Last Year

Every first of the month, I stalk Susan Miller’s Twitter to see if she posted her monthly horoscopes. May 1st was no different. I went on and read about my Aquarius horoscope for the month of May. I paused. Wait, MAY?! It’s crazy to me how we are already in the month of May, and I can’t help but feel like this pandemic is speeding up and slowing down time simultaneously. To me at least, it’s like ever since March 2020, the months are just bleeding into each other, and all sense of time is completely fucked up. The pandemic has been around for such an extended period of time that pre-COVID life seems like ages ago.

I couldn’t believe that it’s May 2021 already. Not in the actual sense – given that I don’t live under a rock – but it’s crazy to me how fast time is flying, and how much things have changed. It made me think back to this time last year, and I realized that it is the anniversary of when my life drastically changed. To those that have kept up with my journey, I bet you’re like “omg, girl, you moved out, calm down.” To others, moving out is something exciting. For me, it was one of the most stressful moments of my life to date. Sounds dramatic but it’s true.

Around this time last year I got an incredible once in a lifetime opportunity to move out of my parents’ place. It was the end of April when this opportunity was brought to my attention, and little did I know that for the next 2 and a half months, I would be in a constant state of stress. This opportunity would give me the privilege to start saving money, live in expensive ass San Francisco, and take the next step in my relationship – but it also gave me headaches and countless sleepless nights. From the end of April 2020 – July 2020, this decision weighed heavy on my mind 24/7.

At that time, I just wanted to look into the future. I wanted to channel my inner “That’s So Raven,” and see what my outcome would be. I was so mentally stuck and conflicted that I didn’t know how to go about my life anymore. I was put in a position where whatever decision I chose, whether I accepted or denied, my life would drastically change either way. I was so stressed out. I feared change and didn’t want to mess up my family dynamic, but at the same time I was so curious to know what life would be like if I accepted the opportunity. There were pros and cons to both decision, and I was caught between a rock and a hard place. I begged the universe, my ancestors that have passed away, God – anybody or anything – to give me a sign on what the fuck to do with my life.

One of the months while I was in silent mental torture, I read my horoscope forecast for the new month. I can’t remember which month it was, but I remember reading it in awe. My horoscope basically described that I was going to be put in a position where I had to make a big decision. Now here me out, I love reading my horoscopes. It’s something that I think is fun to read and feeds my curiosity of the universe, future, and my life. But I don’t make big decisions in my life based on what my horoscope says. At this time though, I wanted a sign. I read my horoscope by Susan Miller, and not only did the whole thing seem very relevant to my life and my current scenario at the time – it seemed creepily spot on. It said I was going to have to make a tough decision, but whatever decision I chose, I could never go back to how life was before. Susan Miller described this transition like as if I were crossing a bridge, and that bridge falling apart right after I made it to the other side. Meaning, I was moving forward with my life, and whatever decision I made could not be undone. She also mentioned how I would make a commitment for at least 2 years – which tripped me the fuck out because the deal that was on the table required at least a 2 year agreement. I was shook. The universe doesn’t lie.

However, I didn’t make the decision I made because my horoscope was spot on at the time. But I do think of my mindset one year ago, and how I so desperately wanted to know what life would be like if I chose either decision – to move or not to move. It’s like I wanted a crystal ball to help me see what was the “right choice.” A year ago, I was so stressed out and really felt like I couldn’t see the bright light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like no matter what I chose, someone would be upset or disappointed with me. Fast forward to now, the present day, I look back and think damn, 1 decisions really changed my whole ass life. And here I am now, 1 year later, in a totally different headspace, happy with my choices, and growing as a person. It’s crazy what time can do. It’s true that 6 months, 1 year, 2 years, etc. – your life can drastically change. I kind of chuckle at how stressed I was a year ago – not because it’s funny, but because I should’ve known I’d be just fine. I’m exactly where I need to be.

Thankful – At What Cost?

It’s that time of the year again – Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. I, like many others, don’t really think twice about correlating Thanksgiving with the sales and deals that come the day after. It’s ironic how a holiday that is meant for people to be grateful and thankful for what and who they have is followed by the biggest sales of the year. People camping out in line for malls and stores hours before opening, being glued to the computer / phone watching the seconds count down so you can add that item to your cart before it sells out, browsing around the internet or store and realizing, “I don’t really need this… but it’s on sale!” I have conflicting feeling about Black Friday and Cyber Monday, who can relate?

Growing up, my parents weren’t really big on Black Friday shopping. They didn’t like the crowds, bad traffic, fighting for parking spots, and didn’t want us spending our money on things we really didn’t need. Black Friday is usually when people try to get their Christmas shopping done in 1 day so they get more bang for their buck. My parents didn’t think it was worth the hassle, and with how many people we have on both sides of the family, it would be an all day event that they were not down for. But some years, my sisters and I wanted to experience the Black Friday madness. And each time we would participate, my dad would say, “All for what? A Sale that’s just basically taking off the tax? It’s not worth it!” As he angrily maneuvered the car from people walking stupidly. And in the moment he would swear that if the next year we wanted to shop, he wouldn’t be driving. But we’d somehow convince him the next year anyways.

It’s funny because most of the time I went out on Black Friday, I never really bought anything. I remember there was one year, I want to say I was a freshman in high school, but I might have still been in middle school. Anyways, we participated in Black Friday shopping, and my sister and I were roaming around Nina’s. May I remind you, at this point in my life, my main income came from birthday and Christmas money. My birthday is in February, so let’s just say my broke ass didn’t have that much money to spend. And because of this, I had to choose wisely what I decided to buy. I’ve always held back from buying things because I feared I’d find something else and not have enough money. But by this time, we were nearing the end of our route. We have gone around the mall and I honestly didn’t find anything I really liked. I felt pressured to buy something for the sake of “I went out on Black Friday.” I felt so pressured, and was in desperate need of clothes that my dumbass bought something at full price. I remember that top being like…. $27.99. That was a lot of money for unemployed me.

I remember when we all met back in the car, I told my parents and sisters that I bought a top…. that was full price…. and they all unanimously looked at me like, “bruh.” I then got the lecture of how I don’t need to buy something if I don’t really like it, how I should save my money, and make better choices with spending, etc etc. At the time I thought it was annoying. But deep down, I knew I only bought something because I felt the need to do it. Like, my ass woke up hella early, my dad drove in this traffic, I was sweating in the mall with the crowds, I was not about to walk out of the mall empty handed. I wanted something to show for it. It’s crazy that knowing it’s the “day” to shop makes you feel pressured to spend your money.

I appreciate that my parents taught me the value of money because I feel like it humbled me as an adult. Growing up, I didn’t have the latest shoes, clothes, or gadgets. I went to Catholic school and had a uniform I wore everyday, with the same black shoes from Payless. I was 25 years old when I first purchased / owned my first pair of Jordan’s (Yes, just earlier this year). It’s not that my parents didn’t have it like that, but that they didn’t prioritize name brand items. Because once you buy a name brand item for 1 kid, you have to do it for all 3. Our parents would buy us shoes from Footlocker once a year, where we really got to pick which one we wanted. I would take that opportunity to finally get some Nike’s.

Obviously when you’re in 6th grade you wanna look cool and rock the trending shit. And if we wanted something that we didn’t need, we would have to save up our birthday, Christmas, and allowance money to get it. Our parents didn’t just buy us things just because we wanted it. We would have to save up our money, or earn it by getting good grades. I remember I would splurge if there was a school dance, or free dress day where I didn’t have to wear my uniform. I would literally try to buy name brand things, or stuff that was in style to look cool. Yes, full body cringe, I know. I remember getting a simple South Pole shirt that just said “SP” in gold, and dropping $30 (does that brand even exist anymore lol). But it really taught us the value of our money, because we had to save up for it and calculate if the purchase was worth it. It’s so much different when it’s your own money you’re spending – even if I didn’t earn the money and it was basically just gifted to me.

Because of this, I’ve learned to live without the name brand clothes, shoes, bags, etc. I learned to wait, and sometimes waiting meant that I realized I didn’t really want it anymore, or I just dropped the idea because I wasn’t willing to drop the money for it. I still wanted nice shit, but I knew my ass couldn’t afford it like that, so I made do with what I had. As I got / get older, I’m realizing the importance of living simple. It’s something I want to practice and be content with. Over the last year or 2, my priorities really shifted and I find myself trying to save up a lot more. I’ve been working since I was 19, and I regretted not saving my money and spending it on clothes / material things when I still didn’t “have it like that.” I have my days where I’m very content with my closet and wardrobe and think, “I really don’t need all this,” and then there are other times where I’m like, “It’s time for new clothes.” It’s like a constant struggle between wanting more and not wanting to give in to material things.

Like I said, I regretted not saving my money when I first started working. I was in my early 20’s, and suddenly I was worried about the future. I’ve been working since I was 19, and I was nowhere near buying a car. At this time reality hit, and I knew I couldn’t be spending my money the same way if I wanted a car, house, and other necessities in the near future. Changing jobs really helped me take that step forward in saving up money. And once I got a taste of not working for $10.50 Daly City minimum wage, I felt like I was making significant progress. For once, I had extra money to spend. Before that, I was literally on paycheck to paycheck and I didn’t even have to pay any bills. My bi-weekly check was just enough to eat out a couple of times with friends. Straight up.

But I didn’t want to lose myself in buying material things just because I could. I rarely buy clothes, and if I do, they have to be on sale. So I know a good deal when I see it. That’s part of the reason why I’m so conflicted with Black Friday and Cyber Monday – I want to live a simple life, but at the same time I’m human and want nice shit. And if I’m going to get nice shit, that shit better be on sale, because my cheap ass isn’t paying full price if I don’t have to. And in my mind I just teeter-totter between knowing I got a a good deal, but feeling so vain because I don’t “need” the items I’m buying. I know that I work hard for my money, and buying myself a little gift here and there (especially if it’s on sale) is not a big issue. I just don’t want it to be the only way I feel good about myself. But since COVID-19, so many people and friends of mine have opened businesses and side hustles. It’s exciting to see them flourish into business owners and seeing friends and acquaintences support each other. Especially with COVID-19 going on, I love seeing small businesses thriving, knowing that my purchase helps an actual person / family instead of a corporation that already has a lot of money. So, this Black Friday / Christmas, really think of your community and how you can shop at small businesses to support your friends, friends of friends, or just someone in your area.

And I’m not saying I don’t like buying myself things, because let’s be real, buying things impulsively can feel really good. It gets you on a high sometimes. Just this weekend I had seen that J.Cole’s Puma’s, RS Dreamers were back in stock in all colors. I love J.Cole, this blog is named after his song, and I’ve been trying to get my hands on them for a while. Suddenly I wanted them all. And I didn’t care at what price. I wanted to support my favorite rapper, and I didn’t know if they would sell quick. The struggle of making the decision to buy them all now while they’re in stock, or wait until Black Friday where they can possibly be on sale but could also possibly be sold out. I bought 2 out of the 5 pairs, and felt good about my purchase. All the while, I’m messaging my best friend, another J.Cole fanatic, about it. He’s all salty because he can’t fit a little boy’s shoe like myself, and has to wait and pay a lot more for a men’s size. He did his research and saw that the same shoes I just bought were $10 and $30 cheaper on another shoe website, and on top of that gave me his military discount. I was gonna say “fuck it, I already placed the order,” until we did the math and realized I could get a 3rd pair for about the same price I just paid for. I ended up getting 3 pairs of the 5 RS Dreamers, for way cheaper than my first initial purchase (which I’m returning). I got basically a 3rd pair for free and saved $10. I felt ecstatic. I was in such a high, and felt good about saving money for something that meant a lot to me and something I’ve been wanting to get. I didn’t feel guilty because I desperately wanted them all and got them at a steal price.

But something I’ve always been taught is to not spend money I don’t have. And that’s where Black Friday and Cyber Monday gets dangerous. Thankfully, I’m a scaredy-cat that is impulsive, but not that impulsive. I’ll never put something on my card that I know I can’t afford. But for some people, that is not the case. What adds to my dislike and negative feelings towards big sales on holidays is that people feel the need to spend money they don’t have. The need to get the latest shoes, clothes, and electronics, at the cost of what? Just to post on the ‘gram and make it look like you have it like that? No thanks. To some, I might sound like a hater. It’s none of my business – what people do with their money doesn’t concern me. And that’s true. But I think it’s worth noting that people go into serious debt by spending money they don’t have, just to play the part they want people to see, just to look stylish and boujee, and just to front like they got it like that… for what?

Your designer clothes and shoes don’t mean anything if your priorities are all fucked up to obtain them. And holidays like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas, just want us to focus on what we don’t have and what we can buy. All the while it is pushing the lesson of being grateful, thankful, and content with what you have in life. These “holidays” make big corporations richer, and it makes us consumers broke. The need to buy and spend to prove love, companionship, and appreciation ain’t it. To spend money you don’t have to uphold a tradition and holiday makes no sense, and takes away the true meaning of being thankful. And this is part of the reason why so many people have a twisted fantasy of what “love” is. Love isn’t the amount of designer gifts recieved, it’s not about matching clothes, shoes, and what you can get from each other material wise.

Material things can’t buy happiness – we’ve heard that time and time again. The truth is, I want to live a simple life, detached from any worldly possessions, but I’m still human. And I find myself in these cycles where I don’t spend on things I don’t need, and then out of nowhere I will ball out on something or some things. And in the moment it feels good. Buying things for yourself feels good. But it never fails at the end I get buyers remorse. I think of how vain I’m being, especially when I splurge out of the blue. At times I found that I was just buying things to make myself feel better. It’s different when you’re buying yourself something for an accomplishment, or because you truly want it, but it’s another thing to buy stuff for that instant gratification, and shortly after feel nothing. I start thinking of how there are people in the world that don’t have enough food, don’t have a home, clean water, etc. And I think to myself, did I really need that though?

That’s part of the reason why I have conflicting feelings with Black Friday and holiday sales. It sheds light on the ugly parts of society – the part that only thinks of self, material goods, and appearance. And it also sheds light on those parts of me. I love me a good deal, and I’m the kind of person that does no shopping throughout the whole year and balls out on certain times of the year, like Black Friday, where I know I can get things mad cheap. I do think it’s unfortunate that holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas are the times (and almost cues) to spend your money, and if you don’t it’s almost seen as weird and anti-holiday. Being thankful for what you have and who you have in your life shouldn’t come with a cost.

Love Your Choices

I snapped this photo when I was walking to the grocery store a few weeks back. Everytime I see artwork, a sign, a quote, or anything on the street that speaks to me, I take a picture of it. I always know that somehow, it’ll be used one day for one of my blog posts. This sign was no different, except this time it was very relevant to my current situation. I’ve been meaning to write about this topic for a while, but never found the words for it.

A great theme for 2020 in my personal life has been change, growth, and being “confident in my choices.” I put that in quotes because sometimes I wasn’t even close to being confident in my choices, but I had to front like I was because the slightest inclination of doubt would turn into others, or even myself, talking me out of a decision. That was probably the hardest part about deciding to move – being so doubtful and scared, but not being able to talk to certain people about my doubts because I knew they’d just try to sway me in their favor. All out of love, of course, but not really taking into mind the opportunity to grow and learn.

Growing up, I was taught that whatever I do is a reflection of my parents. How I act and what my life choices are is because of how my parents raised me. And that always annoyed me. I didn’t understand the root of its importance. “Who cares,” was my response to everything. I’ve had the rebel mindset since a young age. When I was growing up, I didn’t care what people thought, I didn’t care if I was looked at as the “bad” kid, I didn’t care that I had the mouth of a sailor. That’s probably also because as a kid, there’s not much I could fuck up and make my parents / family look bad. I mean, I got good grades, made the honor roll, and I wasn’t doing anything illegal.

It wasn’t until I reached young adulthood that this took on a whole new meaning. Who I dated, what crowd I hung around with, whether I went to college or not, if I was married or not, what I posted online, all reflected back on my family and parents. This is something that I have talked extensively with close family members and friends – how the Filipino culture really values how others see them. To an extent, I get it – the need to look like everyone in your family has it together and is successful. I mean, who doesn’t want to be seen as successful and always making the right moves? But these fears of worrying about what others will think is really detrimental to young adults who are trying to get the gears turning for their own life.

“What will your _______ (insert the name of a prominent family member / or whole family as a whole) think?!”

“What will people think of you?!”

“How does that make us look?!”

These are phrases that so many Filipinos have heard from their elders.

This is something that I still struggle with. Because at the end of the day, I don’t care what other people say about how I live my life, but I do care that my parents care. And that’s where it gets conflicting. I find myself trying to do what I want to do in my life, but do it the “right way.” I find myself trying to find loopholes and justify my actions like, “well it’s okay if I move in with my boyfriend who I’ve been with for over 5 years because eventually we’ll get married, so it’s okay. And others should understand that.” But why do others have to understand that? They don’t need to understand anything. Especially choices that don’t concern them or put anyone in harm’s way.

“What will people think and say?” It’s so generalized. Who are these people I should be concerned about? And why should I care what they think about me? It’s ironic, because I was taught to not care what people think about me, in terms of classmates and peers. Oh, you’re embarrassed that you have on Payless shoes? Who cares, you shouldn’t care what people think about your material things. Oh, you’re insecure about going out in your pajamas? Who cares, nobody’s going to see you, and if they do, so what? Oh, you want to drop out of college and pursue music? What will your aunties think?! Of course, the last is a fake scenario, but you get the jist.

And even if it is not generalized and there’s a specific family member, or family friend that your elders are trippin’ about, why does it matter? I feel like there’s such a generational gap, where our elders feel the need to uphold an image of the family, or themselves. And I get it. But at the same time I think it’s so dumb and pointless. Especially if you have to tiptoe around certain people with your life choices – life choices that aren’t even bad, but that some people don’t agree with. All the while, people should just mind their business and not really care what others are choosing to do with their lives. If you don’t agree with a choice, just don’t make that choice for yourself and move along.

Choose your love. Love your choices.

This came to me at a time where I was very conflicted and needed that reminder. Sometimes in life it feels like you have to choose between pleasing those around you or choosing yourself. And is it worth keeping the peace while you are in conflict with yourself? Sometimes you have to remind yourself that you are in control of your life. And people – whether that be family members, peers, friends – will talk regardless. So what is the point of changing the route of your life to please others? I’m glad that I have taken the road less traveled by, in terms of being traditional and abiding by standards. But sometimes it’s really hard.

I find this quote relevant to other parts in my life – like who I choose to be around, hangout with, and give access to the “real me.” And I shouldn’t be apologetic for distancing myself from people or situations that disturb my inner peace just to keep the outer peace and external noise at bay. This year has been the year in realizing that I don’t have to react to some situations anymore. I can just remove myself, keep a mental note, and keep it moving. It sounds very detached, but that’s life. Can’t stop the show for nobody, the show must go on. Especially being at the age I’m at now, I got more important things to worry about, like how I’m almost 26 and getting the boot on health insurance soon. I don’t have time for petty drama, hear say, gossip, or things that don’t concern me.

I choose me. Even if sometimes it’s hard to do. I try to front like choosing me is an easy decision, but it does stir some feelings inside of me sometimes. At the end of the day, I want to please my parents, their opinion of how I live my life matters to me, but they also understand that I have my own life and need to make decisions for myself. I don’t care about the extra noise of others who haven’t raised me. As long as my parents are content with my choices and trust me to make the right choices, that’s all that matters. Luckily, my parents know that at the end of the day, it’s my life and I have to live with the decisions I choose to make. So they’ll give their 2 cents, but will support me in what I choose. I think that’s a beautiful thing. To know that they still come from the generation that “cares” about what others may say, but still give their silent blessing for me to do as I please.

Choose your love. Love your choices.

So much easier to read than to live by. Choosing my peace is more important that upholding an image of myself for the sake of family or for family image. Being confident in my life choices and what direction I choose to take in this life is something I still need to work on. I need to love my choices and know that I chose it for a reason.

Teaching Preschoolers on Zoom!

My alarm goes off at 8 AM, I pick up my phone and slide the alarm off. I look at any notifications I may have, and scroll through social media. I might even Google something random that I think of. Had this been 3 months ago, I would not have the luxury to chill in bed and look through my phone at 8 AM. Around 8:20, I finally get out of bed and get ready to start my Zoom classes.

Yes, you read that right. My Zoom classes with my 2 year old students. I lazily make my bed, and walk up the stairs to brush my teeth. I’m usually greeted by my mom, who is also working from home. In fact, everyone in my family is home. I quickly eat something right before my class. I’m usually not a breakfast person, but once my Zoom classes are over, I try to go back to sleep until it’s time for lunch. Why? Because I can.

My janky laptop, that I’ve had since 2013, only works when it’s plugged into the outlet. And even then, my poor shot dead battery reads, “Plugged in, not charging 0%.” This Shelter in Place made me realize how I need to stop lagging on getting a new laptop. My camera quality on this laptop is so pathetic, but I make do.I used to do my Zoom classes in the living room, but our WiFi is so bad there, that I had no choice but to do them from my room. I would literally freeze, or I’d have robot voice. The look of confusion on my students’ faces tell me that im probably frozen. The first week of Zoom classes, I did them upstairs in the livingroom. And without fail, after every class, my mom would come out of the room, pausing her work flow, just to mimic the songs I just sang with the kids. Haha! These are crazy times!

It’s been almost 3 months of Sheltering in Place in the Bay Area. In the beginning of this lockdown mid-March, I was relieved because this was the break I so desperately needed. Sleeping in was so nice, we didn’t start live Zoom classes until April. I had so much free time on my hands I didn’t know what to do. But as the Shelter in Place kept getting extended, I started to follow a routine. Zoom classes, go back to sleep, eat lunch, watch paranormal shows on TV, do 1 on 1 Zoom chats if I have someone signed up, go for a walk, shower, dinner, watch more TV, fall asleep on the couch, and make my way down to my room around 2 AM.

The Shelter in Place got extended twice, and here we are more than half of May done, not knowing if it will be extended once again. Its crazy to think that by the time everything opens up again, 2020 will be atleast halfway over. Its been so long, I can’t picture myself going back into my pre-COVID-19 routine. I’ve adjusted to this Shelter in Place gracefully. I’m already a homebody as it is. So when the Governor says “Stay at home unless you absolutely have to…” I’m like… say no more, sir.

Since this Shelter in Place, a lot of the parents from the school have expressed their gratitude to me and all the other teachers. Everyone knows that being a teacher is not an easy task. There are good days and bad days. Especially dealing with 12 kids 5 and younger, a lot of the times you find yourself with your hands full. Being Sheltered in Place with their child/children, has given some parents more insight on being an early childhood educator.When we decided on doing live Zoom classes, I will admit that I was a little skeptical. How was I going to capture the attention of 8 two year olds in each Circle Time class? Getting all of them to sit still and participate in person is challenging as it is, how much more through the computer?

“If anything,” I thought, “These daily Zoom classes will keep the structure that they know from school, while letting them see their friends and teachers faces.”

I had to switch up my teaching style to convert to the online world. Muting everyone is a must, raising hands and thumbs up and thumbs down are our new norms, me speaking in Dora the Explorer fashion (asking questions and pausing, reading their muted lips through the video screen) was kind’ve awkward at first. But we all had to adjust.Nobody expected the Shelter in Place to last this long. We are almost 3 months deep into social distancing.

Yes, that’s a long time for us adults, but for young children, this must be a lifetime to them. I imagine what it will be like once we go back to school. Almost 3 months of not being at the school will be like their first day of school all over again. So it’s nice that we get to see each other over Zoom.

We have also been writing letters back and forth with our pen pals. We divided up the school roster among the teachers, and have been keeping in touch with our penpals since April. Its so sweet to read what they want to share with their teacher, and what they look forward to.At the end of April, when we were hit with another Shelter in Place extension, we decided to switch it up. Our Zoom classes were going well, but we felt like we should add another component. That is when I suggested doing one on ones – having students sign up to talk to any teacher on Zoom to have a video call. By taking away the learning component, and just having a casual conversation between teacher and student (most of the time with a parent), we hoped that this would help our school community feel more connected. This proved to be a hit.

In one of my Zoom calls, my 4 year old student told me all the things she’s been doing since Shelter in Place. I was telling her how I’ve been spending my time, and how I miss her and all her friends. Since this was the first week of the Zoom 1 on 1 calls, I brought up how nice it was to talk to her 1 on 1.

“I like how I can talk to you and have a conversation with just me and you!” I told her.

“Yeah! And I like how both of our mics are turned on!” She replied eager and happy.

When she said that my heart melted. This is the new norm for my students. And since she is one of the older students, she is aware of the pandemic, why school isn’t in session, and why we have to learn through the computers. It made me sad when she said that, just because we are living in such a different time. Kids this age shouldn’t be refrained from talking and sharing their thoughts. But essentially that’s what we have to do when we mute the kids. We don’t do it for malicious reasons, but for the simple fact that sometimes there would be more than 15 kids attending a class, and the background noise just gets to be too much and too distracting. These memories and way of life will truly go down in our history books. She’ll grow up to tell her peers, “hey, remember in 2020 when we had to sign up for Zoom Circle Time classes when we were 4?”

Another student I had a 1 on 1 conversation with, is 5 years old. We can carry out a real conversation for maybe hours. But since these are scheduled chats, she knows she has a time limit. In the middle of showing me her toys, she cuts herself off…

“Marinelle, how many more minutes do I have left?” She said gently knowing that I would possibly have another meeting right after.

All these questions and responses pulling at my heart strings! I felt pretty sad that she even had to ask that question, that this is the current situation we’re in. Little did she know, I didn’t have anyone else scheduled, and was letting her take up as much time as she wanted.

Since I’m teaching the youngest of our preschoolers (2 and younger), they don’t understand what’s going on. Most of their side comments when they raise their hand for me to mute their mics are just little random sweet nothings. But I’m okay with that and its honestly the cutest thing. I will literally be in the middle of a lecture of whatever it is that I’m teaching, and someone will raise their hand. I unmute their mic and ask them what they would like to share with the class.

“Dinosaur! T-Rex! Roarrrrr!”

“Look at my lovey elephant!”

“I love pancakes!”

Everything totally irrelevant to the topic at hand, but oh soooo sweet! Kids really do say the darnest things. And if anything, I’m always left with a smile on my face or laughing out of cuteness or randomness.

Its been a challenge to keep my 2 year olds engaged. I have to think of new ways to spark their interest. I’ve found the reward system is really helpful. My kids love them some felt stories! I always tell them in the begining of the class what we have planned, and if we do very well during our learning component, we will get a very special felt story. Kids love the simple things. And it could seriously be the same felt story everyday, and they’ll still be interested. Its something to look at, something to sing along to, something familiar from school.When I see that they’re restless, I like to call on each of them at any given moment for them to answer a question. It keeps them on their toes, and they like the opportunity to be unmuted and share with all their friends. These are definitely some trying times – where my creativity as a teacher is being tested.

Two weeks ago I logged onto my first live Circle Time class. One student joined the class, and set up “Teachers plant the seed of knowledge that lasts a lifetime!” “PHK Teachers rock!” A second student joined in, excitedly telling me she drew me something- a green heart with “Thank you Teachers!” I was so confused and surprised. I thanked them and told them how much I loved their kind gestures. When I signed onto my second Circle Time, I was greeted with more love.

“Teaching is HEART work, thank you! We miss you!”

“Thank you Teachers!”

“Thank you!” With a beautiful flower

“Thank you! I miss you.”

” ‘Why do you love your teachers?’ ‘Because they give me lunch.’ ”

My heart! Seeing all these signs (literally all to the screen at the same time) gave me an overwhelming feeling of love and appreciation. I took pictures of my screen, but won’t share because it has my students’ faces in it. But I was so surprised that I wanted to cry. I didn’t even know that it was teacher appreciation day/week, but I definitely felt the love and gratitude through the screen. I told them (even though they’re 2) that I felt like it was a surprise party for me and I was so happy I wanted to cry. I – who by the way, am horrible at receiving surprises – said “wait…… I’m so confused, did y’all plan this or something 😭🤣.”

Teaching is not an easy job. There are some days where I feel defeated and wish I had more patience, or handled a situation differently. But at the end of the day, its moments like these that make me feel so fufilled as a teacher. Especially with Sheltering in Place, the parents have expressed their gratitude and appreciation more often. Its funny, before each vacation break we have, parents will always say goodbye with “you deserve this break. I don’t know how you guys do it.”

Being a teacher is hard work, but so rewarding. Especially at the age that I’m working with. They’re so funny, energetic, and hyped for everything. I made them a tooth project by hand and drew all the food, and they were so hyped for the different snacks I drew. I miss hearing “byeeee, love ya!” “I love you, Marinelle.” “You’re so funnyyy!” And all the random things I between.

During this Shelter in Place, several of my students have asked me to come over their house to play 🤣. “Maybe one day when Coronavirus is over, you can come to my house.” “Maybe my mom can set up a playdate so you can come to my house.” “Maybe you can come over one day so we can play this game!” I must be doing something right if I have multiple playdate offers. Hahahaahha.

Time

It’s Sunday, my family and I just got back from a late lunch to celebrate my mom’s birthday. Tomorrow work will start up again, but most importantly, Monday is blog post day. Truth is, I ain’t got shit. I pulled my writing deck of cards and I went into Merl’s room.

“Pick my blog post,” I said and spread out the deck. This deck has definitely come in handy. I usually try not to rely on it and draw writing inspiration through my experiences, but when I’ve had a heavy week and my brain is tired, the last thing I want to do is force some inspiration when it just isn’t there. She drew a card.

“What don’t you have enough time to do? Why?”

We both read the card silently, processing the prompt.

“To write this blog post,” she said. We both started laughing, but she was right.

Recently, I find myself thinking and saying out loud, “there’s just not enough hours in the day.” And then I quickly realize just by saying that cliché sentence that, 1. That statement proves that I’m getting old, and 2. I have entered adulthood.

But it’s true. I find myself spreading myself thin. There’s so many things I want to do, so many local places I want to go to, so many ideas I want to make come to life… and then, it’s 5 PM, I take the commute back home, and I just want to go to sleep.

I love to sleep. I can sleep any time, anywhere, and everywhere. Sleeping is my favorite pastime. But I realized long ago that sleeping is my escape. Stressed out? Sleep. Sad? Sleep. Happy? Sleep. Angry? Sleep. The feeling of going to sleep is so calming. No matter what I’m going through, good or bad, losing myself in my REM sleep is comforting. Knowing that for a short time I get to escape my reality, and my mind is resting and not over thinking every little detail of my life. You know that feeling when you’ve had a good sleep or nap, you wake up, and in those first couple of seconds waking up you’re there thinking, “Where am I? What time is it? What day is it today?” I love that feeling of being well-rested, which is probably why I try to sleep every opportunity I can.

But I’m a sleepy girl because I’m a busy girl. I don’t know when it happened, but all of a sudden I only have pockets of time for X amount of things. And I feel myself spreading myself thin with work, a social life, trying to keep the dream alive of becoming a writer, trying to take those steps to getting my foot in the door, planning the next steps in my romantic life, keeping up with friends, all the while trying to save my money. I find myself lost in the chaos of everyday life.

And even though I find myself always trying to catch up on sleep, sometimes I feel like I’m wasting my life away. But how can I do things I enjoy when I’m so burnt out? I sleep to escape the uncertainty of my life. I’m a dreamer in every aspect. I dream big, I have bigger plans, I want to achieve greatness.

I feel like there are a lot of people like me. That feel like somehow, some day, one day, they’ll achieve their dreams. But then I think of my current situation. Where I feel like I’m stuck, and I don’t know what path to take. So in the meantime, I hustle and I do what I got to do before I figure it out. But ironically, “doing what I got to do before I figure it out,” is probably what’s in the way of me “figuring it out.” There’s not enough hours in the day. I’m too busy that I can’t even think of a “plan” to follow. And then I realize, that’s how people get stuck. That’s how people lose the drive to achieve their dreams – getting stuck in the same routine and being too tired and burnt out to do anything about it. Note to self : stop putting off thinking of a plan. Make time even if there’s not enough time.

I love spending time with my friends. When I’m feeling off, or isolate myself for too long, I know hanging out with them will make my heart full. Except, we’re getting older. We all have responsibilities and different schedules, and we all can’t just hangout like we used to. Everything needs planning out. Every hangout planned out atleast a week or 2 in advance, and even then everyone may not even be free. Sometimes we don’t have enough time. But I’ve learned to make time, especially with hanging out with my friends. Truth is, we’re not always going to be in the same area. One day, living so close to each other will be a thing of the past and we’ll look back and wish we made more time.

Anyways, my point is, I don’t have time to do anything, but at the same time I have all the time in the world. It’s so hard to pick and choose what gets your time and what doesn’t outside of work. And when things I enjoy don’t get enough time, I find myself in a funk. Questioning wtf I’m doing with my life and where my time goes.

Self care. You see that shit plastered all over. This can mean doing a face mask, taking a bubble bath, doing a skin care routine, or watching your favorite show. It’s different for everyone. I’ve realized self care is really important. Carving out that “me” time is really vital when you feel like you’re going through life in a daze. My “me” time is this blog. Even though its stressful to produce something every week, it keeps me on my toes. It forces me to do something I love on a deadline, so I’m forced to take that me time, not just sleep.

For me, going home right after work and sleeping is “me time.” And sometimes having no plans is the best plan. And then there are other times where having a hangout is fulfilling to my soul. I’ve found myself not having time to do things I love. And the first step is to be aware that this is happening. A change in routine is always good, especially when you feel like your days are on repeat. But I can’t just wait for everything to fall into place on it’s own. I need to take the time and make the time to get shit done.

You know that feeling where you can feel it in your soul that there is about to be change real soon? My gut feeling is telling me change is just over the horizon. I don’t know what, but I feel it. Call me crazy. But cue in J.Cole’s , 🎵 “My intuition is telling me there’ll be better days…” 🎵

Sunshine After the Rain

How did Rain get here? Her story started years prior, but the passing of her baby brother, Josh, in 2015 is what triggered her to live her life… her way.

No more waiting. Live your life now. Life is too short.

And just like that, “Rain” was officially “born.” This time, legally.

Growing up, Rain always knew she was different. Back then, the LGBTQ community wasn’t as evolved as it is now. It seemed like being gay or being a drag queen were the only options she could choose from. Rain didn’t identify with either. But Rain knew since her early high school years that she identified as a woman, even though her outward appearance said otherwise.

In high school, Rain experienced her fair share of bullying. She felt like she had to hide her emotions. If she was angry or hurt by her peer’s bullying and taunting words, she would go somewhere private where she could cry out by herself. When people would ask if she was okay, she’d play it off and swear that everything was fine. Even though she truly felt like the joke was on her. Rain felt like she was an easy target back then because she was the, “obese gay boy,” that only hung out with girls and focused on academia. High school Rain has been called every degrading name there is to label a feminine male.

Unfortunately, Rain was incredibly shy and never spoke back to her bullies. She just accepted the taunting and knew that it would all eventually pass. The bullying just made it more apparent that she was different, and she was curious as to why she felt so out of place. Through all the bullying and her ruthless peers, Rain does remember one classmate in particular. She remembers him not because he was an asshole to her, but because he was the only one that wasn’t. His name was Jordan. He was one of the popular guys at school. All of Jordan’s friends would make fun of Rain and go out of their way to be mean to her. But she remembers vividly how Jordan showed her compassion and kindness. He would wave to her and say what’s up in the hallways, and would smile at her whenever they saw each other. He was a friendly peer that didn’t give Rain a hard time for just being herself. Unfortunately, Jordan passed away tragically before she graduated, but Rain remembers how his kindness meant so much to her during a very difficult time in her life.

“It meant a lot to me because many can hurt you, but it takes 1 to heal you completely,” Rain shares.

High school was the beginning stages of Rain finding herself. She knew that her parents had a hunch about her sexuality, but she never revealed to them how she identified as a female. That all changed on Prom night. Prom night – a staple night for a high school student. Rain remembers her prom night as the day she came out to her parents.

Right before Rain was going to go off to her prom, her parents sat her down in their backyard in Hayward. Her dad calmly asked if she was gay and liked boys, and if she has ever done anything with a boy before. Rain finally revealed to her parents that she was attracted to men, but she didn’t have any experience with them. A weight was lifted off Rain’s shoulders. She could see on her dad’s face that he was relieved that the talk was quick and to the point.

Her parents accepted her, they already had a feeling that Rain was “gay.” Rain admitted to being “gay” to her parents at the time because she wasn’t totally sure how to identify. All she knew was that she was attracted to men and felt like a woman. She looks back and laughs at how obvious it was that she was attracted to men, and that her parents had to have known. She was obsessed with boy bands like The Backstreet Boys and NSYNC, and is embarrassed at how much money she spent on “those boys.” Since she was open with her dad about not having any romantic experiences with men, she gained her parents’ trust. They were more concerned for her safety and how she carried herself.

You know how movies depict prom night as a magical, important, and life changing event in a teen’s life? Well, that was true for Rain. Not in the traditional aspect, she didn’t fall inlove and get her first kiss from her crush, like how Hollywood depicts it. But prom did change Rain forever. That night, she fell in love with herself.

At the actual event, she dressed in men’s clothing, feeling completely uncomfortable and not herself. After prom, Rain and her friends hit up the after parties. That night, she borrowed her friend’s plus-sized dress and boots, and they took over the night. She felt exhilarated. She never felt more like herself. Rain and her friends took the after party to a strip club in San Francisco. There she was, in a strip club surrounded by men in a dress and boots, passing with flying colors as a woman.

“It was so much fun because I never felt so good about myself,” Rain explains while remembering that night she dressed in women’s clothing for the first time. “I seriously felt like the woman I’ve always wanted to be.”

That night, Rain found herself. She always felt different and couldn’t put her finger on what would make her happy. But this was it. Being a woman made Rain happy. And from that day on, she dressed as a woman. She felt so good about herself, she didn’t want to hide anymore. She wasn’t afraid of what her family would say or think, or how strangers would react. She showed up to her family’s barbecue party in a skirt, boots, and makeup. She felt on top of the world, and didn’t want to keep it a secret, she wanted everyone to know who the real Rain was.

In her early college years, Rain tried to perfect her look. She dressed like a woman, wore makeup, and presented and introduced herself as a woman. Around this time is when she met her community of friends that were just like her. Rain’s uncle owned a restaurant/ club in South San Francisco called, “Solita’s.” A lot of comedians from the Philippines would perform on stage and do live shows at the club. This restaurant/ club scene brought in so many different audiences.

Solita’s is where Rain met a lot of her transgender friends. Solita’s welcomed the LGBTQ community with open arms. Rain quickly realized that many of them struggled to find work because they were being discriminated against because of their outward appearance and mannerisms. A lot of these transgender women were underground prostitutes, and that’s how they made their living. Their clients were usually heterosexual men who wanted to experiment with transgender women. Rain connected with a transgender woman at Solita’s who opened her eyes to the transgender world. One night Rain caught her friend making out with a guy outside of the club, she was intrigued, and wanted to learn more. She pondered on how her friend got a straight man.

Through this transition, Rain’s family supported her. Her mom and aunts bought her clothes, designer bags, bras, underwear, and other material things that showed that they were on board with Rain dressing up as a woman. Still, Rain felt like she had to be secretive with her personal life. She didn’t want her family to think that she was sleeping around and not doing things the “right way.” She never rebelled against her parents, she would sometimes push back with her choices in life, but for the most part she obeyed. Keeping her parents’ trust is something very important to her.

When it came to dating, Rain admits that she turned to the internet back in the day because it was easier to talk to men. Also, it was a lot safer because through her online categories and bio, it would tell her matches who she really was. She isn’t a fan of wasting time, so the internet was a way for her to express exactly what it is she was looking for. However, she quickly realized that the internet dating world wasn’t for her. Nowadays, Rain finds herself trying to connect with men in real life. Rain prefers to meet up with love interests in very public meet up spots. She knows a lot of her transgender friends would rather have an intimate setting, but for her own safety, Rain wants to be in a public area.

“When dating, we text each other to meet in well crowded public places, but then again I really don’t have a lot of experiences on dates,” Rain explains. “It’s mostly with guy friends or one on one with the ones I’ve known for a while.”

When she’s dating and knows something is getting serious, Rain will reveal to her partner that she is a transgender woman. But for the most part, she doesn’t say anything right off the bat because she wants to be judged as a regular human being. However, she plans to be very transparent about herself with future love interests because she believes they should know the truth. In her experience, most of the time they don’t ask, almost a kind’ve known topic that doesn’t need confirmation.

“As I get more confident, those days are so gone,” she explains when talking about online dating. “When I meet someone in person, like at work, they never ask me unless it’s going somewhere. Basically I want to ‘go with the flow’ and just be human. After all I ain’t an easy person – meaning I ain’t a hoe. My motive here is get to know him and see where it leads to. Now, if it’s going somewhere best believe I’ll break the ice and say ‘hey, sorry babe, but I’m transgender,’ so that it’s fair for the men. But nowadays most men don’t ask, they simply respect the way I want to be treated. I know for a fact they know of me, yet they still pursue me in a level of friendship or even intimacy.”

One thing that Rain takes very seriously is how she is perceived. She carries herself with high esteem and refuses to be a man’s fetish. She has heard of countless stories where trans women are used for financial gain, sexual curiosities, and just used to achieve someone else’s fantasies. And that’s not what Rain wants for herself. She knows herself well enough to know that she falls inlove fast. She wants to protect her heart, and guard her well-being.

“I just don’t wanna be jumping around with different men when I only want to focus on one,” she explains. “I want to save myself for someone who deserves me. I don’t want to live up to their lifestyle of just always looking for sex sex sex. I want to be different. I want to enjoy a meaningful safe life where its not all about being desired. I want someone to have deep conversations with, a simple dinner and movie, good laughs, holding hands in public without shame and without having to hide from anyone, and be able to show affection towards him with no hesitation.”

According to Rain, men treat her with respect and like a lady. She believes its because of the boundaries that she sets. She knows that she sets the precident for how she should be treated. But to her, it’s not about feeling desired from men. Rain doesn’t want a man so she can start loving herself, she wants to be content with herself first, fall in love with herself first, and a man’s love can come second. All she wants is to be happy with herself, content with her life, and most importantly travel the world.

Rain is the eldest of 5 children. When her youngest sibling, Josh, passed away tragically in 2015, Rain’s world fell apart. She was very close to Josh, and shared that older sister motherly bond with him. They shared a lot of the same interests, like food and anime. Josh was 16 when he passed away, and this tragedy changed Rain’s view on life completely.

“I believe if Josh was still alive he’d live his life the way he would have (wanted),” Rain says remembering her baby brother. “Imagine, a 16 year old in 2nd year college at Skyline, about to transfer to a university. A BSN major and minor in psychology; a life that I would love to have for myself. I’m so proud of him. I look up to him more than my own self. His teenage years I was there. He was my baby, I helped nurture him, understand him, guide him, and spend time with him. Josh and I were never selfish, we always care for our loved ones. When he passed, I chose to be a little bit more selfish for myself so I can fulfill his legacy, a promise to live the life I’ve always been wanting. When Josh died, I told myself, ‘That’s it, lets make it Rain!'”

After Josh’s passing, Rain decided to legally change her name. Her friends referred to her as “Rain” since high school / early college. However, her parents and family still referred to her by her birth name. When Rain legally changed her name, her parents and family had no choice but to comply. She filed for her legal name change, did her vows, and got the official document. To her, she did it the “right way,” by not rebelling and causing a scene, but by doing it legally and respectfully.

Why the name Rain? In the Play Station game “Galerians,” there is a character named Rainheart. She fell inlove with the powerful boss who is psychic and plus sized. But also because she loves cold weather, water, and the ocean. To her, Rain is a majestic and powerful name that she identifies with. Her family didn’t see it as the death of the man they once knew. They were just happy that they raised Rain to be a respectable human who kept the morals and values that her parents taught her.

Not only did Rain legally change her name after her brother’s death, but she also made the decision to transition. She is taking hormone pills, and plans to get her reassignment surgery done this July or August. Her family was supportive up until this moment. They believed that legally changing her name to Rain was enough. They felt like she didn’t need to do the reassignment surgery. But this is something that Rain has been wanting, and she’s doing it for her own happiness. Her family was against her getting a legal sex change because they are worried for her safety. They’re scared of all the sexually transmitted diseases that are out there. Her family knows people that have died from HIV/AIDS, so they are very weary. They are also worried about the complications that can go wrong during surgery. Not only did her family not agree at first, but her fellow transgender friends were not in favor either.

Her friends believed that Rain should keep her “parts,” and just use anal and oral sex. She is irked at the thought of her fellow transgender friends being so controlling on how the “transgender life should be.” Her friends were encouraging her to just use anal and oral sex to gain a reputation for herself, but Rain refuses. Her decision to have a vagina is completely her choice and something she’s been wanting to do for a while. She remains true to herself and her beliefs, though it might not be what her friends want for her. But she let’s her friends live their lives the way they want, and asks for the same respect with the choices she decides to make.

Right now, Rain is taking all the necessary hormone pills to stay on track for reassignment surgery in the Fall. The hormones in these pills sometimes makes Rain depressed, have mood swings, sweat more, and gives her a period every 2 weeks.

“Besides my high blood pressure pills, diabetic pills, here’s my hormone therapy pills,” she explains. “Spirolactin is a medicine to decrease testosterone level so that the estradiol pills works through my blood stream to increase my estrogen level. That I’ll be taking for the rest of my life.”

Rain admits that being a woman is tough work! Sometimes she thinks to herself why she chose this path, since the transition can be sometimes hard on her. She finds it tough that women have to be so concerned about their outward appearance, whether that be beauty, weight, etc. But then she remembers why she’s doing it. She identifies as a woman and feels the most like herself when she presents herself as a female. Everything she is doing if for her own happiness. And her dedication and bravery is nothing short of admirable and inspirational.

It took her some time to figure out who she was as a person. But that journey is what made her who she is today. When asked if she could give advice to younger Rain, this is what she had to say:

“(For) younger Rain, I’d tell myself: ‘Bitch, live now live everyday you only die once! Rain, so many opportunities you missed because you over think what others think of you… Don’t get stuck, if you feel like a real woman by all means make a goal to make it happen. See the world once you start making an income and while you’re young. Fall in love with yourself first before you fall for someone else because it’ll mentally destroy you! Stay healthy and be wise, research if you have time, if you have time to post on Facebook, bitch you have time to do homework and other important things! Take good care of yourself, pursue the happiness you’ve always wanted! Take care good of your siblings and your parents but spare time for yourself. Rain, me time is very important, it becomes a necessity not an option! Explore your world of adventures. Don’t wait for no one, let them be and they’ll follow once you show them what it is like to be one with the world. Clubs and loud music eventually will get over rated! Don’t get into a relationship just to be happy; be in a relationship with God and he will show you happiness! Always stay positive, always challenge yourself, be mindful before you react, actions are more valuable then words. Be humble, be honest, be nice, be calm, and be brave always… another thing count your blessings not the materialistic things!'”

She knows that there are some haters out there that don’t agree with the LGBTQ community. But her message is this:

“Above all else educate those who lack (knowledge) of our existence. I need for the community to know yes we do exist and will continue to co-exist until we are accepted peacefully. There’s still violence and discrimination out there about my transgender community, but we are doing our best to educate those who want further understanding of our world. Its also our job for my fellow trans to educate ourselves on how to better our future without having a war, remember we are accepted, respected, and acknowledge but to what extent if we ourselves don’t prove to those who want to know us. Let us change history to exist peacefully, in harmony, and in balance for everyone to have an open mind.”

When life threw her a curve ball, she made it Rain, full force. She has remained true to herself, ignoring other people’s desires and wants for her life. She is on a mission to live her life her way, and to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Self-Sabotage

Describe what your life will be like in 3 years if you continue to allow your bad habits to stand in the way.

For Christmas my little sister got me a writer’s deck of cards. I was so hyped because sometimes I struggle with finding new topics to write about that is out of my ususal – you know, post-grad life, personal anxieties, body positive posts, sad relatable content.

On Christmas day my sisters and I went through each card in the deck. They’re all mad personal and really make you think. Every single card in the deck is heart felt and makes you think of your past, present, and future. I feel like these prompts make you feel the feelings you need to feel to heal and brainstorm on how to do better.

“First of all, deck of cards, you don’t even know me,” I jokingly ranted to my sisters. “I don’t know who you think you are asking me these very personal questions, but I ain’t with it!”

“But why’re you getting defensive?” Merl said with her 4.5 Gimme Brow eyebrow raised, “It’s just a question.”

True. They are just questions. But they really make you look within yourself and reflect on your life. While I have other interviews to conduct, I decided to draw a card for Monday’s post. The quote above is the prompt I got. Woah. I could feel it… *Defensive walls starting to emerge*

But why? After all, these are just questions 🤷🏻‍♀️ On the packaging it reads something like, “path to better self” or something along those lines. And I believe it.

This one hit me. Damn, draws first card of the deck and has to admit all bad habits and look towards the future 😫. But okay. 3 years from now I’ll be 28. Yo, T W E N T Y E I G H T. When I was little I had my whole life planned out. I wanted to be engaged by 22-24, married by 25-27, baby by 27-28. And the age gap was me giving myself some wiggle room. The foolery.

It’s pretty comical to think back to my “plans” back then, and then actually see my life now. If someone was to ask me right now, 24 year old Marinelle who turns 25 next month, what is on my mind currently, it is definitely not marriage or children. It’s 100% my career and being successful – how to brand myself, what jobs to apply for, figuring out what kind of legacy I want to leave behind. Yeah, intense stuff. I’m at the crossroads in my destiny where I need to act now, or marriage and a family will be harder to obtain. If I can’t provide for myself, how much more for another life?

So in 3 years, the goal is to be successful, atleast have a foot in the journalism world, and make a difference with my writing. But most importantly be happy and content with where I am in life. My worst fear is living an unfulfilled life. That’s why I promised myself I need to at least try to make a living off of my passions, or I’ll forever be wondering “what if.” Because I really feel like my personality type is basically the perfect person to have a mid-life crisis.

But what will happen if I let my bad habits to stand in the way? A bad habit I have is definitely procrastinating. I’ve explained this in a past post. I have so many ideas and goals, but I go through periods of motivation and laziness. In the back of my head I know I need to act on things if I want change. For example, looking for journalism jobs. The logical thing is to apply to a few jobs everyday. Except I love to make my life harder for myself, so I’ll be too lazy to do anything. Until the anxiety in me builds up and I go on an absolute motivational rampage. Days, sometimes weeks, of not applying to anything, and then all of a sudden I force myself up and apply online for hours. This pattern and mentality will definitely hinder my future in 3 years if I’m too laid back about job hunting.

It’s like I want it all, but I don’t know where to start. So I delay that process until it’s all I can think about, and the only way to not absolutely resent myself is to force myself to do it. It’s actually a sick mind game that I keep playing with myself. Even though I know I’m just sabotaging myself.

Another bad habit I have that’ll effect me in 3 years is this belief that there is a perfect timing for everything. Not only that, but that I will “see the sign,” when the time is right. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer of signs. I’d be lying if I said I don’t ask the universe / God / my dead ancestors for signs on certain things. And I do believe in them. However, sometimes you just got to do what you got to do. And sometimes there is no sign, you just do it. I mean that in terms of possible relocation, decisions, etc. Because if I’m forever waiting for a sign or some type of validation from the universe, I’ll be stuck in the same position I’m in. I’ve been waiting for signs, and not much has changed. But maybe that is the sign – nothing is happening, time for you to act. If I don’t act now, 3 years from now I’ll be on the same boat doing the same shit.

A lot of my bad habits point to one thing: I’m scared. But being scared isn’t going to help me. Not even a little. No benefit at all. I’m scared to make the wrong choice / decision/ step / move, that I end up staying in the same spot. And there’s no growth in that. I’ll be damned if 3 years from now I’m in the exact same position because I’m too scared to live my life.

I could also find myself alone in my life journey, if I continue to let my emotions run my mouth. I’m (too) good with the comebacks. I sometimes hurt the people closest to me because I say mean things in the heat of the moment. It’s a 2 way street of course, but sometimes I’m so out of pocket with the ruthlessness that I even shock myself. I need to learn to communicate my frustrations and annoyances the right way, and not just blow up with the people I’m comfortable with.

For over a year now (way late to the game honestly), I’ve been more serious about saving my money. If I want to be an independent adult, I need money. I’m not going to make an uncalculated move just to prove something. One thing that I stand firmly on is that I’m not moving out until I feel financially stable. And if I’m being completely honest, no amount is “enough” for the Bay Area. So until things make sense, I lay low and save. Which is way easier said than done. Sometimes I think of my parents and how what they had to go through at my age, and how they grew up and started adulting.

It’s also crazy to think of my life 3 years from now. That’s not even a drastic number of years into the future either. We’re not talking 5, 10, 15 years down the road, we’re talking three. But I guess it hits home for me because I feel like that’s a big gap. 25 for me is like “okay get it together but it’s okay to be confused, you’re still young. Find yourself, giiirl,” 28 year old Marinelle… yo, I hope that bitch gets it together because her biological clock is ticking at that point. 28 is just an age where it’s like, you should have an idea of what you want by now, and if you aren’t working towards it, what’re you doing?

Writing this all out just made me realize that seriously the only person getting in the way of what I want is myself. Yeah there are outside forces, but if I can distinguish what I personally can change to make my future more bright and go that much more smoother, why not change it? In 3 years I definitely don’t want to be in the exact same position. If I stick to my bad habits, I’m only playing myself. I’m self-sabotaging my own success. And then the joke is on me. I know everyone says this, but I really feel like 2020 is the year for change. Its the year to plant the seeds of what I want, and water them regularly, to one day see them flourish, so 3 years from now I’m not stuck thinking what I could’ve done to be in a better spot.

Rafa’s 2019 Reflection

There was just a couple more days of 2019, and I got a message in my Instagram DM’s. It was from an old high school friend, Rafa. She told me that she wrote a reflection of her 2019 that really hit home for her, and wondered if I would be interested in reading it.

Rafa explained that this was her first time writing a reflection, and it was a therapeutic experience that brought her to tears at the end.

“I thought of you when I finished,” she said. “I was like ‘I know somebody that will like this.'”

It made me really happy. I’m always encouraging people to dig deep within themselves for some type of self-discovery moment – probably because I aspire to be Iroh from Avatar the Last Airbender one day… still currently Zuko with my angry ass 🤷🏻‍♀️. I always try to leave the door open for anyone who wants to share their story with me, and I thank you, Rafa, for not only sharing with me, but agreeing to have it be posted on here.

I feel like Rafa and I are very alike. We make our stories of our struggles and insecurities public in hopes that it reaches someone who can relate. I admire her ability to open up about her struggles and reveal raw emotions.

Here is Rafa’ 2019 Reflection:

The year of 2019… What a year for me…

This year I embraced my art of seduction and it felt so good to feel wanted and desired as a woman. I was able to experience and feel what its like to feel wanted… As a woman I felt the need to have that experience. I was searching for other’s validation in me. I was desperate to be seen by others that made me feel like I was “the next Kim Kardashian” yet not satisfied by all the attention I was getting. On this journey I learned and gained a lot of experiences. I gave my time to the wrong people. I met amazing people. I struggled financially. I cried. I screamed. I gained weight. I lost weight. I had hair extensions. I took them out. I decided to live make up free. I decided to embrace and love my natural hair. I prayed. I danced. I got drunk….. A L O T!!!!!! I smoked weed for the first time. I went out partying A L O T. Partying was part of me “seeking other’s validation”. I traveled A L O T. I experienced the rich lifestyle. I met celebrities. My phone would blow up with so many messages, calls, voicemails, DM’s from guys I was never interested in. I became toxic to myself at some point. I felt like the shit. I went downhill again. I realized that money doesn’t make anyone happy. I decided to take a step forward into my future career. I took big steps backwards because I had bigger bills. I worked out. I was able to reunite with my auntie after 16 years. I fought depression and I won throughout the whole year. I was selfish. I learned how to say “NO!” I learned how to walk away without looking back! I learned how to not give people second chances to come back into my life. I trained my head to be stronger than my heart! I was emotionally unstable and unavailable for love! I lead people on. I hurt the ones I cared for. I hurt myself. I built boundaries. I irritated a lot of people. I was at some point heartless, cold, & careless. I was stubborn. I unfollowed a lot of people I didn’t feel like I needed on my social media account. Others I blocked. Best feeling in the world!!!!!! I would constantly ask myself why can’t I have what they have? I confess to God. I was always very transparent to God. I was very transparent to myself and others. I loved & lost the person I was madly in love with.. I learned how to value my inner self, my beauty, my body & mind. With everything that happened this year the most important task that I did not fail was being a mother to my little girl… Yes I left her with family to go out but I always and forever will come back to her. 6 years later and I still haven’t found ways to explain what it feels like to love a child. It’s crazy because she’s my weakness and my strength. She drives me crazy. She gets me big time mad but I can easily forgive her and move on with my day…. She doesn’t judge me regardless of what I say or do. She loves my imperfections and she still sees me as her role model. And that’s crazy to me because I have so many flaws… I love being her mother. It’s like she’s my best friend.. She is so incredible and it’s so real… I tell her weekly “I don’t know how to measure my love for you but I love you as big as the sky” she always has this big ass smile, it’s so priceless and I’m so blessed to be growing together. I lived a life I always wanted to experience.. so when I’m ready to settle down I know that I will not look back or have the urge to live this wild life…. and after all I am so grateful for all that’s happened, the good and bad.. Maybe I’ll be ready for love in 2020. Maybe not! But hey, look at me now: still standing, laughing, smiling, loving, forgiving, & living.. Still a few days to enjoy the rest of this beautiful year of 2019…..

Love, Rafa 💕

Vacation: Finding My Balance Again

This is the time of the year I’ve been anticipating for so long. The perks of working at a preschool is staying on the “school” schedule, something I was not ready to let go of after I graduated. These periods of paid vacation give me time to unwind, think, get in touch with myself again, and hopefully recharge and get re-inspired.

The last couple of months, but more so the last couple of weeks, I’ve been feeling like I was dragging myself to the finish line. That finish line being this break. I was running out of gas, and faster than usual. I feel like I always get like that when I’m anticipating a long break/vacation. But this one felt different. Last year, I dragged myself to the finish line and had graduation to celebrate at the end of it all. It was the most relieving feeling ever. Now, I dragged myself to the finish line of winter break, this time, not much to celebrate.

Everytime my work has an extended amount of time off, I try to do things that I know I enjoy and things I never have time for. This morning, Justine and I hit the gym at 8 am. We used to go 2-3 times a week at 6 am, before my hours increased to fulltime. Now, I wake up at 5 am every weekday for work. It felt good to have an outlet to relieve some stress. And it also felt good to not have to rush to do something else right after.

I’ve been waiting for this break for so long because the best plans for me is no plans at all. I’ve been day dreaming of laying down at home watching TV, nowhere to go, no actual plan, in my pajamas most likely asleep. I’m constantly doing something everyday, and I just want a break. A break from adulting. And I definitely will have a couple days like that during these 2 weeks off! But I realized, this is the time to act and do.

During my summer break at work, where I got 2 consecutive weeks off, I did the whole “no plans, multiple days to yourself” thing for a little too long. I started to get so bored that I knew I’d regret not doing anything once work started up again. So I plan to do this break a little different.

I want to workout as many days as I can, when I want to, and if I want to. I want to catch up on shows that I always end up falling asleep to because of how tired I am at the end of a workday. I want to read the books I’ve put off to the side, and get re-inspired by feminist authors. I want to continue reading the Avatar the Last Airbender comic books that I have, because damn these comics answer a lot of questions I have! One of these comic books revealed the story of Zuko’s mom, and I was truly shook. Avatar is my obsession. I try to watch it from beginning to end every other year to feel more spiritual and woke. I’m not even kidding. To some it sounds ridiculous, but Avatar the Last Airbender is so deep, and holds a special place in my heart. Avatar faithful. I’ve been due for another showing from beginning to end, but my DVD player has been weird, it plays the DVD and then 5 minutes into any episode it blows out the speakers. The weirdest thing. So I haven’t been able to watch my Avatar for a minute. Christian tried to fix this problem by getting the whole series on Blu Ray, but he took the ps4 player with him while he visits SoCal during the break, so I’m still Avatar-less.

Anyways, I always try to get ahead of the game during these breaks and write a couple stories, so I’m not stressed out when Sunday/Monday comes around. I have 3-4 stories I have in the works right now, of people that want to share their stories. Right now I’m just doing all the interviewing and getting those details. I imagine this is what being a fulltime journalist will feel like. Except it’s kind’ve hard when I work 40 hours a week, also trying to maintain a social life, but keep my true passions in check all at the same time.

Keeping up this blog is basically like assigning yourself a final paper due every Monday. I’ve been out of school for a year, but I knew I would never be done with deadlines if I want to pursue a career as a writer / journalist. So I started assigning Mondays as my forever deadline, until I make it, and then you’ll catch me in a magazine or news columns. Breaks like this from my actual 8-5 job is what gives me that break to think creatively again. Reconnecting with myself is an important thing.

I thought I knew the definition of “self-care” when I was in college. Don’t get me wrong though, college was not easy. There were many times where I was literally mentally breaking down, and had to take a break. That’s where “self-care/treat yo-self” came into play for me. This would be in the form of a nap, face mask, literally walking away from the assignment, hanging out with friends, etc. But the thing with college was, once the final was turned in, once the presentation was over, once the whole ass class was over, there was relief. This adulting life…. this is different.

I think about this often and ususally think, “first world problems.” Because it’s true. I’m grateful that I wake up every morning and have a job to go to. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity to go to school and finish up a degree. I’m hopeful that there is a writing job out there that I will feel fulfilled. But I realized since I got out of school, that I relied so much on my next “break,” my next “vacation” period that would get me through. “Just X amount of days until ____ vacation,” is what would get me through in school and in work. But I realized, once I get out of the teaching field, I’m not going to have any long “break” to look forward to. And then what?

My mental health is so focused on break / vacation, that I really don’t know how I’ll transition to working a writing job not on the “school holiday” schedule. Break is where I recharge myself and give myself a break to relax. When I’m full blown adulting, I won’t have these 2 weeks to fall back on.

And it makes me wonder, how do people recharge? I already know that for me, it’s so easy to lose track of the things I love and enjoy doing because life and priorities get in the way. I have to work 8-5 to make money, I have to do xyz in order to get to xyz point. And in that routine, sometimes I lose track of what I really want. I get trapped in the labyrinth of adulting. But my break/vacation is what brings me back. I get the time to do things that I can’t regularly do when I work 40 hours a week. And it made me realize that that’s how some people get lost in their journey. They kind’ve get side tracked with doing adult grown person shit, and in doing so, lose sight of the end goal. Especially since it is so hard to transition from 1 career to the next. And I feel like that’s how some people get trapped into not doing what they really want, or not following their dreams.

This crossed my mind as I started planning my 2 week break. Since I’m fortunate to have these 2 weeks off, I plan to use it to my advantage, since I know I won’t always have this opportunity to unwind and relax. I also want to take this time to really hangout with friends. With life and everyone’s schedules, it’s so easy to just fall off for a couple of weeks. Everyone is in different stages of their lives, and for me and my friends, we like to catch up and talk about it, ususally over food.

Sadly, I’m kind’ve passed the point in my life where my friends and I can all just say “hey let’s all meet up at ____’s house,” on a whim. But I’ll gladly take these 2 weeks to remember what it’s like to not have any responsibility, to fall inlove again with the things that I have put to the side, and remember who I am.

San Francisco to Sweden

This love story started with a swipe in San Francisco. It was October 2016, and little did Alisanne and Karl know that this first date would change the rest of their lives.

Karl and a friend were visiting San Francisco for a week. They came to the Bay to attend a gaming convention, and would move on to visit Mexico City after. It started with a Tinder swipe. Alisanne honestly doesn’t remember coming across Karl’s Tinder profile, and believes that a friend may have been the one swiping on her account. Either way, she’s happy that their paths crossed.

They met up for dinner in Hayes Valley, and Alisanne made sure to bring a friend with her to the date. They really enjoyed each other’s company, and Karl asked if Alisanne would like to meet up during his last few days in San Francisco, since his week here was almost over. They hungout more and ended up really liking each other.

However, Karl was visiting San Francisco from Sweden.

After his week in San Francisco came to an end, Karl and his friend headed over to Mexico City. But Karl and Alisanne still kept in contact, even when he went back home to Sweden. In fact, they communicated almost everyday. The time difference from San Francisco and Sweden is 9 hours, so communication was not always easy.

It was also not easy for Alisanne to tell her parents about her new flame. She considers herself close to her parents, but there’s just some topics that she knew would be difficult to open up about. Her love life was one of them. When she finally opened up to her parents about her long distance relationship, her fears of their disapproval turned out to be true.

“For my parents, they really thought it wouldn’t last,” Alisanne explained when I asked how her parents reacted to her long distance relationship. “They always did the whole ‘oh, why can’t you stay here,’ and, ‘you might find someone else.’ They were upset that my long distance relationship took up most of my time (talking to Karl) and sometimes they would try to get me to stop ‘wasting my time,’ but I told them it was my decision to be in this relationship and they couldn’t really force anything on me.”

Alisanne admits that defending herself against her parents’ opinions sometimes scared her. It took a lot for her to voice her opinions to her parents that at the end of the day, she’s an adult and will be doing what she wants. And that is somewhat against the Filipino culture. Most of the time, Filipino parents don’t view you as an “adult” until you’re moved out, married, and providing for yourself.

After Karl left San Francisco, he and Alisanne continued to get to know each other over the phone. After 2 months of talking, Karl invited Alisanne to visit him in Sweden. At this point, the two had no official title labeled on them. Still, Alisanne accepted the invitation.

This was Alisanne’s first trip out of the country solo. She was nervous and scared, and now that she thinks back to it, she realizes how dangerous it all could have been. But at the moment she was excited to see Karl and his family. When she told her parents that she was going to visit Karl in Sweden, her parents were freaking out. Her dad demanded Karl’s number, Karl’s mother’s number, and Karl’s address. Her dad even talked on the phone with him before she left. She knew that her parents were just worried and was just looking out for her, but she does see how crazy it must’ve been to an outsider – given that she was 21 years old already – an adult. This was just the beginning of the culture shock of being a Filipina from the Bay Area and dating a chill Swedish guy from Katrineholm.

She spent New Year’s with Karl and his family, and Alisanne got to meet his family and friends. While Alisanne’s family was trippin’ out, back in Sweden, Karl’s family welcomed her with open arms!

“Alisanne came to visit me in Sweden the first time only 2 months after I left,” Karl said. “I didn’t have a driver’s license back then so I asked my family to drive me to the airport in Stockholm to pick her up. That’s not a small favor to ask when the airport is a 4 hour drive total from where I live! They said, ‘ok let’s go!’ 4 hours later we had lasagna together with my family before we got back to my place.”

After Alisanne’s first trip to Sweden, the couple made things official and started doing long distance. She visited Karl about 3-4 times throughout their long distance relationship.

It was August 2017 when Alisanne decided that she wanted to apply for a visa to move to Sweden. She was just about to start her last semester at San Francisco State, and knew that it took about 8 months to almost 2 years to get approved for a visa. However, the universe was on her side and she somehow miraculously got her visa in four months!

“Karl and I did talk about who would move and I eventually decided for myself that it might be pretty cool to move to Sweden,” Alisanne said. “I just finished my bachelor’s in business admin & management, had some money saved up from my last job, and had no plans after school. I also thought it might be harder for Karl to move to the U.S. with all the hectic immigration rules and papers.”

When Alisanne first told her family that she was applying for a visa to move to Sweden, they kind of brushed it off. She believes that her parents thought that it would take over a year to get, because she thought the same thing. When they realized how fast the process was going, that’s when it got real. They were all shocked, Alisanne included, when she got approved in 4 months! Her parents started to get sad and worried because they didn’t think it would be so soon. She completed her last semester at SFSU, and moved to Sweden December 2017, a year to the date of her first visit to Sweden.

Her parents were sad, but in the end supported her decision. They reassured her that she could always come back home if things didn’t work out. She left with one suitcase with all her belongings. This thrilled her little sister, since she could take up Alisanne’s closet space. Alisanne was nervous to move to Sweden, but was ready for the change. At that point, some of her extended family members moved away from the Bay Area. She was done with her degree and was dying to move out of the house.

She did have some fears though. All her and Karl ever knew was long distance over the phone. As you can imagine, getting to know your partner and learning each other over the phone is not easy. There were plenty of fights long distance, and Alisanne feared that they would continue those trends in person. Fortunately, that was not the case, and the couple rarely fights now a days. Karl was worried about Alisanne transitioning to the Swedish lifestyle. He feared that she would be homesick and not like her new home.

Alisanne was homesick for a period of time, but with time she adapted to her new surroundings. The cultural differences and way of life amazes her. Sweden is so different from the Bay Area. She was so used to San Francisco’s diversity – the melting pot of different cultures. Now a days, she finds that she is sometimes the only Asian in the coffee shops and stores. However, thankfully nobody has given her a hard time because of her ethnicity. In fact, almost 2 years of living in Sweden, Alisanne has discovered the Filipino community out there! She describes the Swedish culture to be laid back, chill, and very accepting. So different from what she grew up with- in a very traditional Filipino household.

July 2018 Alisanne and Karl learned that they were expecting! Alisanne was very hesitant to tell her parents that she was pregnant. They reacted kind of sadly, and almost a little disappointed. But her dad let her know that they just want what’s best for her, and being a parent is a big deal. This bummed Alisanne out for a short time, but her parents came around and supported her throughout her pregnancy – checking up on her and asking how she is.

Over a year later, and baby Svea has caught the hearts of everyone around her! Her family from San Francisco and Sweden adore her. This past summer, Svea officially became a U.S. citizen. She is officially Swedish American. She has yet to visit San Francisco, but Alisanne and Karl plan to visit once Alisanne renews her visa.

“Svea has brought out loving parts of us that Karl and I have never seen in each other before,” Alisanne shares. It makes me really happy!”

For right now, Alisanne and Karl are holding off on more kids. She would love to give Svea siblings closer in age, but the cost of another child for the couple right now isn’t ideal. Karl is a teacher’s aid for grades K-6, and helps kids who need extra attention. He also helps out at the after school program. It’s convenient because the school is one block away from their apartment! He comes home during his lunch breaks to spend time with Alisanne and the baby, since she’s currently a stay at home mom.

Alisanne has been a stay at home mom since Svea was born. For the past 1.5 years she’s been unemployed in Sweden, but Sweden’s maternity leave is pretty sweet. The parents get maternity leave of more than 400 days split between the two. She plans to start looking for jobs around March.

Alisanne wants to put her degree in business administration to use in Sweden. However, she fears that most jobs in her field will be in Stockholm, which is 4 hours away from where they live. But she knows she needs to get her foot in the door eventually, and is looking at a neighboring city, Norrköping, which is a 20 minute train ride away.

Since Svea has been born, Alisanne’s family is persistent and hoping that they will come back to live in the Bay Area. For the time being, Alisanne is focusing on renewing her visa, since her 2 years is almost up. Once that gets sorted, Alisanne wants to book a trip to San Francisco as soon as possible! As for living back in the Bay, Alisanne and Karl are uncertain about the cost of living back in California. They definitely want to stay in Sweden for about 5 more years, but don’t have any solid living plans after that, they may stay, or they may consider moving back. For now, they are content with their little family in Katrineholm, Sweden.

“Alisanne and I met the first time when my friend and I were on vacation in SF,” Karl explained. “We matched on Tinder and I asked if she would like to show me around the city. I had my first date when we went out to dinner together, I was confident but not expecting much. The whole evening passed and closer to midnight we said goodbye, looking forward to seeing eachother again. I tried to not get my hopes up too much, I’d rather have a happy surprise than get disappointed. One could always dare to dream. We’re all looking for ‘the one’ to share our lives with. Here I am with a family of my own. They are fantastic and I could not wish for anything else in the world. Who would have thought that a match online could lead up to something like that!?”