Alone Time

Having quality alone time is a great way for relationships to recharge. This is true for any relationship – whether it’s a friendship, romantic relationship, or even family relationships. However, what sometimes goes under the radar is how important it is to nourish the relationship you have with yourself. Needing or wanting time to yourself does not make you a bad friend, girlfriend/ boyfriend, wife/ husband, mom/dad, etc. Sometimes the best way to reconnect with yourself is to disconnect from everything else from time to time.

It dawned on me not too long ago that I’ve never actually been completely alone for a long period of time in my life. I’ve always lived with my family, and once I moved out, it was with my significant other. When I lived with my family, going over Christian’s place was my get away. When Christian and I wanted to do our own thing for the day, I would stay at home. When I needed “me time,” I would stay in my room longer or try to get as much TV time in the living room as I could before someone came in and wanted to watch something. But I was never really actually “alone,” given that there were 4 other people in the household. Now that Christian and I live together, when we need space, we do our own thing. However, it can get tricky, given that we essentially have a 1 bedroom 1 bath living situation. So in that sense, having “alone” time is not actually being alone, but more so being left alone.

I feel like this is not a unique scenario. Commonly, we live with our parents and family until a certain age, then some move out to go to college, where they end up living with roommates, some move out with their significant others, some wait to get married before making the transition to live with their partner, some move in with friends to gain independence, and so on. It’s not uncommon to go from living with family to living with others, whether that be roommates by choice or for other financial reasons. And it got me thinking – Do I know what it’s like to actually be alone? And I’m not talking about having the house to yourself for a couple of hours, or being cooped up in your room avoiding the people you live with – I’m talking actually A L O N E.

I know there are some that do know what it feels like to live alone independently with no roommates or family. However, that ain’t me. I was brought up on the notion that you only leave the nest when you marry your person and start your life together. Traditionally in Filipino households, it’s not uncommon to stay under your parents’ roof until that time comes. That could mean living in your family home until you’re 35+, and that’s not considered weird. We were conditioned to think that in order to leave the family home, it meant that you’d be moving in with someone else to build a future with. Being alone is the exact opposite of what our culture would want – there is no need to move out on your own solo.

I feel like to an extent, that feeds into the notion that being alone is something to be feared, something that is taboo, something that you don’t want to happen to you. And like I said, that’s not only relationship wise. Being alone at a movie theatre, dinning somewhere to eat, going to an event solo, for example, are activities that some would never be caught doing on their own. If you would’ve interviewed me in high school, or even my first year in college, I’d be among the crowd that would say they would never be alone in public if they had a choice not to be. I would prefer to be at the mall or run errands with Christian, my sisters, or friends. I definitely would not dine out by myself, in fear of what others would think seeing me sit alone. And sleeping alone completely by myself in the house? Bitch, unspeakable because I’d be replaying every single ghost story, horror movie, and Dateline episode in my brain.

But as of lately, probably the last 5 or 6 years or so, I have been enjoying doing things solo. I think community college is really what set it off – because I literally had no choice. I enjoyed picking my own classes and making my own schedule. In the beginning I picked classes with my friends since we were all doing general courses. But once I started to pick classes for my major and to get me to transfer in time, we all kind of started doing our own thing. That meant that I was in classes with people I didn’t know and by myself in between classes. And I loved that shit. It gave me a new gained independence, where I no longer cared if I was eating at the mall food court alone, taking bus alone, or running errands by myself on my free time.

Especially the last 2-3 years I’ve been craving to have significant amount of time to myself. And it’s inevitable that you will eventually want alone time and space for yourself when you’ve lived with others your whole life. I could only recall one night that I slept in mine and Christian’s place completely alone when he had to attend an important event for a friend in SoCal. But even then it was barely a night to myself – I worked 8-5, was in bed by 11 PM, and woke up for work the next day at 7 AM. Lately, I’ve been daydreaming of what I would do by myself if I were to be alone for a couple of days. The Aquarius in me needs that alone time to reflect and recharge. And for once I wanted to get a taste of what it’s like to be alone with myself for days on end – an experience I’ve never had before.

Finally, the time has come for the long anticipated 2 week summer break. I have been counting down the months, weeks, days, and hours for this exact moment. When Christian told me months ago that he was planning to visit SoCal to meet up with friends, I highly encouraged that he go solo. In the past, I would tag along to some of his trips back home during our work breaks so we could explore and be together during our time off. Since he’s in the Bay Area, he’s around my friends and family majority of the time. Going to SoCal is not only a good change of scenery, but it allows me to see his home and those that are important to him. Orange County to Christian is what the Bay Area is to me.

This time around, Christian wanted to visit SoCal for a specific reason. Naturally, he asked me if I wanted to tag along, and encouraged me to come. Under the circumstances of why he wanted to visit home, I thought it was best he go on the trip solo to have that alone time with his friends. Being in a relationship for so long, I see the importance of being around your partner’s friends and family, but I also know how important it is to give your partner that quality alone time with them as well. Especially since I have my boyfriend living in my stomping grounds, I know how crucial it is to let your partner do their own thing sometimes. I internally cringe when couples can’t be somewhere without the other from time to time – but that’s a post for another day.

I also thought it was a good idea for him to go solo so I could finally have some alone time. And I mean that in the nicest way possible. We have been together over 7 years and counting, it’s crazy to think that I have seen him on such a consistent basis for almost a decade. And even though we have mastered letting each other do their own thing, I’ve realized that I’ve never really been completely “alone” my whole damn life. Now, let me clear this shit up right now – I’m not talking about relationship wise, ya girl was no stranger to being alone. I’m talking about being alone in the literal sense.

When people asked why I wanted to spend a chunk of my 2 week break alone, it was an easy question to answer. I explained it as such: When I visit home, I am surrounded by my family. They can be in their own rooms, living room, kitchen, backyard, bathrooms – the actual room in the house doesn’t matter. Basically – I am around others at home no matter what. That means being aware that I’m not the only one who wants to watch TV, shower, use the bathroom, play loud music, sleep all day, have errands to run, etc. When I’m at home with Christian, we are in the same room 98% of the time when we’re both home. We share the TV, bathroom, when his alarm goes off it wakes me up even if the alarm is not relevant to me, we take turns playing our own music out loud, we need to be aware of each other’s likes and dislikes when it comes to cleanliness, and how to spend our time together. This is all normal things of living with others, simply just being considerate of each others’ space, time, and likes and dislikes. All of this is completely fine. But I craved the idea of doing my own thing – completely – since I’ve never been able to do so in the past.

I’m so used to being around people all the time, whether that be at work, home, family life, social life, etc. And don’t get me wrong, I enjoy being around my family, friends, and loved ones when I’m not at work. But I realized the importance of knowing when to reconnect and spend time with yourself. I’ve had my alone time here and there – going to another room, having a couple of hours to myself, doing an activity or errand by myself, and so on, but never being completely solo for a significant amount of time. Especially when my work has long 1 or 2 week breaks, we always end up going somewhere, have the big holidays to attend, and travel. All of that is fun and what I crave from time to time, but it also makes the break pass by really fast. I wanted to take time to slow down, do things on my own time, reflect, write, and do all the things I wanted to do for so long if I ever got the time to myself.

And this break, it finally happened. 4.5 days with the house to myself for the first time in my life. And it couldn’t have gone more perfectly. I enjoyed every part of it. I wasn’t completely alone for the whole 4.5 days, as I had plans to meet up with friends throughout that time, but I cherished the late night hours I had to myself and the early mornings where I started off my day alone with my thoughts. Nothing feels better than having no alarms set because the day is completely yours. I did everything on my time, hung out with people when I wanted to, and stayed alone when I wanted to. I got the chance to enjoy our house completely to myself day in and day out. It was a new found independence that I knew I would enjoy.

I spent the last 4.5 days doing all the things that I wanted to do – write, take myself out on a Japanese BBQ date, finish Sex And The City and all the movies, eat bomb food everyday, see friends during the daytime for a change since I can only do dinners throughout the work week, get a massage with my best friend, have a relaxing bubble bath, and start a new project. I made sure to set aside 1 whole day where I had absolutely no plans so I could have the whole day to enjoy my own company. It was really important to me to have that whole day to just myself. It was the perfect opportunity for me to recharge and rest.

Life has felt like I’ve been on a hamster wheel ever since June 2020 when work reopened. I feel like life has picked back up, and I have yet to catch a break since. These last 4.5 days has been the perfect way for me to get back in touch with myself. In these 4.5 days, I put me first every time. I did whatever I wanted to do, did things on my time, rested when I wanted to, went out and stayed in when I felt like it. There was no schedule, no obligation to spend my time in any particular way, and it was amazing. I feel refreshed, more independent, and more connected to myself.

It’s important to nurture the different relationships you have in your life. But never forget to nurture the relationship you have with yourself. Like any relationship, you need that quality 1 on 1 time. Never stop dating yourself. Get comfortable being alone with yourself, your thoughts, and working on recharging your social battery. Sometimes when you feel like life is moving too fast, you need to take a step back and check in with yourself every so often. I’m glad I had the opportunity to do that.

2021 – My Emerald Year

Illustration by: Marielle Cabillo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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