. Each story, memory, and photograph was like striking gold. My cousins and I wanted to know more about the woman that left such an impact on everyone that knew her. We have all wondered what our family would be like had Nanay Conching and my Auntie Merlinda survived. We’d probably have more aunts and uncles, more cousins, and a way bigger family – which is hard to believe, given that our family is already pretty large.

Since Nanay Conching passed away so long ago, and at such a young age, there are only a handful of photos of her that we’ve seen. I personally have only seen a total of 4 photos of Nanay Conching: a solo photo of her in a traditional Filipino dress, the picture of her and Tatay on their wedding day, a photo of my great grandparents (her parents) and all of her siblings holding a painting of her after she passed, and her and my aunt’s tomb stones in the Philippines. These are the only photos that the family has to remember her by. I’m sure that there might be more photos in the Philippines in the albums of very distant family members, but these are the few gems the family’s aware of.

My family is known to have a big family “story time.” We all gather in the living room – you know it’s about to be story time just from the vibe. They turn off the TV, everyone grabs a seat nearby, and it becomes a family group discussion. This usually happens when family from out of state visits the Bay Area – it would routinely happen during Tatay’s birthdays. I don’t know when these family story times started becoming a thing, but they seem to be happening more often as us “kids” start to get older. We feel more comfortable to ask the adults more thought-provoking questions on how they were raised, what they remember, and what life was like immigrating to a new country right after their mother passed away.

Each story told, each point of view shared, each memory ingrained in my aunts, uncles, and dad’s pasts, helps us understand their upbringing and how it has personally effected them as parents, partners, and individuals. Because we know our loved ones’ pasts, it brings to light all the unspoken emotions that their generation couldn’t find the words to express properly. Understanding our family’s generational trauma has planted the seed of change in my cousins and I’s heads. For me, love is many things, one thing that love is is wanting to try to understand. Trying to understand means that you not only want to listen, but that you want them to feel heard. Attempting to understand other people’s pasts and lives brings healing for them, and can connect the pieces in your own mind about why they are the way they are.

I’ve heard many sides and point of views of the day my grandma passed away. Some details vary from sibling to sibling, as time sometimes clouds the memory. One thing that everyone could agree on – regardless of what they remembered and how old they were – was the fact that my grandma’s death put Tatay in a frenzy. He was left widowed with 7 children to care for. Tragedy brought my family closer together and made the stitching of their bond to each other that much tighter. Because they lost a parent so early on in their lives, they cherished Tatay that much more, regardless of how flawed and irritable he was.

Now that Tatay has passed on, a lot of change has happened in our family in the last year. A lot of family are moving out of the Bay Area – something that I never thought would happen in my lifetime. For some reason, I’ve always believed that my extended family on both sides would stay in the Bay Area for life. Looking back now, I know that’s pretty unreasonable, but when I think of “home” I think of the Bay Area. As family starts to branch out outside of California, I think it’s important to try to maintain the closeness and bond that we are all so used to.

A few months ago, we took a trip to visit family that recently moved out of state. It was an amazing experience to explore a state we’d probably never think to visit otherwise. It was hands down one of the best family trips I have ever been on. When entering a home I’ve never been to before, I love to look at all the pictures that are up in the house. I feel like the pictures that are up in someone’s house says a lot about them and what’s important to them. I made my way around my uncle’s living room, dining room, bedroom, and anywhere with pictures up.

I analyzed all of the photos in my uncle’s home, each tucked away in a frame, some big, some small. As I admired the collage frame hanging next to the front door, I noticed some faces that looked very familiar at the top right. It was a photo of Tatay and Nanay Conching on their wedding day. But this wasn’t the wedding photo we were all familiar with, this was one I’ve never seen before. There in front of me was a picture of both my grandparents smiling ear to ear. It dawned on me that this was the first time I’ve ever seen a photo of my grandma smiling.

I immediately took pictures of the photo and sent it my dad and aunt who couldn’t make the trip. They also shared that they have never seen the photo before either. My aunt texted me, thanking me for sending it her way. Being the youngest sibling, my aunt was only 2 years old when her mom passed away. Her and my dad have no memories of their own of their mother. All that they have gathered about their mom has been stories passed down from their older siblings. She shared that this was the first picture she ever saw of her mom smiling, and it brought tears to her eyes. There is nothing that can fill the void of losing a parent so young, but a picture of both of her parents smiling was the next best thing for my aunt. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this picture left us speechless.

It was a nice surprise to discover that photo that day. Especially with so much change happening, it’s nice to get those signs from the other side that they’re still around. Or at the very least, a reminder of the people that started it all. Sometimes discovering a photo that you never knew existed could really move you in ways that are unexplainable. For me, the smiling photograph filled my heart in many ways.

If The Shoe Fits…

As a writer, having writer’s block is a regular occurring thing for me. To the public, it looks like I just push out these blog posts every week with grace. But behind the scenes, my ass is going through a constant rollercoaster of anxiety and stress. I work on a piece throughout the week on top of my 8-5 job, and once it hits the weekend I feel a sense of relief because the work week is over. But then I have that sense of panic because I know it’s grind time to put the finishing touches on my blog post. Sundays are when my procrastinating ass starts to feel more pressure. But once it hits Monday after 5 PM, it is straight to the laptop I go. That’s when I know it’s time to put in work because it’s blog post day. The adrenaline kicks in, Will I post it on time? What should be my pull quote? Do I have a visual? How will this post perform?

Once I press that “Publish” button and share it across all my socials, I feel a sense of relief and peace. I made it through another week. All that hard work was not for nothing. Good shit. Once everything is posted and up, I finally chill out. But that brief bliss is short lived, as I know that the next day, the same cycle will continue. However, Tuesdays are a different kind of stress because Tuesdays are the days I have to start from scratch and figure out what I’m going to write about for the upcoming week. If I’m being completely honest, I’m almost 3 years deep into posting consistently every week, and I’m surprised that I haven’t ran out of shit to write about. Each time I hit writer’s block and think that I have written about every fucking topic already, I somehow push through with a new post. Don’t get me wrong – I love writing and everything that comes with it, but when you’re trying to juggle your day job and passion at the same time, it can get stressful.

When I hit writer’s block, it’s usually when I’m overthinking a topic to write about. When I literally can’t be writing because I’m at work, doing something else, or trying to sleep – that’s when my mind runs wild. I get all my best ideas when I’m not sitting in front of my computer thinking, “What am I going to write?” It’s so annoying, but that’s what I have found to be true. I have tried to make it a habit to document my idea on my notes on my phone so I can at least revisit it later. This has helped greatly because it allows me to dig deeper into that topic at another time.

I have a list of topics on my phone to write about, but when Tuesdays come around and I have to make an executive decision to pick a topic and roll with it, suddenly I think everything on the list sucks. And if I’m being real, some writing topics have remained on the list for over 2 years because when the time comes, I just don’t have the desire to write about it anymore. It obviously interested me at some point since I wrote it down, but when it’s time to pick a topic, I tend to over think what I’m going to post next really hard. Ironically, 9 times out of 10, I end up writing about a thought or idea that came out of the blue and wasn’t even on my list. It’s not uncommon for me to be working on a piece throughout the week, and on Sunday, scrap it all and start from scratch on another story. It all depends on what I’m feeling. If I’m not pleased with it, I’m not publishing it.

And I bet you’re wondering – Is what she’s writing about relevant to her personal life at the moment? And the answer is yes and no. It all depends. Most of the time, if I’m feeling something very intensely that doesn’t really involve anyone else, I’ll try to write about it in the moment. It’s a great way for me to sort out my thoughts and emotions because a lot of the time I don’t know where to begin to process what I’m feeling. However, if it’s a topic that involves specific people, sometimes I’m on the fence about posting or sharing my take on a situation or story because I don’t want anyone to feel bad when reading my posts. Especially if I’m writing about someone’s present situation that is still unfolding. It screams “too obvious” and shady.

But like most artists, I can’t help but pull inspiration from my personal life. Usually conversations with close friends and family will inspire me to write a piece. But unlike Carrie from “Sex and the City,” you won’t find me putting my close friends and family’s business out there so blatantly on the table. I respect people’s privacy, but also know that these are topics that so many people can relate to. If I’m drawing inspiration from those around me and what they and I are going through in our personal lives, I try to write my post as tastefully as possible without having anyone feel like I’m secretly at-ing them.

Recently, conversations with family and friends have drastically changed throughout the years. As it should, as we are all experiencing different and new stages in our lives. A lot of the conversations I’m having with those around me focuses on our past, how we were brought up and how that affects us as adults, how we process feelings and emotions, how we express our love language and our communication styles, cultural differences, dreams, goals, healing, and bettering ourselves overall. The emphasis these last couple of years have been being more self-aware with how we react to things, handle stress, and what we can do to heal our inner child and be good people for ourselves and to others.

That all sounds nice, but it isn’t all smiles and rainbows. Realizing a lot of these actions and patterns can be a very disappointing journey. Especially when you are aware of these unwanted traits, but can’t seem to progress as fast as you’d like. It’s that constant back and forth that gets people down sometimes. In the age of social media, there is this belief that everyone needs to project and present their best selves at all times. But that’s not how life works. Nobody is perfect. And it only seems right to document those small hiccups in my life, and the experiences of others in a tasteful way.

When I draw inspiration from the situations of those around me, I make it a point to let whoever know that I’ll be referencing the conversation / their scenario without giving too much detail as to who they are. Though I am a writer and creative, I first and foremost want to make sure that my friends and family feel comfortable talking about things with me without fearing that I’ll write about it without their knowledge. Trust is so important to me. And as a writer, especially as a journalist, I don’t want to lose sight of the relationships and trust I have with people for the sake of a blog post.

However, those around me are very supportive with my blog. When I suggest that I may write about someone’s current situation, feelings, or predicament, I am almost always met with support and encouragement. The people closest to me know that I will never throw them under the bus or make their business so public to the world, especially if it involves other people besides themselves. These are heavy topics. But I think it’s important to keep the conversations going because so many people can relate to it.

Since I talk about really raw and real situations, a lot of the time as a reader, you can’t help but make correlations and mental notes from your own life. I have had people tell me that my posts made them reflect on their own actions or how they perceive and go about certain situations. There have also been a handful of times where people have asked me if my post was about them. The times people have asked if it was in reference to them, the answer was genuinely a no. But when confronted with the question of whether or not a post was about them or not, I think in my head:

Well…. if the shoe fits….

It’s therapeutic to continue talking about subjects that keep coming up in conversation in your different circles. Recently, I’ve noticed that my writing has heavily focused on personal growth, healing, and tons of self-realizations. And that’s because I’m continuing the conversations I have with those close to me, by publicly posting my thoughts through my blogs. I think it’s important to keep the conversation going because it gets people digging deeper. When people relate, they are consciously made aware of their own actions and behavior.

I know I write about the good, the bad, the ugly, and everything in between. A lot of the time I share my own personal downfalls and short comings just to show a different side of social media. Not everything is perfect all the time, not everything about you has to be a fake curated version of what you think you should be. This is real life. So if the shoe fits, and a topic I write about resonates with you, just buy the damn shoe and own it! People can be reading the same exact story, but interpret it in completely different ways, leaving with different meanings. Please take what you need from it.

I feel like my posts are going to get more personable and realer real quick. I used to somewhat hold back on what I wrote about because I didn’t want people to think I’m referring to them or sneak dissing anyone. That’s not my intentions at all. There may have been an inspiration to some posts, but a lot of the time I try to point out the bigger picture. So chances are, my posts aren’t about you. But again… if the shoe fits…

Forgiveness Without An Apology

One of the worst feelings there is is feeling like someone close to you did you wrong, played you, betrayed you, disrespected you, used you, took you for granted, and the list goes on. This isn’t just limited to romantic partners – there are so many more relationships out there that can have the same aftermath of hurt and bitterness equivalent to a break up. Friendships, romantic relationships, professional relationships, acquaintance relationships, family relationships, can all turn sour in the blink of an eye. But when someone, especially when it’s someone really close to you, betrays your trust or disrespects you in some way, it can be hard to forgive. Especially if you plan to cut off the communication and walk away from the friendship or relationship, it can get very complicated. You’re left feeling hurt and robbed in multiple ways.

How do you forgive someone that never gave you an apology?

This is one of those situations where you know the right answer on how to react and go about it the “healthy” way, but it’s so fucking hard to practice in real life. Scenarios like these, trying to forgive someone and heal without an apology, is the perfect example of “easier said than done.” You know that you’re supposed to take the higher road and just forgive and move on. But how do you forgive without an apology? Is an apology needed to get closure? Who is the closure actually for? What does an apology achieve? What if they don’t think an apology is owed?

This is a topic that has come up time and time again with my different circle of friends. Even though everyone’s scenario is different, forgiveness without an apology is a common pickle to be in. It got me thinking about my own personal struggles with forgiving people who never gave me an apology. It’s so much more different when you’re giving someone else advice about closure, moving past hurt feelings, and being the bigger person through forgiveness. Offering my own past and present experiences as examples has allowed me to see how the past me vs. the present me would deal with things.

I remember when I went through my first break up, which seemed like lifetimes ago, I was so bitter and angry. I had so much hate and resentment in my heart because I didn’t get the apology I desperately wanted… In fact, I didn’t want it, I needed it. I needed some type of acknowledgment, some type of break through lightbulb going off in their head moment, any sign of ownership in the hurt that was caused. At the time, I thought an apology would’ve brought me closure. Closure to leave things in the past, accept all the hurt that I went through, and move on with my life. But because I didn’t get that apology when I needed it, I used my deep feelings of hate and resentment to move on.

I ended up getting that apology about a year later. But in that year, I struggled with going through the motions of healthily letting the past be the past because I felt entitled to an apology that never came. In that time, I clung onto “It will give me closure,” for so long. I was over the relationship, but the bitterness and hate still lingered until I got that apology. And after the fact, and many years down the line, I realized that I gave someone so much power over me. It was crazy to think that I literally thought I couldn’t fully be at peace on my own without an apology from someone else.

As I got older though, I started to realize that my mentality for closure in any scenario was all messed up. It didn’t matter if it was closure I needed from a friend, romantic partner, family member, etc. In the event of feeling wronged by another, it wasn’t closure that was driving me. It was embarrassment. It was shame. It was pride. Especially in a situation where I feel disrespected in some way, my emotions are through the roof. It’s not just one emotion, you’re usually feeling so many emotions all at once that it can be hard to sift out every single one. I would be too prideful to dissect my feelings in the past. The most prominent emotion has always been anger. When I’m hurt or sad, I express it by being angry. Since it’s the most dominant emotion, I usually just focus all my energy on why a situation angered me, not really diving into the other emotions I’m possibly feeling.

If I’m being completely honest, this is the first time I’m actually breaking down my train of thought when it comes to needing closer. I was more than aware that how I dealt with certain scenarios in the past were coming from a place of hurt that was never sorted out. But putting words and feelings to the process is actually pretty helpful. When you feel you are owed an apology after a situation, the underlying point is that your feelings were hurt. All the emotions that are felt can all be explained by admitting that your feelings were hurt. But hurt feelings can be disguised into other emotions. For me, the feelings of being moded and embarrassed sets in the more I think and dwell on a situation.

How embarrassing and naïve of you to befriend someone like that.

You were played dirty like an idiot, you look stupid.

They don’t respect you or your feelings enough to apologize. It shows where you stand in their life.

After the embarrassment is felt, the shame comes. The humiliation settles into the crevices of your mind. You’re forced to fill in the gaps for yourself. You start overthinking everything up until that point. Your imagination and hurt feelings start creating narratives that aren’t even provable yet. At first, you start to blame them, but then you start reflecting on yourself.

Was it something I did?

I bet they switched up because….

They started acting different around this time, how long was there an issue?

Where did it go bad?

Then the pride sets in. And it’s the ugliest feeling of them all. It’s the side of you that wants to even the score. It’s the side of you that needs to be more hurtful because your feelings were hurt. It’s the side of you that wants to have the last word and end the conversation once and for all. It’s where self worth and ego meet. Even if you feel like you deserve an apology, and an apology is rightfully owed, your pride might tell you that it is something you deserve, something that is rightfully owed to you.

How dare they do XYZ to me and betray my trust?

How can they be so oblivious to how they mistreated me?

I can never forgive them without an apology.

If from a genuine place, an apology will benefit both parties. It’s good for people to acknowledge when they’re in the wrong and have caused some degree of hurt or pain to another. At the same time, it validates the other party – you were entitled to feel X, Y, and Z because I did X, Y, and Z. It lets them know that the other person is conscious of what transpired, and admits their wrong doing. It means there was some sort of reflection that went on behind the scenes, some sort of deeper thought went into it after the fact, and they were putting themselves in your shoes to some degree. Sometimes an apology is what can unfreeze a cold heart. At the end of the day, we just all want to be understood.

But if that apology is never given, you can’t spend your life in limbo angrily waiting for it. Forgiveness is something you do for yourself. A lot of the time, you have to forgive because it’s the only way to free yourself. It can be tough to accept that there was no acknowledgment, there was no acceptance, there was no closure. It may seem ridiculous to forgive someone that does not deserve it. But forgiveness is something you have to do for yourself to avoid that inner turmoil that can occur when you hold onto negative feelings. It’s harder to process hurt feelings when you feel like you need an apology from whoever hurt you. Without them acknowledging your hurt, taking responsibility for their actions, or seeing your side, you may feel like it’s impossible to forgive and find peace on your own. But the power of peace and closure is not in someone else’s hands, it’s in yours. In the moment, it may be hard to see the bigger picture – that you are letting someone else’s decisions dictate your ability to heal.

Many times, getting people to see their part in a situation is close to impossible. What gets my blood boiling is when I know I am owed an apology, but the other party is gaslighting and saying my reality was not valid at the time. What got me in the past, whether that be in friendships, relationships, or arguments, was the fact that I wanted my reality to be validated, I wanted my experience to be known, at the very least, I wanted acknowledgment that I didn’t deserve a lot of the things I went through. But to give another person or people power over you like that is exhausting. Your worth isn’t determined by someone else. Just like your ability to move on and forgive is not determined by someone else either.

Forgiveness without an apology is not an easy thing to do. And there are lots of people out there that have not mastered forgiveness for themselves. And that’s not to knock or diss to anyone who is holding onto a lot of hurt and hate in their heart due to someone else’s wrong doing. I’ve been there and I’ve done that. But allowing someone to fuck with you so deep that a part of you is still bitter is not worth it. At the end of the day, you are holding that negativity inside, you are feeling the resentment, you are taking the L because misery loves company. The hard truth is this: you don’t need an apology. You will live, you’ll move on. And as cliché as it sounds, the only apology you need is the apology to yourself, for allowing someone else’s actions to affect your inner peace.

You can cling onto wanting an apology for so long, but sometimes, an apology doesn’t mean shit. We’ve all heard the stories of people that have been so badly scarred by another, that even if given an apology, forgiveness is so far out of the picture and unfathomable to even do. And honestly, sometimes people are justified in feeling that way. There are scenarios where people do malicious things that are just straight up unforgiveable. There are times where apologies don’t offer any closure at all, and the absence of an apology does absolutely nothing. It is in these moments that some will realize that the deep desire for “closure” by hearing “I’m sorry,” was never in the other person’s court at all. The ball was always in your court.

So what is closure? And why is closure and apologies so closely tied together? Does one not exist without the other? I used to think that I needed certain things to be known, said, or acknowledged to have closure. I wanted my point to be known, I wanted my side to be heard, I wanted to voice my opinions – that to me was closure. And if I didn’t get that opportunity to straight roast someone, say some smart ass shit I thought up after the fact, or have some fire comebacks that make me sound like a boss ass bitch for me to drop the mic and never say another thing to not taint my victory – it wasn’t closure. For me, I had to make an exit like a boss for closure.

Sometimes, you want that apology so bad that you overthink it. You overthink what an acceptable apology is. You play in your head the ideal apology you would like to receive. But often times, if there is an apology given, it’s not as satisfying as the one you conjured up in your head. Because only you know what parts need to be addressed that hurt you so badly. Which is why the power of healing should not be in someone else’s hands. You need to come to terms with the circumstances and how everything played out. You need to find peace in knowing the part they played as well as the part you played. Only you can give yourself that clarity.

Forgiveness without an apology may seem impossible. But it’s the kindness you show to yourself that is the real test. Most of the closure you need will be found within yourself. You don’t need an apology from someone else to find closure. Closure and forgiveness are actions you take to protect yourself and your own inner peace. The ball is always in your court if you want it to be.

Improving Communication

I’ve realized lately that I’ve been more detached and have adopted the “go with the flow” / “I really don’t care” attitude, which is a big improvement since I’m usually an over-thinker that exhausts every scenario and question in my mind. I don’t know if my aloofness is due to pandemic fatigue, getting older, being busy, or just not giving a shit like I used to. What I’m currently working on is realizing that I am not responsible for anyone’s actions and emotions, except my own. Yes, in theory, that seems like a given. But it is something that I’ve struggled more with in the past. I’m learning to set boundaries with people around me, and removing myself from people or situations that don’t make me feel good. Over the past year, this is the area that I have grown and improved in the most. Being aware of how I communicate and how I choose to react has helped me see what I need to improve. It has also helped me see the flaws in others, and not letting their poor communication skills, or how they choose to project their feelings, effect me.

It’s a no brainer that everyone – regardless of who you are- deals with their own inner turmoil and demons. I will be the first to admit that there are still so many aspects of me that need healing, more self-work, and reflection. I know I’m not perfect. Self-work is an emotional journey. It’s a mix of shame, regret, sadness, and hope that there are better days to come. It’s never a straight path journey. It can be a little discouraging when you are doing so well for a period of time, and then something happens where you say something out of anger, or act a certain way that you’ve been trying so hard to avoid. At those times I get frustrated with myself, thinking that my progress that I worked so hard on is suddenly down the drain, and instead of progressing and going forward, I took a couple steps back. I feel emotionally drained knowing that I start back and square one – or at least it feels like it’s back to square one. Being aware of your bad habits and communication style is step one. Trying to unlearn all the bad habits and re-train your brain to react differently is a lifelong journey. I can only control what I choose to do with my life and time. And that also includes how I choose to react, or not react, who I choose to let in my inner circle, and what I will allow and not allow.

2020 was a bit of a shit show. But at the very least, it made me be more aware of how I communicate. When I really put my communication skills under the microscope, I felt ashamed and wanted to take the next steps to be a better communicator. It’s funny because in the professional sense, I am great at communication. I can keep it professional and say what needs to be said without hurting anyone’s feelings. But in my personal life, my communication is not that great. I’m very blunt, and I find it hard to cover up my annoyance, anger, and frustrations – it just results in being snappy and yelling. I’ve always said that I believe I’m a writer because I can’t communicate my emotions verbally without sounding like I’m all over the place. Writing it all out gives me the opportunity to revise my words, being extra careful to get all of my points across, leaving nothing unsaid, but at the same time giving the right tone. Verbally, I’m quick with my words, and I’ve come to realize over the years that my come back game is strong, but it can be very hurtful.

But I also understand that I can only control myself, and not others. Being aware of my own actions and trying to change my ways has forced me to see where others fall short as well. I reflect a lot on who I choose to surround myself with, and how certain relationships – whether that be with friends, acquaintances, family, and other people that I have to deal with day to day – can negatively impact me. Over the years, I have found myself cutting ties, letting friendships naturally drift, and setting boundaries. But it was not always that easy. It has taken years to finally set some boundaries for myself for what I will allow and will not allow into my life.

At this point in my life, I have tried to take more responsibility for how my words and tone can escalate a situation. Sometimes that even results in me staying silent to avoid an even bigger argument. Growing up, verbal fights weren’t over until there was an obvious winner or loser. This usually meant that someone said something so hurtful that the other person was in tears. You “win” the fight, but in the end you’re the loser for stooping so low. So now as an adult, I have to give myself constant reminders that a conversation can be had with disagreements without turning into a fight or argument. I try to apply this when I have a disagreement with my significant other, my sisters, sometimes even my parents. Like the saying goes, “it’s not what you say, but how you say it.” The importance of communication is undervalued, but I have seen instant improvements when I shift my tone or how I word things.

However, communication is a 2 way street. I can work on myself all I want, but I can’t control how others choose to communicate. How someone treats me is a reflection of themselves, and that is a pill that is hard to swallow. The truth is, not everyone will like you, and not everyone will be in your corner. How people act towards you when you are genuinely trying to better yourself is a reflection of how they feel about themselves. I’ve learned to just let it go, cut it off, and remove myself from those type of situations. Everyone has had some relationship, it could be romantic or not, that has been very negative and overbearing. It can be a relationship with your parent, or sibling, or friend, or co-worker, or in-laws, that just drains you. It can be anything from talking behind your back, saying hurtful things on purpose to hurt you, ignoring you on purpose so they make you feel like you owe them something, things that just don’t make you feel good. It may be sad to know that you are not for everyone, but it is also an eye opener to realize that not everyone is for you. You don’t have to have a relationship with people who constantly make you feel bad about yourself.

Everyone is dealing with something, but it comes to a point where it can’t be an excuse for how you treat others. That’s when cutting off, drifting, or setting boundaries comes into play. At this point in my life, I don’t have time to wonder if people are speaking ill of me behind my back, I don’t have time to argue with people who refuse to see my side or even listen, and I definitely don’t have time for people who don’t have the best intentions for me. It’s good to set boundaries with others, but also with yourself. What you will allow, and what you won’t. At the end of the day, you can only control how you communicate with others. And if you don’t like how someone is communicating with you, unfortunately, you can’t force someone to fix something they don’t think is broken. That’s something that they have to want and do for themselves. You can’t force someone to realize that they can be shitty at times. At those instances, it is best to remove yourself from that situation, or break that cycle.

The lesson of communication has taught me that not every person is going to be along for the ride with you forever. There are friendships and people that you just have to leave behind to move forward. It can be pretty sad, but it does bring a lot of peace of mind knowing that you have surrounded and hand picked every person that you chose to be in your life. And dealing with toxic / problem relationships without cutting them off is another story. Sometimes we are put in situations where you can’t really “cut off” the person that is bringing you so much negativity. I have found a middle balance of keeping it professional, but also keeping it moving. My feelings don’t get hurt anymore if someone is being shady because I’ve literally learned to not give a shit. I’ve learned to look past my own hurt and not take it personally. If you’re treating me some type of way, I know that it is something that you are dealing with within yourself. Awkward silence is no longer awkward for me, and letting someone else’s mood affect my mood is only giving them the satisfaction – misery loves company, and I got other shit to deal with.

2020 forced these things to light. “That’s just how I am,” is no longer and excuse or pass. Nobody is perfect, and we are all a work in progress. But, being aware, and attempting to re-learn is what’s important. You can’t control how someone reacts, speaks, or treats you. You can only control how you act, react, speak, and treat others. Understanding this has made it easier for me to weed out who I don’t want in my life. Setting boundaries has made me set a standard for what kind of people and energies I want to be around. I’m aware that I’m not perfect, but being aware and conscious that my communication skills need to be improved. It has brought on a whirlwind of emotions, from shame, anger, embarrassment, and everything in-between. There will be times where the progress feels stagnant, and like you’re fighting an uphill battle. There will be times where you mess up and go back to your old communicating style, but it’s all a part of the lesson. Understanding my emotions, and the root of why I react the way I do, has been a journey on it’s own, “that’s just the way I am,” is something I’ve been trying to take out of my vocabulary.

CaliVamp

CaliVamp is a handcrafted jewelry and accessory brand focused on spreading love and healing energy through fashion. Deziré created CaliVamp in 2013, and since then her products have expanded – from wire wrapped healing crystal jewelry, home and car decor, crystal infused glosses, healing crystals, and energy cleansings kits.

Deziré just celebrated the 4 year anniversary of launching her website, http://www.calivamp.com , this past October. CaliVamp has flourished tremendously in 2020, and all the hard work throughout the last 7 years is finally starting to pay off. Every small business has a story. Behind every small business is a business owner with a dream. We’ve seen CaliVamp’s success as a small business, but it wasn’t always like that. But the support of her mother, and those closest to her is what keeps her and CaliVamp going.

Deziré remembers back to when she was about 5 years old. At the time, her mom had her own office space for her clothing business. She would tag along with her mom at work a lot, so her mom would have to find different ways to keep her occupied. Her mom presented her with a box full of beads and wires. Deziré remembers her mom taking the time to show her how to cut and loop the wires together. While her mom worked on creating designs for clothing, along side her, little Deziré worked on her own creations.

“I believe this moment of trying to just keep me busy really set the tone for my creative abilities,” Deziré recalls, thinking back to where it all started.

Deziré has always been a natural born hustler. She has always been intouch with her artsy side, and loved to create – whether that be crafts or baked goods. Since elementary school, she would exchange her creations for money. It started off as her making things for friends and teachers, but it really took a turn in 2011. Deziré had just made a pair of earrings for herself and wore them to school. I remember that day clearly – I saw her earrings that connected into a necklace and thought it was the cutest statement piece. I asked Deziré to make me a pair and I’d pay her. This gave her the confidence to start selling her creations for actual income. Since then, whenever she needed or wanted money, she would create things for people to buy. Word of mouth from herself, her brother, and sister is how she let people know what she had for sale.

The start of CaliVamp’s foundation started in 2013. The push that got the wheels rolling was when Deziré enrolled in Cosmetology school. She had just moved to Fresno and didn’t know anyone out there. She saw this as a perfect opportunity to start her online website. Deziré also saw this as an opportunity to showcase her hobby of creating jewelry and make some extra money while in school. She didn’t have any doubts because her focus was on finishing up Cosmetology school, and Deziré never expected that CaliVamp would be her main source of income. She was so eager to start CaliVamp that she’s “pretty sure I came up with the name at 3 in the morning.” For those wondering about CaliVamp’s name, Deziré is from California and “Vamp” because she’s a night owl – it’s a combination of where and who she is.

While in Cosmetology school, Deziré began to realize what different paths she could take. As a hairstylist, she learned that she can either be her own boss or work under someone else. She realized then that her end goal was to be her “own boss” and create her own brand. She didn’t think of it only in terms of being a hairstylist, but knew that this way of thinking could be applied to any aspect in what she wanted to do – hair or selling her creations. Ironically, once Deziré got licensed, she realized she didn’t enjoy doing hair like before. She started to dislike the process of doing people’s hair, and noticed that she started to fall in love with creating jewelry more and more, even though it was originally her side hustle.

CaliVamp’s foundation started in 2013, but Deziré didn’t have an official CaliVamp Instagram page or website until 2016. In that 3 year gap, Deziré was still creating, tweaking her products, and trying to learn the business aspects of having a website. In fact, she had a website that she started in 2014, but never advertised, posted, or sold anything on it. She was just trying to learn the ropes of the industry. From 2013 to 2016, she was mostly creating for friends and family, and didn’t incorporate crystals in her jewelry yet. Everything was word of mouth or was posted on her personal Instagram.

When CaliVamp finally had an Instagram page that launched on February 2016, that is when Deziré started advertising her work. Advertising and posting on Instagram helped get word around that she was selling jewelry. Calivamp.com launched about 8 months later on October 5, 2016. CaliVamp finally got its feet off of the ground, but business wasn’t booming just yet. Up until this point, Deziré advertised her work through hear say and word of mouth from friends and acquaintences. Now, she could publicly display her crafts and get feedback from anyone. Having a public Instagram page benefited her because she had people messaging her for custom orders. To Deziré’s surprise, she started to realize that having an Instagram page and a website was just the first step.

“WOW!” She said when I asked what surprised her about going into the business. “Once you get your feet wet you realize it takes A LOT of hard work, time, and energy to really build a foundation and make back the money that you’ve invested. I was excited to get into it thinking I would all of a sudden start being able to financially support myself… but nope. It’s true what they say, in business ‘you need money to make money.'”

Deziré recalls being discouraged from time to time because certain family members were skeptical about her small business. They questioned whether this business could financially provide for Deziré and if it was “good money.” Deziré admits that, no, it definately wasn’t good money, especially when you’re building from scratch. Especially since the first couple of years were slow due to working part time and going to school. There were times where Deziré thought about slowing down on CaliVamp and getting another job – full-time or part-time. Whenever she got discouraged, her immediate family and friends pulls her back to center and reminds her that her creativity is something special. She’s grateful that her support system has always outweighed any doubters.

And one of her biggest supporters is her mom. In fact, without Mama CaliVamp, CaliVamp wouldn’t be a healing crystals jewelry brand. Deziré’s mom has always been into feng shui, energy, and the power of healing crystals. When Deziré purchased a wire wrapped citrine ring from a street vendor in New York on August 2016, her mom suggested that CaliVamp start incorporating crystals in its jewelry. It started to all come together in the beginning of 2017 when she was given the opportunity to have her jewelry displayed in ISSO San Francisco. One of the owners, Marie, told Deziré that she liked her jewelry, but would prefer that there was a collection or theme with the products. Marie told her to create a collection and come back. Again, Deziré’s mom suggested healing crystals.

Deziré knew healing crystals had meaning and special properties behind them. She didn’t feel comfortable selling and promoting products that she knew nothing about. So, she started doing her research. With the information she acquired through researching, she would incorporate into her daily life. She began to wear the wire wrapped citrine ring that she got from New York daily and started to notice an increase in her creative energy as well as business opportunities. Even now, Dezire is still researching and learning about different crystals and their properties. CaliVamp’s Vibes Collection set the tone for the business’ brand – Deziré wanted to spread love and healing with her work. She explains:

So crystals have their own specific crystalline structure and vibrate on a molecular level. Which allows them to have their own vibration and specific healing properties. When they come into other energetic fields they can imprint and pass those vibrations on. The first two crystals I had started wearing on a daily basis was citrine and lapis lazuli. Citrine helps with businesses, increases creativity, promotes joy and abundance. Once I began to wear or use this crystal on a daily basis I noticed an increase in all these areas. Lapis lazuli is a performers stone and helps with communication and confidence which are two things I lack the most in. If you are open and have an open mind about the ability of healing crystals over time you can see a difference in your own energy field and things around you. It’s sort of like the people you meet – you either vibe with them or not and certain people can increase or decrease your vibes or energy levels as well. It’s not really something that you can explain in full detail or sell someone on. It’s something you have to experience & be open to in order to believe & reap the benefits.

A couple months before quarantine, Dezire stopped being a lash tech because she developed De Quervain’s Tenosynovitis, a painful condition that causes swelling of the thumb and tendons. Repeated wrist / hand movements can make the hand and thumb area hurt more. Deziré threw in the towel with doing eyelashes, because wearing a brace 24/7 on top of physical therapy just didn’t seem worth it. She also had to ask herself what career path she would rather do – do hair, do eyelash extensions, or make jewelry? Deziré decided to drop the beauty industry and focus all of her energy on only CaliVamp.

With that decision plus the quarantine and pandemic hitting, it made it easier for Deziré to give all of her attention to nurturing CaliVamp. The pandemic has affected CaliVamp in a very abundant way. She doubled in sales since Shelter in Place. She believes it’s because she wasn’t 100% focused on CaliVamp pre-COVID. The Shelter in Place was really a blessing in disguise for her small business, because she could really focus and plan out her next moves. CaliVamp has been consistently selling out on products since the Shelter in Place. Deziré humbly admits that selling out fast can be due to the fact that she only has a limited amount of products. Sometimes she only has a limited amount of specific crystals, or can only get a few crystals at a time. Regardless of how many products she has in stock, she always feels fulfilled when she sells them all. Deziré feels very proud and happy knowing that she is creating products that people enjoy and can benefit from.

She is especially grateful because 2020 is the first year that she started to gain actual profit from the business. Yes, you read that right. She has been building CaliVamp from the ground up since 2013, and has officially had the website running just a little over 4 years. It wasn’t until COVID and Shelter in Place that she began profiting off of CaliVamp. When she launched the website in 2016, everything she made from selling jewelry went back into buying materials to make the next set. I remember Deziré breaking it down for me at the 85° Bakery almost a year or 2 years back. She began going over making the jewelry, the costs of the materials, the cost of the website being up, stressing that if she made 2 sale for the month, after subtracting the material and website cost, her end of the month profit would be 50 cents. So 2020 was really CaliVamp’s break through year, and she’s not stopping there.

Her best products come from trying to create jewelry for herself or others. Deziré has sensitive skin and because of that, has trouble finding certain styles that she’s looking for in jewelry. So, she’ll start to play around with products she already has and messes around with it until she is satisfied. But her favorite way to stay creative and design is when she brings someone else’s vision to life. Deziré loves when clients give her the base of what they want but gives her complete creative control. Usually, it leads to a new product or a new style. If this happens, Deziré names the product after the client.

A product has to hit certain bench marks before it hits the CaliVamp website. Deziré has to first start out with creating. This usually leads her to the prototype. The 3rd step is the quality check. Deziré will wear a product a few weeks or a few months to see how the design and materials hold up. The people in her household also test out the products because they all react differently to jewelry – some have sensitive skin and some do not. If the product passes the quality check, it moves on to step 4 – posting it on social media and seeing how CaliVamp’s audience reacts to it. If she gets a positive response, she will begin to finalize the details, product description, and variants. She’ll go on to creating the products and having all the details written out so she can take product pictures and enter the information on the website. She’ll then create flyers, social media posts, and write out emails to hype up her release date.

Deziré is more motivated than ever to continue on with CaliVamp. 2020 really made her reflect on what feeds her soul and what makes her happy. All roads led her back to CaliVamp. Her goal for 2021 is to expand her office, her product lines, and do more collaborations with other artists. The pandemic was the push that CaliVamp needed to rekindle the flame of passion. When asked if she would go back to doing CaliVamp part time when things “get back to normal,” I was greeted with a “Hellll naaahh!” When things start to open back up and we figure out our “new normal,” Deziré plans to go even harder! Continuing to put her 100% in CaliVamp until she feels called to do otherwise.

Deziré wants her customers to know that she is human! She tries her best to provide quality products and quality service. CaliVamp’s main goal is to spread love and healing while being able to look fashionable. She wants her followers and customers to know that she was once a skeptic about the healing powers of crystals. But she has experienced the energy of healing crystals and wants to spread those high vibrations with those around her.

“Everyone is deserving of peace within themselves and happiness,” she said.

Deziré believes that her followers and customers can help CaliVamp thrive in different ways. She appreciates corrective criticism, honest reviews on products, and letting others know about CaliVamp. After all, her business started through word of mouth! A simple shout out, tag, or repost can really help a small business gain a following. She appreciates those that have bought from CaliVamp and continue to help spread the word about her jewelry and mission. Her advice to other small businesses is to keep going! She’s a firm believer that every situation is an opportunity, or it’s making space for a “bigger one.”

CaliVamp is about 7 years old now, and the journey has been long but worth it! The seeds Deziré has been planting for the last 7 years are finally starting to sprout. She is happy and excited to know that this is just the beginning for CaliVamp. 2020 showed Deziré where CaliVamp could go if she put her 100% into the business. She admits that this 7 year long journey has been tough and discouraging, but now that she has had a taste of success, it makes her more excited to see how far she can really take her business.

“I’m proud of how much CaliVamp has grown, and the whole process of how I’ve gotten to where I am,” Deziré said. “I’ve built CaliVamp from the ground up. Everything that I’ve learned has been from experience or research. I’ve gained knowledge from others and applied it to CaliVamp. No one else did the work for me.”

Visit : http://www.calivamp.com

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! 🎉

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 cliché 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 🥂! *hot cheeto toast*

“Note To Self”

I look at the picture that is posted above and I feel a little sad. I was in 3rd grade in that picture, and if I could tell 3rd grade me anything, I’d tell her sorry. I’d tell her not to give into what the media has pounded into her brain, the unrealistic expectations that we were all brought up on. I’d tell her that you don’t have to be a certain body type to be beautiful, to embrace the body she was given instead of shaming it. And most importantly I’d tell her she deserves to truly love herself, regardless what society projects.

For all my life I’ve struggled with body image issues. I would look at myself in the mirror and find all the things that I thought was wrong about me. From my stomach, to my arms, to the stretchmarks on my thighs, nothing was off limits. I remember watching the Tyra Banks show in the 4th grade, where she stood in front of her whole studio audience in a bathing suit she was recently shot in, where news outlets bashed her for her “imperfect” body. I remember watching Tyra choke up as she finished her speech, and I too started to get emotional.

“If I had lower self-esteem, I would probably be starving myself right now,” Banks said. “But that’s exactly what is happening to other women all over this country… To all of you that have something nasty to say about me, or other women that are built like me, women that sometimes or all the time look like this, women whose names you know, women whose name you don’t, women who have been picked on, women whose husbands put them down, women at work, or girls in school, I have one thing to say to you… KISS MY FAT ASS!”

I was young, but Tyra’s speech hit home. I’ve been insecure all my life. When people talk about weight or appearance, I cringe and hope that the attention isn’t put on me. I have a tough exterior, but the one thing that can bring me to instant (angry) tears, is when someone thinks it is okay to comment about my weight or appearance. That has always rubbed me the wrong way. Growing up I would get : “You gained weight,” “You’re getting bigger,” “You should watch what you eat,” “You would look so good if you were smaller!”… alright, dawg, you don’t think that out of all people I would know if I gained weight? And even if I wasn’t aware, I feel like it is never anyone’s place to casually bring it up.

Reyna Rochin, body builder and personal trainer, felt the pressure of the media and those around her growing up as well. She’s 100% badass, and has a huge heart. She uses her Instagram account to show her workout progress and to also share personal stories. She confessed her insecurities and personal stories on a couple of Instagram posts promoting self-love. Rochin has a ton of tattoos on her upper body and explains why.

“When I was 15, I HATED my upper body,” Rochin said on an Instagram post. “My wide shoulders and back were not what the other popular girls around me had and I was told by several boys that ‘you look like a man from behind.’ My tattoos are there because I love art and the aesthetics of tattoos but if I’m going to be honest, they are also a testament of new found self-love. My arms, shoulders, and chest used to be parts of me I loathed. And, as cheesy as it sounds, it wasn’t until taking lifting seriously did I realize that my broad shoulders could hold a 200 lb front squat no problem, or my strong chest could allow a 150 lb bench press to fly up easily.”

Rafaella Pereira also used working out to deal with her insecurities. She’s a wife, and a mother to a beautiful girl. Her Instagram feed is filled with personal stories of her struggles with body image issues. Growing up, she was told that she was fat, ugly, and dark. And for a big portion of her life, Pereira believed it.

“I would look in the mirror at times and scream, ‘you’re ugly, fat, and you will never be happy,’” said Rafaella Pereira. “I used to blame God for my lack of self-love and lack of motivation to be better.”

But Pereira has used the negativity as fuel to better herself. Her greatest accomplishment, but surely not last, was running a marathon that she would wake up every day at 5 am for. She hopes one day to publicly speak and help others.

As an older woman who is finally trying to come to terms with loving herself, accepting her body, and trying to unlearn all the things that were/ are detrimental to my peace of mind, I see and intake media differently. Up until recently I would look at pictures on Instagram of models, and I would think, “I wish I looked like that…” But ever since Ashley Graham started to break the mold in the model industry, I started looking at media realistically. There are people that edit their photos to try to uphold a “beautiful” image, they airbrush things that they don’t want you to see. But the thing is… IT’S NOT REAL. It’s all a lie. Stretchmarks, cellulite, rolls, IT’S NORMAL. EVERYONE HAS THEM. IT’S REAL.

That’s why I believe all these fashion shows are a joke. For the simple fact that not all body types are being represented. Not everyone is 5’10 or taller, under 110 lbs, with a size 0 waist. And if you are, then cool! I’m not trying to put anyone down for not being like me. However, representation is everything. Young girls and boys are growing up seeing the lack of diversity, and it encourages them to strive to be something they are not. Sometimes not even genetically possible.

Towards the end of 2016 it hit me that I basically spent my whole life hating my body. I look back to the photo above and around that age I had wrote in my diary “I’m gonna go on a diet.” I had an epiphany, and realized instead of being miserable and hating myself, I should love myself and be the person I wish I could look up to growing up. I’ve had too many instances in the fitting room when I just wanted to leave, even cried a couple of times. I’ve always been the bigger girl, and I’ve always tried to compare myself to others. I’ve vowed to try to stay body positive, even though I have my days when I feel the opposite. It’s awesome that there are people like Ashley Graham that promote self-love and accepting your curves and body type, but still also promotes the importance of a healthy lifestyle and working out.  You can be built bigger and still be healthy, but there will always be people and the media telling you that it is not okay. But it is okay. And I wish I could’ve told 3rd grade me that. It’s a long road to unlearning all the horrible things I would think about myself, but it’s so much more worth it than staying in a state of self-loathing and self-hate.

“Lost Ones”

Dedicated to my Goddaughter 

Baby Girl,

I still remember the first time I knew of your existence. It was my first semester of college and I was taking the long 1 hour bus ride home. I was talking to this guy from my class when I looked down at my phone to see that your Mommy was calling me. I let it go to voicemail, it had to be a butt dial. Your Mommy is that friend that never calls me, we text 24/7 and she texts back as fast as lightening, it had to be a mistake.

I texted her something along the lines of “what bitch haha.” And then immediately Mommy responded.

“I’m pregnant.” 

Woah.

I knew she suspected she was pregnant, and I knew she had an appointment that day to find out for sure, but I never expected it to actually be true. I locked my phone. I had no idea what to say. You see, me and Mommy are like one person. We react the same, we think the same, we’re just in sync. So I couldn’t imagine what she was thinking of… probably all her options and how screwed she is if she tells your Grandma and Grandpa.

What I want you to know is that Mommy loved you the moment she knew you were growing inside of her. The love she has for you is a love like no other, and I know for a fact you know that already. You probably also know how deep Mommy mourns for you…

For days Mommy felt torn on what to do. I remember thinking that either way, her life would change so radically. I wasn’t prepared for her to make a decision.

It was the hardest decision of her life. She was 18 and felt like she had no options. Mommy and Daddy disagreed and teeter tottered back and forth for days on the decision. It simply came down to Daddy telling Mommy she’d be doing it alone because they’re both not ready and too young.

I know you’re not angry, but Mommy still has doubts. In the beginning there was no reassuring her. She felt helpless, I felt helpless. What do I say to one of my best friends? Someone who was totally against the idea of abortion but almost had no choice because she knew she couldn’t provide the life she felt her daughter deserved? Nothing I could ever say would make her stop hurting.

Mommy hated what she ended up doing. She wasn’t raised to believe in terminating a pregnancy. Like I said before, me and mom share the same mind. We would constantly talk about imaginary scenarios like “what would you do if this and that happened?” She always said if she was to ever get pregnant unexpectedly, she would keep the baby because she could never get an abortion. But this time it was different, it wasn’t a scenario, it was real life.

She was so angry with herself and felt like you were angry too and that had to be the reason why you never came to her in her dreams. I tried telling her that you’re not mad. That you knew the decision wasn’t because you were burdening her, but because she simply wasn’t ready and couldn’t give you everything you deserve.

Though she was angry with herself and her decision, she knew it was the right thing to do at the time. There was a point in time where I was so scared for her. It was about a year since she gave you up to God, but she was still as depressed as the day she did it. I felt like she was in a hole, and the only person that could help her out was herself. But the thing is, Mommy didn’t want to get out. She felt as though she deserved to suffer for the rest of her life for what she had done to you, even though she knew it was the best logical decision. She was lost.

I introduced her to the song “Lost Ones,” by J.Cole. I just so happened to come across that song at the right time.  She listened to “Lost Ones” repeatedly and felt so connected to it. The lyrics were so relevant to her situation.

One morning I texted Mommy and said, “you know… I feel like the baby was a girl…” And she said she had the same gut feeling.

I told her that I had a dream of a baby girl, and a woman was showing me the new born in  a white blanket. In my dream I knew it was you. And I knew you were okay. That gave Mommy a little peace.

I was so  happy when she told me you came to her in a dream, wearing a white dress. And she knew it was you because you had curly hair. You don’t know how happy that made her. I feel like it was then she realized that you weren’t angry with her.

To this day Mommy isn’t 100% healed. I think there will always be a part of her that will always wonder “what if.”

Just a few weeks ago would’ve been your 2nd birthday. I just want you to know that even though only a few knew of your existence, you are and forever will be loved. For those of us that knew of you, we still celebrate you. Every Mother’s Day I’ll greet Mommy because we never forgot about you. You were going to be my first God child, and I still consider you my first.

You have no idea how much we love you. I told Mommy how awesome it is to know  that people she loved that have passed away in this life are with you right now watching you grow. Now she knows you are surrounded by people who loved her, and who also love you.

I know it’s a bittersweet story. Just know that you were never unwanted and will never be forgotten. Mommy has tremendous love for you and you’re always on the back of her mind. Not a day goes by that she doesn’t think of you. You changed her life. You made her a Mommy.