2021 – My Emerald Year

Illustration by: Marielle Cabillo

I have a ritual of reading my monthly horoscope when Susan Miller posts them on her website. You see, I’m not one to fully trust and make decisions based off of what my horoscope predicts, but I do like to see what is alleged to happen. You know, kind of like a little fun guide into the near future. The extent of my belief in my horoscope forecasts does have its limits though. I definitely don’t map out my month according to my forecast, but I do like to read back at the end of the month and see if anything predicted was true. I make a mental note of when planets retrograde, if there’s new moons, eclipses, etc., because to me, the stars and astrology don’t lie – the other planets have to affect us in some way.

I remember reading my forecast for 2021. I’m an Aquarius, and 2021 was said to be my “Emerald Year.” The Emerald Year for your sign is said to be when you’re at your luckiest. 2021 for me was “the once-in-12-year visit of good-fortune Jupiter to your Aquarius Sun,” (Miller, Susan). Meaning, 2021 was going to be my year of growth, good fortune, and claiming what is mine. Of course with that information, and being a believer in astrology, you start to get excited that astrologically, your sign is the luckiest sign of the year. I was excited to see what 2021 would bring me. I was very hopeful for the new year – my Emerald Year…

But 2021 was by far one of the hardest years for me. Of course there were great moments as well, but I personally felt like the theme of 2021 for me could be summed up by saying it was a struggle. A struggle to pick myself back up after losing 2 people who were really close to me, a struggle to find motivation to do the things I wanted to do, a struggle to make time for myself, a struggle to balance out my life, a struggle to establish myself professionally, a struggle to push forward, a struggle to correct habits of mine that I wanted to change, a struggle maneuvering through this pandemic, and so forth. But of course with struggle comes a lot of growth and realizations. I guess I had my Emerald Year, but I had to go through the mud for it.

2021 was a really sad year for me. As the months passed into the new year, I slowly, yet quickly, saw my Tatay transition out of this world. I know I wrote a whole ass series on my Tatay and all my feelings that came with his passing, but I still can’t believe it. For the first half of 2021, Tatay’s health was one of my main concerns. I wanted to be there every Sunday to show him that we didn’t just forget about him during the pandemic. The remaining second half of the year I wanted to be at his grave every Sunday to show him that we won’t forget him now that he’s gone.

Tatay passed away in mid-July, but I feel like I’m just now coming to terms with my grief. After he passed, I felt like I was just existing throughout the rest of 2021. I was trying to stay motivated, I wanted to be on top of my writing. I was close to 100 consistent blog posts and I planned to buy my website, collaborate with more people, get stories lined up, and finally get ahead. Tatay passed away a couple week before my 100th post, and all my plans kind of went out the window. I wanted to do all the things that I planned, but couldn’t find the motivation to do anything. I bought my website, but my head was in the clouds.

Even though I had so many plans and ideas that I wanted to accomplish, I didn’t try to force anything on myself. I knew that this was a difficult time in my life, I had just lost my last living grandparent, the one I was closest to at that. Now wasn’t the time to put pressure on myself to produce content when I was simply struggling to just exist and move forward with my life. Of course, on the outside, I was handling shit that I had to handle. But on the inside, I felt a part of me died, that I didn’t care about much, but at the same time I cared about everything. I didn’t feel like myself. It went on for so long that I wondered if this was just the “new me.”

It took months for me to really process what I was exactly feeling in regards to Tatay’s passing. What really helped me sort everything out and get my emotions down was publishing his Series. And I really hesitated on that. Not because I didn’t want to, but because I didn’t want anyone to think that I was using my grief for some views. I decided to follow through with Tatay’s Series because I knew I had a lot of unpacked baggage that I needed to let out. Also, he was such a major role in my life, it felt disrespectful not to. Writing was one of the few ways I felt I could adequately pay homage to his life and what he meant to me. But most importantly, it didn’t feel right to not write about something that had cut me so deep. Yes, I could write about other things, but I knew my mind would be elsewhere. I pride myself in authentic writing, so producing other content just didn’t seem genuine – my heart and mind was totally engulfed in grief and anger at the time.

In the midst of my grief, I lost another family member who I was very close to. 4 months after Tatay passed, my aunt / cousin, Rhonda, passed away due to her ongoing health complications. I couldn’t believe it. When Tatay died, I already dubbed 2021 one of the worst years of my life. But when Rhonda also passed away, I thought, “Okay, Universe, are you fucking serious right now?!” I felt like I was being kicked in the face while I was already down. Rhonda, Tita-Lola (Auntie – Grandma), as we liked to call her just to piss her off, was someone I hold very dear to my heart. This was another type of pain. I felt like the Universe was taking punches at me from all kind of different angles.

Tatay was someone that was in my life since day 1. He lived with my family for some time, was someone I saw on a consistent basis, and has been the closest grandparent to me since I was a kid. But with Rhonda, even though we were related, I never really saw her consistently, didn’t grow up around her, and didn’t even have a conversation with her until I was a teenager. Rhonda was someone I chose to get close to. She was someone that chose to put in mutual effort to get to know each other, chose to encourage me, and chose to be there for me to give me advice during the early years of my young adult life. I tried to be there for her as she maneuvered through life’s many challenges as well – her personal shit going on, her health complications, her dating life, and every random thing in-between. We got really tight over the last decade or so, so this was the cherry on top of 2021 being the shittiest year to date.

However, I processed Rhonda’s death a lot differently than I did Tatay’s. Rhonda was an open book, she let everyone and anyone who had access to her social media pages know everything about her life. Social media was like her diary. She showed her dialysis treatments, the medications she had to take on a daily basis, and gave us visuals and documentation of her daily routine. Rhonda would post her true feelings on social media, she didn’t sugar coat anything. At times you’d be reading and think, “Rhonda why the fuck are you posting this online?” But that’s what made her experience all the more real and relatable. I feel like just from her posts, I could see what kind of life she lived on a day to day basis. On top of what she would vent to me about, I knew that this sickness was a lot to handle. Her declining health really took a toll on her life.

Rhonda was such a family oriented person. The way I yearn to see Tatay again is the same way she yearned for my great-grandparents (her grandparents). Her grief for those in our family that have passed away was so immense, she was truly an individual that loved with every fiber of her being. But she focused that grief on trying to educate the younger generations of our family history. She was passionate about our family and keeping the memories of my great-grandparents alive. So when she passed away, I definitely was sad. But I was at peace knowing that she finally got the reunion with all of her loved ones that she so desperately wanted. I was relieved to know that she was no longer in pain, no longer suffering, no longer grieving people she loved. That was my peace.

2021’s biggest lesson for me was realizing in depth the phrase, “life is short.” Of course, this is something I already knew, but it takes on a whole other meaning when you lose people close to you. Death will really have you see things for what it is and see people for who they are. Death made me realize money truly ain’t shit. All that matters in this life is time and showing up for people that matter to you. All you can really give people is your time. At the end of the day, time is the only thing that matters, and how you choose to spend your time is completely up to you.

When you’re at the end of your life, you’re not going to give a shit about how much money you have. Instead, you’ll think of the people that were there, made the effort, and showed up for you. So I’ve been trying to “show up” more for those around me. Like making it to the spontaneous hangouts, the hikes with family, take a drive with my dad to keep him company when he runs errands, and attempting to do things that my partner and I say we want to do but never really get around to doing. I’ve been so used to isolating and sheltering in place that my attempt to put in effort to show up was significantly effected. In order to be a good partner, friend, and family member, I needed to show up and make the effort for those around me. That need to show up definitely came to light because of Tatay.

I had to make the effort to show up for others, but I also needed to realize when I needed space. With all of 2021’s craziness, it was the year I had to learn the hard way that in order to be there for others, I first had to be there for myself. And that means taking those mental breaks if needed. I personally take a long time to recharge after interaction. And with my emotions already drained from personal tragedies, I was made very aware of other things that can leave me feeling drained when my cup was already half full. I love my alone time. I am a homebody by definition. So during my time to recharge, I would find the little things that bring me joy – like eating my favorite food, binge watching a show / many murder documentaries, sleeping, or simply doing nothing. The power of doing nothing when you feel drained is so powerful. Sometimes you need those lazy days to detox.

2021 gave me a lot of set backs. With the pandemic persistent and showing no signs of letting up any time soon, I really had to come to terms with this current way of life. I had to realize that this pandemic isn’t going anywhere, I needed to learn how to adapt and make changes so I wouldn’t get burnt out / bored with the same routine. There’s no use in wishing things can go back to how it was pre-pandemic, because that’s not our current reality. But I did not want to live in fear. I wanted to continue to live my life, but safely. At this point, all we can really do is take the proper precautions and go about our lives. COVID isn’t going anywhere, so we need to learn how to survive and exist in this current age without it being detrimental to our own mental health in the process.

Living through the pandemic another full year has actually helped get my priorities in order. It’s ironic because the whole world is kind of in limbo with the pandemic, and that has added to me feeling stagnant with my dreams and aspirations. But it has really given me a lot of time to figure out what I want to do, what I want to accomplish, and make baby steps to get to those points. With cases rising and uncertainty continuing to circulate, it’s comforting to know that I can at least attempt to build out my future plans. The feeling of life “slowing down” due to the pandemic has helped me tune into what it is I truly want out of life.

A lot of those plans are obviously in regards to my writing career and what steps I want to take next. Like I said, 2021 brought a lot of set backs for me. I’m already naturally a procrastinator, so when life threw in a tragedy or 2, I just didn’t know how to deal. There are still times where I think, “is this just the new me?” But as time passes, I’m starting to slowly get back to feeling like “me” again. I needed that break. I needed that time to allow myself to fall apart. I wanted to keep writing and continue with my content, and luckily it all worked out. But if I’m being completely honest, there were a lot of lazy days. Days where I didn’t want to get ahead, where I didn’t care to work on anything, where I worked on things last minute.

At the start of 2021, I had so many deadlines for myself to meet. But it didn’t go as I planned at all. And usually, I would beat myself up about it. But surprisingly, it was the opposite. I knew that the last thing I needed to do was be angry with myself for not meeting deadlines as I dealt with the death of 2 close family members. I decided to show myself kindness. I needed to feel those emotions, go through the crazy rollercoaster of grief, and sort out all my emotions, because if I didn’t, I know I would just self-destruct.

But through the set backs, I have accomplished a couple of things last year that I’m very proud of. Even though I was in a rut, I never once put my writing on hold. I still connected with so many new people and pushed out a couple of Series. And I’m so glad that I’ve connected with so many people who gave me the privilege to share their stories on my platform. I know that this is just the beginning.

My horoscope said that 2021 was going to be my Emerald Year – where I work hard for what I want, grow as a person, and have the universe in my favor. 2021 was supposed to be when I was supposedly astrologically at my luckiest. When Tatay and Rhonda passed away, I thought, “How the hell is this my emerald year? This is the by far the worst year of my life.” But then I took a step back and saw all that was accomplished, all the lessons I learned, all the realizations I had to come to terms with, and all the growth that took place because of what I went through this year and I think, “I got my Emerald Year… just in the most fucked up way possible.” 2021 definitely challenged me in every way possible. I had to re-establish what matters the most to me in this life and that brought a lot of growth and self-reflecting. And I know that all the seeds I planted in 2021, whether I knew it or not, will start to bear fruit in 2022 and the years to come.

2021 was the year I had to struggle. It was a struggle to even get those seeds planted. But I know they’re there, and I’m waiting for my blessings to come. 2021 was the year I lost people very close to me, 2022 and onward is trying to make them proud.

F*ck This Pandemic

This is story 3 of 9 of my Tatay’s Series. This is my way of honoring Tatay’s life and legacy. It wouldn’t be right if I DIDN’T give him his own series and avoided writing about his passing all together. But I’m also aware that this is something I need to do for myself – to put my grief, anger, and emotions all out on the table, instead of distracting myself with work and other things to avoid the reality that he’s gone.” -Marinelle, LoveYourzStory

Fuck this pandemic.

That’s what I really wanted to say during my speech. But like I said, it wasn’t the place or the time. I guess I’m at the 2nd stage of grief – ANGER.

I know that Tatay was so blessed and fortunate to reach 98 years old. But I just know his life was cut “short” due to this pandemic. And I can’t get passed the feeling of anger and thinking of what could have been. Pre-pandemic, you could’ve asked anyone in my family – we all believed that Tatay would live long enough to reach at least 100 years old. Other than small complications that come with old age, Tatay was in great health for 98. He complained about his back hurting, not being able to get around like he used to, his memory wasn’t as sharp, but that all comes with the process of aging. If anything, it was amazing what his body could still do in his mid to late 90’s!

When the 3 week mandatory shutdown was called in March 2020, we all didn’t expect that almost a year and a half later we would still be worried about the virus. We knew that the shutdown was looming around the corner, so we decided to go to Tatay’s house for Sunday dinner, even though it wasn’t the week we were supposed to since we go every other Sunday. We were all a little hesitant to go over his house because we didn’t know much about the virus then and didn’t want to put Tatay’s health in danger since he was the most vulnerable. On the family group chat, my cousin joked that we should go to Tatay’s for dinner, the day before the official lockdown, because it might be the last one for a long time. Unfortunately, it was true.

Sunday dinners at Tatay’s were postponed until further notice. When the shutdown kept getting longer and longer, I started to get a bad feeling about how this would effect Tatay and his health. Obviously we stayed away because we wanted to protect him at all costs, but it wasn’t an easy thing to do. In my opinion, being surrounded by family often, getting up to do usual routines, and getting out every once in a while is what kept Tatay young. It kept his mind working, it kept his body moving, it’s the reason why he made it to 98. But literally over night, all of those things changed. He went from being around family consistently, to just being at home with my step-grandma, Tita. Both of them cooped up in the house to keep themselves safe and healthy. And I hate that it happened this way.

It was around July that my family started visiting Tatay every Sunday. A little over 3 months of not seeing him. Except these visitations were nothing like our usual Sunday dinners. Most of the time, it was just me, my dad, my sisters, and occasionally my mom stopping by to say hello. There was no official gathering, no other family members, and not even enough time to catch up. We would come in with our masks on and try to social distance as best as we could. We just wanted to see Tatay and let him know that we’re not neglecting him because we don’t have time, but because there’s a deadly virus going around that’s easily transmissible. In the beginning we would stay tops 2-5 minutes. A quick hello, dropping off food, and seeing how he’s doing. We wanted to make sure that we were being safe about it and not staying too long to protect him.

Tatay’s house used to be so lively. It was the house to be at for family gatherings, and there was never a dull moment. His great granddaughters ran through the house, screaming from the top of their lungs with excitement every time they were present. “Tatay’s house,” to the kids was a place to play with your cousins, scream your heart out, and eat your weight in Puto. It was the house that always had America’s Funniest Home Videos playing since Tatay didn’t have cable, and it was the only thing everyone could agree on. It was the house where you brought your laptop to finish your assignments because school’s the next day, but Tatay’s house on Sunday is mandatory. It’s the house where all your dietary plans go out the window because everyone brings bomb food for a potluck. That was Tatay’s house.

Entering Tatay’s house during the pandemic was the exact opposite – quiet, untouched, dull. It’s a depressing thing to replay in my mind – how we would doorbell, greet Tita, take off our shoes, and head straight up the stairs to Tatay’s room. We would peak in to see if he was asleep, but would end up going in and waking him up to say hello anyways. 95% of the time we visited him, he was in his bed resting. We would stay far from his bed when we greeted him, being sure to wear our masks, not touching anything, and not “blessing” him to be safe. With his old age, not having family gatherings for months to stimulate his mind, on top of wearing a mask, there were days where Tatay didn’t know who we were.

“What part of the Philippines are you visiting from?”

“What day is it?”

“When can I go back to the Philippines?”

“Why are you wearing a mask?”

Explaining the pandemic to Tatay was not an easy task. Tita, my dad, my aunts and uncles – everyone – would tell him why we have on masks and why we can’t have family gatherings for the time being. No matter how many times it was explained, I don’t think Tatay ever really got the severity of it all. He was starting to show signs of dementia, so there would be times where he remembered that a sickness was going around, and other times where he just didn’t get it. And because he couldn’t fully comprehend the pandemic, it broke my heart to realize that there was a possibility that he believed we all just weren’t visiting him. It’s a thought I tried to avoid the whole time we visited him during the pandemic because it made me feel overwhelmed with sadness.

His many questions would be asked on loop throughout our short stay every Sunday. It was sad to see his mind slowly going. But I didn’t know what was more sad – when he was speaking nonsense, or when he was fully aware of everything around him. Seeing what mind state Tatay would be in every Sunday was a gamble. Was he going to be happy? Was he going to remember us? Was he going to ask for people who have passed on already? Is he going to bring up the Philippines – a very touchy topic that nobody wanted to bring up in his presence because of how bad he wanted to go back… the list went on. I would feel sad when he would ask questions that we just answered 30 seconds prior, because it was a sign that his memory was going. He was slipping away and there was nothing we could do about it.

But I think what was more heartbreaking was when he was completely aware of where he was and the situation at hand. There were some Sundays where we would go up straight to his room and find him in his usual spot – his bed. We would ask him how he is and he’d sound depressed. Saying how he’s bored at the house, there’s nothing to do, he can’t go anywhere, and he just wants to go back to the Philippines already. We had to explain to him that he’s not the only one feeling those feelings. Everyone around the world were getting pandemic fatigue as well. We let him know that my mom and sisters were working from home, nobody really leaves the house except to do necessary things like getting groceries, and even if we wanted to go out, everything is shutdown anyways.

One Sunday Tatay was giving us an ear full about how he’s so bored, frustrated that he can’t do anything, and all he does is just stay in the house. “What kind of life is this?! / Anong klaseng buhay ito?!” He would say bitterly. Again we dived into the conversation that it’s a global pandemic, that everyone around the world is cooped up in their house with nothing to do, everything is shutdown everywhere, and it’s all because of a deadly virus. We told him that’s why everyone is wearing masks, why we were wearing masks at that exact moment to protect him, and that the virus could spread without you even knowing it. Typical Tatay sighed and let all the things my dad translated go over his head. He continued to complain – which he had every right to do especially since he didn’t get what the pandemic actually was. My dad went downstairs to help Tita with packing things for the Philippines, so it was just me and my older sister with Tatay. One thing about Tatay, he will give you a mouth full and be stubborn as can be, but when it comes to his grandchildren and great grandkids, he eases up and doesn’t give us that side of him.

“So when you’re at home, you’re doing nothing too?” Tatay said tenderly in Tagalog, as he laid in his bed. He was no longer irritated.

We reassured him that we were bored as hell at home too. We told him schools were closed, everyone was working from home, everything is shutdown, and “lahat” (everyone) around the world is doing nothing. We let him know that his current reality was one of many. This seemed to make Tatay feel a little better, even though my dad had just explained it moments before. I laughed and quietly told my sister, “misery loves company,” to make light of the situation. But it was true, we let him know how boring life is during a pandemic, and let him know that yes, it did suck. He found comfort in knowing that he wasn’t the only one. I could see it in his face – his change of heart, his anger slipping away, his face expression now replaced with a look of pondering. I always wondered if he asked that for reassurance, or if he wanted to know if the pandemic was as serious as we were telling him.

We continued to visit Tatay every single Sunday, and when he got vaccinated in early 2021, we felt more comfortable extending our visits from 2-5 minutes, to about 15 – 20 minutes. We would sit around his bedside and try to make small talk, show him animals on our phones, or show him pictures that would entertain him. We would still have our masks on, and he would still ask why we had them on. One week it would seem like Tatay’s health was super weak and declining, then the next week he would be playful, in a good mood, and seemed to be aware of what time frame he was in. He had his good days and his bad days. Even on days he didn’t know who we were, Tita would tell us the many stories about him asking about us. He would ask Tita the same thing: “Where is Roland and Beth? Where do the kids sleep? Are they cold?”

I wondered what time frame he believed he was living in since he used to live with my family and I until I was about 7 years old. Pre-pandemic he would occasionally ask me where I sleep at home and if I get cold. I never really got why he asked that, but it obviously it seemed to be of some importance to him since he asked that question often. When we would visit Tita would tell him, “Do you know who they are? Here’s your grandchildren! These are your grandchildren!” He would smile and laugh, a little embarrassed that he didn’t know who we were. I would show him pictures of us when we were really young, to jog his memory, hoping he’d recognize me in the pictures.

Little by little, Tatay’s health started to decline. When it was apparent that his health was declining rapidly, the family decided to resume Sunday dinners again. At this point, it was May 2021, a year and 2 months of not all being at Tatay’s house as a family. The damage of not being around everyone was irreversible, he was slipping away. Tita would give us little updates every Sunday, and it all happened so gradually. It started with his memory, then he didn’t have much of an appetite, then he only ate because he was forced to not because he was actually hungry, then he couldn’t walk up and down the stairs all that great anymore, it quickly turned to him not being able to get up and walk by himself, and on his 98th birthday was the cherry on top of the “fuck this pandemic” cake. My aunts and uncles decided to start taking shifts to take care of Tatay throughout the week because he didn’t have much time left and needed around the clock care. Up until that point, Tita was doing it all.

I don’t think I’ll ever get over the feeling of believing in my heart that this pandemic cut Tatay’s life short. It robbed Tatay of his last years here on Earth to be spent mostly isolated, it prevented him from going back to the Philippines, and I personally believe that it stole a couple of good years he still had left in him. This is where my anger stems from. Fuck this pandemic. It took my Tatay away prematurely, and I’m pissed. I understand why we had to stop family gatherings to protect him and his health, but I hate that we weren’t there to keep him consistent company. I hate that we couldn’t hug him, take off our masks, or be in close proximity without feeling like we were putting him in danger. I’m upset that he left under these circumstances, Tatay deserved better than this depressing pandemic as his last 2 years.

I’m simmering in my anger and just letting myself feel whatever I’m feeling. I find myself thinking of alternate endings, what it would be like if COVID was never a thing, if the pandemic had an ending, if we continued with Sunday dinners despite the shutdown, if he had made it back to the Philippines before COVID, would things workout differently? Would there be an ending that I would be satisfied with? I don’t know. I just know that my family and I went into the pandemic with X amount of people, and we’re coming out of it with 1 less… I know there’s no use in dwelling on what could have been. This is the reality of it all. For the time being, I need something to blame.

Fuck this pandemic.

Allysa: To The Girl I Once Was

Story 7 of 10. This Body Positivity series is a project I hold dear to my heart. For years, I’ve struggled with my body image, and since reviving this blog, LoveYourzStory, I’ve shared so many of my personal stories, internal battles, and insecurities. This time, I wanted to hear your stories. I took to social media and found 9 individuals who were willing to share their body positive journey with not only me, but my readers as well. I collaborated with two Bay Area photographers, Missdirected (Instagram: @missdirected.art) to photograph these amazing people. Missdirected did not photoshop / alter any of the models’ faces or bodies. These stories are entirely written by them and in their own words, because after all, who can tell their story better than them?” -Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

This is Allysa’s story, edited by Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory:

“Dear Allysa,

I know you hate your body now, and you think you need to have a “perfect body” like you see all over social media. You also feel lost and stuck in your body because you just won’t accept it. You think about your body negatively, but that’s okay. You are going to realize that the “perfect body” comes in different shapes and sizes no matter how much you doubt yourself and the body you’re in. You are too focused on social media’s definition of a “perfect body,” and you keep asking yourself, “why can’t my body be like that.” You grew up thinking like that and it made you think that’s the only body type out there. You’re struggling with looking for clothes that fit you or what you’re comfortable in. You can’t get the clothes you want because you are afraid of what people think of you. You have to get oversized clothes to be comfortable because you don’t want people to make fun of your body.

The question is, “what is the definition of true beauty?” You’ll finally realize that “true beauty” comes in ALL shapes and sizes. Always keep that in mind because your body is beautiful just the way it is. 

Your current relationship with food is not the best. You binge eat every 1-2 hours because you are going through anxiety and depression, making you feel stressed out and confused. You think binge eating will help you get through all of the problems you are facing, but it won’t. You’re seeing your body and face changing because you binge eat. It’s to the point where you’re not comfortable taking pictures of yourself because you don’t like how you look. You’re too focused on what your body should be, even though you know it’s not good for you. You’re skipping some meals because you think it will help you lose weight, but it won’t help you mentally or emotionally. Even though food is good, you think you can’t control your eating habits. But the truth is you can control your eating habits if you believe in yourself. 

I know you’re going through countless mental breakdowns where you start to doubt yourself – from your body to your future. Your mental breakdowns have made a huge impact on your eating habits. 2018 will be the most traumatic year of your life because you are going to go through depression and anxiety. You will lose yourself mentally, physically, and emotionally. The real reason why you are going through mental breakdowns is because you are still grieving the death of your cousin, who you loved so much. You have a special bond with her & she inspires you to follow your dreams. She is still your light whenever you see her smile or her face. Right now, you can’t accept that she is gone and you feel empty inside because her presence is not with you anymore. But try to remember that she will always be watching over you and you’re doing everything you can to keep her spirit alive.

You just sit and cry when you want to be alone, and think that no one is going to help you. You say, “what am I going to do?” and think no one is going to understand what you’re going through. You keep blaming God for taking your cousin away so soon. But that’s not the case, you know your cousin fought for her life. She was strong & brave after all she had to go through. You’re not comfortable opening up about your mental breakdowns to anyone yet, that’s okay. But keeping your mental breakdowns to yourself is very unhealthy. You will realize that you can’t help yourself unless you have people helping and guiding you through it. 

You’re thinking about who you can talk to about your emotional breakdowns. You start to think of who you can trust that will help you, people that have always been there for you, even at your lowest. You’ll turn to your Godsister, Ezra, & your best friend, Janine, because they’re the only ones who have been there for you since the beginning. But how do you tell them? You need someone to be by your side through all of this. Once you reach out to them, they’ll completely uplift you. They tell you that they believe in you, which motivates you to be the best version of yourself. If it wasn’t for them, I don’t know where you’d be. After some time, you’ll finally have motivation and words of wisdom to finally realize that you are worth it and enough to be in this world.

2019 is the year that your life changes. That is the year you focus on yourself. You’ll finally accept who you truly are because you will learn that only you know the real you. So don’t put yourself down just because you don’t like how you look right now. You’ll finally find yourself by changing your eating and exercising habits. You start to journal, where you write about your day and all the things you like about yourself. You’ll start to portion out your food and drink more water. You’ll make working out a daily routine. Losing weight will make you proud of your hard work, it will boost up how you see your body, and you’ll gain confidence. The amazing thing is you did everything for yourself. You’ll start to believe that you are enough.

You’ll get back into dancing, and it’ll make you feel more confident. You’ve been dancing since 15 years old and your dream has always been to be a professional dancer. You stopped dancing at 19 years old because you didn’t like how you performed at a birthday event. Giving up dancing was hard for you because you loved it so much. Dance is how you expressed all of your feelings, but you felt like it was not going to take you anywhere in life. But how would you know? It’s okay to doubt yourself sometimes, but what’s not okay is quitting on yourself and what you love doing. If only you knew that right now, in the present day, you are pursing your dreams in becoming a professional dancer, and you’ll soon move to Los Angeles.

I want to apologize for how I treated you. I’m sorry for not believing in you. I’m sorry for the way I thought about our body- being too focused on what our body “should be,” not what it truly is. You are going to be so proud of the Allysa now, because you have come so far.” -Allysa

Kobe & Gigi Bryant : A Loss We Are All Grieving

This weekend I went to Massachusetts for one of my best friend’s wedding. I got to be a part of the wedding I heard about for months. It was such a high highlight of my 2020 so far. I left Massachusetts with feelings of love, appreciation for the friendships I have and made, and feeling thankful for the people in my life. Seeing my best friend take on a new milestone in life made me excited and hopeful for my own future – not only in love, but career wise and life in general.

Christian and I got to the airport ready to head back to San Francisco at the crack of dawn east coast time. I was on cloud nine, you know, that feeling that lingers when you come back from a vacation / great hangout. I kept telling him how much fun I had and how sad I was that it was over. It was truly a fun and exciting little get away to the east coast. It was my first time in Massachusetts, and our Airbnb was a huge house in Salem. There was snow, we explored the area, and I got to travel across the country with my best friend.

We touched down in San Francisco around 11:30 am. Everytime I go to the east coast and return back home, I always make the comment that I’m/ we are time traveling because of the time difference. We got our bags from baggage claim and took the journey to the app ride share area in SFO. Our Uber finally arrived.

A couple minutes into the ride Christian turns around, “Kobe died…” he said in shock.

“What?” A mixture of disbelief and thinking I’m hearing the information wrong. He had to repeat it about 3 more times for it to process in my head.

“Kobe Bryant. He died in a helicopter crash,” he told me.

“What the fuckkkk, damn…” I was incredibly sad and shocked, this can’t be real. The legend I rooted against every single time growing up because he was just too good. I was definitely the definition of a “hater,” because of the Golden State Warriors & Los Angeles Lakers rivalry. At a time where the Warriors were dubbed the worst team in the NBA, I cringed everytime I watched a Warriors game versus the Lakers, because I knew Kobe would do his thing. But my loyalty was/is strong, and I was Golden State faithful all the way, resulting in an adolescent obsession with rivalries and despising the opposing teams. Anyways, despite my past views, I was truly saddened. The news literally made my heart sink. What a tragedy. He was way too young.

My phone was on airplane mode the whole flight. And once Christian told me the tragic news, my phone started to blow up. Group chat after group chat, text messages, notifications left and right coming full force onto my phone. It was the topic of conversation in my personal life, and on social media. My family group chat on Instagram was going off, cousins sending screenshots, and news articles. By the minute, new information was trickling in. This didn’t seem like real life. I could only imagine how his family felt.

I first wondered how Vanessa must be feeling, how in just an instant her world would never be the same. It made me sick. And then I thought about his daughters. I stumbled across his Instagram a while back and stalked. It made me happy to see that he finally got to be more present in his family’s lives after retiring. I remember being shocked that he actually had 4 daughters, because the last time I stalked, B was still the youngest. It was beautiful to see that he and his wife were having a round 2 of the parent life now that he was retired. It made me genuinely happy for them. I thought of how thrilled his wife must’ve been to know that all the traveling and time apart would finally be over, to finally have her husband’s time to herself and to his girls.

Update after update. This time saying that his 2nd eldest daughter, Gigi, was in the helicopter with him. They had reported earlier that nobody survived the crash. My heart was broken. No way. This can’t be real. Please be a mistake.

I was unaware of Kobe and Gigi’s relationship and bond prior to their passing. But let me tell you, when all that media started circling the internet, and I saw their relationship just through photographs, I couldn’t take it. My heart is so heavy. And then I thought back to Vanessa Bryant. The pain to know that your partner and lover is gone is devastating. But to also lose a child at the same time? Look, that’s a new level of pain and sorrow, and my heart truly breaks for her. I pray that her and her girls find strength through this nightmare.

It pains me to know that his daughters have to some how carry on with their lives. That the younger 2 girls will only have photographs. Their pain is all I could think about since I learned of the news. It pains me to know they’re going through such a tragic event in the public’s eye.

My stomach gets sick when I imagine what the final moments on that helicopter was like. A parent’s worst nightmare. Just thinking about it makes my heart race and my stomach turn. Did they realize what was happening? What was being said? Those final moment scenarios are torturing me. I picture him embracing his baby girl, knowing in that moment that “this was it.” How helpless he must’ve felt, how scared and heartbroken he was knowing that he could do nothing.

Everyone I know – fan or not – is so shaken up by this tragedy. Nobody deserves to go out like that. Baby girl was so young and had her whole life to live. Not to forget the other passengers on the plane. I’m seeing photos of all who were on board, and my heart hurts. So many families in pain. So many people around the world grieving.

That just shows the impact that Kobe Bryant had. Strangers who didn’t even know him, but looked up to him, are grieving. Fan or not, you can’t help but be completely torn when you heard the news.

This tragedy is making a lot of people realize that tomorrow is never guaranteed. Unfortunately, we put ourselves in his family’s shoes, and realize that we need to be more grateful for our loved ones. Tragedies like this remind us that we need to leave nothing unsaid, though sometimes that’s a lot easier said than done. There is a veil of grief right now over the world. The passing of all those on board of that helicopter is too much to process. Everyone is feeling immense sadness and really reevaluating what’s important in life.

I was wondering what to write for this week’s blog post. But I couldn’t think of anything because all I was thinking about was this tragedy. I took out my deck of cards that I got for Christmas. I started flipping through prompts. Nothing felt worth while. I didn’t want to write. I wanted to wallow in my sorrows and feel these emotions. I came across a card prompt that read:

“What isn’t fair right now?”

This. This situation that’s unfolding right now. This isn’t fair.

My heart and prayers go out to his wife, kids, family, friends, & the family and friends of those on board. Rest in peace Kobe & Gigi Bryant. Your legacy will live on and be fulfilled through your family.

Kids Club

Blue carpet with colorful crayons that not only was on the floor, but also covered 40% of the wall. TV to my left, doorway with a half door to my right. If I look straight ahead I see the random column, also covered in that blue carpet.

This was my view for 4 years. I got my first job at the Kids Club in 2014, and it closed down officially June 1, 2018.

The start of this year, I got a new job at a preschool/ daycare, but I still worked at the Kids Club on Saturdays. Even when I had a new job, I couldn’t fully cut ties with my “roots.” There were rumors of the Kids Club closing, but I honestly didn’t think they would follow through, or if they did, it would be waaaayy after I graduated and have a Journalism related job. Wrong.

As I worked my last Kids Club shift, I started reminiscing on the last 4 years. All the people I met, all the parents I got close to, all the children I got to see grow right before my eyes, and the memories I’ll never get to relive. CHEEEEEESEEEEE. Yeah, I’m being cheesy as hell. But let me break it down…

This job was my new start in 2014. I was on my second semester in community college, I got myself out of a toxic relationship a month prior to getting hired, I just declared my major as “Early Childhood Education,” and this was my first job. Not only my first job ever, but also related to the field I wanted to get into. It was the start to my beginning.

When I first started working, the group of co-workers there were like my family. Even though we all went our separate ways, there’s a couple that I keep in touch with often and send non-stop memes to. I met so many people while working in the Kids Club. I noticed that I got close to a lot of the parents. On many occasions, I was the listening ear. Though I was (still am) young, many mothers looked to me for advice, to vent, to tell about their day or life in general. I built a lot of friendships with the mothers that used the Kids Club. I’ve heard their stories, I’ve heard their struggles, I’ve heard their side, I’ve heard (supposedly) the other side, I’ve heard what they’ve been through, I’ve heard the nasty drama they went through, I’ve heard their insecurities, I’ve heard the deepest parts of them that they so eagerly wanted to reveal and felt comfortable revealing to me.

I’ve always been all about the tea and beef. 🐸☕ Ironically, I try to avoid drama within my own life, but when it’s someone else’s drama I’m like YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS, SPILL THE TEA RIIIGHTTTT NOWWWWW, UPDATE MEEEEEE. I guess I’ve always been interested in other people’s lives, but not only in a nosey way, but also because I want to help somehow or give some type of input. A mom from the Kids Club would tell me all the time how she valued me as a friend because how wise I am for my age, and how I keep it real with her regardless of how she would react.

I’m realizing now that maybe this job steered me into the path I’m at now. I knew I ALWAYS wanted to write. I declared “Early Childhood Education” as my major, but I felt like I was settling. I love kids. I’ve always been good with kids. So 18 years old, fresh out of high school, in community college with an undeclared major, I’m like…. fuck it, just declare child development because you know you’re good at it. But deep down I knew I was taking the easy road – Not saying at all that it’s an easy job. I still work with children as I work towards my degree, and it is no easy task. But for me personally, I knew that I chose to play it safe because I was too scared to actually follow through with writing.

But how would I make a living off writing? What if it flops? Who even cares what I have to say? What if people think my work sucks? What writing major can take me further and open up more than one path?

But working at the Kids Club also made me realize that I was in the wrong major. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the kids, but something in me was like, you know… this is a great job for now, but you know that you’ll feel unfulfilled if you stay in this major because you’re too scared to take a chance with something else…

So I switched…. And I switched….. then I was undeclared…. then I switched again. And found myself in journalism. I’m glad I took many classes to see what I really was into. But for me, I always had to have a plan. Where would this major take me? What other opportunities can it get me if I don’t get that particular job I have in mind for this major? But at this point I was like: bro, this is the start of my 3rd year in community college, I need to transfer already. Yeah, Journalism, yeah, writing, sure, ok, DECLARED. I think I declared journalism as my major before I even took classes on it. I would over think every major I went into (and switched out of), but it’s funny that the major I stuck with, was a no brainer. I didn’t want to over think because I felt like I wasted a lot of time doing that. And partly, I was tired of switching. I wanted to pick something and transfer out already. I figured as long as it’s writing, I’ll figure it out. I was always uncertain if I was on the right track. And if I’m being real, there were many times where I was close to switching back to Early Childhood Education because I was afraid of the unknown.

It probably wasn’t until transferring to SF State that I realized this was for me. I realized journalism didn’t mean only hard news. Journalism was anything that I was interested in, with sources to back it up. People think journalism is just writing and doing breaking news, but it teaches so many other skills that can really take you down multiple paths. I realized that I’ve been doing journalism all along. My interest in other people’s lives and wanting to know their emotions / situations were pointing to journalism this whole time. In the beginning I wanted to write for entertainment, made up stories that I concoct in my head. But the more classes I took, I found myself wanting to use my work to put out a message. I wanted to inspire, to inform, to make some type of difference in the world even if my audience are a few individuals. What I wanted to do was right in front of me the whole time.

When I think of the Kids Club closing I get sad. I feel like it was such a big part of my life. I did a lot of growing and met a lot of people there. 4 years, I did a lot of thinking, self reflecting, crying, laughing, stressing, etc, in those 4 walls covered in blue carpet with crayons.

The Kids Club will always remind me of our love story. That was truly the beginning. When Christian and I first started talking I’d be trapped in the Kids Room while he worked front desk. I’d look forward to those “bathroom breaks” he’d take, and I would so happen to be standing at the door so we could talk. 😂 I fell inlove with my co-worker, and we have the gym to thank for it.

I knew I wouldn’t be working at a gym daycare forever. I knew this day would come, where I had to let go of my first job. I’m such an over thinker that I can’t help but look at the last 4 years like a movie. All the things I went through, how much I grew, all the shit that happened in those 4 years, it’s crazy!

Just the thought of knowing that the room doesn’t exist anymore makes me sigh. Time is changing and time waits for no one. It’s like the end of an era almost. I guess the universe has a way of forcing you to move on and do better things in your life. I was always hesitant to find a new job or move on. It seemed like everyone I worked with found better opportunities but I was too afraid to find mine. I was afraid of the unknown. I didn’t want things to change because if it changed, that means I’m back to square 1, taking a chance on my decisions. And I didn’t want to do that. But at the end of the 2017 I knew it was time to start another chapter. I found the job I’m currently in and started January 2018, while still working the Kids Club on Saturdays. Not 1 month into my new job, and talks about closing the Kids Club started going around. And here we are 5 months later and it’s closed for good. I felt like it was meant to be. That the universe was like “bruh you ain’t neva gonna leave, we gotta close this shit for you to leave.” 😂😂😂😂

Change will happen regardless. My last shift, most of the parents took down my number for future babysitting. I looked at the walls, covered in drawings. Some of the artists of the drawings have moved away for years already. I sifted through the DVD ruins, and got the movies that I brought throughout the years. My “Kids Club” movie was over.

I told Christian that we had to take a picture inside since that room had so much meaning to me and our relationship. We got one of the new workers to take our picture, *snap* *snap* *snap*, 20 snaps later and our Photoshoot was over. I turned off the lights and closed the half door behind me. That’s a wrap.

Photo above taken by Manager B.P.