Thank You 2022

It’s that time of the year again. We’re winding down to the end of the year waiting to welcome in 2023. That means new year resolutions are made, you’re scrambling to clean your house, while simultaneously trying to process the last year that just happened.

I feel like there’s a lot of pressure to reflect on the last year and trying to find the lesson when the new year is approaching. It’s okay if there isn’t an “obvious lesson” to be learned. Very often, some time needs to pass for you to see the significance of a certain year, and the role it played in the bigger picture. I feel like 2022 was that kind of year – I was coasting in the sense where I wasn’t really trippin’ on what was to come, just taking life as it was. 2021 was one of those drastic years that changed a lot, and 2022 was the grace period of trying to re-evaluate life and process 2021.

If I really had to narrow it down, the overall theme of 2022 for me was slowing down and just taking it all in. My personality type is traditionally very uptight when it comes to plans. I’m either stressing out about what’s to come, or planning for the next step. I don’t know if anyone else felt this way, but I started 2022 tired as hell. Of course I had some new year’s resolutions – like writing more, start this or that project, save money, and so forth, but in terms of big life changing goals, I can’t say I had any. 2021 was such a year of change and grief that I just wanted to be a neutral “okay” for 2022. I literally wanted to be left as is and process what happened the year before. I wanted to be right in the moment, not stressing out about anything to come, and just exist without complaint. It seems like a simple task, but I find it hard to just let myself breathe. And in 2022, I did just that to the best of my ability.

I’ve always been pretty safe with the pandemic going on – wearing a mask, getting vaccinated, limiting my outings, taking takeout instead of dining in, not traveling, etc. But in doing so, I became anti-social and even more of a homebody than I already was. I went into the pandemic as a freshly turned 25 year old, and now 2 plus years in, I feel way older than 27. I was past the point of feeling like the pandemic had stolen 2 plus years of my youth and counting. I was so over the pandemic and knew it was time to start living again. We are coming up on 3 years of Covid being a thing, and even though on paper that is a relatively short period of time in the grander scheme of things, when you’re living this type of life day to day, it takes its toll.

It took a while for me to ease up on Covid protocols even after the city / state lifted many restrictions. After wearing a mask for so long, it felt illegal not to have one on. I really had to come to terms with the state of the world’s reality. Covid isn’t going anywhere, and I can’t waste my youth and great years depriving myself of living because I’m afraid. In no way am I denying the severity of the virus and the affect it can have on high risk individuals – which is why I still take precautions for myself and those around me – but it came to a point where I was aware that getting Covid was pretty much inevitable, and all I can do is try my best to keep myself and others healthy with continued precautions. It took a lot for me to go somewhere maskless, eat out at a restaurant, and get back to a semi-normal life like pre-Covid.

Since I came to the realization that Covid is something we have to adjust to and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon, 2022 was a year where I decided to treat myself more than usual. I don’t know if it was me filling a void left from 2021, but I found myself more willing to do things. 2021 brought a lot of tears and frustrations, but through the grief, the one thing I took away was that time is priceless. You can always make more money, but you can’t buy back time. I felt deprived of life experiences and making fun memories with those I love for over 2.5 years, so I found myself saying yes to things I would’ve said no to in the past. I was down for the dinner, down for the road trip, down to experience life again.

I feel as though 2022 was my “rest” year. I wasn’t acting on anything, I just sat and observed, taking note of what’s going on around me. I guess my instinct to plot my next moves weren’t completely dormant after all, just remaining attentive to every aspect of my life. I wrote about it in many different ways in my blog posts, but they all point to the same message – not everything needs a reaction, sometimes you just need to observe and take mental notes on what’s happening, then you wait for the right moment to act on whatever the situation may be. And I mean that from a responsible and patient stand point, not a malicious one where you’re plotting on some antagonist shit. When I say plotting, I mean it from a place of listening to your intuition, trying to see the bigger picture, and making sure you have all the facts and information before making big decisions.

I’d be lying if I said I felt energized for 2023. However, I am ready for it. A part of my role in the preschool is teaching kids from all over the country virtually online. Before the winter break, I was demonstrating a project to the class – trying to show them how to get the shaving cream nice and smooth so we could make our own New Year’s Eve fireworks. One thing about teaching online is you never know when you’re going to mess up yourself, but you have no choice but to keep going because you’re live. I kept instructing the kids to use their cardboard piece to smooth out the shaving cream on their tray, but I kept going over the same area where the shaving cream sinkhole was. Every time I fixed it, the perfectionist in me kept trying to make the whole thing even smoother, causing me to reopen the gap maybe 5 times at that point.

“Okay, see, Teacher Marinelle keeps making that hole, but I want to have it smooth. Justtt…. likeee….. thisss…” I said trying to buy myself time being live on air.

Since I can have up to 9 kids at a time, all of their microphones are muted until I call on them, this is to avoid all the kids talking at once. But just then, a microphone turned on, I didn’t quite hear what was said, but I could tell who said it because of their voice. I’ve been working with some of these kids for over a year, so I was confident who turned on their microphone to say something quickly. I looked up from what I was doing and looked at the computer screen, “What was that, _____?” I said with a smile.

They turned on their microphone again, as they worked on their project alongside me, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, remember Teacher Marinelle? It’s okay if it’s not perfect, remember that’s what you told me,” they said sounding so wise and happy.

“….you’re right… I’m so proud of you! I’m so happy that you remembered that!” I said wanting to cry. I always try to encourage my students to make their projects uniquely theirs, and that may mean that all of our projects look different, and that’s okay. I also think it’s important to let them know that it’s okay if their projects aren’t perfect – all that matters is that they tried and made it their own. Especially for the little ones that get frustrated when they want things to look a certain way or be exactly like mine, I encourage them to be different and tailor things to their style. This is also true for getting answers wrong, I applaud them for trying. I reassure them that if they ever need help, I will always help them out. It builds their confidence in themselves and allows them to create and answer freely without worrying about getting things “wrong.”

“I’m so proud that I could cry, but you guys aren’t here to watch Teacher Marinelle cry, you came here to learn!” I laughed trying to play it off. I was so moved that my student remembered my words from past classes. It reminded me that sometimes, we need to give ourselves the same love, compassion, and understanding that we give children. I preach to my kids that there is no such thing as perfect and their unique creativity and personalities is what makes them great. And I was reminded of that same lesson from one of my students.

It reminds me of what 2022 was like for me – it wasn’t perfect, but there’s no such thing as perfect. I made the year my own with no expectations, just allowing myself to grieve, heal, and just be. And since there’s no such thing as perfect, that means that there is no right or wrong way to do things – that’s just life. And everyone is just trying to figure it out. This was definitely the rest year, the “try to figure it out” year, the year where I really thought about what I want. That’s exactly the kind of year I needed. 2022 was the calm after the storm of 2021.

Wishing all my readers a very happy new year! May 2023 beat all of your expectations and then some!

Trust With Caution

Describe something you’re grateful that you learned from your parents

I’m grateful for some of the beliefs and morals my parents have instilled in me since a young age. Some of the advice I have easily taken in, but other pieces of advice were hard pills to swallow. You know, the kind of advice that you learn to be true as you get older and go through life. One of the many lessons I’ve learned from my parents is: Don’t trust everybody.

You’re probably thinking, “Damn, that’s harsh.” But it’s true! A lot of my parents’ advice and lectures to me as a kid – and even to this fuckin’ day – basically boils down to the fact that they want us to be smart and use our heads when it comes to dealing with other people. They never want my sisters and I to ever be in a position where we are naïve, gullible, or easily swayed by others. We were taught to question everything, but most importantly, always question the motives of others. We were prepared for the fact that people will use you when it’s convenient for them, whether that be financially, for their own gain, emotionally, or for material things. Because of this, we were taught to always be careful and trust with caution.

As a little kid, this shit didn’t make sense to me. Honestly, there were many times I believed my parents were just being haters. I thought my parents were giving paranoid advice – always thinking that people were going to do us dirty or do something shady. We were taught to not give our trust so easily. We were spoken to like adults at a young age – there was no age appropriate way to spell it out: Don’t trust everyone, people will use you if you let them. When it came to friends, acquaintances, or anyone that we had any relation to, we were always met with commentary like:

“Make sure that they’re not trying to just use you!”

“Watch your back, you never know.”

“Be careful (with what I share with those around me), they might try to use that against you later!”

Being cautious of others was always drilled into my head. But of course, as a young child, you hear the advice given to you, but don’t really see the significance of it until you’re much older. My parents were serving us that 100% blunt reality at a young age. They wanted to stress the fact that most of the time, people just look out for themselves and have no problem stepping on others, using others, stealing, lying, or backstabbing anyone to get what they want in life, a person, or situation. We had to be aware that people’s moves were always calculated.

Because of this way of thinking, I was always questioning people’s intentions with me. I was always taught to put people under a microscope – see if their intentions are true, if they are genuine, and if they may have any other motives. Like many other children / teens / young adults, I maneuvered my way through life, learning and understanding what my parents meant by not being so easy to give your trust to others. These are lessons you learn throughout your life and start to see the significance of previous advice.

I have had my fair share of betrayal, lies, being used, and being manipulated for someone’s else’s personal gain. I’m talking about everything in-between – from childhood friendship drama, high school gossip, adults just being plain petty, and unfortunately the list goes on. I had to learn the hard way what my mom and dad meant by not trusting everyone you meet. Because not everyone is going to like you, not everyone is going to be genuine to your face, and not everyone deserves your trust and time. I used to think that my parents were overly suspicious of everyone, but now I understand that it’s just the truth of our reality. Not everyone is your friend.

For this reason, I feel like my intuitions are on point. When I meet people, I can kind of get a sense of what kind of person they are right off the bat. I’m not saying that I have a special gift or some shit, but just that I’m very good at reading people. Of course, I’m never 100% right all the time, but for the most part I do a damn good job of feeling out a person’s intentions. I can just feel when someone’s vibe is off, or if they are not a person I want to associate with. I’m a pro at respectfully distancing myself and making it known where I stand.

I appreciate that my parents taught me to be choosy with my circle from a young age. Being more closed off and selective with who I choose to bring into my space has helped me protect myself, but also see people for who they really are. You don’t always see other people’s motives, or the “real” them right off the bat. It has not only taught me to be cautious with who I let in and trust, but it has also taught me to be a trustworthy person. Loyalty is such an important thing to me – in friendships, relationships, and life in general.

My parents stressed the importance of not easily trusting everyone and anyone around you to my sisters and I. But on the flip side, they also emphasized the importance of being loyal and acknowledging those who you can trust. These 2 pieces of advice are so opposite, but 2 sides of the same coin. It wasn’t just pessimistic negative advice to never trust anyone because people are generally just looking out for themselves, but more so, to just be aware. Be aware of those who have ulterior motives. Be aware of what people do and say behind your back. But also, being aware of those who are down for you and have proved that they are genuine.

Because of this advice, I know how to weed out the true, genuine, and ride or die people in my life. Not everyone is going to have your back, have your best intentions at heart, or be trustworthy. That’s just life. But there are a selected few who will be just that. Best piece of advice: Trust with caution, but recognize the real ones on your team.

Why Can’t I Enjoy the Process?

It started with LEGOs.

Yes, you read that right. Talking about building LEGOs is what led me to this blog post…

Christian has always been a LEGO lover. I joke around that he looks exactly like his mom, and I guess that his love of LEGOs is also something that he inherited from her. He comes from a LEGO loving family. He always got the sick ass sets growing up for birthdays and special occasions, and now that we are living together, he has taken it upon himself to finally cop some new LEGO sets.

I, on the other hand, did not grow up building LEGOs. In fact, I mentioned that my first LEGO set that was actually for me and not hand-me-downs, was a little 10-15 piece set that his mom got me in my Easter basket the first year we started dating. It was a Frozen Olaf set that was simple, but still cool to put together. It was something new to me, since I was more of a Bratz doll lover growing up. Of course, I had the big duplos to build, but I never knew what it was like to have a LEGO set that was supposed to be a specific thing.

LEGO building is a new-ish hobby we have picked up together, especially during the pandemic. I say “new-ish” because he’s been about that LEGO building life. He just revived his love for it by getting new sets, while I am fairly new to the game. Christian bought this medieval set that was over $150. I really couldn’t believe how pricey these sets could be! This specific set, to me atleast, had a lot of pages and pieces. The booklet is the size of a novel, and there’s about 15 pouches. Given that my ass only owned a 10-15 piece Olaf set, I was baffled. And honestly, overwhelmed as fuck.

We decided to divide the pouches up and take turns building. Everytime it was my turn, I felt under pressure to work fast and get all the pieces to fit right. It was like I was having a competition with myself in my head. When he was building his turn of the set, I asked if he felt anxiety or overwhelmed to just finish. I didn’t think that opening this can of worms would lead me down a train of thought that made me question and realize:

Why can’t I enjoy the process?

I asked him if he felt anxious to just get it all over with so he could just be done with the set, given that the book was huge and there were bags filled with little pieces. I explained that when I build my portion of a LEGO set, I feel like I’m constantly trying to turn the page and move onto the next step so I can complete my turn as soon as possible. I described the accomplished feeling of quickly looking at the graphic, getting the right piece, and completing a step. All the pieces fit together, everything in it’s designated spot, I’m getting it right, I’m moving along, I want to see the end result. So much so, that I’m not really taking the time to see my progress.

Go, go, go, next piece, *click*, *turn the page,* next piece, *click*….

It’s oddly satisfying to work fast and get it right. It’s something that you don’t have to think too much about. You just look at the picture, find the right piece, and put that shit on. I told him that I noticed I don’t really admire or even care to notice the progress of the LEGOs right before my eyes. And that’s because I’m so focused on seeing the finished product. It’s like I’m so focused on finishing and seeing the end result that I don’t care about the individual steps I have to take to complete it. All that mattered to me was what I saw at the end.

On top of that, I felt the need to work fast. I get overwhelmed with how many pieces are before me, that my mindset is to power through and get it done. The less pieces I saw before me, the more motivated I felt to keep going. It’s like that feeling when you’re waiting online for something to drop. The time clock is winding down and you’re excited, nervous, and anxious, knowing you have to work fast to get what you want. In the case of LEGO building, I try to work fast, not taking my time to appreciate how each individual piece and direction is all equally important to the final piece.

To my surprise, Christian told me that he didn’t feel that way when it came to LEGO building. He’s perfectly fine with working slow, appreciating how each piece fits with the other, analyzing how he started off with 1-5 LEGOs, and now it’s a whole ass stone building, etc. He saw the art in it, thinking how the designer of the set put it all together. He thought about what he would do differently, what he would add, what features his set would have if he were to design one. He simply didn’t relate with me feeling the need to be fast and work anxiously.

I was shocked because I didn’t even think what I asked was a loaded question until I realized he didn’t feel the same way as me. It made me reflect on why I felt the need to just see the end goal so fast. I realized that my mentality is not just limited to LEGO building, but to how I view life in general. I stayed quiet as Christian meticulously added to his foundation, analyzing the pages of instructions before him.

That was the same mentality I had with school – I just wanted to be done and have my degree already. I dreaded waking up early to go to class, I dreamt of the day where I wouldn’t have to turn in homework. But when I finally completed that goal, I was lost and had no idea what do with myself. When I was little and reading a ton of books from the school library (thank you Mrs. Volpe, those love stories were fire.), I’d get so impatient that I would always skip to the last page of the book. I’d read the last page and ruin it for myself because I just wanted to hurry up and know the ending already. I even find myself having that impatient mentality when it comes to things that I should enjoy / do for leisure. I have found myself in this scenario fairly often.

The “let’s just get this over with,” mentality is motivating yet harmful. It motives me to keep going, knowing that there is a goal to reach and steps to follow. However, I’m completely blindsided to the journey. I’m so focused on the end goal that I don’t appreciate the moments in between. I’m so guilty of having tunnel vision for the end result that I push myself and push myself until I’m at the finish line. And then what? Then I repeat the process with something else, stressing myself out the entire journey. I strive to complete a goal and make it an accomplishment, but never really enjoying how I got from point A to point Z. I have a habit of not appreciating or living fully in the moment. This is something I was fully aware of, but building a LEGO set reminded me of this personality trait of mine.

I guess LEGOs will do that to you sometimes. I went into it trying to build a cool set, and ended up giving myself a mini therapy session. But if I do say so myself, the end product was cool to see. I just wish I didn’t take all the fun out of it by anxiously trying to get it done. This new hobby made me realize that I will miss a lot of art and beauty along the way if I’m too busy trying to rush and get instant gratification.

I’m constantly stuck between “get shit done,” and “it’ll happen when it happens.” I’m the most motivated lazy person that you will ever meet. I struggle with fully being in the moment. My mind is always elsewhere, thinking of what else I need to complete, what is happening the next day, or what is a priority in the next coming months. I put a lot on my plate sometimes, and it can feel like I’m being pulled in a thousand different directions and not 1 thing gets my full undivided attention.

But the truth is, there will always be a new goal, a new idea, something that needs my attention, something that I have to work on – I just need to figure out my balance. I don’t want my goals and plans to consume me. As the cliché goes, I need to stop and smell the roses from time to time. This is another eye opener for me, that I need to be present and not thinking about everything that is to come. I need to celebrate the small victories and be more in the “now.” Forever working on enjoying the ride of life and not letting tunnel vision control me.