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.

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 💕

Walang Hiya

“Walang hiya,” literally translates to “no shame”/ “shameless” in Tagalog.

My ears are no stranger to this saying. In fact, all my life I’ve heard the terms, “walang hiya,” / “walang ka hiya?!” (“Have you no shame?!”). This phrase was almost always said to my sisters and I by our parents. And it was most definitely said to check us and humble us with the quickness. When you hear someone say, “walang hiya,”(statement form) / “walang ka hiya?!” (Question form) to another person, they’re checking the other person’s character and actions. It is generally not a positive reaction, especially in its statement form, “walang hiya” is most likely followed with a head shake and look of disappointment.

“Have you no shame?” has been instilled in mind at a young age. Every Filipino kid has heard this term growing up. And to be honest, my parents still say this to us to this day! Everyone can relate to their parents telling them that they are shameless, to the point where it’s almost a joke. Well, for my cousins and I atleast. When someone is being out of pocket and takes a joke too far, we’ll laugh and throw in, “walang hiya!”

When I was thinking of what to write for this week’s blog post, I kept thinking of how I could summarize my 2019. I didn’t want to do the typical, “What has 2019 taught me…” / “My goals for 2020 are…” post. I thought back on how I changed from the beginning of 2019 to now, about to close out the decade. And all that came to my mind was, “Walang Hiya.”

Shameless. I was definitely shameless this year. “Walang hiya,” has always been seen as a negative thing, but for me, being shameless this year has brought me inner growth. It has been such a confusing year for me personally. I really had to dig deep and remember who I am, what I want, and where I want to be.

My 2019 new year’s resolution was to start posting consistently on this blog. January 2019 came and went, and my blog was mad crickety. I was freshly graduated, and wanted to start my passion projects. The only thing getting in the way of that was… myself. I was over thinking, being insecure, and shy about my work. It’s easy to say, “just start!” when you’re posting your work for the public to see and criticize.

May 2019 I walked the stage with my journalism class. And my graduation ceremony sparked something in me. At that point I was 5 months out of school, and being back in the school setting, even if it was just to walk the stage, ignited my fire again. I saw my professors, and it inspired me to get out of the slump I was in and do something – anything – writing wise. It took a little over a month, but July 2019 I started posting consistently.

In the past, when I was still in school and would post what I wrote every now and then, I would get insecure about what people would think, the engagement I would get on the post, the photo that went with it, etc etc etc. But now, I don’t care about the likes, the comments, if I look “nice” in the cover pic. The thing was, in the past, I did have “hiya.” I had shame, when I should’ve had pride in my work. I was always taught that there is a very thin line between being proud/humble and being cocky. Posting about my writing / occasional video projects made me feel weird. It made me feel like I was boasting about my work, showing off, and seaking attention. It took me a while to let go of that “hiya” and share my ideas/ posts.

Before I started posting consistently on my blog, therefore all my social media platforms to get more engagement, I was very particular about what I posted. I was one of those social media users that would post like, once a month, and was very choosy on what I chose to share. Like I said before, social media is what people want you to see of them. And for me, I didn’t really feel the need to share anything particularly personal. It was like “you can see my family, friends, boyfriend, and that’s about all I’m going to share.” I didn’t post things if it wasn’t “Instagram worthy,” or if I didn’t look cute in it. I didn’t want to post too frequent, and I didn’t want to have too many posts on my feed. Because more posts on my Instagram meant that I was giving the public more pieces to the puzzle of “me.”

When I started posting a blog post every Monday, all that went out the window. In the beginning I felt some type of way that I was over sharing my life, and posting way more than I ever did before. My blog is kind of like posting my diary entries for the world to see. It gets real real quick. But I knew that if I ever wanted to be known as a writer who writes about real shit, I have to share what I write. That was definitely a transition for me. I’m not one to share my personal life on a Facebook status, and you would never catch me having Twitter fingers if I had beef with anyone. I was always a “think what you want to think, I keep my circle small and the people that matter know the truth,” if I was ever in some drama. But now, here I am, sharing my deepest thoughts, my fears, my struggles, my triumph, for the public to see.

Some of the things I write about would certainly get a, “walang ka hiya?!” from my parents, which was part of the reason why I was hesitant on posting consistently. Surprisingly, my mom hasn’t hit me with the, “walang ka hiya?!” statement yet on anything I have written so far. I think it’s one of those situations where she thinks it in her head, but won’t say it out loud because she knows I’m an adult and that I want to reach a bigger audience. Her feedback to me once was that I curse too much on my blogs. “Its good, but just don’t use ‘fuck’ and ‘shit’ because its embarrassing, don’t you want people to read and like you? They may not like you if you curse so much.”

I responded by saying that I’m not writing for people to like me. I’m not changing my writing style to show face, because I’m not like that in person. If you know me, I type how I talk. People tell me all the time that they read my content and it’s like they hear me reading it. I have thought of what I post biting me in the ass. As a journalist, we were taught to be professional all across the board. But that’s why I don’t see myself in hard news, because I feel like I have too much personality. I went on to tell my mom that whoever has a problem with seeing cuss words in my writing, doesn’t have to read. I was taught that whatever content you choose to write about attracts a certain audience, and it’s okay if everyone isn’t into it.

Simultaneously while I’m posting consistently, I noticed 2019 was the year that I gave less and less a fuck about my outward appearance. I’m a preschool teacher, I’m always in leggings, no makeup, and a whatever top, because I’m constantly on the move. Might get shit on, might get boogers on me, might have to clean the whole unit, I literally never know. Even on weekends, I found myself not caring how I looked. And there was some freedom in that. But it sometimes made me sad. I wasn’t putting effort into my appearance because I genuinely didn’t care and was too lazy to put on makeup. But at the same time, it made me happy that I was secure in myself that I didn’t feel the need to look a certain way all the time. I also wake up at 5 am, there is literally no time to get cute anymore.

I took “I don’t care,” to a whole new level. Appearance wise, body wise, and all the above. But I mean this in a good way. I found no point in complaining about my appearance. I put less importance on my outter appearance and worked on the kind of person I was on the inside. I learned that I can only control myself, my actions, and my emotions. I can’t control how others react or how others interpret things. I realized my toxic traits and try to work on them. I’m quick with my words when I’m upset, and I’m still trying to learn the meaning of restraint. That’s one thing where I should have shame! But it’ll take time to break bad habits.

I made it a point this year to not support any business or brand that did not support me as a bigger bodied woman. That being said, I stopped buying undergarments from Victoria’s Secret, and started supporting Aerie for their body inclusivity. It was hard for me because I was a die hard Victoria’s Secret fan for years. I’ve spent a lot of money at Victoria’s Secret and they had my brand loyalty. But when they made that comment about plus size women and trans women, I couldn’t. I could no longer support a company that didn’t care about plus sized women like me. I had no shame in vocalizing my reasons. And now, Aerie loyalty it is.

2019 I really opened up myself to the public. I had “walang hiya” in a lot of things I did, and it worked in my favor. Growing up, I was taught that having “no shame” was a bad thing. Now, I want to share that having “walang hiya” doesn’t always have to be negative. Being shameless in my writing, life, and appearance has helped me grow into a more secure woman.

Here’s to having walang hiya in 2020 🥂