The Power Of No

NO.

What a simple word.

It’s straight to the point.

It firmly stands on its own as a response.

It only offends those who choose to be offended.

It’s such a straightforward and clear answer.

But the reality is, a lot of people have trouble saying it.

NO.

We’re almost taught to never say it

because it’s deemed unpolite.

But in doing so, there are no boundaries.

There is no say in what you really want

if yes becomes the expectation.

No becomes a bad thing,

even if it’s the truth.

“Wait… why?”

“What do you mean no?”

I mean, NO.

No explanation needed.

No opinions wanted.

No, don’t ask me again.

NO.

No I’m not trying to be rude when I say:

No one is entitled to your time,

to your money,

to your belongings,

to your energy,

if you don’t want them to be.

No, you’re not a bad person for saying no.

You may feel that way at first,

because you’re so used to saying yes,

when you really want to say no.

But with time you will see,

there is more power in the word than just guilt.

It’s freedom in what you really want.

It’s your choice.

It’s you putting your happiness and needs before others.

No, I don’t want this.

No, I won’t do that.

No, I won’t tolerate this.

No, it’s not cool with me if you do that.

No, I don’t want to spend my time that way.

No, I refuse to let that get to me.

No, I know better and know that’s not true.

No, I said what I said.

No, I’m sure I want this.

No, I’m not going to change my mind.

No, I don’t feel bad for saying no.

And no, that is not selfish of you.

Yes, now you’re getting the point.

No isn’t a bad word.

There is power in the no.

Cut-Off Culture

Is cut-off culture toxic?

I cringed a little just typing that out. This is why: I personally believe that the word “toxic” has lost its meaning in the last couple of years. It’s become an automatic trigger word, and anything or anyone deemed as “toxic” is immediately canceled without question. The word itself doesn’t quite hold the same magnitude and meaning as it once did since it’s being used to describe every scenario – from something or someone actually being toxic to just using the word to describe any minor inconvenience. But, for the sake of simplicity, I beg the question once more… Is cut-off culture toxic?

To answer the question, “Is cut-off culture toxic,” I would say yes and no. There are legit times and situations where cutting someone off is necessary. The act of cutting someone off is not in itself toxic or wrong. Depending on the situation, cutting someone off can be for the better. However, the act of glorifying cutting people off to uphold a certain persona and façade is toxic. The “trending” trait is to put up a front and be proud of being unempathetic, petty, and quick to drop someone if things get hard. Social media plays a big role in that, the idea that the cheese stands alone and doesn’t need anyone’s companionship. Though that is admirable to an extent, it’s also very unrealistic. The act of cutting people off turns problematic when it’s done in such a high volume for minor issues to avoid communicating and confrontation.

There seems to be a division between people’s view on cutting people off. Removing someone from your life in an abrupt and obvious way because of an argument, misunderstanding, or history of manipulation can be very liberating. Overall, the trending advice is in support of cutting people off. But where do you draw the line? When is cutting someone off too excessive and not justifiable? There are those that are proud of their ability to throw out a relationship, whether that be family relationships, romantic relationships, or friendships. Usually when someone says they cut someone off, we tend to congratulate them – assuming that if they’re the one that did the snipping, the other party was automatically in the wrong.

Depending what algorithm you get on your socials, other people’s opinions on cut-off culture can become an echo chamber. Ironically, my Instagram algorithm literally brings up both sides of the coin. I come across posts that praise others for cutting off toxic people that were once in their circle. A lot of these posts are intended to be empowering and motivation to others to “clean up” their social circle of all the untrustworthy, draining, and “toxic” people in their lives. These posts glorify how liberating it is to remove people from your life. Though that may be true, it doesn’t give the full scope of what someone goes through if they do decide to cut someone off. Yes, it can be liberating, but that’s usually later down the road when everything that transpired has been processed. The general message circulating is that cut-off culture is a good thing, it’s what people who want to heal do. Cutting someone off is sold as a way to protect yourself.

The problem with the media’s oversimplified justification and support of cutting someone off, is that viewers start to think that the only way to achieve happiness or find peace is to dispose of a relationship that isn’t perfect. As we all know, no relationship or friendship is perfect. There will always be disagreements, small tiffs, and room for improvements on both sides. Like the old saying goes, there is growth in staying and growth in leaving, you just need to know which one to pick. And with time, the answer may change. The nonchalant support of cutting someone off doesn’t clarify on what grounds you should consider severing ties with someone and when to keep trying. But of course, it is all personal preference.

Like with most things, cutting someone off is not as simple as black and white. It’s not fair to say cutting someone off is 100% right or 100% wrong. There is always a gray area with pros and cons. When you plan to remove someone from your life, it doesn’t mean that you’re just upset with them and plan to give them the cold shoulder for some time. A real cut-off is removing someone completely out of your life. This is usually a permanent action one takes when they feel like they need to protect themselves emotionally, mentally, or physically from another. It may or may not bring closure to both parties, and it is not uncommon for one party to be totally lost and confused as to what happened. Prior to the cut off, an explanation may be made, but it isn’t mandatory. Cutting someone off is like the death of a relationship and ghosting all at the same time.

Sometimes distancing yourself and ending relationships with people that you were once close to is necessary. Cutting someone off is not always a negative thing. In certain scenarios, it is necessary for someone to move on, get closure, or put themselves first. And putting yourself first and being selfish is not always a bad thing. When you put yourself first and start listening to your wants and needs, you will learn more about what you will and will not tolerate. When you find that some people or situations don’t meet that requirement anymore through their actions and words, it is up to you to set that boundary. When someone else can’t respect that boundary, they may feel the need to cut that person off. When it’s not meant to hurt someone and it’s more so coming from a place of self-care and self-respect for yourself, you know that ending ties with someone is for personal growth.

A big part of what makes cutting someone off toxic or not is how it is dealt with after the fact. When it’s dealt with privately and the person doesn’t feel the need to justify their actions to others or on social media, it’s usually a good sign that it was for themselves. Of course, they may talk with their close circle of friends to vent, but there’s no need or want to have to explain themselves on public platforms. This is where the true healing takes place. Healing happens when you don’t feel like you have to prove anything to anybody else, when you’re content with letting people think whatever version they choose to believe.

But even if going separate ways for good is the “right” thing to do, it doesn’t always mean it’s an easy thing to do. I’m sure that plenty can relate to knowing someone or something isn’t right for them, but it pains them to let that relationship go. This is why it’s important to really weigh out your pros and cons to see if cutting someone off is necessary or not, because it’s such a drastic step. Whether it’s a family relationship, romantic relationship, or friendship, we usually think long term and never anticipate that these relationships will fall apart. So when they do, and even more so if it’s your choice to let go of the relationship, it can feel like the death of what once was. They aren’t “gone” permanently like in death, but figuratively, they no longer exist in your world, and that can be a lot to process. And even if you’re the one doing the cutting off, it sucks to admit that it still hurts to some degree to do so, regardless of how “done” or confident you are in wanting to sever ties.

A lot of people think that cut-off culture is problematic because it gives people an easy out to avoid conflict. It’s so much easier to sweep something under the rug and act like nothing happened – or even more extreme – that someone doesn’t exist after a bump in the road. Some claim that cutting people off is an action done by people with poor communication skills. Yet again, I agree an disagree with that explanation. Yes, I do believe that people use cutting others off as a way to avoid the real issues at hand. Sometimes it can be something so minute, but it can lead someone to end a relationship. There are some people that would rather ghost you and act like you never existed than see their part in an argument and admit that they’ve caused some hurt. But on the flipside, if someone feels like they have been taken advantage of to some degree, they may not feel the need to explain why. Or maybe they have tried time and time again to communicate the issue and voice their opinions, but were shut down or ignored. At that point, I wouldn’t feel the need to try to communicate. But how can you tell which scenario it is – plain immature, or someone at their wits end?

For me, one of the biggest red flags is knowing that someone has a history of cutting people off. If someone is known for claiming other people are toxic and boasts about how they cut them off, it almost always has me questioning who was really the problem. When a person uses cutting people off excessively, or as leverage to manipulate others, is when it becomes toxic. This is probably why some think that cut-off culture is toxic, because it’s being used as a tool by people that go back and flip flop on their word. You know, the kind of people that talk all that mad shit when they cut someone off, but you see them with the same individual some time later. This is not to say that you can’t change your mind on wanting someone back in your life. But it all comes down to how it’s done. If you’re always having a dramatic exit with multiple people and publicize it for everyone to see, don’t be surprised when you’re labeled as the person that cried “cut-off.” It’s just a clearer indication that people like that really don’t know what they want and have poor impulse control.

We have created a reality where it’s everyone’s word against everyone else’s. This is a dangerous game because this gives people the power to claim toxicity with any minor inconvenience. Some have fallen into a pattern where any disagreement or differing opinion from their own is considered valid grounds to cut someone off. It becomes toxic when someone is just cutting people off because they don’t want to hear the truth, a different point of view, or don’t like what they’re hearing. Most of the time, the cut off isn’t mutual, and because of this, there will always be 2 different stories, 2 different realities.

I especially find cut-off culture problematic when people feel the need to boast about how they cut someone off on social media. It’s one thing to end a relationship for your own well-being, but to bring it up time and time again in an distasteful manner is something I get second-hand embarrassment from. It’s the bragging for me, when it’s apparent to everyone else that there’s still some hurt behind the gloating. The goal in airing out the tea on social media is to get people to back you up and see your side, and to see the other person to be in the wrong or toxic. Usually when this is done, the goal is to have others cancel them or at the very least, see them in a different light. And then for the biggest cherry on top for the second-hand embarrassment sundae is when these actions are claimed to be being the bigger person, taking the higher road, and choosing not to associate with drama.

There is always a gray area in everything. It’s true that cutting someone off can be valid in some cases, but toxic in other cases. There are scenarios where cutting ties with someone is necessary, and then there are other times when it’s not. Don’t let social media fool you, it’s okay to set boundaries with others and let time tell if the relationship with blossom or end. It’s okay to not jump the gun, don’t make rash decisions because the media is telling you that you should handle a situation this way or that way. Whether some like to believe it or not, we all have toxic traits. No relationship, friendship, or family is perfect. It just depends on who you think is worth the effort and grace.

Thank You 2022

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas 2022

Christmas has always been my most favorite time of the year,

both sides of my family have always went above and beyond to spread the Christmas cheer.

No matter the circumstances, Christmas always came on time,

our family got together, we enjoyed each other’s company, and everything was just fine.

As a kid, you don’t really feel the magnitude of what it means to be present and just be there,

until the people you love get older, some are gone, and you realize the holidays can be unfair.

Last Christmas, Christmas wasn’t Christmas-ing the way it used to,

it was the first Christmas without Tatay, and it was so different than what we knew.

Oh, what a year’s time can do!

I laugh a little because it’s true.

The holidays looked completely different for me and the Cabillo family this year.

I say this because more than half of the family weren’t even here.

I never really understood what it was like to have a good chunk of the family not near.

In fact, if you know anything about me, you’ll know that’s one of my greatest fears.

This year brought a lot of changes and relocations to say the least,

but that doesn’t mean that the holiday celebrations should just cease.

Phone calls, texting, sharing pictures and videos of all our different celebrations,

it still felt like we were all together, even if we’re in different locations.

Ironically, we are closer than ever before,

the distance makes us appreciate the quality time that much more.

Tatay is no longer here to celebrate with us in person,

but I know he’s proud of the way we remained close, and I know that for certain.

In my dreams he’s still present at our family events,

and in my heart I know he’s still there and that makes me more content.

On the flip side, the Cruz family was finally almost all together at last.

This Christmas celebration was bigger than most of the parties in the recent past.

I looked around at all the new faces and new family additions,

even coming up with some new family traditions.

I thought to myself, “If only Mama and Tatay could be here to see what they created,”

I started to feel a little sad, but then I changed my perspective and retranslated…

“Look at this huge family that they left behind, one that still gathers,

togetherness is all they cared about, and that’s all that really matters.”

It’s been so long since I’ve celebrated a Christmas with them both,

but on the flip side, look at the whole family’s growth!

I guess Christmas will never always look the same,

but it’s nice to look back and see how far we all have came.

Some have passed on, some will move away, and some will remain right here,

so enjoy the moment because it’ll never be exactly the same year after year.

So Merry Christmas to those near or far,

especially to the guardian angels who watch over us where ever we are.

Just Start

When I was a kid, I used to collect a lot of stickers. Any and all stickers – puffy stickers, the “homie” stickers you get from those 50 cent machines, glittery ones, leftover hearts from the whole sheet you would get when you purchased valentines, Sanrio stickers, Lisa Frank stickers, and even stickers that were kinda janky. I had all these stickers that I kept in a treasure chest box. I got it from a bookstore and begged my dad to buy me it. The buried treasure treasure box came with a parrot that could stay on my arm with a scrunchie-like elastic band attached to it, a telescope, an eyepatch, and more. I remember my older sister reading all the things that it was supposed to come with and realizing that a lot of things were missing. Anyways, I emptied out all of the contents and made it my sticker collection box. They were literally my greatest treasures.

However, I very seldomly used them. I just couldn’t bring myself to peel off their backing and stick them somewhere. What if I regretted it? What if I needed it in the future for a better reason? If I stick it on something, I will never get to reuse it again. Yes, I know, so fucking intense for a fucking 5-ish year old to be thinking about. I never wanted to use them because I wanted the security of knowing I could still use them at a later date. I thought there would be a time and a place where every sticker could be used. There were times where I would think of using a sticker and wonder if this is the “perfect time,” but I always refrained and talked myself out of it. “There might be a time when you’ll need it,” I would tell myself, as if there were so many times that would require a sticker. So, I would hold off.

I was perfectly okay with just admiring my sticker collection. I didn’t use them, but I would open up my treasure chest and lay out all the stickers I had out in front of me very often. It would bring me so much joy knowing that I had such a vast collection. Maybe deep down, I knew I could never bring myself to use them because I liked the security of knowing that I had every single sticker I’ve ever had in one place, unused, and still perfect. Still, I would think of made up scenarios of when I would maybe use them. I was motivated and excited to use them, but never used that motivation and excitement to convince myself that it was worth it, and that the perfect time was right then and there.

At a young age, I learned that you have to think ahead and plan out things strategically. But in doing so, I never really got to enjoy my stickers. If I used them, I could’ve enjoyed them, even if it was only for a short time. I was so focused on the future and thinking that there would be a “better time” for the sticker to be used, that I never got the chance to use any of them. Instead, they remained in my treasure chest, unused and collecting dust. They were nice to look at, and I loved the collection, but I never used them at a later date like I had carefully calculated. I essentially wasted all the stickers I treasured because I was thinking there would be a better time to use them in the future. What sucks even more is the fact that I don’t even know where that treasure box is anymore.

The idea that there is a “perfect time” for certain life events and when to take risks is a belief that was hard to unlearn. Often, we rob ourselves of opportunities and growth when we think that we need to do XYZ first. Thinking that certain things in our lives have to align first before we move onto starting another task will just have the process be delayed. When I find myself myself in the mindset of thinking there will be a “better time” to do something, I notice that I just lag on getting it done. I psych myself out and end up not following through with what I was so excited to start.

Sometimes, there is no “better time” to do something than now, in the present. I know that may sound cliché, but it’s true. Especially if it’s a desire to start a new habit or the first step to a goal, the earlier you start, the better. I have fallen into the habit of saying “now is not the right time,” when things aren’t happening the way I had planned. And though that may be true for valid reasons, it’s way easier to have an idea remain just an idea than to make it a reality. And you don’t want to set yourself up for failure. When you have the motivation and inspiration to do something, act on it. Because if you’re anything like me, the procrastination will kick in and you don’t want to risk not following through at all. You’ll never regret just starting.

Thinking that there is a better time to do something, and waiting until you have all your ducks in a row, will have you waiting for the “right time” forever. Like my stickers, I missed out on enjoying them in the present day because I was too hung up on the future. You can’t plan everything down to a T, but you can do yourself a favor and get that head start in whatever has been on your mind. You don’t want to risk the possibility of regretting not making a move in the past, or not capitalizing on the present. You will never be in the position where you think, “I need less time to do this.” If anything, the real planning happens when you give yourself more than enough time to be able to take your time. Progress comes in baby steps, so don’t wait too long to take the first step.

I started this writing journey over 3 years ago in 2019. I decided to take the leap of faith to write consistently when I was the most confused in my life. I had just finished college, walked the stage 5 months later, and didn’t know what to do with my life. A lot of things held me back, mostly self-doubt, but I decided to just go for it. I literally had nothing to lose, and the anxiety of not doing anything writing related had me wishing I had the courage to start. I would think about it every day. I kept saying after XYZ I would start, and never got around to it. I knew that I was just playing myself at that point – the longer I took, the longer it would take to see progress. And at the time, I felt like my time was limited and I had to do something before I actually lost my mind in the post-grad blues.

I was so nervous when I started sharing my content online. Like I have said many many many times before – so many times that I feel like I’ve written about 10 blog posts saying the same thing and same stories, but whatever, dawg – I worried about how my current followers would react to the sudden shift in my content. It was no longer me sharing highlights of my personal life, it would be sharing my thoughts, my views, my own lived experiences, but also the experiences of others. I didn’t know how long I could keep the blog going, I didn’t know if my topics were interesting, I didn’t know if people would care to read. But I knew I had to take the chance.

I re-started the blog again in summer 2019, but I was thinking of it long before I actually did it. I wanted to write consistently on it after my class ended in May 2016, but found it easy to neglect because I was still in school. It was one of those things where you hope to one day get around to it, but you know in the back of your mind there’s a great chance that you won’t. When I was officially done with my studies at the end of 2018, I had literally nothing holding me back. I tried to weasel myself out of it, saying that now I was too busy with work. But I quickly realized that I wasn’t playing anyone but myself.

It wasn’t until I returned back to school to walk the stage and have my graduation ceremony months later, did I realize how much I was playing myself. I saw my professors that I haven’t seen in a while, and it re-sparked my inspiration to write. The only person getting in the way of me and my success was my own damn self. And even after realizing all that, it still took a couple more months for me to just say, “fuck it,” and get it started.

I always told myself that I needed to have a plan before I started posting consistently. I wanted to make sure everything was in place and in line for me to get the ball rolling. But, like many things, it did not go as planned. I knew that was just my own way of prolonging the process and not taking accountability for my actions. I wasn’t going to get the ball rolling because I was too lazy to get the ball rolling. I kept postponing the start date because I was nervous and let the self-doubt speak louder than my desire to start. But it came to a point where my anxiety of falling behind gave me the greatest push, and I frantically started with no plan, no schedule, nothing. And here we are, 3.5 years later.

My advice to anyone wanting to start something – whatever that may be – is to just start now. There will never be a “perfect time” to do something. Don’t wait for yourself to be ready, wait for the spurts of motivation and inspiration you have, and act on it in the moment. There will never be a better time to start than right now. You never hear people saying that they regretted starting too early, it’s always that they regret not starting earlier.

Waiting for the right time to do something is just a lie we tell ourselves when we’re unsure of the future. Like my sticker collection, 5 year old me waited and waited for the “perfect time” to use them. I refrained from using my stickers because I was always worried that there would be a “better time” to use them in the future. Instead, they remained in my treasure chest collecting dust. Don’t let your goals and dreams be like my sticker collection. Capitalize on the moments where you have the motivation to follow through with your idea. Don’t have your amazing ideas collecting dust in the back of your mind. Act on those ideas and just start. The first step is the hardest step, but you’ll never know where it might lead you if you don’t take the leap of faith. There is no better time than right now.

How Do You Ask For Help?

How do I ask for help? In short, I don’t.

People handle stress and personal problems in different ways. I’ll never forget when I dropped blog post #10, where I shared my struggles with body dysmorphia and my weight. In the post, I touch on an old relationship that was ridiculously toxic and was essentially the catalyst of my eating disorder in high school. I remember posting it that night, and seeing the huge response it was getting. I was sitting in my traditional spot on the couch in the livingroom while my older sister sat in hers. Everyone was reposting me, the likes were skyrocketing, WordPress was notifying me that I was getting a lot of traffic all at once.

My utter shock to the support I was receiving made my older sister read what I had just posted. At that point, my little sister was reposting me from her room, quoting me directly from the blog. I awkwardly laid there, knowing that she was reading something that I never really shared in depth with others. It’s ironic that I felt awkward that she was reading something so personal, yet I published it online for the whole world to see. Sometimes I forget that aspect – that literally anyone could be reading this right now – it’s a weird but cool concept. By the end of it, she expressed her approval of the post.

She stood up and walked over to me, “Why didn’t you ever tell me, bitch?!” she said in tears, halfway laughing and half way pissed. We awkwardly hugged, an uncommon act in my family dynamic. My eyed welled up with tears.

My sisters and I are fairly close. So it was somewhat of a shock for her to read what I went through and not knowing the severity of it all. I struggled with self-esteem and my body for as long as I could remember, but reading it all laid out on the table like that was probably overwhelming for a loved one to read. Her older sister instincts kicked in, and she clung onto certain parts of my story. She was so bothered to learn that I had experienced disrespect to the point where I questioned my own value. I don’t remember what I responded to her accusatory statement, Why didn’t you ever tell me, bitch?! But we didn’t go too in depth as to why.

But the real reason why I didn’t open up about my struggles at the time? Shame. Embarrassment. Fear of being judged. Not wanting to involve family in my personal matters. But I think everything boils down to the fact that personally, I don’t know how to ask for help. Or better yet, I don’t know when to ask for help. When I finally ask for help or admit that I need help, I’m already drowning in the mess that I have helped create. I carry the burden until I am at my absolute breaking point, then in a panic, I will let others know that I’m in need of help. And I think a lot of people can relate to the fact that opening up about certain things to those around you, whether big or small, can be really difficult.

For me, my inner circle of friends and family know the gist of what’s going on in my life. I may not go into detail each time or tell every single story, but they can give you a little synopsis of what’s happening in my life. I’ve noticed too that I vent to different people for different things. Some I go to for life advice and worries, relationship woes, vent about friendships, family matters, work drama, hopes and dreams, etc. Some of these people know all the above, while some may just know about some of the topics listed. We all have our go to people to vent to, and we confide in different people depending on the matter at hand.

I think back to my middle school days or high school days where every single problem, fight, or situation was shared with my best friends and those closest to me. I can’t count how many detailed petty arguments and stories my friends have been through and told me about. And I can only imagine what they remember from what I used to share. I’m sure plenty can relate – when we’re younger, we tend to overshare, vent about everything, and ask for advice – maybe even too much advice. So much so that everyone else’s opinions helped weigh out what you were going to do. It was a group decision, rather than your own.

Now a days, I find myself just generalizing how everything is going, and if I’m really feeling saucy, I might give a couple of stories to back up my reasoning. It’s not that I don’t have time to update those around me anymore, I just find that the older I get, the more private I’m becoming. The irony since I literally post weekly blogs about my personal life and my views, but whatever. And I don’t mean to say that in a secretive way. I’m not hiding anything, and I still overshare a lot with my close friends, but not all things need to be shared all the time. Nobody has the time to be updating everyone on everything. The important things will come out, as well as the funny and small things if it’s relevant.

I have a really bad habit of isolating myself when I’m going through something stressful. There is literally no in between for me – it’s either I’m telling detail for detail, every story, every step of the way, or I say absolutely nothing about the matter until much time has passed. Even in my writing, I realized I write about things after the fact, when everything is said and done and over with already. It’s exactly what happened with my older sister. She couldn’t believe everything I had bottled up inside and dealt with alone. I tend to isolate when I’m so stressed out that venting out to someone seems like more work than relief. I’m so lazy that if I don’t tell you the very first thing in the story, I probably won’t say anything until it’s relevant because I don’t want to start from the beginning when too many things have accumulated to the present day.

When I find myself in a pickle, I turn to those closest to me for advice. When I really thought about it though, I don’t go to people for help. Instead, I go to them to vent, to be heard, to say how I really feel in the moment. I’m not necessarily expecting to be given an answer on what to do, I just want to let it all out. For me, I realized that as I get older, I bottle everything inside until I’m pushed to the edge and need to go on a venting rage. Only then will every single detail be shared and every story be told. I literally wait for the situation to fall apart or boil over to some extent before I notify anyone. And even then, I’m not asking for help, I’m just saying how I feel out loud.

When you’re venting, you want to express everything you’re feeling in the moment, you want to feel validated in your emotions, and you want to hear opposing thoughts and opinions. Usually after a good venting session, I leave the conversation feeling more calm and like my thoughts are clearer. Saying what’s bothering me out loud helps me sort things out in my head. It also makes it more real when you vent out loud. Almost every time, the person I’m venting to offers their wisdom and advice. Sometimes you need to hear your friends’ points of view to see the bigger picture. They know you pretty well and can help steer you back in the direction you need to go. And there are times where you need to hear the truth, no matter how hard it is to take.

I find it difficult to ask for help sometimes because I have the stubborn notion in my head that I need to deal with things on my own. I never want my personal problems to be someone else’s burden to carry because I know that nobody is responsible for me or my personal issues. My way of reaching out for help is venting. And even then, I’m not asking for help. I’m simply keeping those closest to me in the loop of what’s happening in my life. The advice comes naturally, and even though help was not outwardly asked for, it’s what’s given through words of affirmation. Sometimes it’s the advice you get from others that will actually help you help yourself.

I may not outwardly ask for help, but I’ll ironically be lowkey offended when my loved ones struggle in silence. Naturally, I want to be there for those I care about that are going through it. I want to be of assistance when I can be, and don’t want anyone to feel alone. Yet, there are times when I do exactly the same thing and isolate when the going gets tough. Sometimes we need to see ourselves through our loved ones eyes – they don’t want you to feel alone. It’s okay to ask for help, whichever way you express wanting that help. You don’t have to do figure out everything on your own.

Ingrid: Content Creating Mama

This is story 8 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Creatives Series. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know 11 individuals who are passionate about creating. It was interesting to learn where each individual drew their inspiration from. I wanted to shift the attention on other Creatives and tell their stories on what motivates and excites them in their respective field. Thank you to everyone who participated in this series! – Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

Ingrid isn’t your typical Disney fan that grew up visiting the parks and experiencing all things Disney, though this is a common misconception her followers may have. Ingrid is known for her social media presence as an influencer. Her posts about Disney outfit ideas exploded on TikTok in the thick of the pandemic, and she has not looked back since. However, she doesn’t limit herself to just posting everything and anything Disney, she also posts outfit inspiration, mom tips and experiences, trips, the occasional collaborations, as well as anything else she feels like sharing. Ingrid has definitely found her creative niche on social media and has enjoyed sharing her journey online, as well as connect with other creatives and mothers.

Ingrid and her family moved from Mexico to the US when she was about 4 years old when her grandma passed away. Her fondest memories are the times her and her family would explore San Francisco, which is why the city holds a special place in her heart. She remembers visiting a Disney store in San Francisco when they first moved, memories like these add to her love for Disney. However, Ingrid wouldn’t consider herself a Disney super fan that collects everything and is up to date with everything revolving around the company. Her love for Disney mostly revolves around the family time and effort her parents took to make the memories happen.

Disney has always been a huge part of her life growing up. Ingrid’s mom tells her stories of how she would collect all the classic movies when Ingrid and her brother were kids. She reminds Ingrid of how much she used to love Mulan, watching it over and over again. To this day, Ingrid still remembers a very specific Winnie the Pooh outfit and that trip to the Disney store in San Francisco when they first moved. Disney was always incorporated in her childhood, but going to the parks and meeting characters weren’t any of those core memories. And that’s because Ingrid’s first time at Disneyland was when she was about 13 or 14 years old. Her parents saved up to take the family to Disneyland for her brother’s 16th birthday, and Ingrid loved the entire experience and being able to look back on the home videos they took.

“I think my love for Disney is tied to all these core memories I have with my family,” Ingrid shared. “It didn’t come easy for my parents to take us to the parks or buy us Disney merchandise at the time. So now looking back, it’s something I genuinely appreciate and I often find myself getting emotional now that I get to experience that with my own kid.”

Ingrid never thought that her personal love for Disney would someday be such a staple in her online presence and side profession. It only seemed right that Ingrid attend school in the city that she grew up to love – she graduated with a Journalism degree with a minor in Humanities from San Francisco State University. Her college years allowed her to learn so much about herself and got her thinking of what she wanted to do in the next coming years. When Ingrid graduated, she didn’t have a set goal to find her dream job, let alone knowing the next steps to make that happen. She kept working retail and played around with social media to keep her occupied.

Working her retail job led her down a whole other path – marriage and motherhood. She met her husband at work and they welcomed their first baby in the midst of the pandemic. When Ingrid and her husband first started dating, they connected on their similar upbringing in regards to Disney. Even though her husband had childhood experiences of going to the parks at a younger age, Ingrid exposed him to a whole new Disney experience when they first visited for the first time together. She showed him so many things at Disneyland that he wasn’t even aware of, despite his previous visits in the past. Now, visiting the parks is something the couple both look forward to, especially now that they have their son.

Being a first time mom is already scary with not knowing what to expect, but having a baby during a pandemic was a whole different ballgame. When Ingrid first found out she was pregnant, she was in a “completely normal world,” being able to have a gender reveal party, visiting Disneyland with her husband, and going to doctor’s appointments together. The 2nd half of her pregnancy was completely different – everything shutdown, she attended appointments alone, her husband wasn’t allowed in the room until she was in active labor, and had to wear a mask while pushing. They welcomed their son in June 2020.

Ingrid had her baby in the thick of the pandemic. Everything was closed and restrictions were at their peak. She suffered from postpartum depression, and not being able to go outside, or do anything really affected her mental health. Like everyone else, she found herself extremely bored. Ingrid grew up watching YouTube and taking pictures – she loved consuming content but never really had intentions of getting into it other than just for fun. Her experience with going viral happened entirely by accident.

If it wasn’t for the pandemic, Ingrid isn’t entirely sure if she would’ve joined TikTok. But she hopped on the TikTok wagon in an attempt to have a creative outlet. Originally, she wanted her TikTok to focus on mom content like creating sensory bins for her son. But her love for fashion proved to be a hit online. She has always been into uploading outfit ideas, but it was 2 videos, “Outfits I’ve Worn To Disney,” that went viral. A huge chunk of her TikTok followers came from her videos that went viral. Ingrid was completely unaware of the Disney community on Instagram, so when she decided to merge her socials, she saw more of a consistent following from the Disney community through mutuals and networking with other Disney creators.

“Because majority of my content included sharing my love for Disney, I was able to reconnect with past networking contacts from a story I wrote in college and everything kind of just spiraled from there,” Ingrid explained.

Ingrid’s first collaboration was with The Walt Disney Museum, where she was invited to check out the museum in exchange for TikTok content. She was all in and not skeptical at all because she had already networked with them prior to in college when she featured them in one of her stories for a class. Not only did Ingrid see this as a great opportunity to collab with the Disney Museum, she also thought it would be an amazing way to network as well. She believes networking is so important – more important than followers and numbers. When they allowed her to bring a few guests with her, she invited local Disney content creators to join her so they could not only produce content, but introduce herself and meet new people.

Ingrid has never been one to be intimidated by someone who has a bigger following than her. She genuinely wants to see others succeed and be happy with whatever they choose to do. If there’s any way that Ingrid can share her success with others and open doors for them, she’ll do it. Ingrid humbly admits that even though it can get easy to let the followers, likes, and feedback from others get to someone’s head, she chooses to not let any of that data cloud her judgment. This is something she likes to do for fun, and she knows at the end of the day, this is all just pictures and videos she likes to share. And she admits that if she were to care about statistics, followers, competition, and other things that come with being an influencer, she would stop posting. This is something that she does for fun and never wants it to bring out feelings of jealousy, competition, or stress.

“I never want this to feel like a competition or a job, that’s what makes it not enjoyable for me!” She said.

In fact, Ingrid is the opposite of competitive. Instead of trying to one up others that post similar content, she tries to befriend them. She has made so many connections and friendships through her social media platforms. They range from other mothers, Disney lovers, park goers, fashionistas, and so on! She has even met some of her online friends in real life – going to Disneyland and featuring in each others’ content. The community is very friendly and supportive if you want it to be. It’s pretty cool that we live in a world where a simple follow and commenting on each others’ posts will build a relationship, so when you meet in person, you feel like you already know each other. Of course there are some nerves when it comes to meeting new people in person, but so far, Ingrid has been pretty lucky with everyone she has met being super nice and friendly.

Photo By: Taylor Jaxson (Instagram: @taylorjaxsonphotography)

Disney is such a huge company, and having a connection with anything tied to the company has opened so many doors for Ingrid and her fellow content creating friends. Ingrid has found that brands usually reach out through email. It will usually include a proposal of what product they want you to feature on your social media, as well as the rate of pay. It varies from asking for actual posts on your feed to posts on your stories, it all depends.

When it comes to collaborating with other companies, Ingrid finds herself turning down the majority of the brand deals sent her way. There are times where the brand is expecting too much for what they’re offering, so they go back and forth before making a decision. But more likely than not, Ingrid turns down companies for the simple fact that she just does not agree with their product, enjoy it, or fits her audience. Every brand deal that she has moved forward with, she has used prior to working with them! Ingrid makes sure that she endorses brands that she can personally stand behind.

When it comes to collaborating with other companies or people, Ingrid’s advice is to just reach out! Reaching out can be a very intimidating thing, especially when you are approaching brands, but the worst that can happen is them saying no or not responding. Her advice is to just go for it and believe in yourself, because you never know what can come from it. Especially since Ingrid has met most of her internet friends from collabing, she knows first hand what a simple direct message or email can do.

When Ingrid first dipped her foot into the influencer and collaborating world of social media, she was never really skeptical or hesitant of what it would lead to. It was never really a conversation that had to be had with people around her, she pretty much just did it and didn’t make it a big deal. Of course, she was cautious of what she posted, but she didn’t have to think long and hard about her decisions. Since she was so chill about her social media presence that her family and those in her close circle followed her lead. Her family has always been huge Disney fans and watch content on YouTube, so they think it’s pretty cool that she’s a part of that community on TikTok. Her family has been very supportive – from her mom’s constant encouragement by giving her ideas for future posts, her brother and husband being her behind the scenes camera men, to all her friends and followers that share and repost her content.

Content creating has sparked Ingrid’s creativity in many ways. Now that she’s in the influencer world, she can appreciate how other influencers put their own flare on things. It’s so interesting to her that content creators can have the same niche, but add their own personal touch to make it different. This has challenged Ingrid to ask herself the question, “What makes this me?” when posting new content. Creating has allowed her to express her love for fashion – something that she has always been passionate about. She laughs that even though she builds outfits for videos, she also uses her own content to pack for trips.

As a content creator, the pressure to post and produce new content can be overwhelming. Ingrid knows the way to grow her following is through consistent posting, but she never wants creating to feel like a job that she’ll end up not enjoying. She likes the beauty and freedom of freelance work – it may not be steady income, but the ball is in your court whether or not you want to expand. Her goal is to feel comfortable and happy with what she’s doing, not feeling the need to let her followers know what she’s doing 24/7.

Posting consistently isn’t Ingrid’s priority either. She’s a mother balancing everyday life, work, and freelancing. Because of this, she doesn’t have a game plan when it comes to posting. Ingrid prefers to post on her own time and only sticks to a hard deadline only when she’s working with a brand deal. It’s a good feeling when she wakes up motivated to shoot content and post, but if she isn’t up for it, she won’t force it. She enjoys creating on her own time and advises people to just post whatever they want regardless of what people will say, think, or who will watch it. If Ingrid isn’t feeling it, she’s just not even going to attempt to try – she definitely has to be in the mood and mindset to create. When she’s feeling burnt out, she doesn’t log onto her socials and takes a break for a couple of days.

Ingrid and her husband are expecting baby #2! She would consider herself a part time content creator, but being pregnant has drained her of any motivation to post. She has been taking extended breaks because she’s just not up for it. She has a part time job, aside from content creating, but her fulltime job is being a mother. She had so many ideas of content she would love to post when she got pregnant, but all those ideas have since gone out the window. It was really hard for Ingrid to go back to work and leaving her son. So she tries not to do too much or do things that take away from the time she has with him on days she has to go to work.

“If I am off then I’ll try creating during his nap unless I need him for a picture,” Ingrid explained. “I never force him to do anything so if I see he’s not up for it we try again later or the next day!”

Ingrid’s public accounts have allowed complete strangers to interact with her and give her feedback. That’s part of the reason why she loves what she does – it allows her to connect with other people. Positive feedback that she’ll receive is mostly what her followers want to see more of, which is usually requests for more outfit and friends videos. She loves when she gets questions about Disney recommendations or motherhood advice. Ingrid thinks it’s so special how she gets to be the shoulder some moms lean on when they need someone to talk to. Her account has allowed others to feel like they can trust and confide in her.

Being on public platforms means that you reach a bigger audience, but that also means that you have more feedback and unsolicited comments. Luckily, Ingrid hasn’t had too many instances with haters, but she’ll get the occasional, “I would never wear that,” comment. She once posted a video of her son taking his first steps at Disneyland, and trolls came to tell her that it wasn’t real. She just shrugs it off and doesn’t take anything personal. Ingrid knew what she was signing herself up for, so she has learned to have thick skin and not focus on the outliers that try to make silly comments.

Ingrid and her husband are annual passholders to Disneyland, so they are at the parks every 2-3 months! People approach her all the time when she’s at Disneyland, and she thinks it’s the sweetest thing. She loves to meet her internet friends and supporters, and loves that people feel comfortable enough to approach her in person. Even though her and her little family go to Disneyland pretty often, she doesn’t think she’ll ever get tired of visiting. The parks are always changing – the food, rides, movies, shows, etc., for her to explore. However, she does draw the line at only a couple days at Disneyland, she is definitely not a “let’s go to Disneyland for a week” kind of gal, after a couple of days, she needs a break.

Ingrid has thought about doing content creation fulltime, but it’s still a hard decision for her to make. She would like to say yes, but there are some cons that hold her back. Many of her followers have suggested she make a YouTube channel, and she doesn’t know whether she wants to raise her kids online or not. She can take hate comments about her outfits or other dumb things people say online, but she sees how other creators deal with comments about their children or their parenting style, and that’s just not her cup of tea. For Ingrid, there is a thin line between sharing and oversharing and setting boundaries with followers. For now, she is sticking to TikTok and Instagram.

Creating content online has opened Ingrid’s eyes to slow down. She learned that she didn’t have to put so much pressure on herself to follow a certain path after post-grad. Covid has also contributed to her changed mindset. Being a part of this community has allowed her to see that there are so many other things in life that can bring you joy or make you feel proud. Holding a specific job title or working for a certain company isn’t the only path to success. So to anyone out there wanting to start something but you’re too afraid, Ingrid’s advice is to just do it. Even if someone else is doing something similar, just do it because you’re the only one that can do it your way.

For Ingrid, one of the best parts of creating is meeting new friends. She thoroughly enjoys connecting with people who share a similar interest. By far the best feeling is seeing Disney through her son’s eyes. It’s such a magical feeling that she almost can’t put it into words. Giving her son these experiences makes her appreciate her parents even more. Growing up, her parents didn’t have it like that to bring her and her brother to Disneyland consistently, so now as an adult, Ingrid understands what it takes to bring your child to the parks. She cried her first time being so thankful for everything that her parents have provided for her.

It was truly a full circle moment taking her parents to Disneyland with her and her little family for Luka’s 2nd birthday. It was an amazing feeling seeing her parents walk around the parks with her son and going on rides with him. All the questions as to why her parents did the things they did, are now answered now that she’s a mother herself. She understands the struggle, sacrifice, and planning it takes to give your children experiences that they’ll remember for years to come. Seeing Disneyland through her son’s eyes has truly been one of the greatest joys she has felt as a mother. As her family expands, Ingrid’s wish is that her children will be grateful for all the experiences and quality time that they had and will have at the parks.

“I just want them to remember all the amazing moments we shared and be thankful we got to experience what we did!” She said. “I never want to take what we have for granted.”

Dez: Creativity Is Limitless

This is story 7 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Creatives Series. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know 11 individuals who are passionate about creating. It was interesting to learn where each individual drew their inspiration from. I wanted to shift the attention on other Creatives and tell their stories on what motivates and excites them in their respective field. Thank you to everyone who participated in this series! – Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

Dez has many hobbies and creative outlets that include, but are not limited to: fashion, writing, cooking, interior design, gift giving, DIY projects, event planning, and more. During the interview process, Dez found it hard to focus on just one creative subject, so, she talked about all the things that brings her joy. Here is her story written in her own words:

“My hobbies have always included areas that allow me to be creative. Because I’ve struggled so much with figuring out what I wanted to do career-wise, I’ve found refuge in all my creative endeavors. I love creating in many different forms: fashion, cooking, interior design, event-planning, story-telling, gift-giving. I don’t believe I’ve mastered any of them but being able to tap into these different modes of creativity has really filled my soul. The idea of doing one thing as your career for the rest of your life truly bores me and I’ve found a lot of resistance to the exploitation of labor that this country expects from us, so exploring all the ways I am able to escape from that, especially through creation and art, reminds me of all the pleasures we human beings should be allowed to experience everyday. 

I absolutely felt pressured to pick a major going into college. It’s interesting how much your future relies on your 17/18-year-old choices, an age where I barely experienced my own autonomy yet nor had I explored my interests enough to even know what I wanted to do/be. Coming from a Filipino family, the expectation to be a nurse was set from a very young age. So once I finally got to the age to apply for college, my whole mindset is set on following the pressures I’ve received my whole life, but that was also taking away from me thinking about what I really wanted to do. My decision was automatic of what major I should be applying for, the only career I ever had an idea of doing, which was nursing.

I applied to about 6 colleges, and my number one school was San Diego State University for their highly favored nursing program. I ended up getting waitlisted, so I accepted at San Jose State as an undeclared major. A week later, I got an acceptance into the nursing program at SDSU, and it’s glorious news. I get to move to a completely new city when I’ve barely even traveled to new cities on my own before. As a freshman at SDSU, I got really caught up in the social aspects and trying to build community over my actual education. I also was super used to getting good grades naturally (because high school is a joke) so I thought the same would apply in my college courses. To my demise, I couldn’t have been more wrong or more unprepared for the load I was given.

I ended up failing my first class in my entire life in my first semester of college, and what a sobering reality that was. In just my prerequisites alone, I struggled and already fell behind my peers. As soon as my nursing courses started in my 2nd year, I struggled miserably. I was such a bad test taker, always in between two answers and picking the wrong one, and all my nursing courses depended on passing these rigorous tests. It was super discouraging to think I wasn’t good enough or smart enough to continue my nursing school successfully. I failed my second test in my clinical nursing class and that was an automatic failure for a 6 unit class. This led me to being dropped from the nursing program entirely because you could only fail 2 courses throughout the entire 4-year program. ABSOLUTELY INSANE. 

So now I’m freaking out, scrambling about what tf I’m gonna do now. I actually didn’t tell my parents that I got dropped for my entire second semester of that school year because I was too afraid to let them down. I was too afraid they were going to pull me out of that school because it was the only reason I accepted there in the first place. I basically had to start from scratch when picking a major because all of my prerequisites I took were for nursing.

I went one semester undeclared, then in my 3rd year I chose Child & Family Development as my new major. This major was going to extend my time by 1.5 years over the original 4 years planned, and if I had all the money in the world I would’ve done it, but I felt pressured to be in school as little time as possible for financial purposes since I was only paying with loans. I found a nice program where you can emphasize in 3 majors and get your BA in Interdisciplinary Studies, it was meant for “indecisive” people. It allowed you to choose the classes you wanted to take as long as you reach a certain amount of units for each emphasis. This allowed me to graduate in 4.5 years total. 

This was truly one of the most stressful experiences of my entire life, and I still get frustrated thinking about all the time and money I wasted doing that nursing program when I know now that I would have never succeeded in nursing. It’s not where my passion and heart lies, although I admire the profession so much. I know that everything happens for a reason, and of course I learned so much about myself, but it took away from a proper college education experience. 

It was so terrifying to admit to my family that I got dropped. My dad wanted me to leave SDSU immediately, which I knew would be his reaction. My mom was pretty disappointed but she still supported me in my education, and understood why I didn’t want to leave my school in the middle of my college career. Eventually, she expressed that she just wants me to be happy and successful, however that looks for me. I know she worries about me financially, which I completely understand, since she grew up prioritizing labor in order to survive. My dad is no longer alive but he never really supported my dreams, nor did I feel comfortable sharing what my dreams even were because of how traditional he was. My mom is much more adaptable and knows that I have goals and dreams to be my own version of success, and I am comforted in knowing that she is always proud of me no matter what.

If I could change it, realistically I would have started off my college career as a Child & Family Development major from the get-go because I find so much interest in learning those courses. I love applying it to real-life situations that I witness. If I could change it to anything, without caring about the judgment from my family, I would probably do interior design. I feel like that knowledge would have allowed me to explore my creativity so much earlier instead of exploring it after college.

 In college, I was more focused on creating experiences and making the most of my time away from home. I also don’t remember having much time to pursue many hobbies because I was always trying to be involved in organizations, struggling as a full-time student, working part-time jobs, and exploring/adventuring any time I had the chance to with friends. Thrifting was always something that existed in my life at the time but I didn’t consider it a hobby at the time. I practiced my creativity through the roles I had in my orgs. For example, I was the sisterhood chair in my sorority and we had to plan bonding activities. This was the perfect opportunity to get as creative as possible because I hated doing basic stuff lol, I was always looking to make a unique experience for any event that I was in charge of. 

My journey with fashion has truly been a pillar in my evolution. It’s been the best and most obvious way I can express myself. Ever since I was younger, I loved buying clothes with my mom at the mall or finding cool shit at the thrift store, and I would take photos of my outfits and post them on MySpace or Tumblr. Even though my fashion taste was disgustingly 2000-2010s, it paved my love for dressing myself up. It was also the foundation for my love of the thrift store because finding something old or previously used and revamping it into my own style was always extremely gratifying, I would, and still do, feel so proud of myself when someone asks me where I got something and I respond ‘I thrifted it.’

I think I put my love for fashion on a back burner when I moved to college because I was trying to assimilate myself with friends/people. I very much cared what other people thought about me at the time and I focused more on having my personality liked over my clothes. It was also hot as hell in San Diego (like 108 degree weather in my first week of school walking 20 minutes to class raw dogging the sun) as opposed to what I was used to at my foggy home in SSF, so I was wearing super basic shorts and tanks all the time. In SSF, I was good at dressing for the cold; I loved layering and was obsessed with jackets. Moving to SD was a complete 180, I didn’t even own more than one pair of shorts. My closet was honestly funny to look at because I brought hella jackets from home and I think I only ended up wearing 3 of them. And I had to lug those jackets every year I was living in San Diego, stored away 95% of the time. That was so drastic so it definitely took me awhile to find my style again.

Thrifting is what inspires me the most when it comes to fashion. I’ve always been a broke hoe and brand clothing was never that enticing to me. Probably because I’ve always been a broke hoe and never had the money to even consider it. I just love finding a random piece on the rack and envisioning how I can experiment with it. It provided a low risk way of experimenting with my expression and taste. Through thrifting, I learned that I really love color, patterns, anything inspired by the 60s-90s, and anything bold. I also learned I am super passionate about upcycling old clothes and finding a way to give them new life. A lot of clothes that I think I’d never wear, I saw on the racks one day and was like “maybe I’ll try it” and ended up loving it. That’s exactly how my taste and style continue to evolve. It’s also a sustainable way to create a unique closet for yourself.

Nowadays, having a good outfit for any occasion makes me feel good. My closet is actually mostly comfy chic clothes but when you color coordinate or accessorize, your outfit can be amplified by 10x. During the pandemic, I started experimenting and elevating my looks a lot more because I had so much time and I had literally nothing better to do in quarantine. I also was incredibly inspired after watching Euphoria when it first came out. All the makeup and looks in Euphoria made me feel so much joy, and I thought to myself ‘I can do that. Ever since, I’ve been unafraid to really play around with makeup, accessories, jewelry. I started spreading that encouragement I felt to experiment to all my friends around me, and now I’ve become an unofficial thrift advisor and fashion stylist for some of my friends.

I love how much freedom and fluidity that exists in fashion as long as you’re willing to try it. I also learned that just because I see something I like on someone else doesn’t mean it will always work out for me, so trying things out on my own has been the most beneficial. Individuality is of the utmost importance to me, so I will always be finding ways to share that. I don’t believe there should be any rules to how someone chooses to dress and express themselves. Fashion allows me to express my personality, and it will always be for my joy and not for anyone else’s.

Cooking was never my forte growing up. I didn’t cook much of anything my first 18 years of life, nor did me or my family really explore many different cultures of food. My family only ate Filipino food and fast food. When I got to college, I realized my experience in food was super limited, to the point where I thought it was pretty embarrassing. I think I learned how to cook an egg my freshman year of college. My first 2 years, my ‘home-made’ meals were really just college struggle meals – something quick, cheap, and filling.

I began cooking a lot more on my own probably my 4th year in college when I was living with only one friend in our own apartment. I enjoyed trying new recipes with friends and realized that cooking with people you love is one of the sweetest and now my most favorite pastimes. As I began cooking more, I then realized that it is one of my favorite pastimes to do with just myself too. Back then I would pretty much follow a recipe to the T, exact measurements and ingredients. But with more experience and a more reliable flavor palette, I am able to use my creativity and create a more free flow in my cooking. 

I began a healing journey once I moved out of San Diego to San Jose to live with my partner at the time and some best friends, mostly so I could be somewhat closer to my family back in the Bay. I felt very out of my body because the entire life I spent the 5 years in SD creating was suddenly over, and I was put into this brand new environment that really put me into shock. During this healing journey, I found refuge in meditation and learning how to stay present with myself. Cooking became a form of meditation for me because it was a set time where I only had to focus on the food I was preparing and cooking. I didn’t have to think of anything else in the moment other than creating a yummy and beautiful dish for me to eat.

I found every single part of the cooking process comforting and relaxing (even washing the dishes sometimes). The more comfortable I got with cooking, the more confident I felt to experiment with flavor and presentation. I always wanted my meals to look pretty and taste even better. Then after all that hard labor, you’re able to sit with yourself and enjoy what you made. I started to understand the importance of food and nourishment through cooking, that there was more to connect with it. Cooking gives me a blank canvas where I am able to use spices and sauces to amplify a basic dish. It allows me to use all 5 of my senses; I can see what I’m making, hear the sounds of chopping and sizzling, smell the fragrant aromas, feel the different textures of the ingredients I’m using, and most importantly taste through the process and the final product.

Interior design is a fairly new practice for me but I’ve watched interior design shows and YouTubers since I was young. It’s so fun to see the big and small ways you can completely change a living space. There are so many elements that can elevate a room, whether it be the colors, the furniture, the feng shui, the accents, the lighting. I wouldn’t even say I’m good at interior designing yet, I think what I’m good at is styling a room, but I’ve been able to practice in my own rooms since I moved away from San Diego. I think creating a safe space for me was vital in order to feel comfortable after moving. I created a color palette and tried to design my room as cohesive and as cheap as possible. I think I’m just a budget-friendly girl in any aspect because similar to thrifting, you can elevate the look and feel of a room without buying expensive ass stuff. 

In my own space currently, I wanted it to be both whimsical and serene, colorful but also calm. I create a color palette, I’m super into lavender and pastels at the moment, so I try to include little accents of those colors in my room but make sure it’s not overpowering so that I can still feel that sense of serenity. I am a collector (borderline hoarder) of random things that I think are pretty, so I try to put those on display in an intentional way to sort of deflect all the clutter I’ve hoarded over the years.

This year was my first time trying to paint a mural for my wall and it was such a fun and inspiring process. I visualized, picked the colors, drew out a sketch, and put the vision to life on my wall. It was so rewarding. I make sure to add little details everywhere in my space because I think life is all about the little details. I can’t wait to own my own space because everything I do currently in my spaces are renter-friendly, but as soon as I have full reigns, I am making it the most magical space to be in. As of now, I will continue to find small, thrifty ways to elevate my space. I’ve also been offering my services or have been asked for advice for room design from friends, so eventually I would love to create income from this passion of mine. I am excited to see how much I will be able to accomplish the more I dive into this passion of mine. 

Event planning has been something I’ve done since high school, usually for the organizations I was a part of. I helped plan my junior prom and senior ball when I was in ASB, along with the many other events I’ve had to plan. I’ve planned my own cotillion. I created bonding events in both the Filipino org and sorority I was in at SDSU. I also had a big themed birthday party every year since I turned 21. I think what I love about event planning is that it’s an opportunity to create a unique experience that brings people together. Now that I am not in any orgs that require me to create events, I mostly plan parties for special events with my friends. I am for sure one of the main party planners in my friend groups. 

My birthday usually gives me the most control so I really go all out for my birthdays. For my 21st birthday, I had a huge birthday bash that had over like 70 people come through in which I managed a Facebook event for, provided drinks, created a huge banner, and got absolutely shit faced. For my 22nd, I wanted something more wholesome so I did a paint & sip at my house – I provided a bunch of card stock paper, paints, brushes, alcohol, good music, and it was a freakin vibe. For my 23rd, I created games, bought my own piñata, had a copious amount of alcohol (as always), and watched the sunset. For my 24th, my first birthday in quarantine, I wanted to go camping but didn’t have the chance, so I made a camping theme at home where I make shifted am aesthetic tent, created a nature scavenger hunt around my apartment complex, had the bombest food, painted, danced with bubbles. For my 25th, I did a Met Gala theme at the most luxurious Airbnb I’ve stayed at so far; I encouraged all my friends to come with the fits and we dressed up, hyped each other up, made a beautiful dinner as if we were really at the Met Gala. And this year for my 26th, I did a groovy day in Golden Gate Park.

I think with the society we’re living in, especially being in poverty to the lower-middle class in the US, we are literally programmed to be exploited for our labor, mindless machines who spend their days worrying about paying their bills on time and achieving the ‘American Dream’ of success. They make it very easy to fall into a mundane state of life, an endless cycle of working until you can retire. I think exploring your creativity and passions is revenge against this system. Art in all forms molds the human experience. It allows us to connect with one another, express our individuality, and explore the humanness that we should all be given the space to find for ourselves.

Above all, feeding into my creativity invokes inspiration, sparks my joy, makes me feel whole. It’s refreshing that lately, I’ve been reminded of how creativity can exist in so many different forms. It’s an ever-evolving learning and experimental process. I feel so much more inclined to continue creating just about anything because I wasn’t encouraged to focus on that growing up; I’ve only been encouraged to do everything in my power to find a good career that will make me enough money to live comfortably. The same way our country believes in the freedom of speech, I wish it would encourage freedom of expression. For an individualistic country, the majority of the US sure hates it when you express your individuality. They don’t want us to open our minds because they’re afraid we’re gonna realize that we’re being used as puppets, to be lifeless cogs in their machine. Those who have been able to open their minds understand the flaws in the system, and we fight against it by truly being our whole, free selves.

So to that I say: dye your hair any color you want, get tattoos whether they have meaning or not, write a poem that doesn’t rhyme, color outside of the lines, learn how to do something even if you’re not ‘good’ at it, step out of the boxes we’ve been forced into since we were brought into this world. I love creativity because it says FUCK THE RULES. Do what makes you happy in this one life. Keep the fire in your soul ignited and continue discovering what you’re capable of. Cultivate your human experience without guilt or shame as long as you’re doing it in love. 

I enjoy living an unconventional life. I have trouble envisioning what or where I will be in 5-10 years because I feel like my soul can truly take me anywhere. I am constantly trying to understand the meaning of existence, trying to find every way I can to live a life of purpose. The idea of being tied to one expectation or timeline of life makes me want to rebel against anyone who tries to place that sort of control on my own life choices. My plan is to keep elevating myself every year, picking myself back up faster every time I encounter obstacles. Even though there are always going to be vicious cycles and limiting beliefs that are lurking in the shadows, I believe it’s all about embracing all that life has to teach you. 

For me personally, it’s important to be creative in different areas because discovering my interests and passions will only come from exploring what my options are. I also get bored easily, so having all these different areas that I can dabble in makes me feel like there’s always something new I can try, or maybe something I can revisit if I haven’t practiced in a certain area in awhile. I am a complex, multi-faceted being and I find pleasure in having my interests mirror that. I’m also learning how empowering it is. I always said that I wish I was a dancer or a singer or an artist so that I could master one realm of creativity, but I’m understanding that I may not be a master at one thing, but I am good at a plethora of things. And that makes me feel proud of myself, as opposed to how I used to feel ashamed of it. Plus life is SHORT! Do whatever tf you feel like, as long as it’s safe and done with love. We seriously only have one life to live and I am not about to die living with any regrets.

I feel like there’s so much pressure to be ‘good’ at something and if you’re not ‘good’ at it, then people wonder why you’re even doing it. Fuck all of that noise. What’s considered ‘good’ is so subjective, what we should really be focused on doing is being authentic. I’ve spent so long thinking that I was talentless, that my hobbies are small and meaningless. Now as I rediscover my love for those ‘little hobbies,’ I am being reminded that they are actually little fires of passion that ignite my soul. They encourage me to tap into my authenticity, vulnerability, and humanity. And if you can figure out a way to intertwine your passions with your success, then that’s a win in my book.” -Dez

Elena: The Sewing Queen

This is story 1 of 10 of LoveYourzStory’s Creatives Series. I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of getting to know 11 individuals who are passionate about creating. It was interesting to learn where each individual drew their inspiration from. I wanted to shift the attention on other Creatives and tell their stories on what motivates and excites them in their respective field. Thank you to everyone who participated in this series! – Marinelle Cabillo, LoveYourzStory

Elena flaunting the dress and decorations she made at her Barbie themed birthday party!

Elena is known for her kawaii style and homemade outfits. Her life motto is to, “always be cute.” So it’s no surprise that her outfits are anything but basic! Elena strives to be different and takes every opportunity to showcase her creations to the public. Her love for sewing could be attributed to her maternal grandmother.

Elena was 7 years old when she sewed for the first time. When her grandma would visit from Mexico and stay with her family for a while, Elena noticed that she would always be working on a project. Her grandma would mostly hand stitch and use her sewing machine. Curious Elena would always ask her grandma what she was working on, and with time, her grandmother offered to teach her exactly what she was doing. In the Mexican culture, sewing is geared more towards women, so Elena’s grandma didn’t feel the need to teach her brothers. However, Elena strongly believes that sewing is a skill that everyone can benefit from.

The first project that her grandmother gave her was to embroider a flower. Her grandma drew a simple flower with leaves on a piece of cotton. Elena did her best to follow grandma’s pencil drawing and sew right on top of it. She remembers feeling excited about sewing independently because she knew the next step would be learning how to cross stitch. Why did she want to learn how to cross stitch? Because one of grandma’s cross stitch pattern books had an elephant wearing a party hat that she was dying to make. Making that cute elephant was definitely one of her goals, but she knew she had to master her basics first. With time, Elena eventually went on to make that elephant she so desperately wanted to make!

Young Elena proudly showing off her flower embroidery

From there on, Elena’s love for sewing grew. Her mom taught her how to use the sewing machine for the first time when she was 13 years old. Like her grandma, her mom would use her sewing machine for little projects here and there. Elena remembers all the times her mom helped her make Halloween costumes. She would participate in sewing up different parts of her costume, which gave her a sense of pride. Halloween is one of Elena’s favorite holidays and takes it very seriously with her outfits – a holiday meant for her creativity to shine.

By the time Elena was in high school, her interest in creating clothes for herself was at an all time high. The first garment she ever made was a strapless dress for her Senior Project. The Senior Project required all seniors at her high school to work with a mentor to learn a new skill. After learning that new skill, a final paper would have to be submitted. By this time, Elena was confident using the sewing machine, but didn’t know how to make a pattern and put it all together. Her mentor was a tailor who made men’s pants. Pattern making has been a skill she has continued to use ever since.

“He never really did womenswear, but he knew the pattern making basics, so together we made a very simple strapless dress with a sweetheart neckline and a straight short skirt,” Elena shared. “It was fun to create and made me feel confident about going into fashion design.”

When it came to choosing her major in college, Elena thought long and hard about what she’s passionate about and what she enjoys doing. Growing up, her mom always encouraged her to pursue a career in the medical field, specifically nursing. Elena didn’t quite know what she wanted to major in, but one thing she knew from the get was that she definitely wouldn’t be getting into the medical field. It took her a while to really sit and think about what route she wanted to take in college, but it all really boiled down to what she enjoyed doing on her free time.

“I took time to think what I like to do, and I landed on that I like to make things,” she said. “I say this vaguely because I did all types of crafts growing up: hand stitching, painting, paper crafts, corsage making, you name it! But overall, it was always me creating with my hands. But when I laid it all out, it all came down to fabrics being my most used medium of choice. This made it clear in my mind so I was able to choose and pursue fashion design!”

Elena and her models rocking her outfits for the college fashion show

Her parents were very unsure of her decision to pursue fashion. She understood that it’s typical for immigrant parents to want their children to pick “good” majors so they can get a job to make good money. To her parents, fashion design wasn’t a stable or profitable field. Even during her time in college, major already declared, her mom would voice her concerns, asking her daughter what she planned to do with a fashion degree. Being a good sport and knowing her parents were just worried, Elena would brush it off and jokingly troll them back saying, “beats nursing!” The disapproval and low-key shade continued on post-graduation, when she was on the hunt to find a job. But one thing about Elena – she is confident in every choice that she makes. She knows that at the end of the day, the only person that needs to be happy with her decisions is herself. Luckily, with time, Elena’s mom learned to be more supportive of her style and passions.

Elena’s style is anything but minimalistic. Everything she wears, creates, and showcases on her body are big, loud, colorful, and over the top! Elena describes her personality and style in 3 words: Kawaii, Camp, and Maximalism. Kawaii is the Japanese movement of everything and anything cute. This can be cartoon characters, pastel colors, bows, and anything adorable! Camp is self-exaggerated, not serious, and of course, fun! Elena achieves this style by wearing fun / odd things like birds in her hair, fun purses like a LEGO brick, and anything that is whimsical! Maximalism is doing the most at all times! To Elena, “More is always more!” If it’s not colorful, fun, loud, over the top, cute, or an attention grabber, Elena is not interested!

Elena has never felt insecure about showcasing her creations in public. Her favorite thing to do is wear a new design that she completed in public. She loves seeing people’s reactions when they compliment her and she confesses that she made it. Elena gets so happy when strangers and those around her admire and appreciate her work. Deep down, she also hopes her creativity inspires someone else to try sewing! Elena radiates confidence wherever she goes in whatever she wears. What’s important to her is that she dresses for herself and her own enjoyment. She doesn’t care what people think, but if they love it, even better!

Her style also comes with obsessions. Her current obsessions are Barbie and Baby Yoda. But just because these are her current obsessions, doesn’t mean she has forgotten about her past ones! The truth is, Elena never gets over anything that peaked her interest. She may have a couple of obsessions at the moment, but it just gets added to her list of things she’s in love with. When something from a past obsession comes up, Elena is reeled back in and enjoys it all over again. She keeps her long list of obsessions as inspiration to create. Though Elena has categorized her style in 3 main categories, her style could also be broken down in the different “eras” of her life.

In high school, Elena’s obsession was all about Rock music. Her all time favorite band was the band HIM. Anything the band members wore, she would do her best to find a piece that looked similar. In college, her Kawaii obsession started because she decided to watch all 200 episodes of Sailor Moon her Freshman / Sophomore year. She watched the show here and there as a kid, but never watched it in its entirety. Sailor Moon was her gateway into the Kawaii community. It definitely influenced her style completely, though she found it easy to adopt because her childhood obsessions were Sanrio and Pokémon. Post-College – Now, Elena’s current obsession is Drag Culture. It all started when a co-worker asked if she was keeping up with RuPaul’s Drag Race. She had watched earlier seasons, but fell off. She told her co-worker that she would re-watch them, and since then, the rest is history.

Elena on stage at The Warfield with Bianca Del Rio, wearing their matching Flames Dresses

“One of the best designs I made for an event would be my recreation of RuPaul’s Drag Race S6 winner, Bianca Del Rio’s Flames dress!,” Elena said when asked what designs she was most proud of. “I made it to wear at her ‘Not Today Satan’ tour stop in SF. At the meet and greet, she was so impressed that the copy was so good – she makes all her own drag outfits – she ended up inviting me on stage at The Warfield for a picture and everyone at the sold-out show got to see it!”

Now, Elena’s style is heavily influenced by Kawaii and Drag Culture. It fed into her love for Maximalism and Camp. The mutual love for RuPaul’s Drag Race got the 2 co-workers to have a friendship outside of the work environment. They would go to Drag shows in the city on the weekends and go see Rugirls, as well as other local talent. Some specific queens that have inspired Elena are: Bianca del Rio, Naomi Smalls, Bob the Drag Queen, Aquaria, and especially Valentina. Fashion wise, Valentina is what Elena strives to be. Through online and real life events, she has managed to fully immerse herself in all the styles she loves.

It’s safe to say that Elena has a very particular style and draws inspiration from so many sources. Her style is so playful, quirky, and unique that dating wise, it may be challenging to find someone that matches her style to a T. That was the case when she met her boyfriend, Sam. They shared in interest in video games on the Nintendo, but other than that commonality, the 2 lovebirds came from different backgrounds and styles. She describes their styles as polar opposites. Elena is all about coordinating outfits, and the very first time her and Sam matched was for a date to the Museum Of Ice Cream. She did a western pink look and made a matching bow tie for him to wear. Even though what he was wearing wasn’t anything flashy, he felt that it was a bit much and didn’t want to draw any attention. But with time, he saw how much dressing up meant to Elena and has learned to not only appreciate it, but go along with it.

Currently, Elena is balancing out her side passion of sewing with her current job. Her job is so flexible Post-Covid because it’s hybrid – work from home and in office. Now that she has some days of working from home, Elena finds herself working on garments during her breaks. She even found her rhythm noticing that she prefers to do work at night and projects during the day – a concept that would’ve never been a reality pre-pandemic.

One of Elena’s favorite pieces she made in college, Pop Tart Dress!

Generally, a simple design that she has done before or has the pattern for can take anywhere from 1 to 2 weeks to complete from beginning to end. If it’s a new pattern or something she hasn’t made before, it can take anywhere from 2.5 to 3 weeks. This all depends on multiple factors – when the garment is needed, if she has to get materials, how complicated it is to make, and if there’s anything going on in her personal life. If the project is for an event, Elena is very focused on sticking to the schedule to get it done on time, but if it’s a regular garment for no special occasion, she’s more relaxed getting it done. Elena is always working on a project, researching a project, or finding inspiration for the next design.

Once a garment or project is complete, Elena likes to give herself a mini break in-between. During this time, she is thinking of what to do next. This includes doing the research, looking up references, inspiration photos, and more. She admits that there are times where her mini breaks from project to project can be longer than her usual 1 – 2 weeks. Before the pandemic, Elena doesn’t recall a time where she had full on burnout with her projects. She remembers using the high of finishing a design to motivate her to start on the next project. Now 2 plus years into the pandemic, her creating fatigue is more apparent. After her Barbie themed birthday party, where she designed her dress, props, and goodies, Elena found herself in a rut. For 2 months she struggled to get in the mood to sew. It was to the point where she couldn’t even get herself to be in her sewing space at all. The burnout was really stressful, but she chose to focus her energy on other things that brought her joy, like journaling, playing Pokémon, and spending time with loved ones.

“I felt like if I spend the energy somewhere else, eventually I’ll get back to a clearer mindset and sew,” she said truthfully. “It took a while, but I can say that it did help, although I can still feel its effects. Now I’m just trying to find a better way to pace myself in projects to avoid burnout in the future… So, I do my best to rest in between projects but always try to keep something in mind.”

A common question that Elena gets asked often is if she plans to make her side passions a full-time job. In college, she did have an Etsy store where she sold her handmade hairclips, but eventually she had to close it down when school and work piled up. She thinks pursuing her creative passions full-time would be fun and exciting, but at the moment, she loves her job way too much to leave at this time. For the time being, she plans to continue to create mainly for herself. However, she is always down for a fun request. She doesn’t take custom requests often, but once in a while she will take up alterations, costume help, table centerpieces, and other fun crafts. The first time she made garments for someone other than herself was when 2 of her best friends graduated college. They asked if Elena could make and design both of their graduation dresses – she was a bit hesitant at first because she was so used to creating for herself, but in the end was glad she took on the projects because they both turned out beautiful.

Elena’s loves for creating doesn’t just stop at clothing. She will take one off commissions like making center pieces for parties or making corsages. She says that if she didn’t do fashion in school, she would’ve loved to pursue party planning or wedding planning. Themed parties have always been something that interested Elena, even at a young age. She would beg her mom to get the whole shebang at Party City – the matching plates, cups, napkins, tablecloth, signs, and anything that came in the full set. Recently, she even made all the decorations, props, and her outfit for her own birthday party. Of course it was focused on one of her current obsessions – Barbie! Parties hold a special place in Elena’s heart, and she always tries to perfect every project that she takes on.

Handmade dress on her cousin’s Ultima Moñeca

“Recently I did a Quince dress for a Build-a-Bear Dino for my cousin’s Quinceñera!,” She shares passionately. “Traditionally during the party, a Quinceñera is presented with ‘La Ultima Moñeca’ aka ‘The Last Doll.’ It is to signify that she is no longer a little girl and is now an adult who doesn’t play with toys. I let my cousin pick a stuffed animal from Build-a-Bear and I created a 1 to 1 dress based on her Quince dress!”

Social media is an important tool for Creatives to share their work. Elena confidently admits that she likes to promote her Instagram as if she has thousands of followers – even though she has yet to reach 1,000. Instagram is her platform of choice, and she uses it to showcase most of her projects. She makes it a point to post a new outfit when she wears it out and describes the process and inspiration behind the piece. Elena also likes to implement Instagram Stories to show the step by step process, then she posts the finished process as a highlight on her profile. She has taken a crack at Instagram Reels as well by pairing her videos and photos with songs that go with her theme or that has inspired her when making the piece. Elena has tried streaming herself sewing on Twitch in the past and loved that people were chatting and asking questions throughout the process. She hopes to start streaming again this year.

With all these ideas and future plans, Elena can’t put her finger on just one specific person that has supported her throughout her journey. She considers everyone in her inner circle to be someone who has been in her corner. She knows that everyone on the sidelines are rooting for her every step of the way. These people include her youngest brother, Jason, her close college friends, her “Babushkas,” her boyfriend, Sam, and of course, her grandma.

Elena’s advice to other creatives is: Do whatever makes you happy! As long as you’re enjoying what you’re doing, it will all be worthwhile. Her advice for fashion creatives is to remember to always make clothes for you. Elena wants fashion creatives to keep in mind that they are dressing either themselves or their ideal client, so if someone isn’t on board with what you create, it doesn’t matter because you’re not designing for them. She remembers that that’s the advice she had to follow in college. Fashion design made her happy, and she didn’t feel the need to explain to others why she chose this route.

Many creatives are usually asked, ‘are you able to make money off ‘Insert craft here‘?'” Elena said. “And I get it, especially if that is to become your field of work, you want to be able to make a living. But to me, the true goal is to make yourself happy. Pursue your craft and passions for self-happiness and fulfillment, with that money will follow.”   

Elena’s motto and goal in life is to always “Be Cute.” Through her style and designs, she wants to serve campy cute, maximal cute, kawaii cute, spooky cute, and any and every category of cute that there is. As a creative, her brain in constantly thinking of the next thing to create, and she is embracing every step of the way.

Elena happily posing for another photo

Filipino-American Representation: Easter Sunday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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